Friday, August 31, 2012

Marcy NanoCenter in the Balance - Part 1

In case you missed them, there were two excellent interviews on WUTQ this week concerning Army Corps of Engineers' recent denial of a wetlands permit for the Marcy NanoCenter project pending that project signing up a tenant.

Jeff Hawk of Army Corps of Engineers vs Steve DiMeo of MV EDGE  

Administrative balancing . . . 

ACE is an administrative agency charged with carrying out the provisions of Clean Water Act Section 404.  It can only act within the authority found in its governing statute and regulations. Its decisions must be based upon substantive evidence.  It cannot act arbitrarily or capriciously. It also has an obligation to act and not avoid its responsibilities. ACE must balance each proposal against what is required by law. 

ACE is concerned that EDGE will never find a tenant, and that, per ACE's decision, the wetland “will be filled without purpose.

"Purpose" is key to understanding this controversy . . .

As understood by the public, the  purpose of this project is to have an Oneida County site prepared where the semi-conductor industry can simply come in and break ground on a plant without delay, with the ultimate goal of producing local jobs. 
There is nothing in the Part 230 regulations that allows ACE to evaluate the purpose of the project beyond determining whether or not it is a water-dependent activity and whether it might be more appropriately conducted elsewhere with less adverse impact. ACE feels that it needs the tenant because it hopes to work with the tenant to get the tenant to modify its requirements to further reduce the impact to the wetland -- but that defeats the entire purpose of the project by injecting delay and uncertainty. Simply put, ACE does not have the legal authority to change the purpose of the project but its position is an attempt to do so.

Previously ACE had issued a permit to EDGE with the condition that no work be performed on the site without a written contract securing a tenant.   "In the District’s view, issuing a conditioned permit achieved the goal of identifying a site that was “pre-approved” or “pre-permitted” in order to attract a semiconductor facility . . . "  Mr. Hawk admitted during his interview on WUTQ that ACE has no expertise in the semi-conductor industry.  ACE's determination that its previously-issued permit was sufficient "to attract a semiconductor facility," thus, was a determination that was both outside its expertise and not based upon substantive evidence.   

As pointed out by Mr. DiMeo during his interview, ACE has issued similar permits for shopping centers without requiring the developer to have signed commitments from tenants. Why did not ACE require commitments in those situations to ensure that the wetland is not filled "without purpose" or to work with those tenants to get them to reduce their impacts by, perhaps, reducing the sizes of their stores?  What regulation allows ACE to make the tenant a requirement for EDGE's proposed shovel-ready site but not for shopping centers?  ACE is acting arbitrarily and capriciously when it requires tenants in one situation and not the other.

Simply put, ACE, without authority, without evidence, and without the proper expertise has arbitrarily imposed a tenant requirement to avoid conducting the review it is commanded by law to perform. We can only guess why it has done this.

This situation can only be rectified by ACE's recognition of its errors and doing its job, or by litigation.

Whether or not Oneida County should proceed to litigation involves another type of balancing ... but that will be discussed in Part 2.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

County to Kill Businesses ...

... for a parking lot!

Under the proposal, the county would buy three businesses on the south side of Elizabeth Street, raze them and build a parking lot with around 160 spaces
1) Who makes up the lost property tax to Utica?
2) Who makes up the lost sales tax to Utica?
3) Who makes up the lost jobs to Utica?
4) What makes up for the three fewer reasons to come to downtown Utica?

Add this to lost businesses for the Arterial remake ... and the new bus transfer station...

And this city and county wonder why Utica can't make ends meet!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cheap Transportation and Cheap Power . . .

... built Upstate New York and made it thrive.

Our elected leaders have already trashed the cheap transportation part by not eliminating the Thruway Authority and its Tolls after all our competitors got free interstate highways.

Are they doing it again with power?  It sure looks like it:

 GOP senators say Canada to NYC power line will cost jobs . 

The proposed project does not seem to have the environmental/aesthetic disadvantages of the NYRI proposal.  So far, I do not hear that the proposal will raise Upstate power rates as NYRI was projected to do.  So what is the problem?

Sounds like Upstate power producers will have too much power on their hands if NYC stops purchasing it. They will have to lower the rates to get rid of it.  They will have to become more efficient.

Perhaps Upstate power rates will finally be brought into line what that of our competitors for jobs.

These senators seem to be more interested in protecting private business interests than bringing about an economic revival in Upstate NY.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Marcy Nano: Time to Move On . . .

In the OD's VIEW: Leaders must keep Marcy site on priority list
It’s time to stop the chicken-and-egg game between Mohawk Valley EDGE and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regarding development of the nanotechnology site in Marcy. And it’s up to our elected leaders to get that job done.
Agreed . . . But it's not going to happen.

Simply put, there is a matter of federal vs state jurisdiction involved and our elected leaders are not up to tackling that issue. The once Empire State is now a welfare queen, economically dependent upon the handouts of the federal government. Our leaders do not dare to bite the hand that feeds them.  

Marcy Nano is not going to happen either.

Federal wetland permit not withstanding, unless the State is ready to throw a $Billion or more into the local project like it did in Malta, it's not going anywhere. Our window of opportunity shut in 2006 when Malta was chosen by Advanced Micro Devices for its chip fab. We (supposedly) had the advantage of a shovel ready site because Malta had water supply and public relations problems back then. But Malta was chosen in spite of those issues. Anyway, that is the past.

Now that other areas with greater educational resources have sites of their own,  including Malta which was designed to accommodate 4 plants, what do we have to offer chip fabrication and distribution that cannot be found elsewhere .... and probably at a lower cost?

Even the Malta "success" must be recognized for what it is:  concentrated taxpayer spending on a particular business.  What happens when that business runs into trouble? Are we going to give them a bailout, too? Will the force of government be used to crush the competition? Developing the infrastructure and raising capital for particular businesses is the responsibility of the businesses, not the government and not the taxpayer.

It's time to move on . . .

We have wasted time trying to bribe, cajole, and trick businesses into coming here at taxpayer expense while failing to address the reasons why businesses already here continue to leave, i.e., We are too expensive and too complicated compared to other places.  The extra costs for taxes, tolls, fees, utilities, and regulatory compliance cut into potential profits and produce nothing of value for either the producers or the consumers. If we really want jobs, we have to identify what the costs are and bring them into line with our competition.   We may find that, to paraphrase Mies van der Rohe . . .

Less [government] is more [jobs].

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

No No Nano ...

When will SUNYIT nanocenter materialize in Marcy?
Since the respective announcements in 2008 and 2009 of $27.5 million for a Center for Advanced Technology, or CAT, and $45 million Computer Chip Commercialization Center, or Quad-C, projected starts to the project regularly have been pushed back. A source close to the project, however, said the delays were for a good reason: The scope of the project has grown, and the construction group, which is expected to be named soon, had to go back and alter the plans. That announcement is expected this fall, according to the source.
This is starting to sound like Destiny USA.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Guess that Explains the Ammo 2 ...

We've got too many agencies with armed-agents

As quoted on Fox in 2009:
THEN-PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE BARACK OBAMA: We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.
Can these dots be connected?

Onondaga County Gets It

Onondaga County Executive proposes new plan to stop suburban sprawl
Onondaga County lost 5,785 acres of farmland between 2002 and 2007, and 1,300 acres of forests were lost to development between 1992 and 2006. All the while, the county’s population growth has remained flat, so the same number of people have to pay to maintain a growing amount of public infrastructure such as roads, sewers and water lines.
Same population + more infrastructure = higher taxes and fees

What is so difficult to understand?

Onondaga County has recognized this problem since the late 90's and at least tried to deal with it, albeit not effectively.

Oneida County government does not even know that it has a problem. It not only has done zilch to control sprawl -- it subsidizes it with PILOTS, allowing illegal sewer hookups, expanding the traffic capacity of county roads in suburban towns, giving tax breaks for suburban development, etc. etc. And property taxes and fees in general go up and up.

I'm not sure that Ms. Mahoney's proposal for Onondaga County is right for Oneida County.... but can Oneida County at least stop the things it does which support sprawl?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Compassion Aside ...

CBS: Window opens on Obama deportation delay program

Although this program seems to be the compassionate thing to do, there is a much bigger issue here:  the Breakdown of our government's system of checks and balances.

Simply put, the President is ignoring the law.

This seems to be a problem throughout government these days. The legislative branch makes the laws, the executive branch carrys out the laws, and the judicial branch resolves disputes in application of the laws.  Constitutions, Federal and State, set the parameters of what government can and cannot do. 

But for government to work properly, there must be mutual respect of one branch for the others, and all branchs must respect the constitution.

The respect is gone.  And when that happens, the logical end result is anarchy or dictatorship.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Please Vote YES on the New Hartford Library . . .

... so I won't have to pay for it any more!

That is because I live in part of the Town of New Hartford that is not in the New Hartford School District.  If voters approve rechartering the NH Library from a town to a school district library, only the taxpayers in the New Hartford Central School District will be taxed to support the library . . .

And, apparently, what a tax it will be!

The library budget is proposed to increase 67% to $893,675!  And from the tone of the recently published statements of some of the incumbent trustees who are running to be elected to the new library board, further increases are to be expected to serve the increased demands of library "patrons."

But who are the "patrons" who are making such demands?

Since this is "New Hartford," it is likely that the current board of trustees reflects the makeup of the "patrons," i.e., they are fairly well-heeled persons who have the means to access information independently on their own dime without having to tap fellow taxpayers to pay for it.   As with any library, in all likelihood the "patrons" are an insignificant percentage of the population that is being asked to pay for the facility. Most taxpayers will seldom, if ever, actually use the library.  Given the library's physical location on the edge of New Hartford Village, it would appear that most patrons drive to the library rather than walk to it.  This begs the question: 

If most patrons drive to the NH library, why not drive to -- and fund -- the Utica Public Library instead? 

Libraries are important for giving the disadvantaged of a community regular access to information that the non-disadvantaged can obtain by other means. That gives the disadvantaged an opportunity to elevate their status through education -- which benefits the entire community.  But how may disadvantaged people reside in the New Hartford School District --  and also have a car to be able to use the NH Library?

Libraries are also important for giving the non-disadvantaged occasional access to hard-to-find information that they might not ordinarily be able to obtain.  How much of such information could or should a school district of only 2600 students be expected to accumulate?

The Utica Public Library is only a few miles from the New Hartford Library.  It may actually be more convenient to some parts of the NH School District than the current Town Library. 

The Utica Public Library is the region's public library.  It is the one that is located closest to the region's disadvantaged who need it the most.  It is also the most centrally located to the region's population who need the library for occasional use. It's collection is already fairly large and it is professionally staffed.  But through urban sprawl the population the Utica Public Library still serves no longer contributes to its maintenance. 

I believe that the hearts of the library trustees pushing this rechartering are in the right place -- but their execution is wrong.  The region can afford only one regional library.  If the trustees are serious about improving the community, they will explore ways to improve and fund the Utica library, and not continue with something that competes with it. If the region could pool its resources in Utica, just think of what a great library we all could have.

In the meantime, I selfishly hope that voters approve rechartering the New Hartford  Library as a School District Library so I no longer have to pay for something that does me and my community little good.

More information about this proposal, including a lot of statistics, is available on New Hartford Online.