Thursday, November 29, 2012

Crazy Idea??

From yesterdays Crain's New York Business: Liu calls for ending tax subsidies for business
New York City Comptroller John Liu proposed a self-described "crazy idea" on Wednesday: get rid of all taxpayer-funded subsidies for private businesses and lower taxes for all businesses across-the-board. "That way we don't create unlevel playing fields even within our own city, where completely unsubsidized businesses have to continuously compete with their neighbors, some of them down the street, some of them a couple miles away, that are getting significant subsidies from taxpayers," Mr. Liu said. "Let's level the playing field for everybody."
The article identifies Mr. Liu as one of the Democratic contenders for Mayor.  And THAT's really the ONLY thing that seems crazy about this idea:  that it comes from a New York City Democrat!  

Other contenders quickly dismissed this idea, and the City administration jumped in to claim how its use of taxpayers dollars "leveraged" billions in private investments to create "tens of thousands" of jobs, and that "independent watchdog" groups held its IDA up as a "model" of "transparency" and "robust efforts to protect taxpayer dollars."  (The buzzwords and rhetoric from the economic development types gets tiring).

It's funny how the others totally missed or intentionally ignored the "create unlevel playing fields" argument.   But that's not unexpected because eliminating crony capitalism would eliminate the source of political power for many of these people.

Mr. Liu's position sharply contrasts with that of Governor Cuomo who toured the area yesterday Per the Governor (via WIBX)
“I want to make sure that we’re using taxpayer money wisely and we’re investing in the best plans that have a high likelihood of success,” Cuomo said. “This is about creating jobs, and I support taxpayer investment to create jobs. But, I want to make sure that we’re actually creating the jobs. That’s what the competition helps us do.”
Right! The "competition" between New York's regions can do no such thing because it is phony -- set up by Mr. Cuomo himself, rather than the marketplace.

Mr. Liu is on the right track.

The question for us Upstaters:  Can we get Mr. Liu to set his sights a hundred miles north of Gracie Mansion?   

Monday, November 26, 2012

Airport: How Much is "a Lot?" - a Sequel

City Journal has an article by Steve Malanga that makes a good sequel to last Friday's post on the wasteful spending at the County Airport.

Titled Airfields of Dreams, the subtitle, "If you build it, they won't come" explains why this should be made required reading for our County Executive and every County Legislator.
Public officials and local business leaders in areas looking to stimulate growth argue that they need to invest in airports, just as Atlanta and Dallas have. These officials are willing to risk millions of taxpayer dollars on a bet that it’s an airport that drives a local economy, not an energized economy that drives airport expansion. The results are empty terminals and gates, unused runways, and even flight-free airports. In China, the government has swiftly constructed entire new cities that so far remain eerily without residents. America is building a network of ghost airports every bit as strange.

It Takes One to Know One?

From the pages of that perpetual propaganda organ, Pravda, in praise of Putin: Obama's Soviet Mistake
. . . Bye, bye Miss American Pie. The Communists have won in America . . .  Obama has been re-elected for a 2nd term by an illiterate society . . .He is a Communist without question promoting the Communist Manifesto without calling it so. How shrewd he is in America. His cult of personality mesmerizes those who cannot go beyond their ignorance. . . They read history in America don't they? Alas, the schools in the U.S. were conquered by the Communists long ago and history was revised thus paving the way for their Communist presidents.  
Russia lost its' civil war with the Reds and millions suffered torture and death for almost 75 years under the tyranny of the United Soviet Socialist Republic. Russians survived with a new and stronger faith in God and ever growing Christian Church. The question is how long will the once "Land of the Free" remain the United Socialist States of America? Their suffering has only begun.
There's a lot more in this rambling article. I only posted portions to give you a flavor. While not inclined to pay attention to Pravda or believe it, there is a lot in this article that rings true to those who grew up in the Soviet era. If we don't learn from history, we will repeat it.

The Russians seemed to have learned . . . and they are warning us.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Airport: How Much is "a Lot?"

Per the OD: U.S. Customs office at Griffiss 'will help a lot,' official says
Now that the Oneida County Board of Legislators has passed the plan to borrow $1.5 million to construct a U.S. Customs office at the airport, planes coming from other countries will be able to land there more conveniently. . . .
Great!  Another airport building taxpayers are forced to pay for! Another $1.5 million in debt! But wait . . . Didn't the last airport commissioner propose a pre-fab facility built to Customs' specs for only $800,000 in the 2012 budget?  Why has the cost doubled?  If there really is a need, why build more than the minimum? Who is making $$$ from the excess?

But it does not stop there . . .
The Griffiss office will have one officer at a cost of about $120,000 per year. The customs officer will not be a county employee. Instead, the county will pay the fee to the federal agency. 
Great again! We not only have a questionable real estate investment, but will also incur ongoing staffing costs. The article makes a point that two businesses, MidAir USA and Premier Aviation fly to/from Russia or Canada and that customs agents either have to come here from Syracuse to meet the planes or the planes have to go there to deal with them.

So why is that an issue for Oneida County taxpayers?

Can't the agents simply continue to come from Syracuse (32 miles away) as needed? Or  can't the planes continue to stop there?  MidAir and Premier had no problem locating facilities here without this service. Why is this an issue now? While this may make things convenient for these two companies, why should taxpayers foot the bill? The taxpayers already subsidize these companies in various ways but, unlike shareholders, get NO part of company profits. Why should taxpayers pay more?

And where is the evidence that this service is or will be needed in the foreseeable future? There was no demand for customs agents when the market was thriving and had regularly scheduled air flights.  There has to be less of a demand now that our population and business base has shrunk. Now add the national economic malaise on top of our long-standing local malaise. One suspects that we'll build another Taj Mahal facility that will be mostly empty -- and have Customs Agent "Tatoo" sitting around most of the time waiting for "the plane, the plane." 

I've given up trying to figure out the "plan" for the county airport because there is no "plan" -- at least nothing that is backed by solid market analysis and business data...  Just the musings of  a bunch of country bumpkins who make themselves feel smart and important simply because they can spend lots of our money. Here's a series I did in August, 2008:  "How Bad Can It Get?" "How Bad Can it Get 2?" "How Bad Can it Get 3?" "How Bad Can it Get 4?""How Bad Can it Get 5?""How Bad Can it Get 6?" --- Has anything really improved?

So how much is "a lot?"  It depends.  If it is the cost of this project: TOO MUCH!  If it is the anticipated economic improvement from it: NOT MUCH! 

As a percent of the value of our real estate, taxes in Oneida County are among the highest in the nation.  Oneida County needs to spend less time catering to the needs of particular businesses or persons, and more time reducing the general level of taxation for everyone.   Only then will we finally begin to see some real, sustainable economic development. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012


It's interesting how a story can develop! A few days ago Gov. Cuomo was busy deflecting potential criticism of the state's response to Hurricane Sandy by bullying the utility companies with threats of public hearings and loss of state franchises because he felt that they were not moving fast enough.

Now it turns out that the worst problems with restoring power are found in the area served by the Long Island Power Authority --  a quasi-government agency formed by Mr. Cuomo's father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, to purchase the Shoreham, Long Island, nuclear power plant, shut it down, and pass the costs on to Long Island rate-payers. (Upstaters became saddled with increased electric bills when Mr. Cuomo, Sr., pushed for the Marcy-South power-line to deliver relatively "cheap" Upstate hydropower downstate to make up for decommissioning the nuke plant).

Current problems can be blamed on more than the usual ineffectiveness/inefficiency found in a government authority.  Per Celeste-Katz' post on the NY Daily News website Friday, the current Mr. Cuomo bears some responsibility.
. . .  some longtime politicos say Cuomo needs to look in the mirror when it comes to LIPA, a state authority that has been without a permanent chief executive officer since before he took office in 2011.Chief Operating Officer Michael Hervey has been serving as acting CEO since September 2010 when former LIPA head Kevin Law left to head a business trade group.“An organization needs leadership,” said a longtime top state official. “For the governor to talk about the bureaucracy — it’s a bureaucracy he’s supposed to oversee.”
In addition, three of the LIPA board’s six gubernatorial appointments, including chairman Howard Steinberg, are serving with expired terms. Cuomo has appointed just one new board member since taking office.
The NY Post details more of LIPA's long time failings.

Maybe Mr. Cuomo is right.  Revoke LIPA's franchise. Take control from the government, put it back in private hands, and make them earn a profit.  Government bureaucrats, particularly political appointees, have little incentive to perform well.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Half-Way to Oblivion . . .

Oneida Square halfway house proposal upsets residents

A Frankfort woman who works with paroled women wants to open a halfway house near Oneida Square. Some neighbors are outraged by the plan, claiming it will drag down property values and bring criminals to a residential neighborhood. . . . 
Luther must receive a special-use permit from the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals
This proposal comes just a week after someone else proposed a 51 unit apartment complex for people with behavioral problems.  Utica residents -- barely able to make ends meet for the the City while simultaneously subsidizing suburban growth through water and sewer services and a network of county highways -- are being asked , again, to accept more of society's problems in their midst.

If Utica leaders are serious about turning the City around economically, they are going to have to say no to such projects. Utica will not be regarded as a place to live or do business until City leaders start paying attention to the sensibilities, needs, and pocketbooks of those paying Utica's bills. 

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

"Revocation of Franchise" . . .

From the AP: Cuomo says he’s angry at pace of power recovery
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that utility companies have done an unacceptable job of getting service back to customers and that he’s ready to take away their rights to operate in the state. “The progress is unacceptable,” Cuomo said. “To say that I am angry ... would be the understatement of the decade.”
Tough talk certainly plays to the emotions of those frustrated with the pace of Sandy recovery. While it makes no sense to think that the utilities are dragging their feet because power lost is revenue lost to the company, the quality of the state's own response may be the issue. Perhaps Mr. Cuomo thinks that "a good offense is a good defense."

So what would Mr. Cuomo do differently? We don't know.

"I am a reasonable person and I want to give utilities the time to explain their side,” Cuomo said. “But I believe the service was inadequate.” He said he will force utilities into public forums to defend their effort. . . . . Cuomo said Monday that state action could range from “sanctions to revocation of franchise.”
Unless some performance standard applies to hurricane response, there is no basis for sanctioning a company.  And revocation of franchise?  The utilities own all the power lines.  Does Mr. Cuomo have some foreign company ready to come in and buy these at fire sale prices after he revokes their franchise?   Or is this all prelude to something bigger on the horizon that has not been revealed to us?

Popular rhetoric to stir up the masses.  Anger.  Government threats. Excuses for taking radical action.

It's starting to look like New York is the vanguard of the New World Order.

Keep that in mind as you vote today.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Reviving Utica with People with Problems?

51-unit apartment complex proposed for West Utica

A Syracuse-based nonprofit organization is proposing a 51-unit apartment complex on Lincoln Avenue, but its funding is dependent on a series of grants.Central New York Services Inc., a behavioral health organization, wants to build a $12 million complex on two vacant lots between Roberts Avenue and Warren Street. . . .The proposed apartment complex would have 51 units, with 25 set aside for individuals with mental-health or substance-abuse issues. The other units would be open individuals who qualify for low-income housing.CNY Services Executive Director John Warren said the area is underserved and would benefit from a project like this.
This seems to be the regional plan. Make Utica the place to concentrate the region's poor and troubled. Better yet: concentrate them all in West Utica!

Any wonder why Utica cannot pay its bills? and why West Utica is in the condition it is in?

Who Loses Their Voice?

Back-of-ballot issue: Size of Oneida County Board of Legislators
Oneida County voters will get to decide whether to reduce the size of the Board of Legislators from 29 to 23.
The move would save taxpayers about $50,000 a year. It also would mean each remaining legislator will represent more area and people.
It's interesting how the voters are being asked to approve this reduction BEFORE district lines are redrawn.  Is this another power grab by you-know-who? $50K doesn't seem like a big price to pay to keep what we know.

Who Pays?

They're up to their old mischief again: Officials begin discussions on best way to utilize region’s water supply
Officials from Oneida County, Utica and Rome gathered Wednesday at the State Office Building for the beginning of a series of discussions about regional economic development and water resources. 
Poor Herkimer County (the place with the water). Left out again! Gotta wonder what the Utica representative was saying?
“The focus of the meeting was to begin a conversation with the water producers on how do we get water to parts of the region that are currently underserved or using well water,” said Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, D-Utica.
"Underserved?" In who's estimation? "Well water?" Isn't that what you get when you choose to locate yourself away from cities or developed suburbs that have the population density to support municipal water service?

Sounds like someone has some "empire building" in mind -- and they plan on using water-rate payers' money to subsidize it.

Special Legislation

OD's View: Special legislation for merger vote should be passed (to allow Mohawk and Illion School Districts to merge):

A proposed three-district merger that included the two districts and Herkimer was rejected Oct. 18, and while Mohawk and Ilion want to press forward, they’re handcuffed by the law.Last week, the two districts passed a resolution asking for special state legislation that would allow another vote to take place sooner than permitted under current law. 
Why is it that when the local elites don't get their way, they go to Albany for "special state legislation?"

We saw this a few years ago when Mrs. Destito sponsored legislation to give the Mohawk Valley Water Authority special rights that it did not have under state law.  We saw this more recently  with Mr. Brindisi's "successful" sponsorship of legislation to exempt the City of Utica from state rules that required a showing of "public necessity" before the city could establish an ambulance service that would compete with a private company.  Now we're seeing another request to shorten the waiting time on school district merger votes.

There is a purpose to every state law that "handcuffs" local authorities. In every instance of special legislation, the purpose of the "handcuff" is being thwarted.  At least some of the people who would be affected by  special legislation are being denied the protection of state laws afforded to persons elsewhere in the state.

In the case of the original 4-way school district merger, Frankfort dropped out in one vote, Herkimer dropped out in a second.  Ilion and Mohawk want to press forward anyway, but are now forced to wait a year under state law before they can vote again.

Isn't repeated voting on an issue a tool that elites in government use to coerce voters into approving a pre-ordained outcome? Isn't the state law there to prevent coercion?     

While the overwhelming majority in Ilion and Mohawk voted for 4 and 3-way mergers and probably will settle for a 2-way merger, you do not really know the outcome of such a vote until it is taken.  One thing you do know is that at least a minority of voters prefer separate districts.  Those people are probably feeling coerced right now by the proposal for another vote.  Mob rule?

When you hear that "special legislation" is being proposed, think of who may be losing the rights held by others elsewhere.

Next time maybe YOU will be the one receiving "special treatment."