Friday, August 29, 2014

Utica Harbor: Haven for the Regional Elite?

According to the O-D, Harbor Point's future might lie in the past.  We are reminded that during Utica's halcyon days the Harbor Point area housed McConnell baseball field, where pro ball was played.  The suggestion is that the plan to move our baseball field from Murnane on Burrstone Road to the harbor in North Utica might bring the good old days back.

Of course, EDGE somehow is involved.
“Its part of the master plan,” said Steven DiMeo, a member of the committee and president of Mohawk Valley EDGE economic development group. “There’s a recreation component built into it (the plan). We’re just trying to line up all the prerequisite options that have to be looked at before that’s something to be considered.”
You are reminded that movement of Donovan Stadium - as well as the Greenman Estates ball fields - to the Harbor somehow magically appeared in the Utica Master Plan even thought the topic never came up before the committee considering plans for the Harbor . . . apparently dictated to be part of the plan by those with connections rather than an idea coming from the people who allegedly were given the task of designing the plan.

. . . and the people with connections work through EDGE.

EDGE is the same group tasked with marketing Griffiss "International" Airport even though they have no expertise in the field.

Those connected elites made a lot of money moving the Old Oneida County Airport to Griffiss . . . and now the old airport is in ruins.

EDGE proposes the same MO.  More money will be made moving ball fields from their current locations which are central to the region's population to the Harbor.

The region merely moves its assets around instead of  moving forward.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

More NY "Business Friendly" Arm Twisting?

Times-Union: Lam Research does 180 on Nano Utica comments

Opportunity in an Outage . . .

I was annoyed yesterday when the internet went down for a bit yesterday morning . . . but it is something that one comes to expect from Time Warner.

What I didn't expect was how it soon became national news . . . and seized upon as a political opportunity by the Governor!

No expert here, but with cable remaining on it seemed like TW's Domain Name Servers might have gone out.  There are public DNSs that can be used in place of Time-Warners. For example, OpenDNS, and Google have servers available. I just switched my router to query a different DNS server.  Check out the links for instructions on how to set it up.

Is a No-Debate Trend Starting?

First was Richard Hanna's refusal to debate Claudia Tenney.  Then there was the Herkimer County Sheriff's refusal to debate Claudia Tenney.

Now Andrew Cuomo refuses to debate Zephyr Teachout . . . From the Politics on the Hudson Blog Teachout: Cuomo has an “ethical obligation” to debate.
“This really isn’t about me. It’s about voters having the right to hear the governor explain his record, answer questions over what he’s done over the last four years,” Teachout said. “I mean there’s no law requiring a debate, but every voter expects it.”

Monday, August 25, 2014

Nano Clouds on the Horizon . . .

First there was the Times-Union blog entry "Is Global Foundries becoming part of Nano Utica chip lab?
"Word in Tech Valley is that GlobalFoundries has been asked to play a part in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $1 billion Nano Utica initiative after one of the main players back out. . . .
The Times Union has learned that GlobalFoundries has been asked by the state to move into Quad-C and help with the project."
This was quickly poo-poohed in an O-D Article Suny PI denies report that it lost a partner.

Then this article followed a few days later in the T-U: "One of Cuomo's Nano Utica companies says it was never involved."
Cuomo visited SUNY Institute of Technology in Utica in October 2013 to announce that six technology companies would partner with the state to create the Nano Utica consortium.

The group included an Austin, Tex.-based company called Advanced Nanotechnology Solutions; Berlin-based Atotech; IBM; Tokyo Electron; Albany-based Sematech, and Lam Research of Fremont, Calif. . . .

Lam Research — told the Times Union this week that it is not part of the Nano Utica consortium.

"Lam has never had any involvement in the Nano Utica project," said Bob Climo, director of media relations for Lam Research, which makes computer chip equipment.
Not sure what to make of these revelations . . . but they suggest that no company ever backed out . . . but rather a company that was thought to be a participant never was . . . and now Global Foundries is being asked to step into the void.

While we should be glad that politics seems to be strong-arming a company (which received tons of NY taxpayer assistance) into coming to Utica . . . that this seem to be happening confirms New York's "last place" among the states for business friendliness.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

"2020": A Myopic Vision . . .

The "Vision 2020" Full Report for Oneida County, which calls itself "A Path to Prosperity" and "an action plan to address the needs of a community preparing for a new economy" has been released by the County Executive. Its three parts (representing separate drafting committees) focus on "Education and Training," "Access and Opportunity," and "Housing."  The Observer-Dispatch has called it "a solid success plan."

Is it "a solid success plan?"  . . . or is it something else?

The Education and Training section contains goals that all Oneida County K-12 students "are competitively prepared to enter the workforce," that everyone be aware of employment opportunities, that colleges prepare men and women to take leadership roles, that we create a "culture of optimism," "economic sustainability," and "unique training" to meet business and industry demands.  Strategies include form a committee, "develop a unified plan," "develop a strategic plan," "establish a communication network,"   create "partnerships," and collaboration.  If you are numbed by all this you might miss the "cradle to career framework to ensure that program revision, development and articulation meet the emerging needs of business, industry and overall community." You might also miss the implementation of "Alignment USA" whose "focus is on a cradle-to-career approach which is holistic and serves the whole child."

  • Why does the plan assume that "leaders" must be college educated?
  • Why should the goal of K-12 be training for specific business types?  
  • Does this plan serve the child, or business . . .  or government?

If you think Soviet-style central planning was a good idea, then this is your cup of tea.  One gets a sense that K-12 students are going to be sorted into Huxleyesque "career" groups based on the needs of local business "clusters" (with a special emphasis on "Nano") with the "cream" (as judged by government standards) being trained at university to be society's "leaders." Individual interests and aspirations take a back seat in the education process with the students becoming merely another resource to be used by the local economy. With student populations being specially trained rather than broadly educated, they will be ill equipped to adapt to changing circumstances.


The Access and Opportunity section focuses on the County's "diverse" demographics, with "diversity" defined to mean "underrepresented" populations who "are not afforded access to tangibles and intangibles, the net effect of which is an unequal opportunity to avail themselves of the existing resources intended to enhance their overall success and/or quality of life." The report contends that "systemic inequities" have resulted in "marginalization" that can be addressed by shifting focus from a national to a local or regional one.  Goals include promoting and supporting entrepreneurship, business, and job creation in the "immigrant, refugee, and the underrepresented populations" in Oneida County, with an emphasis on "nano;" having a "showcase" for all the County's ethnic, social and faith groups; increasing English as a Second Language (ESL) opportunities; and increasing access to translation services.

  • Why does the plan focus on certain groups that are, allegedly, being denied access to resources?
  • Why are the alleged  "systemic inequities" never expressly identified?  Should not they be identified to ensure that they are going to be addressed?
  • Instead of promoting the region's "diversity," why not promote the region's "melting pot?" 

Although our region's diversity gives all its citizens access to cultural experiences not commonly available in other communities  -- experiences that could be "showcased" as a resource to outside business interests -- the report totally ignores our region's long-standing tradition as a welcoming "melting pot" for blending foreign cultures into our own American culture. Belying the "access and opportunity" label, the 2020 plan treats the "underrepresented" populations more as commodities to be marketed and customers for specialized services as part of a regional economic plan --  rather than provide a plan to integrate these groups into society so they may achieve for themselves their piece of the American dream.  The only proposal this section makes that is consistent with our "melting pot" tradition is the provision of ESL opportunities (which, presumably, includes an indoctrination into American core values, as embodied by our laws and system of government, and culture).  

The Greater Utica area's diversity is not nearly as important as the area's proven ability to accept and integrate persons of diverse cultures into the whole -- to make "underrepresented populations" American.  It is the latter that should be emphasized.


The Housing section sets goals to create a housing inventory in the County that would be attractive to nanotechnology employees, and to "identify existing and develop new opportunities for introducing alternative housing types" that meet the needs of the nanotech workforce.  Strategies include revising policies for PILOTS and tax exemptions, creating new financing vehicles for private developers of housing for the nanotech workforce, and an "informational campaign" that educates about alternative housing types.

  • Are nanotech workers demonstrably different from other people that their housing needs are different?
  • Why does the plan seem to presume that developers are not astute enough to determine the types of housing (including alternatives) and the locations desired by the market?
  • Why does the County see a need to second guess the market?

One gets a sense that this plan is more a pretext for continuing the cozy relationships certain developers have with government -- and the ongoing flow of taxpayer financed breaks and benefits -- than about assuring the existence of a good housing stock.

* * *
It is unclear why the three sections critiqued above were chosen for inclusion in Vision 2020 as opposed to a universe of other topics.  The only thing Vision 2020 seems to focus on is Nanotech, but if that is presumed to be our "path to prosperity," then Vision 2020 is myopic.

Based on published projections, if Quad C and the proposed 3 Fabs are fully developed (big "ifs" considering that the Albany area is 10 years ahead of us and only has 1 fab in operation with another under consideration)  that will create 5,000 jobs. These jobs will be essentially in one business sector, making the region vulnerable to the ups and downs of that sector.

While 5,000 jobs may sound like a lot, it pales in comparison with the number of good-paying jobs the region has lost over the last 40 years -- jobs in diversified businesses.  The departure of Univac during the 1970s alone took almost 5,000 jobs.  Now add to that thousands more with the departures of GE, Bendix, C-P, etc., etc. over the years.  Most of these jobs were lost to other parts of the country rather than overseas. Now add to that the probable loss of 2,000 Remington jobs over the next few years.

The biggest fault with Vision 2020 is that it fails to identify and address the causes of these 40 years of job loss. 

Looking through rose-colored glasses to plan for a Nano future while failing to learn lessons from past experiences dooms us to the same forces that created job loss.

Vision 2020 misses more than it sees.  

Monday, August 18, 2014

Airport Politics . . .

Excellent Editorial in the OD Today by former Airport Commissioner Vernon Gray refuting with specific examples the County Executive's claim that "No one is stifled in terms of their ideas and their ability to manage."  Especially troubling . . .
"I was directed to refer all airport business inquiries to Mohawk Valley EDGE for its exclusive consideration and action, despite its lack of aeronautical expertise and conflicts of interest."
While we might not be privy to the details of airport actions, EDGE's seeming involvement in everything "airport" and the public machinations of county-level politicians over many years make clear that all decisions are being made by a clique of local insiders. . . . the 21st century Oneida County re-incarnation of the early 20th century clique of Utica mill owners.

This blogger critiqued Mr. Gray's remarks back in 2008 when he first came aboard: "New Commissioner, Old Vision" . . . and, to his credit, he responded (see the comments to the post). This was someone who took his status as a public servant seriously!  Unfortunately, Oneida County does not want public servants in management, only "yes men" who do as they are told.

And unfortunately Oneida County taxpayers have been deprived the benefits of the expertise that they hired.



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Griffiss "International's" Why, What, How . . . and Who?

According to the Rome Sentinel, flight traffic is down 12% at Griffiss "International" Airport so far this year.

This raises a lot of Questions (from a reliable source):
  1. Why have itinerant commercial Air Taxi aircraft operations at Griffiss decreased 36% from 806 in 2011 to 516 in 2013?
  2. Why have itinerant General Aviation aircraft operations at Griffiss decreased 52% from 18,905 in 2011 to 9,081 in 2013?
  3. Why have local General Aviation aircraft operations at Griffiss decreased 51% from 35,426 in 2011 to 17,499 in 2013?
  4. Why has the total of itinerant and local aircraft operations at Griffiss decreased 44% from 60,265 in 2011 to 33,503 in 2013?
  5. Why has the number of passengers reported departing from Griffiss decreased from 1,146 in 2011 to 744 in 2013?
  6. How many additional itinerant aircraft operations, both military and civil, are expected to be generated by the presence of a Customs Office?
  7. Why are annual aircraft operations expected to increase to only 54,000 over the next 20 years, not even equaling or exceeding previous levels at Griffiss or at the Old Oneida Co. Airport in Whitestown?
  8. What marketing of the airport is being conducted by Million Air to attract itinerant non-military aircraft?
  9. What marketing of the airport is being conducted by EDGE to attract new commercial enterprises?
  10. How do Million Air’s aviation fuel prices compare to other General Aviation airports within a 50 mile radius?
Considering that we continue to pour millions of Taxpayer dollars into the Griffiss "International" Albatross with decreasing airport use . . .

Who benefits from all the taxpayers' largess?

We, the Taxpayers, certainly aren't getting anything!

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Easy as PI . . . Or Is IT?

SUNY PI  (for Polytechnic Institute)!

Thank goodness they picked out a cool name for the merged SUNY IT and SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE).  The Times Union's Buzz has a rather humorous take on the name change called "Tom Selleck's 3.14 degrees of separation."  But between the humorous lines about Alain Kaloyeros growing a mustache was a kernel of concern over institutional identity.
"SPI is awfully close to RPI and some people may wonder which institute is being talked about when the names come up."
The article makes obvious the Albany institution's strong association with Dr. Kaloyeros.  Rightly so! He made it what it is.  The institution's mission is associated with nanotechnology.  Again, rightly so. That has been CNSE's focus... And in the Capital District's sea of institutions of higher learning, the niche focus of CNSE works to distinguish the institution from others.

In Utica there are different concerns over institutional identity and mission.

Time seems to have cured the association of SUNYIT with Utica (see the 2008 post What's (Not) In a Name) as people became familiar with its location.  But now we are not only back to square one, but behind it,  with "SUNY PI" being located in two different metro areas!  The institution may be unified, but the campuses are separated by 90 miles.

More important is that SUNYIT has had its own genesis . . . not associated with one person and not associated with a niche field. In the rush to create "SUNY PI" it seems that the tradition and mission of Utica's institution are being forgotten and traded for those of the more glamorous CNSE. . . . particularly by our own local officials.

Let's embrace the changes . . . but, at the same time, work to maintain the local identity and preserve the original mission.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Another Dirty Campaign on the Horizon?

I received a political survey call this evening. At first the questions were about general Republican issues . . . but then the questions zeroed in on the 101st Assembly District primary between incumbent Claudia Tenney and her Herkimer County challenger.

Many of the questions were almost verbatim from the negative campaign ads used against Ms. Tenney during her congressional primary . . . misconstruing Ms. Tenney's record by taking her votes out of context . . . which suggests that the same people behind the negative congressional campaign against her are at it again.

Happy to set her record straight, Ms. Tenney, in a switch for an incumbent, has offered her challenger four debates -- which not only exposes her record to criticism where warranted, but also gives valuable name-exposure to her challenger -- something he needs outside of Herkimer County.

Whether you agree on the issues with Ms. Tenney or not, isn't this what a candidate does who is really interested in being a public servant?

After more than two weeks, the debate-offer has yet to be accepted.

Rather than getting an issues-oriented race, voters need to get ready for another round of negative mudslinging by our local republican elite . . .  the best that money can buy!

American Culture . . .

There was a "letter to the editor" in the OD recently, "United States was designed to be a diverse nation,"  that argued that Hobby Lobby was doing a "disservice" to various religious groups by claiming that the United States was a Christian country. This letter bothered me.

Although the writer correctly points out that the Constitution prevents our government from establishing an official religion or prohibiting people from practicing their religion, the writer ignores the facts (1) that the nation's founders were primarily Christian, (2) that their religious beliefs shaped their view of human rights, and (3) that our founding documents must be viewed from the perspective of those beliefs to be properly understood.

In that sense, while carrying no official religion, America IS a Christian nation because Judeo-Christian values are woven throughout our system of laws. 

Contrary to the title of the letter-to-the-editor, the United States was not "designed to be a diverse nation" as the Constitution is neutral on the subject.  To accept such a premise opens us up to accepting things (such as Sharia Law) under the guise of "religious freedom" that go against our laws and our culture as an American people.  Great Britain and France have already gone down that road by embracing "diversity" to the extreme,  and now are not only in danger of losing their own cultures, but the safety and tranquility of their citizenry.

Hobby Lobby is trying to remind us of the Christian underpinnings of our system of government, which are the underpinnings of our culture.   That is a great service to the American public.