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.  


Anonymous said...

How do you like your "PIE IN THE SKY" served? Do you like it served up a la Picente topped with everything or would you rather just skip this course all together?

Anonymous said...

All of the problems of this area can be summed up by three succinct statements:

Onedia County= Unmitigated Greed

Utica= Gross incompetence

New Hartford= Blatant Corruption

Anonymous said...

Just a couple of questions about Picente's background that have never been asked. 1. What is his educational background? 2. Has he ever held a full time paying job outside of the public sector? Just wondering.