Thursday, December 06, 2018

More OD Confusion and Over-Simplification re Environmental Policy . . .

The OD Editorial "Good environmental policy nature's best healer" states the obvious.  Good environmental laws have produced great benefits for both our environment and "We the People."  

The editorial board goes wrong when it, again, conflates acid rain with climate change, seemingly for the purpose of taking a pot shot at President Trump for rescinding the Obama Administration's Clean Power Plan.  The issues of Climate Change and Acid Rain are different, scientifically and legally.

Acid Rain is caused by specific pollutants that are listed in the Clean Air Act (CAA) because Congress determined that the benefits of regulating those pollutants outweighed the detriments.  The "Clean Power Plan" (CPP), however, had nothing to do with the listed pollutants, but,  rather,  was directed toward reducing CO2 in the belief that it would help to prevent Climate Change.

Neither CO2 nor Climate Change are mentioned in the CAA because Congress was not able to agree that these should be subject to regulation.  

Regulation of CO2 was authorized under a different provision of the CAA, based upon an EPA (not Congressional) finding that CO2 causes sufficient harm to humans to be worth regulating.  Because a regulation impacts people's lives, the determination is not purely a scientific one, but, rather, it has a political component.   While there appears to be a scientific consensus that CO2 should be regulated, that is not the same as Congress (or an administrative agency) that are ultimately answerable to the people making that determination. 

Since a number of scientists do not see a clear benefit from regulating CO2, the Trump Administration is free to rely upon their opinions, rescind the EPA finding, and rescind the CPP. 

If the Editorial Board, or OD readers, are sincere in their belief that CO2 needs to be regulated, they need to lobby Congress to change the CAA to specifically regulate CO2 to prevent Climate Change. It will then be up to Congress to balance the benefits against the detriments to determine if such regulation is needed. 

If Congress strikes the wrong balance it will have a political price to pay (as is apparently happening now in France with the "Gilet Jaune" (Yellow Vest) movement).

In the end, Protecting the Environment must always involve doing what is Best for People.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

The Fake Site Selection "Process" . . .

According to the Observer-Dispatch: "Study reveals how downtown hospital site was chosen"  

Actually the study DOES NOT reveal how the Downtown Site was chosen because it does not explain how the Downtown Site got on the list of sites to be considered.

Five of the 12 sites are golf courses; three others include current or former hospital sites; one is a business park; one is owned by a business; one sounds like vacant land; and, finally, one is Downtown.

Supposedly "parcels 50 acres and larger"  were identified to host the facility, but the Downtown Site is neither 50 acres, nor is it a "parcel,"  but, rather, it is about 25 acres consisting of about 90 parcels, occupied by about 40 business and other entities, plus blocks of city streets. The dis-similarity of the Downtown Site to all the others on the list begs the question: "Why was Downtown even looked at?" 

It's clear from the FOILed e-mails of county officials that the site selection "process" involved designating sites that could be eliminated (straw-men to be knocked down) in order to steer the MVHS Board to choose the Downtown Site that was preferred by local economic development and various elected officials. "Elan" was the consultant brought on board by EDGE to perform this task.   Per the 2/3/2015 e-mail of EDGE President Steven DiMeo to Anthony Brindisi . . .
"My whole thought process in bringing Elan on board is to make sure that we guide siting decision in favor of downtown."
This Blog previously drew the conclusion that no criteria were included in the siting process to protect the public's interest.  The "Summary Memo" of the selection process included in the Hospital's Draft Environmental Impact Statement reinforces this conclusion.  

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement's failure to include the actual Site Selection Study (as opposed to a "Summary Memo") and to explain how the Downtown Site even was put on the list leads to the conclusion that the site selection "process" was merely a sham - window dressing -  to hide from the Hospital Board, the Public, and, now, the involved State Agencies that putting the hospital Downtown was merely the arbitrary and personal choice of certain local officials.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Win, Place, or Show -- 3 Ways to Win by Voting for Larry Sharpe...

In case you missed the 4-way debate for NY Governor (Cuomo absented himself) held by the League of Women Voters, here is a link.  The awfully-moderated earlier debate between Cuomo and Molinaro may be painfully watched here. (It only demonstrates Cuomo's big mouth and lack of self control).

We know that Cuomo's policies have produced zilch results economically for Upstate NY, in spite of spending unprecedented amounts ($Billions) of tax dollars on buildings for industries, airports, and public infrastructure. How many times does the Communist approach to economic development (public ownership of the means of production) have to be tried before it is relegated to the dust-bin of history?

Mr. Molinaro, while more moderate than Mr. Cuomo, is unconvincing that he would bring needed changes to New York. On social issues he expresses more concern about maintaining abortion rights than he does about protecting 2nd Amendment rights (his running mate is pro-SAFE Act).  He may wear the Republican label but acts like a "Lite Democrat."

Most telling, and concerning, was Mr. Molinaro's side-stepping any endorsement of President Trump's economic policies, even after at least 3 challenges by Mr. Cuomo to do so.  Does Molinaro not see the significant improvement in the Nation's business climate brought by Trump's tax changes and regulation reductions?  The economic numbers are the best the Nation has seen in Decades! Why would the State's GOP pick for Governor not embrace the President's policies that have worked so well, particularly in "flyover" parts of the country that are similar to Upstate NY? Why would the GOP pick for Governor not show how NY could profit from these policies?  Is he OK with the Nation leaving NY behind?

Libertarian Larry Sharpe, with the "less government" message, offers the best hope for New York to advance economically, especially in the Trump era.  He is the ONLY candidate that recognizes that turning New York around will require a "culture change" toward less government in Albany.  He has demonstrated his willingness to take on that challenge given the map of all the places in New York State that he has visited during his campaign. I don't think we have ever seen a candidate for governor work this hard!

Mr. Sharpe is clearly in this race to win -- and if he does, New York will become a much better place to live by shrinking the size of government and its control over our lives.

But if you vote for Mr. Sharpe, you will win Something even if he comes in second or third.

In New York, a Party's placement on a ballot depends upon the number of votes cast for the Party in the governor's race.  If Sharpe places second, the Libertarian Party will take over the second line on the Ballot, sending a strong message to Republican leadership that it needs to change in a "less government" direction.

There have been a LOT of funny (ha ha) radio ads asking voters to vote for Mr. Molinaro on the Conservate Party Line "to show support for President Trump" - which makes them "funny" in a "weird" sense since Mr. Molinaro does not support President Trump.  The ads show Conservative Party desperation to hold on to that 3rd Ballot line -- which is too often squandered on candidates that are not really conservative. If Sharpe places 3rd, which he can do very easily, the Libertarian Party will take over the 3rd line, telling the Conservative Party that it needs to move in a "less government" direction.

Culture change in Albany will not come easily.  A vote for Sharpe gives the voter 3 chances to start that culture change.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Bigger than Tenney v Brindisi . . .

Tuesday's congressional election is bigger than Tenney v Brindisi and Gillibrand vs Farley.  It is about who will control the Congress.  Here's your real ballot (from a Facebook meme):


It is also directing your own life vs government running your life, and taking care of Americans vs taking care of the world. 
The Democrats have moved to the radical left.  "Medicare for All" means taking Medicare from Seniors who have paid into it for a lifetime and using it to pay for medicare for everyone else. It won't be healthcare between you and your doctor -- it will be between you and your government. Proposed Democrat "middle class tax cuts" (see Kamala Harris) will be "Welfare for All" because they are designed to make the middle class as dependent upon government checks as the poor. Democrats want to control you and everything about you, including what you think, say or do.  They will use every means necessary to take power and lord it over you -- including turning government agencies against those with differing ideas, spying on phone conversations, invading personal computers, harassing individuals and their families, filing spurious or false charges and lawsuits, and character assassination. Once they have power, they will not cede to contrary wishes of the voters because they will populate the government with civil servants that will be obedient only to them. These are things that have already been done, or will be done.  

The election is no longer about who will represent you, but  in what direction do you want the country to move.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

My Apology!

I love it when people comment on my posts, even when they disagree.  I approve probably 95% of the comments coming my way, usually within 24 hours.

However, I discovered this morning a cache of 17 comments going back several weeks that somehow escaped my notice (i.e., I never got an e-mail that someone had commented.)  They have now been approved and posted.

So to those of my readers who posted comments and did not see them, I was not ignoring you.

My Apology!

Friday, August 31, 2018

OD Conflating Acid Rain with Climate Change . . .

In Response to OD's VIEW: New energy plan bad for ADKs, environment

It is wrong when an editorial board plays upon people's ignorance to advance a political agenda.

The culprit in acid rain is SO2 and NOx, NOT Greenhouse Gases, and it is misleading to conflate the two.  The mechanisms producing Acid Rain are well understood, SO2 and NOx emissions have already been limited, and the benefits are capable of being calculated and documented. 

The Obama Clean Power Plan, however, was targeted to preventing Climate Change, not Acid Rain, by curbing Greenhouse Gas emissions (mainly CO2).  While many claim that CO2 is driving climate change, the mechanisms producing climate change are not as clear as those producing Acid Rain, and the benefits of restricting CO2 through the Clean Power Plan are speculative.   Accepting UN calculations, the Paris Accord would only shave an imperceptible fraction of a degree from world temperature -- meaning that US citizens would have been forced to suffer a reduction in their standard of living to achieve virtually nothing.

Unfortunately those of us in Upstate NY have been forced to sacrifice our economy for the "environmentally virtuous" policies of Andrew Cuomo and his predecessors going back to Mario Cuomo. 

"Protecting the Environment" is emotionally appealing, but unintended consequences to Ordinary People need to be determined and understood, too, if public policy is to be sound.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Net Neutrality: Unneeded and Counter Productive . . .

Per today's OD: Lawmakers: New cable operator should observe net neutrality
"Democrats in the New York state Assembly say any broadband provider picked to replace Charter Communications in the state should be required to observe net neutrality. . . 

"The lawmakers say whichever company replaces Charter should be prohibited from altering web speeds or traffic to favor certain sites or apps."
Good luck finding a provider willing to do this without an outlandish NYS-style taxpayer or ratepayer subsidy to finance defiance of the laws of economics. Net Neutrality may sound good, but it is really the opposite.

Requiring "Net Neutrality"  unnecessarily extends government control,  worsening service, raising rates for most people, and inhibiting expansion and innovation. 

"Unnecessary" because new technologies (eg., 4G LTE) are introducing competition into the marketplace, giving customers options of doing business with another internet provider if they feel their current provider is being unfair to them.

"Worsening service" and "raising rates" because non-affiliated content makers (eg. TV channels, movie industry, news sources, etc. ) will siphon income that the internet provider needs to maintain its network. Remember that Spectrum/Time Warner Cable/ and Harron Communications (locally) began with delivering content (TV), not internet, and their wired networks' well-being depended upon the income received for content.  

"Inhibiting expansion and innovation" because a provider will not make the needed investment if an investment will benefit competitors more than itself.
It's like the old "Fairness Doctrine" of 40-50 years ago which required that broadcasters give "equal time" to opposing viewpoints.  The result was that many broadcasters simply stopped disseminating any viewpoints at all in order to avoid the government's paper work.  Instead of providing the public with alternative viewpoints on an issue, the public would up receiving less information.

With apologies to Mies van der Rohe, "Less (governmental control) is More (public benefit)"    

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

PSC: Substituting "Politician" for "the Public" . . .

Continuing on the subject of "Short Circuiting Upstate," the NY Post opines that "Consumers are going to lose in Cuomo’s bet on wind energy." The Post explains that the Cuomo-PSC Order will require NY utilities to purchase offshore-wind power that will cost FOUR TIMES the current average cost of power in NYS -- with that current average being already 40% higher than the national average! The Post suggests that damages to the environment, the fishing industry and grounds, and navigation will also result from the Cuomo-PSC action.

The environmental impact statement (EIS) for the PSC Order avoids assessing specific environmental impacts with a statement that the order is not tied to any particular site. The EIS only considers "no action" as a reasonable alternative, with nuclear power -- particularly the  continuation of existing Indian Point nuclear power (which Cuomo has vowed to shut down by 2021) -- conspicuous by its absenceIt certainly looks like the SEQRA process, which in barest essence is supposed to ensure that decision-makers will know the environmental consequences of what they are doing, has been bent to fit the governor's notion of what is in the public interest. But, as the Post editorial suggests, it is not just SEQRA that is being bent:
During his successful 1932 run for the White House, New York Gov. Franklin Roosevelt campaigned hard on the issue of electricity affordability. In a speech in Portland, Ore., he told voters that as governor, he had made sure that the New York Public Service Commission was acting “as an agent of the public.” Because electric utilities are monopolies, government’s job was to ensure consumers get a “fair deal” — “adequate service and reasonable rates.
Gov. Roosevelt's view reflects the "traditional" view of why we have a PSC: Certain services are so expensive to implement that they would never be built without the builder being assured that competitors will not prevent the builder from recouping its costs.  The government grants the builder a monopoly in return for government control of rates to keep consumers from being gouged. How times have changed!

Does PSC forcing Utilities to purchase power that costs 4 times the current inflated average sound like ensuring that "consumers get a 'fair deal?'" 

Now the Cuomo-PSC is at the center of another controversy.  Per WKTV "Public Service Commission orders Charter/Spectrum to leave New York State" because, supposedly, Spectrum has not lived up to promises to expand its broadband network to underserved areas.  Assemblyman Brindisi was quick to jump on the bandwagon.
"It’s high time New York cut the cord with Spectrum Cable and provided residents with more competition. Over the past several years, I have heard from literally hundreds of constituents who have called me and signed my online petition, and they are absolutely fed up. They’ve had it with poor customer service; sudden surprise rate hikes they cannot afford; and promises that are not being kept by Spectrum. What is just as bad is that thousands of New Yorkers who are waiting for the broadband access Spectrum keeps advertising it is providing are still stuck with 20th Century technology. I am pleased that the PSC is taking these serious concerns to heart, and is looking out for the hundreds of thousands of Spectrum customers across the state being shortchanged when it comes to cable and Internet service.”
First, how does kicking a company out of the marketplace provide residents "with more competition?"

Second, per Ars Technica, the "poor service" and "surprise rate hikes" cited by Mr. Brindisi are NOT the basis for the PSC's order.  In fact, the PSC acknowledges that it does not regulate the rates that seem to bother people.  Rather, PSC is in a snit because broadband is not being extended quickly enough -- in its opinion. However that dispute involves potential customers, not those of us who are already paying the bills.  In other words, PSC is NOT "looking out for the hundreds of thousands of Spectrum customers being shortchanged when it comes to cable and Internet service" as claimed by Mr. Brindisi, but, rather, for those hoping that the government will give them the opportunity to become customers at someone else's expense.

If water and sewer service extensions are a guide (the subject of many blog posts here) , extension of wired services into sparsely populated areas will lead to higher rates for us all because someone will have to pay to install and maintain all that additional wire and other equipment, and there are not enough someones in the rural areas to do it. In essence, this is a redistribution scheme where more money will have to be taken from those with broadband to give broadband to those without it.

In addition, the Cuomo-PSC directive forces Spectrum to spend money on a (wired) technology that will become uneconomical in rural areas as newer (wireless) methods of product delivery become available - ensuring that the builder will not be able to recover its costs. (See the difference between FDR in 1932 and now?)

These two stories indicate that the role of the PSC has changed from an organization that nurtures development while protecting the public from gouging, to one that defies the laws of economics to advance political agendas.

The Public Service Commission's name should be changed to the Politician Service Commission because its mission now, apparently, is to make politicians look good.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Short Circuiting Upstate . . . Again

Gov. Cuomo, local representatives in the Senate and Assembly, and local officials who count state dollars spent here as "success,"  spare us your "economic development" schemes that cost NY taxpayers billions of dollars supposedly to lure big jobs to Upstate New York. They haven't worked because you have never addressed any root causes of our businesses leaving.

Instead, if you were really interested in improving the economic conditions Upstate, you would stop harebrained schemes such as this: Governor Cuomo Announces Plan Directing the Procurement of Approximately 800 Megawatts of Offshore Wind to Jumpstart Industry

While this may sound nice, per the Empire Center:
"Upstate New York ratepayers will pick up more than half the multi-billion-dollar tab for a massive offshore wind turbine project that will provide very costly power for Long Island and New York City."
This is just the latest assault on the cost of doing business and living in NY that will have an outsize negative impact on Upstate as compared to Downstate . . . But the Downstaters make all the rules.

For the analysis read "Wind Costs Will Blow North."

Friday, June 29, 2018

Followup to Dazzling and Disgusting . . .

Here's a followup to the Downtown: Dazzling and Disgusting post earlier this year . . .

The rain forest . . . I mean rain garden in front of my barber's shop is still disgusting.  It contains junk, and is overgrown with weeds, one over five feet tall.

Maybe it will get cleaned up for the Boilermaker. 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

New Term to Learn: Project Labor Agreement

"Project Labor Agreement (PLA)."  I had never heard the term before until a friend called yesterday to relate that the term had been used by some of the Union demonstrators in favor of the Downtown Hospital Project the other night.  No sooner did I hang up the phone when I heard the term used again during an interview with Tommy Carcone, President of the Utica Fire Union on WUTQ.

WikiPedia defines a PLA as
"a pre-hire collective bargaining agreement with one or more labor organizations that establishes the terms and conditions of employment for a specific construction project. Before any workers are hired on the project, construction unions have bargaining rights to determine the wage rates and benefits of all employees working on the particular project and to agree to the provisions of the agreement. The terms of the agreement apply to all contractors and subcontractors who successfully bid on the project, and supersedes any existing collective bargaining agreements. . . " (superscripts omitted)
PLAs can be good things, ensuring that workers on taxpayer-funded projects have protections against being taken advantage of (pay, working conditions, hours, safety, etc.,etc.).  However, the website The Truth About Project Labor Agreements calls them
"special interest schemes that end open, fair and competitive bidding on taxpayer-funded construction projects."
So like anything well intended, abuses can occur.

How does this relate to the Downtown Hospital proposal? It can be presumed that since taxpayer dollars are involved and since NYS favors the use of PLAs (24 states apparently take the opposite view), there would be a PLA no matter where the hospital is built. So why was the term was used by demonstrators?  Is there a PLA in existence for the proposal? If so, who signed it and when, and what are its terms? Is there a PLA that requires the hospital to be built Downtown -- or one that is conditioned upon the hospital being built Downtown?

At this point it is unclear why the Union demonstrators have chosen sides in the hospital location debate, or whether it is related to a PLA or not, but maybe someone out there can clarify with a comment.

Mr. Carcone's interview, however, is another story -- a troubling one.
Beginning at around 13:00 he talks about the Utica Ambulance service being a revenue source for the city of Utica and having a Certificate of Need to serve Utica (exclusively?). He argues that this somehow will make up for the loss of tax revenue that will come into the city due to the hospital being tax exempt.  [Of course, that loss of tax revenue to Utica would be totally avoided if the hospital were built at St. Luke's].

The Utica Ambulance Service has already gone into competition against private ambulance companies. If my memory serves me correctly, that was done supposedly to increase revenues into the City of Utica (by tapping deep-pocket insurers). But if the costs to customers are going into balancing the city budget in addition to the supply of the actual service, CUSTOMERS ARE PAYING MORE FOR THE AMBULANCE SERVICE THAN IT IS WORTH IN THE OPEN MARKET. In addition, the service will be subject to the same abuses that we see often in local government as compared to private businesses, further increasing costs. See "Ambulance Chasing" from March 2011. I do not think that the Utica taxpayers have ever been given a breakdown of the actual cost of their ambulance service.

Mr. Carcone talked about an agreement with Utica College and proposed that the hospital should buy an ambulance for the UFD. (Why should our regional hospital buy an ambulance for Utica?) Maybe I am wrong but it sounded like putting the hospital in Utica would somehow be used to get suburban residents to contribute to Utica. Could patients some day be faced with a Utica law that says "All persons travelling to hospitals in Utica by ambulance must be transported by the Utica Fire Dept?" That seemed to be what this guy was implying but maybe I misunderstood him. Yet we've seen how the rules and laws can be manipulated both in regard to the ambulance service and other things.   This would increase benefits to the Utica Firefighter's Union, put the squeeze on private businesses, increase local insurance rates, and do nothing to improve healthcare.

Mr. Carcone also discussed negotiating "Project Labor Agreements" after the project is built.  My understanding is that hospital workers already have their bargaining representatives.  What is his interest in this?  Is he thinking that Utica's municipal workers' unions will somehow get involved?

It sounds like putting the hospital in Utica is going to subject its operations to Utica special-interest politics.

This is probably the best reason for KEEPING THE NEW HOSPITAL OUT OF UTICA. Who thinks that forcing the Hospital to deal with Utica politics will benefit their healthcare?

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Balloon has Burst . . .

A few days ago area officials were whining about this area losing out as a drone testing site.  Tonight we are hit with this bombshell: Premier Aviation in Rome to close, 150 jobs lost.

No Drones . . . No Aircraft Maintenance . . . So what do we have to show for the Taxpayer $$$$$ invested at Griffiss "International" Airport? 

Meanwhile we gave up our old County Airport in Whitestown for a "Homeland Security" Training Center that has created how many jobs? ...  that is used how often?

We destroyed what we had that met our needs to build something "better"  -- and more expensive to maintain -- 5 miles away. Did that make sense for a region of shrinking population?

We are doing the same thing now in Utica where two existing hospitals will be closed and consolidated into something "better" at an entirely new site -- yet the old hospital sites will remain and the existing tax-paying businesses at the new site will be destroyed. Does this not waste the prior investments made at both hospitals and businesses?  Aren't we increasing future expenses for the taxpayer?

We seem to be building for the sake of building - - like pumping air into a balloon.

What will we have when the balloon bursts?

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Downtown Utica: Dazzling & Disgusting . . .

 Old intricate brickwork contrasting with New marble, steel and glass = Dazzling!

Meanwhile, only One block away . . .  a taxpayer-financed  so-called "green" "rain garden" is Disgusting with garbage!

With the taxes Uticans pay, one would think that city leaders could at least keep our "5-Star Main Street" clean.

If we cannot trust them with small things, how can we trust them to make the right decisions about Downtown's future?

Sunday, April 08, 2018

What's Next On the Agenda?

Today's Observer Dispatch editorial, "OUR VIEW: ‘Base’ has come a long way since BRACC," repeats an old "feel good" story of MV EDGE bringing economic "growth" to Rome.

Why repeat this now?

Is it to make us feel better that EDGE marketed the land from underneath some 40 businesses, Not-for-Profits, and even Utica's new police garage to a tax-exempt hospital because EDGE's leader deemed Utica's Columbia-Lafayette a "do over" neighborhood?

Maybe it is to make us feel better when one of EDGE's alphabet-soup of "partner" agencies takes these properties by eminent domain -- and EDGE and its partners can again justify their existence by offering to find their victims new homes? 

EDGE has been unaccountable to anyone, yet has such power that it can override local zoning and plans, rearrange streets, and even change a neighborhood's character -- all without public input. The County Legislature and City Council have been mere rubber-stamps to EDGE's machinations.

While contemplating EDGE's "growth" in Rome let's remember that some of it came at Utica's expense. EDGE's stock in trade, after all,  has been to move the economic deck chairs around this region's sinking ship. 

Utica seemed to do better at attracting jobs before EDGE was put there to eliminate the "politics and infighting."

Maybe it is time to get rid of EDGE!

Friday, April 06, 2018

Three Beds? Three Beds!

Three Beds!

That would be the net increase in hospital beds located at the St. Luke's Campus IF the new hospital proposed for Downtown were, instead, constructed on the St. Luke's Campus.  This conclusion is based upon MVHS's existing and proposed beds summary tabulated in the DOH's Needs Analysis, below.

As already explained in "Don't be Misled," there is NO legal requirement that the hospital be built in the City of Utica -- in spite of repeated statements by Mr. Perra and others. [I guess they are following the adage "if you repeat a lie often enough . . ."]

As already made clear in "Downtown Hospital: Locally Hatched and Conceived" the idea of putting the hospital downtown comes from local people: Mr. Brindisi, Mr. Picente, Mr. Dimeo and others -- not Albany.

With a negligible increase of only 3 beds, there is no question that if the new hospital were built at St. Lukes, the finished project would have NO impacts (environmental or otherwise) distinguishable from the hospital already there. No need to change public infrastructure. No need to add water pipes. No need to add sewer pipes. No need to change traffic patterns off campus. NO NEED FOR MORE PARKING!

The more we learn about this project, the more foolish it appears to build it Downtown!


Friday, March 23, 2018

More Population Loss for Utica-Rome Metro . . .

Latest Census Dept. estimates confirm what we've suspected: Utica-Rome Metro continues to lose population . . . Now at only 293,572 . . .  down from 293,752 last year, down from 299,397 in 2010, and down from 344,300 in 1972.

THIS is the accurate report card on how well state and local policies are working!

New buildings, new highways, new shopping areas, new college campuses, new "international" airport and "nano" sites, a new hockey team -- and a new hospital -- all give an appearance of success that cannot mask the fact that this region continues to fail.

We are fooling ourselves if we think that repeating the failed policies of the past will produce different results.

We deserve better than appearances.

"Ain't Nothing like the Real Thing, Baby!- Marvin Gaye and Tammi Tyrell, 1967

Sunday, February 18, 2018

A KISS for Our New Hospital!

Issues can get complicated at times, and the discussion swirling around the new hospital is no exception.  Let's Keep It Simple . . .

A KISS FOR THE ENVIRONMENT - The State Environmental Quality Review Act requires government to consider and choose the alternative that minimizes adverse environmental impacts to the maximum extent practicable.  You don't need to know environmental science to know that putting the hospital on the St. Luke's Campus is less impactful to the environment than putting it Downtown because less will be disturbed!

A KISS FOR REGIONAL HEALTH CARE - The applicable state law provides for funding projects that "consolidate multiple licensed health care facilities into an integrated system of care..." You don't need to know health care policy to know that going from three health care campuses to four by adding a new one Downtown is the exact opposite of consolidation.

A KISS FOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT - Regional leaders want the hospital Downtown to spur economic development. You don't need to know economic development theory to know that there is already significant economic activity going on within the Downtown hospital footprint (and if you don't know that, just ask the business people there) and that condemning businesses is the exact opposite of developing them. With the Arterial Project finally behind us, the existing infrastructure and buildings that a hospital would bulldoze are now assets that can be recycled, making the neighborhood prime for business expansion and new investment! 

Keep It at St luke'S

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Downtown Hospital: Local Leaders Seriously Out of Touch With Reality . . .

There are a couple stories in the "out of touch with reality" category and they both relate to the proposed Downtown Hospital:

I. Rome Sentinel a couple days ago:
  Environmental review process begins on Utica hospital project

While the headline focuses on environmental review, the significance is what was actually done. MVHS applied to the Oneida County Local Development Corporation for financial assistance in the form of $175M of tax exempt bonding and mortgage recording tax abatement in the proposed Downtown Hospital Project.  OCLDC unanimously accepted this application.  BUT here is the OCLDC's mission statement from its website:
The mission of the Oneida County Local Development Corporation (OCLDC) is to assist in the enhancement and diversity of the economy of Oneida County by acting in support of projects in Oneida County that create and/or retain jobs and promote private sector investment utilizing the statutory powers of the Local Development Corporation as set forth under the provisions of the of the laws of the State of New York.
Isn't the OCLDC Board aware that the hospital consolidation will result in a reduction of hospital jobs? Isn't the OCLDC Board aware that putting the hospital Downtown will destroy private sector jobs and destroy the value of private sector investments in the businesses that will be taken?

How could OCLDC have accepted MVHS' application given its mission statement? Ignorance? Corruption? Speculative information?

 II. WKTV Yesterday:
   MVHS Offers relocation assistance to downtown property owners

  One Million Dollars sounds like a lot of money until you consider that it will be spread out over many entities.  Using the article's number of businesses it will be about $40K each.  If spread over all the entities that would be forced to move (although most will simply close) it would be closer to $25K per business.  Does that still sound like a lot?  How does the total amount MVHS proposes to assist these businesses compare with Mr. Perra's salary for only one year? Does $1M sound so generous now?

 We see a lot of leaders in the group who fancy themselves as "economic development" experts -- much like we have elected state officials (including the governor) and various bureaucrats who profess that "economic development" is a priority.  But do they really understand what is required to take a concept from an idea to a profit-making business that creates market value and can provide jobs for people?

Like private investors in the stock market, the State is learning the "hard way" (well hopefully it is learning) that merely spending money on what may seem like good ideas rarely produces the anticipated benefits -- as a little "cocktail-napkin" math will illustrate:

  • The state has spent about $250 million on Utica Nano. Originally it was expected to produce around 750 jobs -- or around $333,000 per job.
  • With the site finally in use by Danfoss, it is expected to produce around 350 jobs -- if that company's efforts prove successful -- or around $700,000 per job.
  • The actual result so far, however, years after Utica Nano was announced, is about 13 jobs -- or about $19 MILLION PER JOB!

So far State expenditures on the Buffalo Billion project have produced a humongous solar panel plant tended to by a skeleton crew -- failure perhaps due to Chinese competition in the industry, but with the potential to turn around not due to NYS policies but with TRUMP's proposal to tax panel imports. $90M was spent on a lighting plant in Syracuse - zero jobs, and a $15M film industry "hub" also in the Syracuse area - zero jobs.

Simply put, there are too many variables to make valid predictions on what particular public "investments" will produce in jobs and economic benefits -- so, should the government even be involved in this?

The bigger question is should the government be involved in destroying "this" - i.e., destroying what we already have?

There is a community of businesses and not-for-profits in the footprint of the Downtown Hospital that will be destroyed  (and we know they will be destroyed from all prior government projects that required businesses to "move" -- whether they be arterial projects, urban renewal projects, government office buildings, or Ft. Stanwix National Monument).  When you take a business, you take not only all the personal investment and sweat put into the business by the business owners, but also that of all the trial-and-error efforts that came before at that location. 

When you take the jobs associated with these businesses, what amount of NEW investment will be required to get EACH of them back?  $333,000?  $700,000? $19 MILLION?  That kind of investing will be needed just to stay even. 

What are the chances we will come out ahead?  

Friday, February 02, 2018

Downtown Hospital: What Were the Siting Criteria?

The public has been told several times that the proposed Downtown Location for the new MVHS Hospital was based on criteria supplied by the hospital to ensure that the hospital's needs were met.

Given the large expenditure of Public funds to be spent to implement this project, WHAT, IF ANY, criteria were used to ensure that the PUBLIC'S INTEREST was being protected in the choice of a site?

Under what circumstances would placing this hospital downtown be acceptable?  In other words, what criteria should our de facto regional planning agency, MV EDGE, have used (but did not) during site selection to protect the PUBLIC's Interest?  Here is my personal list (and you may have more):
  1. ZERO impact to the local taxpayers -- i.e., no money for parking garage, replacement of police garage, environmental remediation, site assembly and preparation, and no net removal of properties from the tax rolls (e.g, if $2M of properties come off the tax rolls in the CoLa neighborhood, then an equal amount of properties must be placed ON the tax rolls (perhaps at the St. E. Site.))
  2. ZERO impact to existing businesses - no business losses, no job losses, no loss to personal wealth -- and that the businesses' existing/reasonable potential plans for expansion be accommodated.
  3. ZERO impact to the street grid. -- i.e., NO closures that would negatively change street circulation and make Utica's street grid less navigable or would make anyone's property more difficult to access.
  4. TOTAL consistency with not only the letter but the VISION for Utica's downtown as OFFICIALLY ENACTED in the Zoning Ordinance, the Existing Pattern of Development, Gateway District Regulations, and the Utica Master Plan.
  5. A demonstration that the Downtown Site better meets the specific criteria of Public Health Law Sec. 2825-B (the criteria for the grant) than the MVHS "back-up" site on the St. Luke's Campus.
  6. Being outside the now infamous "RED" evacuation zone extending 1/2 mile from active railroad tracks - to ensure that if the unthinkable unlikely event of a hazardous rail accident were to occur, it would not require evacuation of the region's ONLY hospital.

The Site Study, referred to as a "funnel map" in FOILed e-mails (to "funnel" MVHS' choice to the Downtown Site preferred by our local decision makers?) has never been voluntarily disclosed to the Public, and was not made available to the Public via the FOIL process, meaning that it is still a PRIVATE Study. Who does MV EDGE work for?  While it claims to be an "independent" "public benefit" corporation, which "public" is it benefiting?  Would there even BE an EDGE but for the Oneida County taxpayers and its relationship with County government? Could MV EDGE have gone as far as it has in advancing the hospital project WITHOUT THE AGREEMENT OF COUNTY GOVERNMENT?

Since the Site Study has not been made public, and there has been no articulation in any of the FOILed E-Mails between County Government, other officials, and EDGE that anyone insisted on any particular criteria to protect the Public Interest, IT CAN BE PRESUMED THAT NO CRITERIA TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC'S INTEREST WERE APPLIED TO THE SITE SELECTION PROCESS.

The FOILed e-mails make perfectly clear that the Governor was already committed to a new hospital in the Utica area, that MVHS was "guided" to the Downtown Site by EDGE, and that Mr. Brindisi, Mr. Picente, Mr. Palmieri, and others who were intimately involved with this choice, made no attempt to even ascertain how an improper siting could adversely affect the Public, much less than insist on criteria to protect the Public Interest. Instead . . .  

  • They applied their personal notions of what would be "best" for Utica, rather that accept the guidance of Utica's officially enacted planning documents.  
  • They applied their personal notions of what would be "best" for Utica: that it would be OK to burden local taxpayers with this project, that it would be OK to cause losses to business owners and their employees, and that it would be OK to disrupt traffic patterns.  
  • They applied their personal notion that it would be "best" for the hospital to be Downtown without EVER considering the STATE's GOALS and criteria.  
  • They even went so far as to determine that it would be OK to place what will be Greater Utica's ONLY hospital within an evacuation zone should an unlikely and unthinkable event happen. 


Thursday, January 18, 2018

Downtown Hospital: A Serious Miscalculation . . .

It should now be pretty clear from the e-mails previously posted that the idea of placing the new hospital Downtown originated with our local officials (elected and unelected):  NOT Albany (the Governor's Upstate czar did not like the idea) and NOT the MVHS Board (they had to be "steered" to Downtown and cajoled with promises that Downtown would be made cost "neutral" compared to the St. Luke's site (i.e., Taxpayers would pay for any additional costs)).  So how did we get to where we are now?

Governor Cuomo originally wanted to advance two new state of the art hospitals to demonstrate how health care could be streamlined: one Downstate in Brooklyn, one Upstate in Oneida County.

Mr. Brindisi, to his credit, lobbied for language to ensure that the new "Oneida County" hospital would be convenient to Utica's poor. The legislature's attorneys inserted the "largest population center" language to achieve that objective.

However, they said neither "Downtown Utica" nor "City of Utica," nor even "largest population city" nor "largest population municipality," which would have forced the hospital into Utica. That would have been risky for site selection considering that Utica is only 17 square miles in size. The use of the word "center" does NOT confine the site to one in Utica.

It should not take a rocket scientist to figure out that the Governor not only wanted to improve healthcare, but also to demonstrate to the nation that he could accomplish something good for the public. The insistence of Mr. Brindisi, Mr. Picente, Mr. Dimeo, Mr. Palmieri, and the other usual suspects that the hospital had to go Downtown to accomplish "economic development" (NOT a consideration under the hospital legislation) not only places at risk completion of the hospital, but the Governor's reputation as well.

When the only poll that was taken demonstrated that half of the respondents were against placing the hospital Downtown, why would the Governor want to support that? The Governor wants to be known for accomplishing something good, not causing public controversy. A state-of-the-art hospital should not be controversial, but placing it Downtown has made it so.

Insisting that the hospital has to go Downtown  is a serious miscalculation by our local officials. You have to question "What were they thinking?".

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Downtown Hospital Revelations: Vass Blog's Take

Michael Vass did a great job comparing statements in FOILed e-mails on the hospital with what was published in local media at the time.  Well worth reading!

Backroom wheeling and dealing in Utica may affect NY-22 and other elections

Monday, January 08, 2018

Downtown Hospital: Locally Conceived & Hatched . . .

There should be little doubt where the idea of placing the hospital Downtown originated and how that decision was made . . .(click images to enlarge) . . .
[Updated 1/13/18 to add bold quote in 4th box down]
  "I think downtown should be looked at first."
"Scott needs this for his board and help build consensus on a site option ... we need to know if we can make case for a downtown site and in the process include it as part of the URF stragegy"
"Scott sent me an email and made it clear that he has to evaluate sites and cannot automatically go to a downtown site without having looked at other sites"

"We need to make sure that [Director of Upstate Revitalization Richard] Tobe sees this as transformational. He is the only person I have talked to date who pissed on this as a project. . . . My whole thought process in bringing Elan on board is to make sure that we guide siting decision in favor of downtown."

"HE was not that enamored . . . . he was also not impressed . . . None of that impressed him."

"I spoke to Scott last week and relayed my preference for a downtown site. I know he has a Board to deal with but I hope he impresses upon them that a downtown site is preferable."

"Would you like me to reach out to Scott to ensure that he understands direction . . . ?"

"I feel like walking away from this whole thing and telling the community and hospital if you don't want this thing downtown then good luck at St Luke's and don't come see me for one ounce of state support."
[Updated 1/13/18 to add bold quote in 4th box down]

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Maybe we should call it the "Screw - U District?"

Happy New Year, folks, and welcome to "business" as usual in Utica and Oneida County with another speculative "Public-Private" scheme!

Twenty Eighteen kicks off with another forward looking editorial from the OD that is heavy with excitement but light on facts: "Nexus Center good way to begin new year."
The planned development of the Nexus Center -- a tournament-based sports and recreation hub -- on the a 1.9-acre site just east of the Aud will be one more thing to keep the downtown renaissance moving forward. . . .

 . . . It’s likely be funded through public and private funds. . . .
That is all we are told about the financing.  What we are not told is (1) that the Aud Authority has a limitation on bonded indebtedness of no more than $2,000,000  meaning the project will likely require County taxpayers to back the venture much like they did with the Aud expansion; (2) that the Aud Authority is still being involuntarily subsidized by the customers of the Mohawk Valley Water Authority (MVWA) to the tune of $732,000 annually as a matter of state law with mandated increases into the 2030s; and (3) that ownership by the Aud Authority means that another 1.9 acres of prime Downtown Utica property will be permanently removed from Utica's tax rolls.

The editorial cites Utica's central location and alleges a "need" for such venues to conclude that the center could "play a major role in economic development."
Utica Comets President Robert Esche has said that revenue would be based on out-of-towners coming here. The planned three sheets of ice could also be converted into lacrosse and soccer fields, he said earlier, so the complex could be capturing all sports, truly built around recreation, tournament-based play. He estimated it would mean roughly 300,000 to 350,000 out-of-towners coming to the area per year.
If this is true, then why isn't the Comets organization building this facility with its own money, and keeping the property on the tax rolls? It seem that, again, money from MVWA customers and the credit of county taxpayers are being lent to a private venture. 
In addition to creating an enterprising new venture in the city, this project also will eliminate a major downtown eyesore next to the vibrant Adirondack Bank Center auditorium. Demolition of Tartan has been scheduled, and depending on the weather, Annese said, it could be gone by the AHL All-Star Classic later this month. Previous asbestos contamination was abated when Bowers Development acquired the property last year -- and Bowers will pay for the demolition, Annese said.
What are we to make of the fact that Bowers acquired the property and performed asbestos abatement just to sell it to the Aud Authority and pay for demolition a year later? It is doubtful that Bowers is being an altruistic angel. There is a story there that the OD is not telling us. Regardless, elimination of a Downtown "eyesore" is again an excuse for government to get in bed with a private enterprise.
The center is a key component of the proposed U District, first mentioned by Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente in his 2017 State of the County message.
Maybe we should start calling it the "Screw-U District?"