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?"