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. 

 WHO LOOKED OUT FOR THE PUBLIC'S INTEREST IN SITE SELECTION????