Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Grants, grants, grants: Sucking on the public tit . . .

Per today's O-D, Oneida County will get $50K of help for brownfields from the federal government "to assess areas" local officials "believe to be contaminated."

Hello? The federal Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has already done this locally with its National Priorities List. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is already doing this for more sites with its Inactive Hazardous Waste Disposal Site Program, including Preliminary Site Assessments, and classification of various inactive hazardous waste disposal sites. Why should the county (or this consultant to the county) get money to do something the state and federal governments are already doing with fully trained experts in the field?

This "Let's reinvent the wheel" project sounds similar to what we heard back in 2002 when Niagara Mohawk said it was submitting a grant proposal to the USEPA to inventory and prioritize brownfield sites as part of the so-called "Center for Brownfield Studies" project. We all know now that the Center for Brownfield Studies never lived up to its promise. Like today's plan, it was nothing more than an excuse to spend taxpayer money, with the people implementing the program being its primary beneficiaries. Today's plan will accomplish no different.

There's more . . .

Oneida County's program was described by EPA last year as raising "agricultural issues," and that it would "identify and rank local environmental health issues," and "educate the public on environmental health issues by involving community members in decision-making and priority setting processes" -- which is somewhat different from the focus on brownfields in today's article. Why the original proposal to have this group involve people in "decision-making" when we already have duly elected officials to deal with these issues who should be seeking public imput? Don't we have more than enough "educational" programs? And now, why the change in focus to brownfields, especially when the ground has already been covered ? It's just an excuse to spend money.

What is interesting is who are among the program's prospective partners as listed by USEPA : Planned Parenthood Mohawk Hudson, Inc., Learning Disability Association of the Mohawk Valley, Catholic Charities of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse, Oneida County Historical Society, and Utica Safe Schools Healthy Students Partnership, Inc. (the latter of which rings a bell). What do these groups have to do with brownfields? What do they have to do with environmental health?

Why announce the program and solicit applications from municipalities today, 5/30, when the deadline for applications is 6/6, only a week away? Is this group serious, or does it already know who will be getting the money?

We already know what sites need to be cleaned up, and the road blocks involved. We don't need some new entity doing another study. To Fault Lines, this looks like just another example of the "clique" of "do gooders" (well-connected non-governmental organizations) creating/perpetuating their own jobs and promoting their private agendas by helping themselves to OUR MONEY. What's worse, as the Utica Safe Schools Partnership illustrates, it becomes an opportunity for government to circumvent "open-government" laws by acting through private organizations, and for private organizations to have access to confidential governmental information on businesses and individuals they otherwise would be unable to obtain. We pay for this. Nice deal, eh?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Utica's Hidden Treasures

Root Glen, Hamilton College, Clinton, NY
Red Shale Pathway

Bluebells Solomons Seals

A rock garden A quiet spot

The Ravine Path to the formal Garden The Garden at Root Glen, Hamilton College Clinton

. . . and the Utica Marsh

Huey Duey and Louey swim in the Duckweed

Huey Duey and Louey explore Utica Marsh Utica from the Marsh
Utica Marsh in Spring © All rights reserved.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Oneida County Justice?

CNY Underground points out that things don't look too good with Judge Romano having been the foreperson on the Grand Jury which indicted John Healy. Healy's lawyers are moving to dismiss the murder indictment, arguing that other jurors may have been intimidated by a Supreme Court Justice. The WKTV story on this also notes that Judge Romano was formerly a prosecutor in the District Attorney's office now prosecuting the charge.

At one time Judiciary Law §511 disqualified judges from the State's Unified Court System from serving on juries. (It also disqualified a host of other officials). Judiciary Law §511, however, no longer exists. Thus, judges are no longer exempt from this civic duty.

A defendant's ability to challenge a juror assists in ensuring that he/she will be judged by an unbiased jury. However, individuals serving on a Grand Jury are not subject to such challenge (CPL 190.20) as are jurors on a petit jury (CPL 270.15).

Unless there is reason to believe that the judge was not placed on the jury at random as required by Judiciary Law §507 (and no evidence of this has been presented), having this judge on the Grand Jury passes muster.

The court's appointment of the judge as jury foreperson (CPL 190.20(3)) would have elevated the judge's stature above her peer jurors, and could be criticized.

Everything may be according to the letter of the law . . . but what about appearances? Having a former prosecutor on a Grand Jury certainly gives an appearance of bias. Where is common sense? Is this what we citizens want Oneida County Justice to look like?

When the legislature did away with §511, they expanded the potential jury pool. Could they also have forgotten a reason why they put §511 on the books to begin with?

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Miscellaneous Musings ... Schools, Powerlines, & Blogging

School Board elections are tomorrow. The Utica OD gave pretty cursory coverage to the candidates in Utica. What happened to the third candidate who was supposedly eliminated on a residency issue? Was the person really a resident, and, if not, why would a non-resident want to run? What were her qualifications? The situation was only mentioned a couple weeks ago with little follow up. The current election looks like a coronation of system insider, Margaret Buckley, by the system. No debates, no detailed coverage of the people running for the biggest system in the county. The System insiders will turn out to vote. All the Seniors have been bought off by STAR and won't bother voting. No one knows the challenger and the local media happily cooperate to keep things that way. No wonder why people don't vote. . . Regardless, don't expect change with the same people in charge.

The proposed power line from Marcy thru/around Utica to downstate has justifiably raised a lot of concern. Is our beautiful landscape (about all we have left to prize around here) about to be sacrificed to satisfy the downstate metropolis' thirst for power? . . . And visit on us higher electrical rates on top of our already 2nd highest rates in the nation? Fortunately our local politicians seem united on this one, with Dave Valesky presenting a thoughtful editorial on the subject in the OD. If Downstate needs power, they should live with the environmental consequences of producing/transporting it. How about windfarms off the Long Island Coast? Or, better yet, why not take the Shoreham, Long Island Nuke plant out of mothballs and get it going? As I remember, it was almost completed when New York State and Suffolk County decided it did not want the risk of a Nuke plant on its shores (. . . a little late for a lot of investors). Talk about a typical New York waste!

Finally, blogger Dan Weaver down Amsterdam way has an excellent post on why he blogs. What he says rings true at this end of the Valley, too. Well worth a read.

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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Drinking Too Much Albany Water

Assemblymen Townsend and Butler have offered a water "compromise" between the Mohawk Valley Water Authority and the State Canal Corp.: Place all the payments sought by Canal Corp. in escrow, with the money ultimately to be paid out to the winner of the pending lawsuit. This would allow expansion of the water system into outlying areas.

Uh .. Guys ... Hey! Did you forget about US? (Who?) US .. THE RATE PAYERS. .. The ones who will be expected to come up with the $600,000 + to pay for this "deal" ... The ones who will receive NO benefit from this deal. No matter who "wins" the lawsuit, the ratepayers lose because they will have already paid the money. (And no, in the unlikely event MVWA wins, we don't expect it to give the money back to the ratepayers -- it will probably just expand its staff).

If people need water to grow homes and businesses, let them come to Utica and environs where water service is already in place. Don't expect US to pay to expand the system into outlying areas just so the politically well connected can go forward with their developments.

Interesting how these guys solve a problem with NARY A THOUGHT about the people paying the bills ... All too typical thinking from our State Capital. Perhaps Messrs. Townsend and Butler have been drinking the Albany water too long ...

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Monday, May 01, 2006

Utica helping Rome . . . sort of . . .

Per Today's OD, Utica Safe Schools Partnership is helping Rome City Schools on a grant in a so-called "model of regional cooperation." To be sure, it may make sense for Rome to hire some of the people from the Utica group because the latter has had 4 years experience with its own program. But Romans need to understand what they are getting.

The circumstances surrounding the creation of the program in Utica were a bit suspicious when a 501(c)(3) corporation was founded by SOME school officials and board members, the corporation was set up to do business with the school district and hold grant funds to be used in the district, but the corporation kept their meetings closed to the public - - - inspite of the fact that federal funds (ie public tax dollars) were being spent. See a prior post in 2002 "The Safe Schools Project -- What's the real intent?" for the "low down."

Now here we are four years later . . . The Utica federal grant has been exhausted, but, somehow, the program's existence continues. Rather than a "model of regional cooperation," this sounds more like an example of people (the Utica Safe Schools people) perpetuating their jobs (by latching onto Rome's grant).

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