Monday, December 31, 2007

Forecast for 2008: More of the Same

Sens. Griffo, Valesky, and Seward; and Assemblymember Destito have all commented on their plans for 2008. (Assemblymembers Townsend and Butler did, too, in print, but their editorials could not be found on-line. Did someone forget?)

They are going to "create jobs" by "rebuilding" this, "supporting" that, and "reforming" the other. They will "work" cooperatively with and "support" all our stars of local government, development and educational institutions. They recognize that "property taxes are too high" and will insist on "prudent budgeting." We are assured that our "concerns" will be "heard" and we'll get "relief" and "results."

These guys and gal say a lot of stuff with strings and bunches of positive sounding words . . . but stop short of anything specific . . .

Hot Air . . . Same Old Same Old . . . Bah Humbug. . .

Let's throw in our local mayors, mayors-elect, and county officials, too. We all know change is needed, we even know the no-brainer things that could be done to help things along, but are we really hearing anything different from all these elected officials? No. . . we don't . . . so we do not expect change.

Wouldn't it be refreshing to hear all these elected officials say they will work for some ONE thing that can be specifically identified -- some ONE thing that will have a clear, undisputed, positive effect on our local economy -- and hear them all say they will work TOGETHER for the same ONE thing? Wouldn't it be terrific if all our local institutional heads and civic groups such as Genesis and Breakthrough all resolved to push for the same ONE thing . . . and they made such a loud NOISE for the ONE thing, that they succeeded in embarrassing or shaming all those who would oppose the ONE thing into silence? Wouldn't that be Great?

Can't we all agree on this ONE Thing: By the end of 2008, the course will be set into law for the dismantlement of the Thruway Authority and the removal of all Thruway Tolls within a specific period of time. And if we all ask for it -- together -- and agree not to take no for an answer -- can't we get it? The "squeaky wheel gets the grease" as they say.

With this ONE thing, a free interstate, we finally become, transportation wise, AVERAGE with the rest of the country . . . and doesn't AVERAGE look GOOD to us now? No fees on commuters traveling between Upstate's cities to work. No fees on manufacturers shuttling parts between their plants in different cities. A road block to Griffiss becoming a Cargo Port for the entire North East gets removed. . . . Wouldn't this ONE thing be a tangible step in the right direction?

The forecast for 2008 is "more of the same" . . . . but forecasts can be wrong. Let's ask for this ONE thing, and . . . maybe . . . . have a

Happy New Year . . . .

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Consensus Crumbled?

The "consensus" on global warming has crumbled? It sure looks that way.

One hundred scientists, including many earth scientists and climatologists, have sent a letter to the UN Secretary General warning that the UN's attempts to stop climate change will be futile, will increase human suffering, and will be a distraction from adaptation.
"Contrary to the impression left by the IPCC Summary reports: - Recent observations of phenomena such as glacial retreats, sea-level rise and the migration of temperature-sensitive species are not evidence for abnormal climate change, for none of these changes has been shown to lie outside the bounds of known natural variability."
But we already knew that. :-)

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Wind Project That Might Be More Than Hot Air . . .

John Brezinski has an idea: have Herkimer County develop a wind farm.

Wind farms, particularly in Herkimer County, have been a favorite target of mine. Although touted as "green," their "foot prints" often extend over thousands of acres, radically changing the landscape and, for most people living near by, diminishing both their quality of life and property values. Benefits regarding "global warming" are speculative if not incalculable. They could justify more long distance power lines, such as NYRI -- extending negative impacts all over the countryside. Consumers usually are charged more for such "green" power than conventional power, so it is not cheap. Companies seeking permits to construct such projects usually seek a "PILOT" or "payment in lieu of taxes" agreement -- which amounts to a taxpayer subsidy not given to other businesses -- to make their projects viable. And the power is simply not needed locally, because our so-called power 'surplus' is the basis for the NYRI proposal. In sum, certain businesses request our subsidy and acceptance of negative environmental impacts for the "greater good" -- of people living elsewhere, of 'the earth' -- but probably for their own enrichment.

So why is Mr. Brezinski's proposal worth looking at?
Several county officials met Thursday with Empire State Wind Energy President Keith Pitman to gain information about how much revenue can be made from wind projects, Brezinski said.

Pitman told county officials he would be able to give the county 75 percent of the revenue if he did a large project for the county, said Herkimer County Administrator James Wallace. That’s 10 to 20 times as much money as other developers are offering, Wallace said.
If the local benefit is great enough, it may make the local impacts more tolerable. (A year ago I wondered if some of the other proposals were simply 'lo-ball' offers that preyed upon Herkimer County's economic desperation.)
Brezinski said he thinks the county should try to make it so that any project
it’s involved with developing will produce electricity to be used locally instead of sold to other areas. This could bring down electricity costs and attract businesses to the area, he said.
If the power is used locally, that reduces the need for lines and impacts to people not receiving a benefit. It also reduces transmission costs. This suggests that the cost of production and local distribution might be cheaper than if the County buys power from National Grid. IF cheap power can be created, it will be a business advantage.
Also discussed was the possibility of a small wind project that would place a few turbines near Herkimer County Community College to help power the college and possibly other county facilities, Wallace said.
Smaller projects mean smaller impacts mean fewer objections.

Not to get carried away, the County would be taking on both a significant investment and significant risk. Like other local government-run utilities, the expertise needed to be successful is likely to be lacking -- hence the need for some professional management. And the negative impacts will still have to be dealt with in a way that is fair to neighbors.

But it is worth looking into ... NOT for global warming . . . NOT for the 'greater good' ... but for the possibility of bringing benefits to the people who will be paying the costs and living with the consequences.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

New York State Promotes Urban Sprawl . . .

New York State is giving Hartford Financial Services Group (a private company) a $500,000 grant (your tax money) to locate in a new office park being developed in New Hartford.

I wonder how it ever became State policy to give grants that encourage construction in undeveloped areas? I wonder if a generic environmental impact statement was done on such a policy - - and what mitigation was proposed for the sprawl that it promotes?

Just wondering . . .

Ineptness in UCSD . . . and Elsewhere

So now we find out that the Utica City School District has been wasting months "studying" a project that it cannot carry out. While the architects are taking the fall, I see this as really the administration's incompetence . . . and an example of how educators are not qualified to be managers. They saw a huge pot of money and could not wait to get their hands on it. They made the assumptions on what it could be used for and took action before Synthesis even got on board - - unless Synthesis was 'unofficially' advising the administration before they were 'chosen' from among several 'competitors' (but there is no evidence of that). The administration is letting their contractor take the fall.

Should this be any surprise when these administrators and school board are the same people who brought you the scheduling fiasco and no-textbooks fiasco a couple years back?

One has to wonder, also, about the competence of the state leaders who made such a tempting huge pot of money available. It only encourages waste. 300 million for Utica, almost a billion for Syracuse . . . now add together similar projects across the state and you know why NY is the highest taxed state in the land.

If New York can blow this kind of money on education, New York can well afford to give us a free Thruway . . . which will probably do more to boost Upstate's economy than all the new school facilities combined.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Unbuilding Bridges . . .

In Utica, we're still debating whether or not the North-South Arterial should be elevated over Court Street, and how we can best speed traffic through to New Hartford.

In Syracuse, the conversation is taking a different tone. Like the Arterial, I-81 overpasses are nearing the end of their useful life, but there, the talk is about removing them all together. Sandra Barrett of the Onondaga Citizens League commented.
"Basically, we think someone needs to take an advocacy role for downtown, or others will make the decision for downtown," Barrett said. "We want to make sure it's not just dollars and construction costs on the table, but that people take a look at the community at large. We want to take a look at alternatives to a highway that cuts through our city and separates our downtown from our fastest-growing industries."
People are starting to realize how superhighways, cutting through city neighborhoods, can destroy them. We need to think about this ourselves when remaking our own Arterial.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Transportation Collaboration in New Hartford

The New Hartford School District has come up with an idea that merits a close look: a shared transportation facility. Per the O-D,

The school district, town, village and local BOCES unit may collaborate to build a shared transportation facility.

The effort reflects an opportunity to consolidate services and facilities, Superintendent of Schools Daniel Gilligan said Monday.

“Rather than everyone building their own, we should share one,” Gilligan said as the Board of Education passed a resolution that could help further the project.

Other potential partners: Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES and the town and village of New Hartford.
But this idea really needs to be taken further because there is a customer already looking for a transportation facility: CENTRO.

CENTRO wants to consolidate its bus maintenance facility for both its Utica and Rome-based fleets. The City of Utica has voiced some reluctance to having it in downtown Utica -- not thinking that it would fit with the City's plans for downtown. The Mayor proposed that it be located between Utica and Rome. That seems to make sense. . . and that seems to make New Hartford's proposal for a facility on Middle Settlement Road a perfect fit for CENTRO as well.

Location aside, there are other obvious benefits:

(1) CENTRO'S expertise. The local bus system seems to have gotten a boost by the boys (and girls) from Syracuse. Something sorely lacking in almost all school districts, no matter how handsomely compensated the superintendent, is a business sense for running operations. Although CENTRO is subsidized, it competes for passengers against taxis and private automobiles. It has to make those fares it collects go as far as possible to survive. Integrating school transportation with a professionally run public transit system would seem to lead to both cost savings and increased customer satisfaction.

(2) Educational Opportunity. A facility co-located with BOCES would seem to tailor-make an opportunity for training mechanics much like MVCC's aircraft maintenance training facility already does at Griffiss. Students would not only learn about nuts and bolts, but they would have a chance to learn about the transportation business as well.

Location, Expertise, and Education . . . Adding CENTRO to the mix would seem a natural fit.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Big Win for the Little Guy . . .

The Jordanville Wind Farm received a "setback" in court according to yesterday's paper. The ruling is being greeted with the usual moaning and groaning when governmental officials -- and big business interests -- don' t get their way. But in reality, the ruling is a big win for the little guy. . . on two levels.

A Big Win for Open Government

As reported today, the Towns of Warren and Stark will now pay for their failure to comply with the Open Meetings Law. Anything decided by the towns in violation of that law is void. This is a good thing. When decisions are made illegally behind closed doors, it usually is because government is being co-opted by private interests for their own benefit and the expense of their neighbors. Some of our Towns in Oneida County need to read this decision and learn a lesson from it. When government runs openly and honestly, everyone benefits.

A Big Win for the Environment

Another aspect of the ruling is that government decisions that are made without a 'hard look' at their environmental impacts will also be set aside. This has long been the law, but it is often forgotten because, quite frankly, local government seems to have been bought off by business interests, it's easier and less costly to ignore one's environmental responsibilities, and it is unlikely that private individuals or civic groups will fork over the money needed to sue. This case, however, was the exception: people did sue --- and they won. If they had not, GOVERNMENT would have simply continued to violate the law. Some of our Towns in Oneida County need to read this decision from the environmental angle and learn a lesson from it. New Hartford in particular should read very carefully the "Pyramid" case cited within this decision. Again, this decision is a good thing. If environmental impacts are ignored, it is usually the neighbors - - - the little guys who derive no benefit -- who are hurt. When all the impacts are revealed and studied and mitigated, everyone benefits.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

NHSD: Saving Money or Beating the Clock?

Last week the O-D had an article giving the time-table for the New Hartford School District's capital expansion plan. Bidding will be done in March, supposedly to save money.
Phase 1 includes construction of the athletic field and the auditorium.
Phase 2 will consist of the math, science and technology wing.
The athletic field is going to involve installation of artificial turf. However, the safety of such turf has recently been called into question. Apparently ground up tires are an essential ingredient in the installation, and there is a fear that toxic chemicals from the tires could pose a health risk. It has become somewhat of an issue in Fayetteville-Manlius, which has postponed a referendum for such a field. Legislation has been introduced by Assemblyman Englebright of Long Island to impose a moratorium on such installations, pending a study of the public health aspects of same.

Could New Hartford be trying to beat the clock and get itself grandfathered in?

If it was unaware of the legislation, maybe it should consider F-M's concern and postpone the installation until the health effects of the artificial turf are better understood.

Wouldn't you rather play on grass than cadmium?

Reverso Wheel of Fortune . . .

The Observer-Dispatch is hosting a new game on its on-line forum: "Reverso Wheel of Fortune."

You know Wheel of Fortune, that 7PM staple on WKTV where contestants take turns guessing the words behind the lines of blank squares . . .

The O-D game is the opposite. You guess which words will produce a line of blanks when you put them into a posting! So far the contestants have come up with one word: "sales."

Of course, the other name of this game is "Censorship." The O-D apparently has software that sniffs out certain words and prevents them from being used. Many readers won't put up with scatological words and will just stay away from forums where they are used. And if the O-D is trying to promote an intelligent level of discussion -- which it seems to be doing -- such censorship is appropriate. After all, their reputation is on the line.

But "sales?" One has to wonder what/who is intended to be protected by screening out that word.

It's all rather amusing . . . until one thinks about the implications!

The internet has been a liberating force for self expression - - but our ever increasing dependency on it for our information also opens an unprecedented opportunity for malevolent forces to control what we see, say, and even think. In Utica, we seem to have a renegade programmer -- or a glitch -- that doesn't like the word "sales. " Funny. In China, Google has cooperated with the Chinese government to screen and filter the results of internet searches -- to return only "government approved" results. Not So Funny.

Now consider what is going on in our schools. "Knowledge" is deemphasized in favor of subjectively judged "performance." It's been years since kids had to memorize anything -- but they are encouraged to look up the "facts" on the 'Net. In an era of "find and replace" programming, history can be rewritten in a few key-strokes -- or entire ideas -- such as "sales" -- can simply disappear. Programmers -- or their handlers -- rule.

Today's reality is fast becoming Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" and Orwell's "1984."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Free the Thruway 500 . . .

Another day, another story about the impending Thruway toll hike. This time truckers say they will be avoiding the Thruway and using secondary roads if the hike goes through. Just what we need on our secondary roads ... more traffic. And, of course, those big rigs will mean more wear and tear on the roads that local municipalities may have to raise taxes to fix.

But those trucks will only be those that HAVE to be on NY roads because they serve a NY clientèle. Trucks that have origins and destinations out of NY will try to avoid the state all together. But worse, BUSINESSES for whom Upstate NY might be a convenient location will avoid coming here to keep the costs of their products low. Others that may be here now may leave.

Without this 500 mile highway, a huge swath of Upstate NY becomes a backwater. If it is priced so that it is not used, it's like not having it at all.

The over arching issue is why do we need the Thruway authority?

Most interstates in the country are toll free, being supported out of general taxes or gasoline taxes. I-81, I-86, I-88, I-495 (LI Expressway), I-84, I-390, I-87 (the portion North of Albany) in NYS are all toll free. There is also the Taconic Pkwy (NYC to Albany areas) and a myriad of Parkways on Long Island which are open to cars only, but are toll free. I-84 deserves special mention because Thruway tolls are used to maintain it!

Essentially, we in the Mohawk Valley are taxed every day to support these free super highways elsewhere in the state -- but are taxed again in the form of tolls when we use our local interstate (I-90) here.


The Mohawk Valley is one of the poorest areas in the state, therefore, New York is literally taxing the poor to support the rich.

It's time to end the unfair treatment, end the bureaucracy, and end the patronage gravy train that is the New York State Thruway Authority. The original bonds that were the reason for the tolls have long been paid off. The federal government even contributed a large sum on top of this. There is no good reason why the Thruway should be treated differently from any other Interstate in New York.

It's time to FREE THE THRUWAY 500.

Since Utica-Rome and Buffalo are the only two metropolitan areas entirely dependent on the Thruway for their connection to the outside world, the legislation to dismantle the Thruway Authority should come from majority-party legislators from these areas. Buffalo, however, just got the Niagara Thruway freed of tolls. Mr. Griffo, Mrs. DeStito, it's now your turn. If you have the guts to place your constituents above your personal political ambitions, you would pick up the gauntlet. And if you do, the machinations to keep the status quo will be interesting to see.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Why We Need Recall . . . in New York Mills!

I've blogged at least a couple times about our need for rights of initiative, referendum and recall - - so that the voters can do the dirty work that their elected representatives are unwilling to do. Well today on page 6D of the Observer-Dispatch is a prime example of why we need recall.

Just a few weeks ago New York Mills voters rejected an 8.9 million dollar school construction project - - - It was a narrow defeat, but a defeat none the less. Today a Legal Notice was published that the matter is coming back for another vote on January 23.

This is an abuse of power, plain and simple.

The school board knows that all they have to do is some minor tweaking and they can bring the matter back on a second time. . . . or a third. . . . or whatever it takes until it passes. The schools control more votes than ever because of their expanding employment practices, with teachers' assistants and aides becoming the norm rather than the exception. Although voting is a "civic duty," people eventually get sick of being ignored . . . so voters who don't support such spending will stay home. . . . .

Once a bond vote passes, the voters on the losing side don't have an equal opportunity to bring the matter back up again . . . and again.

New York Mills' population is dropping, so not expanding is not going to create an emergency for the school board to deal with. The school board needs to show respect for the residents. The voters have spoken.

The New York Mills school board mocks the referendum process and disrespects the will of the people. Every school board member who voted to put this matter up for a vote again should be ashamed.

A right of recall -- the right to immediately vote them out of office -- might make these people a little more sensitive to what the voters are saying.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Key to the Future . . .

According to the O-D headline, "rivers, trails key to area's future." Oneida County is seeking to make better use of waterways in the Mohawk River corridor. Undoubtedly, the headline is a lot of hyperbole.

But Oneida County Chief Planner, Ms. Breiten, makes a good point:
“This whole thing started because there is currently a lot of public-held property within the corridor, along the river and the canal, and it just seemed logical to try to link these publicly owned lands,” Breiten said.
That's what we like to see -- LOGIC in our government's workings. And linking existing publicly owned lands along the river and canal seems to be one way of making the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

As readers of this blog know from some of my photos, there is a lot of beauty along the river and canal. I regularly bike from Utica to Oriskany and have gone from Oriskany to Rome. The bikeway is a great asset that people are just starting to become aware of and use.

A greatly under utilized (non-utilized is more accurate) area is the eastern end in Utica at the canal entrance to Utica Harbor. The lock looks non-functional. Maybe it can be fixed? The harbor proper holds potential for waterfront development and boat useage. Down valley villages have done a marvelous job with their harbors. Utica, the largest city on the canal between Syracuse and Schenectady, logically should have the largest harbor development. There is a lot of public land just ready to be used. And there should be money available to clean up a lot of the contaminated old riverfront sites.

A disappointment on the western end is the trail ending on a heavily traveled highway just short of Rome proper. It is just begging for a pedestrian/bike-friendly connection into downtown and the fort, with some clear signage.

Another disappointment is the lack of a connection from the canal trail to the Oriskany Battlefield and Monument. It would seem to be a natural destination.

Of course (and I hate to say it but it seems to be true) the O-D is pushing a New Hartford agenda again by wanting trails in the Sauquoit Creek Basin. While that would be nice, NH has already gotten a lot of County largess . . . and it can well afford to implement its own trail system. While the 840 trail is "OK," it does not have the scenic or historic potential to attract a regional clientèle like the Mohawk River trail system does (which will eventually stretch from Albany to Buffalo). It would be wasteful to spend county money on far flung projects that would attract limited interest.

Lets focus on the Erie Canal - Mohawk River areas first -- Utica, Rome, and Oriskany -- and make better use of the public lands we find there.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Mohawk Valley: Help Thyself . . .

There was an interesting editorial by a Mr. Livadas in this past Sunday's (12/2) O-D entitled "It's time for the Mohawk Valley to help itself." [I would link to it, but it has not been posted online yet.] He really got my attention and had me nodding in agreement (in spite of the mixed metaphors) when he described "the ship of state," as a now grayed "yellow brick road" passing eastward through places from Lackawanna to Amsterdam, "once stable, industrious cities and towns, now laying comatose," that ends in a "flourishing Emerald City" (i.e., Albany). He had me cheering when he said:
"Space prohibits citing the litany of ill-advised decisions leading to the current disheartening state of affairs. But one thing is certain: the birthplace of many of our problems is on the steps of the state Capitol in Albany."
He then called on the leaders and people from Rome, Utica, Herkimer, and the various townships to "[p]ush aside all city vs. city competing "priorities" and establish one priority - the revitalization of the Mohawk Valley . . . " to "join together in an unprecedented spirit of cooperation and good will to . . . "
"form a study commission to undertake a thorough analysis of the issues confronting our region."
That's where he lost me! He had just articulated a lot of the problems that NYS has created for upstate, but now we need a study commission? To tell us what? The things that we already know?
"Commission members would be composed of local state officials such as state Sen. Joseph Griffo, who has formed a committee of business leaders to review the area's needs, together with the presidents of the Utica, Rome, Herkimer and other Chambers of Commerce. Mayors, supervisors, the county executive , economic development officials, civic leaders and area college presidents are to be included."
He really lost me there. He would put in charge the very same officials and "influential" community leaders who have presided over our decline. Their impotence has spanned decades.

The end product of this committee would be a "Revitalization Master Plan" for the Mohawk Valley. But this is just "pie-in-the-sky" philosophizing. While Mr. Livadas would have each municipality put aside its own interests for the benefit of the whole, it simply does not work that way when are talking about local development. As I pointed out in my "Reconnect" post, as long as our municipal boundaries separate people into groupings that will unevenly share costs and benefits, attempts to force "cooperation" will end in "competition," and efforts will be lost in "friction" among the elements. Only when the people reorganize themselves into new municipalities which encompass people with common interests and lets them all share in both the costs and benefits of their decision-making will that friction be overcome.

But even if the Mohawk Valley could be remade into one city to eliminate our regional "frictions," it would not remedy the major woes that stretch in common across Upstate from Schenectady westward -- the woes so well articulated by Mr. Lividas. We would still have Albany-imposed millstones around our neck such as the Thruway and its Tolls, utility rates that are out of proportion with our incomes, state taxes and fees that are out of proportion with our incomes, government programs and regulations that make sense from a Downstate -- but not an Upstate -- perspective. The fact that Upstate legislators do not demand removal of these millstones bespeaks of their being beholden to Downstate interests for their survival.

The only thing we could hope for is for a new boundary to be drawn around Upstate that allows us the opportunity for some self-determination -- to make our own policies in certain areas. The current political leadership on both sides would never go for this. If the public had the right of initiative, referendum and recall, however, there may be a chance for a reorganization -- because, on a person to person level, people are not that different. They have many hopes and aspirations in common. Downstaters would understand and appreciate the benefits of self-determination as much as Upstaters would.

Monday, December 03, 2007

New New Hartford Nonsense ... Part 2

Cathy continues her story of the NH Official plates on privately owned vehicles. It is amazing that the trucks could have sat in the same parking lot at the same time as two manned NH police cars . . . but nothing got done until months later when the State Police got involved. Give me a break.


Friday, November 30, 2007

Utica School Nonsense . . .

It was interesting to listen to Mr. Pellegrino this morning on WIBX' "First Look." Listen to him and you would think that the management of the school district is entirely different. . . . that they are not going to put up with any nonsense any more from contractors . . . and that they are going to be tough and press for criminal charges with the DA for the malfeasance on the roofs that are now leaking. The $8 million bond for repairs was not properly managed - - but the Board is going to insist that things be made right . . . Bravo.

I don't know about you, but I am not convinced that management people, styles or attitudes are significantly different from what Uticans have put up with for years.

What IS significantly different now is that a bonanza is about to be literally dropped into their collective lap -- some $300 million in state funds -- more money in one shot than the school district has ever received - - - AND THEY DON'T WANT TO LOSE IT.

While Mr. Pellegrino might have sounded tough, I heard posturing and desperation. He so wants to convince you that the Utica City School District has changed . . . that it can now be trusted with your tax dollars. . . . SO YOU WILL APPROVE THEIR SPENDING PLAN . . . And to prove it they make the show of toughness on the leaking roofs.

But what about the $37 million Millenium fiasco? From the stories emanating out of Proctor, people are suspicious that perhaps that money might not have been well spent either. That project never quite seemed to work as intended, with personnel seemingly shuffled more than a deck of cards in a poker game. Remember the scheduling nightmare? And did Proctor ever find its text books?

And how about that Krazy Kernan Skewl with its Kollege Daze? and Yoga Klasses? and seminars on Kommunity service . . . and Health Klinics. Anything but Reading 'Riting and 'Rithmatic!

The Utica public has put up with years and years of watching its school district's incompetence, nonsense, and waste. UCSD knows it. So now UCSD fears that the voters may reject the $300 million even though it will be entirely state funds.

After wasting millions already given, why give these people more? They will probably bite off more than they can chew, saddling the taxpayers with unneeded facilities to maintain. The kids will see no results anyway.

Payback would be soooo sweet.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New New Hartford Nonsense . . .

You gotta give a lot of credit to Cathy at New Hartford Online for persistence in tracking down the whereabouts of New Hartford's official license plates . . . and then explaining to us the significance.

It seems that the Town has been selling "surplus" vehicles, with at least one sale made following questionable procedures. But the license plates from the vehicles have not all been turned in . . . Eagle-eye Cathy spotted one on a former-Town vehicle parked at the mall. When Cathy FOILed the receipts for the plates for vehicles sold, she got 29 -- all indicating that plates had been surrendered in March '07-- for vehicles supposedly sold as far back as 2003!

If the plates were not turned in until March '07, it raises the question whether or not the town has been insuring the vehicles attached for years while in private ownership.

Read all the details in "Case of the Missing FS-6T Receipts . . . contd." An amazing story!

Monday, November 26, 2007

What's He Talking About?

Yeah, New York is falling apart at the seams, it seems. . . . So Mr. Schumer is proposing to send more federal funds our way.

Great! We'll take all the help we can get! . . . . But . . .
“We just had a terrible situation where Lowe's wanted to put one of its major warehouses in Oneida County. And they couldn't come because there was no water or sewer and there was no money for water or sewer to build what was necessary. To build this major warehouse that would have employed eight hundred to a thousand people,” said Schumer."
Now where does that story come from? Rome has plenty of water, sewer and space . . . so there should have been no problems in locating in Oneida County.

If the Loews planned to use the Sauquoit Creek Sewer Line of the O.C. Part County Sewer District, or MVWA water outside of MVWA's current service area . . . there might be problems. But those would have nothing to do with the lack of funds and everything to do with local incompetence and mismanagement.

Who is feeding Mr. Schumer such a tale?

Cheerleading Sprawl

Just when you think the O-D finally "gets it" with the headline "Growth must compliment existing uses," the details tell you it has not.
"Route 840 was built with the idea that it would help invigorate economic growth."
Where did that idea come from?
"Development in these areas must be encouraged."
" . . . we also have the obligation to protect the prospective developer."
Since when? . . . and from what?

The editors seem to be working from a set of preconceived notions about the "benefits" of "development."

If New Hartford can be used as an example, residents and taxpayers will pay the price in forms such as (1) bond issues to remediate storm water problems, (2) extending services, (3) traffic congestion, (4) more town government, (5) loss of crop land, and (6) the loss of the semi-rural character that brought them to the town to begin with.

"More" is not always good.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

"Gender-Neutral" Housing

Growing up is one thing. Putting kids into an emotional pressure cooker is something else. Does anyone remember the book, The Harrad Experiment? It's not an experiment any longer.

Per the Post-Standard, "Gender-Neutral" housing is the latest trend on college campuses. Cornell, Colgate, and Ithaca are considering it.
The term "gender neutral" comes from advocates for students who are transgender who don't consider themselves completely male or female. That applies to just a few students who might be uncomfortable being required to live with someone of the same sex.

But the result is that if rooms or suites are designated as gender neutral, it takes coed living to a level not seen yet on Central New York campuses: Men and women could be roommates. [emphasis supplied]

It's hard enough to leave home and go to college to master the academics while dealing with new people at a volatile time in one's life. Shoving sex under everyone's nose only complicates things further.

Is it any wonder why college graduates these days seem to know so little, and why this country is not self-sufficient in the more academically "difficult" professions such as medicine or engineering.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

That Essential Ingredient . . .

Joe DiMaggio's cousin has opened a pizza restaurant in Florida, has plans for a chain there. . . and the world.
". . . we bring our dough in from Utica, N.Y. . . ."
This guy knows what he's doing!

Better Late Than Never . . .

Griffo: Stop Thruway toll increase.

Calling on the Governor to stop the increase is a step in the right direction. But how about supporting Mr. Valesky's proposed legislation that will require the Thruway Authority to get legislative approval before any increases?

Is it too much to ask that you cooperate with the other party to accomplish something for your constituents?

"Thank yous" will be reserved pending success.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Mr. Griffo and Airline Passengers

Mr. Griffo is co-sponsoring a law to protect fliers stranded on planes in New York.

This is an interesting display of priorities when Oneida County (and, therefore, his Senate District) has NO scheduled airline passenger service, having lost it three or four years ago.

Mr. Griffo, if you want to do something meaningful for your constituents, why don't you co-sponsor Mr. Valesky's legislation to require the Thruway Authority to get legislative approval before every toll hike? Or is party loyalty more important?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Open Republican Caucus . . .

The Republicans are opening their county caucus to the public. . . . a baby step in the right direction. But this does not mean that we will hear any actual debate on issues or understand the rationale of their decisions. In days of cell phones and e-mail, there are alternative ways of communicating on issues outside the public view.

We will wait and see if this is a meaningful change . . . or mere window dressing.

Speaking Out Against the Toll Hike

The Observer-Dispatch has challenged readers to speak out against the proposed Thruway toll hikes.

Pressure works. Governor Spitzer just postponed a bus and subway fare hike in New York City in response to the Daily News' "Halt the Hike" campaign. Ahh . . . the power of the press . . .

Senator Valesky has met the O-D's challenge by proposing a law that would require legislative approvals of all toll hikes.

But Mr. Valesky is part of a minority party in the Senate.

Where are Sen. Griffo and Mrs. Destito on this issue? They are members of the controlling parties in their respective houses.

Does their silence mean they have been bought and paid for by their party leadership ... which benefits from the Thruway Authority patronage mill? When will we hear from them?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Wrong Approach

Joel Giambra is the County Executive in Erie County. For many years he watched the once great city of Buffalo decline, eventually taking its entire region down with it. To Giambra, who studied what other regions had done, consolidation of local governments appeared to be key to his region's renaissance. The City of Greater Buffalo would be the result.

Unfortunately he achieved little success. Now both Buffalo and Erie County are run by State Control Boards, their financial houses in disarray.

Per last Friday's Buffalo News, lame duck Giambra has called upon Governor Spitzer to use the state control boards to act “as tools to achieve a firm new state policy on consolidation and government efficiency.”

To be sure, changes in state policy are needed. And Mr. Giambra is on the right track. But ramming consolidation down people's throats doesn't seem right -- not that we're not used to government ramming junk down our throats anyway. But government, particularly New York State government, has shown an uncanny ability to do the wrong thing, especially where Upstate interests are concerned.

No, Albany government ramming consolidation down our throats is not the answer, because whatever Albany does, it does not work. That is the wrong approach.

The right approach is for consolidation to come from the people themselves. Consolidation will come, and come in the proper form, when people see that it gives them more, not less, control over their government . . . and when people have a hand in designing it.

But this will not occur until after the impediments to consolidation are removed.

The biggest impediment to consolidation are our politicians and the denizens of local governments, many of whom would be out of their jobs if it were to take place. They will refuse to make the hard decisions needed for consolidation. The same can be said for any other government reform because people learn to live off the current system, what ever that may be.

People must be given the power to make change more directly.

Initiative, referendum and recall maybe the only way New York will be able to reform itself because it gets around the vested interests. But people in New York have been denied these tools, though we've been promised them by various politicians at various times.

We're sick of ineffective government. Albany, at least give us these tools so we can make needed changes ourselves.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Food For Thought

A reader wrote in with some "Food for Thought." Since I couldn't say things better myself, I thought I would post his comments in their entirety:

In yesterday’s Observer Dispatch article, a resident was reported to have had some real concerns regarding why there was no Mohawk Valley Water Authority customers asked to serve on the commission? ( Griffo: Area water changes needed - Officials discuss short- and long-term solutions - Nov 16, 2007 @ 10:31 PM - By BRYON ACKERMAN - Observer-Dispatch). “During the public comment period Friday, Barneveld resident Kathy Kellogg expressed concern about the make-up of the working group.” However, Herkimer County Administrator James Wallace and Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, as well as Senator Griffo will be the ones representing their interests. Both Picente and Griffo reside in Rome. Rome is not located in the affected Nine Mile Water Shed. Why not ask someone from Botswana or New York City to sit on this commission?

Somehow, I can see the residents of Utica getting screwed . . . again. Why wouldn’t the Mayor and Mayor-elect of Utica be asked to represent the interests of the Utica residents? Some direct accountability would be nice.

In another Observer Dispatch article it was reported that Congressman Arcuri was able to secure $400,000.00 in federal funds for the design, land acquisition and construction of a Centro transit garage and maintenance facility in Utica. The new Centro Bus garage facility will be built in Utica to house busses that serve the greater Utica and Rome areas. (Arcuri secures $1.45M for projects - Nov 16, 2007 @ 08:03 AM - By ROCCO LaDUCA - Observer-Dispatch)

Utica Mayor Tim Julian questioned why this facility should be built in Utica? “When this was being talked about two years ago, I said I didn’t want to give up a multi-acreage parcel of land in Utica for a bus garage, and I still stand by that today: Put it somewhere else, not in Utica,” said Julian, adding “the facility should be located between Rome and Utica.”

I feel that Utica Mayor Tim Julian has a good point. It would be logical for this facility to be located in the Town of Whitestown. Perhaps in the “shovel ready” new State Route 840/Judd Road corridor. (Whitestown Supervisor Matt Shannon’s quote “We’re prepared, and we’re shovel-ready for the growth.” Route 840 spurs growth - Nov 14, 2007 @ 12:31 AM - By STEPHANIE VEALE - Observer-Dispatch). This location would optimally serve the transit company in three ways: First, it would be centrally located conveniently between the cities of Utica and Rome. Second, this location would be convenient to where the busses are manufactured. Orion Buss Industries is located in the Whitestown Business Park at the former Oneida County Airport just off of Judd Road. And third, Busses need room in terms of their sheer size. The Whitestown location would be able to provide the additional acreage that this facility would demand.

Those dam Walesville alliens are hard at work again!

---Greens and Beans

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Consent Order (In)Justice

A reader pointed out some interesting passages in the October 10th and October 24th 2007 New Hartford Town Board minutes concerning Oneida County's Consent Order with the Department of Environmental Conservation.

October 10:

  • Part-County Sewer District and Consent Order - The Highway Superintendent has been talking with Oneida County’s consultants about all the initiatives that need to be submitted and agreed upon between the County and DEC by year’s end

  • Consent Order – Rayhill Memorial Trail – Oneida County was required to pay a $150,000 fine related to the Part-County Sewer District and the County was successful in DEC agreeing that 20% of that fine could be allocated toward a local environmental beautification project; instead of paying $30,000 to DEC, the money will be made available to the Sauquoit Creek Basin Inter-municipal Commission who will administer the installation of a dedicated parking facility for trail use at the Middlesettlement Road BOCES property. Most likely, inter-municipal agreements will need to be executed among DEC, BOCES, the Town of New Hartford, the Sauquoit Creek Basin Inter-municipal Commission and possibly the Town of Whitestown. This project has been submitted to DEC and preliminary indications are that the project will be approved by DEC.

October 24:

Trailhead Funding – Philip Rayhill Memorial Trail

Councilman Reynolds and the Highway Superintendent confirmed that the Town of New Hartford has received funding approval for the trail head at the Philip Rayhill Memorial Trail. (NOTE: Refer to October 10, 2007 Town Board minutes.)

So let me get this straight: (1) Oneida County violates the law by allowing sanitary sewers to be hooked into its combined sewer overflow on the Mohawk River; (2) New Hartford approved the plans for the developments that made these hookups; (3) New Hartford greatly expanded its tax base and reaped tremendous financial benefits from the hookups and violations; (4) Oneida County manages to offset its fine by rewarding its accomplice, New Hartford, with parking for its Rayhill Trail. So New Hartford contributes to an environmental violation, gains financially, and is now rewarded with a parking lot! What an abomination!

New Hartford must have friends in high places at the DEC!

I have a better idea on how the money could be spent:

Build a picnic area adjacent to the County's outfall in Yorkville.

The people in Yorkville have been dumped upon . . . and will continue to be dumped on until at least 2014. When the weather is good people will have a pleasant place to go.

And when we get rain, we will be reminded by the floating feces of how government has failed us.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Walesville, 1954 - Another Followup?

I received this e-mail response to the Walesville posts. It is self-explanatory:

Okay, you have been successful in exposing me and my extraterrestrial comrades. You are so very cleaver. Our mission has been to stifle any and/or all positive economic development activity in the Central New York corridor. We have been successful with getting the most incompetent earthlings to run for all of the various elected offices. In turn, these elected officials have filled the entire political hack appointments with the utmost arrogant narcissists and babbling idiots found in this universe. This undertaking was not easy. We even we had to import some of them from other cities where they have exhibited unconditional ineptitude. We are particularly pleased with our appointments to the Mohawk Valley Water Authority, EDGE/GLDC, Oneida/Herkimer Solid Waste Authority, Utica Municipal Housing Authority and the multitude of State Agencies that have been so successful in confounding any and all community economic progress. We have been awarded the coveted economic development “black-hole” award from our Martian Superiors back home. We have been chronicled on the Martian “Red Planet 60 Minutes” counterpart news show. We are proud to say that we are the Martian college model for extraterrestrial interference in terms of confounding economic progress on external planets.

However, now that you have exposed your recognition of having discovered our existence here in Walesville, New York, we have no other alternative than to sever any and all communications with you. We will not jeopardize our mission by having some smart aleck – like you – exacerbating our untarnished success rate by simply exposing our existence. A large part of our success has been how we have been able to instill complacency and apathy on the residents of central New York with the extreme low expectation from all public officials.

For the above reason we have no other alternative than to relegate you to NUT status. Therefore, we have decided to relegate you, along with all the other kooks, to Roswell, New Mexico status. We have alerted the highly successful “Skeptic Squad” to watch for your letters to the editors and internet postings. They will neutralize any rational utterances you may offer to ‘wise-up” the general populace. So give up before we drive you crazy!

Farewell Intrepid Earthling!

Your Favorite Martian

CEO, Earthlings Impediment Division

Mohawk Valley Economic Encumbrance Mission

Walesville Covert Central Office Complex

Yow! If I stop posting, look for me in Roswell!!! :-O

Salivation in Whitestown . . .

Whitestown officials are virtually salivating at the prospect of "growth" a' la New Hartford now that Rt 840 has opened. Per the O-D,
Such development will bolster the assessment roll and provide more opportunities for residents, Whitestown Town Supervisor Matthew Shannon says.
What opportunities? Another quick stop? More office space that will simply mean moving work from other parts of the region to Whitestown? We are an area of DECLINING POPULATION, remember? This is not growth -- repeat, NOT GROWTH. It's moving the deck chairs on a sinking ship. But Mr. Shannon wants Whitestown to be like New Hartford.
“That atmosphere is going to soon migrate over to the town of Whitestown,” Shannon said. “We’re prepared, and we’re shovel-ready for the growth.”
So we get another quick stop. But what do we lose? Perhaps an organic garlic farm? The region has plenty of quick stops, but not many garlic farms. In fact, anyone who can remember back 40 years when we had 85,000 more people in this County we also had a lot more active farm land.

What will happen when a plague or some other calamity hits the California vegetable bowl? Or the cost of transportation simply becomes too high? We will want farmland nearby-- but by then it will be paved over. But that's thinking long term -- something that we've learned not to expect from our local officials.

How about short term?

Per the O-D the Roberts' garlic farm is already threatened by runoff from the site of the proposed quick stop, caused by the apparently unregulated dumping of fill on the property. Echos of New Hartford! And, like in New Hartford, the negative impact falls hardest on particular individuals. These are the kinds of problems the residents of Towns expect their government to prevent from developing. . . not pay to fix damage caused by developers later. Town government should not worry about serving the interests of some entrepreneur in Arizona.

"Providing opportunities for residents" is a crock. Bolstering the assessment roll is the real deal here . . . providing opportunities for government officials. That's been the story in New Hartford, and Whitestown wants to emulate it.

Enough already!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Forgery . . . and Silence . . .

This story in the O-D, and earlier postings on UticaSux got my attention just before the election. They raise concern about the tactics of the people we pay to enforce and uphold the law. Even more concerning is the failure of local officials and the Oneida County Bar Association, now that they have been made aware of the incident, to publicly call for an investigation. Fear of retribution, perhaps?

Per the O-D:
A fake DNA report created by Utica police investigators last year to pressure a suspect into confessing has raised questions about whether some investigative tactics go too far. . . . “I told him that I believe what was done was an investigative tactic that was totally unacceptable,” McNamara said recently. “It rose to a level that would violate the principle of fairness, and that tactic should never be used again.” Pylman agreed. “If you feel that strongly about it, we won't do it anymore,” Pylman recalled telling McNamara.
So, it is undisputed that a "fake DNA report" was created by Utica police as an "investigative tactic."

What a tactful way of putting it . . .

Local attorneys and officials had better brush up on their Penal Law. It's written in plain English, and there are few elements, so even they should understand.
§ 170.05 Forgery in the third degree.

A person is guilty of forgery in the third degree when, with intent to defraud, deceive or injure another, he falsely makes, completes or alters a written instrument. Forgery in the third degree is a class A misdemeanor.

The fake lab report is a "written instrument" as that term is defined in PL §170.00 (1), and the intent to deceive the suspect is evident from how the instrument was used.

The "investigative tactic" appears to have been the crime of forgery -- and (at least) a misdemeanor.
Although investigators did create a phony DNA report in September 2006 to indicate a match with Wright's DNA, they did not falsify an official document, Pylman said. He also emphasized it is not against the law for police to lie to suspects.
Although a state lab report would seem "official" to most people, there is nothing in the law that requires the forged item to be an "official document," so Chief Pylman's defense is irrelevant.
“They did what any good cop would do, but they pushed it a little too far,” Pylman said of his investigators. “But what's got to be realized is that they did not have any malicious or evil intent.”
Whether the intent was "malicious" or "evil" is irrelevant because the penal law does not require "malicious" or "evil" intent. What it requires is only an intent to deceive -- and that clearly was what was intended here.

McNamara at first was concerned investigators may have committed a forgery by including a forensic scientist's signature on the last page of the falsified DNA report, he said.

But he determined police never presented the signature to Wright as a means of authenticating the report, he said. Thus, in his mind, no crime had been committed.
The lack of a signature appears to be in dispute. O.C. Public Defender LeLand McCormac certainly thought there was a signature:
“The fact that police officers would tamper with an official document … signed by a forensic scientist, and use such in a vain attempt to elicit a confession by (Wright) demonstrates outrageously deceitful, manipulative and coercive conduct shocking to the conscience and undermining the public's faith in the integrity of … our criminal justice system,” McCormac wrote in the Feb. 8 document.
But there is no requirement in the law for the forged item to contain a signature, so DA McNamara's defense is also irrelevant.

So we clearly have a crime that is at least a misdemeanor that has been committed. But it may actually be worse . . . a lot worse.
§ 170.10 Forgery in the second degree.
A person is guilty of forgery in the second degree when, with intent
to defraud, deceive or injure another, he falsely makes, completes or
alters a written instrument which is or purports to be, or which is
calculated to become or to represent if completed: . . .

3. A written instrument officially issued or created by a public
office, public servant or governmental instrumentality; . . .

Forgery in the second degree is a class D felony.
Here is where the "official" nature of the instrument and whether or not it contained a signature become important: when we look at a forgery as a "felony." A state police lab report would seem to meet the criteria of an "official" document under §170.10(3). A "signature" would be evidence that the document "purports" to be an official document. As indicated above, the O-D article contains enough information to suggest that these things were also present.

There is possibly more than forgery. How many hands knowingly dealt with the falsified report, used the report, and or directed its use? There are also crimes of possession specified at both the misdemeanor and felony levels. From the text of the penal law Article 170, how many can you identify that may have been committed here?

A misdemeanor is clearly evident and is bad enough. A felony is worse. A felony committed by a government agent as part of his or her official duties is outrageous. The situation suggests that several people may have been involved, and that both forgery and possession of a forged instrument may have been committed.

The reputations of Utica and other police agencies, manned by many good, brave, and noble men and women, are tarnished by such behavior.

An investigation is needed, all involved need to be identified, culpability needs to be determined. . . .

And some heads need to roll.

Rising Tolls - Upstate Legislators Mum

That should have been the headline for this story, but it wasn't. For some reason, our Albany representatives always seem to get a pass on this issue. Tolls go up, but nary a word. The same is true for Upstate County Executives and Mayors whose bully pulpits are eerily silent. Maybe it's because the Thruway Authority is such a hotbed of patronage for their friends?

Tax traffic on Main Street? Yep: The Thruway is Upstate's Mainstreet -- and Tax it New York State does. But Not for the L. I. Expressway. Not for the Southern Tier Expressway. Not for the Northern, Southern, Sagtikos, Meadowbrook, or Taconic State Parkways. Or I-81. Or even I-84 (which is partially supported by Thruway Tolls).

They talk about wanting to help the Upstate economy? -- Nah! Don't believe it!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Wind: Not as Green as You Think . . .

In case you missed it in all the post election clutter, a local physicist, John Droz, Jr., had an interesting opinion piece in the Observer Dispatch on the negatives of wind farms. It is well worth reading. His conclusions:
"1) there is no consequential environmental benefit to industrial wind power, and 2) it is being promoted because it is an extremely lucrative business opportunity."
The problem with wind energy is that without TAXPAYER/RATEPAYER subsidies, it would not be financially feasible -- and it has a HUGE ENVIRONMENTAL FOOTPRINT.

One reason why electric rates are so high in NYS (contributing to our region's decline) is the state requirement that major suppliers must buy any renewable energy that is developed, and must buy it at a certain minimum charge which is in excess of the cost of other forms of energy. This means that you, the rate payer, are being forced to subsidize a method of energy production that is not cost effective. If so called "green" energy were cost effective, there would be no need for forced purchases at guaranteed minimum prices.

Wind farm purveyors often seek property tax breaks from their host communities. The tax breaks have been cited as necessary to make these projects financially viable. Again, that should tell you that wind farms are not cost effective, and that you, the taxpayer, are being forced to subsidize private business -- business that will create no jobs to speak of. To make matters worse, if any of the turbines were to catch on fire, or if there would be vandalism, the burden to resolve these problems would fall upon the local municipality -- the municipality that is not collecting a fair share of taxes from the business.

Coal is to the US what oil is to Saudia Arabia. There is plenty of it and it is more cost effective than wind power. Someone said they would rather have 20,000 wind turbines than 20,000 coal plants. How about 2 coal plants instead of 20,000 turbines? That is probably closer to the truth. Environmentally, thousands and thousands of acres will be affected by wind farms, while a few strategically placed coal fired plants would produce a more reliable stream of electricity, at lower costs, and affect only a fraction of the acreage. Technology has progressed to the point that these coal-plants do not have the impacts they once did. Nuclear, of course, is another option.

If the power from these wind farms were needed locally, it might be reasonable to tolerate them. But the fact -- often cited by NYRI -- is that Upstate NY has more than enough power for its own needs. Anyone who finds thousands of turbines strewn about our landscape acceptable must also accept miles and miles of power lines to get the power to the downstate market. And that is why politicians who push tax breaks by Herkimer and Oneida Counties for wind farms while opposing NYRI are not making sense. You cannot have one without the other.

The bottom line, echoing Mr. Droz, is that, at least for Upstate, wind farms are not about protecting the environment, and not about producing power efficiently. Rather, they are about producing "profit" for certain well-connected companies and people.

There is nothing wrong with "profit" as long as ALL those bearing the costs share in it -- but that will not happen. NYRI is not planning to reimburse homeowners along their power line for losses in property values, must less than give them a share of the profits.

People who are talking about going "green" are not looking at all the consequences and who they will fall upon.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Walesville, 1954 - a Followup

From Dave Griffin's story:
". . . the crew confirmed the object was a weather balloon at an altitude of
8,000 feet, but when they dropped down for a closer look, the cabin temperature abruptly shot up and the fire warning light lit on the instrument panel. UFO enthusiasts have maintained that the object fired a blast of heat at the F94."
An astute reader led me to this recent news story: "US unveils non-lethal heat ray weapon."
"Anyone hit by the beam immediately jumped out of its path because of the sudden blast of heat felt throughout the body. While the 54 C heat was not painful, it was intense enough to make the participants think their clothes were about to ignite."

The Voters Have Spoken!

The Voters Have Spoken! For those of us hoping for change it was a mixed bag. At the county executive and district attorney levels, people are content with what we already have -- or are at least comfortable enough with what we have to not risk things with new leaders. In Utica, however, the discomfort level motivated enough people to make a change. It will be interesting to see what happens next. The Oneida County Legislature will be getting some new blood, too, and that will be welcome. Hopefully new ideas and new attitudes will follow.

One thing about this election that I think we can agree upon: most races gave the public some real choices this time. The public is getting the government that it wants.

And that is a good thing.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Walesville, 1954

I was surfing "the Mezz" the other night, and in the CNY Forum Dave Griffin mentioned that he had written a piece about a tragic jet crash in Walesville in 1954, which caused the death of four people. I drive through that area often on the way to Syracuse, so my curiosity was aroused.

He tells the story well. If you like this, he has many other stories on his website, a number of which are sure to invoke memories of growing up in mid 20th century Utica.

Take a break, and read something enjoyable!

Sprawling in New Hartford

Urbanization marches on in New Hartford -- even though the region's population has suffered a drop of "Biblical" proportions -- all with Oneida County's cheer leading, if not complicity. According to the WKTV website (quoting Mr. Picente), the new development will include:
  • Approximately 120 acres that can accommodate up to 1,000,000 square feet of development.
  • Access from Route 5, Woods Highway and a new intersection with the new Judd Road Extension (Rt. 840).
  • A brand new three level 130,000 square feet building for The Hartford on approximately 14 acres. Approximately 600-800 jobs will stay in New Hartford at this office – occupancy is slated for November 2008.
  • Further development including a 15,000 square foot medical office complex. Negotiations are under way for a hotel (national flag) of approximately 100 rooms – both expected to break ground in Spring 200

Question: Where is all the sewage from this development going to go? If it's going to go to the Sauquoit Creek Pump Station, isn't the Town required to remove 5 gallons of storm water for every gallon of sewage that will be produced? Where/how has the Town done this? or will the 100 room hotel use "subsurface waste disposal" a/k/a cesspools?

A new intersection on 55MPH Rt. 840? Just what we need: another light. When did the state DOT decide to permit this abomination? and how did it decide this?

Some people in New Hartford won't be happy until every large parcel of vacant land is developed and paved over.
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
. . . . . . . . . Joni Mitchell

Another take on this story is on New Hartford Online Blog.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Comfort vs Taking a Chance

Election day is almost here. We must decide who we think is better able to govern.

Do we pull the lever for the new guy? That will thrust us into the scary unknown. We simply don't know what damage some of these people will be capable of if given the chance.


Do we pull the lever for the incumbent, or the appointed successor? That will give us the comfort of predictability. We know we will get more of the same.

Is more of the same what we want? If it is, we can expect more things like:
  • violation of environmental laws, followed by approval of a Consent Order with no deliberation, followed by hiring of engineers by an "inside group" of wrongdoers also with no deliberation.
  • trashing public sensibilities while public officials surround themselves with opulence.
  • closing streets for the convenience of government officials.
  • an economic development agency advertising a site as 'shovel ready' when it lacked an essential permit, and blowing the opportunity of our lifetimes.
  • the promised "world-class" research facility, Griffiss Institute, that produced no research, but made one very highly paid official before it was turned into an incubator.
  • a lease of prime economic-development land to the State for a Homeland Security Training Center with little deliberation, NO benchmarks for State performance, no real State financial commitment, and almost no activity.
  • the promised Center for Brownfield Studies in Downtown Utica that turned out to be smoke and mirrors.
  • the promised State Data Center that never came.
  • abandoning an airport that was perfectly maintained and sized for this area and squandering federal funds to duplicate what we already had.
  • losing scheduled air passenger service while smaller metro areas (Binghamton, Elmira, Ithaca) manage to retain theirs.
  • Urban Sprawl.
  • Storm water problems . . . traffic congestion.
  • closed door meetings, 7AM meetings, secret meetings.
  • an unheard of 18 year deal, sky high salary, bending the rules, and unusual circumstances surrounding the hiring of a local police chief.
  • burying rubble in public parks with little or no public discussion.
  • carving up public parks with fences for special interest groups without neighborhood input.
  • conviction of an innocent man.
  • loss of a long-enjoyed summer festival.
  • loss of Utica's greatest asset and giving it to people who have not paid for it.
  • Countless lost manufacturing jobs.
  • Lost professional hockey, lost professional baseball ... loss of a NASCAR Opportunity.
  • Loss of 85,000 people . . . your children, your friends, your neighbors . . . and no end in sight
If you knew 20 years ago what this region would look like today, would you have stayed?

Are you comfortable with more of the same? . . . or are you ready to take a chance?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Left Out . . .

Mr. Picente is complaining that he was not invited to Gov. Spitzer's announcement on Hinckley.
"It's really upsetting," Picente said, adding of the Spitzer announcements, "I don't know what it's about." . . .
"This is an issue I stuck my neck out on," Picente said.
While the governor displayed poor etiquette in snubbing Mr. Picente, what makes Mr. Picente feel he is more worthy of being invited than representatives from Herkimer County who were also left out . . . and might even be cut out of the discussions on what to do with the Reservoir? Herkimer County is only the home of the reservoir and the West Canada Creek, and many Herkimer County businesses and residents will be affected by what is done.

Mr. Picente was left out . . . Now he knows how we, the public, felt when, with no warning or opportunity for discussion, he:
  • Signed a Consent Order obliging us to pay for a $66 million project caused by County and Town misfeasance.
  • Hired engineers that were handpicked by the very municipalities responsible for the sewer problem.
  • Announced plans to close Park Avenue and turn it into a County parking lot.
  • Pushed through the State Homeland Security deal that will tie up prime developable land in Whitestown for years and years with no guarantees from the State on what it will actually do with the land.
Not a very good track record for someone not even in office for a year. It looks like someone has forgotten who is paying his salary and who he is supposed to serve.

Mr. Picente was left out . . . too bad.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Getting the Message on Population Decline?

"Proposed school renovation voted down in New York Mills"

Are people getting the message that it makes no sense to expand schools when the population is shrinking? Who knows? The vote was close. Maybe NYM voters were simply upset at being played for fools when the school district cited a school closure in the early 1980s as a reason to expand buildings now. Or maybe the NYM SD did not hire enough residents to skew the vote . . . or they did, but even the employees have had enough with taxes.

Unfortunately, declining enrollments in New Hartford were not a discussion issue in the main stream media when NH had its capital project vote -- and were not considered in BOCES' expansion project either. Both projects will saddle taxpayers not only with project costs, but maintenance costs well into the future. And be prepared for taxes to support these projects to go even higher, particularly in New Hartford. Why? Demographics. New Hartford is OLD. 23.7% of the population is over 65 compared with 12.4% average in the US. Expect a precipitous drop in population when these people "age out." Then watch housing values tumble -- and taxes rise -- driving even more population loss. As Gear pointed out over the weekend, the "feedback loop" puts us in a death spiral.

When the population of the County has already declined by over one fourth, it makes no sense for government, schools, and public infrastructure to expand.

We need a graceful way to contract.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Goodbye and Good Luck

Some of us wondered why Gear at CNY Snakepit had been silent in recent weeks. . . concerned even. Looks like he and his significant other have been making plans ... to move away.
A lot of things influenced our final decision, but the most telling was the increasing dysfunction of both our local and state politics. Put simply, our political class is totally devoid of even the most rudimentary leadership ability. The consistent refusal to control tax growth, even as the area undergoes a population loss of almost biblical proportions, means the increasingly small population here will be burdened with higher and higher costs. That feedback loop, unchecked, will produce a death spiral of ever shrinking populations and ever escalating taxation.
I can not blame him for leaving.

Read more in his post "Love it or Leave It."

Good Bye, Good Luck, and Keep in Touch.

Putting the Foxes in Charge of the Hen House . . .

That's the impression you get when reading of Gov. Spitzer's plan to "study" Hinckley Reservoir.

With the exception of DEC and SEMO, the other parties named to the study group have a vested interest in what goes on at Hinckley -- which may be OK if ALL the interested parties were represented in the group. They are not. There are riparian landowners along West Canada Creek who are not represented. Herkimer County has an interest and is not being represented. And Greater Utica residents are not represented because MVWA has been behaving more like a private company or an Oneida County agency than a municipality looking out for the future well being of its residents.

How about a truly INDEPENDENT study of Hinckley Reservoir, INCLUDING where Hinckley fits into the context of all the water supply resources and needs of Oneida and Herkimer Counties?

What are they afraid of?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Credibility . . .

Credibility -- "the quality or power of inspiring belief"

How do you know if someone is telling the truth? You don't. You have to take what you hear, weigh it against what you already know, and see if it logically fits. When things fit together seamlessly, what is said is credible.

When you do not know a lot about a subject, things can seem to fit together more easily -- like the early stages of a jigsaw puzzle. When you do not know a lot about a subject, you tend to trust the other person if that person is thought to have higher knowledge -- is an "expert," or if that person has been given a position of trust. It is assumed that the person is being truthful.

Sometimes trust can be used to mislead.

That is the issue raised by Assemblyman Townsend last week in a press release on "Why we need an independent study of our water supply." He cites several reasons to question whether or not the public is getting a true picture from the Mohawk Valley Water Authority, and reason to question Mr. Becher's assertions in particular.

For some reason the major media outlets in Utica-Rome have not sought to print this press release. Perhaps they think it not polite to openly question the credibility of a public official.

But Mr. Townsend seems to think there is good reason to.

Here is some reading on the subject.

Now you decide for yourself whether you want to believe what you hear from the MVWA . . . or not.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Proof of Ownership . . .

I see that MV EDGE is getting itself into the water dispute, with Mr. DiMeo protecting his baby, the Mohawk Valley Water Authority.

This is one person who is sick and tired of hearing EDGE, MVWA, Becher, etc. say things like "Solid research already shows we have an abundant water supply," because the issue is not the abundance water, but who has the rights to it.
" Water authority officials contend they are entitled to draw up to 48.5 million gallons of water a day"
They need to prove that. Make them produce the deeds.

They can't.

They will produce a document from the state that reserves that amount of water from the State's taking for the canal -- but a reservation is not a grant. MVWA has to prove that it purchased its own rights to the water from ALL the private landowners along West Canada Creek below its point of diversion. From at least two of the instruments recorded at the County Clerk's office, it is clear that MVWA has no right to withdraw water when water in the creek is low without replenishment from its own reservoir.

In an nutshell, MVWA's permit to operate a water supply depends upon a 1917 agreement with the State being in full force and effect. The permit says so. The agreement requires replenishment when flow is low. Without that agreement, MVWA's rights can be no greater than those previously purchased from the private landowners -- some of which also require replenishment. The state agreement is similar to some of the earlier private agreements. The state agreement requires MVWA to maintain its own reservoir at Gray, and to expand it to almost 1/4 the volume of Hinckley in order to take the full 48.5 MGD MVWA now claims. If this is not done, the agreement states there is NO right to take ANY water.

Mr. Becher does not tell you these things.

The County's comprehensive water supply study from 1968 acknowledges that the Utica area's right to water depends on the state agreement, and recommends expansion of Gray Reservoir to the full 6 billion gallons to ensure enough water JUST FOR EASTERN ONEIDA COUNTY (and parts of Herkimer).

Mr. Picente does not tell you this.

Looking at all this information, it is clear that the movers and shakers getting all the press are leaving important things out . . . and

Mr. DiMeo does not know what he is talking about.