Saturday, March 30, 2013

U Knew This 2 . . .

USA Today: Wyo. named most tax friendly state; N.Y. Worst
The Tax Foundation considers New York to have the worst business climate of all states. While the state actually ranked in the better half in terms of corporate taxes, its individual income tax policy was ranked the worst in the country. The state collected $1,864 in personal income taxes per capita in 2011, higher than all other states. In addition, the Tax Foundation considered the state's unemployment taxes and property tax policies among the most burdensome of all states. Nevertheless, 17 of the 2012 Fortune 100 companies are located in New York, with nine of these companies among the Fortune 50. . . . despite the tax burden, many companies, especially large ones, are attracted to New York due to such factors as its large population and proximity to Wall Street.
Of course, the state's "large population" and "proximity to Wall Street" benefit us in Utica, Syracuse and Buffalo how?

Where does NY's ranking leave Upstate?

Friday, March 29, 2013

NY: Home of the Least Free . . .

You knew it . . . When they passed a law in the middle of the night to make law-abiding citizens register their guns and limited what they could have.

You knew it . . . When they offered a $500 bounty for one neighbor to turn in another for gun ownership.

You knew it . . . When they passed a minimum wage bill and buried in the text the provision that you would be paying for it.

You knew it . . . When they took your tax dollars and started giving them to certain designated businesses while you can barely afford to keep  your own going.

You knew it . . . When they took away your water rights without even asking you if it was OK.

You knew it . . . When they started using your children to collect information on you.

You knew it . . . and now so does the rest of the nation:   New York is the Least Free of all the states

Now, what are you going to do about it?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Keeping Tabs . . .

From WND: Bill Gates' $100 million database to track students
... a massive $100 million public-school database spearheaded by the $36.4 billion-strong Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been in the making that freely shares student information with private companies.The system has been in operation for several months and already contains millions of K-12 students’ personal identification ‒ ranging from name, address, Social Security number, attendance, test scores, homework completion, career goals, learning disabilities, and even hobbies and attitudes about school. . . .
And this is not just Mr. Gates . . .
. . .the Gates Foundation, entered the joint venture with the Carnegie Corporation of New York and school officials from a number of states. After Rupert Murdoch’s Amplify Education (a division of News Corp) spent more than a year developing the system’s infrastructure, the Gates Foundation delivered it to inBloom ‒ a nonprofit corporation recently established to run the database. . . . . . Louisiana, which, along with New York, is slated to input virtually all student records statewide. . .
Of course, longtime readers of this blog know that government collection and sharing of assumed private information on students and their families has occurred right under our noses in Utica through a federal grant:  The "Safe Schools" Project -- What's the real intent? (2002)

The same question can be asked here.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

But Is It Constitutional?

OD: Taxpayers to subsidize NY's higher minimum wage.
The hike in New York's minimum wage is a big win for Democrats, but a provision buried inside the tentative state budget shows taxpayers will be paying much of the bill. The "minimum wage reimbursement credit" . . . would reimburse employers for part of the difference in wages from the current $7.25 minimum wage as it rises to $9 an hour by 2016.
 Article VI Section 8 of the NY State Constitution provides as follows:
1. The money of the state shall not be given or loaned to or in aid of any private corporation or association, or private undertaking; nor shall the credit of the state be given or loaned to or in aid of any individual, or public or private corporation or association, or private undertaking . . .
Somehow I don't think this is about helping the needy with a "living wage", but, rather, asserting government control over a larger segment of the economy through employees and employers alike. 

Monday, March 25, 2013

Congressional Condescension . . .

From the Oneida Dispatch: Congressman tells elementary student to watch more than just Fox News
U.S. Rep. Richard Hanna, R-22, visited students at Otto Shortell Middle School on March 22 and answered their questions about the world of politics. . . .
Toward the end of his visit, Hanna was introduced to 4th-grade North Broad Elementary student Dylan Price, who offered the congressman his own take on the federal budget in writing. He’d like to see massive cuts in spending. Hanna promised Price he’d give the note to the president the next time he sees him and suggested the boy stop watching Fox News more than the other news channels.
A boy expresses his concern over federal spending  (and, by implication, the federal debt that he will be expected to assume), and the Congressman responds by speculating on the boy's viewing habits and changing the subject to Fox News.
Hanna commented that Price’s advocacy of sweeping cuts to Medicare, prisons and other important programs, makes his proposed budget Tea Party worthy.
That's it Mr. Congressman!  Marginalize the person giving an opinion by appending the "Tea Party" label instead of addressing the issue.

Marginalizing a Fourth Grader . . . 


Friday, March 15, 2013

Close But No Cigar...

From the Sentinel: Firm picks Lysander; no job harvest for county.
A site in Onondaga County has won out over Oneida County as the home for a new plant for a producer of fruit preparations for the dairy industry. Agrana Fruit U.S., Inc., is going to Lysander to build its fourth plant and not the business park that’s adjacent to the former county airport in Whitestown. It will construct a new manufacturing and distribution operation, investing more than $50 million and creating approximately 120 new jobs, according to this morning’s announcement by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
"Very disappointing," said Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr.. "We have not specifically heard what our (site) shortcomings were or overall issues" that affected the final decision.
I would not expect to be told what our shortcomings are.  I would be expected to know.

I've said this before but it bears repeating.  Our leaders do not benchmark ourselves against our competition, not just for specific projects, but for doing business in the county in general.  The latest increase in sewer rates is an example.  When county leaders are asked how our rates compare with others a response is received that presents figures that cannot be intelligently compared... with a snotty tone to boot!

Close but no cigar is not acceptable.

Another article from the Syracuse paper is here. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Shortchanging Rome is Shortchanging Utica . . .

 . . . and the Country Bumpkin legislature explained . . .

From the Sentinel: Redistricting plan shortchanges Rome, legislator says
The legislature is being shrunk from 29 to 23 seats following a public referendum in November. The proposed districts have a target population of 10,046. . . . Utica would have six legislative districts wholly within the city boundaries. The county’s largest city now has eight city-only districts. Rome would have only one district that is solely inside city limits while five would be city-town districts. Minority Leader Frank D. Tallarino, D-7, Rome, objects to this aspect of the plan. He says the population for Rome is large enough to have three districts within city boundaries.
Mr. Tallarino raises an important point ... and people in Utica  and Villages need to pay attention. 

Viewed from the prospective that the county is a provider of municipal services (roads, police, 911, sewer, airport, economic development, etc.)  all the municipalities within the county are not created equal.  There are "taker" munis and there are "provider" munis.  The Cities and Villages generally provide for their own services such as police and highway maintenance, but their residents also pay to provide such services to outlying areas, so Cities and Villages are "provider" municipalities.  Towns, on the other hand are "taker" municipalities.  Just drive through New Hartford and Whitestown in all the newly developed areas around Middlesettlement Road and you see blue county highway markers everywhere. People in Utica, Rome and the Villages pay to maintain these roads, but there are no county highways within the cities or villages.

Add up the populations of Oneida County's cities and villages and you come up with more than half of the population concentrated into urbanized areas  But representation on and the outlook of the County Legislature is decidedly tilted toward the Towns.  While it would be difficult to forge districts made up of far-flung villages, it is important that a majority of districts represent reflect a city/village perspective -- because the people in these jurisdictions are bearing the costs of duplicate services.

Diluting City of Rome with the Town of Rome dilutes the urban perspective on the County Legislature.   While this is obviously bad for Rome it is also bad for Utica because Utica loses allies with those of similar interests.

The redistricting plan must be rejected.  Rome needs more city-only districts.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

The State of the County . . .

Some excerpts  from CE Picente's State of the County Speech and comments:
"I believe so much in the Marcy project, that I believe it is time we look to the next step. There are vital questions we need to answer: Where’s the next generation of workers going to come from? Where will employees live? How will new workers get educated and trained in STEM; Science, Technology, Engineering and Math? How will the region embrace corporate cultures that put a premium on diversity? These issues go beyond development of the site." 
Why are these things becoming the role of county government?
County Government does not wait to sweep up the pieces of human tragedy. We are all aware that the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut late last year gave new concerns to school safety. Sherriff Robert Maciol has taken the lead role in joining my administration along with Oneida-Madison BOCES and all of the school districts within the county in creating a police presence in local schools. The placing of trained safety officers in schools can not only providefor a layer of peace of mind and protection, but can also deal with conflicts long before they become serious problems.

Why is school safety becoming the role of county government?
One of the great successes in this county is the 911 Center consolidation . . .The success of the 911 center isn’t just about fiscal efficiency, although it does save money and operate more efficiently. It’s about public safety. The system is better today than before. The people of Oneida County are safer today because we acted.
Are we really safer than when people self-dispatched emergency services by choosing which emergency number to dial?  How much safer? Where is the statistical evidence?   
"We cannot shrink our way into survival; we need to get there by being aggressive -- by planning big and working hard"
This to me is probably the most telling statement.  The tone is that we all must depend upon county government to get things done.

  • So we spend a fortune on Griffiss "International" Airport that nationally is so insignificant that its tower is scheduled for closure because of a mere 2% decrease in an increased bloated federal budget.  
  • So we spend a fortune on infrastructure on the Marcy Nano-Center to attract a chip fabrication plant to a site that requires us to ask our US Senators to intercede for us to get a federal wetlands permit.
  • So we've spent a fortune consolidating 911 (which had been kept solvent for years by contributions from Utica and New Hartford which were not on the system) that now requires asking Albany for a new charge on cell phones.

Perhaps in the current national parlance this is moving "forward,"  but in reality we are building a house of cards of government dependency. Our "faded glory" days were based on private entrepreneurship, not "public-private partnerships."  Government can always find something to do to justify growing ever bigger and bigger, enriching those with government connections, but crowding out private enterprise and individual initiative.

And THAT is the State of Oneida County.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Expanding Traffic Access in Rome . . .

While we CHOKE IT OFF in Utica!  That's how I felt when I read this Sentinel article.
The state has money to spend and some of it could be used to make Griffiss Parkway four lanes wide through the entire business park. Griffiss Local Development Corp. is applying for funding through the state Department of Transportation’s Strategic Transportation Enhancement Program. . . . 
"With the final completion of the Griffiss Veterans Memorial Parkway, access will be unencumbered into the park and allow for more parcels to be developed between Books Road and the Mohawk River bridge, an area that contains some of the most valuable real estate in the region but is relatively inaccessible without the project," says the GLDC document.
In Utica, of course, we plan on spending money to choke Genesee St. down to two lanes.  Sure traffic counts are down now, but choking access will ensure that downtown can never redevelop to its former density -- wasting infrastructure already in place.

How about the new $62 million Arterial in Utica.  Worse than choking, Sunset Ave. will be entirely severed from both the Arterial and from itself.  This not only REDUCES access to nearby parcels from the Arterial and Sunset, it makes Sunset Avenue useless as a thoroughfare for local traffic from S. Utica to the Brewery District.

We seem to be able to find funds to "unencumber" access in Rome, but cannot even maintain access in Utica across the Barnes Ave. Bridge. . . . or across Oriskany Blvd. along Whitesboro St.  . . . or from State St. to Whitesboro St.  making the now vacant land on Whitesboro St. behind the Aud difficult to reach.

The "Statewide Sustainability Team" should be ashamed of itself if it approves of this project in Rome while DOT projects and crumbling infrastructure continue to turn vast areas of Utica into hard-to-reach backwaters.  Meanwhile EDGE, of which GLDC is a related entity, needs to be defunded for its continual focus on Rome while the county's principal city continues to decline.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Required Reading . . . and More

This Forbes article is about Syracuse, but it all applies to Utica, too: By Forgetting Its Proud Economic History, Syracuse Loses Its Future
It appears that its future is no longer dependent on the genius of its people but the largesse of higher order governments both state and federal.  It has lost its ability to determine its own fate.  Poverty is the city’s overwhelming social characteristic . . .  When a metropolis no longer generates the wealth to sustain itself it has no choice but to become a supplicant city whose future is guided by federal and state politicians and bureaucrats whose visions of what to do with places like Syracuse are likely not sensitive to its history or what its destiny might be. . . . 
. . . the challenge is reshaping their economic cultures to encourage new business formation among its permanent residents; especially its poor. Doing this is a complex task.
The article goes on criticize local-based business recruiting efforts, and suggests that the solution to the economic malaise of Syracuse and other former industrial powerhouses is grow the economy from within, like it had been done in the past, with the government to "back off."

I agree with everything in the article, and local decision-makers need to heed its recommendations.  But something else is needed, too.

           "It has lost its ability to determine its own fate." 

The economic decline is pretty uniform among the formerly industrial cities of Upstate NY.  There once was a strong economic base to build upon, but the base has eroded. Why? Most of the larger cities have well-respected colleges and universities, so there is no lack of intellectual power.  But the best and brightest seem to leave for other places.  Why?  There is no reason to assume that Upstate New Yorkers are less entrepreneurial than their peers elsewhere or from prior generations.

The one thing that all the industrial cities of Upstate New York have in common is that they all must operate under policies coming from Albany, and that since the late 1960s due to a forced-reapportionment of the State Senate under a US Supreme Court Decision, those policies have been engineered by a downstate majority -- policies that may make sense in that part of the state, but have caused decline here.  Examples have been given over the years in this blog such as maintaining Thruway Tolls long after the road's bonds were paid off, using tolls to maintain free Downstate highways (I-84), closing downstate nuke and coal power plants and sending "cheap" upstate hydropower there, raising rates here above our competitors, sending NYC garbage to upstate landfills  -- to name a few. The recent gun-control law is reigniting discussion of the Upstate-Downstate divide.

Our Founding Fathers, both for the Nation and the State, knew the tyranny of pure democracies --  that majorities could force their wills on minorities.  In New York, government was crafted to ensure that the needs of the lesser populated areas would be voiced in law making, to keep the lesser-populated areas thriving, strengthening the economy of the entire state.  It worked tremendously for almost 200 years -- until the reapportionment of the Senate changed the delicate balance in NYS policy-making and Upstate's decline set in.

The alternative is to split the state -- but remember the motto "divided we fall."  Regardless ...

ALL of New York has lost out on the current deal.  Had Upstate continued to grow as it did before the reapportionment, the state probably would have several more congressional districts.

Times may have changed, but fundamentals of good government are timeless.  Leaders need to go back to court to revisit the decision that put us on the wrong track.