Saturday, March 31, 2007

All Aboard The Gravy Train

Next stop, Little Falls!

The Little Falls Common Council will vote Tuesday about applying for a grant through the state Office for Small Cities. The city can apply for up to $650,000 for the waterfront revitalization project, which could cost up to about $1 million and create about 10 jobs, said David Carlson of Carlson Associates.

The project would improve the appearances of areas surrounding the Little Falls Canal Harbor and the Canal Place for tourists who visit the city, Mayor Ted Wind said.

"It's going to make it real attractive over there," Wind said.

Hey, that sounds great! What kind of public improvement projects are they going to fund? A full on landscaping project for the public park areas? New street lighting? Themed signage?

•At least four housing rehabilitation projects by the Little Falls Canal Harbor on Southern Avenue. taxpayer dollars are going to pay for the "Extreme Makeover" treatment at four private homes? Huh?

•Facade improvements for the Little Falls Lumber Co., which also is located on Southern Avenue.

I'm sure the owners of Little Falls Lumber are great folks, but you would think they of all people would be able to handle fixing up their property with their own money. Why are public funds being used to for this?

•Establishing an inn with nine guest rooms on the third floor of the Stone Mill of Little Falls building. The four-story building already is home to several small businesses. A conference center also would be added.

Seriously, WTF? I'd love to own a tasteful little inn with a conference center too, but there's no reason the government has to pay for it. Maybe they can host business conferences on how to have your buddies in local government pay for your business expansion under the guise of "tourism improvements".

•The creation of a seasonal Adirondack-style ice cream shop on a currently vacant lot at 55 W. Mill St. how is this going to work?

Chris Connolly, owner of the vacant lot at 55 W. Mill St., hopes to open an ice cream shop in a building with a style that combines old canal buildings with an Adirondack feel, he said.

The shop might be named Old Sal's Ice Cream after the mule Sal from the Erie Canal song, Connolly said.

Connolly has been working on the project for three years and bought the lot near the Little Falls Canal Harbor and the Canal Place four years ago.

"That section of town I really think is taking off," he said.

Let me make sure I have this straight-

1. Buy vacant lot.
2. Have government pay me to build ice cream shop.
3. Profit!

It's admirable that Little Falls wants to develop the canal area, but none of these are public improvement projects. Every one of them should be paid for with private funds. Heck, if they really want to boost tourism you know what they could do? Build me a castle. I've always wanted a castle, with a real moat and gatehouses and those nifty little murder holes you can use to stab attacking soldier with spears. Just imagine how many tourists will come to see something like that!

Down In Flames

Voters in the Town of New Hartford shot down all eight bond proposals that were on the ballot Thursday.

Town Supervisor Earle Reed said he was disappointed by Thursday's vote and would explore other options.

"When I was elected, I hoped I could better the condition of the town," he said. "But voters have spoken. We have no plan B."

Many residents felt the town board did not provide enough information regarding the specifics of the spending plan. Others said some of the projects were too expensive, such as the purchase of the 1 Oxford Crossing building.

New Hartford resident Kay Janowsky said she voted down all eight propositions because she thought bonding was not an economically sound idea.

"I think there are different ways to do things," she said. "The money for the police building was too much."

There are already rumblings that Mr. Reed and other town officials will begin pushing for a re-vote, but I think the message from this is clear- no more free ride, at least in New Hartford. If you want millions of dollars you have to lay out exactly what the money is going to be used for, why it's needed, and why bonding is the only viable option. The Jedi mind trick alone isn't enough.

Obviously, a great deal of the credit for this belongs to the people behind New Hartford, N. Y. Online. They've spent months laying out their case that the bonds were a bad idea, supporting their argument with reams of documentary evidence culled from public documents and meeting transcripts. They provided proof of everything they claimed, letting people see the documents for themselves so their wouldn't be any doubt about the veracity of what they were saying.

Supporters of the bonding? They waved their hands around, talked a lot about needs and wants, and failed to offer any support what-so-ever for the financial plan they claimed the town desperately needed.

In the end, the side with the better argument won. That's a victory for both citizen journalism, because you can bet your ass the bond supporters spent Friday bitching about "those people on the internet", and for democracy itself.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Turn Up The Bass

Some great news for fans of the sweet art of fishing- Bass Pro is coming to Buffalo.

Buffalo - Major sporting goods retailer Bass Pro reportedly reached a deal Thursday to build a mega store in Buffalo, bringing the economically challenged city a long-awaited lynchpin to its waterfront development plans.

Citing an unnamed source, The Buffalo News reported on its Web site that a deal has been reached to build a Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World store, with construction of the 120,000 square foot store set to begin next year.

Now I'll be able to buy my lure-making supplies in person instead of ordering things over the internet!

One other thought crosses my mind- Utica would be a great place for a dedicated fishing store like Bass Pro. The hordes of summer vacationers heading to the north country through the city, many of them downstate fisherman looking to snag a few trout, are a huge potential market for a destination retailer specializing in fishing gear. If only we had some kind of waterfront facility with lots of undeveloped land near the thruway exit...

Things That Make You Go Hmmmm...

Man gets pulled over by cops in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

Man is charged with DWI, resisting arrest, fleeing, and a host of other misdeeds.

Man is now suing the city for being assaulted during his arrest.

Here's the curious part, at least to me:

A Utica man may sue the city and the Utica Police Department, alleging he was assaulted during an arrest in the early hours of March 4...

Garramone is the son of Anthony J. Garramone, a former city court judge and Common Council attorney.

Christian Garramone's case has been assigned to Rome City Court since all Utica City Court judges recused themselves.

Seems like the Garramone's had a pretty busy week back then, eh?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007