Friday, June 29, 2007

Mike Arcuri: Philadelphia Is "Overseas"

Congressman Arcuri seems to be having some problems with geography again. In response to the closing of the Federal Reserve check processing center in Marcy he sent the Fed's chairman a very strongly worded letter of rebuke.

“I am deeply troubled that we were not told of this closing ahead time or given any opportunity to voice our concerns,” said Arcuri. “It’s bad enough when the private sector out sources jobs overseas, but it’s unforgivable when our own government does it to us.

It appears Mr. Arcuri isn't aware that Philadelphia, Cleveland, Dallas, and Atlanta, instead of being overseas hotbeds of outsourcing, are actually cities within the United States. He might have picked up on that if he had actually bothered to, you know, been following the details of the closure with any sense of diligence.. Those are the cities where the Reserve is consolidating it's check processing functions because electronic banking has made paper checks obsolete.

Oh, and once again Mr. Arcuri seems to think the Federal Reserve is part of the government. It isn't. Like the Boy Scouts and the Red Cross it operates under a Federal Charter, but by law it receives no funds from the government. The workers at the Utica facility are employed by the member banks of the Reserve, not the federales.

Never let it be said Mr. Arcuri let the facts get in the way of his politics.

The Slow Motion Neutron Bomb II: Electric Boogaloo

The neutron bomb that went off in 1990 continues to wreak havoc in central New York. The buildings are still standing, but the population is being wiped out.

The Sentinel reports that the latest census estimates are in -- and Oneida County continues to lose population. Utica lost 1,569 people since year 2000, or about 2.6% of its population, leaving 59,082 remaining. Rome lost 730, or about 2.1%, leaving 34,220 behind. The county as a whole lost 1,515 people, to stand at 233,954.

Actually we may not be so bad - or is this just a case of misery loving company?

The Post Standard reports that Syracuse dropped 5,777, or about 4% of its population, leaving 140,658.

Per the Buffalo News, Buffalo lost a whopping 16,500 people, or 5.7%, since 2000. It's population is now only 276,059. (Remember when it had 586,000 people back in the 1960s? It is now less that half of what it was.) Niagara Falls, which used to run neck and neck with Utica in population, lost 5.9%, to stand at 52,326.

People aren't leaving because the area doesn't have enough parks, or broadway shows, or flowers, or cheap hot dogs. They're leaving because the crushing tax burden drives business, and jobs, off to better climes. Until that problem gets fixed our population will continue to fall and the only ones staying will be the ones that didn't want a job anyway.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Mike Arcuri Votes Against Free Speech

Congressman Michael Arcuri today voted against the Broadcaster Freedom Act, a measure that would have cut off funding for the proposed re-imposition of the "Fairness Doctrine". This abominable Doctrine forced the government to oversee political speech on radio and television until it was repealed over twenty years ago. Luckily, a vast majority of the House disagreed with Mr. Arcuri's desire to regulate speech and the measure passed 309-115.

It boggles the mind that Mr. Arcuri would actually support this horrendous straight jacket on public discourse, particularly when it has such a rich history of being used to silence criticism of the government. Fred Friendly, the legendary CBS newsman, dedicated much of his book "The Good Guys, The Bad Guys, and The First Amendment" to describing the nightmarish abuses politicians and groups of every political stripe used the Fairness Doctrine for.

If you watch or listen to any kind of talk or issues-oriented programming from local stations, from Rush Limbaugh to the Keeler Show, take note. The only shows Congressman Arcuri wants on the air are the ones with the government stamp of approval.

NYRI? Sounds Great!

About a million downstate voters became supporters of the NYRI powerline yesterday.

"It was chaos," said motorist Edward Ankudavich, who spent an hour traveling 20 blocks in the Bronx.

The blackout affected approximately 385,000 people, Consolidated Edison Chief Executive Kevin Burke said at a news conference. The outage began at 3:42 p.m. and all power was restored by 4:30 p.m., he said.

"We view this as a significant event," Burke said. But with a season of high electricity demand only beginning, he strove to reassure New Yorkers that the "likelihood of this happening again is very low."

The city was in the second day of temperatures hovering around 90 degrees. Visitors at the Met were forced to sit on the outside steps in the sweltering heat. Traffic lights up and down the east side of Manhattan and the Bronx were out, causing heavy gridlock. Lights went out around Yankee Stadium, and subway and train service was disrupted all around New York, which consumes more power on a hot summer day than the entire nation of Chile.

Every one of the people inconvenienced by yesterday's blackout thinks NYRI sounds like a great idea now. Is that rational? Not at all, but that doesn't matter. They're all going to support anything that even remotely promises to keep it from happening again, and that's just what the NYRI proposal was crafted to do.

I know some of you will be saying "It's not about upstate versus downstate. We're all in this together!", but you're wrong. The steamroller is coming, and it isn't going to stop for a few petitions and some protest signs.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Mike Arcuri Feels Da Bush H8!

Congressman Arcuri has weighed in on the loss of 200 jobs at Utica's Federal Reserve facility.

In a statement Congressman Mike Arcuri said, "I am deeply disappointed to learn of the loss of these jobs and the devastating effect it has on Federal Reserve employees and their families. We're seeing yet another irresponsible cut by this Administration of vital services and jobs in Upstate New York. My office will do all it can to help these employees and their families stay on their feet during this transition."

The only problem being that Federal Reserve employees don't work for the government, they work for the member banks of the Reserve. The "Administration" could no more cut the budget of the Reserve Banks than they could cut the budget at Target or K-Mart since, by law, the Reserve system receives no appropriations from the Federal government.

I know people tend to doze off during civics classes, but you would think a sitting Congressman would, you know, understand how these things work. Blaming the "Administration" for the loss of these jobs is about as silly as thinking New York isn't a border state.

A few striking mistakes were made during his talk, including a repeatedly botched pronunciation of the word Dubai (which was corrected by an audience member), and the attribution of Social Security's creation to Truman, instead of Roosevelt. Arcuri also referred to New York as being "not a border state," during a discussion about immigration.

Er...never mind.

The Root Of All Evil

Congressman Arcuri has had to return a few more contributions.

The offices of Reps. Michael Arcuri, D-N.Y., and Tim Mahoney, D-Fla., and Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., announced Tuesday the lawmakers will return contributions from David Bershad, who was named in an indictment of his law firm for allegedly giving kickbacks to plaintiffs in class-action lawsuits, The Hill reported Wednesday.

Federal Election Commission reports said the three lawmakers each received $2,100 from the lawyer in late 2006 -- after the indictment was handed down in May 2006.

To be honest, $2100 doesn't buy what it used to. These days you have to pay $1000 to be Mr. Arcuri's friend:

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

Chairman Jim Oberstar hosts a transportation Breakfast for
Congressman Mike Arcuri (NY-24)

National Democratic Club Townhouse
40 Ivy Street, SE
Washington, DC
Time: 8:30 AM
Requested Contributions: $5,000 PAC Host, $2,500 PAC Sponsor, $1,000 Friend

Having a hot dog and some potato salad with will cost you $500:

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007

Francis Creighton, Nick Lewis, Chris McCannell & Melissa Schulman host a cook out for Congressman Mike Arcuri (NY-24) with special guest Congressman Joseph Crowley (NY-7)

The UPS Townhouse
421 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC
Time: 6:00-8:00PM
Requested Contributions: $1,000 PAC, $500 Individual

Want a stack of pancakes with Mike? $500, not including tip.

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

Andy Quinn hosts a Breakfast for Congressman Mike Arcuri (NY-24)

Johnny’s Half Shell
400 North Capitol Street, NW
Washington, DC
Time: 8:30 AM – 9:30 AM
Requested Contributions: $1,000 PAC, $500 Individual

All that in just one week during June. Luckily, he was able to get out of the Department of Energy hearing in Rochester on the 12th in time to make the cookout. That must have been some really tasty potato salad.

The Diddler Strikes!

It's been a busy day for the moderator of the O-D's Storychat forum. The story on Ed Hanna's search for a new home in Utica has created an explosion of snark, some of which has been gut-bustingly funny. Sadly, most of the really hysterical posts have been removed because they crossed over into personal attacks. The O-D doesn't really have any another option, since it's a clear violation of their terms of service, but it's still a shame they were tossed into the digital dustbin.

Another issue has been bubbling under the surface of the discussion, but I haven't seen anyone come right out and name names yet: Hanna isn't the only Mayor accused of diddling his staff. "Utica315" in particular, who I have a sneaking suspicion is Larry Tanoury Jr., has been deflecting criticism of Hanna's after-hours activities by hinting around about other Mayoral shenanigans. That's cool with me, since I think an elected official that violates his vows of marriage is just as likely to violate his oath of office.


As for Julian's people who keep mentioning this "allegation"; maybe it's time that we release the fact that there is another (very similar) "allegation" against Julian right now. He may not be accused of harrassment, but I think the evidence would show that he is in effect paying (with raises) for sexual favors. Why doesn't the media report that?

This is a serious charge that goes beyond accusing someone of infidelity, something I don't think "Utica315" appreciates. Abusing the powers of your office to reward a subordinate for sexual favors is a crime. Cheating on your wife isn't.

Update: Sweet Jumpin' Jeebus, this comment thread with "Utica315" just keeps getting better:

"Maybe the media hasn't reported it because it’s NOT true. Julian has no suits or allegations against him. Check your facts."

No suits? Not true? Maybe YOU should check your facts! There is a suit, and NO I'm not who you all think I am. Just simply check the facts and see how much money this "suit" has already cost city taxpayers in defense costs.

Maybe the reason you haven't heard about it is because the Plaintiff in this case has class and doesn't see it fit to run to the media with the allegations. The circumstances surrounding the case ruined a young man's life. If it was me I would be telling the whole world what really happened. I guess he is more of a man than I am.

I think we just saw Larry Tanoury Jr. deny that he was Larry Tanoury Jr. while saying the lawsuit by Larry Tanoury Jr. against the city of Utica is costing the city money. But that's okay, because Larry Tanoury Jr. is a classy guy. And he's most definitely not Larry Tanoury Jr., but if he was his life was ruined. Oh, and Larry Tanoury Jr. is more of a man than he is, because he's definitely not Larry Tanoury Jr..

Got that?

Update: Ack! Who should appear in the thread but....Larry Tanoury Jr.! It's a miracle! Seriously, go over and read the entire thread. It's a hoot.

Update: A reader asks if it's wise to accuse someone of being Larry Tanoury Jr. after the person in question just accused a public official of committing a heinous crime. I suppose I'll find out, won't I?

Update: Wait, it might not be Larry Jr. after all. I'm nominating this one for "Epic Thread" status.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Sewage? What Sewage?

In an interview in today's Observer-Dispatch Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente appears to make the claim that the county isn't dumping raw sewage into the Mohawk River. If Mr. Picente is correct he should probably give the State Department of Environmental Conservation a call, since they're pretty convinced the raw sewage isn't an elaborate illusion.

Additionally, this modification contains the Department's determination (initially disclosed to the permittee in February 2006) that the Sauquoit Creek Pump Station overflow is considered a Sanitary Sewer Overflow (SSO) rather than a CSO because it receives wastewater from a conveyance system that is not combined. As SSOs in New York State are not legally permitted, this designation means the problem of regular overflow discharges of raw sewage from the Sauquoit Creek Pump Station must be addressed and abated.

Maybe the Feces Fairy waved her magic wand and made it all vanish.

The Slow Motion Neutron Bomb

The neutron bomb* that started detonating in the early 90's continued it's inexorable destruction of Oneida County's population today, as the area lost another 200 jobs.

Check processing operations at the Utica Office of the Federal Reserve Bank are being sent to a Philadelphia site, ending about 200 local jobs.

“The closing of the Utica office is tentatively scheduled for the first quarter of 2008,” said Larry Whitney, vice president and regional manager at the Utica office.

Located at the site of the former Oneida County Airport, the Utica office employs 136 people. Other support staff - including temps, vendors and couriers - that are not employed by the Federal Reserve also will be affected, bringing the total job loss to 200, Whitney said.

The Utica site processes checks for financial institutions in Upstate New York.

The closing is being attributed to a national decline in check volume, according to the Federal Reserve, which is scaling back operations at several sites and reducing staff by 1,740 positions.

On the bright side, the thriving State Homeland Security Center at the former county airport now has a lot more room to expand. At it's current growth rate there should be almost 5 people working there by next year. It's another Big Win!(TM) for Oneida County!

*For those of you that weren't around at the time of the cold war, the neutron bomb was an enhanced radiation nuclear warhead that had the charming ability to kill people while leaving buildings and material relatively unscathed. Our area's population implosion is roughly equivalent to what would have happened if one had been detonated over our heads back in 1990. It's just taking longer to take effect than anyone expected.

Nothing Can Stand Before The Empire!

Strange doings afoot in, of all places, New Hartford.

NOW, THEREFORE, be it resolved that the Town Board of the Town of New Hartford, in its capacity as governing body of the Town of New Hartford, does hereby support and concur with the Oneida County Empire Zone to include property as a Regionally Significant Project within the Oneida County Empire Zone within tax parcel 317.010-5-1, and located at 2 Wurz Avenue, Yorkville NY 13495.

Odd indeed when you look at the assessment data for that parcel; tax map number 317.010-5-1. The parcel is approximately 1 acre of residential vacant land assessed for $200.

The Wurz Avenue address is Bonide, but I have no idea what kind of benefit they would get from having a residential parcel incorporated into an Empire Zone.

Seriously, WTF?

The latest development in the ongoing Fecal Follies is the amazing claim, despite months of reporting to the contrary, that there really isn't any raw sewage in the Mohawk River. Except for when there is.

O-D: Is there really raw sewage floating in the Mohawk River?

Picente: No, not in the least... I think over the last two years what they call 92 occurrences possibly.

Update: Someone forgot to tell Sen. Schumer that there really isn't any sewage in the Mohawk River:

Due to outdated infrastructure and limited capacity, untreated sewage from the sanitary and storm water sewage disposal is being dumped into the Mohawk River from the Oneida County sewer district, which consists of 13 different towns and villages. As a result, New York State slapped Oneida County with a proposed consent order that puts a stopper on new development, and would require the County to fix the problem by 2011.

The estimated cost to repair the waste water problem is $66 million. Until the problem is fixed, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation will not approve additional sewer extensions. As a result, the County is unable to approve building permits for commercial projects. In addition, there are serious health concerns from the sewage, including: fish and aquatic life in the water; animals wading in the water; and people who use the water for recreational uses, including swimming.

This would appear to put Sen. Schumer in the unenviable position of having requested federal funds and intervention in a problem that simply doesn't exist, since, as Mr. Picente claims, there isn't any raw sewage in the Mohawk River. I certainly hope the Oneida County Executive plans on telling Sen. Schumer that the considerable resources of the Army Corp of Engineers can be better used elsewhere.

Update: The story ID number this post originally linked to was changed, but I've now corrected the link.

Update: It changed again. And again. Arrrrrgh!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Utica And Stephen King

For a long time I've wondered what kind of connection Stephen King has to the Utica area. The city gets mentioned quite a bit in King's works, most notably as the hometown of one of the lead characters in "The Tommyknockers". That particular portrayal isn't very flattering, dwelling as it does on the character's nightmarish upbringing in the city, but King demonstrated at least a passing familiarity with the streets and neighborhoods of the city.

I didn't know until this weekend that one of his daughters serves as a minister at a local church.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Things That Make You Go Hmmmm...

This could have turned into a real tragedy:

The Oneida County Health Department is investigating the Woodberry Hills Swim Club after an 11-year-old girl nearly drowned there this week, department officials said Friday...

Doctors told Saundra Forston Friday that Jessie had a good night, but she still is heavily sedated, Fortson said.

The mother of two had dropped off Jessie, a sixth-grader at Myles Elementary School, at the swim club Wednesday for an end-of-the-year party only minutes before she received a phone call that something terrible happened, she said.

"We never made it home," she said. "We turned right around."

Here's the really odd part:

Forston said she was under the impression the party was hosted by the school's PTA and signed a permission slip Jessie brought home.

The permission slip featured PTA President Lori Catanzarita's name as a contact, she said. Catanzarita would not comment when reached by a reporter Friday.

District Superintendent Daniel P. Gilligan said the event was not school-related or organized by the PTA. He said the event was organized by parents of sixth-graders.

"They were having little things like that back when I was elementary principal at Myles," he said. "If a child brings home a note, (parents) can think that note is from school. But it could be a note from the kids."

If this was a private party why did a parent have to sign a permission slip? Something about this doesn't make sense.

Good News, Bad News

First the good news- the proposed wind farms in the towns of Warren and Stark have received local approval.

The Jordanville Wind Project was granted special use permits by the Warren Town Board on Wednesday. On Thursday night, the Stark Town Board met to discuss the issue.

Stark board members did not return multiple calls for comment Thursday night, but Stark resident Sue Brander, a member of wind turbine opposition group Advocates for Stark, said the board passed the resolutions necessary for the project to move forward.

"Apparently, their minds are made up and they don't want to be confused by the facts," said Brander, who attended the meeting Thursday.

The wind farm project is praised by some who believe it will bring jobs and revenue to the area. But others are concerned about negative visual effects of the turbines, which are more than 250 feet tall at the hub.

Warren Town Supervisor Richard Jack said construction could begin as early as this fall, after the project clears several other government agencies.

The project is being sponsored by Jordanville Wind LLC, which is a subsidiary of Iberdrola, USA. The town's special use permit is a 30-page document of guidelines for construction requirements, including general construction conditions, mitigation for utilities drainage, bird and bath studies and escrow funds that have to be created for mitigation issues, Jack said.

Now the bad news- you're paying for both of these projects. The only way wind farms are even remotely economically viable is through heavy subsidies at the local, state, and federal level. From an environmental viewpoint it's even arguable if they provide a net benefit, since without a breakthrough in technology there's a good chance they'll never generate enough carbon-free power to equal the carbon-heavy energy used to manufacture and emplace them.

Even better, the state has mandated that utilities use a set percentage of the high cost power from "green" generating sources. Since there's no demand for it here in Upstate, want to take a guess at where the power from those windfarms will go and how it will get there?

Hint: There's a reason NYRI's business plan is guaranteed to be profitable.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Magical Power Of Beer

It's long been known to brewing aficionados that beer boosts intelligence. Unfortunately, it does so by inducing an idiot-savant condition in it's users- after a liberal dosage most of what beer drinkers think and say is idiotic, if not entertaining, but occasionally a bolt of brilliance shoots out from the fog of drunkeness. Such was the case tonight during a discussion of why Upstate, and the Utica-Rome area in particular, is in such dire straits.

After much talk of demographics, regressive taxation, self-selection of an incompetent political class, and lots of other stuff, including an impressive array of statistics that sounded extremely convincing while we were under the influence, our little group's token neo-hippie boiled it all down to it's essence:

"You know what happened to Upstate? Atlas shrugged, dudes. Atlas. F***ing. Shrugged. And moved to South Carolina."

It's something so obvious in retrospect that it's amazing it took a self-described stoner hippie freak to point it out. Even more shocking is that he had the patience to slog through the damn book in the first place. For both achievements he drank free the rest of the night.

Update: If you haven't read "Atlas Shrugged" you really should. Or at least rent "The Incredibles", which has a similar message and is far more entertaining.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

No, Really, I'm Against It

Still convinced that all those rallies and hearings are going to stop NYRI? Then you probably want to talk to our senators, since they're really, really against the NYRI program too...except when they're not.

Despite their fiery condemnations of the power-line project known as New York Regional Interconnect, the state's two U.S. senators have been all but silent on the law that could pave the way for its construction.

The rhetoric: "I have made my opposition to the plan very clear and will continue to work with all the communities concerned to fight it," presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said this week.

"We will somehow not let NYRI go through," Charles Schumer, the Senate's No. 3 Democrat, said in May.

The reality: Clinton and Schumer have not said whether they support or oppose changing a two-year-old federal law that critics say virtually assures that power line projects like the 1,200-megawatt NYRI get built.

Likewise, they have not said whether they back a campaign by local members of Congress to repeal or amend the provision. Those efforts are doomed without Senate support.

Ultimately, both Senators Schumer and Clinton will give NYRI the nod because it benefits downstate, that magical place filled with enough votes to actually make a difference to their careers. Upstate? We're a blip on the screen at best.

It probably doesn't help things that they're both beholden, along with our own Congressman Arcuri, to the left-wing part of the coalition behind the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (NYAREA). You remember them- they're the organization that revealed their overwhelming support for the NYRI powerline plan at the Department of Energy hearings in New York. While business interests in NYAREA have been pressuring politicians on the right to move the plan forward, union groups have been tackling the left. A handy one-two punch.

Oh, and Congressman Arcuri might want to give his sister a call and ask why her union, The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, is supporting NYAREA and the NYRI plan. From his public comments it seems the two have never discussed the issue.

Odd, that.

Update: It took less than 24 hours for this post to get multiple hits from both Mammen-Pritchard, Congressman Arcuri's public relations company, and the IBEW headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia. Just as a point of reference, the IBEW is Mr. Arcuri's top campaign contributer.

Letters, We Get Letters...

A reader writes regarding the shenanigans surrounding the continuing saga of the Oneida County sales tax hike:

RoAnn Destito sponsored the bill but stuck it in under the Rules committee and asked to have her name withdrawn on the text of the bill. So, even though she is the sponsor, and under Assembly rules, she controls the legislation, her name will not appear when you search for it. So, she is hiding the fact that she is raising taxes. So, yesterday the bill came to the Assembly floor for a vote under "Assembly Rules" committee without her name. She and Bill Magee are the only Assembly members from Oneida County who can sponsor this bill. Bill Magee was not part of it.

She voted no.

Then, she furiously ran to the Majority Leader, Ron Canestrari, to drum up yes votes for the bill because it looked like it was going to fail. She was able to drum up 76 yes votes to pass the bill. Incredible isn't it?

She got her NYC pals in the Assembly to take the heat to maintain the largest sales tax in our county where they aren't elected. She can now run around and say she voted against it. Too bad she's the sponsor, and without her, the bill never would have reached the floor.

Ray Meier did the same thing last year.

This is our political class in Oneida County, God help us all.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Circle Of Life

Severe thunderstorms are once again moving across the area, and in a matter of hours that rainwater will cause the defective pumping station in Yorkville to overflow and send thousands of gallons of untreated sewage into the Mohawk River. By tomorrow morning most of the silt washed into the river will settle and then the water will clear, but only for a few hours.

Why? Because the algae in the water will begin to reproduce at an accelerated rate once the sun rises, turning the water a rich, cloudy green. We might find all that untreated waste flowing from the sewers of Oneida County disagreeable, but to the naturally occurring algae in the water it's the worlds biggest, bestest buffet. A veritable smorgasbord of natural fertilizer conveniently mixed with a stream of heavily oxygenated water- the ideal recipe for rapid growth.

Unfortunately, that growth isn't sustainable. Once the nutrients are depleted the algae will start to die off from starvation, falling to the bottom of the river to create a thick mat of organic material that will itself fuel more growth as it decays. It's the circle of life, to paraphrase Elton John by way of "The Lion King".

Except Elton probably couldn't come up with some inspiring lyrics to describe the smell along the banks of the Mohawk River. At first there will be the familiar stink of human waste, the cloying scent of feces mixed with the stinging ammonia of stale urine. That will eventually give way to the rich organic funk of rotting plants as the remains of the algal bloom fueled by the sewage decays over the next few days.

And all of that will happen miles downstream from where the sewage is pouring into the river.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


All that homemade charcoal I made a few weeks ago was finally put to use this weekend, hence the lack of updates. BTW, the grill in the picture was built in Utica by a guy that lived in a mud shack in Somalia six years ago. Last year he became an American citizen.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Merry Christmas!

It's not a tax hike, it's a Christmas present!

The county’s bid to replace a 1 percent sales tax with a .75 percent levy Dec. 1 — just in time for Christmas — is headed back to Albany for final action.

The Board of Legislators voted 27-1 Wednesday for a resolution asking the state Legislature and governor to allow the county to enact the .75 percent tax — counties can’t enact sales taxes without the state’s go-ahead. The state Senate and Assembly are scheduled to adjourn June 21.

Once again, this isn't a "tax cut" just in time for Christmas. Oneida County's elevated sales tax ends on November 30, 2007. The Legislature has voted to impose a new sales tax increase, admittedly smaller than the existing one, that starts at the stroke of midnight on December 1, 2007.

It Practically Writes Itself

So, is this why they call him the Tool Man?

Mayor Tim Julian will make a cameo appearance Friday in the Players of Utica production "The Full Monty."

The show takes place at 8 p.m. at Utica College's Strebel Auditorium.

Tickets are $17 for adults, $15 for seniors and $8 for students.

Julian is a candidate in the city's fall mayoral race.

Thank the Lord above that there isn't an equal time provision for stage productions. I shudder at the thought of Ed Hanna whipping out his wing-wang on stage. He probably shudders at the thought of exposing himself in public as well.

But I suspect we're shuddering for different reasons.

A Bit Of Light Verse

It was a misdemeanor assault, they say,
that Matthew Shannon committed last Friday,
Wednesday in court,
he appeared for the tort,
and was told to now stay away.

Whitestown Town Supervisor Matthew Shannon pleaded not guilty to an assault charge Wednesday and agreed to have no contact with his 20-year-old daughter.

Shannon, 48, of Whitesboro, is charged with misdemeanor third-degree assault stemming from a reported domestic dispute with his daughter Breanne several weeks ago.

Shannon signed an order of protection Wednesday afternoon before Judge Donald S. Buttenschon in Marcy Town Court. The order of protection, requested by his daughter, lasts through Aug. 22 and may be extended at a later time, Buttenschon said.

"You need to stay away from Breanne," Buttenschon told Shannon. "Do not violate this order, or I will have to throw you in jail."

Domestic disputes are never pretty.

The Naming Of Names

The entire Oneida County Legislature, with one exception, has voted to support a tax increase.

When state Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome, was county executive, he initiated a 1.5 percentage point sales tax hike in 2005, which he said was needed to fund skyrocketing Medicaid costs. The sales tax went as high as 9.75 percent before dropping to 9 percent.

Under that legislation, the tax was supposed to drop to 8 percent this winter.

William Morehouse, D-Utica, said the county was breaking a promise made to taxpayers. He was the only county legislator to vote against the request made Wednesday.

"The sales tax is a regressive tax, it hits the poorest of the poor," he said.

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente said he's still working on a plan to steer the county toward a fiscal road to stability. He said it could include a property tax increase, but would not say how much.

Here are the names, districts, addresses, and phone numbers of the legislators that voted for the tax increase. These are the men and women that are moving to give Oneida County one of the heaviest tax burdens not only in New York State, but in the nation. If you think a tax increase is a bad idea then please contact them and share your feelings. They are, after all, representing you. All the information below is taken from the legislature's own roster posted in PDF form over here.

D--1st Frank Puma 620 William Street, Rome 13440 336-3170 336-8226
D--2nd Michael J. Hennessy 439 Betsinger Rd. Sherrill 13461 363-0307 527-9663
D--3rd Edward C. Stephenson 135 E. Bacon Street, Waterville 13480 841-8691
D--4th Jack B. Gardner 8520 Halstead Rd. PO Box 17, Mcconnellsville 13401 245-3384 247-2794
R--5th Michael B. Waterman 6 Sixth St. Camden 13316 245-1893 225-7958
R--6th Les Porter 9692 Main St. PO Box 236, Remsen 13438 831-2191
D--7th Frank D. Tallarino 7883 West Thomas Street, Rome 13440 337-6340
R--8th Richard A. Flisnik 6669 Fox Road, Marcy 13403 865-8707
R--9th David K. Wilcox 10327 Coombs Rd. Holland Patent 13354 896-3991
R-10th George Joseph 7315 Merriman Rd, Clinton 13323 853-3006 853-1024
D-11th Carl V. Graziadei 8178 Cider St. PO Box 52 Oriskany 13424 768-4711 768-1522
R-12th Kenneth Brewer 5345 Townline Rd. Vernon 13476 829-4983
D-13th William B. Goodman 5113 Wilcox Road, Whitesboro 13492 736-1591
R-14th Michael D. Damsky 2113 Genesee Street, Utica 13501 732-1836 724-2676
R-15th James M. D'Onofrio P.O. Box 29 Utica, 13503 792-7721 732-5106
R-16th Brian D. Miller 9195 Red Hill Rd., New Hartford 13413 737-7550
R-17th Pamela N. Mandryck 9245 Sly Hill Road, Ava 13303 336-0469
R-18th Bernard O. Burns 21 Hamilton Place, Clinton 13323 853-2251
R-20th Gerald J. Fiorini 1800 Bedford Street Rome 13440 337-9045
R-21st Edward P. Welsh 15 Beverly Place, Utica 13501 738-0922 797-6129
D-22nd Harry A. Hertline 1209 Capital Avenue Utica 13502 724-2014
D-23rd Rose Ann Convertino 609 Blandina Street, Utica 13501 732-2403
R-24th Emil R. Paparella 613 Locust Drive, Utica 13502 735-8973
R-25th William R. Hendricks 139 Grove Place, Utica 13501 732-3107
D-26th Daniel N. LaBella 739 Pleasant St. Utica 13501 797-6718 797-0174
D-27th Joseph M. Furgol 1122 Jefferson Avenue, Utica 13501 735-7371
R-28th David J. Wood 7320 Coleman Mills Road, Rome 13440 337-1989
D-29th Patricia A. Hudak 103 Dwight Drive, Rome 13440 339-9960

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Meanwhile, Back In The Brewery District

Strikeslip takes another look at the Varick Street plan.

Anecdotally many people coming from the West to go Downtown cut over Varick to avoid the Court Street-Arterial intersection. One can imagine this small change significantly increasing the traffic at that intersection, thereby justifying the Arterial Overpass at that location that suddenly seemed to have appeared out of nowhere on both the "Depressed Highway" and "Boulevard" alternatives for the proposed Arterial remake -- an overpass that many who live and work in West Utica find objectionable.

Without knowing what we are doing, we may wind up actually killing the businesses on Varick, and at the Finish Line on Court, and create a need for an overpass that will isolate this neighborhood completely.

Be sure to follow through and read the comments.

The current Varick Street "plan", isn't. It's a happy-happy dream of urban renewal via wish fulfillment, the same kind of misdirected development that has squandered millions in public funds. The idea has a lot of potential, but moving ahead with the current proposal without building up a body of supporting evidence that the idea will actually work is a recipe for yet another disaster.

History Repeats

An announcement so small, so innocuous, that it's easy to overlook. Until you start thinking about what it implies.

McDonald’s and its renowned golden arches will exit Sangertown Square June 24, a mall representative said.

McDonald’s lease has expired, and the restaurant chain has chosen not to renew it, Sangertown Square General Manager Donna Houseman said.

The McDonald’s space will be replaced by Hannoush Jewelers in the fall, she said.
McDonald's closing will leave five restaurants in the mall's food court.

The McDonald's corporation is driven by metrics. Everything they do, from making french fries to the size of their menu boards, is based on careful research and an obsessive reliance on statistical analysis. They make mistakes (Hot side hot! Cold side cold!), but in general they're one of the best companies at spotting developing market trends...and recognizing when a market is collapsing.

Remember what happened to the Riverside Mall?

The same process just started at Sangertown Square.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Stickyfingers Is Out, Roefaro Is In

Utica mayoral wannabe Frank "Stickyfingers" Meola, perhaps realizing that being part of an organized crime ring isn't the kind of experience voters are looking for, has decided to call it quits.

In April, city Democrats had endorsed Fourth Ward Councilman Frank Meola. Last month, Daniel Trevisani, a former city firefighter, announced his intention to win the party's nomination in a September primary.

Now, both men have stepped aside and say they support Roefaro, a former Utica Board of Education member.

The change comes just days after the Observer-Dispatch reported former Mayor Edward A. Hanna would be an independent candidate in the race.

This whole thing sounds strangely familiar. I think I need start taking the rantings of My Paranoid Friend (TM) more seriously.

Update: An emailer writes that Roefaro isn't the endorsed candidate. Allegedly, his nomination was rammed through without a proper notification to the full committee. I have no clue how true that is, but it would be hysterical if they screwed it up.

Monday, June 11, 2007

"For The Larger Good"

Last week a measure to de-fund the Department of Energy's program to establish national electric corridors was shot down in the House Appropriations committee.

The federal program that could pave the way for New York Regional Interconnect narrowly survived an attempt to strip its funding today.

By a vote of 30-35, the powerful U.S. House Appropriations Committee rejected an amendment spearheaded by Rep. Maurice Hinchey that would have effectively stalled the National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor program for a year. Hinchey was pushing the amendment to a $32 billion energy spending bill.

The 2005 program would allow power line developers within two special corridors in the Northeast and Southwest to appeal to the federal government for approval if state regulators say no.

Shockingly, the triggerman behind the hit just happened to represent the New York city area.

Several other members, including Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., rose to support the amendment. But they were rebuked by three lawmakers, including Rep. José Serrano, a South Bronx Democrat.

Serrano said the approval process was fair and that cities like New York needed the power.

“This may be one of those classic occasions where you tighten your belt and you say, ‘For the larger good, my trees may have a line going over it,’” he said. “‘For the larger good I may have to give up a little so that other folks may get a lot.’”

Rep. Serrano seems to have missed the spin that NYRI isn't about upstate versus downstate, since he pretty clearly thinks that's exactly what it's about. Thinking otherwise, as so many anti-NYRI activists seem to, is a naive exercise that will ultimately end with another line of electrical towers stretching from Marcy to downstate. Just ask the opponents of the Marcy South powerline. They were bamboozled in exactly the same way, and relied on the same "If we just protest enough we can stop it" logic, right up until the day towers started being built.

Powerful interests support NYRI. A failure to combat those interests, and not just the NYRI program itself, is why the anti-NYRI movement is doomed.

Update: In response to a question, I think a version of NYRI is unstoppable. I also think the current "use the railroad right of way" proposal is part of an elaborate shell game designed to distract opposition. In response to protests the interests behind NYRI will forge a "compromise" involving the use of an existing power line route. Everyone will pat themselves on the back for a job well done, the politicians get to take credit for "stopping NYRI", and the powerlines still get built in someone elses back yard. Which is exactly what I think was planned from the start.

Break it down! It's Hanna Time!

Ed Hanna's nefarious plot to once again rule the city of Utica is getting the thumbs down from the Observer-Dispatch.

The O-D does not endorse political candidates. But as noted above, long-time readers are well aware that this newspaper believes Hanna did more harm than good to Utica both in the 1970s and again in the 1990s. Voters, the business community, the nonprofit community and the political community have to ask themselves if enduring the hateful circus that is Ed Hanna's leadership trademark is truly in the best interests of this community's future.

It's important to remember that when Hanna resigned seven years ago, many in Utica breathed a sigh of relief:

• The city had been sued by four male employees accusing Hanna of sexually harassing them (it would later make a payment to settle the case).

• The city was defending itself in federal court over violating freedom of the press through actions such as not releasing details on local crime (it would later settle with the O-D and pledge not to withhold such information from the newspaper again).

• The City Center food court had melted down into one more vacant downtown location as Hanna sparred with the restaurants operating there over rent.

• Public safety employees had been insulted for years by Hanna's mean, insensitive remarks.

• And Hanna had squandered immense sums of Community Development Block Grant funds on pet projects, including the giant watering can now located at the Utica Zoo. Those are funds that could have gone to shore up Utica's neighborhoods, including East Utica, West Utica and Cornhill.

In Ed Hanna's mind this is a ringing endorsement, since a distinguishing feature of his world view is that the media has always been out to get him. Every criticism of his instability is just another reinforcement of his paranoid persecution complex, a validation of a mental state that is, at best, mercurial. Put simply, as my ex-hippie father-in-law quipped over the weekend, "Hanna? Dude's motherf***ing crazy."

Putting Mr. Hanna's questionable sanity aside, it's a foregone conclusion that he's going to bull ahead with his candidacy. And that's a good thing. Why?

Because I want to hear the tape.

You may remember that Mr. Hanna was embroiled in a gay sex scandal shortly before his resignation. Four men had accused him of forcing them to engage in sexual acts as part of their employment. More intriguingly, there was allegedly an audiotape of Mr. Hanna having a detailed conversation about those acts.

A seventy year old guy. Talking about the ways young men could pleasure him.

Seven years ago something like that wouldn't have had much of an impact unless it was broadcast. Today, well, things are different. It only takes a few minutes to convert a tape into an MP3, post it to a website, and watch it spread like wildfire. Even better, if the description of the tape's contents are accurate, there's a good chance it will get passed along far and wide because of it's entertainment value.

The result? Ed Hanna will lose the election. Worse, he'll go to his grave as a punchline, remembered only as a goggle-eyed dirty old man that had a taste for young flesh. Not so good for Mr. Hanna, but it will save Utica from a great deal of further embarrassment.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Deadbeat Dave Settles Up

After months of wrangling "Deadbeat" Dave Morgan is finally getting the boot.

A new tenant could begin operating the city-owned building at the Utica Historic Marina by July 1 after the owners of Kitty's on the Canal agreed to leave by the month's end, city officials said.

An eviction proceeding was scheduled to begin Friday afternoon in Utica City Court, but Assistant Corporation Counsel William Borrill and attorney Anthony LaFache, who represents Kitty's, reached an agreement with Judge John S. Balzano.

Here's what was decided:

•Owners David and Cynthia Morgan will leave the property on or before June 30. The city could act on a warrant of eviction at midnight that night, but Borrill said the city is confident the Morgans will have vacated the building by then.

•The city reserved the right to collect past due rent and rent owed from Feb. 1, the date Kitty's lease agreement expired. More than $16,000 is owed in back rent and utility payments, city officials said.

•Borrill also noted that the city may purchase certain equipment that would remain in the facility, a clause that is part of the original occupancy agreement. Both sides have discussed offsetting what's owed in rent through the equipment purchase.

The city might want to give the new operators a heads-up that the canal is filled with raw sewage from the defective Sauquoit Creek Pumping Station. I suspect that detracts from the dining experience.

Mike Arcuri Blows Nancy Pelosi Out Of The Water

Think Nancy Pelosi leans to the left?

Then you'll be surprised to learn that Congressman Mike Arcuri, the self-proclaimed "conservative Democrat", has a congressional voting record that makes her look like the real conservative. Where do I get such a wacky idea? From the left itself, more specifically the "Progressive Punch" rating list that ranks members of Congress based on their voting records. While Speaker Pelosi languishes down in the #41 spot our very own Congressman Arcuri is #16 on the list, and climbing.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

The Temple, Forsaken. With Apologies To Robert E. Howard

The immense doors to the great hall swung open, revealing a room lost in shadows. On either side of the chamber initiates chanted softly to themselves while tending the braziers that filled the room with the fragrant hallucinogenic smoke of the black lotus. The floor of smooth, polished stone was inset with strange geometric designs dominated by a five pointed star bounded by a circle inscribed with curious sigils from some forgotten tongue.

"The council welcomes you," said a deep, booming voice that seemed to come from nowhere. "What is it you seek?"

Trembling, the supplicant moved further into the room. "I seek your power. My people have been placed under a geas and I...humbly...ask your intervention."

In response, a faint light filled the air around the throne at the head of the room. The cool green glow seemed to drift through the air like mist, indistinct and faint, but strong enough to reveal a black-robed figure sitting upon the age worn stone of the throne. The figure was more more shadow than man and what little of his face that was visible from the deep shadow of his robe's cowl was leathery and mottled with corruption.

"A geas? Who casts this spell, and what type of binding is upon you," it asked.

The supplicant paused for a moment, staring at the floor. "The wizards of Enkhan. We have begun to build a great temple to Mammon. We have cleared the trees, flattened the earth, and begun the laying of stones, but they refuse to let us do more. They say our temple will fill the waters with filth and disease."

The figure upon the throne gently laughed, a sound like sandpaper on flesh. "Enkhan, eh? Their powers are mighty," the voice whispered. "But there is a way to warp the geas, to shape it so it's compulsion is voided."

"There is?" asked the supplicant, glancing up hopefully.

"Yes. Yes, my friend, we can help you...if you're willing to pay the blood price."

The supplicant trembled once more. He knew there would be a dear cost for this intervention, but until this moment he hadn't fully accepted how heavy it would be. "I'll pay it," he said.

The figure upon the throne hummed softly in satisfaction. "Very well." He turned to one of the initiates at the edge of the room. "Fetch the iron basin from my chambers and prepare the knife. Make sure it's sharpened. I don't want a repeat of last time."

The supplicant started removing his shirt as the initiates scurried to put all in readiness for the ritual.


What can a developer do when the DEC won't let them connect their building to Oneida County's massively overloaded sewer system? Why, you just do a little magic.

A Lowe's home improvement store under construction in New Hartford has gotten the go-ahead for a sewer connection, even though the state has banned sewer extensions for new projects in sections of Oneida County, town officials said.

More than two months ago, the state issued a proposed consent order stemming from repairs the county needed to make to stop untreated sewage from being pumped into the Mohawk River from a Yorkville pump station. The county was given a 2011 deadline.

Letters were sent to seven entities, including the developer of the Lowe's in New Hartford, notifying it that reviews of proposed sewer extensions that feed into the Sauquoit Creek Pump Station were being suspended, DEC Spokesman Stephen Litwhiler said.

Lowe's, however, was granted a sewer permit by the Town of New Hartford in May, said Roger Cleveland, New Hartford's highway and engineering superintendent.

The DEC is not reviewing sewer extensions, which would be a connection to more than one commercial or residential site, New Hartford Town Planner Kurt Schwenzfeier said.

"But since the town has jurisdiction over lateral connections, we're still issuing sewer lateral permits," said Schwenzfeier, who said that was the type of permit granted to Lowe's.

Presto! Chango! Abracadabra! Just like that the town of New Hartford cleverly out-maneuvered those big meanies at the Department of Environmental Conservation, letting the builders of the new Lowe's connect to the sewer system without, wink, wink, "hooking up" to it.

There's just one teeny tiny little problem.

The developers of a Lowe's home improvement store under construction in New Hartford must receive state approval — and not just town approval — before building a sewer line, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said Friday.

The DEC earlier this year suspended its reviews of proposed sewer extensions in parts of Oneida County because of untreated sewage flowing into the Mohawk River. New Hartford nonetheless granted a sewer permit for the Lowe's project in May, saying the town had jurisdiction over the permit type granted.

The state disagreed Friday. The DEC sent a letter to Lowe's developer COR Middle Settlement Road Company LLC, a subsidiary of Fayetteville-based The COR Companies, outlining its position.

The construction of a sewer extension without department approval or discharges that adversely affect water-quality standards are prohibited by law, states the letter from Randall C. Young, acting attorney for the DEC's region 6.

"Any violations will be subject to appropriate enforcement action," according to the letter.

The current administration of the Town of New Hartford has just been, as the kids say, bitch slapped by the DEC.

Seriously, what the hell were they thinking? If the motivation to actually, you know, "obey the law" wasn't enough, what about the simple logic of not dumping even more human waste into a system that is already gushing a quarter of a billion gallons of untreated sewage a year into the Mohawk River? I'm starting to think that the only way these people will get it is when somebody starts dumping a little of that funky sewer slime on their front lawn. Maybe they'll start to understand how serious this problem is when there's a giant, stinking pile of human feces sitting on their doorstep.

Destito Caves In, Picente's Tax Moves Forward

I thought it was too good to be true that Assemblywoman Roanne Destito would put the kibosh on Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente's tax hike. Sadly, it turns out I was right.

The other shoe has dropped in Albany on the county’s bid to enact a .75 percent sales tax to replace the 1 percent levy that expires later this year.

Assemblywoman RoAnn M. Destito, D-116, Rome, said today the required legislation was "being introduced as a Rules bill" through the Assembly Rules Committee, meaning it has no individual sponsor. Similar legislation was introduced earlier on the Senate side, thanks to Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-47, Rome.

Not sponsoring the measure directly does give Destito some thin political cover, but other than that it's business as usual in Oneida County.

Destito said the legislation was going to the Assembly, even though she does not think it is going in the right direction.

"I understand this is a home rule message," Destito said, adding that she would prefer to see the sales tax fall to its pre-2005 rate of 8 percent.

"We’re sitting on this surplus and yet the county executive’s plan calls for further taxing, only to maintain a comfortable fund balance," said Destito. "It’s time that we start returning tax money to the hard-working residents of Oneida County. I will continue to drag my feet on this issue until our county executive offers a reasonable commitment to the taxpayers."
She says the county’s financial position has improved and the county should be striving to "hold the line on property taxes and commit to lower the sales tax to 8 percent."

Deeds speak far louder than words. Dragging your feet doesn't accomplish anything when you admit you're going to end up crossing the line eventually. Ms. Destito could have single-handedly stopped this tax increase in it's tracks, but now she's enabled Mr. Picente to move forward with his plan to gleefully burden Oneida County, yet again, with one of the highest tax burdens in the entire country.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Is It The Fumes?

There is a growing body of evidence that there may be an unrecognized hazardous materials site in Oneida County. I'm speaking, of course, about the Utica Mayor's office. Has the DEC ever tested the air there? There seems to be some kind of chemical or contaminant that creates an overwhelming urge to boff your employees.

Update: A reader thinks I'm bringing up things that shouldn't be brought up. Normally I'd agree that who you're sleeping with isn't a political issue, but the Mayoral tendency to engage in hanky panky with subordinates is a bit different. As in any organization, relationships within the chain of command are terrible for morale and can expose municipalities to crippling legal liabilities. Ed Hanna's reputed assignations have already cost the city of Utica a quarter of a million dollars and...other...Mayoral indiscretions could be equally damaging.

Is it really all that hard for these guys to keep their pants zipped?

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Diddle Me This, Toolman!

Like a case of antibiotic-resistant TB, Ed Hanna is back.

Former Utica Mayor Edward A. Hanna will seek the mayor’s office in the fall’s election.

Hanna, who lives in Fayetteville, paid for an advertisement in the Observer-Dispatch announcing his plans to move back to Utica with his wife, Ellen.

“As always, I am seeking the office of mayor using only my own money, under obligation to no one,” Hanna states in the advertisement. “The party name I chose says it all: For The People.”

Update: Joe Politics has more.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Next Thing You Know You've Got A Movement

New Hartford Online is onboard the SewerGate pile-on. While you're there be sure to click through on their link to the development plans for the New Hartford Office Park. If you have "Google Earth" installed take a look at that plan and compare it to the topography of the area, keeping in mind that water flows downhill.

It's such a simple fact, but it has devastating consequences.

If You Build It, They Will Come

Strikeslip has some thoughts on the proposed Varick Street development plan in Utica.

It is good that city leaders are thinking of ways to improve city life, particularly on Varick Street which is developing as a center of social activity of sorts. Certainly the creation of off-street parking and wireless internet will enhance the street as a destination.

But actually closing Varick Street is a bad idea.

While wanting to make Varick Street a destination, city leaders must be careful not to destroy its function as an important traffic artery. If that function is destroyed, it may actually make Varick Street less desirable as a destination because of the complications in getting to, from, and around there. And planting trees in the middle of the closed off portion of Varick Street will create a barrier effect, visually cutting the remainder of the street off from the Finish Line Shops area on the other side of Court Street, essentially dividing the neighborhood into two areas that will be less able to support each other.

I'm not nearly as optimistic about this proposal as he is, and that's saying a lot. I think it's another example of Utica's inane Tinkerbell approach to development, as in "If we all wish hard enough, it'll work!"

Dreams can, indeed, come true, but you don't spend millions of tax dollars on a development program built on good vibes and happy thoughts. Unfortunately, Utica has a track record of doing exactly that. Boston Store, anyone? Hotel Utica? The Shoppes Downtown? Hope VI? All grandiose projects, fueled by millions of dollars in public funds, that turned into embarrassing public failures.

Does Varick Street have the potential to be more than a bar district? You bet it does, and that's why the city needs to take a step back and build a solid plan for the area instead of throwing money at it. The citizens of the city are rightly skeptical of yet another pie-in-the-sky development fiasco. They need to be won over with a well documented strategy for development that features a detailed cost/benefit analysis, benchmarks for success, an integrated marketing plan, and, most importantly, a detailed write-up of who's accountable for every part of the projects success.

Oh, and every elected official that's even remotely involved with this idea should be forced to watch the monorail episode of the Simpsons. That would go a long way toward making sure Varick Street doesn't turn into an even more expensive version of the Worlds Largest Watering Can at the Zoo.

The "Republican" Thing

I'm not the only one having some major problems with the "Republicans" of Oneida County. Joe Politics has more.

There was a time that the Conservative party in Central New York was loyal to their counterparts in the Grand Old Party. In fact if one received the Republican endorsement, you could almost guarantee the Conservative line along with it.

Those days are over.. long over.

There is a perfect storm of dissent along party lines that is beginning to pit the Conservatives against the local Republicans and their recent endorsements, (which have not been made public to my knowledge) show just that. A few key nods could make races that at one point seemed to be irrelevant, interesting.

I think there's a growing realization amongst thoughtful members of every party that our elected officials, and the political class as a whole, have no core beliefs. They'll say and do anything to get elected and then go merrily on their way doing whatever the hell they feel like, at least until the next election.

Picente's Tax Hits A Roadblock. A Roadblock Named Destito.

As I've mentioned before, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente has been trying to push through a new sales tax hike for the county. He's been rather successful at selling it as a "tax cut", but the truth is that the County's elevated sales tax ends in November. Mr. Picente's "cut" is a new slightly lower tax that will take effect the day after the old one ends. In a development that, frankly, has me stunned, the only thing holding it up at this point is Democrat Roanne Destito.

Local sales taxes require approval of the state Legislature and the consent of the governor after a "home rule message" has been received from the local municipality. Such home rule requests must contain Senate and Assembly bill numbers.

Picente wants the .75 percent tax because it would generate an estimated $19 million next year. His proposal would reduce the total county sales tax to 4.75 percent, down from the current highest-in-the-state 5 percent. The local sales tax is in addition to the state’s 4 percent sales tax.

As of Tuesday, Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-47, Rome, is sponsoring such a measure in the Republican-controlled Senate. Griffo had previously said he would honor Picente’s request. However, there is no companion piece in the Assembly, where Democrats hold the majority. Support there is critical.

Picente has spoken with Assemblywoman RoAnn M. Destito, D-116, Rome, and members of her staff several times in recent weeks to enlist her support but has yet to receive a commitment from her to take the county’s request to the Assembly. Picente said he spoke with Destito’s chief of staff yesterday and again this morning.

If Ms. Destito is serious about not approving the tax she would be doing the people of Oneida County a great service. From all indications Mr. Picente has shown little or no interest in actually cutting the county's expenses, instead relying on a his new tax to increase the tax load on county residents to one of the highest levels in the country. Destito's refusal to support it could well force the local "Republicans" to take full ownership of the county's high taxes, since state Senator Joe Griffo's support for the tax is already assured. He is, after all, the guy that passed it the first time.

The levy that Picente wants to continue was enacted at Griffo’s request in 2005 when he was county executive and faced a substantial increase in the county’s share of the Medicaid program. He opted to hike the county sales tax by 1.5 percent rather than raise property taxes by nearly 50 percent. The tax has since been lowered to the current 1 percent.

Without this .75 percent tax next year, the county would have to "make up" money from other sources such as the property tax or reserves, or cuts in programs and services. A likely scenario would be a combination of items.

Picente knows half of loaf is not sufficient when it comes to lining up state approval to extend the county sales tax. "We’re halfway there, but it is not enough," Picente said Tuesday. "I need two numbers." He vowed to keep pressing Destito for her support.

In other words, Mr. Picente is shouting "I'll keep fighting for higher taxes!" to the heavens.

Sweet Jebus. I can't believe there isn't a Democrat out there that isn't salivating at the thought of taking Picente on this fall. Between his tax hike and obstinate refusal to take responsibility for Oneida County's continued dumping of sewage into the Mohawk River he's practically handing you a winning agenda.

There is, of course, the possibility that Ms. Destito plans to support the tax hike and is just holding out in order to gain leverage for her own plans for the Mohawk Valley Water Authority's expansion. Only the most cynical would believe that is what's actually going on.


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Dave Morgan: The Man, The Legend

This Friday the city of Utica is finally getting their day in court with "Deadbeat" Dave Morgan.

A Friday court trial could determine whether Kitty's on the Canal restaurant will be evicted from the city-owned building.

City Court Judge John S. Balzano met for nearly two hours Monday with Assistant Corporation Counsel William Borrill and attorney Anthony LaFache, who represents Kitty's.

Neither side would comment on the litigation.

City officials say the restaurant owes about $16,600 in past-due rent and utility payments and is requesting the court issue a warrant of eviction to remove the restaurant's owners from the building at the Utica Historic Marina.

Having eaten at Kitty's once, and discovering that Mr. Morgan's definition of "food" was considerably different from my own, I take solace in the idea that the great wheel of karma is about to crush him under it's unrelenting tread. You may remember that Mr. Morgan is the star of a widely emailed audio clip featuring his hysterically funny rantings about a malfunctioning elevator. You can listen to the clip over here. The recorded phone call is, to put it mildly, not safe for work.

Ironically, Mr. Morgan's filthy mouth is still considerably cleaner than the water flowing past his soon-to-be-closed restaurant at the Utica Marina.

Great Minds

Strikeslip finds the Observer-Dispatch's editorial on Oneida County's sewer problem as bizarre as I do, but he has a slightly different take on things.

First, who's to blame does matter, because consent orders only are required for violations of law. If a public building were to be vandalized, would not the editors want the perpetrators caught, brought to justice, made to provide restitution, and taught a lesson so that the crime is never committed again? What is different here? Are the editors suggesting that the state government should look the other way because local government is the guilty party? Here, the Mohawk River has been vandalized. That is unacceptable, and is a crime under the Environmental Conservation Law Articles 17 and 71. The editors seem to be saying that breaking the law is OK as long as the governmental units or officials that the OD favors do it.

As an aside, my paranoid friend thinks the plans of the powers-that-be were royally screwed up when the DEC issued the construction moratorium. Now they're stuck with a real "contaminated water" crisis instead of the ginned-up one that would justify spending tens of millions of dollars extending water pipelines to the Turning Sto....uh...western Oneida County.

Is he a loon? Probably. But it is rather interesting which politicians aren't talking about the sewage issue.

Monday, June 4, 2007

OD Sez: Let The Fecal Fountain Flow!

Sunday's Observer-Dispatch included an amazing editorial endorsing the continued dumping of hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage into the Mohawk River. Of course, that's not quite how they put it, but that's what it boils down to.

There's a lot of shouting going on over New York state's development ban imposed on parts of Oneida County due to a problem that's causing untreated sewage to be dumped into the Mohawk River from a Yorkville pumping station.

Who's to blame for what doesn't matter. What matters is that everybody — federal, state and local officials — come together and figure out how to get the problem fixed.

Well, yes, it actually does matter who's to blame. It's obvious that the state was aware the continued development of the New Hartford area caused the total collapse of the sewage system. How long has it been going on? Who approved these projects on the local level? Were the rated throughputs totally ignored? If they were, why? Once it became clear human feces was flowing into the river who signed off on adding even more hookups to the system?

This isn't just some minor little tiff about dirty water. Water-born diseases like giardiasis and cryptosporidiosis are already endemic across most of the state thanks to poor water quality controls and bad hygienic practices. The hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage flowing out of the defective pumping station in question are contaminating not only the Mohawk River, but it's tributaries and the Barge Canal. That, to put it mildly, is not a big tourist draw.

This would be a good project for New York's "economic czar," Dan Gundersen. He was named by Gov. Eliot Spitzer as co-chairman of the Empire State Development Corp., the state's economic development arm, whose main responsibility is to revive the upstate economy.

Well, here's a good place for him to start. Certainly untreated sewage flowing into a river isn't acceptable. Neither is a ban on development. It's a problem that should have been addressed years ago, and given the Northeast's aging infrastructure, it's quite likely that similar problems will crop up elsewhere in the future — if they don't already exist. The larger issue here might be to chart a strategy for dealing with such problems before they reach the critical level.

In the meantime, the state has a responsibility to taxpayers living in Oneida County to address this issue without doing any more damage. Get the problem fixed as soon as possible, but let the hookups continue. The moratorium on hookups has accomplished exactly what it's supposed to do. After years of ignoring the problem Oneida County is finally paying attention to it. It's unfortunate that the situation was allowed to develop in the first place, but the ban on new construction certainly has focused everyone's attention, now hasn't it?

It's also worth noting that the Observer-Dispatch editorial board may be in the same "Huh? What sewage?" position as Anthony Picente when it comes to recognizing how serious the problem is. As I've pointed out, Mr. Picente lives upstream of the emission point, so the rafts of toilet paper and feces floating down the Mohawk River don't impact his daily existence. I'm lead to believe, and I welcome correction, that most if not all of the OD's editorial board are in the same lucky situation. In fact, since Donna Donovan and her family happen to live in New Hartford, there's a good chance it's their feces and toilet paper boaters are watching float by.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Carnac Peers Into The Future And Sees....

A hefty chunk of federal funds for expanding water service to western Oneida County, but nary a dime to stop the flow of sewage into the Mohawk River. Strikeslip saw this coming a while ago.

Update: And more.