Thursday, October 9, 2008

Absit Omen

I've decided to take a break and defer to the highest ranked blog in the 24th.

Really, what else need be said?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Arcuri's Bailout Vote Gets Some Attention

On Monday, Congressman Michael Arcuri joined a minority of the House in voting for the abysmal $700 billion dollar bailout plan. Today Mr. Arcuri was targeted by a non-partisan group opposed to the taxpayer funded bailout, No Cash For Trash.

On Friday a revised version of the bailout larded up with even more spending is scheduled to come up for a vote. It doesn't take much effort to figure out how Mr. Arcuri will be voting.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Outside The Walls of Fortress Arcuri

Congressman Michael Arcuri will finally be holding a public meeting with his constituents, in conjunction with Utica Mayor David Roefaro:

October 17th: Mayor Roefaro will be having lunch at The Balkan in South Utica at 12:30, joining him will be Congressman Michael Arcuri.


Make plans to be there. It should be a memorable occasion.

Gone, But Not Forgotten

Sorry about the lack of posts, but I've finally caught up on my workload. Onward!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Blackest Of Blackouts

Today's Observer-Dispatch article on Congressman Arcuri's efforts to portray himself as a political independent didn't have many surprises for anyone that's been following his career. The one thing I did find surprising was this:

Despite numerous requests, Arcuri was not made available for an interview for this story – only submitting e-mailed statements.


Up till now Mr. Arcuri's reluctance to answer questions in an interview could have been explained away, but it's beginning to look like he's actively avoiding any kind of open press availability.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Another Pin In The Map

"Unknown Assailant", the most prolific and dangerous gunman in Utica, opened fire again last night:

Two people were shot Wednesday night at the intersection of Jay and Nichols streets, according to Utica police.

Police said Zeffaire Hobbs, 18, and LeShawn Thomas, 17, both of Utica, were being treated for nonlife-threatening injuries at St. Elizabeth Medical Center. Police said the pair was taken to the hospital privately. The shooting happened around 10:05 p.m., police said.

Police are investigating and no arrests have been made.


That means another pin my Crime Tracker map that keeps a record of violent crimes and arsons since the first of the year. It's till horribly undercounting incidents, since I haven't gone back and filled in many crimes from earlier in the year, but it's up to date as far as the last two months are concerned.

Red pins are violent crimes.

Red pins with dots are violent crimes where someone was actually injured or killed.

Yellow pins are arsons.

The blue pin is the home of Mayor David "See no evil, hear no evil" Roefaro.


View Larger Map

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Good Morning, America. Rome? Not So Much.

I know this segment about Rome from ABC's "Good Morning America" is causing a bit of a stir, but I'm not sure what the people upset about it are driving at. In essence, the video segment boils down to "This is Rome, New York. There aren't any jobs and people can't afford to live there."

I don't necessarily like the negative portrayal, but you certainly can't fault them for not telling the truth.

No Rest For The Wicked

Sorry about the lack of posts, but I've had a project blow up in my face. I started taking orders for some new artwork on Sunday night and expected to get, maybe, a dozen takers. By Monday afternoon I was trying to keep up with over 40 orders and it's just gotten worse since then.

Hopefully things will slow down a little bit by tonight so I can post something useful. As much as I love you all business has to come first.

Monday, September 15, 2008

NY Times Joins Hanna On Rangel

On Friday, Richard Hanna called for Congressman Michael Arcuri to join him in calling for the resignation of Rep. Charles Rangel:

Congressional candidate Richard Hanna today called on Congressman Michael Arcuri to return donations from embattled Congressman Charles Rangel, D-NY, and join him in calling for Rangel to step down as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Rangel is embroiled in three separate investigations by the House Ethics Committee, and has balked at calls for his resignation as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Hanna said he believes Mr. Rangel's errors have compromised his credibility and he should step down. He challenged Arcuri to join him in calling for Rangel's resignation.


Now the New York Times has echoed that call:

Mounting embarrassment for taxpayers and Congress makes it imperative that Representative Charles Rangel step aside as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee while his ethical problems are investigated.

This recommendation does not come easily, considering the New York Democrat’s four decades of service in Congress. But Mr. Rangel himself has felt obliged to request three separate House ethics inquiries of his behavior. While denying serious improprieties, Mr. Rangel concedes that he has not lived up to the “higher standard” expected of members of Congress.

His latest admission is that as chief of Congress’s tax-writing committee, he was “irresponsible” in failing to disclose $75,000 in rental income and pay federal and state taxes on a villa in the Dominican Republic.


Mr. Arcuri has refused to comment on the matter, much less return the thousands of dollars in political contributions he's accepted from the corrupt Rep. Rangel. Earlier this morning he was scheduled to make on appearance on WIBX's "First Look" program to answer questions on the matter, but a "scheduling conflict" prevented his appearance. Oddly enough, as the hosts of the program discovered when they attempted to carry out the interview over the phone, that "conflict" also shut down his cell phone.

Update: An anonymous emailer claims that Mr. Arcuri's "scheduling conflict" happened because he spent part of the morning shooting a political ad with either or both Sen. Clinton and former Congressman Boehlert. Take that for what it's worth.

New York In Play?

Somewhere on the second level of Hell a long-ignored and lonely winter clothing salesman is raising his eyebrows. Things haven't quite frozen over, but it looks like the temperature is definitely dropping:

BOOSTED by the selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate, Republican John McCain has experienced a surge of support among women in heavily Democratic New York state - where he has closed the gap with Barack Obama, new private polls show.

The internal Republican and Democratic polls, details of which were provided to The Post, have stunned members of both parties - and produced deep worries among Democrats.

One great concern for Democrats is that the data show a continuous movement toward the McCain-Palin ticket by women, a majority of whom traditionally favor Democrats.


If these polls are accurate it's going to have a huge impact on New York as a whole and, more importantly, our local congressional election. On Saturday I posted that the state was a lock for Mr. Obama, so I should probably Google up some recipes for crow.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hotel Utica Countdown: H+31

It's now been a month since Utica Mayor David Roefaro missed his self-imposed deadline to resolve the Hotel Utica crisis.

Last month, the city's Urban and Economic Development Commissioner, Robert Sullivan, said that he and his crack staff had developed "several plans" to deal with the problem and were in the process of selecting their final solution. Supposedly, as he stated when interviewed by WKTV, we could expect a press conference "in the coming weeks".

Obviously, we're still waiting.

Mr. Roefaro's administration has continued to demonstrate, time and time again, a level of inability to handle this matter that truly boggles the mind. They've now spent months allegedly working on the problem and, despite constant talk of "getting tough" and "cracking down", have absolutely nothing to show for it. In the meantime the city has been on the hook for close to $10,000 a week covering the Hotel's debts.

That leaves us with only two possibilities for why the Roefaro administration continues to hem and haw while the city treasury hemorrhages cash: they're either incompetent or corrupt.

Given Mr. Roefaro's close ties to the owners of Hotel, and his support for the infamous "Friends and Family" plan, we should probably be praying that he's just incompetent.

The Missing Man, Part Deux

Q: Why would a national political campaign ignore a chance to get some free editorial space?

Editor’s note: The O-D invited the national campaigns for presidential candidates Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain to offer commentary on how their election to office would benefit New York state. Repeated attempts to secure a contribution from Obama’s national campaign were unsuccessful.


A: Because they just don't care. Mr. Obama is almost guaranteed to carry New York thanks to the overwhelmingly powerful Democratic machine downstate. Upstate? Not even worth the bother. We just don't matter.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Let The Weekend Begin

Another weekend, another shooting in Utica:

At least one person was shot in East Utica early Friday night.

The victim was being attended to on the porch of 777 Blandina St. before being taken by ambulance to a local hospital.

Utica Public Safety Commissioner Daniel LaBella confirmed at least one person was shot in the 6 p.m. incident.

Police also were believed to be involved in a foot chase with the suspect near Blandina Street but apparently eluded capture, according to police radio transmissions.


And with that, another pin gets added to the Utica Crime Tracker map.

Red is a violent crime.

Red with a dot is a crime where someone was actually injured or killed.

Yellow is an arson.

Blue is Mayor Dave "I'm cleaning up this city, one gum wrapper at a time" Roefaro's home.


View Larger Map

Blame Billy Fuccillo

Over the next few weeks we're going to be inundated with political advertising on both radio and television. You might be surprised to learn that Billy Fuccillo, he of the annoying "Huuuuggggggeeeee!" car commercials, is the reason why.

Mr. Fuccillo spends an absolutely insane amount of money in the local market. In most instances he invites a sales representative from a station in to "discuss" his yearly ad buy, lays a total price and the number of paid and bonus spots he wants on the table, and then walks away. That's it.

What he manages to do using that technique, other than getting an incredible value for his money, is drop his cost per commercial down to almost nothing. In fact, there are some local radio stations where he's effectively charged less than a dollar a spot. The television and cable outlets are pulling in a little more green, but it's still a relative steal. That's why you see and hear his commercials all the time- he purchases so many that stations have to schedule them almost every hour just to meet the terms of their contract.

So why does that mean an avalanche of political ads?

Because stations are forced to sell advertising time to political campaigns at their lowest effective spot rate. At almost every local station that happens to be the price Billy Fuccillo pays, so politicians get the same bargain basement price per spot he does while spending a fraction of the money.

Out Of Bounds

Strikeslip had been doing yoeman's work on the Route 840 intersection/New Hartford Business Park debacle. His latest post has some compelling documentation that the project never actually received an environmental review:

The picture on the left comes from the November, 1999, Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the New Hartford Business Park. The plan on the right was drawn last fall for "The Hartford" development.

Notice anything different between the two?

"The Hartford," the proposed hotel, and two nearby buildings appear to be located outside the "area of study" of the 1999 FEIS... located in what is identified as an "orchard." Since review of Planning Board minutes (as well as other correspondence) makes clear that the Town is relying on the 1999 FEIS to satisfy its obligations under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), it certainly appears that "The Hartford," which is virtually complete, has been constructed without the proper environmental review.


On the bright side, the New Hartford powers-that-be have agreed to hold public hearings on the matter. Since they've already committed to bonding for the project those hearings are just a bit of political kabuki, as with most other things in New Hartford. They could save everyone a lot of trouble by just admitting they could care less what the public thinks.

You can find even more wackiness about the project at New Hartford, N.Y. Online. Just keep scrolling down for the whole sordid story.

The Missing Man

If you've been wondering why Congressman Michael Arcuri hasn't been talking about Barack Obama this might be the answer:

Tony Podesta, a senior Democratic lobbyist, said members of Congress were “a little nervous” after Mr McCain shook up the race with his choice of Sarah Palin as running mate and intensified attacks on Mr Obama.

“Republicans have been on the offensive for the past two weeks . . . You don’t win elections on the defensive.”

The campaign manager for a first-term Democratic congressman from a blue-collar district in the north-east rejected suggestions that Mr Obama had become a liability. He said his candidate would reach out to Republicans and avoid attacks on Mr McCain.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hillary's Headquarters: Utica?

It's not quite in the same category as "What if the south had won the Civil War?" or "What if Hitler had died in WW I?", but Howard Wolfson's latest column for The New Republic has a tantalizing glimpse at the alternative history that might have been:

If I had my way I would be in Utica, New York right now.

When we first discussed where to put the Clinton campaign's headquarters I half-seriously argued for Utica, on the theory that the further away from Washington, D.C. we were, the better off we would be.

Outside of the beltway there would be fewer distractions, and most importantly, less pressure to succumb to Washington, DC group-think.

The Obama campaign understood this and located in Chicago. In the end we chose to plant our flag in Arlington.


I'm no Harry Turtledove, but I would hazard a guess that the alternative "Utica HQ" timeline would have Senator Clinton knocked out of the Democratic primary even earlier. After all, we're the end-state, in every sense, of everything she represents. In particular, the first television crew to visit the city for the inevitable process story would have quickly learned how something she said seven years ago still resonates across upstate New York:

I have now spent countless hours talking to parents who tell me, with tears in their eyes, that their children had to leave upstate, leave their hometown, because there weren't jobs for them. I want to help address that, not ignore it, not put happy talk on it, and I have a plan to do that."

That was Hillary Clinton talking during a Sept. 13, 2000, debate with Rick Lazio during her first campaign for the U.S. Senate.

During that campaign, Clinton repeatedly told voters that if she was elected to the Senate, she had an economic recovery plan that would bring 200,000 new jobs to upstate New York in six years.

That was what she said. Two hundred thousand new jobs in six years.

She said it during a visit to a steel plant outside Buffalo. She told it to a chamber of commerce meeting in Batavia. She said it in places like Niagara Falls, Amsterdam, Oneonta and Binghamton. She said it in political ads.

What voters clearly heard was a candidate promising 200,000 jobs if she was elected to the U.S. Senate.

Well, it is six years later.

Rather than gain jobs, upstate New York has fewer jobs.

Upstate has lost 32,400 jobs during the six years Clinton has been senator, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. New York state, as a whole, has lost 96,800 jobs.


The national perception that Clinton's support in New York is unassailable is based primarily on her powerbase downstate. Upstate, the bitterness over her faux campaign pledge would have been a rich source of material for her opponents. Images of the empty storefronts, derelict industrial buildings, and hundreds of abandoned homes that fill Utica are tailor made to illustrate the folly of three decades of empty political promises and failed policies.

Unfortunately, we've unintentionally become the poster children for what happens in a high tax/high government services environment: businesses both large and small flee from the crushing cost of operations while more and more of the economy becomes totally dependant on government spending. The number one employer in Oneida County is government, from the federal down to the local level, closely followed by the healthcare and social services sector. Together, they account for over 60% of the area's jobs. Even the retail sector is being reshaped by Medicaid and Medicare payments, as anyone who has noticed the incredible number of chain pharmacies popping up across the area can attest.

Given that, it's hard to see how having her headquarters here would have helped her. We're the perfect example of what the rest of the country could expect from her policies, and the results are depressingly, bitterly, brutal.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Race Begins

The first television spot of the 2008 congressional race is now on the air.

WKTV has a look at the commercial from Richard Hanna's campaign:

In the commercial, Hanna says:

"As a contractor, I've built a lot of things over the years...and put a lot of people to work. Nothing is more important than rebuilding this community. We need more jobs and better pay. That will be my number one priority. I will work to stop the wasteful spending and say no to higher taxes. Most importantly I'll say no to the party bosses in Washington. I've never run for political office before. I can't stand by any longer and watch the career politician destroy our country."

Hanna lays out his professional background as well as talking about what he feels are the most important issues to him when it comes to the area.

While, the ad doesn't call anyone out on issues in the traditional sense, it rather lays out a sort of foundation for the viewer asking the question "Who is Richard Hanna?"


That's a good summary of the ad, but they then go beyond that and do something I really like- analyze the content of the commercial and subject it to a "truth test". Since it's basically introducing Mr. Hanna to the voters, giving some of his background and motivation for running, it's not surprising they didn't find any un-supported statements or distortions.

I'm genuinely taken aback that they not only did some solid reporting on this ad, but intend to do in-depth analysis of political commercials throughout election season. That's a level of commitment that, frankly, WKTV hasn't shown in the past. The station's newsgathering and editorial standards have never been particularly high because they faced limited competition in a market that's been continually shrinking for the last 30 years. This new feature could be a sign things are finally changing for the better, and for that they deserve both credit and praise.

Update: Mr. Hanna's commercial is now available on Youtube.

Breakfast Of Champions

Finally, someone is calling Congressman Mike Arcuri out for ignoring his constituents while he's selling himself to lobbyists in Washington:

Congressional candidate Richard Hanna (Republican, Independence, Conservative) today highlighted the fact that the large majority of his opponent's campaign funding comes from interests outside the 24th Congressional District.

This morning, Arcuri hosted a breakfast in Washington, D.C. where they asked $5,000 a plate. According to events listed by Arcuri's fundraising firm, at least two more similar events are planned this month.

"Big money and lobbyists have subverted the will of the majority, and Mr. Arcuri has bragged about the amount of money he's taken from interests outside this district," Hanna said. "Lobbyists and special interests are taking over our rights."

"My opponent accuses me of using my success to buy a seat in Congress, but that's not true," Hanna said. "At any rate, I'd rather be accused of buying a seat than selling it to special interests - as my opponent is busy doing today."


While the attendees at Mr. Arcuri's fundraising breakfast were able to get a face-to-face meeting with him thanks to their generous contributions, the people that he actually represents aren't quite so lucky. Even his own supporters have remarked on how difficult it is to get any help from his office, much less talk to the Congressman directly:

I voted for Mike Arcuri in the last election. BIG MISTAKE!!! He's running again - against Richard Hanna. I will be voting for Hanna. I need to find out more about Hanna..........I don't know enough about him or what he's willing to do for us. But- I do know that Mike Arcuri IS NOT IT!!

We called Arcuri's headquarters to inquire as to why our incentive check was only for $600. (According to everything we read and according to the official website, we should have gotten $1200.) Well, the young lady on the other end of the phone said they've had a lot of phone calls like ours. People are complaining, and rightfully so. Well! This was a couple of months ago, and lo and behold, we got a form letter in the mail last week from Mike Arcuri, thanking us for our concern about the price of oil/gas! What the hell is he (or his people) thinking? Maybe they're thinking we'll be impressed that he "took the time" to contact us and that we'll disregard the fact that his letter had nothing to do with our phone call. - NOT - Maybe they're just not thinking.


Unfortunately, this isn't an isolated incident. Yesterday's luxury breakfast at Johnny's Half Shell is a perfect example of how cold, hard cash gets Mr. Arcuri's attention while everyday people can't get a response no matter what they do. That indifference has been enough to alienate the bluest-of-blue Democrats, as this post at Daily Kos demonstrates:

Don't think I'll be voting for Arcuri....even though he and I are both Dems! He is our congressman now, and has been such a disappointment.

He said all the right things when I first spoke to him about our son-in-law's stop-loss status and pending third deployment to Iraq. Since then, however, neither he nor his local representative nor his Utica representatives have responded to my e-mails nor to a paper letter which I wrote to him.

I realize that our concerns aren't that important to him, even though it is a life or death matter for us, and I realize that there is only so much he can do to help us anyway, probably. However, it would have made all the difference to us if he had at least responded and even pretended to care....


On the bright side, Mr. Arcuri is offering the people he's been ignoring plenty of opportunities to meet with him this month...if they have the cash. While his pay-to-play mentality might be a bit disappointing, don't let it be said he isn't a man of the people- he's cut the price for his next meet and greet down to $500!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Fundraising Breakfast honoring Congressman Mike Arcuri (NY-24)
Johnny’s Half Shell
400 North Capital Street, NW
Washington, DC
Time: 8:30 – 9:30 am
Requested Contributions: $1,000 PACs; $500 Individual

If you go, be sure to try the Spinach and Gruyere Quiche with sliced, vine-ripened tomatoes. I'm told it's fabulous.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Comedy Gold At The Observer-Dispatch

Andrew Donovan, son of Observer-Dispatch publisher Donna Donovan and staff reporter for the paper, escaped a DWI arrest this summer with a slap on the wrist. That makes the latest OD editorial against the evils of driving drunk a particularly ironic vein of comedy gold:

But where drunk driving arrests occur isn’t as much a concern as that they occur at all. Commendable work has been done through the years by law enforcers, educators, social agencies and even victims themselves to drive home the drunk driving message. And while these efforts have certainly resulted in lowering the numbers, the problem persists.

Get-tough prevention is a must.


Monday, September 8, 2008

Arcuri: Obama's Wrong

Sunday's Observer-Dispatch article about the impact of the presidential race on the local congressional election had some interesting material, but the one thing that really leaped out at me was Congressman Arcuri's steadfast refusal to admit he was wrong about the surge in Iraq:

Democrats, including Arcuri, have long pushed for a pullout of American troops from Iraq and opposed sending more troops there in a strategic surge.

But conditions in Iraq continued to stabilize this summer in the wake of a troop surge. President Bush now has authorized a general timeline for the departure of U.S. troops, and the war has ceased to be a campaign hot-button issue. “You can see that the Democrats aren’t talking about Iraq the way they used to,” Politico’s Kraushaar said.

Nonetheless, he said, Republicans aren’t talking about it much, either.

“You have a significant number of voters who don’t think the war was the right decision in the first place,” he said.

Hanna noted that Arcuri voted for a 2007 bill that would have reduced troop presence in Iraq by April 2008.

“You can see that had that vote passed, basically it would have been an abject failure,” Hanna said.

Hanna opposed entering Iraq, but has said he wouldn’t remove U.S. troops until Iraq was clearly stabilizing.

Arcuri said he didn’t believe it was the surge that had reduced violence in Iraq, but rather shift in the allegiances of certain sheikhs, and because of other policies on the ground.

“The disaster is that we went there in the first place,” he said.


Mr. Arcuri's disconnect from the reality of the surge's success is all the more stunning considering his support for Barack Obama in this year's presidential race. After months of silence, all the more notable because of the growing consensus on the issue, even Mr. Obama has embraced reality:

Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, said on Thursday night that the troop surge in Iraq had succeeded beyond his – or anyone else’s – expectations, adding that he believed the US was fighting a war on terror...“I think that the surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated,” he said. “I’ve already said it’s succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.”


If we accept that Mr. Obama is correct then what are we to think of Mr. Arcuri's obvious lack of agreement on the matter? Does he think Mr. Obama is simply too inexperienced to see the reality of the situation? That may not be very far-fetched considering Mr. Arcuri's political ties to the Hillary Clinton faction of the national party. They've provided him with extensive financial and campaign support, including the services of Howard Wolfson during his original run for office, and it was even rumored that Mr. Arcuri's oath of fealty had secured him a place in a potential Clinton administration.

Or, more realistically, is Mr. Arcuri simply wrong? More intriguingly, is his overweening pride preventing him from admitting it?

Long-time followers of the Congressman's career may remember that this facet of his character isn't something new. During his time as a District Attorney it came up more than once, most notably in the Desiree Case murder trial. In that instance Mr. Arcuri fought tooth and nail to send Joseph Smith to prison for the rest of his life despite the purely circumstantial nature of the case and Mr. Smith's continued protestations of innocence. It was only after proof surfaced that the Utica police department had been holding evidence exonorating him for months that Mr. Arcuri finally dropped the prosecution.

That same strident refusal to acknowledge error, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, seems to be something Mr. Arcuri still hasn't been able to exorcise from his personality. He knows best, and he'll continue saying so even when the man he endorses to hold the Presidency says otherwise.

While his hubris is troubling, the Congressman's statements also demonstrate a profound ignorance of military matters in general and the surge in particular. The political re-alignment of Iraqi factional leaders wasn't just some willy-nilly bolt from the blue, but an integral part of the policies adopted under the command of General David Petraeus. That would be the same Gen. Petraeus that Mr. Arcuri publicly excoriated last year after his testimony before Congress, a man that quite literally wrote the book on counter-insurgency doctrine. If you like you can can read it for yourself, Army manual FM 3-24 "Counterinsurgency", over here.

If Mr. Arcuri had bothered to read it, or even payed attention to Gen. Petraeus's testimony, he would understand that the "Anbar Awakening", and similar movements across Iraq, were the product of months of hard work by thousands of troops guided by an over-arching plan that emphasized tribal engagement, empowerment, and re-alignment. The surge wasn't just boots on the ground, as Mr. Arcuri seems to believe, but the adoption of new techniques for stabilization specifically designed to produce the results he claims had nothing to do with it.

This isn't the first time the Congressman's out-of-touch views on Iraq have come up, as Col. Joe Bolton's steadfast efforts attest, but his latest refusal to accept reality has hit a new level of denial. It's time for Mike Arcuri to agree with Barack Obama, swallow his pride, and admit he was wrong about the surge. To do otherwise is a slap in the face to the thousands of men and women that made it a success.

Hotel Utica Countdown: H+26

My, how time flies.

It's now been almost a month since Utica Mayor David Roefaro failed to meet his 90-day deadline for resolving the Hotel Utica crisis. Taxpayer's are still subsidizing the lavish lifestyles of the Hotel's owners even as Mr. Roefaro reportedly negotiates some sweet deals for holding his own fundraising events there, but there's nary a peep from City Hall about when the empty promises of "getting tough" will come to pass.

This comes on the heels of the mayor's hissy-fit last week over the mounds of garbage lining Utica's street. It seems to miss his notice that the half a million dollars a year the city is paying to cover the Hotel's bad debts could be paying for multiple full-time cleanup crews to pick up trash around the city.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Arcuri Launches Massive Community Outreach

In response to continuing complaints about his lack of availability to constituents, Congressman Micheal Arcuri has announced an unprecedented series of community outreach events for the month of September. Each of these intimate get-togethers will allow you to speak with the Congressman in a relaxed, one-on-one atmosphere while enjoying great food and a unique level of access. Bring your questions, bring your concerns, but most importantly, bring your checkbooks:


Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Fundraising Breakfast honoring Congressman Mike Arcuri (NY-24)
with Guest Chairman Jim Oberstar (MN-08)
Johnny’s Half Shell
400 N. Capital Street, NW
Washington, DC
Time: 8:30 am
Requested Contributions: $5,000 PAC Host, $2,500 PAC Sponsor, $1,000 Friend

Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Fundraising Breakfast honoring Congressman Mike Arcuri (NY-24)
Johnny’s Half Shell
400 North Capital Street, NW
Washington, DC
Time: 8:30 – 9:30 am
Requested Contributions: $1,000 PACs; $500 Individual

Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Fundraising Reception honoring Congressman Mike Arcuri (NY-24)
The Washington Court Hotel
525 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC
Time: 5:30 – 7:30 pm
Requested Contributions: $5,000 PAC Host, $2,500 PAC Sponsor, $1,000 PAC Guest, $500 Individual Guest


Sadly, Mr. Arcuri's constituents outside the beltway won't even have an opportunity to buy access. According to his congressional website, not a single public forum, reception, or meeting is scheduled for either September or October.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

It's increasingly obvious that Utica Mayor David Roefaro is woefully out of touch with the state of the city. How else to explain his laughable obsession with littering just days after the city convulsed with one of the bloodiest weekends in it's history?

With that in mind I've finally launched a project I've been considering for a while- an interactive map tracking violent crimes and arsons across the city. Thanks to Google Maps it's a simple matter to mark locations where crimes occur as they happen. For the purposes of this project I'm defining violent crimes as those involving a weapon or resulting in the death or injury of a victim. I'll update the map on a daily basis with new crimes as well as go back over time to add those that happened since the first of the year.

Here's how things look as of today. Red tags with a dot denote crimes where someone was actually injured or killed. Plain red tags mark violent crimes without direct injuries. Yellow tags are arsons. Just click on the tags for more information about the incidents they represent.


View Larger Map

You can reach the map directly over here.

Update: At the suggestion of a kind emailer I've added a blue tag marking the location of the Mayor's home. As they said, it should quickly become obvious why Mr. Roefaro hasn't a clue about how dangerous his city is.

The Hartford Sez: Pay Up, Suckers

The insane Route 840 intersection project continues to get even nuttier and Strikeslip, as usual, is on it:

The contents of a contract between Mr. Adler and the Ryan Cos. is irrelevant where the State and Town are concerned. Mr. Adler cannot bind the State or the Town. And Mr. Adler, Mr. Nordland, Mr. Shamma, and Mr. Reed are or should be sophisticated enough to know that mere statements from public officials are insufficient to bind the State and/or local municipalities to any particular course of action. There are processes and procedures in place that must be followed in order to take valid actions . . . not the least of which are those of the State Environmental Quality Review Act, which require that the environmental impacts of a project be studied before a binding committment can be made. Any decision without compliance with SEQR is "void ab initio." So the idea that the State and Locality have somehow committed to this intersection is just nonsense.


I think the wonderful job Town officials and DOT did with Commercial Drive's traffic patterns is a pretty strong indictment against letting them meddle with any other projects.

Friday Forum Funnies: Andy "Demolition Derby" Donovan Edition

Today's Observer-Dispatch Friday Forum question is "Should we lower the drinking age?" Sadly, publisher Donna Donovan failed to pose the question to the one person many of us wanted to hear from, her son Andrew:



I keed, I keed! Despite Andy's drunken antics we all love him. Well, except for the poor guy he almost killed driving drunk. I don't think he's feelin' da luv.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hanna Online

CNY Homepage has posted the first part of it's interview with congressional candidate Richard Hanna over here. This segment deals with the NYRI powerline, and despite his lack of media experience Mr. Hanna comes across as relaxed, well informed, and extremely personable.

I'm a big supporter of what the folks behind CNY Homepage are trying to do, partly because I think the traditional media outlets of the Observer-Dispatch and WKTV are dropping the ball when it comes to news coverage. I'm not sure if that's because of the massive staff cuts both operations have undergone, or their questionable editorial priorities, but they've become, at best, second-class news sources. New media operations like CNY Homepage are the ones stepping forward to fill in the gaps.

Priorities

You would think that after one of the bloodiest weekends in history, with two people dead and multiple victims in the hospital with gunshot and stab wounds, there would be some kind of official response to the soaring levels of crime in Utica. That was indeed the case at last night's Common Council meeting as Mayor Roefaro took the gloves off and imposed a policy of swift and decisive action...against littering.

Think twice before throwing that gum wrapper on the ground.

Mayor David Roefaro submitted a letter Wednesday to the Utica Common Council urging the council members to take an aggressive approach toward eliminating littering in the city.

There already are fines for littering, but the fines can be dropped or reduced by judges, Roefaro said. A minimum, mandatory fine should be instituted to make residents know they will have to pay if they litter, Roefaro said.

“We’ve got to be proactive, and we’ve got to hit them in the pocketbook because that’s the only way they’re going to stop littering,” he said.


People are being gunned down in the streets in an unprecedented wave of violence, but Mr. Roefaro's primary concern is the growing menace of food wrappers and empty soda cans.

That popping sound you just heard? That was my head exploding.

Seriously, no one can be that out of touch. It's beyond my comprehension that an elected official could be worrying about cracking down on littering without having the slightest bit of concern about the steady stream of shootings, stabbings, and arsons that fill the news on a daily basis. Sweet Jebus, even the most disconnected OCD neat freak would realize the unsightly bloodstains on the sidewalks and the empty bullet casings in the gutters trump a couple of gum wrappers.

While the city's violent crime doesn't appear to hold much interest for Mr. Roefaro, he did manage to work himself into a hissy-fit on another issue:

During a caucus meeting before the council meeting, officials discussed a parking-garage complex planned for downtown.

Councilman Frank Vescera, D-1, said he thinks some issues regarding the project could better have been addressed if the project’s environmental review was first submitted to a committee instead of directly going before the entire council.

“A big project like this should have gone through the committee,” Vescera said.

In response, Roefaro said the more than $10 million in state and federal funding allocated for the project needs to be earmarked before the end of the month or the city will lose the funding.

Roefaro stood up and said loudly that the complex was a good project.

“If you don’t want it, then throw it out the window,” Roefaro said, as he threw a stack of papers, including the meeting’s agenda, across the length of the caucus room.

Roefaro continued to express his frustration before leaving the caucus.

“I can’t stand it anymore,” Roefaro said before exiting.

He did not attend the council meeting.


I suspect Mr. Roefaro isn't the only one who can't stand how city government is being run at this point.

Update: A kind emailer suggests that the parking garage project is just another facet of the Roefaro "Friends and Family" plan designed to reward the Clark family, owners of the Adirondack Bank building. I don't think that's true, since I seem to remember this project has been in the proposal stage for years. It may well be a giveaway for the Clark family, but it's not one exlusive to Mr. Roefaro's administration.

Update: Another kind emailer sends along this link to the Governor's proposal for developing downtown Utica:

Downtown Parking, City of Utica

The City has stated the lack of available parking in downtown as the key difficulty in convincing businesses to locate or stay in the area – a fact the City says is supported by situation of the nearby Harza building. In 2005, the Federal Government committed $5 million and in 2006 the state committed $5.5 million toward the construction of a new parking garage in downtown and renovations to the Hotel Utica’s parking garage. The goal expressed by local leaders is not to have parking serve existing downtown workers (many public sector), but to meet the needs of new downtown private sector tenants.

Components of the Project:

• Construction of a new parking garage downtown in the Genesee Street corridor to serve new private sector needs

• Renovations to the Hotel Utica’s parking garage

Economic Development Potential:

• The construction of a new parking garage is expected to create more parking for area businesses

Funding:

• Total project cost is $16.5 million
• $2 million in existing State resources

Projected Date of Completion:

• 24 – 36 months


Based on the criteria set forth here it's hard to see how the Charlotte Street facility would do more than service the existing crowds from the State and County office buildings. Or is the project the governor is talking about something totally different?

Give Us An Intersection Or We Kill These Jobs

The Hartford insurance company, as well as the developer of their new office complex, would like you to pay a few million dollars for the privilege of hosting their building in New Hartford. Strikeslip has more:

The insiders, self-dealers, and media-enablers are circling the wagons!

The deal that will move The Hartford insurance company to a newly built office park off Woods Highway could fall apart if an intersection near the site is not built.

That was the message Wednesday from Daniel Gilligan, the New Hartford Central School District superintendent, and Earle Reed, the town’s supervisor.


Now we citizens and taxpayers are told that the proposed 840 intersection is "key" to the plan. WE are threatened -- by a School Superintendent, no less -- that The Hartford is going to move if WE do not support a new intersection on Route 840.

Keep in mind that The Hartford is supposed to move to it's employees into the new building in just eight weeks, so they're rather handily trying to push this idea through with an artificial deadline of their own making. No matter how much opposition there is to building this nutty intersection, much less the fact that it totally negates the original purpose of Rt. 840 as an expressway, you can rest assured it's going to go through. Why? Because rich, politically connected players want it.



Update: I hate to say I told you so, but...New Hartford will be paying for a new intersection to serve a private developer:

Ryan Cos., the firm that owns the office building built for The Hartford insurance company at the New Hartford Business Park, received preliminary assurances Thursday that an intersection will be built at Route 840 and an extension to Woods Highway.

New Hartford Town Supervisor Earle Reed and Michael Shamma, state Department of Transportation Region 2 director, said they planned to move forward with plans for the intersection. The DOT is designing the intersection, and the town will have to bond to pay for it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Hotel Utica Countdown: H+21

It's now been three weeks since Utica Mayor David Roefaro and the crack staff of the city's Urban and Economic Development Department missed their self-imposed 90-day deadline for resolving the Hotel Utica crisis.

While the multi-millionare owners of the Hotel continue to enjoy the benefits of a regular flow of cash from the city things aren't quite so bright for the rest of Utica. The condition of downtown continues to worsen, as a new wave of graffiti starts covering the abandoned buildings and empty storefronts of what was once a proud city. These are exactly the kind of structures Community Development Block Grants were supposed to save, but instead of using those funds to stop urban decay the city continues to spend it's millions propping up the lavish lifestyles of a few, politically connected figures.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Reaching New Heights

The Mad Max-ification of Utica continued over the long holiday weekend, as the city's already soaring crime rate hit an unprecedented level of violence. In just three days the city managed to rack up it's 30th arson fire of the year, yet another domestic stabbing, a double shooting that claimed one fatality, and capped things off with another murder on Monday night.

For the year so far that gives us 26 unsolved arsons (and the highest arson rate in the nation), 6 unsolved murders, and 16 unsolved shootings.

Update: The Roefaro administration's response to this weekend's violence? An essay contest:

Utica Mayor David Roefaro is announcing a "Why I Love Utica" essay contest. The contest is open to all Utica City School District children in the third and fourth grades.

The top ten winners will be announced the week of October 6, 2008 and invited to an award ceremony at Hanna Park, the following Saturday, October 11, 2008, where the top ten speeches will be read by the winners. Mayor Roefaro will present the winners with an award and refreshments will be served.


I think a lot more kids would love Utica if huge swathes of the city weren't no-go zones.

RoAnn Destito At The DNC


New York Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito was a delegate to last week's Democratic National Convention and this photo from the Capitol Confidential blog helps demonstrate the kind of impression she made. The polyester casual wardrobe and raucous howls weren't totally out of place, but even the jaded crowd at the Pepsi Center was aghast when she literally devoured the unfortunate delegate from Astoria that was blocking her view of the stage.

RoAnn Destito: Cementing downstate's opinion of upstate one mouthful at a time. OM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM.....

Boilermaker Roid Rage


I know I'm late to the party on this, but what's up with the 2009 Boilermaker logo? Forget all the hoopla about not including Utica, I'm talking about how it...well...sucks. Let's take a closer look.



I know converging arcs give a sense of dynamism and motion, but the sloppy text layout here is just ugly and amateurish. Would it really have taken that much more time to snap the text to the defining curve of the image? That's what...two extra clicks of the mouse?

And what in the name of all that is holy has happened to that runner? His entire body is out of proportion for a baseline human, much less the lithe physique of someone competing in a 15k foot race. From the freakishly huge chest, arms, and calves the inevitable conclusion is that he's jacked up on a cocktail of steroids and human growth hormones, and it wouldn't surprise me if there was a little crystal meth and some testosterone mixed in there for good measure. That impression may be intentional considering the pharmaceutical buffet of performance-enhancing drugs offered for sale in the Varick Street area, but I never expected to see the 'roid trade so openly acknowledged in the Boilermaker's promotional materials.

Call me cynical, but this is a perfect example of the "Good enough for Utica" mentality at work.

Update: Aha! I've found the actual model used in the new Boilermaker logo:

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Long Weekend

I won't be posting too much over the the long holiday weekend, other than a few of the divertimenti I usually stick up. We're having a family party on Monday and that means our house is steadily filling up with relatives while our yard and driveway is filling up with RV's and tents. Here's hoping your weekend is a good one.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Magical Utica

This is a pretty damn geeky post, so if you're here for the usual political stuff you should probably just scroll down now. If you happen to be a fan of "The Dresden Files" or pen-and-paper RPGs you're going to love it.

I spent a large part of my youth, as well as a few bits of my adulthood, heavily involved in tabletop role-playing games. Unlike most of my contemporaries my first RPG wasn't "Dungeons & Dragons", but the old "Space Opera" game from FGU. After reading a glowing review of the game by the late John M. Ford I saved up my allowance for a month and sent off for a copy from a mail-order game store.

Ten minutes after I opened the box I was hooked. A week later all my friends were equally addicted.

After "Space Opera" we moved on to "Traveller" before finally hopping on-board the "Dungeons & Dragons" juggernaut, flirting with the totally whacked-out play style of "Arduin", and eventually returning to "Space Opera" to create an insanely complicated homebrew fantasy system. Those were good times, and we kept playing pretty regularly until a few years after high-school. Since then I've only played occasionally, but I did do some writing for a few published supplements in the mid to late 90's.

That gives you a little perspective on why I thought this vision of Utica for the "Dresden Files" RPG was so cool. It's worth taking the time to read the whole writeup, but I thought their take on Varick Street was particularly clever:

The idea behind Varick Street was vaguely similar to that behind Genesee, in that we could encompass a region instead of a single location. Varick is a street of bars, lots and lots of bars, ending at the large Utica Brewery. So…it’s got a bit of a beer theme. The aspect, Love the Night Life, is meant to indicate how much of Utica’s night life is here, at Varick Street, just as much of its day life is at Genesee Street. Perhaps most importantly, though, the aspect also points to the danger of Varick Street: with so many people out there having a good time, getting drunk, Varick is a magnet for any Red Court vampires in the city. There aren’t too many in the city at the moment, but those who are here frequent the area, if only to feed.


Even if you're not a Dresden or RPG fan the description of Mayor Roefaro scores pretty high on the lulz meter.

Update: I just remembered that Utica was the setting for at least one published adventure for White Wolf's "Werewolf" setting.

Update: Aha! I was thinking of "Forgotten Lessons", the first of a three-part series detailing a monstrous evil unearthed at a Utica construction site. You can find a PDF scan of the adventure over here.

Hotel Utica Countdown: H+15



It's now been over two weeks since Utica Mayor David Roefaro and the crack staff of the city's Urban and Economic Development Department missed their self-imposed 90-day deadline for resolving the Hotel Utica crisis.

The silence is, as usual, deafening.

In the meantime the city has wasted just under $20,000 keeping the Hotel Utica afloat and filling the pockets of it's multi-millionaire owners.

The Plot Thickens

Yesterday I linked to New Hartford, N.Y. Online's video featuring Ms. Deborah Allesi begging the New Hartford Town Board to take some kind of action in regards to a stalking complaint. NHO has followed that up with two more video clips that are, at best, disturbing. It appears that the reason New Hartford police, or anyone in New Hartford government for that matter, aren't taking action is because the alleged stalker is a New Hartford police officer. You can view the followup videos here (part 2) and here (part3).

If Ms. Allesi's allegations are true both the New Hartford Police Department and the town government are complicit in protecting a dangerous stalker because he happens to wear a badge. Frankly, that defies belief, but the evidence so far isn't very encouraging.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Inevitability Of NYRI

I've said before that the NYRI power line project is unstoppable because of the one-two punch of downstate's voracious appetite for electricity and equally huge political power. Upstate's ever-dwindling population simply can't compete with the electoral might of New York City and it's environs, a problem further exacerbated by downstate's continuing refusal to take responsibility for it's own energy production needs. Worse, as this New York Times article points out, the downstate-controlled government's insistence on "green" power inevitably requires the construction of multiple powerlines across central New York:

When the builders of the Maple Ridge Wind farm spent $320 million to put nearly 200 wind turbines in upstate New York, the idea was to get paid for producing electricity. But at times, regional electric lines have been so congested that Maple Ridge has been forced to shut down even with a brisk wind blowing.

That is a symptom of a broad national problem. Expansive dreams about renewable energy, like Al Gore’s hope of replacing all fossil fuels in a decade, are bumping up against the reality of a power grid that cannot handle the new demands.

The dirty secret of clean energy is that while generating it is getting easier, moving it to market is not.


None of this would be necessary if downstate would abandon it's irrational fear of nuclear power, but you can rest assured that will never happen.

Update: NYCO has more.

Update: And, like clockwork, NYRI's long delayed application is finally approved:

New York Regional Interconnect’s power line application took a step forward Wednesday when the state Public Service Commission deemed the company’s application complete.

“The process to review NYRI’s application is now officially under way and it will be given a thorough examination by commission staff and interested parties as well as the public,” Commission spokesman Jim Denn said.

A public hearing is set for Wednesday, Oct. 22, in Utica, according to documents on the Commission’s Web site. Another hearing will take place Oct. 21 in Oneonta.

The Thin Blue Line

Imagine you're a single woman that's been subjected to a pattern of harassment and stalking by a potentially violent, and armed, man. Naturally, you would go to the police, but what if they refused to even take a statement from you, much less provide you with any kind of protection? It sounds like something out of a bad movie plot, but New Hartford, N.Y. Online has posted some amazing video of a woman that seems to be in exactly that situation. Worse, it's not just the police that seem to be ignoring her:

Apparently, the resident has been stalked for the past two years and the New Hartford Police Dept. has done nothing about it; not even responding to her calls for an interview. The resident stated that she attended the July 9, 2008 on the advice of the D.A., but the town board told her that they were only laymen and she would need to talk to the Police Commission.


If what this woman is alleging is even remotely true she's not only being abused by a stalker, but by the very system that's supposed to protect her. The clip from the New Hartford Town Board meeting raises a lot of questions and New Hartford, N.Y. Online has promised to post some more background on the situation.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

This Is Why We Need A Lower Drinking Age

I don't think I've ever seen WKTV post an update to one of their online stories before today. Oddly enough, the story they chose to exercise this new editorial discretion with was on Andrew Donovan's DWI arrest:

**UPDATE (August 2008): Donovan appeared in New Hartford Town Court, where he pleaded down to a Driving While Ability Impaired charge, according to a court clerk. He paid a $500 fine and $80 surcharge, and all other charges were dropped, which were "to the satisfaction of the court" according to the court clerk.


So an underage drunk goes careening through the streets of Utica, narrowly avoids injuring a guy when he crashes into his car and rips the door off, and then drives off to New Hartford before he gets arrested. And the penalty? A check for $580.

If that's all we're going to do to punish DWI there's no reason not to drop the drinking age.

Update: A kind emailer suggests that we have Google to thank for the revision. The Andrew Donovan involved in the drunken hit and run incident unfortunately shares a name with the totally innocent guy that happens to work at WKTV, so anyone Googling for either of them will probably come across the story. Understandably, the Andrew Donovan that isn't an underage drunk doesn't want to be confused with the one that is.

Update: Another kind emailer has the temerity to suggest that young Andrew received preferential treatment because of Donna Donovan's position as publisher of the Observer-Dispatch. I'm shocked, simply shocked, at the mere suggestion of such an idea.

Hotel Utica Countdown: H+13

It's now been nearly two weeks since Mayor David Roefaro failed to meet his self-imposed deadline for resolving the Hotel Utica. Today the Observer-Dispatch editorial board joins the growing chorus of voices saying it's time for less talk and more action:

In mid-May, Utica Mayor David Roefaro said he’d find a solution within 90 days to Hotel Utica’s chronic problems making tax and loan payments.

Those three months have come and gone, and Roefaro has failed to make good on his word. Indeed, the hotel hasn’t made a loan payment since then, and it remains behind on its city tax payments.

So much for bold promises. What the city needs to do is what it’s failed to do this entire decade — use its negotiating and legal powers to force the hotel to meet its obligations.


So far, the administration's response to calls for it to actually do something has been to lash out at anyone pointing out their epic failure. This whole sorry situation could probably have been avoided if city staffers were chosen on the basis of their expertise instead of their political and personal ties to the administration, but the Roefaro "Friends and Family Plan" has left the city of Utica with a management team that obviously isn't up to the task.

Update: Damn, I've been exposed! A conspiratorially minded emailer suggests that the OD's editorial, along with the one on the Roefaro "Friends and Family" plan from earlier this year, is proof that I am, in fact, one of the paper's editorial staff. Even more troubling is that the emailer has figured out my "hidden agenda" and plans to make a formal complaint to the FEC.

I desperately hope they aren't lying. Do you realize how much material I'd be able to milk out of that? I'm not sure how criticizing the Hotel Utica and Mr. Roefaro would earn me the ire of the FEC, but bring it on. Bwahahahahahahahaha!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Hotel Utica Countdown: H+12...Just Nine Years To Go!

CNY Homepage has posted more of their interview with Utica Mayor David Roefaro on the Hotel Utica issue over here. To summarize: Despite his earlier statements to the contrary there never was a 90-day deadline and it might take nine years to resolve the problem.

Nine. Years.

Just to recap, here's what Mr. Roefaro was saying in October of 2007:

We must give the hotel the opportunity to make good on their debt. However, inevitably if the hotel can't meet their business commitments, foreclosure is the only option. We can't hold just a few businesses to policy and we can not allow tax payers money to finance private interests.


Here's what he was saying in May of 2008:

Mayor David Roefaro said in 90 days the city should have a resolution to Hotel Utica’s continuing pattern of falling behind on its tax and federal loan payments.


The CNY Homepage Link video featuring his initial repudiation of the 90-day deadline is over here.

While Mr. Roefaro continues to waffle about what he actually said, much less what his administration actually intends to do, the city continues to pay thousands of dollars a week keeping the failed Hotel Utica project alive and lining the pockets of millionaires.

By Any Other Name

Normally Strikeslip handles this kind of thing, but this example of "de-Uticafication" caught my eye:

The Fireworks Over Central New York celebration was a nostalgic event for many.

After a decade-long hiatus, the event drew hundreds Saturday to the Herkimer County Fairgrounds.


They were probably even more nostalgic for the classic "Fireworks Over Utica" shows that used to draw thousands of people to the parkway back in the 80's. (Old guy mode on) I can remember when the entire Conkling Park area was filled with so many people there wasn't room to squeeze in another lawn chair. (Old guy mode off) It's too bad that the days when Utica had the population to support an event like that are long gone.

It's also a little sad what's happened to WOUR. It used to be a uniquely Utica radio station that was famous across the northeast for it's programming and personalities. Now, with the notable exception of Genesee Joe, it's essentially a Syracuse radio station trying to sound like it's in Utica. The old 'OUR was a huge part of my youth in Utica, so much so that I spent way too much money on a motherlode of insanely cool WOUR memorabilia that was on Ebay earlier this year.

Friday, August 22, 2008

No, Really, This Time We Mean It


After repeatedly failing to meet their own deadlines for a solution to the Hotel Utica problem the Roefaro administration says things are going to change. And they really, really, really mean it this time:

Commissioner of Urban and Economic development Robert Sullivan says we can soon expect to hear some solutions to Hotel Utica's ongoing financial struggles.

The hotel owes more than $6 million on a loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and thousands in city taxes.

While the management for the hotel says they are working on payments, the city says it is been carrying a burden of the costs.

City officials say they will work with the owners to keep it afloat because closing up a downtown building is not a good option.


Keeping the Hotel Utica afloat isn't a solution- it's the problem. We've already spent millions of taxpayer dollars propping it up. Hopefully the planned "solution" includes finding a buyer that's willing to take it off our hands for less than it would cost us to keep subsidizing the current operation.

More Green Power For Upstate

It looks like upstate will be home to yet another green power plant:

Many of those at a session with nuclear regulators Thursday made their position clear: Oswego County needs a fourth nuclear power plant at Nine Mile Point and the sooner the better.

Most of the speakers at the meeting said they supported the proposed plant because it would bring jobs to the area, including 4,000 construction jobs, and boost the local economy.


1600 megawatts of clean, zero-carbon power is nothing to sneeze at, but it's unfortunate we're not building at least a dozen third or fourth generation nuclear reactors downstate. It's foolish to waste energy transporting all that electricity hundreds of miles, not to mention that powerplants upstate pretty much demand projects like NYRI to get the power to where it's really needed.

Hotel Utica Countdown: H+9



Nine days have now passed since Utica Mayor David Roefaro failed to meet his self-imposed deadline for resolving the Hotel Utica fiasco. I'll refrain from too much self-congratulation (and the inevitable blogger triumphalism) and simply point out that the Observer-Dispatch has finally covered the story:

Hotel Utica remains behind on some tax and loan payments more than three months after Mayor David Roefaro said the city expected to find a solution to the difficulties within 90 days.

City and hotel officials said they still are communicating about their options and are working on plans that would allow hotel officials to consistently pay on time.


This is exactly where we stood three months ago, so Mr. Roefaro and his staff have the dubious distinction of accomplishing absolutely nothing in the last 90 days. This despite repeated pledges to "resolve" the issue or at least "reach a consensus" on the problem. Put simply, Mr. Roefaro has been lying through his teeth.

Hotel officials paid more than $132,500 in Utica City School District taxes on July 21 and more than $40,700 in Oneida County taxes on Aug. 19, according to school and county records.

But the hotel is past due on almost $70,000 in city taxes and has missed its last four U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development loan payments to the city, according to city records.

“Some tough decisions have to be made by the ownership,” city Urban and Economic Development Commissioner Robert Sullivan said. “Because that cannot and will not continue.”


That's tough talk coming from a man that's delinquent on his own payments to the city, a situation that, amazingly, hasn't resulted in his resignation or firing. At this point the idea that anyone would take Mr. Sullivan's pronouncements seriously is beyond laughable. Could someone please order him a big rubber nose and some size 36 shoes? If the man is going to beclown himself so thoroughly it's only right that he dresses the part.

On May 15, Roefaro said a solution to the hotel’s payment difficulties was expected within 90 days.

Now, about 100 days later, Roefaro says that goal wasn’t set in stone.

“I don’t have a crystal ball,” he said.


Nor, apparently, much of a work ethic. I know the funeral and embalming business doesn't exactly run at a breakneck pace, but you would think Mr. Roefaro would have some appreciation for making an effort in order to meet a deadline. Otherwise we would be hearing from more of his funeral home customers about how bad dear old Aunt Milly smelled at her viewing.

Hotel Utica General Manager Tony Zaleski said the hotel had a strong summer with 90 percent occupancy in August and about 80 percent occupancy in July.

“As with anything else, we said all the taxes would be paid by the end of the summer,” he said, “and that will be the case.”

Zaleski said he wasn’t aware the loan payments haven’t been made because owners Joseph Carucci and Charles Gaetano handle those. He said he expects the payments to be on track soon, but the hotel spent about $200,000 this summer paying off school and county taxes.

“There’s just only so much money,” he said.


If the Hotel Utica has a 90 percent occupancy rate and still can't meet it's financial obligations it's time to accept that it simply isn't a viable concern. It's doomed to failure, and having the city continue to prop it up with millions of taxpayer dollars does nothing more than prolong the inevitable. Actually, it's the worst thing the city could do- with each passing day the hotel's debt, and the city's liability for same, continues to balloon ever higher.

In July 2007, Hotel Utica was behind more than $300,000 in taxes and had missed multiple loan payments on what was originally a $5 million loan from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that the city guaranteed during the Edward Hanna administration.

The hotel soon made the payments and renegotiated the loan deal, but then fell behind $215,000 in taxes by May.

Roefaro and Sullivan said they will continue to work with hotel officials on how they can meet the loan demands, but they stressed the need to begin making up some lost ground.

“They’ve got to start paying their money,” Roefaro said.

Roefaro said he can’t estimate when the situation will be resolved, but he has been and will continue meeting with the hotel’s owners to determine a plan as expeditiously as they can.


This is exactly where we were 90 days ago.

No, strike that. This is exactly where we were a year ago, back when Mr. Roefaro was just a candidate. He was mouthing the same "They have to pay, it's not right, something must be done" line then and he still hasn't accomplished anything.

I know the Mayor has had a busy schedule of parties, golf tournaments, and personal appearances, but is it too much to ask that he does some work that doesn't involve swinging a golf club or slurping down cannolis?

Since the crack squad at Utica City Hall can't seem to come up with a plan of action, much less carry one out, I'll offer up my own. It's not like I could do a worse job, right?

First, the city needs to determine if the Hotel Utica is actually a viable business. At this point every indication seems to be that it isn't, but a thorough audit and analysis of it's financial situation would put the question to rest once and for all. One would think the city would have already done this, but history demonstrates it's never a good idea to put any confidence in the capabilities of city workers.

Second, the city has to decide what to do based on the results of the audit. If analysis shows that the Hotel has a snowball's chance in hell of actually meeting it's obligations the city and hotel need to come to an agreement that includes a timeline of operations and regular benchmarks for success. If the audit shows the hotel's business plan won't work, or if the hotel fails to meet the terms of the agreement mentioned above, the only option is foreclosure.

Yes, that's a drastic option, but it's the only one the city has. If the hotel isn't a viable business the sooner the city forecloses, the better. Waiting just makes the process more expensive, since the city's loan liability grows with every passing day.

In the meantime the city needs to start shopping the property around and see how much it could get for it, either from another hotel chain or a business looking for some prime downtown real estate. Call me crazy, but selling off the building go at a fire sale price of one or two million dollars seems like an acceptable, if non-optimal, option. With the outstanding balance of the loan topping six million dollars the city would be in the hole for four million dollars, and that's equal to the interest the city would be paying for the next eight years anyway.

Wasted money? You bet. But we've already wasted millions more on the Hotel Utica and it's time for the fiscal hemmoraghing to stop.

Update: Here's a flashback to what Mr. Roefaro was saying back in 2007:

Hotel Utica's owners have consistently failed to meet loan repayment terms since 2001, and have fallen behind on their taxes the past two years. How should Utica address this situation?

The Hotel Utica situation is a bi-product of both the Hanna and Julian administration that lacked both the commitment to tackle real business issues and the integrity to admit when they made some serious mistakes.

We must give the hotel the opportunity to make good on their debt. However, inevitably if the hotel can't meet their business commitments, foreclosure is the only option. We can't hold just a few businesses to policy and we can not allow tax payers money to finance private interests.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hotel Utica Countdown: H+8

We're now eight days past Mayor David Roefaro's deadline for resolving...er..."reaching consensus on"...the Hotel Utica fiasco.

Servicing the Hotel's debt costs the city $1315 a day, so another $10,520 in desperately needed public funds have vanished into the ether since Mr. Roefaro's 90-day deadline was reached. That's on top of the millions of dollars the project has already consumed.

For some more background, check out Joe Kelly's interview with the Hotel Utica's General Manager over at CNYHomepage.com.

Update: This is kinda related to the "Observer-Dispatch Deathwatch" below, but a kind emailer points out that the only outlets of any kind covering Mr. Roefaro's inability to handle the Hotel Utica issue are all online. None of the traditional news outlets, be it the OD, WKTV, or what passes for news at the local radio stations, have done anything on the issue for months.

What I find particularly interesting is that CNY Homepage is produced by the broadcast group that owns WUTR, WFXV, and WPNY, none of which could realistically be described as "news" outlets. I believe the last locally produced newscast on any of those stations happened back in 2005, just before their ownership consolidated operations at the former WUTR studios on Smith Hill. It's unfortunate that the area's population collapse made that consolidation necessary, but I think it's notable that the low cost of distributing content via the internet has, to an extent, once gain made them a viable news source.

The Observer-Dispatch Deathwatch

Shares of Gatehouse Media, the Observer-Dispatch's corporate parent, reached a high of 75 cents earlier this week, but they've since slipped back down to 57 cents. You can keep track of the continuing saga at Google Finance.

As to the O-D itself, the departure of award-winning reporter Renee Gamela for the campaign of Richard Hanna doesn't bode well. She was a bright spot in the paper's line-up, consistently producing well written and researched pieces that transcended the OD's normally shallow work. There are still some solid reporters in the paper's stable, but at this point I don't think anyone is setting their expectations very high. On the bright side, they haven't fallen to the pathetic level of WKTV, where they don't even bother to re-write press releases before passing them off as stories

Update: A kind emailer suggest we're going to be seeing some more departures from the OD's lineup of talent, such as it is, in the near future.

Update: A story at Editor & Publisher includes this observation:

Morningstar repeated its judgment that the GateHouse Media Inc. (NYSE: GHS) is essentially worthless, assigning it a fair value of zero. Monday morning it was trading at 69 cents, down 2 cents, or 2.82%.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hotel Utica Countdown: H+7 And Roefaro Speaks!

Utica Mayor David Roefaro has finally responded to questions about his handling of the Hotel Utica fiasco via a video at CNY Homepage. You'll find the clip over here under the title "The Link 8.19.08".

I'm assuming I'm the blogger referred to in the opening blurb, so I'd like to point out that I haven't claimed Mr. Roefaro promised to resolve the Hotel situation in his first 90 days in office. I've merely taken him at his word based on the May 15th, 2008 Observer-Dispatch article on the subject:

Mayor David Roefaro said in 90 days the city should have a resolution to Hotel Utica’s continuing pattern of falling behind on its tax and federal loan payments.


That self-imposed deadline ended last Wednesday.

As you can see from the clip, Mr. Roefaro doesn't think anyone should expect him to, you know, do what he said he would do. In fact, it appears he's now claiming that his earlier statement, or at least the version of it referenced in the OD story, didn't actually mean what it seemed to mean. He didn't promise a solution in 90 days, he just promised a "consensus" in 90 days.

Okay. I'll bite. What's the consensus?

Should the city foreclose on the Hotel Utica? Should the financing deal be renegotiated yet again? Should things just continue as they are? Amazingly, even after Mr. Roefaro lowers the bar down to reaching a "consensus" he still doesn't follow through!

Keep in mind that the city is paying $480,000 this year alone to service the Hotel's debt. That breaks down to just over $9000 a week, or around $1300 a day. In a city where significant chunks of downtown look like the post-apocalyptic ruins from a Mad Max film that money could be paying for desperately needed repairs and improvements. Instead, it's being dropped into a black hole never to be seen again.

So the Hotel Utica countdown continues. Without a resolution, without a "consensus", and without any foreseeable end. All to the tune of another $1300 in wasted tax dollars for every day that passes while Mayor Roefaro concentrates on planning parties and attending golf tournaments.

More Local Politics

A hearty welcome to NepoDestito, a new blog focusing on the race for the 116th Assembly district and the wacky antics of everyone's favorite local assembly member, RoAnn Destito.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hotel Utica Countdown: H+6

We're now six days past Utica Mayor Dave Roefaro's self-imposed 90-day deadline for resolving the Hotel Utica fiasco. There's still no word from the Mayor's office about what, if any, action he's taken.

Talking Heads

CNY Homepage has posted clips of both Congressman Michael Arcuri and his opponent Richard Hanna from their appearances last week on WIBX's "First Look". You can check them out over here. I'm a little suprised that both videos appear to be only the first segments of hour-long programs.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Define "Irony"

Strikeslip has a great post up about Mohawk Valley EDGE's misplaced priorities:

You can have your green apple logos, go to marketing events, and *"Call Mohawk Valley Home" until the cows come home, but until we fix what is wrong with this area, we will continue to decline.

What is wrong? The cost of doing business is too high.

Local officials blaming low job production on poor image is like school officials blaming low grades on poor self-esteem. They deflect from their own responsibility.

What have these "local officials" done to bring down the high cost of doing business? Did they ever protest the out of control spending by our schools, such as for the BOCES expansion, or the "performing arts centers" in Clinton or New Hartford -- expansions while the population declines? How about all the spending to duplicate a county airport, while giving away the one we already had? How about spending to benefit particular developers or developments like the new water line in New Hartford?


What makes his criticism particularly notable is that EDGE has not only ripped off his photos for their website, but they're asserting copyright on his work.

Hotel Utica Countdown: H+5

We're now five days past Utica Mayor Dave Roefaro's self-imposed 90-day deadline for resolving the Hotel Utica fiasco. While that situation might not be a priority, despite the millions of dollars it's already cost city taxpayers, don't let it be said that Mr. Roefaro has been slacking off. He's not only had had time to participate in a golf tournament, but planning is already underway for next years much-anticipated mayoral charity ball.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Weekend Video: The Killing Joke

If you're not a Batman fan this probably won't be entertaining.

If you are, it's downright amazing.

This video was created with a cheap little camera and some bobblehead toys, but what really makes it stand out is the quality of the writing, a clever adaptation of the dialogue from Alan Moore's "The Killing Joke", and the incredible voiceover work.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Observer-Dispatch Deathwatch

As the threshold for permanent delisting approaches Gatehouse Media stock is still stuck at less than a buck.

Standing Down

At first glance, most people probably wouldn't pay much attention to this story:

The Air Force on Monday suspended all efforts related to development of a program to become the dominant service in cyberspace, according to knowledgeable sources. Top Air Force officials put a halt to all activities related to the establishment of the Cyber Command, a provisional unit that is currently part of the 8th Air Force at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana, sources told Nextgov.

An internal Air Force e-mail obtained by Nextgov said, “Transfers of manpower and resources, including activation and reassignment of units, shall be halted.” Establishment of the Cyber Command will be delayed until new senior Air Force leaders, including Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz, sworn in today, have time to make a final decision on the scope and mission of the command.


It might not seem like much, but this is a pretty earth-shaking realignment for the Air Force as a whole and for our area in particular. Why? Here's a flashback to a story from last month that didn't get much attention at the time:

The Air Force Research Laboratory in Rome could gain more jobs during the next two years.

The U.S. Air Force’s Cyber Command is considering putting a section of its headquarters in Rome, as well as other installations across the country, said Lt. Col. Michael Convertino, who is overseeing development aspects of the new command.

A handful of personnel may come soon, he said.

“It’s a handful now, and we are not sure how much it’s likely to grow over time. As a local, I’m excited about it myself,” said Convertino, who grew up in Utica.

When it is fully functional, the command headquarters will consist of between 450 and 500 people spread across 10 locations. Some of the locations could get as many as 100 people, Convertino said.


I think the odds of the area seeing a major influx of Cyber Command personnel are now pretty slim.

Hotel Utica Countdown: H+2

We're now two days past Utica Mayor Dave Roefaro's self-imposed 90-day deadline for resolving the Hotel Utica Debacle. In the private sector missing a deadline by two days is likely to get you fired, but Mr. Roefaro has obviously taken the undemanding standards of government work to heart. And why shouldn't he? It's not like being Mayor is his full-time job.

Heh.

Snarkiness aside, in the unlikely event that the mayor and his crack team of economic advisors actually do issue some kind of plan today I'm willing to bet it consists of, ultimately, doing nothing. Sure, it'll be dressed up with some happy talk about saving jobs and keeping the Hotel on the tax rolls, but in the end Mr. Roefaro will just roll over and let things continue as they are. If he's willing to ignore the fact that his own Economic Development Commissioner is an epic tax deadbeat there's no reason he should hold anyone else to a higher standard.

After all, things like deadlines and standards are what you have in the private sector. Expecting them to apply to government is just a naive fantasy.

Ups And Downs

Big hits like ConMed, Canterbury Press, and A.C. Moore make headlines, but underneath those spikes is an overall downward trend in the area's employment levels :

"The region’s unemployment rate has grown a full percentage point in the past year, reflecting the economy’s importance in the upcoming election season.

Unemployment in the Utica-Rome metropolitan area rose from 4.2 percent from July 2007 to 5.2 percent in this July, according to state labor statistics released Thursday. Year-over-year figures are considered useful by economists for comparisons because seasonal factors can skew month-to-month numbers."


Rising unemployment and a falling average household income is a one-two punch that doesn't bode well for the area, particularly when our state politicians are making it increasingly clear they have no intention of actually cutting New York's bloated budget.

But it wasn’t all bad news.

There were job gains made in the educational and health sector -- a jump of 400 jobs from last year to this year.


That sure is some great news...until you realize that the educational and health fields are driven almost entirely by the expenditure of public dollars. It's not a coincidence that the unions representing those sectors are the ones howling the loudest about cutting state spending. Given their political power there's not a snowball's chance in hell that New York will do anything but continue to raise taxes for the foreseeable future.