Friday, February 22, 2008

Here It Comes

The revised NYRI plan is out and, as you can imagine, no one seems very happy with it. Oh, and remember my prediction that this is all just an elaborate shell game to use the existing Marcy South power corridor? Tada!

“The Public Service Commission should enlist the support of the power authority to use the current Marcy South line and re-energize that one and determine how we can use existing lines to provide the electric power to where it needs to go,” Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito, D-Rome, said.

Marcy South runs through portions of Oneida and Herkimer counties on its way downstate.

And so the process of "compromise" begins.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Curious Case of the Misplaced Press Release: Part Trois

Yes, the battle for the missing press release stumbles on.

I still can't officially get the electronic version, for reasons of "policy", but some nice innocent bystander was kind enough to slurp up the original document from the server cache. Which, obviously, kind of makes the effort moot, eh?

Well, not so much. After all, this isn't the first time an East Utica politician has been upset with his press coverage and gone to extraordinary lengths to "fix" the problem.

"With my connections, I could have remade Utica. Albany and Washington were open to me. But the newspapers kept knocking me, and knocking me, and knocking me, and made me out to look like a goddamn mafioso." - Rufus P. Elefante


Whitesboro: Wretched Hive of Genocidal Racism. Or Not.

Thinks aren't looking good for Whitesboro:

Of all things, the Whitesboro coat of arms caught my attention, because, more than anything, it strikes me as racist. There’s a stiffness to rampant political correctness; I get that, but still, for a town named WHITESboro, do they really need, as their official seal — the mark of the town that’s featured prominently on official letterhead and town signage — a white guy choking a Native American?

Of course, as my comment demonstrates, things aren't always what they appear to be. If you want the rest of the story, including the tale of a lawsuit filed against Whitesboro for the exact same charge of "racism", head over here.

The Fallen

I just finished up some housekeeping on the site, trimming outdated links and removing dead ones, and I'm struck by how many Utica area blogs have gone silent. Not that I'm one to point a finger, what with effectively abandoning the Snakepit from last September to January of this year, but I'm still rather surprised by the death toll. I would have thought that over time there would have been *more* voices raised, but instead there's been a steady decline. Which probably shouldn't be surprising, since "steady decline" increasingly appears to be the official motto of the Utica area

To be honest I'm still a bit ambivalent about my own efforts to keep the Snakepit active. It's not like the area's politics have much impact on me anymore, other than making what property my family still owns in the area even less attractive, but I still find the level of corruption and incompetence that Oneida County's politicians are capable of simply amazing. The population may be plummeting, jobs may be heading south with the regularity of birds migrating for the winter, but you can always rely on the local gladhanders to excel at failure.

As if that wasn't enough, here's something that should raise a few eyebrows. Since midnight last night I've had two hits from Google searches for "hotel utica closing", one from Beacon, New York and the other from Sharon, Mississippi. While folks using Google end up here via some odd searches, including things like "utica boobies", it does seem a little odd how popular that particular search is this morning, especially considering how geographically separated the two points are.

Oh, one last thing. Dyslexic writer + broken Blogger spellcheck = potentially incomprehensible posts. I can catch most things with the help of Firefox's built in spellchecker, but cut me some slack until it's fixed.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Wikipedia's entry on synchronicity has this to say:

The idea of synchronicity is that the conceptual relationship of minds, defined by the relationship between ideas, is intricately structured in its own logical way and gives rise to relationships which have nothing to do with causal relationships in which a cause precedes an effect. Instead, causal relationships are understood as simultaneous — that is, the cause and effect occur at the same time.

Synchronous events reveal an underlying pattern, a conceptual framework which encompasses, but is larger than, any of the systems which display the synchronicity. The suggestion of a larger framework is essential in order to satisfy the definition of synchronicity as originally developed by Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung.

The reason I bring this up is that I'm having "issues" getting my hands on the City of Utica's press release criticizing the OD for ignoring it's press releases. A press release we're now supposed to ignore, since it's been dropped into the memory hole for reasons unknown. I was in the middle of swapping another round of emails with City Hall when this popped up on the OD website:

The state’s top expert on open government will speak publicly Monday, March 10, at SUNYIT in a forum on “Open Meetings and Records Access” sponsored by the Observer-Dispatch.

Robert Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, will speak in an event that will feature a panel of local government representatives and citizens who have sought to obtain documents from area cities, towns, villages or school districts.

The event will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. at Kunsela Hall.

As my neo-hippie stoner friends would say, "Dude, it's like total synchronicity! There are no coincidences, no's all part of the karmic plan."

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Long Road to Kosovo

I'm suprised that none of the media outlets in the Utica area have talked much about the birth of Kosovo over the weekend. The Republic's independence declaration is, as my old Global Relations professor would say, a BIG DEAL...all the more so because a significant portion of Utica's population is made up of former residents of the Yugoslavian successor states. While the majority of people that arrived in the city after the Balkan war were Bosnians, refugees from every ethnic and nationalistic group involved in the conflict now call Central New York home.

Update: Better late than never.

Nezir Fetahaj of Utica hopes Kosovo’s declared independence finally will help bring peace to the region.

Fetahaj had to flee his home in Kosovo in 1999 because of the war.

Update: An emailer thinks I'm unfairly oversimplifying the Kosovo situation by casting them as the good guys. I'm hard-pressed to see his point, since my main interest in the subject was how Utica-area immigrants view the situation, but he's correct in pointing out that I'm necessarily skimming over the details of the conflict. How could I possibly sum things up in a single paragraph when the roots of what happened over the weekend date back to the 12th century? If you're genuinely curious I'd suggest Googling the relevant history, but be prepared to spend a few hours trying to wrap your head around all the twists and turns.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Recalling Roefaro

Utica Mayor David Roefaro has been in office just over a month and there are already grumbles about a possible recall election. Oddly enough, the whispered name of Underlord Dote seems to be attached to such an effort for reasons I can't quite fathom. Vengeance? Ideology? Plain ol' down and dirty Utica politics? Ya got me.

No matter what the reason, I think it's a bad idea. Roefaro's budget, in particular his raiding of the water fund, definitely puts the city on the path to bankruptcy, but I don't think that will be enough to fuel a successful recall this early in his administration. A year from now, when he's slurping up the last of the water fund and the sheer magnitude of the financial problems facing Utica start to sink in, seems like a more likely prospect. Then again, maybe the threat of a recall will be enough to get him to change course before it's too late.

Regardless of the timeline, this is the relevant section of the city's municipal code, taken from this site:

Sec. 2.072. Election, referendum, repeal and recall (recall of elected city officials).Any incumbent of an elective office, whether elected by vote of the people or appointed to fill a vacancy, may be removed from office by the qualified registered electors of the city, as hereinafter provided. Such removal of the incumbent of an office shall be known as recall, and the procedure to effect the removal of an incumbent of an elective office shall be as hereinafter provided:

(a) A petition signed by qualified registered electors equal in number to at least twenty (20) percent of the total number of votes cast for governor, in the city or the district from which the incumbent is being removed, at the last gubernatorial election, demanding the submission to the electors of the city the question whether the incumbent of such office shall be removed by vote of such electors shall be addressed to the board of elections and filed with the city clerk.

(b) Upon the filing of a petition, the city clerk shall immediately refer the same to the board of elections of Oneida County, who shall examine such petitions for sufficiency. Any signature dated more than thirty (30) days prior to the date of filing must be disregarded. Separate petitions of like tenor and effect shall be bound together by the city clerk and shall be deemed to constitute a single petition.

(c) The petition shall be signed by the qualified registered elector, who shall add his place of residence, giving the street and number and the date on which he signs. Each signer shall acknowledge the execution of the petition before a duly qualified elector of the city or district as the case may be.

(d) There shall be appended at the bottom of each sheet a signed statement of a witness who is a duly qualified elector of the city or the district, as the case may be. Such a statement shall be accepted for all purposes as the equivalent of an affidavit, and if it contains a material false statement, shall subject the person signing it to the same penalties as if he had been duly sworn. The form of such statement shall be substantially as follows except as otherwise provided in the election law.
I, _________ (name of witness) state: I am a duly qualified elector of the city of Utica or _________ District. I now reside at _________ (residence address, also post office address if not identical) which is in the _________ (fill in number) election district in the city of Utica in the county of Oneida.
Each of the individuals whose names are subscribed to this petition sheet containing _________ (fill in number) signatures, subscribed the same in my presence on the dates above indicated and identified himself to be the individual who signed this sheet. I understand that this statement will be accepted for all purposes as the equivalent of an affidavit and, if it contains a material false statement, shall subject me to the same penalties as if I had been duly sworn.

Date:_________ _________

(e) Such petition shall contain a general statement of the grounds for which such removal is sought, of not more than three hundred (300) words in length, and the sufficiency of such statement shall not be subject to review; provided, however, that no petition for the removal of any elective officer may be filed until he has actually held office for six (6) months. The sufficiency or insufficiency of any recall petition shall not be subject to review by the common council.

(f) Upon presentation of the petition by the city clerk to the board of elections, the commissioners shall immediately examine the same and the signatures and acknowledgments attached thereto and check the same with the registration list of the last preceding general election and thereafter return the petition to the city clerk with their certificates showing the total number of signatures attached thereto; the number, if any, who are not qualified registered electors of the city or the district as the case maybe; the number, if any, whose signatures were not properly acknowledged; the number who appear to be qualified registered electors of the city or the district as the case may be; and what percentage they constitute of the entire registered electors who voted for governor in the city or the district from which the incumbent is being removed, at the last gubernatorial election. The city clerk shall thereafter present the petition to the common council.

(g) Upon presentation of such recall petition to the council by the city clerk, the council shall thereupon order the holding of a special election for the purpose of submitting to the electors of the city or the district as the case may be, the question whether such officer shall be recalled. Such election shall be held not less than thirty (30) days, not more than sixty (60) days after the date of the certificate of the board of elections to the sufficiency of such recall petition; provided, however, that ifany other election for any purpose at which all qualified registered electors of the city are entitled to vote, is to occur within sixty (60) days after the date of such certificate, the council may, in its discretion, order the holding of such recall election, and the consolidation thereof, with such other election occurring not more than sixty (60) days after the date of said certificate. The question of recalling the mayor and/or the comptroller and/or any number of members of the council may be submitted at the same election, but as to each person whose removal is sought a separate petition shall be filed and provision shall be made for an entirely separate ballot.

(h) Any elective officer for whose recall and removal from office an election is held shall continue to perform the duties of his office until such time as the board of elections, having canvassed the vote at such recall election, shall declare that a majority of the electors voting have voted in favor of the recall of such officer. In such event, the officer shall be removed from office.

(i) Vacancy in any office arising out of recall pursuant to this section shall be filled in the same manner provided by this charter for vacancies under other circumstances.

(j) No person who has been removed from an elective office by the recall, or who has resigned from such office while recall proceedings for his removal were pending against him, shall be appointed to any office under the Charter within two (2) years after such removal or resignation.

(k) No elected official shall be subjected to a recall election more than once per term of office.

The Middle Class Nightmare

Drew Carey's latest video for Reason magazine takes a look at the dark forces ripping apart America's middle class. The horror!

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Curious Case of the Misplaced Press Release: Part Deux

Sadly, it appears that the missing press release I went in search of yesterday is no longer "intended for public view", at least according to Mayor Roefaro's nephew Angelo. That means the press release expressing the Mayor's displeasure with people ignoring his press releases is something he'd now like us to ignore.


Here are the emails I exchanged with Angelo on Friday, with my name redacted (because I like my privacy) and timestamps adjusted to Eastern time:

From: Gear Zanzibar
Sent: Thursday, February 14, 2008 11:01 PM
Subject: Open Letter to the Observer-Dispatch


I was wondering if you could forward me a copy of the open letter to Donna Donovan and the Observer-Dispatch that was posted in the "Press Release" section of the City's homepage on February 12th, 2008. It seems to have gone missing.

***** ********

On Fri, Feb 15, 2008 at 8:54 AM, Angelo Roefaro wrote:
It was only intended for public view during the time that it was posted.

Thank you,
Angelo Roefaro

From: Gear Zanzibar
Sent: Friday, February 15, 2008 11:55 AM
To: Angelo Roefaro
Subject: Re: Open Letter to the Observer-Dispatch

Thank you for your quick response. Could you tell me who the records access officer for the original HTML version of the document would be?

***** ********

On Fri, Feb 15, 2008 at 12:49 PM, Angelo Roefaro wrote:

Wow, I don't even know what it means. I put it on the site and I took it down.

From: Gear Zanzibar
Sent: Friday, February 15, 2008 1:45 PM
To: Angelo Roefaro
Subject: Re: Open Letter to the Observer-Dispatch

The records access officer would be the person in charge of handling a FOIL request for the document in question. Since it appears I'll have to make a formal request, much to my chagrin, I'd appreciate if you could provide me with the name and email address of the person in charge of such matters.

***** ********

Hopefully I'll hear back from the Mayor's office on Monday so I can send in the FOIL request to the correct individual. Keep in mind that all this effort is for a press release, something that by it's very nature is intended to invite attention and comment.

Behind the Scenes at Mayor Roefaro's Day Job

Direct from the embalming room at the Scala & Roefaro funeral home in Utica:

And when I say "behind the scenes", I mean it. Meet the cast and crew, and enjoy the rest of the gallery (in a far more benign context), over here.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Curious Case of the Misplaced Press Release

Earlier this week, on Tuesday to be exact, the Utica Mayor's office issued an unusual press release criticizing what they viewed as unfair media coverage of the administration in the Utica Observer-Dispatch. I had planned on Fisking the release this evening, but it appears that sometime this afternoon it was removed from the website for reasons unknown. I've emailed Mayor Roefaro's press representative, his nephew Angelo Roefaro, requesting a copy of the misplaced missive.

Hopefully I'll hear back from him tomorrow.

Update: Request denied. It appears I'll have to make a formal FOIL request if I want to see it again.

With Friends Like These

It looks like the honeymoon is over for Dave Roefaro:

A political party leader who endorsed Mayor David Roefaro spoke out Thursday against a proposed 7.25 percent property-tax increase and called the budget irresponsible.

Utica resident Julie Miller, who is the chairwoman of the city and Oneida County Conservative parties, was one of four people who spoke at the Board of Estimate & Apportionment's public hearing Thursday for the proposed 2008-09 city budget.

Miller said residents are outraged with the proposed property-tax increase that the public cannot afford.
I was under the impression that Miller's endorsement of Roefaro was a matter of political expediency based on a mutual "Anyone but Julian" agreement, but I didn't expect it to fall apart quite this fast. The quick turnaround in Miller's opinions of the Mayor may have something to do with Roefaro's massive about-face on raising taxes. Today he's pushing for a 7.25% increase. Before the election, as this October 31st story in the OD points out, he was singing a different tune:

It’s very disappointing that the current administration has begun to operate as if it defines revenue and taxes in the same context. Taxes should not be any city’s most imperative revenue driver. The city taxpayer is burdened by the increase of over 30 percent the current administration has imposed upon them, an increase officials tiptoe around. The average homeowner can’t afford an increase.
Even more surprising is the fact that Roefaro is now relying on the same budgetary slight-of-hand involving funds from the sale of the water board that he excoriated Julian for:

Today, the Julian administration is balancing and paying our budget using large portions of revenue the city generated when the Hanna administration sold the water board.

When this money is gone, it’s gone and so is our ability to borrow. In this light, our future looks bleak at best. Creating and maintaining a prudent budget reserve and providing for budget corrections in an economic downturn, will save Utica millions over the life of a loan in borrowing costs.
That was back in October. Today Roefaro is raiding the exact same fund to prop up yet another good-time budget and doing his best to cement Utica's title as one of the most heavily taxed municipalities in the country. Worse, he's used those tax dollars to place a seemingly never ending stream of friends and family on the city payroll.

But I digress from tonight's meeting.

Here's another gem:

Roefaro told the audience that he's met with viable companies who want to bring jobs to Utica, companies that he said can't be named publicly yet, but “if we have a negative connotation no one will want to come here.”
Ah, the famous "companies that can't be named" so beloved by Oneida County politicians. Would those be the same companies beating down the door to build at the Marcy Super-Mega-Nano Center for the past decade? Or perhaps they're the "companies that can't be named" that were supposed to flock to the Griffis Institute? The Homeland Security Center? Or any one of the innumerable multi-million dollar boondoggles the area has been saddled with over the past twenty years?

And finally a chilling prediction, or perhaps a veiled threat, that perfectly encapsulates Roefaro's vision for the city:

"Things have to get worse before the city can improve."
Well, at least he's setting a goal for himself.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

NYRI's Kabuki Theater Plays Out

What a shock! What a surprise! The backers of the NYRI powerline proposal are considering some alternate routes:

NYRI's supplemental application will be filed on or around Feb. 22 with the state Public Service Commission, according to a public notice the power line company has placed in several upstate newspapers.

The notice lays out alternative routes in addition to the proposed route. Additional routes studied include Marcy South and running the line along the Thruway corridor, NYRI spokesman David Kalson said.

The Thruway route, however, was not mapped out in the media notice.

Anyone want to lay down a bet that the Marcy South route will turn out to be the perfect "compromise" for everyone involved?

I hate to say "I told ya so", but...

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.

Keep an eye on the Upstate power companies and special interests doling out political contributions and I think you'll notice a pattern. One that, I'm sure, is just a total coincidence.


Monday, February 4, 2008

Skippygate II: Electric Boogaloo

The other shoe has finally dropped in the Skippygate saga:

United States Attorney Glenn T. Suddaby announced today the Indictment of two Oriskany area men on fraud charges.

James M. Kernan, 59, of Utica Street, and Robert J. Anderson, also known as "Skip Anderson," 64, of Utica Street, were named in a fifteen count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Syracuse on January 30.

Kernan the President of Oriska Insurance Company. Kernan and Anderson are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in addition to ten substantive counts of mail and wire fraud.

The Indictment charges that Kernan and Anderson engaged in a scheme to defraud by marketing workers compensation insurance policies through Oriska Insurance Company which they knew Oriska was not authorized or licensed to write. It is charged that Kernan and Anderson represented that Oriska could provide insurance coverage for workers in states where Oriska was not licensed.

Further, the Indictment alleges that Kernan and Anderson marketed workers compensation policies with high deductible endorsements during a time period when Oriska was not authorized by the New York State Insurance Department to issue policies containing such terms.

Hopefully, during this year's election someone will finally ask how Congressman Arcuri's campaign got their hands on a copy of the FBI search warrant for Oriska.

If you remember, Arcuri steadfastly refused to return thousands of dollars in dodgy donations from Oriska's owners and staff right up until the FBI actually started hauling documents out of the building, and then he only returned the donations from Anderson and Kernan. It wasn't until over a week later, again after repeated refusals to even consider returning all the money, that he finally rolled over and coughed up the cash.

Curiously, for reasons that still escape me, Ray Meier never made an issue out of Arcuri's odd behavior during the 2006 election. The timing of the refunds, and the specificity of the funds returned, makes it clear that Arcuri's campaign had a copy of the FBI warrant the morning of the raid. Since the federales aren't in the habit of faxing legal documents to political campaigns it seems obvious that Arcuri himself, or his staff in the DA's office, used the named targets of the search warrant to decide which donations were too hot to keep.

The ethics, or lack thereof, of using your official position to protect your candidacy from embarrassing political revelations should be obvious.