Friday, May 16, 2008

Ask Me No Questions And I'll Tell You No Lies

Why would anyone want to question the management of Mohawk Valley EDGE?

Sadly, that seems to be the opinion of Oneida County's "leadership". Which is particularly unfortunate since EDGE is an un-elected economic development authority tasked with spending tens of millions of dollars of your money. For the Marcy Super-Duper-Ultra-Mega-Nanotech site alone they're responsible for upwards of $26 million in expenditures, and that translates into a hellacious number of lucrative construction and development contracts.

This being Oneida County, you can just imagine the kind of tearful joy all that money, conveniently free of the oversight accorded to normal government contract procedures, inspires in the usual suspects.

That's why Larry Tanoury Jr. gets a shout-out for actually, you know, asking some questions about how EDGE spends all that cash:

Mohawk Valley EDGE has a new contract with the county.

After much discussion surrounding questions about accountability and taxpayer cost versus benefits, the Board of Legislators voted 24-3 Wednesday to renew the annual pact with EDGE for economic development services.

The no votes were cast by Larry Tanoury Jr., D-25, Utica, Joseph M. Furgol, D-27, Utica, and Shannon L. Scott, D-22, Utica. There were two absences.

Tanoury asked most of the questions, picking up the thread from a recent meeting of the board’s Economic Development & Tourism Committee when it considered the $412,892 contract. Tanoury thought his queries about the accountability of the not-for-profit EDGE and whether there was any analysis of what EDGE gets back on its investments were given the short shrift at the committee session, so he raised them again Wednesday at the full board meeting.

Mr. Tanoury deserves a great deal of credit for bucking the group-think of the rest of the rubber-stamp legislature. Regardless of your opinion of EDGE's effectiveness, and I'm pretty firmly convinced they're a convenient conduit for corruption, it's stunning that more questions weren't asked about the disposition of the County's multi-million dollar investment in the organization.

In an ideal world Mr. Tanoury's questions would lead to MV-EDGE embracing transparency and regularly publishing an accounting of their efforts, including the details of their development sub-contracts, on their website. This being Oneida County, and about as far from an ideal world as you can get, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

Disclosure: Regular readers know that I've had several exchanges with Mr. Tanoury, including my merciless mocking of his taste in music, but I've always found him to be polite even when I was harshly criticizing him.