Thursday, May 15, 2008

Roefaro Rolls Over For Hotel Utica

What a shock! What a totally unexpected development! After careful consideration, Utica Mayor David Roefaro has decided the answer to the Hotel Utica problem do nothing.

The meeting allowed Mayor Roefaro and Commissioner Sullivan to examine all aspects of hotel operations. The two also took a tour of the hotel and engaged in conversation with employees and guests. Roefaro said, “Joe and Chuck are giving 110% to the day to day operations of this facility. The downturn in the national economy, as well as the cost of daily operations has trickled down to this hotel and so many other local businesses, which is why we must remain flexible when dealing with this financial circumstance”.

He added, “The opening of new hotels in the area has also had an impact on their business. Hotel Utica is doing what it can and we need to stand behind them while we are finding solutions. We are doing no more for Hotel Utica than we would do for any other business that might need our assistance.” He noted, “The public must remember that it would have cost the taxpayers, 3 million dollars to tear down this beautiful and historic structure that has been a mainstay of our downtown for years. Although I believe that from the beginning, this loan was structured in the wrong manner, we are here today and must deal with the reality of the problem. Remember, ‘empty lots’ do not produce employment, property tax, or sales tax revenues”.

That's quite a different tune from what Mr. Roefaro was singing back during the election:

OD: 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?

Roefaro: 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.

It would appear that Mr. Roefaro has decided that yes, indeed, the City of Utica should use taxpayer money to finance private interests.

After all, that policy has produced such wonderful results in the past. Just look at the thriving outlet stores at Charlestown Mall. Or the trendy boutiques and eateries that fill the City Center facility. Or the steady stream of shoppers coming to downtown to enjoy the offerings of the Boston Store.


As an aside, does anyone else find it hysterical that Robert Sullivan, who was running for mayor back in September with an outstanding $5800 tax bill, is now offering his expertise and support to the Hotel Utica? He's probably the most experienced city employee when it comes to not paying taxes, but c'mon.

Finally, I've taken the liberty of archiving the city's press release I linked to above. Having experienced Angelo Roefaro's penchant for making embarrassing city documents disappear it would be silly to expect that Hotel Utica press release to stay around for long.

Update- A helpful emailer points out a damning fact I totally missed. Mr. Roefaro's press release uses the opening of multiple new hotels in the area as an excuse for the Hotel Utica's poor performance. Yet those businesses, none of which has the benefit of millions of dollars in public funding, are somehow turning a profit while the Hotel Utica continues to struggle financially.

Those other hotels aren't an excuse. They're an indictment.

Update: Part Deux- Anyone who has been following the dodgy history of the Hotel Utica will find the current promises of "regular payments" to be a cruel joke. This is exactly the same line of shifty rationalization they were peddling last year.

Utica is diverting a half-million dollars per year in community revitalization funds to cover the federal loan payments the hotel hasn't making on any kind of regular basis.

Carucci said the hotel's owners are working on keeping up on the payments.
"Of course, we're trying to restructure things and reorganize," he said. "We're working on it on a daily basis to make sure we keep up with things."

Despite several attempts since 2002 to rework the taxpayer-backed loan, the owners of the hotel are still struggling to make regular loan payments, records show.

The fact that they've been able to get away with this for years demonstrates that Utica's politicians are either stupid beyond belief or as corrupt as they come. Decide for yourself which camp Mr. Roefaro falls into.