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.


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


• 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: