Thursday, September 4, 2008


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?