Thursday, September 21, 2017

Paul Miscione, you deserve a round of applause

On primary day (last Sept. 12) two certainties were established: One, Mrs. Pratt was going to be the 16th-District County Legislator in 2018 and that current 2nd Ward New Hartford Councilman Paul Miscione is going to the the Town Supervisor in 2018. The third contest (First Ward Council) will be decided on November 7.

Let's talk about Paul: First elected in 2012, he campaigned hard against the incumbent and beat her. That's unusual in itself. I had the pleasure of sitting with him the last 2 years of my term. Sometimes we disagreed, sometimes we disagreed vigorously but out friendship persevered. I considered him somebody easy to work with because we agreed most of the time.

As I sized up my race and decided to run for the county legislature, a well-placed town Republican called me practically begging me to run for Supervisor. We discussed Paul but he had not made a firm commitment as yet; I said let's wait and see.We ended the conversation with me saying I would get back to them. I did, and defined the parameters that would have to be met for me to consider doing so. Remember, I ran for Supervisor 4 years ago and lost. I did well outside the village but lost too much in the village.

What I asked for was not on the ala-carte menu, so when I called him back we agreed I was out.

Luckily for New Hartford, Paul Miscione stepped up to the plate and threw his hat into the ring.

If you don't know how local political committees determine who they like (via the endorsement process), they meet and screen potential candidates expressing interest in carrying their party banner on election day.

Paul couldn't be there that day. He was with a family member in New York City attending to their medical care. But Mr. Tyksinski screened, answered questions and most everybody in the room knew he had the endorsement in the bag. When he was done, the chairperson asked if their were any more nominations.

After an uncomfortable pause (I was wondering if anybody else was going to stand up), I stood up and nominated Paul Miscione. A long-time friend of mine seconded the nomination and discussion ensued. It didn't matter; after the vote Mr. Tyksinski walked out the building with the endorsement.

I could talk about how the vote went down, but I won't. That's a breach of trust.

When I talked to Paul, he was disappointed. But he took it well and went on. He persevered. He campaigned. He advertised. He went door to door and (with my constant nagging him to do so) spent a considerable amount of time in the village. Remember, this was where I took a beating 4 years ago.

We sat down a few times before the election to measure progress. It was clear his message was hitting home. Still, nobody knew if he was going to win or lose. It's just an unknown and as the saying goes, the voters can be fickle. You never know.

More and more signs on both sides went up. When a 4x8 billboard sign went up for Mr. Tyksinski immediately adjacent to a property I own on Oneida Street (a well-traveled road), I asked the usually-friendly neighbor to remove it. He wouldn't, so I did the next best thing: I called Paul Miscione and invited him to place a 4x8 sign on my side placed so as to block Mr. Tyksinski's sign. We met there with another town councilman and put the sign up together. I could tell he was getting tired putting up signs and campaigning; when I said this one was worth it, he laughed. To me, it was worth it.

There was a reason Mr. Tyksinski wanted his sign there and it was because I had so many times put my own signs there. He was hoping people would think I'm supporting him by seeing his sign in my usual spot. The codes officer was even fooled and called Paul saying Did you see the sign Backman put for Tyksinski?

To put that false message to bed, the sign had to go up. Watching New Hartford slide over the 2 terms of Mr. Tyksinski's leadership, I knew I had to make a statement. Thank you, Paul for having one sign left and placing it there.

Looks like it worked wonders.

Ok, signs don't vote, people do.... but that one was worth it. On primary day, you beat Mr. Tyksinki by a good margin and you earned it.

Here's my hearty applause for a job well done, Paul. My heartiest congratulations. I was proud to place your name in nomination even though I knew it would take a primary vote to oust the incumbent.

By the way, you did something in New Hartford politics that has never been done before: You won the Supervisor's chair as a Councilman. Before this, not one Councilman has risen to the seat, even though many have tried.

Thank you for running. Thank you for working for it. And most of all, thank you for winning.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Lies, Damn Lies, and Outrageous Lies

My previous blog discussed Primary Day (Sept 12) and how Mrs. Pratt erupted in anger calling me a liar as she shook a water bottle in my face. She said I lied about the communications tower (I blogged about it early on); she claimed she did not abstain but voted against it. She also said she did not read my blog, but seemed to be very up-to-date with what I have written, so I'm not sure how she knows what I write. If somebody else reads the blog for her as a proxy, to me it's about the same as reading it live.

Anyway:

I am researching this and will post more about this. The information sent to me from a usually reliable source said both she and Jim D'Onofrio abstained from the vote claiming they did not have enough information.

There are two possibilities here; one of them is my information is wrong. If so, I will correct what I wrote before about her vote, but still hold the rest of what I wrote as a lesson to future law makers: When items of consequence such as a tall tower are being considered, inform your residents, hold public meetings and look for viable alternatives.

That did not happen on Mrs. Pratt's watch.

Now for Mrs. Pratt's other claim that I did not help the Willowvale firemen:

In 2003-2004, the Willowvale Fire Company was looking to build a new firehouse. They had a site, they had plans and were in the process of borrowing money to get it built. This is done via the bond process. They talked with financiers and were offered a rate. I knew the municipal rate was lower and asked if there was a way we could allow the fire company to borrow at our favorable (tax exempt) rate. Bond counsel came back with the answer: Yes, we could help them through the TEFRA process (and I have no idea what that is an acronym for). So I took it to the board and worked it up for action, and here is the section of the April 2003 official town board minutes reflecting how the Willowvale Fire Company was helped by Town Board action which I initiated:

    REGULAR TOWN BOARD MEETING
    April 2, 2003
    Page 10

    PUBLIC HEARING8:00 P.M. TEFRA Hearing – Willowvale Fire Co., Inc.
    Tax-Exempt Obligations
    The Town Supervisor opened the Public Hearing at 8:00 P.M. and announced the purpose of the Hearing was to consider the Willowvale Fire Company’s application for TEFRA eligibility for issuance of tax-exempt obligations to fund a new firehouse and to offer the Public an opportunity to speak in favor of, in opposition to, or comment upon this matter. The Town Clerk presented the Notice of Public Hearing, Affidavit of Posting, and Proof of Publication (Observer Dispatch, March 17,2003 edition).

    G. Kevin Ludlow, Attorney for the Willowvale Fire Company, Inc., expressed the Fire Company’s appreciation for the support that the Town Board has given them over the years. He also thanked the Board on behalf of all the Fire Department members, present and not present, that they are also very grateful for Town’s support on their new venture – a new firehouse.
    The following persons were present in support of the TEFRA hearing and issuance of tax-exempt obligations by the Willowvale Fire Company, Inc.:

    Lawrence Bastien Charles Bastien Richard Catlin
    Chad Powers William Smith Margaret Jones
    Roger Jones Malcolm Lusby Edward L. Thomas
    Milo Perroch Joseph David Donald Maikranz
    Justin Sorrentino Joseph David, Jr. William Snyder
    Gerald Linck Matthew Jones William Hinman
    Kristina Hinman Gary Edwards
    REGULAR TOWN BOARD MEETING
    April 2, 2003
    Page 11
    Councilman Backman commended the Willowvale Fire Company as a very hardworking group who has held numerous fundraisers for various Fire Company projects and expressed his belief in their cause. He noted that firemen are a community’s best resource and their unpaid volunteerism speaks for itself.
    Supervisor Humphreys apprised those present that the issuance of tax-exempt obligations to fund a new firehouse will be subject to a permissive referendum. Because of the projected tax increase for properties within Fire District No. 4, there may be property owners who oppose this project and they will have the prerogative to submit a petition. Thereafter, the Supervisor closed the hearing at 8:10 P.M.
    The following Resolution was introduced by Councilman Backman and duly seconded by Councilman Waszkiewicz:
    (RESOLUTION NO. 134 OF 2003)
    WHEREAS, the Willowvale Fire Company, Inc. is a not-for-profit corporation, with a Certificate of Incorporation having been filed August 9, 1950; and
    WHEREAS, the Willowvale Fire Company, Inc. is interested in seeking access to federally tax-exempt financing for a capital improvement project, namely, a new firehouse; and
    WHEREAS, the New Hartford Town Board conducted a TEFRA Public Hearing on April 2, 2003 at 8:00 P.M. in Butler Memorial Hall on the question of whether a tax-exempt bond should be issued by the Willowvale Fire Company, Inc. to finance the cost of the construction of a new firehouse including original machinery, apparatus and equipment necessary in connection therewith, said firehouse to be located at 3459 Oneida Street, in Chadwicks, Town of New Hartford, New York, and which maximum aggregate face amount of the obligation to be issued with respect thereto will not exceed $1,000,000; and
    WHEREAS, approximately twenty-five (25) members of the Willowvale Fire Company, Inc. attended said Public Hearing in favor of a tax-exempt bond being issued for the aforesaid purpose and no one having appeared in opposition to this proposal;
    NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the New Hartford Town Board does hereby authorize and direct the Town Supervisor to execute an APPROVAL CERTIFICATE, a copy of which is set forth as Schedule "A", relating to the issuance of a bond and which obligation will not constitute debt of said Town.
    A roll call vote was duly held as follows:
    REGULAR TOWN BOARD MEETING
    April 2, 2003
    Page 12
    Councilman Waszkiewicz - Aye
    Councilman Woodland - Aye
    Councilman Butler - ABSENT
    Councilman Backman - Aye
    Supervisor Humphreys - Aye.
    The Resolution was thereupon declared unanimously carried and duly adopted.
    ******Now who's the liar again, Mrs. Pratt? And for Jim Messa: You claimed I did nothing for 12 years. Add this to the long list of things you are going to have to play catch-up on before you claim how much you've done ...which, after rejecting 4 bids to build a storm water project in Chadwicks, you somehow still manage to convince yourself you're doing great.Whatever.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Let us stop talking falsely now...

Last Tuesday (Sept 12) was primary day in New Hartford. There were 3 Republican primaries and 1 Democratic primary. The incumbent Supervisor in NH was being challenged by the 2nd Ward Councilman, the incumbent 1st Ward Councilman was being challenged and I was challenging the appointed incumbent County Legislator. I lost... by about 90 +/- votes (a few absentee ballots have yet to be counted but will not change the outcome). The 1st ward incumbent won. The incumbent Supervisor lost. Let's talk about the Republican races:

Backman v. Pratt for the O/C 16th Legislative seat: Since there were 3 races in New Hartford, that is where the most voters came out to vote (percentage-wise of registered voters). It is hard to get voters out on Primary Day; the turnout is usually less than 20% of voter registration. NH had the highest turnout, the Towns of Paris and Bridgewater were less than 10%). Primary Day boils down to friends and family affairs for the most part. The average unconnected voter usually could not care less about voting in September; they consider their voting responsibility satisfied by their presence in November.

I'll take the responsibility for losing this one. Running against a machine-supported candidate is challenging; let me boil it down to a few reasons:

  • Mrs. Pratt got out and worked. Her past history of getting a few signatures on petitions for other candidates in past years changed when she ran.
  • She outspent me.
  • The machine worked for her both carrying petitions (the ethics dilemma I already wrote about) and letting her take credit when the State Senator porked the Town of Paris to the tune of $75,000... aka buying votes at election time with your own tax dollars.
  • Having and losing the Republican endorsement in the Town of Paris. (Yes, Mrs. Pratt, now I'm going to tell "LIES! LIES!" as you screamed at me on election day, but since you knew everything I blog about yet deny reading this blog, I guess some more "LIES" are in order). This story is beyond bizarre but I tell it as the bits of information came back to me from some of the people present:
I lost the endorsement of the NH Republican committee and it is because Brian Miller used not only his vote to support Mrs. Pratt, but his wife's committee proxy to vote for her also. Thanks, Brian. Both triggers of the double-barrel at once? I hope Mrs. Pratt carries as many petition sheets as I did for you when you're up for re-election next year. Here's your sign, Brian.

I won the Bridgewater Republican committee endorsement handily; they are tired of being forgotten and looked to new blood for help.

Ah, the Town of Paris endorsement ... What a cluster-frog that turned out to be. When I called their chairman asking to screen before them, he dropped the informative bomb that 'the Town of Paris was supporting Mrs. Pratt' ... but of course, I was welcome to screen. The date was set for June 5, 1 day before petitions can circulate. I didn't expect to receive their endorsement, but as a good soldier I showed up and screened. The conversation was polite and we discussed my views, my 12 years on the NH Town Board, the things I got done ... and what I hoped to do on the OC Board. I got up, shook hands, thanked them and departed knowing I probably didn't have their endorsement.

Afterwards, my phone rang numerous times and 'a man or woman whose name I will not expose here but it's not who everybody thinks it is' told me ... I won in a 3-2 vote. I was stunned. But then this person added that another person who was 100% in the bag for Mrs. Pratt objected saying the meeting was not proper because it had not been advertised and they should meet in another week after advertising to consider any other candidates. This, of course, was a ploy to put it off a week and get the person who switched to me to switch back. As it was told to me, a few phone calls came in (to a certain elected officer in Paris)  mentioning the $75,000 grant money for their pool repairs and how important it is that they support Mrs. Pratt.

The message was received loud and clear: If you want the $75k, give Mrs. Pratt your endorsement.

And so, the following week, Mrs. Pratt won the endorsement 3-2. Surprise surprise... Not really.

This is tantamount to blackmail and it is reprehensible. But I did not blog about this until now or put it in my printed handouts. Since I am not on the ballot in November, I have no problem with its public airing. There will be only one choice on the November ballot and that will be the machine candidate, pure and simple.

But I did enjoy watching Mrs. Pratt lose it on Primary Day. She came over, shook a water bottle in my face while yelling at me. May I suggest anger management classes. Mrs. Pratt? Oh yeah, that's right. You don't read this blog or so you told me.

Baldwin v Messa for the 1st Ward Council seat: This is the seat I sat in for 12 years. When I ran for Supervisor 4 years ago and lost, Messa ran for the seat unopposed. The first time he ran, I beat him for the seat but he likes to tell people 'he really didn't lose.' What was that I said about political lies before? Let us stop talking falsely now, the hour's getting late ...

Anyway, Mike Baldwin, a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel, F-106 fighter pilot and successful local businessman decided to run for the 1st Ward Council seat. I saw Jimmy Messa as a complete failure; I sat down with him before I left office and explained to him the job, responsibility and we actually drove around the ward with the Highway Superintendent to show him the problem areas. I had a stormwater project in the ward in early engineering and communicated my desire to see it come to fruition after I left. When it came to bidding, at the request of the Supervisor he rejected the bids ... 4 times! When the July storms wiped out half of the affected areas this year, I couldn't support his inaction any longer. I helped Mike Baldwin campaign and looking at the numbers (he lost), he didn't do bad. He came much closer to the incumbent than most people expected. And he will still be on the ballot in November, and again I will keep campaigning for him because I see him as a better person to get things done on the Council instead of the Dudley Do-Nothing that's there now.

This gem of a story has to be told about Jimmy Messa. He snapped at me also just before Mrs. Pratt got unhinged and lost it. Since I am a non-violent person (I use words of truth, not fists) ... Here's another great story, and remember Jimmy, I thanked you for giving me such a good story to write about:

Election Day is long a grueling day if you are a candidate and choose to stand outside the polls to greet voters. This year, I brought a wooden high-chair to sit in so I wouldn't have to be standing for 9 hours. I plunked it down next to Jimmy's truck with his signs and American flag to greet voters just like they did. He didn't much care for that and came over; his intent was to get me to move. If he had been polite, if he had used the word please, I would have gladly moved. But he didn't. He came over Gestapo-style and ordered me to move, as if he had some badge of authority. He said he didn't want his truck scratched. I got out of the seat and turned the swivel part of it to make sure it wasn't close enough scratch his truck. It wasn't and I sat back down. He got between the chair and the truck and pushed the chair (with me sitting in it) over. It might have moved an inch or so. Apparently there was enough room for him to get between the chair and the truck, so there's your indication of how close the chair was to the truck. He kept on insisting I move. I sat there and told him Don't touch me, Jimmy ... he responded I didn't touch you, I touched the chair.

It's the same thing to me, Jimbo.

And then, as I sat in the chair unmoving, he leaned over me glaring with his chrome dollar-store sunglasses on. I took it he was trying to intimidate me. But I didn't move. I sat there. So much for your claim of "dignity," Jim-boy. Hey, here's an idea: Maybe you and Mrs. Pratt can get a package deal on those anger management classes I so highly recommend you attend.

Act 2: We started trading barbs. I mentioned his record of doing nothing on the Town Board and what his political nickname was (Dudley Do-Nothing). He said I did nothing for the 12 years I sat there, which I laughed at.

Dudley, I paved 4x the road miles you did annually because I fought for real paving funds, not 1/4 of what we used to allot to paving at budget time (like you do when you sit there and say nothing at the board table). I replaced every town-owned bridge in the 1st Ward and most of the box culverts. I spent well over a million dollars in Ward 1 storm water projects (Beechwood Road or Woodberry Road ring a bell, Jimmy? Sauquoit creek cleanup? Oh yeah, you weren't there - you lost the election to me, remember? ) ... I built a multi-million dollar water system while I was in office. I made sure potholes were filled,  had traffic studies done in problem areas ... You have a long way to go before you even can come close to matching what I got done in the town. A new library and a new firehouse in Chadwicks were built while I was on the board, Jimmy. Tell us again of what you've done. A flashing traffic signal? Wow, gee thanks.

Can you tell us ANYTHING (feel free to use the comment section here, I promise I will post it unedited) you have done for the 1st Ward in your almost 4 years on the board?

I thought so. Dear readers, if I do not post any comments, it will be because there were none left for me to post.

So, the Balwin v. Messa race is still on for November, and again, I make no bones about it: I am supporting Mike Baldwin even though Jimmy paid for advertising space slamming his $300,000 airplane! I guess he has something against the American success story and if I lived in one of the estate class houses in NH, I'd think dimly of Jimmy slamming somebody's personal success. What is wrong with other people having money if they worked for it, Jimbo?

Besides which, I am also an FAA-licensed commercial pilot and when I fly with Mike in his airplane, I ask him where the other engine is and where do we put the JP-1 (jet fuel) in? I mean, $300,000 and it only has 1 piston engine? I think Mike might have overpaid a tad, and I'm wondering how much Jimmy knows about airplanes about now. I suspect he couldn't fly a .25 cent balsa-winged toy glider successfully. Mike has a good sense of humor about it and laughs.

I'll close this section out by telling of Jimmy's daddy walking over and sticking his face into mine. He used toilet-language, let's just leave it at that. And those sunglasses must be a family thing: He looked like a bug-eyed Martian wearing those as he stuck his face into mine. Like his boy, I thought he licked too many testosterone lollipops. He waddled away shortly after. Hey! Another candidate for those so badly-needed anger management classes. Enroll early, it looks like the list is filling up quick!

Miscione v. Tyksinski: This one brought satisfaction to many people. Paul beat Pat (I lost to Pat 4 years ago) and it was a good win with a good spread. I could tell you many stories, but I'll save them for the book I'm writing about NH politics (poly = many and tics, blood sucking parasites).

This post is too long already, so I'll close by saying how happy I personally was to nominate Paul Miscione at the Republican screening knowing there were too many Tyksinski loyalists on the committee to win at the committee level. Paul won the primary handily, and I am happy about that. I think New Hartford has a good chance at moving forward with him in the Captains seat.

About the Conservative Party: I have never had the outright endorsement of the Conservative Party and considering that I am one of the most conservative-philosophy based persons ever to hold public office, that is somewhat of a paradox. When I got into office in the late 1990s, the endorsement in New Hartford was pretty much controlled by one person ... who loathed me and the feelings were mutual. In the book I'm writing about local politics, I call him the Rufus Elefante of New Hartford. Anyway, they never even came close to endorsing me until the New Hartford Rufie up and died. Then they listened to me, but never came close to endorsement...until this race. When I screened with them, it was clear they had no love whatsoever for the current county executive. I made it clear I considered him a Republican in name only (a RINO) and was not his biggest fan either. They full well knew Mrs. Pratt was one of his most loyal allies but yet they chose not to solely endorse Mrs. Pratt or me. They threw us into a primary, and I lost that one too. But if I'm not to have the Republican line at election time, my biggest nightmare was losing the Republican primary but winning the Conservative line. Then I would have the lovely experience of being beat up twice at the polls this year. In this heavily-Republican district, it is clear that without that line you are not going to be elected in November. So while I really like some of the Conservative leadership around here, all I can say is you are now going to deal with a solid Picente Legislator in D-16 running on your party line... and you could have avoided it. Ah well, no big deal.

Whats on the horizon for Oneida County: While I do not lay claim to having an infallible crystal ball, I can predict some things with a fair degree of certainty:
  • We will continue to lose population even with a large refugee influx because of the current tax climate
  • The likelihood of the county portion of the sales tax rate ever dropping is non-existent
  • We are going to have a downtown hospital and parking garage shoved down our throats and we are going to pay for it in many ways besides being patients
  • The Picente-Halbritter alliance is going to push for the casino downtown
Last but not least, I suspect you will not see Mrs. Pratt speaking out against any of this. She will show up and vote the company line.

I want to close by thanking those that voted for me, worked for me and honored me by allowing the placement of my sign on their lawns. Yesterday I picked up over 100 of them and I'm sure there are still some out there somewhere that I will catch up with in the next week or so.

I had fun running, I enjoyed knowing how deep under Mrs. Pratt's and Jimmy Messa's skins I got ... and to answer the question of whether or not I am ever going to run for office again ...

We'll see.

Thanks, and I apologize for the length of this blog.

-Don

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Heading into Tuesday, Sept 12 - Primary Day

Let's begin to wrap this up: Oneida County has been losing businesses and as a consequence, population since the mid-1970s. People leave when the going gets too rough. Businesses leave when they're not profitable anymore. It's a vicious circle and the escalation of taxes over the last 4 decades is primarily responsible. According to google, Oneida County has lost about 43,000 people in the last 45 years and the number would be twice that without new refugees (and counting prison inmates!).

That's almost 3 people a day moving out of Oneida County for the last 4 decades. If 12 move in, 15 move out. If 1 moves in, 4 move out -EVERY DAY for over 40 years! This rate of loss cannot continue much longer.

As I've already emphasized, we're overtaxed and over regulated. I propose the following:


  • Immediate lowering of the sales tax rate (we are the highest upstate!) from 8.75% to 8.25% to match Herkimer County. I propose using the Oneida Indian Nation settlement money to do this.
  • Putting together a committee of retired professionals to look at where those who choose to leave are going and why. If we don't know why people are leaving, how can we begin to change things to stem the loss?
  • Reform our Industrial Development system. DUMP EDGE is the first step. In this I find myself agreeing with the County Executive - we need better. All EDGE seems good at doing is moving existing businesses around. This accomplishes nothing.
  • Implement term limits on the OC Board of Legislators so we do not end up with 25-year incumbents who have lost their zest and new ideas. The deadwood needs to be culled out and it looks like the only way that will happen is though legislation making it so.
  • Make the Oneida County Clerk follow the Open Meetings/Freedom of Information laws by forcing her to electronically transmit FOIL requests at no charge (as the law already says). Revenue is nice, but her "policy" violates state law and that needs to be addressed.
  • Visiting and rewriting the ethics policies so that elected officials cannot prey on county workers to advance their own political careers and elected legislators cannot feast at the table they set by vending to the county with the rules they create.
The definition of insanity is doing things the same way and expecting different results.

We need change. Somebody has to stand up. I promise you, just as I stood up and fought for you on the Town Board, I will stand up and fight for you on the Legislature. District 16 (Bridgewater, Paris and part of New Hartford) need a Legislator that will not knuckle under to the machine currently running things.

I am not the machine candidate. I am somebody that will work hard for you. The (appointed not elected) machine candidate has already voted repeatedly to take more money from you (Increased cell phone taxes and $44 million dollar downtown hospital parking garage) while failing to protect you (see my older post about the 195' communications tower).

Once more and then I'm done for a while: Primary day is Tuesday Sept 12 and the polls are open from noon until 9pm. If you are a District 16 Republican or Conservative, please come out and use the best method of expressing your political desires there is: Please vote.

Thank you.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Downtown Hospital, Chapter 2

I finally found one. I finally found a resident in District 16 that actually wants the hospital to be downtown. I confess, I was surprised but I guess I shouldn't be. Somebody has to want the hospital downtown and yesterday, as I was going door to door, for the first time somebody actually told me they want it there.

It was a nice early September day; my wife and I were out (again) knocking on doors and reminding people that primary day is 1 week from this coming Tuesday. I polished my introduction to the point of telling people that I was running and why. I learned to make sure to tell people I am opposed to the hospital being placed downtown and that message alone has been very well received. Until yesterday that is. I finally found somebody that favors it.

Unlike other candidates, I make it a point to visit houses with my opponents lawn sign on them if they can vote in the primary. (I'm seeing plenty of her signs on lawns that can't vote on primary day, by the way. Those I walk by.) After introducing myself, I ask the homeowner if they are for placing the new hospital downtown. Most are not and after I tell them my opponent favors it and has already voted to spend $26 million dollars to pay for the county's share of the ~ $44 million dollars it will take to build just the parking garage, their ears perk up and they listen intently. I leave them with my handout explaining my credentials and positions. I also tell them by voting to fund it, she has increased the county budget by almost a million dollars for the next 30 years. Do the math: $26 million divided by 30 years is $867 thousand a year for the principle only. Add in bonding costs and interest and voila! Your $394 million annual county budget is now $395 million! As a famous Senator once said, A million here, a million there, pretty soon you're talking real money.

But then I found out why he wants the hospital downtown. Yeppers, I was lucky enough to have him explain to me he has an interest in a certain nearby business that makes its living in the health care industry. For that business, I have to agree. Putting the hospital there would certainly be a boon to them financially. And I thanked him for being polite to me. He didn't slam the door in my face or be rude to me. He simply said the buildings there were "junk" buildings and I should look at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester as an example of what a downtown hospital can do.

So I did look at Strong Memorial. First, it is owned and operated by the University there; it is also a teaching hospital. Second, it has been there since 1926. Third, I see nothing online that tells me the area is booming because the hospital is there. (But I did find they participated in using human beings as guinea pigs in radioactive experiments without bothering to tell them in the 1940s. Nice touch.)

But for the rest of us living outside the city, it will not be financially good. Why should Oneida County taxpayers foot the bill for this folly? Why should Utica taxpayers pay twice in their taxbills for this?

And finally, why should such a large area of downtown be taken off the tax rolls displacing paying businesses when the St. Luke's campus already is off the tax rolls?

I'm hoping the people not in favor are going to come out and vote. Earlier, as I was going through another neighborhood I talked to a gentleman who agreed with me and promised me his vote on this issue alone.

And as my wife and I were walking back up the street on the other side, he leaned out his front door and yelled "My wife is voting for you too!"

I thanked him.

It is patently obvious: Darn few people outside the city do not want the new hospital placed downtown. So far, I've found one. And I've knocked on over 500 doors so far.

(Yawn) Constant reminder: Primary Day is just about a week away and if you live in District 16 (Bridgewater, Paris or the southern part of New Hartford) .. and are a registered Republican or Conservative, I respectfully ask for your vote on Tuesday, September 12.

Thank you.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

What are "real" ethics reform and term limits about?

One of the issues I'm running on concerns real ethics reform and term limits. I was asked recently what "real" ethics reform is and what are are my specific ideas about term limits. A comprehensive and to me, "real" ethics reform package would expand upon existing rules and add the following:

1: A term limit proposal enacted by law that limits elected officials of any party (or no party at all) to a certain maximum number of consecutive terms in office. I would propose three terms and stagger them 4 or 5 years apart so that the entire legislature of 23 members could not be elected out at once. Knowledge and history are important parts of holding office and losing 100% of that at once is not in the best interests of anybody.

But I am willing to compromise. I'd accept four terms ... or even five, if that is what it would take to get the conversation started and onto the floor for a vote.

But make no mistake about it: My opinion of officeholders in for 2 or more decades is not high. Usually they become entrenched and part of a machine that works harder to keep them in office than in coming up with solutions to problems.

Conclusion: Term limits are in the best interests of the voting public.

2: Political work performed by employees directly responsible to elected officials should certainly be addressed. While I fully understand this is America and people are free to do whatever they want in their spare time, this issue needs to be dealt with. Here's why:

The appointed officeholder in District 16 (the one I'm running in) filed signed political petitions carried by four employees of the Board of Legislators. The board clerk (Mr. Billard), the deputy clerk (Ms. DelPiano of Rome), the board secretary (Ms. Messa of Marcy) and the "data analyst" (Ms. Yozzo) all carried petitions filed by Mrs. Pratt to enable her name to appear for election on the ballot. Mrs. Pratt is going to have a say in this budget year whether or not they keep their job and if so, how much of an annual raise or promotion they are going to receive. This is a conflict, pure and simple and should be discouraged.

Under my proposal, Mr. Billard would be the only one not discouraged from carrying petitions for Mrs. Pratt this time because (a) he physically resides in the district and can vote for her and (b) he is also a member of the Republican Committee in New Hartford in the legislative district and as such is recognized as politically active there.

While I would not make it mandatory, I would add language to the employee handbook discouraging such work for a candidate you cannot lawfully vote for as being officially discouraged so as to preserve the integrity of the legislature when acting upon raises and promotions.

Conclusion: Ethics reform discouraging outside political activity for your bosses on the legislature should by passed. If you can't vote for the legislator in your district, then you should not try to win favors from them at pay-raise time either.

3: Vending to the county while you are sitting as a legislator should be prohibited by law. This is a touchy subject for a few on the legislative board. Some are landlords and collect rent subsidized by the county and others outright bid and sell to the county on contracts. Under my proposal, you would have to choose: Either be a legislator and take the salary (and not a dime more), or get off the legislature and compete via the set protocols already established. Your choice.

Sure, you may the low bidder. But you're using a system you helped set up and regulate to your advantage if you sit in office and vend at the same time. Using intimate knowledge of how the system works to get county contracts while in office is just wrong, pure and simple. Also, other bidders learn fast not to bother bidding because to them, it's a done deal already. This loophole needs to be closed forever. There are plenty of vendors out there not sitting in office looking to increase their bottom line. Open the doors to make it clean and fair and let competition decide who the lowest responsible bidder is.

Sure, General Municipal Law allows this conflict as long as you file a statement with the clerk stating it. But that only makes it legal, not moral.

One sitting legislator/vendor has, by my calculations (I may be wrong and if I am, I will issue a correction) taken well over a million dollars in contracts during his terms in office. I'm only calculating it off his GML filings, which I do not have a complete list of at this time.

Conclusion: Enacting a law prohibiting elected county officials from vending to the county is long overdue.

I'm not advocating repealing or replacing many of the existing ethics regulations already enacted; rather, I'm proposing expanding them.

Let's clean up some loose details here, folks. It's about time.

(Constant reminder): Primary day (Tues, Sept 12) is 2 weeks from today (Tues, August 29) and again I'm respectfully asking for your vote.

Thank you.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Put the proposed downtown hospital to a county referendum

It looks like this is going to be shoved down our throats right now. How can our local leaders turn such a deaf ear to the pulse of the community?

I'm not sure what Utica residents want, but it's pretty clear the suburban areas outside the city do not want to go downtown for medical services. But the city gulped and is willing to eat $680,000 each and every year for 30 years just to pay for the parking garage there. And this is in addition to the $26 million share picked up by the county. Lucky Uticans will get to pay for this twice: Once in their county tax bill and again in their city tax bill!

Parking garages have a notoriously short life, usually less than 40 years. Don't believe me? Take a look at the State Office building at 207 Genesee St. When it was built in the late 1960s, it had a multi-tiered parking garage attached to it. It came down less than 40 years later.... rather, it was taken down after it started falling down all by itself.

So if this is to be looked at as having to be there, it looks like when the bond is paid off, the garage will be due for replacement and you can bet the price will at least double by then.

The answer? Put the proposed downtown hospital and parking garage to a public referendum in the entire county ... since the entire county is going to have the good luck of paying it off, let's ask everybody first.

I'd put 10 to 1 it would not pass a public referendum.

Please take a close look at county government and how things are done there. My opponent has cast her ballot on the side of paying for the parking garage. $26 million dollars is your share.

And please remember this as you cast your ballot on primary day. It's September 12 and again, I am asking for your vote.

Thank you.

Paul Miscione, you deserve a round of applause

On primary day (last Sept. 12) two certainties were established: One, Mrs. Pratt was going to be the 16th-District County Legislator in 2018...