Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Ain't Nobody Got Time For That

It's the Christmas season, so let's take a look at who has been naughty and who has been nice in Upstate NY.

This year, I confess I was stupid. I decided to run against, as it turned out, a machine politician for the Oneida County Board of Legislators. With the help of the machine (a State Senator who turned out to be her $75,000 bagman and the County Executive who worked for her behind the scenes), she won. As I have always believed, people deserve whomever they elect. Let's take a look at Oneida County and see what the people are going to get in their gift bag (aka the tax bill that will arrive in your mail shortly before next year):

Your first present is the salary increase of 91% that the Board of Legislators gave themselves. Timing being important, they somehow managed to vote on it after the election. Gee, I wonder why. One of the best reforms that could ever happen would be moving election day to a week or two before taxes are due. $16,000 per annum (more for plum positions) for 12 official meetings a year is ludicrous. Knowing that there are people in the district I ran in that live at or near poverty wages (take a walk through Chadwicks; it's not 90210) that live (in some cases) at or below that $16k a year, I'm embarrassed to live here. As I learned after 12 years on New Hartford Town Board, there are quite a few people living one paycheck away from disaster. Every elected official should experience what it's like to live on a shoestring at some point in their life so as to know the impacts their decisions may have on those they govern. Sadly, when I ran I addressed this by promising  I would not vote for any increase larger than what the rank and file workers got. It's a pretty safe bet nobody else got 91%... and if I'm not mistaken, there are 2 unions at an impasse with county government and they have not had any pay increase for quite a while ... years, if what I'm told is true. But, ain't nobody got time for that.

Your second present is the big increase the County Executive wants, and most likely will get considering how the dog and pony show is run. He thinks he's worth a raise of 22%, which in real dollars is over $25,000. $114k to $140k? Ain't nobody got time for that, Mr. Picente. You're not doing a great job even though you think you are. (Humbleness is not your forte.) Looking at your (yes, YOUR) Marcy-Nano failure, your refusal to submit a budget that lowers the sales tax (I'll get to that in the next present), your blowing the OC budget up ~ $15 million in one budget year ... And other idiotic ideas, like touting how you're trying to get Amazon here .. As if we're in the running! FWIW, Amazon has been courted by better than us. Chicago has offered to let Amazon pocket $1.3 billion dollars in income taxes paid by it's employees to do whatever it wants to with the money. Chula Vista has discussed giving Amazon $100 million in free land along with a 30 year exemption on property taxes (worth $300 million). Boston is willing to get in bed with Amazon with a task force of city-paid employees. Fresno has pledged to set aside 85% of all taxes and fees generated by Amazon into a fund partly overseen by company executives. And you think Oneida County is in the running? What can you offer them that even begins to compare with these things? And the real question is, if we have to bribe companies by giving away everything, why would we even want them here? Employment is nice and all, but infrastructure load and support costs could easily put us in the red. But yet, we (the taxpayers) still pour money into your going-nowhere projects. Look how your AMS deal in the Marcy project went bad: A nice big, new building with a big lighted sign that proudly said 'AMS' was constructed ... and after it was built, they pulled out. What, you built the building and put the sign there with no inked commitment? No good faith money? Please correct me if I'm wrong because we're going to pay for these boneheaded ideas for decades to come regardless if what happens.

Your third present is the 8.75% sales tax (highest in Upstate NY) that could have been reduced by half a percent so easily in this budget. Watching a $15 million dollar increase in any one years budget tells me that the money was there to reduce the sales tax levy and the County Execcutive refused to do it. He chose to spend it. According to one legislators website, a quarter of a percent equals about $7 million dollars in revenue; this means $15 million is easily able to wipe out half a percent. Considering our immediate bordering counties can run their governments with a sales tax rate ranging from 7.75% to 8.25%, the question is obvious: Knowing we are over-taxed and over-regulated and it is the most identifiable cause of our population loss (10,000 people every 10 years since the mid-1970s), the question begs: What course of corrective action should government be taking to stem that loss? The answer is obvious, of course. But again ... Ain't nobody got time for that.

Your fourth present is the bill you are going to pay for a downtown hospital that is going to come in (after everything is totaled up) at about the billion-dollar mark. I can understand why the Utica Mayor wants it, but looking at it from outside, I ask myself why county leadership is pushing for it also. It is obvious most people in the county do not want to go into the inner city for healthcare. It is clearly unpopular considering that if we really, really need a new hospital, the existing St. Lukes Hospital complex can easily accommodate it. St. Luke's is already tax-exempt which would save the city from removing four or so city blocks of taxable property via the eminent domain process, there is already a separate power plant at St Luke's and traffic wise, it is more centrally located. But the county and the city are already moving ahead by approving the construction of a parking garage there ($45 million before change orders and cost upgrades) ... I really don't want to pay for this and most certainly I will go to Cooperstown, Syracuse or Albany before I will consider going to downtown's new hospital. And I'm not alone. This new hospital is going to be such an issue of contention that it will take a generation or two to get comfortable with. In the meanwhile, it will have to be paid for and we all know where that money is coming from. I feel sorry for Uticans who own property because they will get to pay for it twice: Once in their city taxes and again in their county tax. Why county leadership turns a deaf ear to vox populi is beyond me and I just add it to the raw stupidity of those who are better at running political campaigns than they are at governing. Lastly, a very smart person told me long ago not to put all of your eggs into one basket. Currently, we have three hospitals serving the region. If there is a major catastrophe and it impacts one of the hospitals to the point of closing, we still have two others to rely on. Do we really need a new hospital, and is it wise to have only one hospital in the area? If for any reason it is forced to close (use your imagination, bad things have happened to hospitals before) ... are we protected? Uticans, again your future is being mortgaged: They have eyes on the Police Station and Court Building, and if they get what they want, you are going to get to pay for a new multi-million dollar facility to replace these. The rumblings are already there; last week the newspaper ran an article about how the police station is old and has problems. You're being softened up, do you see it coming? Ain't nobody got time for that.

Your last present is that this area is going to continue to suffer and that is directly a result of the decisions of those you have elected over the last three or so decades. A look at the political personalities almost guarantees it. You have a County Executive who loathes our (same party) Congresswoman and has gone out of his way to throw every stone possible in her path, you have a State Senator who has hurt her in the past by helping redistrict her previous Assembly district into oblivion (how did that turn out, Joe), and you have both of them seemingly putting her almost-guaranteed opponent into the limelight lately. How these people will function together is a mystery to me. Meanwhile, about 1,000 people a year are voting with their feet and leaving for greener pastures. Some head to states with no income tax and (much) lower sales tax rates, some head to states with much lower property taxes and some just look at the bleak employment picture and head out. All of this is happening, btw, while thousands (estimated over 25,000 so far) of refugee immigrants are moved into the area. No, I'm not against this resettling. Filling the empty inner city housing and getting people here is a better solution than continued atrophy. We need better leadership. But, as somebody once said ... Ain't nobody got time for that.

Merry Christmas.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Now for National Politics: The Humor is the Profit

Last week I received an unexpected piece of mail. It was a request for a political donation from a US Senator from the Boston area. Yes, Ms. Elizabeth Warren has somehow decided that I am friendly to her views and that I might be inclined to donate money to her "grassroots" cause. Ms. Warren couldn't be more mistaken; I am not one of her supporters and if there ever was a lesson in grassroots politics, it came from the current 45th President who recently demonstrated how to get elected as a populist. Here is some of her propaganda:

Yeah, I couldn't help but laugh. Ooh scary! The GOP's heavy hitters are here and We'll win if we're united were real gut-busters, but the best one was Thank you for being a part of this. ... Which almost is as humorous as your claim that Breibart is taking aim at you and using some billionaire to do it. Why, the nerve! I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess it's not Bloomberg or Soros. To add insult to injury, you resort to the politics of fear in your message and of course, that's page two out of Saul Alinsky's handbook for anarchists. Or is it page three? And FWIW, Breibart is taking aim at all of the liberal left, not just you. But really, aren't you taking aim at each other every day?

No thanks, Elizabeth. You are one of the last people I will consider donating to in this upcoming political season. I'm thinking more that I'll contribute to the Conservative Republican representing the Congressional district I live in next year. So that you don't think I'm some sort of sexist white supremacist, my Representative is Claudia Tenney and she's much more in tune with how Upstate NY thinks than you are.

But thank you for sending out a mailing to somebody that doesn't think very highly of you or your politics. It is always good to see the opposition at work, and it's good to see you work so hard 'protecting Americans' as if your party is the only one interested in doing so. (They're not, FWIW.) The last time I mentioned you online, I used a term to describe you that upset some of my kin: I called you Fauxcahontas and they expressed displeasure. Personally, I can't think of any one word that describes you better and it comes from ... ah, let's say you got mixed up in the Brian Williams era and conflated the claim that you were part native American. I'd like to congratulate you for choosing Cherokee; it's the same tribe Bill Clinton used when he said one of his grandmothers was Cherokee. I can't find a popular male native name to put faux in front of that quite has the ring of your popular nickname, but we all know Bill Clinton and his wife as ... well, let's just say they are economical with the truth just as you seem to be.

There’s a running joke in Indian country: If you meet somebody who you wouldn’t necessarily think is Native, but they say they’re Native, chances are they’ll tell you they’re Cherokee.

Thank you for choosing the left fork of the road in claiming your false heritage. I read your two-page letter and I already know about the "fight." Problem is, Ms. F. Cahontas, the side in the fight you've been waging since Election Day 2016 (I love the Youtube videos showing you say Donald Trump will never be President)  is not the side I'm on. Frankly, I view you as an obstructionist.

And after researching your net worth online, it appears you are one of the 1% ! A $2.4 million dollar house in Cambridge and a DC Condo at 3/4 of a mil don't really put you in the trenches at a 9-5 job every day. Looking at net worth is always subjective, but yours seems to be quite a bit more than mine. I'm not sure how Harvard law professors who taught one class get to be worth ... $5 to $10 million, but it seems your luck got better since you were elected. Now tell us about giving you money again. All I can think of you at this point is as a mendicant begging for alms when in fact you've never been in the bread line in your life.

So please forgive me for not sending you money. It seems you have plenty already, and as I always say, put your money where your mouth is, Ms. Cahontas.

Your friend,

-Don

PS: I'm going to go out on a limb here and paraphrase you: You will never be President. God help us if you ever are.

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.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

An Uncomfortable Truth: Oneida County Statistics 101

How many times have you heard it lately?

We're overtaxed, over regulated and it is literally driving people out of Oneida County.

But don't just take my word for it. Please, take 10 minutes out of your busy life and click on this link. Look for the icons of Central NY counties below the video link. Kindly click on Oneida County and start reading.

https://www.reclaimnewyork.org/central-newyork-affordability/?mc_cid=e4ee9868c0&mc_eid=66c975ee1a

I'm going to cheat and give you some of the highlights:

  • Federal and State income taxes are about 1/4 of your earnings
  • Sales tax comes in at number three
  • Your total tax burden (TTB) is between 30% and 50% of your annual income
  • There are over 200 different types of taxes in NYS
  • From 2010 to 2016, Oneida County lost about 3800 people (almost 2 a day, every day)
If you have another 10 minutes to waste, do yourself a favor and click on any other county that borders Oneida County. While their income may be less, you will note they are keeping more of it at the end of the year ... and you will also note, they are not losing population like Oneida County is.

This study probably has some flaws in it. Some of the numbers may be skewed high but conversely, some of the numbers may be skewed low. I think they are trying to establish some sort of average.

Notice how much of your income really isn't disposable. Disposable income is that extra money left over after paying for necessities and in Central NY, especially Oneida County, too many people are struggling to make ends meet. Without disposable income, the quality of life really suffers. The ability to take a vacation, save for retirement and simply enjoy some of the superfluities of life are severely restricted.

The Oneida County Legislature is not going to do anything about your state and federal taxes; those are simply beyond their reach. However, they can do something about the next largest slice of tax you will pay, and that is by lowering the sales tax rate.

Our neighboring counties have sales tax rates ranging from 7.75% (Lewis County) to 8.25% (Herkimer County). Oneida County rings the bell and wins the cigar at 8.75% ... to really compete, we need to be on par with our neighbors or we will continue losing good and talented people. We have lost almost 43,000 people since 1972 (45 years ago). This cannot continue. If it does, the exodus rate will only go up as less people are still here paying more to make up for the loss.

I explained in a previous blog how applying the Oneida Indian Nation annual payments can easily be applied to taking at least 1/2% off the sales tax rate. It can be done. The only real question is, are there enough Legislators willing to do it?

My opponent is not showing any leadership on this issue. I promise you I will when I get there.

Nag reminder time: Please vote on Primary Day, September 12 if you are a resident of District 16 and are a registered Republican or Conservative. I respectfully ask for your vote.

Let's make Oneida County great again.

Monday, August 21, 2017

It's Debatable

When I was on the Keeler Show (WIBX 950AM) 2 or so weeks ago, Bill asked me if I would be willing to debate my opponent. I answered yes and thought he was going to set it up ... or at least extend an invitation to Mrs. Pratt seeing if she'd be interested in an on-air debate.

In the meanwhile, another group broached the debate issue by trying to set one up with all the primary candidates in New Hartford having an opportunity to participate. Unfortunately, it fell through. It is not going to happen.

So again I brought up the issue of a debate before the primary (Sept 12) for District 16. A letter has been mailed to my opponent inviting her to debate me and Keeler has been informed that a real attempt to set this up is underway.

I'd really like D-16 voters to hear both of us and decide for themselves who they'd like to represent them. I'm hoping a real debate will happen ... and I'll be sure to update this blog with details as they become known to me.

If it doesn't happen, it won't be because I refused to take part in it. Logistics being what they are with the clock running out, I'm not going to blame my opponent if it doesn't happen either. (Unless she flat out refuses to debate, then I'll take a different view).

I'll keep you posted.

In any event, if you are a D-16 Republican or Conservative, please vote on Primary Day, Sept 12. I respectfully ask for your vote.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Here's how to lower the Oneida County sales tax 1/2 percent quickly

By now, it should be clear that I am a reform-minded candidate. Lowering the 8.75% sales tax which again and again I hammer home is the highest in NY State outside NYC is one of my main goals. To be competitive with our neighboring counties, I see it as a need, not a luxury.

I've been asked to specifically answer how to accomplish it.

It's simple: Take the $15+ million dollars a year from the Oneida Nation settlement and instead of giving it to the county executive to distribute as his personal slush fund (aka pork at election time), put it towards lowering the sales tax. If 1/4 percent in sales tax equals 7 million dollars, then 1/2 a percent is 14 million dollars. That leaves over 1 million dollars in surplus on that budget line alone.

Where, pray God, did I get these numbers? (1/4% = $7 million in revenue and $15+ million from OIN annual payments)?

Why, our District 15 representative has kindly posted these on his personal web page. Visit jimdonofrio.com and read his posts for yourself. Thanks for posting that information, Jim. It is helpful.

I see he has changed his words on the sales tax issue. He dropped the word 'eventual' and I have a glimmer of hope he is somewhat serious about lowering the sales tax because if the voters honor me, I will be looking for partners on both sides of the aisle to accomplish sales tax reduction. I don't care who they are as long as they are serious about lowering the sales tax levy.

Lowering the sales tax 1/2 percent will put us on par with Herkimer County's sales tax rate and this would be a monumental improvement.

And not eventually, either. How about ... as they say in software programming, real soon now?

Primary Day is Tuesday, September 12. Polls are open from noon to 9pm. If you are a District 16 Republican or Conservative voter, again I respectfully ask for your vote. Let's make Oneida County great again.

Thank you.

-Don

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dumb and Dumber

It's August 15 and the election rhetoric is heating up. The headline article in the Observer-Dispatch this morning was about the proposed U-district and the contention that exists between County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. and Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri.

The county executive wants to move the entertainment district idea forward. He has proposed buying the land behind the Auditorium for about $231,000. This number, by the way, is less than half of what the previous developer (Purcell) offered for it ($490k). If the Marcy nano idea hadn't fallen flat on its face, the developer planned to build housing units there and saw it as an opportunity to cash in on the Marcy Tech site. He pulled out when Marcy went from making electronic chips (The AMS exit debacle)  to packaging them. This is like being the bag boy at the grocery market checkout instead of being the grocer even though you built a nice grocery store. FYI, there is a lot of empty space there and yet county government continues to buy land and put infrastructure there even though it's clear Andrew Cuomo is steering the chip fab companies closer to the Capital district. So Tony Picente's failure in Marcy is also Utica's failure to have Purcell build housing behind the Aud ... and Tony wants to buy it for less than half of what Utica had in the hand with the housing offer. That one gets the 2017 Irony of the Year award.

It's surreal. It's kind of like watching the movie 'Field of Dreams' where they build a baseball field for non-existent baseball players. Oneida County is building big empty buildings in Marcy hoping somebody will, sooner or later, show up to use them. In Jim D'Onofrio's (he represents District 15) 2103 on-line resume he attaches the figure of $125 million dollars to Marcy. $125 million ... !

After Marcy sits empty for years, somebody will come along and offer a nickel on the dollar for rent to use as warehouse space (or similar) and the county will be forced to take it because it will probably be the only game in town at that moment. Oh, don't listen to all the hot air coming out of EDGE or Mr. DiMeo either. Tony Picente is so confident in him he wanted to hire another economic development person ... read between the lines here, folks. All is not well.

I'm reserving judgment on the U-District at the moment. But regardless of my conclusions after gathering all the facts, I'm not in favor of a downtown casino. I'm not in favor of a downtown hospital or a hospital garage either.

The Mayor is between a rock and hard place. He opposes the casino idea but would like to see the U-District built in North Utica, near the canal and thruway. He'd like the hospital but can't afford a half-million dollars a year to pay for the parking garage. And Tony calls him a burr impeding progress.

Well, Mr. Picente, add my name to Rob Palmeiri's as a burr. I don't want a downtown hospital and I darn sure don't want the county to bond for $45 million dollars or so to put a parking garage there. While I was gathering signatures to get on the ballot I stopped at hundreds of houses. In talking with District-16 voters, not one of them expressed a desire for it. 100% were opposed. My opponent just came out of a meeting where the deal was county 60% and city 40% ... So you get an idea of how her finger is on the pulse of District 16.

If this downtown hospital comes to fruition, it is going to quickly turn into the biggest urgent care facility in 2 miles. That's about it. If you haven't noticed, many people in the area are already going to Upstate Medical in Syracuse, Albany Medical Center, Bassett in Cooperstown and (for joint surgery) Hamilton Hospital. Placing this hospital here will make the number of people already leaving the area for tough medical problems exponentially larger.

My opponent is Mr. Picente's hand-picked appointment. She is not going to buck him on this ... or much of anything, for that matter. She has political debt and Tony can count on her vote. He's working to get her elected because he knows I will be objective and independent when it comes to legislation. If it's good for the people of the county, I'll be there to support it.

But if it's some of the goofy ideas like putting a hospital/garage complex downtown, or putting a casino behind the Aud next to a drug-rehab facility, then count me out.

I wouldn't vote for it with a gun put to my head.

Hey, here's an idea. Instead of keeping the highest sales tax rate in Upstate NY, why don't we put a lid on ideas like these and spend the difference on a lower sales tax rate?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: We're overtaxed and over-regulated and until we get in line with our neighboring counties, people and business are not going to locate here. The population loss will continue.

Did you notice where Tractor Supply Company chose to put their distribution center? Herkimer County!

We should do better. We can do better. You have a choice on primary day in District 16. You can vote for a voice that is not afraid to tell the Emperor he has no clothes ... or you can vote to keep machine politics doing dumb things.

I respectfully ask for your vote on Tuesday, September 12. Thank you.

-Don

Friday, August 11, 2017

Storm Water Excuses

On Tuesday, August 8, a meeting was held at the Willowvale Firehouse in Chadwicks. Here are some random photos I took at that meeting, which I confess produced nothing but hot air.






Well, now we know we have a plan. We're going to index all the problem areas and have somebody maintain them. Didn't we have a plan 6 years ago? 10 years ago? 20 years ago?

Make a list? Highway Superintendent Rick Sherman already listed off the problem areas. You don't need somebody to type a list into a spreadsheet, Mr. Supervisor. You need to replace the 4 people that retired from the Highway Department so as to give Rick Sherman back the manpower he has lost.

How do you expect him to not only do the normal and regular work (clean ditches, pick up green waste, run the transfer stations, do the sewer inspections and work, pick up leaves in the Fall, etc) when you've robbed him of substantial manpower?

I thought of editing in thought bubbles above each of these photographs, but opted not to. I'll just let them speak for themselves. I will comment, however, that I thought the County Executive staring at me was his version of the Vulcan mind meld. Too bad it didn't work.

I respectfully ask for your vote on Tuesday, September 12 in the Republican and Conservative primary races.

Thank you.

-Don

Lawn signs and some humor

I hate political lawn signs, but I recognize them as a necessary tool in the election process. And so it is I succumb and put them during the political season.

Sometimes they disappear. Sometimes, they reappear just when I think somebody copped one I put up. I've learned to keep a laissez-faire attitude about them whether they are mine or my opponents sign. I'm just glad that there are enough nice people out there that will put up with them because they actually are a pain to the homeowners who have to move them to mow the lawn. For this, I apologize. But when I do put up a sign, I keep a list of where they are so I can go take them down after the election. Nobody but nobody likes to see political signs up after the election.

Let me tell you about the gaffe I made recently putting up one of my signs. While I was out collecting signatures in the petition drive to get on the ballot, one person in an area I was not really intimately familiar with volunteered his lawn for a sign. Thanking him profusely, I wrote his name and address down on my sign location sheet. I told him I'd be back in August with a sign.

I kept my word. On August 1st, I started putting up signs and visited his road. Somehow, when I wrote down the house number, I forgot to close the loop on a '9' and read it as '7' ...  and I plunked down a sign at the wrong address. A day or 2 later, somebody told me my sign was in the ditch. I revisited the house and sure enough, it was down. The homeowner was in the driveway and told me he didn't like signs on his lawn. I pulled out my sheet to verify it was at the right address and asked him if he was Mr. So and So, and he said no. It was about then I realized I screwed up and took a closer look at my sheet. Realizing my mistake, I apologized profusely and he graciously accepted my apology. I told him I too would be offended if somebody came out of the blue and plunked a sign on my lawn. Luckily, he had a sense of humor about it and let me off easy. I drove to the right address and planted the sign.

Lesson learned: Make sure to put the sign at the right address. Otherwise, it can get embarrassing.

Signs serve 2 purposes: 1, they get your name out and 2, somebody in the neighborhood is telling passersby that they are supporting candidate so and so. I like to get my signs on the lawns of people that can actually vote for me because if they put up a sign for me, they are likely to vote for me. The signs that are placed in no-mans land serve to publicize your name, but nobody at that address will be voting for you. If I absolutely can't get my sign into an area I want, then I will settle for a second best. But I very much prefer to put it on a lawn with real people who vote; that's where I feel it will work better.

So when I see 3 places in a row where my opponents signs have cropped up, and look to see who the voters are at those addresses ... and discover there is only 1 voter, I know the signs could be used more effectively. That, to me is a waste.

And sometimes, you see political signs placed in front of a business. Businesses don't vote, people do. So when you see a sign in front of a business, it's there for name recognition. Also, there is a downside to putting your lawn sign in front of a business: Smart business owners know enough not to advertise their political views because it might cost them money when somebody who supports the other candidate suddenly stops patronizing them.

And then there are places that, as a candidate, I absolutely do not want to see my sign in front of. Here's an example of my opponents sign placed well outside her district ... in front of a business that I would not want to tell the world I regularly patronize:



Bottom line is, both of us are putting up plenty of signs. A wise old person once reminded me that signs don't vote, people vote. And that's what I'm counting on in this race for the Legislative seat.

Please get out and vote on Primary Day, Sept 12. Your vote might be the one that changes things. I respectfully ask for your vote.

Thank you.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The land of oxygen deprivation is the 10th floor of the County Office Building

The Oneida County Board of Legislators met in their regularly scheduled meeting today. As reported in the Utica Observer-Dispatch, they met in executive session and came out with a decision that they will pay 60% of the proposed cost of the parking garage (currently 43.5 million and climbing). First, decisions to spend taxpayers money are, by law done in open session, not executive session. Second, the City of Utica is in no position to pay the remaining 40% of the cost. The Mayor has been very clear on this.

And third, darn few people even want a hospital built downtown.

But the County Executive is pushing this idea and he is getting support from his Republican legislators.One of these legislators is Mrs. Pratt, who I am running against.Of course, bucking the County Executive and Board Chairman do not make you popular on the 10th floor ... so don't look for Mrs. Pratt to be a maverick on this issue. It won't happen.

Another of my campaign planks is open government and compliance with the open meeting law. Wouldn't it nice if you could read the minutes of the Legislature online like almost very town and village in the area does already? Wouldn't it be nice if you could see how your legislator voted on issues? The clerk records the minutes, now let the public read them.

Let me make my position very clear: I will not vote to spend one nickel for any cost associated with putting a new hospital downtown, regardless of how the money is designated to be spent there.

No Hospital downtown. No hospital parking garage downtown. No Casino downtown.

Period.

If you agree and reside in District 16 (Bridgewater, Paris and the southern part of New Hartford), please vote for me on September 12 in the Republican and Conservative primaries if you are an enrolled voter in either party.

Thank you.

-Don

Here is my ad from the August issue of the NH Town Crier


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Mechanics of Political Pork: Timing, Location, Media

It's August 8, a little more than 1 month away from Primary Day (September 12 this year). I'd like to shed some sunshine on the $75,000 state grant that State Senator Joe Griffo bestowed in the Town of Paris this morning. The town supervisor, Mr. Christian and 2 of the board members were present along with Mrs. Pratt, your currently appointed but not elected County Legislator. Mr. Christian and I had a nice chat and I think he is really working to better things in the township. I'll add that no Supervisor is able to accomplish anything without working Council members, something I think he'd agree with.

Mrs. Pratt is running to be elected for the first time, and of course the timing, location and media presence are all part of a carefully-constructed scene set to give her what is known in the business as earned media, which is a euphemism for free press coverage. The rumor has been going around for at least 2 months now about the grant, which is to be used for pool repairs at the town park. Getting money in the form of a grant is always a good thing and I'm glad that it ended up at the Sauquoit pool. The public presentation and timing are, however, part of a carefully staged opera designed to inform the public of how deserving your elected officials are of your vote because they're bringing home the bacon, so to speak. But there is another side to it, especially when it's designed to give somebody with no real name recognition media exposure.

In the vernacular, it's called buying your votes with your own tax dollars.

Hey, again I'm glad the money is coming to the town for pool repairs and I'm glad it won't fall on town property owners in their tax bill. However, the real reason it was timed and staged today was not for the good of the town; rather, the good of those presenting the money. Let's talk about Joe Griffo first.

I like Joe, but sometimes he's a little too much of a political animal for me. Arriving with one of his aides/photographer (Rocco LaDuca, former Utica O-D reporter), he had his press releases ready along with his usual spiel about how wonderful Sauquoit is and how he is glad to help keep the quality of life good for the residents. While Rocco took pictures of him speaking, he ventured into left field with how without Mrs. Pratt asking him for the money, why, he wouldn't have known about it at all. Continuing to lay more accolades on her, he went on praising just about everything and everybody in the town... well, except me. Nothing was mentioned about the upcoming election (and at a media splash like this, it never will be mentioned, just implied) ... the message is clear because the stage was carefully set: Again, the timing, the location and of course the media presence.

In politics, no good deed goes without ... making sure the media gets the word out.

The town board was, of course happy to take the money, as would I be if I were in their shoes. But even one of the town board Councilmen who completely is in the bag for Mrs. Pratt seized the opportunity to praise her, almost as if she were pulling out her own personal checkbook and writing the check right then and there. But if you read the minutes of the Town Board this year, you find these pearls of wisdom:

At the Feb. 8, 2017 Town of Paris meeting:

Supervisor Christian welcomed all guests and extended the privilege of the floor, of those present was newly appointed County Legislator Mary Pratt to introduce herself and answer any questions.

Supervisor Christian spoke about the following topics:

 Pool repairs or abandonment to come to a vote before spending a significant amount of money. 


Fast forward to the  April 12, 2017 Town of Paris meeting:

“Town Board spoke about sending out a newsletter with information on pool repairs.  Supervisor Christian stated that County Legislator Mary Pratt never returned his phone call or email about pool repair funding.”

Oh Sweet Jesus. She never even bothered to return the Supervisor's phone call?


May 17, 2017 Town of Paris board meeting

Supervisor Christian spoke about County Legislator Mary Pratt helping to obtain funds for pool repairs.

...But let's save telling the public about it until ... Oh, August ought to be good enough.

There's another story about how Mrs. Pratt wrangled the endorsement in the Town of Paris, but I'm saving that one for personal conversations. Let's just say she didn't initially get it and a $75,000 grant might be the reason that changed. Maybe. (Ask me and I'll be glad to tell you.)

Mrs. Pratt, of course is not stupid and used the opportunity to put herself on the evening news for free. And she is learning ... She did convince the county executive to give $1000 to the Town of Bridgewater for playground equipment. The only mistake she made there was promising the money before the Republican Committee in Bridgewater met and unanimously endorsed me. All the other committees were split; there was no unanimity in New Hartford or Paris Republican Committee votes. And neither one of us garnered the Conservative endorsement either; we are in a Primary for that party line also.

But as I mentioned to the quite hard working and intelligent Supervisor in Bridgewater (Dale DeKing), I'd be a little miffed if I only got $1000 and Paris got $75000. And so far, New Hartford has not gotten a nickel. But the grapevine is rumbling pretty strong lately ...

Or wait! Tonight there is a meeting at the Willowvale Firehouse in Chadwicks about stormwater projects. Maybe there's more pre-election day pork coming. If so, I'll edit this post and add details about it tomorrow morning. For the resident's sake, I hope more money is coming in grant aid form.

Anyway, Here are a few pictures of the town park, pool and the media show this morning. And I did manage to chat with Joe Griffo as he walked out. I casually told him the pail of water he was carrying was getting rather full, which is another euphemism for doing political work aimed to help somebody else. His reply? It always is, Don. How can you not like Joe Griffo? It's hard, because I do like him. I just wish he'd not lower himself to be used like this in such a blatant political manner.




I'll update this if the meeting in Willowvale produces any real results tonight, and as always:

8/8 Update after the Willowvale meeting: There was plenty of political hot air, but no announcement of more pork money. Maybe closer to election day, if I were to guess. I urge everybody to watch the video at newhartfordonline and decide for yourself.

Please remember to vote on Tuesday, September 12 if you are a District-16 Republican or Conservative. Primaries are traditionally very low voter turnout, so if you want change please consider me. Thank you.

-Don


Monday, August 7, 2017

FYI, here is the actual Bill Keeler interview



Please, take a few minutes and view this, thanks.

-Don

Oh yeah: Please vote on Primary Day, September 12. And as always, I respectfully ask for your vote.

Friday, August 4, 2017

8-4-2017: The Keeler Show, WIBX 950AM

This morning I had the pleasure of being on the Bill Keeler Show - WIBX, 950 AM. It was a quick few minutes and Bill asked me some pointed questions: Why am I running, what do I hope to accomplish, and similar. I pointed out we are overtaxed and over-regulated, our sales tax is the highest in Upstate NY and that we are losing population (our best and brightest) on the average of 1000 people a year since the early 1970s. I added that the population loss would be much higher if we didn't have the influx of refugees and also that we now count the prison population in the census, which is roughly ~5000 people alone in the 2 Marcy prisons.

Half way or so through the interview, Bill got an email from somebody at the County Executive's office saying I was wrong and that we enjoy low property tax rates. First, I was stunned that somebody from the CE Office would be listening and respond, and second that they would respond by trying to sell the listeners that we have low taxes. What kind of Kool-Aid have they been drinking lately?

The fact that somebody from the CE's office is listening and responded raises a question all by itself: Are we, Oneida County taxpayers, paying the salary of a person paid to listen to talk radio and defend the 10th floor?

Are we paying for a PR person to defend the County Executive and his Legislators? Is this the "data analyst" that serves the Board of Legislators?  Please, come forward and identify yourself. I put my name to all of what I say and do, now it's your turn. Let's put some sunshine on what's going on in county government.

In closing, I'd like to thank Bill Keeler for having me on and I'm sure he will afford Mrs. Pratt the same opportunity. And yes, since you asked, Bill, as I answered: I will be glad to debate Mrs. Pratt at any time and any place with advance notice, of course. Your show is probably the best forum and again, I thank you.

I would be remiss if I didn't close by asking for your vote if you are a Republican or Conservative on Primary Day, September 12. It's only a little over 1 month away.

Thank you.

-Don

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Business as usual: Let's talk about our pay raises ....after election day

Pay raises for elected officials has always been a touchy subject. During my 12 years on the town board, I refused to vote for a raise for myself, and I was successful in convincing the other Councilmen to agree with me. To me, it was an honor to be allowed to serve on the board; I wasn't there for the money. The small salary was a way of compensating for gas and mileage and other small outlays when driving in and around the town to gather information in the decision making process. (Since I've left, the board thinks differently and gives themselves an annual pay increase. Whatever.)

But the elected leadership of Oneida County thinks differently.

In his annual budget proposal last November, County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. included a slew of raises for elected leaders. He was not ashamed to ask for an over $20,000 increase in his salary, about 18.4% when calculated. This would have taken his $114,869 salary to $135,000, not including perks like expenses and getting a white Cadillac Escalade to drive complete with a county gas card to keep it filled up. To be honest, I don't know if he still has the Escalade; maybe he's driving another county car now. But he drove the Caddy and you, John Q. Public paid for it.

To make it sale-able to the Board of Legislators, he proposed they get an increase also. Everything looked like it was going to pass until one Marcy Legislator balked. Apparently, the deal was that everybody was supposed to vote for it. Mr. Flisnik threw a wrench in the works and the idea was withdrawn ... for the moment, anyway.

But make no mistake about it; like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator movies, this will be back... with a vengeance.

To add insult to injury, the chairman of the board apologized not to the public, but to the Legislators themselves, telling them "they deserved it."

Maybe he's right, maybe they did deserve a pay raise. Or maybe not. But in any event, raises for elected officials should never be more than any rank and file employee is given (usually 1 to 2 percent). If 1 or 2 percent is good enough for the workers, then it's good enough for their bosses also.

Also, there is at least one Union that has not had a settled contract for quite a while now. The Corrections Officers have been working without a contract (and I hear the Road Patrol might also be in the same boat); these need to be settled. Until they have a new contract, they don't get a pay raise. For the Board to even consider pay raises for themselves while these work units get none is just wrong. Further, it's a slap in their face, not to mention hurting their retirement income.

One of the planks of my campaign is that raises for elected officials should never be more percentage-wise than what the rank and file workers get. Personally, I'm comfortable with no pay raises for officials and think of the salary in the same way I did as Councilman: Use it to drive through your district while working on solutions to problems.

I'm just wondering how many Oneida County taxpayers got an 18.4% (or better) raise in their salary last year. Please, if you did, let me know so I can congratulate you on your work credentials. I'm guessing nobody rang that bell, but again, if you are in private industry and did it, then you have my sincerest applause.

Until the sales tax rate is dropped from it's obscene 8.75% to match at least one of our neighboring counties tax rate, I'm opposed to any salary increase for elected officials.

Or maybe let's take it a step further: Let's start lowering Legislators salary until this goal is met. That ought to provide some motivation to work on it. If we don't, we're going to continue to bleed. Our best and youngest talents are not going to stay here. Many retirees will continue to flee, and they will take their lifetime of accumulated wealth with them.

If you don't elect new representation that recognizes the problem, then nothing will change. We will continue our 40+ year population loss (~1000 people a year) and those of us left will be faced with higher and higher taxes. This exodus has to stop. To stop it, we have to abandon the idea of borrowing and spending hundreds of millions of dollars for empty buildings in Marcy, box-suites in the Auditorium and a downtown hospital (that nobody wants) with a parking garage that will never realize a return on investment for the people that paid for it.... and pass a budget that contains real tax breaks.

I'm respectfully asking for your vote on Primary Day, September 12. Let's make Oneida County great again.

-Don

Ain't Nobody Got Time For That

It's the Christmas season, so let's take a look at who has been naughty and who has been nice in Upstate NY. This year, I confess ...