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

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

This is what you get with an inexperienced Legislator.

In a previous blog, I talked about the proposed 195' communications tower that Mrs. Pratt did not vote against. I titled it "Profiles in Cowardice." (Scroll backwards on my blog to read it.)

It's no longer proposed. It's there, and it did not pass site plan review from the town. They stuck it there anyway, and now I'm naming it the official Mary Pratt Memorial Tower. This is what you get with an inexperienced Legislator who didn't know better than to ask questions (can it be co-located, can it be lower, can it be placed somewhere well off the road, etc) or at least ask for a delay while nearby residents are informed and allowed to publicly comment on it.

The first picture is taken from the intersection of Higby and Sessions Road, and the second is taken directly across the street. Notice the tower is placed just off the road, perhaps 20' back.



During my last term on the town board, we enacted legislation to regulate wind powered turbines. We were very careful to regulate height, placement from the road and also added that there had to be a fall zone at least as big in diameter as the tower height. This was to ensure that no building, road or adjacent property could be damaged if Mother Nature decided to take the tower down suddenly.

This, of course was completely disregarded in the construction of this tower. The black you see at the bottom of picture #2 is Higby Road. What I'm not showing you is the house directly across the street about 100' back from the road. If this tower comes down in a storm, not only could somebody driving on Higby Road be killed, but anybody in the house could be killed also. This is planning at it's worst, and how did Mrs. Pratt cast her vote when it came to the floor?

She abstained, along with her co-legislator Jim D'Onofrio.

That is poor representation, pure and simple.

We can do better. Projects like these, if absolutely needed, can usually find an alternate site farther off the beaten path. At the very least, basic decency tells anybody with common sense that the residents should have been allowed to comment and make suggestions, not to mention the county completely disregarded Town of New Hartford law and built it there anyway.

You have a choice on Primary Day, September 12. I'm respectfully asking for your vote so mistakes like this doosy won't be repeated.

Thank you.

-Don

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 high...