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.
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For the cruciverbalists in the #nohospitaldowntown group: