Tuesday, October 25, 2011

State of the City

Well folks, there you have it. The last, and I mean final, State of the City address hosted by outgoing Mayor, David R. Roefaro.

What did the Mayor say? What is the state of the city? To be absolutely fair, I did not attend the address. I have heard reports about what was said, what initiatives were presented as successes of the Roefaro Administration. Let's take a look at a few of these.

The Mayor touted downtown development as one of the major achievements of his administration. And he is right. There is a lot of positive activity going on in Baggs's Sq. East and West, Genesee and Bleecker St. I should know. My three years as Commissioner of Urban and Economic Development was spent scrambling daily to identify initiatives, assemble funding and match developers to projects. Hey, someone did it. And it was my job, so I will take a little bit of the credit.  Really, it is not any one in City Hall who should be congratulated. It's the people who are taking a chance, the creative and dedicated Utica citizens who have taken a big gamble and invested in our city. I got to know many of them while working together on their individual projects. They did not choose to invest because of the Mayor or anyone in City Hall. They did it because they are entrepreneurs with belief that this can be a better city.

So, I guess the Mayor forgot  to mention me. Well, an oversight due to his busy schedule, I am sure.

The Mayor also took credit for the long stalled Harbor Point project. I will give him credit for being the best "schmoozer" we have had as mayor in a very long time here in Utica. He can slather on the charm, and it sure worked with people like the former Canal Corporation Commissioner Carmella Mantello.  It seemed former DEC head Pete Grannis was relieved that Roefaro was a lot easier to get along with than his predicessor! Add former Assembly representative Roann Destito to the mix, and you had an unbeatable trinity of Albany power that jumpstarted the entire process.

Ok, so we have a harbor. Or, the beginnings of one. As I recall, Roefaro used it in last years address. Hmm, I think he may have used it the year before as well! But, talking about it and taking repeated bows for it doesn't make it something that affects our lives and the city in a positive way. It hasn't provided any jobs and it sure doesn't generate any tax revenue. It's something thats going be great. Someday.

But for today, we have to be happy that, according to the Mayor, he and his loyal boyhood friend, Public Safety Commissioner Dan Labella, have made the city a much safer place to live. Never mind that the plummeting crime statistics presented are occuring throughout the country. It just so happens the United states is a much safer place today than it was 4 years ago. Hey, let the guys take the credit. Who's going to be the wiser?

I noticed that the Mayor made no mention of our precarious finanacial condition and the fact that he drained the last remaining water trust fund to balance his budgets. What he should have said was that the state of the city was "status quo." Over the last four years, no tough decisions were made to change the way we do business in city government. He kept on spending and spending and, according to inside sources, we may be facing a 5 million dollar defecit in the 2012 budget.

Roefaro didn't take a bow for that one.

Finally, Roefaro created a new department. Headed up by Paul Buckley as Commissioner, the new department of Film and Arts and Culture should do a lot to help turn this town around.

HUH? Is he kidding?

Let me say that Paul Buckley is a great guy. Extremely talented and dedicated to Utica, he  has always done his best to put together promotional videos that make our city shine.

The problem is, the city in Buck's films is not the real city of Utica. We are a city of great hope and potential, but one that is rife with seemingly insurmountable problems that vex the elected officials we elect and entrust to solve them. Creating this new department will not change the narrative. It will continue to camoflague the lack of ability and dysfunction that is the hallmark of the Roefaro administration.

So, out he goes. "We are all in this together." That was the rallying cry in 2008 when Roefaro swept into office with what seemed great potential to make substantial change to a broken system. In a few instances, timing and luck helped make it seem like those changes would happen.

Four years later, we know how the story ended.

Sadly. And with a whimper.

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