Proposing a Grand Bargain

11 August 2017

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente, Jr.

Oneida County Office Building

800 Park Avenue

Utica, NY  13501

 

Mayor Robert M. Palmieri

Office of the Utica Mayor

1 Kennedy Plaza

Utica, NY 13502

 

Dear Mr. County Executive and Mr. Mayor:

As a candidate for the County Board of Legislators in the 22nd District, I have been listening to both of you talk about the Downtown Hospital Location and the Parking Garage for some time now.  I can tell you when I go door to door the message from my potential constituents is clear.  They went to see both happen.  So do I.  Therefore, I thought it important to point out how many areas of agreement you share.  It is also important to discuss how close you are on the other issues that if solved, would lead to a successful conclusion.

 

It is in this moment that I wish both of you could see Oneida County through my eyes and the eyes of those who visit here for the first time.  I play tour guide for many first time visitors and they always comment positively on the inherent beauty of where we live.  They marvel at the food and are amazed by the art that is produced here.  When we think about the Utica and the Oneida County of the future, we should focus on these things instead of some of the negative elements of the past or current stumbling blocks we have not solved yet.

 

I must tell you before I propose this grand bargain based on the positions the two of you already hold that I hope my words are meaningless.  It is my hope that last night or this morning or while I am writing this that the two of you have already come to a conclusion on how to move forward.  However, if that is not the case, then I think this letter can serve as an instrument to renew your discussion.

 

There are certain elephants in the room that I will discuss openly because so often in political discourse, especially where both of you practice the passive aggressive Compare Politics Model that may be uncomfortable for some people to read.  I apologize for that in advance.

 

Mr. County Executive, when the Mayor speaks to cost issues and affordability, he is not kidding.  The math says that Utica cannot sustain payments on the garage, the Paving Plan, more on this in a moment, and the Capital Plan, not to mention contract raises soon to be on the radar, without some help.  Mr. Mayor, while cost is an issue, you should applaud the County Executive for the attention he is directing at our great city.  Yes, down the road, we will ask for changes to the sales tax which is too high.  Yes, down the road, we will ask for Villages to stop engaging in the multiple duplication of services.  There are too many Education and Police Departments in our County.  However, before we ask for that, we have to get our own act together.

 

Therefore, the first step to a new hospital is actually handling the Opioid Crisis correctly.  In order for Utica to afford its share in the Parking Garage, we must max out revenue.  We cannot do that without maxxing out tourism.  We cannot maximize our tourism revenue until we reduce the sexism in our community, why Mr. Mayor you need to lead on a omen’s issue as well, and acknowledge how the Opioid Crisis has affected us.  Mr. County Executive, when the Mayor does this, you have to help him by shelving the useless 2-1-1- system we rely on in our County to help addicts.  A system of Navigators should be a place.  Recently, I attended a meeting where we discussed those issues.  You can read about that here:

https://friendsofbobbyo.wordpress.com/2017/08/09/mvhs-engages-in-positive-change/

 

The second place where our Mayor needs help is with the Paving Plan we passed recently.  I have to admit to something uncomfortable here.   I voted against the Paving Plan.  Joe Marino and Chief Russell Brooks are friends so I did not want to say anything.  As blogger/hit man guy, I could get away with that.  Now that I am a candidate, I have to discuss the delicate.  The Plan is so poorly written that it does not account for inflation.  Within 5 years, it too will become unsustainable.  If we want the Parking Garage and the Hospital that follows, we have to jump in and re-write the Paving Plan so it delivers the Services the People have asked for while not hamstringing the Mayor in the process.  The people have been sold a broken toy and we need to take it back to the workshop.

 

After we finish that task, we have to, together as a community, make the affirmative case for the hospital.  No one has done this yet.  We have to talk about why walls are better devices against infection instead of curtains.  We should be open to using graphic description to describe how many patients have died will changing floors in order to get an operation.  We should make it clear that modern surgery involves robotics.  Due to the state of our current hospitals, modern robotic techniques are not possible in Utica.  Again, going door to door, I can tell you the public hungers for this information.

 

Imagine the Radisson or some other Conference Center filled with Utican families.  They are listening about the positive changes the new hospital will make and being given a chance to get energized.  At the end, they are asked to do a little something to move the project forward I will talk about in a bit.

 

As part of those Seminars, the public needs to be made aware of way the St. Luke’s Campus is not only not appropriate for a hospital, but almost impossible.  The No Hospital side has relied on this canard long enough.  We should call it out.  The $1.3 million per bed price tag is too high.  The logistical concerns would become a deadly soup of intransigence.  Most importantly, based on the need for Urban Renewal connected to the financing, the Senate Finance Committee will not approve money for the St. Luke’s site.

 

That gets us to the Parking Garage.  Based on the events of the last few days, the Common Council should meet again with the County Legislature after proper public notification.  Since that meeting was work product as part of a negotiation, it would have been covered by Executive Session.  Therefore, at the new meeting, the Common Council should immediately enter Executive Session, at which point the public has to leave, and Mr. DiMeo should re-present his information.  That should cover any possible remedy under Article 78.

 

There was a similar situation in Newport, RI about a decade ago and this solution made everyone happy.  When you get right down to it, outside of the leaking of information by Mr. Galime, the only thing the public was deprived of, since the entire meeting should have been conducted in Executive Session, was the privilege of being asked to leave the room.  Attendees at Harbor Point Local Development Corporation meetings get this opportunity all the time.

 

In the meantime, I am filing a Public Integrity Bureau complaint against Common Council President Mike Galime.  If the meeting was illegal, as he originally stated, he should not have sat through it.  It is also clear that he leaked information that should have been discussed under Executive Session to the NoHospital Downtown effort.  Other citizens were not given access to the same information.  It is clear that he engaged in act of self-sabotage.  On a personal note, I also find it hilarious that a devotee of Donald Trump and Claudia Tenney like Jim Brock would complain about a lack of transparency.  His efforts against the hospital have reeked of racism since the beginning.

 

As to the Parking Garage itself, the bonding should be 50/50.  The County should own the garage and lease it to the city for 30 years.  The city will maintain the garage and staff it during that period.  Garage revenue will pay for the city’s portion of the bond.  If there are overages, 20% should go to paving, %20 to the Utica School District, and 60% to the general fund.  At the end of 30 years, the lease ends and maintenance, as well as staffing responsibilities, along with revenues revert back to the County.

 

Not only will hospital employees be able to park at the garage, but they should get one other benefit.  In 2017, thanks to advances in computer science and smart phones, we can get creative with revenue collection.  Every Hospital employee should have access to a “Loyalty Rewards card”, like my Price Chopper Advantage Card, they can use at local vendors.  Not only will they receive discounts, the County will agree to return all sales tax revenue related to card purchases back to the city.  The Hospital and the U District, while great investments we are thankful for, are going to cause the city to experience much higher public safety costs.  Right now, the city receives few if any public safety services from the County.  This would even that out.

 

Remember I told you about the people in the Conference room??  For $29.95 they could get one of those cards too.  I have estimated the cost of the card, the cost of the administration of the card, and the cost of recruiting the retailers who will participate.  In that price is a small commission for me since I thought I would give the Seminars.  If I can get people to spend $30,000 on vacation for the rest of their lives, I can get folks who really want to see the hospital here to spend $29.95 in exchange for discounts and knowing their sales tax dollars will revert to the city.  If Elected, I would obviously resign from this position upon taking the Oath.

 

There is one more group we have to think about as we deliberate over these proposals.  Little kids do not deserve to lose family members because our hospitals were not modern enough.  They also do not deserve to suffer through an infection because we were stalemated.  Should a child experience one of those events, do you really want to be the person who tells the child, “I understand that what you went through was very cruel, but you have to understand that we as adults were arguing about a parking garage . . .  .”

 

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration in this matter.

 

Sincerely,

 

Robert T. Oliveira

763 Mary Street

Utica, NY  13501

315-864-1229

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