The City of Troy, New York, "Where Henry Hudson Turned Around."

Monday, February 08, 2016

BONDING GONE WILD

It will come as no surprise to anyone that one of the culprit's of Troy's current fiscal problems was the serial bonding done in the 1990's.

From 1994-1995 the City Council bonded for $23,716,000.

From 2002-2007, it was $11, 278,608.

That is roughly $34,000,000 in serial bonding under a Republican controlled City Council.

Democrat controlled Councils are not free and clear either.

1996-2001 - $4,390,000

2008 - 2011 $3,700,000.

That is over $40,000,000 in bonding. Obviously, once the mayoral form of government was restored, things calmed down a bit. A buffer no longer existed between the voter and the city's chief executive. Before that, the Family had a lot of buffers. The bulk of the borrowing occurred from 1994-1995. We are fortunate that no one is left from those moribund days of debilitating debt. Well, one person remains, rising from the ashes of the disastrous 1990's like the phoenix of old.

We blame ourselves for not delving into the current Council President's past voting history. We were willing to giver her a pass and, indeed, pulled a lot of punches during the campaign. Mantello worked very hard and earned her victory. After pledging to move beyond partisan politics, she has systematically played partisan politics. Specifically, taking shots at the malfeasance of the previous administration and staking out a position of being the Lord Protector of the taxpayer. Yet, she never tells us the entire story. Yes, Rosamilia was a hot mess on many levels, but things didn't begin under Rosamilia. The problems go much deeper and when Mantello slips in digs at the previous administration, her memory seems selective.

Lets take a look at what Ms. Mantello actually supported while a member of the GOP Council majority in the 1990's.

Ms. Mantello voted to table resolutions to reduce the City Manager's salary to $55,000. She voted to table a resolution that would reduced department head salaries by 10%. In addition:

1995 - raise taxes - Aye*

Issue $4,225,000 in serial bonds - Aye

Issue $14,375,000 in serial bonds - Aye

Eliminate 5 DPW positions - Nay

Offer TPD and TFD severance and retirement incentive plan - Aye

Issue $7,226,000 in serial bonds - Aye

Increase plumber license from $50.00 to $100.00 - Aye

Issue serial bonds $3,000,000 and $2,000,000 - Aye

While heading up the Canal Corp. Mantello also fought to establish that entity as an independent agency, no longer shackled to the Thruway Authority. That's correct, a Republican advocating for yet another State agency and larger government.

These are just a few of Ms. Mantello's votes during that crucial legislative season. Why people are deluded into thinking that the Council President has any credentials to be a fiscal watchdog is beyond us. Chew on that, tiger. How does it taste?

Of course, its always possible that Council President Mantello's drive to hold public office is, in part, to seek absolution for her role in Troy's fiscal demise.

* Should be said in a thick, Scottish brogue for full effect



 

Friday, February 05, 2016

STATE OF THE CITY

= Not good.

Mayor Patrick Madden delivered his first State of the City speech last night.

According to the Times Union:

The city must find new means — like a hotel bed tax — toward correcting its longstanding financial difficulties, Mayor Patrick Madden said Thursday in his State of the City address.

"Getting through these next six years is our immediate challenge. There are no secret spells, incantations or silver bullets," Madden told a packed City Council chambers.

"We did not get here overnight nor can it be fixed overnight. It will take some time to reclaim our fiscal health," the Democratic mayor continued.

The city will see some fiscal relief in six years when the city finishes paying off its outstanding $34.5 million in Troy Municipal Assistance Corp. debt. These bonds rescued the city in the 1990s.

City Council President Carmella Mantello said the Republican-controlled council is prepared to put aside political differences to work with the mayor. But proposals such as the hotel bed tax must receive a hard look, she said.

According to Jim Franco at Talk 1300, the Council President has this to say:

“It’s not just me, the state Comptroller essentially sat down with me for two hours and told us we will run a $2.5 million deficit by the end of the year if we don’t do things differently,” Mantello said. “We have to look at vacancies and we do have to look at a freeze. We have to make some tough choices we didn’t hear tonight. We are willing to work together but the Council is ready to make some really hard decision because the taxpayers can’t bear the burden of the mistakes of the past.”

State of the City speeches are usually window dressing. We'll say this: at least this one was honest. Mantello also jumped in on the doom and gloom and still believes that cuts will make the City financially healthy. "The taxpayers can't bear the burden of the mistakes of the past." How far back do we go into the past? Just the last four years? The past twelve? Or do we go further, into the '90's and take a hard look at the bonding debacle that occurred in the '90's. Besides, lets be honest. Taxpayers always bear the burden of past mistakes.

Madden wants to be the adult in the room: "Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer,” he said. “Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our responsibility for the future."

It's a noble sentiment and a noble goal from a man that cannot be held responsible for Troy's financial missteps. We'll see. Sometimes the adult in the room still gets caught in the food-fight cross-fire.

By the by, were Monica and Glasheen finally appointed last night? Missed the story if they were.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

DOUBLE DIPPING

Every now and then the issue of one person holding two taxpayer funded positions arises. Usually during campaign season. Famously, former DPW Commissioner Robert Mirch pulled off a hat trick and actually had three taxpayer-funded salaries. The brilliant part about Mirch was that he also had small government, anti-tax Republicans defend this practice on his behalf as he laughed all the way to the bank. In 2011 so-called 'double-dipping' became an issue when then mayoral candidate Lou Rosamilia hesitated when asked if he would collect a mayoral salary as well as a pension from Hudson Valley Community College.

His opponent, Carmella Mantello, did not hesitate staking out a position. In a Troy Record article (October 31, 2011) Mantello made her position clear:

While Democrat mayoral candidate Lou Rosamilia says he will stop teaching at Hudson Valley Community College and forego his publicly funded salary if elected, Republican challenger Carmella Mantello announced no employee in her administration will be able to draw more than one taxpayer-funded paycheck.

Rosamilia applied for an unpaid leave of absence from the local community college in the first few weeks of the fall semester and the request was granted at the college's board of trustees meeting on Oct. 25.

Then, according to a letter to Rosamilia from the college, he would need to notify the school by April 1, 2012 if he plans to return to active employment at the end of that semester.

The announcement of this plan of action comes on the same day that Mantello released a statement that, if she is elected, she would not permit any appointed city employees to receive more than one taxpayer-funded paycheck, including government funded pensions.

Mantello's reasoning was sound:

In these challenging economic times, with so many families struggling to make ends meet, it is only right that public servants draw only one taxpayer funded paycheck," she said, noting that Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, suspended his U.S. Army pension while he is serving in Congress.
"I call on my opponent to join with me and pledge to the people of Troy that double dipping will not be tolerated in City Hall."

Question: Does this still apply? Has Mantello evolved on this issue? Does it apply to those hired by the City Council?

If you can name the double-dipper (under Mantello's definition), win a years subscription to the Troy Polloi.

WATER MAIN POOL

This week's pool winner was Ed Dinwiddie, who selected People's Avenue in the Water Main Break Pool. The next drawing will be on Friday. Remember, you have to play to win. We got dibs on lower Congress Street.

Monday, February 01, 2016

ROBARGE REPORTAGE OF SHORTAGE

Record reporter Mark Robarge has a story on the Troy Police staffing shortage. The crux of the story is that the average height of a Troy police officer has declined over the past four years from 5' 10" to 5'8.5". We'd link to the story but the article requires payment and unlike Hugh Grant, we don't have to pay for it. No offense to Robarge, who appears to be a solid reporter,  compared to what the Record has had the past few years.  

In the article, Police Chief Tedesco worries about staffing and morale in the police department. Even with the recent hiring of ten new officers (three with experience) another 6 vacancies are expected by the end of the year. Tedesco believes the low morale and staffing shortage, something he sees as connected, is at least partly the result of the shooting of two officers this Summer as well as working without a contract since 2012. That may be. Although, the shootings, in our opinion, showed the Troy Police at their best in terms of unity, professionalism and morale.

The morale problem did not begin this year, or last year or three years ago. Everyone knows the root cause of the morale problem and 87.4% of officers will tell you, off the record. Many problems started when Tedesco became too cozy with Mayor Tutunjian. The chief was back and forth to City Hall (then at the Verizon Building) so often he wore a rut in 6th Ave. He thrust himself into partisan politics in a public manner like no other recent chief.

This explains the overwhelming support given to Rosamilia and Madden by rank-and-file police officers. It's not because your average police officer is a flaming liberal, running around with Bernie Sanders signs. It because they knew that a Mayor Mantello or a Mayor Gordon was much more likely to give Tedesco free reign down at the station. When a man has IA (hereinafter IA) investigate a facebook post, that's not someone who should have free reign. To be fair, Tedesco gets high marks for his performance in the wake of the shootings.

Does all of this explain the shortage? Perhaps. However, it does not explain the nationwide shortage one finds with a little research. The country is suffering from a police staffing problem: California, Tennessee, DC, Portland, Oregon, San Antonio, Richmond... An internet search found this to be a nationwide problem, much to our surprise (FYI, do not search 'short-staffed cops' unless your kids are out of the room. 'Jobs for cops' and 'Cop Job'also produces interesting results).

Our police officers deserve a new contract. If anyone needed proof, last year showed that yes, police work is actually dangerous. But more needs to be done.

In addition to a new contract, The Troy Polloi suggests the following to help recruit and keep officers.

Purchase a few of these:




And a few of these:



Way cool. We also suggest a special Crossbow Unit. Trust us. Who wouldn't stay?

The Chief also believes that some officers chafe under the seniority system found in many departments. However, many of those leaving are not going to non-seniority departments and will be starting at the bottom.

There have been rumors swirling around the department for months about the investigation into Domestigate. The end of this month was supposed to "blow the roof" off of Police HQ. Now its been pushed back once again. The problem with the investigation is that no one inside Troy PD should be investigating the 911 leak at all. Whatever evidence that was initially gathered should have been sent off to the State Police, or FBI or someone other than IA. This places the department in a lose-lose situation, no matter the outcome.

Then there was the end of the story. Very cryptic. Could Tedesco be bowing out this Spring, when he reaches the magical 62?

As for the City Council and the police, no word on when the 5-Point Plan will be pursued as promised during the election.





Saturday, January 30, 2016

TIME OUT



We are placing a weekend moratorium on:

1) personal attacks in general;

2) weight jokes;

3) Personal attacks on Bill Dunne;

4) Personal attacks on other, local, social media purveyors;

5) Personal attacks on Drew Cooper;

6) Personal attacks on Harry Tutunjian;

7) Hairline jokes;

8) Personal attacks on Mantello;

9) What drugs people may be doing or may have done thirty years ago;

10) People who have relatives convicted of sex related crimes;

11) *Confidential* by appointment only;

12) Personal attacks on Kim McPherson (of all people);

13) Personal attacks on James K. Polk;

14) Accusing people of criminal conduct without evidence;

15) Personal attacks on Jim Franco;

16) References to genitalia (unless really funny)

17) Mini-Dorms..

You may still lodge personal attacks against:

1) Mark McGrath;

2) Flock of Seagulls;

3) Mimes;

4) Democratus;

5) And yes, of course, Canadians.

Everyone relax for the weekend. Take a time out. Feel free to discuss politics, corruption, incompetence....just layoff the craziness for a while.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN

According to the Times Union:

Federal agents left with more documents from City Hall and met with city firefighters this month as their investigation of the King Street and King Fuels demolitions expands.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency criminal investigations agents met with Corporation Counsel Kevin Glasheen and requested records, John Salka, a spokesman for Mayor Patrick Madden, said Tuesday.

"The EPA representative requested some additional information," Salka said.
The documents were provided and since then, Salka said, "We have not heard back."

The EPA, FBI, state Labor Department and state Department of Environmental Conservation agents have been examining the removal of asbestos from 4-10 King St. downtown and at the King Fuels site in South Troy when demolition occurred in 2013.


 
We understand people want us to comment on this story, but there very little here. While some are prone to prematurely ejaculate over such stories, we do not. We know the EPA was looking into possible issues in asbestos abatement at King Street and the King Fuels site, as they should. We're just glad they weren't pulled out of Troy and sent to Flint. Whenever things are slow in the western tier, the Feds show up, ask a few questions, grab some paper and leave again for six months.

We also guarantee, as a commenter noted, that the only possible thing that will come from this investigation, if anything, is a fine levied against the City of Troy for not having the proper air monitoring equipment at the King Street demolition (with one possible exception discussed below).

The demolition at both sites was performed by contractors. If contractors make a mistake they are bonded and have named Troy as an additional insured, agreeing to defend and indemnify the city. Typically, the EPA may prosecute municipalities in a hybrid civil/criminal proceeding. If guilty, the municipality is fined. No one goes to jail.

We agree that the events leading to the demolition at King Street are suspect and should be thoroughly investigated. The speed in which it happened was inexplicable. However, criminal? No reasonable person has put forth a theory about any crime being committed that doesn't involve Don Boyajian and bribery. As you may know, Don Boyajian, partner in Dreyer, Boyajian*, was the owner of the demolished property. If you know Boyajian you know such a theory is absurd. Don Boyajian is not endangering his law license and freedom for a building. Besides, Boyajian is an ethical man. The very idea is absurd as we'll learn when this is over. Those who say otherwise are defame a good man. If you want to accuse him of bribery do it publicly, put your name on the accusation and write a letter to the editor. But you won't.

Our theory is simple and, like evolution and gravity, only a theory: It may be wrong but it fits Troy's political character. Fire chief Garrett does not like for City Engineer Russ Reeves. Reeves does not like Garrett. In fact, it really goes beyond dislike. We believe Garrett took advantage of Reeves vacation and gave him a good old, "fuck you." Why patrons of Bombers were potentially endangered in this feud is beyond us and grossly irresponsible. While asbestos abatement was performed at the King Street site, the contractor did not have an air monitor. Not much of a comfort for those in possible danger.

We'll be the first to condemn any criminal behavior found during this investigation. However, we suspect that the most that will happen is that Troy will be fined by the EPA. We doubt even that will happen. It is certainly not something the City needs at this time.

By the by, does anyone remember Harry ordering the old Cinema Art marquee taken down because Reeves determined it was unsafe. Then, it took Reeves*, a wrecking ball and the Army Corps. of Engineers a week to knock the thing down? Those were good times. Interestingly, the records subpoenaed by the Feds included records from the last year or two of the Tutunjian Administration.

* Ironically, Craig Crist, brother of Rich Crist, is Boyajian's partner. The firm is also known as a 'Republican firm', defending such Republicans as Joe Bruno.

** It wouldn't surprise us if Reeves contacted the Feds and started this nonsense.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

WELL...

THAT WAS USEFUL

Last night, the Republican caucus hosted a soirĂ©e for 1 Monument Square.  Republican Council members attended (black tie only) and were serenaded by We Care About the Square.  Mr. Mistur opened the show for WCATS.

"Only the six Republican council members attended. They heard an hour-long presentation from Russ Brooks and Mark Mistur, an architecture professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, about WCATS’ position on what Kirchhoff has proposed in its $24.3 million project..
“We believe development should be properly and according to the rules,” Brooks said.

Earlier Monday afternoon in an interview, Jeff Kane of Kirchhoff Companies said it wasn’t a proper time to appear before the City Council until the Planning Commission responds."

There were some eye-opening moments for the Republican caucus. For instance, the caucus learned that We Care About the Square are opposed to the current contractor and current design for the building that will replace the former city hall site.

Mistur call the proposal a “substandard building.”  He said the proposed building doesn’t fit with Troy’s architecture and history.

“Troy is an extremely special treasure of a place with a wonderful scale,” Mistur said. “This was a great industrial city that lost its economic engine and identity.”

The council members said they were glad to hear the presentation.

The city is expected to bill the Council and WCATS for use of public property for a private rally. An utterly useless exercise.

We don't disagree with Mr. Mistur, although the current plan is not a "substandard" building. They just don't like it. We're not crazy about it either.  The building does not fit with Troy's architecture or history? Agree. Under that theory, a building that resembled an iron foundry would be acceptable.

If WCATS and the Council can find a developer that will submit plans for a building(s) that fits with Troy's architecture and history we'll back them all the way, with one caveat:.  the initial plans cannot be altered once submitted. Do that, and you'll have the full force of the Troy Polloi behind you (and not in a weird way).

Lets get this going. We're thinking, a smaller Troy Music Hall type building. Or better, a design based on the original Troy City Hall. Now, take your broken wings and  lets do this thang!