Local Politics: Gentrification and Transparency

Is all gentrification bad? I don’t always think
that it is. Gentrification of the blighted center of small cities brings new
money, new businesses, new social activities, and perhaps even more cultural
experiences to a struggling city business district that may have been looking
like a ghost town, a rather dumpy ghost town at that.
So when you turn the business district of a dying
city into a vibrant neighborhood, or set of neighborhoods, when you repurpose
lovely old 40’s buildings designed for commerce into apartments, town houses
and condos over mixed retail spaces, the results can be quite stunning and
But as the economy improves and as funding for
development flows more freely it is not fair to only cater to those who already
have access to life’s pleasures. There should be a way to lift up those who are
not wealthy and give them a place in that regenerated downtown.
My city, Syracuse, and my county, Onondaga, often
pool resources where possible and they have decided that they want to develop a
part of our lakefront, a part that was used as a chemical dump and has now been
covered over and supposedly stabilized. The mayor and the county executive have
decided to locate an amphitheater on that toxic land and they hope it will be
an attraction like the amphitheater at Saratoga Springs, NY. I can picture how
lovely it would be to sit on an emerald green lawn on a summer evening to
listen to or watch wonderful performances, but I think, given our weather, such
perfect evenings would be exceedingly rare.
There are many more reasons why this is a bad plan
than there are for why it would be a good one. We have winter or clouds or gray
days for about nine months of every year. It will compete with other venues.
Only that same “gentry” being served by downtown development will be able to
afford to attend the events offered. We don’t have access to enough wealthy
people to support it. Our art museum is floundering. Our wonderful symphony
orchestra which put us on the cultural map for awhile has disbanded and formed again
as a smaller group. Ballet troupes don’t come here anymore. (Mosquitoes… oops
that just slipped out.) Everything cannot be for the wealthiest among us. The
money these two ladies have “found” belongs to all of us not just people who
would pay big taxes if it were not for loopholes.
It is quite odd to me that suddenly local money
seems plentiful. We have been pinching pennies here for some time now. The
state wants to give the city/county money if we come up with a worthy project.
The mayor is being quite practical about this. She would like to use it to
update the city’s water delivery systems which are antique and which provide us
with water pipes which regularly burst under our roads and which require
expensive repairs. These are the kind of unsexy repairs which get put off over
and over again because they are not visible above ground, because they cause
frustration and loss of business, and because they don’t directly provide
revenue (although money would be saved).
The downtown landmark hotel that has been taken up
and dropped by developer after developer is another project that is suddenly
“on” again.
It was just announced that the County legislators
are in the process of voting themselves raises in the neighborhood of $38,000
Where is all this money coming from? Whose money
is it? A little transparency would be nice. Explain exactly where the money
will come from for each of the projects under discussion (including the raises)
and give residents a chance to decide exactly how any money that came from
taxpayers, at any level of government, should be spent.

And widen the scope of city/county residents who
will benefit from gentrification by targeting a few less “gentry” and mixing in
just a few regular folks.
By Nancy Brisson

If It Walks Like a Duck

On the Sunday morning shows, where politics is explored, where our politicians and our congress people and our journalists get together to talk about issues (and reveal their obsession with all things political), right now we get to meet the candidates competing for the Republican 2012 nomination to decide who will run against Obama. This past Sunday I watched David Gregory interview Rick Santorum on Meet the Press. Rick Santorum has had me all riled up lately because of the things he has to say about all kinds of social issues, which I did not believe were the key issues in this election. Rick Santorum blamed the press for skewing his message. He said he wants to address employment and the economy and all of the issues related to our current financial situation, but that the press keeps asking him questions about social issues, like abortion, and contraception and the role of religion in American politics. He says that the press is trying to destroy conservatives. He assured the American public that in spite of what he believes about when human life begins and about the importance of being allowed to express religious beliefs while governing, he does not intend to make these issues the center of his presidency.
I would like to feel reassured by Rick Santorum’s statements on Sunday morning television relative to what he will do if elected but I can’t. I live in the New York district that elected Ann Marie Beurkle to the House of Representatives. She did not run on social issues. She never mentioned that she is not just against abortion on her own behalf, but is against abortion on behalf of everyone. She never told her electorate that she was at the radical end of the conservative spectrum. She hid her inflexible biases throughout the election, although if her constituents had done their due diligence on the internet her stand on these issues would have been apparent. We’re bad voters sometimes. We don’t do our research. We elected Ann Marie Beurkle and ever since she has represented only herself and her extreme agenda. She has held a number of town meetings, but at these meetings she does not listen to her constituency; she only preaches the platform of Ann Marie Beurkle. It is extremely frustrating.
So, I say, take a clue from what is happening to the people in Central and Northern New York. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it is duck. If you elect Rick Santorum, no matter how much he believes that he will leave his social agenda aside, he does not have the flexibility to do so. He will not be able to leave his extreme ideas out of the dialogue a President must have with America. The news media may be trying to destroy conservatives, although they seem to be doing a good job of self-immolation: I don’t really know. But in the case of Rick Santorum I think what they are doing is trying to preserve the rights and beliefs of all Americans, not just one small group of Americans. They are trying to help us do our due diligence.

Here is a comment from the Republican in my Backyard. Most people cannot figure out how to publish a comment on my site and neither can I.


Comments from the Republican in your backyard:
Social issues are certainly important and should certainly be something to consider (abortion, birth control, religion) but what the press is doing is wrong, wrong whether you are a democrat, republican, conservative or liberal (or the new code word, progressive).  The press by only focusing on certain social issues, the social issues that certainly polarize the nation, is doing a disservice to the country by not addressing the most critical issues today – the national debt, deficit, economy, devaluation of the dollar and unemployment.  Regardless of who gets elected, the republicans in general are going to push for maintaining the status quo or pushing back on abortion.   Half the country believes that abortion is wrong, half believe it is right.   The current case regarding birth control and religion is a case of the government infringing upon religious freedom.  If the press wants to focus on social issues, why not focus on the failure of great society to lift ANYONE from poverty.  Trillions of dollars later, we have the same number people as a percentage in poverty.  Isn’t it about time we consider that program a failure and look for another way to move people from poverty?  As an example, consider South Korea?  What raised the standard of living there and moved people out of poverty… capitalism.

Shell Game

While I was watching national politics and state politics someone was deciding to get creative at the local level. In Sunday’s paper we were informed that our local property taxes are going up. In fact, in my town, the county executive wants to raise taxes 113.5%.

Are you nuts Joannie Mahoney? You want to raise taxes in Salina by 113.5%? Salina is not a town full of wealthy people. We’re so poor they won’t even put a YMCA here. Since when do we charge the least affluent people the most money? Our homes are the least expensive in the area, that’s why we have the lowest taxes.

You are using the people who you represent as pawns in your grand consolidation plan. You are manipulating us because you want to cut county costs by increasing the cost to live in the towns and villages. You want to force some towns and villages to go out of business or to consolidate services. You feel that there is too much duplication of service. While it’s true that there probably are too many subdivisions in local government, to raise our taxes when the economy is in crisis and our incomes are shrinking is wrong. We do not expect our county executive to “kick us while we’re down.” Please save your grand plan for another day when we have had a chance to recover a bit. Or come up with a new plan to get to your goal.