Goals achieved: 250+ volunteers, 500 bags of litter and refuse off of our streets and public areas. Tremendous cooperation from area businesses and not-for-profits, as well as individuals and families from every neighborhood. Amazing.
I’m so proud of this community.
Thank you so much to everyone that helped make this a success. I’ll update with particulars at a later date (SMH, Centro Civico, Century Club, Red Cross, Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, etc.) but right now, I’m going to rest!
You guys are the BEST.
WHAT DO YOU VALUE?
For the past year, the GASD, City of Amsterdam, various not-for-profit organizations and committed individuals have collaborated to meet the needs of our youth-at-risk that are dealing with circumstances of poverty, neglect and/or isolation. This community partnering began in response to a terrible tragedy last summer – the murder of two boys by two other boys, all under the age of 16. The pained outcry from our constituency for more attention to the needs of young people was immediate and persistent. The resulting action taken can only be considered revolutionary.
Through the combined efforts of those mentioned above, a Community Action Group has formed to offer constructive, creative and healthy opportunities for our youth. We have opened a recreation center focused on athletics and wellness, and an arts center promoting self-expression through dance, theater, music, literature and the visual arts. Most importantly, confident, new leaders in their 20′s have emerged to mentor students and advocate for increased investment in these ventures.
The importance of physical education in this scenario cannot be overly emphasized when we are trying to inspire our youngest and neediest residents. Many of these children deal with weight issues, struggle to work in team settings, and must learn to work with authority figures. Sports are a natural conduit to these learned attributes. Your support will be instrumental in providing access to programs, activities and services that are so vital to reaching our common goals.
THE CITY BUDGET
We need your support for our Department of Recreation requests in this year’s budget. We are asking to increase the position of Assistant to the Recreation Director to full-time. She coordinates activities at the centers and goes after financial support for these initiatives. In under a year, she has brought in $25,000 in revenues for programming, equipment and building improvements, all for 20 hrs/wk and $10,000/yr.
She’s developed a new recreation website and FB page, a comprehensive calendar for recreational events, a weekly email blast to over 2,000 individuals, and facilitates events like the Hosner 5K Run. This summer, we are planning a Summer Break-out Event featuring Radio Disney, a Summer Wellness Program with SMH, and Summer Camp Activities at the centers. Imagine what she could do in 40 hours?!
The Recreation Director works tirelessly and is the driving force behind the ALL of the scenarios described above, and MUCH MORE. He is asking that his salary be raised to be commensurate with that of other department heads. This is an investment in our future.
WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT!
If you value the changes we are making for the betterment of our community, we need you to VOICE YOUR SUPPORT! Call the aldermen, write letters to the editor and come to Council meetings to speak your mind!
Joseph M. Isabel ~ 1st Ward Alderperson (518) 684-6260
Valerie Beekman ~ 2nd Ward Alderperson (518) 842-1430
Gina DeRossi ~ 3rd Ward Alderperson (518) 842-5697
David J. Dybas ~ 4th Ward Alderperson (518) 842-5865
Richard Leggiero ~ 5th Ward Alderperson City Hall (518) 843-0808
These people need to hear from residents that support quality of life improvements and are optimistic about what we’ve been doing.
The following is a bit of back and forth between our Fourth Ward Alderman David Dybas and me concerning the upcoming budget. It is illustrative of the conceptual differences that exist between us. I do not believe we are “throwing money” at “pie in the sky.” We are making a small investment in the future.
On 3/12/13 1:17 PM,
“David Dybas” wrote:
Attached you will find a listing pertaining to salaries as published in the
preliminary budget 03 /05/13. Please provide a written response for
each of the items as indicated by page number and amount. All of he
amounts for 2013/2014 appear to be exhorbitant, WAY WAY out of
line! Your earliest response will serve to speed my further CHOPPING
an bring a more realistic amounts forward. Thank you.
D J J D
From: Ann M. Thane
Sent: Tue 3/12/2013 6:37 PM
Subject: Re: 2013/2014 prelim bud
I will review your suggestions, and agree that there are raises that exceed negotiated parameters that should be discussed, but will also caution that some of the positions/salaries that have been suggested are to increase departmental efficiencies and realize the positive change that I have been striving for these many years.
Our job is not merely to cut; our job is to conservatively budget and still deliver services to the best of our abilities.
This community wants change. We want and need increased oversight of DPW crews and better functionality in the Controller’s office. Complaints concerning code enforcement make up the lion’s share of calls to my office; we have the opportunity to finally staff sufficiently. The Recreation Supervisor performs far and above his title and his assistant has already brought in twice the revenue we are paying her now. We are proposing these changes to these positions/salaries to meet the needs and expectations of our constituents. We have done so responsibly and with great deliberation.
We will never see change unless we invest in change. A.
On 3/13/13 1:24 PM, “David Dybas” wrote:
Thank you for your response. I whole heatedly agree the community wants change!!!!!!
The change the community most definitely wants is LOWER CITY TAXES AND LOWER
USER FEES—so my constituency is expressing to me. Please provide all the Common
Counsel members any of the studies that have taken place “to increase departmental
efficiencies” that the Department Heads, yourself included, have conducted to support
the conjecture being put forth. Also, please explain how this was done “responsibly
and with great deliberation”, in that, to my knowledge, no Common Council members
were asked for their inputs to achieve these lofty goals.
My past experiences have taught me many things, First, and still foremost, is most
changes DO NOT HAPPEN BY THROWING MONEY at the challenges. In fact
just the opposite occurs, i.e., you spend more, get less than anticipated, the challenge
does not go away and end up angering the rest of the work force and the people
who are continually asked to “foot the bill”
Hard learning has taught me that in the long haul cutting dollars, cutting staff, working
more efficiently (not harder) by REMAINING staff and giving the CONSTITUENCY
what it wants is the better formula. You may not make very many friends with the
work force, but, then again they are the work force and need to be attuned to the
reality of the financial condition of the City. Oh by the way, I’m still trying to
determine just what that may be given the condition of its finances over the past
5 1/2 to 6 years and involvement of prior elected officials. So just perhaps you can
“merely cut” to implement CHANGE, said CHANGE needing to have taken place
years ago. Always a pleasure to respond “positively” to “pie in the sky”.
D J J D
From: Office of the Mayor
Date: Mon, 18 Mar 2013 14:56:04 -0400
To: David Dybas , Joseph Isabel , Valerie Beekman , Gina DeRossi , Richard Leggiero , Gerry DeCusatis , Ann Thane
Conversation: 2013/2014 prelim bud
Subject: Re: 2013/2014 prelim bud
The budget we have proposed is conservative and responsible. People want stable taxes, which we have delivered for the past 5 years. We have never exceeded our tax caps and have been enormously controlled in our spending or dependence on fund balance. We have negotiated new revenue sources, made many changes that have resulted in significant savings, and continue to look for ways to keep our costs under control. We have also been able to forge ahead with projects and staffing that impact our delivery of service in positive ways.
It is not the operational budget that inflates our budget – it is health care and pensions. Our department heads have been very attentive to their budgets and have submitted requests that are quite moderate.
Per our conversation, increasing departmental efficiencies has been an ongoing pursuit from the start of my administration and has been the topic of countless hours of discussion with department heads. Additional hours have been spent researching and studying best practices across the state and nation. We are doing what we may to proactively address the needs of our constituency.
I have requests in writing to this council and past councils as to suggestions they would make to better this system. As an example, I send the following correspondence. As you see, I invited this council from the start to articulate their goals and work collaboratively with me. I have continually extended an invitation to actively participate in this government. Dave, you should know this better than anyone.
“From: Ann M. Thane [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Mon 12/26/2011 12:58 PM
I must start drafting the State of the City speech and would like your input. I’d like to announce three goals that the council will work on for its term. Will you please give me your thoughts on what you’d like to focus on in the next two years? Please consider goals that are necessary, measurable and achievable. I believe articulating these goals will help us to work collaboratively to meet the needs of our community.
If you would please think this over for the next few days and get back to me by Friday, I’d appreciate it. Thanks, A.
Ann M. Thane
“When you are through changing, you are through.” ~ Bruce Barton
On 12/27/11 8:47 AM, “Gina DeRossi” wrote:
I can say that my number one goal is to get as much of the water/sewer infrastructure in the city fixed as possible. I know this will most likely need to be done via grants, but it is top priority as far as I am concerned (outside of public safety and such, which I think already is doing a great job).
On 12/27/11 10:45 AM, “Ann M. Thane” wrote:
Gina, This is a fine goal. We may break this down into measurable achievements:
Complete water/sewer improvements on Market Street Hill;
Develop a schedule of hydrant repair for the new year;
Apply for additional grants;
Make necessary repairs to Tecler water tank;
Progress I/I identification and repairs as stipulated in grant;
Make repairs to Florida Avenue Bridge causing siphoning problem;
GIS map all city structures (hydrants, valves, lines, etc. – requires funding source);
Assess equipment needs;
Develop long-range plans for assessment, improvements and funding.
I believe the rest of the Council would be in agreement with this goal. If there are other finer points you’d like to add to the list above, please do. Please don’t be shy about suggesting a few more goals. I hope there is more response by your fellow aldermen to this request for proposals. Some issues you may want to consider:
Progress demolitions of blighted properties, including Esquire property at the Mohasco site;
Develop long-range property management initiative (for foreclosed-on properties, city-owned properties, vacant lots, etc.) targeting neighborhood revitalization;
Change budget procedure to be more expeditious;
Review Charter, make necessary changes;
Rework the Common Council Rules of Order and committee structure;
Revisit Comprehensive Plan (requires funding).
I look forward to hearing from all of you.
Thank you for your input, A.”
I have repeatedly invited and welcomed the counsel of the aldermen. To suggest that this administration has functioned any differently perpetuates an offensive myth.
As far as specific staffing requests, the Deputy Controller has asked for a stipend to pay college interns to help out in the Finance Department. He has contacted Elmira and Siena Colleges and it looks like they will have students available to participate in this program.
The Housing Inspector position is being increased from a part-time to full-time position. Again, code complaints are the most frequently made complaints to my office. This increase in hours is to respond to that need. This would take us from 2-1/2 inspectors to three. Given the work of the department, this is a reasonable request.
The General Supervisor position is to oversee crews and projects across the city, to ensure that work is being done as assigned, and to address discipline problems. We have discussed this structural change for years, again in response to complaints lodged about departmental operations.
The Recreation Director works far and above his title, handling vacant and dilapidated property maintenance, overgrown vegetation and garbage, overseeing the new recreation centers, coordinating team sports, and attends to all public areas around the city. He works more hours than we pay him for and is one of our most valuable employees. His salary should be commensurate with what we pay other department heads.
The Recreation Assistant’s position would be moving to full-time status. In the few short months that Ms. Cushing has been in place for an annual salary of $10,000, she has brought in $20,000 worth of revenue, has taken over city promotional activities on social media sites, emails 2,000 people a city activity update every week, is coordinating programming and events for students and families, and has networked with local media outlets across the region. The small investment for this position pays off exponentially for the city.
I support the new positions and salary increases cited above because I want to see this city progress. A “cutting” strategy does nothing to promote a vibrant future. It maintains the status quo, which seems to be unpopular on any given morning on the local call-in radio show. As well, it does not seem that these same complainers have any articulated solution to our problems but to call day after day with the same negative mantra. I believe we deserve better and am willing to invest with that end in mind.
I hope that the council understands this vision we are pursuing for a better community and responds with the resources necessary to realize success.
If nothing changes, nothing changes.
Mayor Ann M. Thane
For Release: Immediately
February 14, 2013
Contact: Peter Baynes
Another Valentine’s Day Massacre for Property Taxpayers
Local Governments Mandated to Pay a
$387 Million Increase in Pension Bills
If your local government – like the vast majority – is raising property taxes, cutting jobs, slashing services and/or running out of rainy day reserves, you can thank out-of-control pension bills. Municipalities and school districts this month completed their state-mandated annual payments to the state retirement system.
· The government employer (that is, property taxpayer) contribution rate for public safety employees for 2013 is 25.8% of payroll, an increase of 19% compared to 2012 rates, and a 71% increase over the last three years.
· For non-uniformed employees, employers/taxpayers are now mandated to pay 18.9% of payroll, a 16% increase over 2012 rates, and a 155% increase compared to 2010 rates.
· In 2013, local governments and school districts are mandated to pay approximately $387 million more in pension costs than they did last year.
· For the average city, this year’s increase in pension costs is the equivalent of a 2.1% increase in property taxes, more than that allowed under the 2% tax cap.
· For the average city, 33% of city property taxes now go toward paying their annual pension bill.
“At a time when municipal budgets are blood-red from reduced state aid, eroded property tax bases, and smothering state mandates, these pension costs are a dagger to the fiscal hearts of local governments,” observed NYCOM Executive Director Peter A. Baynes.
NYCOM supported the Tier VI pension reforms that Governor Cuomo championed and the State Legislature enacted in 2012. However, since state constitutional protections limit the application of such pension benefit reforms to employees hired after the date of the reforms, the vast majority of Tier VI savings will not benefit taxpayers for at least twenty years. Consequently, NYCOM also
supports the “Stable Rate Pension Contribution Option” included in the Governor’s 2013-14 Executive Budget as a sensible, long-term approach to funding the pension system, whilesavings and protecting property taxpayers from the vagaries of Wall Street.
Good evening, members of the Common Council, fellow elected and appointed officials, members of the City workforce and, most importantly, residents and friends of the City of Amsterdam. It is an honor and privilege to present my sixth State of the City address. It is my charge to inform you of the successes and challenges of 2012, and likewise as we look ahead to the coming year.
I’d like to tell you a story about speech writing. For me, I must have quiet and time to research my subject matter and come up with a structure for this discourse.
I spent the better part of the weekend in my office, culling through a year’s worth of notes (anyone who knows me, knows I am never without my notebook.) At one point, my husband was good enough to drop off a couple of bottles of my favorite beverage, Vanilla Pear Seltzer, and spent some time meandering around my office and City Hall. This brought about a short discussion concerning all of the significant changes that we’ve made to the space since I had taken office. Of course, while looking over the various photos of my family, neither one of us could believe the changes in our children since 2008. These years stole my small children away and left in their place beautiful, accomplished, young adults ready to make their own ways in the world.
The office and building have undergone huge changes. Walls have been painted; furniture, curtains, and carpets replaced; light fixtures upgraded; storm windows installed; asbestos removed and pipes re-wrapped; cabinets and closets repurposed; new offices and public spaces, including the infamous rose garden, created; as well as the leaking roof secured. The changes have impacted staff morale and the perception of important visitors to our seat of government. As “they” say, image is everything.
But there is still so much more to do. The building is over 100-years old and will need continued love and maintenance to realize its true potential. As many of you that own an older home realize, we will never be done.
So it is for this city.
It is important that we understand that the work of revitalizing an older, rustbelt city is a painstaking and continuous process. It is truly a labor of love.
In thinking about the drivers of this process over the past months and years, I have identified three areas of significance: Priorities, People and Promises.
Amsterdam has been proactive in establishing its priorities in its Comprehensive Plan of 2003, and since that time, has been nimble in responding to evolving need and challenges. We should be quite proud that we have been progressive in this regard.
The year, 2012, was a year of great promise, furious activity and extreme heartbreak. New faces graced the Common Council Chamber bringing a new dynamic of respect and collaboration; heavy construction projects of all varieties changed our familiar landscape; and violent acts of unbridled ferocity shook us to our core. Everything about 2012 touched upon our priorities as a community and as human beings.
Sadly, government will never be the sole solution to the problems of our community, but we will always be mindful of our purpose: to provide much needed services paid for with your hard-earned tax dollars.
It’s been my observation that some folks are uncertain as to where these mysterious tax dollars go. They pay for your clean water, sewage disposal, garbage removal, fire protection, street and park maintenance, snow plowing, code enforcement, bus transportation, crime prevention, emergency response, records management, property assessment, legal counsel, financial management and employees to staff each and every department. City government is a $30 million dollar business manned by over 200 people. It is highly complex and is amazingly responsive, given its vast responsibilities.
Its effectiveness can be seen in our rapid recovery from the devastating storms of 2011. In under a year, most property had been restored and new projects started. We have finished a complete overhaul of fire hydrants, valves, water and sewer lines, streets, and curbing in the Market Street Hill neighborhood, which had been the scene of horrific fires in 2009. If you recall, there was not enough water to adequately confront the fires because of corroded lines. Since that time, we have been systematically addressing critically compromised areas across the city and are now down to the last ten hydrants in need of replacement out of almost 1000.
Our accomplishments have been many and, as we have all probably noted, this was a big year for construction. It was difficult to get from one section of the city to another without crossing the path of a backhoe, crane, dump truck or burly men in fluorescent vests and hard hats. Streets in every ward were resurfaced, most visibly on Prospect Street in front of the Clock Tower and on Bunn Street at the Middle School. The State made visible progress along West Main Street and around the Public Safety Building in its planned traffic re-patterning project. Assistance from city crews was seen on Market Street as they prepared over forty structures, manholes, catch basins and storm drains, for work that will resume in the Spring.
The City demolished 39 abandoned structures this year, bringing the elimination of dangerous properties to a total of 84 over the past five years. We also completed the very large demolition of the Chalmers Building and finished Bridge Street with the addition of a parking lot that holds 45 cars for visitors and area businesses. We are actively seeking proposals for redevelopment of the Chalmers property, as it will be the centerpiece to our waterfront and downtown revitalization efforts. Its reuse is as exciting as any new beginning and we will not settle for any project that does not present a dramatic best use for this very valuable asset.
Across the river from that site, the State has produced an economic impact study of the train station relocation and estimates the project’s effect will be an extraordinary $45 million dollars to the benefit of city coffers. Coupled with Riverlink Park, the connection to downtown, the planned Pedestrian Bridge and new Riverwalk to Guy Park Manor, our waterfront will have the potential to draw hundreds of thousands of tourists a year. The Mohawk River will once again spur our rebirth as a vibrant upstate destination.
Most of last year’s projects that I had just mentioned had been paid for with grants from State and Federal sources. The City has been the very fortunate recipient of over $4 million dollars for various capital projects, transportation needs, crime prevention, property rehabilitation and private enterprise support thanks to the efforts of staff like URA Director and Grant Writer Nick Zabawsky, AIDA Director Jody Zakrevsky, as well as Transportation Director Cheryl Scott. Our success has also been due to our strong presence in planning for regional growth as part of the Governor’s Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council. This partnership has inspired new affiliations between six diverse counties that sit squarely at the center of the State of New York. Of note, several private entities, including St. Mary’s Healthcare, Mohawk Fabrics and Embassy Millworks, received funding to purchase additional equipment and expand operations.
Of course, all of this talk of grants and money leads us to another top priority for our city: financial stability. Careful stewardship of our taxpayer’s dollars is a primary responsibility of any governing body, and this administration has been aggressively proactive in this regard. Here in the City of Amsterdam, we have been extremely cautious with our budgeting and have been able to meet the constraints of a state-mandated 2% property tax cap. We’ve reworked our water rates so that the cost of our system is more equitably shared, generating additional revenues in the tens of thousands of dollars. Our conservative approach to financial management in combination with our substantial efforts to revitalize our community have protected our A3 ratings from both Standard & Poors and Moody’s, ensuring that we will be able to borrow money at a favorable rate and save hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest over time.
Sadly, our new Controller Ron Wierzbicki passed away after just one year in office, but because of his attention to his duties, we have instituted measures to address bank reconciliation, capital project tracking, and staff training to complete the transition to the new accounting software. The Council has wisely hired consultants to assist in these ventures and has taken action to put a Deputy Controller in place, a position that is unaffected by the election cycle, to bring necessary expertise and institutional memory to the department.
Please, may we take a moment of silence to remember our friend, Ron.
While Ron’s passing was not expected, he passed after devoting seventy-five years of his life to the city he loved and his family that he held so dear. While his death is undoubtedly painful to those closest to him, we cannot begin to fathom the depth of despair of the families that suffered the loss of their loved ones in appalling acts of violence this year.
In all of my years living in the City of Amsterdam, I cannot remember crimes that were so senseless or violent as the murders that took place on Locust Avenue in the Spring or in the fields of the Town of Florida this Summer. Parents lost children, children lost parents, families were shattered, and our community was instantly plummeted into an environment of shock and grief. It was the darkest time in our collective memory.
May we please have a moment of silence for the families and friends that have been so ravaged by these tragedies?
The passage of time allows us to reflect on what has happened because of these crimes. As awful as these occurrences have been, they have not been delivered without gifts. We must also note the tremendous outpouring of compassion for those that had suffered so terribly and the resulting activism that has marked our response as a community.
These four murders launched the largest gang investigation ever conducted in this City to halt a growing problem. Because of these crimes, emerging drug dealing and gang activity was crushed and 22 arrests made. The information developed from the investigation opened intelligence pathways for the Amsterdam Police Department that will ensure Amsterdam does not become a “gang city” in the future.
These crimes fostered new growth of our neighborhood associations, focused on resident engagement and crime prevention. We now have 14 watch groups comprised of approximately 100 vigilant individuals flourishing in all corners of the city.
Given that incidents of violence have captured the attention of our nation, the actions we have taken to protect our way of life here are as timely as the sunrise.
Now, when we look back at this terrible chapter in our history, we will remember the hundreds of individuals that came out in prayer, in peace, and in force to take control of the destiny of this community. Our reaction was strong and immediate. Working with volunteers from across every walk of life, the City, the Greater Amsterdam School District, St. Mary’s Health Care, Centro Civico, CASA, Catholic Charities, United Way, and various state agencies have strengthened their bonds to creatively address the needs of our young people.
A particularly heartening result of these tragedies has been the emergence of new, young leaders in our community, only in their early-20’s, willing to throw their all into rescuing others from a path that poverty or neglect may precipitate. These volunteers, in partnership with the City and GASD, have established a safe haven for children and families on the Bacon Elementary School Campus. Calling their alliance “Wishful Thinking”, these young men and women offer one-on-one mentoring and shine a light of hope and inspiration for those that follow in their footsteps. Their legendary 3-on-3 basketball tournament at Veteran’s Field raised thousands of dollars for youth programming and they are now sponsoring weights training and league basketball at the school.
This extraordinary willingness to help one’s neighbors, however, is not new to our community. Volunteerism is the hallmark of our community. Every day, residents come to the aid of others through their involvement with churches, sports teams, and not-for-profit social and cultural organizations. We support our hospital, library, museum, marching band, veterans, seniors, small children, the sick and the unfortunate. We sponsor graffiti paint outs, massive litter clean-ups (in four years, residents have picked up over 12 tons of carelessly discarded trash), and countless small fundraisers for every imaginable cause.
Thanks to volunteers, we had our Second Annual Spring Fling in May that attracted approximately 5,000 people to our Main Street and they facilitated our Winter Mixer in December. Volunteers coordinated swimming lessons for 150 children-in-need in July (sponsored by Hero-Beechnut), National Night Out in August, and concerts at Riverlink Park all summer long. Volunteers have launched a new Arts Center on our East End, and provided the homeless of our community safe shelter over these cold winter months. They donated our new Veteran’s Memorial at Veterans Field and saved City Hall from abandonment. Light Up the Sky and the Kristy Pollock Memorial Light Display serve as celebratory destinations during the season of giving while raising thousands of dollars for their beneficiaries.
It is not uncommon to hear the same names associated with many of these activities: Baranello, Becker, Brownell, Clough, Dickerson, Falso, Fedullo, Gavry, Georgia, Hetrick, Lisciki, Lyford, Maroto, Mihalek, Morgan, Naple, Peninger, Selbert, Serano, Smith and Von Hasseln. These folks, and many, many more, religiously show up time after time at any number of functions or affairs to plan, set up rooms, man tables, lend a hand and hoist the weight of need upon their shoulders. I am deeply honored to know these fine people and thank our generous friends for their incredible efforts.
They are responsible for the bright promise of our future.
In recognition of the value provided by our marvelous volunteers, Amsterdam will join 155 other communities across the country in the “Cities of Service” initiative. Members of this coalition share resources, such as comprehensive service plans and coordinated strategies that match volunteers and established community partners to areas of greatest local need. Members also qualify for various leadership grants through the program. Amsterdam’s established history of volunteerism allows us to proudly accept this designation to showcase the benefit our residents receive at the hands of volunteers.
We thrive from our partnerships with others, on a personal level and as a municipality.
In that vein, we will continue to strengthen our commitment to the students of our community through our governmental relationship with the school district. I propose that we explore joining the America’s Promise Alliance “Grad Nation” campaign. Grad Nation is a large and growing movement of dedicated individuals, organizations and communities working together to end America’s dropout crisis. A high school diploma is an important step in preparing a young person to live an independent, secure and happy life and to contribute as part of an educated, innovative workforce.
The Grad Nation program is interesting for several reasons: 1. Many of the initiatives being put forth are already being championed by the district; 2. It points out that responsibility for graduation rates cannot solely fall to the school district – community plays a deciding role in getting students to that goal; 3. There are grants for programming, informational materials, and tools to show measurable improvement; and 4. With the burgeoning partnership between the City, GASD, SMH, Centro Civico and other community organizations, we may have an opportunity to enhance what we are currently achieving. I look forward to discussions with the school district about this exciting prospect.
We will continue to partner on projects at a municipal and regional level.
We will nurture our relationship with Schenectady as colleagues in the newly designated Capital District Landbank. It is our intent to restore the integrity of our communities by, again, combining resources to remove dilapidated structures and redevelop abandoned properties. Our efforts will open the door for our communities to reclaim, reinvest in and rebuild our neighborhoods.
It is crucial that the City foreclose on tax-delinquent properties in the coming months in anticipation of the work that will be done via the Landbank.
I expect the coming months to be as busy as the past sixty months. We will continue to press for our fortunes as part of the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council. We will strive to bring new business to our downtown through the efforts of our new Community and Economic Development Department Director, Robert Von Hasseln. Mr. Von Hasseln is also hard at work to land a project for the Mohasco site and heavily involved in planning for waterfront and neighborhood revitalization through Brownfield opportunity funding. We will work with the State on traffic re-patterning and the train station relocation. We will investigate bringing the Waste Water Treatment digesters back on line and hydroelectric generation on the Chuctanunda Creek. We will hunt down storm/sewer connections and remedy them to avoid costly fines from the state, as well as demolish another sixteen unsafe structures.
We will consistently provide services in unpredictable times.
As a city, we can be enormously proud of our course. In times when the world has been pummeled by economic instability, political discord and uncertainty, we have maintained a steady keel. This is thanks in great part to the planning we have done in the past, charting a map to the future through our Comprehensive Plan of 2003. It is now time to revisit the document, to set new goals for the coming decade. It is this foresight that keeps us on target and allows us to tap into various streams of funding from state and federal sources.
I’d like to close this speech by once again thanking the many people, both inside and outside of the governmental process, that make peace and charity a priority in their everyday lives. As Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, NJ points out,
“We will achieve great things if we continue to understand that the destiny of our city is shaped by citizens who counter the weight of apathy and complacency with courage and conviction.“
This is the lesson I have learned from my friends here in Amsterdam, and is the lesson I wish to pass on to my children. Thank you all for this enormous gift.
Posted in Amsterdam NY, City Hall, commitment, community, demolition, downtown, homelessness, Mohawk River, Montgomery County, NY, pedestrian bridge, politics, public works, revitalization, survival, volunteer, water distribution, waterfront development, youth | Leave a Comment »
Tonight, the Council is being asked to appoint Manfred Phemister as Controller for the City of Amsterdam.
Per the Charter, this appointment must be made within 30 days of a vacancy. The replacement must be 18 years old, a city resident, and a democrat. The Charter is crystal clear on this matter.
If any one alderman does not agree with the Charter as it exists, then they should move to change it legislatively with a quorum of the whole, but to ignore the Charter is to mock the law that dictates our form of governance in the City of Amsterdam. Per the Charter, an appointment must be made.
We cannot pick and choose the parts of the Charter we wish to follow.
Mr. Phemister has met the qualifications of the Charter and is willing to take on responsibility for the Department of Finance. We should be grateful to him for offering his service in an age when the public realm is avoided because of political gamesmanship.
It is my hope that the Council appoints Mr. Phemister so that the department is adequately managed and we can get on with the duties with which we are charged.