Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘community’ Category

MEMORIAL DAY 2015
May 25, 2015

Hello all and thank you for being here on a day that is not only a holiday but a holy day to those of us that are touched by the deep, searing meaning of this ceremony.

There are few occasions that I feel more honored to speak about as Mayor. I am called upon once a year to voice the anguish and gratitude our city feels, for so many of our families have experienced loss that is inexplicably sad.

Walls of granite across the land are etched with the names of young men and women that have given their lives – their promise and their futures – to our community and nation. The inscriptions are distantly cold, and can never speak to the marvelous lives that once coursed with flushed faces, laughter and intention.

The thought of this enormous loss is so daunting.

IMG_4668

The concrete finality of such loss breaks my heart and silences my muse. Waves of conflicts have washed over our nation, each surge pulling away those we love like glittering specks of sand tossed into the mirth of motion and then gone to a vast emptiness.

This reality overwhelms me every year. I think of mothers and fathers fearfully sending these children off to the military with pride and a sense of powerlessness that must be so difficult, but is nothing compared to the few that receive a knock on the door revealing a crisp, uniformed officer delivering news that ends all hope.

I die a little bit knowing each name on a memorial comes with a similar pronouncement and aftermath.

So, every year, I struggle for words. I stew for days with thoughts of patriotism, service, community and the terror that is bound up in the essence of this day. I think of our blessed way of life in the United States of America – of our abundance, joy and freedom and feel quite lost. I worry that I cannot adequately express our communal feelings…
So, I will start with our proud soldiers. It is because of our military that we are afforded peace. We are afforded personal freedoms and ease that allows us to actually ignore the privileges that others are fighting and dying for around the globe. We have access to food, healthcare and education. We can vote, or not. We can eat well, or not. We can thrive, or not. We can worship God or the devil or a light bulb, or not. We can even work or not, though I truly believe most people would prefer to earn a living than accept a handout. Americans are inherently noble people.

IMG_4677

I mulled this all over while at a bonfire the night before last. My friends and family gathered in a circle as warm as the pyre that drew us to its heat. A cooler of cold beer opened and closed while young children ran outside the ring of chairs. Young adults, so recently boys and girls, laughed lightly and courted in the flickering shadows of the periphery. We seated parents looked on with amusement and nostalgia, and then would gaze into the mysterious living thing that fire is.

We watched as logs were tossed into the coals and a burst of embers would explode into the night to drift upward and disappear into the black. Our heads tilted back on our chairs as we fixed our eyes on the speckled canopy of darkness.

I thought each hot, orange ember must certainly take its place amongst its far sisters, the stars, transported from this temporal reality to the sparkling realm of timeless light. I like to think that these tiny fragments that grace the sky are the ever-present evidence of the beauty of souls that are lost to us. Souls dance their way to the stars like embers and in the 300 years that we have been a sovereign nation, 1.1 million soldiers have filled the night sky.

For me, a woman of a certain age and temperament that does NOT believe in the devil or the omnipotent power of a light bulb, God has given us these stars as a sign that there is order, permanence and meaning in our lives that surpasses the inexplicable tragedies of this existence.

And I think it must be this faith that sustains us through violence, poverty and war. It must be this faith that gives young men courage to break away from the comforts of home. It must be faith that allows a mother a final kiss before deployment and it MUST be faith that gives a husband, wife or child the strength to bear a triangular flag beside a casket, the white stars on a field of blue held as closely as breath and tears.

These were my fireside thoughts the other night. I expressed them tearfully to my friend, John. We both stared in silence at the flames and then he turned to me and said, “Ann, it’s all true. This is so horribly sad. But there is this too: each soldier had given meaning to his or her life. They have served our country with dignity. They tried to carry democracy to a world that thirsts for our way of life. They went with selfless obedience to keep our county safe and free. The meaning of their lives is as vast and great as the sky above us.”

IMG_4674

We both went silent again. I think we both were crying. John is so right.

Please remember the gift of each one of those stars when you pledge allegiance to our flag and when staring quietly up at a haunted, star-filled sky. That magnificent sky is filled with love.

Thank you to the fine veterans that have served and to those that are still active today.

Thank you again to the Veteran’s Commission for organizing this event again, as you do every year. Amsterdam is grateful for your continuous advocacy on behalf of those that have served our country so well. And lastly, thank you to God, for planting us all in the soil of this great nation where such freedom and sacrifice may be reverently celebrated.

Read Full Post »

Dear Rick:

It seems to me that you asked Mr. Villa and me to list our priorities, not to debate.

My priorities are as follows:

1. Financial stability/accountability, 2. Economic Development, and 3. Quality of Life.

Much of the success of this administration falls under these broad themes and our work in the coming years will continue along these lines. The following list is not all-inclusive but I hope the readers get a sense of the scope of work I propose.

Financial-auditing-small-businesses
FINANCIAL STABILITY
and ACCOUNTABILITY:

• Craft a fiscally conservative budget that sustains operations and invests in improved performance. Make sure every dollar spent is necessary and effectively allocated.
• Continue the implementation of the 2014 Corrective Action Plan scripted by the Controller, Corporation Counsel, the former Council and I. Ensure that resources are allocated to the Department of Finance to adequately track, reconcile and report all financial transactions.
• Pursue grants to augment the $27M in funding for capital improvements, equipment and transformative projects that we have received over the past seven years.
• Share services creatively: I offered a list of 34 initiatives to the County that can benefit us by cutting costs, increasing efficiencies and, sometimes, produce much-needed revenue.
• Explore new services that will generate revenue to offset property taxes.

growingtheeconomy-300x268
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT:
• Expand water distribution to surrounding municipalities.
• Expand the Edson Street Industrial Park.
• Continue the redevelopment of our waterfront and downtown areas. Relocate trains station to urban core: create multi-modal transportation hub with commercial and banquet space.
• Repurpose industrial sites into multi-use commercial spaces, low tech incubators, or residential units.
• Continue to nurture partnerships with economic development entities (MCBDC, AIDA, CEDD, URA, CEG), our regional development partners on the MVREDC (I serve on the executive committee), state agencies and surrounding municipalities (our relationship with Schenectady is flourishing.)
• Capitalize on our location along the Thruway, Rail and River. The year 2017 will mark the 200th Anniversary of the Erie Canalway which will be an ideal time to showcase the new Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook.
• Build the Recreation Center to attract visitors from across the Northeast.
• Revamp our promotional materials and website to publicize opportunities in our community.

IMG_0691
QUALITY OF LIFE:
• Continue strategic infrastructure improvements (roads, water/sewer/storm distribution systems). Allocate necessary resources to our newly created Landbank.
• Fight blight through code enforcement, demolition, and targeted neighborhood revitalization strategies. Share code enforcement information and best practices with surrounding municipalities via the new software module we are creating with CTG and neighboring cities.
• Grow citizen engagement programs, e.g. neighborhood watch/beautification efforts, community gardens, citywide clean ups, etc.
• Support public safety departments adequately.
• Continue to offer recreational opportunities to youth and families at the Bacon Recreation Center and Creative Connections Arts Center, e.g. summer camps, free swimming lessons and transportation to city pool, after-school tutoring, sports tournaments, 4H club memberships, public arts projects, etc.
• Grow citywide celebratory events such as Spring Fling, National Night Out and Homecoming.
• Provide continued support for the downtown merchants, Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation, Library, Inman Center and the new Farmers’ Market.
• Continue to foster partnerships with the GASD, FMCC, SMH, W1shfu1Th1nk1ng, Centro Civico, churches and other not-for-profits to nurture body, mind and spirit.
• Continue to improve our municipal golf course, parks, playgrounds and monuments.
• Continue to promote historic preservation of our heritage properties.
• Re-engage community in master planning.

Again, there’s much more to this than I have listed here, but carving out a vibrant future for our city demands great thought, budgeting, planning and many, many hands.

One would think that, given the complexity of this job and extreme needs of this city, any candidate would have given considerable thought to priorities before announcing a run for office.

It’s been four and a half months since Mr. Villa announced. He hasn’t come up with any priorities in all of this time? THAT fact speaks for itself.

My motto:
“Be content to act, and leave the talking to others.”
~ Baltasar Gracián, translated from Spanish

Read Full Post »

In memory of my friend: Robert B. Quick
February 27, 2015

10924796_662176660570870_5779722978839528650_n

Betty called.

Betty called with terrible news.

The man she loved, the man she forged a formidable partnership with, the man she shared quiet moments with and the man that she had burned for

was suddenly and inexplicably

gone.

Betty called, and through her sobs and confusion, I slowly began to understand her anguish and this sudden rush of loss that is not meant to be understood because in one fleeting moment, the world, our world of neatly packaged relationships and routines, comprised of glances and smiles and words and touch

was forever altered without warning.

I looked out at the snow and thought even its whiteness carried a new emptiness.

Bob Quick, Betty’s husband, Kelly and Kevin’s dad, let’s face it, Bill’s dad too, and our friend, had vanished. And sudden, searing loss is not easily gotten through. I know because my father vanished just as quickly. It’s just terrible.

But there are blessings in every passing and most importantly, we shared in the life of this wonderful man and all have been touched by his exquisite and lasting love. Indeed, we are gathered here in that common bond. We have come together to celebrate the life of a loving and generous friend that has given so much to each of us, and his community.

We should be clear on this point, Bob would not have wanted us to gather in grief, though undoubtedly we cannot avoid it. Bob would have wanted us to commemorate his time with us with smiles and sharing and love for one another.

Really, he’d like us all to have a good, strong drink with good food in a nice place with an abundance of laughter. And so we shall after this service, most certainly if Betty has anything to do with this!

It’s daunting to talk about Bob, especially when I look out at a sea of faces that knew him better and loved him so long and so well but this is Bob’s gift to me: that I may paint this day with my impressions of him and hopefully touch upon qualities that spark recognition in each of you.

Bob entered my life while I was the Director at the museum. He was drawn to the museum because the kinetic star he was attached to named Betty had developed a passion for the heritage of this community and had discovered this quirky little repository of history hidden in Guy Park Avenue School. I’m fairly certain the both of us bemused Bob, but I’m just glad that they both turned up and never turned back. Bob watched our commitment, hard work, and lunacy and he liked it. He’d often shake his head with a smile and ask me why I’d ever put myself through so much torment for the not-for-profit life.

Flash forward ten years and he was asking me why I’d put myself through another election. The truth is, he knew why and he believed in me. More importantly, he believed in this city. His faith in this little city never wavered, though I saw him shake his fist as well as his head at times.

Amsterdam’s finest qualities mesh family, heritage, and complicated webs of connectedness that, really, those of us that did not grow up here cannot fathom. Perpetual visitors like me sometimes shake my head and smile. Bob was born and raised here and he loved this city as much as he distained everything that holds it back. He always understood its untouched potential and supported every effort to change its course.

I could go on and on about Bob’s contributions to this community, to the museum, hospital, Chamber, Liberty, Waterfront Foundation, United Way, sports teams, and countless others. This community has suffered a great loss. Because of Bob’s new absence, we are now called to fill that void for the city he loved.

Bob got his start in Amsterdam schools and made his lifelong friendships there with many of the men in this room. He loved these men when they were boys with skinned knees. He loved them through their first dates, through first jobs and first wives, through crushing loss and glittering nights on Florida’s coast. Bob cherished his friends and willingly shared his fortunes and fancy with gentle grace and sometimes great aplomb.

What a perfect counterpart to Betty, both being passionate, industrious, smart and generous to a fault. Both so elegant! Their parties were always perfectly orchestrated but comfortable and welcoming. And it was this gathering together that had always been their goal: to unite, to fest, to laugh and to share.

Indeed, I think Bob’s goal in building an empire was to provide for these times of camaraderie, which brings us to his professional life. This self-made man was extraordinarily accomplished.

Bob used his pragmatism, his strength and his intuition wisely. He took educated risks and surrounded himself with talented people. Because of his foresight, his business thrives today in Schenectady, Charlotte, NC and Austin, TX. His success is a wonderful tribute to his business acumen, but again, the success of his company was not his ultimate aim. It was the byproduct. His goal was to live life fully and fearlessly, and to live life WELL. Bob loved entertaining, sports, the arts, and traveling. He loved driving an expensive car while cranking the Supremes on the radio. He loved the sun. He followed it to Charlotte or Charleston or the Keys when it got too cold here.

Of course Bob decided not to come back on the coldest February in history! Look at all of this damned snow. He’s somewhere near the sun where it’s bright and beautiful and he’ll wait for us until we have the sense of timing to join him.

Bob sought the finer things out in life. It’s a lesson we must learn from this lovely man! Embrace your talents, your opportunities, and the glories this life affords you! Love your life!

Follow the lead of one that passed through this life so well: Coach. Volunteer. Travel. Invest. Play. Rest. Reflect.

Because that’s one of the things Betty pointed out that Bob was so aware of, be it when they’d retire quietly to their sitting room off of the bedroom at night or out by the pool on a warm summer evening. He’d turn to her and say, “I love my life.”

Period.

So love your family like Bob loved this complicated, boundlessly energetic wife.

Like Bob loved his daughter, Kelly and her daughters, Jillian and Lauren, find the space that is only yours, such as that between a daughter and her father, a relationship that weaves through giggles and tears to a time when you will trust another man enough to hand her over at the alter. Love your family steadfastly through all time and across miles. Maddie, just the mention of your name made him sparkle.

Love the family God gives you, your stepsons and in-laws. God blessed Bob with a son, Kevin, that he lost too early and a boy that he loved as a son. I know how deeply he cared for Bill as he spoke proudly of the confident, young man taking the wheel while he was out chartering new waters. We now see how prudent this transition had been and the company remains in good hands.

Quick-Robert

Bob acted as a mentor and guide to so many of us in this room that we could probably get together after this service and launch a very successful business if we just take the advise he has given us over the years!

And we should all follow his lead by following his actions: by being kind and generous, by being loyal and courageous. Be fun loving. Be silly. Most of all cherish your gifts and be grateful that this great man touched your life.

We will miss you, Bob. Thank you so much for all that you have given us. We love you.

Read Full Post »

Good afternoon and welcome to City Hall. It is my honor to offer an annual assessment of the progress this administration has made over time and to set some goals for the coming year.

IMG_8883

The word “Renaissance” has been bandied about a bit lately, which is not a word I regularly cite in regard to our city. It is a word that suggests extravagance and romance. One imagines colorful medieval robes, mortared courtyards, writhing statuary, and spiraling baroque architecture all set in the rolling hills of Tuscany.

Not quite the picture of Amsterdam, NY in 2015.

Ours is a typical, twenty-first century, post-industrial American city that has experienced difficulty and true struggle over the decades. The beating heart of our downtown was ripped out, businesses and jobs fled the state, traffic patterns were hopelessly scrambled, and government’s frequent response had been to cut away funding for critical infrastructure, equipment and workforce. Amsterdam was vigorously torn apart in a physical way and the soul of this community tore in ways that have been ceaselessly painful and difficult to mend.

It’s easy to point out the trouble of past years, especially foibles of the last year. I will take a different tact. I see no good in giving ill will and dysfunction entry into a new year that may be recast into a time of faithful service, cooperation and most certainly progress.

With that, I will briefly highlight the successes 2014 brought us and plans for the coming year.

Fiscal Responsibility

img-internet-marketing

We continue to heal years of chaos in our Department of Finance thanks in great part to the diligent work of our new Controller Matthew Agresta. I cannot say enough about the tremendous job Matt is doing. He is skillfully progressing the many tasks identified in our Corrective Action Plan that the prior council, city attorney, Matt and I scripted in response to an audit done by the Office of the State Comptroller. He’s readily taken command of staff, process and remedy. He’s successfully shifted his department from antiquated accounting software to the state-of-the-art municipal system that will allow for prompt reporting and analysis. He’s recommended an upgrade of the city’s computer and telecommunication systems, and will see to it that the technological needs of city government are met. He’s overseen the dissolution of the insurance trust and is finally progressing the foreclosure that had languished in the hands of his two predecessors. He has been directing reconciliations of internal records, bank statements, and the general ledger necessary to complete our reports to the State.

Thankfully, it looks like we will be in good stead at the end of this process, with a fund balance that is trending in a positive direction. This trend indicates that this administration has confidently led us through the global recession at a time when State government has limited our revenues and expenses have escalated at alarming rates. These crushing realities have devastated other communities economically.

The most important quality that our young Controller presents is that he is a consummate team player and puts partisan politics aside for the betterment of this community. It has been a pleasure to have a partner that willingly takes up the mantle of his office and works peacefully toward the goal of making Amsterdam thrive. Thank you, Matt.

And thrive we will, thanks to the many hands that make light work of our tasks. We have a tremendously skilled workforce and wonderful volunteers that hold the vision of a restored Amsterdam in their hearts and put their backbone toward my next topic:

Revitalization

Not to be confused with a fully realized renaissance, revitalization is an incremental process that takes time, patience and extreme effort. This past year saw numerous projects implemented and completed that improve the physical fabric of our surroundings.

This is a list of some of our many accomplishments.

• The Reid Hill neighborhood received two $400K Community Development Block Grants over two consecutive years that allowed for interior and exterior property improvements of over 50 structures. We coupled that with several demolitions and road improvements on Bell Hill that included curbing and sidewalks to an active pedestrian area. This year, we will apply for funding for these activities in the Grand Street area.

IMG_0858

• Colonial Gardens and the Roosevelt Garden apartment complexes saw the complete rehabilitation of all 269 units, and 100 Woodrow Wilson apartments are under way. This reconstruction entailed complete renovation of all windows, siding, insulation, roofs, kitchens, bathrooms, carpeting, living space and common areas, ensuring attractive, safe and affordable housing to low-income families.

• The downtown traffic pattern rerouting has been completed without the “carmagedon” that had been anticipated by feverish naysayers.

IMG_2270
• Footings to the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook are in place. We will see this structure rapidly develop over the coming construction season into the beautiful, treed, pedestrian bridge envisioned in our Comprehensive Plan.

IMG_8957

• Shuttleworth Park saw the laying of the controversial new artificial turf and drainage. Thank you to Gabriel Paving and Contracting and the Amsterdam Mohawks for their extraordinary generosity in seeing that this job was installed by baseball season. We’ve also built a new deck, put new stadium seating in place and have constructed a warming hut by the creek for ice skaters, winter joggers and snow shoeing enthusiasts.

• Phase IV of our storm sewer infrastructure project was completed and we’ve just received $600K funding for Phase V. Over the past five years, the city has received $3 million dollars in grants to eliminate cross connections between the storm water and sewer systems, saving the city from costly fines while protecting our residents and natural environment.

• We’ve steadily progressed repairs to our water distribution system and now can report that out of over 1,000 hydrants, only six are out of service.

IMG_9038

• Citywide volunteer clean-ups in the Spring and Fall have cleared out a six year total of 24 TONS of litter from our streets, water ways and public spaces. BRAVO to every man, woman and child that helped in this effort!

Collaboration

Our partnerships with surrounding municipalities continue to develop. Several notable projects will impact our budget and neighborhoods.

For several decades, our community has looked longingly toward the Capital District for inclusion. I am proud of our growing relationship with Schenectady. This is exceedingly important. We have not seen such opportunity for shared growth or collaboration since GE had its heyday.

I’d like to thank Mayor Gary McCarthy specifically for including Amsterdam in a vision for prosperity along the Mohawk that is natural and familiar.

• Our partnership brought a successful launching of the Capital District Land Reutilization Corporation (the “Landbank”), which is off to a great start. Through this channel, Amsterdam has received $562,000 in funding for over a dozen rehabilitation projects and demolitions. Work on the first rehab in Amsterdam, the Julia Street property, will be completed before the flowers blossom.

• Amsterdam threw its support heavily to Schenectady in support of its Casino application once it was clear Montgomery County was out of the fight. Their award will mean jobs for our residents and hopefully interest from developers along the river that see opportunities just upstream on our shores.

• Amsterdam and Schenectady have been working with the Center for Technology and Growth and are proud to announce a $550K grant with Gloversville and Troy to design a shared code enforcement module. This prototype will track blight, out of town landlords, and help us to better address deterioration of properties. It may one day be used across the state or better yet, the nation.

IMG_8826

• Five capital district mayors have bonded together to take up the President’s National Mayor’s Challenge to End Veteran’s Homelessness in the Capital District. Amsterdam, Schenectady, Albany, Saratoga and Troy are committed to fulfilling this mission by 2016.

• We’ve been exploring shared service opportunities with Montgomery County. We will start by tracking actions we already collaborate on and a full inventory of public works equipment and laborers. Some additional initiatives I have been proposing since 2009 include shared records management, energy procurement and efficiencies, labor negotiations, and GIS mapping of critical infrastructure.

• We’ve negotiated a sludge disposal agreement with Madison County to take the particulate from our wastewater treatment plant. This deal will save our taxpayers $125,000 in our annual budget.

• We’ve opened up discussions with Fulton County to determine if selling water to their communities is feasible. We know our water will enable economic growth further north and south as it has on RT30 in the Towns of Amsterdam and Florida.

• We just signed a solar energy contract that will save the city $264,000 a year, resulting in $12M over the lifetime of the agreement.

• FMCC, Montgomery and Fulton Counties and CDTA have been meeting with us to possibly establish a regional transportation strategy that services our communities in a cost-efficient, effective manner.

• Of course, we are proud of the success we’ve had in bringing grant money to our city. This year’s regional economic development council awards target City Hall reparations at $225K, the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook $325K, and the aforementioned city infrastructure repairs of $600K.

Quality of Life

IMG_9099
IMG_0041

Across this nation, it is recognized that revitalization is spurred by amenities and attractions that enrich our quality of life. To that end, many, many hands are sharing in the responsibility for shoring up this city, and perhaps none so vigorously as those working to provide cultural and recreational opportunities for youth and families. W1shfu1:Th1nk1ng (especially TJ Czeski, Jon Sumpter, Casey Martin, Calvin Martin and Matt Moller) has played an integral part in outreach and mentoring to an at-risk community that has long been neglected. The women of the Creative Connections Arts Center (Barbara Neznek, Tammy Merendo, and Suzannah Hunter) offer instruction as well as loving, familial relationships to some children that have never experienced such caring. Danielle’s House provides welcome to the homeless and the school district has received funding that will allow us to address the nutritional and physical health of families that we had intended in last year’s “Reinvent Yourself Amsterdam” program.

Our recreation department has been at the center of much of this activity, coordinating events, spaces, and interested parties. Bacon Recreation Center and the Arts Center continue to be hubs of activity for fun and learning. We host basketball workshops and tournaments, Saturday morning play dates for toddlers, and Summer Camp to hundreds of children. We have an award winning 4H Club, community garden and after-school tutoring for any child that wants help. We offer free-swimming classes to kids at the city pool and free buses that get them there from our poorer neighborhoods.

IMG_3914
IMG_0405
Our annual events are growing in participants and impact. Spring Fling attracts thousands of visitors to our Main Street and our Farmers Market makes locally produced vegetables and products available to a community that is hungry for this opportunity (thank you to Sherri Crouse for being a primary organizer of both efforts!) W1shfu1:Th1nk1ng’s Annual 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament at Vets Field commemorates a moment of extreme pain in our community, marking the tragic murder of two young boys, as well as the willingness of this community to resiliently push back with love. The same rings true for National Night Out, populated by our Neighborhood Watch Association members, families and many organizations that are committed to fostering a safe and healthy environment for our residents.

It’s important to stop here and point out how safe we are in relative terms. In fact, our statistics show that the City of Amsterdam’s crime rate is trending downward over the past three years and compared to surrounding municipalities, we are very safe. This does not mean we must pull back from efforts to manage wrongdoing. It means we are going in the right direction. To this end we have expanded APD’s outreach to the public via electronic media and instituted “Tell us Tuesday” regarding wanted subjects. Tips from this avenue have led to successful arrests. We’ve developed the animal control site, “Furry Friends Friday” which will assist adoption of local rescued animals. We’ve expanded surveillance cameras in the Five Corners area, reinstituted walking beats in problem areas of the City, received a $100,000 Homeland Security Tactical Team Grant, and are partnering in a newly developing “Crime Stoppers” program. We will fill vacancies at the police department and come up with more programs that bring neighbors together and encourage youth.

Other areas where we’ve triumphed are as follows:
IMG_0691
Sassafras Playground received a much-needed facelift from a group of dedicated volunteers and city staff. Rusty nails, splintered wood and vandalized areas were remedied and a fresh coat of paint brought the aged structure back to life for young families.

IMG_0457
• The GAR Park and monument dedicated to Civil War Veterans below City Hall was reestablished. The lawn now hosts an expansive flower garden and labyrinth that attracts visitors from around the world. The cost has been negligible to taxpayers.

Action

There are several projects we will aggressively pursue this year. They include:
IMG_8804Master Planning. Over the past few years we have compiled studies, reports, assessments and plans from various sources. We’ve generated the Waterfront Heritage BOA and Northeast BOA forums, train station relocation and waterfront walkway feasibility studies, the NY Rising strategic plan, a state-mandated Hazard Mitigation plan, the Fulton/Montgomery and Regional Economic Development Plans, the Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor Plan, our Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan and a couple of Municipal Golf Course strategic plans. This Spring, HUD will begin a citywide assessment of housing and community issues. All of these documents must be condensed into one cohesive executive summary. To that end, we will convene a Master Planning Committee to come up with a new guiding document that augments our older Comprehensive Plan. Some of the goals and strategies in the original document still hold for today’s world; others must be updated to address the evolving needs of our city in the 21st century. We should take this opportunity to think about where we want to be in ten years and what we may do purposely to achieve our desires. This will be an exciting and thought provoking process.

IMG_6281
• As the cold season wanes and work again starts up on the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook, we will press hard to market the Chalmers and downtown properties on Main and Bridge Streets. We are planning a late-winter event that will feature hidden commercial and residential spaces that can be the envy of the Mohawk Valley.

• The Concordia assisted living facility will be built adjacent to the River Ridge Living Center, providing over 100 good paying jobs and much-needed access to this type of care in our City. The hotel downtown will be revamped and a new business will launch at the FGI building on Edson Street. The collapsing wall along Dove Creek will be repaired and RT5 will be reconstructed to alleviate annual flooding in that area along the river.

• We are well into the conceptual process necessary to build a new Recreation Center. Renderings, cost estimates and an initial operational budget have been conceived. We are studying several possible locations and have spoken to a few well-known developers about the project. We’ve also begun the arduous task of raising money with our not-for-profit partners to make this a reality. We are certain that this project will be successful on several levels, not the least being the wellbeing of our youth and families.

• We are also looking to convert Isabel’s Field to a ball park and playground facility that will support individuals with special requirements, i.e., those with mobility challenges needing wheelchair access, grab bars, etc. We know that this type of offering would attract individuals and teams from across the region and would be a proud addition to our recreational provisions.

IMG_2187
• Just as every resident is responsible to keep up with the maintenance of their home, City Hall will see necessary reconstruction of several critically compromised areas of the building, including the back patio and portico off of the southeast wing. This is the primary seat of city government and protecting this asset directly signifies the pride we have for our heritage.

• For those of you that are aficionados of modern technologies, we will implement a mobile application available to smart phones and computers that makes it easier for residents to report concerns such as graffiti, potholes or suspicious activities in their neighborhoods. The application, used by many cities and towns across the country, allows administration to more effectively track work orders, set goals, and gather macro-data to support budgetary requests.

• There are many smaller actions that we will take to address our common concerns. We will be proposing new legislation targeting enhanced code enforcement efforts pertaining to vacant properties and restoration incentives. We will begin a scheduled program off employee training to keep our staff safe and secure. We will open up ways to generate additional revenues and cooperate with our partners. I hope that, in this Chamber, we will commit to respectful and considerate behavior.

IMG_1948

It is the duty of this government to reconstruct the tattered quilt of this community into a colorful, well-constructed patchwork of hope. We must take the torn pieces of our physical reality and repurpose them into an environment that is vibrant and growing. This takes sincere good will, ingenuity and willing compromise. I humbly ask my fellow members of the Council to work WITH me and do all in their power to see that we succeed.

Thankfully, we may depend on the indelible strength and charity of the people of Amsterdam to assist us in this goal. Together, we will must keep to our dreams for this city and provide the foundation for a proud, kind and prosperous future.

As Lady Bird Johnson so aptly put it, “While the spirit of neighborliness was important on the frontier because neighbors were so few, it is even more important now because our neighbors are so many.”

May we all depend upon each other in these times of change. Thank you.

Mayor Ann M. Thane

Read Full Post »

QUESTION: do you follow the person that points out problems or do you follow the person that’s done something about them? The city’s finances have been out of wack for over a decade.

This administration has:

• called these problems to the attention of the council and the media for six years (documented in writing);

• WITH THE COOPERATION OF PAST COUNCILS,
purchased specialized municipal accounting software;

• WITH THE COOPERATION OF PAST COUNCILS,
hired outside experts to help unravel the problems;

• WITH THE COOPERATION OF PAST COUNCILS,
brought in $24M dollars in grants and stimulus funds to fix infrastructure & equipment, advance huge capital projects, and offset the cost of bonding;

• WITH THE COOPERATION OF PAST COUNCILS,
scripted the Corrective Action Plan submitted to the state in order to move past our troubles;

• WITH THE COOPERATION OF PAST COUNCILS,
reworked utility fees so that they BENEFIT CITY TAXPAYERS; and

INCREASED REVENUE by millions of dollars to the annual budget.

The FACTS speak for themselves. My administration has proactively handled problems with creativity and action.

That’s LEADERSHIP.

“Anyone can hold the helm, when the sea is calm” – Publilius Syrus

leadership

Read Full Post »

Good Morning. I’d like to thank the Veteran’s Commission for once again allowing me the honor to speak on behalf of our city; to once again acknowledge how much we appreciate the men and women that have freely offered to serve this country we all love.
veterans-dayjpg-811a0cf798a38e8e

Another year has come and gone since we last gathered on a crisp morning by our beautiful monument. The hours, days, weeks and months have been spent according to the demands of our daily lives – at work or at the doctor’s office, at a school function or social event, behind the wheel of our car or at the kitchen stove. Every day, we wake, dress, eat and blessedly sleep at day’s end. The seasons fall away from us like the leaves from these trees. We strive for financial stability, independence, and accomplishments both great and small. We engage with loved ones and peers in ways that are both mundane and incredibly poignant. We are afforded all of these instances of being because we live in a time of relative peace and some prosperity.

For the most part, we will finish this day fed and in our own bed, with a roof over our head and an opportunity to tackle tomorrow’s challenges as a new sun rises.

We are blessed.

This is the truth of our experience as civilians of a great and powerful nation – a country of promise – a country that has been heavily involved in wars and conflicts over its two hundred years of history. We have a way of living that is the pinnacle of comfort for others around the world.

Yes, we are blessed.

We are blessed because we have had the good fortune to have young men and women that have chosen to serve in the military, to defend our freedoms and provide us this unrivaled way of life that we have all benefited from.

Thank you, you men and women of the military, that have served us so well.

In thinking about this speech today, I was struck by the many reasons a young man or woman may choose this line of endeavor, to put aside the familiar and take up the mantle of a military uniform.

In times of peace, one can see the wonderful opportunities the military provides. They will leave high school and go off to boot camp, wet behind the ears, to find structure, purpose, schooling, travel, and a career. They will make friendships and associations that will survive a lifetime of what life will throw at them, and most of these bonds will outlast some jobs and marriages. It’s understandable why someone would choose this path.

It is so compelling that young people choose this endeavor in times of strife, yet again and again, the honorable call to action is bravely taken up. As long as men have gathered in villages to live communally, they have also stood together against oppression and fear. I am a child of the 60’s. I watched my grandparents and parents talk of the world wars, my father and uncle talk of the Korean War that left my uncle deaf in one ear and my father resolutely mute about his time of service, and saw kids from my neighborhood sent off to Vietnam.

I was too young then to understand the enormity of what they and the many families across this nation had experienced.

These young people, the kids we nursed, immunized, provided music lessons to and carted around to sporting events, left high school, still wet behind the ears, blew through boot camp and were deployed around the world to situations unlike any they had known before. After such a short time, our young recruits were charging the beach at Normandy, stumbling through cold, rough waters, an air assault and a barrage of bullets that would take 120,000 allied lives.
veterans_day_12

Still green, they were deployed to the hot, humid and hostile jungles of Vietnam to walk waste deep in water, guns held over their heads, trying to avoid snakes, trip wires, gun fire and the relentless fear that has stayed with many for decades.

Still wet behind the ears, our boys and girls have been sent in heavy fatigues to the arid deserts of the middle east to track tyranny in the monotonous blowing sands and stinging heat that often soars well over 100 degrees, also fearing the anonymous attacks of guerilla warfare and land mines, only this time they face an enemy willing to strap a bomb to his or her chest and take out an entire section of city street.

With the advancements made in medical technologies, soldiers return with disabilities that they surely would not have survived in the past. Loss of limbs, head injuries and trauma are far too commonly born by our returning heroes. These young men and women have served us too well to be forgotten. We, the great nation that has been afforded so much in the way of serenity, have a responsibility to provide the ongoing support necessary to ensure that they may live lives that are full and fulfilled, as safe and stable and comfortable as any of us have come to expect. We must ensure that veterans are provided education and vocational opportunities, and jobs. We must ensure that no veteran goes homeless or without the medical provisions that will help them flourish once again.

To those of you that stand with us today as veterans, and those of you still in active service, I cannot understand the depth of your experience as soldiers but can, with great certainty, tell you that we people of this small community of Amsterdam are completely grateful for the gift of your time, talent, youth and commitment.

I’d like share the words of a mayor in another like community, Mayor Debbie Brinkman of Littleton, Colorado. We share her sentiment and gratitude:

“Since World War I, the United States of America’s Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard have fought in ten battles:
• World War II
• Korean War
• Vietnam War
• Bay of Pigs
• Grenada
• Invasion of Panama
• The Persian Gulf
• Intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina
• Invasion of Afghanistan, and the
• Invasion of Iraq

We open our arms and our hearts and welcome them all home. They did not all come home alive, they did not all come home whole, many are not yet home, and we continue to send many back into harm’s way. The enormity of their sacrifice is beyond compare. So how do we dare to believe two words, eight letters is enough?

John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

So, it isn’t enough to say it – we need to be it. Grateful. Thankful. Appreciative. The greatest prayer you can say is “Thank You.” Two words. Eight letters. But weighted with love, gratitude, humility and understanding.”

So, to each veteran that stands here today, under this heavy sky and waving flag, our words are not enough.
Know, as only a soldier can know, that you have our deepest respect, gratitude and love.
God bless.

Read Full Post »

My commentary at the Wilmington Senior Center Lifetime Achievement Awards Celebration, Peg Tigue: 2014 Recipient of the David G. Menser Award.

Peg Tigue

Peg Tigue


Good evening.

Thank you to the Wilmington Senior Center for allowing me a few moments to speak on behalf of a woman I love very much and, more importantly, to participate in a celebration of her lifetime of service to our community, state and nation. Please note the specifics of this service in the biography in your program because I am going to tackle this on a more personal level.

I am so proud of my mother.

Of course I am. We are all proud of our mothers!

Please, everyone raise a glass to the woman that brought you into this world, for the job of mother is not an easy one from the birth of a child until the job is done.

To mothers!

That said, I will tell you that my mother is of a special cut. She is smart, funny, infinitely energetic (which a few of you may have noticed) and she is as determined as she is elegant.

For all of you fans of astrology, my mother is a classic Taurus and unwaveringly displays the characteristics of her sign. If she puts her head down and starts pawing the ground, you’d better hope you’re not wearing red.

She has a sharp business sense and an undeniable capacity for organization. She thinks fast and acts accordingly. She is a natural-born leader.

She commands respect with her intellect, immense grace and smile. I think people would be surprised to know that she is somewhat shy but adheres to a philosophy we both share when having to enter a crowded room or difficult negotiation. We both mutter these words like a prayer before taking on such tasks:

“Put on your big girl panties and just DO it.”

And DO IT she does, whether it’s running a family business, building a tall ship, hunting down funding for a national museum or revitalizing a neighborhood.

My mother ceases on a dream and inspires others to do the same.

This is such an extraordinary quality, and a quality that I know her lifetime friend, Dave Menser, recognized and cherished. I’m sure he’s here today, raising a glass in toast and smiling with the angels. Right, Edie?

Again, I am so proud of my mother for all of these things and so much more, because my mother is a vastly complicated woman and I, like many others, have benefited from her gifts. I have especially received the gift of her strength.

My mother has experienced incomprehensible pain and loss and has risen from her difficulties, becoming one of the truly strongest souls I will ever know.

Her finest gift is this: I, and my brothers and sisters, have been given her love and devotion for all of these years. We are forever blessed.

So, without further ado, it is my distinct honor to be present for this award recognizing the exceptional achievements of my mother, Margaret Ann Tigue.

I can think of no one that is more deserving. I love you, Mom.

Read Full Post »

IMG_0580

From: Gerry DeCusatis
Date: Fri, 29 Aug 2014 15:22:21 -0400
To: Office of the Mayor, Richard Leggiero, Ed Russo, Ron Barone, Valerie Beekman, Diane Hatzenbuhler, robert spagnola
Cc: Susan Alibozek
Subject: Fwd: resolution request

All:

The requested resolution appears to be an attempt to direct city employees in their day to day actions.  The direction of city employees is an executive power belonging to the mayor.  This power cannot be changed by a resolution. A charter amendment would be required and such an amendment would be subject to a mandatory referendum.

There is no “legalese” that will cure this proposed resolution.

Perhaps it would be helpful if I were provided with more details of the actual events that this is attempting to regulate along with some communication of the goals of the resolution from the requester.

G DeCusatis

_______________________________________________
On Fri, Aug 22, 2014 at 3:20 PM, Susan Alibozek wrote:

Gerry – below is a resolution draft requested by Alderwoman Hatzenbuhler.  The request stems from the removal of the fence at Milton Avenue, painting of murals on City owed property, etc.   There may be a Committee of the Whole at 6:30 on September 2 to discuss this resolution therefore if you can provide more legalese to the resolution it would be most appreciated.

WHEREAS, in the past City-owned property has been removed, used, painted etc. without the knowledge or consent of the Common Council.

RESOLVED, no city employee shall use, remove, paint, deface any City-owned property without the written knowledge and consent of the Common Council.

Susan Alibozek, City Clerk
City of Amsterdam

Read Full Post »

MEMORIAL DAY 2014
May 26 • Veterans Field, Amsterdam, NY

Good morning all. I ask you to join me in a short exercise as we think about the meaning of Memorial Day.

Think of someone you’ve loved with all of your heart that has died. Choose one person that was your reason to live or your strongest support in this crazy, confusing life… that one someone that you still cannot live without that has died. They may be a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a child, or a close friend. Imagine as clearly as you can their smiling face.

il_fullxfull.335691994

Think of all of the wonderful moments you shared… the laughter at the dining room table at Thanksgiving, the closeness you felt as children when you leapt together from rock to rock in a stream, the happiness you felt as you watched them stand in cap and gown for a graduation portrait, the gratitude you felt when they poured you a glass of milk because you were too small to manage, the understanding that passed between you as you accepted an engagement ring, the moments you spent together in silent reverie in a church pew, the harsh tears you shared when life was unbearable or angry…

Think about the last time you saw your loved one. That very last, irretrievable moment when you thought, “well, maybe this is it,” but deep in your heart, you couldn’t believe it. You gently held a bird-like hand at the bedside, you tousled someone’s already wild hair, you both stared off awkwardly into different directions, you noted how grown up he looked in that military uniform, you embraced her tightly in the hallway, you watched his headlights fade as he drove into the last bit of twilight before evening…

and then they were gone.

Think about how desperately you sought out the last remnants of their being… how you grabbed a shirt out of the laundry basket or a pillow off of the bed, and buried your face in it for a fleeting scent that would all too soon be forgotten… how you eyed the keys they left on the table or the sock by the bed as if they would insistently push back through the door to retrieve them… how you touched the hospital monitor to kick it back into rhythm… how you watched the clouds move across a sky suddenly imbued with a presence that was ripping your heart from its cage.

We all come to know mourning in ways that are small and terrible.

Think about how tenuous that memory of your loved one is… how everyday, color and realities sift from that image… how facial features and context breezily lift away in thin, transparent sheets… notice how blurred that face is in your memory and how difficult it becomes to hold on to the story of your time together because each day subtly subtracts remembrances without your knowing.

How at mercy we are to the evil thievery of time.

Days tick off of the calendar into weeks, then months, then years. We learn to live with muted recollection. We are stuck with photo albums that have frozen only fractions of a life that had been rich and tactile and deeply meaningful.

Now think of that loss in terms of the many, many souls we have lost to war. In fact, we have lost over 1.1 million in the three hundred years we have existed as a sovereign nation.

Think of that incredible loss to our hearts and to our country.

Our memories lift collectively from us like dandelion seeds on a light wind. They peel away until we stand before walls of lonely names without tether to the hearts that etched them there. The souls that wore these names and the uniforms of our country are gone forever, as are many of the loving people they belonged to.

It is the testament of each military monument, with names that have been scratched into stone that calls us all to the purpose of this day. They drive us as a community to never forget that each name held the magic of a life that we have lost forever. More importantly, each boy or girl that is memorialized on that monument took a selfless oath to serve our country.
This quote by Reverand Randolf Harrison McKim speaks to this selflessness and sacrifice perfectly: “Not for fame or reward, not for place or for rank, not lured by ambition or goaded by necessity, but in simple obedience to duty as they understood it, these men suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all, and died.”

On this day, we must grieve for we have lost generations of loved ones.

But just as we must grieve, so too must we also celebrate the lives of those dear souls that have ensured our prosperity, commerce, comfort and freedom. They have given us a country that values equality, ingenuity, religious choice and free speech.

All too often, we walk or drive past these monuments without thought to the spectacular gift of our everyday lives, so it is fitting that we gather as one to give thanks for each and every brave individual, both living and dead, that have taken the oath to serve in our military.

Thank you, each of you here today that had passed through the rigors of boot camp, crisply saluted a superior officer, presented your weapon with precision, and marched as one body with your company. Thank you to those veterans that had served decades ago but still stand at attention when our national anthem is played. Thank you for tending to the graves of your fellows and never allowing us to forget our duty to those that have passed.

Thank you to the young men and women that still take up the oath and grace us with their protection at present. You continue a tradition that is proud and honorable.

Thank you so much to the Veteran’s Commission for organizing this event again, as you do every year. Amsterdam is grateful for your continuous advocacy on behalf of those that have served our country so well.

And lastly, thank you to God, for planting us all in the soil of this great nation where such freedom and sacrifice may be reverently celebrated.

Mayor Ann M. Thane

Read Full Post »

There’s no other way to start this out but with gratitude for those that have supported me all of the way through this endeavor. It’s possible that in several minutes you will wish that I had been made speechless by this honor, but please bear with me.

First, thank you to Executive Director Peter Baynes and the most accomplished and gifted staff I’ve ever encountered. Your team exemplifies excellence in every application of the word. Thank you for cultivating an organization that cares for the individual needs of each community and is the motivating force for the aggregate. Thank you for accepting me, for nurturing me, and being patient with me.

Thank you to outgoing President Dick Donovan, and those that came before you, that set the tone and direction of this organization. Dick, your energy and resolute integrity have inspired all of us. You have carried our message to every corner of this great state. You teach us to never back down from our conviction that the state MUST respond to the needs of local government in order to forge a bountiful and sustainable future for all.

Thank you to my fellow executive board members for your warmth and welcome. I look forward to our regular meetings throughout the year much like children look forward to the holidays. I no longer think of my relationship with you as one of service. I think of you all in a very real way as family.

Which leads me to my Amsterdam family. To Congressman Paul Tonko, thank you for never forgetting your hometown while fighting in Washington DC for a stronger nation. I aspire to follow your example, with your ceaseless passion for public service and your vision for a revitalized Amsterdam through waterfront rehabilitation and heritage expression.

To Mary and Gerry DeCusatis, thank you for your years of friendship. To Mary, thank you for creating a loving haven for my children when I had nowhere else to turn and for your incredibly giving nature. Your home is a reflection of your generous heart and I love you for it.

To Gerry, my Corporation Counsel and my best friend, thank you, thank you, thank you. Years before the decision to run for office, we spent hours in the living room weaving the tale of how our city would thrive if we ruled our small world. You are the reason my administration works and the reason I can make it through the toughest hours. I love your resolve, your zany humor and your endless tolerance of my quirkiness. You are doing a fantastic job and are the best thing that ever happened to Amsterdam. If our local media pundits don’t know it, now 200 new people in this room do.

And now for the wellspring from which I emerged, my real family, people that are eloquent, hard headed and fun. With me today are several of the women in my family that sport the same obsessive drive to perform well, the same vibrant interest in politics, and the same easy laughter. My aunt, Mary Lou Andersen, was a true feminist in the 60’s. She showed us that women not only belonged in a world dominated by men, but that we would flourish there. My attraction to public service began as I watched my aunt’s weekly commute from Delaware to Washington DC. Thank you Aunt Mary Lou.

To her daughter, Joan, thank you for being here. You know you are much more a sister to me than a cousin and that the bonds we share probably flow deeper than this corporeal reality. I love you. To my cousin, Caroline, that religiously follows me and fights for me on Facebook from Florida despite the 50 years since we last met, thank you! I love that you are here!

To my mother, Peg Tigue, I am so glad that God chose you as the vessel that gave me life. You’ve taught me to be strong in impossibly difficult times, to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us, and that if everyone else can’t see that beauty, we do and we will make it so. My mother’s presence is felt across the City of Wilmington, Delaware – from its tall ship and waterfront redevelopment to the preservation of its most valued historical properties to the restoration of neighborhoods one house at a time through Habitat for Humanity. My mother is a crusader for urban revitalization. I don’t fall far from her loving branches and am so grateful for her particular genes. I love you, Mom.

To my husband, Peter, thank you so much for the life you’ve given to me and for the home you sustain. You are my harbor, my balance, my boxing partner and my hero. You provide me a safety net when I fall, constancy when the political world shreds at my will, and quiet dignity through every difficult bump in the road. You teach our beautiful children and me that honesty and loyalty are all that matter, and that family come before all else. Thank you, Pete, for staying the course through all of the toil, turmoil and sudden smiles. I love you.

To all of you in this audience, I love you for sitting through this speech so far!

It’s such a pleasure to look out over all of the faces gathered here today at our annual meeting. Yours are the faces of true leaders: intelligent, creative and committed to your communities in ways that few can understand until they’ve walked in your shoes… until they’ve received the call at 2am about a factory fire that’s consuming an entire city block in one night and will smolder for a month, or the call that the river is rising by several feet an hour and that you’ve got to evacuate several thousands of people before the devastation hits, or the call that two teenagers have been murdered in an inexplicably violent manner by two kids of the same age and the community is on the verge of rioting, or the half hour phone call describing the six-inch pot hole in front of an elderly constituent’s driveway.

Your commitment is astounding. You patiently endure council meetings that are contentious, labor negotiations that are highly challenging, lengthy budget sessions that are taxing in more ways than one, and manage to steadfastly oversee the ins and outs of daily departmental operations. You gracefully persist despite the biases of local newspapers, uninformed radio hosts, bloggers and Facebook hot shots.

Give yourself a hand. It’s the shared experience of the people in this room that give me the courage and inspiration to get up every day and once more do the job of mayoring.

I am extremely grateful to NYCOM for their guidance on this joyous and sometimes difficult journey into local governance. I think my first experiences with this organization were in rooms very similar to this one as I found my way to the ample well of knowledge provided in these training sessions. My first year in office was one of wide-eyed idealism and I burned like phosphorous that first year, soaking up anything and everything I could to bring new light to years of darkness that had plagued the City of Amsterdam. I immersed myself in Internet searches, online tutorials, budget workshops and, of course, regularly scheduled training opportunities through NYCOM.

In 2009, I received a call from now-Assemblyman John McDonald inviting me to serve on NYCOM’s executive board, a prospect that was both enticing and terrifying at the same time. I guess you can say I still had freshman jitters, but a good friend had given me sound advice in the beginning and I continue to chant this to myself to get through any challenge choice may bring me: “Put on your big girl panties and just do it.” It’s great advice and I encourage you all to fall back on it in times of trouble, no matter your gender.

NYCOM Executive Board meetings are generally around an assemblage of tables to accommodate 25 or so very smart, very savvy staff and board members with a combined experience level that spans decades and distance. They are congenial, knowledgeable, brave and amazingly apolitical. It is at that table, both then and now, that I witness some of the highest functioning governance, anywhere. I wish my council or the state legislature could attend to see how effective shared vision, ample research, probing discussion and working toward the common good benefits all involved.

Because that’s what our highest purpose is, in NYCOM and in life, to work collaboratively so that our communities thrive.

Certainly, we here at NYCOM have our work “cut out for us.” Local governments are under siege by a State government that sees us as frivolous and in need of guidance. Rather than make difficult decisions that may cut into campaign coffers, they underfund us year after year and shift the heavy cost of state legislative and budgetary inaction to the backs of counties, cities, towns and villages. This sluggish response to real need at the local level cannot be managed by capping our revenues.

We need the state to cap our costs!

Cap my costs and my budget will take care of itself, thank you very much!

And please, we are quite familiar with sharing services. We’ve been sharing and consolidating and creatively partnering for years. The fact of the matter is that our budgets are not fat and we’ve been balancing delicately constructed budgets with the provision of services without falling back on gimmickry since the inception of public service. At our level, the impact of our decisions about a pothole, a police vehicle, a fire hydrant, a city playground or an abandoned property is immediate and noted by our consumers, the voters that put us in office to properly manage their money. Believe me, if we do not meet the expectations of those voters, the consequences are harshly personal.

It is this personal message that must resonate in both chambers of the legislature and echo down the hallways of the capital building.

In order to make this message heard at the state level, we must redouble our efforts to educate our constituents and our state representatives. The beauty in NYCOM’s reaction to the persistent budgetary problems faced by the state is that, not only can we identify the origins and intricacies of these troubles, but we offer sound, innovative solutions as well. We are here to help!

The difficulty for us is communicating our message of hope effectively. And this is where you all come into play. We need YOU, the representatives of 582 member municipalities, to be the loud and insistent voice for responsible stewardship of our tax dollars.

We need YOU to loudly witness for the 11 million people we represent. We must understand the legitimacy and power that we posses when advocating for 11 million residents. Our interests cannot be ignored. We speak for 11 million of the 19 million people that live in New York State. Let that knowledge empower you when discussing local issues with your state senators and assemblymen. Let that knowledge drive your determination when speaking to the press, labor unions and state agency representatives. Let the destiny of those 11 million souls inform your actions when you return to your hometowns after this conference.

The future of NYS is in each of your hands and here’s a shared service we at NYCOM encourage you to take back to your constituents: Share our message. Be a catalyst for REAL change. Make it your personal responsibility to understand the NYCOM platform. Talk about mandate relief to everyone you can. Build coalitions with your neighboring municipalities, counties and school districts. Utilize our staff and resources, both printed and online. Follow the NYCOM example of setting political partisanship aside for the betterment of our communities. Be the leaders you had promised to be when you sought office.

I read a quote this morning by a very famous fellow named Anonymous which, I think, speaks perfectly to our situation. It said, “Put your future in good hands — your own.” I can’t think of any better advice… Just couple it with the panties.

In closing, own this: WE, the members of NYCOM, are THE force in this state to be reckoned with and we will have this our way.

Thank you again for this great honor. I look forward to working with you over the coming year.

Click on this image to see the Word Cloud of this speech:
Wordle: NYCOM Acceptance Speech

Read Full Post »

So, God looked down at the City of Amsterdam and saw that we had amassed close to 200 volunteers for our litter pick up and decided to hold off on the rain as we had requested in our prayers. He turned off the faucet before dawn which gave the ground just enough time to be be manageable for our legions. Folks spread out in all directions and have gathered what may be our biggest load to date (we’ll find out on Monday when it is weighed at the transfer station.)

I’d like to thank the many individuals and organizations that came out strong for this day of service: St. Mary’s Healthcare, City of Amsterdam Democrats, Liberty, the Amsterdam Housing Authority, the Mental Health Association, Centro Civico, Target, AHS Track Team and W1shfu1 Th1nk1ng. This effort was a tremendous success from RT5W, Northampton, Union Street, to Locust Av, Kellog St, Church St, Grove St Slope, and East Main to the South Side, as well as all points in between!

The following are shots of the day.

IMG_9025

IMG_9026

IMG_9027

IMG_9029

IMG_9031

IMG_9032

IMG_9033

IMG_9036

IMG_9038

IMG_9039

IMG_9044

IMG_9041

IMG_9049

IMG_9051

IMG_9053

IMG_9054

IMG_9055

IMG_9057

IMG_9058

IMG_9059

IMG_9060

IMG_9061

IMG_9063

IMG_9064

IMG_9065

IMG_9068

IMG_9069

IMG_9070

IMG_9071

IMG_9072

IMG_9073

IMG_9075

IMG_9077

IMG_9078

IMG_9079

IMG_9080

IMG_9082

IMG_9083

IMG_9085

IMG_9087

IMG_9088

IMG_9089

IMG_9090

IMG_9091

IMG_9093

IMG_9094

IMG_9096

IMG_9097

IMG_9099

IMG_9098

IMG_9101

IMG_9102

IMG_9103

IMG_9104

IMG_9105

IMG_9122

IMG_9121

IMG_9124

IMG_9123

IMG_9125

IMG_9139

IMG_9141

IMG_9142

IMG_9145

IMG_9146

IMG_9148

IMG_9150

IMG_9151

IMG_9152

IMG_9154

IMG_9156

IMG_9157

IMG_9158

IMG_9164

IMG_9165

IMG_9167

IMG_9170

IMG_9173

IMG_9175

IMG_9180

IMG_9181

IMG_9182

IMG_9183

Read Full Post »

Hello all. Thank you for coming out on this chilly, gray morning. It’s not the most ideal weather for a gathering, so I especially appreciate your making the effort to come here today and pay tribute to our veterans. For my part of this ceremony, I’d like to tell you a story:

Once upon a time, I stood at the side of the road on Guy Park Avenue and watched the Amsterdam Veterans honor their comrades by walking a length of the city road to their WWI memorial. The day was brisk but beautiful. Clusters of my neighbors stood reverently, clasping their coats against a light wind with gloved hands, smiling and greeting folks they’d known their whole lives. Much like today, they were a mix of hats, scarves, and wool in the colors of autumn… gold, plumb, brown and rust… most were older folks and a few families brought together several generations of the same height, weight and hair pattern. They talked quietly with each other, noting the falling leaves, fleeting clouds, and onset of winter in the coming weeks.

IMG_7739

I held the hand of my little boy, Ian, who at the time had to have been about four or five years old. We were excited and happy to be at our first official parade in our partnership as mother and son. He was so young and perfect; a sprite with an immediate smile and mischievous glint in his eye. He could not imagine how deep my love for him was because, for a child, it is a given. He was born into the brilliant embers of my attention. He did not know of my long wait for him or my doubt that I’d ever be lucky enough to have a child. I gripped his mittened hand tightly as the procession started.

We watched as the veterans from wars long gone began to pass our station. A scattering of very elderly men that had survived the “War to End All Wars” and eight decades were driven in cars, still proudly wearing their dress caps, insignias, awards, badges and accoutrements. These men sat in stoic silence, weathered as the dried leaves, bearing witness to the time that had passed and memories that would soon be remembered only in books, instead of recounted person-to-person. They seemed to not notice the gathering around them. Their clouded eyes looked ahead in anticipation of their destination.

Men and a few women of WWII, who at the time were then in their late sixties and early seventies followed these vets. This was a larger group of soldiers than the first, still vital and dignified, survivors of a war of unthinkable brutality and loss. They wore, and still wear, their experiences with such pride. They had lived through a time of unsullied patriotism and vigorous optimism, when you could count on God, and County and your neighbor. The charm of that period lives on in the music of the 40’s… still lively with syncopated jazz riffs and sadly sweet, romantic ballads. Though their marching step was somewhat unpolished, they walked with a unity that can only come from the knowledge of their sure achievement in saving the world from tyranny.

Next came the men of the Korean War, men in their late-forties and early-fifties. This war is sadly referred to as the “Forgotten War.” These men walked with a solid gait, having persevered without the public accolades and attention of those that had served in the decade before or those that would come after. These soldiers walked with some ease and casually waved to the bystanders. As I watched, I understood that, had my father lived a longer life, he would have marched with this group. I squeezed my son’s hand and pointed out the beat of their feet on the pavement, and noted that my heart beat with that time.

The next wave of soldiers started to pass us. The Vietnam War Veterans were not much older than I, and I thought about my friends that had fought in that war. The times were so tumultuous and the decision to enter the military was more controversial than at any time that had preceded it in all of history. As well, the mechanisms of war were much more horrific and deadly. I thought of Kevin, a happy-go-lucky kid in our neighborhood that had come back from the sweltering humidity of Vietnam changed… more serious with an uncharacteristic edge in his demeanor. To my knowledge, he never spoke of his time there… not to his family and certainly not to us, his hometown friends. That he and others had returned to a nation that questioned the actions of these young men and women still haunts our days. These young soldiers made the commitment to serve our government without public reverence for their decision. That is a wound that must never be delivered again.

Contemporary men and women in service, marching crisply in unison, followed the Vets of the 60’s and 70’s. Some had already served in the Gulf and some could expect to be shipped to areas of conflict around the world at any time. They looked formidable in their desert combat uniforms, all tautly following command. I looked across the road at a mother anxiously scanning the unit for the unforgettable face of her child, and watched for the moment of recognition as she located the object of her love. Brimming with pride, she yelled out a name with joy and pointed rapidly so that her friends would not miss out on the gift of this moment. The realization of the sacrifice that she and her family had made was beginning to reach me like a scent carried lightly on a breeze.

The ROTC students from Amsterdam High School followed in step, their beautiful, unlined faces intent on their task. They lead younger children informally walking together from the boy scouts, girl scouts and, tying it all up at the end, the youngest Webelos and Brownies that may begin this march at age seven. Suddenly, the breath was pulled from my chest and the full impact of this parade of souls came to me. I stared incredulously down at the little boy at the end of my arm and could see the whole of this impossible offering.

710341791_img_5181

The oldest veteran to the youngest, silly sprout walks a path that tears our loved ones from the warmth of our hearth and sends them to the edge of the earth for the ideals our government is built on.

Regardless of politics, public furor, danger or exhaustion, our soldiers serve willingly, selflessly and courageously that we may continue to live in peace and prosperity. They enter into situations of loneliness, peril, boredom and chaos that others may have hope. Those that have marched in parades have returned to us. Remember also that others have not, or that they have returned to us broken and in need of our full support as a nation, as a community, as friends and as family.

THIS is what this day, Veterans Day, is all about.

Having grasped this concept, as desperately as I had held the hand of my son so long ago, let us all acknowledge that there can be no greater calling than that of a soldier and extend our deepest gratitude for the gifts that they have given so freely to us.

Thank you to the Veterans Commission for continuing this tradition and thank you with all of our hearts to each and every veteran gathered here today. God bless you and keep you, forever and always.

Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »

About twenty-five volunteers of all ages came out today to participate in the creation of a mural on the East End. The first layer of colorful paint has been applied to the bottom of the wall; Lara Kulpa will be painting the top on donated scaffolding. Textured patterns will layer on top of the base design. This is part of an effort to turn this neighborhood around by nurturing the pride that these kids have in public projects (community garden, mural, and next, a mosaic wall!) It was a great day and showing by all. Everyone was patient, well-behaved, and very helpful. Thank you, dear lord, for the beautiful weather.

IMG_4577

IMG_4578

IMG_4579

IMG_4581

IMG_4582

IMG_4585

IMG_4586

IMG_4587

IMG_4588

IMG_4589

IMG_4590

IMG_4591

IMG_4592

IMG_4593

IMG_4594

IMG_4595

IMG_4598

IMG_4607

IMG_4616

Read Full Post »

Memorial Day Speech
May 27, 2013

Good morning. Thank you all for being here.

It is a glorious thing that we have all risen, blinked sleep from our eyes and shuffled to the mirror, to mark one more day with a direct look into the glass, noting one more line, one more dark spot, one more sigh with one more promise to try for one more day.

memorial-day-vintage-postcard-1

It’s a glorious thing.
We are all here.

God has given us a glorious day – cool and brilliantly sunny; a day shot with the verdant greens and vibrant colors of this new Spring. We are so blessed with this day and this early morning of communion. We are so blessed with this purpose and with our responsibility, for we are here in recognition of those that have given us this day with their lives.

We have come here with the knowledge that there are members of families all across this nation that had opened their eyes, and for the briefest of moments, lingered in the forgetfulness that sleep brings, before the terrible knowledge that a certain loved one will never again push away the covers of their bed and meet them in the familiar spaces that make up one’s home.

Families woke up today to silent rooms with empty spaces that will never again be filled. Even on days as glorious as this, when every surface is drenched with radiant recognition, the sunlight can seem senseless with loss.

We are here to share the burden of that sorrow and to offer our gratitude to those families for the heartbreak that they endure. Someone that they loved very deeply and completely has made the ultimate sacrifice and given their life for this nation, for this community, and for this day.

I encourage all of you that hear my words to take time today to visit every military monument in this city, as each stone is emblazoned with this names of young men and women that had readily offered up their everyday freedoms and comforts in the name of service. Take time to touch the cool, etched surface of granite and try to feel the enormity of each life given.

Remember that these are not anonymous names on a monument or numbered fatalities that are easily tallied. They were soldiers that stood in unison for the principles that make our country great… liberty, honor, valor, commitment, and selfless service to others. Most importantly, they were loved members of our community that had given the full measure of their devotion. They were our young ones and loved ones and unique souls that will never again know the kiss of daylight. Each left a family forever changed by grief and silence, just as our Country has lost the promise each young life carried for a greater future.

Our sadness is as palpable as the cool breeze that stirs the leaves and carries Taps into the distance.

But, because of this glorious day, we must understand the gifts that have been bestowed upon us and carry on with gratitude and obligation so that these sacrifices have not been made for naught. We must do all that we can to be supportive of our neighbors and the members of our community. We must nurture our children, treat our properties and environs with respect, participate in an open and honest governmental process, and dedicate ourselves to being honorable, involved citizens of a small city with big aspirations.

For those that have given us this day, we are obligated to bring prosperity and pride back to this small community.

And as a nation of small communities that make up the greatest power on earth, we must stand, as a bastion for all that is good and just. As a nation of wealth, we must share food, education, medication and resources so that the world is freed from poverty. As a nation built on equality, we must model tolerance, faith and charity. And as a just nation of unrivaled military might, we must democratically champion for the rights of the weak and the oppressed.

Half-staff-etiquette-for-memorial-day

This is what calls our boys and girls to duty and is what our young warriors have died for. We must never forget this higher calling.

Thank you so much to the Veteran’s Commission for organizing this tribute, year after year. We are all grateful for the work you do on behalf of the veterans of our community year round – from the careful tending of monuments to continuous advocacy on behalf of those that have served our country so well. Our veterans are the living embodiment of Amsterdam’s service to the defense of liberty and the nation. They stand here, not just in their own right, but also for all those who cannot.

In closing, please take time to remember those that proudly wear our uniform and actively honor our flag around the world today. We owe them our praise and deepest appreciation. Their service presses us to be our best.

It is a glorious thing.

To these many fine soldiers, we all pray, come back to us in the light and safety of God’s hands.

Amen

Read Full Post »

IMG_3865

IMG_3866

IMG_3867

IMG_3868

IMG_3869

IMG_3870

IMG_3871

IMG_3873

IMG_3874

IMG_3875

IMG_3879

IMG_3880

IMG_3881

IMG_3882

IMG_3883

IMG_3884

IMG_3885

IMG_3886

IMG_3887

IMG_3888

IMG_3889

IMG_3891

IMG_3892

IMG_3893

IMG_3894

IMG_3895

IMG_3896

IMG_3897

IMG_3898

IMG_3899

IMG_3900

IMG_3901

IMG_3902

IMG_3904

IMG_3907

IMG_3908

IMG_3909

IMG_3910

IMG_3911

IMG_3913

IMG_3914

IMG_3915

IMG_3916

IMG_3917

Read Full Post »

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.

IMG_3600

IMG_3594

IMG_3551

IMG_3543

IMG_3548

IMG_3540

IMG_3574

IMG_3573

IMG_3586

IMG_3590

IMG_3588

IMG_3575

IMG_3556

IMG_3538

IMG_3566

IMG_3576

IMG_3537

IMG_3536

IMG_3534

IMG_3530

IMG_3528

IMG_3527

IMG_3525

IMG_3581

IMG_3596

IMG_3595

Read Full Post »

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.
Youth1dce

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

11_machinations

On 3/12/13 1:17 PM,
“David Dybas” wrote:

Dear Mayor,

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

Dear Dave,

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:

Dear Mayor,

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

Dave,

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.

Machinations

“From: Ann M. Thane [mailto:athane@nycap.rr.com]
Sent: Mon 12/26/2011 12:58 PM
Subject: goals

Hi y’all,

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
athane@nycap.rr.com

“When you are through changing, you are through.” ~ Bruce Barton

On 12/27/11 8:47 AM, “Gina DeRossi” wrote:

Mayor,

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).

Thanks,
Gina

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

Read Full Post »

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.

IMG_1590

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.

Web Site Pictures for Mayor Thane 093

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.

PRIORITIES
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.

IMG_1170

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.

IMG_0464

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.

IMG_0619

IMG_0157

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.

IMG_0959

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.

IMG_1373

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.

IMG_1126

IMG_1128

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.

PEOPLE
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.

Web Site Pictures for Mayor Thane 077

IMG_0181

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.

IMG_1285

IMG_1276

IMG_1282

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.

IMG_0366

IMG_0789

IMG_1535

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.

IMG_0415

PROMISE
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.

IMG_1719

IMG_1619

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.

IMG_1069

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.

IMG_2195

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.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »