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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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EDIT:
SURPRISE! The Recorder editorial board does not agree with me about the mural, just as they hadn’t about the $20M re-purposing of the Chalmers building (that’s the empty lot on the South Side now), beautification efforts downtown and at City Hall (oh, maybe they’re on board now?), demanding fiscal accountability from the Golf Course, or about just about anything else I’ve attempted to change in the name of responsible progress.

I guess they are in the business of expressing their opinion (though the “news” seems to get mightily slanted by their bias). The thing that disturbs me the most about the Recorder is its persistent pandering of misinformation; i.e., that “HUGE” parts of the mural are lifting or missing (not) and that my attention is holding up the project (not.) The mural can easily be stabilized and repaired to a point that there is time for more improvements.

They also claim that I won’t “play nice.” How condescending and incorrect. I have repeatedly asked to have a group of interested folks do a walk-through to suggest creative usages of the room and discuss marketing the building. Throw fundraising into that scenario. The AIDA Buildings and Grounds Committee is disallowing our entry because of political reasons and personal avarice. One might wonder why the Recorder isn’t on top of that?

For those of you that have not had the pleasure of personally visiting (or viewing on my FB page) the MURAL that has been the topic of recent radio and newspaper fodder, I post the following photos. Please note, the “house” referred to in the Recorder is actually Historic Ft. Johnson.

This mural is on the third floor of AIDA’s building on Main Street. Through my prompting, representatives from the State Historic Preservation Office visited the site to recommend preservation strategies. The mural, original light fixture and medallion that had graced a prohibition speak-easy are pictured in the photos below. They are stunning and photos don’t do the space justice. The little money it will take to stabilize and keep this treasure pales in comparison to the huge gain we realize in protecting our history.

When AIDA made me aware of their interest in the building, I was pleased, as I had indicated then that the mural was to be considered an irreplaceable piece of our history and strongly advocated for its preservation. I had anticipated their cooperation in this matter. My stance has never changed over the decade since I first saw the mural or in the two years since AIDA had become involved.

Some comments by local historians:

“Had a nice chat with Bruce Conover, whose father used to own the building. The mural long predates the Seely Conover Company presence. In the day that room had been the home of one of the Red Men fraternal groups that were popular at the turn of the last century, so the mural likely originated with them, or at least that was the Conover family understanding.”
– Bob Going

“Once again, please satisfy yourselves by consulting http://www.fultonhistory.com under “Worley Moat” 4/25/1894. “Artist Worley Moat is giving the interior of the new hall of the Kenneyetto Red Men in the Morris Hall block a realistic appearance, now being painted to represent numerous portions of the Mohawk Valley so dear to the red men of years ago.” Moat’s father owned a brewery on Washington St… End of question I think, since it came right out of the 1894 Amsterdam newspaper.”
– Peter Betz, Fulton County Historian

That the AIDA Board is waffling about its preservation at this late date is a disgrace. They should have had a plan in place from the start, but it seems that planning is not a strong suit of the AIDA Buildings and Grounds Committee. The building has not been marketed and I have seen no evidence of an articulated budget or plan for the building, or any other of their holdings.

Unfortunately, this committee has also disallowed a few folks (realtor, historic preservationist, general contractor, city staff and me) from walking through the building to assess the mural and make recommendations about repurposing the room and marketing.

Just what is it that AIDA does, anyway? I’ve requested a Strategic Plan for their organization for years. So far, nothing but silence. How does the board progress its purpose and goals if they don’t have any?

AIDA was created as an economic development tool for the city, to work collaboratively with and strengthen city government. It certainly was not meant to be an separate, unaccountable government. I have requested that the agency supply the Council with all financial and organizational documentation necessary to get an exact picture of the agency’s true condition. I have been promised these documents by August 15th. I’ll update you as to receipt of this information. I’m sure you’re just as interested as I am to see what this group is up to.

And now, the photos:

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WORLEY MOAT, THE ‘CHICKEN ARTIST’ OF AMSTERDAM
by Peter Betz

When I read that Gloversville’s Common Council is considering once again allowing city residents to keep chickens, I immediately thought of Worley Moat, Amsterdam’s long-forgotten ‘chicken artist’. Because his story mainly belongs to Montgomery County rather than Fulton, I was almost ‘chicken’ to write about him, since, as Fulton County Historian, my general obligation is to keep my historical eggs in Fulton County’s basket. I hope ‘crossing the road’ by writing about someone who lived ‘to the other side’ of the county line won’t lay an egg with readers.

Two other recent events also brought Worley Moat to my attention. First, a local ephemera collector recently found and shared a scrap book filled with Moat’s artistic drawings of prize-winning chickens with me and second, Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane on her Facebook page recently shared photographs of some rediscovered 19th century wall murals of Mohawk Valley scenes located on the top floor of an old downtown Amsterdam building presently used by the Amsterdam AIDA organization which I and Amsterdam City Historian Rob Von Hasseln both think are probably Moat’s artistic work.

Just who was Worley Moat, why do we think he may have painted these lovely old murals, and what else did he do to cause him to be remembered? Starting a generation earlier, Worley’s father, Charles Moat, a coppersmith, immigrated to America from Hatfield, Yorkshire, England sometime in the 1850’s. According to a retrospective July 7th 1945 Amsterdam Evening Recorder article, Charles erected a brewery on Amsterdam’s Washington Street in the late 1860’s. The style of beer he brewed proved very popular with the many English émigrés working in the Sanford and other early Amsterdam factories. Charles Moat then invested in Amsterdam real estate and was president of the British-American “Sons of Albion” social club. He also served as President of the Board of Education, as a member of the Amsterdam Water Board, and as a village trustee, dying at 75 on February 11th, 1895.

Charles sold the brewery to son Walter on May 3rd 1886. Meanwhile Charles’ other son, Worley, followed a career path that seems based on his athletic and artistic abilities, plus his life-long involvement with poultry. He was first employed in the Amsterdam Daily Democrat’s Printing Department. Shifting careers, he became a member of Sanford’s rug pattern design team, probably a better outlet for his artistic abilities.

Worley’s greatest passion, however, was both raising and drawing prize-winning chickens, not surprising considering he grew up at a time in America when many very serious ‘poultry men’ engaged in breeding, cross-breeding and creating dozens of varieties of superior chicken varieties. Competitions at fairs and poultry shows, in which birds were judged via a very demanding list of criteria, were very serious business and significant prizes for breeding improved varieties were awarded. There were also a number of poultry magazines and journals promoting all this, and in these publications Worley Moat found his artistic niche as a sought-after, well-paid illustrator.

When I first heard of Worley Moat I immediately wondered where his unusual first name came from. A little research provided the answer. The NY Daily Tribune of October 1857 contained a tiny legal notice. Under the headline, “Nathan Worley, Cooking Apparatus, Plumbing and House-Heating” is found the statement, “The partnership heretofore existing between Nathan Worley and Charles Moat has been this day dissolved by mutual agreement, Nathan Worley having purchased the interest of Charles Moat, who retires from the business.” What Charles Moat did between leaving Worley & Moat in 1857 and appearing in Amsterdam circa 1867 doesn’t matter: Worley’s first name was obviously derived from his father’s former partner’s last name, probably given as a sign of affection and appreciation of Nathan Worley.

On January 28 1919, the Amsterdam Recorder published an old photograph taken in 1874. Among other early buildings shown is Moat’s Washington Street Brewery. In the foreground is a large brewery delivery wagon showing several men including Worley Moat. On June 17th 1939, it published a photograph taken in 1887 that also includes Worley, showing members of the J.D. Serviss Steamer and Hose Company, which frequently placed first against other hose companies around the state in running competitions. These were all proud, athletic young men in their absolute prime, stripped down to the bare essentials of what was then acceptable male clothing, white tights with black trunks, deadly serious about the business of “running out line and connecting nozzles” with their hose truck faster than their challengers.

Earlier on September 10 1884, the Amsterdam Daily Democrat headlined, “Victorious Once More”, declaring, “When the 6:35 train on the Central shot into the station last night, Worley Moat stood on top of the first car waving a small banner like a crazy man. In five minutes, more than 200 persons had swarmed off the train and up Main Street escorted by the Thirteenth Brigade Band to the Service Company’s house. Service Hose Company has returned victorious from a running contest for the third time within as many weeks.”

Other notices point to Worley Moat’s athletic abilities. On March 28 1930 Hugh Donlon in his Recorder column recalled, “It was only by a slender margin that Lincoln Eldredge, foreman of our composing room, lost a foot contest 45 years ago to Worley Moat, thereby depriving himself of glory and the newspaper editor who backed him of his ten dollars.” Another reference refers to Moat as “among the best oarsmen on the Mohawk River.” Yet a third notes that during July 1905, Moat and a companion, Peter Doran, lost a bet and had to walk from Fonda back to Amsterdam. He was also, of course, a member of the Amsterdam Wheelmen’s Club. Who during the 1890’s wasn’t?

Returning to our chicken saga, the earliest newspaper reference to Worley Moat appears on September 9th 1883 when he was 26 years old: he is listed as receiving First and Second Prize for his ‘Dominique’ variety leghorns at the New York State Fair.

But what connects local artist Moat with the recently-rediscovered murals painted on the walls of downtown Amsterdam’s AIDA building’s top floor? As usual, it’s just a matter of research. The connection is made with the discovery of an Amsterdam Recorder article printed April 25, 1894. “Artist Worley Moat is giving the interior of the new hall of the Kenneyetto Tribe of Redmen in the Morris Hall block a realistic appearance, now being painted to represent numerous portions of the Mohawk Valley which were so dear to the red men of many years ago,” exactly what the rediscovered murals show.

Worley Moat died prematurely aged only 51 on July 26th 1908. His passing received generous coverage in the Amsterdam Evening Recorder when he accidently fell down the stairs in his home at 131 Market Street, breaking his neck. His daughter Dolly discovered him at the bottom of the stairway in the morning. Reviewing his life, the Recorder reporter concluded, “A lover of poultry, he painted original sketches of first class birds used in leading poultry journals.” Worley, his wife and daughter are buried in Amsterdam’s Green Hill Cemetery, and no, his grave marker does not have a stone chicken carved on it.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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While walking the dog at Lock 11 today, I discovered that the Canal Corporation had taken out some of the gates for repairs. It’s fascinating to see these gargantuan structures up close. The following photos are of the site, machinery, tug boat, docks, gates, ropes, chains, bolts and walkways. If there is any question as to the infiltration of small muscles into this river, the numbers that covered every submerged surface are astonishing. I was quite taken by the colors, textures and condition of the steel. It is inextricably altered by the power of water and time. The raw beauty of this aging process is deeply moving to me.

Double click on any photo for a better view.

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You may have noticed a change in your water rates if you are a metered user of the City of Amsterdam water system. Water is used for drinking, sanitation, manufacturing and fire prevention. Water rates and fees pay for the hefty cost of water filtration, distribution and maintenance of the system.

Earlier this year, the City conducted a review of its billing practices related to metered water. The need for this review was required because of an apparent large disparity between flat, non-metered rates for one- and two-family households and the rates paid by metered multi-family and commercial users.

In April of 2012, the City hired an engineering firm to review usage and billing methods. The study confirmed inequity in the billing practices. As a result, changes were implemented and incorporated into the 2012-2013 City budget.

Under the old system, metered users were charged a flat rate that provided for a set amount of water use per quarter. That equated, in some cases, to three times the average use of a one-family household. What this meant was that a metered property would pay one-third of the rate that a single unit, flat-rate user would pay.

To correct this, the billing structure was changed. The City moved to a billing method similar to that used by other utilities, such as National Grid. Metered accounts are charged for each cubic foot of water used plus a set distribution fee.

These rates and fees were set so that a metered user, using the average amount that a single-family home would use, would pay the same amount as an unmetered, single-family home would pay. The advantage of the new structure is that multi-unit metered and commercial properties will pay rates that are consistent with flat-rate payers.

Typically, water usage varies by season and the quarterly bill will change according to personal usage. This method of billing will encourage water conservation, as billing is tied to usage.

The cost of a safe and reliable water system must be paid for through water rates and fees. The City is dedicated to billing for this resource in the most equitable way possible.

Greater Detail:

The City of Amsterdam has modified its water billing method for metered accounts effective July 1, 2012. The old system charged a minimum use fee based on connection type. This fee allowed for a large amount of water usage before the minimum fee was exceeded. Over the years the water rates were not adjusted while the unmetered unit charges were increased to pay operating costs. This resulted in a charge structure that was not equitable between metered and un-metered users.

In the case of residential meter users the following situation existed in 2011-12:

A one-family house without a meter was charged $360 per year for water. The average use of a one-family house is 7,053 cubic feet of water per year. Dividing 360 by 7,053 yields an effective water rate of $5.12 per 100 cubic feet. Each additional dwelling unit was charged an additional flat rate fee.

A residential structure with a meter was charged a minimum charge of $90 per quarter, equivalent to the flat charge of $360 per year. The meter was read and use was charged at the rate of $1.68 per 100 cubic feet. As a result the metered residential structure could use (360 x 100)/1.68 = 21,428 cubic feet of water before exceeding the minimum charge. This amount is three times the average usage of a one family residence.

Clearly the two classes of users are not treated consistently. A three-family residence paying flat-rates would pay 3 x 360 = $1,080 per year for water. A metered 3 family residence would on average pay $360 per year.

The 2012-13 billing structure is as follows:

A one-family house without a meter is charged $346 per year for water. The average use of a one-family house is 7,053 cubic feet of water per year. Dividing 346 by 7,053 yields an effective water rate of $4.91 per 100 cubic feet. Each additional dwelling unit continues to be charged an additional flat-rate fee.

The metered billing structure was modified. The residential metered rate was increased to $3.00 per 100 cubic feet (an amount that is more consistent with the effective rate of flat-rate payers and the rate charged by other municipalities). A fixed charge of $216 was established (a rate lower than the prior minimum charge, in part to account for operating costs that are not related to usage and for fire protection) and the bill is now computed based on the sum of the fixed charge plus any usage multiplied by the metered rate. For example, a three-family metered property would pay a fixed charge of $216.00 plus $3.00 times the amount of water used. The average use for a three family house is 17,847 cubic feet per year. This yields an average bill of 216 + (3 x 17,847/100) = $751 per year for a metered three-family residence as compared to an annual bill of $1,038.00 for an unmetered three- family.

These changes improve the overall fairness of the billing system. The City recognizes that this is a major change and the rates will need to be monitored to assure that the billing is done in a fair manner. It is difficult to assess the impact of a change of this type prior to its implementation. It is expected that users will alter their habits since bills will vary based on usage and that billing will thereby decrease.

Further, the City recognizes that further modifications to the water billing structure may be desirable. The metering of all users would, of course, provide the fairest method of billing. The limiting factors are the costs of metering as compared to the savings that would result from the reduction of use. The City plans on implementing such a study. This change was made initially because there was no capital cost associated with the changes and the changes corrected large inequities in the billing process.

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As comments have closed on the Pars Nova site and Tim Becker felt my response was still worth posting, I submit the following as an addition to the Reflections on Friday musings:

I read this morning’s Recorder editorial with some amusement; point made for me. Either you want to believe stats or (apparently) not. Either you hang with the labels (apparently so) or not. Is a poll about safety put up within a week of a horrific killing valid? What would the poll have said the week before? Is a poll of 74 people out of tens of thousands significant? Is a poll that changes it’s wording mid-stream worthwhile? I put to you that this particular poll only exacerbates feelings of distrust and division. It does nothing to alleviate tensions in our community. As has been indicated in the other comments, it’s time to move beyond labeling and pandering to concrete solutions to problems which may be societally-based and affect communities across the nation.

Do shootings in Aurora indicate that the Metro-Denver community is more unsafe? That they haven’t done enough? Rather than honing in on the community experiencing such loss, the question begs an examination of contemporary family structure, changes in the role that organized religion plays, governmental responsibility, and the influence of mass media and the internet on today’s culture.

I find it odd that the Recorder continues to want to label the city as not doing enough, to tag Amsterdam with murders that, though tragic, really are unrelated and isolated, and insist that there we are only about spin.

Nah, son.

We’ve continually acknowledged that there are problems here, but must counter that we are not the urban nightmare falsely put forth in editorials, radio meanderings, blogs, or coffee shop gossip. The fact is that we are a relatively safe, active, and close-kit community. We respond to our problems thoughtfully and support those in crisis.

Truth is, Charlie, that I am very grateful to you specifically for your continued focus on the good things in our community (thank you for the nod this morning regarding Neighborhood Watch.) My comments about labeling are not solely pointed at you because the negative myth has been pervasive for decades. My goal is to stop this repetitive droning and move on to a message that is more realistic; not lollipops and roses, but welcoming, accessible, affordable, and on our way up.

small city. big heart.

The city, schools, hospital, churches and community organizations have already begun to meld together in a response that is once again immediate and compassionate, a trait that is ALWAYS present in our community during times of great difficulty. Residents and businesses are busily holding fundraisers and surging with support for these families.

That we’ve suffered and share in the grief driven by an egregious crime is not unique to Amsterdam and we will never be entirely free of crime. The reality is that shootings or murder are so rare here that they incite outrage. That’s a good thing. In other nearby communities, these tragedies happen with such regularity that they may go almost unnoticed. That’s the real story of our community and is what is deserving of ink.

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“Americans will put up with anything provided it doesn’t block traffic.”
– Dan Rather

Major construction continues on Market Street in preparation for modifications to traffic signaling along the corridor. The roadway will be resurfaced from Prospect Street to the northern city line, which entails moving and/or repairing over 40 structures such as telephone poles, manholes and catch basins. These photos show the changes begun at the entrance of VanDyke at RT30.

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Last Saturday saw the first concert of a planned summer series at Riverlink Park. It’s so great to see the park filled with 250 people just loving the music, the food, the venue, the evening air and the glorious sunset. Hope you’ll make it down this weekend (the Joey Thomas Big Band will be performing!) to see what all of the buzz is about!

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The “new” city pool at Veterans Field has been the place to be this summer. Last week, Beechnut made swimming lessons available to 200 children, compared to only 60 per year in the prior two years. This is a tremendous victory for all of those children that braved the waters to learn a skill that will serve them for a lifetime, and is a wonderfully generous gesture on the part of our corporate partner. Their contribution will also fund construction of a large pavilion that will provide families shade for years to come.

As well, Dollar General Regional Manager Jim Glorioso arranged for a fantastic donation of pool toys including swimming googles, inflatable wings & vests, bouyant noodles and oodles of flip flops to fit every foot that steps into the welcoming blue water. Please spread the word that every individual that visits the pool will receive a FREE set of flip flops as long as supplies last, whether you choose to swim or not!

The following photos were taken of the swim class on July 3rd and of today’s visit by YMCA summer camp participants, just in time for the Dollar General delivery!

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It’s surprising to me when I hear there are people that live in Amsterdam that still have not been to Riverlink Park. Our premiere entrance to the City of Amsterdam has attracted the attention of travelers from around the world, sporting fabulous vistas from almost anywhere in the park. The first of many summer concerts will kick off on Saturday night, July 7th. Why not stop down with your friends and family, have a fantastic meal at the Cafe, and enjoy a waterfront destination that is second to none along the Erie Canalway?!

Check out what you’ve been missing (get up close and personal by clicking on any of these photos for a larger view!)

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It was a busy heavy construction day again in Amsterdam today. The long-awaited changes to Amsterdam’s traffic patterns have started at RT5 and RT30S. In the coming months, the State will create a two-way corridor in front of the Public Safety Building. Later phases will develop two-way traffic in front of the Post Office and bring automotive travellers back downtown.

We also finished resurfacing Church Street today and will button up Pine Street in the next few days. Keep you eyes peeled for upgrades to signals, replacement of substructures, and resurfacing of the roadway going up Market Street was well. Work to progress the pedestrian bridge project and train station relocation in tandem with downtown redevelopment and waterfront revitalization continues to be a priority. It’s gratifying to see the dramatic changes we have been talking about for years finally taking place.

The following photos show the start of the traffic repatterning project.

Looking east towards town from RT5.

Looking west on RT5 from the same spot referenced above.

Looking east from the Verizon parking lot.

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Looking west from RT30 in front of the Verizon building.

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This week brought us necessary emergency repairs to the end of Pine Street at RT5. Approximately 20 feet down, an old sewer line had been compromised. The following are photos of the crews, equipment and massive excavation.

Road excavation and trench box around the much deeper hole in the ground.

Looking south from up the street at job site.

The large CAT is the piece of equipment being used to dig the hole.

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It’s been a busy few weeks for me, with trips to Rome, Schenectady, Liverpool and back to Schenectady, all in the pursuit of regional affiliation.

In Rome, I participated in a strategic planning session with members of the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council (MVREDC). We’ve been focused on reviewing last year’s projects, identifying new scoring criteria and priority projects, and reporting on our progress as a newly formed and amazingly cooperative entity. We’ve all been pleasantly surprised at the willingness of all six counties to work collaboratively toward common goals.

In Schenectady, I was honored to serve as a panelist at Congressman Tonko’s “Mighty Waters” Conference, again, tailored to look at regional commonalities experienced by communities necklaced along the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers. Two hundred fifty stakeholders from all walks of public and private life gathered at Union College to discuss waterfront development, job creation, environmental issues, educational opportunities, tourism and historic preservation throughout the Capital Region. In a manner that is in keeping with his progressive vision for this area, the Congressman unveiled legislation to create the Hudson-Mohawk River Basin Commission.

The Commission would carry out projects and conduct research on water resources in the basin, which stretches across five states and includes five sub-basins, increasing our understanding of these waterways and the dramatic impact they have on our lives.

The highway soon called me farther westward to Liverpool to enjoy a day with members of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Commission. “Stretching 524 miles across the full expanse of upstate New York, the Erie, Champlain, Oswego, and Cayuga-Seneca Canals are among our nation’s great successes of engineering, vision, hard work, and sacrifice.” Similarly, the Commission works to showcase this tremendous asset and has been instrumental in facilitating tourism, economic development and historic preservation along this spectacular state treasure.


Lastly, I ended up at a meeting in Schenectady’s magnificent City Hall to launch a new partnership: one of New York State’s first landbanks, a collaborative effort between the City of Schenectady, Schenectady County and the City of Amsterdam. We are fortunate that Planning Commission Chairman Bob DiCaprio and URA Chairman Bob Martin have agreed to serve on our city’s behalf. As with the other efforts cited above, this progressive initiative marks a new age of cooperation between communities that had been traditionally separated by geographical and territorial isolationism.

I am profoundly honored to play a role in this emerging regional sensibility and believe strongly that these relationships will change our future in ways we are only beginning to understand.

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I’d like to thank the Veteran’s Commission for once again allowing me the honor of speaking at this Annual Memorial Day Ceremony. I can honestly say that this is one of the greatest privileges afforded my office. Devoting these moments to the tremendous loss our nation has suffered is an appropriate way to share our feelings of faith and gratitude born of heavy grief.

As is the case in years past, I am mindful of how syncopated the elements are with the occurrences of this day and how they echo with the gravity of our common experience. Clouds have slowly worked their way through the night across a waxing moon – warm and unsettled – laden with moisture that may bring showers today. The air around us is heavy with expectancy – the enormity of the moving gray-blue sky above us stretches as far as our imagination and our memory. The breeze carries our heartbreak lightly amongst us. The flag stirs with our hearts.

Our hearts. We hold our loved ones in our hearts.

Perhaps you have noticed the many red hearts that are strewn today on the hillside beside the monument. There are precisely 3,727 hearts that represent every child enrolled in the Greater Amsterdam School District. It took me three days to cut these hearts out of construction paper, which is plenty of time to recognize the incredible gift that each child is, imbued with naiveté, laughter, mischief, talent and promise. It is cliché, but true, that these children are our future. They are the reason we work difficult jobs and strive to make our community and world a better place.

These hearts represent 3,727 living, breathing, inspiring reasons to be free and to live well.

And as we are considering the very large number of children that populate our elementary schools, middle school and high school, know this: that well over 3,727 children have perished as soldiers around the world since September 11, 2001… in fact, precisely 1,984 soldiers have perished in Afghanistan and 4,486 have given their lives in Iraq. 6,470 bright-eyed, dedicated and hopeful lives have been snuffed out. Add to that other military fatalities around the world in that time and you approach a number that is almost double the number of hearts you see around you. More than twice the number of children we send innocently off to school every day.

6,740 is a startling number, but it is nothing. In our two hundred years of proud US history, military losses to the violence of war have totaled 1,306,000 beating hearts. The Civil War alone claimed an unimaginable 625,000 lives. World War I took 117,000 lives; World War II took 405,000 lives; the Korean War took 37,000 lives; and the Vietnam War extinguished the lives of 58,000 men and women, though ask some of the men here and you will know that most were only boys… their best friends and family members. I imagine that 1,306,000 hearts would cover all of Veterans Field and then some.

Look out at the hearts. Know the value of each life they represent. We lost more than these anonymous hearts, or names on a monument, or numbers that are easily tallied. We’ve lost our young ones and loved ones and unique souls that will never know another kiss of daylight.

And we continue to pay in lives today around the world. Two more lives were added to this number in Afghanistan over night.

Our hearts break from this knowledge and we share this realization in the truest sense of community. Our communal heart, that is the family of Amsterdam, shares this pain for all Americans.

We must never forget that these brave young warriors gave everything so that we would live our lives to the fullest. We must never forget that these individuals, with lives to realize and loves that were timeless, died as soldiers fighting for the principles that make our country great… liberty, honor, valor, commitment, and selfless service to others.

Our city and country have lost more than we can know.

And yet, we must know gratitude. For God has granted us not only those that have given their lives for our peace and prosperity, but a community that honors our dead, and veterans that continue to dutifully care for the memories of our fallen heroes.

Amsterdam’s veterans are the living embodiment of our city’s service to our nation, representatives who served in all the wars of living memory. They stand here, not just in their own right, but also for all those who cannot.

Today, we will again be honoring several individuals that had served so proudly by awarding them the Amsterdam Veteran Service Medal. To these valiant individuals, we owe our continued thanks and support.

And to those that proudly wear our uniform and honor our flag around the world today, we owe our praise and deepest appreciation. We all pray, come back to us safely in God’s hands.

Before you leave today, please take a heart from the ground, in stillness and with respect, and keep it – that you may be reminded of the calling that lead our children away, never to return. Recall all that we have lost and all that we hold dear, and draw closer as a community because of what we so sadly, but so necessarily, know in our hearts.

Amen.

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