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Archive for the ‘responsibility’ Category

I was recently fortunate enough to greet NYCOM members, state representatives and staff at our Legislative Priorities Meeting in Albany. It’s always a thrill for me to be with my compatriots. I am inspired by their resilience, fortified by their ingenuity, and buttressed by our combined numbers. We represent of 12 million souls. We are STRONG.
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This is important because we, at the local government level, are under siege.

Local governments are being blamed for the skyrocketing tax burden in NYS. This leaves most of us incredulous. We skimp, we save, we slash and we’ve shared for decades to bring our budgets in at the bare minimum and yet, the finger of adversity points at us, the leaders at the local level, and demands that we do more, that we some how wring more out of our already depleted departments and smile as we do so. March in step! Tow the line! Chant the rhetoric that plays so easily to the masses.

Well, that’s not our job.

Our job, as mayors and elected officials, is to provide services and opportunities to our residents as effectively and mindfully as we can. We may have been elected into the political sphere but our jobs are grounded in the daily operations of our municipalities. We are intimately familiar with each potholed street, water main break, sewage overflow, rusty swing set, graffitied wall, abandoned home, lumbering shell of factory, and neighborhood of need. Our everyday existence is one of problem solving, hand holding and sometimes even baby sitting. And we do this all at very little cost.

So, we feel a real sting when these accusations are made. We are proud of our prudent spending and constant self-assessments. That “shared service” is being presented to us as a “new” concept is ludicrous. We invented it.

We must counter the narrative that local governments are spendthrifts with the truth.

The facts show that local governments are the most effective and responsive governments in the world. In NYS, most manage to stay within the recently levied tax cap/freeze and still provide much needed services to our constituents. Unfortunately, this structure is not sustainable. We cannot freeze revenues when our costs go up, sometimes by double-digit percentages.

The inherent financial dysfunction in this state cannot be addressed by squeezing the life out the hearts of cities, town, and villages. We cannot cut our way to prosperity.

Unless we cut our costs.

This is where we must speak with one voice, the voice of 12 million of the 19 million voices in NYS. We have “needs”, not “wants.”

We NEED the quick response of our state representatives to provide the tangible mandate relief promised to us. NYCOM has presented real analysis and workable relief solutions for years, shedding light on answers that skirt controversy while being thoughtful and innovative.

As the most neglected entities in state budgets, local governments NEED meaningful investment in municipal infrastructure so that our communities can sustain safe and heathy environments and support future growth. We NEED a long-awaited increase to our AIM and CHIPS allocations.

We have behaved so well for years, waiting with our empty bowls, but it is time to insistently and in unison voice our needs for “more, sir.”

Finally, this is the message that the state needs to hear: don’t make us the enemy. Be our heroes! Working collaboratively should be a readily attainable goal for all of us, not just for those of us with local zip codes. We must set aside political alliances and work together across the state to overcome the adversity we face. We must work together with urgency and creativity so that local communities thrive.

Ultimately, local governments are not the problem, we are the solution. Rebirth of this state will happen along our beautiful main streets and waterfronts, in our schools and in our historic neighborhoods.

I am certain that the future of this state is one that will be prosperous. The question is, how long will it take? I believe, like the Governor, that it can be sooner than later if we ALL pull together in one direction.

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

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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.

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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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The following is my veto of the Golf Pro contract in 2008. Most of the concerns I had then still exist. For this council to push forward with extending this contract for another three years would be wildly irresponsible, especially given that there is an RFP out now asking for proposals to take over these duties and more.

Our responsibility is to the 18,680 people that live here, not special interests.

“VETO STATEMENT • Resolution 08/09 – 147
November, 2008

I am vetoing the resolution because it does not protect the interests of the taxpayers of the City of Amsterdam.

Earlier in the year, I forwarded a resolution to provide for greater oversight and control of operations at the Golf Course. Even though the Council chose not to make my suggested changes, it is still the responsibility of elected officials to protect one of the greatest assets of the City of Amsterdam.

This contract, which was never reviewed or discussed as a Committee of the Whole Council, undermines the City’s ability to modify operations at the Golf Course, adjust for changing financial conditions, and implement long-range planning.

I cite the following items that are detrimental to the City’s interest:

– The term of the contract changes from a three-year term to a five-year term. This will prevent the City from benefiting from potential golf cart rental income and lock the City into the existing operations of the course.

– The contract gives the Pro a 23.6% raise (includes compensation for a Ranger. Without the additional employee, this would equate to a 13% raise.) Compensation will increase by another 2% over each of the next four years. City employees are held to a 3% raise per year.

– Retail space for the Pro Shop is rent-free for the five-year term of the contract. Electricity is free as well. All profits from the sale of equipment, supplies and accessories go to the Pro.

– The contract stipulates that the Pro submit a business plan, financial statements, a current balance sheet, and income statement to the City for review prior to the awarding of the contract. The business plan was included and states that the explicit objective of the plan is “to market the Golf Course and Pro Shop in order to promote business.” There were no real marketing incentives included in the plan beyond publication of tournaments on “bulletin boards and the local papers” and it lacked financial analysis completely. Most of the “plan” is merely verbiage that has been copied and pasted from the contract. The rest of the required financial information was not included in the contract.

– The contract changes wording that the Pro shall obey all reasonable orders and directions of the “Mayor” to “Golf Commission.”

– The contract directs that the Pro shall assist in the promotion of the the Course, but “promotion” is not defined.

– As was the case in the past, the Pro must publicize tournaments on bulletin boards and in local papers, but there is not stipulation that proof of these efforts be produced.

The Pro owns twenty carts for rent to golfers. All profits from the rental of carts go entirely to the Pro. We don’t know how many rentals there are in a season, because though they have been required since 1985, financial statements have never been produced. We do know that there are approximately 40,000 rounds of golf played a year. If only 10% of those rounds of golf involve rentals at $20 a pop, that’s $80,000.

– The pro stores the carts over the winter at no cost.

– Lastly, the final line in the contract is incomplete, stating it “needs to be added.”

The list above is what I’ve picked out when comparing this contract with the last contract. On top of all of this, we have no solid financial reports as to how the Course did this season, no projected budget and no plan to address debt of upcoming capital projects.

It would be prudent to have a shorter-term contract pending the development of long-term plans for the Course. I therefore veto this resolution.”

$80,000 + the proceeds from the Pro Shop + no storage, lease or utility costs + $25,000 for 6-7 months of work = a pretty good clip in the City of Amsterdam.

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In response to Krab-cakes and Football:

It’s so darned hard not to agree with a guy named Charlie, because I love the name and anything to do with crab cakes works for me, but I do respectfully want to tussle when it comes to this city. As this would be unbecoming of my age, station and gender, I’ve tried very hard to understand where this man is coming from and have come to something of an epiphany.

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My experience of this city is radically different from his. I live here, and have for over 22 years. Mind you, I had aspirations for Manhattan or Paris, but God dropped me here and a love of this community has bloomed over these many years. It started with my beautiful Queen Ann Victorian home, grew into a husband and two children, and expanded to include an amazing rainbow of friends I consider family. I’ve enjoyed our parks and swimming pools. I’ve been to every church and restaurant with my family. I’ve sweat to see our children provided for in our schools and that cultural opportunities thrive. I’ve used the services of physicians, dentists, mechanics and attorneys. I’ve been to countless parades, concerts, and funerals. I’ve had volunteer and professional experiences I never would have dreamed of that have been difficult and rewarding. This city has given me roots, pride and purpose.

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When I decided to run for my office, I discovered that I knew much less about the community I had lived in for over two decades than I supposed. I realized that, though I’d driven down a street thousands of times, I’d never really seen it. Walking neighborhoods door-to-door opened up a view of Amsterdam that I will always treasure. Most homes in every ward are beautifully cared for and welcoming. I had no idea there were so many well-tended gardens, pristine porches or immaculate vestibules. I don’t know how many times I am going to have to repeat this, but we have a lovely, little city.

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No one wants to pretend our shortcomings don’t exist, well, at least I don’t. I want our problems addressed. It’s why I decided to run for Mayor. I couldn’t bear four more years of the same faces running the same game plan. My experience as a volunteer, freelance business woman and not-for-profit director allowed me the realization that my hard head and propensity for hard work might just work for all of us.

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It is. And as painful as it may be for some to acknowledge, we’re making steady progress on all fronts: organization, funding, projects, collaboration and goals. Downtown alone has over thirty property owners, volunteers and staff working to strategize, fund, beautify, and promote the area. We refuse to fail.

We are NOT focusing all of our efforts on marketing to the exclusion of other activities. Nor would we. Please go back and read the State of the City Address.

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Here’s the bottom line. We’re going to market the heck out of downtown and our industrial sites to targeted audiences. We’ll present a vision of what may be, incentives we may offer and amenities we enjoy. At the same time, (again and again and again) we have more than enough to shout about… location, transportation, recreation, health care, public safety, and of course, those monstrous hearts of ours.

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And for my dear friend Charlie, because again, it’s the nicest of names and isn’t it funny how names almost make the person, I’d love to take a stroll with you some spring day through this City. I think we could have a jolly good conversation and I’d like to introduce you to my ever expanding family.

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