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

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

Not quite the picture of Amsterdam, NY in 2015.

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

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

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

Fiscal Responsibility

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

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

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

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

Revitalization

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

This is a list of some of our many accomplishments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Collaboration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quality of Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

Action

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mayor Ann M. Thane

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

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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.

Machinations

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

Hi y’all,

I must start drafting the State of the City speech and would like your input. I’d like to announce three goals that the council will work on for its term. Will you please give me your thoughts on what you’d like to focus on in the next two years? Please consider goals that are necessary, measurable and achievable. I believe articulating these goals will help us to work collaboratively to meet the needs of our community.

If you would please think this over for the next few days and get back to me by Friday, I’d appreciate it. Thanks, A.

Ann M. Thane
athane@nycap.rr.com

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

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

Mayor,

I can say that my number one goal is to get as much of the water/sewer infrastructure in the city fixed as possible. I know this will most likely need to be done via grants, but it is top priority as far as I am concerned (outside of public safety and such, which I think already is doing a great job).

Thanks,
Gina

On 12/27/11 10:45 AM, “Ann M. Thane” wrote:

Gina, This is a fine goal. We may break this down into measurable achievements:

Complete water/sewer improvements on Market Street Hill;
Develop a schedule of hydrant repair for the new year;
Apply for additional grants;
Make necessary repairs to Tecler water tank;
Progress I/I identification and repairs as stipulated in grant;
Make repairs to Florida Avenue Bridge causing siphoning problem;
GIS map all city structures (hydrants, valves, lines, etc. – requires funding source);
Assess equipment needs;
Develop long-range plans for assessment, improvements and funding.

I believe the rest of the Council would be in agreement with this goal. If there are other finer points you’d like to add to the list above, please do. Please don’t be shy about suggesting a few more goals. I hope there is more response by your fellow aldermen to this request for proposals. Some issues you may want to consider:

Progress demolitions of blighted properties, including Esquire property at the Mohasco site;
Develop long-range property management initiative (for foreclosed-on properties, city-owned properties, vacant lots, etc.) targeting neighborhood revitalization;
Change budget procedure to be more expeditious;
Review Charter, make necessary changes;
Rework the Common Council Rules of Order and committee structure;
Revisit Comprehensive Plan (requires funding).

I look forward to hearing from all of you.

Thank you for your input, A.”

I have repeatedly invited and welcomed the counsel of the aldermen. To suggest that this administration has functioned any differently perpetuates an offensive myth.

As far as specific staffing requests, the Deputy Controller has asked for a stipend to pay college interns to help out in the Finance Department. He has contacted Elmira and Siena Colleges and it looks like they will have students available to participate in this program.

The Housing Inspector position is being increased from a part-time to full-time position. Again, code complaints are the most frequently made complaints to my office. This increase in hours is to respond to that need. This would take us from 2-1/2 inspectors to three. Given the work of the department, this is a reasonable request.

The General Supervisor position is to oversee crews and projects across the city, to ensure that work is being done as assigned, and to address discipline problems. We have discussed this structural change for years, again in response to complaints lodged about departmental operations.

The Recreation Director works far and above his title, handling vacant and dilapidated property maintenance, overgrown vegetation and garbage, overseeing the new recreation centers, coordinating team sports, and attends to all public areas around the city. He works more hours than we pay him for and is one of our most valuable employees. His salary should be commensurate with what we pay other department heads.

The Recreation Assistant’s position would be moving to full-time status. In the few short months that Ms. Cushing has been in place for an annual salary of $10,000, she has brought in $20,000 worth of revenue, has taken over city promotional activities on social media sites, emails 2,000 people a city activity update every week, is coordinating programming and events for students and families, and has networked with local media outlets across the region. The small investment for this position pays off exponentially for the city.

I support the new positions and salary increases cited above because I want to see this city progress. A “cutting” strategy does nothing to promote a vibrant future. It maintains the status quo, which seems to be unpopular on any given morning on the local call-in radio show. As well, it does not seem that these same complainers have any articulated solution to our problems but to call day after day with the same negative mantra. I believe we deserve better and am willing to invest with that end in mind.

I hope that the council understands this vision we are pursuing for a better community and responds with the resources necessary to realize success.

If nothing changes, nothing changes.

Mayor Ann M. Thane

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For Release: Immediately
February 14, 2013

Contact: Peter Baynes
Executive Director
(518) 463-1185

Another Valentine’s Day Massacre for Property Taxpayers
Local Governments Mandated to Pay a
$387 Million Increase in Pension Bills

If your local government – like the vast majority – is raising property taxes, cutting jobs, slashing services and/or running out of rainy day reserves, you can thank out-of-control pension bills. Municipalities and school districts this month completed their state-mandated annual payments to the state retirement system.

· The government employer (that is, property taxpayer) contribution rate for public safety employees for 2013 is 25.8% of payroll, an increase of 19% compared to 2012 rates, and a 71% increase over the last three years.

· For non-uniformed employees, employers/taxpayers are now mandated to pay 18.9% of payroll, a 16% increase over 2012 rates, and a 155% increase compared to 2010 rates.

· In 2013, local governments and school districts are mandated to pay approximately $387 million more in pension costs than they did last year.

· For the average city, this year’s increase in pension costs is the equivalent of a 2.1% increase in property taxes, more than that allowed under the 2% tax cap.

· For the average city, 33% of city property taxes now go toward paying their annual pension bill.

“At a time when municipal budgets are blood-red from reduced state aid, eroded property tax bases, and smothering state mandates, these pension costs are a dagger to the fiscal hearts of local governments,” observed NYCOM Executive Director Peter A. Baynes.

NYCOM supported the Tier VI pension reforms that Governor Cuomo championed and the State Legislature enacted in 2012. However, since state constitutional protections limit the application of such pension benefit reforms to employees hired after the date of the reforms, the vast majority of Tier VI savings will not benefit taxpayers for at least twenty years. Consequently, NYCOM also
supports the “Stable Rate Pension Contribution Option” included in the Governor’s 2013-14 Executive Budget as a sensible, long-term approach to funding the pension system, whilesavings and protecting property taxpayers from the vagaries of Wall Street.

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