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I attended a budget session this morning. I guess the Council’s big idea to manage the budget is to cut our Community and Economic Development Director, cut the proposed HR Secretary, cut the Corporation Counsel’s only staff person, and reduce the Recreation Department Assistant’s salary. I asked if they’d discussed these changes with Department Heads… ahhhh, NO. I was forbidden to speak at the meeting. These changes will dramatically impact operations and do little to change the property tax rate, but that does not seem to concern the Council.

Do you think this may be political?

When asked if they have a Plan B for Transportation, which has been bleeding $250K a year from the General Fund, the Fourth Ward Alderwoman stated that they’d look at it if worse comes to worse. Hmmm, rather than plan for any contingency, they are going to wait and see. Please understand that I began discussing this shortfall with the newly elected council in November of 2013. I asked them to please examine this situation and come up with suggestions to address this as we were about to embark on the budget process. They promptly set about with their four-month war over golf contracts, the Golf Commission, Shuttleworth Park and Spring Fling.

So, there’s no plan for growth and they’re cutting our economic development person just as this year’s round of funding is due in 20 days, NY Rising is in its final stages, we’re up to our chins in Brownfield neighborhood rehabilitation planning, land bank management, waterfront redevelopment and creation of a new code enforcement initiative with Schenectady. They’re dicing Corporation Council’s secretary in charge of managing office operations, scheduling and is the same individual that ensures $30,000 in traffic tickets are processed a year, solely to undermine the attorney’s ability to function effectively. They’re slicing the salary of the Recreation Department Assistant responsible year around for events management, regular email, social media and website updates, coordination of activities at the Arts Center, Bacon Rec Center, community garden and summer camp, and facilitates all programming for youth and families (the position brought in $80,000 in sponsorships last year.)

I’ve never witnessed such irresponsible governance in my life. I hope people are outraged. This group is downright destructive.

The public hearing on the budget is on Tuesday night at 6pm, though after today’s discussion, it is doubtful that this council will make their changes public before that time. TAKE ACTION! Come to that meeting and stand up to this nonsense!

Contact your alderperson and let them know they’re supposed to be working for you, not playing partisan games. To contact the aldermen, call or email them at the following:

First Ward: Ed Russo
332-8645
russo@amsterdamny.gov.

Second Ward: Valerie Beekman
842-1430
vbeekman@amsterdamny.gov.

Third Ward: Ron Barone
842-1105
rbarone@amsterdamny.gov.

Fourth Ward: Diane Hatzenbuhler
842-2490
dhatzenbuhler@amsterdamny.gov

Fifth Ward: Rich Leggiero
843-0808
rleggiero@amsterdamny.gov.

Of course, you can always drop a letter in the mail addressed to the entire Common Council.
Send to: Common Council, City Hall, 61 Church Street, Amsterdam, NY 12010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We need the state to cap our costs!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

gussied up

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 Subject Matters host Joe Condon talks with Mayor Ann M Thane about the issues and community affairs concerning the City of Amsterdam NY and Montgomery County.

compare and save!

Two of the most important responsiblities of an elected official are (1.) to ensure taxpayers that we procure the most economically beneficial and qualified service providers, and (2.) that procurements are free from favoritism.

accountable-quote-Moliere

I found this to be of interest today:

“The law provides that goods and services not required to be competitively bid must be procured in a manner to assure the prudent and economical use of public moneys in the best interest of the taxpayers; to facilitate the acquisition of goods and services of maximum quality at the lowest possible cost; and, to guard against favoritism, improvidence, extravagance, fraud and corruption.

Ethics and Conflicts of Interest
“Generally, local governments and school districts are required to have a code of ethics that sets forth standards of conduct reasonably expected of its officers and employees. Although a code of ethics is an entity-wide document, it may be beneficial to include standards for procurement activities in your code since procurement is a function where the public and private sectors meet to conduct business. Public procurement officials need to have a clear understanding of what business practices are permissible and what ones are not. It is also important that all local government and school district officers and employees maintain high ethical standards of conduct and avoid situations where there is even the appearance of impropriety.

Among the ways in which procurement activities may be addressed in your code of ethics are by the inclusion of provisions:
Purchasing activities are to be conducted in a manner that is in accordance with law, in the best interests of the local government or school district, avoids favoritism, wastefulness, extravagance, fraud and corruption, and fosters honest competition to obtain the greatest economic benefit for every tax dollar expended.
• Procurement officials should insist on and expect honesty in sales representation whether offered verbally or in writing, through the medium of advertising, or in the sample of a product submitted.
• Procurement officials must treat all vendors and prospective vendors fairly and equally.
• Procurement officials should discourage the offer of gifts, and decline gifts that in any way might influence or have the appearance of influencing the procurement of goods or services.”

“Seeking competition in the purchasing cycle isn’t just a matter of ensuring compliance with laws and local policy. The people who are directly responsible for making procurement decisions should help to create a cost-conscious and thrifty procurement environment, in which seeking competition becomes intuitive and “second nature” for the organization. The benefits of seeking competition, including the potential for cost savings, should motivate a culture of competition within your procurement function.”

New York State Office of the State Comptroller,
Division of Local Government and School Accountability,
LOCAL GOVERNMENT MANAGEMENT GUIDE – Seeking Competition in Procurement.

best of the best

I culled much of the following from an online paper and tweaked a bit to make it generic, but with all of the recent discussion about commissions, boards and committees, this is a rather succinct inventory of what I think makes up a great team. These are characteristics I look for in my appointments regardless of political affiliation. Better yet, these are the attributes we should all be looking for in candidates that run for office and set the course for our various forms of government.

Leadership_hero

EFFECTIVE LEADERS, BOARDS AND COMMITTEES
need to have several of the following characteristics:

Creativity and Entrepreneurship.
The organization/ individual would show evidence of creative thinking and innovation development. They would have shown in their own work that they have the ability to nurture several projects from inception through design and implementation, and these projects should be ones that test the existing boundaries of the field in some important way. In other words, there must be a “track record” in implementing innovations.

Diverse Funding, With an Eye Toward Sustainability.
A successful organization is not dependent upon a limited number of funders, but rather has a more complex funding mix that comes from different sectors: federal, state, local, corporate and fee for service. Ideally, they do not act in a way that presumes that existing third-party resources will be around forever. For that reason, they have developed business plans that are designed to move segments of their organization toward self-sufficiency.

Well-Connected.
A successful organization has an impressive governing board giving them important connections to corporations, foundations, strategists, financial experts, entrepreneurs, and others that can open doors for future growth and impact.

Clear Direction.
A successful organization has a clear sense of where it is headed, and its “umbrella vision” is ambitious and broad-reaching.

Sense of Abundance.
A successful organization has a “sense of abundance” rather than a “scarcity mentality.” In other words, the organization is of the mind that innovation helps to create more resources for the field overall – and does not feel threatened by a potential innovation that it does not own.

Clear Commitment to the End User,
Rather Than Existing Institutions or Systems.
A leader / board member must show a commitment to changes that help the organization, with no vested interest in outside entities or relationships. This individual must show a high tolerance for disruption in the status quo, even if this means the end of certain institutions or ways of doing business. The individual should have a solid track record in helping institutions and systems serve the end users better.

another round


Please see the following report from the Golf Commission. The Commission had done extensive research and analysis before issuing an RFP last year and conducted interviews for restructuring operations at the Golf Course. The Council continues to ignore the best interests of the City of Amsterdam’s taxpayers and golfers. I have taken a hard line here and am willing to go to court over this, but would hope that the voices of reason will sway the Council to consider a compromise.

I am putting up a resolution to take the carts “in-house” tomorrow night. With the expected profits, we can fund staff, cart maintenance and gas, as well as have a Robert Trent Jones architectural consultant make recommendations to improve the course and begin to build the golf fund balance.

If the Council does not adopt this resolution, we are back to square one and all of this profit will go into the pocket of the Pro.

I humbly ask for your support. Please review the report and if you can, call or write a letter to your alderman, write a letter to the papers, write about this online, and speak at tomorrow night’s meeting. This blatant cronyism and misfeasance is unacceptable and must stop.

The REPORT:

“The council is ignoring financial prudence by pursuing a contract with Mr. Joe Merendo and they have torpedoed efforts at moving the course into the future. Inexplicable to us, not once since taking office has the council reached out to the Golf Commission for any input on history, our plans, or to review/question our projections and recommendations. They have simply exhibited the unwavering pursuit of reinstating the existing golf pro under his previous agreement.
We have researched the typical comp for a municipal golf pro as well have the insight of what the three competing pros who responded to the RFP were requesting for income. Below are some excerpts from some web research on Golf Course Pro compensation.

According to the 2008 PGA Compensation survey, the average Head Professional made (across the country):
Average: $83,075.21
(Bottom 10%: $40,000.00, Bottom 25%: $51,150.00, Median: $69,500.00, Top 25%: $97,000.00, Top 10%: $140,000.00)

Assistant Pro (across the country):
Average: $39,874.67
(Bottom 10%: $22,537.50, Bottom 25%: $30,000.00, Median: $38,000.00, Top 25%: $47,000.00, Top 10%: $59,174.68)

This information is from 2005 according to the PGA.

The hours that a Head Pro works and the amount of golf he gets to play vary, just as much as their salaries do. Most Head Golf Professionals work around 48-60+ hours during golf season. In areas that experience cold winters and snow, the head golf pro might only work 32-40 hours a week during the winter. He will spend most of this time setting up the calendar of events for the following season, doing merchandising work for the golf shop, and at some clubs might even run some type of an indoor practice area. Some courses up north actually close for a few months in the winter time, but the head pro still puts in his time doing basic tasks.

Another thing to consider is that some Head Pros might own the golf shop merchandise and make a large part of their income running the shop, but this can be demanding of the Head Pro’s time and require longer hours and cause more headaches.

Another aspect of the job that varies a lot depending what type of course you work at, is the lessons, some pros may give lessons 3-4 times a week while other may give 3-4 or even more lessons a day.

It is important to note that Mr. Merendo does not work for the course in the off months, has little to no interaction with the course superintendant, never attends Commission meetings, and has virtually no role in marketing the course. This leads us to feel that his role should either command the bottom 25% of the head pro salary or a salary more in line with an assistant pro. This plus our knowledge of what the other pros who responded to the RFP were looking to make lead us to believe that a $50,000 per year salary plus the ability to gain additional revenue through lessons and retail (worth $10,000 or more per year if done right) is the correct compensation level for the position at Amsterdam Muni.

We have received quotes and done extensive research on cart rental revenue projections. The commission estimates that the cart rentals will bring in an additional $89,000 in revenue after lease, fuel, and maintenance. When factoring in the changes to pro compensation and additional staffing for the pro-shop the additional income is still $35,000/year. This extra revenue could be used to balance the budget, pay for course improvements without the need to bond, or could be used to reduce the cost of memberships!

The commissions goal was to put in place an energetic, competent, teaching pro. Providing lessons and clinics is the best and most effective way to bring in new players to your course. This is the foundation of building your next generation of golfers. As it is now, many members and players at Muni go to Fox Run for lessons. Joe Merendo admitted that he gives 20- 30 lessons a year and one youth clinic. All other pros consulted give in excess of 250 lessons per year.

Operational benefits of the change: Aside from the obvious monetary benefit, there are a number of operational considerations.

Single point of sale. Currently a player must pay greens fees at the cashier booth, then proceed into the pro-shop to pay for cart rental. We are the only golf course that any of us know of that does this. The change would allow both fee’s to be collected by one person.

By combining the pro-shop staff, who previously were employed by the pro, with the cashiers we will see an economy of scale. A cashier previously could perform no other task than sit in the booth and wait for customers. Under the new scenario someone working behind the counter will be able to offer customer service regarding merchandise, etc. So now one person can do the job that it took two to do before.

Additionally, as the staff will be city employees they can be utilized during slow times to support the greens staff by filing and maintaining water coolers and emptying trash bins on the course, filling ball washers, and even tidying up outside the pro-shop and clubhouse. All things that we have received numerous complaints about over the years.”

Less that a week ago, Alderwoman Hatzenbuhler grilled Recreation Director Rob Spagnola over a project that had been funded and approved last year. Shouldn’t she and the other aldermen hold the Golf Course to the same standard?

To contact the other aldermen, call or email them at the following:

Ed Russo
332-8645
russo@amsterdamny.gov.

Valerie Beekman
842-1430
vbeekman@amsterdamny.gov.

Ron Barone
842-1105
rbarone@amsterdamny.gov.

Diane Hatzenbuhler
842-2490
dhatzenbuhler@amsterdamny.gov

Rich Leggiero
843-0808
rleggiero@amsterdamny.gov.

Of course, you can always drop a letter in the mail addressed to the entire Common Council.
Send to: Common Council, City Hall, 61 Church Street, Amsterdam, NY 12010

I repeat: this has NEVER been about the man. It has been about the MONEY. We must fully understand and control all departmental finances and operations. This includes the Golf Course.

BTW, Schenectady Muni brought the carts and pro shop “in house” last year, made the Pro a city employee and made $140,000 in profit last year.

just plain busy

Kind of tired tonight and happened to be glancing through my calendar since the beginning of the year. Now, I know why I’m a bit drained. This is what I’ve been doing (not everything – just highlights related to my job. I have a whole life outside of the office too!):

busy-bee
Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council (MVREDC): weekly conference calls, biweekly meetings in Utica, planning for this year’s fourth round of funding, planning for the symposium in April.
 
Meeting weekly with new controller Matt Agresta; reviewing finance department priorities, operations and predictable tasks. Finalizing corrective action plan.
 
Meeting: investor interested in development of east end mill buildings.
 
Engineering: weekly departmental review of operations and projects.
 
Arts Center: help facilitate 4H, upcoming art exhibit, classes and promotion.
 
Committee of the Whole meetings / Council meetings.
 
Department Head meetings: coming together of all departments to facilitate communication, problem-solving.
 
Rotary meetings.
 
Landbank Advisory Committee meetings: prioritize projects, develop strategies for neighborhood revitalization and funding of our efforts.
 
Via Ponte / Waterfront Heritage Brownfield Opportunity programs: closing out Phase I, moving to Phase II – review inventorying, environmental assessments and planning for downtown redevelopment, train station relocation, and future traffic/parking solutions.
 
Community Action Committee meetings with GASD, SMH and various not-for-profits.
 
Reinvent Yourself Amsterdam” Committee meetings: launching citywide health program
 
Spring Litter Pick Up / Spring Fling: setting up dates, materials, etc.
 
Economic Development meetings: weekly, with URA, AIDA and Community & Economic Development department, as well as once a month with County.
 
Meeting: Matt Ossenfort to discuss health insurance and MOSA.
 
NY Rising meetings: plan for hazard mitigation related to economic development efforts. $3M available to the City of Amsterdam. 
 
Meeting with Secretary of State Cesar Perales to present code enforcement tracking software proposal with the City of Schenectady and the Center for Technology and Growth. Letter of request then drafted and sent to state.
 
Meeting with Senator Chuck Schumer and County Legislators to discuss city/county priorities.
 
Meeting with new HUD representative to plan for event targeting community revitalization, health and housing issues.
 
Meeting with Congressman Paul Tonko and Canal Corp to review progress of Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook project.
 
Meeting at Bacon Recreation Center to discuss success of Department of Juvenile Justice grants and programming at Bacon and the Creative Connections Arts Center. State would like to use us as a model for other communities.
 
NYCOM ethics training and legislative update sessions in Albany. Meetings with Comptroller DiNapoli, Attorney General Schneiderman, Canal Corp Director Stratton and other dignitaries from the Capital. Reception at the Governor’s mansion.
 
Called together County, FMCC and Fulton County representatives to discuss shared service opportunities in anticipation of this year’s budget and funding through the MVREDC.
Wrote and delivered State of the City Speech.
Yep. Busy, busy, busy.  🙂

As seems to be the rage of the day, there are several fallacious premises being tendered when discussing this golf course situation.

Dollars funnel.

Starting with the letter from Karl (or whoever wrote this piece), we continue daily operations at City Hall, managing public safety, water/sewer maintenance, road repair, snowplowing, emergency response and the myriad of responsibilities government is charged with including oversight of our finances. Just because the golf course has become the topic du jour on FB, blogs or talk radio, do not mistakenly think this is the sole concern of this administration. Infrastructure has undergone a tremendous amount of strategic and “affordable” upgrades in six years (see my State of the City addressES at http://www.wildthane.wordpress.com) through the millions of dollars of grants we have secured. We’ve also advanced numerous projects and initiatives that have changed the physical landscape of our city. We continue with this work.

The user fee increases were implemented by the prior council to offset the heavy cost of the water and sewer distribution systems that our property owners were carrying. This shift allowed us to lighten property taxes for our city taxpayers and more fairly distribute water/sewer costs to outside users and not-for-profits. This has been good for city taxpayers.

The increase in debt had come about because we replaced aging equipment and funded long overdue capital projects that had been put off to the point of being hazardous to employees and residents. We also bonded in anticipation of revenue we would receive as reimbursement via grants. This has been good for our employees and residents.

Population has increased in our city and six industries have expanded operations here. We have a $20M assisted living project on the south side that will bring 75 professional jobs and an $5M industrial prospect at the Esquire site that will bring several dozen good paying jobs, both slated to launch this Spring.

The letter posits that the Golf Commission has based their recommendations on an outdated study by graduate students from the Masters in Business program at Union College. The study had served as a foundation for the Commission’s work, but they’ve spent the past three years doing additional analysis, talking with the PGA, golf professionals, cart rental firms, and doing comparative analysis of surrounding golf course operations. Working with the former Council, with Gina DeRossi serving as golf liaison and attending most commission meetings, the Commission put out a Request for Proposals to regional golf professionals to elicit workable, innovative ideas that may carry this facility into the future. This was done publicly and with the expectation of fair consideration.

The current Council has chosen to ignore all of this work and instead award the contract (albeit, removing performance measures such as financial statements, business plan or marketing strategy), refusing to acknowledge the failings of the course or the promising compromise I had offered that would have straightened this out weeks ago. The proposed changes we offer pay for themselves as indicated in the report submitted to the Council from the Commission.

Mr. Scott’s hiring would allow us to attract a whole generation of new golfers as he already has an agreement with the school system to teach golf to thousands of children through his “Cover the Distance Golf Academy” program. He also has a plan to spend twelve months of the year actively marketing our facility via traditional outlets and the internet (another failing of the current operation.)

The competitive analysis (I think that is what the letter mean by “competition analysis”) has been done, as well as comprehensive scrutiny of our operational failings. The key components missing at the course are managerial oversight, a defined business plan and a marketing strategy. This was also the finding so many years ago in the Union report. If the current contracts are awarded again, nothing changes and we will continue the spiral of decline. To date, we’ve experienced a 43% loss in membership, escalating costs, flat revenues and a decline in the physical condition of the course. Meanwhile, the council wants to award the contract worth well over $100,000 to the current golf pro for seven months of work instead of controlling those revenues for the betterment of the course. How does this action serve golfers or our city taxpayers? The course has unlimited opportunity to generate direct and indirect benefit to this city.

Everyone sees this for what this is: a flexing of political muscle for special interests. Until we overcome this unscrupulous behavior, this city cannot move forward. I work for over 18,000 people that include the 390 golfers at Muni. I have everyone’s best interest in mind. I hope that the Council puts special interests aside and starts acting for all of our taxpayers and not just a few. It would be ridiculous of them to force this into court.

I challenge this current council to tell me how awarding the current contract works financially for the city. I want to see their financial analysis.

STATE OF THE CITY
Mayor Ann M. Thane • February 4, 2014

In drafting this State of the City address, I am reminded that anything we want that is good and strong and worthwhile is hard to attain, especially if it entails change. It is slow in coming and resisted by the fearful and the deceptive. It must be hard-fought for and requires every ounce of determination. I am here to report that we are making steady strides in this battle and we cannot let up the fight.

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To be healthy, an individual must exercise and eat well, make good choices when it comes to work or savings, and support one’s spirit with rewarding friendships and activities that nourish the soul.

As a community, we must be equally mindful of our health. Our measures are many, and though we struggle, we may gauge our resilience in the successes we’ve made to address the problems faced by this aging, upstate city. I am proud to again cite the action we’ve taken to allay the injury time has wrought on the City of Amsterdam.

PRIORITY ONE: FINANCIAL HEALTH

No one can deny that the city is grappling with the results of years of poor management in the Controller’s Office. At the urging of past Controller Ron Wierzbicki, the state was invited in to review the city’s financial condition that ended in a scathing report, deriding the record keeping practices of the department. For years, bank accounts and the general ledger had not been properly reconciled, entries were made incorrectly, and capital projects had not been properly tracked. Though this finding is damning, it came as no surprise to this administration or the prior council that had already begun to take steps toward managing this crisis.

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Early in 2013, the prior Council added the position of Deputy Controller to strengthen the department and ensure that there will be continuity and expertise outside of the election cycle. Mr. David Mitchell was hired for his lengthy experience in dealing with troubled institutions and his ability to bring organization to floundering accounting systems. We have been well served by this appointment. He has deftly begun the laborious task of untangling the mess he found and has instituted new procedures to alleviate years of questionable practices. He was able to close out the books for 2011/12, submitted a long-overdue Annual Update Document (AUD) and completed a single audit, which in turn protected several hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants.

The prior Council contracted with two accounting firms to go back through our records, correct errors and reconcile all operational and capital accounts. This will ensure that our numbers are firm going forward. New Controller Matthew Agresta will revise and resubmit the Annual Update Document once more solid numbers are presented in an attempt to protect our favorable S&P and Moody’s ratings.

As recommended by the State, the prior Council and I drafted an initial corrective action plan that will be finalized and submitted to the Office of the State Comptroller showing our plans to protect the city from problems of this nature in the future. Staff and the new Council will be given training in municipal finance and utilization of our new accounting software. Written policies and procedures will be developed and implemented, and the Council will receive the accurate data it needs to make informed decisions about city operations.

The current Council will be responsible for developing a long-range financial plan, an action that is both prudent and timely. Though this entire process has been arduous, the resulting certainty will be well worth the pain. I remain optimistic that we are in better stead financially than has been predicted on some fronts.

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As the budget season approaches, a keen focus on performance and accountability will serve us well. The Governor’s proposed freeze on revenues will apply tremendous pressure on our community, which already labors to provide necessary services to our residents. This will require us to be quite creative in finding new ways to sustain our city. Strict fiscal oversight in every aspect of city government is demanded in this time of stress; no facility or contract will escape this scrutiny. Nor can we pretend to address our fiscal constraints by questioning small expenditures that are inconsequential to our tax burden. We must look to departments that are underperforming with the realization that hard choices may have to be made. We cannot put special interests before those of our taxpayers. We must fastidiously re-examine the workings of each department and enterprise fund without prejudice, as well as target areas of spending that have historically saved us money for additional cost cutting or revenues, as in health insurance costs or pensions. We will engage the surrounding municipalities to increase efficiencies and craft new avenues for the profit of all.

PRIORITY TWO: REGIONAL HEALTH
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Our growing partnership with the City of Schenectady is one that offers substantial reward. Our cities have both suffered the post-industrial decline encountered by all communities in the rust belt. Neighborhoods that surrounded bustling factories now circle crumbling behemoths of another era. Working family homes have slipped into disrepair and associated misfortunes have taken root: crime, litter, vandalism and fire have become realities that drain our coffers and esteem. So, it has been with great pride and enthusiasm that we have begun to work together to solve some of these long-standing problems.

A single distressed property will consume $109,000 in direct and indirect costs in a cycle that runs from deterioration to demolition. Multiply this cost by the number of affected properties in each city and the total is staggering. If all 735 properties now identified in various stages of decline in the city of Amsterdam progress fully to demolition, the cost to our taxpayers is $80,115,000. Schenectady’s 2,420 now distressed properties amount to a mind numbing $263,780,000. When we think of this cost infecting every aging city, town and village in the State, as we know it does, we see a situation that cries out for immediate remedy.
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The key to reducing these losses to the tax base is to divert properties away from or out of the system as soon as possible. We are addressing this in two ways:

First, our cities and the County of Schenectady have formed one of five state designated “land banks” to proactively mitigate the costs of blighted properties through neighborhood planning, rehabilitation or demolition, and investment. The goal is to improve property values within the land bank area. The resulting decreases in delinquent taxes and emergency response costs will benefit our cities financially as well as improve quality of life for residents in those areas where abandonment is successfully reversed.

Second, the two cities have banded together with the Center for Technology and Growth (CTG) to develop a uniform code enforcement software module that will digitally track code enforcement violations. Currently, every municipality in the State uses its own forms, manual procedures and unique policies for code enforcement and the state legislature is blind to the impact this problem has on the bottom line.
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No one can dispute that sharing information on arson, domestic violence, DWI, and other fire and police concerns is beneficial. Improved code enforcement reporting and information sharing will reduce the incidence of distressed properties and associated costs. Standard forms and procedures will facilitate sharing of data across municipal boundaries to protect banks from mortgage fraud, neighborhoods from the assault that blight delivers, and taxpayers from carrying the burden of lost prospects.

State legislators will be able to plainly see the astronomical costs associated with blight and act accordingly. The collected information will allow us to establish a basis for state code enforcement action and uniform urban policy making. For example, we may develop a state property owner ID system that will help identify absentee landlords shielded from prosecution through LLC’s.

This is exactly the kind innovative approach to fiscal stress that our Governor has called for. Our initiative will provide substantial and quantifiable taxpayer relief through shared service, government efficiency and economic development. I am very grateful to Mayor Gary McCarthy for allowing us to partner in this effort.
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This administration has an unambiguous record of collaborating with several municipal counterparts to benefit city residents. From water and revenue sharing agreements with the Towns of Amsterdam and Florida to sharing the costs of workman’s comp, energy purchasing, demolition and solid waste disposal with the County, the city has capitalized on its available resources and has been able to leverage them for the good of our people. We’ve realized millions of dollars in new revenues over the past few years and more fairly distributed the cost of our water and sewer distribution systems.

Times of crisis often call out necessary qualities of ingenuity and devotion. Because of this, we should understand the significance of this time for our state and city and treasure its gifts.

Through the Governor’s NY Rising and Hazard Mitigation programs, we’ve worked with surrounding municipalities for a full recovery from the devastating storms of 2011 and 2013. We are forging plans to alleviate the risk of flood that are linked to our economic development efforts. One of the greatest achievements in this process will be the consolidation of all city, school and county strategic plans into one comprehensive document that will allow for even greater cooperation between the various governments.
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Our partnering efforts have also played out in a regional sense. Amsterdam is a member of the six-county Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council (MVREDC). This year, our region was chosen as a top performer and awarded over $82M in grants and incentives to spur development. Our city scored well in this round, as we had in the past outside of the council’s activity, securing $12,219,000 in grants over six years for growing industries, waterfront revitalization, economic development, marketing, public works and infrastructure improvements.

In anticipation of this year’s round of competitive funding through the regional economic development council, I have called on representatives from the Counties of Fulton and Montgomery, Fulton Montgomery Community College, and various economic development agencies to identify projects in the public and private sectors that will create jobs and foster renewal for our constituencies.
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The City will continue to establish and grow these valuable relationships, locally and abroad. There are marvelous people and organizations engaged in transformative work across the state, in community colleges and universities, Chambers of Commerce, not-for-profits and in business. My involvement with the New York Conference of Mayors and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Commission allows me access me to ideas, best practices and networks that I am anxious to bring to our city.

PRIORITY THREE: TANGIBLE HEALTH

The improvements we’ve made to the infrastructure in our community is of particular pride to this administration. We may point to the close of another year of intense construction bringing us a new traffic pattern downtown and marked rehabilitation of our water and sewer systems.
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Through steady effort, we have replaced water lines and valves, and are now down to a mere six out-of-order hydrants out of over a thousand, a stark contrast to the dozens we inherited with lines that ran dry during tragic fires on Market Street Hill in 2008. We have been systematically identifying areas where storm water and sewer lines connect and have been able to avoid hefty fines from the Department of Environmental Conservation because of our systematic method in dealing with these problems.

The traffic-repatterning project was a long time in the making, having been identified as a goal in our comprehensive plan of 2004. Though many decried this initiative as doomed to monstrous accidents and confusion, the change has been pleasantly accepted and incorporated into our daily lives. The ability to travel east on RT5 has been good for our police and fire departments and easy for those wishing to circumnavigate the Riverfront Center and downtown.

This is yet another phase in the redevelopment strategy for our urban core, which will greatly benefit from this year’s start in construction of the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook. Demolitions of dilapidated properties on the south shore will take place in March, materials brought in for the footings and substructures by May, and by October we will begin to see our vision for this pedestrian bridge made real. Plans for a walkway along the north shore to Guy Park Avenue and the relocation of the train station will be laid concurrently to this activity.
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We must continue the demolition of buildings that are beyond repair in order to stay the creep of blight in our older neighborhoods while doing all in our power to save those structures that carry the blue print of our unique heritage as a post-industrial community. There is a delicate balance that must be struck in order to preserve that which speaks to this interesting and beautiful past. We must approach each property with sensitivity to our history and do all that we may to safeguard the characteristics of this legacy while protecting our residents from safety hazards. Therefore, I ask that the Council bond not only for demolition but also the stabilization of decaying properties, and that they invest the seed money necessary to successfully launch our land banking efforts in partnership with the City and County of Schenectady.

As I have said many times in the past, combating blight in older cities requires multiple methods of attack. We increased the number of code enforcement officers this year to three, which has been an immense advantage in this battle. We are able to more deftly answer complaints and proactively stave off violations, often stopping unpermitted work and may target particular streets or neighborhoods for obvious disregard of our building codes.
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We had selected a section of the Reid Hill area for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to help property owners with the cost of rehabbing homes and coupled that program with street reconstruction and demolitions. This assistance has been well received, with fifteen property owners engaged in this process. We will continue this endeavor in the coming year with a second grouping of properties that are contiguous to the first phase of work. We will also devote our attentions to East Main Street with a similar CDBG grant request for work along this visibly distressed corridor through the city.

It will be a significant year for construction in our City. We may expect to see the recently demolished Esquire site rebuilt with a new industry and a $4.4M building. A $20M assisted living facility will be built next to River Ridge on the South Side. Colonial Gardens at the northern entrance to our City will finish its $9.1M over haul, Roosevelt Apartments will be revamped for $3.4M and the Woodrow Wilson Complex with get a $12M make-over. The failing bank of Dove Creek will be shored up, the sanitary sewer system on Grieme Avenue will be updated and water-ravaged Henrietta Boulevard will get much-needed reconstruction.

Of course, our city has many other needs in the way of capital improvements that will have to be prioritized and funded by this council. They have been given an extensive list of projects and equipment from all departments that must be culled through and immediate action taken in areas that will impact the safety of our community. We will be undertaking this duty in the coming weeks.

In so many ways, we have our city workforce to thank for the services that are provided through your tax dollars. We have an exceptional police force and fire department and we are safe. We enjoy clean water and an efficient sewer system. Our parks are lovely, our streets are maintained and plowed, and we are readily cared for in emergency situations. I extend our shared appreciation for the men and women that keep our municipal services functioning to the best of their abilities when the weather is unbearable and budgets are tight. This is a never-ending task that demands unrivaled commitment in the face of adversity.
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I cannot discuss the great effort is has taken to battle the decline age brings to a city without acknowledging the magnificent efforts of our volunteers that have come out twice a year for the past five years and helped with our Spring and Fall Citywide Litter Pick-ups. This year saw our greatest turnout to date, with hundreds of men, women and children stooped along roadsides disposing of plastic bottles, wrappers, cigarette butts, aluminum cans, paper bags and Styrofoam cups. To date, we’ve picked up an incredible twenty tons of debris! We cannot underestimate the very real impact this has on our city. Certainly, we are cleaner, but more importantly we show that we are willing as a community to actively right the wrongs exacted upon us because of a modern disregard for our environment. We show that committed individuals are the deciding factor in creating a vibrant place to live.

PRIORITY FOUR: COMMUNITY HEALTH
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The fact is that the essence of this community is not found in its physical attributes – it is not found in its wonderful neighborhoods of which, and this bears repeating until everyone starts paying attention, MOST are attractive and great places to raise a family. The essence of our community is not in our industrial sites, small shops, many parks, memorials or churches – it is found in the hearts of our people.

This community again and again shows no matter how negative the airwaves, facebook or the blogs get, no matter what the circumstance or need, our people step up with love and strength in times of celebration or trouble. This past year is no different in that regard except that there have been so many instances where that spirit is evident.

Volunteers have been instrumental to the success of City-sponsored events, such as Spring Fling, National Night Out, or Homecoming (all of which were banner years in terms of the thousands that participated and attended.) Volunteers built a community garden with 40 children on the east end, painted murals across the city and created the most beautiful piece of public art in this city’s recent past, the mosaic at the Creative Connections Arts Center. Volunteers hauled stones from the river to build a labyrinth at City Hall for mediation purposes, planted 3,500 daffodil bulbs, and lit up thousands of colored decorations at Light Up the Sky, the Kristy Pollock Memorial Light Display and the new Bracchi Family Christmas Tree on the South Side. Volunteers brought us summer concerts all season long at Riverlink Park, hosted a historic tour of the West end, and a haunted tour of City Hall and Green Hill Cemetery. They connected in Neighborhood Watch groups to protect their friends and properties and hosted sporting events to fund programming for at-risk youth. They championed the interests of students, families in-need, the domestically abused, the grieving, the elderly, the homeless, and of course, this generosity extended to feral and abandoned animals.

Volunteers were critical to the success of the Bacon Recreation and Creative Connections Arts Centers. Though the City Recreation Department coordinated activities at both sites, the involvement of caring men and women acting in concert with our staff, especially the W1shhfu1 Th1nk1ng group and our Amsterdam Community Gardens Committee, have made a critical and lasting impression on hundreds of children that have passed through their doors. Families were confidently able to send their children safely to summer camp, tournaments, and a whole year of cultural activities and classes. For many of these young people, these facilities are a home away from a home that does not exist. This outpouring of love and support had been in response to the tragic murders of Jonathan DeJesus and Paul Damphier. We cannot forget the reasons for our rallying or the gifts that these angels have delivered to us. We must continue to fully support these facilities and organizations for the good of future generations.

These individuals fight on for the health of this city and it is the health of this city that will ultimately decide our destiny. It is with that thought in mind that several agencies, the City, GASD, St. Mary’s Healthcare and our business and faith-based communities, will roll out a “Reinvent Yourself Amsterdam” program this Spring focused on the mind, body and spirit of each individual, as the well-being of our residents directly correlates to the well-being of our community. We will offer opportunities for folks to exercise together, discover nutritional alternatives to processed and “fast” food, expand access to locally produced vegetables and meats, and explore new creative or spiritual outlets. We are fleshing this strategy out now, but it is one that has had great success elsewhere and will be a tremendous chance for each of us to embrace a new, more fully realized experience of life (or just loose a little weight!)

CONCLUSION

Each year that I am afforded this time to share my perceptions of last year and plans for the upcoming months, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the job you have blessed me with as Mayor. I thank each and every one of you for the challenge this presents me (my life is never boring) and for the support that so many of you have shown me personally. I am inspired by those of you that have given so much of your hearts to our Amsterdam and look forward to marching bravely with you through our difficulties. Together, we will triumph over hardship.

I must take this moment to also caution that party affiliations and personal agendas have no place in working as one for the good of this city. This council should be mindful that voting as a block to stop the advancement of responsible pursuit is tantamount to acting as a wall against progress instead of a bridge to our future. I respectfully ask that each of you act in an informed and independent fashion when making decisions on behalf of our residents. Cooperation is an action, not a word. I, again, sincerely extend my hand in welcome in this regard.

Lastly, to the general public and those of you that had taken part in the most important of civil liberties, the election: do not consider your job done once your vote was cast. Pay attention. Watch where your money is going and make sure your interests are being served, not the interests of one or a few.

I end now with a quote from one of the greatest men to ever have lived, whose simple life and deep commitment to his people serves as an inspiration to all of us:

“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

Let’s be patient, but let’s make our dreams a reality.

Thank you so much.

Mayor Ann M. Thane

VETO OVERRIDE
PROPOSED COMPROMISE

January 21, 2014

For the past few weeks, the Mayor, Council, Golf Commission, golfers and city residents have discussed the organizational structure of the Golf Course.

The Council has voted to renew a contract with current Golf Course Professional Joseph Merendo for a term of two years, with an automatic month-to-month provision once the term is complete. The suggested rate of compensation is $25,500 per year, for a season that runs from April through October. In this scenario, the pro is not an employee of the city. He receives all golf cart, pro shop and lessons revenues and provides for a part-time Ranger, (3) three full-time employees (including him) and (3) part-time high school students. He absorbs the cost of carts and the pro shop.

Richard Scott has been recommended by the Golf Commission for the position of Golf Course Manager/Pro. In this scenario, Mr. Scott would be employed by the city, as well as the additional staff at the course, which involves compensation of $49,000 a year (12-months). The city would receive the golf cart revenues and a percentage of pro shop revenues and lessons fees. The net change in return to the city is projected to be approximately $30,000.

With increased marketing, it is projected that course revenue will increase from year to year.

COMPROMISE POSITION
I propose hiring Richard Scott as Golf Course Manager and Joe Merendo as Pro, provided Mr. Scott’s proposed changes are incorporated. This allows for increased supervision at the course, better marketing, and increased membership/greens fees.

It lifts the burden of managing employees and the cost of caring for carts and the pro shop from Joe Merendo. At the same time, it allows him health insurance coverage and additional benefits, as well as entry into the state retirement system. Mr. Scott benefits from having a popular golf pro on staff.

This hybrid solution will allow for positive changes at the course and satisfies concerns of current golfers. This is in the best interest of all involved.

Respectfully submitted,
Mayor Ann M. Thane

veto, here we go.

I just dropped my veto message and accompanying materials off to the City Clerk only to learn that the Council has already put up the resolution to override, without the courtesy of reading the information contained in my document.

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This is disappointing
to say the least. I don’t know of any dictionary that would define this as responsible or cooperative.

VETO MESSAGE

DATE: January 16, 2014

TO: City Clerk Susan Alibozek
Common Council
All Local Media

FROM: Mayor Ann M. Thane

RE: Veto of Resolution #13/14-150

I am vetoing this resolution as it does not protect the interests of both the taxpayers and golfers of the City of Amsterdam.

For almost two decades, the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course has underperformed as evidenced by dropping membership numbers and flat revenues. Despite significant cost cutting measures the course is barely breaking even. Without a positive change in operations the golf fund will likely exhaust its fund balance within the next five years.

In 2009, the City invited Masters in Business Administration graduate students from Union College, under the guidance of the President of the Union MBA School, to conduct an assessment of operations at the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course and to prepare a business plan for the course. This study indicated that course revenue could be increased by 85% (approximately $400,000 per year) if various recommendations were implemented. The contract authorized by this resolution is inconsistent with the changes recommended by the Union College Study and would prevent the implementation of any meaningful changes for the term of the contract. The City cannot afford to ignore potential revenue sources at the expense of property tax payers.

The longstanding trend is that membership has declined. Since the number of members has declined steadily over the years, outside play needs to be boosted so that the course is financially viable. The contract proposed by this resolution represents a continuation of failed prior policies; therefore, implementing this resolution will continue the decline.

The Golf Commission had issued an RFP that sought options for improvement of course operations. The report from the Golf Commission is attached. The Commission recommends an option that will immediately boost revenue by at least $30,000 and provide the opportunity to improve operations. This option will improve oversight and greatly enhance the golf experience. I firmly believe that the City should proceed with the recommended changes contained in the RFP response issued by our Golf Commission (see below).

The current golf professional contract provides compensation of $25,500 to the professional for working from April through October, as well as cart rental fees and all proceeds from the pro-shop and lessons. It is critical that the City receive the revenue generated from golf cart rentals, conservatively estimated at $67,000 net annually, which will grow as outside non-member play increases. If the City does not receive the cart revenues, any marketing effort to boost outside play will accrue not to the taxpayers, but to the golf professional.

Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course, designed by a world-renowned course architect, Robert Trent Jones, is a tremendous asset to the City of Amsterdam. It is unacceptable that operations do not generate revenue for the City. With proper management, the interests of both golfers and taxpayers can be protected and enhanced. This can only occur if we stop reinforcing failed policies and take advantage of the best advice available to us. Therefore, Resolution #13/14-150 is hereby vetoed.

Click on this link for SUPPORTING MATERIALS: 20140116124718219

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

710341791_img_5181

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

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

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

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

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

snapshots

There have been many, many items of correspondence back and forth between the Controller’s office, Council and my office regarding finances and reports from the Controller’s office. I offer the following to inform the rest of you as to the occurances over these past few years.

From: “Ann M. Thane”
Date: December 21, 2012 4:11:58 PM EST
To: Joseph Isabel , Valerie Beekman , Gina DeRossi , David Dybas , Richard Leggiero , Susan Alibozek , Ron Wierzbicki , Gerry DeCusatis , Ann Thane
Subject: FW: Accounting service engagement letter

All,

The City of Amsterdam has recently concluded its financial risk assessment process. The City shall take the necessary actions and steps to ensure its financial condition is properly stated and all current and future financial transactions are recorded correctly. An action plan has been developed, is in process, and will be updated as any anomalies present themselves in the data under review.

To date, the process has encompassed a partial review of the accounting transactions by various departments and sources (cash balances, capital projects, federal/state grants, current/prior fund comparisons, etc.) A review of operations by KVS, our accounting software provider, has also been conducted.

Darryl Purinton, our Financial Consultant, has identified areas of weakness requiring immediate remediation. It is apparent that prior year’s transactions must be addressed to ensure the integrity of data transitioned to the new accounting system.

The Mayor and Controller are requesting that the Common Council provide all necessary resources to address these inadequacies in an orderly fashion. Though the cost of assisting the Controller is escalating, our goal is to remediate and eliminate the weaknesses in the Department of Finance. This will be an evolving process that will perhaps take several months, reflecting the type and amount of problems that need attention. We must all ensure that this process is as expedient as possible.

The position of Deputy Controller has been submitted for advertising to local newspapers and will be posted online via several venues.

Please review the attached proposal and be prepared to discuss in committee before our first Common Council meeting of the year. Susan, will you please convene a committee meeting of the whole on January 2nd (6:30pm) and a resolution on for the night to bless off on this proposal?

Thanks, A.

—— Forwarded Message
From:
Date: Wed, 19 Dec 2012 11:57:00 -0500
To: Office of the Mayor
Subject: Accounting service engagement letter

Mayor

Please see the attached draft of an engagement letter for your review.

We can add or substitute tasks as you desire.

Some other tasks can include:

1. Review of the account coding for all cash receipts and disbursements and prepare correcting journal entries for all funds, except capital projects.
2. Review of the property tax receivable, liability and revenue accounts, reconcile them to supporting sub-ledgers and prepare correcting journal entries.
3. Review budgetary journal entries and reconcile them to Common Council authorization or lack thereof and prepare correcting journal entries.
4. We can look at other suggestions.

I look forward to your response.

Darryl

____________________________________________________________________________

From: Office of the Mayor
Date: Tue, 15 Nov 2011 11:00:41 -0500
To: Heather Reynicke , Ann Thane , Gerry DeCusatis
Subject: AS400

Hi Heather,

Will you please let me know where we stand with the AS400 and the County? We need the single password for all users, but still need the county to figure out why we are being dropped. We don’t have any other trouble with the network connection, i.e., the internet or red alert. Something must have happened during the floods to their server. This problem has greatly affected the the codes department’s ability to work with this system. I’d appreciate you trying to get to bottom of this situation.

Will you be at tonight’s meeting? I’d appreciate an update as to where we are with the software transfer, contingency funds, processing of purchase orders and the fund balance. Departments heads at yesterday’s meeting are concerned as they are not getting updates as to where they stand within the budget. Of course, each department tracks their time and expenditures, but it seems the checks and balances are not in place at this time. They’d also like to have KVS review the system with them so that they may suggest what is necessary to meet their unique needs.

Lastly, once a new controller is in place, I’d like to work on a plan of transition. Hope you are well on the mend. Thanks, A.

Mayor Ann M. Thane
City of Amsterdam
61 Church Street
Amsterdam, NY 12010

From: Office of the Mayor
Date: Mon, 19 Sep 2011 13:01:57 -0400
To: Heather Reynicke , Gerry DeCusatis , Ann Thane
Subject: Updated conversation

Hi Heather,

Just to recap a few of the items we discussed:

• we may need additional bonding to address asbestos remediation/demolition of the Esquire Building
• we need your recommendation as to whether we bond for emergency services rendered after the two floods
• we have not heard from a FEMA representative yet, but I have forwarded the FEMA application handbook for your review. Hopefully, you have reviewed the emergency purchasing policies with each department (per 9/1/2011 email)
• outstanding invoice: Municipal Solutions – please call
• staffing concerns
• conversion: postings, reconciliations, payroll accruals
• URA transfer
• disaster relief local law: wave user fees; please discuss with Gerry
• please advise the council as to the proposed cut of all departments by 1%
• resolution #11/12-42

There are a few other concerns we must attend to. I sent you the email concerning the actuarial review and retiree heath benefits.

I’ve looked over my ever-evolving task list for all departments and note the following open issues where your office is concerned:

• auction of old equipment
• AUD comes due November 1 (who is tending to this now?)
• Audit Masters/Time Warner audit
• S&P requirements: did you check with bond counsel to determine if we need to file required notices?
• Electronic payment form: US Congress submitted?
• computer/phone outages – need contact info/structure set up for when you’re not here
• demolition money: please square accounts with Roseanne

Lastly, we should have a plan to pass of responsibilities in December. Both of us may be gone and I want to make the transfer as smooth as possible. To that end, we will need a clear picture of:

• fund balance
• debt/capital project tracking (who is making debt payments while you are out?)
• reconciliations
• the status of the general ledger, year-end accounts payable/receivable

This is a lengthy listing of concerns and I know you are on top of much of it, but as we wind down this year, I’d like to feel that we are in control of every eventuality.

I hope your recovery is much faster than anticipated. Best wishes, A.

Mayor Ann M. Thane
City of Amsterdam
61 Church Street
Amsterdam, NY 12010

Controller’s Response:

—–Original Message—–
From: Heather Reynicke
Sent: Fri 9/23/2011 6:55 PM
To: Joseph M. Isabel; William D. Wills; William D. Wills – External
Email; Julie Pierce; Gina DeRossi; Richard Leggiero; jmiwcss@verizon.net
Subject: Finance Update

Dear Common Council,

Below please find answers and updates for all of the Mayor’s concerns.
Please note that this laundry list are only a few things that are
currently happening in the Controller’s Office. This list only entails
the items that the Mayor and I personally discussed on September 19th,
if it were not for that conversation, she would have no knowledge of the
daily on-goings in my office.

As you all know, I am the Chief Fiscal Officer of the City and the Mayor is the Chief Executive Officer. Each one of us having no control over the other. Although we must work together to be able to run the City responsibly, I see no concerns with any of the below listing.

The Mayor states the reason for her concern is based on the following from the Charter:
“To keep the Council fully informed at all times of the financial condition and needs of the City and to recommend such measures as he deems necessary to assure and protect its fiscal integrity.”

Ninety percent of these “concerns” the Mayor has do not hinder the fiscal condition of the City. Therefore, I find her request unwarranted and frankly none of her concern.

The only reason I am responding to her request is to inform the Council that I am working my hardest to complete all tasks but certainly cannot guarantee that they will all be completed before I leave.

I am in constant contact with my office for hours each and every day. I also am in contact with Audit Chairman Bill Wills for any concerns that arise with the audit.

Regardless of my absence, functions in my office are being completed.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

The following are my responses to the Mayors concerns:

we may need additional bonding to address asbestos remediation/demolition of the Esquire Building
I would need more information in order to request for a
resolution for more funding. Ie: dollar amount and specifics of
expenditures

we need her recommendation as to whether we bond for emergency services rendered after the two floods
The only recommendation I can make is that the City bond for
these expenses, in hopes that FEMA will reimburse costs. Fund balance
cannot be used, and the Contingency account has been nearly depleted
from overtime expenses.

we have not heard from a FEMA representative yet, but I have forwarded the FEMA application handbook for Controller’s review.
This is the Mayor’s responsibility as the Chief Executive Officer. All departments effected have already submitted cost estimates to myself and the Mayor.

Hopefully, she has reviewed the emergency purchasing policies with each department (per 9/1/2011 email)
The emergency purchasing policy exists within the recently updated Purchasing Policy that the Council has authorized. Each department head has received and hopefully reviewed the document since they are responsible for any purchase they make. As the Chief Fiscal Officer, is is my job to enforce the policy. Some departments have contacted me and I answered any questions they had. Any other departments can contact me if questions still exist.

outstanding invoice: Municipal Solutions – please call
Municipal Solutions has been paid, except for invoices related to contractual financial planning expenses. Invoice submitted from Municipal Solutions total well over the contracted amount of approximately 3,000. I have questioned the cost with them and am waiting for a response.

staffing concerns
I addressed the Council in executive session this week regarding staffing. I see no concern here.

conversion: postings, reconciliations, payroll accruals
Conversion is still being completed, as records need to be accurate before converted to the new system. Daily reconciliation is performed for all monies received and disbursed.

URA transfer
This was never a concern, completed.

disaster relief local law: wave user fees; please discuss with Gerry
This is the Council’s concern, I can only provide an estimate of revenue reduction it would cause.

please advise the council as to the proposed cut of all departments by1%
This is also Council initiated. I did provide a starting point, which is my recommendation, by cutting departments by percent make-up of the entire budget. I provided this to you at the September 6th meeting. It is up to the Council to move forward with this.

resolution #11/12-42
I am not sure what this resolution is since I am home.

Additional concerns:

foreclosure
The foreclosure process has been initiated and will be ongoingfor months to come. The new Controller will have to take this task over midstream as the process requires time lines to be followed.

AUD comes due November 1 (who is tending to this now?)
This is being tended to by my staff, as always done in the past. I may be requesting an extension due to the fact that conversion is not completed, and when it is, the compilation will be much easier to complete. In the past, it took the principal account clerk anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks to complete.

Audit Masters/Time Warner audit
This is the Mayor’s responsibility as the Chief Executive Officer and signer of all the contracts. Concerns involve litigation for these issues.

S&P requirements: did you check with bond counsel to determine if we need to file required notices?
Bond Counsel has been e-mailed. Awaiting reply.

Electronic payment form: US Congress submitted?
I am not sure what this request is for.

computer/phone outages – need contact info/structure set up for when you’re not here
I am not the IT person for the City. The Mayor needs to find someone to address these concerns. This is not my responsibility, but have been addressing all IT concerns due to the fact that no one else was willing to perform the functions.

demolition money: please square accounts with Roseanne
I believe Rosanne has been notified of all accounts months ago.

auction of old equipment
I do not handle this, and never did. Ray Halgas manages the sale of equipment and always has. It has come to my attention of a matter regarding the unauthorized sale of equipment from the Gold Coarse. I advised the Mayor and Corporation Counsel of the matter and the employee performing the action. To my knowledge, the employee has not been reprimanded. The only involment my office does have is collection of monies on the day of auction and recording disposal of such asset.

insurance trust
Is there a specific question here? The trust was not passed by the County, therefore, not passed by the City.

We need a plan to pass on responsibilities in December to make transition as smooth as possible.
To that end, we will need a clear picture of:

fund balance
Fund balance is approximately $600,000 as previously notified. debt/capital project tracking (who is making debt payments while you are out?)
Debt payments are made automatically and posted to the accounting system by the Principal Account Clerk.

reconciliations
Reconciliation is performed by the Principal Account Clerk, daily.

the status of the general ledger, year-end accounts payable/receivable
The general ledger is updated daily.

As previously stated, please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Thank you,

Heather Reynicke
____________________________________________________________________________

From: Office of the Mayor
Date: Thu, 3 Feb 2011 12:22:10 -0400
To: Heather Reynicke

Subject: Tasks

Are 2010-2011 opening balances brought forward?

Are you satisfied with the FYE 2010 AUD versus the AUD?

Has the 2010 BOND issue been reconciled and posted?

Are all current Chapter 13 claims filed and recorded?

Is the GL. etc. for the Capital fund up-to-date and in balance?

Are all NSF checks satisfied, including the really old ones which Gerry will have to help with?

Have all debt payments been made and duly recorded?

Has the budget been reconciled with the GL monthly? Is it in balance?

Has the PFY health been reconciled? Does the MCH Trust still owe us money?

Have the county and school been paid on there receipts for October, November and December, 2010?

Are the most current few years of tax receivables reconciled?

Has the spring, 2010 auction/sale been finalized with entries made?

Has the County been paid on the auction results(including entries in our system to reflect it)?

Have adjustments been made to the Trust fund to bring it into balance?

Have monthly health insurance payments been reconciled and posted?

Has the Riverfront Pollution Insurance policy been renewed and recorded?

Has the calendar year liability insurance been paid and recorded?

Are all grants recorded and accounted for?

Are EFC monies recorded and budgets adjusted accordingly?

Is the AURA GL up-to-date and reconciled, and have they received all required reports including loan status and cash balances?

—— End of Forwarded Message
____________________________________________________________________________

Please note the following as well, posted here on my blog:

no good is good news

Posted on June 27, 2009

Saturday starts with sensation: DEFICIT! SPENDING! AUDITORS! The local paper eagerly posts headlines that compel the reader to believe the ship has gone down and all that remains is a slight stream of steam and bubbles. The story is disappointingly one-sided, given that along with audit findings from the Comptrollers office (OSC), the paper was provided with the City’s immediate response to this report.

The untold story is that the Council had been made aware of the excess in expenditures months ago (some contract-driven and some by necessity) and that my administration has been working with a representative funded through the OSC for the past year to identify long-standing deficiencies in operations. Truth be told, the Council was presented with a comprehensive proposal to address our challenges BEFORE the OSC issued its findings and I am hoping for support of this initiative at the next CC meeting.

As I have stated before, I am grateful to the OSC for coming to the City early in my administration (arriving last summer and on-site until May) to conduct policy, procedure and budget analyses that will allow us to better our fiscal oversight and budgeting. Their recommendations concur with our internal assessment of operations over the past year and I am gladdened that we may meet the challenges we face proactively with a strategic plan of action that we may implement immediately.

The proposal presents an improved way for the City of Amsterdam to manage expenditures to avoid overspending. We will provide timely, clear financial management tools for the aldermen, the mayor and department heads. We will develop long-term fiscal policies, financial goals and operating plans, along with a strict expenditure discipline.

The specific work plan and timeline are as follows –

Revenue and Expenditure Tracking:
Months 1-2:
– Devise a simple, clear and informative monthly budget tracking report and fiscal impact statement for each financial action before the Council;
Months 2-12:
– assist department heads in the production of these tracking mechanisms to present to the Council at our bimonthly meetings.

Spending Controls:
Months 1-3:
– Develop a simple revenue and expenditure cash flow analysis;
Months 3-6:
– devise a simple, concise system that compares cash flow with the budget tracking report;
Months 4-12:
– manage spending by using the cash flow/budget tracking comparison system.

Budget Analysis:
Months 1-3:
– Conduct historical analysis of the last five years’ budgets, actual collected revenues and operating expenses;
Months 4- 6:
– comparison of current years’ budget with historical analysis;
Months 5-8:
– projection of next three years’ revenues and expenses.

Improved Budget Process and Format:
Months 6-9:
– Devise a simple, clear, and informative yearly budget presentation format;
Months 7-11:
– assist department heads to implement the reformatted document;
Months 11-12:
– compare proposed 2010-11 budget with historical budget analysis.

The financial challenges of the next few years require that the City begin this year-long financial control process now. I am pleased that we have been actively working toward taking this necessary action immediately and the state auditors responded very positively to our plan when I met with them on Friday morning. City Comptroller Heather Reynicke has already identified several avenues to fund this initiative in closing out this year’s budget. Our consultant’s credentials are exemplary, touting practical, hands-on management and operations experience at municipal, county, state, federal and international levels. Surely, $2,500 a month is worth spending to ensure that we are protecting the best interests of our constituents in managing a $23 million dollar business. I am certain that our Council takes its fiduciary responsibility very seriously and will respond to this challenge for the opportunity that it is.

May calm, rational thought rule the day.

Pro – TAXPAYERS

golf-hole-with-ball1

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.

at prayer with mary

women-outstretched-arms-hodler

“Come, Spirit,
make me docile to your voice.
Help me debate angels.
Let your will be done in me
even if it means
misunderstanding,
rejection,
scandal.
Give me wisdom to find you
in the irrational:
heavens gone awry,
astrologers’ predictions,
songs in the night.
Give me such hospitality of heart that
family,
foreign seers,
poor shepherds and animals
find a home in my presence.
Let me protect innocent children from
oppressive power.
Make me fearless of foreign lands and
unknown journeys.
When I cannot find you
do not let me rest until I search
home,
highway,
and temple.
Let me always insist on miracles to
celebrate love.
And when all I love on earth
lies lifeless in my arms
let me offer it to you with such freedom
of heart
that I am swept up into the heavens.
Amen.”

at prayer with mary – mary lou kownacki, osb – benedictine sisters of erie

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:

IMG_3436

IMG_6036

IMG_3437

IMG_3438

IMG_3439

IMG_3440

IMG_3441

IMG_3442

IMG_3443

IMG_3446

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.

meetings

You know, I’ve lived through many a Common Council meeting but some are more difficult to sit through than others. Of course, we have a Madam of Misinformation that takes every opportunity to come to the podium and share rumors, conjecture, suspicions or outright lies as gauzy truth. Tonight, she intimated that we were only a few thousand from our debt limit and that we couldn’t afford to bond for much needed projects and equipment. This is far from the truth, as we are only at 23% of our borrowing limit, but this is yet another example of how incorrect she is in most instances.

The really low point tonight happened when Anthony Leggiero took to the stage to hammer this administration for ignoring the needs of Ft. Plain after the recent flooding, an act on his part that was so blatantly, politically motivated that it would take first place in a Repugnant Contest. To suggest that we would not care about or wish to respond to the needs of our neighbors is hideous. If this guy had been sincerely worried about our response, he would have called my office days ago to express his concerns and propose action. He never would have waited to spring this tirade in front of cameras and the press. How loathsome.

His rant also indicates how little he understands about a community reeling from tragedy. For the first few days after a natural disaster, residents, the municipal government, and state agencies are going through triage, assessing damage and working out a response plan. We certainly want to do everything in our power to help, but will find out first what is specifically needed in the way of labor or equipment. To shut down Amsterdam operations for a week as suggested by Leggiero and run off in the middle of an emergency, uninvited and unadvised, would be completely irresponsible on a number of fronts. We will reach out to the communities to the west as soon as these rolling weather emergencies have begun to recede.

My heart breaks for those so deeply impacted by the recent storms and, yes, I pray for swift recovery. I pray for the families and businesses that have lost so much. I pray that we will all pull together and get through everything that is thrown at this region. So, we will call and find out what we can do, where we can be, and what we can bring. We will help.

Our small city really does have a big heart, but sometimes, I just have to shake my head at some of the poor behavior I see.

leffert st. mural

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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