Positions and Proposals:

JOBS and EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES

1) PROPOSAL – A LOCAL JOB FORCE for a REVITALIZED DOWNTOWN

Where are the Jobs?
How about Downtown?
We can re-create Destination Shopping in Oneonta, and employ 3-dozen or more
while doing it.
It is very difficult for retailers to provide “coverage” for late night (Thursday) or
Sunday, Monday and Holiday shopping. Therefore they don’t. And Oneonta suffers
as a shopping destination.
I propose targeting $400-thousand of the remaining money in the DRI grant of $10
million, to create a funded mechanism through which members of the community
with a desire to work, can be paired with merchants who would like to participate in
extended shopping hours.
This one year “beta” would allow Oneonta’s Glens Falls-based agency to promote
something specific. It could make a world of difference to retailers and the
community at large.
If successful, this could provide the necessary boost to allow Oneonta’s downtown to
make the turn toward sustained growth, with new job creation, and a vital future.

2) Points for Caring

I propose prioritization of local businesses and services for City Contracts.

Read the details:

Priority One – Support and Prioritize Local Business

The Points for Caring Initiative.

That’s right. In this proposal businesses would get points for caring.

To contract a far-away business for a service that is available locally, may be penny-wise but it is community foolish.

Spend money with local businesses and you recirculate that money through their support of other local businesses. A City contract that is awarded locally helps pay local salaries, which keeps those workers in our community, spending and supporting an infrastructure of businesses, education and services.

The “butterfly effect” of that is well documented.

In short, it’s a very good thing.

Of course, not all City contracts can be filled by local sources.

But, within those contracts, there may be many local opportunities for production.

To enhance the City’s ability to use its “buying power” to benefit local business as a priority, I propose weighting all Requests for Proposals (RFPs) with “Points for Caring” about the local workforce.

Specifically…

Using a system that is already in place in which women, minorities, military veterans and disabled business owners may see weights applied of 5-10-15% and more; I propose adding another, locally-specific weight to the review criteria.

As a suggestion, that weight might be 15% for a company that is located within 25 miles of Oneonta. Perhaps 20% for a company in the City or Town of Oneonta.

For companies that are outside that geography, a weight of 10% could be awarded if they can guarantee a certain percentage of local employment in the provision of the services being contracted.

I am aware that there will be innumerable reasons offered as to why this won’t work – from state regulations to established practices.

But, I believe it’s a logical and smart direction to pursue and I will work hard to make it happen.

3) Protecting Downtown Businesses

I propose reimbursement for lost businesses due to the planned construction in downtown.

Read the details:

The Protecting Downtown Business Initiative.

In a matter of months, Downtown Oneonta will see waves of construction, as the DRI funded projects get under way. There will very likely be long term benefit of reimagined Main Street building facades and upper floors, and the pending reconstruction and repackaging of the Parking Garage as a Transportation Hub – but there will also be a price to pay for all of this activity in the short run.

I believe it is unrealistic to think that the level of construction and its City-encompassing scope will not negatively impact local businesses.

Streets and sidewalks will be partially or fully closed, pedestrian and vehicular traffic will be rerouted, and the experience of downtown patronage – already compromised – will be made all the more difficult. We will see fewer casual visitors, even less foot traffic, and a reduction in sales among our shops and restaurants.

Many of these businesses are “on the cusp” now. This could be a death blow.

Maybe I’m over estimating the impact. But I don’t think so.

In any case, the City should be proactive in protecting those few local businesses it still has. To that end, I propose the following:

As the City firms up its calendar and can accurately project when the construction will begin, every business should be visited. (As Eighth Ward Alderman, I would volunteer to do that.) They should be asked to provide an account of their last two years’ gross sales for the months in which construction will take place. (A local bookkeeping firm can be hired to provide auditing and accountability.)

An average of those two years of monthly gross revenues should be determined, and the using that average, the business should be compensated for any loss that comes of decreased patronage due directly or indirectly to the construction.

There is – please Lord – money left in the DRI fund of 10 million dollars, which could be allocated for this purpose.

Saving our CURRENT local businesses should be a TOP priority, even as we make progress for the future.

4) Reinventing Oneonta

I have a plan to encourage entrepreneurism by allowing pain-free failure

Read the details:

The Reinventing Oneonta Initiative.

Oneonta has a history of reinvention.

It’s been a railroad town, a center for cigar rolling, a hops and dairy hub, the birthplace of the Bundy Time Recorder and a launching pad for IBM.

It’s given birth to dress factories, and a family-owned department store, and it’s been a nurturing environment for the development of education, health care, and tourism.

Oneonta has been a great many things, and had a good number of “lives,” but few, if any of these game-changing enterprises found their inception with a City plan. (Most benefited though, from a supportive City government.)

It is entrepreneurs that have made and remade Oneonta, and I believe that it is entrepreneurs that will do that again.

However, the landscape has changed since the last of these economic successes.

In an increasingly mobile and connected country, there is more competition among geographies that can offer better infrastructure and more accommodating climate, a younger and more dynamic social scene (especially for younger workers), a more progressive tax and regulatory environment, and a more supportive and creative local government.

It is this last rubric that I propose changing.

Because, we can.

The City’s Comprehensive Plan calls for study and possible implementation of a business incubator, in which start-up costs can be reduced, space and services can be shared, and collaboration would be encouraged.

I fully support this.

However, while the development of an incubator is a worthwhile endeavor, I don’t believe it’s all we should do.

The City is the beneficiary of a 10-million dollar grant for Downtown Improvement. Much has been spent, or targeted. But, some has not.

And I propose targeting $450,000 of that money (4.5% of the DRI) for the development and funding of a Reinventing Oneonta initiative.

This initiative would take advantage of the availability of infrastructure and shared services available through the proposed business incubator.

However…

This is NOT a Micro-Enterprise grant.

It is NOT a loan program.

This is NOT a system of reimbursement for receipts generated by businesses.

THIS IS a SAFETY-NET for would-be entrepreneurs.

The financial risks inherent in the creation of a new business model, one that identifies and addresses an otherwise untapped and perhaps unseen need, are so daunting that many a creative notion is left unexplored.

But, we have assets that we can engage in the development of the NEXT NEW INDUSTRY for Oneonta. Specifically, we have over 1,500 college graduates each year, we have upper floor space, and we have money.

Proposal:

  • A Three Year Program
    • Funded at a level of $150,000 per year
    • Physically located in a Downtown upper floor space
  • One entrepreneur identified yearly via business plans and presentations to a “blue ribbon” panel of local business owners / CEOs.
    • Applicants may be any current resident of Oneonta, but the colleges’ graduating classes are the main target
    • Applicants to be judged on concept viability and growth potential
    • Minimum 2 employees after 6 months
    • Minimum 4 employees after one year
  • Those entrepreneurs awarded a grant for “start up” funding
    • $75,000
  • New business owner provided with a year-long “safety net” to succeed OR FAIL without personal liability.
    • Up to $75,000
    • Money cannot be used for owner salary
    • If the business succeeds, a reimbursement on any “safety-net” funding will be paid to the City over the course of the next 5 years
    • If the business fails, there is no expectation of reimbursement to the City
  • Weekly audits by local accountants
  • Assessments and strategies offered monthly by panel at mandatory meeting
  • Successful businesses must promise to stay in Oneonta for 5 years

The “Reinventing Oneonta” Initiative will allow the creative and entrepreneurial an opportunity to “roll the dice” while mitigating the risk in doing so.

We need invention.

We need industry.

We believe that – as has always been the case in Oneonta – there are a handful among us that have the vision that can provide that better future for all of us.

We need to give them the opportunity, even if it’s the opportunity to fail.

Because, they may not!

PARKING

I believe parking is a potential issue that must be planned for now.

Read the details:

The Plan for Parking

Why do we need a plan for parking, when studies tell us that we have more than we need?

Perception.

And Reality.

At least one Oneonta official has stated that if Oneonta winds up with a parking problem, it means we have succeeded as we’d hoped in making our City an attractive place for residents, day-trippers and tourists, and that’s a problem he wouldn’t mind having.

But, we do not do anyone a service by assuming we won’t be successful and therefore DO NOT plan for the mitigation of a potential parking problem.

Reality:

There is the very real potential of a 66 apartment building on Dietz Street.

  • That building’s footprint will require that a minimum of 50 parking spaces be removed from the Dietz Street parking lot.
  • It’s reasonable to assume that residents of that building will add to the daily usage of the remaining City parking by an additional 60-70 spots. (These are targeted for “rental” from the parking garage.
  • Barring the residents of this building having no friends or relatives, there will be additional demand for parking from those who visit. (15 per day is a conservative guess)
  • The City is developing the upper floors of Main Street. There will be potentially dozens of new residents, family, friends and visitors. (50 parking spots might be a conservative estimate.)

If you subscribe to the math used above, we are looking at a minimum of 185 parking spaces that will be removed from the current availabilities.

Add that number to the spots that (hopefully) will be in demand as Oneonta gains traction as a destination for art, shopping and entertainment and it’s clear to see that without proactive planning, the City will, in fact, have the very parking squeeze that some cheerily describe as a good problem to have.

It is not a good problem to have.

A newly captured, and hard won market that has issues finding convenient parking will soon find other options for its patronage.

We should not risk regression due to a lack of planning.

The City would counter that this is a false narrative, and that the issues of parking have been considered and any concerns have been laid to rest.

The City commissioned a parking study, and often refers to it as a rebuttal to those who express their concerns about the perceived, potential issue. But that study, whose results are detailed in the current Comprehensive Plan, presents an extrapolation based upon the effects of “Identified Projects” seems flawed.

Most dubious among the study’s assertions is that of the 1,191 “Total Public Parking Supply” that there would be a decrease of only 205 spaces with those “Identified Projects.”

Based on my estimates detailed above, that figure may be low, as (beyond the proposed Dietz Street construction) there are additional projects among those “identified” – each of which will be impactful to the overall number of currently available parking spots.

Even more of a concern is the projection (based upon the removal of those 205 parking spaces) that “Functional Peak Parking Demand” will increase by a mere 68 spaces. Per the study, “Reserve Public Parking Capacity” will allow for 215 vehicles beyond that number.

The math on that makes little allowance for the vehicles of tenants and their visitors, or for Oneonta’s resurgence as a destination for shopping, services and entertainment.

Why would we bet against ourselves?

Additionally, per the study, the number of parking spaces that are conveniently located in public parking lots and the garage is only 783.

That means that the balance of the 1,191 “Total Public Parking Supply” is comprised of (catch-as-catch-can, and good luck finding something near your destination) street parking.

Which takes us to perception.

Perception:

Anecdotal observations from long-time residents of the outlying villages in Otsego and Delaware counties will generally subscribe to and share the same misinformation. “There’s no parking in Oneonta,” or “Parking in Oneonta is a hassle.”

The number of people that don’t know there’s a garage – or where it is – always surprises me.

Like it or not, we are a culture of easy connections.

We text in lieu of speaking, we ride when we could walk, and when driving, we park as close to our destinations as possible.

For those choosing to shop or dine on Elm Street, the parking garage is not convenient. And for those whose visit takes them to Chestnut Street, the availability of parking on the far side of downtown is equally unappealing.

I’ve made the case many times that a spot in the Wal-Mart parking lot may seem closer to the “front door,” but in fact, it may be many more steps than that required for downtown shopping. However, perceptions and misconceptions are difficult to combat.

None-the-less, if we are investing in the future of downtown, we ignore those perceptions at our peril.

We should not think that because we have ample parking, everyone (or even a majority) understands and agrees with that fact. And we should certainly not think that, once parking spots begin to disappear, the perception will get any better.

Perception is reality.

And the reality for is that downtown businesses cannot afford the perception, however challengeable, that parking is or will be a problem.

We need to do a LOT better job of promoting the true abundance of parking we have, and we need to prepare for that time when the “good problem to have” arrives.

To that end, I propose a reconsideration and addition to the number of parking spots available in the reconstructed garage, or the planning for the financial and physical accommodation required for additional parking in the Dietz Street lot.

THE ARTS and ENTERTAINMENT

Rather than adding to its responsibilities, or contracting outside entities, I propose that the City works with the local private sector to ensure long-term promotion and coordination of local entertainment.

Read the details:

I believe that art and entertainment is the soul of this (or any) city, and its encouragement, support and coordination is a fundamental responsibility for those in a position to effect its viability.

In this regard, I have walked the walk.

For the past 7 years, my company, Sweet Home Productions, has produced a comprehensive, weekly compendium of events and activities in Oneonta and its surrounding communities. We email that events calendar to approximately 3,000 subscribers every Thursday morning.

In addition, we have maintained a multi-month long, filterable calendar that is available on our website, EverythingOneonta.com (voted Best of the Best in the Daily Star Readers’ Poll) and on our free app, the Cooperstown-Oneonta HUB.

The City has ignored the potential of a locally produced effort, and instead has embarked on a course that will see it spending tax dollars to reinvent what already exists for a public sector version that will require additional revenue and manpower to maintain for the future.

This is political malpractice.

I propose that – as a rule – the City look to private sector enterprises that have already implemented the systems and created the digital infrastructure to provide the information and resources that are requisite to the promotion and coordination of the arts and entertainment in Oneonta.

In other words, the City should support the businesses that provide the very services that are necessary to promote and coordinate Arts and Entertainment in and around Oneonta.

It should seek ways to partner with those businesses.

It should NOT seek to replicate their efforts – in the process damaging those businesses and compromising their ability to employ a local workforce.

That said, I propose that the City invest in, or contract the services of a local resource for enhanced communication and coordination among entertainment venues. We should seek a symbiosis among entertainment providers, to abet and enhance rather than compete with and dilute the potential “gate” of individual venues.

Further, I propose that ticket purchase options for all Oneonta venues be represented and linked on a single, easily accessed web page, and that the availability of that service be incessantly promoted.

This and more, can be accomplished through partnership with the private sector. It would save the City money and the long-term commitment to staffing and oversight, while at the same time supporting those local businesses for which this presents a revenue stream.

THE PARKS

I am for the immediate creation of a dog park in Neahwa Park.

I am against the closure of the Gas Avenue entrance to the park.

Read the details:

I support the City’s plan to make access to Neahwa Park more attractive and bicyclist/ pedestrian friendly. However I DO NOT support the restriction of vehicular access to the River Street entrance.

I would encourage the City to move with greater speed in the creation of a Dog Park in Neahwa Park. The full realization of the City’s master plan for the Dog Park can come in stages. But the enclosure can be implemented quickly, and that would make many dog owners happy.

ENERGY

I am against the expansion of natural gas delivery to Oneonta.

I am for the use of green technologies as a first option in all cases.

Read the details:

I oppose the introduction of natural gas in any new or planned construction.

And specifically, I oppose the 12 inch diameter expansion of the DeRuyter natural gas pipeline into Oneonta, which would be the conduit for that introduction.

The arguments against natural gas and its conveyance have been made repeatedly, and I concur with the general opinion that it is not a viable option for the present or the future.

In any event, the state has mandated, through its Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, that we engage in active pursuit of green energy alternatives.

Furthermore, I feel that as winners in the anti-fracking debate, we have a moral responsibility to NOT reward those whose product would come to us through that industry.

I am fully supportive of the implementation of green technologies wherever and whenever they are applicable. Green energy has moved beyond its infancy into adolescence. We must have faith in its future, and in ours.

I understand that this stance complicates the ability of those tasked with soliciting the relocation or development of industry.

I do.

But, as a salesperson myself, I’ve long known that you sell what you have, and you do your best with that.

Oneonta has much to recommend. So I have confidence.

THE RAIL YARDS

I am for the development of the Rail Yards.

But, I believe that the depiction of “industry” as the answer to low-incomes is a false promise.

I believe that an ecologically responsible plan for development should include mixed-use for business and the community.

Read the details:

The posturing during the contentious period of public debate about the City’s rail yards and its potential development was an embarrassment.

For an administration that espouses the virtues of out-of-area “experts” for any number of studies and strategies, to attack those with contrary views and specifically relevant expertise because they live outside Oneonta was hypocritical.

It was posited that those who were against the development (described vaguely, specifically, and with contradictions in the GEIS) had made that choice within the comfort of their high incomes, “tennis courts and swimming pools” and in disregard of the promise of job opportunities for the many poor and disadvantaged in Oneonta. It was an attempt to drive a wedge between classes and it was beneath the dignity of his office.

To my knowledge, there are no manufacturers and no industries that have been courted – much less signed – to take up residence in a future rail yards development.

When (hopefully) we are successful in developing the yards, there is still no guarantee that there will be plentiful job opportunities for a generally unskilled labor market. In fact, we may be importing new residents for the positions that become available, and that will create its own headaches given Oneonta’s already paltry supply of affordable housing.

All of that said, I DO support the development of the rail yards.

And I think the mitigation of the brownfield should be priority one.

With the removal of those toxins we can plan for the integration of the community into a shared space for recreation and light industry.

But, whatever we do…

We need to work together, respectfully and honestly.

It’s the only way to get things done.

THE NEIGHBORHOODS

I believe that students, landlords, and the community at-large share a responsibility to be respectful and supportive neighbors.

I propose greater accountability and speed in dealing with “zombie” properties.

Read the details:

As they are throughout much of the City, student housing and zombie properties are scattered among the single-family residences of Oneonta’s Eighth Ward. They impact the neighborhood’s sense of self and its quality of life, not to mention property values.

But they are separate issues.

And they both have a potential for “upside.”

Student Housing:

Oneonta is lucky to have nearly 8,000 young people sharing 4 years of their lives with an otherwise aging community.

Although, as someone who has lived on the hill of Cherry Street for 25 years and seen (and heard) these young people in their worst moments of intoxication and vandalism, I can empathize with those who harbor a less than enthusiastic view of the population.

None-the-less, I know without doubt, that Oneonta is fortunate to be home to Hartwick and SUNY Oneonta. Those institutions, their staff, and their students make us what we are – and we are a vibrant community.

But, when our neighborhoods are also “home” to those students, we need to look at those who profit from their residence, and hold them accountable for the comportment of their tenants.

It is not enough that they provide safe, secure and sanitary housing for their student tenants – although that is obviously the lowest bar they should be held to – they must also be advocates for their tenants best behavior and positive integration into the neighborhood.

To that end, I propose that the City and the student landords meet to determine a list of core responsibilities and processes to be assumed by all parties, including the student tenants during the first weeks of residency and throughout the length of the lease.

Failure to adhere to these agreed principles and actions would carry consequences to be determined. Conversely, the well intentioned and community connective landlords (and tenants) would be rewarded in a matter, also to be determined.

Do I know the nature of the carrot or the stick? No.

But, I have confidence that we will figure that out in discussion.

One suggestion, might be that the college, and through it, the parents of students, be provided with a list of conforming and non-conforming landlords.

Zombie Houses:

The community blight caused by “zombie” properties cannot be overstated.

But thankfully, there is a plan.

The City has a partner in The Greater Mohawk Valley Land Bank, which has already begun acquiring properties, for the purpose of rehabilitation and resale.

The process of identification, prioritization and revitalization of “zombie” houses has to be sped up, with impediments identified and addressed.

In the 8th Ward, specifically, I will seek to identify all qualifying housing and engage with those in City government who are tasked in the process of prioritizing them for the GMVLB. I will report out with regularity, providing accountability and updates to the constituents of our ward.

COMMUNICATION

I believe that information about the current and planned news of the City should be delivered regularly – and personally – through all means that our current technologies provide.

I also believe that those same methods should be used to give people a voice in their government.

Read the details:

As much as anything else, I am running for council to address the “disconnect” between City Hall and the community.

We are just months from 2020, but we operate as if it’s 1980.

We should embrace the communications technologies that are so easily accessed and used so routinely by both young and old. And as alderman, I will.

I have observed the regular playing out of a frustrating and destructive cycle, which I will do my best to end.

This is my observation of the current norm:

  • A proposal or action is the topic of discussion in meetings of committees and commissions.
  • Few, except those most aware or effected, are engaged in public comment.
  • Eventually, the measure moves to council.
  • The public, now made aware through media reports or social media, is confused and sometimes, enraged.
  • Public comment becomes contentious and accusatory.
  • Council is frustrated, as many meetings had been held without this level of public input.
  • The agenda item is voted on.
  • Both the public and the council feel the effect of the lack of communication.

My assessment of the problem:

  • Between the push and pull of work, family and other commitments, people have busy lives.
  • Given that, it is a lot to ask that they keep current with the various concerns and issues of local governance, much less that they carve out time to put themselves on premises to offer public comment.
  • Understandably, members of committees and council feel that adequate opportunity for public comment has been provided in the process. They feel that last minute outcries are a symptom of a lack of engagement in the earlier committee reviews, and often, that the public is ill-informed.
  • But, to be fair, while the volunteer committee membership and the elected officials are appropriately steeped in the details of a proposal, the general public does not become overtly aware or actively engaged until the matter “lands on their doorstep.”
  • This is not a model for community buy-in or good governance.

As alderman, this is what I will do:

  • Establish a constituent list through the personal collection of e-mails.
  • Create a privacy-protected database for the regular use of Constant Contact
  • Create a semi-weekly Constant Contact e-mail to report on the agenda of Council, and the major issues of concern running through committees.
  • Use VIDEO to report.
  • Provide constituency surveys to determine the ward’s view of various topics.
  • Create a digital forum for comments and suggestions.
  • Hold quarterly meetings with constituents at convenient locations within the ward and at times that are accessible to a majority.
  • Create a ward-specific website where all matters are posted for comment.
  • Provide a number through which I can be contacted on any ward issue.

The enhancement of communication, the provision of information resources, and the promotion of local interests, and our shared quality of life have been at the core of my interactions within the Oneonta community for these past dozen years.

It will be my priority as alderman.

Election day is Tuesday, November 3rd.

I will be on the ballot as a Democrat and an Independent.

If you vote for me, I will fight for you – and for Oneonta!

 2) Points for Caring

I propose prioritization of local businesses and services for City Contracts.

Read the details:

3) Protecting Downtown Businesses

I propose reimbursement for lost businesses due to the planned construction in downtown.

Read the details:

 

4) Reinventing Oneonta

I have a plan to encourage entrepreneurism by allowing pain-free failure

Read the details:

PARKING

I believe parking is a potential issue that must be planned for now.

Read the details:

Rather than adding to its responsibilities, or contracting outside entities, I propose that the City works with the local private sector to ensure long-term promotion and coordination of local entertainment.

Read the details:

I am for the immediate creation of a dog park in Neahwa Park.

I am against the closure of the Gas Avenue entrance to the park.

Read the details:

I am against the expansion of natural gas delivery to Oneonta.

I am for the use of green technologies as a first option in all cases.

Read the details:

I am for the development of the Rail Yards.

But, I believe that the depiction of “industry” as the answer to low-incomes is a false promise.

I believe that an ecologically responsible plan for development should include mixed-use for business and the community.

Read the details:

I believe that students, landlords, and the community at-large share a responsibility to be respectful and supportive neighbors.

I propose greater accountability and speed in dealing with “zombie” properties.

Read the details:

I believe that information about the current and planned news of the City should be delivered regularly – and personally – through all means that our current technologies provide.

I also believe that those same methods should be used to give people a voice in their government.

Read the details:

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