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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Asbestos Claim at New Census Building

An area man who previously worked at The Doyle Hardware Building, new home to the Utica branch of The U.S. Census Bureau, claims Asbestos was removed from the building improperly possibly endangering workers and the new tenants.
These bombshell allegations are being made by a man who says he witnessed firsthand, the illegal removal and possible dumping of dangerous toxic substances from the historic Doyle Hardware Building across from Utica's historic Union Station.
Dan Olah, a local contractor and the ex-owner of Elwoods's- a popular eatery located at 614 Columbia St. that burned down in a death related arson on Dec 20 2007- stands behind his claims and said he has also brought the situation to City Hall's attention.
"I personally went down to City Hall on two occasions" he said. "I spoke with Angelo Roefaro, the mayor's secretary and Robert Sullivan." Shrugging his shoulders, he continued. "Nothing has been done." he said
did not stop at City Hall, he also went to the Labor Department's office at the State Building. "I spoke with a guy named Robert, he told me personally they found asbestos in there"
Olah was referring to Robert Varano a state worker in the Labor Department that deals with asbestos. At press time GCN was unable get a quote from him.

Why Speak Now?

Olah worked at the building for three months and says he walked off the job because he felt his health was at risk.
"I was actually working on a restaurant (remodelling) that was going in another part of the building. I have been a certified Asbestos Abatement Contractor so I know when you are dealing with dangerous substances and the proper way of removing them...they were loading up U-Hauls and taking them somewhere to dump" he said.
Olah had enough when he realized what was allegedly going on. "C'mon man, you got these young guys who need money to feed their families and this guy has them doing stuff for $15.00 an hour that can make not only them sick but it can get their kids too" he said, showing obvious emotion.
The guy he was referring to is Stewart Banntyne, a developer and the current owner of The Doyle Hardware building. Since Bantyne purchased the building he has put his money where his mouth is as an advocate of Downtown Utica and its financial potential. Banntyne's sizeable investment and the fact he made it in an area that has been ignored for decades during hard economic times is exactly why, Olah says: "no one has done a damn thing."
Robert Sullivan, head of revitalization for Utica said Olah has an ax to grind. "From what I know he has a few claims against the city already and he is frustrated" he said.
Sullivan made it clear he passed Olah's complaints to the proper people and it was all handled. "This thing all went above me, beyond my authority" Sullivan said.
Regarding Sullivan's assertions Olah admits his frustration with Utica and his treatment after his building burned down. "My building, business which I invested $500,000 in was damaged by arsonists...damaged" he emphasized "then they (City of Utica) go and raze my property within a week without proper notification...I mean, you tell me what is going on."
Olah likens his treatment to being chased out of town. "I helped turn around that block (600 Columbia) a lot of other businesses were happy with me little incident and everything changed."
That incident was a fight and subsequent beating that started inside Elwood's. "These guys beat the crap out of some kid...I stopped it and they said they were going to burn me down." Apparently they did ( burn him down) and that is where Olah's complaints begin. "They ignored me then and they are ignoring me now" he said.
At press time we were unable to obtain a response from Stewart Banntyne but there will be lot more on this in future postings. As far as Angelo Roefaro is concerned he denied ever speaking with Dan Olah and does not recollect any conversations regarding Asbestos at The Doyle Hardware building.

Tougher Questions are Coming

This is a link to the latest video. It is me at The Common Council meeting. The excellent production was done by Larry T. Jr. who is in charge at Acumen Media check em out.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Common Council Meets about Investigation

Mayor Roefaro's secret investigation that has attracted so much attention lately may not be so secret after all. During the common council caucus on Monday (4/26) Bill Morehouse, common council president, opted to go to executive session so sensitive details about the investigation would not be leaked.
Without the Mayor in attendance (or J.K. Hage III) one has to wonder how any questions were going to be answered. And, if the council is unaware of the nature of the investigation then why call the Executive Session? These questions and many more were raised by two of the six reporters in attendance.
"It seems everytime you want to avoid the public you use these broad interpretations of the law" said one, reffering to judge Garramone's interpretation of executive session guidelines. "I want this on the record that I object to the Executive Session" said another.
Garramone countered "these guidelines are's in the law".
A prolonged debate between the local press and Garramone ensued leaving neither side satisfied. Bill Morehouse took it as a sign to adjourn and made his first unsuccessful attempt. But not before letting each person know where he stood on the issue. "The people were not served today" he said.
There were a lot of people on the council who wanted answers; among them, Lorraine Arcuri. She openly questioned Ed Bucciero's blind support when he gave a yes vote during the Board of Estimations meeting. She wondered aloud how much can be spent. "Does he (J.K.HageIII) have a blank check?"
Zecca cleared the air with his extensive knowledge of budget protocol. "There is a $15,000 cap on spending" he said, adding, anything additional would have to be re-approved.
The caucus was briefly interrupted again when a reporter who just received breaking news asked the Council about Gro West and their possible involvement in the probe. no one on the council was aware of any connections with Gro-West. But one need not look to far to see the connections.
It is conceivable that Gro West, a non-profit based on State St. in West Utica is involved. The group has been dealing with the city for over a decade. They have been involved with many revitalization projects and have figured prominently in the effort to turn around urban blight.
Today (4/26) the O-D reported a source within city government admitting as much but no one wants to talk about who in the city may be affected by the probe.
Some early frontrunners are former czar of economic development Bob Sullivan.
Why Bob?
His sister, Linda Sullivan-Fatata, is the missing link. We all need to ask ourselves why she is not handling the internal probe. After all, she is corporation council for the city of Utica.
Perhaps there is a conflict of interest.
Michael Cerminaro is another frontrunner. His many gaffes as comptroller could have potentially cost us millions. The most recent are unnerving because he seemed totally unaware of the mistakes until the mayor enlightened him.
The plot thickens.

check for more

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Not So Secret Investigation Reeks

There are lot of things in Utica that, to a casual observer, may seem strange. Boy Brown, Crazy Richard (RIP), The Lady with the Doll and Rainbow Young are usual suspects. Now enter politics into the equation and it gets downright weird.
Just like Chicago, another machine politics town, Utica has a unique balance of power that shifts from time to time, causing multiple ripples throughout the community. Sometimes those ripples resonate far beyond Utica. Other times no one feels a thing but something major still happened. Think plate tectonics. In California we call it Earthquake.
Such is the mystery of Utica politics and the uncertainty sorrounding the ‘Not So Secret’ investigation at City Hall. There are rumblings everywhere. Speculation, rumor and all manner of misinformation.
What stinks here is the fact that tax payer money (out of a budget stretched thin) is being used to conduct an internal probe of a nature that is only known to the Mayor and the Lawyer that is doing the billing.
$150.00 per hour is nothing to sneeze at. Especially when the scope and breadth of the investigation is unknown. Is there a cap on spending?
I’ll go out on a limb and answer that myself: yes. It would be absurd to think the acquired council could run up an unlimited bill. Right?
The city Comptroller, Michael Cerminaro, bravely vowed not to pay for this -’Not So secret ‘- investigation until he is brought up to speed. After all, it is possible his opinion could matter. But we need to be aware of the fact that Cerminaro was not in attendance during the vote for approval at the Board of Estimations meeting. This particular vote, he said , was not on the agenda for the meeting, which he also claimed he looked at.
Bold statement, considering anyone at City Hall is a possible target of the probe. History has taught us cynical citizens: if you dig in any department of the city, any city, you will more than likely find something out of whack, a mistake. Not just Utica but America as a whole, the world even.

So what gives?
Is this a witchhunt?

Subterfuge to keep critics on their heels?

It is possible that in some strange way we are transforming into an era of integrity. The slow march towards accountability is one we have been on for a long time. Transparency in government is at the foundation. There is not much of that in this case.
To his credit, the Mayor has not shied away from any of his controversial decisions. High on the growing complaint list, were the multiple appointments and raises he liberally doled out to those closest to him. And more recently: his handling of public safety. He has not wavered in the face of his critics. Why should he? Being elected means you have power; but the culture of nepotism and ‘the good old boy’ network is starting to retard our growth and hasten our decline.This investigation simply adds more salt to a palpably lower morale around City Hall.

And couldn’t it be possible the Mayor is using this as some sort of political leverage at the taxpayers expense?

In a perfect world, with a robust economy, no one cares about City Hall. No one questions who the Mayor hires or gives raises to. In a perfect world the Mayor does not have to take a full page ad to tell his side of the story in a fair manner, in his words.
We all need to grow up.

Maybe he (The Mayor) has a plan B?

Perhaps the newly drafted Masterplan, which will be revealed on 4/22 at the Utica Library, holds the keys to success that will change the odor sorrounding City Hall to an aroma. Maybe Bill Morehouse, Common Council President, who has planned a future meeting-or Executive Session- with the Mayor, will inform the public. No date has been set. We are all at the edge of our seats.
Until then we collectively hold our noses

see my thoroughly self-edited version of this article at

Friday, April 16, 2010

Gregory Johnson Announces his run for 116th Assembly

On Thursday April 15, 2010 the politically quiet 116th New York State Assembly district just got interesting with the announcement of a Republican challenge to the firmly entrenched Democrat incumbent, Ro-Ann Destito, who has held the office for 20 years.
Gregory Johnson, a first year Councilman in Marcy, made his announcement in the midst of a turbulent political climate that has ignited a lot of different grassroot movements in the Mohawk Valley and abroad.
With historic Ft. Stanwix in the background, serving as the perfect patriotic prop, Johnson made his announcement in front of 1,500 supporters. With a blustery wind beating at his back he outlined a list of issues that have angered many people in the 116th to a chorus of cheers and whistles. He proudly stated his affiliation with the Tea Party and his frustration with the status quo.
Johnson says he will bring a 'sky is the limit' approach to this campaign. The retired airline pilot graduated from Whitesboro High in 1969 (same year as good friend, 24th congressional candidate Richard Hanna). He started his career in the airline industry with Mohawk Airlines in 1970. By 1979 he was a pilot with empire Airlines and would eventually retire with US Airways as a Captain.
"The moment I got the job (Mohawk Airlines ticket counter) the goal was always to be a pilot."
Johnson aimed high then and he is aiming high now.
Johnson also knows his connection to any type of reformist or populist movements will attract all kinds of rhetoric. "There are two words I never want to be associated with" he said, holding up his index finger. "Those words are: fight and change" adding clarity, he continued. "I would rather use: work(with) and overhaul"
It is set, there will be a Republican challenge for the 116th Assembly. It will help shape the future political landscape that is surely going to go through some changes.
"I am not running against Ro-Ann Destito" Johnson said "I am running for the 116th"
At press time Ro-Ann Destitio has not announced a decision to run or not.

A Hearty Welcome to New England's Chris King

Chris king is truly a Brotha from anotha Mutha. He has exposed a number of cover-ups and continues to shed light in some of the darker corners of New England Politics.
I hope the Readers of Dancys's Corner are inspired and do your part to keep integrity and transparency in the forefront of local and National politics.

No matter where you are.
Get involved, go to the occasional City Council meeting.
These elected officials work for you.

check Chris out at and tap in.

This is an excerpt from Chris's latest entry:

KingCast to Senator Letourneau on SB 154 being properly tabled: "I told you so.... a year ago!"

Then I told Senator D'Alessandro and the Public Works Committee the
same thing. At the risk of being redundant (said redundancy being occasioned by your hegemonic attempts to shove this ill-founded legislation down the throats of North Country residents) maybe you get the message now.

I think they get the message Chris.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Local Gardens Elevate Community

The word Trailblazer and Utica are rarely mentioned in the same sentence. But when it comes to civic (city sponsored) Community Gardens we can proudly claim Trailblazer status.

Utica is the first city of its size in Central New York to donate land and resources toward the building and maintenance of Community Gardens that have successfully provided food and nutritional education to the poor.

"It is great so far, a lot of hard work, but we need more funding to take this to the next level" shared Cassandra Harris Lockwood, CEO of For The Good Inc. and one of the forces behind the original community garden on Linwood Pl..

"We started out with an idea and a donation from a philanthropist (Richard Pertz)...that got us going" she explained.

With a small donation to work with, all they needed was land. The newly elected Mayor of Utica, David Roefaro, came to the rescue and donated land (vacant lots) and the first garden was started.
Even in this climate of fiscal conservatism and huge cuts to City services Utica saw the value of a small investment in this program.

"The results were positive from the outset".

"We have developed a positive relationship with a lot of community partners" Lockwood was referring to the many other non-profits and Colleges that have gotten involved with the gardens since they started three years ago.

The number of gardens has increased with the participation in the community. With the cooperation of the City of Utica, For The Good has added two more locations : Jay St and Noyes.
"Jay St was a gift from Wal-Mart...they provided the wood and expertise to get it built" Harris-Lockwood said. "But we need this type of commitment from the philanthropists"she said highlighting the irony of a non grassroots (some might say anti-Mom & Pop) Organization like Wal-Mart willing to offer support.

She listed the many groups that have offered money or 'in-kind' support.
"Proctor High School Youth Costruction Initiative helped build raised beds, The Community Foundation provided resources to build a shed, Cornell Co-operative Extension provides seeds, RCIL does a healthy cooking and nutrition class and The Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees provides people...there are many more".
The Linwood Garden houses 36 raised beds that keep the roots of the vegetables away from potentially dangerous elements in the soil. The Jay St Garden is an exact replica of Linwood that was built last year. Noyes will be the third installed in consecutive years. There is also an heirloom garden donated by Mohawk Valley Chamber of Commerce President Frank Elias on Genesee St. next door to Utica Roasting Company.

"Noyes will house 30 beds this year but we will have room for up to 80" Harris-Lockwood said. What will be missing is money. Because For The Good Inc is the main facilitator of the gardens; the technical expertise such as the layout, number of raised beds, crop rotation and simple daily maintenance has been handled solely by Harris Lockwood and volunteers of For The Good Inc.

"We are getting to a point where the responsibility (of The garden's maintenance) is beyond what we are willing to ask someone to do (for free)" Harris-Lockwood admitted. "We have applied for multiple grants at a much higher level".

Harris-Lockwood was very clear about what is needed. "Added funds will simply keep the Gardens operating ...we are in danger (financially)...we need help".

Harris Lockwood will be taking her message to SUNY Morrisville on Earth Day (April 22). Her message will be heard by the appropriate audience- College Students. The idea is catching on. Harris Lockwood has also offered her model to the people of Haiti, through Senator Kristin Gillibrand, to apply these methods in their rebuilding efforts.
In many bad ways, Utica is leading the pack in Central New York. But no one else is doing this. For once we are in first place for doing something for the good.

Monday, April 5, 2010

What is going on Uptown?

Uptown Utica. Two words, when put in the proper order, can inspire thoughts of heady conversation, good food, good music, strong coffee and gourmet beer on tap. Those are all good things; but until now, those thoughts were reserved for the well informed minority of Uticans who regularly hang there. As spring and summer quickly advance the numbers of well informed regulars continues to grow.
Only an expert demographer could accurately gauge the group most inclined to visit or regularly hang out in Uptown. But to the casual observer, and member of a fringe group of struggling artists that hang out anywhere, I can attest to the wide range of Uticans that are prone pull up a chair at the cafe or get a table at one of the two restaurants that call Uptown home.
"We all work together" shared Lauren Helmer General Manager of The Hadley-Balkan (2006-2008 Genesee St.). She was referring to the many creative promotional specials like 'Dinner and a Movie' that they run with their neighbor, The Uptown Theatre. The spirit of cooperation between the different businesses extend beyond the Uptown Theatre; it is truly a business community.
Mini-Coopers, Saabs, BMW's - hip-cars - compete for the limited parking with Ford Tempos old Hondas and bicycles.
The drivers? They work, buy art, eat out, drink gourmet beer and like movies. They tend to support the efforts of local farmers and try to do their part to combat climate change by attending lectures, riding bikes and driving the occasional hybrid.
Because of it's unique atmosphere, Uptown Utica, a small cluster of businesses that intersect at Emerson and Genesee St. is establishing itself as one the hippest places to hangout in The Mohawk Valley.
But you need to ask yourself: Am I cool enough?
If you are into NASCAR, prefer lots o' Ketchup with your steak and have no appreciation for art or conversations about changing the world; Uptown probably is not for you.
It is a place where display menus are hand painted and servers have pierced eyebrows. A place where college students drink (coffee) and do their homework on laptops.
Uptown is a place where you can attend shamanic drum circles twice a month (The Other Side), listen to local poets plan a show, students debate a lecture or just do the crossword (Cafe Domenico).
Uptown is a place where you can hear an Irish Band, Mandolin players and Utica's own Rusty Doves all in one week.
Uptown is the place that recently played host to international Jazz star Jane Monheit who performed for an intimate crowd (75) at The Other Side (2011 Genesee St.), a non-profit cultural universe of it's own that adds a considerable sum of integrity to Uptown's growing popularity and cultural importance.
Uptown has been historically anchored by popular shops like Uptown Automotive- a thirty year success story owned byJim Amado-that revolves around Model Cars and rare Hotwheels. And The Historic Uptown Theatre.
Uptown has always been pedestrian friendly and, on good weather days, it reaches it's potential as a sundrenched center of all kinds of activity. It could be described as a less crowded, quiet alternative to the Spring Break atmosphere of beer soaked Varick St.
No, there are no tatoo shops, no pizza joints ( although there used to be) and no Police on stand by for beer brawls. It is a mature, ecclectic atmosphere. The perfect place to bring visiting friends when you want to make a good impression.
Simply put, it is a model Renaissance District. Previously driven by a now defunt dry cleaner, a number of unsuccessful pizza joints and The newly rescuscitated Uptown Theatre. It used to be a part of town most of us just drove through on our way to doing whatever it is we do. Now we slow down, take a look. And some of us even park, get out and go see what's going on Uptown.

Uptown Plaza (2007 Genesee St.)
Listed first because it lies right at the edge of the action in Uptown. Uptown Plaza lies on the Northeast side of Emerson Ave and Genesee St. it is home to about seven suites each housing a different business. Uptown's prosperity has never been in these businesses hands. There are specialty shops that include the Old Training Gym for MMA fighter Matt Hamill (that appears empty), a CPA and a couple of empty suites begging for a creative entreprenuer to take advantage of the spike in foot traffic. The most successful businesses in the Plaza, Uptown Automotive,("A Hobby Shop For car Nuts") and Mohawk Valley Music Supply have been operating before the current spike in interest.

Cafe Domenico (2009 Genesee St.)
The first business to provide a solid social foundation to the area is Cafe Domenico. Entering it's eighth year (7/22), Domenico's has been growing in popularity since it's opening in 2002. It's importance is not overlooked.
"Domenico's is an area of critical mass where a lot of different people can share ideas" said Adam Spiridilozzi a local artist, student, and a regular member of the Domenico's community.
Domenicos is also one of the businesses that everyone has been to. It is moderately to low priced and there is a good chance you won't overstay your welcome by nursing a twenty minute coffee waiting for late friends.

The Other Side (2011 Genesee St)
The only non-profit on the block has been extremely active in it's first year. Still in it's infancy (non-profit years) this collection of intellectuals, artists and local activists has helped transform more than the culture of Uptown.
They provide a LGBT teen meeting space (rare by any standard), shamanic drum circles (twice a month), a series on climate change, Talkin Bout Jazz musical series (debuted with Jane Monheit) and of course The very successful Imagining America series of free lectures sponsored in part,by Hamilton College.
The Imagining America Lecture series alone is worth the price of admission, the fact that it is free will elicit feelings of guilt for anyone in attendance that doesn't give a donation. Where else in Utica can you go and learn about foreign service (espionage) from an expert? Where to get farm fresh local eggs or homemade rootbeer? Why our economy was in danger of collapse?
They also host poetry readings, live Improv and are open to just about anything that can help elevate the community conversation. The Other Side is aptly named.

The Balkan-Hadley Restaurant Bar (2006-2008 Genesee St.)

The Balkan-Hadley Restaurant Bar 315-507-4264

The Balkan-Hadley Restaurant Bar is really two restaraunts in one.
The Balkan, which is open year round for lunch and dinner, is the lower priced more accessible option for the Uptown diner. it has its own menu and all lunches come with soup salads and a basket of bread. They have multiple sandwich options as well; feel free to order anything from grilled to deli style. There are ten dinner options that all come with rice or potato and vegetables. To Gotham City News, a low budget operation, the best thing about the Balkan is price, everything, including Steak Au Poivre is well under twenty bucks.
The Hadley could be described as the upscale version of The Balkan. Compared with the other businesses in the area they are priced above the market. It has not hurt them, they have a lower priced option right next door under the same roof. Lobster, Rack of Lamb, Grilled Veal Chop and , of course Delmonico Steak compete for popularity amongst the high rollers.
Remember to ask about dinner and a movie.

Uptown Theatre (2012 Genesee St.)
The Uptown-315-797-0020
The Theatre has been given a new lease on life. It is home to video game tournaments live action performances and, of course, movies. Remember to ask them about dinner and a movie.

The Green Onion (2014 Genesee St)
The Green Onion-202-276-1049
The newest addition to The Uptown scene is The Green Onion. On October 22nd they will celebrate their first year. The intimate little Barspace next door to Uptown theate is a departure from the usual Utica drinking experience all the way down to it's real Cork dartboard, well heeled bartenders and really good microbrews.

See you Uptown.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rome Capitol Theater' s Showing of Birth of A Nation: Educational?

At 7:00p.m. on April 17th Rome's Capitol Theatre will be host to a viewing of D.W Griffith's controversial 1915 film: Birth of a Nation.
For those of you in the dark, Birth of a Nation, filmed in 1915, is the first epic Blockbuster in American History. Noted by film scholars for it's technical breakthroughs in directing and editing it is equally reviled by civil rights activists and older African Americans for it's stereotypical depictions of Black folks at their worst.
Due to the subject matter, centered around the civil war and reconstruction, many consider it a lightning rod for old school southern racist.
The images of too dumb to know any better, happy slaves and chicken eating, toe picking black Congessman is just too much for some to handle.
Many blame the movie for attributing to a climate of violence during the times (20's). When it was released in 1915 lynchings were on the rise and would eventually reach a statistical peak several years after. The early 20's were also wrought with race riots all over the United States . These were not typical riots. They were attacks on Black communities by armed white people. The theme was always the same, domination of the 'uppity' black community.
What gets lost is the subject of the film: Reconstruction. Reconstruction, a few years after the Civil War was the first time Black Americans were on any type of equal footing with white people. Blacks held office taught in schools served as Postmaster, you name it.
What happened?
The Federal troops left and the dominant planter class, ex-plantation owner waged war with prosperous black ex-slaves to 'set things right'. This began a bloody terroristic campaign that would forever taint the image of The South to African Americans.
To racist whites it was called Redemption.
It is natural for people who have witnessed the outcomes of these events to feel a little uncomfortable with any imagery that reminds them of the causes.
For those lined up in protest against the showing, their reasons are simple.
It's racist.
"Why now" asks Utica's Loretta Johnson, a longtime member of the NAACP.
"Why do they have to show it now? I mean, look at the current climate, people are freaking out over health care and there seems to be an unusual amout of veiled racism". Johnson was reffering to the historic passage of healthcare legislation that has been the source of intense debate for almost a year.
"Now that it's over some people are angry, especially around here(Mohawk Valley)".
On March 22 a group of African Americans along with mayor James Brown of Rome met to discuss alternatives to showing the film.
The group, with the Mayor in agreement, want the showing moved or cancelled.
"Cancelling is out of the question, we have put too much into planning this, we have been thoughtful with our planning as well" said Art Pierce the artistic director at Rome Capitol Theatre.
Pierce has invited Hamilton College Professor of Film History Scott Macdonald to introduce the film and he has also assembled a multi-cultural panel of Mohawk Valley residents to keep it all in perspective.
"We are also going to play a live musical score, the original" Pierce said.
Despite his care in planning Pierce said they were unable to reach a compromise.
Sharing his emotions Pierce said "I think emotions are high right now, we tried to have discussion but we could not get anywhere...they walked out, a few stayed, but most of them left".
Those that stayed were able to share their fears and discuss possibilities. Never the less, Pierce feels he is misunderstood, but sees a positive in establishing a dialog with the Black community in Rome.

Why Now?

The Rome Capitol Theatre has been doing a silent film series since 2002. "We have been getting a lot of requests for this film, in fact it is the most requested movie since we started this" Pierce said.
One could wonder why this movie? Why do soo many people want to see it.
"Well, it is a materpiece" Pierce added.
Morbid curiosity? A reminiscence of times past perhaps? Let us all hope it is all about how far we have come from the dark days of ignorance and violence. Let us all hope it is about learning from our mistakes.
"It is a racist film" admits Art Pierce, the man responsible for organizing this viewing.
"It also has a lot of value as an educational tool"
Yeah I agree but we need to know our history before we can learn anything from it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Op/Ed Gotham City News

You Can Get it Somewhere Else-

Tearing down the walls of Corporate media is hard work. Especially if you have no money or power to speak of.

This grand idea - a local media source unencumbered by the financial obligations of leveraged business owners - is a refreshing situation for anyone looking for some real objectivity in Mohawk Valley Media (MVM).

Gotham City News is the result of frustration. Frustration with the status quo. The lack of tough questions, the blatant agendas overshadowing the pursuit of truth.

The idea of what is news, worthy of reporting, being routinely decided by a handful of people. And lets be honest, when Topix is referred to as a legit source of information, we need to clear the air.

We, the people, need clarity.

The tacky jingle,'You can't get it anywhere else' trumpeted on WKTV news, will no longer be true.

You can get it somewhere else.

Some stories need more attention than others. Social justice, fairness and equality are our measuring sticks. We will keep it real simple at Gotham City News. We will go to the Legislator meetings , we will attend The Utica Common Council meetings, we will try to get information from the very people we are reporting on, that includes our governor and even POTUS.

If something is printed about you, rest assured we gave you a phone call or approached you first. Our primary focus is politics. As a fledgling news outlet, we are limited in our ability to cover every aspect of Mohawk Valley life and it is our hope your interest grows with our ability to bring it to you. With some help, we will expand our scope and give all issues their fair share of print.

There are cases, like our current Mayoral Administration and bombshell health code issues, that just beg to be probed.

But first things first.

Personal Attacks

You won't see them here. At least not the type of orchestrated political grudge articles we are so used to reading lately in the MVM.

Elected officials will be held accountable (even the ones we have voted for). The personal attacks that do nothing but retard the progress of a place (Utica/Rome)who's development was arrested a long time ago are not a part of our formula for success. Grass roots involvement is (a part of our formula).

It is our job to remember and document what is said and hold them (elected officials) to it, not use it against them.

For Utica, the variables are the same. A small market rust-belt town with nothing to offer, or to lose, comes up short again and again and again.

To knock us out of this social malaise, this lack of awareness, we will be sure to wrankle some feathers. And just like an elected official we are definitely going to be the object of criticism. That goes with the territory.

We are big boys and girls.

Players in a Small Market

But lets think about the immediate impact of yet another source of news in this small market.
Advertising plays a huge role in the delivery of news. We all know that if an advertiser does not like something that is printed they will often times remove their advertising from that publication.

In MVM it is a discomforting reality and an effective tactic, especially in hard economic times. I can't remember how many times during a marketing stint at the O-D I heard, first hand, about knee-jerk cancellations due to something the O-D printed. to The O-D's credit it was usually some very accurate, badly timed expose on someone or something that got an entire demographic up in arms.

Utica , unlike New York City and Syracuse does not have a lot of businesses to begin with so if you are unpopular and you rely on business to support your operation than you have to tread lightly.

We will undoubtedly take some of the pressure off the O-D so they can go back to printing fluffy articles about South St in the 70's and James St when there was no black people, or crime (what a crock). Their advertising revenues should go up even if they continue to lose subscribers.

We won't bend. We rely on business owners in the community who care , people who , regardless of what is printed, believe in a free and open forum that is beholden to the ethics of journalistic integrity.

Third World vs. Utica

People angry at a newspaper is nothing new. Journalist have been the subject of scorn nearly as often as lawyers and car salesman. In third world countries reporting the news is a dangerous occupation, one of the quickest ways to find oneself on a slab in the morgue.

Utica has lot in common with the Third World. Little economic development. Exploitive business climate that is reliant on low wages and undereducated workforce. Land distribution favoring a small minority of people who lord over the population. The list is long. We challenge the reader to come up with a few more comparisons.
But at the end of the day we all love this city. We love it enough to try and transform it to something better. And we cannot do it without you.

Thankfully, for all of us, Utica is not a Third World Country so the cup is officially half-full.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Where The Brothas At?

It is obvious that Utica is a homogenous community.
A non-minority, white community.
Some say anti-minority.
If you were to look at the employment stats for Private and Public sector jobs you will find minorities are not working anywhere.
If you were to look at all the non-profit boards you won't find many non-white people on them. The local school board...not one minority.
The DA's office, maybe one or two.
The Mayor... City Hall...who are we kidding.
Often times the decision makers, the people at the Round Table, happen to be white. The people that do the hiring the firing; the people who consult and suggest...are white.
The standard bearers, endorsers of all that is good and productive in The Mohawk Valley are WASPS with a sprinkling of Italian to add spice.
The WASPS say The Italians run everything.
Everyone else agrees that white folks wether Italian or Wasp pretty much run it.
"It" means The Police Department, Fire Department, 98% of private business, property and just about everything else of value in The Mohawk Valley.
Congressman Arcuri, State Senator Griffo, Assemblywoman Destito, County Executive Picente, Mayor Roefaro...the list is actually much longer than that but who's nitpicking.
It is the reality.
It is not a good or bad thing.
Anyone of Italian descent that makes a mark in Utica should not be maligned because of their monopoly on political power.
They should be studied and admired.
In the past all this power in the hands of one group was definitely a bad thing. People in these positions of power used their privilege as a leverage against any fair and honest competition. That certainly is not the case now right?
Newspaper, radio all at their (the elite) disposal to subtly mold a consensus on any issue, usually at someone's expense.
I am not surprised about white people's attitudes towards minorities. We do not exist on any tangible, visible level of relevance. Most of their contact is from what they see on television, hear in the news or witness working as a prison guard.
Historically, most of the news on or about black people has always been full of condemnation at it's worst patronizing at it's best.
I remember reading a passage from Ethnic Utica ( a must read for anyone interested in local lore) from the old Utica paper. Without researching a quote I will tell you the people, the black people, were depicted as a bunch of shiftless and dirty bunch of alcoholic degenerates who work to drink and drink to work.
That was news.
Totally unfair. Like Jim Crow.
Playing against the rules. Like Cheating.
Now, all we apparently do is sell drugs.
What about the decline of James St.?"
The O-D (months ago) did a story chock full of quotes from old Italians reminiscing on how nice it used to be on James St when: "we were so close every store would give you a tab".
Obviously the reporter did not speak to any of the current residents or business owners who run tabs now and have store credit that has nothing to do with Visa.
Separate, soon to be equal.
Just ask the Italians.
Ask Bushy Graham (not his real Italian name).
The Italian Americans who reside here weren't exactly welcome. In fact they did not enjoy to much political or economic success until Rufie Elefante and the second World War.
This is not a history lesson I'll leave that for the O-D.
The fact is there are no Black or Hispanic People in any high profile municipal jobs.
It is our collective fault(minorities). We quake in the presence of authority happy for any type of acknowledgment. We give thanks for things that everyone else takes for granted. We privately gripe and publicly smile patiently awaiting some well spoken firebrand to take the words out of our collective mouths.
Someone to represent us for real.
Utica New York is a community dominated Politically and Economically along cultural divides.
Blacks, Hispanics and Asians are on one side of the divide with little resources and no say so.
But there are those that had resources that tried to break through in this land of opportunity called Utica. They got their asses and wallets handed to them one by one. Leaving the city like soo many have before them.
The multicultural market has been ignored here forever. There are recent signs of growth but I am a cynic I have seen too much.
The sad fact is...
It didn't just get this way. It has been like this for a long time.
Ever since these rolling green hills were home to nothing but deer and The People of The Upright Stone (Oneida Nation) a few lucky people happened to settle down in the right place at the right time and have taken advantage of that good timing to this very day.
You would probably be sitting pretty too if your great great great great great great grandfather Angus purchased a few hundred acres of land for glass beads and wine.
Now it is time to share or at least get out the way.