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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

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