Consider This

Here is a post ostensibly on the school budget vote but at its core, a perfect distillation of the mindset miring this city from any meaningful change and progress. And yes, this will lead us to the Chalmers debate.  Because is not life  a perfect circle that forever brings us to Chalmers… Anyway, here’s the post in question:
Has anyone taken into consideration that a lot of our residents (voters) are seniors that live on fixed incomes? These people cannot afford any more tax increases. Without radio stations like WCSS their issues fall on deaf ears. It is so funny that you are so concerned about what is said on talk radio. What’s wrong folks, does the truth hurt? Next the mayor and her lackey will find that she has the power to close radio stations that allow people share have their point of view? It saddens me to say, but if this ridiculous scenario was at all possible, OUR mayor would do it.
Let me deconstruct this post so we can look at the elements of how debates get framed and articulated:
First, we get the righteous indignation about seniors on fixed incomes: how dare we not consider the seniors and even consider anything that raises taxes for a program or initiative. HOW DARE WE?!
Let me dare. In fact, our community actually has more members and interests than those of seniors. Heresy I know to actually state facts but facts are stubborn things. Anyway for those who always proclaim the interests of seniors especially those most economically vulnerable , ask yourself some tough questions:

  • If we’ve always been looking out for seniors and their tax rates, why do we leave them today with one of the areas’ and even nationally highest tax rates? Why has your rhetoric fallen so far short of its stated goal?
  • If we’ve always been looking out for seniors, why have we left them with the least amount of home equity than most other local communities? Why have we left them with a crushing tax rate and dismal home equity values?
  • How do you take a morally defensible position as a politician or voter  if you support a tax raise such as the recent school budget knowing that your vote will subject seniors to economic collapse?
  • How do you reconcile your respect and concern for the most vulnerable when you daily rail on local radio and to your friends and neighbors against welfare and other programs whose very existence contributes to caring for the most vulnerable of seniors?

But what strikes me as most offensive in the debate is how the politics of seniors is used as a cynical albeit effective way to frame the debate on a host of issues such that if you hold a counterview, you are immediately on the defensive: how dare you not consider seniors!
I think it’s no longer time to play defense; it’s time for offense.
Simply put: why should I not have a vote or say in what matters to my interests, my family’s interests or broader community interests? What gives you the right to subjugate my interests to those of another group by default? Do I even count in this community if I am not a senior?
Consider how arrogant and self-serving the statement sounds to a parent with children with a home and with the demands of a career, family, yadda yadda: your kids academic programs don’t matter; your kids sports don’t matter; your property values don’t matter;  your interests don’t matter; you don’t matter. They matter.
Instead, it’s seniors who exclusively matter by the poster above and their ilk. The very ones who support policies that do the very opposite of what they intend. And the rest of us should merely go along as we are not them.
I think not.
But of course they and only they speak ‘the truth’. And where do we get the truth: on WCSS and local radio. The assertion is so utterly laughable if not for the impact on the local debate and local elections. Let me choose a simple example that illustrates how the hosts treat truth with our favorite topic, Chalmers. For months, the meme on the radio was that “no one on the south side wants the Chalmers project” or the variant “everyone on the south side wants Chalmers to come down”. Yet when the Chalmers meeting was held lo-and-behold a fair number of south siders were in favor of Chalmers.
But the drumbeat for killing Chalmers continued and I daresay with renewed intensity. And the drumbeat against the school budget. And the drumbeat against the second school budget. And on…
And what drives that drumbeat but the desire to defeat and destroy: Knock Chalmers down! Vote no to the budget! Vote no on taxes! No more welfare!No socialism! No dictatorships!
They are against things real and imagined but what exactly are they for. I have not a clue.
So for those of us who look at Chalmers as much needed residential development and as a financial signal to other investors that Amsterdam is on the upswing;  for those of us who actually believe that a high performing school district matters to our children’s future and our community;s future; for those of us who care for thoughtful debate and analysis; for those of us who recognize that we did not get to today just by fate but through the collective decisions of past leaders and their policies; and for those of us who try as we might see no way this city will ever get better if we hold onto the dominant mindset of the past years and decades, I see no way that I can continue to live here..
Consider that.

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11 Responses

  1. I have read the Comprehensive Plan http://www.amsterdamedz.com/pub/complan2003.pdf as well as the Chalmers Building Study And Redevelopment Strategy http://www.amsterdamedz.com/pub/FINALRE … CH2004.pdf .
    To develop what Uri Kaufman has proposed, (privately funded market rate condominiums) the plan calls for the old mill structure to be demolished and cleared using public funds. You can find this under Program Alternatives, Section 1.6 Scenario 1.
    The tentative contract renewal with Mr. Kaufman in it’s present form is “striking off in a different direction” from both the Comprehensive Plan and the Chalmers Building Redevelopment Strategy.
    Had the contract reflected the mixed use building that was proposed, I feel the residents would have accepted the plan which called for market price housing, senior housing, a cultural center, a community theater and shops. Now THAT is adaptive reuse!
    The Common Council is the legislative body that rightfully represents the citizens of Amsterdam who have voiced their opinion on this matter. They want the Chalmers Building torn down.
    It is not the position of the Mayor to try to circumvent the will of the people or the Common Council. Mayor Thane needs to expend her energy on the other projects that this City desperately needs to see completed. We do not need a City divided. The recent events in our State Senate has proved this course of action to be both fruitless and expensive.
    The current contract option between the City and Uri Kaufman does not reflect the carefully thought out Comprehensive Plan or the Chalmers Building Study. It gives nothing back to the residents of this city that participated in and agreed to in the original Comprehensive Plan.
    In it’s current form, the contract is a gratuitous money grab for Uri Kaufman and Mayor Thane.

    • flippinamsterdam says:

      Jerry,
      I almost deleted this post as it’s hardly better than spam in the sense that you’ve cut and pasted the exact same post on other blogs as well on widely differing topics. You do not address my post with anything other than intellectual dishonesty by failing to address the core arguments of my post and then proclaim the faux populism of the ‘will of the people’. I beg you to read a book about representative government . You then end with a smear of Mayor Thane that accuses her of personally profiting from the venture; you accuse a public official of a criminal and unethical act –what else is a ‘money grab’– without barely batting an eye. But hey, we do not need a ‘city divided’. Are you serious?
      I think your post serves best as a perfect illustration of the intellectual and ethical vacuum so prevalent in this debate and most others. Kudos.

      • Your post invites and expects debate about Chalmers. My post does not accuse the Mayor of a criminal act as you suggest. The money grab I refer to is revenue for the city while giving nothing back to the residents in the form of the cultural enhancements the Comprehensive Plan demands.
        Your babbling on about the school budget and seniors to unnamed source does nothing to help the city. But what can one expect from an unnamed blogger.
        The Chalmers building contract is what tonight’s Common Council meeting will decide. My posting on other blogs is my attempt to get the facts out there. Take some time and read both of the linked documents before you condemn my posts. The truth will set you free!

        • flippinamsterdam says:

          I’ll look forward to your call-in to WCSS challenging the views, facts and opinions of unnamed callers.
          I have no idea what this means: The money grab I refer to is revenue for the city while giving nothing back to the residents in the form of the cultural enhancements the Comprehensive Plan demands. Are you against revenue for the city?

  2. F.George says:

    Flip,
    Why is raising taxes the only answer government can come up with? I’m talking about the school district as well. They believe higher taxes will solve their problems too.
    Do you really believe that Amsterdam has a high performing school district? I’ve read we’re lacking in most of the core subjects. Yet we continue to give out mandatory raises that are negotiated for sometimes four year contracts.
    Wouldn’t the schools be better off if they unlocked the doors and invited the community in to see what is going on rather than keep them out. The district doesn’t have an open door policy with parents. I don’t wonder why kids are threatening each other. Being in an environment that encourages survival rather than nurture learning is taxing on a young mind. It’s hard enough for these kids with their parents not caring about them.
    Your vote is your vote. You deal with the outcome no matter what. So if you feel that we are all stupid and not as articulate and intelligent as you, that is your right to express your opinion and I will defend it as I’ve done.
    I can afford to leave this hell hole too, yet I do not. I continue to make my block better even if I have to fight the city employees to do it.

    • flippinamsterdam says:

      F George,
      I knew I’d run the risk of sounding as if I’m talking down to my critics and opponents but I was really trying to convey my sense of frustration with how debate gets framed. I guess I’m a bit frustrated that facts get pushed aside or ignored in most of the debates. I often feel that I’m the one being talked down to as I’m just supposed to accept whatever someone says as valid even if it’s untrue or misstated.
      I did not claim the district was high performing, I was actually stating the opposite so I’m less articulate than you presume me to be if that was your takeaway.
      On the issue of taxes, I do not like to pay taxes either; I was just trying to say that you cannot have it both ways: all the services you want plus a constant or declining tax rate unless you do something structurally different to reduce the cost.

      • flippinamsterdam says:

        Or foster growth

      • F.George says:

        With jobs comes growth. We’ve lost all of them except the service industry.
        Taxes? It’s a gimme! And no I’m not going to say fraud waste and abuse but simply cut down on all the government employees. I think in April of 2007 government officially outnumbered the private sector.

  3. MJD says:

    I think what a lot of the people we’re talking about want is pretty simple: more for less. They don’t mind programs for kids as long as their taxes are going down at the same time.
    The School budget is an excellent example. The very people who voted against the budget were the ones most outraged by subsequent cuts in programs that resulted from it’s defeat. “Come on, they can find the money. They didn’t have to cut sports or lay off those janitors.” “If they went line by line through the budget they’d be able to make up that money.” “We need 100 teachers to chip in $500 each for that sports program. That’s just $8 a week.” “They need to cut administrators, we’re top heavy!” For them “going line by line through the budget” will cure any fiscal problem- it’s almost magic.
    Of course the disconnect between taxes and spending go beyond local school budgets. George Pataki ran on aggressive income tax cuts without any corresponding cuts in spending. Upstate voters went out in droves to support him and were rewarded (very predictably) with soaring property taxes as a cash strapped state sent less and less money out to the localities. But tax payers never made the connection- they just went and screamed at their local school boards about greedy teachers unions.
    Ronald Reagan would have to be the greatest more-for-less’er of all time. But we have an excellent local example in George Amedore. The Assemblyman will prattle on about how this tax should be cut and that tax should be cut. And he’ll make general comments about “the politicians in Albany” spending too much money. WHERE to cut, however, is harder. He’ll never get around to anything other then “waste, fraud and duplication” (as if nobody ever thought of that before). Every specific spending cut I’ve ever heard him comment on, including the Governors plan to reduce the state workforce, he’s opposed. George is all for the party when room service is on the phone. Then he’ll pound the desk at check-out time in indignant rage. And he’ll be our Assemblyman as long as he wants to.
    A large part of this stems from the overblown idea of government waste. A few years ago I read about a study where everyday people estimated how much of government budgets are “wasted”. The median percentage was just under 50%. If you start with such an absurd premise it’s easy to understand their frustration. “How can they possible come back to us and ask for more when they don’t even try to control costs.”
    It’s the lowest form of political debate to call your opponents dumb. But it’s hard to talk about this matter honestly without acknowledging a streak of intellectual laziness that runs through many (not all) of the rank and file on the other side. And politicians, including some of our locals, play off that with a sort of anti-intellectual populism. Patriotic themes, calls for simplistic “common sense” solutions, suspicion of outsiders, emotional rather than intellectual arguments, repeated references to heritage (especially the founding fathers) all play a part in it. I guess the “tea party” movement would be a good example of what I mean.
    I really don’t know what the solution is. I do think that we have more people than they do nationally, state wide and locally (although a ward or two are shaky) and I find it helpful to remind myself of that from time to time. This is still the city that produced and supports people like Paul Tonko and Ann Thane. So it’s not all bad.
    Maybe they’re here to keep us vigilant?

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