Bridge for Sale

It’s nice to see the issue of infrastructure back at the forefront. What’s interesting is how infrastructure gets tied into the proposed pedestrian bridge.

Just to refresh everyone’s memory: infrastructure is the most pressing, urgent and immediate challenge the city faces not only for the public safety of its current citizens but for the very viability of the city. It’s just that important. Or so we’re told.

Now you would expect that if an issue is of such urgency, great political will and effort would be expended to champion the massive infrastructure improvements for which so much clamor exists. After all, it’s a matter of public safety, life and death, we’re told.

Of course, that’s true until you pointedly yet politely ask how they will pay for such infrastructure improvements.  Let’s check out how that part is supposed to work.

Clearly infrastructure should be top of the agenda for the Common Council considering the above. As the Council plays a large role in crafting and approving the city budget, certainly infrastructure costs would be reflected in the budget or perhaps even in a referendum for bond funding for such a large initiative.  Yet no bond funding or any inkling toward an initiative to fund the infrastructure in any of the budget talks to date.  Odd.

Perhaps a citizens group is advocating for the infrastructure project and pushing the Council to put forward a referendum on bond funding. Nope.

Maybe the community would rally behind the bond fund if they knew their taxes would rise and as it is a bond fund, would not be subject to the 3% tax cap. After all, if the issue is indeed that important, the community and elected leaders would rally behind funding that need. Hmm, I see none of that either.

What you see instead is a political process at its most cynical.

Unable to realistically fund for what they so loudly clamor, the infrastructurists now pursue funding infrastructure by siphoning funds from the pedestrian bridge. Never mind that the pedestrian bridge funding was voter approved through a bond act. Never mind that the funding is specifically tied legislatively to waterfront development. Never mind that the funding exists for a specific initiative — like it or not.   Just never mind.

So what’s really going here? It’s really quite simple. And it has nothing to do with infrastructure.

If you wanted to really address infrastructure beyond a talking point, you would not latch onto the pedestrian bridge as a way to fund it. To fund it, you would need to raise taxes either on the citizens of Amsterdam through a bond act or through state or federal funding. Period. You cannot come up with tens of millions of dollars any other way; not even the magical financing of shared services because I think it might be a tough sell to the towns and villages to fund our infrastructure.

But what if you had staked a position against tax hikes and against increased state and federal spending? How do you fund it then? You simply cannot; I defy you to tell me how. Given such a stance, the only way you could position yourself politically given the irresolvable conflict between your policies and the needs of your community would be to frame the debate in a different way. And that’s what’s happening here.

That is why this issue gets reframed and intentionally muddied as somehow taking dollars away from our infrastructure as if a choice existed or exists now. It is simply nonsense.

But the political strategy is clear: attack the pedestrian bridge as a way to compensate for your policy shortcomings.  This what you do when you can’t raise taxes to pay for infrastructure as your position is anti-tax; this is what you do when you can’t advocate for state and federal programs as your position clearly wants cuts to state and federal programs; and this is what you do when you can’t bring the dollars into the community as former Assmblyman Tonko as he’s a political and ideological rival.  This is what you do when you can offer no meaningful solutions to a problem you deem so critical.

If you still believe that this issue is about infrastructure, I have a bridge to sell you.

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