Litmus Tests 2014

When faced with a litmus test on whether to work toward progress in the future of the city or to simply prepare as best we can for demise, city leaders and their policies opt for the latter.
In other words, we turn against doing something different or even taking a chance on something that might work , just for the sake of not failing.
If you look at the city today, it’s hard to conclude that over the past decades we’ve been embracing strategies that were too bold, too risky — no, it’s been either to embrace no strategy at all or to continue the strategies of old that failed.
In my view, the city leadership has failed in a number of key litmus tests in the past several years. From the school boards that shutter schools and wonder why academic performance suffers to school boards that shutter a museum so its holdings can float down the river. Or, the city and community leaders who shun outside investment and investors so city taxpayers can shoulder the bond costs of demolition lest someone from outside the city achieve success — Chalmers and Esquire.
There might be a few more but I think you see the underlying principles at work.
Today, we have two litmus tests facing the city: a Youth Rec Center and a Casino.
For the casino, you see broad support by every public agency and every public leader. Interestingly, the casino will undoubtedly require outside investors and will undoubtedly require public monies yet a casino is embraced as a positive, a game changer for the community even though the very notion of public monies and outside investors in every other circumstance never pass the litmus test.
For the Recreation Center, I expect that you will see broad-based opposition merely due to the fact that it will cost city taxpayers money. So while the city can bond millions of dollars to demolish stuff year-in-year-out, I expect that the notion of spending money to build something, will garner a loud clamor from the usual chorus of why a rec center is not feasible even before a single argument can be made.
The litmus tests posed by these two events are the following:
1) Do kids and families and a younger demographic have a civic and political voice in the city? Do they even matter?
2) Can the broader community pull together to build something BIG or is the city always destined to give-up on BIG even before trying?
3)  Is a casino the end-all-and-be-all for the city in terms of economic and community development? What happens if the casino fails to site locally, what then?
4) What does it tell us about our community leadership that a casino rallies broad based support but any other development initiative meets the shredding gears of local politics to render it impossible?
5) What future state are we building?
Based upon past experiences, I will say that the rec center will be killed not because it is impossible to achieve but simply because it is something for a younger demographic.
For the casino, I expect that it will garner support regardless of broader questions on the viability and desirability of casino as an effective development tool for the city and the broader area.
Whether the past is indicative of the future will be clear as the casino and rec center litmus tests play out.

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12 Responses

  1. Bill Sheehan says:

    If the casino deal doesn’t work out, I’ll bet those guys from Troy are still looking for a place to dump their C&D debris…

  2. Peter J Quandt says:

    And, is the casino the city’s make or break attempt at recovery? What happens if a casino is accepted and built, and fails to meet any kind of goal or vision. Maybe, to be on the safe side, build the casino in the mall. It seems that the concept of a rec. center is part of what should be an overall PLAN. One step in building something for a future.

    • rob millan says:

      “Goal or vision?” “Plan?!” That’s poppycock talk ’round Amsterdam.

      • Peter J Quandt says:

        Yeah. The last “plan” I’m aware of was called “urban renewal”.

        • flippinamsterdam says:

          A sound point but choosing a bad strategy once does not mean you should not work on a new strategy either. It is possible to recover from bad strategies, not sure you maximize chances to recover with zero strategy.

      • Peter J Quandt says:

        I totally agree. This is what I have been indicating, for awhile now. Amsterdam needs to get a feeling for itself and what the people (who are the hear of any town) want the town to identify with and promote (i.e. having an overall vision for the revitalizing of the downtown). Declining a Rec. Center while promoting a casino does not seem like any kind of a viable plan, especially given that a casino may not even have all that much effect on the revitalization of Amsterdam if a casino developer even considers Amsterdam as a viable possibility. A rec. center says, “we’re here to stay”.

  3. I’ve said this a few times before, but it bears repeating. Siting a casino in Amsterdam or the town of Florida is a pipe dream. It’s not going to happen. There’s nothing wrong with making a pitch for it, but it’s not going to happen. The racino in Saratoga and Tioga Downs (also a racino) are going to be two of the spots chosen. The other two are in the Catskills.
    The rec center is a very real project and something that has a real chance of improving the quality of life in Amsterdam, as are the plans to connect all of the various aspects of the riverfront development to what’s left of the downtown corridor. It would be a shame if those plans were put on the shelf in pursuit of a casino that’s not going to come.

  4. diane hatzenbuhelr says:

    The rec center has only been discussed briefly and from what was said they wanted to raise money for it. Deciding where it goes will be the biggest decision other than when. Any city support must wait on the outcome of our financial mess…….maybe another 6 months, nobody knows for sure. You have read where I posted that we do not have the revenue to support the previous bonding ?? We need real numbers before this city spends another dime on any bonding. Sorry to burst your bubble, but this is reality. The mayor doubled bonding from 14 million to 29 million in 5 years………..

  5. wildthane says:

    How surprising, borrowing is mentioned yet again. This woman does not seem to understand that much of the bonding was done in anticipation of reimbursement (grants & FEMA) or to fund the replacement of failing equipment or to address public safety hazards. We bonded $10M for the new water filtration plant, $3M for the upgrades to the waste water treatment plant, $3M for emergency repairs due to the floods of 2011, and close to $3M for demolitions that Diane has a particular fondness for, especially the Chalmers building.
    My question to her would be, what would she NOT have bonded for? The fire truck? DPW equipment that hadn’t been replaced in over a decade? Hydrant and water distribution improvements? Sewer system repairs? The fire-damaged Brookside factory/property remediation? Bridge Street rehabilitation?
    The problem with never addressing capital purchases in a timely fashion is that they escalate in cost over time and rust never sleeps. You cannot ride the starving horse into the grave. You’ve got to feed it to keep it healthy.
    Her tirade is getting mighty tiresome.

  6. wildthane says:

    Still silence.

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