When not actually in government, Republicans like to blast away at the reckless spending of big government liberals who, as the old saying goes, will spend taxpayers money like drunken sailors. But when in government, and/or when in a position to benefit, Republicans can spend like the best of them. In Schoharie County, Obama’s stimulus package has local Republicans lining up with their hands out like kids in a candy store, or should I say pork store.
In fact, if you listen closely you can already here Schoharie County’s fattest piggies lined up at the trough squealing for treats. Schoharie County’s Board of Supervisors settled on a list of 17 projects costing over $153 million dollars. Make no mistake, Schoharie County is in desperate need of a few hundred million dollars or so of stimulus money. But many of the proposed projects leave me scratching my head as expensive and for the most part unnecessary, and worst of all, they take away resources from more worthy projects.
For example, the county proposes to spend $90 million on three new I-88 exits, one for the proposed water park by Howe Caverns, one for Guilford Mills in Cobleskill and another for Schoharie. Not only is this is a colossal and unjustified waste of money, but the fat highway contracts will be manna from Heaven for the Galasso's. Here’s an idea, why don’t they just put in a separate exit ramp leading straight to the home of the Galasso’s so they can just drive right up and drop the money off by the truck load?
The pork list just goes on. The Board is proposing replacing a small bridge on Podpadic Road in order to access a proposed industrial site. Pay attention because this one’s a gem. Mill Services, who already have a factory in the Village of Cobleskill are being courted by Town of Richmondville officials, including Planning Board Chair Harold Loder, who incidentally, owns the piece of land that the bridge replacement would provide access to. Let me get this straight. We waste millions of dollars in federal money for a new bridge for Podpadic Road and the Village of Cobleskill gets another empty factory, all so Harold Loder gets a buyer for his land. And to think, these people probably didn't even vote for Obama!
Then there’s $11.8 million dollars for water and sewer extensions out to Shad Point, and everything in between. Interesting strategy by local developers. Tell the water hoarders in the Village of Cobleskill that they’re costing the county nearly 12 million dollars in federal aid by not playing along.
Of course, buried in all this pork there are some worthy projects like the $25.8 million dollars for broadband service, a truly critical piece of the infrastructure puzzle. There’s a modest $3 million dollars in there for SUNY Cobleskill which will be used in the development of a waste-to-energy project. More projects along these lines could push us further toward developing a green energy/technology economy that has the best chance of creating new opportunities for Upstate NY.
Another critical but overlooked piece of the puzzle is sustainable development. Amidst all of this pork for new highway projects and moving factories across town, there is little talk of projects that will help to revitalize our downtowns and promote sustainable development. There needs to be more of a focus on projects like the Newberry Square building rehab and the Cobleskill Creek Trail. New sidewalks and facades for all the Downtown business districts in the region would not only provide temporary construction jobs and provide the facelift our business districts will need to thrive in coming decades but it could be done at a fraction of the cost of Schoharie County’s three new proposed highway exits. The current and temporary reduction in fuel costs has made a lot of us forget just how obsolete our automobile-dominated society is becoming. We need to start rebuilding compact, high-density communities sooner rather than later. We need to start by rehabilitating the vacant spaces in our downtown business districts and working on our bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the county, which is currently non-existent.
More federal aid for wind farms could also be a windfall for the area if federal aid stipulated more robust PILOT payments for local communities. This could help to reduce local resistance as communities realized they had more to gain than to lose by working with wind power developers.
Right now is a critical time for America and particularly the depressed economy of Upstate NY. With the Federal Government eager to throw hundreds of billions of dollars at the problem, it is imperative that we as citizens insure that this money is used wisely to build a sustainable future and not to pad the wallets of the porkers who run this county. After all, a trillion dollars is a terrible thing to waste.