Friday, August 28, 2009

Is Cobleskill becoming disillusioned with dissolution?

The first thing that needs to be said with regards to Cobleskill’s evolving engagement with the issue of consolidation is that all bold and innovative ideas should be welcomed and explored enthusiastically. Maybe that even goes without saying. However, to anyone who has observed the process over the past several years this clearly has not been the case.

There has been talk and even some action on sharing services for a long time, but the process was given a major boost about three years ago when Mayor Sellers and Deputy Mayor Sandy MacKay applied for a grant to produce a study of the costs and benefits associated with various consolidation plans. The village won that grant and the product was a study by a Rochester-based group called the Center for Governmental Research. The CGR study outlined the various possibilities from outright dissolution to joining with the Town of Cobleskill and incorporating as a city. Despite the wide variety of possibilities outlined in this report, many of which offered benefits worthy of further consideration, a few members of the Board of Trustees, namely Mark Galasso, Mayor Sellers and now Robert LaPietra (strange political bedfellows to be sure) have been pushing relentlessly to dissolve the village while virtually ignoring all other possibilities.

It is tempting to offer cynical explanations as to why the Board is so singularly committed to dissolution. For much of the past five years the Town of Cobleskill has been eager to see commercial development along the village’s eastern boundary. In many cases, access to village infrastructure (water and sewer) has been crucial to making those projects happen.

Not surprisingly, the village has been hesitant to hand over access to its water and sewer services for projects that would divert shoppers away from Downtown Cobleskill and help to further erode the village’s tax base. The unintended result of this was that the village Board of Trustees had an unofficial veto power over suburban sprawl development in the town, a card they should very much want to play for a variety of good reasons. In 2008, Lowe’s backed out of its plans to build a store in the Town after a long and protracted effort to convince the village to extend services, an effort that arguably included open bribery of village officials.

Now that the membership of the Board of Trustees has changed to include a multi-millionaire developer, a slumlord who owns multiple local properties, and Mayor Sellers who is almost religiously committed to the idea of consolidation for consolidation’s sake, it makes sense that the pro-growth forces of Cobleskill would seize this opportunity to see the village, the last remaining check on rampant sprawl development, dissolved. Dissolution would have numerous implications but none as glaringly obvious as the fact that it would hand over control of the Village’s water and sewer infrastructure to the Cobleskill Town Board, a move that would open up the Route 7 and Mineral Springs corridors to intense commercial and residential development.

The real travesty in all of this is not that these forces have hi-jacked the process in an effort to grab the village’s resources, but that this has prevented a real conversation about the benefits of alternative plans for consolidation. Another village trustee, Sandy MacKay, has consistently raised the question of jointly incorporating with the town to form a city. Granted this is not a perfect option, as it would still mean that the village (notice use of lower case) would relinquish its control over water and sewer services. However, it would allow Cobleskill to take advantage of a variety of prerogatives that cities in New York state benefit from, including state-financed courts and an ability to both preempt up to 50% of county-levied sales taxes generated within its corporate boundaries and levy a separate sales tax, which could generate significant revenues without affecting county revenue streams.

It would also be possibly easier to devise a governance structure that limited the amount of power that residents of the village would give up in the process of consolidating with the town. For example, a ward system could be used to maintain the voices of village residents and insure that they are not drowned out by town voters in an at-large system.

I am not mentioning this option because I’m endorsing it, I just want to illustrate that there are alternatives to the dissolution scheme being offered up by Sellers, Galasso and LaPietra and that those alternatives deserve to be considered every bit as much as dissolution.

Mayor Sellers defended this scheme during the public comment section of a recent board meeting, claiming that it was not being “rammed through”. Clearly that was not the impression of a majority of those who spoke out at that meeting, nor is it the impression of this observer either. While I do not endorse any specific plan for consolidation, I encourage concerned village residents to attend more meetings and speak out against what they rightly perceive as a quick and dirty effort to place the question of dissolution on the ballot.

I also sincerely encourage concerned residents to watch this group of trustees very carefully, Mark Galasso and Bob LaPietra in particular. In large part, it is apathy that has led us to this point, especially with regard to LaPietra’s election last November.

However, that so many spoke out against their plans for consolidation bodes well for this coming election. I won’t get into endorsing specific candidates here, but it is obviously time for a change, and for voters to redeem themselves after last year’s fiasco in which they elected a man who is a confessed perjurer, a slumlord and a non-village resident to the Board of Trustees. I don’t know; it may be time to raise the bar, just a little.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Clearly that was not the impression of a majority of those who spoke out at that meeting..."

You make it sound like there was an overflow crowd. The old "over the hill" crowd was well represented by the inestimable, ego-maniac Theodore Brinkman(gives new meaning to the Obama phrase "Bitter Clingers"). This guy along with McGuire and Gilmore did more harm to the Village during their 10year run than Galasso ,LaPietra and Sellers could ever hope to do. Brinkman should go the way of McGuire and just slither away and find some charity work. His rantings are just regurgitations of the drivel he listens to at his "Septuagenarian Koffee Klatch". Time to move on "Big Teddy"--- let the next generation clean up the mess you made.

Marfis said...

The struggle is between the Nike philosophy (Just do it!) and examining financial projections and facts as revealed by the CGR study and other literature as Ted Brinkman, Brian Kaiser, Sandy MacKay and others are willing to make the effort to do.

"All change is not growth; as all movement is not forward."
Ellen Glasgow

Sean said...

As a variant to the Ellen Glasgow quote, I would add that newer and younger does not necessarily mean better. I think it is unfair to compare the damage done by Brinkman, McGuire and Gilmore to that done by LaPietra and Galasso. Galasso's had only four years and LaPietra has had only a few months. But given enough time and control of the Board of Trustees I'm sure they will rack up a pretty awful resume of screw-ups. If the past few months are any indication their damage should be quite impressive. Just give them time.

Paying Taxes & Attention said...

I'm not convinced that there is any money to be saved nor efficiencies to be gained.

I'm hopeful that the recent actions of Galasso and LaPietra will compel the voters to think long and hard about who they vote for in the upcoming mayoral race.

Seems to me like a vote for Nadeau will not be a vote for CHANGE, but rather a vote for more of the same.

That is, more of Galasso pushing forward to "scrap the entire village concept and start over" and more of LaPietra the puppet, agreeing with whatever he is told to agree with.

Two developers and a puppet, voting together every chance they get. That's some scary stuff.

Sean said...

Yeah, the relative merits need to be hashed out some more, but there certainly is no compelling case to be made for dissolution based solely on any demonstrable financial benefits...

and you're right about Galasso and Nadeau, but give LaPietra a little more credit. He is more than capable of initiating terrible ideas all on his own, i.e. fees for codes complaints.

Anonymous said...

The Brinkman Maguire,Gilmore era maybe done with and should be but that dont mean the new rainbow is with this dissolution propsal.These guys are for the looks good and feels good now which is the climate they work and deal in. boy are we goin to miss ted kennedy

Anonymous said...

Ha, I just saw that village board meeting on Scopeg. Man that Donna Lavine looks like the crypt keeper!

http://media.movieweb.com/news/10.2007/crypt.jpg

Anonymous said...

http://media.movieweb.com/news/10.2007/crypt.jpg

Pedro said...

Why is there a "dissolution" committee and a "city status" committee? Aren't these two ideas close enough to warrant a joint venture. Seems like we might need to form a committee to study what types of committees we need to form.

ChadBroChill said...

I know bro! You know what I mean? I mean like seriously bro!

Anonymous said...

can anyone in this town say "conflict of interest"

Ben Sedated said...

Conflicts of interest in Schoharie County are like tulips in Holland. Galasso, LaPetra, West, Terry, Loder, VanWormer, Schofoe, the list goes on and on, and on, and on....

Anonymous said...

Boy...once the main author of this blog moved to Oregon all his concern for this area faded away real quick.

wrabbel wrowzer said...

PLEASE, PEOPLE.....GO VOTE ON TUESDAY!

Anonymous said...

the day b4 election and no comment from our banjo pickin' brethern. This blog sucks. Someone should take it over who gives a shit.

Voice crying in the wilderness said...

Voting made very simple.

If you like lawlessness and backroom meetings...If you want the village of cobleskill to turn into a bump on route 7 through a streetscape that looks like Latham (Latham NOW, not when Latham shopping centers were filled with stores)...vote for Galasso, Nadeau, Hotaling. (The Angle guy's just a half-stewed troll.)

If you vote for MacKay, things will not go blazing forward but with CPI getting energized and getting the businesses INTERESTED in doing business, you'll see some progress that will benefit the village.
Not BLAZING FORWARD means there's no exploding fireball when it hits the wall.

voice wit5hering on the tax vine said...

I believe in smart growth which should be a compromise. If you want to see cows and pastures get off of Route 7 and take a joy ride in the country. Route 7 should be for commercial development. BTW we don't need a sidewalk issue two blocking the next developer. Want to carry a 2x4 from a lumber yard go to Brazil!

Anonymous said...

BYE BYE SANDY--- We are goin to miss you ---not.

Paying Taxes and Attention said...

Knowing that I would be about 1,500 miles away from home on Election Day, I voted via an absentee ballot. Here's hoping that my one vote gives Tom what he needs to win the race. Nothing would make me happier. Well, Sandy winning might have made me happier, but that ship seems to have sailed.

Friends of the people said...

A new county blog:

http://schohariecounty.wordpress.com/

Time to bring change to the county!!

Sean said...

Geez guys, I've been really busy lately and, believe it or not, I've actually been trying to have more of a social life. But don't worry, I haven't forgotten about everyone.

dede ssccozzaafavabean said...

You are a day late and a dollar short. If you can't keep up with the times than turn it over to someone who can. This started out as a great site and for what ever reason ( moving to bum fuck egypt) it needs some TLC (total loving conservatism). So take your "social life" and stuff it-----we want news.

nANCY vANDEUSEN said...

63% to 37% in an election (Nadeau v.Mckay) is a veritable bitch slap. So you liberal fucks take a hike--- the people have spoken. Lowe's ,Hannaford, and any big box ---please call--- we aRE OPEN FOR BUSINESS.

Friends of the people said...

http://schohariecounty.wordpress.com/

Anonymous said...

Lapietra stays!! He was put there by the will fo the people and should leave when he feels like it.If any other board member doesn't like it remember the madgic # is 3 and that is what the voters use to keep all in balance on the board . TO FOOL WITH THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE WOULD BE POLITCAL SUICIDE.Remember just because the TJ spoke out on him they also spoke for him in his petion with support. How would you board members like the TJ to turn on you.Remember that ink they use is easy to come buy and hard to erase!

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Anonymous said...

what exactly does the cobleskiller mean, really, i don't get it

Sean said...

Neither did I, so I changed it back.