Upstate NY

Reformers Praise Syracuse Transparency Policy

The good-government organization Reclaim New York on Thursday praised the transparency steps being taken by Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner.

“At every level of government, proactive citizen oversight is needed to fight against corruption, waste, and abuse,” said the group’s executive director, Brandon Muir. “A strong Open Data policy, like the one the Mayor has proposed, allows citizens to see on demand how their government is operating, and better hold officials accountable.”

Miner, who is due to leave office this year because of term limits, has occasionally been named as a possible candidate for the state Senate or even governor. She has had a strained relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has come under criticism for his own transparency record.

“There is a night and day difference between a government with Open Data standards, and one without them,” Muir said. “That is why Reclaim New York includes such a policy in our transparency indicators, which provide a road map for local governments to become more accessible.”

Sen. Jacobs: Assembly Bill Will Kill Ride-Hailing Effort

From the Morning Memo:

State Sen. Chris Jacobs, a Buffalo Republican, is not pleased with the Assembly ride-hailing legislation that was introduced at the end of last week, saying he believes the intent of the measure is kill the ride-hailing effort in upstate altogether.

In a statement released last night, Jacobs criticized the insurance requirements the Assembly wants for Uber and Lyft drivers, which he says is more than ten times the level downstate drivers are required to have when they have a passenger in their personal vehicles.

“This legislation includes incredibly burdensome insurance provisions, the highest ridesharing taxes in the nation and unworkable regulations that would completely undermine the ability of ridesharing to work in Upstate and Western New York,” the senator said.

Jacobs said individual municipalities should not be expected to design their own regulations, even though some local elected leaders have said they support that idea.

“We have 23 municipalities just in Erie County,” Jacobs noted. “If each one has its own rules and regulations that would make ridesharing completely unworkable.”

Jacobs said the Assembly should go back to the table and pass a more “reasonable” and “workable” bill. The Senate passed its ride-hailing bill more than a month ago, and the governor has indicated he would like to see a solution to this issue – which eluded lawmakers last year – worked out as part of the budget.

Incidentally, New York is now the only state in the continental United States not to allow ride-booking apps like Uber statewide. Wyoming, the only other holdout below the 48th parallel, last weekend legalized the app’s operation following the governor’s signature on a bill authorizing it there.

Remington Arms Layoffs 122 In Ilion

Our colleagues at TWC News in central New York report:

Remington Arms has laid off 122 people from its Ilion site.

This has been confirmed by the village’s mayor who says he was given the news by the plant manager Wednesday.

He was told the layoffs are a result of slow sales.

Mayor Terry Leonard says there are now less than 1,000 people employed at the facility.

Assemblyman Brian Miller, a Republican who represents the area, blamed the gun control law known as the SAFE Act for the layoffs.

“This is upsetting. It’s very troubling that 122 of our neighbors have lost their jobs due to poor economic policies pushed by Gov. Cuomo and Assembly Democrats as well as the SAFE Act,” Miller said. “Make no mistake, there is a direct correlation. My staff and I remain fully committed to helping those affected by layoffs and will assist them and their families in any way we can.”

Syracuse: No Plans To Change Sanctuary City Status

As President Donald Trump’s administration signals its intent to cut off federal funding to cities that have pledged to not coordinated with federal law enforcement on immigrant policies, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner in a statement on Wednesday said she does not plan to reverse course on the issue.

“The resources of the City of Syracuse, including the Syracuse Police Department, are not being used to enforce federal anti-immigrant policies nor are they empowered to do so,” Miner said.

“We do not intend to change this practice and will scrutinize any proposed changes at the federal level thoroughly. I pledge we will continue Syracuse’s commitment to our New American residents, building the trust and relationships our neighbors deserve and continue to treat them with the dignity and respect they deserve. Syracuse is now and always will be a City that bids you welcome.”

The move could hamstring cities that rely on federal funding for a variety of essential services. Attorney General Eric Schneiederman earlier this month provided a legal guidance to cities in New York that have passed measures designed to not coordinate with certain immigration enforcement efforts from the federal government.

Schneiderman in a separate statement questioned Trump’s authority to issue the order, urging him to revoke it.

“The President lacks the constitutional authority to cut off funding to states and cities simply because they have lawfully acted to protect immigrant families — as described in the legal guidance my office issued last week,” Schneiderman said. “Local governments seeking to protect their immigrant communities from federal overreach have every right to do so.”

Cuomo Says He Loves All Upstate Cities The Same

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-NY, rejected accusations he’s picking winners and losers in Upstate New York. This, as the governor continues to travel across the state rallying support for his proposed budget.

Two weeks ago, Cuomo was in the midst of another tour, presenting his state of the state in six different regions. By his own Regional Economic Development Council model though, the state splits ten different ways.

Elected leaders in areas like the Mohawk Valley and the Finger Lakes regions openly questioned why they seemed to be ignored. The governor said there was no scenario where everybody would be happy.

“I didn’t do it in every city all across the state because it’s not physically possible to do it in every city all across the state,” Cuomo said.

In the past two days, he’s made his way to the North Country and Rochester covering some of the areas he initially passed over. Reporters in Rochester asked Cuomo if he could truly claim parity even as he proposing another $500 million in economic development funding for Western New York, an area that already famously received the Buffalo Billion.

The governor went into a long metaphor about how buying one of his daughters a computer for Christmas had caused tension in his household, but it didn’t mean he loved any of his children more than the others.

“One daughter got a computer because she needed the computer and it was not a sign of additional love. I love Rochester. I love Buffalo. I love Syracuse. I love Utica. I love them all same, to the maximum amount,” he said.

Cuomo added, while it did not receive as much fanfare, the state has contributed significant dollars to Rochester as well and he is proposing hundreds of millions more in this budget.

Lawmakers Say They Raised Red Flag Over Utica Nano Project

State lawmakers from the Utica area had been trying to warn Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration of problems with an anchor tenet for a major economic development project backed by the state in the area.

Amid a series of delays and funding problems, the Austrian-based firm pulled out of the project.

Lawmakers from the area say they had sought unsuccessfully to raise red flags with the project since the 2016 budget season.

“Our beef has been for the last year we’ve been trying to direct the governor’s attention and his staff on this project because there were problems as far back as the beginning of the budget season last year,” said Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi in a Capital Tonight interview. “We met in March with the governor’s staff alerting him of problems with this project. There were breach letters sent by the company that were given to the governor’s people over the summertime.”

Watch the full interview here.

The Austrian-based AMS pulled out as an anchor tenet for the SUNY nano project in November, which had been part of an effort to replicate the success of the Albany-based SUNY Polytechnic. At the time, state officials cast blame on the corruption arrest of ex-SUNY Poly President Alain Kaloyeros, along with a former aide to Cuomo and prominent upstate developers accused of rigging bids.

Brindisi said he mentioned the issues again with the governor personally when he appeared at the State Fair outside of Syracuse during the summer.

“He said he would look into this and get back to us next week, which he did not,” he said. “He had some staff get back to us. But by then, things were already veering off the track.”

Report: New York Loses More Residents

The state’s population declined for the first time in a decade, losing 191,367 people to other states in the year ending last July 1, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent population estimates.

Or, put another way by the Empire Center: New York’s net migration loss is equivalent to nearly the entire population of the city of Yonkers. And it’s the largest drop for New York since 2007.

From EJ McMahon at the Empire Center:

It brings New York’s total outflow over the last six years to 846,669 people—more than any other state’s, both in absolute terms and as a share of population as measured by the 2010 census.

As of July 1, New York’s estimated population of 19,745,289 was down 1,894 people from a year earlier. While the decrease was slight—just 0.01 percent—2015-16 marks the first year since 2005-06 in which New York State’s estimated population dropped by any amount.

This likely means New York will lose at least one seat in the House of Representatives in the next round of re-apportionment, where the state currently has 27 members.

Biz Council Praises Schuyler County Officials’ Backing Of Propane Storage Plan

A controversial propane storage plan has received the thumbs up from the Schuyler County Council of Governments — a move that’s being cheered by the state Business Council on Tuesday.

The Crestwood storage project on Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region has been bitterly opposed by environmental groups and some residents who say it could have adverse impact on the water.

But officials at the multigovernment body backed the plan as a vehicle for job creation and urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration to back the approval.

“The Business Council commends the Schuyler County Council of Governments for unanimously passing a resolution that supports Crestwood’s proposed propane storage facility in Reading,” said Darren Suarez, the Business Council’s director of government relations. “Crestwood’s plan will not only create local jobs and boost community tax revenue; the new facility will serve as a strategic propane reserve providing reliable and affordable heating fuel for New York homes and businesses.”

The hope from supporters of the storage plan is that this will spur other local governments to back the measure. The council is composed of local municipalities.

That local pressure, in turn, could put pressure on the state government’s environmental regulators.

“Now it’s time for the state to do its work and approve Crestwood’s storage project without any further delay,” Suarez said. “Propane has been stored in the Finger Lakes for more than 60 years, including at U.S. Salt for two decades. Furthermore, this summer Crestwood took it upon itself to amend its plan in order to address the concerns of local residents. The fact remains that the community needs reliable and affordable supplies of heating fuel and they’ve been forced to wait nine years for this project. We are hopeful the county’s resolution will encourage the state to move forward and approve Crestwood’s storage facility.”

Cuomo Says Voters Need To Push Lawmakers For Ride-Hailing

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-New York, is on the record in support of ride-hailing services for upstate New York, but he made clear Tuesday that companies like Uber and Lyft need more than just his endorsement.

“It’s going to take the people of Upstate New York to call up their legislator and say, ‘Hello, Do you want me to vote for you? Then get me Uber in Upstate New York,” he said.

Cuomo said if people upstate want the service, they should tell their legislators not to come back from Albany until legislation is passed. As for the pressure he could put on lawmakers, the governor said it only goes so far.

“I’ll do my part in January, but my part only works when I have the people behind me. I can call an Upstate legislator and say I think you should do this. that’s nice, but when voters call, when constituents call, that’s what political power’s all about,” he said.

Cuomo Touts Upstate Airport Renovation Plans

New York State is doling out $80 million dollars for major renovations at two Upstate airports. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-NY, visited Elmira and Rochester Wednesday to make the announcements.

Cuomo said there were 16 total applicants for the state funding as part of the Upstate Airport Economic Development and Revitalization competition, held in May.

“Airports today are different than they were ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. They’re destinations in and of themselves. The economy is a global economy and the airports in a global economy serve a different purpose,” Cuomo told reporters in Rochester

The Rochester International Airport will receive $40 million from the state and fund $23 million in renovations locally. Its plans include a wide-scale redesign of the terminal, incorporating sustainable elements like solar panels, and new retail dining options.

“The plans were very good from the beginning. Of course we worked with the community over the course of a couple months on some of the nuances of the plans but frankly their plan really jumped out at us,” NYS Dept. of Transportation Commissioner Matt Driscoll said.

Elmira, meanwhile, will fund another $18 million dollars locally. Its plans, while similar to Rochester’s, include increasing capacity to handle larger aircrafts, adding a second baggage claim and additional parking spaces.

“This is about business, economic development, and having that front door that welcomes business and says this is a region that is growing,” Cuomo said.