Monday, June 30, 2014

'Atta Boy, Ed......

 I've read some really dumb stuff in my day, but our Deputy Supervisor's Post today in the Times Union is really over the top.  So I decided to post it here so our loyal readers could have at it.  Here's the first question you know what due diligence is?  You and your buddies haven't tested the numbers on the slick brochures from the developers, have you?  You don't even know whether the proposed land can make it through the environmental reviews.  There's an aquifer up there, and federal wetlands.  It's zoned R-B.  There are traffic issues, sewer, water, storm water, police, fire, EMT questions which haven't been asked or answered yet.  That's the content of due diligence Mr. Deputy Supervisor.  And you have not gotten one commitment from the developer except perhaps election campaign support. 

So here it is from Ed Gilbert is all his legendary glory:

"I am for the East Greenbush casino and I’ll tell you why. Regardless of what you read on some of the other blogs, the fact remains this is a $300 million economic improvement to East Greenbush. Even if the estimates are half of what they are right now East Greenbush stands to benefit tremendously.
There are those who say that East Greenbush leadership hasn’t done its due diligence. What they fail to comprehend is that commercial development is part of the everyday activity of municipal government. When you have dealt with commercial developers day in and day out there are certain givens that you understand right away. One of which is a 300 million dollar development is a good thing. It brings jobs, it brings revenue and it brings ancillary benefits as well.
I am more than a little sick and tired of the blogs on East Greenbush intimating that the leadership has no idea what it’s doing when it comes to planning for a casino in the town. Those who understand the process know perfectly well that things are going exactly as they should be. I am talking specifically about the East Greenbush Gadfly blog and East Greenbush Talks blog.
These two blogs have made it their mission take cheap shots at the leadership of East Greenbush.  The Gadfly blog is strictly against the casino and the Talks blog is strictly against Keith Langley and the Republican majority. Both of them have their own individual axes to grind and in my humble opinion neither of them should be taken seriously. There is a small third blog that is gaining traction in East Greenbush. Egknows has squared off against both blogs, and while their first post seems antagonistic we hope for better stuff from them in the future.
But back to my original theme.  The casino in East Greenbush is a great thing for our town.  It’s been argued that “thousands” are against this casino (it’s actually closer to hundreds-low hundreds). I’ve been to every hearing, every Town meeting and I’ve knocked on doors throughout the town. While those against the casino have been the vocal minority they seem to think that their ratio of for and against at hearings stands for the whole town.
Most of those that I have heard against the casino at East Greenbush are either from Best Road, Mannix Road, Thompson Hill or have children that attend the Montessori school or the Girl Scout camp. These are what are commonly referred to as Not In My Backyard. While I sympathize with their plight I think it’s irresponsible for any municipality to allow the tail to wag the dog. The leadership must do what’s in the best interest of all of East Greenbush and that’s what they’re doing. Show me how 1700 construction jobs, 1700 permanent full-time jobs, and the revenue from property taxes and the gate are bad thing and I will reconsider – but I doubt you can."

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Time for Feathers to Fold'em

"You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run......"

Read this article from exactly a year ago and then tell anybody who will listen why we should listen to Feathers and Rita this year.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Wonder Why, Sue?

Well here are some of the reasons:

1)  You all kept the casino initiative secret from the citizens of the Town, and sprung it on us with a late starting Resolution on April 16th. 
2)  There was no due diligence. You didn't do any homework before voting on that Resolution.  You really forgot who you worked for. 
3)  You refused to engage the massive amounts of research sent to you related to the effects of casinos on communities.  In the prepared statements that three of you read after your vote on Thursday, not one of you addressed any of that literature.  You could have at least addressed the report of the Comptroller of the State of New York.
4)  You violated the Open Meetings Law by scheduling your Thursday meeting at an unnecessarily inconvenient time, in a room too small to accommodate those who wanted to attend, and did not provide for the ability of those attending to hear the proceedings or to speak. 
5)  Your meetings with the developer's representatives centered around stifling opposition and withholding information.  There was even a suggestion of not holding a public meeting until after June 30th.  What's reflected in those meetings is how the Town staff can best carry out the agenda and purposes of the casino developers. 
6)  The only information you got was PowerPoints and glossy mailers, just like the rest of us.
7)  Nobody has yet to crunch any REAL numbers related to the promises.  Supervisor Langley told a taxpayer that the Town would not have to hire any new law enforcement staff.  The Town cops say 16 new FTE's. 
8)  In this connection, what gives with regard to reducing the hotel rooms from 300 to 150?  No revenue effect?  Gimme a break.

That's just for starters.  You five Board members didn't ask any relevant questions.  You refused to engage on real issues.  You got into partisan and personal lock-step, put on your blinders and forged "ahead."  

You couldn't have given a better political gift to those who want to get rid of Machine politics in East Greenbush. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Town Board breaks faith with the People - Again

---------  By Jack Conway

The Town Board has scheduled a Special Meeting for Thursday, June 12 at 4:30 p.m. to consider a site specific resolution to support a casino on Thompson Hill in East Greenbush.  The reason for this Special Meeting only six days before the regularly scheduled June meeting is either that the board's bosses at Saratoga Casino and Raceway told them to get a move on or the Smart Way Forward has decided it will conduct all important business as far away from the public eye as possible.  They settled a $65,000 age discrimination suit against the Supervisor and appointed an entire Board of Ethics in this manner.  Now it looks like they're ready to ignore the fact that 83 of the 106 people who spoke at the last board meeting and public hearing spoke against the casino and approve this monstrosity.   Otherwise, why would they duck into the shadows to take this vote?

One unfortunate turn of events for Rita Cox, er I mean Keith Langley, is that Phil Malone and Sue Mangold tricked Mary Ann Matters into agreeing to allow public comment at Special Meetings so if you are able to make the meeting, please come ready to tell our elected representatives how you feel about the casino and the underhanded way they continue to handle the most important matter to ever come before this town.  Saratoga's application for the Casino at East Greenbush is due at the Resort Gaming Facilities Location Board on June 30th so the Supervisor better have a good reason to declare this matter time-sensitive enough to schedule a Special Meeting when the regular meeting will be held in plenty of time.  It almost seems like they're afraid the public will show up in even greater numbers on Wednesday to demonstrate displeasure over the fact that our elected representatives have vacated their vows of office and now work for a corporate entity hell bent on destroying this town.

Are people aware that Saratoga Casino and Raceway has to submit an analysis of the environmental impact and costs to the town of this project with their application?  Where are those analyses?  Have members of the town board seen them?  If so, why do they think it's okay to shill for the PR drivel that passes for the revenue benefits to the town but haven't seen fit to share the truth about a casino's impact with us?  If they haven't seen them, how dare they make a decision without that information?  Other towns have pushed their casino developers to the wall.  Our town board rolled over.

Keith Langley, Mary Ann Matters, Deb DeMartino, Phil Malone, Sue Mangold: it's time to end the madness and vote 'No' in the public interest.  History won't be kind to anyone who casts a 'Yes' vote because even if East Greenbush is not selected to be the site of the Capital Region casino we'll never forget that you tried to sell our town to the highest bidder.  The Save East Greenbush movement has garnered the support of thousands (that's right - thousands) of town residents.  This town is firmly opposed to a casino on Thompson Hill.  In meeting after meeting we have presented evidence documenting the harmful effects of a casino on our town.  The Town Board should vote 'No' not only because it's the right thing to do but because they know they haven't done their due diligence and even this bunch can't believe there's any honor in making the most important decision in town history without knowing all the facts.

Save East Greenbush, vote "No" on Thursday.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Some things to think about......

I was just getting ready to do a new Post about why the County Republicans are dumping on East Greenbush again, when the material below came in from an anonymous friend.  It raises some interesting points and helps to see things in perspective.  I don't think there is any question that our local Pols got snookered.  They're just not that bright, and they started chasing rainbows and had visions of being municipal saviors.  And the County people pushing this East Greenbush option are just not that bright either. 

Here's the anonymous contribution to the discussion: 

"Perhaps it is time to step back for a second and evaluate this scenario objectively.  I don't mean stop opposing, just review some valid points.

1.) The number one siting criteria, weighted to 70% of the decision is economic need and benefit.  Is there anyone in the Capital Region, including Cuomo himself, that is prepared to make the argument that East Greenbush has a greater economic need than Rensselaer or Schenectady?  Also, don't forget that economically challenged Amsterdam is still in the hunt and possibly Howes Cave.  By virtue of the siting criteria that his own board established, East Greenbush should be out of the running.

2.) East Greenbush has yet to vote; however, the hurdles that this site has to overcome are significant.  They can talk all they want about new roads and exits off of I90, but the odds of that happening in the time frame required to open a casino are slim.  In a perfect world, completing SEQRA alone would take a long time.

3.) It really doesn't matter if this was a republican or a democratic proposal, the republicans are fools if they approve a casino in a residential neighborhood in long standing republican district.  They have severely underestimated the opposition and their own people if they think this is going to be embraced in any significant way in a residential neighborhood.  Locate it in a more remote area with less of an impact and fine, but there?

4.) Anyone who believe that this group, chose this site because of that view is fooling themselves.  They were desperate to have a site they could apply with and were grasping at straws when they rolled the dice on that site.  This deal was engineered by the few who benefit and have benefitted for years and it's likely that the old guard democrats suckered the republicans into thinking they'd be the savors of East Greenbush with this place.  GOP gets the black eye and the dems sit back... pretty slick.

5.) The big loser in all of this will ultimately be the NYS Lottery system, not horse racing.  OTB and the harness track and horse bettors are a different breed than casino gamblers. Casino gamblers are slot machine people.  They can't get that thrill on line.  They will take their ten to twenty dollars per day that they spend on lottery tickets and use that to play the slots and likely win just about as often.  Casino gamblers go to brick and mortar casinos because there is a thrill associated with it an they justify it as entertainment.  Where else can you go, play with the same twenty dollars for a couple of hours, maybe win, maybe lose, but get a free drink and be around the excitement.  That is the mindset of a gambler.  This is a little more than a shift of gambling dollars.  No whales will be high rolling in East greenbush so the notion that the revenue is going to be through the roof or that our taxes will go down any percent, let alone thirty percent, is just marketing fluff.

6.) The developers in East Greenbush have not been truthful and should be suspect at this point.  When they tell an assembled crowd that no one is interested in Rensselaer and that it is too small, what do they say when there is actually a proposal, from a bigger player, on that site.  They also fail to mention that they were interested in the site as well.

7.)  Everyone says this is a political deal and the Governor will put it where he wants to.  Really?  Didn't he get in trouble not too long ago by trying to steer the work to a friend of his for work on the Tappanzee?  Too many eyes on this to allow the Governor to interfere.  He ain't the best guy, but he also can't afford a black eye before or after the election if he has national aspirations and who wants a guy who ignores the girl scouts of America running their country?!

One last note.  To anyone who has watched the casino industry or witnessed where they typically site casinos, name a location where they have sited one in an affluent community, in a residential neighborhood, where it is somewhat congested.  Name one.  Even Rensselaer doesn't fit that criteria all that well other than economic need.

Casinos are typically located in depressed areas where property values are already way down or in areas where there is nothing around.  The four other sites noted in this process so far, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Amsterdam/Florida and Howe Caves all are better candidates than East Greenbush.  The East Greenbush proposal was a desperate attempt by a guy who thought he had a lock in Saratoga.  Even Saratoga, by the way the siting criteria is written, wouldn't get the ultimate nod.  Let's try not to ignore the obvious.  Cuomo and people at the state level know everything we know about the detriment of casinos.  In fact, Uncle Mario is likely warning his son about the backlash this can have on his political career if he puts it in the wrong place.

No folks, the play here is to locate a casino in the spot that can have the least impact on your reputation and/or the spot that begs for it the hardest so that in the end they can't cry foul that the State crammed it down their throats.  This is not a done deal in East Greenbush and the louder the opposition gets, the more likely the siting board will avoid it."

Friday, June 6, 2014

Immaculate Conception?

Well, I got my FOIL response today.  A month ago I asked for material detailing contact between Town officials, contractors and/or employees with the Casino corporation or its various identities.  I also asked for material that the Town Board had used to educate itself with regard to casinos before its vote on the Resolution of April 16th. 

Supervisor Langley and Deputy Supervisor Gilbert did not submit any material responsive to the FOIL request.  There was no response at all from anyone with regard to the educational material.

With regard to the contacts with casino people, the first documented contact was April 23rd.  That’s a week after the Resolution.  This raises the obvious question.  Where did that Resolution come from?  Immaculate Conception, right?   Langley and Gilbert won’t respond to the FOIL request about contacts with casino people and the Resolution appears a week before the documented contact.  I’d say that they are hiding.  Just can’t tell the truth.  Atta boy, Ethics Chair. 

Bottom line – Langley and Gilbert refuse to disclose their contacts.  We know from other sources that contacts were in place at least as early as February with the police and the Planning Board. 

So we’ve got the Supe and his Dep and probably the Rep Chair cooking up a deal with Feathers and maybe some other local machine players secretly, and then springing it on the people of the Town. 

This is not acceptable performance from elected officials on a matter which would change the total character of our Town. 

Sunday, June 1, 2014

What did they know, and when did they know it? That was the Watergate question.

According to Supervisor Langley quoted in an April 24th TU story by Chris Churchill, the April 16th resolution had to be added late because the developer called only a few days prior.  “We had conversations of interest, nothing more than that, with Saratoga Casino and Raceway,….that’s what led this resolution to be put together.” 

Well I have direct knowledge from an EG Cop and second hand knowledge from an EG Planning Board member that this thing was known to them in February.  What do you make of that? 

And then you have the land purchase entity Greenbush Associates LLC changing its name from Greenbush Casino Associates LLC in February.  What do you make of that? 

Does anyone make a land purchase for several million (according to a TU story by Ken Crowe, the Village at Thompson Hill loaned the developers $3 million for the purchase) requiring significant zoning change and environmental evaluation without receiving “assurances” that these can be taken care of?  What do you make of that?

Well, I think I can assure the Town Board and the casino developers that this is not going to be as simple as getting a Final Plat Approval from the Chairman of the Planning Board without a meeting and without a Resolution as was done in January for the Thompson Way Development.  (See the commentary by Dwight Jenkins on this one.) 

The fact is that the Town Board (and I’d say Planning and Zoning at least) went secret in February, intending to slip this thing by without telling anyone.  Well this is too big a deal to rely on the likes of DeFruscio and Gilbert and the “shot callers” on the Dem side for insight.  The most experienced of you have little more than two years of municipal government experience.  And you’re up against some of the slickest snake oil salesmen and women in the business.  You got taken and have almost taken us with you, and we’re pissed.  But there’s a chance for redemption……

Enter the Comptroller of the State of New York with a hard look at the claims of the developers in the light of State financial policy.  His report, released Friday, raises some serious questions across the whole spectrum of claims by the developers of benefits to communities.  A good summary is by Casey Seiler in the Times Union at this link: 

(There’s a link to the full report at the end of the story.)

Here’s an important piece of the story:

“…….However, while new casinos will attract people from out-of-state, much of the betting and revenue will come from New York residents. Such activity primarily represents substitution of spending on casino gambling for other consumer purchases or spending at other existing gaming venues, such as OTB centers.
Because of this substitution effect, estimates of employment and revenue gains from new casinos must reflect potential losses and transfers of existing consumer spending. The report found that while some net employment gain is expected, some existing jobs are likely to be lost as well. The state Division of the Budget’s (DOB) estimate of 2,900 permanent new jobs and 6,700 temporary construction jobs is a net figure that assumes certain losses of existing jobs….”

As Jack Conway pointed out on Talks, if DOB is talking about a net increase state-wide of 2,900 jobs, how does that square with the 1,700 Feathers and Rita are promising East Greenbush when there are to be 3 additional facilities and the one at Exit 15B on the Thruway is to be a destination resort. 

And here’s a good explanation of “where the money comes" from that flows through a casino.  It’s a comment on FaceBook about Mr. DiNapoli’s report.  If you do nothing else, read it and understand what it is saying.  It’s from a guy named Kyle Newcomb:
“Good for Dinapoli. The dynamic, though obvious, needs to be explained over and over so the promises of the casino forces are clearly seen for what they are. No new discretionary spending suddenly appears among a populace just because a casino is built. Dollar for dollar what is spent at a casino IS NOT spent elsewhere AND WORSE the multiplier effect of that spending is less - meaning, how much gets churned throughout various businesses in the economy diminishes. To believe a casino will be an economic boon you have to believe this detrimental effect will be more than overcome by tourists foregoing Connecticut, The Poconos, The Catskills and even places like Atlantic City, Las Vegas, and resorts in the Caribbean for Albany in February.”