Unatego Area Landowners Association
Governor Cuomo’s recent flotilla down the Delaware River to promote tourism was simply a distraction from the problems plaguing New York.
Last week Governor Cuomo took his annual river rafting photo-op to the Delaware River to promote tourism. He brought plenty of company on his white water adventure, with over a dozen rafts and canoes filled with staff, state police, ancillary politicians, river guides, and, of course, the press. It was 45 minutes before the last trooper’s canoe shoved off and the press went home. The event got good coverage. The message was that the Delaware River Valley is beautiful. Maybe the publicity will bring some tourists. Upstate can use all the help it can get.
Eight of us pro-gas development folks (five adults, three kids) stood on the opposite bank of the Delaware about 300 yards downriver from the Governor’s flotilla. We too had a message – Upstate New York needs more than an up-tick in tourism. We need permanent jobs so ordinary people can make a living. Summer canoe rentals aren’t going to cut it.
So, as the Big Kahuna stroked by, our signs told him, “Paychecks, Not Paddlers, Guv! – Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! – Gas = Jobs” and a few more in the same vein. We shouted our message to the paddlers. The paddlers waved their oars in answer. Forty five minutes later, it was over.
On the way home through Youngsville, White Sulfur Springs, and Liberty, the houses had an abandoned look with peeling paint and “For Sale” signs in the yards. The towns and villages were lifeless with empty stores that even a sunny day couldn’t brighten. It was sad, but I couldn’t put it all together until later at the end of the day.
The starting point of my reflection was a guy sitting next to me at birthday party the weekend before. He told me he’s starting a bluestone “factory” in Deposit. He’s rehabbing an abandoned building, installing new equipment, and hiring twenty five local workers. The man’s also a logger. “I cut down trees and I blast and cut stone,” he told me. “The trees build houses and make pianos, baseball bats, you name it. The stone can be customized into kitchen counter tops and whatever you need bluestone for. I’m putting money up front, taking a chance, but I want to see our area come back.”
His daughter and three grandchildren were on the banks of the Delaware with us on Thursday. Her husband’s a carpenter who travels an hour and a half to work every day when there is work, standard for union people up here. “I don’t want my husband to have to look for work that far away,” she said. “When my kids get grow up, I want their future to be here in Delaware County, not downstate or Kentucky”
When I got home a young welder called to deliver a bench I had asked him to put together. I had shown him a picture of the bench published in an architectural magazine, an Italian design with clean, modern lines. The young man took the dimensions, went home to his workshop, and was ready to deliver product two days later. He has a skill he can take anywhere (he got his API-1104 pipeline certification through a Constitution Pipeline grant) but he chooses to teach others at the local BOCES. We got to talking, with me suggesting tubular steel furniture might be a sideline business. He said that was a possibility but he just interviewed for a welding job with a contractor who was rehabbing a bluestone factory in Deposit. It is summer work and a long haul from Oneonta to Deposit, but the pay’s good.
It’s a small world but it got smaller.
That night my son calls from Santa Monica, CA, for our weekly run down of who’s-doing-what. I tell him about the Governor’s flotilla to boost summertime rafting, our effort to let the Governor know we need steady jobs, the travel time it takes to get and keep steady work up here, and the coincidence of people connected by a bluestone factory. “Blue stone,” my son answers, “I’ve got bluestone around the goldfish pond in the backyard. Paid a lot of money for it. We had to ship it from New York.”
It all came together – Adam Smith’s “virtuous circle.” That’s how the “virtuous circle” works. An entrepreneur sees an opportunity and takes a chance, buys an old building to mill bluestone, pays people to fix it up, pays other people to install machinery, hires workers, makes a good product, and sells that desirable product to folks in Santa Monica who pay a lot of money to put bluestone around their goldfish ponds. Everybody benefits, even the state, which collects taxes at several points on this circle.
How it doesn’t work is have a Governor float down a river pretending he’s doing something for Upstate New York when he’s really an obstacle to progress.
Cheap energy is the linchpin for economic revival/survival of Upstate New York. It has served that role in society since the invention of the water wheel. As low-cost gas has replaced coal throughout much of the United States, driving CO2 emissions to 20 year lows, Governor Cuomo’s crony capitalist friends have sought to keep gas in the ground in order to drive prices up while making a bundle in subsidized, tax-abated, goal-mandated renewable energy. Those crony capitalists have a friend in Albany. He has served them well by banning drilling and shutting down pipelines.
It’s no wonder the Buffalo Billion has caught the attention of Federal Prosecutor Preet Bharara. In Buffalo the $750 million tax payer gift to Solar City, a favored renewable company, has created construction opportunities for the favored few. The Request for Proposals (RFP) was so narrowly defined that only one bidder could meet the qualifications. Just happens that the one bidder was Governor Cuomo’s major campaign contributor.
Mercantilism was so much easier in Adam Smith’s time. The King just named the winner. Now the winner has to go to the trouble of submitting rigged RFPs. The outcome’s the same, however. The “favored few” win.
Go get him, Preet! The Governor shouldn’t be floating down the river. He should be going up the river to join his other two pals. Remember “three men in a room?” Change it, Preet. How about “three men in a cell?”
Richard Downey is a retired New York City schoolteacher and a member of the Unatego Board of Education and the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York.