A weblog about the politics and affairs of the old and glorious City of Albany, New York, USA. Articles written and disseminated from Albany's beautiful and historic South End by Daniel Van Riper. If you wish to make a response, have anything to add or would like to make an empty threat, please contact me.
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December 14, 2008
The Big, Stinking Money Funnel
What Jerry’s Dump, the proposed convention center and the War Against Iraq all have in common
The stink is back. Once again, the smell of death is wafting off the Rapp Road Dump. Last year the City of Albany spent Two million taxpayer dollars getting rid of the odor, mostly by throwing a big tarp over the garbage and toxic sludge. It worked for a while, about a year.
But The Two Million Dollar Tarp only suppresses the stink of the sludge underneath. The year’s worth of imported sludge that the City has thrown on top of The Tarp since then is apparently no different than the old lower layer of sludge. It stinks so bad that it keeps people awake at night. It must be time for another tarp.
How bad does it stink? According to official reports from 2007, nearby residents describe the stench as “chemical methane,” “burning garbage,” “strong sulfur,” “rotten eggs,” “like liquid from a garbage truck,” “industrial exhaust,” “skunk smell,” “gassy,” “gross,” “sickening” and “horrible.”
One fine upstanding elderly lady at Avila House, a senior facility that was built right next to The Dump over the strong objections of Save the Pine Bush, told the authorities that inside her apartment it “smells like shit, almost everyday.”
The "Capped" Part Of The Dump Near The Proposed Expansion
Okay people, listen up. I’ve been saying this over and over to anyone unlucky enough to cross my path, but no one seems to hear. It’s the single most important statistic about the Rapp Road Dump. It’s the figure that clarifies understanding of the problems with The Dump, and it is the number that points directly to the ultimate solution.
Nine percent. That’s the maximum amount of crap in that mountain range of waste they call a landfill that comes from City of Albany households. Nine percent. I say “maximum” because nine percent is a figure that is several years old. There’s been more aggressive recycling in the City these past few years, thus the real number is probably lower than nine percent.
You know what that means? At least ninety one percent of that pile of sludge and crap dumped on top of the Pine Bush sand doesn’t have to be there. Stop importing crap, and ninety one percent of our “landfill” problems magically disappear.
Ah, but the City officials say that it’s not that simple, we can’t disengage that easily. The sludge and crap brings in revenue, you see. The City budget, you see, can’t be balanced without imported crap. We dumb simple minded taxpayers aren’t able to understand the business model, you see.
As the fine lady at Avila House might say, this argument “smells like shit.”
Former City comptroller Tom Nitido, speaking at a Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations (CANA) meeting this past October, explained that the net profit from The Dump was “around four or five million dollars.” Yes, we’ve been asking him for years to tell us the real and actual revenue figures for The Dump, but that’s the best he can do. I guess calculating cashflow is all rocket science or something, more than the former comptroller could handle.
Whatever. If The City refuses to give us real and actual figures for The Dump’s outlays and revenue, then we can only assume that the City officials have something to hide. Why such reluctance to tell the truth? Assuming tentatively that we are not talking about dead bodies or a drug money laundering operation, the only conclusion we can draw is that The Dump actually loses money.
Am I wrong? Then the City can shoot down my argument by publishing the real verifiable numbers. Go ahead guys. I dare you.
As for Jennings’ proposed expansion of The Dump further into the Pine Bush, we have a solid figure. It will cost at least $41 million in capital expenditures (bonds plus interest)for the expansion. This is Jerry Jennings’ number, a line item from the City’s proposed budget for 2009.
Let me hammer home this obvious point. Maybe, maybe a $5 million profit, and $41 million in expenditures for what is called a “temporary expansion.” By no stretch of an honest imagination can the profit from The Dump ever pay off the debt incurred. And yet “we need the ‘landfill’ to balance the City budget.”
The Dump As Seen From The Site Of The Proposed Expansion. The Green/Yellow Spot Is The Wife Posing
Whenever I hear Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings or one of his minions say that we can’t give up The Dump because “we need the revenue from the landfill,” I think of George W. Bush babbling about Iraq. We can’t leave now. We can never leave. And things will never change.
In the end, discussing why we need to keep adding imported sludge and crap to The Dump is about as productive as wondering why the United States is fighting a war against Iraq. Or, for that matter, why we need a Convention Center For Suburbanites built on our valuable downtown Albany real estate.
Several local politicians, most notably Assemblyman Jack McEneny and Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, repeatedly say that we need a Convention Center. So do the usual sleazy corporate media shills and content providers. But that’s about it. Almost no one else wants this expensive obscene nonsense that, like The Dump, will never pay for itself.
“We need.” Who exactly is this “we” who “needs” this Con Center?
Community activist and all round trouble maker Tom McPheeters has been spearheading the clumsily named Coalition for Environmental, Educational and Economic Justice (CEEEJ) which was formed in the wake of the Con Center proposal. Basically, all Tom and his group are asking is that at least some of the construction jobs and permanent jobs that will supposedly be generated by the Con Center go to the citizens and taxpayers of the City of Albany.
Nope. The Con Center Authority refuses to commit to reserving any jobs for those of us who have to support this thing. State law compels them to reserve jobs for “minorities” but not for City of Albany residents. Therefore, we can conclude that the Con Center is intended to be a make-work project for suburbanites.
The few but prominent supporters of the Con Center claim that there will be massive collateral benefits to downtown Albany if this boondoggle is built. Baloney.
Every single one of the Con Center proposals are designed so that automobiles can enter and leave from the highway without ever having to come in contact with the City of Albany. That’s how it works nearby with Jim Coyne’s Box, currently called the Hearst Times Union Center. Basically, both the Coyne Box and the proposed Con Center are little more than indoor playgrounds for suburbanites. Neither project adds to the life of the City.
Okay, so you have to wonder. We have The Dump and the proposed Con Center that both cost the taxpayers a fortune and bring no discernible benefits to the citizens of the City of Albany. Indeed, no has been able to demonstrate that either one can provide any discernible benefits to anyone but a select few recipients of public largesse. All we hear are vague allusions and scary threats about what will happen if the authorities don’t get their way.
Jack McEneny, Ron Canestrari, Jerry Jennings
Proud Of Their Con Center
So we come to the heart of the matter, what the local politicians behind these two local boondoggles really want. Everything you’ve heard from them, all the reasons to keep The Dump open and the reasons for imposing the Con Center on the City are simply cover stories. Jennings and McEneny are no more likely to tell us the truth than George W. Bush is going to tell us the real reason why Americans are dying in Iraq.
Both The Dump and the Con Center are devices designed to funnel taxpayer money into private hands. The public money goes in one end of the device, and the money comes out of the other end and into the right pockets. There is no other reason for either of these operations to exist.
And that , by the way, is why the United States is systematically destroying Iraq. Every thing you’ve heard about why American soldiers are dying there, why hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died, and why more than a million have become refugees, is bogus. It’s not about WMDs or “bringing democracy” or “fighting terrorism” or deposing bad dictators. Only idiots still believe any of that stale propaganda.
Not Even The Oil
It’s not even about the oil. Iraq pumped out more oil before the invasion. Experts say that Iraqi oil fields are in such bad shape that it would take at least 15 years to get the oil pumping to prewar capacity. Except that repairs are not being made right now because of “the ongoing conflict.”
It’s not even about world conquest. The notorious Project for a New American Century (PNAC,) which had enormous influence in the Cheney-Bush White House, called for “American hegemony” and “full spectrum dominance” of the world. To achieve this aim, PNAC and their operatives led the spineless Republicans and their clueless Democratic allies into the attempted conquest of Iraq as a launching pad for world domination.
But like all past attempts at world conquest (Napolean, Hitler, etc.) the idiotic PNAC plan was dead on arrival. Who in America today, other than insane people, are contemplating world conquest? Yet the War Against Iraq, like Jerry’s Dump or the Convention Center Authority, goes on and on with no end in sight.
The War Against Iraq is nothing more than a money funnel, a machine that launders taxpayer funds into select pockets. That’s why the neocons caused all this miserableness, all this death and ruination. It’s about putting the bottom line first, about making a profit for the right people at any cost.
So we can see that the same thinking that justifies endless war in the Mideast is used locally to justify The Dump and construction of the Con Center. Jerry Jennings and Jack McEneny have the same motives for their unwanted boondoggles as Dick Cheney and George W. Bush have for their global horrors. Similar minds think similar thoughts.
We can no longer afford this political mindset. We are officially in a recession, a financial crisis, a sub prime housing crisis, an economic meltdown and rising unemployment. We can no longer support useless public projects, such as wars, dumps and convention centers, that have no purpose except to line filthy pockets.
It’s a new world with new problems, but we are still saddled with the same old politicians of yesteryear. All levels of government, federal, state and local have indulged exclusively in this sort of corruption for at least the past 35 years. A majority of the Americans alive today have no memory of government that does anything other than steal.
Artist's Rendering Of The Con Center. Doesn't It Look Nice?
The only way we can eliminate this mindset is to eliminate the corrupt old boy politicians who think this way. Since violence almost always leads to massive and often destructive problems, and impeachment (or recall) is a practical impossibility, these politicos need to be voted out of office. Remember, that’s why we have voting. It’s a peaceful alternative to violence.
We appear to have accomplished the elimination of the old boys on a federal level. Time will tell, of course, if we really have achieved a better and more responsible regime in charge of this country. But so far, it looks like after January 20, if we can make it to the inauguration without a declaration of martial law, the arrogant children will have to move out of the White House and the sober adults will take over.
If we can peacefully eliminate the corrupt old boys on a federal level, surely we can do it locally. This is the only way we can stop The Dump from stinking and to stop it from expanding indefinitely. And this is the only way we can finally strangle to death this stupid Con Center, cut off all funding and fire all the paid employees of the Convention Center Authority.
Although I must admit that a nice polite riot has appeal. I’m thinking about a crowd surrounding Albany City Hall, a few buckets of roofing tar and an old feather pillow. Afterwards a brisk swim in the Hudson would surely help these old boys to wake up to reality.
Click here to read
The Wife's complete argument against expanding
The Rapp Road Dump.
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