(11/20) Catskill Mountain News

Original post can be found HERE at Catskill Mountain News

The Rich Get…

Post-election news that Amazon will build a new facility in Queens, with $1.5 billion in government grants, “at no cost to taxpayers” has us once again at each other’s throats. One would think that the possibility of creating 25,000 high-paying jobs would engender universal huzzahs, but it hasn’t.

The deal, conducted in deepest secrecy between Amazon, New York State and New York City officials, has been decried as a form of corporate welfare. As if corporate welfare is something new under the sun. Governor Cuomo has been ridiculed for claiming there will be no cost to taxpayers, despite the $1.5 billion outlay, but was apparently speaking to the longterm impact of this project.

Construction creates jobs which in turn generates taxes for the municipalities where they are located. The multiplier effect which can produce upwards of $7 in supporting businesses for every dollar invested is the main attraction. Think IBM Kingston.

Government officials will no doubt defend the secrecy surrounding this massive project because of a non-disclosure requirement imposed by Amazon. Neither side can defend the timing, coming as it was within days of a gubernatorial election. This is the type of project that should have been released well before the election so that it could be debated when it counts. Now, by design, it’s too late.

One of the aspects of this debate that has been overlooked, I think, is this whole notion of pay to play when it comes to economic development. It has been standard practice for some decades now for government to offer incentives to business for locating in their bailiwicks. Locally, they are called PILOTs (Payments In Lieu Of Taxes). The rationale is that in the highly competitive field of economic development projects go to the highest bidders.

In only recent years has this strategy raised concerns. In New Paltz a few years ago a developer sought a PILOT for new, badly-needed dormitory housing. New Paltz officials protested that the would-be developer should pay taxes at the same rate as other established businesses in the community. They won the battle and lost the development.

Therein lies the dilemma. For developers, PILOTS have become an intrinsic part of their business plans. Critics may treat PILOTS as pure profit and they may be, but business is driven by profit. Given the economic realities and absent unilateral disarmament, meaning every municipality, county and state in the nation refuses to grant PILOTs, it would appear this system, for better or for worse, is with us to stay. As such, Amazon could be either the worst or the best of its kind. 

Antonio the voice?

Democratic Congressman-elect Antonio Delgado will be among some 90 new members of the 435-member House of Representatives who will vote for leaders in January. But will he? Under the rules of the House, members can either vote or they can announce themselves as “present,” meaning they don’t vote at all.

Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco is the presumed frontrunner, announcing last week that she believes she has the votes. But there appears to be significant opposition, especially among newly- elected members. Questioned last week, Delgado said he wasn’t committed to anyone but during the campaign on several occasions he declared that the House needed new leadership like him, and that he would not vote for Pelosi if elected.

Some of this of course, was politics since Pelosi is thoroughly detested (outside Ulster) in most of the 19th congressional district. Soon to be former congressman John Faso’s supporters made much of the so-called Pelosi connection with Delgado.

The subject came up at the last debate with Faso and Delgado in Woodstock where Delgado once again stated that he would not support Pelosi for Speaker. Faso, in wry humor, found that curious since he said Pelosi’s Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was pouring significant sums of money into the 19th congressional swing district. Given the choices, I would think it wiser for Delgado to vote one way or another on the Speakership because that is why we sent him to Congress, to stand up and vote. 

Cold Feet?

On election night a number of celebrating Democrats made note of the somber demeanor of Delgado as he delivered his victory speech. Moments before entering the jammed-tight Senate Garage in uptown Kingston, Delgado had received a respectful and gracious concession from losing candidate Faso. Prior to that Democrats were almost sick with worry with the possibility of the kind of election night surprise that brought them Donald Trump two years ago. Republicans have become something of a stealth force They don’t respond to polls, they’re not particularly vocal in their views, they don’t wave placards around at rallies, but they’re out there and they vote. So right up to Faso’s phone call there was a very distinct possibility that things could go terribly wrong. For Delgado it was a night of high anxiety, sober triumph and the realization that for him and his young family, the real challenges lie just ahead.

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