As I was reading the Saturday New York Times this weekend, I happened to come upon an article entitled “Why City Hall Should Be the Last Stop for CEO’s in Politics” and it goes on to explore the relationship between Mayor Bloomberg and a newly elected mayor named Mr. Gray, both successful businessmen and both now mayors. The article goes on to say that both men run their cities like a business and it reminded me of our own mayor who use to refer to himself as the CEO of this business called the “City of Kingston,” although lately I have not heard him use that terminology.
In this article it states that “Mayors make miserable ideologues, and ideologues make miserable Mayors.” It goes on to say that a Mayors job is to make sure the garbage gets picked up, oversee the police, fire, and school departments to make sure the potholes are filled and the snow is removed and that the city budget is balanced, to create jobs by luring new businesses and industry to their towns and giving company’s tax breaks to help them expand.
It says a mayor should push for new developments and then preside over ribbon-cutting ceremonies when said developments are completed and that the mayor’s job is the most “hands on” job you can have in government and the one job where they can most easily see the fruits of their labors.
So with that said I wondered how our own mayor would stack up next to these real CEO’s-turned-mayors and what is his “fruits of labor” and what will Mayor Sottile’s legacy be? And how will future historians view his tenure as mayor?
Ever since I first moved to Kingston back in 2005 all I kept reading about was all the construction that was going to happen down by the waterfront. Condos and complexes and housing projects like Sailor’s Cove for example, but few if any actually transpired. Then we saw the closing of a national restaurant and clothing chain, local gyms and liquor distributors left for greener pastures.
I watched on national TV the “slap” caught on film at a local watering hole and listened as our mayor justified the cost and need for the citywide property tax reval when the real estate market was at its peak and now how many in his own party admit it was a huge mistake?
Recently I read in our local papers that our mayor renegotiated union contracts without really knowing what he negotiated, meanwhile asking the city’s union members to forgo their raises for years that he negotiated himself and to make do without, while he proposes to raise everyone’s taxes 6.5 percent — kind of a “do as I say not as I do mentality.”
We just recently had the largest million-dollar fraud bust in the city’s history with little or no comment from our mayor or the ward’s own alderman, which seems quite puzzling.
Less then a week ago, our Common Council’s finance committee was considering firing three policemen and six DPW workers because there is no money left and taxes are already the third highest in the state, while our mayor complains that we didn’t even have enough money to fix the crumbling walkway in front of City Hall and maybe he can get a grant. Strange that not one developer made a single bid on the old dilapidated eyesore hotel on Broadway. We don’t even have the funds to knock it down and, when and if we do, it will be made into a parking lot. This as the mayor contemplates charging parking fees in our city’s parking lots?
Now I see the mayor wants to borrow $1.2 million to buy new police cars (don’t we do that every year?), a new snow plow and a city hall tower rehabilitation project, among other things. Talk about confusing. Maybe in retrospect we should save that money until the outcome of the pending lawsuits against the city have been settled — we may need it!
I have not even mentioned the Pike Plan fiasco that is being forced down the throats of a majority of the Uptown business community by our mayor himself, and let’s not even start on the waste of money on a Main Street Manager. Anyone see a visible difference yet? So my question is quite simple — how’s our local CEO-mayor doing? You decide.
Breaking news from Columbia, Mo
This week I had an interesting phone call with Carrie Gartner, the executive director of the special business district in Columbia, Missouri. Seems that Columbia had canopies put up in its shopping district in the mid-’70s, just like Kingston and many other towns. Then they figured out that the canopies were blocking visibility of the businesses, clogging up the street and making the town look cluttered.
They surveyed other towns from the Midwest to Pennsylvania, and discovered that when the canopies came down, the towns reported the following developments:
Sales increased for businesses-some up to 50 percent.
Drive-by traffic could now see businesses previously hidden under the canopy.
Signs and window displays became more effective at drawing in customers.
Sidewalks became larger, sidewalk cafes opened up, and there was more room for festivals.
People started saying things like “When did you plant the trees downtown?” and “Is this a new restaurant?”
Other beautification measures became possible, such as street trees, new street lights, and so forth.
“We tore our canopies down five or six years ago and haven’t looked back,” she said in a phone call Monday.
What is interesting is that the business district got a federal grant to do the work — because tearing down the canopies restored the historic character of the buildings. With the canopies in place, the buildings were then eligible to go on the National Historic Register; they had been banned, because of them.
For a small fraction of what it would cost to do a total renovation of the Pile Plan canopy (as is planned), we could get rid of the thing and open up our businesses to the light of day. We could make those beautiful Victorians along Wall Street visible from the sidewalk. The individual character of each business could express itself. You would be able to see the Old Dutch Church.
The increase in sales would create sales tax for the city. We would avoid the risk of cost overruns, which would create a tax burden for the businesses or for the whole city.
I am enclosing before and after photos of Columbia sent by Ms. Gartner. They are small, but you get the idea.
Think of this as cleaning a closet, with all that other junk from the ’70s that you thought you could never do without.
Eric Francis Coppolino