Last month Mayor Judy Kennedy performed a couple “snow jobs”1 or undertook some “astroturfing”2 depending on your preference for turn of phrase.
On August 8, there was this press report to YNN, “City of Newburgh Not in Financial Trouble,” in which she boldly claims that “The truth of the matter is Newburgh is not in financial trouble.”
Backing her up was positively Clintonian acting city comptroller (since replaced by new hire Aber). “We’re in confident control of the city financial and the 2010-2009 crisis is behind us, and so that’s what I know I’m looking to do is change that perception of the city financials, of what it was to what it is,” [empahsis added].
This seems like preposterous public relations machinations, in particular because some departments are critically understaffed, such as the Department of Public Works, which suffered scores of layoffs during the chaos of the past few budgets.
Then on August 19, the city made the YNN news report again, this time singing a happy tune that “Major crimes on the decline in City of Newburgh.”
A more measured Mayor Kennedy (there were complaints, after all) still painted a joyous picture of the ‘Burgh: “We keep making the city safer. We got a long ways to go and we’ve got work to do, but incrementally, we’re heading in the right direction.”
Can we thank the Greater Newburgh Partnership for these fluff articles? I don’t know, they don’t return my emails, or at least the email in which I asked for the meeting dates and times of the City of Newburgh Re-Zoning meetings.
Public relations for the City of Newburgh is something that GNP definitely wants to micromanage, to paint the picture of a wonderful place with no problems that aren’t swiftly swept into the sweetly-smelling sewer. (For more on this, and why I think this is a toxic strategy, see my recent post, here.)
So we should all be jumping for joy with today’s news, that the “Newburgh Fire Department receives $2.4 million grant.” That’s to hire 15 more firemen.
The GNP should be happy! The fire department now handles code enforcement, and with the cozy relationship with Chief Vatter serving on the Land Bank, also dominated by the GNP, this will be extra forces to carry out selective code enforcement (read: prioritizing the big local institutions at the expense of the rest of the city.) St. Luke’s CEO Allan Aztrott likes to brag a about how the hospital staff has helped Newburgh by doing the grantwriting for the big Re-Zoning project (still no update on the city’s website! Huh!) and grantwriting for other city projects, so it would not surprise me at all if the GNP actually did the grantwriting on this one, too (although I can’t confirm that. Remember, they don’t LIKE me for some reason.)
Now, for many years I have been saying that the major nonprofits of Newburgh should contribute a PILOT to the city. I’m talking about the huge nonprofits, such as St. Luke’s Hospital, Mount Saint Mary College, maybe even SUNY Orange, although I’d have to think more about that last once since it is a publicly funded institution.
As it turns out, and I did not know about it until recent years, St. Luke’s Hospital–which, in the form of Allan Aztrott, has always expressed violent disdain at the thought of a PILOT–well, they have been “helping” the city in their own, selfish, self-interested rather, way. They have helped when it will be expressly in their self-interest.
The beauty, the magic and mystically amazing thing about TAXES is that when you give them, you do not have the ability, right, or input to say what that money will be used for. Perhaps you can influence public policy in other ways, if you feel strongly about it, by writing a letter to your representatives, or speaking at a public comment period, or writing a letter to the editor. It would be the same with a PILOT.
Instead, what we have here in Newburgh is “institution creep”–the Greater Newburgh Partnership is directing the public relations, the grantwriting, and many major decisions for the city at large.
Meanwhile, I am not the only one whose phone calls are unreturned by Mayor Kennedy.
Oh, and by the way, another news item, this one from midhudsonnews.com: “Violent crime up in Newburgh last year.”
From the article: “Violent crime in the City of Newburgh was up four percent in 2012 compared with 2011, Police Chief Michael Ferrara said Thursday.”
Back to those extra 15 firemen; what happens when the grant money runs out?
What about the Police Department? What about the DPW?
I guess they are not so obviously useful to the Only Institutions That Matter.
1. Snow job (google definition): a deception or concealment of one’s real motive in an attempt to flatter or persuade.↩
2. Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message (e.g. political, advertising, or public relations) to give the appearance of it coming from a disinterested, grassroots participant. (Source: Wikipedia.)↩