Readers Write: Pols fiddle as development corp burns money

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Why are Gov. Andrew Cuomo, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver along with members of the Legislature’s state authorities oversight committee silent about the disgraceful ongoing media blitz by the Empire State Development Corporation at taxpayers expense?  

The commercials have run in heavy rotation several times per hour on many television stations. They have a catchy beat reminiscent of Bobby McFarins “Don’t worry, be Happy.” 

The costs are now up to $144 million dollars and growing rival major media buys from wealthy candidates running for public office with unlimited resources. 

Funding also came from the State Energy Research and Development Authority, Dormitory Authority of New York and State Power Authority.  

Worse, was the expenditure of $40 million in Hurricane Sandy relief funds to help finance these ads.  

Never silent around a camera or microphone, not a word of concern from our own senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, congressmembers Peter King and Steve Israel or any other member of our congressional delegation on this clear misuse of discretionary federal assistance from Washington.  

These dollars were suppose to be used for real brick and mortar projects to directly benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy.  

Is it any wonder members of Congress from other states are always wary when Schumer and Gillibrand request more dollars for New York? These frequent television ads started running last November, along with print ads in daily and weekly newspapers. 

After six months, you have to ask what benefits taxpayers have seen from spending $144 million dollars on these feel good ads promoting “Big Things Happen Here in New York State?” 

They claim that New York State is open for business. It makes no sense to run them in New York markets. 

We continue to face an 8 percent unemployment rate along with 7 percent who have given up looking and a million more people working part time and/or at minimum wage while looking for full time work and higher salaries. This media onslaught has done nothing to promote real job growth.

Small, medium and large size companies based in New York can see beyond the smoke and mirrors. They are more likely to downsize than hire new employees in today’s economic environment. The net loss of jobs and businesses leaving is greater than what has been created in New York. Our local businesses know that the problem is in our own backyard. New York state is ranked as one of the most unfriendly states for  business. 

This is due to excessive rules, regulations and confiscatory taxation levels. The only business and jobs that have been created is for the media firm BBDO hired by the state EDC who has produced and placed these advertisements.  

These television commercials and newspaper ads should have been running out of state. Maybe they could have conned some naive investors to consider buying the Brooklyn Bridge. 

The apple (Andrew Cuomo) didn’t fall far from the tree (Mario Cuomo). While he ran as a reformer to clean up Albany, it appears that he still practices that age old tradition “to the victor belongs the spoils.”  

Andrew learned Politics 101 from his father Mario. Both are experienced Democratic Party clubhouse insider politicians.   

Is it fortunate coincidence that so many friends, neighbors, children or relatives to some of Andrew’s campaign contributors and supporters have found comfortable well paying positions at the Empire State Development Corporation and other state authorities?  

Many of these jobs are exempt from basis competitive open Civil Servant hiring requirements that ordinary New Yorkers have to comply with when applying for a job in state government. Does anyone believe they obtained their jobs on the merits by responding to a Help Wanted Ad in the Albany Times Union or New York Times?

New York state prospered and successfully grew prior to creation of the Urban Development Corporation in 1968 which conducts business under the Empire State Development Corporation. Buried within the Empire State Development Corporation are almost 100 active subsidiaries and perhaps an equal number of inactive subsidiaries. Audits by various state comptrollers over the years have questioned the level of oversight over both active and inactive subsidiary corporations. It has become politically fashionable for local county and cities to have their own local development corporations. 

Many of these entities also serve as a vehicle to provide political patronage positions for the loyal supporters of elected officials controlling them. Don’t forget the army of consultants that economic development corporations hire to provide so called technical assistance and expertise to create and manage projects and programs. 

In many instances, projects supported by these government corporations have been heavily subsidized by taxpayers, commonly known as corporate welfare. Between direct government funding, low interest below market rate loans, long-term tax exemptions, favorable eminent domain and free infrastructure improvements, the bill to taxpayers in the end is greater than the so-called public benefits. 

There is also a relationship between Pay-for-Play campaign contributions to elected officials from developers looking for favorable legislation, private property condemnation under eminent domain, building permits, public infrastructure improvements, along with direct and hidden subsidies. In some cases, state, city and county development corporations actually compete against each other attempting to outbid each other in offering potential investors the best deal. This translates to the highest subsidies at taxpayer’s expense. 

Don’t forget the conflict of interest for senior staff from state regulatory and permitting agencies. Too many leave in the twilight of any state administration to become employees or consultants to the same developers they previously oversaw. 

Some developers try to purchase the support of local community groups by making so-called voluntary donations. They also make promises for capital improvements, which after the major project is completed, don’t always appear. Other commitments for creation of permanent new jobs and tax revenues frequently do not meet expectations.

If these projects are worthwhile, why can’t developers use their own funds or obtain loans from banks, like medium and small businesses? 

Real business people who believe in capitalism build their companies on their own. How sad that some don’t want to do it the old fashion way by sweat and hard work. They are looking for shortcuts in the form of huge subsidies at taxpayer’s expense and favors from elected officials.

 

Larry Penner

Great Neck 

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