Thursday, September 30, 2010

Peevish Arrogance

"The arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled" -Taylor Caldwell

The Fire Starter has long been a fan of Greg and Julie Deemie.  Their love of the Village of Johnson City can not be questioned.  Their tireless work through the JC Partners group can not be praised enough.  They are examples of involved and dedicated citizens.  Whether it was the beautification efforts or the carousel day, it is never about them but about their community.

It is for this reason that the Fire Starter was so shocked by Trustee Monica Silas' peevish arrogance at a Village Board meeting held September 21st.  During the privilege of the floor portion of that meeting, Julie asked all of the trustees what efforts they have made at economic development.  Each trustee took their turn and attempted to offer evidence of their commitment to economic development...That is except for Trustee Monica Silas.

Fire Starter and no doubt other Village residents would have been interested in Monica's response.  This is particularly true since she is seeking re-election to the Village Board.  However, she either had nothing to say or felt it beneath her to answer a taxpayer's question on this important issue.  She "put it back in Julie's lap".  Listen for yourself:

The arrogance of this response is stunning.  Taxpayers are entitled to answers about the operation of government.  Taxpayers are entitled to know how their money is being spent and whether new sources of revenue and revitalization are being pursued by elected officials.  After all, the citizens are the elected officials "SUPERIOR".  Apparently Trustee Silas has forgotten this.  Her dismissive response is a sign of a peevish arrogance that is all too common among elected officials.

Fortunately, we will have an opportunity to remind Monica who is the "Superior" and who is the "subordinate".  We can send a message on November 2nd that our elected officials hold that office at our pleasure.  We hope Monica receives this message loud and clear.

(hat tip to Bruce King who's website,  letstalkjc  brought this to our attention.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Slow Motion Dissolution

"The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government" - Thomas Jefferson

Fire Starter has repeatedly raised the question whether Mayor Hannon is attempting to thwart the will of the people.  In November of 2009, Johnson City rejected dissolution by a 40 vote margin.  Although not an overwhelming margin, the people spoke.  No dissolution.

Now it seems that Mayor Hannon, king of all he sees, is not subject to the will of the people.  Despite the rejection of dissolution, he appears intent on dismantling the Village, piece by piece, until the various departments are no longer capable of fulfilling their duties to the community.  This is tantamount to "slow motion dissolution" and contrary to the stated wishes of Village voters.

Several moves lead the Fire Starter to the conclusion that the Mayor is seeking covert dissolution.  The Mayor illegally laid off 6 fire fighters and has sought the termination of several others in a little more than a year.  At the same time, he gutted the command structure in the police department.  In addition to the legal expense associated with these moves, he has actually replaced part of the command structure in the fire department and the entire command structure in the police department with part time employees who actually cost the Village more than their full time predecessors.  This sort of financial mismanagement is clearly a sign of incompetence but could also be a sign of malice.  If the Mayor can spend the Village into deficit, it enhances his argument for dissolution.  And if he can hobble the police and fire departments to the point of ineffectiveness, he can further justify dissolution.

The Fire Department actually generates revenue for the Village by providing contracted confined space rescue for BAE and AES.  Apparently, the overpaid and under worked Joint Fire Administrator has delayed re-certification of fire fighters in the life saving techniques used in confined space rescue.  This places these revenue generating contracts at risk and the public in danger.

The Johnson City Fire Department also operates a rescue boat which is available for river/flood rescues.  In addition, the Fire Department generates revenue by utilizing the boat to provide services to local oil storage facilities.  Specifically, Johnson City firefighters are trained to safely operate the rescue boat and  "boom" the river in the case of an oil spill.  Again, the Joint Fire Administrator has delayed training required to allow the continued operation of the rescue boat. This also places revenue generating contracts and lives at risk.

Who will provide these services if the fire department can no longer do so?  And how far will the responding agency have to come to assist you?

The Mayor and his part time lackeys repeatedly point to "shared services" as the answer to every budgetary question.  But as outlined in previous posts, these shared services cost the Village more- not less.  And the village receives a reduction in service through reduced response time and part time leadership. 

Through reductions in manpower and services, Hannon and his lackeys are attempting to engineer slow motion dissolution.The "slow motion" dissolution is dangerous to Village employees and residents.  Employees lack the continued training and resources to safely perform their jobs.  Residents are lulled into thinking they are still protected by the services they paid for.  In watching this slow motion dissolution, we need to ask ourselves: How long are we willing to wait for life and death services?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Custer Claims Victory

Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win. - Sun-tzu - The Art of War

The long and disgraceful attempt to intimidate labor leader, Marty Maney has apparently come to an end.  Less than a year ago, Mayor Dennis Hannon attempted to consolidate power by intimidating Union President Marty Maney.  Mayor Hannon sought extreme penalties against the Fire Fighter Union President for speaking his mind at Village Board meetings and to the local media.  Monday, this latest ugly chapter in Hannon's bullying came to an end.

The Press & Sun Bulletin reported that the Village has agreed to withdraw all charges of misconduct and restore the 30 days pay taken from him.  What was absent from the article was any mention of anything given by Maney in return.  In other words, it appears that the Village realized that no court would condone Hannon's heavy handed and oppressive management style.  Therefore, the only thing left to do was back down.

One can never underestimate the lengths that politicians will go to in order to "spin" the truth.  But it stretches the credulity of even the most naive to believe that the resolution with Maney was anything other than an all out surrender by the Village.

Fire Starter can understand the Hannon's unwillingness to admit he was wrong.  We would have been surprised if he had stood up and taken his lumps like a man.  But we hope that somewhere, deep down, Hannon has learned a lesson about the democratic system.  But that would require honest introspection and self evaluation.  And the King is not subject to such frivolity.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hannon Poised to Reject Federal Grant

Character is doing the right thing when nobody's looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that's right is to get by, and the only thing that's wrong is to get caught. - J.C. Watts

Previously, the Village of Johnson City announced with great fanfare that they were taking every step to protect village taxpayers by applying for a SAFER grant from the federal government.  These grants are intended to provide funds to pay salaries for fire fighters for the next two years.  The idea is that this will help cities and villages maintain adequate fire service while we all weather the economic downturn.

Joint Fire Administrator Hrustich completed the grant application on behalf of the Village of Johnson City.    JFA Hrustich was seeking approximately 1.3 million dollars to fund 6 firefighter positions for the next two years.  Because the grant was poorly written and poorly documented, the grant was rejected in the first round of awards.

The federal government recently contacted the Village of Johnson City regarding a "second chance" grant.  In other words, since there was grant money remaining, the federal government is going back to those cities and villages that were previously denied and inquiring whether they would accept the grant if offered.

Fire Starter has learned that Mayor Hannon is advocating for the rejection of any grant money to preserve fire fighter positions.  He is alleging "additional expenses" associated with taking the grant money as his reason.  However, he apparently is incapable of expressing the nature and extent of these phantom "additional expenses".

In fact, the federal grants would likely fund these positions in their entirety.  In addition, contrary to prior allegations by Hannon, there is no requirement that the Village commit to funding a third year after the grant money runs out. Rejecting this federal money is fiscally irresponsible and Hannon knows it. Don't hold your breath for any grand announcement of this decision.  Hannon will likely try to execute this latest gambit in the dark of night.

This is further proof that Mayor Hannon's goal from the beginning has been the destruction of the fire department and the dissolution of the Village.  Once he is able to create a hobbled fire department that is incapable of fulfilling its duties, the case for dissolution becomes stronger.  The reasons for living in a village are the services provided.  Hobble or remove services and there is no reason to continue the Village.

Fire Starter has consistently held out hope that Mayor Hannon would be up front in his goals and desires.  If his goal is dissolution, he should come out and say so.  However, this would mean that Hannon would have to show courage and character.  And history has shown little evidence that he possesses either.

Monday, September 13, 2010

More Dissolution Lies

A lie has speed, but truth has endurance. -Edgar J. Mohn

Fire Starter wrote recently of the negativity of a leading dissolution proponent, John Sullivan.  We pointed out that such negativity is itself detrimental to the Village of Johnson City.  Apparently, it is not appropriate to disagree with dissolutionists.  Do so, and you are labeled a greedy, liar.

Recently, Mayor Hannon formed a committee on shared services.  This certainly sounded innocuous enough.  In these tough times, who is not in favor of finding cost savings; so long as services are maintained.  However, eyebrows were raised when Bill Klish, a leading proponent of dissolution, was appointed as the chair of the committee.

Certainly, an argument could be made that Mr. Klish was in a great position to handle such a committee since he had spent the last two years studying the Village's services and budget.  However, Mr. Klish's prior service on the dissolution committee, his open campaigning for dissolution and his subsequent statements regarding the opponents to dissolution have shown him to be anything but a fair arbiter of the "public interest".

A recent article in the Ithaca Times reveals that Mr. Klish recently spoke to residents of the Village of Candor regarding his fight for dissolution of the Village of Johnson City.  The article can be accessed here.  In speaking about the process, Mr. Klish showed himself to be closed minded to other solutions.  In Mr. Klish's world, dissolution is the only viable approach.  Apparently, in Mr. Klish's world, dissolution only failed because the voters were misinformed.

Even more disturbing were the outright lies told about Village employees.  While claiming that fear and misrepresentations caused dissolution to fail, he spread his own version of fear and lies.  He claimed that fire fighters threatened not to respond to fires.  Not attribution is provided.  This whopper just hangs on its own.  In the next breath he claims to have "stuck to the facts" in arguing for dissolution.  However, demonization of opponents, exaggeration of savings, and minimizing of reduction in services is anything but "factual".

Mr. Klish's conduct, before, during and after the campaign for dissolution makes clear his agenda.  His appointment to the shared services committee appears to be another step by Mayor Hannon to thwart the will of the people and effectuate dissolution by other means.  Klish's tactics make clear his lack of character.  But who can be surprised?  He was Dennis Hannon's choice.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

K-9 Suspended

Johnson City- Fire Starter has learned that Mayor Dennis Hannon has suspended Johnson City K-9 officer CJ for insubordination and conduct unbecoming an officer.  This comes as the latest in a long line of suspensions and disciplinary proceedings.

Hannon, reached for comment at his Lake Ontario summer home, had several comments regarding the matter. "This is clearly a personnel matter and therefore I am not at liberty to discuss the matter.   However, suffice it to say that Officer CJ understands that there is a new "Dog Catcher" in town and his dirty tactics will not be tolerated in the Village of Johnson City.  I am conducting a complete and thorough investigation and am confident that I will get to the bottom of this matter"

Fire Starter gained access to CJ's charges through an unnamed Village Court employee who provided them on the condition that she and her husband remain anonymous.  CJ has been accused of insubordination for using a "gruff" tone in speaking with Mayor Hannon. When questioned about the matter, CJ barked at the Mayor repeatedly.  Mayor Hannon was appalled by the harshness of CJ's response and felt that he had no choice but to suspend the officer.

Apparently, CJ only made matters worse when he was escorted from the station.  CJ was caught on surveillance tape urinating on Mayor Hannon's private vehicle.  When officers returned to the department locker room, a "fecal deposit" was found in the middle of the floor.  It is unclear at this time whether this was the work of Officer CJ or Patrolman Berdine, his handler.

Hannon concluded "Let me make this perfectly clear, I am here to clean up this village.  That does not mean I am going to mop up after a dirty officer.  I  think Officer CJ has a lot of thinking to do.  Hopefully he will use this suspension to conduct some soul searching.  Let there be no doubt that I am the "big dog" in JC"

Hannon vowed to keep Officer CJ on a short leash in the future.  Officer CJ, in a low growling voice, declined comment.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sullivan's Blarney

"Negativity is an addiction to the bleak shadow that lingers around every human form" - John O'Donohue

It was with great interest that the Fire Starter read the "Guest View Point" of one of Johnson City's leading dissolutionist, John Sullivan. Although Mr. Sullivan and his ilk tried to scare voters into dissolving the village, the voters ultimately saw through their lies. Now, it appears that Mr. Sullivan is gearing up for a new misinformation campaign aimed, yet again, at dissolving the Village.

One need only glance through the piece by Mr. Sullivan to see the numerous half truths and outright misrepresentations served up as gospel:

Village taxpayers would have saved 4.5 million dollars through dissolution.  Well, they certainly would have stopped paying such taxes to the village but would then have seen an increase in the town taxes. And they would no longer have the services offered by the Village in the form of professional fire protection and local police protection.

Village residence remain safe despite cuts in police staffing. First, the importance of police and fire protection are most appreciated when needed. We are thankful that Mr. Sullivan has not had an emergency needing the assistance of police and fire personnel. But this does not mean that others have not had to wait for assistance while other emergencies were attended to. It also does not mean that the police officers and fire fighters were not placed at greater risk due to staffing cuts.

"Unbelievably, though manpower was reduced, Johnson City taxes increased". This, Mr. Sullivan, you have your buddies Hannon, Silas, and Balles to thank. They claimed to make cuts while hiring over paid part time cronies through the back door and padding the wallets of Village attorneys. Apparently you would prefer this sort of waste to Village services?

Finally, Mr. Sullivan points the accusing finger at Bruce King and Greg Deemie; village board candidates. Bruce King was a village Board member who advocated making cost saving deals with the police and fire rather than pursuing foolhardy litigation strategies. Time has borne out that Bruce was right on most of the fiscal issues facing the Village. And the "take no prisoners" approach of Hannon has done nothing but create rancor and runaway cost.

And Greg Deemie, other than attending and speaking at Board meetings, what has he done? He has been active in promoting Johnson City to businesses and residents. He has taken on beautification efforts. And he has consistently been a force for positive change and economic development in Johnson City.

What has Mr. Sullivan done? Nothing other than to cast aspersions at those he disagrees with and promote a negative environment in Johnson City. He was on the losing end of the dissolution referendum and can not seem to let it go. In the end, it is Mr. Sullivan's negativity that will be the end of the Villlage.

One final question: Mr. Sullivan, if you do not want to pay for the services the village provides, why not move to a place where there are no services?