Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Anti-Silas?

"All negativity is an illusion created by the limited mind to protect and defend itself." -Ambika Wauters

Fire Starter wrote of Monica Silas' corrosive negativity which has placed the Village on the brink of oblivion.  Her small minded vindictiveness kept her from seeing the true potential of our Village.  Her single minded pettiness kept her from fulfilling the will of the people.  And as a result, the voters sent her packing.

Now in contrast to Silas' "vision", attendees at the last Village of Johnson City board meeting for 2010 heard a different approach from a resident.  a tireless booster for Johnson City, Julie Deemie challenged board members and citizens to live up to their responsibilities to provide the services for which we pay. She challenged our leaders to build up rather than tear down.  And she appealed to Village leaders honor the will of the voters and stop the "slow motion dissolution".  But why describe what she said?  Here it is:

Earning the Public’s Trust

The decision that voters delivered in Nov. 2009 – rejecting the Dissolution Plan – should have served as a lesson to you. Instead the majority of this board has proceeded in 2010, as if the vote meant nothing, and the will of a vocal group of taxpayers has superseded all other voices of the village taxpayers and voters.

Johnson City’s leaders must do more to earn the public’s trust and involve them in the priority-setting process.

First, this calls for innovation and collaboration. The best ideas don’t come from the top down, rather they bubble up from people, neighborhoods and communities that have the greatest stake in the decisions that get made in your work sessions and these meetings.

Leaders should lead – but they also should listen. It’s time to engage in a real and regular conversation about what sort of Johnson City people want for their children and grandchildren. It’s time to find ways to begin this public dialogue.

The majority of Johnson City’s voters voted to keep their public services and village intact. You owe it to them to find ways to keep these services as a function of village government without compromising the safety of its residents and visitors. To simply “do away” with these departments or reduce them to inadequate levels, as you have allowed, is completely irresponsible and a risk to our families safety and well being. It appears that this board wants to wash your hands of this responsibility rather than working on creative solutions. Rumor says some of you have vendettas against these department or their employees. If this were the case then you would be sacrificing our safety for your personal gain. This would be proven as wrong doing and a clear violation of your own code of ethics as our leaders. The voters of Johnson City elected you to serve as their mayor and trustees not to act out of spite and revenge. You are obligated to serve the will of all Johnson City residents, not yours nor those who pressure you. You must be firm and move forward in a just and honorable manner in order to regain public trust.

We all must work together, government, residents, taxpayers and businesses. No single or select group of people is capable of making the proper decisions that will lead this village forward. You need to slow your course of actions, first earn back public trust by diminishing these rumors, and truly listen to the will of the people of this village. To accomplish this you must communicate to the people by publicizing board meetings, hosting public input meetings and through direct mail. Then and only then will residents of this village begin to trust that you intend to serve the properly and without bias. The Village of Johnson City will then begin to heal, make progress and begin seeking its true potential.

We, the residents and taxpayers need to feel secure in your motivations. I truly believe that each and every one of you has the potential to be a great leader. You hold the power to make lasting changes in our village. Listen to the will of the people: North side, South side, downtown, businesses, rich, poor, middle class, and then base your decisions with a pure heart and conscience for the good of all who reside here.

Well said Julie.  If one or two Board members show the same sort of dedication to the Village as you do, the Village's future may be bright. 

However, if  Davis and Balles continue to follow Hannon's destructive path, there may be no stopping the dissolution of the Village.  Once Hannon has stripped away all of the services, there will no longer be a need for a Village.

We must all rise up and challenge our representatives.  Julie Deemie can not do it alone.  Attend  meetings.  Ask questions.  Demand answers.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Silas' Bitterness was Corrosive

“Growth in wisdom may be exactly measured by decrease in bitterness” - Friedrich Nietzsche

It was with great disgust and disappointment that the Fire Starter read Monica Silas' comments at her last Village Board meeting and her comments in the Press yesterday.  Her personal attacks at the Board meeting would have gotten others "gavelled out" as out of order and in violation of the Village Board's "decorum policy".  But alas, such rules are for the "little people".  King Dennis and his court need not observe any rule they impose upon everyone else.

Silas is obviously taking her electoral loss hard.  She now has to return to her menial, dead end job and face the fact that she is merely a small and bitter person with neither status nor power.  She could not even graciously congratulate her replacement, Greg Deemie.  Instead, her bitterness shined through and suggested that Greg would see things her way once he was on the "inside".  This statement was most striking since it was this attitude that got her ousted.

Silas made a series of unsubstantiated and baseless charges against the Johnson City Fire Fighters.  The absurdity of her charges is so patent, we will not spend time addressing them.  However, we will make one observation.  Silas was obviously kicked by some "rogue fire fighter as a child".  Nothing else would explain her unbridled and irrational vitriol.

What is most shocking is the complete lack of insight Silas showed regarding the attitude of Village residents.  She has spent so much time in the echo chamber with Hannon, Balles, Sullivan and their like, that she believes her own nonsense.  Even with having been thoroughly rebuffed by Village residents, she seems to take this as ignorance on the part of Village residents rather than a rejection of her negative and destructive politics.  Such arrogance is staggering.

We have observed before that it is much easier to tear down than to build up.  Silas has proven this over the past two years.  In the last two years, Hannon, Silas, Balles have torn apart the police and fire departments.  Solid carreer professionals have been chased away and replaced with "yes men" politicians.  With the foundations dug out from under them, these departments tilt precariously on the brink.

There is still time to save the Village from the corrosive negativity of the past several years.  It is up to all of us to attend Board meetings and speak out against Hannon's destructive policies.  We must insist on proactive rather than destructive.  Economic development rather than systematic dismantling.  And we must insist on genuine cooperation instead of the unproductive muscle flexing power trips which have become the hallmark of the "Hannon Years".

We are all responsible for the future.  Silas' defeat was a good start.  There is still much work to do.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Of Fire Fighters and Police Officers

"When a man becomes a fireman his greatest act of bravery has been accomplished. What he does after that is all in the line of work." - Edward F. Croker

"The backbone of our nation's domestic defense against terrorist attacks will continue to be the men and women in local law enforcement and emergency services." - Saxby Chambliss

Fire Starter read with great interest regarding the fire tuesday in downtown Binghamton.  The fire was massive yet it was promptly controlled by "Binghamton's Bravest".  Fire Starter can not help but wonder how much of downtown Binghamton would have been lost had they been relying on volunteers to protect the City.  It certainly should give the residents in Johnson City and Endicott great pause as their relative leaders discuss a partial or complete volunteer department.

As Christmas fast approaches, Fire Starter's thoughts now turn to the brave men and women who stand between us and danger.  We are mindful of the brave fire fighters and police officers who will be protecting us while we celebrate with family and friends.  We are mindful of the sacrifices they make every day to protect us from the unimaginable.

It is with this in mind that we ask everyone to keep these guardians in our thoughts and prayers now and throughout the year.  We also are mindful of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.  So far in 2010,  more than 150 police officers answered their final call.  More than 30 career fire fighters answered their final alarm.  They leave behind them wives, husbands, children and parents.  Although we cannot know the family's grief, their loss is our loss.  We are all diminished by their passing.

May the peace of the Holiday Season be with all of you.  And may our heroic protectors be kept safe from harm.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Vending Machine Follies

You know he is lying because his lips are moving - Unknown

The Fire Starter reported to you about Hannon's retaliation against Bruce King several weeks ago.  And despite the lead time the Press had, they were unable to uncover the most obvious of lies and distortions offered by Hannon.  This is largely due to its failure to even investigate Hannon's assertions.

Hannon Said: "Zikuski wanted the machines removed because he was concerned about someone going through secure areas to refill them."

But sources within the police department have confirmed that it was Hannon who raised the issue with Zikuski.  Hannon objected to Bruce King in the "secured area".

Hannon asserted: "Essentially I was acting on the request of the police association to have those machines removed."

But again, sources within the police department reveal that the PBA had no problem with King's access to the "secured area".  What they objected to was Hannon's plan to have machines placed in non-secured areas.

Hannon goes on: "Although this has nothing to do with the removal of the machines, I think it's important to note that for the past year-and-a-half or so the taxpayers of Johnson City have been subsidizing Mr. King's business."

If it has nothing to do with the removal of the machines, why mention it?  But on the merits, Bruce King has confirmed that the reimbursement check was sent to the Village in March of 2010.  Perhaps the"crack" clerk treasurer, Tom Johnson, lost it or Hannon "misplaced" it.  Or perhaps it is in the evidence locker with the other unaccounted for "Hannon money".  The reality is, if Hannon is so "proactive", why did this get past him?  It's a wonder the Village has been able to pay its legal bills without the reimbursement from King of $57.04.

And then Hannon's biggest whopper: "I don't retaliate against people for anything."

Well this will certainly come as a surprise to Police Chief Doug Potts, Fire Chief Henry Michalovic, Fire Captain Marty Maney, Fire Marshal Robert Dempsey, the entire police department in the nineties.  And let's not forget the "lowly maintenance man".

Fire Starter can only imagine the sprays of coffee and choking spells in Village breakfast nooks prompted by this final assertion.

So what have we learned today, class?  Well, Hannon is a vindictive liar who will say and do anything to get is enemies.  And the Press is incapable of covering a legitimate scandal and obvious abuse of power.  Where was comment from Zikuski or the PBA?  Why wasn't any of the above researched and printed? The Press appears incapable or unwilling to attempt to verify or debunk any bit of tripe offered by Hannon.  And because of the resulting uniformed public, democracy suffers.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Incompetence or Corruption?

“What the people out there are calling for is honesty which has been missing for quite some time now. We are tired of all the deceit and incompetence of this government.” - Joseph Muscat

Fire Starter has learned that under the guise of consolidation of services, Johnson City is yet again subsidizing public safety in neighboring communities. 

We have previously highlighted Village's deal  to share a fire chief with the Village of Endicott.  In the end, the Village of Johnson city paid $50,000 more for a part time chief than it would have cost for a full time chief promoted from the ranks. Endicott reduced their cost of having a fire chief by $45,000 and went from a full time chief to a part time chief.

In the police department, Binghamton was the beneficiary of Hannon's largess.  Similarly to the shared services deal with Endicott, Johnson City is paying  $50,000 more for half of Binghamton's chief than if they promoted through ranks.  Binghamton, on the other hand saved $45,000 courtesy of Uncle Dennis from JC.  Dennis was so generous that he is also reducing Binghamton's expense for other command positions through the use of Johnson City tax dollars.

Fire Starter has now learned that Dennis Hannon is essentially gifting the services of a Johnson City Police Detective and the use of a Johnson City Police car to the City of Binghamton.  Daily, this detective now signs in at the Johnson City Police Station, signs out a JC detective car and reports to Binghamton to pick up his Binghamton counterpart.  They both spend their day in Binghamton doing Binghamton police work.  Fire Starter has learned that the JC detective has been unable to carry out his duties in the Village due to his responsibilities is the city of Binghamton.

The underwriting of neighboring communities is bad enough.  But now, village resources are being gifted to neighboring communities.  Ad this is not even to mention the complicated jurisdictional and authority issues which are sure to come to the surface.

What's hard to rationalize is why is Hannon doing this.  does he think he will someday become Broome's "supercop" or County Executive?  Dream on.  Hannon has shown himself incapable of managing his own "train wreck" of a personal life much less the Village or a county.

Which leads Fire Starter to the conclusion that if Hannon is not "on-the-take", he is being cheated.

Monday, December 13, 2010

But Did Hannon Lie??

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” - Albert Einstein

Fire Starter read with great interest the latest diatribe from Johnson City resident and dissolutionist, John Sullivan.  We have addressed Mr. Sullivan's prior diatribes and really have no interest in revisiting these issues.  He really offers nothing new in this latest screed.

To read Mr. Sullivan's column, you would have the impression that he is clean as the driven snow.  You would never suspect that his wife is an Endicott school teacher who "feeds at the public trough" to borrow Mr. Sullivan's lexicon.  You would never know that he receives a Veteran's credit on his property taxes based upon his military service for a home which is in his wife's name only.  And you would never know that  perhaps his interest in "secession" of a portion of JC could be at least in part fueled not by his sense of civic duty but rather his frustrated attempts to launch a development project.

What was most interesting in this latest piece was his indignation regarding the union's lawyer calling Mayor Dennis Hannon a liar.  Recently, the Press & Sun Bulletin ran an article regarding Hannon's "investigation" of former Fire Marshal Dempsey. In that article, the Union's lawyer, Gene Faughnan said that Hannon's assertions regarding the destruction of documents was untrue.  Faughnan said: "He's saying that things were improperly not where they're supposed to be. I'm saying that's patently false. He's lying,".  In it's online edition, the Press provided copies of documents that were allegedly "missing".  A review of those documents reveals that at least four of the incidents referenced by Hannon were expunged from the records of the fire fighters by agreement with the Village.  If he lied about this aspect of his report, what else did he lie about?

Suillivan is upset with Hannon being called a liar. He says "the language used by Johnson City Fire Department union lawyer Gene Faughnan in reference to our elected officials is highly offensive on its own".

But did Hannon lie??

Sullivan says "calling our mayor a "liar" in print (without being established in court) also tarnishes the excellent reputation of his law firm".

But did Hannon lie??

He goes on to suggest "maybe the general partner of HH&K should communicate with Mayor Dennis Hannon about the veracity of Faughnan's allegations."

But did Hannon lie??

No where in Mr. Sullivan's latest screed does he try to defend Hannon's falsehood.  Maybe he already knows there is no defense.  And to the likes of John Sullivan, it really does not matter whether Hannon lied so long as it advances his dream of dissolution. 

And this sort of situational ethics is exactly why Hannon, Sullivan and their ilk are so dangerous.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

When They Came for the Firemen...

"If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter". -George Washington

Free Speech is dead in Johnson City.  That is, if you are a professional fire fighter.  Tuesday night, the Village of Johnson City voted to modify the Rules and Regulations of the fire department to make it a punishable offense to criticize the Mayor and Board members.  this was done in response to alleged abusive behavior in the past.   Strangely, Hannon was unable to point to a single instance in which any fire fighter had acted in an insolent or abusive manner.

In keeping with other petty dictators such as Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, Hannon has sought to consolidate his power through threats, intimidation and blatant violations of civil rights.  It is not surprising that he should continue his tyrannical plan by limiting free speech.  He initially tried to silence all citizens but found enough push back from citizens that the measure had to be withdrawn.  So now, he will attempt the suppression of opposition with baby steps.  But make no mistake,  he will be coming for other village employees should they get "uppity".  And Village residents will not be far behind.  With every taste of abuse of power, Hannon's appetite is increased.  It may only be about fire fighters today, but it will not end here.

And it seems likely that the fire fighter's union will go to court to try and stop this blatant violation of the constitution.  This will result in ever increasing legal bills for the Village.  And for what?  So that Hannon can be free of criticism?

The last time Hannon attempted such a power grab, the Press & Sun Bulletin had an editorial in which it admonished Hannon to have a thicker skin.  But this time it is strangely silent.  Are they now on Hannon's payroll?  Or are they too lazy or incompetant to tell the real story?  and what of citizens who have sat by while this tyrant continues to trample fundamental rights.  It is reminiscent of the Martin Niemoler timeless warning regarding oppressive regimes:

"When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out."
So we all must ask ourselves...when do we say once and for all; enough.  We as citizens of the Villlage of Johnson City better find an answer soon.  Before it is too late.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hannon Goes After Free Speech Again

“Every tyrant who has lived has believed in freedom - for himself” - Elbert Hubbard

In yesterday's Press & Sun Bulletin, reporter Steve Reilly reported on proposed changes to the Rules and Regulations of the Johnson City Fire Department.  To read the story, one might imagine that Hannon is routinely being yelled and cursed at by Village employees.  One can imagine that Hannon is frequently assaulted by vile language and threats of violence at Village Board meetings.  You can even imagine that poor Hannon is in fear for his safety because of unruly Village employees.  And you would be wrong.

Fire Starter reviewed the proposed regulations and the former regulations on the Press Connects web site.  What is apparent is that the proposed changes to regulations seeks to penalize fire fighters who CRITICIZE the mayor or the Village Board.  It is not abusive or insolent behavior that Hannon is trying to stop but rather mere CRITICISM.

Taken in isolation, this would be disturbing enough.  However, with Hannon's track record of attempting to squelch free speech, it is nothing short of shocking.  Let's now take a stroll down memory lane and revisit Hannon's repeated assaults on the first amendment:
  • In Late 2009, Hannon attemted to discipline Captain Marty Maney for speaking at village board meetings and being CRITICAL of reductions in the size of the department.  he ultimately had to surrender this assault as it was clearly violative of the Unted States Constitution.
  • In January of 2010, Hannon attempted to limit citizens ability to ask questions at board meetings during the "privilege of the floor".  Hannon again surrendered in the face a public outcry against this unconstitutional assault on Village citizens.
  • Several months ago, Hannon threatened Village firefighter and resident Marty Meaney when he asked questions regarding unaccounted for money in the police department.
  • Just a few weeks ago, former trustee Bruce King posted a piece on Press Connects that was critical of Mayor Hannon and set the record straight regarding Hannon's bald faced lies.
Which now brings us to Hannon's latest assault on the constitution.  At this point, Hannon has been brushed back enough times on this issue that he should have the understanding of a constitutional lawyer.  Most lay people understand that this sort of jack-thuggery is not permissible.  However, it seems that Hannon has again decided to roll the dice on another legal battle and let the Village residents bankroll him.  Yet everyone understands that snake-eyes are in his future. 

Which brings us to the press coverage of the issue.  Mr. Reilly is either incompetent or on the payroll; much like his fellow media hack, Scott Gallagher of WBNG.  How Mr. Reilly could look at a rule which makes it a punishable offense to CRITICIZE the Mayor or the board and allow the mayor to say he is not trying to squelch CRITICISM is beyond our comprehension.  Frankly, most grade school children would recognize the absurdity.  But apparently not Mr. Reilly.

Which is why the Fire Starter began posting seven months ago.  It became apparent that we could not rely on anyone else to tell the truth about local government.  And this is why we will continue to post regarding outrageous conduct by our local leaders.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hannon Violates Rules Again

"A fish rots from the head down" - Chinese Proverb

Fire Starter considered addressing Mayor Hannon's latest smear with a detailed point by point response.  However, his smear of the fire department was so vague and redacted that there was no way that one could go line by line to refute his allegations.  And this was exactly Hannon's intent.  He is such an unmitigated coward that he is unwilling to hold his allegations up in the bright sunshine to allow for a full and fair evaluation of his claims.  Rather, he would prefer to indict through suggestion and innuendo.

But Fire Starter has been looking at another aspect of Hannon's latest petty thuggery.  Hannon seems to be a man who knows every letter of the rules but has no concept of justice.  This is why it is somewhat surprising that he is so blindly unaware of the Village of Johnson City Code of Ethics.

Under Section 2 of the Code of Ethics, the code is clearly states that it is to apply to "every officer or employee of the Village of Johnson City...".  One proscription in the Code notes "he/she shall not disclose confidential information acquired by them in the course of their official duties or use such information to further their personal interest".  Section 5 of the Code, entitled "Penalties" holds that "In addition to any penalty contained in any other provision of law, any person who shall knowingly and intentionally violate any of the provisions of this code may be fined, suspended, or removed from office or employment...".

That the document released by Hannon contained confidential information is without  question.  In addition to the various claims of misconduct by various fire fighters, it discloses specific allegations against retired Fire Marshal Robert Dempsey.  Such matters, as we are constantly advised by Mayor Hannon, are confidential and can not be disclosed.  That is unless there is something to be gained by Mayor Hannon.  Then the rules no longer apply.

Only the rules do apply.  Hannon is an officer of the Village.  The code applies to "officers and employees".  The Code prohibits the disclosure of confidential information acquired in the course of "official duties".  Hannon clearly disclosed confidential information regarding Dempsey and perhaps a number of other current and past fire department employees.  And Hannon seems to have done so for his own personal political benefit.  Three strikes and you're out.

Which brings us to the penalty phase.  Under penalties, violators may be "fined, suspended or removed from office...".  Perhaps we ought to start with the 30 day suspension that Hannon seems so fond of and investigate his removal from office in the meantime.  Certainly, we would not want to hold Hannon to any lower standard than he has applied to other Village employees and officers.

As evidence of the multiple abuses of power mount, it is time to consider whether Hannon needs to be removed from office.  He has lost all moral authority (if he ever had any).  The Village can not move forward with such corruption at the top.  It is time for Hannon to step down or be removed.