Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Endicott Flood Follies

"Man cannot live by incompetence alone." - Charlotte Whitton

As the waters have receded, we have all begun to look back on our recent flooding.  As we previously aknowleged, we all witnessed the outpouring of generosity from our fellow citizens.  We also witnessed the total ineptness of some of our readers.  This was certainly true in the Village of Endicott.  Whether through ignorance or callousness, the Endicott Village Board members revealed themselves to be ineffectual.

Mayor John Bertoni was certainly a leader in this regard.  In the midst of the flooding, he was advised that the fresh water system for the Village was about to collapse.  The effect of the flood waters pushed the underground piping system to the state of near collapse.  Did Bertoni have questions or seek solututions regarding this impending emergency which could have turned Endicott into a ghost town?  No.  His primary concern was the fact that several cars were underwater at the Oak Hill Ave/Railroad underpass.  He wanted immediate solutions as to how the cars would be removed.  Nevermind that with or without the cars, the eight foot flood waters made the area inpassable.  This was a crisis which needed immediate solutions.  "Potable water is a luxury!  We must clear the downtown waterways  of obstructing vehicles!"

Trustee Frank Flint certainly had his priorities straight.  Many Village residents lost their homes to flood waters and the attendant mud and muck.  Water was in short supply and a water conservation order was issued.  So where was trustee Frank Flint?  Helping village residents?  No.  Solving Village problems at Village Hall? No.  Visiting evacuated residents at shelters? No.  In the immediate aftermath of the flooding, Trustee Flint was seen hosing mud off of his sidewalk.  In the height of a water emergency, Flint was using scarce water resources to clean his sidewalk!  Did he even know what was going on around him?

Trustee Cheryl Chapman's offense was one of stilted priorities and ignorance of the devastation the Village suffered.  Chapman was aware of the severe flooding at the UE High School football field.  Her top priority was ensuring that the football games go on!  Her thinking was that the students needed a level of normalcy in theor lives.  This was certainly the most pure of motives on the part of trustees.  However, her solution was to play the games at the Tri-Cities Airport.  Aside from the fact that this is a working airport and not suited to use as a football field, it was also under water!  We give Trustee Chapman half credit for attempting to serve her community and arrive at solutions.  We only question her priorities and solution.

The most callous and shocking response to the floods came from Trustee Dave Baker.  As the flood waters receded plans for reopening schools were discussed.  With the serious flooding around the High School, it was clear that parking would not be sufficient for students and faculty and staff.  Rather than seeing a problem, Baker saw an opportunity!  Trustee Baker was excited by the prospect of parking ticket revenue which could be realized. Our biggest complaint with Baker is that he was not thinking big enough.  Think of the parking tickets that could have been issued to the vehicles under the Oak Hill overpass.  And there was a veritable gold mine that could have been realized by ticketing  flood victims for putting their trash out on the wrong day!

In the end, the village employees in the police department, the fire department and the public works performed in the professional manner we have come to expect.  Unfortunately, the elected officials also performed in exactly the way we have come to expect.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Free Speech Prevails

"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing" - Edmund Burke

At the last Village of Johnson City Board Meeting, resident Julie Deemie stood to speak to the issue of Mayor Dennis Hannon's incompetence.  She began to detail his mismanagement of the village.  She did so in a respectful tone.  She used no profanity and made no personal attacks.  Hannon, keeping true to form, "gaveled" her out of order and had the police escort her from the podium.  The bully, when confronted, showed his true cowardice.  Apparently this five foot, 90 pound women was a threat to Hannon.

Since Ms. Deemie was unable to present her petition in it's entirety, we reproduce it here for you.

Petition to:

The Village of Johnson City Board of Trustees

I, Julie Deemie, of 153 Zoa Avenue, Village of Johnson City, NY hereby petition you regarding Mayor Dennis Hannon’s malfeasance in office and misuse of taxpayer funds. I shall substantiate my claims by giving a brief history of Dennis Hannon’s actions while serving as Mayor of Johnson City.

During the time which Dennis Hannon has served as an elected official I have attended nearly all of the Village Board Work Sessions and Board Meetings. It has been my observation that his use of intimidation has been commonplace. I have observed that when another member of the board has a differing opinion, Mr. Hannon often directs authoritative and demeaning responses toward the trustee with the difference of opinion, rather than accepting the conflicting viewpoints and ensuing normal dialog. This has also been witnessed on numerous occasions in his interactions with both village employees and certain public persons at board meetings.

It is well known that Mayor Hannon exerts his authority in his relations with the public employees. Prior to Mayor Hannon taking office many public employees frequently attended board meetings. Since Hannon assumed the mayoral position, employee attendance and their speaking during public comment periods has all but ceased. This indicates a fear of retribution, which is illegal and an infringement of these employee’s first amendment rights. Employee morale is at an historic low level with many employees feeling a loss of dignity.

Mayor Hannon spoke on local television in April of this year about our fire and police staffing levels. He stated that “I wish we could continue to maintain those positions. It’s public safety, but it’s a matter of balancing what we can afford versus providing the service to our residents”. It is the mayor’s legal responsibility to provide adequate public safety services to the residents of Johnson City. This statement alone proves the mayors negligence in providing adequate public safety protection. Yet there are other examples of his negligence in providing proper public safety. During Mayor Hannon’s first half of his term the South Side Fire Station has been closed many times due to staffing shortages and many medical calls have not been responded to due to these same shortages in personnel. During board meetings the mayor has stated that he would continue to allow the fire and police forces to be reduced to a number that would render them no longer effective. This proves an intentional and conspired plan by Mayor Hannon.

Since Dennis Hannon took his oath of office, as village mayor, information is less accessible to the taxpayer. F.O.I.L. is commonplace, appointments are required to visit the mayor, doors are now locked at village hall, and an alarming number of executive sessions are conducted. The mayor is on record for attempting to limit free speech at public board meetings. He often will inform a constituent to F.O.I.L. for information, in response to questions at board meetings, rather than offering to provide information later.

A little over a year ago, the mayor assembled a “Shared Services Committee” to conduct further study into consolidating services such as streets, sewer, refuse, courts and clerical. No reports were issued prior to the mayor’s announcement that he would be presenting the board with a resolution for their consideration, to initiate a Dissolution Referendum. The taxpayers funded much the Shared Services Committee’s research, including attorney fees. The taxpayers deserve to know these findings prior to consideration of dissolution.

Mayor Hannon has proven to be financially irresponsible. The mayor has far exceeded historic and customary use of village legal services in terms of litigation and litigation expenses. I feel that many of these law suits could have been avoided if the mayor would have entered contract negotiations in good faith with a fair and open mind. His obstinate stance has cost the taxpayers hundreds of thousands in unnecessary legal expense. He voted yes to adopt the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 budgets without allocating funds for contract retroactive payments and increases. Funds were not properly allocated toward sewer expenses, substantial sewer fund balances were allowed to be spent down, and now the citizens face large increases in sewer fees. Under his watch, 50 fire hydrants were purchased prior to the funds being approved in the 2011-2012 budget, and without use of the bid process. This year’s budget increased taxes less than 2% yet the mayor now states that he sees no other way out of Johnson City’s financial crisis other than through dissolution. He has told the media that he has been contemplating dissolution for over 6 months. All of these actions prove an intentional and conspired plan by Mayor Hannon.

For all of the above reasons, I respectfully request that the Village of Johnson City Board of Trustees, and its legal counsel, recommend that Dennis Hannon resign from his duties as Mayor of Johnson City, NY.

PRINTED NAME_____________________________________________________Date__________________

Signature______________________Address _________________________________________

There is a village board meeting tomorrow.  We encourage all who value the services provided by the village government to come to the meeting and be heard.  We also encourage you to print out Julie Deemie's petition, sign it, and submit it to Mayor Hannon.  Let the village board know that Hannon and
Sullivan's view on dissolution is the minority opinion.  Do not let the bully silence you!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Awards of Dishonor

"In a Democracy, the people get the government they deserve" - Alexis de Tocqueville

The recent flooding has likely caused all of us to take stock of the things that are most important.  Things can be replaced; family and friends can not.  As the waters recede, it is appropriate to take stock of the things we place value on.

Disasters often bring out the best in human nature.  Friend helping friend.  Neighbor helping neighbor.  Stranger helping stranger.  It is this miracle of generosity that reaffirms our belief in the goodness of mankind.

Unfortunately, tragedy can also reveal the darkness in men's souls.  It can reveal the callous self interest of the privileged.  It can reveal the indifference of our leaders to anything other than their political future.  It can reveal the contemptability of the incompetent.  It is with regard to these human cockroaches that the Fire Starter issues these dubious awards of indistiction.

The "Risk Management Award'

When Joint Fire Administrator Hrustich assumed responsibility for the Village of Endicott and the Village of  Johnson City, he assured us all that he was an expert at risk management.  He assured us that he could properly manage the assets of both departments for the benefit of both villages. He assured us that there would "never be simultaneous emergencies in both villages".  This assertion was made notwithstanding the 2006 floods.

However, when the impossible occurred, he was caught totally flat footed.  Hrustich largely left the Village of Johnson City for command of the Endicott department.  In several instances, the Village department was being led by a brand new lieutenant with no practical command experience. 

In addition, While JC Fire Fighters were rescuing residents from their homes, the JCFD boat was ordered out of the Village and to Endicott to assist with the Endicott water treatment plant.  This might be considered a reasonable allocation of assets.  Except the JCFD boat was merely used as a "back up" during the water treatment plant work.  The boat which could have been used to rescue residents sat idle in Endicott.

Apparently risk management largely involves sacrificing the needs of one village for another.

The Let Them Eat Cake Award

This award goes to Trustee Ron Davis.  In the midst of the flood disaster, the Johnson City Fire Department responded to an active fire in an apartment building on Crocker Avenue.  Apparently, Trustee Davis received complaints from his well heeled friends on the hill (like John Sullivan) that their water pressure was adversely affected by the use of water on this working structure fire.  Apparently, some hill dwellers were unable to water their orchids during the fire.

Davis responded to the scene of the fire wanting to know why the pumper truck was not being utilized to extinguish the blaze.  He plead the case for the waterers on the hill while citizens homes burned.  This is why he is our Marie Antoinette.

The Insurance Industry Award

The winner of this award is already familiar to the readers.  He is the risk manager who did not anticipate simultaneous emergencies in the two Villages.  Yes!  that's right.  JFA Stephen Hrustich.  What did he do to bring such credit to himself with the insurance industry?

As waters rose toward the Harry L Drive Fire Station, objects needed to be moved from the lower level to the upper level of the station.  Various articles were ordered moved to safety.  The Fire Department has older and spare cutting tools and the like that are stored in the lower level.  But  JFA ordered those be left behind so that he could claim them as a loss with FEMA!  It is this sort of integrity that earns JFA Hrustich the Insurance Industry Award!

The Double Dip Award

The Winner of this award has already been recognized.  It is almost embarrassing the multitude of ways he is debasing himself through this crisis.

Personal leave time is a contractual benefit that may only be used when staffing allows and at the discretion of the chief.  In times of county wide emergency, one would not expect such leave time being granted.  Well that may be true unless you are one of the JFA's pets.  Hrustrich authorized a personal leave time for one of his acolytes in the midst of the crisis.  Of course, his supplicant had a personal emergency he needed to attend to, right?  Wrong!  This particular toady used his leave time and was paid by the village for the day.  He then came into work and worked his regular shift and received overtime pay of time and a half.  So for being at his job for his regular shift, this individual received 2 1/2 times his regular pay.  Life is good for those who curry favor with the JFA.  And to further bolster the JFA's Insurance Industry Award, this overtime will likely be submitted to FEMA for reimbursement.

The Bubble Boy Award

As the waters rose on Wednesday and Thursday, area residents grabbed all they could and fled their homes for higher ground.  In some instances our neighbors were only able to make it out with the clothes on their backs.  They left behind a lifetime of dreams to be swallowed by the flood waters.

So what was John Sullivan doing while others ran for safety?  The Fire Starter saw John Sullivan adjusting his campaign signs on Harry L Drive in front of Wegmans.  While people were in need, all Sullivan could think of was his own political fortune.  "I am safe in my bubble.  Tough luck for you.  And vote for Sullivan!"

The SPCA Award

In this category we have two winners.  Many have read of the animals that were lost at Petco in Johnson City.  Mayor Hannon found the deaths of the animals "disgusting".  But what Hannon fails to even try to rebut is Petco's explanation.  Note that Hannon does not claim that Petco was told to evacuate.  He merely claims that they should have known.  The responsibility for these animal deaths falls squarely on Mayor Hannon and his administration.  But don't hold your breath for that admission from Hannon.

What many do not realize is that there was an additional opportunity to rescue these animals.  When Petco became aware of the risk to animals, it brought workers and boats to access the store and rescue the animals.  Unfortunately, JFA Hrustich refused to allow them access and the animals died.

For these reasons, this Award must be shared by JFA Hrustich and Mayor Hannon.  Great work guys!

In the face of all of this dishonesty, double dealing and selfishness we have innumerable examples of bravery, compassion and dedication.  Many examples come from our fire fighters and police officers.  These public servants in many instances left their own personal disaster to mitigate the disasters of their fellow citizens.  And of course, there were the friends, neighbors and perfect strangers who stepped  up to do what they could.  It is against their blinding excellence that the dark self interested actions of our "award winners" can be seen.

And in this instance, we hope that the public really gets the leadership it deserves.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

John Sullivan: Hypocrite

A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation. -Adlai E. Stevenson

Fire Starter has reported regarding the disgraceful record of dissolutionist John Sullivan.  At every turn, Mr. Sullivan has taken from the village and fed at the public trough while criticizing the brave men and women in the police and fire departments.  Whether it is his publicly financed health insurance through his wife or his tax breaks on his home, Mr. Sullivan has repeatedly shown that it is all about him and his selfish interests.

One such example of Sullivan's hypocrisy was found in his opposition to a development plan in his neighborhood.  Several years ago, Mr. Sullivan invested in a development above the Oakdale Mall.  Unfortunately for him and his fellow investors, they had difficulty on the financial end of the deal so the project never went forward.  Mr. Sullivan blamed  "red tape" within the Village and Town governments for this failure and immediately got on the dissolution bandwagon.  Sullivan went so far as to even suggest secession of his portion of Johnson City.  In other words, the entire Village needed to be turned upside down because he was unable to get his way.

Now flash forward two years.  The Dellapenna family was attempting to develop the same area above the Oakdale Mall.  Unlike the Sullivan project, the Dellapenna family had their ducks in a row and were prepared to move forward.  Did John Sullivan applaud this economic development?  Did he praise the expansion of the tax base?  Did he cheer the Dellapenna family's initiative and commitment to the Village?  Think again.

Mr. Sullivan has attempted to place every possible road block in the way of this project.  A project that was fine for him to develop is now something to be rejected.  And Sullivan has enlisted the assistance of his good friend Dennis Hannon to block the project.

Fire Starter received a copy of an email sent by Sullivan to Hannon.  In the email, Sullivan advises Hannon that he and his neighbors plan to invoke the Patriot Act to attempt to thwart development in the Village.  Although he alleges no wrongdoing by the Dellapenna family, he attempts to use this law to harass them into abandoning the project.  A copy of the original email is scanned below.  (For the best view, click on the image and a magnifying glass will appear and allow the content to be re-sized and more easily read.)

Now Sullivan wants to be a trustee.  But it is clear that he does not seek to protect the interests of Village residents but only his own selfish pursuits.  On the one hand, he seeks to develop a property but when he is unable to, no one should.  He complains of taxes but seeks to block projects that would add tax dollars to the coffers.  He complains of public employee pay and benefits while reaping the benefits through his wife.

A picture of Mr. Sullivan begins to reveal itself.  And it is of a bitter and selfish man.  He should get everything and to hell with everyone else.  Is this the sort of individual who should be elected to the Village board?