March 3, 2008

County Should Scrap Comprehensive Plan

We have to agree with the Greater Niagara Newspaper editorial to scrap moving forward with a county master plan. In the article, GNN states that "It looks like the Niagara County Legislature is keeping warm this winter. They’re doing it by putting your tax dollars in a big pile and them setting them on fire". Oh the drama.

While we agree with not moving forward with plan, we have different reasons. It's simply not worth the grief you'll receive. A comprehensive plan will dictate a blueprint for growth and development. From what we understand, the legislature has included all communities and every identified stakeholder group in the process. In fact, the title County Comprehensive Plan was changed to Niagara County Communities Comprehensive Plan to reflect the importance of inclusion of every community.

Last week Clough Harbor, the planners, held an informational session at NCCC to reach out to the community for input and feedback. What they got for their efforts were unfounded accusations by Larry Castellani showing a lack of expertise, an attack about their ethics and billing practices for consultants by Rosemary Warren, an accusation by Neil Richardson that the process is “a scam”, that the process should exclude traffic because “there is no traffic in Niagara County”, a question by County employee William Rutland demanding an explanation for the inclusion of the word “Communities” in the title, and the usual incoherent rant from Al Wroblewski about politicians. I have also heard, although not yet verified, that Larry Castellani talked about the loss of 500,000 young people from Niagara County over the last several years. I really hope that an instructor at NCCC did not say something so erroneous. (For those of you who don’t know, the entire population of Niagara County is a little over 200,000.)

Al Wroblewski nailed it when he said, “Why are we here?” Good question. Is this how we move our community forward? Not one single person in attendance offered any constructive input. Not one single person offered a single idea to help move this process forward. Did Larry, Neil, Rosemary or Al talk about preferred locations for business? Did they talk about strains on our infrastructure caused by residential development in Wheatfield and Lockport? Did they talk about the preservation of farmland and the use of natural resources? Did they talk about expansion or reduction of government services? Did they talk about public safety? No, no, no, no and no.

Folks, there is nothing easier to do than criticize other people's ideas. But the real challenge is to work with our communities to develop ideas that will create a real vision. Neil, Rosemary, Al and Larry are not members of that group that will lead Niagara forward. I am absolutely convinced that each of them used the session as nothing more than a forum to vent and satisfy whatever personal needs they have to make themselves look smart or important or to simply fill some void their lives. There is no other valid explanation.

Of course, somehow this is news. I was very disappointed to read the Buffalo News take on this and the amount of coverage dedicated by Tom Prohaska to those people who are not doing a thing for our county. When did Neil Richardson saying that we have “no traffic in Niagara County” become news? (Or at least news I would want to waste my time reading.)

So do yourselves a favor, save the $200k. If nothing else, you can spare yourselves from a few scornful, mean-spirited, albeit misguided, individuals and the oh so intense drama of an editorial board intent on focusing on nothing but the negative.

22 comments:

Larry Castellani said...

Hobbes you, like Prohaska, should get your facts and contexts straight before you spew misinformation and misrepresentation. Anyone who was listening to what I said at the N-Trip meeting will know I in fact made a distinction between someone at the meeting doubting CLA’s integrity and my concern about their experience and therefore competence to lead such an undertaking. I couldn’t find information online as to any other such projects that they might have led. My question distinguished between their integrity and their competence. I never made any accusations and Hobbes owes me an apology for saying I did. But I won’t hold my breath…. Hobbes, the rest of what you say about me is childish nonsense. Why speculate about people psychologically? Well the answer to that is so you can discredit them. Typical anti-democratic but mainstream political viciousness. I had thought better of you but I guess I was wrong. You continue to attack people from behind a moniker. So you are not only a liar and provocateur but also a coward. …. Regarding the population loss, as I said at the meeting, I wasn’t sure whether the story was true. The real point is that we are losing much too much population even if the story I read was not accurate regarding such. I said nothing “erroneous” but if I did I can admit it. …. And for your information I’m not an “instructor” at NCCC. I’m a Professor. I was an instructor 19 years ago. ….. As for the comprehensive plan, I maintain it could be a good thing for no other reason than what CLA claims, namely, it may result in establishing some relationships and dialogue to further the democratic process. And such process is obviously something that you Hobbes have little interest in or you wouldn't be practicing such divisiveness. ... What this is costing taxpayers may well be too much. I don’t know what CLA is making. If democracy was alive and well we wouldn’t have to be hiring anyone in the first place to help us talk to one another and solve our problems. And Hobbes, grow up!

Anonymous said...

Larry,

So that is how you provide input into the process? You repeat stories that you do not know to be true? For what purpose? If you don't know, then why wouldn't you ask? Using far-fetched, inaccurate numbers regarding population loss to justify your position is simply irresponsible. There are people in the community that believe what they read. You are a professor and that lends you some credibility- so I would appreciate it if you got your facts straight.

Anonymous said...

Hobbes: Where's YOUR name on the list of attendees. This is getting a little transparant and more than a bit sickening. HOW DARE YOU disparage ANY attendee that spoke their mind and signed their names? Is this the tactic that you've chosen purposely? Or, are you really this misguided, dillusional or just plain politically gutteral?

The people that you;'ve mentioned twice in your opener "article" got off their asses, spent money on gas, tolls or whatever and showed up. Did you? Then, to go and chastize them for expressing their opinions, thereby trying to "subdue" comments made that have as much or MROE weight than anything I've read you place on these pages is as UN-American a piece of propaganda as I've ever seen.

Shame, shame, shame, shame on you Hobbes--who you might really be is yet undertermined other than a muse for the politically connected and a vile person to denegrate ANYONE who speaks their minds. Shame on you BIG TIME!

Anonymous said...

Using personal attcks is a tactic right out of the textbooks on debunking and I believe, something that was used by Germany's Goebels propaganda machine! Cause these people to not attend meetings, be afraid of speaking their minds, and allowing the politics of what one of the previous writers called "proto-facism."

This blog site is certainly good for one thing: That is to see just HOW LOW the present day political machine in Niagara County has fallen. Nice work Hobbes. NOT!

Is it true that you yourself are an elected official here in Niagara County? You can at least answer that in the hopes of some honest disclosure! Shalll it be 'speculated' and then written about?

Larry Castellani said...

‘anon’(another hidden coward in the crowd):

You ought to apprise yourself regarding the complexities of the knowledge process before you start waving the flag for truth. You ask me if I repeat stories? Are you on the basis of repeating Hobbes “story” now moralizing with me? You say there are people in the community who “believe what they read.” Apparently you are one of these people, whoever you are. And, whoever you are, what we do know about you is that you are afraid of the public sphere. By the way, you don’t really count. When a person is afraid to make errors publicly they will never provide any real leadership to others.

The factual question is about what exactly the state of our population is relative to how many we have lost. The number I gave was in the first place reported as figures for Western NY not just for NC. I give news stories the benefit of the doubt until I hear something more convincing. Don’t you? We at least “know” that people aren’t beating down the doors to get into NC. If they are, I’d like to know how many and why.

And please don’t play the naïve game with me that forces me to presume that I either speak with absolute certainty or that I then know nothing at all and shouldn’t speak. Even my introductory philosophy students know better than that.

Knowledge and truth, especially in political discourse are probably rare commodities given that corruption and character assassination are the rule of the day. If we had to wait for absolute infallible truth before beginning to speak, the conversation would never start. But if you don’t know the truth, then put it in the form of a question or the context of probable truth, as I do, and as Socrates and Aristotle recommended. Moreover the limits that comprise the range of “truth” are not bordered on one end by incontrovertible fact and on the other end by lies.

But do you deny that we are losing far too many people, especially young people? Once you’re done trying to discredit me, if ever, consider the problem as opposed to testing my capacity for anal retentive accuracy or Cartesian certainty.

When are you too going to grow up and give others the benefit of the doubt as living in good faith for the common good and enter the real discourse of truth as opposed to playing the child to Hobbes’ pied piper?

Anonymous said...

BRAVO LARRY!!!

I'll post this...
HOBBES wrote (spewed):
"Folks, there is nothing easier to do than criticize other people's ideas. But the real challenge is to work with our communities to develop ideas that will create a real vision."

YOU CAN SAY THAT AGAIN!!! Can't you "Hobbes"?

HOBBES wrote (spewed):
"Not one single person offered a single idea to help move this process forward."

"AND ONCE AGAIN, NO HOBBES WAS MENTIONED, SEEN OR OFFERED ONE IOTA OF INPUT AT THIS MEETING. NOPE DIDN'T SEE THAT NAME IN THE BN NEWS ARTICLE... EXCEPT THIS "blog article" on how terrible the citizens were that WERE THERE AND DID SPEAK!

DISGUSTING.
Signed,
AnonyME

Mr. Pink said...

Whoa, what has happened to this board and all the good back and forth we used to enjoy? What happened to people like Pirate's Code posting witty sarcasm that made everyone think? When did EVERYONE start hiding behind anon, which makes it confusing to even follow the converstation...at least develop a moniker so we know who's who.

I for one am disappointed that Larry would be mentioned in the same breath as some of those others. I attend enough community meetings to be disgusted with the six nuts who think everyone in a position of authority is out to screw them.

But whether Larry is right or wrong, we should not be diminishing the quality of his thought nor question his intentions.

And let's not lose sight of how ridiculous the newpaper is for calling into question the importance of strategic planning. If this is how GNN views strategic planning, perhaps this explains why they are tanking.

pirate's code said...

Holy Flame War, Batman, what's happened to reasoned and reasonable discourse here in Gotham County? Where to begin...

- I did not attend the public meeting being referenced here, so I can't speak to what was said, implied and so on. That said, I am not surprised that skepticism was expressed. In part because that's what some of the people mentioned in the News article and here do best. And in part because government at all levels has, from time to time, earned our skepticism. Not just Dems, not just Repubs, and not necessarily any individual. But government in general.

- I don't know much about this strategic planning initiative, nor do I know if it is an expensive process or not. But I do know that people in these parts are quick to dismiss anything that uses a consultant and/or costs taxpayers money. The reason? See the note above. I don't necessarily agree, but I do understand.

- I don't know how to have a public process that actually involves all of the public. How does a body like a county legislature move any idea or concept past the idea or concept point if they have to stop and consult all 200,000 souls they represent first?

- It would appear that certain writers here and in the MSM want to stop this planning effort because they think it won't be public enough (my words, Larry, not yours), yet it would seem that the meeting that brought this sentiment out was, um, public.

- As to the issue of anonymity -- I use a nom d'intertube for various reasons, some of which have nothing to do with fear. The ability to "publish" so rapidly and so broadly on the web behind the cloak of anonymity is equal parts good and bad. We can argue about it forever, but we all better get used it to. Technology marches on. (Although Mr. Pink is correct about the number of "anonymous" posters here. It's hard to keep track of a conversation. So, pick a name. Be clever. Be creative. If your situation allows, be yourself. If your situation doesn't, be like me and simply steal something from a movie.)

- For the record, once and for all, honest to goodness, cross my heart and hope to die, let me state the following:
--- I consider myself a moderate politically.
--- I am a registered Republican but, really, does that matter once you close the curtain to the voting booth?
--- I think Larry Castellani, if that's his real name, is a kook...but in a good way. His sentences are often way too long, but he makes interesting points.
--- I give not a single fig about whether or not Tom Christy hosts a political/government/game show on whatever channel, because I rarely watch it. When I do, I find him to be under-informed and not nearly as funny as he apparently thinks he is, but at least he's out there. I sometimes wonder why he shouts, but mostly I simply don't care. On that point, I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that I am in the vast majority.

- Finally, many have accused Hobbes, this site, and some of the posters, of being Republican shills. One, in fact, goes by the moniker "GOP shill." Big freakin' deal! There are bazillions of sites like this all over the region, the country, and probably the world. I read several every day -- some obviously GOP, some obviously Dem, and some none of the above. I like this one because it tends to be mostly local in nature, which is hard to find around Niagara County. Don't like it? Start your own. Think this one is posting untruths? Respond. I think Hobbes has had to do very little "administering" of this site -- read censoring -- because most posts have been (at least) civil. While I only sometimes agree with Hobbes, I thank him for taking the time to do this.

So, before we flame war sites like this out of existence, keep in mind that the printed word for mass markets has been around for nearly six centuries. By comparison, the internet for mass market has, what, maybe two decades behind it? We're all still learning.

How'd I do, professor?

Mr. Pink said...

My mutual admiration society with PC continues....although I would never call Larry a kook. When it's someone from academia, I think you're supposed to say eccentric.

What Hobbes should be most concerned about, beyond some of the loss of civility of late, is the lack of interesting, compelling points of view.

I hope that both Dan Rivera and Henry Wojtaszek are reading this site and publishing under different names, provided they can make a case for their point of view.

No one wants to read, "You suck. No you suck."

Which brings us back to the topic. I'm tired of public meetings where the comments are essentially "You all suck."

Many people with careers, families, etc. don't have time to partake in these public meetings which means a very small minority speaks for us...a minority I never seem to agree with. In this information age, why aren't we conducting more virtual public meetings or posting more information on the running of government for public comment.

Not everyone is free on Tuesday nights at 7 p.m.

rob clark said...

Here`s a take that I haven`t heard mentioned yet in any forum. The consultants for this project are getting approx. $300,000.00 of our hard earned tax paying dollars. For what? Someone said to open doors of communication between Municipalities. Are you kidding me. Pick up the damn phone and talk. Don`t waste money like this. To me it looks like someone is getting paid for support.

Here`s what I am personally worrying about with this plan. What about interferring with a city, town, or village already in the middle of a master plan. Who`s plan do you go by? Who`s incharge of what? I for one do not want to work on something and have the county come in and tell me to scrap what I have worked on for my residents because it doesn`t fit there plan.And you know that if your on the wrong side of the Legislature there`s will trump out overall.

The Towns of Lockport,and Pendelton, along with the city of Lockport didn`t need to waste money like this to communicate a plan. The Transit North Corridor is what happends when party politics is pushed to the side and politicans do their job. I for one appluad these Democrats and Republicans in office for working together for the good of their communities.

If I can attend the next meeting I will. I want to listen to what they have to say. Untill then this just sounds like another waste of money.

pirate's code said...

Why do I suspect Mr. Pink was too busy to attend the meeting because he was in a diner arguing with his buddies about whether or not to leave a tip? (Great movie, by the way.)

Agreed, pink. "You suck, because I say you do..." gets tiresome and, I believe, is one of the factors why people don't get involved.

I also know that "you suck/no, you suck" arguments still make for good copy in many so-called journalists' eyes, which is why we see so much of it in the msm.

And, I might be able to live with a "you suck" comment if:
A. They gave a solid, fact-based reason for saying so, and;
B. They offered a reasonable, well-though-out alternative.

Sadly, that tends not to happen.

In the meantime, stick to the code. Which is really more of a guideline.

pirate's code said...

rob clark raises and interesting argument about planning processes, in this case the question of who goes first, or who takes priority.

Again, I know little about the county's effort (I will try to learn), but let me offer this? Is it better to have one plan for a county of 200,000, or is it better to have multiple layers of plans? This gets to one of my favorite topics, the sheer amount of government we have in our little corner of the world. At 200,000 people, NC is still smaller than the incredible shrinking city of Buffalo, yet we have in the county three cities, five villages and twelve -- count-em, 12 -- townships. That's twenty (yes, 20) local governments within the county.

Is it better to spend $300k once, or $15k twenty different times?

We really, seriously, no kidding, please, please, please need to look at some manner of consolidation. No wonder the average schmu...er, citizen...can't keep it all straight.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't there either, but a big thank you to mr. pink, pirate's code and rob clark for putting this post back on track.

Larry Castellani said...

P.c:
Welcome back! Almost sent a search party. Your grade: a generous C+.

Kook? Yes!... Eccentric? Yes! …. Longwinded sentences? Yes, guilty. I’ll try harder for the short pithy sentence.

My position is that the planning process should continue. Not only because there is a paucity of new, creative ideas but because this kind of process is part of democracy. Leadership and the best ideas come out of democratic, self-determining discourse, not autocratic demagoguery. There’s all too much of the latter in reading distance.

My concern is that the authoritarian ethos and ideological doublespeak in the NC air prevents authentic representation in this process. I question the fairness of the representation, the stakeholders, because of the lack of sufficient prior publicity and the lack of expressed concern for further publicity. Also, I question the fairness because too many decisions are made by entrenched politicos and bureaucrats before being made public. I don’t trust entrenched interests who pay mere lip service to democratic process and ignore the issues of the democratic education of the people.

Most politicians do not believe in democracy and only use its institutions and language to further their own partisan interests. The people as a whole have been written off. Most mainstream politicos don’t practice democracy in its fullest any more than most capitalists practice capitalism. Most politicians would rather shoot themselves than talk to you, as most capitalists would rather kill your business than fairly compete with it.

The anonymity….just creepy I guess. Or isn’t it that, for example, it makes a big difference whether the ’I had a dream’ speech were made by Hitler vs MLK vs Anonymous. Who it is that speaks determines real context and real consequences.

Personality makes a difference. Hobbes could be a computer program.

rob clark said...

PC...The only problem you run into with consolidation is for some reason operations cost go up. You would think that they wouldn`t but they do. Atleast from the studies I`v`e seen form bigger mergers. But maybe if villages were to disolve into their towns that could be differn`t. And you still could keep figure heads for certian things. Just not paid figure heads.

Larry Castellani said...

Maybe this is where the CLA expertise as community planners comes in. If these consultants do have the answers to the questions that Pc and Rob raise, then they might be worth the money. If they have suggestions and some empirical evidence regarding other counties and community mergers, they might be of help. It also might be important to know why all the villages and townships were formed. If the people themselves found good reason for their independence or autonomy, then artificially imposed plans based on the idea that fewer townships, cities, villages are better may be elitist or serving some other hidden interests. The notion that some kind of consolidation will save money when there may be evidence to the contrary may also not be such a great idea. Why I raised the question as to the competence of CLA at the infamous public meeting at NCCC, was that I really don’t know what community planners know. I don’t know how they work and what they presume politically or economically. And in particular if CLA are such planners, why didn’t they have any documents or reports regarding their work elsewhere and a summary of the measurable results or consequences of their presence. When I asked for evidence of the trail they left, they said they didn’t have any. Nevertheless I’d still like to see it go forward. I guess I don’t think we have anything much to lose.

pirate's code said...

rob clark -- My guess as to why operations costs are predicted to rise in merger studies is that no one really wants to give up control or jobs. Parochialism reigns supreme in NC. Towns think the county is out to get them. Our cities view themselves as silos. Even villages completely surrounded by a single town won't give anything up in order to save "identity."

Well, tradition is fine for those that can afford it. We can't anymore. Besides, it is not government that gives a place its sense of community or identity. It's not garbage pick-up, or sewer districts, or police/fire coverage. Lewiston will always be different than Middleport, for instance, regardless of the government structure that provides the basic and necessary services.

Consolidation is sometimes expense because we allow it to be expensive. We claim we look to the future while keeping a death grip on the past. And, maybe, that is where a qualified consultant can be helpful. Like Larry, I have no idea if this particular process or consultant is the answer, but let's not kill the process before it ever gets started. It does seem odd that a consultant would not be prepared to tout their capabilities at the drop of a hat. After all, your next contract could be sitting in the room.

And, lc, a C+? Damn, you're a tough grader. Is it because I confessed to being a Republican?

Hobbes as computer program? Hmmm.

Anonymous said...

pc and mr pink....you both suck.

Niagara Prognosticator said...

I cannot comment on the particular planning project, process or consultant, per se, but I can offer some issues to consider while considering this project.

1. Often, state local and even private foundation grants require that proposed projects be referenced and/or consistent with some sort of formally adopted plan. Is that the case here? Is this the primary purpose for this particular planning project?

2. The trouble with plans are that plans often become the ends unto themselves. That is, plans are completed, reviewed, amended, adopted and then put on the shelf. Seldom are they pulled off the shelf for reference and guidance. Unless the receipt of money is dependent on implementing some portion of the plan.

3. Plans often conflict with other plans and this fact sometimes elevates a plan to 'bible status" when a proposed implementation of some portion of a plan conflicts with what someone else's plan on a shelf says.

A good instance of this occurred in the MSM this week with word that the Town of of Wheatfield stands in opposition to the Greenway plan to convert a portion of the LaSalle Expressway (lol) into a bike path. Of course, the bike plan is in conflict with Wheatfield's "Land of Oz" (ROTFLMAO) plan. So here we have two competing plans getting headlines for 2 sets of politicians for projects neither of which are likely to become reality any time soon.

3. Parochialism. Mr. Clark raises this point splendidly in his decision to finally involve himself in the NC process because he's now become aware that it could somehow affect the ToN's master plan for wall to wall malls and Super Walmarts. This is not meant to be negative against Mr.c. IOn the contrary, it is commendable that at least he, out of the hundreds of local officials, recognizes that the NC plan could have an impact on his town's own planning process.

4. Consultants. Its been my experience that consultants are hired by governments to tell them what they all ready know and what they want to here to promote some sort of agenda. Often, governments have the knowledge and expertise right on staff to do a proper plan, but often these folks are not trusted or given enough professional respect that would allow a self-generated plan to have any weight with decision-makers and the public. So high priced consultants are engaged to regurgitate the work of the in-house experts and give it an "independent consultant" stamp of approval.

5. Want to know in advance what the plan will look like? The proof is in the plan design, the plan's paradigm (LC can explain that term.) What data does it take in and how does it measure or evaluate that data? What theoretical models does it purport to represent?

As a simple example of how this can work, a plan that seeks to conform NC into a more rural place will ultimately suggest razing and relocating developed area, while one that wishes to promote residential growth will suggest new housing projects and one to promote manufacturing will suggest locating factories adjacent to your natural wonder waterfall.

4. Does Niagara County have a current comprehensive plan? If not, see point 1 above. If so, then see point 4 and ask why NC cannot accomplish the same goal in-house.

Just some things to ponder as i once again come out of anon mode.

Anonymous said...

RE: "Not one single person in attendance offered any constructive input. Not one single person offered a single idea to help move this process forward. Did Larry, Neil, Rosemary or Al talk about preferred locations for business? Did they talk about strains on our infrastructure caused by residential development in Wheatfield and Lockport? Did they talk about the preservation of farmland and the use of natural resources? Did they talk about expansion or reduction of government services? Did they talk about public safety? No, no, no, no and no.

Folks, there is nothing easier to do than criticize other people's ideas. But the real challenge is to work with our communities to develop ideas that will create a real vision..."

My Comment on the above: my invite letter arrived late, so I didn't attend.

I can tell you that had I been there I would have put forth the NFWHC proposal to bring an accredited, 10 month, graduate level, native plant, landscape design school to the City of Niagara Falls.

The city doesn't have a university. (NU's in Lewiston.) The eight county, WNY region doesn't have a landscape design school. We have a greenway that almost no one knows how to define, protect, or eventually maintain.

Develop the Niagara River Greenway with preservation, restoration and reclamation as its core mission and we WILL bring in economic development, jobs, that not only pay beyond minimum wage, they will attract the high-incomes professions, the creative-class, the professionals that answer what we need.

The school will keep and draw the young adults we need and provide them with the means to answer the problems facing them: sustainability, biodiversity, and the growing concerns of the world's global warming.

We could be the front runners for a change, to create and leave a legacy.

The proposal can be viewed at www.nfwhc.org

The model for the school can be viewed at www.csld.edu

You should know that the Conway School "puts practice before theory." Their students develop tangible, real world projects, not just ideas on paper. Every 10 months we would see 3 completed projects. That's PROGRESS.

I not only would would have advocated, I do advocate, the protection, preservation, reclamation, and restoration of our natural scenic resources, our rural landscape, and push for creating and then keeping the natural, scenic "sense of place" we need. They enhance every proposed project.

I'd have asked: Why can't we have it all: a green oasis that capitalizes on preserving, protecting, reclaiming, and restoring the waterfall and gorge, a vibrant city, a place THE RESIDENTS are proud to call home? That will address the public safety issues. It's what turned NYC around: Pride of place.

I believe we can. I know we can. We have the most magnificent assets in the world in our backyard.

In fact, if YOU believe that, let people know by signing the petition at www.niagaraheritage.org

They've had the vision and the foresight for 10 years.

Anonymous said...

HOW do you post photos or doxuments here?

Larry Castellani said...

Yes, someone with a vision, concrete and positive. It sidesteps all the paranoia, cynicism, and excuses, and offers immediately productive possibilities while generating open-ended future expansion consistent with the Greenway project and consistent with the natural integrity of the region . The nfwhc proposal focuses on the only thing we’ve really got left given that we have no control of Niagara power in such a way that it really is our asset. This plan renders visible the jewel in the crown. It could be the unifying moment of the Comprehensive Plan. Lastly, note that the plan is not about “tree huggers” getting their way; it’s about a plan that integrates ecology, education, business and ….ummm?.....call it common sense.