From the Chairman's Desk:
For many years, I taught government at Johnson City High School and Broome Community College. Among the biggest challenges in a government classroom wasn’t the discussions about the Constitution or the confusing charts describing federalism. The most difficult thing to convince a young American in our modern era is that their single vote counts and that their participation makes a significant difference.
When I wasn’t yet 10 years old, President John F. Kennedy opened his all-too-brief tenure in office with a call to duty: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” That call to duty inspired an entire generation. Years later, the nobility of public service has been supplanted by a cynicism that has reduced voter turnout, reduced the number of people seeking office, and ultimately reduced our confidence in a system that President Abraham Lincoln so rightfully declared to be “of the people, by the people and for the people.” It is time to turn the corner.
I join my Republican counterpart in calling for you to step up to the plate in 2015 and become involved. There are elections in November that willhave a greater effect on your life than the so-called “on-year” elections. Every seat on Binghamton City Council is up for election this year. Vestal will elect a supervisor and members of its council. Endicott votes on a mayor and trustees, and trustees will be elected in Johnson City. We will have the ability to reelect an outstanding district attorney. The direction of our community is up for election. It is our opportunity to take hold of the reigns and help steer our future.
I am proud to be Broome County Democratic chairman. Our party has stood loudly and proudly for fundamental rights: civil rights, women’s rights, gender equality, every American’s right to collectively bargain, every American’s right to affordable health care, every American’s right to opportunity. We are the oldest political party in the world and we have a very proud tradition.
I invite anyone who wants to participate in any of a number of ways, to please contact me at 773-8369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.- Jim Testani, County Chair
IN THE NEWS
Goodbye to a bad idea for Binghamton
In an article earlier this month regarding the proposed conversion of the MetroCenter Pedestrian Plaza into a parking lot, the David administration contended that if it wasn't for all the "misinformation" being circulated, this project would/could have been approved. To that claim, I would offer the following.
Members of the Commission on Architecture and Urban Design (CAUD) first raised concerns about this project. They communicated them via correspondence, and other concerned citizens raised meaningful points and voiced these in person at city council meetings.
These citizens were told CAUD approval was not needed; that the traffic board was not needed; that unspent bond funds from another capital project could be used without any other approvals; and that the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) was not applicable; these were all inaccurate and untrue.
How time changes circumstances. Based on these questions and the need for a more deliberative process, the administration was forced to engage CAUD, sought approval from the city's traffic board, acknowledged the need for new bonding authority to fund this project, and committed to compliance with SEQRA. All of this begs the question, what was the administration trying to do before these issues were raised by concerned citizens?
I think the answer is pretty clear. The goal was to circumvent the existing process — those checks and balances that are in place to ensure good governance and deliver a quality project that benefits the public's interest. The ultimate goal of the project being that it benefit a select few at the expense of the many.
Final approval for this project (once the proper procedures were followed) rested with City Council. Fortunately, through a much more deliberative process, council declined to move this ill-conceived project forward and indebt its citizens.
Obviously, if the city is to borrow funds, there are better uses that will have a broader impact on our citizens and help build community. All anyone need do is look around the city to see the deteriorated condition of our infrastructure. I'm sure anyone you asked on the street would quickly suggest a street in their neighborhood that could benefit from the nearly $500,000 price tag attributed to these downtown parking spaces.
For me, how about the streets around Horace Mann Elementary School, Clark, College, and portions of Chestnut and Laurel. These are so bad, they can't even upgrade the pavement markings for the safety of all the children in this neighborhood who walk to work.
We all as citizens need to be paying more attention to what goes on in city government. Go to the city's website, and review City Council, Planning Commission and Zoning Board agendas and minutes. Come to a meeting, participate, be engaged, know your council representative. Good government needs you!
Mark Bowers is a Binghamton resident. He announced his candidacy for Binghamton City Council on Thursday.
[Op-Ed published in the Press & Sun Bulletin, May 15, 2015]
County, city leader lawsuits should put public on alert
When catching the unsettling whiff of a burning odor in the house, most people start checking their homes for fire.
The smell may turn out to be from a neighbor's chimney, but making certain the house is safe makes the fire inspection a smart move.
A similar disturbing whiff is now drifting over Broome County as the number of court actions involving its public officials grows.
The elected and appointed officials carrying the smoky odor of legal problems now includes:
•New York Senator Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, who is under federal indictment for lying to the FBI. The accusation stems from an incident involving Libous allegedly promising extra state business to a law firm to obtain a job for his son.
The scope of the investigation included allegations that Libous arranged for a lobbying firm to pay $50,000 annually to the law firm to fund his son's inflated salary and a leased Range Rover.
Libous's son, Matthew, was convicted in February in a related matter of three counts of filing false income tax returns.
•Broome County Executive Debbie Preston in February was named in a lawsuit alleging a pattern of harassment and discrimination involving Dawn Shafer, a former county sheriff deputy. Her suit alleges Preston used her position to harass Shafer while she was at her county job and the hostile workplace led to her early retirement.
•Binghamton Mayor Rich David faces a lawsuit stemming from a New Year's Day incident at a downtown bar.
David's girlfriend has been charged with assault from allegedly throwing a glass at another woman resulting in a head injury that required two stitches to close. David faces a lawsuit for using his office as mayor to pressure the injured woman's employer to get her to stop cooperating with police who were investigating the alleged assault.
•Binghamton Police Chief Joseph Zikuski went on paid administrative leave last Tuesday.
He was named in a New York State Division of Human Rights complaint alleging he made sexual advances toward city police officer Kristi Sager as well as other female members of the department and the wives of male department members.
Sager filed the complaint that also alleged city officials were aware of the allegations involving Zikuski but failed to investigate the claims.
•Broome County Sheriff David Harder was named in a lawsuit last week on behalf of an inmate who died in the county jail in January after allegedly being left untreated from a brutal beating by corrections officers the previous day.
The suit claims that during his 19-month incarceration, Salladin P. Barton, 35, was subjected to beatings, deprived of medical care and verbally abused.
The allegations against these five elected and appointed officials and county and city governments are unproven claims that must be tested in courts and administrative hearings. Only then will the allegations be sustained or tossed aside as unfounded claims.
The smoke, however, is growing thick in Broome County and residents ought to keep a sharp eye out for a real fire.
(Editorial published in the Press & Sun Bulletin on March 29, 2015)
P.O. Box 854, Binghamton NY 13902 607-773-8369 Fax 607-772-0183