Fiscal Clarity

This is another topic which my partner co-candidate Keith Price Jr. is passionate about.  We would like to see financial information for the town easy to find, and published in an easy to understand format.


Uniform Job Descriptions

This is a topic which my co-candidate Keith Price Jr. is passionate about.  We would like to see job descriptions of town employees tightened up so that we don't have government employees who are either doing more than they should be doing, or less than they should be doing.


Rent Control

This is content I had originally published in 2016 when running for NYS Senate:

Rent control is not much of a problem in the Binghamton and surrounding region, but is common downstate and even in some other parts of upstate.

Rent control fights against basic microeconomic theory.  In normal supply/demand theory, as demand increases the prices go up, often temporarily, but then the higher cost incentivizes the creation of more supply.

Factor in rent control, and scarcity is created and sustained.  Demand is not relaxed because prices are forced down from free-market levels.  Supply growth is restricted due to lack of incentive to build more housing.  Why would investors want to invest in rent controlled housing, when other options exist which are more profitable?  Landlords will fight government to open up more zoning rules for non-residential development, while residential lots might sit idle with no interest to build.

Read this article which summarizes this problem very well.

http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/RentControl.html

 

Last paragraph:

 

The surest way to encourage private investment is to signal investors that housing will be safe from rent control. And the most effective way to do that is to eliminate the possibility of rent control with an amendment to the state constitution that forbids it. Paradoxically, one of the best ways to help tenants is to protect the economic freedom of landlords.”

 

I would work to develop such an amendment to our state constitution.

 

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Shared Services Building

The Shared Services building project has been several years in planning.  The most significant change from the early planning stages was the withdrawal of the Village of Owego from the project.  It was originally to be a combined project for both the village and the town.

Much of the purpose of the project is to be able to better respond to regional floods which impact the town, and to reduce town losses from such floods when they occur.

I attended a February 27, 2019 informational meeting on the project and uploaded the 20 page handout which you can download here:

Shared Services Report February 27 2019

 

A key question I asked was for more solid numbers on the projected cost savings from consolidation of services.  We should rationally support the project based on risk assessment for the flood issue, and from gains in manpower efficiency for the consolidation components.  Taxpayers need to be proven that the cost of the project produces benefits of significant value.  

 

 


Lake and River Management

Lakes and rivers often suffer a "tragedy of the commons" problem.  Being these water bodies are typically public property, they don't obtain the care which they would receive if privately owned.

A good group to follow on this topic is PERC, go to http://www.perc.org

I started this section here for the benefit of other Libertarian candidates in New York state.  See also the section on DEP (Department of Environmental Police) for similar discussions.

 

Here is a report on a lake management strategy for Chautauqua Lake in western NY:

https://assets.nationbuilder.com/purtellfornysenate/pages/53/attachments/original/1551237577/ChautauquaLake5YearStrategy_Final_20180509.pdf?1551237577


DEP Abuse

Department of Environmental Police abuse is a problem not so much in Tioga county, but two counties over in Delaware county all the way to New York City, the DEP is a major concern for local residents.  This web site is a resource for other Libertarian candidates running for office in New York so I want to see input on this topic even though this doesn't apply much for the Town of Owego.  

Essentially what is happening is that New York City is forcing their water treatment costs out to rural regions.  The eminent domain abuse and land capture to build large reservoirs in surrounding counties is bad enough, then the DEP goes a step further and hyper-regulates activities of property owners who live near these reservoirs.  The costs of all of this activity is very high:

  1. The economic loss of not putting the land to use for farming or something else, but rather flooding it to make it into a reservoir.
  2. The limitation of activities in the reservoir itself, so that local residents don't get as much benefit from the body of water.
  3. The costs to pay the DEP staff and run their operations (not a local imposition, but a cost nonetheless).
  4. Limitations on ability to farm and do other things near the reservoirs due to DEP restrictions.
  5. Re-routing of roads and added driving time for commuters to skirt their way around the reservoirs to get from point A to point B.

The reservoirs are now built so there is only so much reversal of policy we can implement.  But one concept would be to throttle back on DEP oversight of these regions, and instead push the water monitoring and filtration costs back closer to the point of use.  Monitor and clean the water at treatment plants closer to the city.

This is how we do it upstate.  Drinking water sources for many municipal systems come from a combination of wells and rivers.  River water is not hyper-regulated but rather the municipality expects a need to clean and filter the water to make it fit for use.  Municipal governments upstate don't have the power to impose their will upon surrounding neighbors in order to keep rivers ultra clean.  Federal EPA and state DEC rules apply to keep waterways quite clean as it is, the DEP is another layer of protection which escalates costs considerably.


Conservation Easements

I wrote up a blog entry for the LPNY.org web site in June of 2018.  Here is the link to the entry:

https://lpny.org/2018/06/07/negative-effects-of-conservation-easements/

Reposted again here:

I came across this article when doing research on the negative effects of conservation easements: “Condemning Conservation Easements: Protecting the Public Interest and Investment in Conservation” by Nancy A. McLaughlin: 

https://lawreview.law.ucdavis.edu/issues/41/5/articles/41-5_McLaughlin.pdf

To quote her conclusion at the end:

“The payment of just compensation to the holder of a conservation easement upon condemnation is mandated under any reasonable interpretation of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Accordingly, the few easement-enabling statutes that provide to the contrary should be revised. The public is investing substantial financial and other resources in conservation easements and the significant and often unique and irreplaceable conservation and historic values they preserve. To protect this investment in conservation and historic preservation, government and nonprofit holders of conservation easements must both receive appropriate compensation upon the condemnation of easement-encumbered land and use such compensation to replace the conservation or historic benefits destroyed by the condemnation. Paying the economic value attributable to a conservation easement upon its condemnation to the owner of the encumbered land would confer an undue windfall benefit on the owner at the public’s expense. Alternatively, allowing condemning authorities to take easement-encumbered land without paying for the easement would have the perverse effect of making land protected for its conservation or historic values cheaper to condemn than similar unprotected land. Either result would directly contravene the strong public policy in favor of the use of conservation easements as a land protection tool.”

While the article is a good read and makes many valid points, there are other issues with the concept of these easements:

  1. By “public” just what subset of the “public” is truly represented if fair compensation for the Takings is given to the owner of the encumbered land? Are a handful of city planners and a handful of NIMBY minded citizens involved, or is it truly a larger sector of the public?
  2. As with the flawed 2005 SCOTUS Kelo decision which stretched public “use” to mean “benefit”, i.e. for economic development projects, full public use is not often the result of an eased property. The encumbered land is still largely under private ownership and control. Broadening the gray area between public and private property gives government more power and control over all property. To reduce tyranny, we should strive for policies which limit the volume of truly public use property, and leave private property as unencumbered as possible from regulations.
  3. Landowners with greater political leverage may pitch to have portions of their property attached to a conservation easement, not only for the short term Takings compensation, but also for the commonly used long term tax abatement benefit. Does politics play a greater role in what property is “protected” vs. true environmental status?
  4. Flipping the above argument around, a benevolent but weak political entity may nobly apply easement policies in the short run, only to have powerful developers from a higher level political subdivision take the property over for a low cost in the future. The author did expound on this point.
  5. Location, location, location. Conservation easements are often applied in regions where maximum building density makes more sense. Concern about adequate green space in suburban regions promotes these easement policies, which reduce density, then cause urban sprawl to spread out further, and as a result add to pollution by increasing commute times and therefore transportation energy use. The net environmental impact to the earth as a whole could often be negative.

Conservation Easements just do not fit well with a Libertarian approach to governance.


More Internet Options

Local governments around the US are guilty of limiting internet options for their residents.  It's common to charge internet service providers high fees for right-of-way usage.  In effect people are paying for road maintenance via their broadband bill!  This is dishonest governing.

This is an excellent article from 5 1/2 years ago on this topic:

https://www.wired.com/2013/07/we-need-to-stop-focusing-on-just-cable-companies-and-blame-local-government-for-dismal-broadband-competition/

The above article was a starting point for an August 2018 Binghamton Press opinion piece:

https://www.pressconnects.com/story/opinion/2018/08/30/turn-want-better-broadband-limit-government-abuse/37653543/

Let's work to make sure that none of these abusive practices occur.  Put fuel taxes to work on road maintenance - don't misappropriate those funds for something else, then ding people with fees elsewhere to cover the shortfall.

If we approach utility services honestly, there will be more competition and then residents of the town will enjoy better service and better pricing.

 


Tax Foreclosure Rules

Local government entities can abuse destitute property owners by offering no "excess proceeds" rollback after a tax foreclosure.  A friend identified a situation where an elderly couple with a mid-sized farm was unable to pay their taxes, then the farm was foreclosed upon in a tax auction, and the county kept ALL of the proceeds.

Yes occasionally there are deadbeat property owners, but many owners who fall behind on their property taxes (excessive as they are in New York as we all know) are just down and out and don't need to be punitively punished.

We should seek a policy to limit the amount which the Town of Owego can capture if part of a tax auction foreclosure.  The town should keep the back taxes, plus a small interest charge, plus costs for administrating the foreclosure and tax sale, but NO punitive penalty.  Any amount in excess should flow back to the property owner(s) who were foreclosed upon so they can get their life back together instead of being left flat broke.

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Code Enforcement

Property rights are often defended, and unfortunately often usurped, at a local government level.  Code Enforcement is one of several land and building use regulatory policies where I would seek to reduce the footprint of government so as to advocate and defend maximum possible rights to land and building owners.

This opinion piece was published for me on the topic of Code Enforcement in the Binghamton Press on August 6th:

http://www.pressconnects.com/story/opinion/2017/08/06/yo-code-enforcement-approach/104233194/

 

As I discussed in the opinion piece, I'd like to see Code Enforcement consolidated to a Tioga county function, not a function of any of the towns in Tioga county.  There isn't enough construction in our region to justify a code enforcement department for every town in Tioga county.  The other, smaller towns in Tioga county struggle more with this than Owego does.  

 

I've heard complaints from residents about a variety of code enforcement abuses.  One of the classic tactics is to try to force a homeowner to improve the construction standards of a "temporary" building so as to make it more permanent - and therefore make it more eligible to a tax reassessment.  Requiring a concrete pad under a garden shed is one example which is really absurd.  If you have been abused in this manner or know someone else who has been, please let me know.


Water and Sewer Rates

I heard many residents complain about their costs for water and sewage when collecting signatures this summer.  I looked up the rates for the Town of Vestal and based on my personal usage of about 100 gallons/day for a family of four, my bill would be about 30% LOWER in the Town of Vestal than it is now in the Town of Owego.

Procurement has long been a pet peeve of mine, I wrote a bunch of articles on the topic for the Buffalo Chronicle a few years ago before I was interested in running for any office.  We need tough, honest, competitive, level playing field competition for the purchase of any private sector goods or services. So often government fails miserably at one or more of those aspects, resulting in inflated prices and therefore higher costs to be covered by the taxpayer.

We need to tighten up on spending for water and sewage at the treatment plant and for all departments involved in providing the services.

I'm still intending to get time to analyze rates in comparison to other towns and villages in Tioga county, for a more apples-to-apples comparison to Vestal which is a larger town and in Broome county.  Watch for more details on this analysis.


Zoning Laws

Property rights are often defended, and unfortunately often usurped, at a local government level.  Zoning is one of several land use regulatory policies where I would seek to reduce the footprint of government so as to advocate and defend maximum possible rights to land and building owners.

This opinion piece was published for me on the topic of Zoning in the Binghamton Press September 10th, 2017:

http://www.pressconnects.com/story/opinion/2017/09/10/yo-zoning-laws-hurt-limited/105341222/

 

I will continue to post in this blog about these important topics.  Please feel free to comment on what you would like to see improved in the Town of Owego.

 

 

 

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Overview

Maximum Freedom - Minimum Government.  As a Libertarian Rich strongly supports downsizing many, many big-government, "nanny state" efforts here in New York.  New York has too many anti-freedom agendas in both our personal lifestyle choices, and also in how we conduct ourselves collectively in the economy.

The Town of Owego needs to be as transparent and efficient as possible in the delivery of services such as water/sewer and road maintenance.  Property rights must be upheld.  Zoning and code-enforcement are two key areas where central planning "visionaries" need to be restrained.

As Rich Purtell served as Political Director for the Libertarian Party of New York in 2018 and into 2019, policy issues are going to be built up in the coming weeks of 2019, some of which might be more significant for other NYS counties vs. Tioga, to help offer content to assist other local government candidates in New York state.


Overall Economic Development

 

 

 Crony_Anchorman.jpg

It doesn't matter whether it is local, county, state, or federal government doing it, I am strongly against the "Here's a bag of cash" economic development ideas which we have seen here in New York state, and elsewhere all around the USA Oligarchy, in recent times.

An analogy I could offer would be to give in to kidnappers and pay them a ransom for someone who was taken hostage.  USA policies frown against this.  Why?  Such payoffs encourage more hijacking, kidnapping, etc.

The same is true of one-off tax breaks, corporate bailouts, and other special incentives.  Pay off one business and not only is that unfair policy, but then other businesses try to get in line for their handouts also.  The businesses which get the most assistance are the ones which have the best political connections, not the ones with the most need.

It's hard to stand fast against threats of businesses to pull up and leave the state if they are not given some special incentive to stay here, but that's the policy I would push for throughout New York state.

Giving in to businesses who threaten to pull up and leave is an offensive message to the many loyal businesses, of all sizes, who have toughed it out here in New York state for many years in spite of some hostile conditions.  It's not all bad for business in New York.  We have many, many talented people in many fields of expertise.

For the Town of Owego councilman race this year, I have a lesser degree of concern about this issue than for any future possibilities to run for state or federal office, but the strategy does not change.

 

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