This is the kind of stuff that makes you want to rip your hair out and turns you into one of those cranky curmudgeons who’s always complaining about politicians.
It’s the choices that state government officials sometimes make in allocating our tax money, the choices that would be obvious to a normal person but for some reason elude the reasoning of a state legislator.
Let’s take, for example, the latest situation in Gloversville and its sewer problems. The city has been grappling for years with a cranky old sewer system that has a tendency to break down and spread raw sewage into the environment.
In April, the city’s 117-year-old sewer main broke at a creek crossing on South Main Street, pumping 3 million to as much as 6 million gallons of raw sewage into Cayadutta Creek over a period of 36-48 hours. Just to give you an idea how much 6 million gallons is, an Olympic-sized swimming pool holds about 660,000 gallons of water.
The cost to replace the pipe, we reported earlier this week, is now estimated at about $1.7 million. Of that, the city expects to get a grant to pay for about a quarter of it, with the remaining money coming from a long-term loan.
These problems probably just are the tip of the iceberg for Gloversville, Amsterdam and others like them all over this state.
Now let’s get to the hair-ripping part.
Halfway across the state in Syracuse, our representatives in Albany have allocated $15 million to pay for a half-mile gondola to carry people between the state fairgrounds and the Onondaga Lakeview Amphitheater.
The gondola isn’t needed to alleviate traffic congestion or ease crowds. It’s merely seen as a way to attract year-round economic development and tourism, as throngs of tourists will flock to Syracuse for spectacular views of a highway and a parking lot.
Plenty of people have already made fun of this project, including a lot of Syracuse-area politicians and even a local letter writer.
It’s low-hanging fruit for critics. The problem is that New York has a bumper crop of this kind of wasteful spending.
In calling for greater state oversight of government contracts earlier this month, some state lawmakers noted a USA Today report showing that New York had spent $695 million on tax breaks for private companies through industrial development agencies, but about half those projects failed to meet the promised number of jobs.
In all, the state spends about $8 billion in various tax breaks and incentives, with little accountability or public transparency.
Still, no matter how much they’re laughed at and no matter how ridiculous the justifications they come up with, our representatives in Albany would rather let the equivalent of 10 Olympic-size swimming pools of raw sewage spill into a rural creek than take money away from a boondoggle economic project.
When will it end? Only when the citizens contact their state representatives and tell them either to stop wasting our tax money or they’ll find someone else on Election Day who will.
Make some noise, people. Get mad at them. Or continue to pull out your hair. Your choice.