To the editor:
During the public speaking portion of the Common Council meeting held on Wednesday, Nov. 6, Laura Elmendorf read from a prepared statement. Laura operates the restaurant at the Amsterdam Municipal Golf Course. As I sat and listened to Laura's statement, I felt as though she made several pertinent points, and more importantly, she was looking for someone to give her a viable reason as to why her contract is so much different than the contracts awarded to the Riverlink Cafe and the Amsterdam Mohawks. Laura was clear and concise, and systematically noted the inequities between the contracts.
However, it seems as if several of the alderpersons, and the mayor, had difficulty understanding what Laura had said. At the conclusion of Laura's statement, one of the aldermen stated that you couldn't compare the golf course restaurant to Riverlink Cafe, and someone else stated that was comparing apples to oranges. I was amazed at what I was hearing, and I wondered if the mayor and the majority of the Common Council was even listening to Laura. Laura made it very clear that she was not arguing the cost of her lease versus the others, she fully understood that it would cost whoever had the golf course concession significantly more than the others.
What Laura was asking for, and what every taxpayer in the city of Amsterdam should also be asking for, was this: Why are the taxpayers in the city of Amsterdam paying the utility bills, paying for the garbage to be picked up, and paying to furnish the Riverlink Cafe? Aren't these part of the operating cost of any business? Shouldn't the people running the cafe, and I would assume profiting from the operation, pay for their own business expenses? Why does Riverlink Cafe get a free ride when Laura has to incur all of these expenses, along with being responsible for maintaining the building she operates in? Is it so difficult to see that in making these comparisons, Laura was comparing apples to apples?
Also, during the course of discussing whether to extend the lease to the proprietors of the Riverlink Cafe, it was noted that boat logs and financial documents had not been supplied to the controller's office, as is required in their contract (apparently, some of the records were turned in to the city attorney. No explanation of why this was done, or why the city attorney didn't immediately forward said records to the controllers office was ever given). I waited with the other attendees for the mayor to jump on this revelation, as I was sure she would identify this as a breach of contract. I was sure this would occur, because I remembered when the discussion to extend Joe Merendo's contract was taking place, the mayor made sure that everyone in attendance knew that her office had not received some logs concerning golf cart rentals, and that this was in fact, a breach of his contract. Imagine my surprise when it was rather meekly decided that if the operators of the Riverlink Cafe would supply those documents, their lease would be extended, no questions asked. Isn't it a shame that Joe Merendo wasn't given that same consideration?
As a matter of fact, it was the mayor who stated that renewing Joe Merendo's contract "would not be in the best interest of the city." I'll assume she means the taxpayers of Amsterdam when she uses the term "city." Please mayor, explain to the taxpayers of Amsterdam how paying the operating cost of contractors (that would be the operators of the Riverlink Cafe and the Mohawks) is "in the best interest of the city." Especially in light of the latest state audit, which apparently points out a severe lack of proficiency when it comes to this administration's bookkeeping. Maybe the current administration could publish a financial report (I realize this may be outside their area of expertise) showing just how much money the city received from each vendor, and just how much it cost the city to pay for the operation of each vendor. If the bottom line is negative for any of the three (meaning the city pays out more than they collect), would the mayor not agree that "those vendors are underperforming?" When you consider that Laura Elmendorf is the only vendor who actually pays her own operating costs, I'd venture that the only contract that shows a profit for the city would be the contract that was given to Laura. So, in keeping with this administration's past financial performance, Laura's is the only contract that wasn't on the agenda for renewal. Maybe the mayor needs to define for the taxpayers exactly what she means by "underperforming."
The underperforming issue then leads us back to the golf course. The mayor certainly has no problem telling anyone who will listen that the golf course is underperforming, yet she provides no data to back up her statement. Again, knowing the current administration's penchant for not really knowing what money is going where, and how much money there actually is, are the citizens of the city/and or town of Amsterdam just supposed to accept the mayor's pronouncement without wondering what, if anything, it is based on? Or is the mayor saying that they are keeping accurate records concerning the golf course, but the rest of the city's finances, well, not so much?
I do want to note that I am not casting dispersion on the operators of Riverlink Cafe or the Mohawks, they are both good for the community and do add to the quality of life for Amsterdam and the surrounding area. They have managed to get great deals from the city, and any business would be quick to sign a lease that virtually ensures success. I'm just wondering why such inequities exist between contracts, how this administration can justify their existence, and why the taxpayers in Amsterdam aren't demanding a well deserved explanation from this administration.
Town of Amsterdam
Remembering the Holodomor
To the editor:
On Nov. 2 I had the privilege of attending the 80th anniversary of the Holodomor ("Death by Hunger") commemoration at the Empire State Plaza where I presented a proclamation recognizing the Ukrainian genocide of 1932-33. In a period of 18 months, an estimated 7 million to 10 million people died from starvation; a third of those who perished were children.
The famine was man-made under the barbaric hand of Stalin, who forced farming peasants onto collective farms and sought to exterminate an entire people by sealing off the Ukrainian border and taking what food stocks were available. The resulting horrific and tortuous deaths of so many were denied by the Soviet Union for decades.
I was joined at the commemoration and at the service that followed at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception by many Ukrainian Americans from Amsterdam and all over the state. I was very moved by the commemoration and service and feel it is important and fitting to ensure that our children learn this chapter in history. I have added my name to be a co-sponsor on the legislation (S4107/A2755) requiring our schools to include information on the Holodomor in their curriculum. This will help further the mission of the Ukrainian people, who have been fighting for decades to ensure that this terrible tragedy is never forgotten.
Your help is needed to encourage other senators and assembly members to support this legislation. Please ask other state legislators to sign on as a sponsor.
Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk,
The writer represents New York state's 46th Senate District.