Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Two Weeks Into Office, Garnar Already Flip-Flops on Personnel Promise

(BINGHAMTON, N.Y.) — Broome County Republican Committee Chairman Bijoy Datta today took to task Democrat County Executive Jason Garnar for flip-flopping on his promise to remove politics from the process of making personnel appointments in his administration.
“We’re only two weeks into the Garnar Administration and already we’re seeing the worst of partisan politics from him,” said Datta.
“Jason Garnar told the people of Broome County that he would make personnel appointments based on experience and qualifications. But for the County Office of Employment and Training, he fired a respected executive with 30 years of high-level management and business experience, and proposed to replace him with someone who doesn’t have a single day of private sector experience and who has no qualifications in the field of workforce development.”
“There’s a gigantic gap in qualifications and experience between the prior Director and Garnar’s nominee, so it makes you wonder what influenced his decision,” Datta stated. “It’s simple: The highly qualified prior Director is a Republican, while the underqualified nominee is a Democrat.”
Previous Director Jim Tripp served in that role since 2014. Prior to that, he was the President of Hidden Valley Electronics in Apalachin, an electronics manufacturing company that employed more than 150 workers, managed a multi-million dollar budget, and worked with major local employers like Lockheed Martin, BAE and Binghamton University. He is also a combat veteran of the U.S. Army and works with the Southern Tier Veterans Support Group, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled American Veterans. Just prior to last month’s Christmas holiday, Garnar’s team informed Mr. Tripp that his services would no longer be needed at the County.
On December 28th, Garnar announced his nomination of Sara Liu to serve as the Department’s new Director. Upon leaving college in 2012, she has worked at several non-profits in various capacities, most recently as Director of Chemung County Habitat for Humanity.

Broome County Personnel’s formal job description for the Director of Employment and Training notes in its very first paragraph that the position “involves responsibility for…a wide variety of employment and training of a considerable size and complexity.” In 2017, Department will have a budget of $2.2 million and oversight of 12 employees.
“No one holds anything against Ms. Liu, who I’ve never met. She appears to have done some laudable work in the non-profit sector,” Datta noted. “But it’s impossible for Garnar to justify this partisan personnel decision after he preached about bi-partisanship.”
Following his Election Day victory, in a story published by Time Warner Cable News on November 8th, Garnar stated that he was “going to work with Republicans and independents and anybody. If you have a good idea, we're going to go with it and I don't care if you're a Republican or an independent”.
Garnar stated on his Facebook page on November 10th that “It's so important to work with ALL people, regardless of political affiliation, to move Broome County forward in the right direction”.
In a November 12th article published in the Press & Sun-Bulletin, Garnar stated that he would “ensure only the most qualified employees stay on in his administration”.
Datta concluded, “Jason Garnar can appoint whomever he wants; he’s the County Executive. But he made a promise to the people of this County that he’s remove politics from the process. The people deserve to know that he flip-flopped on that promise.”
The Broome County Legislature will vote on Ms. Liu’s appointment, along with numerous other Garnar nominees, during this Thursday’s5:30 PM Legislative Session.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Joe Mihalko elected Binghamton City Council President

Source: Press & Sun-Bulletin, Jan. 5, 2017

The Binghamton City Council elected as its president Joseph Mihalko, R-District 2, Tuesday evening, and chose Giovanni Scaringi, R-District 1, and Dani Cronce, D-District 3, as its majority and minority leaders, respectively.

The changes were part of a routine reorganization that takes place every January, and included naming chairs for the council's six committees Wednesday evening.

Mihalko, formerly chairman of the finance committee, replaces Chris Papastrat, R-District 5, who served in the position for a year.

First elected in 2011, Mihalko often appears as a marked contrast to some of the bigger personalities and louder voices on the city council, mostly observing and listening during council work sessions. But as chairman of finance, he wielded a significant amount of power and could decide whether to bring items to a committee vote.

As president, he'll be tasked with coordinating the council's agenda, running meetings that can sometimes veer off course and deciding what resolutions will be considered in council work sessions.

Councilman John Matzo, R-District 6, succeeds Mihalko as chair of finance, and Scaringi will head the Municipal & Public Affairs and Planning & Community Development committees. Thomas Scanlon, R-District 7, who took office this month after defeating Democrat Justin MacGregor, will head the Public Works & Parks Committee.

Mayor David, Sen. Akshar Announce $450K Lee Barta Community Center Expansion

(BINGHAMTON, N.Y.) — Mayor Richard C. David today joined Senator Fred Akshar, United Way of Broome County Executive Director Robin Alpaugh, and Visions Federal Credit Union CEO Tyrone Muse to announce a massive expansion project for the Lee Barta Community Center at 108 Liberty St. on Binghamton’s North Side.

“Our commitment to Binghamton’s neighborhoods has never been stronger,” said Mayor Richard C. David. “We are investing in the North Side, historically one of the most disadvantaged areas in our region, to bring hope and opportunity to residents. This new community center will focus resources and empower hardworking families to pull themselves out of poverty, reach their education goals and improve quality of life. Sen. Akshar continues to be a great friend to the City of Binghamton and a fighter to improve neighborhoods across the region. I thank Ty Muse and Visions, as well as Robin Alpaugh and the United Way for committing resources for the new Lee Barta Community Center.”

The $450,000 expansion project will provide new neighborhood resources, including state-of-the-art community meeting space, classrooms, computer lab, full-size instructional kitchen, outdoor pavilion and recreation areas. The current facility, owned by the City of Binghamton and staffed by the United Way and other nonprofits, is only 1,200 square-feet. The new facility will be roughly 3,600 square-feet.

The first phase of the project includes purchase and demolition of 110 Liberty St., a vacant and blighted property next to the current facility. Demolition is scheduled to begin in early January and the entire project should be complete in the fall of 2017. The City will also host a community meeting to solicit input on final designs for the project. The meeting is set for Tuesday, Dec. 6 at 6:00 p.m. in the Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School cafeteria, 9 Ogden St. in Binghamton.

The City is funding $100,000 of the project, through a combination of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and general operating funds.

Senator Fred Akshar has secured $300,000 in grant funds from the State and Municipal Facilities Program of the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York State.

"The Lee Barta Community Center transformation is a great investment for the City of Binghamton," said Senator Fred Akshar. "By expanding the programs and services offered at the Lee Barta Community Center, we'll be able to provide better opportunities and a better quality of life for the families on the North Side. I continue to be inspired by Mayor David's commitment to improving all of the neighborhoods he serves."

Visions Federal Credit Union is providing $50,000 for construction of the Visions Community Room as part of the project. The Visions Community Room will be the home for neighborhood meetings, personal development workshops and workforce training classes.

“This is Visions’ hometown and it’s important for us to be supportive of this community by combining efforts between the public and private sectors to make great things like this happen,” said Ty Muse, President and CEO of Visions Federal Credit Union. “The leadership of Mayor David and Senator Akshar parallels what credit unions are all about – people helping people.  My hope is that the Barta Center will be a safe haven and place of learning that will afford opportunities to those who are most in need.”

The United Way of Broome County staffs three full-time employees, two AmeriCorps members and one intern at the site. As part of the expansion project, the United Way will provide expanded services.

“The United Way of Broome is 100 percent committed to improving lives on the City’s Northside as we work to provide real community impact through our ongoing programs and projects, including the Healthy Lifestyles Coalition (HLC) based at the Barta Center, initiated by the Klee Foundation in 2012 in partnership with United Way,” said Robin Alpaugh, Executive Director, United Way of Broome County. “Due to the success of HLC offerings, including Fresh Cycles bike programming for youth and healthy cooking classes for families, we’ve outgrown Barta and are excited to partner with local government leaders to expand, relying on neighborhood input for establishing a true community center.”

In 1998, the Lee Barta Center opened as a Binghamton Police substation. It was named for Patrolman Lee Barta, a Binghamton Police officer who on Aug. 3, 1995 was shot and killed in the line of duty on the same block. Barta was 29 years old.

Programs currently operating at the Lee Barta Community Center, which would be expanded with a new facility, include:

·         Fresh Cycles: Bike repair classes and group rides for children and adults.

·         Cornell Cooperative Extension Cooking Class: Parent-focused class for childhood nutrition.

·         CHOW Fresh Mobile Market: Patrons can purchase fresh fruits and vegetables at a reduced price at a mobile food market. Partnership with the City of Binghamton.

·         VINES Binghamton Farmshare: Weekly distribution of fresh local produce, most at a discounted rate. Partnership with VINES: Volunteers Improving Neighborhood Environments which grows food in urban farms.

·         Binghamton University HEARS Tutoring: Higher Education Access, Retention and Success (HEARS) tutors counsel North Side residents to reach their education and career goals. They assist individuals who have dropped out of high school or college and connect them with educational resources.

·         Promise Zone Parent Café: Helping connect parents of Binghamton City School District students. Guest presenters organize various activities (animal shelter volunteering, yoga, etc.) A healthy lunch is served at each café.

·         North Side Roots: Neighborhood assembly meeting to discuss community issues. Officials from Binghamton Police Department, Broome County District Attorney, local housing providers and more present and brainstorm ideas on solutions.

·         Excellus Health Coaching Program: 90 individuals participate to identify specific health goals. Residents work toward being official peer health coaches in the program and will then be given the opportunity to work on a certification and work with other participants as a coach.

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Sen. Akshar's new program supports agricultural education

Source: Press & Sun-Bulletin, Jan. 6, 2017

Students in five school districts across the Southern Tier will soon get a taste of what it's like to be a New York state farmer.

Growing Our Agri-Future — a program announced Friday at C.R. Weeks Elementary School in Windsor by State Sen. Fred Akshar, R-District 52, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Broome-Tioga BOCES and school superintendents — will bring agricultural educators into classrooms across the 52nd District.

Five school districts will participate in the pilot program — Harpursville, Maine-Endwell, Owego Apalachin, Union-Endicott and Windsor — and students will learn about pathways to working in agriculture.

“As a young man, I was raised in rural Afton, NY, where, like many parts of our community, agriculture is a way of life and an important economic driver,” Akshar said in a statement.

“Agriculture is one of the biggest and most diverse industries in our community and the state, but the average age of a farmer in New York is 55. That tells me we need to invest in our future and help educate the next generation on the wide range of career opportunities available through agriculture.”

Students at C.R. Weeks Elementary School at the announcement Students at C.R. Weeks Elementary School at the announcement of an agricultural education program.

Starting this semester, each school will receive 14 lessons a month. Those lessons could range from learning about the science of farming to growing food in school gardens to going on tours at local farms. Cornell Cooperative Extension will administer the program’s classes and curriculum.