Niagara Gazette

January 10, 2014

HAMILTON: The Upstate state of "Tinkling in the Wind"

By Ken Hamilton
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — As badly as our federal government is run, and that is all four parts — the presidency, the House and the Senate, and the sometimes activist Supreme Court — it is still an ideal model by which our New York state government (which runs no better than the Fed) can actually better operate, but it too needs a major tweak.

Here’s why.

Dr. Prabhakara Somayaji is a urologist whose business is only a 10-minute walk from the proposed Hamister hotel. He was “tinkled-off” with the prospects of him likely having to pay more property taxes than the new-coming Hamister hotel people, and he believes that tax breaks only put an unfair burden on other area taxpayers.

While tax breaks may be judiciously necessary in some cases, as is some unfairness, they both are still unfair.

So then, in Gov. Cuomo’s State of the State Address, the governor pointed out what he believed were a couple of items that he thought would increase the failing economy of upstate New York state. They were corporate tax breaks and greater electrical power distribution to downstaters. Both of them filled my thought-bladder with concern.

Much of my working career was in chemical process manufacturing. I learned that there is an optimal, ideal way that processes run. If a system is already producing, then by making experimental changes to it to increase production will likely cause a calamity, if all other factors are not taken into account. When that system begins to show signs of stress and failure, the way to correct it is to systematically reverse the changes that have been made until the system recovers.

Applying this to the governor’s belief that upstate New York has lost manufacturing and other businesses, so much so, that it has not only lost its economic engines, but also has lost its working populations and their political clout, why then would he proposed an improvement to the efficiency of the electrical grid that conducts the cheap and clean upstate power to downstate New York City-area, and a corporate tax break to businesses that relocate to a power-starved upstate. I say that we should stop sending power downstate and use it here.

It seems to me that if we regionalized power production AND its use, then it would lead to an abundance of cheap, regional electricity. With regional use of natural assets, our upstate growth, particularly in Western New York, would be that systematic reversal of the causative factors of the loss of our economic engines of industry and business, and yield an associated increase in population and political clout; thereby negating the need for corporate tax breaks.

So then, if political clout is the last manifestation of upstate’s economic weakness, how do we reverse and accomplish the growth of Western New York, when Buffalo was the nation’s 10th largest city, and Niagara Falls the state’s tenth largest?

It is something that has to be done by constitutional design. In the infinite wisdom of the founders of this nation, both the people of the America and their several states have an equal balancing of power. They designed a congress that gave the population of Rhode Island as fair representation in the House of Representatives as Virginia had, and equal representation to every other state through the U.S. Senate.

If we kept the state Assembly as it is currently configured, every assembly district in the state would equally represent its population. And if we gave each county the representation that the founders gave each state, then even the lowly populated, 73,000 citizens of Madison County would have the same voice in the state senate as does the 1.6-million citizens of Manhattan, as Rhode Island now has with California.

If we systematically reverse the elements that ultimately gives a region its optimal economic stability, with political power being the last of the lost factors, then by giving each of New York’s 62 counties their own senators, rather than the 63 population-based senators that we now have (which is merely two assemblies), then we begin the process of empowering upstate counties to have state laws that will facilitate our growth, and mitigate the regulations that work well in NYC, but hamstring upstaters. It will provide an opportunity to increase population, if that is what they chose, and to moderate their own economic development.

Anything less than that is just tinkling in the wind, and, if we cannot control that, then perhaps a visit to Dr. Somayaji may be in order.

Contact Ken Hamilton at