Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Money Is the Reason We Fight

Karl Marx is credited with having said, "I hate money. Money is the reason we fight." According to people who study such things, money is one of the five top issues married couples argue about. (The other four are free time, housework, physical intimacy, and extended family.) It seems, with Hudson's good fortune of winning $10 million in the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, the people of Hudson are getting ready to argue about money--specifically about the $10 million and how it should be spent. Fueling the contention, the DRI has been linked in rhetoric with white supremacy and seems to be emerging as a campaign issue.

Some trepidation about the DRI $10 million is appropriate. The last time there was a huge infusion of public money into Hudson, it destroyed neighborhoods and altered the city dramatically and irrevocably. But before making a judgment about the impact of the DRI on our city, it's important to understand the purpose and goals of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative and what has been proposed in Hudson's application.

One point needs to be stressed: Hudson is not getting $10 million to do with as it pleases. The Downtown Revitalization Initiative, created by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2016, has very specific goals, and those goals are outlined in a booklet published by the Regional Economic Development Councils. (Click here to access that booklet.) The booklet begins by explaining how the Downtown Revitalization Initiative came to be:
Business leaders, young professionals, entrepreneurs and retirees, among others, are increasingly calling New York’s downtown centers home because of the high quality of life and economic opportunity. According to the Brookings Institute, investing in urban centers can improve economic performance, reduce infrastructure costs, and enhance the economic well-being of surrounding areas. Regional investments through New York State’s ten Regional Economic Development Councils have created ripple effects in small-to-midsize downtowns. The result is renewed investments that, overall, will increase the local tax base, and further sustain and build upon regional economic development initiatives in ways that create broader economic and social gains. 
In the spring of 2016, Governor Cuomo introduced a major new initiative--the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI)--which invested $100 million in ten downtown communities to unlock dormant potential in ways that create and propel the resurgence of urban areas throughout the state. Each of the ten Regional Economic Development Councils invited communities to apply to be considered for nomination.  
To guide the use of the $10 million award, the selected communities were required to complete a Strategic Investment Plan, with the assistance of a team of expert planners funded through the program. Each completed strategic investment plan identifies goals and strategies to accomplish a clear vision for revitalization and identifies specific catalytic, implementation-ready projects that align with the community’s vision for the revitalization of their unique downtown area and are consistent with the DRI’s program goals. 
There were eight "desired attributes" for proposals from cities competing for the $10 million--specific criteria on which applications were judged. Hudson's application won on the basis of how well what was proposed embodied those attributes. The attributes were:
  1. Well-defined boundaries. The DRI program was seeking "a concentrated, defined area." For Hudson's application, this was the area below Second Street, from the southern border of the city to the northern border.
  2. Sufficient catchment area. A catchment area is the geographical area from which a city, service, or institution attracts population that uses its services. A sufficient catchment area is defined as having "a sizable existing or increasing population within easy reach for whom this would be the primary downtown destination."
  3. Past investments, future potential. The booklet lists nine things that are evidence of this attribute, among them: the existence of developable properties within the downtown, including properties that can be utilized for varying levels of housing affordability and mixed uses; potential for development of energy-efficient projects and opportunities for green jobs; investments in arts and cultural institutions and activities.
  4. Recent or impending job growth. The booklet calls this a "crucial characteristic" for the DRI and stresses the accessibility of new and existing jobs by foot or public transportation and diversity in job opportunities--"with different salaries and entry levels and the potential for mobility between jobs."
  5. Attractive physical environment. Some of the things that contribute to an attractive physical environment are housing at different levels of affordability and type; healthy and affordable food markets; accessible recreational amenities; community spaces, institutions, and events that reflect the ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity of the population; broadband accessibility; community design and/or housing that caters to all ages.
  6. Quality of Life policies. Among the policies listed are: "Planning and implementation documents that may include but are not limited to economic development, community development, housing affordability, affirmatively furthering fair housing and civic engagement"; "Presence of expansive non-discrimination laws and/or other protections of diverse populations."
  7. Support for the local vision. This attribute relates to community engagement and a commitment from local leaders and stakeholders to work together "to advance revitalization efforts."
  8. Readiness. The expectation is that "a range of transformative projects . . . will be ready for implementation with an infusion of DRI funds within the first one to two years."
Hudson's complete application, outlining all the projects that were proposed, can be viewed here. A total of seventeen projects are listed in the application, but five have been identified as priorities:
  1. Workforce Development Programs in Trades, Arts and Technology
  2. Dunn Warehouse & Environs
  3. Shovel Ready KAZ
  4. Public Pier Project
  5. Pedestrian Connectivity, Routes & Lights
What we have to look forward to in the short term is about a year's worth of planning meetings, in which the projects proposed in the application are reviewed and refined through community input. The end product will be the city's Strategic Investment Plan. Glens Falls, the city in the Capital Region that got the $10 million last year, in Round One of the DRI, has only in the past few months gotten approval for its Strategic Investment Plan, which defines the projects that will be implemented with DRI funds.


  1. Karl Marx never said that.
    De omnibus dubitandum.

  2. I hate to say it, but the horses left the barn a while ago. Obviously, we have to salvage the remnants of public will still left on this project to spend $10 million, but let's hope somebody gets the message that the democratic process is an ongoing one and that the process which decided the grant application was not democratic. We need to fix our local governance bodies so that "public participation" is not the last thing done, but the first!!!

  3. I feel compelled to ask:

    Why is the list of the City of Hudson's nominees to the DRI LPC such a closely guarded secret?

    Does this serve the public interest? Is it in the spirit of DRI planning process and New York State's public planning process guidelines?

    According to the Round Two document:

    "LPC members will approve the downtown vision and strategies and the final DRI Strategic Investment
    Plan..." and "they will be asked to agree to a Code of Conduct as a reminder that they must always act in the public interest in their role as Local Planning Committee members..." that's a big responsibility.

    I'm not sure how other's regard 'public interest' but I like this definition:

    Anything affecting the rights, health, or finances of the public at large. The public interest is a common concern among citizens in the management and affairs of local, state, and national government. It does not mean mere curiosity but is a broad term that refers to the body politic and the public weal.

    This definition doesn't provide much latitude for secrecy.

    Is it unreasonable to expect that the process of nomination and naming the individuals nominated to the LPC should also follow New York State's guidelines and conform to "the public interest?" These guidelines state that:

    "All full LPC meetings must be open to the public and notice provided consistent with open meetings law and any other local requirements."

    Further to that point:

    "The DRI planning effort will include a robust public planning process that will develop a community
    vision, goals, objectives, strategies and action plan. The action plan may include both large- and small-
    scale projects as well as a variety of initiatives and programs for achieving identified strategies."

    It's a worthy goal. I left wondering when the 'public' part begins.

  4. Hoping Gossips covers this meeting. This is the only medium that offers fair and accurate coverage of local events.