In this day of heightened consciousness regarding sexual abuse, it seems odd that brothels continue to operate quite legally in Nevada. In fact, as of last Feb. 21, Nevada brothels provided females the opportunity to make a buck by baring it all.
Brothels are not legal in New York state, yet some lawmakers are asking Gov. Cuomo to bare it all with regard to his numerous economic development programs. Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb leads a chorus of representatives asking for more transparency and accountability regarding the billions of taxpayer dollars spent annually to spur economic development.
This is a theme dear to the Inquiring Taxpayer’s heart. I have frequently decried the waste of taxpayer money both locally and statewide by the economic development bureaucracy. And I feel certain that a lack of transparency and accountability is instrumental in permitting that waste to occur.
At the state level, waste has been wedded to corruption. One former top aide to Gov. Cuomo, Joseph Percoco, was recently convicted on bribery and fraud charges. The trial of Alain Kaloyeros, whom the governor once hailed as his “economic guru,” has just commenced. Kaloyeros is charged with bid rigging with regard to SUNY Polytechnic projects. It is understandable that the governor, busy attracting millions of tourists to New York with a bevy of beautiful blue Thruway signs, would have little time to follow the deals orchestrated by his closest associates.
The name Alain Kaloyeros may ring a bell. I’ve written about him before. As SUNY Poly president, he told us that the Smart Systems Technology Center in Canandaigua was going to be a prominent player in the nanotechnology revolution. He wrote articles to that effect, joined Sen. Schumer in a photo op at STC and poured millions of your tax dollars into the facility. Our local industrial development agency played along going so far as to answer criticism of the STC fiasco with a reference to the thriving research triangle in Raleigh, North Carolina.
The STC proved effective mostly at hemorrhaging taxpayer money. In the two years preceding its sale to Akoustis Technologies last year, STC lost $5.13 million. This is a microcosm of the economic development failures across NYS. A vast use of tax dollars for corporate food stamps in a state with enormous poverty, enormous public school failures and enormous infrastructure problems.
The Akoustis Technologies sale offers another microcosm of the bigger picture. Akoustis got a great deal in purchasing STC. It paid $2.85 million for a building appraised at almost $8 million. Not such a great deal for the beleaguered taxpayer. Why the discount rate? In a regulatory filing with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, Akoustis said that the “state was motivated to sell at a steep discount for political reasons” (Albany Times Union, Sept. 29, 2017). What might those “political reasons” be?
The Inquiring Taxpayer has written to then state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli concerning this sale. AG Schneiderman, who recently resigned as a result of sexual abuse accusations, responded with a brief reassurance that his office saw nothing to pursue. Comptroller DiNapoli did not respond at all. His campaign team did me the courtesy of asking for a contribution to the comptroller’s upcoming bid for re-election.
It is bad enough when elected officials dole out public monies to private interests. It is criminal, sometimes literally so, when unelected parties are empowered to do the same. Economic development programs lack accountability and transparency. Did you elect either Percoco or Kaloyeros to line the pockets of private businesses with your tax dollars? Can you name one person who works for the New York State Office of Community Renewal, the office that directed $1.25 million in HUD grants to two local for-profit businesses? Was it explained to you how that office determined to award your money? Were you invited to comment on the decision? Have you been given an account of the reported $100 million in state, federal and local grants and tax breaks that were wasted on the Infotonics/STC facility since 2002? Do you know the size of Akoustis Technologies' property tax exemption courtesy of the familiar payment in lieu of taxes agreement? Were you asked to approve of or comment on that tax break?
If you answered “no” to most or all of the above questions, then you see exactly the state of transparency and accountability in the strange new world of economic development.
All of which brings us back to Nevada’s legal brothels. They are under attack by a coalition of women’s advocacy groups. The groups say that sexual assault and sexual harassment are part and parcel of the brothel scene. Brothel supporters counter that the businesses provide millions of dollars of economic stimulus. There you have it — jobs and tax revenue as an answer to concerns for human dignity.
The good news is that Nevada’s potential loss may be Canandaigua’s gain. Perhaps a hotel and convention center down by the lake isn’t our only option after all.
Joe Nacca, of Canandaigua, is a frequent Messenger Post contributor.