In reading the turn of events on the WPHO and their future in the city, I want to layout a few facts and then draw some conclusions or at least some observations:
What The Hell are you Doing Here (WTHAYDH) and other demagogues— I think the public record shows derision and contempt for the WPHO along a few dimensions: religious , ethnic and racial. I think this is is indisputable. However, to ascribe this ideology to the entire population of the city is wrong; just as wrong as the actions of the former. I’m going to counter the meme that this is really just a few bad apples here — hardly: the former is more sizable than many of us would like to admit and let’s face it, not solely directed at the Chinese. There is a reason you do not see more of a backlash — in fact, applause generating and radio tuning — around those types of statements. And yes, I’m making a qualitative assessment as I cannot quantify it.
Hate Crime — I see no existing evidence or proof of a hate crime but it is not implausible. From the FBI Web site, the definition reads as:
A hate crime is a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, Congress has defined a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.” Hate itself is not a crime—and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties.
Now given the expressed sentiments of the WTHAYDH demagogues and their supporters, again well documented in the public record and on the airwaves, it does not seem outside the realm of possibility that it may be a hate crime as the necessary ingredient of bias is fairly evident. However, the charge should neither be dismissed nor leveled without some basis. As of now, the public statements from the APD seem to suggest against this incident being a hate crime. The fact that the crimes against the WPHO are not hate crimes does not get the demagogues off the hook for their statements. What it should do is keep them on the hook for making the hate crime claim even plausible within our community.
From the WPHO perspective, they have been in the community for a number of years at Auriesville, seemingly undisturbed by crimes or vitriol against them. Suddenly within the period where they decide to establish a presence in Amsterdam, they see theft, vandalism, human feces in their temple, and vile rhetoric aimed their way. Is it so hard to fathom that they just may consider it something more than random chance or bad luck, even perchance, crimes directed at them based upon ethnic, racial or religious lines?
Bacon — I’m very unhappy with this deal falling through. I can assure you that the former Bacon school will remain a present and worsening blight and ultimately will fall into an undesirable use for its immediate neighbors. It’s quite clear to me that zoning does not matter — look no further than the former museum — nor does retaining character of neighborhoods matter. I can assure you that whatever offer comes in on the former Bacon school, will be approved and accepted, regardless of how ill suited it is to the flavor of the area. So knock a few percentage points off home values in the immediate area as the risk around Bacon rises with this deal falling through and then knock even more percentage points when the inevitable happens . For once, I want to be completely wrong but with Bacon, I seem to lose at every turn, as my dire predictions prove true time and again.
Let’s see if the enthusiasm remains as strong on the deal failing when the school budget comes out with its attendant tax rates and program cuts. Remember $460K toward tax levy reduction just dropped off the table.
Risk and Reward — I’m not following anyone’s playbook here at all. First the demolitionists regret that the properties were sold to the WPHO in the first place even though it costs the public more money in the long run to demolish than renovate. Second the embrace of risk by the WPHO to invest hard dollars in the community’s most distressed properties is met with public support from the departments at City Hall while simultaneously lamented by a portion of the public who actually champion a higher standard and scrutiny on the WPHO than anyone else thereby raising the risk on the already risky WPHO investment. Couple the negative sentiment on the properties with the Bacon purchase brouhaha and you realize the risk level to the WPHO jumped an order of magnitude through the past year while the return remained the same. Any wonder they are questioning their decisions?
On the flip side, the purchase of distressed properties in this community is especially risky given the odds of vandalism and theft in light of the condition of the buildings regardless of any factor other than money can be made by selling the copper. As owners of the buildings, a requirement for due diligence in securing and protecting the buildings falls on the WPHO; it is not solely the responsibility of the APD to secure the buildings. There is a degree of shared responsibility here. To cast exclusive blame on the APD is as wrong as claiming the WPHO were solely responsible. I do not see a plausible argument or basis that the APD is negligent in its duties.
I’m simply astounded at how the failure of the WPHO or pullout from the WPHO could be seen as a positive financial outcome for the city. So when folks cheer at the prospect of their failing, apparently they welcome lower assessments, lower tax revenue, lower investment and lower population growth. Woohoo, indeed.
Financials and Numbers
In a financial sense, it would not be irrational for the WPHO to walk away if they viewed the costs to date as sunk costs. Or said differently: why throw good money after bad if it is just going down the rabbit hole? The thing that some folks need to realize is that the landscape matters if you are going to pursue risky ventures. If the risk landscape suddenly shifts as it does here, why would you consider taking even more risk for less return. It’s wholly irrational to proceed if your returns suddenly spiral downward. The WPHO is not the first, nor will they be the last, to consider other pastures given this factoid.
The irony here of course is that investing in this community is riskier than other communities given the state of the local economy and local politics. Rather than mitigate risks for outsiders to invest or to move to the city, a faction of t his community fervently believes that the bar needs to be raised on outsiders to join the community — this is simply madness. How do you expect this community to sustain itself without some influx of capital or people? The silence is deafening on how this practically works but it does not stop those who gleefully setup roadblocks to outsiders succeeding here. Apparently the local flavor of conservatism detests any public program or initiative unless it serves to protect the vested local interests against the outsiders.
Apples and Oranges
I’ve stated multiple times on this blog that valid reasons exist for opposing the sale of the school to the WPHO; I respect those arguments as they center on accessibility to Sassafras, the park or other aspects of the property and those expressing these positions have established, longstanding claims to these arguments. Let’s call those folks the oranges. If you championed closing the school and cheered its closing, cared less about how it was listed and marketed, ignored the impacts on the neighborhood, and now suddenly fear the prospect of the WPHO purchasing the property, masking all this as ‘concern’ about Sassafras, then you are the apples. And a rotten lot at that.
I’m less and less inclined to believe in some sudden coming together of the broader community around the WPHO or really any group or initiative that ruffles the status quo. We don’t merely want to wallow in our misery, we want it to envelop us. Never underestimate the resistance to cultural change here. So you’ll excuse me for not endorsing a Kumbaya session; in my view, the demagogues and their ilk need to be challenged more not less. We have nowhere near enough pushback on the nonsense that gets peddled here day in and day out.
It would help if some of our Esteemed Leaders would speak up against some of this stuff but like I said, there is a reason for that not happening.
While I’m not a fan of our slogan of ‘Small City, Big Heart’ , I have to admit that ‘Small City’ pretty much nails it.