Saturday, October 21, 2017

Guest Commentary: How to Squash Economic Development in the Adirondack Park

February 8, 2011 by · 1 Comment 


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This is a guest commentary submitted by Kate Bencze, a Tupper Lake small business owner and ARISE member.

You’ve seen the idyllic ads asking you to help save the Adirondack forests, wildlife, and waterways by our wealthy friends in the environmental circles. “Send your check today- help preserve the virgin forest from unscrupulous developers!” You can even hear the loon you’ll be saving by logging onto their web sites. It’s a beautiful thing. Or is it? When the Manhattan socialite writes that five figure check to save the back country from fragmentation, how is their donation really being used?

We ask this question because John Caffry, lawyer for the group “Protect the Adirondacks” has demanded to see the financial records of the grass roots group called ARISE (Adirondack Residents Intent on Savings their Economy ) from Tupper Lake. By the way, the general contact address for Protect the Adirondacks is Niskayuna, NY. That’s a suburb of Schenectady. Shouldn’t this group be called Protect Schenectady? Why are they allowed to affect my home town? But I digress.

ARISE has tried to be transparent from day one. The effort was created to resurrect the Big Tupper Ski Center in hopes that the Adirondack Club and Resort (ACR) would be granted a permit by the Adirondack Park Agency to become the engine of economic growth and change in our town. ARISE has four part time employees and over 200 dedicated volunteers. Approximately 25% of the overall budget of ARISE is spent on salaries and benefits. The overwhelming majority of its budget is devoted to operations- maintenance, day to day upkeep and marketing the ski center. This is how ticket prices remain at $15 for the second year of operations. How do other not for profits stack up?

Protect the Adirondacks recently had to lay off all paid employees and does not post its financials on its website but the Adirondack Council does. Let’s analyze. Using the Adirondack Council’s 2010 Statement of Functional Expenditures, all salaries, benefits and professional fees make up 70% of total expenditure of $1.5 million. Does that little old lady from Manhattan know that less than 30 cents of every dollar she donates goes to some actual program? The figure is actually much less than that if you take away office expenditures. Did you know that? Did you know that instead of saving the environment, most of your donation goes to pay someone’s mortgage?

I’m not trying to be petty, but this issue is getting personal to me, and should to others in our area. I wouldn’t be highlighting this if Protect the Adirondacks and the Adirondack Council wasn’t trying to affect my ability to pay my mortgage. As a small business owner in Tupper Lake I know that I need the opportunities that the Adirondack Club and Resort offers. I also know that my town is in deep trouble if this project is denied. I am deeply offended that both Protect the Adirondacks and the Adirondack Council impose an adverse impact on the economy of the Park, while pretending to do otherwise.

Here’s the mission statement of the Adirondack Council: “We envision an Adirondack Park with clean water and air, large wilderness areas, surrounded by working farms and forests and vibrant local communities.” Sounds nice. How does the Council help create vibrant communities when it directly opposes an opportunity that Tupper Lake has to become vibrant again? We call that hypocritical.

Let’s use the Council’s own website to support that claim. “Action Alert!  Dear Adirondack Council supporter, “Tell Governor Cuomo to Make the Environment a Priority in his First Budget. Governor Cuomo is in the process of assembling his first state budget… we need to make sure our new Governor realizes the importance of the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). Please contact Governor Cuomo today and in your own words…Tell him to fund the EPF at a total of $222 million with $60 million dedicated for land acquisition. The final EPF in 2010 was $134 million with $17.6 million for land acquisition.” Do I want the environment protected? Yes. Should it receive more funding from the state when jobs and social service programs are being cut? I don’t think so.

New York State is facing a financial crisis but private investment could help soften the blow. It was announced last week that Gov. Cuomo’s budget will include major cut backs to school and municipal aid and he will enact prison closings. Reasonable people realize that across the board cuts must be imposed to address a runaway deficit. In light of all of this, the Adirondack Council has the gall to demand that the Governor fund the Environmental Protection Fund at 165% of last year’s figures and to purchase more land in the Park to further erode the tax base. Hypocritical? You decide.

Local citizens already conserve and preserve.  We are not going to damage the very place that we live and work in and immensely enjoy.  We don’t need the “help” that environmental groups offer while insulting our intelligence and capability. WE must continue to beat the drum because the general public must understand that the stall tactics currently being used by the all too altruistic green groups are attempts to kill the Adirondack Club and Resort project – in direct opposition to the will of the majority of local residents.

Back to Mr. Caffry from Protect the Adirondacks. We told you what ARISE’s payroll expense is. I won’t ask what your hourly rate of pay is because you may be donating your time at this point. But enormous amounts of time, money, paperwork and travel have been invested by Protect and the Adirondack Council to try and squash the economic future of Tupper Lake. All of this has created a tremendous carbon footprint. Will both environmental groups commit today to buying corresponding carbon offsets to compensate for the damage they have imposed on the environment? I’m just asking. To not do so would be…hypocritical.

Comments

One Response to “Guest Commentary: How to Squash Economic Development in the Adirondack Park”
  1. WOW,You nailed it. ARISE is the true organization that is making things happen. The ARISE model is setting the standard for progress not just for Tupper Lake but the entire North Country.

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