Council missing ‘the mark’ again

The countdown – and waiting – continues. Fourteen days after a telephone interview with representatives from the Business Council of New York State in which two staff members told the OBSERVER they would be sending us a commentary piece regarding its opposition to a $500 million economic project in Western New York, we have received nothing.

That project it opposes? The repowering and conversion of the NRG facility in Dunkirk to produce electricity from coal to natural gas.

The council, which claims to be “working to create economic growth, good jobs and strong communities across New York state,” cannot even follow through on a position statement to this newspaper on why it believed it was beneficial to come out with a statement defying their mission.

“We missed the mark when we announced our position,” said Ken Pokalsky, vice president for governmental affairs at the council, in an interview June 6.

No kidding. That is exactly the reason the OBSERVER was hoping to share with our community an op/ed piece from the council on their view – even if we do not agree with it.

But after two weeks, the council’s credibility again comes into question. If it cannot produce a commentary on its stance, you have to wonder about what other factors are taking place behind the scenes.

Some who sit on the council board include major companies that no longer have its headquarters or the presence they once had in this state because of relocating operations to more business-friendly states or because the company is facing financial difficulties. Two of those examples include Xerox and Eastman Kodak.

Another council board member is from Citibank, which received government stimulus money due to the economic woes of 2008. Did the council come out opposing the use of taxpayer and government money for a business like Citibank that was then in financial trouble? Of course not.

But today the council opposes the investment of a $500 million project by NRG to repower its facility. Its worries, they say, comes down to rates.

In the meantime, power is being imported from outside New York and no future rate study has been documented.

It should also be reiterated that the National Grid president sits on the council’s board of directors. The council’s stance, no matter how officials there present it, appears to be a conflict of interest since National Grid publicly opposes the repowering plan.

Those who reside in this region – and pay Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce dues – deserve a better. A portion of those chamber dues support the Business Council, which has not been a partner in its position toward NRG and this region.

Some ‘Independence’

Independence Party Chairman Thom Shagla is very displeased over the recommendations by the county Salary Review Commission, which calls for outlandish raises for county legislators as well as other elected officials.

“It amazes me that the salary review committee could even conceive an idea like this, let alone send it forward when there are people out here who can’t even make a living in jobs that they have to take,” Shagla said in an e-mail this week.

He also talked about the compensation he has received contributing in his community. “I have personally served on the county’s South & Center Chautauqua Lake Sewer District board for over 16 years and Bemus Point school board for 12. I received not one cent. I did it to serve my community,” Shagla said. “When will these people wake up?”

His complete comments can be found at the “In my neighborhood” blog on the www.observertoday.com site.

John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.