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2/19/2014 10:29:00 AM Letters to the editor: Trust in public officials erodes right along with mines
The recent hearings on the annexation of another sand mine taught us that Joe Bernardoni was right when he said, “If you care about your neighbor, don’t sell your land to a developer...”
These hearings also taught us something else: that a contract, written and signed by a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) and village officials such as the March 2009 agreement between Aramoni and the Village of Utica, wasn’t worth the paper on which it was written.
That first agreement allowed for the development of businesses on the annexed land, but specifically prohibited mining. Because the expected commercial business did not materialize, however, Aramoni convinced four trustees and the mayor, through promises of hundreds of thousands of dollars and a few jobs, that another silica sand mine was good for Utica, even if the Planning Commission, two trustees and the vast majority of those testifying disagreed with them. For the four trustees and Mayor who voted to change the agreement and allow mining, money and promises of jobs was obviously the primary — and perhaps only — consideration that mattered.
I’m just a nurse, not an attorney, but if I could afford to offer village officials $400,000 plus $20,000 a year for 5 years to replace the loss of the promised guaranteed income by holding Aramoni to the original agreement, I’d probably be arrested for bribery. It seems to me, however, that offering monetary payments to municipal authorities gives the municipality a financial stake in that business. How can officials of that municipality then be unbiased about what is really good for the residents of the area?
Even if it turns out that the mine is harmless to health, produces dozens of jobs and residents don’t have their taxes increased to reclaim the land when the mine closes, these hearings have publicly exposed how easy it is to sway the votes of elected public officials. All it takes is money. The erosion of trust in the integrity of public officials may last as long as the mines are expected to last.
Somehow it seems as though we’re on the way to becoming like a third-world country where corruption is often so widespread that government officials expect to be paid off and concern for the integrity of the community and real needs of the citizens is of little concern.
Pat Wagner, Utica
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