Immediate Release

Thursday, March 1, 2007 

For Information Contact

Oneida County Executive
Anthony J. Picente, Jr.

Picente Calls for New Attitudes, Actions
To Transform Oneida County’s Future

Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente, Jr., today called for new attitudes and efforts to transform Oneida County ’s economy and its communities to better position Oneida County for long-term economic and population growth.

“We need to learn how to harness the potential for innovation in our region and develop that into an economy and a region that will be transformed by our partnerships,” Picente told the audience at a breakfast meeting hosted by the Mohawk Valley Chamber of Commerce. “We need to provide our students and workforce with the up-to-date skills they need to contribute creatively every day and develop new ideas that can vault Oneida County past the competition.”

Picente identified Oneida County ’s major goal as implementing policies and programs that can grow the county’s population and reverse the loss of young people. “We need to approach the future with a sound plan that will use our assets to the fullest and transform our region into a county of innovation and creativity that becomes a magnet for new growth,” he said. “Our task collectively is to transform ourselves, our community, and our attitudes to bring change, growth and opportunity to all parts of this county. My task as County Executive is to bring partners together, keep the cost of government down, and the growth of our businesses up. If we succeed in making innovation a way of life and transforming our partnerships into focused efforts to achieve success, we can spark a renaissance in Oneida County .”

Picente identified several key areas for action:

  • Launching an all-out effort, in partnership with EDGE, to work with state officials to develop the Marcy NanoCenter .   
  • Re-creating a Department of Aviation led by an aviation sector expert to maximize the potential of the Oneida County Airport in its new Griffiss Park location.
  • Moving forward swiftly to finalize state needs for its Homeland Security Training Center at the former airport site and then upgrading the infrastructure and operations of the Business Park in Whitestown to give it a new look and identity to upgrade its potential to attract new employers.
  • Enhancing the partnership with agriculture to ensure that local farmers have the opportunity to get in at the start on the growth of crops that can be used as renewable fuel sources.
  • Upgrading the region’s entertainment offerings by gap analysis of existing attractions and working with community partners to develop a plan for upgrading this important quality of life component.
  • Developing a Workforce Housing Report to identify the types of housing that will be most in demand by the types of new employers the region is trying to attract and to survey how the existing housing market can be made most attractive to new buyers.
  • Strengthening the workforce development-education system to maximize the skills of existing and emerging workers and to bring schools and colleges into a closer partnership to meet the changing needs of employers.
  • Determining the Internet Infrastructure capacity and needs of the county as a first step to targeted investment to upgrade the knowledge infrastructure.

Picente also noted that transformation requires an end to the long-stalled tax and land issues surrounding the Oneida Indian Nation.

“The Oneida Indian Nation’s land claim and tax issues have divided our community for too many years. We have had lawsuit after lawsuit, a proposed settlement that fizzled and now federal land-in-trust hearings. We keep waiting for the federal or state government to solve this, but it goes on and in the meantime, we remain without a solution,” he said.

“Our future rests in our hands. I have had personal, one-on-one, informal conversations with Nation Representative Ray Halbritter. I believe before we begin negotiations that could resolve all the complex issues at stake, we need to develop a dialogue.  Whether we agree or disagree with our neighbors, we need to talk to each other. We have to talk to each other,” he said. “I believe that some straight talk, some common sense and some willingness to work together – more than any other thing – are what we need to resolve the land claims and taxation issues concerning the Oneida Indian Nation. Turning Stone is a part of our communities and our culture. There is no denying that. The Nation is a huge employer.  I want to work with Ray Halbritter and the Nation, as well as our state and federal governments, to get these issues out of the courts, out of the hands of the lawyers and resolve them for once and for all.” 

Public Safety Initiative

Picente also unveiled a detailed public safety initiative that will be undertaken in partnership with Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara.

            “None of us want gangs in our communities, but we know from following the news media that youth gangs are here. To address this issue I am proposing a Gang Reduction and Intervention Project,” Picente said. Its major components include:

  •  Bring citizens together with community agencies for a summit to discuss how the community believes it needs to fight this problem.

  • Convene law enforcement and youth development experts to forge new alliances that can enhance existing programs and provide pro-active efforts to suppress gang activity.

  • Develop a regional strategy with the Oneida County DA ’s Office as well as law enforcement agencies to share youth gang information, and to coordinate with the Child Advocacy Center to intervene when young children are found in gang activity.

  • Re-align the resources of the Youth Bureau to target high-needs areas to stop gangs before they spread.

Picente also announced actions to increase the County’s efforts to make its highways safe. “To save lives and protect all motorists, Oneida County will expand the STOPPED Program by new outreach efforts to encourage parents to register their vehicles with the program. Registration with STOPPED means that if the vehicle is pulled over, parents will find out – whether a ticket was issued or not. That means increased safety because dangerous drivers won’t be able to hide,” Picente said.

             “In the coming year, the STOP-DWI Program will increase its array of anti-DWI programs by buying a mobile driving simulator it can take from school to school to show young people what it really feels like to drive drunk. If we save one life, prevent one tragedy, the expense will be worth it,” he said.

            Picente also announced the implementation of Operation Night Watch, in which the County Probation Department will work with Law Enforcement to set up surveillance of individuals who have already been found guilty of drinking and driving.

County Government Actions

           Transforming our region begins with transforming how we work together,” Picente said. “Instead of reacting to short-term problems, it’s time to develop a sustained, sustainable, collaborative vision of what our community should be, so that the decisions made at all levels of government fit with a plan that comes from the people, not just a project here or an idea there.”

Picente said his ongoing series of meetings with local town officials is designed to help address issues and develop communication that can help lead to consolidation of services and greater collaboration. “Consolidation is the result of a common hope that overcomes deep-seated fears and old-time rivalries. There is only one County. When I was a kid in Utica , Rome was the competition. As an adult in Rome , I hear people talk of Utica as the competition. That’s destructive. Any growth for anyone, anywhere, that adds jobs, that adds activity, that adds vitality and energy is a step forward because we are too small, too interdependent to survive with any other outlook,” he said.

Picente noted that County Government must foster the region’s transformation by achieving and maintaining long-term fiscal stability without property tax spikes and by ending the stigma of having the highest sales tax rate in New York State . In noting the need to address the tax, Picente said his goal is to develop a long-range fiscal approach that will avoid drastic actions while also allowing the county to invest in growth-oriented projects. “ County Government has been placed in an anemic condition where it can only afford to write checks for Social Services programs and triage problems, but it lacks the fiscal ability to take the lead role in developing local capacity for growth,” he said. “Let me be very clear: If we do not take control of our own destiny by investing in the future, and if we rely on state or federal handouts, we may pay nothing, but we will also do nothing and grow nothing.”