“My Presentation at the Open Hearing”
by Stephen Wowelko, October 11, 2009
On October 11, 2009, there was an Open Hearing on the proposed Onondaga County Budget.
There was much tension at this meeting which was attended by over 1,000 people. Many of which were union employees facing a possible reduction/furlough in work schedule from 40 to 35 hours and many layoffs. I counted over 30 Sheriff Deputies (and even the County Sheriff himself) at this meeting.
There were many special interest groups fighting for their programs – Student Assistance Program, social services department, probation department, human rights department, youth detention center…. all were either on the chopping block or were facing a large layoff of employees.
Many of the over 200 speakers were impassioned about their programs, many times they mentioned how insignificant “saving some fish” was over saving school councilors, or probation workers or the human rights department or a female youth detention center. Many in the audience laughed and clapped at the thought of giving up some fish over what they felt were more important programs.
After waiting over 4 hours to speak, I finally got my chance. I had a resolution from the Onondaga County Federation supporting the hatchery, but thought if I started out reading it, I would get booed off the podium by the hostile audience. I decided instead to tell everyone the importance of the hatchery without letting them know which program I was talking about until the end. It worked, you could hear a pin drop in the room during my presentation, and afterwards everyone applauded.
County Legislators, fellow residents of Onondaga County. I am here tonight to talk about a program which was initially cut from the County Budget, but has now been partially restored. This program is not understood by many as we saw by some of the speakers here tonight. Hopefully I can give you more information on this program.
The program I am talking about is staffed by union employees. If it is cut, your fellow employees would lose their jobs…..yet when other speakers talked about eliminating this program, many of you laughed.
This is a program that benefits our school children, and not just a few, but busloads of them – from every school district in Onondaga County….yet many of you thought this program was not important.
This is a program that benefits our troubled veterans that have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq – and are having trouble adjusting due to physical or mental injuries.
This program helps women recovering from breast cancer.
This program puts on events for families.
The program I am talking about helps seniors, grandparents and those individuals that are physically and mentally challenged in our community… Yet some still laughed when a speaker mentioned this program.
This facility puts on programs for inner city children to hopefully teach them some skills and keep them off the streets.
This is a program that in the long run costs the County nothing, and if many of you knew that, you may not have laughed, but it gets better. Not only does this program not cost the County anything, but it generates more than 3 times in tax revenue what it costs to operate.
County Legislators, it is easy to cut programs to try to save money, the hard job is to identify and fund programs that generate income, so that other programs do not have to be cut.
This program is essential because without it, even more jobs and programs would need to be cut, and even our taxes increased.
The program I am talking about is the Carpenter’s Brook Fish Hatchery.
The Carpenter’s Brook Fish Hatchery makes an invaluable contribution both financially and in programs to our community and should remain funded in the Onondaga County Budget.