An open letter

Dear Mohawk Valley Health System, Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri, Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, NYS Senator Joseph Griffo, Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, MV EDGE The Community Foundation Genesis Group and Select Board Members of the Above Organizations:

We write to urge that you act and speak with one voice, as our area’s new Downtown Utica medical center campus takes shape.

As your constituents and fellow community members, we have watched and listened with growing concern at the sporadic supportive and explanatory, occasionally contradictory, and, at times, defensive, statements you and others have made about this transformational project. Recognizing the project’s complexity and its public-private nature, we understand many of the reasons for this lack of coordination. But the time has come for you to respond more quickly, and speak more loudly, to answer and counter the small but persistent drumbeat of negativity.

Let us be direct.

MVHS: Not all the questions posed and issues raised by “No Hospital Downtown” are relevant, but some could easily be disposed of. For example, defuse their charges of secrecy by publishing on your website additional information about the process’s historical timeline. A dozen sites were considered; name them. The costs of St. Luke’s and Downtown sites were evaluated and compared, to some extent; describe them. St. Luke’s as a site was deemed problematic for a number of reasons; describe them. Your outreach to the public has involved hundreds or thousands of persons in numerous meetings; list the community meetings and forums, their dates, etc. Finally, describe why MVHS believes Downtown is the best possible site; do not continue to make statements assigning primary responsibility for siting the project Downtown at the doorstep of one or more elected officials.

Elected officials: Work together (this seems obvious, but we feel obligated to mention it), and consider the good of the area—outside the boundaries of your political interest and constituent obligations. And when asked about the decision to site and fund the project, speak a single message with one voice, e.g., the hospital believe the site to be best because of its particular hospital-centric reasons; we—city, county, NYS—believe it best for economic development reasons, and we support the hospital’s determination as well.

MV EDGE: The “no hospital group” continues to mine public doubt by stirring the uncertainty of a few property owners in the project “footprint.” EDGE has the expertise to help the city and the property owners resolve their concerns in ways too numerous and complex to describe here. We urge you to begin working openly with them, soon. This will address real concerns and dispel some of the persistent negativity, even as it demonstrates further progress.

Community Foundation: You have taken a public position in support of the project, but you could do more. Explain how you will commit resources to this critical community endeavor, and work to bring together the project’s partners, elected officials and the general public.

Genesis Group: You have not been as vocal as the Community Foundation, and your numbers are strong. Energize your membership. Arm them with facts. Ask them to help change the community conversation.

All: In closing, we implore you to—as we stated at the beginning—act and speak with one voice. And by this we mean, as just one example, when the few and persistently negative hold their “news conferences” to repeat baseless accusations and foment uncertainty, hold a multiple-partner news conference to repeat substantive messages of project progress and further developments to come. In summary, continue the enormous work of the project that goes on behind the scenes—but do more to tell all of us the inspiring story of this unprecedented opportunity for our region.

This project is a reality. We believe your continued hard work and leadership will truly transform this neighborhood, this city, this region. And we thank you for all that you do.



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