The weekend affords many the opportunity for leisure pursuits, and if you are inclined to spend time with light literature, we recommend the following excerpt from Friday’s WIBX interview with one of the co-founders of “No Hospital Downtown,” or, as host Bill Keeler jokingly referred to it “No Progress Downtown.” We offer a few annotations, for context. The full interview is nearly 19 minutes long, if you’d prefer an audio experience to this summary.
Bill Keeler: [After discussing sports] Let’s make this transition. Once the No Hospital Downtown loses, will they come back? Tuesday was rough for—
NHD co-founder: We had a terrific night Tuesday. I could not have been happier . . . [digression into GOP-Democrat Utica council split, term limit repeal measure possibility]
As Keeler points out repeatedly, the pledged NHD candidates lost. This does not seem like a “terrific” outcome.
NHD: . . . and one of the things we were most proud of Tuesday was, not only did we take out two of the five of the “gang of five” [NHD co-founder’s term for councilmembers targeted for voting to lift term limits for certain elected city officials], but we replaced them with two outstanding candidates who are also, uh, against the hospital going downtown. So, there’s a real momentum going on here for folks questioning—
Jeff Monaski: We talked a little bit about this. We-we had characterized Michele Mandia and Bob DeSanctis [the two candidates newly elected to the council mentioned above] as being on the fence. You’re saying they’re in your corner though. Is that what you’re saying?
BK: If they are, they’re not admitting it in public.
NHD: Uh, I don’t—I don’t know, Bill; I would ask you to, uh, go ahead and watch the video of the debate in South Utica with Mr. DeSanctis and Mr. Jacon [John Jacon, whom DeSanctis defeated], and you will see that Mr. DeSanctis right out of the chute was questioning the viability of the hospital downtown. What we’re—
We watched “the video of the debate in South Utica,” the only one we could find online—and DeSanctis and Jacon do not appear in it. However, the O-D reported that the event lasted two hours; the “Common Cents Media” video is about one hour and 20 minutes long. Perhaps the two spoke during the portion of the event that CCM did not post, or NHD is referring to some other video.
JM: I’m sorry, I’m sorry—
BK: Aaah, that’s—you like putting words in people’s mouths.
NHD: No. No, no, no, Bill—
BK: Yes, you do. Yes, you do. You do. You actually enjoy it.
NHD: You have not watched the—
BK: Doesn’t matter, I interviewed him.
NHD: You have not watched the debate and I was there.
BK: But I interviewed him, and “I” was there. And here’s what he said.
In the interview Keeler references, DeSanctis said, “I, I believe, the hospital, right now, there’s still a lot of unanswered questions . . . well, with the facts that I know right now [this was on October 9], I would say that it should not go downtown.”
. . .
NHD: What we’ve done is we’ve replaced folks on the council—who are not in the bag for the downtown hospital.
BK: I specifically asked him [DeSanctis] and, um, Mandia [candidate Michele Mandia] about this. And while they are not “all in,” they are also not “all out.” They want more information, and I think everybody should be demanding that. So to automatically say—
DeSanctis’s use of “with the facts that I know right” agrees with Keeler’s assertion that DeSanctis is neither “all in” or “all out.” As for Michele Mandia, here is a a brief excerpt from her November 1 interview:
BK: “So, when you say you’re not necessarily for it [the downtown hospital] until you see it [complete project plans and information], you’re also not necessarily against it until you see it.”
MM: “Right. I-I just want to see the plans. I want to see what it’s all about, y’know. Utica needs state-of-the-art, a state-of-the art hospital . . . I know it’s a long process . . . but I think they should’ve had the due diligence completed, then come to the people and said, ‘Here’s what’s going on.’”
. . .
BK: I asked this question though the other day. Um, and didn’t the get the answer, so I’m going right to the source. We—and even you said it, and certainly Jim Zecca said it, that this election: “Wait till you see what happens on Election Day. The people of Utica are going to speak out.” But your No Downtown Hospital candidates lost.
NHD: You know—let me put it this way, Bill. Uh, we got a message out that we probably could’ve never gotten out without the hard work of Lou Poccia and Jim Zecca [two NHD candidates who were defeated], and, and Mr. Nichols [another NHD candidate who lost], and others. Uh, these folks—
. . .
BK: Going back to the “mandate,” You—you guys said this was a mandate, and—and you got beat.
. . .
NHD: The [MVHS] board, when they approved the location for downtown also unanimously approved the St. Luke’s campus as the alternative site.
This appears to conflate two MVHS Board votes over a period of time: The first, narrowing a longer list of candidate sites to two “finalist” possibilities, authorizing further comparative analysis as to cost and other factors; the second, approving the downtown site as the project choice.
BK: But there is no alternate site now. We’ve already been told that. There’s only one location: It is downtown or it is nothing.
NHD: Regardless, it has been approved. Secondly, I would submit to you that, after reading the legislation, nowhere in it does it say the word “downtown” or “Utica.” And, in an opinion letter from Senator Joe Griffo . . . he said that there is no requirement in the legislation, as he sees it, that would require it to go downtown. Now we know, behind closed doors the discussions have always been, “if we you don’t put it where we tell you, we’re going to pull the funding.”
Senator Griffo’s letter, available on NHD’s website, says, in part (the added emphasis is ours):
“This is important: Because many other areas were aggressively trying to secure this funding for their own hospitals, the language in the legislation had to be constructed and worded in such a way to target this funding to Utica. This ensured that the funding would not be split up among any other regions. But I must be very clear, at no point was this funding tied to any specific location or any preferred site within Utica.
With this designated funding, MVHS began to look at various possible locations for a hospital. Based on the input of their Board and consultants, the downtown site was identified as the most ideal location. As a result of their professional decision, I have publicly stated my support for their preferred location.”
NHD’s continued reference to Griffo’s letter as somehow supporting NHD’s position always omits these two points: First, that the legislation, in fact, was “constructed and worded in such a way to target this funding to Utica,” just not a specific location in Utica; second, that Senator Griffo supports the hospital’s downtown decision.
Incidentally, the legislation actually uses the language “the population center of Oneida County.” Utica’s population is more than 60,000. New Hartford’s (the St. Luke’s campus is in New Hartford) is about 22,000. . .and now, back to the Friday interview . . .
NHD: We will see what happens. The battle rages on. Our candidates—the ones who were successful—will fight in their new political jobs. And the ones who came up a little short are fully on board with helping “No Hospital” continue the battle to save our city.
BK: I’ve enjoyed watching you spin this epic loss on Tuesday . . .
We have nothing to add.