Occupy Utica, Day 19, Oct. 31
November 1st 2011 · 0 Comments
BY ROGER CHAMBERS
It was just after sunset on Halloween, and at Occupy Utica near Liberty Bell Park, just over a dozen people were gathered along Genesee Street with signs. It was jacket weather. Gail and her husband, from Frankfort, chatted with Debbie and her husband, from North Utica. All are in their late 50s to mid 60s. Diane, retired, and another woman in her mid-20s came up and joined them. (I’ll call her Julie). Julie was the most animated of the group, yelling out “Power to the people!” and other slogans to cars passing along Genesee Street, some honking their horns in support
Conversation turned to just what had happened at the City Council meeting last week. Lack of credible coverage of this meeting by the Observer-Dispatch was mentioned, and no one present really had anything good to say about largest (and only) daily paper. All had read the Phoenix on occasion, and felt an alternative paper in Utica was a good thing. It is clear that many 20 and 30-somethings do not depend on local newspaper, radio, or TV for their news, but with social media and other Internet sources, they are generally well informed about what is happening in the Occupy Wall Street movement across the country.
Diane mentioned that many people had spoken last week at City Hall against the current Route 12 project along West Side of Utica. There was also talk about Jim Zecca’s resolution for a committee to study the feasibility of municipal power in Utica. Someone mentioned that some businesses have actually located in the valley towns of Ilion and Frankfort related to the less expensive municipal power.
Two young costumed children came along trick or treating, accompanied by their mothers or aunts. They said “Thank you,” to the candy offered and went down the street. The group did have candy to pass out to such youngsters, and also had been collecting non-perishable food this day for donation to the Hope House or Food Bank.
The talk turned very informally among this small group to such things as the various development projects that had often gone wrong, making large amounts of money for a small handful of people with the city often stuck with the bill. This included the Hotel Utica deal, the building of SUNYIT at its current location instead of downtown, the recently touted nanotechnology deal near SUNYIT with likely eminent domain to prepare things without firm deals that large businesses are firmly committed. Some felt that EDGE and similar programs and agencies are always trying to bring in some huge corporate business, rather than focusing on the opportunities for local, small scale entrepreneurs, and bringing a grocery store or drugstore to downtown. Some expressed disdain, bordering on contempt for the Genesis Group, as an elitist social club that has actually done little for real economic development in the city.
Though the numbers of inner-city poor makes economic development money available to the city, these monies are rarely spent where it is needed the most (in Cornhill), but in other parts of the city. There were passing comments on the GrowWest scandal, and how the City mismanaged money from the Utica water system.
Julie realized that it was after 7 pm, and the General Assembly (GA) was late getting started. Moving a few yards from the street side into the east end of the alley, 16 people gathered in a loose circle for this daily meeting. More men than women were present, most in their 20s and 30s, though several in their 50s and 60s. The meeting, while there was a facilitator of sorts, was very Democratic, with ideas freely exchanged, and generally one person speaking at a time.
There was discussion just how to continue the movement locally in light of the coming cold and snow. Ideas mentioned included looking for “free space,” or renting a house or apartment, or some inexpensive warehouse in the area. Humorously, the idea came up of occupying the old State Hospital, on Whitesboro Street. This led to a stories of its being haunted, and the uncertain future, including possible demolition of this important historical sites in West Utica, unmaintained for many years, a burden that no one has clear ideas on possible, very expensive restoration.
There was brief discussion about the hour-long Occupy Utica radio show at 10 pm daily on the Internet (and available throughout the day) — Individual contributions are welcome by e-mail or MP3 files. There have been responses from listeners, many involved in this OWS movement from across the country. On the web at: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/
occupymediagroup/2011/11/01/. occupy-radio–music-news-and- call-in-for-occupiers
Ideas shifted to actions, including a call to “occupy City Hall” at the upcoming Common Council meeting of November 2. There were various comments made on how most effectively to make their point that the occupy movement is demanding that they be heard. Plans for petitioning the Council to pull City money out of big banks and place it in local banks or Credit Unions were also discussed.
November 2 also coincides with a national strike called by OWS on behalf of Scott Olsen, the Iraqi war veteran in hospital in Oakland after having been seriously injured by police during a crack down by police there last week.
There were further comments on just what the future holds for Occupy Utica during the coming cold weather, including using pallets and winterizing tents. Just what might evolve from this is as yet unclear. The actual outdoor occupation without better shelter is as yet unresolved. If an indoor shelter is arranged, there was talk of having OWS people coming up from New York for a few days rest. This would be welcome for some that have been on the streets and in the trenches on a daily basis for several weeks.
Similar conversations are happening all across the country. As Paul Gilding, author of the “Great Disruption,” notes in his blog, “The Cockatoo Chronicles,” the Occupy Wall Street Movement (OWS) has devised the brilliant tactic of remaining (thus far) leaderless. This gives them the opportunity to attract a wide variety of people. Differing ideas are being discussed and debated in public squares and parks across the county (and between local groups via social media and the Internet). Almost all agree that the current system is broken. Collectively, they agree with almost childish naiveté, “The Emperor Has No Clothes.”
By Mark Ziobro