Monday, May 31, 2010

Rebuild Mohawk Valley could be in line for GroWest work

The Utica OD reported that Rebuild Mohawk Valley, an affiliate of the Utica Municipal Housing Authority, is the most likely group to take over work from GroWest Inc., if that agency does not survive its current turmoil, a city official said Thursday.

But Robert Sullivan, the city's community revitalization director, stressed that no decision has been made regarding the future of the city's involvement with GroWest. The city is the other option for taking over the work if GroWest fails.

Sullivan said that decision would be made by Mayor David Roefaro and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development along with Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, who is concerned about the continuation of lead-poisoning prevention work now done by GroWest.

“We've had a very preliminary, fact-finding conversation with Rebuild Mohawk Valley,” Sullivan said. “We have made no decision.”

Both the city and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are investigating GroWest, a non-profit based in West Utica, over allegations of bid-rigging and theft over the course of the past decade. Read more here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

NPR's All Things Considered Focuses on Fees and Taxes for Nonprofits

NPR story, Amid Red Ink, Tax-Exempts Asked To Add To Coffers, features NYCON CEO Doug Sauer.

State and local governments, eager to close their budget gaps, are increasingly going after charities and other tax-exempt groups. Government officials are proposing new fees on nonprofits to help pay for services. They're also challenging the exemptions these groups get from sales and property taxes.

In Concord, Mass., for example, the Board of Selectmen sent a letter to the town's nonprofits earlier this year. It said that local property taxes were so high they were driving residents away. The board asked the town's private schools, hospitals, charities and churches if they could start paying their fair share.

"I guess we're just hoping that in times where people are economically really stretched, that to the extent that they're able, they can contribute," says board member Virginia McIntyre.

But the initial response was not what the board had hoped. One arts group offered to contribute $1,000 to the town, but most of the nonprofits responded — politely — that they contributed to Concord in many nonmonetary ways.

'A Slippery Slope'

Kathi Anderson is executive director of the Walden Woods Project in Concord. It preserves property including Walden Pond, made famous by Henry David Thoreau — who, she notes, went to jail rather than pay a tax he opposed.

"The land that is now protected is a wonderful resource, not only for people who live in the community, but for people who visit the community," Anderson says.

She says she feels the town's pain but that her group is hurting financially, too. She says it would be hard-pressed to come up with the $89,000 Concord says the Walden Woods Project would owe if it weren't tax-exempt. Even a "donation" to the town would send the wrong message, Anderson says.

"This is a slippery slope because if indeed a donation is made, then it implies that one supports the notion of having charities essentially pay taxes," Anderson says.

And that would fly in the face of the long-time relationship between government and charity — the idea that nonprofits fill a valuable community role and should be exempt from tax.

But increasingly that relationship is being challenged. Boston wants its universities, hospitals and nonprofits to pay 25 percent of what they'd owe if they weren't tax-exempt. Philadelphia is talking to its universities about similar payments. Kansas and Hawaii considered repealing tax exemptions for nonprofits as part of their budget debates. And Minneapolis has imposed a "streetlight fee" on nonprofits to help pay for electricity and bulbs.

Tim Delaney, president of the National Council of Nonprofits, says these moves couldn't come at a worse time.

"Corporate donations are down significantly. Individual giving is down. Foundation giving is down substantially," even though demand for charitable services is up, he says. Delaney says adding more costs will only hurt taxpayers in the long run because there's high demand for the types of services — such as health care and food pantries — that many nonprofits provide.

"When we can't [provide them], then there's greater needs in the community. And when the needs get so severe, then we're going to find people demanding that government step in. That is going to cost a whole lot more," he says.

Albany's Experience

But Frank Commisso, a council member in Albany, N.Y., says cities like his have little choice. More than half of Albany's property is tax-exempt because the city is home to so many state offices, hospitals and universities. But he says these institutions still rely on city services. Read more and listen to the story here.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Utica Music and Arts Festival Social Charity 2010

Social Charity Dates & Venues Announced on YouTube

We are proud to announce the Official Dates & Venues for our 1st Annual Social Charity Fundraiser! We couldn't be more excited to be involved with such great organizations and the people that work with them. Please mark these dates in your calendar and do your best to make it out to the events. 100% of proceeds raised will be donated to local non-profit Social Charity Participants. You can Win Free Tickets to the 2010 UMAF just by supporting all 8 Social Charity Events. That's right.... if you attend all the events we will give you your ticket to the fest for FREE!!! ($50 Value+Good Karma)

Here's the schedule...

Week 1 - Friday May 14th at Hotel Utica. Hosted by the National Brain Injury Foundation (NBIF)
Week 2 - Saturday May 22nd at O'Donnels Pub & Grill. Hosted by the American Red Cross
Week 3 - Saturday June 12th at Mr. McGill's. Hosted by the United Way of the Valley & Greater Utica Area
Week 4 - Saturday June 26th at Nail Creek. Hosted by the YWCA
Week 5 - Saturday August 7th at 12 North. Hosted by the UMAF
Week 6 - Saturday August 14th at Sickenberger Lane. Hosted by the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica
Week 7 - Saturday August 21st at The Electric Company. Hosted by Move Along, Inc.
Week 8 - Saturday August 28th at The Celtic Harp. Hosted by The Peacemaker Program, Inc

Right now we are looking for sponsors and volunteers. Find out how you can participate simply by clicking this link!

More details like Line-Up and start times will be announced very soon... please stay tuned. Any questions?? Please feel free to email, tweet or message us on facebook.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Guest view: Alliance fosters community knowledge that can help us grow

The OD offered the following Guest Viewpoint from the Community Foundation's Peggy O'Shea:

In 2009, The Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties, Mohawk Valley EDGE and United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica Area decided to invest in community knowledge.

Over the course of several conversations, we realized that we all had a great need for information about our two-county area. The three organizations began working together under the name Leadership Alliance for a Vital Community (LAVC).

Rather than conduct separate studies, we collaborated on a community indicators project with full support from our respective boards. For this project the Center for Governmental Research (CGR), a leading indicators consultant, collected data in the areas of arts and culture, demographics, economy, education, financial self-sufficiency, health, housing, public safety, technology and transportation. In October 2009, we were joined by more than 100 community leaders who reviewed the indicators and provided us with insight and guidance. This project is meant to benefit their work, too. The information gathered is now available at, and has the potential to be a powerful tool for all of us to use on behalf of the community.

The most frequent question asked about this project is, “Why?” The short answer is that each of our organizations can use the information in the project to inform our work, but there is a more valuable investment. We live in a community that examines itself often – an important collaborative health study was recently released, and we can all think of others. These studies are wonderfully detailed in their particular area, yet they do not always provide an overall picture. A community indicators project provides a broader snapshot of our overall quality of life. Read more here.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Leadership Alliance for a Vital Community (LAVC) Launches Community Indicators Website

Representatives from the Leadership Alliance for a Vital Community (LAVC) introduced a new website and the results of its community indicators study recently at a gathering of over 60 Oneida and Herkimer county organizations.

The website,, provides a statistical snapshot of issues in the two-county region and creates county-level data benchmarks that the community can use to establish shared goals toward increasing the region’s economic viability and sustainability. Indicators measured included the economy; education; health; public safety; housing; arts and culture; transportation; and technology.

LAVC is a partnership among The Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties, Inc.; Mohawk Valley EDGE; and United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica Area. Formed in 2009, its purpose was to undertake a community indicators study to obtain an overview of the area’s most pressing needs and opportunities for positive change. Data was collected, processed, and analyzed after a six-month study by the Center for Governmental Research (CGR). CGR, of Rochester, N.Y., also developed the website.

CGR demonstrated to participants how they can use the website and data to further the missions of their organizations and practical applications for the data at this morning’s workshop.

Discovery Tour and Training Program

The Genesis Group of the Mohawk Valley Region
Celebrating our 10th Anniversary

Join us for a Genesis Discocery Tour of a New Mosque and the Bosnian Islamic Association
Thursday May 6th - 5:00pm

By now you may have read about the Bosnian Islamic Association that has purchased the old Central United Methodist Church on Court Street (corner Broadway) in downtown Utica and has converted it into a Mosque. The Imam (ie religious leader) is a 23-year old Bosnian refugee, Ahmedin Mehmedovic, will give us a personal tour of the Mosque.

"It is as beautiful inside as its new looks are outside. Come and see for yourself."

MVCC Partners with Oneida County Tourism and The Genesis Group for Local Tourism Ambassador Training

Oneida County Tourism, The Genesis Group and Mohawk Valley Community College have partnered together to offer a course during National Travel and Tourism Week, May 8 – 16, 2010, targeted to reach currently employed frontline workers in hospitality and frontline jobs dealing heavily with customer service and the general public in the Mohawk Valley. The focus of the course is to foster local Ambassadors and hone customer service skills and awareness of things to see and do in Oneida County. Co-sponsors include Birnie Bus Service and The Bank of Utica.

For more information on The Genesis Group, contact:

Raymond J. Durso, Jr., Executive Director
The Genesis Group of the Mohawk Valley Region
SUNYIT 100 Seymour Road Utica, New York 13502
315.792.7187 (tel) 315.797.1280 (fax)