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Hancock responds to questions about her endorsement of COR Development subsidies

When we e-mailed a series of questions to Steve Hyde seeking more details on the process by which tax subsidies were approved for COR Development to redevelop a portion of Batavia Towne Center, we also e-mailed five questions to Mary Pat Hancock, chairwoman of the Genesee County Legislature.

Under state law, in order for state sales tax abatements to be awarded to a retail development project, a finding must be made that meets a specified requirement. The finding must be made by the Genesee County Economic Development Center Board and confirmed by the chief executive -- in this case, Hancock -- of the government agency overseeing the IDA. 

For the COR project, the GCEDC board passed a resolution finding that the proposed retail project would provide goods and services not readily available to Genesee County residents.  The only confirmed tenant for the space at the time was -- and still is -- Dick's Sporting Goods.

Hancock said she was not available to respond within the deadline set by The Batavian. We received her answer today. Below are the questions we e-mailed and her e-mailed response.

Questons:

1. Did you conduct any independent research to substantiate the board's decision?

2. At the time you wrote the letter, what did you know about the proposed tenants for the retail space? Were the names of all the businesses communicated to you, and if so, was it your understanding that contracts had been signed or whether these businesses were just proposals?

3. On what factual basis did you base your decision to confirm the finding? What is it about the proposed businesses that caused you to reach the conclusion that they would provide goods and services not readily available in Genesee County?

4. What do you say to a comment such as Mike Barrett's, that tax incentives for retail are like "using your own tax money to put yourself out of business"?

5. Should the existing businesses in Genesee County that must now compete against subsidized national chains receive any tax breaks or other mitigation to level the playing field for them?

Hancock's Response:

Dear Howard;

I do appreciate your forthright and direct manner. It is refreshing. Howard, I am going to frame my reply by indicating how I proceeded to educate myself regarding the proposed project. I hope it covers the intent of your request.

The Legislature does appoint the GCEDC Board. We believe they are a group of outstanding citizens with very strong business sense…as demonstrated by their own careers. They are also committed to the economic health of our community, or they wouldn’t be spending hours of their valuable time volunteering on the GCEDC Board.  Because they have a strong business sense, they also have a very strong respect for the law and carefully follow the latest and most accurate legislature and regulations guiding IDAs. I attended the meeting where they discussed the issue thoroughly. At a subsequent meeting they voted in favor of proceeding with the project.

The Legislature has an attorney. It would be foolhardy for me to sign an official letter without checking the legality of the document with our attorney. He is a careful attorney and checks out his information on many levels. He researched the law and provided me with a copy of the statute as recently amended. He also gave me his written opinion as to the requirements of the law and its application to this project. I was assured that we were acting within our legal rights.

The Genesee Economic Development Council (sic) was required to hold a public hearing and make specific findings of fact before awarding incentives, and did so on this matter.   I did attend the hearing and heard a positive presentation and only six persons spoke against the development.

Howard, I remember how that area looked before the development. It was sad. The lack of development in that area did not result in a healthy Batavia downtown. It looks, and is, more vibrant now, not only in that Town of Batavia area, but downtown as well. We hope to keep it that way…and better. I am most hopeful and confident that each step we take to attract new and suitable businesses to our area…will benefit all of us. Howard, I know you and I share the same desire for a successful, livable, and economically healthy community. We may not agree on everything, but our goals are surely the same.

tim raines
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It's apparent that Hancock doesn't know anything about being forthright and direct.

She didn't answer 1 question.

Bob Harker
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Hancock graduated with honors from the Steve Hyde University for How To Not Answer Questions.

Unfrigginbelievable.

It's quite obvious her only intent was to cover her own butt by saying our lawyer said it was OK.

Ms. Hancock? What will your justification be for the THIRD incentive for COR if/when Dick's and other ALLEGED interested parties follow Lowe's path?

"The lack of development in that area did not result in a healthy Batavia downtown. It looks and is more vibrant now, not only in that Town of Batavia area, but downtown as well."

So everything looks "more vibrant" because of a the short term appearance of a home improvement store - Depot is still there, with Value around the corner.

Howard, did either of these get corporate welfare?

COR's double dipping on the taxpayers' forced handouts doesn't bother GCEDC or Hancock. Does it the voters?

Howard, Ms. Hancock compliments you directly 4 times in her brief note. In spite of that, it's sad that she obviously she doesn't read your publication. If she did, she would know the public's true opinions on this matter. I'm sure that as a dedicated representative of the community she would reconsider her position.

Right, Ms. Hancock? Ms. Hancock? You are there, right?

Oops. I forgot. You don't read the Batavian's readers opinions.....

Mark Potwora
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Hard to believe it took her this long to respond ..Why even bother Ms.Hancock you didn't even answer any of the above questions. Just goes to show how unresponsive she is to the taxpayer.She seemed more worried what Mr.Hyde and a lawyer think..Glad that she is not running for office again..

Raymond Richardson
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That has GOT to be the best political two-step-around the questions I've seen in a long time.

I bet if anyone was to see Hancock on the street somewhere and ask her about the questions Howard asked her concerning this matter, she probably won't even know him.

Bob hit the nail on the head, unfrigginbelievable!

Ed Hartgrove
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I understand everyones frustration at Ms. Hancock's response to Howard's questions. And you may think it was BS, but it's actually known as PS (politispeak). It's taught in Political Science 101, and if you can't master it by the time you graduate college, you're probably better off looking for a different career.

I believe the thought behind PS is that, if you can fool the MAJORITY of the people, then you don't have to worry about the astute MINORITY, a category in which I would put the other commenters. (Oh, and I'm figuring Howard fits in that category, also).

Howard, Thanks for asking Ms. Hancock those questions, AND, for printing her non-response response. - Enlightening? Possibly.- unfrigginbelievable? Not so much.

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