** Originally posted at Binghamton Political Buzz Examiner.com **
Since February 24, 2015, we have been writing an on-going review on the progress of unmanned aerial systems in the United States. Specifically we have focused on the impact of the Griffiss International Airport test site, located in Rome, NY. In previous articles we covered the history of unmanned aerial systems (commonly called drones) and efforts to allow for the domestic use of these drones. In addition we discussed the efforts of several politicians and the industry itself to establish the test site at Griffiss Airport, as well as noting the opposition to domestic drone use.
We followed up the history with the promises made. The projections of revenues that would lead to increased tax funds for New York State. In addition we filed FOIA requests to the office of the Mayor for the City of Rome, New York Department of Labor, and the Commerce Dept., National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), among other institutions to determine the real impact of drones on job creation in New York State since August 2014 when the test site at Griffiss International Airport became fully operational. The net result as of May 2015 was the creation of 6 jobs and in excess of $6 million in taxpayer dollars in the form of grants and direct funding. Millions more, from the Federal and State level are planned in the near term.
On the eve of the first anniversary of full operations, the next subject is the politicians themselves. On June 16, 2015, we have sent out requests for comment to the key politicians responsible for the Griffiss International Airport drone testing site. Each of these politicians have promoted, lauded, and taken accolades for the drone test site. Each is responsible for providing millions in taxpayer funds towards the test site in New York, with plans for millions more in taxpayer funding. Each has either directly promised or agreed with public declarations of job creation ranging from 2, 000 – 4,000 jobs. Each has either directly promised or agreed with public declarations of revenues from the Griffiss test site of from $140 million – $800 million, and/or an economic impact for New York State up to $180 million.
These are big promises to the population of New York. Especially the Counties of Herkimer (6.8% unemployment*), Madison (5.8% unemployment*), Oneida (5.4% unemployment*), and Oswego (7.1% unemployment*) that surround and are directly impacted by the Griffiss International Airport test site. The gamble by politicians using their tax dollars to create new jobs is expensive in more ways than mere taxes. [Unemployment figures as of April 2015 as provided by NY Dept of Labor]
Thus we sent each of the following politicians a letter. The letters included direct quotes of support, promised job and revenue figures, that each politician made and the source that quoted them. The letters went to:
- Senator Charles Schumer (Democrat)
- Congressman Richard Hanna (Repubican)
- State Senator Joseph Griffo (Republican)
- Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi (Democrat)
Each politician was asked the following:
- Can you provide a current number of jobs created in New York due to the Drone Testing Site, and sources for how you claim any number of jobs created.
- Can you provide a tax revenue figure that have been generated for New York State due to the Drone Testing Site, and provide the source of that information.
- Can you provide an estimate for the growth of jobs and/or revenue for 2015, 2016 and/or 2017.
- Also have you (and/or your re-election campaign) received funds from the Unmanned Aerial Systems industry lobbying efforts?
- Most importantly, we ask you for comment on how you justify to your constituents the money and time spent on the Drone Testing Site to-date and in the near future based on the efforts you continue to propose for this.
These questions are the least these politicians can provide given the accolades and re-election boosts they received for the news coverage they generated. Whatever response is made will be provided on this site verbatim. The ball is now in the court of the politicians.