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A tale of two cities: leadership

July 8, 2011
By Mark Moeller - Tupper Lake Business Community Inc. , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

Collective jaws hit the floor last Friday when it was reported that the mayor of Tupper Lake had issued the following ultimatum to the developers of the Adirondack Club and Resort: "Open Big Tupper, or else." This happened during the same week that the mayor of Saranac Lake announced that two biotech firms were relocating to Saranac Lake. What is the difference between our two villages? Leadership.

Just as Tupper Lake is on the verge of seeing the Adirondack Club and Resort granted a permit from the Adirondack Park Agency, Mayor Desmarais of Tupper Lake attempts to slip a knife in the back of Tupper Lake residents and businesses as he issued a juvenile and misleading threat to the developers of the ACR. We have become accustomed to failed attacks by the Three Amigos (Adirondack Council, Protect the Adirondacks and Adirondack Wild), but now by our own mayor? Does he represent the will of the people with this ultimatum? No! It is very interesting that he is now mimicking the green groups.

We were at the legislative hearing that opened the adjudicatory hearing for the ACR project held at LP Quinn Elementary School in Tupper Lake. The room was packed by Tupper Lake residents who overwhelmingly told the administrative law judge that that this town and village supports the project. While our mayor gave his milquetoast endorsement, Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau rallied the crowd with his support. When speaking about the project in Tupper Lake, residents have asked for years, "Where's the leadership from our mayor? Why is the mayor of Saranac Lake more supportive of this project than our own mayor?" Mayor Desmarais has been AWOL from the ACR debate and he asked no questions during the adjudicatory hearing.

So is the timing of the mayor's ultimatum odd? Not really. Earlier last week our mayor lost his bid for re-election as a Republican at the Republican caucus and will soon do so at the Democrat caucus as both parties vow to support pro-growth candidate Paul Maroun. This may be a first in Tupper Lake politics. The residents of Tupper Lake have lost faith in our current mayor's leadership abilities.

The ACR is not just about Big Tupper, as our mayor so incorrectly surmises. It's NOT about skiing; it's about jobs! We don't NEED skiing; we NEED economic development. Did the mayor or any board members talk to any businesses or civic groups before issuing this ultimatum? No.

Here are the facts that our mayor misses. Neither the town of Tupper Lake nor the two other groups of private owners could run the Big Tupper Ski Area at a profit. To be successful, the ski area must be linked to a successful housing development. That has been the plan from the beginning, and the developers have been clear in their goal to reopen Big Tupper. The mayor fails to recognize the phased financing of the ski area. But without the residential home component, there will be no skiing. Mayor Desmarais also incorrectly stated that Big Tupper must open because it will create the most job opportunities. Wrong again. The 10- to 15-year build-out of the ACR project will create hundreds of construction jobs and will be the impetus for dozens of other small business to open doors in our town. Our mayor has presided over a gloomy period where many stores have closed in Tupper Lake and no new businesses have been encouraged to locate here.

In last week's ADE article, Desmarais "also took issue with proposed conditions attached to the planning board's tentative approval that guarantees the ski area will be open to the public for 50 years if it's in operation." But in a signed agreement with the developers on April 15, 2009, our mayor agreed in writing to that very condition. Developer Michael Foxman has also stated (in an email to me) that Mayor Desmarais has not returned his phone calls since his re-election in 2009. It's evident that our mayor simply does not have his head in the game.

The status quo is not the answer; proactive leadership is. To jeopardize the ACR project at the end of the hearings with a last-minute, politically motivated attack by the leader of our village is unconscionable.


Mark Moeller lives in Tupper Lake. The Tupper Lake Business Community Inc. consists of Kate Bencze, Rickey Dattola, Don Dew Jr., Don Dew Sr., Beth Johnson, Jim LaValley, Mark Moeller, Daniel McClelland, David Tomberlin and Doug Wright.



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