UTICA - Construction won't begin for a year, but the digs are already flying in social media posts on the No Hospital Downtown movement's Facebook page.
"It's vile, it's disgusting, it's racist and bigoted," says Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, Jr., of the obscene memes, ethnic slurs and accusations of homophobia and racism.
Picente is the target of a post on the NHD Facebook page. The mockup of an invitation to a Picente fundraiser says that gay couples will be charged more to attend than straight couples, and that mixed-race couples will be prohibited from attending.
"It doesn't embarass me in that regard. It embarasses them," said Picente. "All they're trying to do here is create public discord and not really want to be serious about a discussion."
Another meme on the NHD Facebook page shows a caricature of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in an apparent sexual act. The poster likens Cuomo to Utica's Mayor and the Oneida County Executive, and Berlusconi to local taxpayers.
"Our members are passionate and they're far more creative than either Brett (Truett) or I, and they do come up with interesting comics or memes and some are quite funny and some are quite edgy. But remember, when you're David and you're going up against Goliath, you've got to make a little hay every day to get heard," said No Hospital Downtown co-founder Jim Brock.
Brock adds that such posts and memes don't hurt the movement, pointing out that membership on their Facebook page has grown by nearly 500 in the past month.