Friday, January 05, 2007

One Giant Leap Backwards for Plattsburgh

The area I was born in and the city I was raised in has seen many changes in the past few years. Old roads have been repaved. Buildings have been revitalized. When the Governor and political pundits talk of the problems and deep depression in the “upstate community”, citizens of Plattsburgh have always been able to say: not in our town. Plattsburgh, an isolated pocket of industry, commerce, education, culture and fine dining surrounded by an area of long term economic depression, is in danger of losing part of what makes it unique and becoming yet another mill town north of Albany that time forgot.

The city should ask itself, not only what are the short benefits of these proposed budget cuts, but as well as some of the short and long term costs associated with these cuts. Of the many line items listed in the Plattsburgh Press-Republican, most are a step backwards for the city and will have serious long term consequences for the city, for children who are growing up in the city, for the elderly who call Plattsburgh home and for the people commuting in to the city from surrounding communities. The goal of the city should be efficiency, not absence of service; a return to slalom like driving conditions on the roads, a return to a deserted downtown and the general run down nature of Plattsburgh pre-Stewart.

The Mayors Cup festival, which in recent years has devolved into more of a carnival then a festival, is still a major tourist attraction and something that, quit literally, puts Plattsburgh on the map for racing enthusiasts all over the North Eastern area. The city should seek to improve The Mayors Cup festival, not eliminate it. If the carnival atmosphere was not what people intended, the efficient thing to do would be take the established brand for The Mayors Cup and develop it. At one time there were games for children and during the day times the festival was populated with families going from restaurant to restaurant and staying for the music at night. According to the latest census, there are 18,800 people in Plattsburgh. The city seeks to gain 75,000 dollars by eliminating the festival. Or put in another way the cost savings equate to 4 dollars for every man, woman, and child in the city per year. How much does it cost to go to the fair for a day? How much does it cost to go to the movies for a day? How many part time laborers will no longer be hired by private firms? How many fewer dollars will flow to this city from the outer regions, other states, and other countries? Is all of that worth 4 dollars a day? The city will also loose something far more important. For one week every year, people get out of their little hovels and come together as one community. I remember the Fred Phelps tribe of hatred and how Plattsburgh came together in unity and with one loud, clear, succinct voice the community said: not in our town.

Some of the items listed for cuts are equally as short sighted. The JCEO is a program that keeps young adults out of trouble. Instead of spending their summer months wandering the streets, these young adults are instead working, learning what it means to save and being a productive member of society. I challenge any of the councilors to go to the High School and ask the teachers how they feel the JCEO has affected some of those students. This program frees parents from investing time at home, to investing time in the work place. It frees the police from picking up young adults. When these young people graduate and go on to college or get a job they are in the position to be leaders in their field and they are already here in this community.

Everything from new fire equipment, police cell phones, Fire Hose 5, and Police retirement, et al, are not bloated city expenditures. They are important services to the health and vitality of every citizen as well as to the long term growth of the city. If the police are slow to respond or the fire trucks are broken down peoples are in danger, capital investment is threatened, and time is wasted. If other competing communities are taking these steps to lower their risk of disaster, firms and industry will move to those communities before they move to Plattsburgh. If a young person looking at becoming a police officer sees that part of their retirement is threatened, they will chose another line of work, or more likely, move to another community which does provide these benefits. The mayor, mayor pro tem and the common council must not forget that Plattsburgh is competing for citizens with all of the other communities as well as industry, commerce, and culture.

Not all of the cuts are bad cuts; however, I question the wisdom and foresight of the leadership who seem more interested in saving a few dollars then on bringing the city forward into the competitive twenty first century. I ask all of you to write your local councilor and the mayor and tell them to vote no on this budget. Tell them you want a better Plattsburgh, not a barren Plattsburgh. Tell them not in our town.