Sunday, January 25, 2009

Big Numbers, Big Problems . . . What Solutions?

An excellent article appears in today's OD: "How much to fix region's infrastructure?" We are told that:

  • The Oneida County Sewer District needs $158 million
  • The City of Utica Sewer System needs $152 million
  • The Mohawk Valley Water Authority needs $140 million

These three things alone are $450 million worth of work! "We the People" seem to have lost all ability to control the expenses we will be subject to.

So how does the Mohawk Valley pay for all this work so that it can compete economically in the 21st century?

Some of it means changing approaches to growth, according to Puentes of the Brookings Institution and another expert, Rolf Pendall of Cornell University.

The existing problem stems in part from policies that encouraged growth, and even sprawl, outside old city centers, they said.

Even as their population departs, Upstate New York cities remain administrative centers for their regions, Pendall said.

“This means they need infrastructure that supports a much larger area – not just sewers, but also roads, sidewalks and courthouses, and social infrastructure like affordable housing,” he said in an e-mail. “But often the cities -- meaning their citizens -- have to build and replace this infrastructure with little or no financial help from those living in newly built areas.”
Our policies encouraging "growth" and "sprawl" outside city centers have created the problem . . . And the way we perceive ourselves and organize local government stands in the way of effective solutions.

The three biggest problems ticked off above are GREATER UTICA problems. They are not "Mohawk Valley" problems, or even Oneida County problems because most of the Valley and the County are not served by these interrelated systems of pipes . . . Calling these Mohawk Valley or Oneida County problems hides their true nature. We got the County involved because that was easier to do than doing what really needed to be done.

Only when we finally see ourselves as "Greater Utica" and govern ourselves as "Greater Utica" will we be able to deal with these issues . . . Reaching those milestones, however, may be an even bigger challenge than finding the money.

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