Sunday, May 23, 2010

Seeing The Light . . .

Two amazing editorials appear in today's Observer-Dispatch.

Our view: It's time to talk metro government
A study by the Cornell University Program on Applied Demographics ... predicts the population decline across Upstate New York, particularly the Mohawk Valley, will continue for many years to come. . .  
It’s time to start a conversation about metro government... 
we have too much duplication of government. And as the population dips, there are fewer people to pay for it. That takes its toll on everything from property taxes to infrastructure, and that hurts the city more than the suburbs it spawned. But if we choose to abandon the city rather than invest in it, it will eventually destroy us all..
Guest view by Peter B Fleischer: Upstate must refocus itself in wake of changing patterns
... new development outside upstate cities and villages continues, seemingly unabated by the population patterns and economic realities, as too many local leaders and citizens try to solve development-caused problems through more development.
This upstate type of sprawl is not your father or grandfather’s sprawl – it’s not just an aesthetic blight of generic strip malls, cookie-cutter tract home developments, big-box stores, enormous parking lots and roads so wide with turning lanes that few dare to cross. It is far worse. 
Today’s upstate sprawl extends considerably further away from town and city centers; consists of larger homes built on larger lots (many of which demand more in services that they create in tax revenue); demands extension of increasingly costly municipal services to far-flung communities; and requires more infrastructure that is more difficult and expensive to build, operate and maintain. The associated cost and tax burden is borne by a shrinking and aging pool of taxpayers. 
There is simply no reasonable expectation in most of Upstate New York that population, home values or tax revenues can cover the costs of future decline and expansion of infrastructure.

WOW -- I was starting to think that I was alone on these issues. It has been one of the main themes of this blog since it was started. Here's a sampling:

This conversation should have started 30 years ago when we regionalized the sewer system. . . or 15 years ago when we regionalized the water system. . . . but better late than never.

Regional issues were taken care of by spinning off new governmental entities . . . or by kicking them up to the County level where there were competing demands. This resulted in more government with higher taxes or fees for all; myopic government that could only see its narrow mission (like the water authority or sewer district) without regard to the broader implications of what it was doing; incompetent government (water authority and sewer district) violating the law or old agreements, and committing us to expensive fixes or lawsuits; and the residents of denser older and poorer communities (Utica and the villages) paying the freight to supply services to less densely populated surrounding towns.

The old way has not worked for a long time.

Yes, let the conversation begin on how we can do this . . . how we can have one government for Greater Utica . . . while preserving what we love about our many individual communities.

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