By definition, our local economy is not sustainable. We are losing people due to their inability to find jobs and high taxes. Our local governments and school boards are cutting programs. The county is being forced to find a new owner for Otsego Manor. Those things we know.
However, what might come as a surprise is how we rank against a state that we often associate with poverty — Mississippi. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Mississippi has a median household income of $37,095, making it the poorest state in the country.
Well, guess what? According to 2013 information provided by Cornell University, Otsego County has a median income of $43,563, and Delaware County is about the same. Based upon the higher cost of living in New York, due to higher taxes, health care costs, heating bills, gasoline, etc., we may be worse off than the people living in Mississippi. If we had a healthy economy, as some claim, that would not be the case.
There is an election rapidly approaching and some folks are trying to make it a one-issue election. That issue is fracking. However, fracking or not fracking is not the only issue that needs our attention. No matter how we feel about that issue, we need to be asking what the candidates’ views are with regards to how to turn our economy around so that people living here who want to work have that opportunity and people who want to remain here and raise their families can find meaningful work.
We need to ask the candidates who are supported by Sustainable Otsego what they stand for. It’s easy to be opposed to something, but that alone shouldn’t get one elected. Being opposed to fracking, opposed to windmills and opposed to bio-fuels isn’t consistent with saying one is opposed to fossil fuels. It is consistent with being opposed to everything. We need to ascertain what the candidates are “for,” and then decide if those things are viable in the short term and if they can help us grow our economic way out of the mess we’re in. If we feel a candidate can help us do that, then we should vote for that candidate.
The people who are associated with Citizens Voices are giving of their time, energy and resources because they want their offspring to have a future in this area. Citizen Voices has not come out in support of fracking, but has come out in support of economic growth. That growth needs to be sustainable and come from a variety of sectors, e.g. services, retail, manufacturing and agriculture.
We’re losing our young people and thus the remaining population is aging. Add to that the folks who already have a sufficient income that are retiring here and it’s easy to see that we have a challenge before us.
Electing public officials that recognize that challenge and are willing to do something about it is a positive first step.
Armao is a member of Citizen Voices.