In the 1974 film “Chinatown,” the wealthy Noah Cross hatches a scheme to bring water to the city of Los Angeles that includes intimidating homeowners and misleading voters.
In a dialogue with the detective character J.J. “Jake” Gittes, played by Jack Nicholson, Cross famously remarks that “either you bring the water to L.A. or you bring L.A. to the water.”
Such would seem to be the same choice facing Oneonta, as it seeks to make Southside more attractive to developers.
On the one hand, you have city Mayor Dick Miller, who, while nothing like the nefarious Cross, has been aggressively courting the town to consider the “bring L.A. to the water” option - i.e., to merge, share services or otherwise strengthen and formalize the relationship between the two municipalities.
On the other hand, you have town Supervisor Robert Wood, who has thus far spurned Miller’s advances.
So we’re left with Option B: “Bring the water to L.A.”
That’s essentially what the town is hoping to do by creating two water districts to serve Southside — a project that will require voters’ approval in a referendum.
The plan seems like a better deal than the idea Miller had floated of selling city water to the town. While Miller was willing to sell the water at cost, the price tag was still greater than it would be for Wood’s water districts — which the town will fund in part through a county loan, while seeking some state and federal funding.
Unlike in “Chinatown,” there is no bad guy here, no evil schemer trying to get rich and swindle the voters. Indeed, it appears to be quite the opposite — an example of local government coming together to seek the best possible solution to a problem.
While there are still a number of wrinkles to be ironed out in this plan, we think it is a sound one, and one that will not only benefit the town, but also the surrounding communities. For property owners (whether residential or commercial), municipal water service can boost property values, and also relieve the headache of siting and drilling wells for new construction. For all area residents, continued growth to Southside has the potential to bring in new opportunities, not only for shopping or dining, but also for employment.
Growth does not come without some cost associated with it, but the potential gains are great as well. Unlike in “Chinatown,” these actions are being taken to serve the public good, not to profit from it. We urge town residents to follow this matter closely and to be thoughtful in considering their approval or disapproval.