In a flurry of letters to the editor last week, Sustainable Otsego unfurled its banner in support of its candidates.
It read, “Fracking Is Bad," in spite of the fact that 90 percent of all new wells in the USA are fracked (yes, your car is probably running on a fracked product), the switch in electrical generation from coal to gas has reduced CO2 emissions United States to a 20-year low, the up-tick in natural gas supports 2.1 million industry jobs, manufacturing has returned to the Rust Belt, the United States has surpassed Russia as the world’s largest producer of energy, and even the leadership in the current administration, along with the EPA and the Energy Department, support development.
However, all politics is local, so let’s look at Otsego County. What does Sustainable Otsego bring to the table?
The County has a $7 million budget shortfall. Taxes are continually rising. For those unable to pay taxes, the recent tax lien auction sold 57 properties at disappointing prices. For those hanging on, there is a huge overhang of unsold houses. Most of the job offerings are part-time and/or dead end.
If upstate New York were a state, it would rank second-lowest in the nation in the in-migration of a 25 to 40 year cohort. In other words, young people aren’t coming here to live.
Why should they? The City of Oneonta’s median household income is about $33,500. In comparison, perennially poor Mississippi’s median is $37,100. While Otsego County’s median, as a whole, is higher than Oneonta's, it is still well below the New York State median.
With fewer adults in their child bearing years coming here to work, school enrollments have dropped 18 percent over the last 10 years. However, with unfunded mandates, school budgets remain high (and in trouble). There’s been no growth in population in 10 years. The population ages.