We can do better, much better, in Schenectady. Doing better begins with changing our attitude and our politics.
With property taxes forcing residents from their homes, some are urging people to leave the city. There is a better solution.
Rather than tossing in the towel, work to make our community better. After all, if more people would do their part to pick up around their property, help plant flowers, or engage in other acts to enhance Schenectady, our city would be dramatically improved.
Look at what Schenectady 2000 did. Focusing on seemingly small efforts like painting bridges, cleaning up Vale Cemetery, or making our entranceways more attractive, much was accomplished.
Community pride increased; Metroplex was born; and downtown was reborn. Metroplex should continue its efforts downtown; it should also turn, as promised, its attention to our neighborhoods. However, we need to bring back the “yes we can” attitude that was, arguably, the most important aspect of Schenectady 2000.
“Quality of life,” "no-broken-windows" and “zero tolerance” policies matter. Residents should do what do what they can when elected and appointed officials do not.
It is also time to bring back competition to local politics. Schenectady’s one-party rule is not unique; 60 percent of the country suffers from it. (“Suffer” is the operative word.)
At the local level, labels and positions on national issues — pro-choice or pro-life, Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative — do not matter. What does matter is putting forward the best people and ideas to advance Schenectady. One-party-rule is a barrier to both concepts because it forces politicians to toe the party line.
Much hope is pinned on the proposed casino to reduce taxes (and provide much-needed employment). While people can legitimately argue the casino’s merits, no one can dispute the fact the rosy revenue projections fail to take into account the increased police and fire, infrastructure, and social damage costs.
For those betting on the casino, the question is why there were no revenue guarantees, as were made elsewhere. Those guarantees, together with the state’s revenue-sharing proposal, could be tied to property tax relief, as former councilman Carl Erikson had proposed. To be legally binding, though, each successive council would have to vote to do so, because one council cannot bind its successor.
Under the same rationale, the eight-year sales tax agreement with the county, opposed by Erikson and Councilman Vince Riggi, should be challenged. Since the agreement ties the hands of successive councils, it is not binding.
If the casino comes to Schenectady, a revised sales tax agreement or an “opt-out” of the agreement by the city could result in a mammoth revenue source that should be used to reduce taxes.
It will not happen under one-party rule because the party bosses do not want to change the agreement.
Before Schenectady can truly change, we need two things in the city: a new attitude and independent elected officials.
Dr. Roger H. Hull of Schenectady is president of the Help Yourself Foundation. The Gazette Opinion section welcomes contributions of guest columns from readers. Send suggestions to Editorial Page Editor Mark Mahoney at [email protected]