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Foss: Effort to study population loss a good step

Foss: Effort to study population loss a good step

Foss: Effort to study population loss a good step
Photographer: Gazette file photo

For years, I've wondered why New York's steady decline in population isn't treated as a bigger deal by the powers-that-be. 

Rather than address this ugly trend, lawmakers have mostly avoided it, preferring to stick to an increasingly hollow narrative that depicts New York as a great state that's getting even better.

Thankfully, there are signs that New York's state-of-but denial might be coming to an end. 

Upstate politicians have become increasingly vocal about an issue that disproportionately impacts their constituents, and this week state Sen. James Tedisco, R-Glenville, and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, announced that they would spearhead a bipartisan effort to learn more about New York's nation-leading drop in population

The lawmakers said they will launch an online questionnaire that targets upstate residents but is open to all New Yorkers and host a series of roundtable discussions aimed at developing strategies for attracting and retaining residents. 

This is a much-needed initiative that might just spark the larger conversation about New York's population loss that I and others have been calling for. 

If nothing else, it's a good first step, and I hope that other upstate legislators get involved. 

Of particular value is the initiative's focus on upstate, where too many communities have been hollowed out by the loss of manufacturing jobs and steady out-migration of college educated adults, who can find better-paying jobs and brighter opportunities elsewhere. 

The Capital Region has been one of the bright spots, with Albany, Saratoga and Schenectady counties all seeing population growth between 2010 and 2020. But they were outliers: Since 2010, 43 of 50 upstate counties have lost population. 

That's grim, and it merits attention.

Sadly, it's been clear for quite some time that Cuomo isn't interested in discussing upstate population loss. Nor are downstate legislative leaders especially interested in the issue. 

Though perhaps they should be. 

An analysis from the Albany-based think tank the Empire Center found that New York's 2017-2018 population loss was concentrated in the New York City area, with downstate New York's population decreasing "twice as fast as upstate's last year." 

People have all kinds of reasons for relocating to other states, but New York's decade-long exodus suggests that residents are less than satisfied with their overall quality-of-life.   

We're familiar with the reasons people often give for leaving New York, with the state's high taxes and high costs of living often at the top of the list. 

But the initiative announced by Tedisco and Santabarbara should provide some useful information, get a discussion going and perhaps even generate some ideas.

If the effort is more than a cudgel to beat up the governor, grandstand and score cheap political points, something good might really come from it.  

New York's population loss is a real issue that deserves real attention. 

I'm glad it's finally getting some. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's. 

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