Press-Republican

Opinion

November 7, 2012

In My Opinion: Public involvement needed to fulfill vision

Our community recently completed the fourth Vision2Action forum. Its conclusion reminded me of how our democratic process depends on an engaged community.

At the end of this political season, it brings to mind a myriad of reasons why these forums are so important for our community. Let’s reflect on the origin.

The concept began over lunch six years ago. Conversation centered on apparent inefficiencies of government, school systems and taxes. We needed to make changes, but decisions could not be made on opinions or assumptions — we needed facts.

The Development Corp. and SUNY Plattsburgh professor Colin Read started collecting data about our local demographics and trends. This effort confirmed our concerns and forced us to conclude that unless we changed these trends, we would fall off our own financial and community cliff.

Armed with these facts, this group began to organize the first of three Vision 2040 conferences. The challenge was to ask attendees how they envisioned the community in 2040, a year when very few of them would be here, so their comments would have no effect on the vision the attendees would have.

The hundreds invited to these three conferences were community members from all walks of life.

At the first session, Colin Read presented a most sobering fact about our state and our region: The current demographic of the area indicates a static if not decreasing birth rate, a ballooning rate of college-age students, an immediate decline of the working age 24 to 60 (earners) and a huge increase in the Baby Boomer population as they reached retirement.

The results were typical of a declining economy, where the size of the remaining earning group is insufficient to generate the taxes necessary to support the increasing social and economic demands generated by increasing retirements. This trend would accelerate the rate of citizens departing the area.

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