Mayors should take deep look at issues dragging down cities

When officials from the cities of Gloversville and Johnstown sat down together a month ago at Gloversville City Hall, it was hailed as a new beginning.

Unfortunately, problems afflicting both cities are very old and ongoing. In a negative way, the cities have more in common than they may think.

Here’s the way I see it, from my vantage point covering local news day-in, day-out.

There’s a huge drug problem in the cities and it’s getting worse by the minute. It’s symptomatic of decay. Heroin, cocaine use and underage drinking are commonplace and have been steadily engulfing our cities for some time. I’m sorry, if you’re looking for a chamber of commerce, sugarcoated denial, you’re barking up the wrong tree.

The cities are deteriorating in a toxic way and people are leaving because they can’t pay their taxes. Simple as that. Empty buildings are everywhere. And residents are wondering why they should continue to pay taxes, anyway, to live in such a depressed place. They want some quality-of-life rewards. Businesses are closing in both cities all the time — most recently True Value and Subway in Gloversville.

Kids are dropping out of school regularly. Young people who get their high school or college degrees can’t find jobs.

There’s a cycle of family dysfunction around here that fosters dropping out, underage sex, and generally laziness among some of the populous who think society owes them. How about this. If you don’t like Gloversville or Johnstown, improve your life so you can get out instead of wallowing in destructive self-pity and existing in a situation that continues to bring the rest of the area down.

Police have to break up fights and address domestic violence all the time in the two cities. The reason I know this is because unfortunately I’ve had to write about it for decades around here. The blotter never stops reflecting rampant abuse by people. Some jerk bashes his wife or girlfriend, and some teen has to fight back against an obnoxious drunken parent or adult. Elderly persons have to be treated with unspeakable disrespect they certainly don’t deserve.

Yes, Gloversville Mayor Dayton King and Johnstown Mayor Vern Jackson are on to something. Meeting with other city officials to talk about improving bus routes, police cooperation, and what’s going on at the sewer plant are well and good.

But I challenge these city officials to delve into the dark side of the two cities and smell the smells. Think out of the box. Look at the faces of the homeless (yes, they’re here). Then roll up your sleeves and think a little bigger. Get really mad because you truly want to improve the local climate.

The good news is Fulton County has always had wonderful things going for it. That won’t change. Extremely hardworking people, generous people, talented professionals, amazing eternal optimism, and beautiful green scenery (as my brother from California says).

If I was in a seat of political power around here I’d wake up and say, “I’ll be damned if I’m going to let these cities rot right out.”

Not on my watch, they should say.

∫ I had the pleasure recently of photographing Craig Talarico being sworn in as the city of Johnstown’s newest councilman at large. Congratulations to him. As a young reporter, I remember his wonderful father –the late Lucius Talarico. He was the city’s former alderman-at-large –the title before it was changed to councilman-at-large. Lucius was a fine man, honest and good for the city. Here’s to Craig being a chip off the old block.

∫ Now that the weather seems to be getting better — global warming — I’d like to see local residents do everything they can to clean up their yards before the start of spring. I realize spring and cleaning go together like wine and cheese. But some yards are really disgusting and need attention ASAP.

∫ Here in the newsroom, we use the annual Fulton County Directory quite often. I try to make sure everyone in the Editorial Department and places of power get one. I shouldn’t complain about them because the county provides them to the newspaper for free. But … every year we wait until sometime in March by the time they come out. I also forget how busy the county Printing Department is, and there’s an annual need to upgrade lists of local politicians.

I’ll shut up and wait a little longer.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of thenewspaper or its editorial board.

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