On March 1, Mr. Wallace Truesdell chaired a meeting at Gloversville City Hall for anyone interested in preserving the Gloversville Transit System and for those who attended to give their reasons for wanting to keep GTS operating. Most of all, it was for folks to voice their ideas on how to keep a system operating when that system is already on life support and failing fast.
Many voices were heard and several ideas were put forward. In my mind, the most important idea was to encourage Mayor Dayton King to hire at least a part-time manager for GTS. The most important part of encourage is "courage."
I attended the meeting, and like Mr. Truesdell, was pleasantly surprised at the number of people who came out to support GTS.
In one way or another, I have been involved with GTS almost since the very beginning, when my friend and former Mayor Lou Nicolella started pushing the idea of a transit system as a good thing for the city of Gloversville. It's still a good thing, Lou.
In the days since that meeting at City Hall, I got thinking about those who attended and those who spoke and realized they were what I've now come to think of as the "vested interest voices." They were the bus drivers. It's their job and they love it and the "family" of passengers they serve. They were the riders, who use the system as a necessity and many times could not leave their homes without it. They could not get food or medicine or medical care or, in some cases, even other human contact without their bus. (One speaker said it would be like losing her arm and she was very emotional about it.) Then there were the other riders who use the system now and then as a convenience, but nonetheless count on it when needed. Finally, there were those like myself who are fortunate enough to not need the system now or use it as my basic transportation but not so blind as to know that day may come for me as well. Gas at $5 a gallon anyone?
Enough about the "vested interest voices." I also got thinking about the voices that were not heard at that meeting - voices that should be heard just as loud or louder because of who they are and how important the life and death of GTS is to those they represent and those they serve, or at least those they should represent and those they should serve, like the unheard voices of those I'm about to throw under the bus (pun very much intended).
Residents of the Gloversville Housing Authority ride the buses every single day. Where is your voice, Housing Authority Director Dan Towne? Gloversville students ride every school day. Where is your voice, school district Superintendent Rob DeLilli? Staff, patients and visitors ride to Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home every day. Where are your voices hospital President Laurence Kelly and Vice President of Development Susan Kiernan? Those who ride the buses shop at Walmart, Hannaford and Price Chopper. Where are your voices, Walmart Manager Marvin Massey, Hannaford Manager Carl Tambasco and Price Chopper Manager Tim Frasier? GTS is a service our community needs and should be championed by our local newspaper and radio station. Where are your voices Leader-Herald Publisher Patricia Beck and WENT-AM General Manager Jack Scott? Those who ride the buses shop at downtown stores and use downtown banks and eat in downtown restaurants that are members of the Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce & Industry. Where is your voice, chamber President Wally Hart? Riders live in your "hotel" at the former YMCA. Where is your voice, YMCA Chief Executive Officer Steve Serge? A viable public transportation system is a major plus for promoting economic development. Where are your voices, Economic Development Corp. Executive Vice President Michael Reese and Fulton County Planning Director James Mraz? Students ride to Fulton-Montgomery Community College and the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services. Where are your voices, FMCC President Dustin Swanger and BOCES Superintendent Patrick Michel? Riders use services provided by Fulton County government. Where are your voices, Board of Supervisors Chairman David Howard and Fulton County Administrative Officer Jon Stead? Riders use the buses to get to City Hall to conduct business at all the offices there. Will no voice support them? Riders use GTS to get to their jobs. Some may lose those jobs if they don't have transportation. Where are the employers' voices?
This is only a partial listing of those who benefit from the riders of the buses and the contribution GTS makes to the overall picture of our city and county. Will they speak before it's too late?
Yes, GTS is partly supported by Gloversville taxpayers' money. That amount is between $150,000 and $175,000 a year, or about 1 percent of the city budget. Some of that tax money is paid by the very people who ride the buses. This is not a giveaway to freeloaders, as some would portray it. Those "freeloaders" pay for their tickets every time they ride and have even offered to pay more if it would help save the system. How many of you name callers offered to pay more for garbage collection to help the city?
GTS is a needed service that Gloversville would be that much poorer without. It is not a luxury. Our city needs it.
Where are the voices? The silence is deafening.
Rick Bedell, a guest columnist, lives in Gloversville. He is a former member of the Gloversville Transit Commission and a former Gloversville council member and a former Fulton County supervisor.