Hand in Glove with hope for the cities’ future

Last week, I traveled to Johnstown High School with my wife, Patsy. We planned to spend time sampling the work of JHS seniors who had been encouraged by their teacher, Mr. Sean Russo, to participate in the Fulton County Museum and Historical Societies’ Hand in Glove Student Art and Essay Competition.

The scope and depth of Mr. Russo’s exhibit of his students’ work was impressive; perhaps even more so having seen the recent Gloversville-Johnstown School Districts’ mediocre marks on the Upstate NY High Schools English Language Arts (ELA) Report Cards. I felt renewed hope for today’s students and in some cases — depending upon which essay I was sampling – there was also hope for our community and its industrial base, which not many years ago had seemed lost for eternity.

Thank God for the presence of the Fulton-Montgomery Community College or there would be few remaining here to benefit from our renaissance. The combined populations of Gloversville and Johnstown peaked in 1950 according to that year’s census reports at 34,557. In 2016, the cities’ combined population was estimated to have eroded to 23,249. The difference of more than 10,000 people was the rough equivalent to Johnstown’s entire population in 1950 — 10,923 according to the that year’s census. A combination of declining birth rates, uninspiring local job opportunities, minimal residential housing growth and increasing property taxes had stifled the area’s will to survive here. Hence, the population of our cities’ future had decided to escape the cities and move on to brighter opportunities elsewhere.

Thank you, Sean Russo, for restoring my faith and giving me encouragement that there is a future ahead for us in our cities. Perhaps the logo: Fulton County NY POSI+IVE is more an omen than an empty branding message.