Upstate’s missing man

In an election year where Americans are analyzed in terms of demographics (black or white, young or old, “educated” or “uneducated”), with candidates choosing which ones “matter,” depersonalization is the spirit of the times. In Myanmar, the government is pretending that hundreds of thousands of its cyclone-hit people are not really there, even holding elections in flooded towns while dead bodies are rotting not far away. Perhaps never before in history has there been such a densely populated globe where so many people are so invisible to such a powerful few.

As KAZ pointed out last week about the new “I Love New York” logo, there is an unsettling message (truth?) in the use of images of animals and overgrown grass to signify a vast and “wild” Upstate region where millions of people still live and struggle. Now the economic concerns of a big chunk of New York State are also set to become somewhat more depersonalized, with the erasure of “Upstate’s Man” — the position of Upstate Chair of the Empire State Development Corporation (currently held by Dan Gundersen).

A Rochester D&C article says Paterson loses good will in upstate New York with change (this piece quotes heavily from Unshackle Upstate’s press release.)

Citizen Power Alliance, a Finger Lakes-based blog, thinks Paterson would never have made this decision on his own.

A look at who exactly is advising Paterson to make this change.

Gundersen’s own dutiful statement of support for the decision has been drowned out.

The Paterson administration can word this decision as they like (saying that the new single ESDC chair would preside over two Upstate and Downstate departments, for example). None of that would change what has been decided on: an abrupt removal of equal authority from Upstate hands just barely a year after Spitzer had granted it, bypassing a corrupt and deficient Albany structure. Maybe Spitzer shouldn’t have cracked open that particular barn door and shouldn’t have permitted that authority, but he did. Now Paterson wants the door shut before the rats get in (or perhaps before the horses get out).

BuffaloPundit feels that the new approach wasn’t producing much and that all of Upstate needs to be turned into a single Empire Zone. That would still highlight that the state is not “one New York,” but divided into two badly unbalanced economies – one euphoric, the other wounded. It’s a stark truth that Gov. Paterson admits — but one he apparently isn’t willing to address on a blunt and direct political (and human) level, as Spitzer did with the appointment of an “Upstate man.” He warns that having two ESDC chairs could be confusing. (So how about changing ESDC’s mission to be concerned solely with Upstate economic development from now on? After all, for years it’s been a Downstate-centric mission…turnabout is fair play!)

Gov. Paterson told the Post-Standard: “If we do it this way (with two chairmen), we might have two governors and I think that would be a terrible idea.”

An oddly phrased statement of concern. But he said it, not me.

13 Replies to “Upstate’s missing man”

  1. This move and especially the people apparently behind it have me depressed.

    Paterson had been seeming to do some good for Upstate, surprising me on the garbage truck question, but this puts a lot of the goodwill I had for him in question.

    It’s not the end of the world, but it’s not a great step.

  2. It is depressing– the David Paterson I was familiar with from the State Senate was a big fan of small business. I’m not quite to depressed, but, it is surely depressing that a group of campaign-donor millionaires are being consulted when upstate residents themselves are not.

  3. One single giant Empire Zone? That is simply unacceptable as a rationale idea. I’m guessing the BuffaloPundit may some interest in being in a “zone”.

  4. Congressman Arcuri apparently wrote the Governor about this, and was reassured by his answer:

    Paterson Assured The Congressman Earlier Today That Upstate New York Will Continue To Be One Of State?s Top Priorities Amidst Future Economic Development.

    Not a lot of detail there, though!

    (It’s kind of in the middle of the page.)

  5. Simon…I’m kinda surprised about your thoughts on the garbage truck question.

    In an ideal world, there wouldn’t be garbage trucks driving through any small communities (or NYC sending its trash upstate either), but to me, the garbage truck issue reads more like rich Skaneateles residents wanting to keep garbage trucks out.

  6. This may be a dumb question, but if the trash is going to a landfill in Seneca Falls, why don’t they just send the trash up the Hudson and via the Erie Canal? Does the trash have to be there on time?

  7. As for real issues:

    Ellen, I don’t subscribe to your deconstruction of the new I heart NY ad campaign. We are more rural upstate, we have grass and critters. It’s part of our appeal and what they’re trying to sell. You see unsettling, I see bucolic.

    Economic development, feh. Handing tax breaks around hoping they’ll stick somewhere. In a language downstaters may be able to understand: fuhgeddaboutit! Invest in my schools, my roads and fix the energy business in the state and we’ll be beatin’ them off with sticks–businesses, not critters.

    Isn’t the legislation about all big rig trucks, not just garbage trucks? I’m with JS on this one, rich folks don’t dig truckers.

  8. In Simon’s defense, the truck thing is about noise pollution, unwarranted traffic, and excess wear on small county and town roads, which are being used as bypasses to keep truckers from having to pay state tolls. I have friends who are backed up for 15 minutes in the morning trying to get off their rural road and onto Rte. 38 to get to work in Ithaca. We’re not Skaneateles. It’s not a Richie Rich v. The CB Set situation.

    As for deconstructing the logo, I think the squirrel they used is modeled on the Fordham black squirrels in the Bronx, and are we really known for our butterflies? Maybe a waterfall–or something they don’t also have in Central Park–would’ve been better symbolism. The grass is just scary.

  9. Agree with Ellen that the most eco-friendly way to transport the trash to Seneca Falls may be by barge; unfortunately, our private-enterprise (or is it mobster oligopoly?) in the trash area has a business model that hires trucks. We aren’t in much of a position to influence their decisions. But, as KAZ points out, it is more than a quality-of-life issue, as it is costing municipalities big-time for the wear on the roads that were not constructed to have constant big-rig traffic on them.

    I’m very happy that Paterson is moving to work on this.

    As for the logo, KAZ, I think some bluebirds (STATE BIRD!) at least might have been warranted. What would really help upstate tourism is not a logo-makeover that looks like kindygarten art, but a solid federal-state-private partnership to improve, expand and promote intercity passenger rail. NYC is getting more and more international tourists due to the falling dollar. If they could get to us via reliable and affordable train connections, a lot more would visit.

  10. I agree about the non-income quality of life issue, but I’d bet good money that these trucks just re-route around communities with the resources to enforce the law.

    Or the final rule creates certain accepted paths or protects only certain areas…

    The more fundamental issue is the accepted reality that trash flows upstate. Kinda makes you question the whole gratefulness that we’re told we should feel for NYC helping us out.

    It feels alot like thanking the King for the chance to be a surf on his land…

  11. Phil: Bring back the steamroller?

    Ah, I knew he’d be showing up any time now – Spitzer’s Ghost!

    His political body may be mouldering in the grave, but his Truth is marching on…

  12. Sorry – I hadn’t noticed the firther comments on the trucks.

    I can see why JS might think this is just about Skaneateles, but it definitely isn’t. There’s plenty of garbage truck traffic on other roads, through communities that aren’t nearly as wealthy. (I don’t believe I have these trucks on the road in front of my house, but State Highway 366 is loaded enough with gravel and concrete trucks that it’s easy for me to sympathize.)

    As far as enforcement goes, this gives local officials a means of enforcing residents’ complaints. I don’t know what the details are on how high the fines will be or how they’ll be split local/state, but hopefully enough of that will go local to keep enforcement in motion.

    I’d like to see these trucks re-route to the place they belong – the Thruway.

    And yes, sending Downstate trash to Upstate – way Upstate – isn’t the smartest thing I’ve heard of, or that likely to create friendly relations. I don’t think we’ll see Fresh Kills, the best-named garbage dump I’ve ever heard of, reopening, though.

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