I enjoyed the recent dialogue in Writer’s Workshop of Sullivan County, particularly when it comes to a discussion of our local economy- and how the breath of social services, particularly welfare fraud, affects our citizens.
The answer to improving Sullivan County’s economy does not lie in catching those who perpetrate fraud on the welfare system.
Despite being a “feel good” sound bite designed to play well in the media, it’s a small drop in the proverbial $200 million dollar bucket.
Nor does the answer lie in the Sullivan County Legislature rehashing decisions, from public safety funding to re-opening the County landfill.
Instead, we need leaders to innovate, to move Sullivan County forward, not create endless task forces to waste time and resources to “Monday morning quarterback” other elected officials, or decisions on which the current Legislature is unlikely to affect meaningful change.
The way for Sullivan County to dig itself out of the recession and despair facing the residents – and which is preventing our young people from finding gainful, meaningful employment in Sullivan County – can be solved in two words:” Economic Development.”
Right now, the two loudest groups of residents in Sullivan County are those who believe their taxes are too high for the services they receive and those who believe we must do everything to protect our “rural charm.”
For the taxation advocates, two quick facts: (1) Your taxes are never going to go down by any meaningful amount. It just doesn’t happen. (2) If you would like to see your taxes remain at the current level into the future, then Sullivan County needs to bring in new or expanded tax rate-ables (for profit businesses) to increase the property tax revenue received by the towns and county, and also the ancillary revenues compounded by the business or its employees.
For those interested in our communities rural and green, two quick facts: (1) As much as we would like to have green everywhere, Sullivan County residents cannot afford the taxes on that green land with the jobs they have now, or with the unemployment they have now. (2) If we want to have meaningful employment for our young people, and jobs that pay a living wage, we need to recognize it’s not going to come from small businesses, nor a tourism industry that largely shuts down for four months each year.
Bottom line: We need industrial and manufacturing companies to provide full-time employment with benefits.
Years ago, local residents opposed Kohl’s Distribution in Wurtsboro because it would impact the “rural charm.”
In reality, Kohl’s provides employment and health benefits for dozens of local residents, and regularly contributes volunteers and funding to local non-profits and community events.
The Monticello Motor Club receives hostility from local residents, yet again, the Motor Club provides gainful employment for local residents, buys supplies from local vendors and regularly contributes significant funding to area non-profits and community groups.
We should be seeking economic development that’s done in an environmentally-sound way that will not detrimentally impact Sullivan County’s natural resources or harm the health of the residents.
But we need to stop impeding the mushrooms, the Concords and other large-scale development and facilities because these impediments are having a negative impact on our communities and our residents’ livelihoods.
And we need this advocacy to begin with our county legislators, who need to step up and be advocates, not adversaries, of the for-profit industries in Sullivan County.