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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

“New York's not all big cities

ALBANY, April 18 -- It’s an old story. Travel outside the state, tell someone you’re from New York, and they start asking you about the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, and Madison Square Garden.

The punch line goes that there are a lot of people in a lot different places who still think New York State is just one great big city.

Of course those of us who’ve spent most of our lives right here in the Southern Tier, the Finger Lakes, western New York, or anywhere else across the upstate region, know that this big-city reputation is longer than a country mile from the truth.

The fact is that roughly 44 of New York’s 62 counties, according to the Legislature’s definition, are considered rural. That includes all of the counties that make up my 53rd Senate District. It’s the reason why, in 1982, state legislators saw fit to approve a law stating the following goal: “The rural economy and environment contribute greatly to the quality and maintenance of life in New York State. New York’s indispensable rural resources are decentralized, diverse and unique, and their enhancement and protection require special attention in view of their special characterization and needs.”

This 1982 law established what’s been known ever since as the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources (LCRR) or, more commonly, the Rural Resources Commission. It’s a 10-member, Senate-Assembly, bipartisan group that’s helped lead the painstaking effort to maintain a rural focus in a state government that, over the past 30 years, has become increasingly at risk of being completely dominated by urban-oriented, mostly downstate governors and legislative leaders.

Last week I was appointed as one of the five state senators who serve, along with five Assembly representatives, as members on the Rural Resources Commission. I look forward to the work. I look forward to the opportunity to help address the challenges facing our rural communities and economies here in the Southern Tier and Fingers Lakes regions. Challenges like universal broadband, agriculture and farmland protection, rural health care, economic development, water quality, local government reform, education, land use, transportation, volunteer recruitment, and so many, many more.

The challenges facing our rural regions are as diverse, deep-rooted and difficult as any of those facing New York’s cities and suburbs.

We’re fortunate that our region is also home to Cornell University, which has long played a leading role in rural affairs nationally and in New York. The university and the commission have partnered in the past on a number of exciting initiatives, and I’ll be on the lookout for ways to continue developing and hopefully strengthening this working partnership.

The work ahead to promote and reenergize a shared vision and common goals for rural New York’s future deserves to be recognized as among the most important work still facing us.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara


Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison

Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Michael A. Yuhasz, 535-4967

Doris L. Karius, 546-5544

Barbara Halpin, 594-3683

Glenn R. Larison, 594-3385

Thomas M. Gifford, 535-9517

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen 481-0482

Stewart Field, Watkins Glen 535-2335

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Margaret Starbuck, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 415, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Christopher Friend -- Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
Room 720, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-4538


© The Odessa File 2011
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869