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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara
"Rural America disappearing?"
ALBANY, Aug. 8 -- I don’t know how many of you saw it recently, but it sure caught my attention. It was an Associated Press report culled from the latest 2010 Census numbers and the article I read carried this headline: “Rural U.S. disappearing? Population share hits low.”
Following was the article’s lead paragraph: “Rural America now accounts for just 16 percent of the nation's population, the lowest ever. The latest 2010 census numbers hint at an emerging America where, by midcentury, city boundaries become indistinct and rural areas grow ever less relevant. Many communities could shrink to virtual ghost towns as they shutter businesses and close down schools, demographers say.”
That’s a pretty alarming and stark assessment, to say the least, although it’s not one I completely share for rural New York. At least not yet. But the concern is real and deserves to be taken seriously. The short- and long-term challenges facing rural New York are undeniable.
While roughly 44 of New York’s 62 counties remain classified as
rural, we’ve clearly witnessed the decline and ongoing struggle
of countless rural communities across the upstate region over the past
generation. It’s occurred as the state’s manufacturing base
has steadily disappeared and
Upstate’s decline has been a tough luck story for decades, we
know that. But the region as a whole is far from approaching “ghost
town” status, and opportunities exist to turn it around. So I continue
to be grateful, as one of several new members of the Legislature’s
State legislators established the commission nearly three decades ago, in 1982, to examine the impact of rural communities and industries on the state economy, assess the effectiveness of state programs affecting rural areas, and otherwise develop recommendations to enhance and protect rural resources. Through the years, it’s helped produce landmark achievements on a range of issues in the areas of agriculture, economic development, universal broadband, education, land use, transportation and health care.
I’ll also note that our region is fortunate to be home to Cornell University, which has long played a leading role in rural affairs nationally and in New York. The commission has often partnered with Cornell and it makes sense, in my view, to further develop a working partnership with the university to promote a shared vision and common goals for rural New York’s future.
Rural communities remain a mainstay of this region’s culture and economy. The challenges are many, but so are the opportunities – as long as we remain committed. I’m confident that the Legislature’s Rural Resources Commission will advance an even more aggressive and comprehensive "Rural New York Agenda” in the coming year.
The latest Census numbers reveal a bleak story for the future of rural America. But we’re still trying to write a more hopeful chapter for the future of rural New York.
Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara
Schuyler County Officials
Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Thomas Gifford, Doris Karius, Glenn Larison
Bottom row: Michael A. Yuhasz, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Stewart Field
Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687
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
Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senate
State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)
Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Assemblyman Christopher Friend --
Chemung, Schuyler, Tioga
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869