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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

“The rural-urban divide widens in NY”

ALBANY, Nov. 12, 2018 -- The voters had their say last week. You can analyze the outcome in many ways -- depending, as always, on what you’re hoping to find. However, one thing is especially clear to me: Last Tuesday, the rural-urban divide became extraordinarily wide.

New York State government is now an even tougher place for rural, small city, Upstate New York communities and regions. It has not been a cakewalk for a long time. Now it’s worse. The loss of the Senate Republican Majority is a loss for rural, Upstate New York, including the agricultural community. We have long been widely recognized as the rural champion and, as a majority conference, we have been able to protect and give a rightful voice to rural, agricultural, small city interests.

On top of Albany’s new ruling triumvirate all representing the same party, maybe more significant is that each leader works, at heart, from a downstate, big-city-oriented perspective. So do the legislative conferences they lead.

State senators representing districts beyond the broad suburbs of New York City, including the lower Hudson Valley, now number fewer than 25. The playing field for rural New York has not been level for a generation. It’s truly an uphill battleground after last Tuesday.

An early indication of the battles to come, in fact, arrived one day before Election Day. Last Monday, quietly, Governor Cuomo vetoed legislation I co-sponsored known as the “New York Rural and Agriculture Jobs Act.”

The state Senate and Assembly overwhelmingly approved the Act in early June. During the several weeks prior to the veto, I proudly joined rural legislators and advocates from across the Upstate region calling on the governor to sign it into law. He didn’t.

Therefore, yes, for me the Cuomo veto stands as an early signal that rural, farming, small city, Upstate New York faces an even tougher road in the halls of the new Albany that we’re going to wake up to on January 1, 2019.

The enactment of the “Rural and Agriculture Jobs Act” would have been an important action for the future of rural job creation and community development. Governor Cuomo said no. It stands as the first reminder that those of us continuing to represent Upstate New York in a state government now dominated by downstate, mostly big-city-focused leaders are going to have to scrap and fight like never before for our rural and farm communities. We will.

The “New York Rural and Agriculture Jobs Act” would have established a $100 million fund, created through private investment, to develop small businesses that are agricultural in nature or located in rural areas. It will be reintroduced next year and I will proudly co-sponsor it again.

Many communities across our rural regions are in dire need of private-sector investment to help create jobs and encourage small businesses to grow and expand. This action would have been a big step forward to draw greater private-sector investment in rural economies.

The legislation drew support from key advocates including the Business Council of New York and Unshackle Upstate.

According to a legislative memorandum of support from Unshackle Upstate, “It is critically important that New York State continue to explore ways and methods that will aid and promote economic development and job creation. This focus becomes even more imperative for many communities across Upstate New York that continue to struggle with a lack of private sector job growth and population stagnation. Ensuring that we have successful farming and agricultural businesses is essential to the state’s overall economy and focus, and continued investment in these areas will only bolster New York State as a whole.”

Governor Cuomo thought differently. We will have to remind him that we’re still here.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Jim Howell, Michael Lausell, Van Harp

Bottom row: Carl Blowers, David Reed, Phil Barnes, Mark Rondinaro


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Carl Blowers

Van Harp

Jim Howell

David M. Reed

Michael Lausell

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen, 481-0482

Mark Rondinaro

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Harriett Vickio, 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 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano-- Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
Room 723, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-5791


© The Odessa File 2017
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869