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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"A rural New York blueprint"

ALBANY, April 23 -- It’s an old idea that’s been expressed in many different ways. Winston
Churchill said it this way: “The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see.”

Beginning in December 2005 and continuing throughout the following spring, the state’s Legislative Commission on the Development of Rural Resources -- a 10-member, bipartisan commission on which I currently serve as a member -- in partnership with rural affairs experts from Cornell University, undertook a series of 11 “rural listening sessions” with rural leaders and concerned citizens in communities across rural New York.

Those sessions, unique at the time, were a key part of what was known as the Rural Vision Project. Testimony from the listening sessions ultimately helped produce an important and still-useful report, “A Vision for Rural New York,” identifying and highlighting many of the key short-
and long-term challenges facing rural regions. You can still find that report on Cornell’s website, (search “rural vision project”) and I’ll also be providing a link to it on my Senate website,

Why recall “A Vision for Rural New York” now? Because it produced worthwhile ideas. It still offers a blueprint of key rural challenges in critical areas, including: agriculture and food systems; community capacity and social networks; economic development; energy; environment, land use
and natural resources; health care; housing and transportation; local and regional governance; poverty; schools and youth; and workforce development.

In short, it shouldn’t be forgotten. It remains good reading. And, yes, it’s a way to look back in order to help keep us moving forward.

Summarizing the Rural Vision Project, one Cornell University leader at the time said, “The rural vision that is emerging from this project represents the diverse opportunities and challenges of our state's unique regions. Rural development in New York must build on strong networks and
partnerships, pride of place, solid citizen support, engaged local governments and enhanced regional coordination.”

Government’s well known for producing reports. But too often, as legislative bodies and bureaucracies change from year to year, this work ends up collecting dust on a shelf somewhere at the Capitol. It doesn’t have to be that way. There’s not always a need to reinvent the wheel, as
it’s said. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to reinflate the tires to keep driving actions and change.

It’s been a long struggle to raise the state Legislature's awareness of traditionally upstate, small city, rural issues, and the challenges for rural legislators just keep getting more acute. We’ve witnessed it time after time in the ongoing battles over the state’s tax policies, economic
development priorities, infrastructure allocations and in so many other ways. It remains ongoing surrounding many of the issues being highlighted today by the Rural Resources Commission -- issues like farm preservation, telemedicine, broadband access, volunteer recruitment and retention, water quality, education and transportation, to name just a few items on a much
more comprehensive Rural New York Agenda.

A bipartisan approach to rural affairs remains paramount and that’s always been the Commission’s greatest power over the past three decades it’s worked to raise awareness, promote action and, in many ways, stand as a voice and a last bastion of concern for rural New York.

In the end, the only meaningful Rural New York Agenda will be one that's undertaken on a cooperative basis at every level of government. Hopefully, the effort will be ongoing to keep building public-private partnerships and enacting meaningful initiatives.

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 812, 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