Rural Issues Ignored as State Majority Paints Policy with One Brush Exposed by a Village Mayor, A Town Supervisor, and a County Legislator at Winter 2023 Greater Western New York (Virtual) Town Hall Meeting.
Greater Western New York— March 29, 2023— The sixth regional Greater Western New York Town Hall meeting featured a broad cross-section of local elected officials from across the 17-county region calling into question several public policy issues being pushed by Governor Hochul’s administration in this year’s State budget talks. It was the most successful Greater Western New York Town Hall to date.
Orleans County Legislator John Fitzak started the keynote portion of the meeting with an explanation of his county’s resolution opposing the State’s natural gas appliance ban. He said the effort was initiated by Cattaraugus County and brought to the attention of the New York Association of Counties. In addition to these two counties, Schuyler County is among the other counties that have joined this effort.
Stephen Schultz, Town of Henrietta Supervisor in Monroe County, next outlined the problems Albany’s proposed zoning and housing regulations would impose on all communities, especially towns and villages in the Greater Western New York Region. This could have the effect of taking away “home rule” or self-government. He said he didn’t know if this was a “poison pill” to distract attention away from other efforts. Nonetheless, this represents yet another example of “addressing problems for New York City and then painting the rest of the State with same brush.”
Finally, James Ryan, Mayor of the Village of Montour Falls in Schuyler County, took attendees through the labyrinth of paperwork required to obtain grant money from the State. Often, that money is not received until well after it is spent, requiring the local municipality to front the (sometimes a large amount of) money. Rural communities with smaller budgets can be strained by this.
The second portion of the meeting featured all three keynoters participating in a panel discussion with questions being asked by the attendees through Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel Publisher Christopher Carosa, who served as moderator. The panel reviewed each of the issues, explaining what they’ve been hearing from their constituents. Fitzak reiterated the voters he represents strongly oppose any ban on natural gas. “People are sick of the high taxes, the cost of living, the reckless spending and the fact that it’s unrealistic,” he said. “Almost 50% of the people in the County, and probably in this part of the State, use gas in some form, whether they use it for cooking or heating, because it’s economical, it’s readily available, and it doesn’t depend on the grid.”
Schultz questioned what increasing the number of residences might have on water runoff. Ryan said, while the average resident might not be aware of the dangers of losing Home Rule, “we just went through a comprehensive plan. Now that’s going to take our comprehensive plan and turn it inside out. To get to a place like a comprehensive plan, it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t cheap.”
You can watch a replay of the entire event at https://stateof.greaterwesternnewyork.com/2023/03/winter-2023-greater-western-new-york-virtual-town-hall-meeting/.
The Greater Western New York (Virtual) Town Hall Meeting was held on Wednesday, March 29th from 7:30 PM to 9:00 PM. The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel hosted the meeting that was co-sponsored by nearly a dozen members of the Western New York District of the New York Press Association, including the Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, the Akron Bugle, the Alfred Sun, The Batavian, Neighbor-to-Neighbor newspapers (including the Arcade Herald, the East Aurora Advertiser, the Springville Journal, Warsaw’s Country Courier, and the Franklinville Mercury-Gazette), and the Johnson Newspaper Corp’s western New York papers (The Daily News and the Livingston County News) and Niagara Frontier Publications (Island Dispatch, Niagara County Tribune Sentinel).
The event was free and open to all residents of the Greater Western New York Region. More than two hundred people signed up for it.
The next events will be a week-long Virtual Summit in May featuring leaders of local community organizations and an in-person conference in July tentatively scheduled to be held in the Lima Town Hall. For more information, contact Chris Carosa at (585) 733-4553 or at ChrisCarosa@MHFLSentinel.com.
The Greater Western New York Region comprises the 17 westernmost counties of New York State and was formally defined by the Treaty of Hartford on December 16, 1786 with the creation of Preemption Line. These counties include: Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, Erie, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Niagara, Ontario, Orleans, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Wayne, Wyoming, and Yates.