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Date: 03.27.2011
To: Regional Media
From: Albert Colone
Subject: Merging Upstate Communities

Title: to MUC or not to MUC? It's critical to community survival
[Merging Upstate Communities]

Banks, hospitals, companies and communities all over the country are merging to better position themselves to compete in the 21st Century marketplace; plus it streamlines operations and improves efficiencies. Why is there a reluctance to do the same among communities throughout the Upstate New York Region?

Leaders of government and business have been pondering for years about what it will take to jumpstart the Upstate economy. State government has invested mightily in the region with negligible results. The response is that New York State taxes are to high, there are too many regulations, workers compensation is killing us and that utilities are too expensive. Those negative conditions may indeed have some bearing on the long-term static economic softness throughout the Upstate region, but rarely do the experts zero in on the complicated, duplicitous structure of local governance.

The Upstate Region is a conglomeration of villages and small cities surrounded by land rich townships that are typically in competition with one another. In the global economy of the 21st Century, villages and their bordering townships, small cities and their adjoining townships should unite to better compete, for the well being of their constituents and for the overall survival of their communities.

Here's what we know:
• The current structure of townships, surrounding cities and villages in Upstate, doesn't work now and in all likelihood didn't work when established in the 19th Century
• Merged governments are shown to operate with greater efficiencies
• Merged communities can commercially better serve a regional market
• Combined communities will experience operational savings; as much as 10%
• The potential of alternative tax revenues will be strengthened through the merging of municipalities stabilizing or even reducing local property taxes
• Zoning and planning issues will have a more comprehensive and logical framework with better overall outcomes
• Merged communities can be better situated to grow and develop
• It's a concept that's trending-up both in NY and in other States

With but a few exceptions, the Upstate economy and its communities seem to be rotting on the vine, so to speak. You can clearly see it in villages, small cities and their surrounding townships through declining or at best static populations, very limited investment in economic development, a general loss of commerce, neighborhoods deteriorating and in distress, football field lengths of empty store fronts, schools threatening to close, local public budgets stressed to the brink, infrastructures collapsing and other negatives, all too easy to see.

Rather than just complaining about high taxes, too many regulations, high utility costs, things we have little ability to change, there are things that Upstate hometown people can do immediately to begin the process of rejuvenating the region. We can start by demanding that our local government leaders begin to seriously look into the idea of merging municipalities.

Most of the reluctance to venture into such relationships is typically from the perimeter townships, where they have driven home a message of fear that a resulting municipal merger will lead to higher property taxes for town property owners. Such assertions are baseless, unfounded and in some cases proven to be just the opposite; that municipal merging can in fact lead to lower or no property tax obligations, at all.

Why don't we just agree to find-out? Rather than burying our collective heads in the sand and right-off what could be a transformative initiative towards an economic renaissance in Upstate, let's unify as citizens to demand that our local government officials at least study the merits of merging our communities. Let's go beyond the blinding egos and bury the emotional falsehoods, extend the hand of cooperation and study the impact of joining forces. What harm would it do to mutually agree to study the merit for such action? Anything less than studying merging municipalities would be for our local leaders to say; mediocrity is OK with my people.

There's an effort underway to try and change that mind-set through the establishment of a broad-based citizens group; Advocates for Merging of Upstate Communities [AMUC]. Check your boundary lines at the door; all people are welcomed to participate. Another AMUC interest meeting will be announced soon. In the meantime, for more information and to register only your most serious interest, please contact Albert Colone at:

Albert Colone
for AMUC