Several factors causing demise of our small towns

Posted 7 June 2017 at 8:44 pm


Is your small town dying?

Here are some of the reasons I see that are major killing factors in the death of our small towns.

• Declining population is a very serious issue, this alone can bust a community

• Few job opportunities for our young people

• Outrageously high property/county taxes

• Restrictive and Selective Zoning

• Town Board members that lack emotion or real concern for the people they work for

The population is dwindling at an alarming rate because there is no future here. Most communities never recover from this death spiral. Our youngest and brightest are forced to leave the area for decent work.

Some folks stay because they are just stuck here. They are stuck here for a few reasons but mostly because they are struggling financial and frankly, there is no way out so they just exist and earn a meager living.

Some folks simply just walk away from the homes they have worked so hard for because they are taxed out of them. Even if they can afford to stay in them, they are unable to keep up with them because there is not enough money for them to do so. They live paycheck to paycheck. Hand to mouth.

Take a ride in your small town and count the empty homes. Count the homes that have been cut up into apartments. Why is this, you might ask. Well it is to sustain and support the atrocious welfare costs in this county.

This welfare system seems to becoming the “family business” which is and will be handed down from generation to generation and becomes the way of life for many. Once this mindset has taken root, it is most likely too late to turn back. There is over 70% of every dollar collected in county taxes being spent on welfare.

Why? Low paying jobs and for some welfare is a better option.

Why? Little draw or incentive for new or existing business.

Why? Zoning.

There are few good paying jobs in this area because our town officials are using zoning as a weapon with heavy restrictions  making it impossible to prosper. Since there is little business is the area, there is little sales tax being generated therefore not collected and now the burden falls on you. I heard a local politician say “we don’t care about sale tax.” Really. So your property is over taxed and now under valued. Good luck with that sale. Maybe you will just walk away too.

An example on the restrictive zoning is this: a new business is sabotaged right from the get go as zoning wouldn’t allow them to lay out the plan they set in motion and it started with the sign. The sign was not noticeable at all. I said, “How will people  even know it’s there.” It was the first thing I noticed, the sign is in the wrong place. Why? Because that’s zoning at work. Fact is this place will close its doors before long.

Sometimes in this busy world we live in, we need things to jump out at us to grab our attention. Some locales will not permit a digital sign. One zoning law does not fit all, many of our local zoning laws have been adopted from  Albany/NYC. What does that have in common with Orleans County? Zoning has become a business/job killer.

Much of the problem in these dying towns starts with our elected officials. They are there because of uncontested elections, low voter turnout and low meeting audience. Is this a sign of a “lack of interest”  and a “lost cause.” These towns are dying on the vine as elected officials carry on with “business as usual.”

Many of them have no formal education in finance, or business management and have very little, if anything invested in the community. You can see the results.

For some of these town officials, this will be the highest office they will ever hold and you had better look very closely at the ones that are pursuing positions in higher levels of government.

Many of them have become quite content, and drunk with the power of their position and seemingly only act on matters that they will benefit from and to even settle personal vendettas. They lack the skill and the will to make this a better place for us. They really don’t care about our futures.

Rather than using local talent to address town matters, they spend hundreds of thousands of your tax dollars on big city consultants,  lawyers and other organizations on generic reports  and studies  that any number of board members do not take the initiative to read or have the ability to  comprehend  the information.

Having said this, these towns have become a “meal ticket” for these outsiders.  As long as our officials keeping paying them, they will keep stirring the pot and keep billing. Nothing gets resolved and the spending goes on. Meanwhile, folks are stuggling.

Town officials don’t understand what they are doing or they simply don’t care. This puts a tremendous burden on the county. When Albany sees the careless and frivolous spending,  it opens the door for unfunded mandates.

When local newspapers close, information only trickles down to the general public causing no transparency in our local government.  I am sure there are many folks in this area that have issues as well, they will not speak out for fear of ruination or retribution.

Remember, it is an election year. It’s time to get real, they will work for you. You and your vote can make a difference.

Kim Weatherbee

Shelby Center