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December 30, 2008 - Ray Hall (Archive)
Twenty Aught Eight gave us a historically significant national election when a man of color ran on change and was elected President. Aught –Eight was also the year when the Republican Party became the party of a handful of southern states stretching along the Appalachian Ridge to Oklahoma. Twenty Aught Eight will be remembered as the year the American people rejected the Republican cry for smaller government and lower taxes in favor of competent leaders and more efficient government. Change is coming. But, what will it mean for us—the locals?

There will be a lot of infrastructure money with an emphasis on roads and bridges and power plants and sewers. The folks at the BPU are breathing a lot easier. Look for the BPU to expand its garbage pick-up and water service and look for a big move in installing broadband—perhaps across the county. The national stimulus package and the emphasis placed on “green, clean jobs” has got to give the new coal fired, carbon-capture electric plant a big boost despite some local opposition. People working for the city who write grants and federal funding are already busy putting their ducks in the water to be first in line. This might even be a good time to push for a four-lane highway from Jamestown to Dunkirk; a north-south highway would be one of our most valuable assets. Regardless, look for major development of North Main Street toward the airport

The County Executive and County Legislators stand for election this year and will campaign accordingly, but cities, towns and villages will have their own wish lists filled with indispensable projects. We can expect squabbles; the County will want money for the airport and industrial development and law enforcement will figure out someway to make policing a “green industry.” But, congressional earmarks for pet projects will come under more intense scrutiny. Third party and community pass through agencies heretofore used to build tennis courts and golf courses are going to be big losers with more reliance placed directly upon governmental units to be the lead agencies. That will probably exacerbate the competition between the City and the Downtown Jamestown Development Corporation for future development of the Erie-Lackawanna Depot.

If the national election was a realignment of political power what happened in New York saw a result that at any other time would have been described as the equivalent of a political Apocalypse. With the historic nature of the Presidential campaign sucking all the air out of state and local issues it went almost unnoticed that for the first time since 1965 Democrats won control of the New York State Senate.

However, the Republican loss of the Senate only came as a surprise to the commoners—high political muck-a-mucks saw the hand writing on the wall. Politicos recognized that the resignation of Governor Eliot Spitzer was not a triumph over prostitution, of good over evil. No, the loss of the Senate was the expected outcome of a partisan political fight between the Governor and long time Senate Leader Joseph Bruno that in the end saw both contenders vanquished. That bare knuckled fight drew too much attention to the “old bulls” in the Republican controlled Senate that had become too accustomed to years of unquestioned perks as senior members of the majority.

However, the Republican loss of the Senate probably is not all bad news for incumbent State Senator Cathy Young (R-Olean) who was reelected with a 3—1 margin. Senator Young will not have as much money for “local projects” as she once had, but she will be prominent in the minority leadership in Albany. The Republican Minority in Albany needs her much more than she needs them. She is a smart politician (skilled some might say) and she has been there long enough to know how to move up in seniority.

In the end, there will be many worthy and even necessary projects coming our way, but the Federal Government can print money—local governments are overtaxed for the most part and broke. Governor Paterson is trying to close an $18 billion budget gap—Chautauqua County may be forced to sell the County Home and Infirmary which began as a “poor farm” and has become a world class skilled care facility. Jamestown remains painfully overtaxed, but federal and state money comes with matching requirements and strings—lots of strings. Regardless how worthy the project, local residents will as always bear the burden.



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A Public Works Project in the UK. The Gateshead Millenium Bridge is the first opening bridge to be built across the River Tyne for more than 100 years.