It is a dirty word for suburbanites: “consolidation.” People in rural communities and suburbs alike want to keep their identities even at the expense of good fiscal policy and more efficient government. This debate heats up even more when you get into the notion of “metro” school districts, folding city schools and suburban schools into one entity. Suburbanites understandably want to keep their high performing schools, and are willing to dismiss the benefits to both themselves and city families to keep them, especially when certain segments of the political community start using dog whistle racism. I believe consolidation, doing away with the hundreds of governments we have can be a boon, when done right. Therein, however, lies the rub.
The current fashion for austerity in Albany, and the paradoxical anti-tax attitude that goes with it, has given us a drive to consolidate services without any consideration. Towns wanting to keep their budget growth under the state mandated 2% have to close offices, denying services to their residents. This means a higher burden for poor people unable to easily reroute to an office in another town and loss of jobs for the secretaries, clerks, and public works employees. It means less access for the 99% (the 1% will still have plenty of access directly through our elected employees.)
Those of us on the left spend so much time quite understandably worrying about the urban poor, we often forget about the struggling in rural communities. We know, of course, that when we talk of consolidation, we are talking about the adjacent suburbs, communities that can afford to share the burden with the city, doing so. Even with that our messaging can be better, less combative, but for the rural poor, it sounds like we are taking away their one life line, and of course the powers that be in our capitals are willing to prove that too them by forcing them into hasty, hurtful manifestations of this potentially good idea. We force them to close buildings, schools and offices.
I suspect, though bear in mind I have no proof and would love to hear stories of how this has gone down, that upper management positions in town governments are still preserved even as services are done away with. Even if that is not the case, these are the folks most likely to recover. It is the working class that gets screwed on this, the people providing and needing the actual help.
The idea has been co-opted and corrupted, and needs to be shelved, at least until we can steal it back. We cannot let the actively greedy 1% drive this wedge between our urban and rural poor. We cannot let them get away with balancing the budget on our backs, and our backs alone, while giving away massive tax cuts to banks and wealthy estates. Our 17 million fellow New Yorkers deserve way better than what our so-called leaders in Albany are feeding them, and we have it in us to fight this. Keep the pressure on, keep calling, keep writing, keep taking over their twitter accounts. Bury them in your outrage and win back our state. This latest move does not only fail to address wealth inequality in our state, the worst in the nation on that account, but will actually increase it. Whether you are from Blasdell, the Bronx, Inlet, or Portland ave, in Rochester you deserve better. All New Yorkers do, and if we stand together, we will get it.