from SETH CLARK
To the Editor:
Last week, I wrote to this newspaper to report at least 58 Oneonta stores and restaurants have closed down in the past three years. These establishments are NOT being replaced at nearly the rate at which we are losing them, thus creating an unsustainable situation.
That calls for an “all hands on deck” attempt at working together to clear the air of a fog of blame that pervades the city now. While that sounds a little fuzzy, in Oneonta it means something very specific. It means that Oneonta’s college students and the city’s permanent residents will finally need to start getting along.
The college students need to start being treated as full-fledged residents of the city, and the permanent residents of the city need to be treated to quiet nights, less vandalism.
I believe this will create several advantages. The first is that if we start respecting our college students, we may very well get more permanent residents. Mayor Herzig says we need more people, we need to actually grow our population, before we can re-grow our business community, and I think that he is right.
Think about it: every year we import 7,700 new members of the population, and then at the end of the school year, we send them away again. Usually, we grumble about them the whole time they are here, and attribute to the students every broken window, every new bit of graffiti, and every incidence of unpleasant noise, whether we have any proof that they are responsible or not.
We are a college town, and the sooner we embrace that fact, the stronger our economy can be.
Our re-branding consultant wants to concentrate on the “quirky, artsy” side of our city. I tried to point out to their representatives, pretty much to no avail, that there is in fact a history of college towns branding themselves as being quirky and artsy BECAUSE they have a college close by.
If we as permanent residents strengthen our ties with the students, all sorts of possibilities open up: Jerid Goss, another fellow running for City Council, has developed a plan for building a business incubator co-managed by the city and the colleges. This plan involves holding business plan contests for aspiring student entrepreneurs. The creators of the winning business plans would be invited to stay in Oneonta and start their businesses with help from the city government and the colleges.
The goal of keeping new businesses here, run by ambitious young people, would be to create local, well-paying jobs. This would both add new businesses to the local economy, and also grow the population by giving students something to stay in town for after they graduate. Just think of it: A fun, quirky space WITH JOBS!