April 6, 2007

The problem with paying attention

I'm happy to report that this weblog is succeeding in many of the ways I'd hoped it would when I first started. Those successes are generally modest - people hear of things they wouldn't have heard of otherwise, and sometimes sign up - but it's good for a quiet web site.

When I first started this site, most of the political conversation I heard locally was about national politics. The heavy emphasis on national politics in the media, the transient nature of a lot of residents, and the challenges of the past few years seemed to make national (and sometimes international) news a much more frequent conversational topic than anything to do with what happens around here.

Like NYCO, I wanted to step out of those conversations. They often combine intense polarization with a sense that there isn't much for (most) individuals to do about them. Local issues aren't usually as polarized, and the sense of individual helplessness isn't as great a problem. The usual problems are lack of knowledge and often lack of interest.

This site's made a small dent in lack of knowledge, covering maybe 3% of what's important in Dryden, and providing an index to further sources of information. Lack of interest is still a general problem, though it seems like politics is waking up here again.

Unfortunately, all this work on Dryden has led me to look more closely at a subject which combines the lack of interest and lack of knowledge from local issues with the limited ability to create change from national issues. New York State government remains basically "three men in a room", with little interest in (and deep mistrust of) democracy.

Practically everyone I've talked to - Republicans, Democrats, and others - agrees that state government is broken, and that a lot of the problem is in the Capitol itself. About the only people who defend the way that the state legislature works are legislators, and not all of them. Practically everyone also argues that the situation is hopeless, however - from Assemblymen cheering on the current regime to people who see reformers getting assimilated when they arrive in Albany. Then, of course, there's the problem of the word "reform", which gets used by everyone for all of their proposals whenever the word is in style.

Part of me thinks it might make sense to write off state politics to the same degree I've written off national politics, and focus squarely on Dryden. The rest of me can't manage that, largely because the State Legislature seems to be even more broken than Congress at its most dysfunctional. (I can't just blame the other party, either.)

So I'm looking for advice, from a likely biased-toward-Dryden audience. Should I spend the time on state issues? (My writing at The Albany Project for instance.) Or should I write it off as genuinely hopeless, a pit that can only entrap and waste energy?

All suggestions, public or private, are welcome.

Posted by simon at April 6, 2007 12:26 PM in , , ,
Note on photos


Angelika said:

I'm still trying to understand politics here: How many things that happen or need to happen in Dryden do actually depend on what happens or doesn't happen in Albany?

Maybe you could just restrict yourself to only reporting on State politics, when they directly affect matters in Dryden.

Mary Ann said:

That's exactly the right question! And throw the County into the mix somewhere.

KAZ said:

If we think Living in Dryden doesn't depend on Voting in Albany, we're fooling ourselves. Keep plugging away.

Chris Lyons said:

As a newcomer to New York and Dryden, I am grateful first for the local news and gateways information. This is a wonderful resource, and even though I've read the Ithaca paper each day before I come here, I enjoy seeing the news a second time, with the local focus.

But as a former Texan who couldn't imagine there was a more corrupt, small minded, vindictive "legislative body" than the Texas statehouse, I also welcome learning more about what makes the process in New York broken... and how people are starting to look for solutions.

So, put me down for "Dryden First!" ...but with continuing interest in the state level as well.

And thanks for keeping national stuff out!