March 29, 2010

Upstate needs responsibility

(Cross-posted at The Albany Project, and there are lots of comments there.)

[I've been working on this for a long while, but NYCO's brilliant Why there will always be an Upstate provoked me into finally posting it.]

When Republican lawmakers propose Upstate secession, they're usually arguing that it's for the cause of freedom, to get Upstate out from under the heel of those dreadful Downstate progressives. I've sympathized with the need for separation, but come at it from a very different angle.

Upstate needs reponsibility. It's way too easy today for Upstate politicians - the very people who push these secession bills - to point their fingers Downstate and say that the City is the problem. The scary part here, of course, is that granting that responsibility would give power to the folks who've been dodging responsibility all these years, but...

We are - Upstate is - a declining place. Our demographic trends have not been kind, as industry and opportunity left a place whose geography was no longer special. We are stuck in a strange world of hoping that Wall Street bonuses will be big this year so we don't have to cut 10% of our teachers, but have only limited abilities to find alternate approaches. We need to simplify, but are trapped in a place that still thinks of itself as the Empire State. All that remains of that imperial dream, really, is a still-triumphant Empire City.

Yes, this would be difficult. A simple secession of either Upstate or Downtown would crash into all kinds of problems with the United States Constitution as well as internal politics and difficult questions about boundaries, universities, prisons, water systems, debts, and much more more. The closest we've come has been Spitzer's brief division of the Empire State Development Corporation into Upstate and Downstate sides - a division Paterson ended quickly.

And yes, progressives in Upstate would no longer be able to enjoy the substantial political advantages of affiliation with the money and power of Downstate Democrats. We'd have to stand on our own two feet in a landscape that's suddenly gave conservatives more advantages. Not that it's all that conservative by national standards, actually, but much more conservative than New York State as a whole presently.

We need to become able to make our own choices, breaking out of the sleep brought on by the sense that "you can't fight Albany" and the strange praying for Wall Street bonuses that comes up every year in budget season. We need to change things so that we pay for the work that happens here, and rebuild the sense that we are responsible for own fate.

Let the Empire State fragment. We'll all be better off.

Posted by simon at March 29, 2010 12:09 PM in ,
Note on photos