Holding the whole
“Sullivan County has taken off,” Legislative Chair Luis Alvarez announced at the State of the County address held, fittingly so he said, at the Sullivan County International Airport last Thursday.
Indeed, the one-hour address was chock-full of great information: the county has full employment; a new water park, the Kartrite, is set to open on March 28; the Eldred Preserve property in Eldred is being redeveloped, complete with the Homestead Restaurant, which—according to the banter between legislator Scott Samuelson and Alvarez—has great bread.
Alvarez referenced The Chapin Lodge, a world-class hotel with luxury accommodations that is being built at The Chapin Estate in the Town of Bethel. Plus, he said, $300,000 more has been collected in room tax this year than last, and $150,000 million has been added in taxable sales.
Business at the airport is up 10%, new restaurants are under development and when you add it all up, he said Sullivan County is the best place to live, work and raise a family.
The list goes on and on. The new jail is nearly complete and has not been flagged with any violations by New York State, knock on wood. Buildings are being renovated and retrofitted to give different departments more room: the DA’s office and the Board of Elections the most prominent. Sullivan County is meeting its goals as set out in its Climate Smart plan.
Everyone was mentioned; everyone was congratulated.
This praise was well deserved. Sullivan County is blessed with many individual hard-working and dedicated professionals, who all work together—at least on the surface.
I guess that was my difficulty with the evening. The address spoke of a collection of accomplishments, yet there was no integration of the whole.
In spite of these great developments, many of our communities—Liberty, Fallsburg and Monticello in particular—are distressed communities at risk. (Click here to read about Fallsburg and Livingston Manor students being among the most economically disadvantaged in the region.)
Yes. There are great things happening. But I worry that this coming affluence is not for everyone. Not without reflection. Not without integration.
Perhaps my vision was clouded with a phone call I received earlier in the afternoon. On the line was a representative from the Dispute Resolution Center (DRC), informing me of an acute crisis regarding the need for foster parents. There are 125 children in foster care, she said, and there are only 25 foster parents available. She was calling to ask for free ad placement to alert the public of this dire situation. When asked if there were any funds for outreach, she said there were not. (The DRC is a not-for-profit housed at the government center.)
In his speech, Alvarez laid out how the county cares about its children; how the Trunk and Treat event in Monticello was a huge success; how Sullivan 180, a health initiative of the Gerry Foundation, was working in collaboration with the YMCA of Sullivan County. In passing, Alvarez mentioned the crisis. I can’t remember the phrase, it passed by so quickly.
I find myself in this dilemma often—yearning for some group or organization to tell a full and complex community narrative. Alas, there doesn’t seem to be any place where the disparate elements of our county are brought together.
And that’s what I was looking for from the State of the County address. I wanted to hear the whole story. I wanted to hear inspiring leadership that addressed income inequality, the challenges we face with climate change and how all of this new development would serve the residents of all economic situations and outlooks.
There seemed to be an unaware assumption that we are all the same.
The address was peppered with inside banter to certain attendees, and the responses to Alvarez could not be heard or understood by those not in the know. The address opened and closed with a conservative prayer, as if everyone in the room were a fundamentalist Christian.
Please don't get me wrong. I am pleased with the evolving nature of the economies and desirability of Sullivan County. This integration is something that every community faces.
I agree with Alvarez’s closing sentiments when he said, “We can’t do this alone. You have to walk with us together.”
Indeed, we all need to walk together. And it needs to be a together that holds the whole: the success and the challenges.
Then, and truly then, Sullivan County will have taken off.