OGDENSBURG — I spend a lot of time thinking and wondering when my Democratic Party is going to stop being so negative against everything Ogdensburg and start supporting the progressive vision we have For a Better Ogdensburg. It just strikes me, unfortunately, that the majority of our opposition seems to come from the local and county Democratic committees.
Most recently, the Democratic board of the Ogdensburg Bridge & Port Authority came out with a host of bogus reasons why it could not possibly allow a beach to open on public lands that it owns — liability, not enough staff time, parking concerns and a concern about the “quality” of people who might use the beach. It is true. I was there at the meeting.
Who opposes a beach for children and families? Apparently, the Democratic board of the OBPA. Even the Democratic council slate is skeptical. After 10 years of do-nothingism and running the city into financial ruin, you would think its members could at least support a beach and get their party behind it. We can have a beach in Waddington, Lake Placid, Lisbon, etc., but we cannot have one in Ogdensburg?
We need a lease from the OBPA on May 6. Anything less will delay and kill the project. We have a lot of work to do between now and July 1 to have this open to people to enjoy the St. Lawrence River this summer. Are you with me? Is the state opposed to this? I hope not. You would think it would fast-track it.
Yet another example of my Democratic colleagues being opposed to Ogdensburg is the sales tax issue. While it was the Republican Party that proposed taking sales tax revenue from us initially, it was the Democratic Party that wanted even more. You did not notice? Not one Democrat (maybe one) on the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators voted to extend the sales tax agreement. They are not friends of Ogdensburg. Most of the support came from good local county leaders who came around to our needs. That is all right; we are moving forward alone now, and we hope to collect as much revenue to support city services.
If you also look at most of our opposition, it is local party members who should be identified as such in local news stories. It is partisan, after all. Heck, the party has even taken to endorsing Republican Councilor Michael Powers for re-election. The opposition has been defined. Birds of a feather flock together.
I am just waiting for some truly progressive ideas out of the party committee to enlighten us on how to bring Ogdensburg back. We tried your way, and it did not work. Please consider joining and supporting our progressive ideas in the Community Development Plan.
You cannot oppose everything, support nothing and create obstacle after obstacle of bogus issues and defamatory politics. There was no workplace violence. There was no confrontation at City Hall. The game is up on the negativity and a party that offers you nothing but derision and stalled progress.
We are trying to move the city forward with great new ideas that are outlined in the plan. Ideas like cleaning up the dredge disposal area at the port, salvaging some of the historic buildings at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center, reimaging downtown, cleaning up our waterfront, reopening our beach, and putting OBPA and state lands back on the tax rolls. Who would oppose such positive ideas?
I want to move Ogdensburg forward. If I have to drag the Democratic Party along, I will. No, I will not renounce my party affiliation. I still have faith that in time the local and county parties will be reformed and that they will see the light and start supporting progressive concepts For a Better Ogdensburg, not just New York state.
One of my greatest experiences in life was working for a Democratic assemblywoman in the state Legislature. She inspired me in so many ways as a Democratic leader who fought for progressive legislation that benefited the middle class and less fortunate. Is there still room in the party for progress, or are we just mired locally in draconian politics?
If not, I will have to register as an independent and keep up the good fight. Maybe none of us should belong to political parties. All they do is divide people. Maybe it would be better for all of us not to be encumbered by partisan politics.
Even though I was elected in a landslide as a write-in candidate as a registered Democrat, I have not heard anything from the party. Is this because I was not cherry-picked by the entrenched local powers that be?
Is the party excluding people with bold and imaginative ideas who can move our city forward, and is it now just about partisan opposition at all costs? I hope not. This is not an idea. Who truly represents us and has a vision for the future? You be the judge.
Councilor John A. Rishe is the city of Ogdensburg’s deputy mayor.