WATERTOWN — A good indication that your government is performing well is when various levels of government are working collectively and cooperatively to serve their mutual constituents.
That type of partnership was seen in 2017 during the high water in our lake and river communities and in 2019 when we again reached record high-water levels, which wreaked havoc along the shoreline communities.
The residents witnessed government from all levels — village, town, county and state governments — partner together to assist our communities during a critical time of need. The performance of that partnership in providing emergency services is a basic yet complex function of government and working together to perform that function is necessary in order to serve our residents properly. It is partnerships that transcend political boundaries and do what government is supposed to do in its service to the public.
As chairman of your Jefferson County Board of Legislators, it is important and appropriate to recognize those who have assisted in that service: the staff from all the government entities; the mayors of the various villages along the lake and river; town supervisors from Alexandria Bay, Cape Vincent, Clayton, Henderson, Hounsfield, Lyme and Orleans; county legislators Pat Jareo, Bill Johnson, Robert Cantwell and Phil Reed; state representatives such as Sen. Patty Ritchie and Assemblymen Ken Blankenbush and Mark Walczyk; and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Governor Cuomo set the leadership tone for everyone involved, and his staff and a variety of state agencies responded with a true sense of service. The governor insisted on swift action to deploy human resources and equipment whenever and wherever necessary. He established constant communication for updates on the conditions and the needs to which they proceeded to respond to time and again promptly.
Gov. Cuomo personally visited our region early on to assess the damage and destruction being caused by the high water. He then directed follow-up visits on a nearly weekly basis from agency directors such as Michael Kopy of State Emergency Management, State Homeland Security Director Patrick Murphy and Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos.
The governor established a daily communications link through his regional representative, Seth Belt. This provided the assurance that we knew assistance was simply a phone call or text message away.
Gov. Cuomo’s assistance through his regional representation was nothing short of five star service as we were confident that we lacked for nothing in terms of service or manpower.
The governor continued his leadership and partnership with his vision for what it would take to deal with this “new normal” and created the Resiliency, Economic Development Initiative Commission. The governor appropriately recognized the considerable resources of time, effort and money being utilized to just get by. And with that vision, he decided that just getting by was not good enough and there needed to be a longer-term vision.
REDI was established, and he designed a commission of local representatives for input to develop a project list of items to make our waterfront communities more resilient and, in doing so, also enhance economic development. Our tourism economy is vitally important to our area and to many the livelihoods of residents in our county, so it must be able to withstand adverse conditions such as high water.
With the same sense of urgency of his initial response, Gov. Cuomo charged the planning commission to get to work from spring to fall, in what could be considered lightning speed for government, to generate that list of local projects. The culmination of that activity was the recent announcement by Gov. Cuomo of an unprecedented $60 million investment in our lake and riverfront communities. The announcement was the largest award of all in the five regions created by the REDI plan.
The governor has not stopped there. He insists the projects come to full fruition and will continue lending state assistance until all projects are complete.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state of New York have been there for the north country through his leadership, partnership and vision. And for that I express, on behalf of the residents of Jefferson County, our gratitude.
Good governing is not seen through the prism of politics but in the service to the people of our communities.
Good governing is the establishment of partnerships at various levels to serve the people of our communities, and good governing is leadership and vision.
I can attest that working with the governor of New York state, Andrew Cuomo, it has been all of that in our service to our communities.
Scott A. Gray, R-Watertown, is chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators.