COLUMN: Too many feeling disconnected in the FLX

People feel disconnected during a time when “connecting” has never been easier.

That’s the message that we’ve had pounded over our heads for the last two years. Ever since the last presidential election cycle, and President Donald Trump began his berating of the status quo, news media, and “the swamp,” that disconnection has become more and more of an issue.

Workers out of jobs that have become obsolete feel lost because their training and experience have little value in a quickly evolving world. Businesses are looking for the cheapest and fastest way to do business, and people also are becoming disconnected from patience — expecting the fastest and easiest way to find success.

In Seneca Falls, the DEC held a public hearing on the issuance of a permit, which Seneca Meadows requires. The hearing drew dozens. Many familiar folks spoke at the sessions, and some new faces came out to see if this hearing would be any different from the two public hearings held in Seneca Falls before.

Those two previous landfill-related hearings addressed potential laws that would eventually be enacted. The first set a closing date for Seneca Meadows, the second rescinded that. The argument was made shortly thereafter that the back-and-forth was creating a feeling of “disconnect” between residents and elected officials for two primary reasons:

1) That elected officials were somehow “in the pocket” of Seneca Meadows and,

2) That good, taxpaying residents were being hurt by these people who oppose landfilling.

Neither message is good for a community that is trying to draw businesses and economic development. It’s worth noting that even if a community can grow in the shadow of one of the largest landfills in the northeast, its growth can easily be stunted by an overwhelmingly negative message and public perception.

There are some who take advantage of the disconnect.

Others want to see that disconnect mended but aren’t sure where to begin. In fairness, it’s an overwhelming thought just to sit down and ponder.

When a community is stuck in a holding pattern, the disconnect grows. Residents have grown tired and frustrated in Seneca Falls as the town continues to mull over and debate the future of a private business that should be left to its own devices, assuming that it’s not having any consequential impacts on the community.

However, this column isn’t about Seneca Meadows. It’s about the fog that the entire landfilling debate has dropped over the community. It’s like a vacuum in the sense that it’s sucked the life out of every other issue that could be addressed by elected officials.

The energy that could be spent on economic development has largely been overshadowed, even as some marginally positive steps have been taken. A few weeks ago, I wrote about taking advantage of wins in Geneva. Capitalizing on moments that were ripe for positive press and momentum.

All of this may feel familiar, because it’s been the type of thing that I’ve written about multiple times over the last two years. It’s where we’ve remained, unwavering, as controversy continues to grip Seneca Falls, Seneca County, and the landfill, no matter what efforts are taken on-site or on-board.

If people move out of the region, or even out of Seneca Falls, we’re losing. It doesn’t matter if the reason is a “mega-landfill” or high taxes. At the end of the day, the only thing that will matter for those who remain is that others left. It’ll leave a void that can’t be replaced without extensive work.

Residents are tired of inaction. They are tired of seeing business and residents leave — for all reasons. They are tired of watching property taxes rise and jobs disappear.

They want to see results. They want to have a reason to connect to their community again, like they did in years past. When the DEC makes a decision, the community as a whole is going to have some soul searching to do, regardless of the outcome.

This post was originally published in the Finger Lakes Times on August 15, 2017.

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