Friday, March 07, 2008

Comments & Impressions

Comments ranging from heartfelt to dumb were heard at Thursday night’s Common Council event.

Before the regular meeting, a public hearing was held regarding proposed changes in the Plattsburgh City Code to address problems with student housing and behavior (see previous post). Combat Zone (Center City) residents and landlords offered feedback.

Louis LeVaque, a well-spoken older gentleman, needed a bit of time to get up and take the podium. (I’ve had days like that with my bad back.) He didn’t let the extra effort stop him from sharing what was on his mind.

Louis talked about the need for more enforcement, for more tickets issued, in his neighborhood. He also mentioned how property values were being affected by the presence of sub-standard student housing and chronic problems such as noise and vandalism. He didn’t want to see the value of his house drop by thousands of dollars.

One can imagine his situation. He’s worked hard, bought a home, but now his neighborhood is going to crap. How can he enjoy his retirement? He favored the proposed code changes.

On the opposing side, landlord Ed Champagne said that the college was passing on the “onus” of uncontrolled students to the property owners. Why should landlords be responsible for changes proposed by Plattsburgh State?

Later on someone corrected this misstatement. The Combat Zone residents, not the college, initiated the formation of the Plattsburgh City–College Commission. The college wasn’t trying to dump a problem on the landlords.

I think Champagne should sit in a meeting of the Plattsburgh Campus and Community Partnership, a coalition of projects that actively deal with community problems. If anything, the city has been shirking its responsibility by not making some landlords accountable for the CZ decay. That’s put the “onus” on the residents, not the absentee landlords.

Champagne was against the provision requiring landlords to register all tenants, an effort to keep track of how many students were living in a building. He made a funnee: “How are we landlords going to keep track of our tenants? DNA testing?”

Ha, ha. Champagne ran for a city councilor position in the last election. He lost. So his helpful humor isn’t part of the Common Council mix.

Plattsburgh dodged a bullet.

During the regular council meeting, Councilor James Calnon suggested a review of the proposals with municipal department heads.

Uh, didn’t the City-College Commission already do that?

Calnon indicated another committee was needed to re-review the Commission’s report. (Like they say, a platypus is an eagle designed by a committee.)

Mayor Donald Kasprzak said he wanted to act on the proposals as soon as possible. He was hearing too many complaints from his constituents.

It reminded me of former President Bill Clinton’s quote: “I feel your pain.” Apparently if the Mayor keeps feeling the pain, it will lead to more action.

So keep those calls, emails, and letters pouring in. One key to the situation might be pain sharing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Some thoughts on the council still appears that the council hasn't the full understanding of the necessity for this proposal as well as several others "waiting in the wings." They always suggest another committee or another meeting but never address it to those of us who wrote the proposal and all the folks who gave input as to why this will help. Furthermore, I have suggested to past council members and to the Mayor, several times now, that it would make sense to form a committee to work on the recommendations of the proposals that came from the City/College Report and to give the city residents a forum to discuss their many concerns related to the quality of living in the mixed neighborhoods. Several smaller committees could be set up to study all the recommendations. During the Commission study I requested that we invite the downtown business owners to share their concerns, and again when Jim Peters came to town, Director of the Responsible Hospitality Network, many of the same folks shared their distress and concern with the same issues over and over again. Not sure anyone is getting their message. Would also like it noted that the proposals were done far in advance of this commission report but were included as a very important step in saving our city neighborhoods and protecting the rights of residents to ensure safe and healthy living in their neighborhoods. No neighborhood is safe from the deterioration that has spread to all wards in our city. It will continue and won't easily be reversed as we can see on a daily basis, so why not begin now to address these issues in a positive light with all who are touched by the blight of sub-standard properties. Landlords also need to be part of the solution.
The city could consider some smaller round-table discussion groups, on an on-going basis so residents can sit down with city officials and explain and discuss the solutions to the many problems that have existed for years with no permanent solutions to date. What a wonderful step forward it would be to have city officials and city residents beginning this healing process toward wholesome and happy neighorhoods!!! It could only spread and envelope the entire downtown and city......IMAGINE PLATTSBURGH!!!!!
I am more than willing to share the materials I have collected from other cities and colleges and conferences that give good examples of what can be accomplished when a city works with its residents.
Also, a Mr. Jim Peters, who I brought here this past summer is willing to work with us to change some of these issues and to begin needed change in our downtown as well as our deteriorating neighborhoods. I think many citizens are willing to work with the city as I know many have expressed their willingness to help the Mayor and Dept. Heads wherever it might be helpful to have their input. The proposals would be an effective beginning to needed change.
I would also like it noted that I serve on several committees at the college and many steps have already been taken to address the suggestions in the Commission Report. Many of these steps are geared to improving the city/college relations. It can be a very exciting and energizing time if both the city and college agree to move forward at a steady pace, involving the students and neighbors.