2037 D: Adirondack County
The Blue Line was declared a single county, and State Agencies were required align to it. More than money, this was about giving residents an identity associated with the whole Park and a voice that can be heard above the din of Albany. All county leadership is directly elected. For the first time, the people of the Park think of themselves as a group and have stopped fighting village vs. village and town vs. town. Together, they wrestle with its future and define a path ahead. Instead of playing the victim of rules imposed by an elite population elsewhere, residents have a sense of “us” and take responsibility for sorting out their affairs internally.
A “Pride in the Park” program, aimed particularly at young people, is changing the negative stigma associated with youth who stay here. A “Buy in the Park” program encourages purchasing of products and materials made in the Park. To the extent there was any loss of local identity, it was offset by adoption of a Park-wide identity. Cooperation between towns based on arts, sports and education adds to a sense of identity that was for so long tied to narrow local concerns.
A new NGO became the flag bearer and force behind the movement to create the new county. The politicians and bureaucrats certainly didn’t want it, but common citizens could easily look around and see that the duplication of layers and services was wasteful, expensive, and cumbersome. The NGO took the data to the residents and to Albany, and the data showed a compelling need to shrink government by consolidating most functions and departments. The key was a Governor who forced it through because he knew Park residents were behind him. Redrawing county boundaries turned out to be close to revenue neutral for the slightly smaller counties now outside the Blue Line.
The transition was largely about privatization. Campgrounds, golf courses, county timberlands, ski resorts, nursing homes, nursing services, road maintenance – all sorts of things – are now private enterprises, run much more efficiently and without the burden of the old big State worker unions. The government jobs didn’t all disappear; many ended up in the private sector with private sector benefits and wages. A lot of time and energy was saved simply by aligning various State Agency Districts to the Blue Line.
School system consolidation started with superintendents and business operations. As benefits became clear, the next step was District consolidation that allowed creation of specialized Charter schools. By focusing State special education mandates on fewer schools, it became more cost effective to meet them.
Pooling of purchasing drew lower cost bids from suppliers. E-government put many services online that used to require office visits. Data-centric government (e.g. Mayor Bloomberg) put focused resources like police and health care in areas of clear need rather than blanketing the whole Park equally. Standardization and simplification of processes and policies across the county, from building permits to signage and property value assessments make things easier for businesses and citizens. It’s not just smaller government, it’s smarter government that uses information and technology better and puts more emphasis on integrated planning.
Even the Forest Preserve has been consolidated and rationalized through numerous land swaps. The core has been expanded and made more contiguous while removing small parcels elsewhere that created headaches for utilities and communities. It was a win-win situation that required constitution changes, but in the heady day of big changes this became possible.