I was elected and served a two-year term on the Canandaigua City Council back in 2009. My decision to run was based on my need to not only give back to the community I grew up in, but to help effect positive decisions when it came to the economic and environmental health of our lake-side community. I learned a great deal about the business of running a city in that time. Not the least of which was the fact that, at the local level, the hands of leadership are largely tied or are left holding the bag for a whole lot of unfunded State mandates and non-negotiable contractual obligations — all of which put an enormous strain on budgets for programs, services, capital improvements and economic development. Municipalities are expected to do a whole lot more with a whole lot less — people, money and resources.
When it comes to environmental issues or issues of conservation, cities are approaching new development, infrastructure improvement and city-wide programs (i.e. recycling, composting and pesticide use) responsibly, and with as much of an eye to the bigger picture as possible: new parking lots are required to have rain gardens to help filter run-off; new residential, commercial or mixed-use developments must meet or exceed minimum green-space requirements; the establishment of, and adherence to, a strict turf and pest management program on all City-owned property; a separate recycling pickup from the curb-side trash collection. The list goes on.
Nobody likes tax increases, but for every project, program, service or ordinance that we have, a whole lot of others are put off — even when the need is dire — because there’s simply no way to afford them…and there’s just no meat left on the proverbial bones of the budget that we control (short of raising taxes). Things like replacing outdated storm sewers, crumbling bridges and roads, maintaining riparian zones along roads outside of the city and repairing heavily eroded sections of streams feeding our lake stay on the to-do-sometime list. Again, the list goes on.
Which brings me to my reason for writing this…
I recently had the good fortune of participating in a “Brown Bag Lunch Presentation” with a small, but esteemed group of fly fishing bloggers – hosted by Chris Hunt, National Communications Director at Trout Unlimited — the first in a series of phone discussions that will revolve primarily around conservation issues and efforts, but will most likely extend into other industry-related issues as well.
The inaugural presentation belonged to Dave Perkins, Vice chairman at Orvis, and Elizabeth Maclin, TU’s vice president for eastern conservation. The topic: the Orvis/TU 1,000 Miles Campaign.
If you are unfamiliar with the campaign, as I was, the goal is to reconnect 1,000 miles of fishable streams by repairing, replacing or removing poorly constructed culverts that impede the path of water and spawning fish. Ultimately, addressing these culverts will not only result in better flow from these important tributaries of larger rivers, which improves water quality, habitat the overall health of fish populations — they’ll help effect a positive environmental change in the larger watersheds themselves. Our watersheds. Projects are underway in Kinne Brook (MA), the upper Connecticut River (NH), the Shenandoah valley (VA), Big Slough Creek (WI), the Deschutes River (OR), the Bear River (WY), among many others.
In order to help ensure the success of the program, Orvis has generously committed to match donations, dollar-for-dollar, up to a total of $90,000. Give $100 and you’re actually giving twice that much. That’s huge.
It’s programs like this and many others that need our support — where private businesses and citizens (or public/private partnerships) are picking up the torch and getting things done. As high as we think taxes are, and as far as we think they should go and what they should be spent on, the uncomfortable reality is that there’s less and less control of that at the local level (and they could go much higher). I’m not saying that we shouldn’t continue to hold our elected officials and City Managers accountable for fighting tirelessly on our behalf, being fiscally responsible and seeing the long-term — I am saying that the more we’re able to take an active role in conserving or improving our immediate environment and resources, the more we hold ourselves accountable for fighting on the behalf of our environment, the better.
Please click the Orvis/TU 1,000 Miles link in the sidebar to the right for more information or to make a donation.