Once again Lakewood made the Post Journal editor’s opinion column.
The topic, yet another negative spin on projects undertaken in Lakewood and another negative shot at the work being done by the Chautauqua Alliance to address both lake issues and economic development in the area.
The editorial was missing relevant information and gave an inaccurate portrayal of the public’s mood at the village meeting when the Lowe Park and Chautauqua Avenue Projects were being discussed. Just one business owner and one trustee were referenced when there were many residents with well-articulated comments and three other trustees in attendance with valid, well researched opinions that could have been represented.
In the meeting room that night, the majority in attendance were supportive of both projects and were visibly disgusted when the Lowe Park project vote ended in a tie, thereby sidelining the project. Many in the room, including Linda Swanson, executive director of the Sheldon Foundation and Lakewood resident, made impassioned pleas for village trustees to stop the dysfunction, and vote yes to both project’s that would not only be positive for economic development in Lakewood, but would cast the Village of Lakewood as leader in the long term battle to remediate our lake’s issues. Ms. Swanson dubbed both projects as “No Brainers”, which was resoundingly echoed by many others in attendance.
The county zero interest loan to Lakewood, which was widely supported by 14 of 19 county legislators as well as County Executive George Borrello, was inaccurately depicted by The Post Journal as a tax burden of consequence to county tax payers when in fact it will function more like a construction loan or series of short term loans so project bills can be paid on time while the village waits for reimbursement by the state. Once funds are received by the village from NYS, the village will pay outstanding balances to the county and carry no debt with the county. Perhaps a more realistic assessment of the county’s participation and interest in helping Lakewood, is that the funding sources of these NYS grants will be approached in the future by other communities for important projects throughout the county. If Lakewood applied for, received, and snubbed the NYS funding sources by rejecting the grants, it would be a black eye for the county and could put future project funding at risk.
Greg Edwards, a past Chautauqua County Executive, described the county as struggling to get out of a 50-year depression. While the state’s budget problems certainly do exist, they could hardly be pinned on Chautauqua County. Western NY has long been taking a back seat in NYS and it’s about time that state money is finding its way into Chautauqua County for economic development and Chautauqua Lake environmental issues. The fact that state grants are major sources of that money makes it much more important we continue pursuing grants and be good partners with the state when we receive them. The NYS grant process is highly competitive. Lakewood is succeeding in grant application acceptance, which is a strong indicator that the projects are worthy and deemed important to the overall health of the Chautauqua County and NYS economies.
Lakewood has an award-winning comprehensive plan that was developed based on an extensive survey of Lakewood resident’s priorities. Improving the village main street, parks, and being a leader in Chautauqua Lake remediation efforts were all deemed significantly important priorities by residents. Lakewood’s plan for the future seeks to make Lakewood the best place it can be for residents, business owners, as well as visitors, while being a good steward of Chautauqua Lake. Further, tourism is a primary economic driver in our area. Having an aesthetically pleasing village, attractive lakefront access, with a healthy assortment of shops and restaurants will enable Lakewood to attract tourism dollars.
Lakewood is leading, not tinkering. Lakewood has a plan and plays an equally important role in shaping the future of our county’s economy as the communities that seem to escape the Post Journal’s routinely negative spin. Lakewood residents are tired of the status quo as evidenced by recent election results, yet little to no effort is made to report those views. There are village leaders, such as Ted McCague, that are actively doing tremendous, tireless work to improve Lakewood — and succeeding! Yet, those people, the work, the new initiatives, the successes go virtually unreported. It’s shameful how The Post Journal appears unsupportive of progress while providing a voice to the dividers, and those wishing to undermine real progress.
Leadership with VISION, not FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) is what’s needed in Lakewood and throughout the county to solve problems and become better, more successful communities.
Perhaps it’s high time for those at the Post Journal, the status quo patrol, and the real tinkerers to start leading, following, or get out of the way!
Photo by Bernadette van der Vliet, BMTPhotos