Good News And Bad

I thought that the editor of this paper had it right recently when he reflected that those disputing whether the county had lost 7,000 jobs or 3,500 jobs should at least agree on the fact that the county had lost jobs. Declining job numbers are not good news, but it is important that elected officials at least agree on the fact that it is happening.

My view is that the public is best served when it has the whole picture: both the good and the bad. Local officials are inclined to give good news and not to talk about the bad. Both need to be in the equation. This newspaper recently commended the Mayor for looking at both sides in his “State of the City” address.

Officials in Jamestown, both Republicans and Democrats, were also recently quoted as encouraged by the fact that the bond rating for the City has improved. That is good news. There was also news that the police had signed a new contract without reverting to binding arbitration, and that discussions were still underway with the county Sherriff’s department-again, positive developments. Yet, there was no mention of the percentage of the city budget or the tax levy that is now dedicated to supporting the police and fire departments-that isn’t good news.

To mention the other side of things is not “bashing” the City. All of the facts need to be a part of the conversation in deciding what the City should do. The list of foreclosed properties for Chautauqua County (see this paper, January 29th) reveals that 35% of those properties are in Jamestown and 11% are in Dunkirk. Will anyone put out a news release on that? Probably not, but all of us in the County should be concerned about it. This is what I mean by giving the public the full picture.

The same can be said of school districts that are “under fiscal stress.” Did that information come from the school districts? No, it came from the State Comptroller. If the citizens of small school districts are going to be able to decide what to do, they need to be fully informed by their school boards about what is going on. Just the good news won’t do.

The life of elected public officials is not an easy one, and we should appreciate the fact that there are those among us who will run for what can seem to be “thankless” positions. Yet, I think there would be less angst for public officials if they decided to give the full picture of what is going on, not just the rosy one. It would help the public make informed decisions and resolve issues which need to be addressed.

A Chautauqua County resident interested in analyzing public policy from a long term perspective writes these views under the name Hall Elliot.