Posts Tagged ‘FMCC’

uturnWhile the cities of Johnstown, Gloversville and Amsterdam struggle to maintain their housing stock and downtown areas, Dustin Swanger, president of FMCC announced on Thursday a 12 million dollar plan to essentially build a new “downtown” on campus consisting of new housing construction and retail space.

As a graduate of FMCC, I am thrilled that the college is growing. The need for more student housing is obvious and I appreciate Swanger’s initiative, but I believe his vision is mis-guided. If he is willing to borrow $12 million dollars on behalf of the public to provide housing and amenities to students, he should invest that money into the surrounding cities that need the influx of resources to remain viable.

The location of FMCC is problematic of course. In other college areas such as Schenectady and Albany, college campuses (such as Union and Saint Rose) are integrated into the fabric of the community. However the short commute between any of the cities to the FMCC campus could easily be alleviated with a well thought out shuttle system.

I would submit that students, especially those coming from other countries, would have a much more meaningful and authentic experience living in a real local community with history and culture rather than an artificially created one such as proposed by Swanger. Our region needs our best and brightest students to return to the area once they’ve graduated. I believe that students who form friendships and bonds with the people in their community are more likely to do that. But if students are essentially isolated on campus, how likely is that to happen?

I would propose this – build three smaller housing and retail developments each in the cities of Johnstown, Gloversville and Amsterdam. Remodel existing downtown buildings to suit student housing requirements and to accommodate new shops and stores that cater to student’s needs. This would be a much needed boost for our downtowns and would give students a better experience than living in an isolated development out in the middle of nowhere.

I would also remind readers that you do have a say in this. The college is funded by the public and the public has the right and responsibility to ensure that how the college operates is beneficial to the students and the region. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. You can have a voice via your elected officials or by emailing Dustin Swanger directly at dustin.swanger@fmcc.suny.edu. In fact, if you agree with this position, why not use the “email” button below and forward this to him right now 🙂

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If a religious leader wrote an article for the paper during an election season stating that their religion was the “only answer” and then implied that not all candidates were as strong believers of the faith as others, I have no doubt there would be a public outcry admonishing this leader to keep religion out of politics. Beyond that, it wouldn’t be surprising if the IRS and ACLU trained their sights on the leader’s organization as a result.

So does anyone else think it’s inappropriate for FMCC President Dustin Swanger to essentially do the exact same thing? In his article published on October 26th in the Amsterdam Recorder, he asserts that the “only answer” for economic growth is through “regional thinking/cooperation” (aka consolidation) and then all but asks us to vote for those who subscribe to that ideology. Of course he carefully hedges and stops short of endorsing any specific candidates, but overall, the message is clear: vote for the “true believers”.

Non-profit organizations risk their tax-exempt status when they endorse political candidates. I’m not sure if FMCC is technically subject to the same restriction. But the college president is a taxpayer-funded, non-elected position. I think Swanger comes very close to overstepping his bounds by using his position (and the visibility that position gives him) to promote a political point of view.

Make no mistake, the latest article from Swanger does not use the term “consolidation” however the idea of combining all localities into a single regional government has been clearly articulated and advocated for in past articles. He’s just using different terminology now.

And also make no mistake that just like all other consolidation proponents, Swanger has yet to show any solid plan or actual numbers that might indicate that municipal consolidation would deliver any tax relief, help restore our downtowns, or revive our economy.  The small scale consolidation plans that I have seen that do work, fall apart once you take out the financial handouts from NY State which is our tax money that is apparently being held in reserve for communities who consolidate.  Consolidation proponents have yet to show how their ideas do anything other than replace more accountable, small governments, with less accountable, big government.

I would definitely recommend that readers take a look at Swanger’s take on the role of community colleges in local politics. He presents a lot of ideas that I think are both good and essential. I think that local colleges providing leadership in the area of economic development is a great idea. But what baffles me is how Swanger’s narrative in the local paper over the years seems contradictory to the ideals he espouses in his thesis.

He affirms that small and medium-sized businesses are essential to revitalizing the economy, but promotes “regional cooperation” which primarily benefits big businesses as the “only answer”.

He talks about the importance of livable communities and neighborhoods and the importance of building up a “sense of community” but then proposes that towns, villages and cities are somehow archaic ideas that need to be done away with.

He talks about community planning as a “resurgence of order” but fails to address how reliance on big businesses (like the type that Mike Mullis works with) have disrupted that order over the past decades.

He quotes from “Rise of The Creative Class” by Richard Florida, which focuses on the ability of cities to attract creative professionals as a key economic driver, but on the other hand would discourage local cities like Johnstown, Gloversville and Amsterdam from trying to do this on their own.

Finally, let’s call this article out for what it most likely is – a recommendation against voting for Johnstown mayoral candidate Michael Julius who has been outspokenly resistant to the idea of consolidation between the cities of Johnstown and Gloversville.

And that’s kinda funny because in my view Johnstown is one of the best examples in the Fulton/Montgomery area of the type of livable community that Swanger claims to be in favor of. Is it any wonder that city residents and leaders might want to preserve that?