The Plight of the Southern Tier: A Leadership Fail

Dr. Michael Morrongiello
Psychologist and Steuben County Landowner


The plight of the Southern Tier – a failing economy with no end in sight – is directly attributable to a governing philosophy of handouts before leadership.

An Elmira Star-Gazette editorial on August 15th accurately described the plight of upstate New York: lagging economic growth, little job creation, people leaving the state in droves. The Editorial Board cited State Comptroller DiNapoli’s report which said “job growth was uneven across the state.” The Southern Tier actually lost jobs. There’s nothing uneven about it; the area is flatlining. After a great start the editorial fizzled out, failing to name the cause of upstate’s decline nor any real solutions – state leadership that has put the Southern Tier and much of Upstate New York at the mercy of downstate special interests.

Southern Tier

A symbol of Southern Tier decline?

People have always tried to improve their lives and that of their families. What could be more natural and human than to create a better standard of living for your children and grandchildren? So the question is: why isn’t it happening here? We’re no better or worse than the people of Texas, yet they create jobs easily. The people of the Southern Tier (those that remain) are responding to the economic environment created by government policy. They sensibly cling to the pittance they’re left with after taxes, and they are risk-averse because of taxes and regulations.

The decline of upstate is an intergenerational problem. Cuomo is just the latest in a long line of Governors who promised to fix it, and never do.

Peevers Abandoned Elmira - 3

Abandoned Elmira: By Richard Peevers – Click for additional photos.

Consider that 13 of 14 New York governors since 1923 came from downstate. The NYS Assembly is dominated by downstate. The recent budget deal in Albany, aptly named “the big ugly,” was all about New York City. Upstaters do not hold one statewide office, and haven’t for many years. The votes, money and power are downstate. The most benign explanation is that we’re an afterthought; the most malicious is that they’re deliberately strangling us.

The secession and home-rule movements are a natural outgrowth of citizens tired of the unrelenting pounding upstate gets from Albany. Contented people don’t secede.

According to the New York State Association of Counties, 90% of our property taxes go to funding nine mandates from Albany. We’re still waiting for the fix from Albany. We pay sales tax, property tax and income tax. The fix is to cut those taxes, cut predatory state agencies, and keep them on a very short leash.

If we were really open for business, natural gas development wouldn’t have been banned. Sadly, this economic game-changer could have brought much needed jobs and investment to our area and real state leadership might have helped sell the idea to downstate by pointing out the benefits of lowered carbon and other emissions in substituting gas for coal and oil, the move that has cleaned New York City’s air and actually saved lives.

If we must please downstaters, then shouldn’t the job of the governor be to lead and to educate them and show just how important natural gas is to their lives, rather than simply caving to their irrational fears? It wouldn’t have been that hard if the governor had simply led with the facts such as those illustrated in this neat handout from Energy In Depth:


The Star-Gazette also never mentions the liberal governing philosophy that dominates the state. Conservative principles like lower taxes, limited government and personal freedom are nowhere in sight. Instead, the Southern Tier is offered a handful of handouts to finance meaningless pet projects that do little or nothing in the long-term compared to what natural gas might offer. The region needs leadership from Albany in dealing with downstate – not handouts.

Compliments to the paper’s Editorial Board for naming the problem. It would be helpful if they would shake that angry pen at Albany and name the causes of our decline: the indifference of our governing downstate elite, a governing philosophy, liberalism, that taxes and regulates too much and a failure to lead and educate on the part of our governor.

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8 thoughts on “The Plight of the Southern Tier: A Leadership Fail

  1. How it came to be that downstaters, who are benefited by both air quality and carbon dioxide emissions reductions, were led to believe that natural gas is worse than coal has to do with more than one “leader”, Cuomo as it is environmental leaders and “progressive leaders and orgs, even those who wave the climate warrior flag, who are responsible for this upside down messaging. The absurdity of environmentalists confusing the public about natural gas and carbon dioxide emissions while claiming to be the people educating the rest of us about how to act on climate and actually claiming to speak for all of us speaks volumes about a real lack of ethics and credibility among environmental “leaders”, the people who lead environmental orgs or are referred to in the press as spokespeople on issues. Unfortunately it seems very few people are permitted to speak about environmental issues and people like Bill McKibben, Michael Brune and Kate Sindig of groups like, the Sierra Club and NRDC are never challenged in the press or by the press which is needed as they are seen as environmental experts due to the influence of the organizations they represent, lead or work for. Until they are replaced, not seen as authorities by the press or challenged about their upside down messaging on natural gas environmental benefits which includes both climate and air quality benefits and instead they are seen as influencers on climate and energy policy this nonsense will continue, in my opinion. If these groups and the environmental world can’t present credible science based informaton to the public on natural gas and energy issues in my opinion they certianly need to have much much much less sway with politicians who enact laws and policy in this country.


    Well its good to find the places where people can agree. Now the US counterparts of the two organizations above, Friends of the Earth and Food and Water Watch are responsible for tens of thousands of form letters clicked on and sent into the docket on the currently proposed LNG import project called Port Ambrose which promote a conspiracy created by the anti-fracking movement in NY state and their allies– that this project is actually secretly intended to be an export project.

    And for some reason no matter how many politicians and news organizations are contacted regarding this its impossible to have this covered. So the power of these “leaders” and organizations, specifically their ability to completely manipulate and dominate the news cycle with no real questions asked of them by reporters and their clear influence with politicians who rely on them for information also apparantly with no questions asked should not be underestimated.

    I’ve never seen anything so crazy.

  3. I could agree more but i dont Karen!
    Imported energy feeds Cuomo,s upstate NY destrution machine!
    Dr. Dr. help me to choose, I gotta bad case- of Natural Gas b-l-u-e-s! Good ol Huey with the bad news.
    That bad news for upstate is,there,s a lot more money to be harvested on Wall street than Main Street Upstate!
    It,s the same problem facing Pa. landowners. If you folks dont get off yer butts and start paying some campaign money your transport pipes and furnaces will be running backwards too!
    Doctor, this was a real thought inspiring article! Maybe you could do a peice on why so many modern humans find it so easy to sit back and watch their property being stolen from them? -and-
    Maybe you could explain why i have developed the iresistable urg to pee in streems flowing towards NYC?-and-
    Why is that so offenensive to others when that is in fact what NYC is doing it to them?
    Remember everyone, suport U.S. jobs, burn only domestic energy this winter!
    Wow Doctor, I feel s-o-o much better after being able to vent my concerns to you! Just send the bill to Tom. Thanks!

    • Well Freegas I imagine you will find it amazing that prior to the NY state decision on natural gas development in the state the Port Ambrose import project was used to fight against fracking in the Marcellus shale.

      NY policy is imported natural gas whether from PA, elsewhere in the country and if Port Ambrose is approved and built also from outside the country. That’s pretty clear I think as a number of pipeline expansions into NYC occured during the fracking debate.

  4. when every Albany Democrat and many downstate GOP politicians are aligned against us- this is what happens. they also own the Court of Appeals and most of the lower State courts, and every newspaper but the NY Post is a biased liberal outfit.

    Rob Astorino won almost every upstate county on a shoestring budget despite the turncoats Chris Christie, Dean Skelos (indicted), Tom Libous (convicted) and Long Island Republicans who are all RINOs. they all tacitly backed mob boss Cuomo because they’re all aboard the corrupt Albany gravy train.

    there is no help in sight. Chris Gibson is a RINO, who may wrest the GOP nod from Astorino in the 2018 election.

    Cuomo will be indicted. he’s been begging for it on so many fronts and is too arrogant to see it. it will change nothing.

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