My vision is simple: make Corning a close-knit community of involved citizens living happily in a beautiful Green city.
Make Corning a model of environmental sustainability and prosperity.
There are many paths to achieve that vision. What is needed is a plan. The City is planning to plan a plan some time, with no real sense of urgency. We, the people, could help by getting together and starting right now to list what needs to be included in the plan. There is always A BETTER WAY. We just have to find it.
One could start with ABC:
Let’s - demand transparency instead of secrecy. It should not take a FOIL request to get the City budget made public. Members of the public should be able to inspect public facilities such as the waste water treatment plant.
Let's reduce waste of all kinds. This starts with simple things like changing light bulbs and turning lights off when not needed. More importantly, let's strive to reduce the amount of waste generated by the City and its citizens. Could we maybe ban single-use bottles and utensils from any public event? Could we maybe look at zero-waste solutions for those events?
Let's demand greater efficiency from streamlining procurement for city offices or better co-ordinating bus schedules.
Let's explore ways for the City to communicate more effectively. Council members could hold regular townhall meetings for their constituents. The Council, and City management, could use social media - Facebook, Nextdoor, possibly Twitter - to talk about what projects are coming up, and to invite comments early in the process.
Let’s make the city picture postcard perfect. Many would argue Corning is already a picture postcard kind of city. But it's shabby, and there are many areas that need a little TLC.
Let's work on the streets and sidewalks. The city does have a robust street repair and repaving program. But does it make sense to continue using methods that have a very limited life span, or should we be actively researching alternative ways of surfacing our streets.
The same is true for sidewalks. Currently the sidewalks belong to the City, but the home-owners are responsible for maintenance. The widespread use of concrete sidewalks is not environmentally friendly as concrete manufacture is carbon heavy. And impervious. There is a much more sustainable method which consists of a plastic (made from recycled material) honeycomb grid which is strong enough for parking lots, and which, being permeable, absorbs rain water instead of causing runoff as concrete does.
Let's make eyesores attractive. By this I mean let's repurpose empty/abandoned buildings like the former Salvation Army thrift store on Pulteney Street, or the disused bit of street next to Pudgie's on Bridge Street. Let's turn them into gardens until someone finds a better use for them.
Let's improve the appearance of our houses. By this I mean spit and polish. There is a lot of good work being done to provide new housing, but not much is being done to help homeowners or landlords repaint, or fix the railing on the front steps, or replace a couple of planks on the front porch. Or a broken window. The little things that make a difference between just acceptable and good.
Let's put our gardens, parks and public spaces to work. By this I mean that these can be green in the color sense, or they can be Green with a capital G. With minor changes to what we plant and how we take care of our plants, we can encourage biodiversity, soil health, water absorption, lush growth - and carbon capture. Let’s not forget that our actions can ameliorate climate change or make it worse.
We have loads of underachieving green space.
Let’s create a truly caring, inclusive community. This will take work, but it can be done. As mentioned above, council members can interact more with their constituents. We can involve churches, service organizations, businesses, and other organizations. Remember what Kennedy said - ask not what your country can do for you....
Volunteerism is a very American trait. What if everyone in the City committed to two hours a month of community service? That's close to 20,000 hours. That is 500 full working weeks. Per month!
Just think what we could achieve. Let's consult local experts for imaginative solutions to just about any problem that presents itself. We have so much talent here. Do we need to pay big dollars to outside consultants when we can very likely find the answers ourselves?
Instead of focusing just on economic growth, let’s focus on prosperity for all. Let’s develop a new mindset. Let’s implement a local version of the Green New Deal, or whatever you want to call it. Let’s address the needs of the 21st century. Let’s look for a better way. Let's talk to each other. Please talk to me.
The next Mayor of Corning cannot solve the problems of the world, but can certainly make life better for our community.
A little more detail......
ACCOUNTABILITY The best way to know what is happening in the city is to look at the budget.
The public is able to listen in to the workshops during which the City Manager presents and explains the budget. They are not permitted to speak. That opportunity comes during the final workshop/public hearing. The Council listens respectfully but, realistically, comments at this stage of the process will make no difference to the final form of the budget, nor whether or not it is adopted.
A member of the public will only know when these workshops are to take place if he or she consults the city's website frequently. There needs to be better communication.
Waste is another issue. While the city appears to be quite efficient, there are areas where economies could be made. Certainly, different practices could lead to economies and benefits, particularly for storm water management, and garbage collection and recycling.
They are closely connected, and productive changes will require a new attitude to waste management. See my plan here. Spoiler alert, compost is very important.
Maybe it's a pipe dream to make the city postcard perfect. But so many problems could be solved by trying.
I envisage a collaborative effort between city, citizens, businesses, and institutions. Anyone who lives or works in the city could join a Beautification Brigade, or Clean-up Corps, whatever you want to call it. Those who don't want to volunteer their time could donate to the Beautification Fund to subsidize projects as necessary.
Let's find creative ways to make the city shine, stimulate prosperity and contribute to a healthier environment.
Remember what Kennedy said about "Ask not what your country can do for you...."?
What if we brought that to a very local level?
What if - instead of accepting that the City can't afford to do a project - the citizens banded together and VOLUNTEERED to get the job done?
You may volunteer to help a neighbor six or seven times, but then it will be your turn and your neighbors will help you.
You will be a part of bettering your neighborhood.
You will be part of the community.
You will feel pride through participation.