When some folks read recently that I favor getting rid of the worthless piece of government called the village of Potsdam, they suggested I should take a closer look at all the things it does for its residents and I might reconsider my opinion.
So here are some of things I can think of that the village has done for its residents and taxpayers over the years:
n It recently saved us from hordes of back-to-the-earth types who wanted to grow their own eggs for breakfast by raising chickens in their backyards. Well, maybe not hordes ... I think only one person asked if they could. No matter. It might have grown to hordes if the village didn't quash this idea before it got out of the barn.
Which it did, citing the possibility that chickens might attract varmints that don't belong in the village. And by “attracting varmints,” I am guessing the village trustees meant more hippies who wanted to grow their own eggs.
Next the village board is going to outlaw backyard gardens, which also attract wildlife and hippies. I can't give them credit for this yet, but I am sure it is coming.
n The village saved us from having a Dunkin' Donuts on the corner of Market and Pleasant streets when it denied a businessman's request to zone the property for commercial use.
This was an important service, because without a village government there would have been no one to say that it didn't make sense to have a business at an intersection that had two businesses and a synagogue on the other three corners.
Oh, wait ... it DOES make sense to have a business on that corner next to other businesses. No matter. We pay our village board to make decisions. We don't necessarily pay them to make logical ones.
The key issue is the village did something for its residents. It got them a street corner that now has lots of toilets with flowers planted in them and a garish multi-color garage, which is how the businessman decorated the property once he couldn't get it rezoned.
n The village saved us from toilets with plastic flowers planted in them when it brought the legal hammer down on the businessman who put them on his property. The village called the toilets dangerous to the health and safety of residents, not to mention the bees who try to suck nectar out of the plastic pansies.
Well, the village didn't actually save us from the killer toilets, because they have yet to win the battle in court. No matter. They are trying to solve a problem that they played a large role in creating. That's doing something for the residents.
In the meantime, the businessman has put up another display of toilets with flowers on a different piece of his property in the village. Credit the village leaders for promoting Potsdam as the cultural commode center of Northern New York.
n The village in 2006 put up parking meters on its handicapped spaces. Now a lot of people might boo and hiss at the idea of the village telling handicapped people: “Look, you already get the best parking spots, you are not going to get them for free.” No matter. By now those meters have probably generated enough revenue to cover the $1,400 cost of installation, so every day they are pulling in maybe tens of dollars of pure profit into village coffers. Residents are benefiting one quarter at a time.
n The village saved us from a guy growing wildflowers instead of a lawn at his house. At least it tried to save us. The pesky courts stepped in again to overrule our government officials. No matter. When the village attempts to come down hard on what it views as a wild man blighting up the neighborhood with flowers, you have to give it credit for looking out for its residents. Except, of course, for the resident who had to go to court to fight and win back his right to garden.
n The village had the due diligence to send its then-administrator all the way to Canada to research a company with which it planned to do business on a new hydroelectric dam. When he got there he found that the company was embroiled in a legal battle with the town because it was way behind on the work it was hired to do.
So Administrator Michael Weil – as any official looking out for the best interest of residents he serves would do - came back and recommended that the village quit considering the troubled company for the job.
Or at least he should have said that. What he actually did was recommend hiring the sketchy company. Three years later and the village has spent $1.1 million on the project that is standing idle like a goose on the shore of the Raquette River. No matter. When you are looking at all a village does for its residents, you are bound to have some things that aren't so good.
There's plenty more the village does for its residents. It provides a police force we don't need. It plows our sidewalks and tears up our front lawns all in one motion during the winter. For a time it spent tax dollars enforcing a law that saved residents from downtown business owners who put up posters in their store windows that advertised things to do or places to shop in Potsdam.
So I will give you that the village does a lot for its residents - a lot that we could get by without just fine. And it offers nothing that the town couldn't provide – likely at a lower cost – if the village was eliminated.
That's what I see when I take a closer look.