Ogdensburg: Protecting Past Bad Practice Won’t Save a City
Saving a city from the financial distress (proven by facts) that Ogdensburg is in will not be easy. Setting the conditions for the revival of the city will be even more difficult but it is absolutely obtainable. Protecting the past won’t do it. Hiring more public employees won’t do it. Using contingency funds and fund balances to pay unaffordable salaries won’t do it. Allowing the County to dictate how Sales Tax generated in Ogdensburg gets distributed won’t do it. Criticizing every idea that is contrary to past practice won’t do it. Continuing to fund inefficiently managed organizations won’t do it. Allowing drug dealers to inhabit the City won’t do it. Placing personal entitlement before the needs of the community won’t do it.
What will do it? Acceptance – that processes, procedures and policies must change and there isn’t a lot of time to do it. Support – for the elected, appointed and career individuals that work for the City each and every day. Trust – that no one is making up the financial crisis and the resolute actions it will take to recover. Commitment – that returning to the past is not an option, no matter how much it may have benefitted you personally, it is not the future of the City. Resolve – that you want a Better Ogdensburg and a better future for the next generation (or three) of citizens, many of whom will be your family. Respect - that your opinion matters but it won’t always be relevant or useful in every situation. Confidence – that your City will survive and revive, but it may look just a bit different than it did for many years.
There is a small group of obsessed individuals that will do all they can to disrupt and defeat anything that is good for the city, they have been doing it for years, nothing new there. They can grumble at every city council meeting, make up tales of corruption, tie up city staff for hours with senseless FOILS, raise money for the cause of the day (most of which they know nothing about) or the “moment we’ve been waiting for”, video and stare at members of council and myself like weird groupies and don t-shirts that echo their fictional tales of injustice, but they are not succeeding and they will not succeed in ceasing the progress being made by the many people that care deeply about the future of the City.
The majority City Council is participating daily, weekly and monthly in the plans, decisions and actions to recover the City, the minority City Council is sitting on the sidelines (which is their choice) not participating in anything, unless it is the critique of the majority (or the occasional donning of the t-shirts). The community elects a council of 7, and the City really needs all 7 to actively participate, compromise, reach consensus and unite against the threats to the City’s sources of revenue from a very determined and greedy faction of the County Legislature, an over-reaching and out of touch State government and aggressively champion the vital support needed from Federal agencies.
Since arriving to be the City Manager just over a year ago, I have worked hard to do what is best for the entire city, which doesn’t align well with making everyone happy. The hard decisions by far outweigh the easy ones, the challenges far outweigh the victories, but that is no reason to give up and I won’t be giving up. I am available most anytime to speak with any member of the community and I encourage you to take a few moments to meet with me and discuss your concerns and aspirations for your city.
Thank you for your time and the honor of serving as your City Manager and Fire Chief.
Stephen P. Jellie