The question of whether to dissolve the village of Potsdam has taken me back to the days when I was being fascinated by the lectures of economics professors in college.
One professor would convince me with sound logic and dazzling rhetoric that giving tax cuts to the rich was the road to economic prosperity. And I was convinced right up until a professor in another class used his own sound logic and dazzling rhetoric to show without question that taxing the rich and giving breaks to the middle class was the road to economic prosperity.
In the end the only thing I learned was that economic theories are hard to wrap your head around. They are often filled with opinions about the future - which means they can’t be right or wrong.
In the last week I stumbled into discussions with two of my neighbors that at least for a short time had me thinking the issue of eliminating the village of Potsdam was a lot like those economics lectures from my college days. Two contrasting points of view. Two people who have passion and conviction for their arguments. Both trying to predict the future.
One of my neighbors is a village trustee who will explain - for as long as you want to listen - how getting rid of Potsdam is the right thing to do. He says doing so will save you some money without losing anything except a layer of government.
Another one of my neighbors is a village employee who will explain - for as long as you want to listen - how getting rid of Potsdam is the wrong thing to do. His argument is that crime will run rampant, sewers will back up, garbage will pile up in the streets and people will start raising chickens in their backyards if the village goes by the wayside. It won't be pretty.
This issue is a lot more black and white than any economic theory. The first guy is right. The second guy is wrong. And I don't say this because I can see into the future. I say it because I've seen the past and present.
There are lots of places in America where people live happily and safe, where roads are paved in the summer and plowed in the winter, where they have everything I have in Potsdam except an extra layer of government and the accompanying property tax bill.
Crime doesn't run rampant in these places. Sewers don't back up. Garbage gets collected regularly. Neighborhoods aren't run afoul by chickens.
Take Green Oak Township where a friend of mine lives in Michigan. He pays property taxes twice a year to the township and writes no checks to any other governmental body. The township has a police force and fire department, as well as a library, parks, recreational services and schools that he and his family get to use. The county he lives in keeps the roads in shape.
You might think his taxes to support all this are sky high. Truth is, his are 60 percent lower than mine. I pay about $2,800 in property taxes - and more than a third of that is to the village. If my house were in Green Oak Township, my tax bill would be $1,253 a year.
I only included that factoid because it amazes me. High property taxes in New York is a complaint different from whether the village of Potsdam should be taken off the map. That’s a column for another day.
My taxes will still be high if the village of Potsdam becomes a part of history ... but I will be paying less than I do now. And if you use Green Oak Township or any of the thousands of communities that don't have governments on every other street corner as models, the quality of my life won't suffer at all.
More is not necessarily better when it comes to governments. The fear mongers who tell you otherwise don't have models to support their argument. All they have is fear. Don't let them scare you.
We don't need the village of Potsdam to maintain our quality of life. We need one less property tax bill to pay each year.
Eliminating the village is the right thing to do. It's a simple matter of economics.