WHOSE PLAN IS THIS ANYWAY?
Definition of Urban Colonialism
1 : of, relating to, characteristic of, or constituting control by a city over a rural area or people
2 : a policy advocating or based on such control
In trying to write about the Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan [as with many other recent plans] I am confronted with the difficulty of untangling the mass of misrepresentations and lies that provide the underpinning for their policy agenda.
Just one Policy sentence may misrepresent the cause, current situation, the impact, the population, the intent, and the viability of the solution that the Plan proposes — making it almost impossible to get to the bottom of an issue; or even follow a single thread.
As a starting point for this essay; I searched for the word “rural” – and found it appeared 84 times in the County’s Comprehensive Plan.
Grouping sentences where it appears; a pattern emerges:
“In rural areas the Plan envisions a working landscape of farms and forests providing products and jobs that support a strong rural economy - Rural economic activities may include businesses processing agricultural and forest products, and other small businesses appropriate to a rural setting - Employment choices for those interested in living and working in rural areas will include full- and part time farming, independent “homestead” lifestyles, entrepreneurship in agricultural and forest product processing, and at-home workers who want to live close to nature – Rural areas will gain economically from urban markets for food, wood products, and energy - Urban areas will have access to the natural beauty, outdoor recreation, and local food and energy provided by our rural landscape - working rural landscapes are preserved”
If this echoes the colonial policies of the 1700’s that enforced North America’s role as a provider of agricultural goods and raw materials [and a captive consumer of manufactured articles]; it’s no coincidence:
Ithaca is not a business center – it is THE Business Center for Tompkins County:
“The Downtown Ithaca Alliance works to maintain and develop downtown Ithaca as the county’s center for ‘banking and finance, business and professional offices, government and community services, downtown residences, and as a retail destination.’”
“The urban area will include the lively, active downtown and vibrant waterfront district of Ithaca, neighborhood centers serving nearby residents, and regional commercial centers that serve the needs of both urban and rural populations.”
“The urban center is the historic employment, retail, service, and government center for the surrounding region”
When the Town of Lansing requested NYSEG to supply a natural gas line needed to attract businesses – Tompkins County Legislators went to the State Capitol and lobbied to block any new natural gas use on environmental grounds. They succeeded.
Shortly thereafter; Cornell proposed building a 1,200 student living complex, powered by natural gas – it was approved without any demur by both the County Legislature and planning authorities.
Then what is the land use that County’s planners “envision” for rural towns like Lansing?
Colonial resettlement, of course:
“DEVELOPMENT FOCUS AREAS STRATEGY - This strategy identifies an urban center, five established nodes, two emerging nodes, and eight rural centers as the Development Focus Areas
COUNTY ROLE. It is envisioned in the future at least two-thirds of all new residential development would occur in the Development Focus Areas. Tompkins County’s role is three-fold in achieving this vision: providing support to municipalities as they undertake these activities; strongly advocating for appropriate types of development within Development Focus Areas and rural land uses outside of the focus areas; and addressing the intermunicipal aspects of implementation, such as providing public transit services to the focus areas, focusing infrastructure investment in the focus areas, and promoting efforts to provide strong pedestrian and bicycle connections between the focus areas and nearby existing developed areas.”
By “strongly advocating” the creation of satellite “mini-cities” for their urban workforce, surrounded by rich corporate Agribusinesses [employing tax-subsidized foreign “guest” workers] the County has radically altered the rural landscape – and left no place for the county’s rural residents:
“Tompkins County contains an uncommon mixture of spectacular natural features, a vibrant urban center, internationally renowned academic institutions, and a productive and attractive working landscape.”
With nearly 60 percent of rural residents calling unemployment a “critical” problem in a community needs assessment survey conducted by the United Way and Human Services Coalition of Tomkins County — The County’s planners propose no solution; nor see any need for one.
In the Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan’s “vision for the future” – the already marginalized native rural community will no longer even exist.
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