Sorry, Mr. President, It’s Not “Flee” New York, It’s “Free” Western New York

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If you’re from Greater Western New York, you love it. That makes you part of a long tradition. American patriots felt the same way during the Revolutionary War. In 1779, George Washington dispatched General Sullivan to thwart the British and their Iroquois allies based in Western New York from continuing their lethal terror attacks on the small towns and settlements along the edge of the then New York frontier. When Sullivan’s troops first laid eyes on the beautiful landscape, they immediately knew where they wanted to spend the rest of their lives: Western New York.

Why would you be any different? And yet, living in Western New York too often becomes a burden. Although not as bad as it was decades ago, outsiders continue to disrespect our region. We’ve been the butt of late-night TV jokes. Organizations routinely bypass our bounty, lured by promised riches from others. Even our own state leaders forsake us. We’ve seen this as recently as when the New York-Albany axis decided to use our tax money to pay Amazon to set up a “second” headquarters in Queens. (And don’t mention what they do with the rest of our tax money!)

Truth is, at some point in the 1970s, our eroding populations made us politically impotent. Quite simply, anything that happened in the State of New York only required agreement by legislators from that same New York City-Albany Axis. Those of us from the western counties may have sat in the front row of the discussion, but they were still mere spectator seats.

The actions of the members of this axis have since become more audacious. We’ve seen this in the extreme legislation Albany has proudly foisted upon us. That this legislation runs counter to the philosophy and morals of the vast bulk of the Greater Western New York population matters little to these ringleaders. They know our votes have no teeth. To them, we are irrelevant.

Good luck trying to grow – your business, your career, your family – in this environment. Those in charge have poured salt into the once fertile fields of our region.

So, when the President of the United States advises us to “flee New York,” he’s merely speaking in the manner of a dispassionate financial analyst. He’s seen the numbers. He’s familiar with the trends. He knows not only what it would take to reverse those trends, but the likelihood of our state choosing that necessary course. In a rather blunt, but honest, assessment, President Trump said, “The problem is that states that have been really well run and don’t have debt, those states have a big advantage over states that have been poorly run, like New York and others, and have a tremendous amount of debt.”

Clearly, Trump empathizes with the situation faced by the residents of the Greater Western New York region. He said, “I love those people. Those people are my voters. They’ve been treated very badly.”

He offered this quick conclusion: “If New York isn’t gonna treat them better, I would recommend they go to another state where they can get a great job.”

If only it were that easy. We love our homes. We love our neighborhoods, our towns, our villages. In short, like the men who marched with Sullivan, we love our region.

Why would Trump say what he said? His supporters selected him over all other Republican candidates in part because he has a tremendous record of successfully counterpunching his opponents. He has brought to the once languid party that same “fight, not flight” spirit once championed by Ronald Reagan. Indeed, his actions as President have only reaffirmed his “I will not be bullied” persona.

It therefore causes one to wonder why he would tell his strongest supporters in New York State to give up and leave their native land for greener fields.

To understand his thinking, consider the response of those who pompously lord over our region. Our senators, our governors, and other elected officials, have attacked Trump’s comments.

Governor Cuomo responded to Trump’s comments by implying Trump didn’t have the credibility to represent the feelings of the citizens of Western New York. He said, “Trump talking about upstate New York is like me talking about Antarctica, you know, I’ve never been there and I know nothing about it.”

Senator Schumer echoed a similar refrain. He said, “If he traveled the state like I do, visiting all of our great state’s 62 counties every year, he would know Upstate New Yorkers don’t cut and run — they love their communities and put their hearts and souls into making them better places.”

It’s as if Cuomo and Schumer don’t think Trump knows the people of Western New York. Perhaps he knows more than they think. Perhaps he knows them better than they do.

First, if Cuomo and Schumer really knew Western New Yorkers, they’d realize we don’t like to be referred to as “upstate New York.” This betrays a New York City-centric view of the state.

Second, days before the Buffalo News first reported Trump’s comments, Cuomo admitted that wealthy New Yorkers were fleeing the state. He blamed Trump’s tax cuts for this (because the wealthy could no longer deduct a large portion of their New York taxes on their federal forms). Cuomo said this was the reason why New York experienced falling tax receipts. (New York City’s mayor, on the other hand, blamed Wall Street’s fourth quarter decline.)

Let me see if I get this straight. Cuomo blames Trump for tax cuts that exposed New York’s higher than average taxes. The Governor acknowledges people are moving out of New York because of these high taxes.

Remind me again. Is Trump agreeing with Cuomo or does Cuomo have an affliction that causes him to fail to remember what he says on a day-to-day basis?

If Cuomo and Schumer really understood the plight of those of us in Greater Western New York, then they’d say what State Senator Joseph Griffo of Rome says. The Utica Observer-Dispatch recorded the Republican’s response to the Trump-Cuomo/Schumer dialog. Griffo said, “Despite some progress and growth, we continue to see people leaving our state in droves. It’s not because of the weather, as the governor has claimed, or due to the urging of elected officials. It’s because people can’t afford to live here anymore and businesses can’t thrive because of burdensome taxes, regulations and energy costs.”

In a very Trump-like move, his comments urging those who feel they aren’t treated fairly to leave New York has exposed the fake sincerity of those very politicians more responsible for this treatment. This reflects that same impudent attitude from the New York-Albany Axis that has so plagued the Greater Western New York Region.

Would you like to ride along as Mr. Carosa explores centuries-old documents and newspaper stories for his upcoming book Greater Western New York a State? Why Not? Click here to sign up for his email list by registering on the site to receive periodic updates on his research and findings, notifications regarding speaking engagements, and, most importantly, when the book will be publicly available.

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