Monday, November 21, 2005

Some Sunday Thoughts

It's early Monday morning, but here are some thoughts left over from yesterday.

Rochester, try as they may to deny or forestall the inevitable, is a dying city. The population is slowly dwindling, younger singles and couples moving on to more exciting and lucrative territory, leaving behind an aging body of citizens, shrinking the tax base and increasing the schools' deficit. There seems to be no good way to staunch the outflow; the various civic upgrades have had little to no effect.

They tried to create an upscale district called "High Falls" to attract the younger set with an entertainment venue; the eateries, microbreweries and clubs have mostly closed, leaving behind an empty shadow. The city hired an outfit to begin ferry runs between Rochester and Toronto; tellingly, the ferry was constructed in Australia and was damaged by running into a pier in NYC before it ever reached Rochester. The outfit running the ferry went bankrupt within 5 months of implementing their plan; the city ended up buying the ferry outright for a ridiculously high sum, and has already spent more than half of the contingency fund during the first quarter of operations. Unless the good people of Toronto begin swarming into Rochester in legions to sample our attractions, this enterprise too seems doomed to failure.

Construction plans continue apace for a glorified underground bus station in the middle of downtown, destroying a series of historic buildings in the process. When the public grew leery of paying millions for what was nothing more than an attempt to provide patronage and give the gentler citizens a method of avoiding having to contemplate the deteriorating downtown area, the planners tossed in a Performing Arts Center and a Community College branch, thus assuring that millions more would be squandered on a facility that, unless we miss our guess, will be little-used and a money pit.

Other ideas have been advanced, in particular the destruction of what was once prime retail and office space, the hub of downtown, in fact, appropriately named Midtown Plaza, now a hollow shell. Some politicians are advocating that there should be erected on that site a casino. We are indifferent to gambling; we refrain because we have better uses to which to put our money, and it is slightly possible that it may be profitable, at least after a number of years of operation. We do wonder, though, why it is that politicians so often promote gambling as a means of salvation.

Saturday, the main headline on the D&C read "Catholics to shut down 11 churches." This is just another omen of the slow, excruciating death of Rochester. Most of the churches were operating at 25% or less of capacity, and the dwindling supply of Priests available to conduct Mass is approaching a crisis point. The parishioners of the churches will be folded into the congregations of those churches that remain open. How sad they must be.

The banner headline at the top of Sunday's local section read "All Saints dissolved by vote."

The Episcopal diocese of Rochester voted to shutter the church and transfer the assets and property to trustees of the diocese. Why did they do this? The diocese refused to pay All Saints $16,000 that it was owed because the diocese disapproved of the decision of the church and the Episcopal Church of the USA to support the 2003 ordination of a gay bishop in New Hampshire, and to give individual dioceses the right to decide whether to bless same-sex unions.

Turmoil. A city at the brink of chaos, with ever more grandiose plans proposed to resuscitate it. Religions, losing adherents or driving them away. These are grim days, friends.




sunnyside46 said...

that is sad, I hate to see places dwindle away.20 years ago our city was like that, now it has a thriving downtown entertainment district. It is nice to see places that were once abandoned alive with lights and bustle.

louie0768 said...

Although we have seen some of the local stores close down, the smaller grocery and trinket stores close, in the end, I would have to vote for improving the city. But not with things that would end in bankruptcy. Smart thinking is needed in order to help a city thrive and it is truly sad to hear your frustration. We pay outrageous education taxes here for school improvement to a school that is in our county but not our city and these costs were accrued long before we moved here and had kids in the district. Our kids now attend this school but ultimately it is a large frustration to pay for something from years passed...vicious is what it is.

louie0768 said...

We live in the 8th poorest city in MN. And it is poor. It thrives on summer tourism and in the 12 years we have lived here we have seen more business' shut down within 6 months than you can imagine. Most of them are gift shops and when I wrote for the local newspaper, I attended the City Council meetings. At a few of those meetings ideas were presented but there is only so much the city can do geographically. it has a population of 1000. Many here want to maintain the pristeen look outside the city, the land and refuse to allow any sort of growth. Farmers have to fight to sell of their land for development. I am very torn by that because I think that our town needs more people to help with this ever dwindling city.

The stores that do open in town don't normally cater to the residents, just the tourists which is a big reason they don't make it. It is such an old fashioned sort of town, but very congested in the summer and fall. The state Park would like to tear down a thriving gas station to put in parking ramps which would be a HUGE eye sore to the town and a waste of our money. That, even I am against!

Across the river in Wisconsin? Well, there is a thriving city that keeps growing and growing. Of course there are people there who fight that but in the end, the city wins. They have a SuperWalmart, a large grocery store, are working on a Menards, possibly an Applebees, and business is booming just 2 miles away.


fitzzer said...

You two are better than the news - I learn something new every day. Although this news makes me sad. Rochester really is a wonderful place, despite all it's troubles. I'm just not sure what is going to give it a boost. I guess they aren't either. More/better jobs would be a good start though. ~ Lori

randlprysock said...

Now I just have to ask, do you live in Rochester?  What fabulous research and insight you have to all that is happening there.  Wow, if the churches are shutting down that really is a bad sign.  This is a beautifully written entry.  Nice boycott comment at the end.  : ) Hugs,

mutualaide said...

A good commentary on a sad state of affairs.  I think many communities small and large struggle with these same issues.  I think of communities and cities in our state and how they were once thriving and now pretty much defunct with little left for the younger generations to enjoy or stick around for as they move into adulthood.  Our own town for example has grown (a good thing) but now the younger kids just starting out can't afford to buy here.  Heck, if we didn't already own here, we wouldn't be able to either!