To say 2012 was an interesting year for the region would be an understatement. From two double homicides to people deciding to change the way they're governed, from school districts teetering on the verge of their own fiscal cliffs to new opportunities for growth and improvement, this year saw its share of good times and difficult ones. While some of these happenings may make us want to pick up and walk away, others hopefully have laid the groundwork for better things to come.
The best part of a new year is that everyone gets a chance to start fresh. The slate is wiped clean. But while that opens the door to getting better, it also means our slice of New York state has a whole new set of challenges we all have to face head-on.
Two double homicides in one year is two double homicides too many, but it's forced officials on all levels -- especially in the city of Amsterdam -- to look squarely into the face at what appears to be a growing crime problem. We've been encouraged by the growth of several crime-fighting efforts -- particularly with the strengthening of Amsterdam's Neighborhood Watch program -- and we hope to see that work continue. Crime will always exist no matter where you live, but the only way to deal with it is to get everyone involved in keeping our streets safe.
We were happy to see that Montgomery County voters finally stepped outside their comfort zones and decided to change county government. The current setup is outdated and inefficient, and we strongly believe the new system will make things in Fonda run more smoothly. The board of supervisors -- which will essentially spend the year preparing for its replacement -- has the duty to ensure there is as smooth a transition as possible. Hopefully, the outgoing lawmakers will set aside politics and personal agendas to make sure that happens. Yes, that might be a tall order for this crew, but it's still the right thing to do.
The city's aggressive approach to economic development in 2012 is also encouraging, and there's a lot to build on in 2013. The former Chalmers knitting mills on the South Side have finally been knocked down, opening the door for real development along the waterfront. The various agencies in charge of improving the city have renewed their focus on housing and downtown development, and that work should continue. A project to re-do the traffic pattern around the city's core should make downtown growth a little easier. We also believe the city should focus much of its efforts in the coming year on the pedestrian bridge project approved by voters several years ago, as that's going to be the catalyst for a booming waterfront.
The commercial growth on Route 30 in the town of Amsterdam has been great for the region, as it gave local residents fewer excuses to spend their money elsewhere and very likely drew shoppers from surrounding counties. This is one area where we hope to see more of the same in 2013.
A tough challenge will be getting the state to pour more development dollars into the local economy. Montgomery and Fulton counties are part of the Mohawk Valley Economic Development Council, and while the first two rounds of funding brought in some cash to the area, the bulk of the state money has gone to other regions. It's incumbent upon our representatives to make sure the region isn't forgotten in the coming year. The state needs to be willing to make the major investments here like it has in the Buffalo, Syracuse and the Finger Lakes zones, not to mention the downstate regions. The state also needs to remember that the Mohawk Valley isn't just the Utica-Rome area, either, and that Amsterdam, Gloversville and Johnstown are deserving of help, too.
Local school districts will face a particularly interesting year. The Fonda-Fultonville Central School District is fighting for its survival after being forced to make massive mid-year budget cuts, and officials there predict the problem will only get worse in next year's budget. Schools in Mayfield and Northville will have to figure out how to keep going after a referendum to merge the two failed earlier this year. On the opposite side of the coin, the St. Johnsville and Oppenheim-Ephratah school districts will become one when July 1 rolls around. Both boards and administrations are already working to make that transition, and we believe the children who attend schools out that way will be better off in the long run.
Unfortunately, it seems that at the start of every new year, we all march in with new hopes, only to see the same solutions to the same challenges being offered. Then, at the end of the earth's trip around the sun, we sit back and wonder what could have been and begin all over again. The words and sentiments lose their value the more they're expressed.
It's our hope that 2013 is a year of action. Everyone knows what needs to be done to move this region forward and make it a better place to live. Just do it.