By Stan Mitchell
I read a great magazine article today about a small town in New York, with a population almost exactly equal to Oak Ridge.
Except this town was dubbed the "Murder Capital of New York."
The article was a fascinating read on how an FBI agent broke down the two major gangs, but it took two years and required nearly 100 arrests. It was also a brutal reminder of what happens to small towns that lose their major employers and, more importantly, their pride.
Consider this... This city had a population of 29,000. Oak Ridge's population? Twenty-nine thousand, six hundred. Oh, and this city is on a river -- like Oak Ridge -- and started out quite prosperous, like Oak Ridge.
I'm not suggesting Oak Ridge is becoming anything like this city, but at times when we're frustrated with Oak Ridge, it helps to read a story like this. To understand that, first, our city isn't anywhere near as bad as we think. And, secondly, that we must fight to keep it this way. (And if we want to improve it, we must fight even harder.)
We, as residents, must not tolerate even the smallest of crimes or code violations. They must be reported, and if the city can't (or refuses to) deal with them, then the city manager needs to be called on the carpet by City Council. And if City Council can't deal with the city manager, then they, too, must be replaced.
Our homes, our lives, our families, and friends, all of these depend on us holding the line. Because I assure you, we don't want to become like Newburgh, a town of 29,000 with no grocery store and little retail, which had to lay off nearly 30 percent of the police force because city revenue was down. And which became the murder capital of New York.
Here's the link to the story. It's a bit long, but well worth the read.
And as you read it, be glad that we have a strong city manager who won't tolerate either idleness nor complacency among city staff. And be glad that we have a City Council that cares, even if often they over-study and wrongly prioritize what they should be working on.
We, as residents, must do our jobs well -- both reporting offenses and studying the issues -- to keep Oak Ridge from becoming a city like Newburgh. And if we want to bring Oak Ridge back to what it once was several decades ago, then we must work even harder.
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Stan Mitchell is the founder and owner of The Oak Ridge Observer. He started the paper in 2004 with a $20,000 loan and writes generally on his blog about business practices, politics and local matters.