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Petition Signing Drive Sat. To Help Save City Prisons

A petition-signing drive will be held Saturday from noon until 5 p.m. at the Ogdensburg movie theater to support a plea aimed at convincing Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to spare Ogdensburg in the event of a decision involving closure of state prisons.

Mayor Jeffrey M. Skelly announed the petition signing in a press release which social distancing will be practiced during the five-hour signing period. Facemasks are required according to the release and participants are asked to bring their own pen. Anyone not having a been ill be provided with and they can take the pen home.

In the release Skelly said the idea was a follow-up to an passionate4 letter from Ogdensburg Deputy Mayor John Rishe to Gov. Cuomo asking that the local prisons be spared in the event that state decides to close prisons.

A copy of Deputy Mayor Rishe's letter follows. Rishe urges citizens to go tho his facebook site, make a copy of the letter and send it to Gov. Cuomo.

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The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo Governor of New York State NYS State Capitol Building Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Cuomo:

As someone who cares about the future of Ogdensburg, New York, I wanted to write to politely ask that you consider the socio-economic conditions of a community when considering which prisons to close in New York State.

The present economic conditions of St. Lawrence County and Ogdensburg should be part of your decision-making process. Here are some of the economic realities we face in St. Lawrence County and Ogdensburg.

• The 2019 St. Lawrence County Poverty Rate was 15.1%, one of the highest in the State. • The 2019 St. Lawrence County unemployment rate was 5.5%, higher than every other County in New York State, with the exception of our fellow New Yorkers in Bronx County. • Ogdensburg is a “highly distressed” community and due to its poor economic health automatically qualified for a review by the Financial Restructuring Board because its tax rate is the 12th highest for all New York State cities. The rate has gone up since the 2019 report. • Ogdensburg’s population has also decreased 10% over the past decade, and has been on a steady decline since the 1960s. • Ogdensburg has a high proportion of households on public assistance – 26.4%, • The City’s median home value is ½ of the typical city. • The City is approaching its constitutional taxing limit and has the highest combined tax rate of every community in the North Country Region of New York.

Much of the City’s decline is due to the loss of manufacturing jobs over the years. Ogdensburg has suffered the loss of the Newell Corporation, Standard Shade Roller and the decline of Acco Brands. These corporations provided hundreds of blue collar jobs to residents. Acco, for example, once employed over 500 people in Ogdensburg and now employs just 75. Massena, New York, another St. Lawrence County community has also suffered from the closure of the GM plant and one of its two aluminum smelting plants.

We understand that these state institutions should not be viewed as job creating institutions, the reality is that some correctional facilities are needed and some areas of the State can withstand a prison closure much better than Ogdensburg. Many communities have a much more diverse economies with many private sector employers or other public sector jobs.

Ogdensburg and St. Lawrence County are reeling from years of decline. The Federal policies that have allowed manufacturing to move overseas have devastated rural America in general, and Ogdensburg and St. Lawrence County in particular.

The City of Ogdensburg has a proud history of helping those in most need through rehabilitation of those who have committed crimes or those who suffer from mental illness at no fault of their own. We have proudly cared for these people for many years and would like to help the State of New York and the North Country by continuing to care for these individuals.

So, we respectfully request that our own economic conditions be a factor in your decisions on which prisons to close in New York State.

Thank you for considering our request.

Sincerely,

Name and Address

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This site is dedicated to the memory of Chuck Kelly, longtime editor of The Journal and Advance News in Ogdensburg and the greatest newsman in the history of Northern New York.