Two weeks ago, Vision 2 Action, a forward-thinking group of business owners and concerned citizens in Plattsburgh, held a progress report at the Strand Theater in downtown Plattsburgh. It turns out, there was a lot to talk about, and the event was well attended by people representing the arts and businesses in the area. We couldn’t help but notice that Plattsburgh Mayor Donald Kasprzak was not among them.
It can be argued that Kasprzak was not invited, and maybe that’s true. But it was an open-to-the-community event, held by people within the community, for people within the community. And Plattsburgh is his community, after all.
V2A has had several applause worthy victories over the past year, including the new Saranac River bike path and further renovations on the Strand. They have also held discussions to generate ideas for future projects involving education, recreation, transportation and the arts. Slowly but surely, their vision, and their action, is becoming more prominent in Plattsburgh.
If things go as planned, the Strand Theatre will be open this summer, and will be linked with the North Country Cultural Center for the Arts, which will morph into the Strand Arts Center. Local business owners are already buzzing with excitement in anticipation of the people the theater will draw to the city.
The two downtown galleries–NCCCA and ROTA–were represented at the event. Both have become fixtures in the community, bringing in artists, and art enthusiasts, from around the region to Plattsburgh.
It seems that the arts are finally here to stay in Plattsburgh, and with them will come people, who will spend money, which will encourage economic growth and development. One only has to look across the lake to Burlington to see what an integral role the arts can play in a thriving downtown.
In short, the event was a pretty big deal. We can give the mayor a pass — he’s busy, for sure, and maybe something came up.
Or maybe not.
In December, the NCCCA held its annual Holiday Member Show. The turnout was encouraging — people filled the newly-renovated gallery space, and many talked about going to grab a bite to eat or a drink downtown after leaving the exhibition. Congressman Bill Owens even showed up, but Kasprzak did not.
In January, ROTA Gallery brought in an artist from Saranac Lake, and an artist from Montreal. Word spread and people stopped by. Mayor Kasprzak did not.
As an elected official, the mayor should be doing more than what he thinks the city needs–he should be listening to his electorate and helping them achieve what they want.
We certainly commend the mayor for his fiscal prudence, but there is more to the job than that. Much more.
It isn’t like that in every town. Saranac Lake Mayor Clyde Rabideau is one — the people of Plattsburgh certainly remember his tenure as mayor there. Lake George Mayor Robert Blais is another, along with Keeseville Mayor Dale Holderman and Jay Town Supervisor Randy Douglas — all of whom are active participants in their communities. They don’t just show up at events, either. They work with local groups, organize and even participate in events and are involved in discussions on how to improve their towns.
Perhaps those men understand that a few ideas can go a long way in a community. For years it was easy to dismiss revitalizing a theater, creating art galleries and making a bike path as pipe dreams. But they’re here. People made them happen, and now Plattsburgh is going through a reawakening.
The people putting these projects into motion know that, in order to get jobs, Plattsburgh has to give a little, too. Through hard work and an extraordinary amount of patience and perseverance, people have started bringing the things they want to Plattsburgh. It is a testament, not only to the determination of some who reside here, but to the fact that people want arts and culture in Plattsburgh so much they are willing to go after it themselves.
And it’s working, even if the mayor isn’t among those participating.