For the first time in six year, someone other than John Clarkson is providing the State of the Town speech to Bethlehem residents.
It’s a natural political cycle to see a change in who sits in the Supervisor’s chair. And, with that change, it’s only natural to wonder what other changes will occur in the next two years.
David VanLuven touched upon the subjects Clarkson’s opponents often dogged him about during his years in office. Perhaps none more so than the perceived treatment of town services. The new supervisor immediately conjured visions of town highway workers plowing roads clear of snow in the early morning hours, or diving deep into holes to repair water main breaks in the cold of winter. There was an emphasis on identifying each as persons, as if to quell thoughts of associating them instead as assets.
Clarkson’s tenure was defined by smart fiscal management. A town government that scrutinized over its budget, and managed incoming and outgoing funds responsibly. But, there was a price associated with that gain. Property reassessments, recollection of property data and a nasty labor dispute with the town’s police force made for heated discussions in Town Hall. At every corner, there seemed to be a sign of protest. Regardless, the end result earned the town a A++ credit rating, the highest within Albany County. But, that’s talking about investments, borrowing power, money, or another form of assets, again. And, that’s not the point.
VanLuven appears to be making an effort to warm up to people who felt left out in the cold in previous years. Whether that was the fault of the previous administration, or a perception by those who did not walk into the Supervisor’s office, is an argument for another day. On this day, marked as an opportunity to praise the qualities of his town, the new boss made a conscious effort to sing the praises of those who work hard to make it happen.
There is also the fear of overdevelopment. More than 1,200 new homes are proposed to be built within what was once a sleepy bedroom community for our Capital City. The stellar quality of those aforementioned town services, and the ability to boast of having top-ranked public schools within its borders, makes Bethlehem one of the most desirable places to live. And, those building applications are testimony to that. Balancing the town’s want to conserve open land, and preserve landowners’ rights to sell will involve another look at the town’s comprehensive plan. We see this as an ongoing debate for the next two years. To VanLuven’s credit, he already recognizes that, too.
The role of Town Supervisor is a thankless job. Each step there’s one side agreeing and the other arguing against it. This proverbial first step appears to us as the right foot forward.
Michael Hallisey is managing editor of Spotlight Newspapers.