‘The Future’ of Oswego County Reflects on The Future

Camille Zakreski is introduced by Chairman Kevin Gardner. At left is Phil Church, county administrator.

Camille Zakreski is introduced by Chairman Kevin Gardner. At left is Phil Church, county administrator.

OSWEGO, NY –  The Oswego County Legislature held its annual Youth Government Day recently and dozens of middle school students from around the county got the chance to take part in county government.

Camille Zakreski is introduced by Chairman Kevin Gardner. At left is Phil Church, county administrator.
Camille Zakreski is introduced by Chairman Kevin Gardner. At left is Phil Church, county administrator.

Throughout the day, students met with their assigned legislators, visited the Public Safety Center where they met with representative from the District Attorney’s Office, County Court Judge Walter Hafner, and toured the 911 Center.

In the afternoon, they sat with their legislators and took part in the legislature meeting.

Prior to the meeting, Legislator Shawn Doyle, of the county’s bicentennial committee, conducted a survey of the students.

He asked the young students various questions about the county’s present and future.

One question asked where they thought the county would be in the next 50 years.

Among the responses were:

I see Oswego County having more factories and businesses and more people living here.
The economy will improve
I believe Oswego County will have converted to solar and wind power and not have the nuclear plants we have right now
I see Lake Neatahwanta being cleaned and people swimming
More people will move here because it’s too hot in the South due to global warming

Paul Forestiere II, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County, addresses the students and legislators.
Paul Forestiere II, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County, addresses the students and legislators.

“They were generally optimistic predictions for the next 50 years,” Doyle said. “Alternative energy is something that is a common thread in most of these answers.”

The next question bumped it up to 100 years. These are some of the responses:

In 100 years, Oswego County will be full of new technology and businesses
It will be home to different cultures
Better education in the schools, more technology and perhaps flying cars
I believe if the world stays on this track, Oswego County will be close to or completely uninhabitable due to global warming
We won’t rely on nuclear energy. We’ll come up with better ways to produce power
I’d like to see the county powered by windmills and solar panels
There will be more diversity in race and religion among the population

Another question was: Why Do You Like Living Here?

The students responded:

I like we have four distinct seasons
I like the small town; a community where everybody knows everybody
We have very little crime
I like that it is still a lot of country and not all city
We have access to beautiful Lake Ontario

What Do You Like The Least and Wish to Improve?

Shawn Doyle introduces his student legislator for the day, Rafael Aguilar, prior to the start of the meeting.
Shawn Doyle introduces his student legislator for the day, Rafael Aguilar, prior to the start of the meeting.

“This is what was troubling to me and some people. There were five people that mentioned specifically that we have a very big problem with heroin here,” Doyle said.

Two people also mentioned meth labs and several people mentioned problems in their schools, he added.

“Problems with homelessness is a problem all of us have addressed a various levels,” Doyle said. “It is interesting to see students mentioning these.”

Also troubling, he said, were the answers to Do You Plan to Live Here?

“Many people said ‘no’ even though they said they like it here. But, they don’t see the opportunities that they want,” he said.

I still want to live here because it is comfortable and it is a nice place to raise a family
Yes because city life is too scary and I want to be around my family
I hope I can stay close to family
I like living near the lake
The schools and colleges are great for education here
I want to explore the world and have new experiences
The job I want isn’t here in Oswego County

“Several people said they’d like to still live here but want to travel,” Doyle pointed out. “The need to go to different places for education and employment were common threads.”

The last question was Favorite Places in the county and a lot of the answers revolved around the water, Doyle noted.

The lake
Salmon River Falls
The sunsets
Breitbeck Park as well as great Bear Recreation was mentioned several times.
Grandfather’s farm
Mexico and Pulaski were also specifically named

“We can learn a lot from our youth. I’ll have a full report that will be ready for the (legislature’s) minutes. I want to thank all the students for doing this. This will go in the time capsule when we’re done with the bicentennial year as part of our legislative record,” Doyle said.

Paul A. Forestiere II, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oswego County, thanked the legislators for their support of the students as well as Cooperative Extension.

“This is my favorite day of the year. It really is,” he told the legislators. “This day really, really demonstrates everything Cooperative Extension is. Our mission is to provide education that takes place outside of the classroom. Well, here it is. Hands-on, a place where the kids are learning, they learn by doing. This is it right here.”

The students got the chance to go behind the scenes to see how expensive it can be to operate the county, he said, adding that this is the group that has asked the most questions of county officials during the day.

In thanking the legislature for its support, he pointed out that he has met former students who were in the program nearly 20 years ago and they say that they still remember Youth Government Day and what they learned from the experience.

“This is a day that has impact,” he said. “Thank you for your support.”

Legislator Jack Proud of Mexico has been helping facilitate the event for the last 19 years.

He guided the students through a debate on a mock resolution before the legislature meeting.

“We had a spirited debate. We ended up with a unanimous vote that included solar, wind and nuclear as the power sources that the group recommended for the future of Oswego County,” he said. “It was an excellent debate, terrific participation. All the students did a good job.”