McKinstry: New York, a nice place to visit, but not enough to stay?
Years later, I stumbled upon a far safer escape, an incredibly pristine hideaway near Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks. It was right out of Henry David Thoreau's "Walden." By the second day of fly-fishing, I stopped angling and simply sat along the water in near silence.
Another great getaway.
New York State, with all its natural beauty, expanse and history, has so much to offer that it could take a lifetime to see it all. New York City and points just outside it need no introduction. Elsewhere, there are attractions that rival any in the country: Niagara Falls, Saratoga Springs, and lesser-known spots like Ausable Chasm and Lake Mohonk. I've often told friends that you can't legitimately call yourself a New Yorker until you've seen some of these upstate treasures.
So it's hard to knock Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo for kicking off yet another "I Love New York"-like summit, as he did on Wednesday, to plug state tourism.
The industry employs more than 700,000 people and accounts for one out of every 12 jobs in the state. At the event, the governor announced a $60-million marketing effort to promote the history, heritage and places of this state, including a push in Asia and South America.
The Albany tourism summit follows others on wine, beer and yogurt -- decent ways of poring attention on goods this state ought to be proud of.
But New York's problems aren't with its sights, sounds or tastes. Much of them are with the state's political culture and abundance of governments and grift, which ought to leave a bad taste. All the public relations campaigns in the world can't overcome the fact that some of our elected state leaders are wearing more wires than C-3PO, our sky-high taxes are strangling property owners, our college graduates can't find decent-paying jobs and executives routinely say they'd rather do business in a galaxy, far, far away -- or so it seems.
These big challenges are the ones sending people away from the state.
Until these problems are attacked head on, no amount of marketing for rock climbing, Greek yogurt or riesling is going to help with the hangover. We could use a few summits on election reform, education and rooting out corruption -- or any number of underlying issues driving New York's fiscal future south.
This week I spoke to a lawyer who works closely with municipalities and school districts. He said pensions, health care, state mandates and union contracts are growing at such an uncontrollable pace that there aren't enough AP classes, JV lacrosse teams or marching bands to cut to adequately lower property taxes.
In essence, the people who don't flee will be paying more for less. Much less. And they sure as heck won't stick around for retirement -- never mind a trip upstate.
Just this week, a survey of more than 700 CEOs ranked New York as having one of the worst business climates in the country. High taxes, red tape and a general feeling that there's too much government were among their concerns.
Let's drag those CEOs in for a summit and find out how New York can get their companies to set up here.
Despite some successes under the governor -- three on-time budgets, a property tax cap, and marketing our assets -- the long-term trajectory for the state isn't good.
New York has a lot banking on its "Open for Business" campaign, and this latest tourism summit might actually remind us to take a trek or two around the state. But like any vacation, there's inevitably a return to reality.
Gerald McKinstry is a member of the Newsday editorial board.