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Guest column: Why I'm moving back to upstate New York

President Trump recently attempted to convince upstate New Yorkers to leave their homes and “go to another state where they can get a great job.”

His advice hit home for me personally. This month, after more than a decade in military uniform, I am moving my family back to central New York. And I couldn’t be more proud of our decision.

The president is wrong about upstate New York. I grew up in rural Red Creek, in Wayne County. I count my lucky stars every day for that good fortune. I remember summers on Lake Ontario, school shopping in Auburn, basketball games at the Carrier Dome and the incredible beauty of the Finger Lakes in any season.

We may have had more cows than people in Red Creek, but one thing we certainly had was an excellent school district. Funded by taxes and kept alive by a strong community, the education I got in upstate New York more than prepared me to take on the challenges I faced and places I have served since: the United States Naval Academy, Navy flight school, two deployments to the Middle East, the Pentagon, the Harvard Kennedy School, Navy cyber operations, Capitol Hill.

As servicemembers, we often serve far away but find our own ways to keep home close. For me over the years, that meant reading the reporting of The Citizen journalists on local issues, watching time-delayed Syracuse basketball games on the Armed Forces Network to see how long Jim Boeheim would keep his jacket on, and lamenting the lack of Genny Cream Ale at establishments around the world. Keeping my upstate New York home at heart helped me get through some of the tough times.

The president would like us to reject the real meaning of “home” for his more corporate definition. In an age when corporations have the power to destroy entire communities without accountability, he wants us to abandon what generations of our families have built to chase table scraps tossed from gold-plated boardrooms. I reject that false choice.

I moved back to upstate New York because I believe this is the best place in the country to raise a family, build meaningful business, and live in peace. We have some of the best teachers and public schools in America. With some exceptions, home ownership is more realistic here than anywhere else in the country. So many programs targeted to upstate New York through economic development agencies make it as easy to start a business here than it is anyplace else. Our crime rates are well below the national average. And New York ranks first in the nation when it comes to income gap by gender, meaning we are setting the standard for equal pay for equal work.

Of course, we have problems. Every state and every locality has them. Every positive I listed above is not without negative aspects that impact different communities in very real, difficult ways. But I do not believe in moving away to avoid those problems. Like thousands of other young people around upstate — including many veterans — I moved back to get to work on solutions.

Along those lines, I started the podcast and outreach platform 2 Vets Upstate with another upstate veteran. Together, we are telling the stories of former servicemembers in upstate New York and helping to connect this historically underrepresented population to the resources they have earned. I direct the local economic development efforts of a defense innovation nonprofit to help local companies stay in Upstate New York, and to encourage new companies to form or relocate here. And on Saturday, Feb. 16, I will launch Veterans Organize CNY, which aims to include more national service veterans in the political and policy processes of our villages, towns, counties, and state.

The president wants us to feel powerless about the economic and political situation of our region. But we know better: real power is found in coming together as communities, debating issues in the open based on facts, and electing accountable representatives who will show up and work for us.

Respectfully, Mr. President, you are wrong about upstate New York. It is dishonorable for a national leader to publicly malign proud regions like mine. I grew up here. My home is here. I’m grateful to move back to upstate New York, and look forward to actively building our region.

The president and his corporate pals don’t get to choose where home is. We do.

Hits & Misses: Night to Shine in Aurelius, new CNY storm, Skaneateles girls hockey

HIT: To the Night to Shine event held in Aurelius Friday.

Night to Shine is a prom for people with special needs, with events held around the world. The Tim Tebow Foundation is the global sponsor. In Cayuga County, the Auburn Alliance Church has been the local organizing force behind the event, held at the Fingerlakes Mall Event Center.

The pure joy on the faces of the prom participants and their friends and families on Friday night told the story of how wonderful this event is. Thanks to all of the organizers, volunteers and donors who make it possible.

MISS: To a fresh blast of brutal winter weather.

Forecasts for Tuesday are calling for significant snowfall in the Cayuga County area, followed by sleet and freezing rain and heavy winds. It all could add up to some treacherous traveling conditions and another round of digging out. Stay safe and keep remembering that spring will eventually come around.

HIT: To the Skaneateles High School girls hockey team, which completed another remarkable season achingly close to a state title.

The Lakers lost in overtime in the state championship game on Saturday against Section VI's Williamsville Saturday at the HarborCenter in Buffalo. Skaneateles fought back from a two-goal deficit in the final period to send the game to OT, but they came up just short in the extra frame.

While the loss certainly is painful, the Lakers should feel plenty of pride at how they competed this season.

The Citizen editorial board includes publisher Rob Forcey, executive editor Jeremy Boyer and managing editor Mike Dowd.

Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen 

Hope Grabowski enters on the red carpet during the Night to Shine prom night for people with special needs ages 14 and older at the Fingerlakes Mall.

Letter: Church leaders need to be vocal

We can overcome

Our country has become a very dark and dangerous place in which to live. I grew up learning right from wrong, and I was in a family that went to church each Sunday and read our Bibles, learned our scripture verses and had an intact family that loved each other. One BIG mistake I can see that my church did not speak out about current social issues and never politics. When I look back, I can see now that that was a big mistake. If those current issues had been brought to light and how they related to what we were being taught from our Bible, I believe the Roe vs. Wade bill would never have passed.

We raise money for a cure for cancer, diabetes and heart disease but the real disease killing this country is a sick soul disease. We worry about the cold we just suffered through, whether Syracuse basketball is going to win their game and who will win the Super Bowl while evil has gradually crept into this country of ours.

What has happened to our country that is now opting to murder babies not only in the womb but already born? We as people who believe in the sanctity of life need not just to complain now but put our voices to mobility and march to Albany and demand the resignation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo before we become a Nazi Germany state. Now a second state’s governor is trying to outdo him in Virginia by murdering babies already born. What state is next? What worse debauchery acts can we come up with next?

I am asking evangelical churches and Christian Catholic churches and other people who have been taught right from wrong to go in a peaceful protest to our state capital demanding the resignation of the governor. I still think there is hope for our great state of New York and the majority of people in this country do not believe in murdering the born and unborn.

Let Auburn and the outlying villages mobilize peacefully and march to Albany so our voices can be heard.

I would appreciate a response from pastors and priests in editorial form be put in this newspaper.

Suzanne Searing ​