It is no secret that upstate has been in decline for more than three decades. But just how bad has it been?
According to the state comptroller's office's recently released report on "New York's cities: An Economic and Fiscal Analysis," upstate's population has lost 279,448 residents - or 14.9 percent - since 1980.
Chautauqua County's likely reason for the decline would be this: It's Albany's fault.
That explanation, however, gets thrown out when you look at the total picture. The state's population, according to the report, has increased 1.8 million or 10.4 percent during the 30 years. That rise is led by New York City, which has gained 1.1 million residents.
So what is happening? Quite simply, the report says, the high tax burden is killing what used to be major U.S. metropolitan centers.
"With a slow economic recovery from the financial meltdown of 2008-09, cities are trying to manage with stagnant or contracting tax bases while facing the challenges of an aging population, higher rates of poverty and unemployment, and increasing demands for social services," the report notes. "In addition, the costs of doing business and delivering necessary services such as police and fire protection have increased, often at rates higher than the rate of inflation or the growth in personal income."
These cities - and upstate New York as a whole - have not changed or adapted with the times. Dunkirk, above, which has lost 2,747 residents - a 17.9 percent decrease - since 1980, is an excellent example of this.
Not only has the city's population dropped, it has become poorer. While unemployment has fallen from 8.4 percent in 1980 to 5.9 percent in 2010, the poverty rate has nearly doubled from 13.5 percent to 25.8 percent.
Simply stated, high taxes and fees promote growing poverty levels as many have quit looking for employment.
How is the city fixing the problem? Facing a crisis with large taxpayers and community partners NRG and Carriage House, the city mayor has already announced that a "significant" water rate hike is in the works for its residents and property taxes are likely going up to meet the demands of increasing wages in union contracts.
Those proposals, while padding paychecks, benefits and pensions plans for those connected to City Hall, do nothing to fix what ails the beleaguered and stagnant upstate economy.
More taxes and fees only add to the pain of 30 years of poorly thought out decisions - and a continued exodus.