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At a meeting of the Washington County Transitions Planning Workshop on July 24 in Fort Edward, we were presented with a remarkable display of cognitive dissonance.

It seemed that to many of the government officials, homelessness was a lifestyle choice. Apparently, suffering from mental illness, spousal abuse or a disability is completely voluntary. Homelessness is thereby a personal problem, not one related to the community interest.

Washington County officials expressed little interest in affordable housing programs. Even though 90 percent of the cost of such housing projects would be state funded, they continued to resist. How can this be explained?

Maybe we have reached a stage in late capitalism when incomes have stagnated so much that the only office holder we will vote for is one who promises not to spend a dime of our taxes. Unless, of course, one of those aforementioned who might have been helped with housing happens to commit a felony, then we’re more than willing to spend tax dollars on a bed in Comstock at many times more annually. Then we can give them jobs for 30 cents an hour soldering circuitry for a defense contractor or doing data entry for Target.

Our county and local governments need to apply for state financing to build affordable housing for the working class and poor residents of this region. Tenant protection from harassment and eviction, appropriate zoning for other than market rate housing development, rent control measures, an end to the public subsidization of private developers who build only up-scale apartments and business projects, and public pressure on the state and banks to modify practices that have caused the recent foreclosure epidemic are all necessary to stabilize the local housing market in the North Country.

Paul Hancock, Glens Falls

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