Rules of the Road

The purpose of this blog is to share with you my thoughts on issues pertaining to Oil City and Venango County and to foster discussion.

However, that requires some basic rules. Personal attacks, inappropriate language and venom-filled postings will not be tolerated. Comments will be screened, and if necessary edited, before posting.

Disagreement and a variety of opinions are encouraged, but I ask that it always be in a respectful, positive manner. So fire away, but do so cleanly

Sunday, September 27, 2009

On this wet Sunday morning it’s a good time for me to touch on a number of things that have been on my mind. I guess these are my Sunday morning random thoughts

First, there is an interesting new blog -- Rebuild Oil City ( – by Scott Smail. I urge everyone to click over, take a look and join in the conversation.

Blogs about local issues can be important tools for community involvement and innovation. Certainly that appears to be the spirit behind Scott’s blog. Scott and I have our share of disagreements, but no one can question his desire to better Oil City.

The Oil City Main Street Program continues to move forward.

Two months ago the Mission and Vision statements were completed and approved. They are posted at the bottom of this blog.

Another huge step will be taken this week with the filing of the Oil City Profile, a pre-application requirement of the state Department of Community and Economic Development. Dozens of people put hours into gathering the information necessary to submit the profile. John Phillips of the Oil Region Alliance had the task of pulling it all together and keeping everyone on track. I didn’t envy him, but he got it done.

In addition, the subcommittees are embarking on their individual planning journeys. Each is required to develop a one-year and five year plan outlining their goals and objectives and how they intend to reach them. It is an involved process that in the end will guide the rebirth of our downtown. The subcommittees expect to have their one-year plan in place by January.

Disappointed and frustrated with our legislature is putting it mildly.
Under the pending budget deal the state is going to tax bingo and small games of chance that support so many of our area’s nonprofits and community organizations, including providing funding for the Venango County’s Humane Society’s spay and neuter program. The state is going to impose the 6 percent sales tax on performing arts shows – read Barrow Theater productions and the Oil City Arts Council’s musical performances in the Transit. But, the state is NOT going to tax cigars and smokeless tobacco. I sure don’t understand how small games of chance and performing arts represent more discretionary spending that the use of the tobacco products.

The budget deal calls for forcing the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to lease tens of thousands of acres of state forest lands for oil and gas development, notably Marcellus shale gas development. Leasing state lands is nothing new for DCNR, but it is done carefully and prudently. Forcing the lease of so much land to balance the state budget really limits the care that can be taken. The budget deal also ends the 55-year-old Oil and Gas Lease Fund where money from leased state land was placed and used to maintain our state parks and other environmental projects and instead dumps it into the General Fund.
Missing from the budget deal is any severance tax on Marcellus Shale or other oil and gas development, despite the fact severance taxes are in place in nearly every other oil and gas producing state.

I have yet to discern what the state budget means for many state programs important to the future of Oil City. The details are not yet out there, but the rumors do not sound good. It appears some of those programs are lost or severely reduced, and in many other cases, the costs for services are being pushed down to the county and local level. Let’s hope the rumors are wrong.

Times are tough and the legislature faced real problems, but I think we deserved better.

Oil City Main Street Mission and Vision

The Oil City Main Street mission is to make Oil City’s downtown business district aesthetically pleasing and economically viable, providing a foundation for the healthy growth and success of current and future businesses for the benefit of current and future residents. Our downtown will become the regional destination for visitors to enjoy the arts, recreation and entertainment by leveraging our rich heritage and natural resources.

OUR VISION is a community where we all work in concert to make Oil City a desirable place to work, live and visit. A Main Street community that has:
· A main street district with restored historic architecture and attractive streetscapes
· Scenic waterways, walking and bike trails that will provide river access and opportunities for recreation;
· A vibrant artist community that supports art and cultural in a visitor friendly venue;
· Downtown niche businesses that offer unique and enjoyable retail, restaurant and accommodation experiences;
· Professional services that support the wellbeing and vitality of our citizens and local economy;
· Quaint and affordable residential apartments and town homes in the upper stories of downtown buildings;
· Connections to the emerging technology that will enhance opportunities and allow our businesses to be responsive to changing markets and customer needs and
· Academic and research programs provided by Clarion University - Venango Campus, Dubois Business College, the Venango Technology Center and the Oil City School District that will augment the skill sets and knowledge needed to grow our local economy and connect us to world markets.
The ambiance of our downtown will shine, known for its rich history, vibrant arts and culture and spectacular natural assets of river and hills. The dynamic businesses located in our downtown will thrive in an environment that connects history, culture, emerging technology and human assets in our own unique way.