Yates’ strong tourism contrasts with poverty
PENN YAN—More than 60 residents attended the Yates Community Endowment’s presentation titled “Yates County: Just the Facts” in the Penn Yan Academy auditorium Saturday, March 16. Members of Achieving Community Targets (ACT) Rochester showed how those attending could access their data on Yates County. ACT Rochester Director Ann Johnson said the data she has seen from Yates County is “pretty incredible,” saying it is full of contrasts to the other nearby counties the group covers, which include Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming, Monroe, Livingston, Wayne, Ontario and Seneca Counties. She said compared to these counties, Yates is doing the best in tourism, with $2,347 being generated per resident in 2010 according to New York State’s Empire State Development, while having the highest poverty level at 15 percent from 2007-11, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
According to the 2010 census, a family is in poverty if the total annual income is less than a designated threshold. The 2010 poverty threshold is $14,676 for a two-person household under 65 years of age.
Johnson said all the data on Yates as well as comparisons of each county can be found on their website at www.actrochester.org, and can be used for reports, grants and other research projects. Johnson said ACT Rochester is a community indicator program with credible, independent and timely data that shows how an area has changed since 2000.
“When we put the site together ... the intention was to help our communities and to help these organizations be able to make better decisions by solving problems using data,” Johnson said. She said those organizations can then use the information to help make systemic changes and improve things in their communities.
Johnson gave a brief demo of the group’s website, showing how anyone can access other data indicators about Yates County by displaying a chart of how Yates has seen a 3.4 percent growth in population since 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, while other counties have not grown as much. She also pointed out other key contrasts like Yates’ high graduation rate, with 82 percent of students graduating on time according to the New York State Education Department, and low third grade English test scores, with only 41 percent testing at level three or better in 2012 according to the New York State Education Department. Johnson said contrasts like these allow a community to see where they can begin focusing in order to improve things.
However, many who attended questioned the validity of some of the data being presented by ACT Rochester. While Johnson said they show their data source alongside each chart on the website and that it is all credible, many audience members thought it did not take into account the unique factors of an area to give an accurate representation.
County Administrator Sarah Purdy said when comparing things like voter turnout, substance abuse and healthcare, there is a subset of the Yates County population who do not vote, use drugs or alcohol, or utilize the county’s medical services. She said “the conclusions here do not filter out a subset of our population.” Johnson said the website only compares each county “apples to apples,” but said these are areas the community could explore at a local level.
Village of Penn Yan Trustee David Reeve said there is going to be a lot of local interpretation of the data, but he expressed his excitement at having a new source to work with, saying he is thankful for the new option. Johnson said ACT Rochester releases community report cards which indicate how a region is doing compared to the state, which includes holding a report card event Thursday, April 11, from 8 to 10 a.m. at the Rochester Museum and Science Center, while the Yates County report card is coming in May of 2013. She said it is up to each community to decide what they wish to do with the data from then on.
“Look at it first, see what is telling you and then decide where you want to go deeper,” Johnson said.