A town supervisor’s number-one responsibility is the town budget. In my role as supervisor of New Paltz, holding down taxes while providing the needed services for the town was my number-one priority.
When doing a municipal budget, you have revenues, fund balance and taxes to cover the cost of your expenses. The fund balance is there to protect the municipality from any disaster. If there is an excessive amount, it should be used to hold down taxes. The problem arises when that fund becomes depleted and it creates an extreme problem for how you fund the following years without increasing taxes.
That happened years back when the Republican-led legislature had used so much fund balance that the county taxpayers were handed a 39% tax increase the following year.
I am thrilled that Executive Mike Hein presented a 0% tax increase. The taxpayers of Ulster County are hurting and they need their municipal governments to respect that. I will be voting in the affirmative on that budget.
I also understand the implications of using such a major piece of the fund balance. However, it is my deep belief that Hein has a plan and I am pretty confident I know how he plans to once again deliver a respectable budget next year when he is up for re-election. And even though going to Albany or Washington may be an option for him, I don’t think he would allow his legacy to be an enormous tax hike after he leaves.
Oh, and as an aside, despite Hugh Reynolds prediction, I have no intentions to run for New Paltz Town Supervisor or Ulster County Executive. As New Paltz town attorney Joe Moriello once said to me, “You don’t go back...you only go higher!”
Ulster County Legislator
A serious SEQRA review
Within the past few days, the developer (HRVR) of a proposed massive resort and enclave for the rich at Williams Lake in Rosendale issued an eight-page public relations “newspaper.” Beyond frequent developer claims these days to a green orientation, social responsibility and sensitive “integration of the new development” with the local environment and community, what struck me especially in this case was HRVR’s patronizing attitude toward the required detailed environmental impact review (the SEQRA-mandated EIS process).
With a project of this size in a highly delicate location ecologically, it is not at all surprising that the determination of lead agency (DEC instead of the Rosendale boards), preparation of a detailed EIS scope and studies required to begin to address the many environmental impact realms of the project would demand a considerable amount of time. All of this is consistent with the mandate of the SEQRA law that demands a serious scientific examination of any potential negative impacts.
Before making its official development proposal, HRVR was surely aware of the state legal requirements in this area. Yet in its flashy P.R. presentation, HRVR suggests that the process has “become an impediment to sustainable development.” It is true, as they suggest, that many in developer ranks complain of the time demanded by a serious SEQRA review. Yet grassroots environmentalists in communities throughout this region and the state know that developers always seek short-cuts and wish for speedups of the process in order to gain faster and larger profits. Such is the nature of that business.
HRVR privately and publicly has tried for months to push the DEC into inappropriate haste to accept its tentative DEIS for public review and claimed that certain studies should not have been demanded. It claims that thousands of pages submitted months ago should have been adequate. But much of the delay to the present has been due to the textual sloppiness of format, the rush to submit studies without approved methodology and astonishingly inadequate examination of the critical issue of the sensitive and highly complex underlying karst aquifer geology at the site.
For example, rather than seriously analyzing already-existing studies indicating karst aquifer geology and proceeding to thus understand its impact on the proposed project, HRVR’s tentative DEIS claimed that karst geology was simply not present. Because this claim contradicted substantial available evidence, the Town of Rosendale and DEC hired a nationally-respected karst expert to examine HRVR’s statements and documentation. In a report last September, he concluded that HRVR’s assertions were fundamentally flawed and without merit. He recommended that substantial new studies be undertaken.
Is delay here then the fault of SEQRA or the fault of the developer? It is precisely because of SEQRA that Rosendale water resources, among other issues, will be better protected if and when any project occurs at that site.
Stand up New Paltz
Last week there were over 300 SUNY New Paltz students and community members who came to the campus to watch Gasland, the documentary exposing the perils to the environment and public health of horizontal hydraulic fracturing (HHF) also called fracking. We are at a crucial next step where the New York State Assembly has been called to return to Albany on Nov. 29th, the Monday after Thanksgiving. Assembly members MUST get this bill (A11443) to the floor for a yes vote to have a temporary moratorium drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale. The State Senate passed this in August with a vote of 48 to 9. Now it is time for the Assembly to step up to the plate.
As more and more citizens learn about fracking, we must combine our voices to tell our politicians and the oil and gas industry that we will not sit back and let them ruin our way of life. We have seen and heard many points about the potential perils to our drinking water and the environment we share with all living creatures. Here are three facts many may not be aware of.
1. There has been seismic activity in Arkansas and Texas. Fracking adds stress to the Earth’s mass which can cause earthquakes. 2. Even if there was a way to frack without poisonous chemicals, shale that is cracked to release the gas has radioactive radium which would also be released.
3. This natural gas will supply our country with its energy needs far into the future. Contrary to this, how many deals have already been negotiated with foreign countries to receive “our” fossil fuel?
The bottom line is we need a safer technology to extract natural gas from shale and we must develop renewable energy with stronger resolve and commitment. Because of limited space, here are a few sites to learn more about HHF: catskillmountainkeeper.org/node/1031, catskillcitizens.org and frackaction.com. Please call your Assembly member and ask everyone you know in New York State to do the same. We can stand up and make our voices heard that we want A11443 passed. Please do your part. Democracy is not a spectator sport.
Political amnesia? It was extremely discouraging and disheartening to witness the American people handing the House to the Republican Party. Can memory be so short or do we have political amnesia? Have Americans forgotten that the Republicans fought bitterly against Social Security in the 1930’s, the Civil Rights Laws of the 1960’s and Medicare? Further, the Republicans were in power for the tragedy of 9/11. Despite their lies, Bush did not keep us safe! It was during that same Republican administration that a major American city -- New Orleans -- was abandoned to the ravages of nature. In addition, the Reagan administration with its mantra of “Deregulate, deregulate”, “The market, the market” set in process the recent financial/bank crisis. Also, it was one Republican justice who in a judicial branch “coup d’e’tat” chose our president against popular vote in 2000. This party traditionally panders to extremists and uses the media to nullify political enemies with mendacity.
It has been noted in the media that the outgoing House has been the most productive and the most focused on legislation in decades. This new Republican House will focus on two goals further elimination of taxes for the rich and repeal of the Healthcare law.
Can memory be so selective? Does political amnesia exist? I guess the answer is “yes, indeed!”
There is another option
We have all heard about the proposed $6.8 million library to be built on Commercial Avenue in Highland. My main reason for writing this letter is to let the people of Highland know that there IS another option. For the past two years, the Highland Library has been in contract with me concerning the potential purchase of my property on 37 Main Street as the site of the new library. During this time, they have conducted a Phase 1 Environmental Assessment of the property, which concluded that “no significant and immediate environmental liability issues or ‘recognized environmental conditions’ associated with the subject property were identified.” As per their suggestion, a 275-gallon above-ground oil storage tank was removed. The library also had an architect sketch a proposed library.
For those who don’t know, 37 Main Street it is located directly across the street from the existing library and adjacent to the town parking lot. The property would allow children to walk to it from the elementary and middle schools without having to cross a single street. A library should be located in the heart of the “downtown” area, be pedestrian-friendly for children, seniors and students and is an important part of a vibrant community setting. Lastly, I truly feel it would be a shame to see another pillar of our town removed from the hamlet.
Growing up in Highland my entire life I have seen this town grow into the wonderful community it is. I have worked closely with the Highland Library to create the most economical choice for a new library and feel compelled to let the citizens of Highland know that there is another option.
The tip of the iceberg
While it is very nice that a $650,000 error was caught, the New Paltz town budget is still unacceptable. What part of 0% increase can the town supervisor or police chief not understand? In addition, I have some other questions for the New Paltz Town Board: In this horrible economy, who in their right mind would give themselves a raise? Who would spend approximately $600,000 of taxpayer money on about 60 acres to preserve “open-space”? Who works in an overcrowded disgrace for a building yet continues to use taxpayer money to fund the purchase of “forever wild” type or other conservation type easements on strategic (special interest group serving) properties? Who would propose building a huge recreation park out by the fairgrounds with taxpayer money? Who would repeatedly attempt to enact restrictive and oppressive wetland laws and wetland “light” laws (e.g. unnecessary and overzealous flood plain laws) knowing that another Article 78 WILL happen? Who continues to collect fire tax that is included in the property tax bill, yet still has not paid for the contracted services (about $280,000) supplied by the New Paltz Fire Department (now down to 28 members)? Who has six active lawsuits and working on the seventh? Who continues to “ILL SERVE” the needs of the town and residents living there? And who is responsible for a place where the entire infrastructure is either non-existent or falling apart? The New Paltz Town Board, that’s who.
Attention citizens of New Paltz -- our local government is rotting from the inside out, is over-reaching its authority and is on the verge of bankrupting us all while in the process of representing their own best-interests before ours. Please do not sit on the sidelines; come see what you are getting for your hard-earned money. We are all busy; however, not one person among us can afford to be complacent any longer. Please go to any board or committee meetings and exercise your first amendment rights! End all of the frivolous spending, call these elected officials out on their lies and backroom deals and become part of the process, not a victim of the process. Copy/go to the following link to see the upcoming Town Board schedule: http://townofnewpaltz.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=74&Itemid=204.
If you have other complaints, concerns, issues or suggestions for our elected officials, contact them and let them know because that is what they are paid to do:
Toni Hokanson, Supervisor, 255-0604, ext. 1; fax 255-4084; e-mail email@example.com.
Guy Visk, Secretary to the Supervisor, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Board members: Kristin Brown, email@example.com; David A. Lewis, firstname.lastname@example.org; Jeff Logan, email@example.com; Jane Ann Williams, Deputy Supervisor, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let them know you are watching and that they will be held accountable for their mismanagement of our resources. Thank you.
Thanks to Dressel Farms
This year Lenape Elementary School had its first annual Pumpkin Festival. Dressel Farms kindly donated pumpkins for our classes. I felt this sample of student thank-you letters wonderfully depicted our day and needed to be shared with our community.
Adrienne Maley, Teacher
Lenape Elementary School
Dear Dressel Farm,
This was the best celebration! We did this festival, it was called the pumpkin festival. Every single class in the school made a pumpkin creation. Our pumpkin was a world globe. We did a bunch of cool activities like art, drawing and stories. Thank you so much for all the pumpkins. You are the best! Your farm is awesome! This was our first festival and it was pumpditely-ishous because of you! You truly are the best!
Dear Dressel Farm,
Our pumpkin festival really wouldn’t have been a pumpkin festival without those pumpkins you gave us. I’m a student from Lenape Elementary and I went to the pumpkin festival. Our school didn’t have enough pumpkins in our garden, but you guys gave us some. All the classes used as much imagination as they could and made wonderful creations out of pumpkins. Ms. Maley’s class, that’s mine, made a globe. There were different stations at the festival. We had to find things in the garden that started with A-Z. We had to put them on a piece of paper. I think our class all together found 22 things. We heard a story and had carrot-ginger stew. MMM! So good! It was such a fiesta full of activities and action. But it wouldn’t have been the same without the wonderful donation of 35 pumpkins from Dressel Farm.
Dear Dressel Farm,
The pumpkins were great! Without them we couldn’t have had out first Lenape pumpkin festival. Thank you for all of those pumpkins! Our class took our pumpkin and painted it into a globe. Another class made theirs into a bat. It was really fun. I think that someone even made pumpkin soup with one of your pumpkins. It was great!
Dear Dressel Farm,
We could not have had a pumpkin festival without the pumpkins. Thank you for the wonderful pumpkins you donated. I think you should know how many creative pumpkins there were. There were 30 painted or carved pumpkins sitting out in the Lenape garden. It would have been no fun without the pumpkins, but since you donated I think it was the most fun Lenape ever had!
Fine kettle of tax fish
Well it’s a fine kettle of tax fish here in New York State. A New York City official has recently discovered that many strip joints are receiving big tax exemptions and other taxpayers are picking up the tab.
Add that to the enormous amount of “holy” property -- about $26 billion worth -- that gets a free tax ride and you have a kind of polarity in good tax karma that is pretty damned hard to fathom. Unless you are a sinner or a saint you’re royally screwed in the property tax category. Alas, most of us inhabit that large grey area in between where tax favoritism does not grow and where government does not bestow its largesse in the form of tax exemptions -- just ordinary, sometimes good and sometimes naughty people.
I blame this situation on my parents. It should have been obvious that had they pushed me into taking off my clothes in artistic fashion, or into the opposite career, donning many layers of clerical or nun-like garb, I would today be free of all, or most, tax obligation.
The parents of the uber-rich make all sorts of provision to help their children avoid taxes so I bitterly resent my own parents’ failure to do the same.
Never mind that I am ill-equipped physically to delight the eye by shedding my clothing in public; and it matters not at all that holiness and -- God forbid! -- abstinence are quite outside my skills set. My parents should at least have tried to foster sinful or holy (sometimes combined) careers that provide tax exemption shelters.
For what does it matter if one gets the Pulitzer or fame and fortune or even a medical degree (I never got those either, but my parents DID try) if one never succeeds in copping that most coveted of all elevated status symbols -- either a holy or a sexy tax exemption.
John Andre, Benedict Arnolds co-conspirator, Robert Cobb Kennedy, Confederate saboteur who set fires in New York City and the eight German saboteurs who were captured before doing any damage, were all tried in military tribunals convicted and executed. Even though Kennedy was an American citizen he was still tried in a military court rather than a civilian court. Ignoring over 200 years of history, President Obama and Attorney General Holder -- showing supreme arrogance and total incompetence -- decided to try terrorist Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, who is not a citizen, in a civilian court rather than the Military Commissions which had been set up at Gitmo. And out of 285 charges, they were able to get one conviction. This probably insures two things -- in spite of the President’s statements, Gitmo will not be closed and Khalid Sheik Mohammed and the other 9/11 terrorist will not be tried anytime soon. The President needs to reinstate the Military Commissions and get these trials underway before the tenth anniversary of 9/11 next September.
Many thanks to the SUNY New Paltz women’s volleyball team and Brian Williams for donating their time and effort to pick up and bag leaves on my property. Twenty-eight bags is a lot of work and they did it with good nature and efficiency. They serve as a model for others.
A grand experience
The New Paltz Garden Club recently presented a juried flower show to the public in Gardiner. We were lucky to have a wonderful and convenient space available to us at the Gardiner Library. Many friends of the Garden Club and members of the library were visitors to the show. The show was held Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 6-7, 2010. Everyone enjoyed the two-day show. We could not have had a more pleasant experience. We thank the Gardiner Library and its staff.
Karen Aspromonte, Corresponding Secretary
The New Paltz Garden Club
School closing request
This past election day, the New Paltz Central Schools remained open. The public uses the school for voting purposes during school hours. This is not safe for the student body. During those hours, strangers were roaming the building. Anyone voting at that time could have taken a student. On any other day of the year people have to go through the front of the school and get a visitor’s pass in order to gain entry. Like today, Nov. 4, my mother came to pick me up early and principal Barbara Clinton walked out of the office and asked my mother what she was doing there. My mother said she was waiting for me and Mrs. Clinton left and was okay with her decision.
On election day, no one asks what people are doing in the building or even why they are roaming the halls when they are “lost.” Some schools around the Hudson Valley have off that day for the reason of people voting in the schools since 9/11/2001. From a student’s point of view, I would much rather be safe and go to school an extra day than see one of the student body go missing. I think our parents would much appreciate this as well.
Shelby A. Vitanius
A cry of resistance
We live in dark times. The government lies to us and spies on us, the climate is changing, food and water are contaminated, children are hungry, jobs have vanished, the poor and voiceless are unseen while the voices of the corporate-military-financial-complex get louder and more powerful. Our schools are being threatened, social security is under attack, pensions are shaky, but the stock market keeps rising, the bailouts continue, the lobbyists are thriving and the politicians continue to sell us out.
This is by no means a complete listing of what’s wrong, but you get the idea. In some ways all of this can be overwhelming, discouraging and scary. What do you do? What can you do? I am not sure either, but the answer is not the Democrats, the Tea Party or right-wing ideologies.
I would like to meet and talk with others who are feeling the weight of these “dark” times; the expression “a community of resistance” comes to mind. Exactly what this might look like or how it would manifest is open to discussion. I somehow think that this discussion would include such things as street actions with signs and flyers, presence at town board meetings or school board meetings, letter writing or phone calling. OR it might not include any of the above, it might simply be conversation, communication and connection with like-minded people with progressive/radical leanings. In my heart, I believe that we are moving towards a police state and find that terrifying, but I also feel compelled to respond in some way to this march towards fascism. I worry about the legacy we will leave our children and what we can do about it.
So, if any of this resonates with you and you live in the Gardiner/New Paltz area perhaps we can take the next step. The next step will be a gathering to talk about any issues that concern us (from animal rights to Zionism) and what we would like to do about them. This will be an open forum with no judgements, no expected outcomes and no hidden agendas. If you are interested, please let me know; my e-mail is email@example.com and I will set a date, time and place for the first meeting. I am hopeful that there will be some interest in this endeavor, but if not, at least I will have some consolation in knowing that I tried. Now that the government (TSA screenings at the airports) literally has us “by the balls,” perhaps it’s time to let out a cry of resistance.
The stench emanating from the town budget process
At the last minute our town supervisor, desperate to have it her way, offered up a precious $200,000 of her semi-secret hoard of taxpayers dollars in return for continuing a redundant line of police dispatchers priced at $135,000. When she failed to sell this stinking deal to the three independent councilpersons, she retreated into executive session where a deal was cooked up to slash and slice a half dozen other lines of the budget -- lines that up to that point she had declared to be sacrosanct -- along with the $200,000 from her $1,450,000 stash, to save her dispatcher.
But the deal was not quite complete. When the board returned to public session, councilperson Kitty Brown demanded $500,000 from the hoarded taxpayer dollars. Despite heated objections from the supervisor the motion passed, with the grudging support of the supervisor and with the nay vote of councilperson Logan to restore the dispatcher, slash, in last-minute desperation, about $100,000 from the budget and dip into the supervisor’s newly revealed $1,450,000 slush fund to the tune of $500,000.
Thus, in last-minute chaos, the Town of New Paltz wound up with a nearly neutral budget, leaving the tax rates just about where they were last year, and, best of all, given the rotten incompetence of the whole budget mess, the supervisor lost a big chunk of the hoard she was saving for next fall’s election when she would have used it to cut taxes and appear a hero to our taxpayers.
Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing
Our mutual homeland
Our mutual water
Ours....gifted to us, provided to us, to accompany us,
replenish our need for.
The generosity, continuing until this very day
Not given to covet, nor destroy.
Our bodies’ thirst, quenched. Our dirt, cleansed.
Our liquid food, a flowing worth, even providing our tears
I was asked as I was wondering the same, ”how can we stop this?!....
Horizontal Hydraulic Fracturing?!
On Thursdays from 5 to 6:30 p.m., the New Paltz Climate Action Coalition meets at the Village Hall, 25 Plattekill Avenue, welcoming people and ways to help our environment. For additional information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 255-9297. Let’s protect! Thousands of people are urgently calling upon Gov. Paterson 518-474-8390 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 518-474-8390 end_of_the_skype_highlighting, Gov. Cuomo 212-209-3314, Assemblyman and Chair of Environmental Conservation Robert Sweeney 631-957-2087, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver 212-312-1420, Assemblyman Kevin Cahill 845-338-9610 (Ulster County). We need bill A.11443B brought to the Assembly floor and vote YES to have a moratorium. We need the governors to compel the Assembly and then the governors need to sign the bill to protect and prevent our water and lives from being poisoned through the HHF methods. Please help spread this awareness. Here are some websites to help: www.gaslandthemovie.com, fracaction.org, www.catskillmountainkeeper.org and you will find many more. Thank you very much.
Myra Catherine Long
The Community Improvement Team (CIT) appreciates the thoughtful ways in which some of our local businesses improve the quality of life in our community. Good building and landscape maintenance, control of litter, graffiti and trash, and appropriate signage enhance our streetscapes for the enjoyment of residents and tourists alike.
With that in mind, CIT wants to thank those individuals and businesses that have contributed to the New Paltz Community Foundation to provide trash and recycling containers on upper Main Street. This project does not require additional taxes to control litter. In addition, we are grateful for Water Street Market’s sponsorship of the Turkey Trot for Family, free movies and concerts during the summer and the bake sale that raised significant money for local food pantries. CIT also is thankful to the Downtown Business Association for the holidays’ Downtown Unwrapped, and for the three additional informational kiosks planned for Main Street in 2011. The New Paltz Garden Club, which donated $800 for the rain gardens outside our Community Center, deserves special mention for their generosity.
As always, CIT appreciates the work of the Village Department of Public Works’ management of the flags from Memorial Day through Veterans’ Day. The Town’s Building and Grounds Department deserves our thanks for the way they have maintained the summer hanging flower baskets on Main Street. CIT also is grateful to the Town Highway Department for storing the winter snowflake lights.
Please consider joining CIT volunteers next year. Just drop a line to CIT c/o Town of New Paltz, P.O. Box 550 or call 255-3842. There is plenty of work for us all! The more the merrier and the more community improvement projects we can accomplish together.
Vici Danskin, Ruth Elwell, Stewart Glenn
Richard Heyl de Ortiz, Walter Marquez
Susan Stegen, Joan Tenuto, Erica Wagner
and Marie Zapf
The Community Improvement Team