Friday, July 31, 2009
Well, Senator Schumer made the front page of the Freeman again. His push to refurbish the Trolley Tracks and help spruce up our downtown tourism engine is truly welcomed.
$800,000 has been earmarked for this purpose. However, every time we hear about the trolley tracks, the stretch from the Museum property to E Chester St is never mentioned. Other than raise the rails on the Avenues and install new tracks over Rt 9W, the property is ready for action.
The events that have become the staple of the downtown economy would greatly benefit by getting people from midtown to the site by trolley rail rather than driving down or shttle bus. Let them climb aboard the trolley allong Jansen Ave.
Schumer said the allocation has been approved by the U.S. DOT and the Senate’s Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee. [That was a mouthful] It still has a journey to go before finding it's way into our capital projects account.
As stated in the Freeman; Mayor Sottile said the money, if approved, would come at an opportune time, with the city currently focused on waterfront improvements.
He's right. It will surely help fund the continuing efforts by this administration. And I will join the list of elected officials who thank Chuck Schumer for his long term efforts to secure this funding. I would just like to hear whether or not the upper rails have ever been considered.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
The push for recruits comes when the desire to volunteer seems to be waning and the number of calls increasing. I would like to add my voice to that call to volunteer, but I would broaden the options a bit.
You know Kingston has a paid Fire Department, so the issue of manning a station is less the issue, however, the number of institutions that could use your help is increasing. Notably those who help families in need. That is where the current crisis is within our city limits.
I am willing to bet that of the 70 volunteer fire companies and EMS squads throughout the county, you'll find most of those who volunteer there extend themselves beyond that. Wouldn't you agree?
Visit the Queen's Galley, Angel Food East, one of or remaining Volunteer Fire Houses. Something. Maybe just get some neighbors together and clean up the forgotten corner. It takes an afternoon at the most. Knock on the door of the ailing senior down the street. Are they eating enough? Do they have electricity? How about a functioning bathroom?
These are the simple actions that make up the fabric of a community. The push for volunteers is a noble one and we need to be reminded once in a while. I commend Mike Hein for bringing this up, but the scope of need is wider than the emergency centers.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
For over a decade, the leadership in DC has blocked the federal increase, claiming the increase would adversely impact manufacturing and small business in the states with lower rates. Not so, according to most economic scholars.
Once the Democrats took control of Congress, they set in motion a three part program to increase the minimum. The first step went from $5.15 [frozen since 1997] to $5.85. Last year the rate went to $6.55 and now, finally, $7.25.
You realize that back in 2007, the Democrat controlled Congress had to attach this provision in the Iraq War spending package that President Bush desperately wanted. He also made it clear that he wouldn't accept it unless it had a massive tax break for the wealthiest 5% and big business. Congress trimmed his request down to a mere $5 Billion in tax breaks where he finally broke down and signed it.
According to the details I've found, this raise will put an extra $2,000 a year into the pay-checks of a full-time minimum wage worker. According to the Economic Policy Institute, that increase will generate over $5 billion in consumer spending over the next year. At least that's the plan. How many of these workers were already so far behind on their bills that this will seem like a stop-gap measure to keep them out of the homeless shelters?
This is not money that will be saved for a rainy day or spent on lavish vacations overseas. But it will bring a small percentage of those affected back to the poverty line that they had fallen below during the last five years or so.
Now that we have placed a minimum wage to keep those with jobs - working with dignity, how about creating new ones?
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Seems the Grand Fleet from the Netherlands will be joined by the NATO Fleet in the trek up the Hudson. It falls on the same period as the traditional Harbor Day Celebration. They are all supposed to hit the ports along the river as they head north to Albany.
With Kingston being what it is while having one of the most inviting waterfront docking access points, I'm sure the flotilla of Super Yachts and Fighting Dutchmen will be compelled to pull in for a weekend. That's when we realize that Kingston is not equiped to handle that kind of traffic madness and tourist accommodations.
The Prince's mother Queen Beatrix visited Kingston 50 years ago as a youngster. Now her son gets to follow in his mom's footsteps as he visits our historic sites in the city. Will we provide a mode of transportation once they set out to see what's here. Can you see the Prince on the City Bus? You know I'm kidding.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Now that the Legislature gets to see the big picture, perhaps the Senate will stop playing games and get back to work. There's cuts to be made!
Keep in mind, everything that happens in Albany has an affect on our local budgets. So you can expect another announcement in the near future about the dire circumstances facing Ulster County and the City of Kingston.
DiNapoli said in one AP story: “Obviously, the state needs to watch spending closely because the state’s economic picture remains uncertain,”
Why would that even need to be said at this point?
He did go on to say: The Paterson administration spent $1.2 billion less over the first three months of the fiscal year than it originally projected, but much of that money will probably have to be spent over the rest of the year, as pending claims from local governments and other entities are paid off.
Readers; Don't get me wrong, I skim the web for this info to give everyone a better understanding of what's ahead for 2010. Not just to give everyone heart failure. Just don't expect the slight uptick on Wall Street to help us this winter. Not gonna happen.
Every Town Board, Council and County Legislature is going to have to deal with a serious void in funding this year and the taxpayers aren't going to like anything that comes out of any governing body. Buckle up.
Monday, July 20, 2009
New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney had to apologize for repeating a racial slur when she quoted another person during an interview. This time it was the 'N' word.
The AP article offered: "I apologize for having repeated a word I find disgusting," Maloney said. "It's no excuse, but I was so caught up in relaying the story exactly as it was told to me that, in doing so, I repeated a word that should never be repeated."
Maloney is is expected to be the primary challenger of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Also from the AP: Maloney says she got a call from someone who used the slur in accusing Gillibrand of backing English-only public education.So this could be simply a good learning experience for all of us. You don't repeat a number of words when recalling a past conversation. It just doesn't get past the bad taste that comes with the use. Its still offensive in every context. I recall a former Alderman used the 'C' word a while back. But we got past that, didn't we?
Maloney will learn from this as so many of us have learned from our own mistakes. As far as the english-only public education issue, there is plenty of rhetoric on both sides of that issue and should be dealt with without using racial slurs and foul language.
Gillibrand is just as open to helping elevate the education of all legal immigrants who come into this country. Immigrants are the foundation of this country and I think we all know that a good education helps to build a stronger America.
Question is, what was Carolyn Maloney thinking?
At the same time, one of our own Police Department SUVs crashed into the Clinton Ave church. Like the Wienermobile incident, no-one was hurt, but the truck will need repairs.
Our SUVs are hard to handle and use too much fuel. With the budget constraints this year, look to see any additions to the fleet to be smaller and more fuel efficient. Perhaps a SMART car.
I found this one parked on Wall Street last week. It is small enough, you could get two of them in one parking space. Can you see the city logo on the door and lights on the roof?
Saturday, July 18, 2009
I had to post this bit of history on this important day. Taken right from my source for Peace History:
Forgotten History...until now:
In Wichita, Kansas, near the corner of Broadway and Douglas, there is a small plaza tucked in between two buildings. On one wall of the plaza is a sculpture of a lunch counter with several people sitting at it. It's so very life-like that in nice weather people routinely sit down on the empty stools to eat their lunches at the counter.
On July 19, 1958, several black teenagers, members of the local NAACP chapter, entered the downtown Dockum Drug Store (then the largest drug store chain in the state) and sat down at the lunch counter. They were ignored. They kept coming back and sitting at the counter, from before lunch through the dinner hour, at least twice a week for the next several weeks. They sat quietly, creating no disturbance, but refusing to leave without being served.
The store tried to wait them out by ignoring them. They kept coming back and sitting there, silently, day after day, waiting to be served. On one occasion three police officers tried to coerce and intimidate the teenagers to leave, and succeeded. But they came back, and the police did not return. They were breaking no law, only a store policy, and the store was not willing to challenge them directly.
A group of local white bullies came by trying to intimidate them. The police were called to break it up but left immediately without challenging the whites, saying they had instructions to keep their hands off. After an emergency phone call a group of local black men arrived,ready to defend the protesters. The white youths retreated, leaving the store.
And the young people kept coming back and sitting there at the lunch counter, silently, day after day, waiting to be served.
They asked for help and support from the national NAACP, but the national organization refused to endorse or even acknowledge their actions. The confrontational tactic was against NAACP policy. The national newswires picked it up and the story went out on the national wire, but few papers ran it and it quickly vanished.
On August 11, while the early arrivals were sitting at the counter waiting for their friends to show, a white man around 40 walked in and looked at them for several minutes. Then he looked at the store manager, and said, simply, "Serve them. I'm losing too much money." He then walked back out. That man was the owner of the Dockum drug store chain.
That day the lawyer for the local NAACP branch called the store's state offices, and was told by the chain vice-president that "he had instructed all of his managers, clerks & employees, to serve all people without regard to race, creed or color." State-wide. They had won, completely. Their actions inspired others, and the sit-in movement spread to Oklahoma City. By the middle of 1959, the national NAACP was losing disaffected members for refusing to endorse the scattered but spreading sit-in protests, gave in, and sponsored the Greensboro sit-ins.
Nineteen months before the Greensboro sit-ins that have been credited with being the start of the civil rights sit-in movement, it really began at a downtown drug store in Wichita, Kansas. The Dockum sit-ins were largely ignored by the NAACP in their archives, probably out of embarrassment, and were unknown even to many civil rights historians. That error was corrected by the NAACP this summer.Something important started there in Wichita near the corner of Broadway and Douglas. Those who started it were almost forgotten by history.
Friday, July 17, 2009
So why is this news? Well, it seems the tag line for the AP reports everywhere is that "Cheerio is the only thing in Albany with any bite." Considering the lack of action by the Senate in past weeks. But also the fact that these big burly contractors would get all huffy over the dog that's just a little bigger than a hamster attacking them.
To the right is the fella who finally called homeland security on Cheerio. His name is Tom Keyser. I'm waiting to hear how much he will settle for once he heads for court.
And where is his Union Rep during all this? These are dangerous working conditions, so I don't think we'll hear the end of this.
As stated in the Freeman today, Deborah Schneer, was confirmed by the state Senate this week to be the next Ulster County Court judge. Once she takes over the position in August, our county court will have a full time judge handling the case load.
Even our D.A. Holley Carnright is looking forward to a steady judge. He noted that the current list of stand-ins trek down from Albany, which must create it's own level of chaos in County Court. Don't you think?
The paper pointed out that Deborah will be the first woman to hold the position. But she wont be the first woman to be elected to that position until the voters chose to do so in November. Her appointment would have been a month ago, had the knuckleheads in the State Senate not had a melt down during the last month.
Don Williams will be the Republican candidate for County Judge as well and looks forward to the campaign. The petition season is over, leaving the campaigns with the whole summer to gear up and exhaust their electorate with letters, postcards, and phone calls as we do every year. You'll see us at the County Fair, farmer's markets, social events and in the Parades.
The names and faces may change, but for some, the campaign season never ends.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
July 15, 2009
Washington, D.C. - Today, as the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee passed comprehensive health reform legislation that includes a public option, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand issued the following statement praising her colleagues and reinforcing the urgent need for the Senate to pass a bill that includes a public option:
"I want to commend my colleagues Chairman Edward M. Kennedy, Senator Chris Dodd, and all the Democrats on the HELP Committee for passing comprehensive health care reform legislation that includes a public option. They have shown the leadership necessary to seize the opportunity and make real progress to fix America's broken health care system.
"We can't afford to wait any longer to finish the job in the full Senate. More than 46 million Americans are uninsured. Health care costs are crippling businesses of all sizes and pushing families in every corner of America to the brink. It's time now to finally fix the broken health care system and pass comprehensive reform legislation.
"As I've said before, a not-for-profit, public plan option absolutely must be included in comprehensive health care reform. I will continue to push for a ‘Medicare for all' plan that anyone could buy into to ensure every American has access to quality, affordable health care regardless of income. In 2009, it is unconscionable that in the world's wealthiest nation, people are being dropped and turned away from coverage because of pre-existing conditions, and that families are just one illness away from bankruptcy.
"A public plan will compete with private insurers - improving quality, ensuring access in underserved areas, setting a standard for coverage and efficiency that private insurers would have to compete with, and lowering costs for everyone.
"The days of having nearly 50 million uninsured and another 25 million underinsured Americans must end. Our families and our economy can't afford us to wait any longer. A not-for-profit public plan that can cover anyone and lower costs for everyone is the only way to get the job done right."
Everyone knows I like railroad stories. Anything about Subways, the MTA and High Speed Rail gets my attention. Link that with the desire to pump up tourism, jobs and the Fed Stimulus, and it becomes news.
It seems our upstate representatives have secured their portion of the High Speed Rail monies needed for their track modifications. This would equate to almost $5 Million for physical improvements at road crossings from Albany to Buffalo. Similar funds were allocated for the Albany-NYC corridor previously.
This small sum is merely a blip on the Federal level since the whole project is expected to cost $8 Billion nation wide over 10 years. Our biggest concern locally is getting commuter rail on the west side of the Hudson River to better serve Ulster County.
The goal is to increase train speeds which currently average less than 80 mph to 110 mph and eventually 150 mph. Sure these trains would have to stop here in Kingston, right? Wouldn't you take the train from a new midtown station to Manhattan? The money for both sections of the NY upgrade are to be awarded by the the end of the year.
All of this rail work will take atleast five years to acomplish, so this isnt a quick fix for our current economic downturn, but the prospect of commuter rail may rekindle interest from companies that may have over looked the western Hudson Valley region based simply on the lack of transportation.
This will be good for business, tourism and the environment, reducing congestion and pollution from cars and planes. With an evident push for green industry and the support of all of the environmental groups throughout the region, this will undoubtedly be welcomed spending by anyone paying attention.
Now if we could only upgrade the "final mile" issue.
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Having a baby? If Sen. Chuck Schumer gets his way, the Federal Government will create a savings account at a local bank under your child's name. How much? How-bout a $500 initial deposit for each newborn U.S. citizen?
Schumer unveiled his plan this week to help children save money starting the day they are born. The American Saving for Personal Investment Act is one of the few initiatives that Schumer and Gingrich agree on. Newt had suggested something similar many years back.
According to the AP: The Fed will deposit $500 annually, but additional deposits can be made as well. Up to $2,000/year.
There are programs in our schools and now through television programs encouraging our kids to save money with the intent to teach them early. Having an account started when they are born should boost that effort tremendously.
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
We were all made aware that the issue of bonding was going to be on this month's Council Agenda. The amount was $325K and was intended for the implementation of a city wide study to rectify our continued overflow of raw sewage when torrential rains hit our region.
The DEC has been on the city to act on the issue for almost a decade. Now there's the threat of fines if we don't show signs that we are at least moving toward the remedy.
As of the Caucus meeting, We were poised to push through the initiative, with the intent to hire a pre-selected firm to do the job. After some time and a good night sleep to think about it, a majority of us decided to vote for the bonding contingent that our city engineer whip up an RFP and send it out for the proper three month process period. Charlie, who offered the amendment, kinda stole Ron's thunder on this one.
The city is in a fiscal pickle, if we don't look for any avenue to cut costs on any of the mandatory expenses then we aren't doing justice to the people we serve.
William Janeway (pictured above) is the regional director of the Department of Environmental Conservation. He told us that the state would work with the city on getting the plan accomplished. But he also pressed that time was running out for accomplishing the study if we waited because of the seasonal limitations.
I know that the actual cost of fixing the system will cost the taxpayers millions, but the study must be done. If only to show good faith to the DEC that we are finally acting on their request. This project has always been a huge financial monster that has haunted City Hall for 20 years. Now it's time to act.
In both instances, I was the deciding vote on both the amendment and the actual bond to make this a reality. I hope I did the public good. Keep in mind, a bond for such an amount doesn't mean we spend that amount. It's merely a permission slip for the project.
As noted in the Freeman, the study will take about 15 months. Maybe.
Monday, July 06, 2009
With most of the financial credit going to Mainetti, Mainetti & O'Connor, they and the other donors provided Kingstonians with a celebration worth documenting.
With food service limited to just local restaurants, the merchants benefited from the event as well. The crowd was less likely to experience digestive problems the next day.
Below are some shots I took above the crowd and of the display.
Enjoy! And when it's all over...the streets are empty and the trash crews prepare for the Monday morning clean-up.
Were you there?
Saturday, July 04, 2009
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that ALL men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
Probably the most memorable words in the English language. The Declaration of Independence is still the most important document in American history. It wasn't really the central focus of our being until the days of Lincoln, but it couldn't be more relevant than today.
Declaring our right to govern ourselves and sever the ties of King George III, these brave men signed this document knowing full well, It may cost them their lives. Today, our representatives vote on massive spending bills without reading them. What happened?
Lets take this time to celebrate the 233rd birthday of our country and reflect on a time when our leaders took on the challenge of building a new world governed by the people, for the people.
Happy Independence Day!
Thursday, July 02, 2009
After six long months, It's official. Al Franken is the new Senator from Minnesota.
Welcome to the circus Mr Franken.
I understand Al is expected to take a seat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. That should be interesting. He has a long history of supporting the unions and has advocated for serious Health Care reform.
What I am pleased about is his support for the Employee Free Choice Act. This issue has strengthened the movement to allow workplace representation to organize. His delayed seating at the U S Senate finally brings us closer to securing 60 Senate votes to make this happen.
Ask anyone you know who has a blue collar job, in manufacturing, nursing, bus drivers and even our municipal workforce...Where would you be without a strong unified support base that represents your needs as an employee?
From what I've read, the comedian days of Al Franken are in the distant past and the serious business of fixing this country's problems are a sobering and daunting task that he and the rest of our elected should be focused on.
Lets hope that the embarrassing actions in the NY Senate never rub off on any other governing body and that the U S Senate achieves something substantial. I know we enjoy the fact that New York State leads the way in so many proud initiatives, but this is one issue we wish no-one was watching.
To add your name to the growing grass roots movement to support the
EFCA, just Write your representative and senators today.
I know that not everyone of my readership is thrilled about making any changes to our national healthcare system and the increase in workforce representation, but these are the fundamentals that provide security for a great many citizens here in America. Lets get to work people.