Friday, December 31, 2010


We have an amazing year ahead of us.  

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Although the City of Kingston is in no way as paralyzed as New York City, we do have some narrow streets that cause some minor traffic issues. One of the tools our city has invested in is the CAT S300. With all the attachments that came with the $150K purchase, I think we will get our money's worth. 

I just had to get some footage of this little machine in action. 

Monday, December 27, 2010


Theres a terrific reminder in the Freeman today pointing out the recent accomplishments and plans for continued revamping of municipal services. Executive Michael Hein says he plans to continue this trend to provide essential services at less cost to the taxpayer.

I'll say it's been great serving as a Legislator during this period. With the issue of unfunded mandates given to the Operations & Efficiency Committee, we have embarked on a heady task. The Executive's office has participated with much of what we are looking at while his staff did wonders with the Emergency Dispatch merger. 
KUDOs to the Executive's office!

Although it took some work to itemize the mandated portions of each of the departments, the Committee intends to look at DSS as we start on 2011. You'll remember the lack of oversight leading to the SNAP abuse at a Kingston gas station.
The O&E Committee will dive right in. I'm just thrilled that the Executive's office is eager to work with the Committee to root out all the obsolescence & possible wrongdoings. The Legislature is going to need all the help we can get to clean this up.   
Mike was quoted in the paper: “I will fight tooth and nail to be able to protect our business communities so that people have jobs while simultaneously going nose to nose, whether it is Albany or Washington to make sure that unfunded mandates don’t overly burden our local taxpayers.” Tell me thats not awesome!

Starting January 4th, the last year of the 33 will have their organizational meeting. There we will find out what, if any, changes there will be in committee make-up. 
On a final note, I have to say the Holiday party at Wiltwyck was a nice way to close 2010. Good to see everyone laughing together after a tumultuous year. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010


 From December 26th to January 1st, millions of people will be celebrating Kwanzaa around the world. This is a celebration of the "First Fruits of the Harvest" which got its start in the mid sixties when America was experiencing the civil rights movement. 

The focus was and continues to be on family, community and culture within the African American perspective. For almost 40 years, the week long event has focused on providing a context and commitment of common ground, cooperative practice and shared good in the black community and with all others.
Kwanzaa is neither a religious nor a political holiday, but a celebration of African heritage and traditional African values. Kwanzaa is celebrated in addition to Christmas or Hannukah and is not meant as a replacement for either holiday.

Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of African Studies at California State University, pretty much founded Kwanzaa. He was quoted in NewsReviewOnline saying: "Kwanzaa is a celebration of the family which first forms us, names, nurtures and sustains us, and teaches us upright and uplifting ways to understand and assert ourselves in the world."  
There are seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Thats why you'll see seven candles in the Kinara pictured above.
Below is a promo for a documentary on Kwanzaa and it's origins:

As you can see, I like to leave you knowing something new everytime you visit.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


 When President Obama gets back to DC, he has yet another piece of legislation to sign. The Shark Conservation Act. Although this bill passed unanimously in the House earlier this year, the Senate sat on it until the day they were leaving. 

Sponsored by Senator John Kerry, the law will extend protection to sharks off United States coastlines. Currently, fishermen could still hit the waters, hunt sharks for their fins and dump the bodies, leaving the shark to perish slowly by bleeding out as it swims away. 
Closing the loophole in prior legislation requires that for every fin, you must bring in a shark body.    

Environmentalists are pleased with the bill, which should give endangered shark species the chance to recover. 

According to, "Finning" is illegal on the Atlantic Coast and off the Gulf of Mexico but remains a practice on the Pacific Coast.  

You may ask why the shark's fin? Well it's the only part of a shark that has significant meat on it. Really, that species dating back to the Jurassic era, has little to offer meat wise elsewhere on it's body. With shark meat selling for $800/lb, fishermen just catch the shark, slice off the fin and let it go.

The practice has put several shark species on the brink of extinction.

Senator Kerry quoted in the science section of said: “Shark finning has fueled massive population declines and irreversible disruption of our oceans. We finally came through with a tough approach to tackle this serious threat to our marine life."

Friday, December 24, 2010



 In a bold and final move by the Obama Administration closing out the year, there was an unexpected shift in regulatory oversight regarding carbon emissions. As of January 1st of 2011, the EPA will have that oversight.   

Looking at the assumed reluctance of the 112th congress next year to address the well documented contribution of greenhouse gases by our energy producers, the President has bypassed the Congressional mayhem that would essentially kill the Cap&Trade Bill.

The President has the power to move these duties to the EPA, giving regulatory power to set limits on CO2 emissions from factories, power plants and refineries. Power plants and oil refineries will have to obtain federal permits that cap these emissions. Something those industry leaders have fought since it's inception. Well, anything that prevents pollution, really. It hurts the bottom line.

One of the themes throughout the Obama Presidency is the promotion of renewable, sustainable and green industry in hopes to create jobs. Much of the "Stimulus" of 2009 provided seed money for research and manufacturing in that developing market. Forcing the most notorious culprits in the dispersal of pollutants to actually curtail their emissions helps the cause. 

Considering the campaign financial support from energy companies to most Republicans and a few Democrats, the chance to get regulations passed through Congress would be a joke. Moving the authority to the EPA gives them the power to write the new rules. For the issues facing this country during the 112th, and the reluctance of the new majority in the House to act on our behalf, could this be the method that Obama gets some of the urgent issues addressed?

The EPA administrator Lisa Jackson, has to offer a list of modifications in January, allowing the implementation to occur later in the year to the best ability of the companies in question.    

David Doniger, of the NRDC was quoted in three sources: "By setting timetables for issuing standards to cut dangerous carbon pollution from power plants and oil refineries, EPA is doing precisely what is needed to protect our health and welfare and provide businesses certainty at a time when some would prefer to roll back the clock." I would have to agree with him.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


In a little noticed ceremony, President Obama signed a bill into law closing a loophole in the garment makers labeling process. In committee since May, the lame-duck session provided the time to act on this and dozens of other uncelebrated issues backed up in the Senate and House.

The Truth in Fur Labeling Act (H.R. 2480) passed the Senate unanimously.
The law currently allows some animal fur garments to go unlabeled if the value of the fur is $150 or less. Just the idea that your coat could be lined or edged with Dog Fur is freaky. Since 90% of our textiles are manufactured outside the country, this forces those foreign countries to be clearer about what is and isn't "faux fur".

Michael Markarian, COO for HSUS said on their website: "Many consumers prefer to avoid buying and wearing animal fur, and everyone deserves to have accurate information to make informed purchasing choices.  The Truth in Fur Labeling Act will protect consumers by requiring all garments containing animal fur to be accurately labeled."

Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia said: "Most people would be outraged to learn that their favorite hat or pair of gloves was lined, not with faux fur, but with the fur of their favorite companion animal—but it's a reality due to a loophole in current law that allows apparel worth less than $150 to go unlabeled."

From what I gather, stores are permitted to sell out their stock of unregulated apparel but future deliveries will be subject to the new labeling. Check the labels when you buy that coat or hat. Even if it's dyed pink, it may be cat fur you're buying. 

Thank you to the sponsors and President Obama for making this law of the land. 
The Cats & Dogs of America thank you too!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Tonight is the last meeting of the Legislative body for 2010. That fact doesn't make the agenda any less contentious. We are faced with some internal housekeeping as well as some key appointments.
What's at stake tonight is the representation of the UCRRA Board. According to the County Charter, the scheduled openings account for two positions but we are set to place three. It's a mess.

We were honored with the presence of the current interim Executive Director of the agency Tim Rose. Tim, if the Board had any sense would be the next fully appointed Director considering the astounding difference in expertise and competency compared to the last Director. 

If chosen, Tim would be paid less compared to the former and although responsible for fewer tasks, would probably do more for the agency.

What's the issue? Legislators who have issue with the current Board Members are determined to replace them even though two of the three have expressed the desire to serve again. These would be the three members who voted to fire Bemis, the last Director. 
The investigation into the alleged wrongdoing continues by both the Board and the Ulster County District Attorney.       
Tonight's meeting should be interesting. There is a push by some to postpone the Board appointments until the investigations are done and the applicants have been properly vetted. 

Update: The Legislature passed the recommendations of the leadership for the three positions on the RRA Board. A number of us raised questions about the process, vented our angst about the reassignment of a former board member that served during the dark period of the Agency, while praising the two inductees we were comfortable with. 
Like a select few on the Legislature, I question the wisdom of losing members who are educated in the field of waste & recycling that are well versed in the current administration clean-up. My thanks go to the outgoing members who achieved so much in their short time serving the taxpayers.

I would also add my sadness that the oversight of the RRA Board and Agency, expected to shift to the Ops & Efficiency Committee, will not be shifted after all. Seems the wishes of the Republican Committee Chair trump the desires of the Legislature Chairman. 


For those of you who saw the Freeman article regarding the City of Kingston sewer completion, you'll read just how long the governing body and the DPW have been working on the problem. Years.  

Because some areas of the city haven't experienced upgrades, some sewer lines predate the NYC sewer lines. Our city engineers have been systematically replacing old sewers with separated lines as dictated by the NYS DEP.
While serving on the Council, my comrades and I were saddled with the implementation of a sewer replacement project that was going to cost the taxpayers allot of money, but it had to be done. 
The news Monday was that Mayor Sottile has officially closed that project and labeled it "DONE".
The last portion which included Abeel St, Wilbur Ave, O'Neil and a dozen other essential lines throughout the city, ended with the resurfacing on Greenkill Ave this fall.
Sottile was quoted: “While the sewer work is not glamorous and a lot of people don’t see exactly what you are doing, they take it for granted. But I am proud to report that I said I was going to do it and I did.”

 Don't mind me if I point out that the project actually finished under the bonded limit. Something of an anomaly in this atmosphere of municipal cost overruns. Credit goes to our city engineers, purchasing department and the Mayor for staying on top of what could have been a financial boondoggle had they not been up to the task.

It's worth knowing where our tax dollars are going during this time of economical uncertainty. It may cost us a little today, but the price of disaster has always been greater in the long run.

Monday, December 20, 2010


With the Senate GOP trying desperately to kill the Zadroga Bill and thus becoming the focus of the Daily Show, FoxNews anchors actually took issue with the Republican leadership and their attempt to minimize the patriotic efforts of the "First Responders".

Since this airing, the tune in Washington has changed and it looks like a few Republicans may actually step up and reach the votes for cloture. Once it gets to the Senate floor for a final vote, we may see even more join the patriots who sponsored the bill.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Saturday, December 18, 2010


Well, it happened. 
The last hurdle that blocked the repeal of DADT has been passed. After two votes in the House and two in the Senate, seventeen years of hiding while serving, and traitorous lobbying from unembarrassed hate groups, the Congress is set to repeal this ill advised compromise signed by President Clinton. 

I haven't the words to describe my disgust for McCain and the other 32 Senators who chose their darkest nature to oppose the repeal vote. I can see McCain railing against letting non-whites serve in the military all those years ago, claiming lives & limbs would be lost if we did so. No difference.
Does anyone feel there havent been enough discussions on this issue? Raise your hands....I thought so.
Republican lawmakers who will stop at nothing to stop this vote for Equality to Serve, actually claim they haven't talked about this enough. I'm sorry if you dropped your coffee cup when you read that.

With only the START treaty and First Responders Coverage on the horizon, the two years of Democratic dominance in both houses has been quite successful, with hundreds of significant changes to detrimental maneuvers during past administrations. There are websites devoted to the two year time-line of what the Democrats have fixed since taking control of DC. Reid and Pelosi have done phenomenally well considering the obstacles. 

With the vote to repeal DADT poised to succeed this Monday, we allow the Military to implement the changes according to their ability rather than through a court order. That would be an overnight change that our commanders really wanted to avoid. Will we see the rapid enlistment of new recruits? Will we see a drop in re-enlistment? Those two answers are hard to answer and might cancel each other out to show no change over all.
All I can say is this day has made an estimated 66,000 currently serving gay & lesbian service personnel breathe a little easier.

Update: Repeal vote passed with 65-31 rendering the discriminatory policy dead the minute President Obama signs it. Ding-Dong the wicked witch is dead!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Let me say Congratulations to Victor Work for his recent election/appointment to the position of Ulster County's Democratic Elections Commissioner.  
I attended the hastily called convention and found a substantial number of party members made the effort to vote Vic into the position unanimously while paying respects to Kathy Mihm for her years of service. 

Kathy has taken this opportunity to retire and spend more time with the family. Noone can blame her for wanting to do just that. The announcement came as a surprise to me only a few weeks ago, but then... were any of us supposed to know?

Acknowledging that the tremendous efforts that Vic has offered the Democratic Party here in Ulster, he noted that once sworn in to the office, he will have to turn off the hard partisan political tactician that he is perceived. He told the crowd that his roll will be as professional as Kathy & Tom have been as well as their predecessors.

We are looking forward to working with you Vic.


Sources tell me that while at the Orange County holiday party the other night, the chatter for the evening was the big fight between Harley Doles and Tom Kemnitz.    
End result: Harley says a few foul words I cant print and quits the Democratic Committee. Truth? We wont know until this develops a little further. 
Doles is the recently defeated candidate for the 39th State Senate position here in NY.   

Extra note: Harley says he will run for the State Senate again in 2012.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Once the ink had dried, I decided to hit the internets and have a closer look at the Nutrition Bill. 
It's technically called the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Another of those long named bills that gets renamed something short and easy for the press.

This would be one of the projects that Michelle has been cultivating in her tenure as first lady. The measure pumps an additional $5 Billion into the Federal Nutrition in School Meals program with an expanded task to insure that those meals are healthier.

I read on that for the first time, there will be nutritional standards for all food, whether in cafeterias or in school vending machines. I actually thought we had some type of standard. The site points out that the new guidelines are designed to help fight obesity among children, which has led to an increase in disease, such as diabetes.
I found on that the bill also increases the spending per meal by about 6 cents. The money for funding the increase came from cuts in the food-stamp program known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). They also claim the President is committed to working with Congress to find a way to restore those funds.

Watching a clip of Michelle on the news, she said "We can agree that in the wealthiest nation on earth, all children should have the basic nutrition they need to learn and grow. Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our children. Nothing."  
Those sentiments weren't universal. The New York Times got a few quotes from some of the opponents of the bill. Congressman Paul Broun, (R-Georgia) said: “This bill is not about child nutrition. It’s not about healthy kids. It’s about an expansion of the federal government, more and more control from Washington, borrowing more money and putting our children in greater debt. The federal government has no business setting nutritional standards and telling families what they should and should not eat.” You can almost hear the echoes of a Robert Welch speech in the background as you read it.
Congressman John Kline, (R-Minnesota) said this provision was tantamount to a tax increase on middle-class families and claiming the National Governors Association and local school officials objected to it as a new federal mandate, unless of course they bothered to see the funds were being supplied on the back end. 

All said, I think the trade off from SNAP funding for better nutrition in the schools was worth it. It's a good first step in stemming the epidemic of obesity in our culture. It starts with our kids. Schools could increase the gym time as well. Parents can step up a little more when the kids get home as well. How often do YOU take them on a rail-trail or to a skate park? Not often enough.
 Let me finish with the fact that this will be the final offering from Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. She wrote the framework of the new law pretty much the result of her years as Chair of the Agricultural Committee. Not a bad Swan Song if you ask me.


Below is a 57 minute documentary shown in Sweden last week about WikiLeaks. There are some tough-to-watch moments in the program. I'd also reserve some time to watch it before starting because it's hard to turn off.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


What happened on the floor of the US Senate this past Friday is no secret. It's actually front page news. There was a time when what happened in DC trumped what Lindsey Lohan and Lady GaGa were doing; today, not so much.   

Friday's event changed all that. Vermont's Senator Bernie Sanders, launched a Faux-filibuster that morning against the President's tax cut compromise. Although he got a little help from Sherrod Brown and Mary Landrieux, Bernie held the floor for more than eight hours. He was clear and concise through his whole dissertation on why the Senate and House should reject the shoddy TaxBreak deal offered this week.

The deal will add $857Billion to our national debt and raise taxes on singles making $25K and families making $45K annually according to the latest CBO report.

Sanders has blasted the deal because it extends the Bush-era tax cuts to all the income of the nation's wealthiest. Proponents claim that these cuts will enable those at the top to create jobs for the middle-class. We now have eight years of these TaxBreaks to reflect on and study. Mr Boener, where are the jobs?  

In the years that the millionaires enjoyed their tax cut, they accrued more wealth than before while the median income of the lesser 90% saw wages go down. What did they do with their extra bonus? They closed even more of their businesses and shipped manufacturing to other countries while complaining that there were so many unemployed knocking on their doors looking for work.    

The extension as it sits, according to Sanders is unfair to the less wealthy and it will do nothing to boost the economy. The CBO and past GOP economic advisors admit, extending the unemployment benefits actually stimulates the economy while keeping even greater numbers from the threat of foreclosure.  
I say Senator Sanders has done something unusual and news worthy, because it so rare that we see one of our representatives actually make a stand against something they know is wrong. What he did is not the true definition of a filibuster in the modern sense of the word, but he got the country talking and out of their "We Cant Do Anything" frame of mind. 
Afterall, we are just the citizens they claim to represent.  

Reid was willing to let Sanders have his day on the floor because he's confident that he will get enough votes to reach cloture this coming week. Above is a graph showing the dramatic shift in Filibuster use in this congress compared to previous years. Stunning isn't it?
You may ask where do Schumer and Gillibrand stand on this package? I'm not sure. They seem outraged about it, but may vote for it anyway. Afterall, Bill Clinton made his plea for the deal. Will that sway people, I don't know.

But let me get to the core of the issue.  
60 Votes! Sometimes I question the need for a super-majority to allow bills to reach the floor of the Senate, other times I am thankful. The 60 vote threshold used to be needed only rarely. It has now become the norm. Even a vote to allow the Zadroga Bill for 9-11 Rescue Workers Health, fell short and may face a majority of non-patriots in the House next year. This was the time to do it. 
Will anything positive happen before they leave DC? 
We can only hope.

Friday, December 10, 2010


New York's Department of Environmental Conservation NYDEC just released their latest update. According to their website, it's been since 1988 that there has been such an update. It's called the Solid Waste Management Plan and it begs for more participation from municipalities and their citizens.  

 Progress is needed in reducing the tremendous amount of waste that New Yorkers generate. The high end of the spectrum is 4 pounds per person. We all know that most of what we throw out could be diverted and taken out of the waste stream. But that would require awareness, education and the desire to actually expend some energy participating.  

The latest campaign is titled Beyond Waste and it describes how materials are currently managed in New York and proposes many new ways for state and local government, businesses, and individual citizens to move toward a more sustainable approach, thereby reducing greenhouse gases, reducing pollution, saving energy, and creating new green jobs. 

I should also point out that for those of us who utilize the Big Belly garbage containers along Broadway, they have just been collected for the winter. I'm curious how they have impacted the the way we gather trash and what, if any, cost savings they have provided. This would be a good test to see how folks on the sidewalk change their trash habits when alternative options are offered but with no educational incentive.       

But getting back to the DEC Plan, It sets out a twenty year goal of reducing the average amount of waste that New Yorkers dispose. 

The plan has been broken into parts for easy downloading:
When you consider the options available to us heading into 2011, we see that our biggest obstacle is the consumer. How can we pound into Americans consciousness that diverting our non-waste can save everyone time, cost and energy. I'm hoping these Reports can help.

Thursday, December 09, 2010


I received notice the other day that my friend Eric Dinallo has joined Debevoise & Plimpton LLP as a Partner in the New York office and a member of the firm's Financial Institutions Group.

The announcement goes on to say: Dinallo will represent clients throughout the financial services sector and provide counseling on a broad range of matters, including government and internal investigations, enforcement actions, litigation and compliance matters, and regulatory and strategic legal advice on mergers and acquisitions and other corporate transactions.

Everyone knows I supported Eric during the grueling primary effort this past summer for New York's Attorney General. I got to see more of our state than I might have because of the campaign. For that I am grateful. Yes, the campaign failed, but Eric landed on his feet anyway as he was tapped for Schneiderman's transition team and now this. 
Martin Evans, the Presiding Partner, said: “Eric Dinallo brings unparalleled experience across the financial services industry, having served as New York’s top insurance regulator, general counsel of a prominent insurance broker, chief of regulatory matters at a leading investment bank, and a senior official in the New York State Attorney General's office. 

Eric’s depth of knowledge of the insurance industry, combined with his experience in virtually all areas of financial services, provides him with a unique perspective and skill set that will further enhance our entire Financial Institutions Group. 
We are delighted Eric has chosen to join Debevoise and welcome him enthusiastically to the firm.”    
Personally; I just want to take this opportunity to say congratulations Eric. You were the classy candidate of the group. A good number of past and future candidates for all offices could learn from your campaign, even if we weren't successful.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


I took my friend Bettie shopping this weekend. She was looking for some simple inexpensive fake poinsettias to decorate the small pine bush in front of her house. We decided on one of those Dollar Stores in Ulster.

While walking the aisles, I wondered if anything here was made in America. I took pictures of the rare examples I found.

Thats just about it. Yes, it took some work, but I found most of the American made goods in the store. What I think most of us overlook when we shop during the Holiday Season is where our seasonal goods are made. Figurines of Santa & Jesus as well as holiday plates and tree decorations are all made in China.

Check the labels people! If you want jobs in this country, buy goods made in this country.

Note: The store manager called security on me when they saw me taking pictures of everything. 
What a hoot!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


Feeling tipsy? Call someone.


Well,we did it. The Ulster County legislature passed a budget that was pretty much the same as what County Executive Hein offered us. I'm sure everyone knows the budget heading into 2011 will remain at $352 Million. $77 Million comes from us taxpayers.

The only change coming from internal negotiations was the Warden position. The issue of whether the position was mandated or not was settled and the funding was set aside for the first quarter until there is a clearer financial picture early next year. That paycheck will be covered only because another employee is out seeking cancer treatment. Nice.

Attempted amendments were as follows:

Robert Parete (D-Stone Ridge) offered a fiscally neutral proposal to add funds to Meals-On-Wheels to prevent the outfit from shifting to frozen meal delivery to our home-bound clients. That failed.

He then offered a fiscally neutral proposal to return the employees slated for dismissal back to their current positions for 2011. Siting several unfilled positions within the current budget as funding sources and highlighting the unsure early-retirement settlements that the executive budget depends on. That failed.

Dave Donaldson (D-Kingston) offered several fiscally neutral proposals as well, from returning funding for CASA, Library Job Search programs, Tourism/Arts Council and Cornell Youth Programs. All attempts failed. Although pointed out by Legislator Belfiglio (R-Port Ewen) that the current funding is the same as 2010, last year's budget was slashed 25% and 2009 was slashed 25%. Two programs on the list were actually lower heading into 2011. This information moved no minds and thus failed as well.

The proposal from the Republican leadership to eliminate one position from the Comptrollers office morphed into a compromise where funds would be placed into contingency should he need it, thus bringing the Legislature back into the roll of micromanaging one of the departments.

You may have also heard that Mike Sweeney (R-Barclay Hights) asked that we divert half of the unexpected Federal Income, that was just received by our budget director, $1 Million to offset some of the tax burden. With $12 Million already taken from our fund balance to reach the "Zero Change" budget, the consensus was don't touch it.
Alan Lomita (R-Rosendale) couldn't resist beating down this effort and joined Rich Gerentine (R-Marlboro) in proclaiming this as a sound budget. Estimates show the County's fiscal security heading into 2011 and 2012 is sketchy and tapping into what should be more of a reserve as proposed is already dangerous. Sweeney's amendment failed.

I see Executive Hein is quoted in the paper: “I’m extremely pleased with the hard work that the people in my administration have done in putting forth a budget with no property tax increase. I want to acknowledge this Legislature for passing it virtually intact. The real winners ... are the taxpayers of Ulster County.”

I think Michael Hein is very happy. I suspect you are  too.