Thursday, April 28, 2011


Another week has passed and the Ulster County Reapportionment Commission has pushed for yet another meeting this Monday to continue the dialogue on the Legislative districts. 
The public should know just how difficult this process is. The second you shift a few census blocks to make one hamlet whole, the ripple effect throws two or more out of compliance. They chase the numbers around the county like a dog chasing it's tail.
This doesnt mean they are doing anything wrong. This is merely the sausage making process of redistricting exposed in real time, and it's not pretty or quick. Introduce political influence and you make matters worse. One district in Plattekill/Marlborough looks like the NYS Senate drew the lines, it's that bad.
Personalities and politics aside, the new lines must be presented to the public and then the Legislature during a special session. Time is not on their side.
My thanks to those who volunteered for this duty. I don't envy you.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011


This Saturday April 30th, The City of Kingston will experience the third annual Clean Sweep throughout the central part of the city. One of the chosen focus areas this year is the abandoned trolley tracks behind the Rondout Bank on Broadway.
My reason for highlighting this task on the Blog is to give those of us who will participate in the clean-up a quick look at just how much work is ahead of us this Saturday. Clear bags will help distinguish the recyclables from the trash.
For decades, people living on either side of the old railbed, have thrown their household trash and yard waste down in the channel. This of course puzzles all of us because the City collects trash, recycling and yard waste at the curb weekly.
In years past, tire companies had thrown truck loads of old tires by the tunnel opening. With help from friends, I have been dragging up piles and taking them to the City Transfer Station. There are still about 50 left.

The fence post below, is one of 10 that came from the back yard of a neighboring property. It had just been thrown on the tracks before I wandered down last fall. The holes were still visible in the yard. The owner said he had no idea where they came from. He was still holding the shovel. 
The owner of this tree below, told me she didn't know where the tree came from. She was standing on the trunk when she said this. 

This massive pile of brush below, wasn't hear last year. I had actually gotten this far up from the tunnel collecting recyclables around November so there has been property clean up this spring. Can someone tell me how a neighbor just arbitrarily throws this down here knowing the City Sweep is heading this way? 
This last shot is the other end of the tunnel. The tracks head west at an incline from here so the drain to the lower left needs constant attention. The piles of debris through the whole railbed have made it a soggy mess so be prepared for tough, wet and smelly work Saturday morning. Meet-up is 9am at the bank parking lot. 

Friday, April 22, 2011


In recent weeks, there has been a resurgence in attention to HydroFracking in New York State. Long awaited studies are concluding and reports are showing that there is no good way to spin the reality that Fracking is detrimental to the communities and regions where it is perpetrated.
In the New York Times, we saw the most aggressive approach to the dangers and the ruthless tactics used by the oil & gas companies. Lets not forget how, until recently, the chemicals used in the process were an industry secret that, as it turns out, contains compounds that are highly carcinogenic and cause multiple health hazards including birth defects. I understand why they didn't want the ingredients of the injection slurry exposed.
Back in 2010, under the leadership of Henry Waxman, the House Energy & Commerce Committee, made the initial inquiry which revealed that 14 of the nation’s most active hydraulic fracturing companies used 866 million gallons of hydraulic fracturing products. This of course was before we include water into the equation. 
This issue has come up numerous times in the Ulster County Legislature because of the possibility that companies in neighboring counties are threatening to use the same process to get less accessible natural gas out of the subsurface shale beds that permeate much of the Delaware & Hudson Valleys.
 For those who may not know, HydroFracking is the process of using liquids under high pressure into deep rock formations where current gas pockets are difficult to reach. The liquid chases the gas out of the fissures and permeable shale beds. Fracking yields the best result when pursued horizontally, just below the surface. The process, which is being used to tap into large reserves of natural gas  around the country, opens fissures in the rock to stimulate the release of oil and gas.  

NY AG Eric Schneiderman vowed last week that he would file a lawsuit against the federal government unless officials commit to a comprehensive safety review of hydrofracking. He is giving officials a month to agree to the study that would focus on the impact of hydrofracking in the Delaware River basin,  including portions of Broome, Chenango, Delaware, Schoharie, Green, Ulster, Orange and Sullivan counties.

Of course our own state DEC is stepping up with their own study, expected out in August. Those who would grant permits claim they'll wait until the state study is concluded. I'd urge them to wait until the Fed review or insist that the process be included under the scrutiny of the Clean Air & Water Act. 
If the chemicals used in Fracking were expected to stay deep below the surface, there would be less of a controversy. Unfortunately, they do not. There are numerous accounts of communities across the country that have been evacuated and rendered toxic brownfield status because the pressurized slurry reached the wells and waterways. In some cases, flammable gas and mysterious liquids leak out from back yards. These property owners had no recourse because the companies are not held accountable. They were simply ordered to leave permanently.  

In one town in Pennsylvania, levels of benzene are roughly 28 times the federal drinking water standard in wastewater as it was discharged, after treatment, into the Allegheny River in May 2008. In some cases, the contaminants were radioactive. I can assure you, our treatment plant cannot handle the removal of radioactive elements. 
If that wasn't enough of red flag, there was an explosion in Bradford County PA last week. The well exploded close to the surface so it spewed tons of fracking liquid over containment walls, through fields, personal property and livestock farms. They've found traces in the Susquehanna River.

The push to find new sources of energy, tremendous profits and feed the American addiction on fossil fuels has put out drinking water at risk. 
The question is how many wells need to blow out, how many people need to get sick and how many communities need to be devastated before elected leaders say enough is enough, the risk is too great? 
As my friend Legislator Zimet said "The gas has been there for millions of years, it can stay there a little longer until we figure how to extract it safely.”

Saturday, April 16, 2011


As we all know, the house Republicans voted in favor of the Ryan Budget this week. If it were ever get through the Senate and signed by the President, it would increase the national debt by 4 Trillion and eliminate Medicare as we know it. As you can tell, I just mimicked most of the news programs since it happened.

There is however, an alternative offered by the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) which was offered on the floor but failed. Naturally. 
The bill was named the "People's Budget" and deserved much more attention than what the corporate news channels dared to expose. Understand that regardless of the source, those organizations want the status-quo just like the rest of the top 2%. Dont kid yourself.

The "People's Budget" actually demonstrates what a progressive agenda should look like. While salvaging what's left of our social contracts, it paves the way for a progressive tax policy that makes millionaires, billionaires, and big corporations pay a fair share of the tax burden. Watch out GE.

Here is a link to the actual 12 page document: 
 The People's Budget (PDF)
I took a look at it and thought it worth posting about. Just the fact that it includes serious cuts to Pentagon spending while considering our country's security intact impressed me. But I'm easily impressed.

Arizona Representative Raul Grijalva is cochair of the CPC. Although we have different views on illegal immigration and border security, I agree with him of this progressive budget proposal. Speaking on CNN & MSNBC, he explained how the budget generates a surplus by 2021 by closing tax loopholes, ending corporate giveaways to oil, gas and nuclear entities and bringing our troops home. Obviously he hasn't been bought by those industries like the Democrats & Republicans he serves with.

With Obama acting like a ConservaDem during this past year, it was quite a surprize to hear him beat down the Ryan Budget the other day. I was expecting more of the same collusion with the House leadership disguised as compassionate waterboarding. Understand he still wasnt promoting the People's Budget, but it sure sounded like he's fed up with the nonsense coming out of the House majority.

If you skim through the document you'll see new potential revenue sources: 
  • Closing overseas tax havens.
  • Adding new tax brackets for households with more than $1 million in annual income.
  • Instituting a modest financial transaction tax.
Some of the top earners in the US are urging our Congressional leadership to consider these progressive changes. Changes that would tax their income from their investment portfolios be taxed at the same rate as work income. That was done in the late 1980s under Presidents Reagan and Bush, and according to Newsweek, would raise $84 billion in 2011 alone. 
I know some folks will be upset at the thought, but with Capital Gaines and dividend income taxes at a mere 15%, you perpetuate the class warfare that so many of my colleagues fail to recognize. I say that because the rest of the working population is paying 36%.

Now about Obama's speech, I'll repeat, it was nice to hear echoes of candidate Obama, but with the debt ceiling fight right around the corner, I fear that he may give away some more of our country's soul to the opposition as they hold our economy hostage once more.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


With attendees reaching as high as 67, the first of several fundraisers for Nick Woerner was an expected success. Sure, a number of contributors didn't make personal appearances, but their financial donations are appreciated. 

It was a pleasant surprize to see Gary Bischoff, Vince Bradley and John Heitzman mixing it up with so many of my other friends and colleagues. 
I got to share a table with my future Ninth Ward Alderman John Simek as well. I think he will work well with Shirley, Charlie and who ever is left on the Council next year. 
As expected, Frank Guido served up some terrific food for the event and noone left hungry.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


This was the scene a few weeks ago along Broadway in the Midtown West portion of the city.  Yes, it's a stump grinder and a city crew finally getting to that Locust Tree stump across from Perry Motors.

Like most of the Locust Trees planted in sidewalk lines, the bluestone or cement slabs get pushed up in a dangerous position leading to occasional harm to pedestrians and financial threat to the city.

This is the last portion of Broadway to see streetscape attention. The overgrown trees, heaved sidewalks and dissolved brick pavers from the 80's have outlived their use. The residents and merchants patiently await action in their Midtown West Commercial District. When will the Community Development Committee see fit to shift Streetscpae CDBG money to this area?

This is how it looks today. Better, but not great. The tree and it's unbridled root base, made it impossible to install the last dual parking meter at this location. I no longer see any obstruction. Let's see if the meter crew get out there this year.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Tuesday, April 05, 2011


I still cant believe we are throwing "good money after bad" in this economic environment. The 35 year old wooden canopy over the Wall & N Front Street sidewalks is attached to historic buildings uptown. They are rotten and should be removed.
It's well known that this is the last structure of this kind of the five thousand that were erected in the 70's. The others are gone for the same reasons. Rotten, expensive to maintain and yield no evidence of attracting additional business for merchants.
The trees that were in the "Bump Outs" occupies 30+ much needed parking spaces. My opnion? The streetscape would be better off with trees planted in the main sidewalk path like everywhere else in Kingston and across the country. 

Ask yourself this question; If the canopy helped business so much, why aren't they everywhere? 
Fair Street? Broadway? West Strand?  
Advocates for the repair are good people, don't get me wrong, but they're misguided. Hanging onto something that pretty much deters business in an homage to late 20th century nostalgia. It's almost some kind of religion. What I mean by that: there is no room for open dialog regarding it's extinct charm and purpose.
With most of the property owners begging authorities to take it down permanently, you'd think we'd get right on it. But this is Government. We leave logic at the door.

Saturday, April 02, 2011


Below is a two part video following Sean Carter as he gains leg muscle control and starts walking. 
His accelerated advancement is due to the remarkable apparatus, the PacerXL Gait Trainer designed and manufactured by our Bruderhof friends in Rifton, NY.