Take a deep breath. Now, just let it go.
THANKS FOR ALLOWING ME TO SERVE
I would like to thank the Town of Woodstock and the Woodstock Environmental Commission for giving me the opportunity to serve for two years as environmental commissioner. I am especially proud of the work this group accomplished including:
Unanimously recommending the Town Board adopt a Bicycle and Pedestrian “Share the Road” initiative first developed in 1996 by Ulster County Planners which would make Woodstock more Bike and Pedestrian safe and friendly.
Unanimously recommending the Town Board re-establish the Tree Commission to oversee replanting and maintenance of Town trees.
Unanimously recommending expanding the Community Gardens at Rick Voltz Field
Unanimously recommending taking advantage of NYSERDA’s Energy Audit program that would cost the Town virtually nothing to perform and would offer concrete steps the Town can take to create energy efficiencies, most notably at the Highway Garage in Bearsville.
All this plus the usual work of the WEC; commenting on proposed development projects before the Planning Board and the LASP mapping, attending conferences, and staging booths at Earth Day and other events.
This WEC also took a firm stand against leg hold trapping in Woodstock that I hope will be maintained by the current and future WEC and Town Boards. In addition, it was unanimously recommended that a member of the WEC be part of the Comeau Stewardship Committee. In addition, copies of the “Transition Town Handbook” were distributed to all sitting Town Committees and Boards as well as the Town Library.
While it appears the current Town Supervisor and Town Board have not favorably considered these WEC recommendations, it is my hope that the next sitting Town Supervisor and Board will take up these very worthy and important initiatives for the betterment of all Woodstock.
Again, thank you.
Erwin Farnett’s letter in the January 6 issue expresses perfectly the opacity and delaying tactics by some members of the Town Board in creating the Stewardship Committee for the Comeau Easement. In last week’s paper, I described all those problems and asked the public to get involved to demand an expedited and transparent process. The Committee is to be an ‘Interface’ between the Comeau users, the Town Board, and the Woodstock Land Conservancy. In spite of that, a majority of the Board favor membership in the Committee to be composed exclusively of elected officials. Remember, there is only one entity that can harm the Comeau, and that is the Town Board. This is no wild eyed guess, it has happened.
The following paragraph is my design for the creation of an ‘Interfacial’ Stewardship Committee. It was handed out at this week’s Town Board meeting. I have already sent it to the Woodstock Land Conservancy for their consideration and approval. There are many members of Comeau user groups who are eager to volunteer. The details of the operation of the Committee will be designed by all the members. After the Town’s referendum to have an Easement for the Comeau, after spending a lot of money to defend it against lawsuits from the people who were inexplicably invited to the signing of the document, after getting nothing done in 14 out of the 18 months given for putting together a Committee, it is imperative for our citizens to make sure that all that time and money and energy are not wasted. I need your help, I have just one vote.
In order to maintain transparency, public input, and to adhere to the directions given prior to the signing of the Comeau Easement, the task of the Town Board in creating the Stewardship Committee of the Comeau Easement is to immediately advertise for, and to interview members of all the Comeau user groups, in order to select members for the aptly described ‘Interface’, which will include two Town Board members and an observer from the Woodstock Land Conservancy. This group will organize itself into the Stewardship Committee, which will continue to function permanently. They will be supplied with all relevant data and information, written and verbal, on the history of the Comeau Easement as well as the Easement itself and any other Easements and/or Stewardship Committee’s from other jurisdictions. Their meetings will be open to the public, they will organize their procedures, membership, meeting dates and everything needed to become a permanent body. They will be supplied with a recording secretary. The town board will always retain the authority to make final decisions relating to uses of the Comeau. The Stewardship Committee will be the official body where questions, concerns, and potential projects for the Comeau property will be submitted. During the development of the Committee and after it is organized and functioning, their reports, both ongoing and final, will be given to the Town Board and cc’d to the Woodstock Land Conservancy.
WHERE ARE THE TEARS
The USA and Israel have some similarities. Israel’s myth is that Jewish settlers “made the empty and barren desert bloom” — America’s myth is that hard work transformed a vast wilderness into “the land of the free & the home of the brave.” The truth is that both nations brutally stole land from thriving indigenous peoples and then proceeded to murder and marginalize them. The Indians were/are forced to live on impoverished reservations and the Palestinians forced into squalid refugee camps or exile. Both the US and Israel bristle with nuclear weapons; both are belligerent bullies who invade and intimidate weaker nations. Both the US and Israel are xenophobic, homophobic, and racist. Both are awash in military macho and swagger. Both nations were deeply scarred by past tragedies and cite these historical nightmares to justify committing present day atrocities.
Israel uses the Holocaust, the US uses 9/11. Yes, six million suffered and died in the Holocaust and 3,000 died on 9/11 and we must never forget. But what about the eight million children who die needlessly year in and year out from starvation, dirty drinking water, or lack of basic medical care? Where are the tears and lamentations for the 22,000 children who will suffer and die today? In 2011 over a trillion dollars will be spent on our military and military related expenses. Three billion dollars a year of U.S. taxpayers money goes to support Israel’s illegal, immoral, and brutal military occupation of Palestine.
With all of the suffering and starvation in the world today, and the struggles facing Americans to find jobs, stay in their homes, get medical care, and feed their children wouldn’t it make sense to stop this extravagant and obscene military spending? Spending which only empowers, enriches, and entrenches the military/industrial complex? Spending which pays for over 700 US military bases encircling the globe. Finally, do we really need to send billions of our tax dollars to prop up a rogue nation like Israel whose behavior actually compromises our security by fueling and fomenting Arab and Muslim animosity towards the U.S.? When will we come to our senses?
QUESTIONS FOR KINGSTON
A couple of months ago, I wrote a letter to Woodstock Times in which I posed various questions about the razing of an entire forest around Woodstock’s Cooper Lake.
Among the questions I asked were: Who’s responsible for it? How many trees are intended to be cut down? What are the reasons for it and who’s profiting from it? Where’s the money going to?
The answers I received from Brian Hollander, editor of Woodstock Times, were the following: It’s being done by the city of Kingston. They have the right to do anything they want with the property. They don’t have to pass any sort of permit process with the town of Woodstock.
If all of that is the case and the residents of Woodstock are powerless to halt the razing of more forest, I would like to publicly ask Kingston Mayor James Sottile and Water Commissioner Judith Hansen the following questions:
How many trees do you intend to cut down before you are finished? Who or what city departments are benefitting from this clear-cutting, specifically? Why do you feel that it is not necessary to communicate with the people of Woodstock? How could you possibly claim that the killing of 1,000 trees is being done for ecological reasons?
The residents of Woodstock deserve to know the answer to these questions.
YOUTH THEATER ALUMS TAKE NOTE
I wanted to invite all Youth Theater alums, parents, and interested people to come to a benefit this Friday at BSP for the not-for-profit Woodstock Youth Theater, now Stages in the Arts. Jeff Krolick and Joanna Morton Gary are generously giving their time to benefit this venerable organization. Their show includes everything from 1940s Big Band music to today’s Top 40. An added bonus will be a sneak preview of Youth Theater’s next production, a song and dance number from “Give My Regards to Broadway.” Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door, and include a complimentary Italian dinner. Call 338-8700 for reservations. Support this local arts organization that has impacted the lives of so many of the area young people during its more than 27 years.
CRIMINAL CLEAR CUTTING
I am a resident of Cooper Lake Road. Attention needs to be brought to the devastation which happened recently on one of the most prized roads in our area. Your recent article felt like it was spoon fed by one side only and it wasn’t the perspective of the residents. Clear cutting was done in some areas along Cooper Lake. The Kingston supervisor can try with all her might to convince us that it was necessary for other trees’ growth and she can tell us that the trees that were massacred were diseased until she is red in the face... But I ask you this: how do you sell diseased trees? And how does an entire grove growing on the side of a levy by itself deter growth of other trees? And since when is clear cutting considered “thinning?” It’s criminal what has happened.
Residents and the environment are counting on some help from you on this subject. The Lorax is alive and well and Cooper Lake Road is proof. Please get both sides to the story and at least send someone out there to see first hand and document it! Let your readers decide and hopefully be outraged enough to help prevent further ignorant devastation.
Jenn Jorge Nelson
ADD YOUR VOICE
It is curious to note the level of discord in recent editorial pages regarding a war where no U.S. troops are deployed yet, so much controversy persists. I believe this is so for two reasons, because of the sentiment about the need for a secure Jewish homeland and because, whether we want to admit it or not, Americans are directly connected to this region of ongoing instability.
Israel receives about roughly one-fifth of America’s entire foreign aid budget. In per capita terms, the United States gives each Israeli citizen a direct subsidy worth about $500 per year. Our tax dollars end up funding a military occupation of virtually defenseless Palestinians. As detailed in previous letters, rockets are fired from Gaza into Israel, however, the threats posed by these rockets while harmful, are over exaggerated. Since September 2009, 124 Israeli children died while 1,452 Palestinian children were killed going to school, playing or simply being in their homes (64 percent of the Palestinian children were killed from Israeli air and ground attacks as well as indiscriminate fire from Israeli soldiers). I do not defend this senseless killing on either side nor do I wish to imply that one life child’s life is worth more than another. However, there is a difference between Palestinian resistance to a brutal occupation and Israel’s ongoing violation of International Law. These violations include the ongoing construction of settlements in direct defiance of UN Resolution 242 which calls for withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories. The construction of settlements is tantamount to colonization and stand as barriers to any prospects of building a true peace.
The Israeli government uses security as a means to continue the occupation via a de facto system of apartheid. This system includes separate laws and roads for Palestinians, a wall to separate villagers from their land except at checkpoints which are opened or closed on a whim, and the ongoing demolition of homes. On December 31, the Daily Freeman included a report that the “Israeli economy grew 4.5 percent... and joined the exclusive club of prosperous economies this year.” Hardly something to celebrate while under Israeli rule 80 percent of the Gazans live below the poverty line and require some forms of humanitarian aid, 40 percent are unemployed, and the majority of Gaza’s water supply is unfit for human consumption.
Last week, a Palestinian woman, Jawaher Abu Rahmah, died from tear gas inhalation suffered at a peaceful protest. A United States company, Combined Systems, Inc., provides tear gas used by the Israeli government to crush the growing number of unarmed protests against land confiscation. Caterpillar bulldozers built in the US are used to demolish homes and ancient olive groves. The same bulldozers have killed innocent civilians including Rachel Corrie, a U.S. citizen, in 2006.
Before the next person acts to criticize or debate this letter, please ask yourself if this deadly struggle has led to greater security for Israel? Or, would you rather use US influence to support peace? As an American, you can petition our government to freeze Israeli settlements. You could lobby against American products used in violation of international law. You could insist that our government, Israel’s main ally, support “land for peace” as a foundation for negotiations. Most of all, you can remember that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” For over three decades, Palestinians have endured the injustice of the longest military occupation in the world. We could use our voices and our tax dollars to end this injustice.
I am trying my best to get the message to John Boehner, the current Speaker of the United States House of Representatives that “Now is The Time for Your Tears.”
FACTS CAN BE SO PESKY
The melding of Russell Richardson’s talents and what’s left of the INDIE program into our Youth Center offers a sensible and much-needed solution to some of the many needs in our community. But this being an election year, we ought not lose sight of the reality that we arrived at this accomplishment very much in spite of our Supervisor and his Deputy and not because of them. The Woodstock Youth and Family Council came to life out of opposition to our Town Board’s misguided summertime proposal to impose a curfew on our youth, not to educate and empower them. According to Deputy Dawg Rosenblum at the time, our streets were an unsafe danger zone run by roving gangs of violent, drug-addled 10-year-olds. And when Richardson went before them in the fall with hat in hand for his struggling INDIE program, they offered smiles instead of money, preferring instead to pork over enormous funds for the purchase of a vintage walkway through the woods to be transplanted from Coney Island to the Comeau.
Let’s remember, folks, that these two so-called leaders eked out an election victory for a second term by blaming their first-term ineffectiveness on fellow board members whom they claimed were uncooperative. Voters bought it, and handed them a majority voting block strong enough to pass resolutions fixing any number of beneficial and long overdue problems, from municipal government quarters to zoning law revisions and tangible economic stimulus measures. Yet they squandered this power on hairbrained schemes, lawless and unethical behaviors, and new heights of arrogance and disdain for the very “public” they profess to serve. Instead of “getting things done” they dithered and carped, and handed us a higher tax bill.
Some months ago Deputy Rosenblum took a grumbling audience to task because some of our youth were in attendance trying to better understand civics and see their government in action. Let’s hope they stayed tuned, as Rosenblum recounted her months of “research and study” on the subject of conservation easements, only to respond to repeated Freedom of Information requests that all of this work amounted somehow to “nothing on paper.” Let’s hope our young students of civics have learned that despite being the Town’s most valuable asset, this crack team of so-called leaders has declined to take so much as a simple and inexpensive three-hour online course about how to go about preparing for its long-term stewardship, and has turned its back on offers of free expertise from volunteers, and has even shunned scholarship money offered with no strings attached for the education of our youth on land conservation issues.
Those calling for more than a “trust us, it’s a work in progress” position from Moran and Rosenblum have every reason to be skeptical. These folks do not obey laws, so what should we expect concerning contractual deadlines and violation notices? These are “public servants” who arrogantly dismiss and ignore unanimous recommendations and advisory opinions from their own agencies, as well as those of the state. Whose public are they serving?
Our democracy may not be perfect, but it still allows us to correct past mistakes every few years. Let’s hope we voters can stay focused on the facts as we approach another election and once again try to move Woodstock forward.