How about the one about a fiefdom where the lord of the castle does not follow the laws of the land? He travels the countryside with a member of his merry band, foisting what he wants to believe is the law upon the masses because he thinks it is the panacea of what ails all.
EXPLAINING DAYS OFF, DAYS IN
My first few weeks here have been very full with meeting everyone at the different schools, dealing with the day to day running of the district, preparing the budget during a difficult financial time, and, of course, the snow days and delays.
Please know that it is never an easy decision to open on time, delay or close when the weather is bad. Safety is the only reason to keep the school buses off the road. However, as a result of this challenging winter season, we have lost four days of Spring Break, April 18 through April 21, 2011. Student attendance during these days is of the utmost importance to ensure the quality and quantity of instruction our students need to be successful. I would like to keep these days as “normal” as possible and your support and cooperation is much needed and appreciated.
Here is some back ground information to help you understand the District’s situation. The State requires 176-177 days of contact and up to three-to-four Superintendent Conference Days for a total of 180. Therefore, even with the unusual amount of days we had to close, we will be at 178 days of instruction and three Superintendent Conference Days once we reinstate April 18-21 as instructional days.
This is a complicated issue as it involves the State Education Department. At this point we do not need to take April 22 back so long as we do not close again before that week. Of course, the District will honor religious absences for Passover, since we will be in session. The same will hold true if we need to be open on Good Friday. The Superintendent, the Board of Education, Administration and the Associations are closely monitoring the situation and working together.
In closing, as I expressed to the parents of our high school and middle school students, it is my opinion that we have great schools with excellent people who work hard and care about the education and lives of your children. Thank you for your support of our schools. I wish your children and your families the very best. Please continue to stay involved and to involve us if we can be of assistance.
Phyllis Spiegel McGill
Superintendent, Onteora Central School District
THE QUIET EARTH
I advocate Solar energy which is unlimited and safe over dangerous and deadly nuclear. The Earth is a Solar planet, without sunlight, life on Earth would cease to exist. Even oil, fossil fuels are Solar derived. Without the Sun, fossil fuels would not exist. Oxygen is a product of the Sun as converted by vegetation and trees. The Sun packs enormous and unlimited free clean energy there for the taking, for harvesting.
Deserts sit dry, wasting enormous amounts of unharvested Solar rays which exist for the taking. Forms of Solar energy including solar voltaic and wind energy and harvesting forms as yet undiscovered can provide all the future energy needs of the entire Earth if we pursue them. We have our dumb heads in the sand. We are tripped up by speed and greed and are tripping over our own clumsy feet when we overlook this plentiful, safe, quiet source of unlimited potential. All we need do is think and act to solve all our energy needs. She is saying ‘Here! use this!’
The future earth will be a very quiet place.
In response to Trina Porte’s ridiculously arrogant but true to form letter (“An Editor’s Role,” March, 17) in which she says she refused to include poems of mine in an upcoming anthology of Woodstock Poetry Society poets because they had “two misogynist images” in them, I assert this only underscores how recklessly untalented and profoundly unqualified she is to edit anything more complicated than a grocery list.
SOMETIMES THE EXTRAS COUNT FOR A LOT
Thursday was a first at the Good Neighbor Food Pantry. But for the refrigerator, it would have been just another day at the pantry. Jim Hanson from Woodstock Fire Company #4, Zena, brought over a box of food for distribution to the clients at the pantry. This could never have happened if we had not had the refrigerator...donated, plugged in, and in the building.
This was a first and it was important because the majority of the food available to the food pantry recipients is canned. The pantry does receive donations of fresh veggies in the summer from the Farmers Market, but March is not yet summer.
The Sunflower Natural Foods Market sends over a box of fresh veggies, fruit, and bread every week throughout the year also with Gene O’Hara dropping the food off.
The Bread Alone bakery in Boiceville has begun to donate bread to the pantry also with Ann King picking the food up and bringing it to the pantry.
These donations are an enormous contribution to the life of the pantry. Many of the people who come to the pantry for food have no options for food beyond what the pantry has to offer. Living 100% on canned food can be challenging. For one thing, canned vegetables are very high in salt. Canned fruits are very high in sugar. And, canned tuna fish is very high in mercury.
So, thank you to Fire Company No. 4, The Sunflower Natural Foods Market, the Farmers Market, and Bread Alone. Every donation makes a big difference.
HAPPY TRAUM, WE THANK YOU
How could anyone have guessed that on the night that Happy Traum generously asked the one and only legendary Pete Seeger and his wondrous sister Peggy Seeger to appear at the Woodstock Byrdcliffe Guild for a fundraiser, it would be the night that the United Nations Security Council finally decided to act against Libya.
While Tomahawk missiles finally landed in Libya to let Gaddafi know rational nations will not let him commit genocide against own people, we sat, safe and warm as Pete Seeger and his sister Peggy Seeger threw out a beacon of incandescent light with their rich and radiant voices to briefly dispel our unhappiness and heavy hearts for those suffering in Japan, and to somehow give us some sense of optimism and faith that justice will prevail, not only Libya but in the Middle East as well.
REFLECTIONS IN A VERNAL POOL
Arrogance fills the public halls
It doesn’t care who takes the fall
They’ll take the law books from the shelf
And try and save you from yourself
The little covenant takes a vow
Convinced they are holier than thou
They find a reason to deny you
If they could, they’d love to crucify you
The weak who offer to repent
Get eaten like a sacrament
And when there’s no one left to save
They try to rule on from the grave
But close your eyes and you can see
The spirit still can wander free
And while the big wheel’s still in spin
Revolution starts from deep within
DONATE TO THE DOG PARK
It is with eager enthusiasm that I write to you about the new Woodstock Dog Park being created by the Town of Woodstock. It is such a pleasure to see that we have finally worked out all the criticisms made months ago when the Dog Park Task Force presented its plan to the town. There were a number of comments and criticisms that the task force has addressed and now we are in the final stages of preparation. I hope all of you dog owners are also looking forward to giving our dogs a playground of their own in a beautiful natural setting in the woods.
You can show your support for this project by either becoming a founding sponsor or by popping your change into one of the many canisters located throughout town. I will look forward to seeing my dog owning neighbors and my dog Bella’s friends once again when the park opens. Watch these pages for details.
WOODSTOCK TO WOODSTOCK
While I salute and support the creativity and dedication of Woodstock’s Chamber of Commerce and Arts, I am troubled by a disturbing oversight. Last summer I was one of the musicians who performed on the Green as a result of Woodstock Music Shop’s Jeff Harrigfeld’s hard work and generosity. While it was a pleasant experience to be out on the Green on a lovely day, I was not paid anything for my time and expenses. As a professional musician, I am often asked to perform for benefits. There are so many worthy and compelling causes — Katrina, Haiti, Japan. I am glad to donate my time and energy to these as I am somewhat challenged, cash-wise. The summer concerts on the Green do not qualify as a benefit to my mind. By not supporting a vital element in the attraction and entertainment of the tourist/visitor trade they are attempting to stimulate, the Chamber is undermining a recognized resource. I hope that the Chamber will find a way to provide a stipend (it doesn’t have to be huge — just a little dignity, please) to the musicians who are so important to the whole “Woodstock” experience. And where are these “entertainment venues” that the EWC will offer a discount to? The only active venue in Woodstock is Harmony where there is no cover charge and musicians get paid by passing around the tip jar. Oh, and other benefits I am asked to play at often are those for fellow musicians who are ill and can’t afford health insurance, or whose homes are in foreclosure...some of the same musicians who are asked to play on the Green for ‘free.’
THE WAY IT USED TO BE
The street signs haven’t changed much, the old neighborhoods look much the same, except for the racial and cultural changes of the inhabitants; but when I was a young man back in the 1950s, I could deduct commuting gasoline tax from my income tax. College was free in New York City and state supported colleges if one qualified. People with incomes over a million dollars a year were taxed up to 90 percent. Gasoline producers weren’t subsidized with taxpayers’ money; but were charged with excess profit taxes if government decided they were milking the people (even though gasoline was about 30 to 35 cents a gallon). Even the most menial jobs paid enough (with guaranteed overtime pay) to rent living quarters, eat well of predominantly USA grown food, have time and money for perhaps modest recreational activities, and feel secure that if one was fired or quit for some reason, another job was almost immediately available. Media were more locally owned, and one could choose to read or listen to either “conservative” or “liberal” news casting or both if so inclined. Voting in presidential and congressional elections was almost a sacred duty; and not subject to massive fraud. Capitalism was not then a religion of “patriots,” and people who disagreed with the President could complain to Congress with the expectation that it would have some collective effect. Big business and the war profiteers did manage to convince the majority that the Korean War was necessary to prevent the spread of Communism (although the real reason was that Korea apparently had rich tin mines that profiteers wanted control over). But at least crooked, virtually useless, and extremely expensive cronies of the “President” such as Haliburton, Blackwater, etc did not slurp up billions of taxpayers’ money. And war machines such as tanks and artillery were produced mainly in government run factories. When I was a child in elementary school, I learned that we live in a “democracy.” Teachers were pretty smart in those days, perhaps they intuitively realized the direction our country was taking even then, under the developing drive for Fascist control by Big Business, and I’m thinking that maybe I mis-heard my teacher when she said “hypocrisy.”
RADIATION? NO PROBLEM
Hey what’s a little radiation? We’ve been having increasing amounts of it for years. We’ve also been having increasing cases of cancer, but only two of them, thyroid and leukemia have been proven to be caused by radiation. There are lots of other cancers, and don’t forget, they use radiation to cure cancer as well. So, I’ll leave that whole subject to the experts.
Hey, saying that nuclear power plants are dangerous, is like saying there’s a connection between having more billionaires and less numbers of middle class, and lots of unemployed. Come on...Billionaires get compensated for creating jobs for the rest of us. The reason for the lower income level is that the lower middle class and particularly, the unemployed are lazy. That’s why they’re unemployed.
So, let’s not get all in a tizzy, cause if we do, we might look like those people from Madison, Wisconsin. We wouldn’t want to be a group of unified demonstrators with conviction, who are seen as stoic believers of democracy, that stand firm for their rights, in a peaceful way, would we?
Besides, we can’t live without Nuclear Energy, or the energy that we get from gas and oil from deep under the ground and the ocean. That’s what the corporations that run the world tell us, and surely they know more than we do, right? If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be billionaires.
They say that there’s no way to capture and re-use the sun, wind, water and other natural sources, just like they said that there was no way to use less gas to run cars, and no way to get better without drugs. They would know more about that then us, wouldn’t they? After all, they make these things, so they must know all about it.
One thing does trouble me though, and that’s the quote from Reuters this past week that said: “New data shows the Indian Point nuclear power plant near New York City was the nation’s most vulnerable to an earthquake.” It has also been called the “most dangerous power plant in the U.S.” But now that I think about it, why not? It’s only 30 miles from New York City, which as we know, is the biggest and the best, with a population of about eight million people. So, it would make sense that New York City once again is, as always, Number 1.
At least we in Ulster County don’t have to worry about Indian Point, because it’s a good 60 miles from our hometown, so as they say, no problem. Anyhow, I don’t like to worry myself over trite things. I have to go now. I may be getting an offer to get fracked, and I wouldn’t want to miss out on that, ‘cause it might make me enough money to afford the drugs I’ll need when I get sick.
Remember: Democracy is not a spectator Sport.
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE
I was greatly saddened by the news of Bob Angeloch’s passing. I am much richer as a person for having known him. When I was a young artist, newly arrived in Woodstock, it was Bob who inducted me (as well as many other new artists) into the art community, as well as inviting me to teach painting at the Woodstock School of Art during its Speare Road days and beyond. Bob rose above the local art controversies and took care of things — his wonderful art, his Paradox Gallery, the Woodstock School of Art, and by doing so he made this community a better and richer place to live. We’ve all been touched by him in a most positive way. In a way, he is the George Baily of Woodstock. I hope he’s painting up a storm, up there!
Last week the Ulster County legislature passed unanimously a resolution submitted by Legislator Susan Zimet to ban hydraulic fracturing for natural gas on county owned property. I wish to thank them all. It was an important first step but only a first step.
We are at such a critical time. Just a few weeks ago the New York Times ran an important three part investigative report by Ian Urbina exposing the risks and results of hydrofracking. It is frightening. The danger of contamination to our drinking water, serious pollution of the air, the indication of radioactive elements found in waste water, the dumping of that contaminated water into rivers, the health risks, are just some of the results of hydrofracking. Not to mention the destruction which the large industrialization of a boom and bust extractive industry like natural gas can cause to rural communities like our own. The thousands of truck loads of fracking water and chemicals on our roads, the clean up of spills, the temporary workers who use public services are just a few.
Those who say it can be regulated to make it safe need only look at the cuts being made nationally and locally in regulatory agencies. There is far from a guarantee that regulators will even be around! Regulators are often the first to go in economic hard times. There is also a lesson to be learned from the great tragedy in Japan. Here is a country with strong regulatory oversight of nuclear power plants and yet, unexpected natural disaster has lead to unprecedented unnatural disaster. Regulation can never be a guarantee of safety.
New York State and our county have the chance to prevent the destruction here. We can learn from the examples in Pennsylvania, in Texas, in Wyoming and Colorado. What we can be sure of is that natural gas can stay in the Marcellus Shale safely. We cannot be sure it can be extracted without great harm to us. Once our air and our water are contaminated, it cannot easily be uncontaminated. Any economic gains made by having gas extraction in NY can easily be lost in clean up costs, health costs, infrastructure costs. Frack Free Catskills is a local group recently formed to educate our selves and our communities and advocate for our communities by banning hydraulic fracturing for natural gas. You can find us on Facebook at FrackFree Catskills.
STEWARDSHIP PLAN LACKING
When the Comeau Conservation Easement was signed in 2009, it included an amendment requiring the town to create a stewardship plan. According to the U.S. Code, the term conservation stewardship plan means “a plan that identifies and inventories resource concerns; establishes benchmark data and conservation objectives; describes conservation activities to be implemented, managed, or improved; and includes a schedule and evaluation plan for the planning, installation, and management of the new and existing conservation activities.” The draft stewardship plan for the Comeau easement, proposed by the Town Board and created in secrecy and isolation, fulfills neither the letter of the law nor the spirit of stewardship.
This skeletal proposal also makes no provision for obtaining the funding necessary to support essential conservation activities at the Comeau. Funding sources usually require a clear and comprehensive plan before they are willing to provide financing for a project and, unfortunately, the town’s current proposal only refers to financing through the expenditure of taxpayer money. This proposal also, incomprehensibly identifying continuing maintenance activities and permitting sledding as “goals,” contains no true conservation goals and no specific strategies for achieving them.
This Town Board proposed plan is a recipe for dissension and failure, providing no open forum for community concerns and no support and direction for community enthusiasms. I urge everyone who cares about the future of the Comeau, and the success of the easement endorsed by an overwhelming majority of Woodstock’s voters, to consider supporting, instead, the citizen’s draft stewardship proposal, available for review at the library.
WATER WATER EVERYWERE
Where is our water? I have the town water district pumped and metered water numbers for 2009 and 2010, and the official explanations of our increasing losses, and they do not add up, pointing to water district management problems. Last September, Jeff Moran claimed that the 18 million gallons the town “lost” in 2009 were mostly explained by a broken altitude meter on the Yerry Hill tank. According to Moran’s timeline, and the invoice showing materials required to fix the problem, the losses should have been concentrated between autumn 2009 and February 2010. They are not. Losses are rather uniform throughout the year, varying sometimes widely from month to month, but not clustered in any one season — in short, it’s not the way Moran explained it. For example, between March 2009 and March 2010, town well production varied 44 percent. However the Yerry Hill tank problem, which was supposed to be responsible for most of the year over year variation, was reportedly not a problem during March of either 2009 or 2010. March was the biggest variation in same-month comparisons. In addition, water production from October through December in 2009 versus the same three months in 2010, are only 2 percent apart! The fact is, Woodstock does not know where about 15 percent of the water we pump goes. And this is on top of about 10 percent unmetered usage, which is standard for hydrant flushing, fighting fires, etc. We are pumping tens of thousands of dollars worth of water to nowhere, and paying for it. RUPCO claims that Woodstock has double the capacity the town needs. Really? Then why did we declare a water emergency when demand was only half of what RUPCO claims our capacity is?
FACT: Our last well tests were conducted 26 years ago. FACT: RUPCO used 26 year old data and referred to it as present capacity. FACT: We had a water shortage last summer. Do we have enough water for RUPCO’s project? I don’t know. FACT: Nobody else knows either.
TAKE THE SURVEY
On behalf of the Economic Development Task Force, I would like to thank all of the local business owners who participated in our online survey. The survey will be open for two more weeks. Anyone who has intended to reply to the survey, now’s the chance! Email Jeff at email@example.com and he will send you the active link.
To those who have participated thus far, thank you! We have collected some very interesting data and will make a presentation to the town board in early May 2011. Our next task force meeting is Wednesday, April 27, 6 p.m.-7 p.m. at the Comeau meeting room.
Chair, Economic Development Task Force
STONE SOUP SUCCESS
The Stone Soup for Youth and Community last Saturday was a huge success. Many thanks to all who contributed with their vibrant ideas and generous collaborative proposals, we will be following up on all of these in the next few weeks.
Special thanks to Houst for the gracious donation of the tables; to ‘Our Town Stone Soup Café’ and Susan Goldman, Terri Funk Antman and Tamara Cooper for organization and inspiration; to all the facilitators including Stuart Auchincloss, Sam Magarelli, Donna Sorgen, Eve Baer; to Family of Woodstock for support and provisions; to Freya Denitto for cooking the delicious soups; to Leslie Bender for her inspirational improvisational artwork; to the board of the Town of Woodstock; to the Timebank; to our various local journalists and photographers for their coverage; special thanks to Geddy Sveikauskas and all at the Woodstock Times; and a big shout to everyone involved in organization with the Woodstock Youth and Family Council. A big welcome, too, for Dr. Phyllis Spiegel McGill, the new superintendent of Onteora school district; and to everyone who attended to make the day a success.
Many thanks, on behalf of all our town, and the youth of the district.
Watch this space for updates and further events.
Woodstock Youth and Family Council