I believe that J. Edgar Hoover, secret files and all, has been reincarnated and is living in Woodstock because there does not appear to be any other reason as to why certain individuals can travel a road without any concern for rules and regulations.
RALLY TO BAN HYDROFRACKING
On Monday, May 2 at 10:30 a.m., people from all over New York will gather in Albany to support a ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) for natural gas in NY State. Banning fracking is the only way to protect our beautiful state. Regulation won’t work because.
Regulation can’t prevent the extraordinary squandering of fresh water, 5½ million gallons average per well, 100% of which becomes contaminated — permanently — and removed from the natural water cycle. The oil and gas industry intends to drill 80,000 to 100,000 wells in the Marcellus region of NY.
Regulation can’t prevent the salts, heavy metals and radioactive substances loosened by fracking from coming up with the fracking fluids;
Regulation can’t scrape together the billions of dollars needed to construct and maintain industrial waste treatment plants that attempt to filter the toxic chemicals, heavy metals and radioactive materials from fracking waste.
Regulation can’t avoid the risk from high-pressure disposal of fracking waste water in injection wells — of potential leakage and aquifer contamination, or of earthquakes.
Regulation can’t require that gas produced will contribute to “energy independence.” The gas will be shipped overseas if it’s more profitable to export than to sell domestically.
Regulation can’t guarantee enforcement. History has clearly shown that without 24/7 oversight, drillers will not obey the rules if it affects their bottom line. The approximately 16 inspectors now employed by the DEC is a number ludicrously inadequate to deal with the level of industrialization the drillers have planned.
Only a drastic change in existing regulation can thwart eminent domain abuse. New York State’s particularly vicious form is “compulsory integration,” which forces landowners who do not wish to lease to have their property drilled anyway.
Fracking will affect all of us. The moratorium on horizontal hydrofracking ends July 1.
Please come to the rally and show your support for a ban on all hydrofracking in New York. For more information about the rally and fracking, visit frackfreecatskills.org. and un-naturalgas.org. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
MILLIONS AND BILLIONS
There is nothing like investing in a cause you believe in. And that is especially true around tax time this year when we face massive cuts in education, housing, Medicare, and Social Security, making life so much harder for our children and grandchildren.
It is especially gratifying then to see that the U.S. government will be contributing $200,000 for each new Jewish settler in the West Bank and East Jerusalem over the next ten years. Your tax dollars will pay for 150,000 illegal settlers, bringing the total to 600,000 (study by The Council for the National Interest). Killing the peace process by destroying any chance for a Palestinian state doesn’t come cheap.
Why would Congress do this to the American people? Must we see our country go to ruin while we pay for Israel’s obsession with ethnic cleansing? Perhaps the Israeli lobby is just so rich and powerful that our elected representatives can’t help themselves. Millions for their election campaigns, and then billions for Israel. But isn’t this treason, selling out the interests of American citizens for cash from another country’s lobbying group?
We must begin to challenge the stranglehold that the Israeli lobby has on our government. Ask your representative next time what he or she is doing to keep the billions sent to Israel here at home. We are firing teachers while we pay for the worst excesses of Israel, from the apartheid treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank, to the starvation of children in Gaza.
FOOD PANTRY JOINS EARTH DAY
Rain, what rain? We never even noticed last Saturday as we sat under the tent in front of the Sunflower Natural Foods Market. And, I don’t think that the people who donated to our cereal drive noticed it much either. Almost everyone joined in the giving and, at the end of the day, just as the sun was trying to peek out, we closed up shop with enough cereal for a month. We hope.
A thank you goes to Barbara Velazquez, Ann King, Mary Lou Patural, and Lisa Calcagno who took turns at the table. They asked everyone who came by for a donation...and everyone who came by the table offered a donation. We could never have gotten enough cereal without the participation of everyone. Thank you.
If you were unable to join in the cereal drive on Saturday, you can certainly join in now just by sending a check to the Good Neighbor Food Pantry, c/o Woodstock Reformed Church, 16 Tinker Street, Woodstock, NY 12498.
If you prefer to donate via the computer, please go to www.foodbandofhudsonvalley.org and click on “Donate Now” to use the secure online donation. There you can enter your donation and please direct it to the Good Neighbor Food Pantry 2033F. If you want, you can set up recurring automatic donations: monthly, quarterly, etc.
You can also donate by phone if you prefer. Just call 845-534-5344 and specify Good Neighbor Food Pantry #2033F. Thank you for your generosity to the pantry. Every donation means a lot to the success of the pantry.
TO STAND ON YOUR OWN
Take these hard words of mine and build a shelter against the gathering storm.
Take these callous words of mine and make bootstraps to pull yourself up with.
Take these hollow words of mine and make a hole to crawl out of.
Take these empty words of mine and use them to store the unspoken promises.
Take these angry words of mine, catch their energy and rise above them.
Take these kind words of mine and understand you have the best of me.
Take these soothing words of mine, apply them sparingly, for to stay in motion you must stay a little raw.
Take these loving words of mine and understand they are not often spoken out loud.
BRING ‘EM HOME
Questions on how to balance budgets, from one’s personal needs all the way to the national, are concerned with unemployment, inflation, and debt. This week’s editorial mentions the housing/banking conspiracy as a big part of our problem. Another major contributor is George Bush’s wars that were put on credit cards, unbudgeted. Where was the Congress on that one? Now we see people in DC yelling to cut social welfare help for non-billionaires, and increasing corporate welfare, joined by members of the public who don’t understand their own self interest. Our town, and others around the country are in serious trouble with diminished income and rising costs. The country’s infrastructure is crumbling. This is a time that calls for clear ethics as well as pragmatic thinking.
As of this writing, April 23, 1:30 p.m. we have wasted, thrown away, discarded, or more accurately funneled into the pockets of the banks and weapons industry $1,184,311,600,873 since 2001 on war, based again, on lies. America’s empire extends to hundreds of military bases around the world. We have killed, maimed and destroyed countless people and cultures. Corporations rule the roost. The ‘contractors’ that are paid outlandish fees in war zones don’t even have to account for their uncaring waste of military equipment — or civilian lives. Our so-called diplomatic endeavors are working against peace; more ‘terrorists’ pop up and the wars never end. The public is lectured that if we don’t fight them over ‘there’, we’ll be fighting them here at home. That propaganda boils down to the public believing that we must continue killing overseas in order to continue shopping here, another persistent Bush legacy. Corporations make big bucks and get tax loopholes that keep them warm and dry while the nation has become a bad joke; unending war, destruction, with obscene profits for the few, foreclosures, loss of jobs, expensive health care that fewer and fewer can afford, cuts in school funding for the many. The corporate ruling class solution is to attack the hard won benefits of working people.
Stop these wars now! Bring the troops home now! Close the unnecessary overseas military bases now! Remove corporate tax loopholes now! End the use of taxpayers money for outrageous CEO bonus’ now! Require Congress and the people to have the same medical benefits now! These are not empty statements or slogans for demonstrations, they are problem solvers and doable. You and I are personally responsible for what the government does in our name. We can’t get away with trying to be ‘good Germans’ who claimed, after World War II, “we didn’t know.” It’s up to us to make the government work peacefully. Email, letters and buttonholing don’t work. Violence doesn’t work. Taking to the streets, massive non-violent civil resistance, people standing up for real peace and security does work.
ONE-YEAR AGO REVISITED
One year ago, the editor of Woodstock Times published my letter on the delays and problems with the Comeau Stewardship Plan. After reading George Pattison’s recent status of the Stewardship Plan in last week’s Woodstock Times, my comments, one year later, still ring true. Unfortunately, Jeff Moran, Bill McKenna and Cathy Magarelli did not listen one year ago, leaving Woodstock now exposed to “serious legal consequences.” Hopefully Woodstock’s Town Board will get it right at this late date. Here is the letter again: “The Comeau Stewardship Plan is in trouble and behind schedule because Terri Rosenblum has the responsibility to get it done. Rosenblum is lost in her new role, without a clue, as she misleads the public with false statements and excuses. As admitted by Rosenblum, in response to my recent FOIL request, there is absolutely nothing that has been documented for a Stewardship Plan. Rosenblum is the wrong person to lead a Stewardship Plan. She has never been an advocate of the easement but instead a voice against it.
There is no list of work items to complete the Stewardship Plan, no timeline documenting a schedule of activities, no meeting minutes, no notes, no documented process or protocol with the WLC, no documented research, no sizing of the work efforts, and most damaging no public consensus. At this rate expect garbage at the end of the next 12 months. Expect incomplete garbage disguised as a Stewardship Plan.
This complex effort needs someone who is an advocate for the easement with an authentic passion to get the job done, involving the community in the spirit of the easement and referendum. We need someone with a sense of urgency to complete this effort. We have had enough excuses from Rosenblum. Assign the responsibility to someone who cares about the easement, not to someone who fought against it!”
USE RECOMMENDED ZONING CHANGES
I’m sure many would agree zoning is important, but boring. Zoning determines what the town will look like and what will be built in your neighborhood. Unfortunately, most don’t become aware of the zoning law until something unpleasant is built next door. But by then, it’s too late. Now is the time to pay attention.
The town board announced on December 21 it is going to rewrite the zoning law, and councilwomen Terrie Rosenblum and Cathy Magarelli formed a subcommittee to revise and rewrite the town’s zoning law. The zoning revisions will be discussed in private and behind closed doors before being presented at a public hearing. Rewriting the zoning law in private makes it very difficult for anyone to follow the process.
Last summer, the town board asked the planning board to review all outstanding zoning recommendations. Over the past five years, three or four packages of zoning changes were presented to the town board, but none of these packages were adopted. Over the summer, the planning board, ZBA, and CCD reviewed the existing zoning and presented a package of carefully considered recommendations to the town board on October 1.
Surprisingly, the town board claims it lost these recommendations and has decided to begin the process over again. This is most unfortunate. There are many inconsistencies and ambiguities in the current zoning law which become obvious when administering the law. The zoning changes recommended by the planning board, ZBA, and CCD removed and corrected many of these problems.
If the town board would adopt the planning board’s recommendations, it would streamline the zoning law and significantly reduce the number of required variances and interpretations.
ARTHRITIS INTROSPECTIVE CHAPTER FORMING
A few weeks ago I had the great pleasure of attending the fourth annual gathering of Arthritis Introspective, a fantastic support group for people living with arthritis during the prime years of life. This was my second year in attendance and our numbers have grown by 30 percent over the previous year’s gathering to over 80 people. The annual gathering is a very special time for me as it is the only time I get to spend with people who have grown up with and/or live with Rheumatoid Arthritis. The bond of solidarity and true understanding of what each other goes through with this disease is something truly remarkable and I have made some treasured and sure-to-be life-long friends through this group.
Arthritis Introspective is a 501c3 non-profit organization founded in December 2007 by a small group of friends who had met through AJAO (American Juvenile Arthritis Organization) conferences and realized as they grew into adulthood that there was a significant gap in support networks for people coping with arthritis during “the prime of life” (ages 20-50, but we welcome anyone with arthritis, older or younger, as well). Many members, myself included, were diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis as children that have carried the disease into adulthood. Many other members have been more recently diagnosed in their 20s, 30s and 40s. The common thread is that we all have some form of arthritis, or related condition such as Lupus or Fibromyalgia, during the years we are starting careers and families, we feel the need to not face it alone and we have the desire to spread awareness and education to the general population.
To learn more about Arthritis Introspective, visit www.arthritisintrospective.org. The organization has grown to include about 15 chapters in 11 states so far with new chapters blossoming in several other states as I type this letter. I am hereby announcing the Arthritis Introspective Hudson Valley Chapter and recruiting members and possibly co-facilitators. If you have arthritis or a related condition, are interested in joining this new local chapter and meeting new friends who face similar challenges, please send an email to AIHudsonValley@gmail.com and/or find us on Facebook by searching Arthritis Introspective Hudson Valley Chapter. Once we get established with some membership, we will begin to meet socially every other month or so and work our way towards biannual educational sessions and fundraising event ideas. I look forward to meeting you.
THE KNOWN UNKNOWABLES
In last week’s Night Sky column “To infinity and beyond,” Bob Berman writes that if the universe is infinite our understanding of it will always be incomplete. “It’s not all up for grabs, like we used to assume. Our brain/logic/thought/math systems now appear incapable of knowing the underlying nature of the universe.” He states “The bottom line is that astronomy is now firmly divided between the known and potentially knowable...and the utterly unknown and unknowable.”
I agree there will always be some things utterly unknown and unknowable in an infinite universe. But I think what is today utterly unknown and unknowable could someday be the known and potentially knowable. From Ptolemy to Copernicus to Newton to Einstein the history of astronomy is filled with discoveries that have opened the door to quantum leaps in our understanding of the universe. If the universe is indeed infinite, than we have unlimited potential to learn more about it, endlessly expanding our knowledge ad infinitum.
We want to thank the Art teachers and the students of the Woodstock Elementary School, and The Woodstock Day School for their help celebrating Earth Day. The students have decorated brown paper bags with wonderful designs, celebrating the Earth. These bags delighted all of us at Sunflower Market, and our customers, some of whom forgot their own shopping bags. Remember, take care of this planet, and thank you.
Sunflower Natural Foods Market
IS SOLAR ARRAY AN ACCESSORY
Imagine if I told you that the Town of Woodstock, which pledged to have zero carbon emissions by 2017, has held up for eight months the installation of an $180,000 solar array donated to a very active local charity, the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary. Well, it’s true. This array, had it been installed back in September as planned, would have spared from the atmosphere the carbon equivalent of two SUVS driving for 20 years, and would have saved the Sanctuary over $5000 in electric bills. Should it ever be installed, the surplus electricity will get sold back to the grid and help power parts of Willow, where the Sanctuary is located.
So in a clear case of win-win, what was the problem? Woodstock’s zoning law, it seems. Solar arrays are considered “accessory structures” under the code, and the Sanctuary had allegedly used its allotment of allowed structures — the majority of which are 10x12 foot and 10 x 14 foot coops for chickens and ducks (if you ask the animals these are certainly not “accessory” uses but part of the primary use of a farm). Hoping the town would be sympathetic to the solar initiative, last fall we applied to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance on the number of structures, but it was rejected. Subsequent letters to the Town Board and the Woodstock Environmental Commission have been fruitless.
There’s another big issue here. Is it reasonable for zoning laws to compel a farm to cram animals into larger (but fewer) buildings if the caretakers of that farm deem it far more advantageous for the animals to have smaller (but more numerous) coops? At the Sanctuary we’ve found that in order to control diseases without drugs and provide the best quality of life it is essential to keep animal populations in each shed small, and have each surrounded by its own yard.
We think anyone who has seen the Sanctuary (and if you haven’t please come on weekends, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.) would agree that the grounds are lovely, the animals exceptionally happy and vibrant, and there is no sense of congestion or infringing on neighboring properties.
We’re so pleased when we hear of the positive impact the Sanctuary’s visitors have made for the town’s restaurants, stores and inns, and we feel there is a more fair balance to be struck for the needs of our rescued farm animals. This Thursday evening, April 28 at 7:30 p.m., 45 Comeau Drive, you can have a say at a public hearing for our new application with the Zoning Board of Appeals. We hope everybody interested in a greener and more economically successful Woodstock will come out and say so.
Doug Abel and Jenny Brown
Co-Founders, Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary
It’s easy to ignore facts, when they are distorted and/or deeply buried, but we in New York State are now forced to confront some health and life threatening actions that are about to take place in our area, by the Oil and Gas Industry (OGI), if we don’t stop them.
If the moratorium against fracking in New York State isn’t extended by July 1, the OGI will begin digging deep down beneath the surface of the earth to extract what they call “Natural Gas.” What they mean by natural is basically methane and petroleum. They will use 2-9 million gallons of water per well, and that water will be mixed with their “proprietary formula” of chemicals, which will then be converted into toxic waste. The mixture of chemicals is recently becoming exposed from tests coming out of Pennsylvania, where fracking has already begun.
The list of chemicals used in fracking is wider and more egregious than originally thought. That makes sense, since they must break through the rock as deep as need be, until they reach the gas. Some of these chemicals are known to weaken the respiratory, vision, hearing, cardiovascular, brain and nervous systems, the reproductive system, and also includes known carcinogens.
The water from the Delaware Water Gap, where the drilling will occur, flows down through a 90-mile aqueduct that is distributed all the way to Croton, which supplies New York City’s drinking water. It was constructed in 1939-1944 and crosses Ulster, Dutchess, Westchester, etc. The City’s Department of Environmental Protection is in the process of fixing its leaks now. Safe enough for ya?
Since the “word” about this procedure has been mostly put out by the OGI’s, we have only recently gathered enough facts to inform the public. What we do know is that Maurice Hinchey has always been against it, and he is now joined by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
This week, following an accident in one of Bradford County, Pennsylvania’s “natural gas” wells, which forced evacuation of nearby homes, A.G. Schneiderman announced that he will sue the federal government until it commits to conducting a full environmental review of the proposed fracking about to begin at the end of June.
It would be wonderful if there was a big turnout showing support for those representatives that are trying to protect our air and water. The rally is scheduled for May 2 at the Capital in Albany from 10:30 a.m.to 3:30 p.m. There will be music, speakers, including Josh Fox of Gasland, and We the People. You can ride share, or simply hop on a bus to Albany, and walk from the station.
A SOLAR SPILL IS JUST CALLED A NICE DAY
As I write this letter, gasoline and heating oil are near $4 per gallon. The pollution from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill can still be found in its marshes and below its waters and radiation is leaking from Japanese nuclear plants. Locally, hydrofracking appears to be a threat to our drinking water and our rivers.
On a more positive note, two legislators, George Maziarz, a Republican state senator from western New York, and Steve Englebright, a Democratic assemblyman from Long Island, have sponsored the Solar Industry Development and Jobs Act, S4178/A5713, in their respective legislative bodies. This forward-looking legislation offers hope for the future of New York’s economy and the environment of its citizens. Most local legislators are strong supporters of the bills. Senator John Bonacic was an early co-sponsor in the State Senate and Assemblyman Kevin Cahill is a co-sponsor in the Assembly and has played an important role in drafting the legislation. Senator William Larkin, Assemblymen Marc Molinaro, Peter Lopez and Joel Miller have all stated they will vote for the bill when it reaches their legislative floor. To date, Assemblyman Tom Kirwin and Senator Steve Saland have not responded or have not joined their colleagues in support of this critical legislation.
The purpose of this bill is to promote the growth of photovoltaics (solar electricity) and to create jobs. The benefits of this bill and solar energy are many. Solar energy is a perfectly clean energy that is produced when the demand for electricity is the greatest, and will help reduce summertime “brown outs.” Solar can be produced throughout our state, including suburbs and cities, thus reducing the need for long transmission lines. This legislation will also attract solar industry to New York and create an estimated 22,000 jobs.
S4178/A5713 will increase the financial security of photovoltaic systems and banks will have the confidence to lend money for these installations. As a result, the average homeowner will have the financial resources to install PV systems.
To find out more about this legislation, or to show support, please go to the website of Vote Solar or the New York League of Conservation Voters (NYLCV).
PAINFUL PROCESS; LEVY LOW
Over the last several months, the Onteora Central School District Board of Education has been working alongside the District Superintendent to present a budget that supports the needs of our students while coping with a second consecutive year of serious cuts in funding. The 2011-2012 proposed budget that goes to the community for a vote on Tuesday May 17 is for $50,541,121. This represents an increase of 1.04 percent in spending, and an anticipated increase in the tax levy of 3.73 percent; the disparity between these two percentage increases is a direct result of our loss of $854,611 in funding.
While it was a difficult and at times painful process to keep the budget increase so low, considering contracted salary increases, the rate of inflation, and hefty additions to pension and other mandated costs, we would like to thank our new Superintendent, Dr. Phyllis McGill, for her excellent communication with the Board of Education, which enabled us to settle on a budget ahead of schedule. We are greatly enjoying having her in our community and hope that, whether or not you have daily contact with our schools, you will have an opportunity to meet her over the coming weeks and months. Unfortunately, we could not arrive at a realistic budget without reductions in staff; we are all extremely sad to see such highly valued and valuable employees leave our district and would like to thank them for their contributions to our students’ education and to the welfare of our community. We hope to see some of them return in the future.
The recession of the last few years has had deep effects on school funding near and far. These effects present considerable challenges to school boards, such as ours, that rely heavily on local property owners to fund their District’s public schools. However, we believe that these challenges can be embraced in a positive manner. There is a saying, “Never waste a crisis,” and as a result of lobbying by school boards and other concerned citizens, we are sowing seeds of willingness for positive change at the State level in District funding mechanisms, the exorbitant cost of mandated services, and the potential for shared services between Districts, among other initiatives. Such changes do not come easily and they do not come quickly, and for this reason, the Onteora School Board is in the process of establishing a Legislative Action Committee that will provide a vehicle for students, parents, staff and community members to actively participate in the legislative process. Please continue to visit the Onteora School District web site (http://onteora.schoolwires.com/) for information on this and other initiatives. We are proud of the many achievements of our students on an individual and collective level, and of our District as a whole, which continues to perform exceptionally well. We seek to highlight these achievements and we welcome community attendance at all of our public events. It’s your district; make the most of it!
Board members are currently engaged in Budget presentations at various community forums and Town meetings. We look forward to seeing you. Check our website under BOE heading, under Budget heading for specific dates and times.
We would like to remind our Senior Citizens that they are eligible for a reduction of up to 50 percent in taxes, according to income. Please contact your Town’s Assessor for further information.
On the ballot this year you will be asked to vote on the proposed 2011-2012 budget; to elect three candidates for individual three year terms on the Board of Education; and to vote on a Capital Reserve Fund, “a dedicated savings account to help repair our buildings,” which does not require any additional tax or budget increase. Please get out and vote at all four of our elementary school buildings from 2 p.m.-9 p.m. on Tuesday May 17. As Benjamin Franklin said, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”
Ann McGillicuddy, President; Tony Fletcher, Vice President
Onteora CSD Board of Education
SAM MERCER HONORED
To Kevin Christofora and all the board members of the Little League Baseball Association, and all those who had a part in making a special tribute to Sam on April 16, the opening of the new season of Little League: Your kindness in putting his initials on the uniforms of the children touched my heart and I know Sam would have been honored and pleased.
The flowers that were given to me in Sam’s memory were very much appreciated. The 23 years Sam umpired Little League were a great joy to him.
Although the day was chilly, the love I felt warmed my heart and our family members. We thank you.
Joan E. Mercer