Thursday, November 20, 2008

News That Matters - November 20, 2008

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

PlanPutnam's Annual Fund Drive: Day 12  <- Click Here

Good Thursday Morning,

The sun rose this morning over a different Town of Patterson than existed when it set last night. This is one of those stories that gives you a bit of a chill, when democracy seems to work and political shenanigans - for the sake of personal gain - gets a kick in the butt.

NtM reader Dan Kutcha posted a note this morning which reads in part:

  • There was a motion to amend the personnel policy to eliminate the in-lieu-of cash payments for all town employees after they leave town service.  This motion was seconded but it doesn't appear that a vote was taken.  I listened to the tape several times and didn't hear a roll call on this motion so I don't exactly know where it stands although the public left with the impression that it passed.
  • They passed a motion that Town Council members be only offered an individual medical plan with the option to upgrade to a family plan if they pay 25% of the difference in plan costs or if they choose an in-lieu-of payment instead, that it be $3000/year.
  • They passed a motion to set the Council member salaries at $18,000/year.  This appears to be a small cut over last year's figure.
  • They voted to reinstate Paul Fava's 2008 status with the Town.
The rest of Dan's post can be found here. The point here is that there was a dramatic reversal in where the town was heading, budget wise, once 300 people came out - twice - and let their board know what was on their minds and it would have been political suicide to have ignored those folk.
And thus this question: If Town Board members were playing politics with the budget, what are those board members doing on the board in the first place?

It's clear from their actions over the past few weeks that what was best for the town was set aside and replaced with what was best, personally, for those members. This is a thought which should remain with Patterson's residents right up - and through - election day 2009. Just because the citizenry was able to beat back this assault on good governance does not make it safe for people to be on the board whose primary concern is not straightforward municipal management. Come November, those who were forced to change their minds last night should be forced off the board.
By the way, does anyone know if this story appeared in the NYJN this morning or has News That Matters, once again, been the dependable source?

PlanPutnam's Annual Fund Drive: Day 12  <- Click Here

Detroit is having a really hard time getting anyone in Congress to listen to their begging pleading request for a $25,000,000,000 handout. I've seen the numbers as to what will become of the mid-west if General Motors goes under, and they are horrific.

But GM, Ford and Chrysler are responsible for their own failings. It was all about building affordable small, energy efficient vehicles and that's the one thing they've resisted. Insisting that Americans wanted Humvees and the like, foreign car makers were able to flood the market with sensible alternatives. How Detroit missed the boat on this one is something economists and academic scholars will talk about for generations. Toyota has been producing the the Corolla, the world's best car for a generation, and the best minds at GM haven't been able to reverse engineer the damn thing... or even come close?

But there is an out! ExxonMobil could bail out US Automakers in a deal that would do sweet justice to free market capitalism. Just two consecutive quarters of EM's profits is more than what the Big Three are asking from Congress and could be got on better terms. It's a symbiotic relationship made in Heaven.

A post yesterday claims that the Patterson Zoning Board of Appeals will be dealing with Patterson Crossing at their next meeting, Monday, November 24th. I checked their website for more information but as of last evening the latest agenda was for a June, 2007 meeting. If anyone knows what that's going to be about, please let us know.

In the Coleman-Franken recount: As of this morning, with about 18% of the vote recounted, Norm Coleman still leads Al Franken -- but by only 174 votes.

Heres a once-in-a-lifetime event coming next Tuesday you won't want to miss:

On November 25, 2008, to celebrate the 225th anniversary of the evacuation of the United States of America by British troops, the Palisades Parks Conservancy, in collaboration with the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, Scenic Hudson, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and Palisades Interstate Park Commission will symbolically light five beacon sites that replicate the original signal locations used by the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.

These vital systems summoned the militia in both New York and in neighboring New Jersey and warned residents of the approaching British Redcoats. The types of beacons varied from tar barrels on top of poles, to pyramids, to wooden towers filled with dried grass or hay that could be ignited. The beacons enabled quick and effective communication with troops throughout the lower Hudson River Valley.

Instead of lighting fires, Palisades, the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, and Scenic Hudson will create a symbolic Xenon light display that will light up Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area from Bear Mountain State Park to Beacon. This project is also part of the larger interstate effort with national heritage area partners in New Jersey, the Crossroads of the American Revolution National Heritage Area. Six additional Beacons will be lit in New Jersey. The total project area will stretch from Princeton, NJ to Beacon, NY.

And now, the News:

  1. Philipstown now owns its recreation building
  2. Idling cars not allowed in Westchester
  3. Court Ruling on "Surrounding Compatibility"
  4. From TPL: Changing Lights, Changes Lives
  5. Bark Beetles Kill Millions of Acres of Trees in West
  6. N.J. budget crisis / Share the pain
  7. Media expert: 'Good story' matters
  8. Clearing Up This Mess

Philipstown now owns its recreation building

Barbara Livingston Nackman
The Journal News

PHILIPSTOWN - After almost six years of waiting, the town now owns its first one-stop recreation center.

The Open Space Institute has completed its donation to Philipstown of a 22-acre site with a 33,000-square-foot building and 5 acres of ball fields on the former Capuchin friary property off Route 9D.

The town can now proceed with its recreation plans, which rely on space within the building to host nearly 300 annual programs for babies to senior citizens.

"We cannot think of any better stewards than the town Recreation Department, or any better users than the people of this community, for this facility and property," said Joe Martens, the institute's president.

The Open Space Conservancy, the land acquisition affiliate of the Open Space Institute, bought the 93-acre Glenclyffe site for $7.4 million in 2001. It was purchased from the friary, which had considered selling the land to developers who proposed building 425 townhouses and a 100-room luxury hotel there.

Read More

Idling cars not allowed in Westchester

Gerald McKinstry
The Journal News

WHITE PLAINS - Westchester County lawmakers last night made it illegal for drivers to keep their vehicles running for three minutes or more while parked.

The goal is to reduce dangerous emissions like carbon dioxide that contribute to Westchester's poor air quality and to global warming, said Thomas Abinanti, D-Greenburgh, the bill's sponsor.

"Climate change is the defining issue of the 21st century," Abinanti said. "We can do our part by not adding to the problem.

"Idling uses more gas and is worse for vehicles than turning your car off. Most idling is not only wasteful, but unnecessary."

Violators could be fined up to $250.

Read More

PlanPutnam's Annual Fund Drive: Day 12  <- Click Here

Court Ruling on "Surrounding Compatibility"

Arkansas Supreme Court Finds that Requiring Compatibility with Surrounding Land Uses is not a Vague Standard

After being denied an application for a permit to build a rock quarry, Benton County Stone, Inc. alleged that the planning ordinance should be determined void for vagueness asserting that the concept of “land use compatibility” contained in the site development requirements section of the Code is ambiguous and confusing and therefore unconstitutionally vague.

The ordinance provides, in relevant part:
A.   Development Patterns.  Must be consistent and compatible with existing development and the environment.
B.   Clustering. Commercial and industrial development are encouraged to cluster to minimize incompatible land-use.

Read More

From TPL: Changing Lights, Changes Lives

Citizen Action group lights up New York

It’s said that there’s great power in youth, and you only need to look as far as your lights for evidence.

All around New York City, in all five boroughs, kids are getting out and making a difference, light bulb by light bulb.

Armed with inspiration after seeing former Vice President Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth slideshow, then-14-year-old Avery Hairston began thinking about what he could do from his Manhattan home to help stem the tide of climate change.

Two and a half years later, RelightNY, the idea he conceived, has distributed well over 30,000 compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs throughout the city. CFL bulbs use much less energy and last longer than standard bulbs, saving money and significantly reducing environmental impacts.

Read More

Bark Beetles Kill Millions of Acres of Trees in West


HELENA, Mont. — On the side of a mountain on the outskirts of Montana’s capital city, loggers are racing against a beetle grub the size of a grain of rice.

>From New Mexico to British Columbia, the region’s signature pine forests are succumbing to a huge infestation of mountain pine beetles that are turning a blanket of green forest into a blanket of rust red. Montana has lost a million acres of trees to the beetles, and in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming the situation is worse.

“We’re seeing exponential growth of the infestation,” said Clint Kyhl, director of a Forest Service incident management team in Laramie, Wyo., that was set up to deal with the threat of fire from dead forests. Increased construction of homes in forest areas over the last 20 years makes the problem worse.

Read More

Note: Thanks to A.I. for sending the following article along last evening:

N.J. budget crisis / Share the pain

Published: Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Yes, we know you're tired of reading, year after year, about how bad the state's financial condition is.

But if it was bad in good economic times, understand just how dire the situation is now.

Tax collections are way off. The state is looking at a budget shortfall this year of at least $1.2 billion. Next year's budget shortfall could be as much as
$5 billion.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine is already talking - correctly, we believe - of eliminating property-tax rebates next year. The state very likely won't be able to afford even this year's scaled-down version of the rebate program, which totaled about $2.5 billion. Corzine is taking other steps to trim costs as well, including implementing an immediate 5 percent spending reduction in all departments.

And that laudable effort to pay off some of the state's staggering debt with last year's $600 million surplus? Forget it. Most of that surplus will be going toward plugging budget holes. That's disappointing, but understandable.

Read More

PlanPutnam's Annual Fund Drive: Day 12  <- Click Here

Media expert: 'Good story' matters

MSNBC president gives lecture at Vassar

By Rasheed Oluwa
Poughkeepsie Journal

The modes used to gather and disseminate information may be changing, but the basic values that are needed to make a news story compelling remain the same.

That was the message Phil Griffin, a Vassar College alumnus and the president of MSNBC, said he wanted to get across to more than 160 people at a lecture at Vassar College Tuesday.

"You still need to tell a good story," Griffin said. "The technology has evolved, but it's still about people. It doesn't matter if you're using the television, computer or phone."

Griffin, 51, graduated from Vassar College in 1979. In July, he was named president of MSNBC, a cable news network accused by critics of having a liberal bias.

Read More

Clearing Up This Mess

Posted November 18, 2008
John Maynard Keynes had the answer to the crisis we’re now facing; but it was blocked and then forgotten.

By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 18th November 2008

Poor old Lord Keynes. The world’s press has spent the past week blackening his name. Not intentionally: most of the dunderheads reporting the G20 summit which took place over the weekend really do believe that he proposed and founded the International Monetary Fund. It’s one of those stories that passes unchecked from one journalist to another.

The truth is more interesting. At the Bretton Woods conference in 1944, John Maynard Keynes put forward a much better idea. After it was thrown out, Geoffrey Crowther - then the editor of the Economist magazine - warned that “Lord Keynes was right … the world will bitterly regret the fact that his arguments were rejected.”(1) But the world does not regret it, for almost everyone - the Economist included - has forgotten what he proposed.

One of the reasons for financial crises is the imbalance of trade between nations. Countries accumulate debt partly as a result of sustaining a trade deficit. They can easily become trapped in a vicious spiral: the bigger their debt, the harder it is to generate a trade surplus. International debt wrecks people’s development, trashes the environment and threatens the global system with periodic crises.

Read More

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