Monday, December 8, 2008

News That Matters - December 8, 2008

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

"I am not the Grinch, but parchments from 1814 and Twinkies don't mix," 
        - Putnam County [NY] Clerk Denis Sant

Good Monday Morning,

We had a tiny bit of snow yesterday and in response to that first visual blast of winter, highway crews across the county emptied the oceans of salt and left it in mounds at  intersections all over the place.

Are the sides of your car white? Does a bear poop in the woods? Does a one legged duck swim in a circle? Of course.

Auto mechanics and body shop owners across the region will tell you that the amount of money you and I spend on auto maintenance from road salt has reached astronomical amounts. When it comes to salt, less is sometimes more, especially when it comes to the undercarriage of your car rotting out in five or six years and leading to other - dangerous - problems such as your brake lines rusting to the point of failure.

The biggest offender seemed to be the County so someone's got to have a chat with Highway Superintendent Harold Gary about that, especially on roads near water courses, lakes and reservoirs. Road salt is one of the most significant pollutants of drinking water sources and we've got to find a way to offer  highway safety while protecting life's most essential ingredient.

Most drivers however, have come to expect our roads to be safe at any speed regardless of conditions. Whether it be rain, snow, ice, or wet leaves. In response, lawyers - and the threat of lawsuits - have caused highway crews to do what they do leaving it to the courts - or the fear of the courts - to become defacto experts on how to use road salt and sand. But let's face it, they don't know Jack. Drivers are never to blame for a wreck on a slippery road... especially when there's a lawyer around.

We could just slow down and be cautious but that would require paying attention and practicing a modicum of personal responsibility. Can we all do that next time it snows? Can we all drive a little slower and be a bit more tolerant if the road isn't magically free of snow, ice and water? Please?

Illuminating Illuminate.

A few weeks ago I wrote in this column:

Remember back in June of 2007 when former Kent Councilman Denis Illuminate allegedly shot Putnam Valley resident, Douglas Greenwich - twice?

Yeah, I’d almost forgotten too.

Last Friday, after 17 months in limbo, a grand jury finally met to hear evidence in the case. According to an October, 2007 article in the JN, Greenwich claims he was shot first in the chest and then in the back. Illuminate claims Greenwich came after him with a nightstick threatening to bash his head in.
Illuminate is being defended in court by Carmel attorney Victor Grossman which is rather like John Adams defending British soldiers after the Boston Massacre.

I’ll tell you, if you or I shot someone I’m pretty sure the cops would have taken our gun, (Illuminate kept his), locked us up or, at least set bail, (I don’t think either was done), and convened a grand jury pretty darned fast. I guess it’s nice to be a former cop, a former councilman and a friend of the former DA.

Carmel Attorney Victor Grossman, who is defending Mr. I, wrote the other day first to thank me for the comparison with Mr. Adams and then to say that Dennis' gun was, in fact, turned over and that he gave a statement to the police that very day.

In a NYJN article of October 1, 2007, a reporter wrote:

"But [attorneys] Orlando and Redd wonder why the prosecutor, Stephen Lewis, has yet to interview their client or present the case to a grand jury - and why  Illuminate, 65, a former Kent police officer and councilman, still carries a gun."

If Mr. Grossman is right, and I know the guy so I'm not really questioning (you remember my legal disclaimer from the other day), that's just two more important items that happened not to be mentioned in the original - or subsequent - NYJN news story of the event. There is a pattern there...

So, in the future, whenever I write something or make note of something posted to the NYJN's website, just keep in mind the odds are that the story may not be all that complete. Caveat Reader!

While we're talking about the NY Journal News, according to an editorial in today's online edition, smoking is considered a psychiatric disorder. To wit:

"A major new study on the prevalence of psychiatric disorders among young adults in the United States revealed some disturbing news. Notably, the rates of disorders - including substance abuse, nicotine addiction, personality disorders and other mental-health conditions..."

When did that happen?

For those of you who celebrate Hanukkah (remember, that's the holiday where you wrap your presents for me in blue paper so as not to confuse them with my birthday (green) or Christmas (red)) there's this little video online (office safe) brought to our attention by LL.E. It's 3:19 seconds of a subgroup of the Seattle Men's Chorus singing "I have a little dreidel" and it's not what you might think! It's the kosher cowboy way.

Not to be left out, those who celebrate Christmas and just can't enjoy that holiday without a stunning performance of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus, here's a rare video performance of such by monks who have taken vows of silence. And if you're a reformed Jew, here's a version recorded in Israel, of that famous ditty sung in Hebrew.

A last note for this coooool winter's morning:

What do Harry Potter and Rapunzel have in common? Coming this weekend to the Cultural Center on Lake Carmel is the second annual edition of Arts on the Lake's puppet extravaganza:

The Young Wizard and the Sugar Plum
The Search for a Magic Wand

Conceived, directed, produced and choreographed by Kent's own Bart Cook and Maria Calegari, principle dancers from the NYC ballet, this 90 minute wonder for adults and children includes scores of hand-crafted puppets, a dozen humans, music from The Nutcracker, sound effects, magical lighting and audience participation. This is the holiday show not to be missed. Did I mention the flying broomstick?

Click here for more information and to purchase tickets. If last year is any indication, you'd better get to it. Seats sell fast!

And now, the News:

  1. Land sold for subdivision on Patterson farm
  2. Space feud spurs questions on Bondi
  3. Back at Junk Value, Recyclables Are Piling Up
  4. L.I. town Sets Guidelines for Backyard Windmills
  5. Bank of America to Stop Financing Mountaintop Mining
  6. Read all about it: newspapers are done for
  7. D.C. Circuit Panel Bars Live Sketching, Then Fumes at Art

Land sold for subdivision on Patterson farm

Michael Risinit
The Journal News

PATTERSON - The neighbors outlasted the proposed subdivision known as Burdick Farms, former farm fields once eyed for 128 homes but eventually approved for 34.

California developer Vincent Condito walked away from the project in October, citing the worsening economy, town officials said. In doing so, he left behind some unpaid bills - including one for Patterson's engineering consultant.

He sold the property shortly before Thanksgiving, according to a deed filed in the Putnam County clerk's office. That's allowing some creditors to recoup cash and leaving some neighbors wondering what may be next for the 168 acres, where corn and hay once grew above Bullet Hole Road. Many had worried about the project bringing traffic to the neighborhood's narrow roads and polluting nearby wells.

Read More

Space feud spurs questions on Bondi

Susan Elan
The Journal News

A clash over renewal of a lease for CAP, the agency that serves the poor, at 121 Main St. in Brewster, also home to the county records depot and a sheriff's department annex, has led to some elected officials openly questioning the whereabouts of County Executive Robert Bondi.

"If he (Bondi) were here on the job, he would know the circumstances instead of making decisions from upstate New York," said Putnam County Clerk Dennis Sant, who wants to use the space allotted to CAP's food pantry and the sheriff's annex for the mushrooming number of court and municipal records that are housed in the same building.

For several years, there have been whispers about Bondi's alleged schedule of four-day weekends at his farm in Steuben County where his wife lives full time.

Now Sant and Legislator Vincent Tamagna, R-Philipstown, charge publicly that management of Putnam has suffered through Bondi's alleged absence.

Read More

Back at Junk Value, Recyclables Are Piling Up


Trash has crashed.

The economic downturn has decimated the market for recycled materials like cardboard, plastic, newspaper and metals. Across the country, this junk is accumulating by the ton in the yards and warehouses of recycling contractors, which are unable to find buyers or are unwilling to sell at rock-bottom prices.

Ordinarily the material would be turned into products like car parts, book covers and boxes for electronics. But with the slump in the scrap market, a trickle is starting to head for landfills instead of a second life.

“It’s awful,” said Briana Sternberg, education and outreach coordinator for Sedona Recycles, a nonprofit group in Arizona that recently stopped taking certain types of cardboard, like old cereal, rice and pasta boxes. There is no market for these, and the organization’s quarter-acre yard is already packed fence to fence.

“Either it goes to landfill or it begins to cost us money,” Ms. Sternberg said.

Read More

L.I. town Sets Guidelines for Backyard Windmills

ISLIP, N.Y. (AP)  -- Homeowners in one Long Island town can now add windmills to their backyards.
The guidelines crafted by the Town of Islip allow homeowners to erect wind turbines up to 45-feet high on their residential property.

But the turbines will have to be set back from property lines and emit only as much sound as street traffic in suburbia.
The guidelines are aimed at allowing residents to reduce dependence on the power grid.
Read More

Bank of America to Stop Financing Mountaintop Mining

By Tom Zeller Jr.
Executives from the bank were given a personal view of mountaintop mining near Kayford, W. Va.
(Photo: Associated Press)

The Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the nation’s most powerful environmental groups, has managed to persuade Bank of America, one of the nation’s leading financial institutions, to take a measured stand against certain surface mining practices.

From an announcement released Wednesday by the bank:

Bank of America is particularly concerned about surface mining conducted through mountain top removal in locations such as central Appalachia. We therefore will phase out financing of companies whose predominant method of extracting coal is through mountain top removal. While we acknowledge that surface mining is economically efficient and creates jobs, it can be conducted in a way that minimizes environmental impacts in certain geographies.

At the N.R.D.C.’s Switchboard blog, Rob Perks, director of the organization’s Center for Advocacy Campaigns in Washington, said the group managed to persuade Bank of America executives to visit several mountaintop mine sites in Appalachia — including Kayford Mountain, which has been laid low by mountaintop mining methods.

Read More

Read all about it: newspapers are done for

Print media are in dire trouble – but blogs are no substitute

Andrew Sullivan

The big three car makers are now the focus of attention in the US. The good news is that their incompetence and fecklessness are not being overlooked. The odds of their being saved seem mercifully lower now than before, especially as other industries, facing the same brutal environment, are not sure why they shouldn’t be bailed out as well.

Take the newspaper industry. It has been faltering badly under the pressure of new media for a few years. For much of the past decade, circulation for all papers has been declining at about 2% a year. The last year has been a test case of sorts. Newspapers had the story of a lifetime: an election campaign of historic interest, suspense, drama and personality. From Hil-lary to Barack, from John Edwards’s love child to Sarah Palin’s Down’s syndrome child, from John McCain’s wild lunges for relevance to the first black president, it was the kind of year in which circulation should have boomed. If you live for a story, this year was an embarrassment of riches.

And yet the decline didn’t just continue. It accelerated.

Between March and September the 500 biggest newspapers in America reported an average circulation decline of 4.6%. In six months. That’s close to a 10% decline per year. No newspapers showed any but fractional gains. It is therefore a near-certainty that many towns and cities in America will no longer have a newspaper after the down-turn. And that may apply not just to small names but to some big ones as well. The Los Angeles Times, for example, has gone from a circulation of 1.1m to 739,000 since the turn of the millennium. Its staff has been halved. Morale has never been lower.

Read More

D.C. Circuit Panel Bars Live Sketching, Then Fumes at Art

There was neither a published nor unpublished opinion—no formal judgment at all—for this federal appeals court decision: A sketch artist was barred from capturing oral argument in a high-profile Guantánamo detainee case.

Longtime courtroom sketch artist Bill Hennessy Jr. brought his 20"x26" portfolio and his tackle box of pastels, charcoal, colored pencils, and water color markers, to the line at Courtroom No. 5 at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last week. The court’s chief deputy clerk, Marilyn Sargent, confronted Hennessy. No sketching allowed today, Hennessy recalled Sargent say.

Hennessy, who’s been sketching court action for nearly 30 years, says he wasn’t given much of an explanation and assumed that tight space was the hang-up. He put his gear in a press room and returned to court with a college-ruled 8"x10" pad and black pen. A dozen reporters took up two rows in court. Other observers stood against the side and back walls of the room.

Read More
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