Monday, February 23, 2009

NtM - February 23, 2009

News That Matters
Brought to you by PlanPutnam.Org

“The only strings attached to this money is if you have a community that for the last 30 years has had persistent poverty rates … then you must direct 10 percent of this money to those communities. If you don’t want this pot of money because that string is attached, what am I to conclude from that?” South Carolina Representative Jim Clyburn

Good Monday Morning,

Frank Torrres of Carson, CA, blockaded himself in his home last week to stop foreclosure actions against him. Yeah, he got behind on his house payments and can now make good but the bank won't listen. See the story here.

In this image you can see he painted, "It's About The Family" on one side  of his roof and, "I Want 2 Be Heard" on the other, but the bank just isn't interested.

There are 1100 other Franks Torres' in Carson alone and millions more across the nation. We've got the money to keep Wall Street vacationing in the Swiss Alps but nothing for the Frank Torres' of this nation? There's something wrong with that picture.

Idly surfing the web the other day I discovered something quite interesting: we're all living here in Putnam County quite illegally.

See, this land used to belong to the Wappini Sachemship of Nochpeem whose main settlement was just over the mountain near present day Fishkill. The Nochpeem Wappini assisted the English in one of their local wars of conquest. When the war was over, they found their lands had been confiscated by settlers claiming rights under the Philipse Patent, the guy who owns all our mineral rights. (look at your deed) However, according to their Sachem, Daniel Nimham, the sale which made up the Patent only constituted the lands of Canopus, or present day Cortland. Edward Manning Ruttenber wrote in 1872:
"...that whilst the said sachem and his people were righting under your majesty’s banner, all this tract of land was taken up by persons claiming under a grant thereof made by the governor of New York to one Adolph Phillipse in 1697, and afterwards purchased by him of the ancestors of the said Indians, which purchase they allege, was not a purchase of the whole tract comprehended in the grant of 1697, but only of a small part of it;’ that finding themselves by these claims likely to be dispossessed of their patrimonial lands, they chose a guardian of their rights, and proceeded to try their claim in various suits and actions in the courts of law of New York ; that judgment having been given against them on those several suits and actions (in the trial of which they state great prejudice and partiality), they applied by petition in February, 1765, to the lieutenant-governor and council, and had a hearing upon their case ; that in the proceedings before the lieutenant governor and council they were treated with great supercilious neglect, the claims of their adversaries countenanced and supported with apparent partiality, and a decision given against them upon the evidence of a deed of purchase of these lands from their ancestors, which deed they suggest to have been fraudulent and counterfeit.” It subsequently appeared that Phillipse obtained his patent five years before he made his purchase, in violation of the laws of the province, and there is very little reason to doubt that he then obtained it from self- constituted proprietors to cover a most nefarious transaction. That Nimham and the Wappingers were unlawfully deprived of the lands embraced in the present county of Putnam, may be regarded as certain."

Website Watch:

While we're talking about Putnam County history, William J. Blake wrote a 368 page history of Putnam County which was published in 1849. A goodly portion of the beginning of the book concerns itself with the geology of the county listing minerals, their qualities and their locations. After that, Mr. Blake gets into the history of our county and towns with extra emphasis on Philipstown since so much recent (to him, at least!) had taken place there. This remarkable book is available online at Google Books. The link is here.

Cosmic Coincidence: (From Space Weather.Com)What are the odds? On Tuesday, Feb. 24th, Saturn and Comet Lulin will converge in the constellation Leo only 2 degrees apart. (see map) At the same time, Comet Lulin will be making its closest approach to Earth--the comet at its best!-- while four of Saturn's moons transit the disk of the ringed planet in view of backyard telescopes. Oh, and the Moon will be New, providing dark skies for anyone who wishes to see the show.

The best time to look is around 1 a.m. Tuesday morning (your local time) when the planet-comet combo ascend high in the southern sky. To the unaided eye, Comet Lulin looks like a faint patch of gas floating next to golden Saturn. Point your backyard telescope at that patch and you will see a lovely green comet with a double tail.

And now, The News:

  1. Costco big-box sprawl is dictated by greed
  2. Why Investing In Parks Is Smart Economic Stimulus
  3. New York Voters Back Millionaires Tax 4-1
  4. USDA Rural Development reduces direct home loan interest rate
  5. Arts all around us
  6. Conserving Natural Areas and Wildlife in Your Community
  7. Microsoft wants refund from some laid off workers

Costco big-box sprawl is dictated by greed

Danbury Newstimes Letter to the Editor

Costco proponents, like Christopher Lynch (letter, Feb. 8), pronounce that Brookfield should ignore that Costco does not fit our Plan of Development, nor meet many zoning regulations -- including architecture, safety and traffic -- in favor of tax revenue.

Board of Finance members have stated Costco's "experts" overestimated projected tax revenue by 40 percent to 60 percent.

In reality, divided by household number, Costco will contribute approximately $6 per month per home beginning in 2011. Is that worth sitting in traffic for? Worth the traffic accidents? Worth our EMS and fire response time significantly increasing?

Costco's traffic study did not include most roads and intersections their massive traffic will affect. Their traffic engineer finally admitted (letter submitted Jan. 21) the intersection of Pocono Road and Junction Road will experience gridlock.

With the plan being for Federal Road to remain two lanes, Junction Road only widened in front of the store, and 20 percent of Costco traffic to come from underneath the railroad-bridge bottleneck, is anyone surprised?

Many area residents, whose narrow residential roads Costco wants to use as feeder streets for this store, spent hours studying the application.

It's not "fear of the unknown" that's formed our opinions, as Christopher Lynch claims, but that Brookfield is a town where people live, work, attend church and raise children. It's not merely a route to Costco.

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Why Investing In Parks Is Smart Economic Stimulus

Remembering the legacy of FDR's "Tree Army" -- and the dividends that investment paid not only for the environment, but for the economy.

The recently passed economic stimulus package includes $905 million for revitalizing our National Parks, many of which have suffered the same kind of neglect as other environmental causes during the past eight years of the Bush Administration. Such expenditures will both put people to work and restore public facilities at America's most magnificent natural areas – from the Hudson Valley's Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites to the Grand Tetons and Denali National Park in Alaska. The Department of the Interior estimates that the funds will create 100,000 jobs over the next two years.
This investment builds on a proven precedent during other periods of economic hardship. During the Great Depression, one of President Franklin Roosevelt's chief means of boosting employment and jump-starting local economies was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). According to a fascinating Web site dedicated to "Roosevelt's Tree Army," as the CCC was dubbed, the 3.4 million men engaged in the program accomplished $2 billion worth of work. Those are 1942 dollars; adjusting for inflation, that amounts to more than $25 billion today.

President Roosevelt seized a unique opportunity to improve the lives not only of those enrolled in the CCC but of all Americans, present and future, while conserving some of America's greatest natural resources. >From California to New York, Alabama to Maine, we continue enjoying the 800 state parks, 13,000 miles of hiking trails and 52,000 acres of public campgrounds built by the "Colossal College of Calluses" (another CCC nickname). The air we breathe is purer thanks to the carbon-sequestering effects of the two to three billion trees CCC workers planted, while the 40 million acres of farmland protected in erosion-control projects they undertook mean many of us can purchase fresh, healthy produce near our homes.

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New York Voters Back Millionaires Tax 4-1

By a 79 - 18 percent margin, New York State voters support a so-called 'Millionaires Tax,' a higher state income tax rate on people making more than $1 million a year, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Support for the higher tax sweeps across the political spectrum, 62 - 32 percent among Republicans, 91 - 7 percent among Democrats and 81 - 17 percent among independents, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds.

Support drops slightly to 72 - 25 percent when the threshold for the higher tax rate is dropped to $500,000. Support drops further to 56 - 40 percent when the target number is set at $250,000. At this $250,000 target, Republicans switch to 60 - 37 percent opposed, while the lower number wins 67 - 29 percent support among Democrats and 59 - 38 percent support among independent voters.

Despite support for the Millionaires Tax, voters say 51 - 34 percent that they would rather cut state services than raise taxes.

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USDA Rural Development reduces direct home loan interest rate

MIDDLETOWN - The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development agency is reducing its interest rate on direct home loans to four percent. The change is effective on March 1.

This is the second consecutive month that Rural Development has reduced its direct home loan interest rate. The previous rate was 4.375 percent.

Under the direct home loan program, low- and very-low income families and individuals receive a loan directly from USDA Rural Development to buy, build or improve homes in rural areas.

The loans require no down payment, no private mortgage insurance and the standard term is 33 years. Payment assistance, which can reduce monthly mortgage payments, is also available for those who qualify.

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Arts all around us

A NYJN Editorial

Artists need to eat, too. That's one of the takeaways from the $787 billion economic recovery plan that President Obama signed into law last week. A piece of it - $50 million - will go to the National Endowment for the Arts, an independent federal agency that supports artists and arts organizations. The money was on the chopping block before arts friendly members of Congress intervened, persuading colleagues that the arts are not merely an enhancement of culture but also an economic engine for jobs and tourism.

Less mercenarily, the arts have unusual power to invite, and unite, people of all backgrounds to the higher calling of expanded knowledge and insight into what it is to be human. Take the NEA's "The Big Read,'' a nationwide initiative under way locally. ArtsWestchester recently won a $20,000 NEA grant to help bring "The Big Read'' to Westchester, partnering with the Westchester Library System, Westchester Community College, schools and colleges, local libraries, civic and community groups, and cultural organizations throughout the county. It is an ambitious, and inspiring, undertaking.

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Conserving Natural Areas and Wildlife in Your Community

Smart Growth Strategies for Protecting the Biological Diversity of New York's Hudson River Valley

Conserving Natural Areas and Wildlife in Your Community is a guide for anyone involved or interested in biodiversity conservation and local land use planning and decision-making, including elected officials, volunteer board members, and interested citizens and organizations. It describes how to find biological information about your community and the tools and techniques that local governments can use to conserve natural areas and wildlife.

You can use the links below to download a pdf version of the document.

Conserving Natural Areas and Wildlife in Your Community (pdf, 9.3 MB) This is a large document and may be slow to download.

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Microsoft wants refund from some laid off workers

By Steven Musil, CNET
Monday, February 23, 2009 06:00 AM

Microsoft says it made an accounting error when it laid off some employees last month and now feels the best way to correct the error is with what will likely add up to a public relations blunder.

The software giant, which recently laid off 1,400 employees, sent letters this week to some of those former workers letting them know that their severance payouts were a bit too "generous" and respectfully requested that the former employees pay back that money, according to a report last week on TechCrunch.

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