Wednesday, July 1, 2009

News That Matters - July 1, 2009

News That Matters
Brought to you (Almost Daily) by PlanPutnam.Org

Good Wednesday Morning,

Happy Canada Day!

Minnesota finally has a US Senator. Sheesh. That took long enough. Norm Colman finally called it quits yesterday after Jesus returned from heaven, sat him down, and told him there was no way in heaven or hell he could pull this one off. Previous to that, Mr. Colman knocked on the door of virtually every and any court that would let him in and they all said the same thing: "Give it up, kid". He finally has.

Keep Putnam Beautiful is again soliciting artists to generate additional custom painted 55 gallon trash cans for use in the county. The two themes optioned are, a 1950's automobile theme and one for Sybil Ludington, that under appreciated heroine of local fame. These will join the 34 already in existence. For more information write to Walt Thompson.

Now that Albany is about as interesting as Kent Town Board meetings used to be back in the day, property tax reform is going to have to wait for another session. While property tax reform (PTR) groups were putting all their eggs into the Omnibus basket (a collection of smaller, politically easy and weaker bills) what they found was that there was never any desire in the Albany leadership to move the bills forward. Not the circuit breaker, not the cap - nothing. Their opportunity was lost through what I call the "politics of apology" where you pick something you think is easy in order to take baby-steps towards a solution and then, mismanaged from the get-go, let the system get the better of them by apologizing, "We thought we could get this but because [something non-germane to the conversation happened] it didn't happen."
Rather, what they should have done is used their political capitol and taken the hard road: The Quality in Education Act, (QEA) which would have shifted the burden of school funding from property taxes to a progressive graduated income tax. The end result would be that somewhere around 90% of property owners would see an actual and real decrease in their overall tax burden. But in order to pay for the QEA the state income tax rate would have to be broadened from a low of 2% to a high of 15% which would raise enough money to pay for education at the state level.

Right now, NY has an essentially flat tax rate running from 4% to around 8% (for earnings over $2 million!) where you reach the standard 6.85% at as little as $20,000 a year all the way up to the high six-figures, a system about as fair as property assessments done by a blind man. When we moved from the graduated income tax to the flat tax system we have now, the super-rich paid $8 billion LESS each year while the middle classes (that's most of us) had to make up the difference... and we have.

Over the past year I've worked with fellow Kent resident Vic Tiship to get the Kent Town Board and the Putnam County Legislature to pass non-binding resolutions (for the county it was the second time) in support of the QEA and it's property tax relief system but the problem lies not with the town or the county but with, well, those three men (now four, I guess) in that room in Albany. But the problem also exists with the PTR groups for not taking a definitive position on the only bill (currently locked in committee) that actually solves the problem. And, why is that bill locked in committee? Two words: Sheldon Silver. For reasons I will never understand, PTR groups think they can work with Mr. Silver but time and experience has shown that no matter what they do he, and Albany, will fail them.

Now it's time to play hardball but I fear the PTR  groups just don't have the chutzpah to do it and Vic and I are just about out of [legal] ideas. We'll keep working though and will encourage all of you to write your state reps and let them know that there's a real solution out there, Assemblyman Kevin Cahill's Quality in Education Act, and that you want that bill out of he education committee and on the floor for debate and ultimate passage.

In other words, while Albany fiddles, newspapers fill with foreclosure notices and those four men in that room? They just don't give a damn.
Many communities in the Hudson Valley are canceling their 4th of July celebrations due to economic constraints. It's going to be a bad year for fireworks. The Town of Kent is working on privately raising $10,000 and they're about half-way there. Collection Buckets are out at various establishments in town and whether you live there or not, one of the nicest places to watch fireworks on the 4th is on the shores of Lake Carmel. Do what I did yesterday morning at Bloomburg's - drop a few bucks in the bucket and help to light up the skies this weekend.

While we're talking about the Town of Kent, the story about a proposed law-change to allow the Supervisor to have a four-year rather than a two-year term is still the most read story at the blog. The issue is one I am probably going to have to take a position on at some point but all I can say now is that there are as many valid arguments in favor as there are opposed.
It strikes me that the main argument in opposition is that we might get stuck with a bum Supervisor for four years. The Town of Kent is known for such and people do remember. So what's needed is a way to elect someone who becomes a consensus candidate, not a pularity candidate. In a multiple field race it's entirely possible, under our current system, for someone to win with less than 40% of the vote - and it happens all the time. The winner-take-all system we have isn't working very well as the winning candidates often do not have the support of the majority of voters. What's needed then is a change and Instant Runoff Voting is one option that is catching on across the nation and around the world. Read more about IRV here.

And now, The News:
  1. Putnam lawmakers vote not to pay MTA its payroll tax
  2. Questions raised over candidates' plan
  3. Summer Slots Still Available at DEC Camps
  4. Month of activities to put spotlight on watersheds
  5. Flesh out Dover plan but keep it moving
  6. Create Bike-Only Roads
  7. Isolated Forest Patches Lose Species, Diversity
  8. Betraying the Planet
  9. Venus and Mars in High Contrast
  10. God, Firearms and America Come Together at a Church in Kentucky

Putnam lawmakers vote not to pay MTA its payroll tax

CARMEL – The Putnam County Legislature is thumbing its nose at the MTA, voting Monday night to refuse to pay the new mobility tax to the New York City transportation system.

The State Legislature and the governor approved the payroll tax, which will add a one-third of one percent levy on all payrolls in the Mid-Hudson counties of Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester.

But, Putnam lawmakers said the tax is a job killer and they aren’t going to pay it on the county’s payroll.

Read More

Questions raised over candidates' plan

Re the June 23 Journal News article, "Southeast Town Board candidates propose contract with voters" that names Joseph DePaola and Matthew Neuringer as candidates promising to cut taxes by 10 percent:

I wonder if they have determined what services will be diminished if taxes are reduced by 10 percent. Will town roads be plowed after six inches of snow, or only three? On what days will Wells Park open and close? How many days will the library be closed? How high will town baseball field grass be before it is cut? Will there still be a ragamuffin parade at Halloween?

How many people will be laid off in the town administrative offices? Will the people left be paid overtime or a regular salary for the extra hours needed to fulfill the work of their fired former colleagues? If so, what will be the source of the funds?

Read More

Summer Slots Still Available at DEC Camps

June 26, 2009 by newyorkoutdoors

Summer is just beginning, but it is still not too late for youth to register for a week of fun and excitement at a DEC Environmental Education Camp. The camps focus on conservation education, immersing campers in outdoor activities, lessons and games that teach the wise use of natural resources and protection of the environment.

For people who love being in the outdoors, chances are that they had a great experience as a kid that triggered their interest in nature. DEC’s environmental education youth camps provide this experience to boys or girls aged 12 to 17 each summer.

A week at the sleep-away camp begins on Sunday afternoon and goes through the following Saturday morning. While at camp, the campers will have fun learning about ecology, forests, conservation, water and much more. Highly qualified staff ensure that campers enjoy their week-long outdoor adventure, whether in camp or on an overnight hiking or canoe trip. For those who are interested, hunter safety training is available from certified sportsman education instructors, with prior permission from parents/guardians.

Read More

Month of activities to put spotlight on watersheds

By Jennifer Rubbo
For the Poughkeepsie Journal

It's hip to be green.

Global warming, sustainable energy, carbon footprint -these are all words we hear almost on a daily basis. Yet, as we drive on our highways and neighborhood streets, we still see garbage on the side of the road - candy wrappers, styrofoam cups, potato chip bags.

There seems to be an educational disconnect. On one hand, people are learning how to save the world from global warming, while with the other, they are throwing their cigarette butts out the car window. Not only does this litter affect the beauty of our landscape, but eventually a majority of it will end up in the creeks, ponds and wetlands that are so prevalent here in the Hudson Valley.

The disconnect must be remedied so each of us can understand how our daily actions affect the environment. One way to do this is to begin thinking on a watershed level.

But what are watersheds and why are they important?

Read More

Flesh out Dover plan but keep it moving

A Poughkeepsie Journal Editorial

More than six long years into a grueling process, the Town of Dover and a major developer are still trying to iron out plans for the former Harlem Valley Psychiatric Center. They are getting closer -and residents still have time to share their views following two public hearings. They should take advantage of that opportunity, considering this would be one of the biggest development projects in Dutchess County's history.

In many ways, the issues haven't changed much over the years. Town officials, as well as county planners, want to ensure the developer - Dover Knolls, owned by Long Island-based Benjamin Companies - is offering a healthy mix of residential and commercial uses on the 800-acre center. They definitely want the developer to take advantage of the property's close proximity to a Metro-North railroad station and curb the sprawl in the outlying areas of the property. For its part, the company has contended it can't overextend itself with commercial offerings that could sit vacant if viable businesses aren't found to use them.

There have been several significant moments during this arduous process, however.

Read More

Create Bike-Only Roads

by Max Fisher

Citing a need to alleviate motor traffic, reduce air pollution, and increase general health, cities are carving out more bike lanes. But bike lanes simply don't work. Maybe something about America's competitive cowboy culture means drivers just can't bring themselves to share the road, frequently parking in bike lanes, turning across bike lanes without warning, and colliding with bikes.

In 2007, car-on-bike accidents killed 698 cyclists and injured 45,000, including me, courtesy of a Washington, D.C., minivan driver who, unsatisfied with my 22-mph pace at the height of rush hour, decided she had more of a right to the stretch of road I was occupying. With law enforcement often unwilling to enforce bikers' claims to the road, it's hard to see behavior changing. Take the much-publicized case of the driver who crippled a 14-year-old cyclist by dragging him under her SUV for 131 feet and got a $500 ticket. Not much of a disincentive.

Read More

Isolated Forest Patches Lose Species, Diversity

ScienceDaily (June 23, 2009) — Failing to see the forest for the trees may be causing us to overlook the declining health of Wisconsin's forest ecosystems.

Even areas with apparently robust trees and lush canopies are threatened as forests are increasingly fragmented by roads and development, becoming isolated green islands in a sea of agricultural fields, housing tracts, and strip malls, say University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers.

A new study is revealing that decades of fragmentation of Wisconsin's forests have taken a largely unseen toll on the sustainability of these natural ecosystems.

The long generation times of trees and other plants have masked many of the ecological changes already under way in the patches of forest that remain, says study co-author Don Waller, a professor in the Department of Botany and Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW-Madison. "Things may look healthy, but over time we see an erosion of biodiversity," he says.

Read More

Betraying the Planet


So the House passed the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill. In political terms, it was a remarkable achievement.

But 212 representatives voted no. A handful of these no votes came from representatives who considered the bill too weak, but most rejected the bill because they rejected the whole notion that we have to do something about greenhouse gases.

And as I watched the deniers make their arguments, I couldn’t help thinking that I was watching a form of treason — treason against the planet.

To fully appreciate the irresponsibility and immorality of climate-change denial, you need to know about the grim turn taken by the latest climate research.

Read More

Venus and Mars in High Contrast

By Blaine P. Friedlander Jr.
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, June 29, 2009

As the nation celebrates another birthday, see the spangled Venus and a dim Mars in July before dawn's early light.

Mars, our neighboring red planet, rises about 3 a.m. in the northeastern sky, followed shortly by a brilliant Venus. Both can be seen high in the east before sunrise in the constellation Taurus, but the differences are striking. Venus, at a negative fourth magnitude, is very bright; Mars is much less so at first magnitude and is even harder to see in light-polluted urban areas. By the end of July, Venus is seen lower in the eastern heavens.

Late night with Jupiter: The largest planet in the solar system rises in the east-southeast about 11 p.m. After midnight you should see it snuggled between the constellations Aquarius and Capricornus. It's a negative second magnitude, very bright and easily seen from the city. By 4 a.m., Jupiter is high in the southwest.

Still loitering in the constellation Leo, see ringed Saturn high in the western sky after sundown. The planet remains visible at first magnitude. By month's end, the planet will be noticeably lower in the west after dusk.

Read More

God, Firearms and America Come Together at a Church in Kentucky


LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Some of those seated in the pews of New Bethel Church here Saturday night, their firearms tucked to their sides, saw themselves as modern-day pioneers.

“This country started by people gathering together in churches and complaining about taxation and about their current government, King George III, taking armaments that they had,” said Chesley Kemp, 61, a family doctor with his Kimber .45 Auto at his side.

Dr. Kemp said he had driven two hours from Bowling Green to attend a gun celebration at the church, which event organizers said appeared to be the first of its kind, at least in modern times.

The pioneer spirit suffused a 90-minute program staged by Ken Pagano, the pastor of the Assembly of God church, for whom God, guns and America are a package deal.

Read More

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