Wednesday, July 22, 2009

News That Matters - July 22, 2009

News That Matters
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Good Wednesday Morning,

A bevy of politicians gathered in Pleasant Valley yesterday to laud a new bill that assists communities in restructuring towards the goal of consolidating services. Andrew Cuomo, who pushed the bill, was on hand. The title of the new law is the, "New NY government Reorganization and Citizen Empowerment Act". Quite a mouthful! Let's hope the bill puts some muscle behind its grandiose title. Putnam County has a paltry 109 local governments and taxing agencies. Steuben County has 153, Dutchess has 189, Rockland has 102 and Orange has 302. Erie county has 1044 all to itself! All in all, the Empire State has 10,521 local governments. The Office of the Attorney General has a website that is sure to give you a migraine.

I think my propane company is ripping me off. If you use propane just for hot water and cooking, how much are you using each month?  (how many live in your home?) And, what are you paying per gallon? Write here and let me know.

Coming up this weekend, aside from the annual 4H Fair at the county park, is a reunion of sorts at the Cultural Center on Lake Carmel. Carmel High School alumnus Alana Amram is bringing her country and western band, "The Rough Gems", up from downstate for a show on Saturday evening at 8. Knocks From The Underground, a music review website says;
The daughter of composer and poet David Amram, an American icon of the beatnik generation, Alana Amram is not just following in her father’s footsteps but forging her own path as a singer/songwriter. There is a bittersweet sincerity in her voice, somewhat reminiscent of Janis Joplin in her calm moments. Alana’s lyrics portray tales of a simple life complicated by emotions, exemplified in the touching imagery of “Broke My Own Heart.“ The Rough Gems, a seven-piece band including Alana herself, adds multiple dimensions to her songs. The music is primarily a mix of country and folk with an occasional turn towards pop rock from an unidentifiable decade - a melting pot of good old American styles. It’s a vintage sound with a modern perspective. And while songs like “Take a Drink” are infectiously upbeat, The Rough Gems cover the other side of the spectrum as well. The sluggish tempo and endearing yet slightly dark lyrics of “The Blackest Crow” is the stuff secret goth crushes are made of. With The Rough Gems, Alana Amram has found a diverse yet tightly knit group of musicians that will help her honky tonk her way into the hearts of hillbillies, hippies, and maybe even headbangers.
You can hear a preview of The Rough Gems here.

Also coming this weekend, the League of Women Voters is holding a membership drive/picnic at Sycamore Park in Mahopac on Sunday afternoon at 3PM. Live music and whatnot. Admission is $10 and goes to the League.

Senator John McCain and the national Republican Party have settled, out of court, a lawsuit brought against them by singer/songwriter Jackson Browne for use of his song, "Running on Empty" as part of a political advertisement. The Ad, made by the Ohio Republican committee, was critical of Obama's energy policy (whatever that is, actually,).
It's funny though, the recording industry (RIAA) will come down like a rampaging herd of rabid elephants on a housewife who shares songs from her computer but they let politicians slide. Huh.
I'd like to thank everyone who sent their wishes and congratulations on entering our tenth year. Not only do I love you all, but our communities are all the better for it. And, though the blogs occasionally take potshots in our general direction, they're just jealous.

And now, The News:
  1. More than Hot Air
  2. Concerns heard on LaGrange town center
  3. Town Residents Who Were Not Adjacent Property Owners Lacked Standing to Challenge Public Boat Launching Site
  4. Some shrinking U.S. cities find splendor in green
  5. How Banks Are Using Bailout Money
  6. New Geothermal Heat Extraction Process To Deliver Clean Power Generation
  7. Young Men Living At Home With Parents Are More Violent, Study Suggests

More than Hot Air

Solar thermal energy, or “solar hot water,” may not get much hype, but don’t count it out of the renewable energy equation.

By Rachael Rettner, posted July 20th, 2009.

In October 2007, John Delano was looking for ways to reduce his carbon footprint. Although his home in Troy, NY, was already greener than most — it has a solar photovoltaic system that converts the sun’s energy into electricity — he noticed it was costing him quite a bit of power to heat his water. So Delano, a professor at the University at Albany, decided to invest in a solar thermal system — panels that soak up the sun’s rays and use the energy to heat up water. “And it worked like a charm,” he says. Now, with both systems in place, there are about five months in the year when he only pays 10 dollars for electricity from a conventional power plant (although his bill is a little higher during the late fall and winter months). What surprised Delano was that the solar water heating turned out to be more cost-effective than the photovoltaic cells.

“They both generate or displace comparable amounts of electricity, but the solar thermal system costs a quarter of what [a photovoltaic] system cost; so it’s about four times more cost-effective,” he says. “I think if I had to do it over again, I would start with a thermal system.”

Read More

Concerns heard on LaGrange town center

Fire district worried about ability to provide timely response

By John Davis
Poughkeepsie Journal

FREEDOM PLAINS - A plan to develop the LaGrange town center is drawing support and raising concerns about traffic jams, emergency response and loss of the area's rural character.

Developers Rieger Homes Inc. and Ginsburg Development Companies are seeking town planning board approval to build 608 housing units, a hotel and numerous new stores, eateries and offices on the south side of Route 55 between the Taconic State Parkway and Lauer Road.

The developers also plan to promote a more pedestrian-friendly town center by building sidewalks, parking areas, a common green and several pocket parks on the 193-acre site.

The New York state Department of Transportation plans to improve the flow of traffic through the more developed town center by replacing the traffic lights on Route 55 at Freedom and Stringham roads with a traffic roundabout.

Read More

Town Residents Who Were Not Adjacent Property Owners Lacked Standing to Challenge Public Boat Launching Site

Following a request by the Board of Selectmen to improve the Westport Island’s only public boat-launching site, the planning board approved the project.  The proposal included improvements to the boat ramp and access road as well as expansion of the parking area, and it was expected to increase daily trips to and from the site by 36 vehicles during peak season. Four residents, who lived on the Island but who were neither abutting property owners nor owners of property in close proximity to the site, attended the planning board hearings and expressed their opposition to the project.  The opponents asked the planning board to grant them party status because the frequently travel on the road where the boat launch is located and they were concerned about safety issues with increased traffic. Two of the residents appealed the planning board’s approval of the project to the zoning board of appeals, but the Board dismissed the appeals on the grounds that the residents lacked standing because they were not “aggrieved parties.” Although the residents alleged they were aggrieved because their personal property was threatened due to the increased risk of traffic accidents at the frequently traveled intersection, the board rejected this argument finding that they failed to prove any “potential injury different from that suffered by the general public traveling over [the] Route.”

Read More

Some shrinking U.S. cities find splendor in green

By Andy Sullivan and Kevin Krolicki

WASHINGTON/DETROIT (Reuters) - For some U.S. Rust Belt cities, the future will be smaller and greener.

As communities from Buffalo to Milwaukee struggle with shuttered factories and vacant neighborhoods, some have turned abandoned properties into parks, gardens and other open space, even going so far as to plow under entire neighborhoods.

A recognition that the glory days of factory-powered prosperity will not return any time soon, this "shrinking cities" strategy aims to consolidate what remains into denser neighborhoods and more vibrant downtowns.

In Flint, Michigan, the birthplace of General Motors, a pioneering program that allows local government to capture profits from tax foreclosures has generated funds to demolish over 1,000 abandoned homes in the past five years.

"There's a gravitational pull that we're a part of and it's toward a smaller city," said Dan Kildee, treasurer of Genesee County surrounding Flint. "This is not a plan to shrink Flint, it's an acknowledgment that we've lost half our population."

Read More

How Banks Are Using Bailout Money

By Karen Weise, ProPublica - July 20, 2009 10:56 am EDT

TARP funds were supposed to help banks increase lending, but many bailed-out banks used federal funds for other purposes says the special inspector general for overseeing TARP in a report released today.

According to the inspector general, of the 360 banks surveyed, 156 said they’d used some of the funds to boost their capital cushion, 110 invested some of the money, 52 repaid debts, and 15 bought other banks with the funds. (A total of 611 banks have received bailout funds.)

Three hundred banks, or 83 percent of those surveyed, reported that some of the money had gone to support lending, but fewer than a third said their lending levels would have been lower without the federal money.

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New Geothermal Heat Extraction Process To Deliver Clean Power Generation

ScienceDaily (July 20, 2009) — A new method for capturing significantly more heat from low-temperature geothermal resources holds promise for generating virtually pollution-free electrical energy. Scientists at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will determine if their innovative approach can safely and economically extract and convert heat from vast untapped geothermal resources.

The goal is to enable power generation from low-temperature geothermal resources at an economical cost. In addition to being a clean energy source without any greenhouse gas emissions, geothermal is also a steady and dependable source of power.

"By the end of the calendar year, we plan to have a functioning bench-top prototype generating electricity," predicts PNNL Laboratory Fellow Pete McGrail. "If successful, enhanced geothermal systems like this could become an important energy source." A technical and economic analysis conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology estimates that enhanced geothermal systems could provide 10 percent of the nation's overall electrical generating capacity by 2050.

Read More

Young Men Living At Home With Parents Are More Violent, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily (July 20, 2009) — Young men who stay at home with their parents are more violent than those who live independently, according to new research at Queen Mary, University of London.

The new study indicates that men still living at home in their early twenties have fewer responsibilities and more disposable income to spend on alcohol.

This group makes up only four percent of the UK's male population but they are responsible for 16 per cent of all violent injuries in the last five years.

Delaying social independence and remaining in the parental home have become more common over the past 40 years in both the UK and the USA.

Professor Jeremy Coid and Dr Ming Yang surveyed over 8000 men and women. Participants answered questions about violent behaviour over the past 5 years and mental health problems.

Read More

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