Wednesday, September 30, 2009

News That Matters - September 29, 2009

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

Good Wednesday Morning,

My fingers are slightly dyslexic and I can't wait until Setpember is over.

Dozens of villages were destroyed and scores of people were killed in an earthquake and its resulting tsunami in American Samoa yesterday. Pause for a moment for them. Images from the disaster are here.

I went into the Sears the other day and greeting me was a large display of [you know what holiday!] decorations prominently set by the main entrance from the mall. A $150 for a fake Christmas Tree?
I'm happy they're ready to go as there's only 86 shopping days left and, with no holidays in-between.... Oh. Wait. We've got Halloween, which is now the second largest shopping holiday,  and Thanksgiving where we don't really buy much of anything but cardboard turkeys and waxed leaves.
As we've been doing over the years here at PlanPutnam, we'll be offering space for local cottage businesses to promote their handcrafted wares for the holiday that's 86 days away. Drop me a note for more information.

Are you a musician? Do you have a small country-like acoustic group? Putnam County is looking for you! The county needs a band to play at the County Farm Tour this weekend on October 4th.

The event this year will be held at Mike Beal's Willow Ridge Farm on Canopus Hollow Road in Putnam Valley.

You won't get paid but you can sell your wares and you'll be the only band so you'll have no competition. Give George Michaud a call (845) 225-3641 x49310 and tell him Jeff sent you.

The Kent Town Board is circling the wagons if last night's meeting was any indication. I used to walk in and get a smile or a nod and now... nothing. I suppose it's "all about politics" and everything will change back to "normal" once the elections are over but it's silly in any case. After one blessed candidate got up and delivered his stump speech during the public comment period - at the end of the meeting - John and I had to wonder how far along he or I would have gotten had we tried the same thing. Not far, we figured. But I suppose this is all to be expected. Change is coming to the board in November and they're scared but shouldn't be unless they fear loss of control. But no elected board should ever fear loss of control for in a right world control wouldn't be an issue. Good governance would be what it's all about.
But one question does remain which was asked again last evening: when did the Board decide to stop televising work sessions and why? Since the question wasn't on the agenda the board would not respond. Huh.

And, how many tens of thousands of dollars are going to be spent on putting bathrooms at Farmer's Mills Park when every other place in the world is using low-cost, low maintenance composting toilets?

The United States is still banning books. Yesssiree! It's one of our favorite pastimes and there's seemingly no end in sight. To celebrate National Banned Book Week you are encouraged to go out and read these books:
  1. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
  2. His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman
  3. TTYL; TTFN; L8R, G8R (series), by Lauren Myracle
  4. Scary Stories (series), by Alvin Schwartz
  5. Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
  6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
  7. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
  8. Uncle Bobby's Wedding, by Sarah S. Brannen
  9. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
  10. Flashcards of My Life, by Charise Mericle Harper
It's kinda funny that in this nation we ban books and effectively ban movies based on their sexual content but we have no problem with violence. Show a nipple on TV and the world ends, fines are levied and Congress meets in emergency session. Show someone being blown to smithereens, stabbed, or beaten and people line up for more.

Last weekend a free health clinic was held in Texas and thousands showed up. In Parkersburg, West Virginia 1300 came out for free dental checkups. And for 8 days in a row over 1500 people came - each day - for a free medical clinic in Los Angeles.

A US Census worker was found bound with duct taped, naked and hung by the neck near a cemetery in Big Creek, Kentucky on September 12th.
His Census Bureau ID tag taped to his neck. Right-wing bloggers have posited that the victim, Bill Sparkman, might have been a child predator. Left-wingers blame Michelle Bachman's anti-government / anti-census rhetoric. And, after two weeks the police will not confirm whether a homicide took place or if Mr. Sparkman simply slipped off a tree and hung himself. Still, and assuming this was not a suicide, whoever did the killing strung the man up in ways that recall lynchings of a past era and was meant to terrorize others.

Police in Wisconsin stopped and questioned a man for taking pictures of public buildings from a parking lot. Apparently they thought it was illegal - but it's not. The man, TV newsman, Brian Gotter, was with his wife and children at the time and uses his photos as backdrops for his news reports.

England has banned bonuses for banking and stock market executives as a way of curbing the excesses that led to the global economic breakdown during the last year of the Bush Administration. Attempts to do the same in the US have med stiff resistance from some in Congress who insist that these bonuses are a way of attracting and keeping the best minds in the business. Yeah, you read that right and no, I don't get that logic either. Do we really want those "best minds" in the business? Sure we do... if we've another trillion taxpayer dollars to spare.

Iran admitted to having a secret nuclear program and then test-fired a missile capable of hitting US bases and Israeli cities. But no one noticed since we were all agog over where Kadhafi was putting his tent.

And now, The News:
  1. 304-acre Beekman farm protected from development
  2. Invasives threaten N.Y.'s natural order
  3. Decision to Grant Variance after Construction Largely Completed Upheld
  4. Officials, Nonprofits Call for Green Investment for State's Health and Economy
  5. Don't Blow It: Rake Instead
  6. Put in a Small Rain Garden
  7. How Dependent Are We on Foreign Oil?
  8. The New Sputnik

304-acre Beekman farm protected from development

John Davis
Poughkeepsie Journal

POUGHQUAG - A 304-acre hay and alfalfa farm on Frog Hollow Road is off limits to housing developers forever.

The Town of Beekman has purchased the development rights on the property owned by Thomas Sanford.

This is the town's first land acquisition in an effort to protect its rural character as more and more farmland is being subdivided and transformed into new housing developments.

"It's a project the town has been working on for some time," Beekman Supervisor John Adams said.

The residents of Beekman are paying for most of the $2.4 million paid to Sanford on Aug. 26 for his development rights. They voted overwhelmingly in a public referendum in 2005 to the give the town government permission to borrow up to $3 million to preserve open space.

Read More

Invasives threaten N.Y.'s natural order

Michael Risinit

In the 1997 movie "Men in Black," the characters played by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones work for an agency monitoring and managing alien activity on Earth. Their charges include a host of not-of-this-world creatures: worms that make a nice cup of coffee, large insects that drink sugar water and human-looking individuals blinking two sets of eyelids.

Of course, in the real world those don't exist (as far as we know, anyway). But other interlopers do, such as swallow-wort, zebra mussels, Chinese mitten crabs and northern snakeheads. They are among some 4,000 or so species in the United States that are both non-native (alien) and damaging to their new digs. Be they animal, plant or pathogen, such beings are called invasive species.

As a threat, invasives have been judged second only to habitat loss when it comes to a region's biodiversity - the abundance and variety of living things. Northern snakeheads, originally from China, can wipe out native fish populations. Chinese mitten crabs can be bad news for the Hudson River's blue crabs, and their burrowing can destabilize stream banks and earthen dams. Swallow-wort, imported from Europe, is a menace to monarchs. The butterflies are fooled into laying eggs on a plant that cannot support their offspring.

Read More

Decision to Grant Variance after Construction Largely Completed Upheld

Pursuant to a building permit, the owner of the subject property had largely completed an addition to her house when the permit was revoked.  She then applied for a permit for an expansion of her nonconforming use and a 28-foot side yard variance in accordance with the work already done. At the public hearing, the appellants, adjacent property owners, contended that the addition had a adverse impact on them. Both of the properties were built prior to the adoption of the zoning laws and the buildings on both properties are positioned close to the property line they share. The zoning board of appeals granted the requested area variance, and the neighbors commenced the proceeding claiming that the board’s determination was arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion.

The appellate court upheld the determination since the zoning board engaged in the appropriate balancing test pursuant to the five enumerated statutory factors, and that the record revealed that the decision to the grant the variance had a rational basis and was not arbitrary, capricious or an abuse of discretion.

Adams v. Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of East Fishkill, 2009 WL 2960767 (N.Y.A.D. 2 Dept. 9/15/2009).

Read the ruling here

Officials, Nonprofits Call for Green Investment for State's Health and Economy

Released Sep 24, 2009

Andy Bicking,
Director of Public Policy, Scenic Hudson, Inc.
Cell: 914 489 1568

HUDSON VALLEY – A group of 11 bipartisan elected officials and more than 25 nonprofit environmental and community groups is calling on Gov. David A. Paterson and the state legislature to keep their word on funding for the state's Environmental Protection Fund (EPF). Although the EPF is less than 1 percent of the state budget and for this year was reduced by nearly 25 percent from funding levels passed into law in 2007, the program creates economic stimulus and spurs private investment in nearly every region of the state. The group says doing right by the EPF is a win-win because the investment in land, healthy air and water, maintaining working farms, and other green infrastructure improvements is not only good for the environment, it is good for business.

EPF land protection programs are green economic stimulus
The EPF proponents stated that a small investment by the state in land protection creates enormous economic stimulus and serves as a catalyst for private investment. Each $1 of state EPF funds invested can generate as much as $40 in private funds, according to a NYS Preservation Plan study. The elected officials and advocates used real-life projects (PDF, 64K) to showcase that the EPF produces huge investment returns through creating jobs, generating tax revenues that reduce property-tax increases, and producing spending to fuel regional economies.

Read More

Don't Blow It: Rake Instead

Although leaf blowers may seem cool and convenient, they are extremely polluting, and much less green than simply raking fallen leaves the old-fashioned way.

In one year's time, that little leaf blower engine you hear buzzing up the street pumps out as much smog-forming pollution as 80 cars, each driven 12,500 miles, according to a California air quality agency. Fortunately, regulators have taken notice, and are encouraging manufacturers and the buying public to upgrade to newer, cleaner (as well as quieter) models. But it is still cleanest of all to hand out the rakes.

Raking leaves is a simple task that can be shared by the whole family, and it's a good way to get some exercise while enjoying the crisp autumn air. Why not reward your helpers with a steaming cup of fair trade cocoa or mulled local cider?

Read More

Put in a Small Rain Garden

Homeowners and businesses can stem the tide of polluted runoff threatening our waterways by setting up a simple "rain garden," which is beautiful as well as beneficial.

Homeowners and businesses can stem the tide of polluted runoff threatening our waterways by setting up a simple "rain garden," which is beautiful as well as beneficial.

The concept of a rain garden, which mimics natural systems, was crystallized in Maryland in the 1990s. The idea is to create a depression filled with plants that collects the rainwater that runs off a building and its landscape. The plants — such as sedges, rushes, ferns, wildflowers, shrubs, trees and so on — absorb the water and release it slowly. This reduces the surge of water running off the landscape, which picks up fertilizers, pesticides, motor oil and other contaminants and carries them into waterways.

Read More

How Dependent Are We on Foreign Oil?

Oil helped fuel the United States' prosperous 20th century, and the growing country built its infrastructure with that in mind. But the sprawling suburbs and far-flung freeways ended up locking America into long-term dependence on the nonrenewable sludge, which passed coal as the nation's favorite fossil in 1951.
U.S. oil production peaked 19 years later, and America suddenly was faced with outsourcing a pillar of its business model. From 1900 until 1969, the country's oil imports had risen by an average of 70.7 million barrels per decade, but in the '70s they rose by nearly 1.9 billion. Making matters worse was political instability in the Middle East, where the United States got much of its imported oil at the time. Following the 1973 Yom Kippur War and again during the 1979-'81 Iran hostage crisis, Americans cut back on oil use, and gasoline consumption dipped for the first time since World War II. But that conservative spirit didn't last.

Read More

The New Sputnik


Most people would assume that 20 years from now when historians look back at 2008-09, they will conclude that the most important thing to happen in this period was the Great Recession. I’d hold off on that. If we can continue stumbling out of this economic crisis, I believe future historians may well conclude that the most important thing to happen in the last 18 months was that Red China decided to become Green China.

Yes, China’s leaders have decided to go green — out of necessity because too many of their people can’t breathe, can’t swim, can’t fish, can’t farm and can’t drink thanks to pollution from its coal- and oil-based manufacturing growth engine. And, therefore, unless China powers its development with cleaner energy systems, and more knowledge-intensive businesses without smokestacks, China will die of its own development.

What do we know about necessity? It is the mother of invention. And when China decides it has to go green out of necessity, watch out. You will not just be buying your toys from China. You will buy your next electric car, solar panels, batteries and energy-efficiency software from China.

I believe this Chinese decision to go green is the 21st-century equivalent of the Soviet Union’s 1957 launch of Sputnik — the world’s first Earth-orbiting satellite. That launch stunned us, convinced President Eisenhower that the U.S. was falling behind in missile technology and spurred America to make massive investments in science, education, infrastructure and networking — one eventual byproduct of which was the Internet.

Read More

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