Wednesday, October 7, 2009

News That Matters - October 7, 2009

News That Matters
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Good Wednesday Morning,

A high wind warning is in effect from 10 AM this morning until midnight tonight. The National Weather Service says that after a cold front pushes through our area this morning a strong westerly flow of air will develop bringing winds upwards of 25 to 30 mph with gusts into the middle 40s. Batten down those hatches!
Question of the day:
Why do my animals think that when I approach the kitchen I'm getting ready to prepare broiled salmon (for the cat) or a venison stew (for the dog)? I've never done it before yet they sit there  side by side sending out "the vibe" which, being empathic, I hear loud and clear. Still, I'm not moved. I haven't been moved and I shall not be moved! So, why this endless hoping?
If you're not yet registered to vote and you want to be able to vote for me in November, you have until close-of-business on Friday to do so. Get thee down to the Board of Elections right now!
New York's property tax rights groups are back at it again, pushing for yet another omnibus circuit breaker bill that doesn't solve the problem - but it does make good press. Under the bill you still need to pay the full amount of your property taxes before you receive an adjustment on your income taxes later in the year. While that's all well and good, what if the taxes are already creating hardship, how does the bill help? It doesn't. Not really. I wrote to Gioia Shebar, the woman pushing this latest effort and asked how the state was going to pay for all this and I have not yet received a response. The bill is S4239A in the Senate and A8702 in the Assembly.

The Town of Fishkill has more than 20,000 residents, a police department, a recreation department and all the other things towns generally have. What they don't have is a Big Budget. According to the Mid-Hudson news, that town's proposed budget for 2010 is only $8.8 million, 12% LESS than last year. One has to wonder what they've got going that another town, say the Town of Kent, does not have going for it. Even with fewer people Kent costs a great deal more to run each year. How does your town rate?

Reuters reports that a Bank of America branch in Tampa, Florida, which requires thumb prints to cash a check, told a man with no arms that they would not cash his without one. A thumb print, not an arm, that is. For the record, BoA accepted $25 billion from the Bush Administration's bailout program last year and as far as I know they cashed that check without benefit of arms or thumb prints.

The Poughkeepsie Journal reports that more than 40,000 people have been on the Walkway since it opened on Saturday afternoon. Monday's News That Matters report on the Walkway became the single most read issue of the newsletter - overnight. More than 1000 people visited the website to read it and I keep finding it posted and reposted to news feeds and blogs all over the NY Metro area. One reader wrote:
"I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed yesterday's "Walkway Edition" of the "News That Matters." After reading your detailed account about all the events, and viewing all your photos, I regret even more that my husband and I couldn't be there. We are going to try to get up  there this Friday to check it out. It sounds amazing!"

"Thank you again for really making this event come to life for all of us who read you online. Based on your report, I bet over half your readers will check out this new park in the next few weeks. Again, thanks for all you do to keep us informed, inspired and entertained. In case you can't tell, I'm a fan!"
Coming to our fair county on Saturday evening at 8PM, is world renowned violinist Eric Grossman. Mr. Grossman will perform at the Cultural Center on Lake Carmel under the auspices of Arts on the Lake.
Praised in The New York Times as a "brilliant soloist," violinist Eric Grossman is a versatile performer. From collaborations with Lowell Liebermann to concerto appearances in many parts of the world, Grossman has been hailed for his flawless technique, superb musicianship and commitment to a wide range of repertoire.
A graduate of Juilliard, where he studied with Dorothy DeLay, Eric enjoys an active performing career. He has given highly acclaimed recitals and solo performances with orchestras in the United States, Europe, Korea, Japan, and Cuba under renowned conductors including Zubin Mehta, Stanislaw Skrowaczewki, and Michael Gielen.
Recent engagements included his sixth concert tour of Korea where he played Brahms's Violin Concerto with the KBS Symphony Orchestra, a New York recital with pianist Sandra Rivers, his European recital debut at the Arco Festival in France, and, on two days' notice, a performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the Lima Symphony that was hailed by The Lima News as "astounding." In 2006, Eric played the World premiere of the First Violin Concerto by Jorge López Marín dedicated to Eric, under the direction of Bernard Rubenstein in Town Hall, New York City, NY.

You can hear some samples of Mr. Grossman's work here but live is so much better!

While we're talking about Kent, here's a blast from the past: (From the collection of Janice McGill Acken)

That's the school house at Farmer's Mills from a bygone day though it looks pretty much the same today.

Back in early July I wrote an article entitled, "Is There No Balm in Gilead?" regarding the plight of a homeowner who finds herself surrounded on 3 sides by the continuing destruction of what was once a mountain and now, little by little, is becoming a molehill topped with little boxes made of ticky-tacky.
There's a blue one and a pink one, a green one and a yellow one and they're all made out of ticky-tacky and they all look just the same. And according to statistics, 25% of the residents who live in them will need Medicaid at some point in their lives - which we pay for.
Though attention has died down a bit since that July article, the problem is still there. Each day Pulte Homes blasts another piece off the mountain and each day the house in question shifts on the bedrock to the point where the plumbing is insecure and leaking, the foundation is cracking and dust and debris regularly fall onto the property. How long before the house is a total loss and must be condemned? Not long enough as far as authorities may be concerned.

And can you guess what the Town of Carmel, the County and the State DEC are doing about it? Not much of anything.

Well, that's not true, they're giving the homeowner a run-around just hoping against hope she'll move or die or be jailed or some other dire thing will happen so they can stop being bothered by her. Indeed, municipal authorities complain that they're being harassed by the woman who lives in this house and who stands barely 5' tall and maybe, if her clothes are wet and she's wearing a wool parka, weighs in at about 100 lbs. Probably less.

Some have tried to make this a campaign issue but the strings on the political marionettes are made of carbon fiber and rather than the issue coming to the fore it just keeps dying. But what isn't dying are the daily blasts, the tons of rock and dust that pervade the lives of those who live there and who are invisible - as far as authorities are concerned.

In the real world, the Supervisor of Carmel would be out there with a restraining order in hand stopping the blasting until such a time as the home in question was secured. In the real world the County health department would have stopped this ages ago. In the real world the DEC would be out there, measuring tape and law book in hand making absolutely sure that the mountaintop removal project was following not just the letter, but the spirit of the law.

But this isn't the real world. Instead, for this homeowner it's a nightmare world made worse by the disregard for the safety, health and welfare of the people affected by those who have been elected to public office in Carmel.

You can be sure if this were going on in my town I would have stopped it using every means available. The homeowner however is acting as her own attorney and does not have the knowledge or the funds to make this work - which is what they are counting on. Sadly, it's someone else's town and my hands are largely tied and limited to the information I can bring you in this newsletter. But your hands are not!

Call Carmel Town Hall (845-628-1500) and tell them to stop the blasting, stabilize the home in question and properly compensate the owner for the hell they've put her through and all before they allow even another grain of sand to be blasted off that mountain.

Just because your town has a blasting ordinance does not mean the outcome in your backyard will be any different so long as the authorities don't give a damn. Blasting laws mean nothing when they're not enforced or, as is the case in Carmel, the town is owned lock, stock and double-barrel by out-of-town developers and their political allies.

Please, pick up your phones and call. It could be your own ass in your own town you'll be saving one day.

And now, The News:
  1. Westchester officials show off 'green' courthouse roof
  2. Reform rally draws crowd, musicians
  3. Stormwater control plan will add jobs, help towns
  4. Man-made wetlands turning landfill 'juice' into clear water
  5. With Natural Gas Drilling Boom, Pennsylvania Faces Flood of Wastewater
  6. Eight officials charged with violating Oklahoma's open meetings law
  7. HRWA announces 2009 Watershed Stewardship Awards
  8. Falsely Maligned Goldenrod, the Sunshine on Fall Roadsides

Westchester officials show off 'green' courthouse roof

Greg Clary

WHITE PLAINS - Westchester County officials Monday showed off their newest green energy project - a solar power installation that takes up the entire roof of the County Courthouse.

"This is a demonstration project, part of 30 other projects that we're doing," County Executive Andrew Spano said. "When they're all done, they should yield us $3 million in annual savings."

The rooftop power plant the county is building with the New York Power Authority couldn't be mistaken for a candidate to replace Indian Point - it would take more than 8,000 such installations to equal one of the two Buchanan nuclear reactors.

County and NYPA officials, however, point out that no waste is generated by converting the sun's rays to electricity, there are moving parts on the panels, and the source of power isn't going away anytime soon.

Read More

Reform rally draws crowd, musicians

Akiko Matsuda

NYACK - Hundreds of people filled Memorial Park's lawn Sunday afternoon to express their support for health care reform.

The event, titled a Health Care for All Rally, was organized by a group of residents who have been disturbed by vocal opposition to President Barack Obama's health care reform proposal.

Alan Levin of Nyack, one of the organizers, said he was convinced he had to take action. He told the audience health care was a human right, but that the existing for-profit health insurance system failed to deliver quality care to all the people. He also said the industry failed to control costs.

Levin urged people to confront their mindset that prevented them from moving forward.

Read More

Stormwater control plan will add jobs, help towns

Michael Woyton
Poughkeepsie Journal

HOPEWELL JUNCTION - About 25 jobs will be created or saved due to two projects aimed at protecting the Fishkill Creek and funded by federal stimulus money.

At a news conference Monday at the East Fishkill town hall, U.S. Rep. John Hall, D-Dover, said the Dutchess County Soil and Water Conservation District recently received a $330,100 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant to be used to retrofit the stormwater management systems at the East Fishkill and Beekman town halls.

"By upgrading municipal buildings, we will be putting Hudson Valley residents back to work," Hall said.

The stormwater systems will be modified by redirecting water flow and filtering runoff with vegetation.

Besides the jobs, Hall said, the project will require the purchase of pipes, asphalt, concrete and other building materials, further aiding the local economy.

The funds, part of $43 million given statewide, were announced Thursday by Gov. David Paterson.

Read More

Man-made wetlands turning landfill 'juice' into clear water

Emily Stewart
Poughkeepsie Journal

FISHKILL - What do you do with the rust-colored slime that's discharged from a massive pile of decades-old garbage?

Until about two years ago, the towns of Fishkill and East Fishkill, which used the landfill on Van Wyck Road before it closed in 1990, paid between $75,000 to $100,000 a year to have it trucked away and brought to a sewage treatment plant.

The leachate, or "juice" as some call it, is a contaminated liquid that's created when garbage decays or when rain or groundwater filters through the trash.

Prior to the installation several years ago of a system that uses man-made wetlands to filter the water, the leachate would collect in an 8,000-gallon tank at the base of the landfill until it was trucked away.

Read More

With Natural Gas Drilling Boom, Pennsylvania Faces Flood of Wastewater

A spate of water contamination problems in Pennsylvania have been linked to new natural gas drilling in the state

By Joaquin Sapien and ProPublica

Workers at a steel mill and a power plant were the first to notice something strange about the Monongahela River last summer. The water that U.S. Steel and Allegheny Energy used to power their plants contained so much salty sediment that it was corroding their machinery. Nearby residents saw something odd, too. Dishwashers were malfunctioning, and plates were coming out with spots that couldn’t easily be rinsed off.

Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection soon identified the likely cause and came up with a quick fix. The Monongahela, a drinking water source for 350,000 people, had apparently been contaminated by chemically tainted wastewater from the state’s growing natural gas industry. So the DEP reduced the amount of drilling wastewater that was being discharged into the river and unlocked dams upstream to dilute the contamination.

But questions raised by the incident on the Monongahela haven’t gone away.

In August, contamination levels in the river spiked again, and the DEP still doesn’t know exactly why. And this month the DEP began investigating whether drilling wastewater contributed to the death of 10,000 fish on a 33-mile stretch of Dunkard Creek, which winds through West Virginia and feeds into the Monongahela. A spate of other water contamination problems have also been linked to gas drilling in Pennsylvania, including methane leaks that have affected drinking water in at least seven counties.

Read More

Eight officials charged with violating Oklahoma's open meetings law

Eight county officials in Oklahoma have been charged with 38 violations of the state's Open Meetings Act, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.

Five members of the Okmulgee County Criminal Trust Authority and the county's sheriff, police chief and commissioner are charged with taking unauthorized votes, not recording votes and failing to give notice of action taken, among other misdemeanor violations of Oklahoma's Open Meetings Act.

Oklahoma is one of a handful of states that attaches criminal penalties to violations of its open records and open meetings laws. Violations of the Oklahoma law can result in fines of up to $500 and one year in jail.

Read More

HRWA announces 2009 Watershed Stewardship Awards

On September 29th, the Hudson River Watershed Alliance announced its 2009 Watershed Stewardship Awards at its 7th annual conference, State of the Hudson River Watershed. Each year, Awards are given to an individual and to an organization who are utilizing successful local approaches to protecting the Hudson River watershed and its water resources. 
This year's individual recipient is Dr. Peter Rostenberg of New Fairfield, CT.
Dr. Rostenberg's stewardship roots began years ago when he worked tirelessly to protect Clove Creek, the Clove Creek Aquifer, Fishkill Ridge, and Fishkill Creek.  His work did=2 0not end there.  About eight years ago, Dr.  Rostenberg began having conversations about protecting the water quality of the Hudson River and the need to focus on the tributaries and watershed landscapes that lead to the main stem of the Hudson.
His ideas were inspired partly from his work in the Fishkill Creek area, and the Clove Creek Aquifer; as well as from his involvement in the Sour Mountain anti-mining effort that saved a large portion of Fishkill Ridge, and helped set precedent to strengthen the NYS Endangered Species Act.

Read More

Falsely Maligned Goldenrod, the Sunshine on Fall Roadsides

The end of summer is tinged with melancholy, with the last days of vacation and the return to school. I imagine that plants, had they emotions, would feel that same twinge of sadness. Early fall is a glorious time of year botanically speaking, but nipping at its heels is dormancy and the stillness of winter. So the vegetative message may be, "Live in the moment."

Goldenrods are excellent examples of this philosophy. This time of year, you're bound to see their infectiously cheerful golden hue just about everywhere. Since most of us don't go out into nature as often as we'd like, our interactions with wild plants may be limited to the blur of vegetated roadsides from a car window. This works in their favor, as goldenrods often dominate these kinds of marginal habitats.

There are about 100 species of goldenrods, nearly all native to North America. In New York State alone, there are close to 30. Now in various genera (Euthamia, Oligoneuron, et al.), we'll take a tour of the largest genus, Solidago with nearly 70 species.

Although Solidago comprises many species with different physical characteristics, goldenrods do have a "look." Typically they have broadly linear leaves with small teeth around the edges (margins). These leaves are arranged in an alternate fashion along upright stems that are between two to five feet tall.

Read More

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