Monday, March 29, 2010

News That Matters - March 29, 2010

News That Matters

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

Good Monday Morning,

Yeah, I've been away for a lot of reasons that only a few of you have asked about until a wonderful event, an 80th birthday party for longtime Kent resident Kathy Freston last Wednesday evening, when a number of people got on my case - and in my face - about not publishing News That Matters.  And then over this past weekend I received a number of emails asking what's happened. If you've written or called you know. If you haven't, then you haven't missed the column.

The blog has been very active and since February 24th when the last issue came to your email boxes more than 100 stories were posted there with more than 100 readers visiting each day. You should certainly drop in from time to time and see what's new for a lot more goes there than here.

The absence came around for several reasons. For one, I was totally burnt out. It was also a slow work period and worrying about eviction takes a lot of you and the bill collectors calling three times a day 6, sometimes 7 days a week is more than annoying. Third, I got sick and it was only through the commission of a felony and a couple misdemeanors that I was able to overcome my inability to afford to see a doctor. But what it really comes down to is this:
I either need to be fairly compensated for the ~20 hours of work each week that goes into this column (which amounts to some $7000 a year at the minimum wage) or you, my dear readers, all 700+ of you, need to become active.

And I don't mean active by sending me emails saying what a great job I'm doing or thanking me for bringing you this or that bit of information or for fighting the good fight - which you do quite regularly, but by using that time instead to write your Senator or your Congressman or your town's Supervisor or getting your ass out of the house and going to a meeting or two and voicing your now educated opinion.

Sending an email thanking me takes the same amount of time as sending one to Senator Leibell - which will achieve a great deal more. If you can't - or won't - be active, what's the point of even reading? It's nice to be informed but isn't it better to actually achieve something?

[M-, thanks for writing. News That Matters isn't free and it expects that you contribute to the effort to keep it going. You purchase your daily newspaper, right? You pay for the FOX Courier and the Journal News? So why should this be any different? Do you think my work has less value? Between your dad and your boss you can certainly afford to toss a few thousand bucks this way. Your boss could, with just pocket change, buy me out and silence me. Heck, everyone has a price and I might be cheaper than you think. Think somewhere in the range of $150,000 after taxes. Mere petty cash.

Many readers do contribute and the rest of you owe them a debt of gratitude for it's their kindness and support that makes it possible for you to
steal this column three times a week.]

This evening begins the holiday of Passover, the annual Jewish tradition of thanking the fates that we were freed from being slaves in Egypt and then being lost in the desert for 40 years. Men, even in those days, apparently refused to ask directions which left a million people on a diet of dry flatbreads. You can read more about the holiday here or here.

I'd like to thank the Town of Kent's highway department
for the excellent work they did during the SowicaneTM and the harsh storms we've had over the past few weeks. Though it took us several days to hand-dig out my 500' driveway of 3'+ of heavy, wet snow, I know the roads out here were clear and passable soon after the storms ended. You and your men engaged in a herculean effort and you are to be congratulated and thanked. Now, if we can get the state to properly pave Miller Hill Road we'll really be on to something!

The Town of Southeast is jumping backwards and naked through hoops to ensure that Brewster Honda can move to town. In a recent report from the last meeting of the Southeast Zoning board, Lynne Eckardt wrote:
"Several Oscars here would be well deserved. Basically, this was almost all log rolling to ensure that Brewster Honda gets what they want. Gosh, that was harsh- maybe too harsh. Perhaps it’s genuinely what most Planning Board members feel is right. And it’s fine to agree with Brewster Honda’s proposal. However, what isn’t fine is creating new zoning to accommodate their plans. Because that, my dear Mr. Armstrong, is what ’spot zoning’ is all about."
You can read that full report here.

If any of you are private General Contractors working and living in Putnam County
and have paid the $250 bribe fee the county demands for your ability to work unharassed, please write to let me know. If you work in the following fields the bribe fee applies to you:
Blacktop, cabinetry, Chimney repair, home building, deck and patio construction, environmental systems and repair, excavation, fencing, fireplace installation, garage door installation, general carpentry, glass installation and repair, gutter installation, heating and ventilation systems, insulation, kitchen and bath remodeling, landscaping, lawn care, masonry and stone work, "miscellaneous" contracting services, painting, pool and spa maintenance, roofing, septic repair, sheds, siding, tile work, waterproofing, window installation and wood/pellet and coal stove installation and repair.
In 2007 the Consumer Affairs division, the agency which oversees this program, earned:

Electrical License Fees
Plumbing License Fees
General Contractor License Fees
Total Fees Collected:

Based on that budget the county earned more than $170,000 above and beyond the cost of running that department, $170,000 that should be in your pockets.

But here's what else goes along with it: each business must provide the county with certification that it carries a minimum $1,000,000 in insurance and then post a $25,000 bond - in the county's name. Only Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties require general contractors to 'register'.

And what do we get for it?
  • Does the county mail to each home a list of certified contractors each year? No. It's posted on their website but it's impossible to find much like everything else up there. Try finding the county budget!
  • Does the county provide us with access to group health insurance or allow us into their pool? No. 
  • Does the county promote our businesses? No. 
So, what do we get for shelling out near $1000 aside from the ability to ply our trades? Nothing.

The county has found a revenue stream in the form of a hidden tax and they're laying it on hard and failure to buy protection from the county comes with a $10,000 fine. That's what we get.

It's time the fee was reduced or rescinded as it's just another tax that generates ~$260,000 a year on the backs of the working man and gets passed down to residents of the county in higher costs for services anyway. If I'm forced by the county to pay into their mob racket, let that fee cover the *exact* cost of management and not use it as a revenue stream for the general fund.

In a previous issue I mentioned that a county Legislator suggested that if I had trouble paying the fee that maybe I shouldn't be in business. Maybe he's right. Maybe the economy sucks and those fees amount to a hardship. Or maybe no one should have to pay for the right to earn a living in Putnam County.

With enough of us fighting back maybe we can move the county towards sanity. Write.

County Executive Bob Bondi has all but announced his re-election bid
. His announcement of a "listening tour" designed so that we can tell him we don't want county government was his kick off event. He'll say that he's the man to rid us of that burden, convene a commission to study the matter, hire a few $100,000 secretaries, screw the unions, blame tree huggers for high taxes, and then when all is said and done tell us why we *must* have county government and that he's the man to lead the "New Putnam County" into the future.
With the possibility that Senator Leibell may have finally grown the balls to defend his Senate seat from an attack by Putnam's favorite tea bagger and part-time Assemblyman, this leaves Mr. Bondi virtually unopposed.

What? You're going to vote for Vinnie Tamagna or Tony Hay?

But if the Democrats are serious about running a qualified candidate and equally as serious about working a campaign (something they've failed to do for just about forever) and raising real money, I'm open to their invitation. I could use a couple of $100,000 secretaries. I mean, who couldn't? Besides, I could bicycle to work saving gas on that giant SUV Bondi drives.
Running for County Executive - $100,000
The look on Paul Camarda's face when I win - Priceless!

Lake Carmel:
Float all the islands you want. Fill the lake with carp until you can walk across the lake on their dorsal fins. But your lake will never be cleaned up until you - that's you, the residents - clean your shit up, pump out your septic tanks every year or two, stop blowing your grass and leaves into the road, give up on lawn fertilizers, stop mowing the grass around the lake to golf course standards, and start managing your properties with the lake foremost in mind. Yeah, it looks nice but you know it's not really all that nice once you get inside. And the truth is that it doesn't cost much, if anything. It just takes a conscious effort on your parts. ALL your parts. If you want a cleaner lake you're going to need to change much of what you do and how you do it.
And it's not just Lake Carmel, it's virtually every lake in this county. You all know the score. You all know you're spending tons of money on repairing the damage we've done so why not be done with it and fix the cause once and for all? I know it's hard. I know you first have to admit you have a problem but there really is no other way. Let's stop fooling around and wasting our money with carp and hydro-raking and floating islands and get to work. Float the islands later. Build casinos on them. Just clean up our acts.

Pulte Homes, Adam Levy and Putnam Style Justice:
For what the Town of Carmel and Putnam County has done over the years to Lori Kemp you'd think agents from the human rights court in the Hague would descend from the heavens and arrest anyone who has ever sat on a board in that town. But that didn't happen for too seldom do those who deserve justice get actually it.
Instead, Putnam County DA Adam Levy's office has his people prosecuting Ms. Kemp for Harassment for, well, it gets confusing and rather Kafkaesque after that. It's not enough that the government, in cahoots with Putnam County's favored developer has fucked up her life and her home, now the District Attorney and the Carmel Police Department add insult to her injuries in an effort to punish her for daring to speak out and for the crime of protecting her property and quality of life.

At the beginning of all this the DA was persecuting her with an assault charge but that would have brought about a public show trial. To make absolutely sure the public would never know the truth and the horror of what the People In Power have been doing to Ms. Kemp he dropped the charge to a lesser one thus eliminating the embarrassing public thrashing they'd get. Now it's just Ms. Kemp, the ADA and Judge Spofford in deliberations. Justice, Putnam Style.

It's not enough that the foundations of her home are as frayed as her nerves, that her property has lost virtually all its value, that they blasted and blasted and blasted, sometimes within softball toss distance of her home, sometimes without warning, until her teeth chattered as much as her china and that when police were called for redress they cast her not as a victim - but as the perpetrator of a criminal act.

Suffice to say that if a former Kent councilman can shoot a guy in the back because he felt threatened by a stick and not only got away with it but had the other guy charged(!) don't you think a 100lb, 5'2" tall woman could, if she wanted to, stop an alleged trespasser on her property more than twice her size with no weapon other than her hand? State law is clear and provides for this but not in Putnam County and not in the Town of Carmel and certainly not when it has to do with political connections that run all the way from hell to heaven and back. Perhaps, as a gesture to justice, Victor Grossman, that ex-Kent councilman's attorney would defend Ms. Kemp in court pro bono?

Let's not hold our collective breath.

But the tribunal is coming up in Carmel Town Court and just like those in totalitarian regimes this one is designed to prosecute and convict and then at the press conference claim the System worked. I am sure the Journal News and the FOX Courier will dutifully report the DA's statements and conveniently forget the horrific abuse the victim, now convicted for a brave act of self-defense, has endured at the hands of government.

I encourage you to call the County DA's office at 845-225-3641 and tell them to drop the charges against Ms Kemp. They'll tell you that they cannot discuss an ongoing case but persist that they hear what you're saying and don't be bullied by their legal double-speak. Tell them the DA can tick one conviction off his dossier without hurting his political career.

If ten of you call it could make a difference. If twenty of you call it will put Adam Levy, the politicians and the courts on notice. If thirty of you call we can stop this dead in its tracks. If none of you call, which has usually been the case in the past, then when your turn comes in court well, karma has a funny way of dealing with you.

A board in Patterson met a while back
to determine if Winding Glades LLC, the proponents of a small auto racetrack off Route 22, was a "club" under their town code. They decided it was not thus effecting a defeat of the proposal. But Costco apparently *is* a club and so can be built in their town but only on the Kent border, far away from Patterson's population center. When I set out the obvious problem of those who support Patterson Crossing being much the same people who oppose the racetrack, David Pierro, past Vice Chairman of their Zoning Board and an ardent detractor of the racetrack and supporter of Patterson Crossing wrote to say "Counseling can help your problems Jeff, Being on the blogs certainly isn't helping you." Uh huh. I'm not the confused one here.

The Putnam County Courier: I can't even start. I could, if I could decide if it were painful or hilarious or just plain sad. What used to be naught but the mouthpiece of the Putnam County Republican Committee and its favored soldiers has now turned into the mouthpiece for the national Republican Committee's tea bagger faction. And with an employee of FOXNews running the show I can't imagine what else we could expect. It's a mish-mash of false conservatism and mis-directed populism. FOX über alles!

The Assemblyman who shall not be named is running all over the 40th Senate district screaming and yelling about the MTA 'tax'. But has anyone in his office ever sat down to do a “forensic analysis” of the value of the MTA and affordable mass transit to our region? Or is this just another blind anti-tax dog and pony show?
Does he really think that for the region to share in the cost of providing affordable access to high paying jobs downstate that those dollars don’t come back here in the form of local spending, construction, mortgage payments and the like? Has he studied that “break-even” point for people who live here, spend their money here and have their families here, at which point mass transit becomes too expensive for them to travel downstate and move elsewhere as a result? Has he found another industrialized nation in the world where mass transit isn’t subsidized by the communities who benefit from it? These are important questions that I’m willing to bet, aside from sloganeering and political double-speak have not been and will not be answered.

Glenn Beck:
This is the man who called "progressivism" a cancer that had to be "cut out" but he either has no clue about American history or he, like his fans, failed 9th grade history. The progressive movement in America was started by (drum roll, please....) a Republican named Teddy Roosevelt.

Democrats managed to pull a miracle out of Mickey's hat and passed a health care reform bill. As you are well aware, I was against the bill before and I'm still against it now but not for the reason the rabble are against it, but because it doesn't go nearly far enough. If I'm still alive in four years I may be able to see a doctor I can afford. How nice. The Republicans got their insurance company bailout that, without the ability to buy into Medicare, forces the uninsured to purchase insurance from private insurance companies. It was beautiful: Republicans could vote against the bill and still win.

But just before the historic vote I did say that if the Democrats could win this one I'd say three nice things about them. I've spent the past several week trying to come up with those three nice things and I think I may finally have:
1) Democrats tend not to call their adversaries niggers and faggots or spit on them or threaten violence or engage in actual violence or throw bricks nor be unnecessarily upset that the nation is now run by a Black man. Democrats also tend to know the differences between communism, socialism, fascism and capitalism.
You know, it's funny. We have Greg Ball publishing Senator Leibell's personal phone number telling people to harass him and just this week we have one of Ball's doppelgangers publish the personal home address of a Congressman telling his people to harass him, too. Sadly, in the latest rush to vigilante justice they got the wrong guy. For this childish prank, Ball got an alleged dead goat rather than prison time. And then there's the famous, "it's time to lock and load", line we get from him all the time, a phrase which in its most literal sense precludes acts of intentional criminal violence.
2) Democrats have traditionally supported the working classes, the poor, the oppressed and minorities and organized labor. Republicans will say they freed the slaves but then spent the next 100 years keeping the chains on and not just Blacks, but women, too.

3) During the health care reform debate Democrats gave Republicans pretty much everything they claimed they wanted and when the Republicans said they still wouldn't support the bill the Dems should have said, "Screw off! We don't need you!" which they didn't, and they didn't do.

4 ) Bonus! Obama holds a seder in the White House each year.

I've been an ardent defender of Israel and her right to exist which has sometimes caused rather serious riffs in my friendships with my more "leftist" friends for their blind support of the Palestinians, a cause rather few Arab states support any longer. According to my buds, every rock thrown or Qassam rocket launched is somehow justified for abuses heaped upon the poor, defenseless people the Jews are committing intentional genocide against. A people, by the way, whose political leaders are sworn to the death of every Jew in traditional Palestine. Still, teaching them history is about as effective as teaching Glenn Beck history since extremism knows no bounds of denial.
But of late the Israeli's are really pissing me off and Netanyahu's latest foray into diplomatic idiocy is wearing my patience thin. Not only have the Israeli's insulted Vice President Joseph Biden but then stuck a knife in the wound by insisting their plans for hundreds of new homes in the West Bank would go forward regardless of US desires to lessen tensions between Israeli's and Palestinians.

While it's fair and necessary to keep Gaza in lock-down until their terrorist government folds or dies or is swept away on a tsunami, the West Bank is another story. Each day tens of thousands of Palestinians leave Judea and Samaria and travel into Israel proper to work and do business and the economies of both states are no longer mutually exclusive - one without the other would collapse. So why would the government of Israel intentionally weaken these economic links?

Israel's government is based on a multi-party parliamentary system where one insignificant party can weld great power as does Shas, an ultra-right wing orthodox party that holds a bare 11 seats in the 120 member Knesset. But those 11 seats were the ones necessary for Mr. Netanyahu to form a government and so whatever Shas wants, Shas gets and expanding settlements in the west bank is what they're all about. I don't live in Israel (though I do carry the mark on my body which gives me the right of return) so I cannot tell them what to do. But I can say I'm pissed off.

So, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, envision the political and economic power Israel would enjoy if you'd just stop pissing off west bank Palestinians. Imagine just how wealthy the two states of Israel and Palestine would be if you removed a few, tiny little stresses? I'd even be willing to bet there'd be a McDonald's in Hebron and you know the deal: no two nations with a McDonald's have ever been to war against the other. So, nu?

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