Monday, November 8, 2010

News That Matters - Monday, November 8, 2010

News That Matters

News That Matters
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Good Monday Morning,

This evening, the Putnam County Legislature, in full meeting at 6:30PM, will request that the State of New York extend/renew the additional sales tax you and I pay on every item purchased in the county.
But didn't Republicans win electoral races across the land on a platform of cutting taxes? Didn't they win here in Putnam County as well? How, in this day and age when so many people are hurting, can our county government, all Republicans, save one, continue this additional tax and shouldn't they be cutting the budget instead? Haven't they gotten the message?

It's late in this call to arms, I know, but if the buck doesn't stop here where does it stop? Why call on the Federal and state levels of government to reign in spending while our local county continues to tax and spend at will?

Contact your county Legislator - this morning - and let them know that you do *not* want to continue paying an additional sales tax on everything to support a tax and spend government. And ask them *why* we're voting on this at this time and not next year - when it should be taking place. (See note in Big Red Letters below.)

Call them at 845 808-1020 and tell them "No!" and that they should be cutting spending instead.

Here, I'll make it even easier: Click Here to send them an Email.

Legislators Birmingham and Fusco will be voting NO, Legislator Othmer is leaning towards a YES but says, "The County is very lean, if you inspected the departments you would see how lean it is personal wise." while Sam Oliverio wrote yesterday to say he would be voting YES saying in part, "This is something that is already in place, has certainly worked to keep property taxes low and allows the County to continue to provide those quality of life items that are so important to our residents..."

But the truth is this: whether the tax is on sales or on your property it is still a tax and that $11 million can be cut from the budget without a significant reduction in essential services.

Don't let the Legislature hide behind a property tax increase when they are incapable of cutting the budget or properly working with elected reps in Albany.

Important Note: The vote tonight has no effect on the current [FY2011] budget: this vote is a year in advance of when it needs to be. This vote, this request, would normally be taking place NEXT year at this time when the political situation in Albany will be different and not so friendly to the incoming County Executive. See? It's all about politics.

It's always about politics.

Once we see what happens tonight, if the County Legislature continues their tax-and-spend way, we'll take the fight to Albany where the enabling legislation will be passed - or not - and that depends on you.
Here's what the sales tax rates are in our area:

Putnam - 8.375%
Rockland - 8.375%
Dutchess - 8.125%
Orange - 8.125%
Sullivan - 8%
Westchester County - 7.375%
New Jersey - 7%
Connecticut - 6%
NY State - 4%

Man, if you want to Shop Putnam you need a gold card!

The county legislature passes a bill requesting that Albany approve the extension. Once in Albany a local rep brings it up and gets a bill number and sends the bill back to the county. Then the PC Leg votes to accept the bill and sends their approval back to Albany where the final bill is then voted on.

But there's a problem: The State Legislature is not in session.

Governor Paterson has indicated he will call the state legislature back to Albany for an Extraordinary, or Special Session that has a rather fixed agenda that is at the Governors' dictate. The state legislature can only act on what the governor specifies for that session and nothing else. They cannot bring up any issues on their own. Is a sales tax extension for the county one of the agenda items?

And why now when the current extension does not run out for another year?

So, here's what's happening: Senator-elect Greg Ball has pledged not to carry this bill in Albany and we need a State Senator to do so. Steve Katz the Assemblyman from the 99th district won't carry the bill to the Assembly leaving Sandy Galef who will. But with no Senate sponsor it's not going to go anywhere, will languish and die.

So the County Legislature is hoping to give Senator Leibell one more chance to increase your taxes in Albany before he leaves office and before the county turns up with an $11 million budget shortfall - for the 2012 budget, NOT the 2011 budget which is already in place.
Now, here's what's going to happen:
With Republicans unable to cut the county budget they will tell you that unless this is passed they will be forced to pass this $11 million on to your property tax bill thus *saving* you money by not forcing you to pay the additional tax! And, that magically, others from outside the county will flock to shop here next year saving you the pain. And if you all clap really loud we can save tinkerbell!

It's snowing out there right now... a little early, no?

According to an article in the NYJN, New York state will no longer be in the business of issuing dog licenses, passing that on to local municipalities in an effort to save $400,000 a year. I have a better idea: scrap the licensing proposal altogether. It's like branding a slave or something.
While we're talking about dogs, does anyone know of a local free rabies clinic? It's about time for his shots.

Since there's nothing really going on these days to get your heart all a flutter, state authorities had to find something new to scare you with and though they've already gone through pedophiles, crystal meth and international terrorism they've finally hit on their new fear-of-the-day: Four Loko.
Four Loko is an alcohol-caffeinated drink with 12% of the good stuff and the equivalent of about 2 cups of coffee, and joins a host of other similar beverages in beer coolers across the region and nation.

Why the concern? Well, last month nine students were hospitalized after a Four Loko party at Central Washington University as were several others at Ramapao College in Mahwah, NJ and so the entire nation must pay the price for their personal stupidity. What ever happened to personal responsibility and less government intervention? Sure, if I ingest way more of this stuff than is good for a nice little buzz I'm going to get sick - and these kids new that beforehand. Now they really know and the matter should be laid to rest and chalked up to experience.

Maybe it's time we dealt with these issues on a case by case basis and not force responsible people into accepting the minority status quo. Maybe, just maybe, I should be allowed to make these choices for myself. After all, tens of thousands of Americans die in automobile accidents each year - each one perfectly avoidable - but we've not banned cars. Yet.
Long Beach, California Democrat Jenny Oropeza easily won re-election 58%-36% to the State Senate over her Republican opponent John Stammreich. The problem is that Ms. Oropeza died two weeks before the election from a blood clot during a bout with cancer. Remember when John Ashcroft lost to Mel Carnahan in 2000? Can you imagine the attack ads?
Oropeza has the worst attendance record in the State Senate! Vote Stammerich!

Oropeza had to die to avoid making the tough choices for California! Vote Stammerich!
The newly elected governors of Ohio and Wisconsin have both promised to kill high-speed rail improvements within their states. The two projects would have created thousands of jobs under the $1.3 billion - already funded - federal program. John Kasich, incoming Ohio governor said, "That train is dead."
Scott Walker, governor-elect in Wisconsin, wanted the dollars spent on roads and highways instead though the $810 million in allocated federal funds is specific for the rail project to get cars off roads and lessen our need for imported oil.

Those dollars will now go back to the Fed for use in other places. I am sure that Saudi Arabia will thank them. See the story below.

The Putnam County Sheriff's Department recently busted two small-time pot growers, one in Carmel and one in Putnam Valley, and promised to protect us on 'land, sea and air' - regardless the cost. Which, considering they used helicopters and airplanes is probably a great deal more than that "protection" is worth. And I am sure we are all in agreement that we support the Department's efforts to keep recreational smokers going to criminals and funneling their dollars out of the country for what amounts to a press release and a lot of useless court time and lost productivity.
In their press release they spell marijuana as "marihuana", a spelling devised in the 1920's to hide the word's original Spanish origins. A quick google search on "marihuana" turns up 7,740,000 hits while a search for "marijuana" returns 53,000,000. Get with the program, dudes!

Over in the old Mother Country where they have national health care and topless women in newspapers and where The Sun has the role of FOXNews here, a judge has thrown out the results of a recent election because the court felt that the ultimate winner "knowingly making [made]  false charges about his opponent in campaign literature."
Opponents say the ruling will "chill political speech" which, I guess in the Queens English means, "will stop us from blatantly lying to the public in order to capture their votes on false pretenses."

Excuse me for agreeing with the purveyors of such dreadful things as tea with milk and "blood pudding", but we need that kind of thing around here. See the story below.

Just so you know:

And now, The News:

The Rondout Valley: The Last Best-Kept Secret

by Gregory Schoenfeld

There is no New York State Thruway exit for the Rondout Valley. Perhaps that explains why this bucolic stretch of land is able to maintain its old-fashioned feel of distant, “true country” mystique. Surrounded by bustling Hudson Valley destinations like New Paltz, Woodstock, and nearby Rhinebeck, the Rondout Valley’s quixotic personality is a true paradox, both genuine and patently misleading. As a prime example, the majestic Shawangunk Ridge, which, along with the southeastern edge of the Catskill Mountains forms the Rondout Valley itself, is anything but unknown. Home to the tens of thousands of nature conservancy acres that make up the Mohonk Preserve, the Minnewaska State Park Preserve, and Sam’s Point Preserve, the Shawangunk Ridge is one of the most sought-after locations in New York State for nature enthusiasts.

Still, there is no denying the transformational effect of continuing past the ridge and into the valley proper. Valley residents from 200-year-old families live side by side in harmony with a constant influx of both part-time and full-time transplants—an eclectic array of artists, craftspeople, musicians, farmers, and everything in between—and it is a point of pride for lifetime denizens and fresh arrivals alike. “I’ve always thought that it took a hardier kind of soul to come up over the mountain, and I think that’s the difference,” says Carl Pezzino, a 40-year Marbletown resident and community activist. “It’s the blending of the new and the old that keeps it special. It isn’t about individuals, it’s about community.”

Read More

Live Cannon Ball Disrupts Downtown Cold Spring

Joint News Release – Village Of Cold Spring Police Department And Putnam County Sheirff's Office

Village of Cold Spring Police Officer in Charge George Kane and Putnam County Sheriff Donald B. Smith report that a twelve pound antique cannon ball disrupted vehicular and pedestrian traffic in downtown Village of Cold Spring this afternoon.

Shortly after noon today, a Cold Spring resident arrived at the Village of Cold Spring Police Department and reported that two weeks ago he had purchased an antique cannon ball, manufactured circa 1800, at an auction in Rockland County. After taking the item home, he inspected the cannon ball more closely. He then noticed that the cannon ball contained gun powder. The owner placed the cannon ball on the rear floor of his car and drove to the Village of Cold Spring Police Department.

The owner went to the police station and was met by Cold Spring police officer Rhonda Wallach. She escorted the complainant to his car and called for assistance from Investigator Robert Ferris of the Putnam County Sheriff's Office Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

Additional investigators along with uniformed members of the Sheriff's Patrol Division responded to the scene. They joined in the investigation, evacuated the surrounding area and diverted traffic away from Main Street.

The Westchester County Department of Public Safety's Bomb Squad was summoned to safely remove the cannon ball from the vehicle. They then took it to nearby Mayor's Park in Cold Spring and detonated it.

No one was injured. No criminal charges were lodged.

The Cold Spring Volunteer Fire Department assisted police at the scene.

Read Original

High-Speed Rail Plans Imperiled by Governors-Elect

By John Collins Rudolf

Is it dead? A rendering of a high-speed rail station planned for Milwaukee.Wisconsin Department of TransportationA rendering of a high-speed intermodal rail station that had been planned for Milwaukee.

Representative John Mica of Florida, the senior Republican in line to take the reins of the House Transportation Committee in January, is unhappy with the way the Obama administration awarded $10 billion in federal stimulus funds for high-speed rail projects.

“I am a strong advocate of high-speed rail, but it has to be where it makes sense,” Mr. Mica told The Associated Press in a post-election interview. “The administration squandered the money, giving it to dozens and dozens of projects that were marginal at best to spend on slow-speed trains to nowhere.”

Read More

From Farm to Fridge to Garbage Can

By Tara Parker-Pope

How much food does your family waste?

A lot, if you are typical. By most estimates, a quarter to half of all food produced in the United States goes uneaten — left in fields, spoiled in transport, thrown out at the grocery store, scraped into the garbage or forgotten until it spoils.

A study in Tompkins County, N.Y., showed that 40 percent of food waste occurred in the home. Another study, by the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, found that 93 percent of respondents acknowledged buying foods they never used.

And worries about food safety prompt many of us to throw away perfectly good food. In a study at Oregon State University, consumers were shown three samples of iceberg lettuce, two of them with varying degrees of light brown on the edges and at the base. Although all three were edible, and the brown edges easily cut away, 40 percent of respondents said they would serve only the pristine lettuce.

In his new book “American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food” (Da Capo Press), Jonathan Bloom makes the case that curbing food waste isn’t just about cleaning your plate.

Read More

Kristallnacht: History reminds us to take potential threats seriously

By Eugene Dubow

The Kristallnacht of the 21st century that looms on the horizon today comes from Iran and its quest for nuclear weapons. Its threat to Israel and its 5.6 million Jews is no secret. It has been repeated time and time again by Iranian President Ahmadinejad. If there is to be another Kristallnacht it will come from the East, not the West.

Iran's 2010 call for Israel's annihilation should be understood as Kristallnacht was not understood 72 years ago. Economic sanctions against Iran are in place. In Europe, German Chancellor Merkel is the outstanding voice today calling for even stronger sanctions. She, as the German leader, more than anybody, understands that an attack on Israel would bring enormous destruction not only to the Jews but to the rest of the world. She and a small number of others are issuing a clarion call to action as only very few did in 1938.

Read More

Celebrating a historic week for building energy codes

Sweeping changes to Congress in the mid-term elections may have slammed the door shut on major climate legislation, yet there is still reason to celebrate.

Last week, members of the International Code Council (ICC) approved changes to building energy codes – the CAFE standards of the buildings world – that will require new and renovated homes and commercial buildings to use 30 percent less energy than those built to current standards.

The votes are truly historic. Never in the history of the ICC have such enormous gains in energy efficiency been made in such a short time.

The changes, which will occur in the 2012 version of the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), leverage sensible and cost-effective strategies to reduce energy, such as increasing insulation levels and lighting efficiency, improving the air-tightness of buildings and ductwork, and requiring check-ups known as commissioning in new commercial buildings, where mechanical systems are prone to underperform. The energy efficiency proposals that were approved were endorsed by a diverse coalition of government officials, business associations and product manufacturers, including the U.S. Energy Department, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the American Institute of Architects, the Consumer Federation of America, Cardinal Glass and the National Housing Institute.

Read More

British judges order rerun of parliamentary vote

LONDON – A British court on Friday threw out the results of a parliamentary election after deciding that the victor had gone too far in distorting his opponent's positions.

Experts warned the ruling clears the way for judges to referee electoral contests — a potentially messy precedent.

The two judges decided that the winner, Labour Party incumbent Phil Woolas, had violated election law in May by knowingly making false charges about his opponent in campaign literature.

Woolas accused Liberal Democrat opponent Elwyn Watkins of receiving support from Muslim militants who advocate violence. Watkins, who lost the May 6 contest by 103 votes, accused Woolas in court of trying to stir up ethnic and religious divisions.

The ruling, the first of its kind for at least 99 years, costs Woolas, a former immigration minister, his seat in parliament, since the judges ruled he cannot sit in the House of Commons for the next three years. He was suspended from the Labour Party Friday afternoon.

Read More

Banking Crisis 2.0 Means TARP II

By Ellen Brown

The significance of ForeclosureGate is being downplayed in the media, but independent analysts warn that it could be the tsunami that takes the big players down.

John Lekas, senior portfolio manager of the Leader Short Term Bond Fund, said on "The Street" on November 2, 2010, that the banks will prevail in the lawsuits brought by investors. The paperwork issues, he said, are just "technical mumbo jumbo"; there is no way to unwind years of complex paperwork and securitizations.

But Yves Smith, writing in The New York Times on October 30, says it's not that easy:

    "The banks and other players in the securitization industry now seem to be looking to Congress to snap its fingers to make the whole problem go away, preferably with a law that relieves them of liability for their bad behavior. But any such legislative fiat would bulldoze regions of state laws on real estate and trusts, not to mention the Uniform Commercial Code. A challenge on constitutional grounds would be inevitable.

    "Asking for Congress's help would also require the banks to tacitly admit that they routinely broke their own contracts and made misrepresentations to investors in their Securities and Exchange Commission filings. Would Congress dare shield them from well-deserved litigation when the banks themselves use every minor customer deviation from incomprehensible contracts as an excuse to charge a fee?"

Read More
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