Friday, January 7, 2011

News That Matters - Friday, January 7, 2011 - Taxes, Rent and Things To Do Edition

News That Matters

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

Telling it like it is for 10 years and counting...

“A property tax cap by itself will not solve the problem. We need to give our schools the tools they need to actually start cutting costs without sacrificing the quality of our children's education.” - Kevin Cahill

Good Friday Morning,

I'm sorry there hasn't been a column this week. Being the first week back to work after the Christmas holiday no one reads anyway. Besides, I've been concentrating on raising cash to pay the rent and bills (and back taxes which the IRS has conveniently - and rather politely - reminded me about,) through selling off stuff I've had stashed around for years that I'm never going to use nor need. As well, I've been doing what I can do push my  business, as you noticed on Monday.

The recently completed fund drive was good and I love all of you who have helped out (and those who read but have not had better be saying Thanks! to them,) but it's not been as good as before the recession hit and so I really have to focus my efforts on paying the bills while News That Matters will have to take a back seat.

That doesn't mean Paul Eldridge or Vinnie Tamagna or the Senator Who Shall Not Be Named or Paul Camarda are getting a pass, it just means it'll take me a little longer to get around to them.


Anthony DiCarlo, not Neil. I keep doing that. Thanks to MC for pointing that out.
I know there are a number of weekenders who read this column and this message is for them:
You're in the city all week or all winter. When you come back to Putnam county wouldn't you like to walk in to a freshly painted space? Of course you would!

The time to have those rooms painted is while you're away. You'll miss the dust and mess and see only the finished product, the new sharpness of the space, the fresh angles and bright, new colors and man, will you ever be happy. Trust me on this: I've seen people smile like you wouldn't believe when they walk into that newly painted bedroom for the first time...

Call TaconicArts (that's me, by the way) for an estimate.

Local news

Back to the Drawing Board Again

State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill will not quit in his efforts to modernize the way we pay for education in New York State. He has, once again, introduced his "Quality in Education Act" which will be sent to committee to die there. Again.
Why? Because the bill shifts education funding away from property taxes and to an income based system that would require a re-envisioning of the tax brackets in New York State, something the better-off among us patently refuse to consider. Even though the average resident in our area would see a near $1000 reduction in their overall tax bills Mr. Cahill cannot get traction because those with the bucks own the decision makers in Albany.

The Tax Cap is political chicanery. The Circuit Breaker still requires that you pay the full amount of your present property tax bill before you take an adjustment on your state taxes in April. And if you can't pay your property taxes - you're homeless - but the rich don't care and neither does the state Assembly and Senate.

The Putnam County Legislature, and at least two of our towns (Kent is one) have passed resolutions in support of Mr. Cahill's efforts and I encourage each and every one of you to call/write your state Assembly member and your State Senator and tell them to get behind this important - and for many - life-saving bill.

Tamagna, Eldridge and Sales Taxes

It's more of the same business as usual as Philisptown takes control of Putnam County government. The first item on the agenda is to maintain our high sales tax rate. If the top 1/4% should end, we are warned, we will lose $11 million in revenue. This is something we stopped early last winter and it's back now - with a vengeance!
Maybe the county should consider cutting $11 million from the budget by, for example, getting rid of the Sheriff's Highway patrol and let local and state police take over that job? I mean, if we're looking to reduce duplication of services this would be a good place to start and I am sure there are other places we could cut. Executive secretary salaries? Maybe the county could stop paying school districts owed taxes from delinquent properties? Maybe we could put fewer people in jail for marijuana and other minor offenses? There are lots of ways if the Legislature would set aside political expediency.

The Legislature will say that if we don't maintain our higher-than-the-area sales tax rate that funding for the arts and libraries and whatnot will be cut and that may be true. But perhaps they might man-up to the job and start cutting the much vaunted "Safety" issues first so we can find out if they are really as important as the oft-repeated mantra states. If they are, we re-fund later on. If they're not then we know they've been lying to us all along and, let's be honest, how often do you hear, "public safety!" and "national security!" bantered about each time budget proposals come along? Yeah, every time. And what gets cut instead? Education, social services, the safety net. We've ended up being a rather safe but dumbed-down nation. I'd rather have a better safety net and when all is said and done, you would too.

So, where are the Chambers of Commerce on this? Surely a higher sale tax is hurting business in Putnam County. Where are the tea baggers? They bitched and moaned for two years about cutting government spending and yet their silence is so deafening it actually hurts my ears. I'm not saying that their whole movement was a creation of the health insurance industry and that they are naught but tools of the corporatists. Why would I ever say such a thing, aside from the fact that their silence on local tax and spending issues underscores the assertion.

And it's rather peculiar that our Republican-run county legislature has become the Tax And Spend party when they've so successfully placed that label on the Democrats in the past. In fact, here in Putnam County that's a good name for them so I hereby denote the county Republicans as the "Tax And Spend Party" to make it official.

They could loosen that newly minted moniker by allowing the sales tax surcharge to end (and the additional 1% to end next year) and cut the budget instead by growing a pair of cajones.

Anyone wanna take bets on this?

Constitutional Cliff Notes

When House Republicans, including our newly elected representative Nan Hayworth, read the Constitution on the floor of the House yesterday, not only did it cost around $1.1 million but they left parts out. For example, Article I, Section 2 of the United States Constitution which reads:
    "Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons."
So was the part about electing Senators (we don't, the Governor does) and the original process for selecting the Vice President. That's like having a reading of the bible and leaving out Noah's story or reading the Declaration of Independence and leaving out any reference to His Majesty, King George III. They're only in power for one day and already are rewriting history. It's only going to get more amusing as the days and weeks stretch on.

The Rent is Too Damned High (un)Party

Putnam County is a *very* expensive place to live. Rents are astronomically high as people lease out space in their homes or owned apartments to help pay their property taxes. What I'm finding as I seek a more affordable place to live is this:
People have set a rate they feel their space is worth but those places are remaining empty for month upon month. In one case I called the owner of a 1-bedroom cottage in PV and asked if they would come down a bit in the rate and they said, "no," they couldn't afford to. Then I asked how long they'd been looking for a new tenant only to find that the place has been empty for nearly a year! What's with that? They've lost more than $13,000 in rental income during that time and they're paying for oil and electricity to keep the place running, costs that would otherwise be borne by a tenant.

A place out in Kent, a cottage that would serve me well, requires two months rent up front plus the first month plus a security deposit. And a credit report? If I had $3000 laying around I wouldn't be looking for another place. And they won't let me have my dog - and you all know what a mistake that is on their part. He's the best rodent hunter there is short of a pack of starving feral cats.
  • A one bedroom apartment in Mahopac rents for $900 - and it's been empty for a year.
  • A two-bedroom house in Lake Carmel is asking $1200 has been empty for 7 months.
  • Two bedrooms in Brewster go for $1300 have been unoccupied since mid-fall.
  • A two bedroom house in Putnam Valley for $1300 has been empty since last April.
  • A 2 bedroom place in Patterson for $1350 has been empty since last summer.
  • A one bedroom converted barn in Garrison, asking $1500, has been empty since early last fall.
  • And a 3 bedroom house in Putnam Valley for $1450 has been dark since last June.
One landlord said that her real estate agent told her that as people were forced out of their homes via foreclosures that they would rent in the area instead. Her one-bedroom studio in Southeast ($850) has been empty for 6 months. I mentioned that rents were actually higher than most mortgage payments but she seemed nonplussed. "Those people have to go somewhere," she said. But where that "somewhere" is is unknown. They're not staying in Putnam County, that much we know.

What's more, with all the foreclosures that have taken place during the past two years and with banks seeking to cut their loses by putting some of these places up for rent, the market is in a glut and yet  landlords will not come down from what they're asking or make accommodations to get someone in there and the income flowing in again.

While I find it hard to believe a property owner would forgo thousands of dollars of income I'm told there is a mindset that locks people into the belief that if they lower the rent now, that if/when the economy gets better they'll feel as if they've lost money renting at a lower rate.

And what's more confusing are the landlords who will raise the rent i this market thus forcing a tenant out and are willing to let the place remain empty for as long as it takes to gain the higher rent.

I just don't get it.

A Mahopac real estate agent said that landlords haven't faced up to the reality of the new market, just like homeowners trying to sell have not until recently. The latter have found that their houses will sell if they place them at the right price point and then they're going for about 97% of the asking price. But it's not the price they think their homes are worth, and it's still vastly inflated, but they're moving... slowly... but moving. Rental landlords, on the other hand, will eventually learn that lesson but until then they are losing thousands of dollars a year in income.

While I love where I live and I've been here for 9 years it's becoming too expensive to stay. As I seek rents that are more affordable my eye is drawn north and west to where rental and real estate prices are more in line with reality.

If my house painting business picks up or a long-lost relative dies and leaves me his bankroll or if News That Matters finally finds a benefactor all this could change.

But in the meantime, if you're landlord and you've a place to rent that's been empty for more than a few months, please write and tell me why. I'm genuinely curious.

This found on the 'net:

Q. How many Unitarians does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A. We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey, you have found that light bulbs work for you, that... is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your personal relationship with your light bulb. Present it next month at our annual Light Bulb Sunday Service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions, including incandescent, fluorescent, 3-way, long-life, and tinted, all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.

Craigslist is weird:

A few days ago I posted my business in the Hudson Valley edition of Craigslist. I received many responses, all of which were scams of one sort or another but, this email takes the cake:
A few days ago I come across obamas is giving out there dough.\n\nA big basis for this is they are needing to frantically fix the  country.\n\nBasically input \"Govwehp\" in the google to take a look at how to snag it for your family.\n\nSincerly, rafael morales\n 
Nah, I can't figure it out either.

What's Going On?

Friday, January 7

AFA Battle of the Bands

5PM - 11PM - At Arts on the Lake. Route 52 in Lake Carmel. Co-sponsored by Alto Music! The AFA Recording Studio is holding a Battle of the Bands at Arts on the Lake. Bands will be judged on various categories to compete for a Grand Prize of 3-4 songs recorded with AFA. 2nd Place: 1 song worth of recording time. Chris O'Neil or Greg Schettino of AFA can be contacted at: 

5:10-5:30 - Alexander & The Greats
5:40-6:00 - 2 For 30
6:10-6:30 - Live.Love.Die
6:40-7:00 - Victims Of Tragedy
7:10-7:30- To Know Avail
7:40-8:00 - Seventh Advent
8:10-8:30 - Layfigures
8:40-9:00 - Under The Spotlight
9:10-9:30 - Nepenthe
9:40-10:00 - BreathTaker
10:10-10:30 - Megazord Theory
$8.00     General Admission    
$5.00     Member Admission    

"Tartuffe ~ The Imposter"

8PM - The Brewster Theater Company is proud to announce the cast of their winter 2011 production of the classic French farce Tartuffe by Moliere directed by Stephen DiRocco and produced by Daniel Bayer. Continues January 8, 14, and 15 at 8 pm at the The Melrose School, 120 Federal Hill Road Brewster, NY $15/adults and $13/students and seniors.

Cast members include Matt Bogan (Tartuffe), Bruce Tredwell (Orgon) , Dilhan Dalo (Valere), Zack Handler (Damis) and Marty Posner (Msr. Loyal) all of Brewster. Connecticut performers include Lisa Dahlstrom of Fairfield (Elmire), Chris Luongo of Bethel (Cleante), Jody Bayer of Danbury (Dorine), and Rachel Corn of Ridgefield (Mariane). Also appearing is Rita Aber (Mdm. Pernelle) of Somers, NY.

This event is made possible, in part, with public funds from the Artslink Program, combining or using both State and County dollars.  In Putnam County, the Artslink Program is administered by the Putnam Arts Council.

For more information about this show, call 845-598-1621.

Saturday, January 8

Lecture with Dr. Harvey Flad, Professor of Geography, Vassar College

5PM - Main Street Revisited: Two Centuries of Landscape and Social Change in the Poughkeepsie Urban Region

What can Philipstown learn from the history of Poughkeepsie? Join PCHS for a lecture with Dr. Harvey Flad, Emeritus Professor of Geography at Vassar College. Learn about the growth, decline, and revitalization of a city that closely parallels many others in the Hudson Valley.

Dr. Flad is a renowned scholar of cultural and historic landscapes in America, with a special focus on the Hudson Valley in the 19th century. But he is perhaps better known locally for his longtime involvement in the Hudson River Valley environmental movement. In 2003, he was honored for his conservation efforts with the Russel Wright Award from Manitoga/Russel Wright Design Center for his efforts.

Since that time, Dr. Flad worked closely will fellow Vassar professor Clyde Griffen researching Poughkeepsie's transformation over the past three centuries--from an agricultural market town, to a small city with a diversified economy centered on Main Street, to an urban region dependent on the success of IBM--and how this transformation has affected the lives and landscape of its inhabitants. Their work together culminated in an award-winning book, Mainframes: Landscape and Social Change in Poughkeepsie in 2009.

$5. Visit for more information.

Steve Kirkman and Backdoor Benny Harris

7:30PM - Steve Kirkman and Backdoor Benny Harris perform at the Putnam Arts Center on Kennicut Hill Road in Mahopac. In 2011 the Putnam Arts Council is pleased to announce a new and exciting performing arts series scheduled monthly at its newly renovated gallery space at the Belle Levine Art Center in Mahopac.
The goal of the program is to develop audiences for emerging to established performing artists and to offer the community access to interesting and diverse forms of music offered throughout the year.

A variety of performances will be offered the second weekend of each month with some on Saturday evenings and some on Sunday afternoons. Sunday programs will be sponsored by a grant from Entergy and will offer free admission.

Our opening weekend of music, January 8 & 9, features two concerts; the first on Saturday at 7:30, celebrates steel guitars played by area performers Backdoor Benny Harris and Steve Kirkman. Mr. Harris draws from a diverse repertoire of traditional acoustic blues, as well as his own original work as does Steve Kirkman, host of Towne Crier’s open mic Wednesday’s. Kirkman is a Hudson Valley transplant from NC via Nashville, Memphis and NYC. Tickets are $20. and reservations are advised.

On Sunday, January 9th at 4pm, we will host Brett Randell, a home grown Mahopac singer and songwriter/poet continuing his “Austin to Amsterdam; Austin to Boston” tour. This free concert is made possible by a grant from Entergy. Locally, Brett has performed at The Towne Crier and Brooklyn Coffeehouse to enthusiastic crowds.

Visit for more details about this and all the programs, classes and other opportunities available at Arts on the Hill, 521 Kennicut Hill Rd., Mahopac.

Special Thanks to Monty Delaney and friends, and PAC Board Member Marc Pekowsky for their efforts in planning for both In the Center Saturday’s and Second Sunday’s. 

Sunday, January 9

Carmel Democratic Committee Strategy Meeting

1PM at 100 Barrett Hill Road, the home of Al and Laura Policar. Call (845) 628-2159 for more information. Please bring a dish to share as we celebrate the New Year together and make plans for 2011 elections. Think about the issues you wish to discuss. Consider candidates who deserve our support.

Fredonia For the 845

3:00PM - Two Carmel High School graduates, Buddy Griffith and Nina LoConte, currently music education students at SUNY Fredonia, return to perform at Arts on the Lake on Sunday, January 9, at 3 p.m. Joining Griffith and LaConte onstage will be Ryan Boshart from Hyde Park, Jeff Stote from Avon, CT, and Chris Piro from Pelham.  The five performers will present a program of classical music entitled “Fredonia for the 845.”  Tickets are $8. Click here for more information.

Maggie Seligman

3PM - At Borders Books in Mt. Kisco with guitarist extraordinaire Martin Aronchick. 162 East Main Street Mount Kisco, NY 10549 (914) 241-8387

Into The Future

Wednesday, January 12

Free Flu Shots

2:30PM - 6:30PM No cost flu shots for residents of Putnam County at the Putnam County Health Department at 1 Geneva Road in Brewster. (You know, where the DMV is.) No appointment is necessary though you will have to fill out a consent form which you can get here.

Saturday, January 15

The Power of Making a Promise

11AM - Matthew Cossolotto (author of HabitForce! and creator of “Make A Promise Day”), will be speaking about The Power of Making A Promise – one of his Personal Empowerment Programs (PEPTalks) – at the Mount Kisco Public Library.  Matthew is writing a book about the power of making a promise with a foreword by Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame.

See this article in the Yorktown Patch for more information.

Short Play Lab - Good Things Come in Small Packages

7PM - CLOCKED OUT by Deb Towers, directed by Fidel Fonteboa; starring Deb Rodman & William Yuekun Wu. Two hard-core salespeople take a break from their workday only to discover they get more than what they bargained for.

MIKE’S NOSE by Fidel Fonteboa, directed by Maria Zadrima; starring Zulie Lozada and Fidel Fonteboa. A husband will say anything to keep his wife from finding out what he's doing on the Internet.

Stage Manager, Jeff Green.

Plus other plays. $18 General Admission at the Roy Arias Theater, 300 W43rd Street, 4th Floor.

Winter Jazz with Michelle LeBlanc

7:30PM - At the Hudson House River Inn, 2 Main Street, Cold Spring, NY 10516. (845) 265-9355 or Continues every Saturday Evening through February 26th.

Sunday, January 16

Short Play Lab - Good Things Come in Small Packages

7PM - CLOCKED OUT by Deb Towers, directed by Fidel Fonteboa; starring Deb Rodman & William Yuekun Wu. Two hard-core salespeople take a break from their workday only to discover they get more than what they bargained for.

MIKE’S NOSE by Fidel Fonteboa, directed by Maria Zadrima; starring Zulie Lozada and Fidel Fonteboa. A husband will say anything to keep his wife from finding out what he's doing on the Internet.

Stage Manager, Jeff Green.

Plus other plays. $18 General Admission at the Roy Arias Theater, 300 W43rd Street, 4th Floor.

Tuesday, January 18

Hydrofracking Conference

6:30PM at the Community Room (top floor) at the Mahopac Public Library. Speakers to be announced.

Wednesday, January 19

Green Careers and Technology Conference

6:30PM - At the Learning Resource Center (Library) Gilman Center Middletown Campus, 115 South Street Middletown, NY 10940
6:30 pm
Welcome - Lou DeFeo, Workforce Development Education Coordinator, Continuing and Professional Education, SUNY Orange

6:35 pm
Keynote Speaker - Howard Aschoff on the SUNY Orange CETT Program and Possible Career Paths through training and education

7:10 pm
Patrice Courtney Strong, Coordinator, Mid-Hudson Energy $mart Communities - Overview of Green Economy/Job Perspectives - NYSERDA Incentives

7:30 pm
Melissa Everett, Ph.D., Executive Director, Sustainable Hudson Valley - Key Hudson Valley/Regional Green Initiatives

7:45 pm
Barbara Reer, Program Manager, Clean Energy Technology Training, Continuing and Professional Education, SUNY Ulster - Green Technology Course Offerings in the Hudson Valley - Photovoltaic Solar Panel Installer - IGSHPA Accredited Geothermal Installation - Solar Hot Water System Design

8:15 pm
Q&A Period

Saturday, January 22

The Art of Imagination

8PM - Arts on the Lake proudly presents The Magic of Imagination with David Morey on Saturday, January 22, at 8:00 p.m. Morey and the audience will journey through a wonderland of magic, experiencing all types of magic, from illusion to storytelling, from sleight of hand to mind reading—a journey that will take the audience beyond the bounds of its imagination.

David Morey understands what it means to know his audience, to stay ahead of them, to read their minds. Evident of this understanding, his international business and political consultant work has helped elect twelve presidents on four continents and increased the revenue of Fortune 500 companies by the hundreds of millions of dollars. The connection between business and magic is simple, Morey says: “Frankly, the magicians I know, who are some of the best in the world, are the most innovative people I’ve ever met…. The higher forms of magic elevate you, take you to a higher plane, and, at least temporarily, heal what you are going through and what is challenging you.”

The magic of David Morey is woven throughout the fabric of his life. Since he was a young boy, when he saw his first magic show on the Ed Sullivan Show at four years old, magic found its way into his own imagination and heart. And after a 25-year break, Morey returned to his first love and has been performing at major venues—The DC Fringe Festival, President Obama’s Inaugural Ball, among others—ever since.

Tickets ($ 15.00 -- $10.00 [members]) to The Magic of Imagination with David Morey may be purchased in advance on the Arts on the Lake website: and reservations may be made by email to or by phone: 845-228-2685.

Wednesday, January 26

The Economics of Happiness

7PM - Join us for an evening with internationally recognized cultural commentator, author, and filmmaker, Helena Norberg-Hodge, as she presents her latest film, "The Economics of Happiness."  After the film Norberg-Hodge will discuss how rebuilding smaller scale, ecological, local economies can help us rediscover those essential relationships, both with the living world and with one another, that ultimately give our lives meaning and joy.

The evening is free and open to the public. Doors open at 6:30pm, event begins at 7pm. No reservations required, but we ask that you RSVP so we can anticipate attendance. For more information or to RSVP, please call 845.424.4800 or email

Helena Norberg-Hodge is an analyst of the impact of the global economy on cultures and agriculture worldwide and a pioneer of the localization movement. She is the founder and director of the International Society for Ecology and Culture (ISEC). ISEC's mission is to examine the root causes of our social and environmental crises while promoting more sustainable and equitable patterns of living. Fluent in seven languages, Norberg-Hodge was educated in linguistics and has lived in and studied numerous cultures at varying degrees of industrialization. Her experiences in Ladakh, a remote region on the Tibetan plateau, were crucial in enabling her to understand the impact of conventional development and globalization on people and the environment. Ms. Norberg-Hodge founded The Ladakh Project and helped establish several indigenous organizations in Ladakh including the Ladakh Ecological Development Group (LEDeG) and the Women's Alliance of Ladakh (WAL). She is the author of Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh, based on her first-hand experience of the effects of conventional development in Ladakh. Ancient Futures has been described as an "inspirational classic" by the London Times and together with a film of the same title, it has been translated into 42 languages. She is also co-author of Bringing the Food Economy Home and From the Ground Up: Rethinking Industrial Agriculture.

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