Like most homeowners and taxpayers, I am concerned about rising taxes and economic uncertainty. If we are to increase our tax base, we must be better equipped to compete in the 21st-century global, knowledge-based economy. Simply put, in order to prosper, indeed, in order to survive in the modern world, Highland needs a modern library. And yes, that costs money.
Concerned about the nearly $7 million price tag, I did some research. As it turns out, libraries are a good investment. Studies from Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana, South Carolina and Florida have found that the taxpayer’s return on investment ranges from 2:1 to 6:1.
The Highland Library Board has chosen to convert a former coal yard building in the hamlet of Highland into a 13,390-square-foot, state-of-the-art “green” library -- a wise choice. A “downtown” location will help support the existing businesses in our hamlet and will likely generate enough activity that new businesses will form. The library would overlook the Hudson Valley Rail Trail, which would provide easy access for people choosing to walk or ride a bike to the library. Brilliant! Others with less foresight might have chosen a site out on the highway, which would require everyone to get there by car -- a big mistake. Remember the post office’s move from the hamlet out to 9W?
Up in Middleburgh, NY, a small village in Schoharie County, their downtown library is credited with the renaissance of its Main Street. Clearly an investment in our new library makes good sense for both our downtown and our tax base.
But in this economic downturn, can we afford a new library? Clearly, yes. Now more than ever, when people are out of work or strapped for cash, library use has skyrocketed (Wall Street Journal, Jan. 15, 2009). The library’s computers can help someone find a job. Its selection of DVDs can provide a family an evening’s entertainment -- all for free.
If Lloyd is to attract and retain high-tech or bio-tech business and the good paying jobs they provide, we’ll need a first-class library. When CEOs of Fortune 500 corporations come looking for a place to site their business and relocate with their families, they’ll find that Highland has much to offer -- good schools, a Hudson Riverfront, easy access to New York City via Metro North, near the NYS Thruway, diverse recreational opportunities with terrific parks, including Walkway Over the Hudson, and an educated and willing workforce.
Which library would you like them to find? The cramped 2,500-square-foot former 1930s residence bursting at the seems -- or a spacious, modern, energy-efficient library on our rail trail?
For too long Highland has deferred investing in a modern library. The cost of a new library will only escalate as time goes by, therefore, the time to build is now. Failure to provide a modern library will cost us dearly over the long run.
An open letter to Supervisor Joe Katz
I am writing to strongly oppose the Town of Gardiner’s proposal to increase costs to the library, thereby forcing the library to cut services and hours. Some might say a society is judged on the way it treats its elders. I might add that it should be judged by the way it values and protects its community knowledge and resources. To misappropriate the library’s funding would be to completely devalue and disenfranchise our community members and make our knowledge inconsequential and out of reach.
The Town of Gardiner needs its library and the library’s services; they also take advantage of these services, not allow them to go unused and forgotten. Students populate the place in the after-school hours because it is not only a quiet, appropriate environment for homework and research, but also a safe and warm space where their parents need not worry. They expand their critical-thinking skills competing in the after school chess club instead of doing God-knows-what in that lost time between the final bell and the dinner bell. Senior citizens partake in seminars advising on elder care and dealing with common medicines, as well as financial and technological lessons. Dozens of children come in each day to peruse the extensive picture and chapter books and listen to Nicole Lane’s exciting story hour. They come with parents and snacks to enjoy family movie nights. They are also able to participate in the amazing R.E.A.D. with dogs program, allowing them not only literacy experience, but also the chance to interact with animals in a safe space and take ownership of their reading skills. Nell Boucher has revolutionized the purchasing of new books and Melissa Fairweather has worked ceaselessly to raise money and public awareness and participation in book drives, transport of the collections from the new to old libraries and much more. The library also hosts art shows, the invaluable farmers market and yoga classes that benefit not only the mind, but bodies of everyone in the community. In addition, of course, there are scores of adult patrons who stop in for Internet use, to catch up on their periodicals and pick up library-owned and Inter-library loaned volumes that they can count on because the library is now open at reliable and accessible hours that jive with the average hardworking Gardinerite.
I feel like it was all too recently that we voted to raise taxes to support the library and have just begun to see what that new financing can do to enhance our community. The inviting and comfortable space the new building provides, as well as a growing and relevant selection of current and classic books, are just scratching the surface of what is possible for the Gardiner Library. This is more than a building, more than a ‘free space’ for the people who live here. It is one of the most basic and beautiful luxuries we have as Americans -- a place where all are equal and capable with a card in hand, and knowledge is free and happily shared with all those who seek it. Do not take the library’s services from its patrons. As a college writing teacher, I know the priceless value of education and the staggering deficit of ignorance and poor priorities. I expect that the Town of Gardiner also appreciates these concepts and would never jeopardize its most valuable public asset. Again, I implore the town to not make any decisions that would require the library cut its public services, hours or employees. We simply cannot afford to lose them.
I thank you for your time and consideration and hope that you will agree and come to a decision that allows the Gardiner Library to continue its excellent service and retain its current hours, resources and employees.
Shortly before the recent mid-term elections, I received a brochure in the mail from the Ulster County Board of Elections, explaining how to cast my ballot using the new Optical Scan voting machines.
I read it carefully, noting the precise instructions regarding the need to avoid erasing or crossing out mistakes, how to cast a write-in ballot and how to use the privacy sleeve when taking the properly marked ballot to the scanner.
The part of the brochure that I found most intriguing, though, was the sample ballot, apparently intended to familiarize voters with its general layout and appearance.
It may be that the brochure was prepared before the actual ballot was available. At any rate, rather than depicting the ballot that voters would soon encounter in their polling places, with actual names of candidates, the Board of Elections presented a hypothetical ballot, in which voters were asked to vote for their favorite parks, favorite New York State fair attractions, and (the best part of the brochure, in my estimation), were asked to vote for two of their favorite zoo animals.
Oddly enough, this ballot from Neverland featured actual names of political parties: running on the Democratic Party slate were Spider Monkey and Llama, Lemur and Penguin were the Republican candidates, Wolf and Baboon were on the Independence Party line, Red Fox and Lion were the choices for Conservative Party voters and Working Family supporters could fill in the circles for Elephant and Mountain Goat.
I started to think about how these creatures came to be running for office and to wonder which might do a better job of representing my interests in government. How would their performances compare to those of some of our current office holders?
While some, such as Penguin, Lemur and Spider Monkey might attract a fair number of votes based on their charm and personality, would they be best equipped to deliberate over matters involving taxation, postage rates or highway maintenance? On the other hand, the formal, elegant appearance of the Penguin could lend a certain dignity to the political scene that has recently been lacking.
It surprised me to see Elephant running on the Working Families line, since the pachyderm has long been considered a symbol of the Republican Party. Is this a maverick elephant?
Donkey was not represented on the slate.
Red Fox, Lion and Wolf may appeal to voters who think politicians should be aggressive. However, their predatory natures and fondness for raw meat could cause an image problem in some districts.
The Mountain Goat certainly has many qualities that could serve it well in politics: nimble footing, excellent sense of balance, inquisitive nature. On the negative side, an unpleasant aroma could cause ostracism in caucuses.
The Baboon might attract some voters because of its agility, but others might feel that more of a change is needed from current office holders.
Did the author, or authors, of the brochure attach any significance when assigning animals to the various political parties?
I noticed that animals known for sometimes unappealing qualities, such as snakes, vultures and hyenas, were not running for office. Or perhaps they were nominated and declined to run.
The columns headed Favorite Parks and Favorite NYS Fair Attraction seemed odd to me. I was not familiar with any of the parks listed, which were all near Syracuse, and wondered why the Fair Attractions column listed Chevrolet Court and Pepsi International Food Pavilion. Were Chevy and Pepsi underwriting the cost of the brochure?
In the future, I’m hoping to receive more entertaining and informative brochures from the people at my County Board of Elections.
A hive of activity at the Gardiner Library
I recently learned that the Town of Gardiner was looking to pass some new expenses to the library. Since the library would not be able to increase their budget, this increase in expenses would, very likely, result in a reduction of hours and services. I wish you who are deciding the budgetary fate of Gardiner’s library would take some time and sit in the library and observe. Not only will you find the traditional borrowers and browsers coming and going, but you will also find a hive of other activities. The computers are in high demand on most days. Many users are students, while others are simply individuals focused on a mission that only they and their computer know. Some are making copies and faxing items (and paying for it). But that is only part of what you will see because, simultaneously, you will see a mother or father with her child reading a story, selecting a book or happily chatting as if they were in their kitchen (yet not isolated). But there is more. Some drop by to read the daily newspapers or check out the periodical shelf and then move on.
But the coolest thing you will observe are the activities that take place in our library -- the knitting club, chess club ,opera club, yoga, tai-chi, canasta afternoons and much more, including the farmers market.
If you will take the 20 minutes that I was talking about on three different days one week you will not just see a library, but also a community of Gardiner’s citizens coming together to learn, to be productive, to share and to have fun.
Some days it is a very stimulating environment with lots of energy, but on other days it is a calm, beautiful, bright sanctuary where you can rest your mind, enjoy the view and feel the sunshine.
I hope you will consider the above and know that a cutback will be a disservice to individuals but more, it will dampen the spirit of community that is essential to the health of our town and its future.
Mary Ellen Broughton
Mayor questions budget
I would like to correct a misstatement of fact in the Nov. 4 issue of New Paltz Times. On page 14 the story states that the Highway Department budget has a 0% increase. This statement is incorrect; overall, the aggregate highway budget increase is about 17%. There are two highway funds -- the highway ‘A’ fund for which village homeowners are taxed and the highway ‘B’ fund which is paid for by tax on properties outside the village. Last year’s highway ‘A’ fund was $50,870 and the tentative 2011 highway ‘A’ fund is proposed to be $376,811. This is a 641% increase in the highway ‘A’ fund, a far cry from the 0% reported in the New Paltz Times. This increase is primarily a result of Supervisor Toni Hokanson taking the entire cost of town snow plowing out of the highway ‘B’ fund and putting it in the ‘A’ fund.
It is allowable under State law for town snow plowing costs to be taxed against village property, but you would expect the town to only exercise that option for snow plowing that directly affects village residents. What possible benefit accrues to village residents for snow plowing on Cragswood Road, Klienkill Drive, Schrieber’s Lane, etc.? The roads going in and out of the village are State and County highways and village residents pay for that snow plowing with their State and County taxes. This action by Supervisor Hokanson is yet another abusive and unwarranted tax on village homeowners.
There are three towns in Ulster County that have a village within their borders -- Wawarsing, Saugerties and New Paltz. The town and village of Saugerties especially have had a long, cooperative and respectful relationship. They are a model of how a town and village can and should work together, and this is reflected in the scrupulously honest and ethical budgetary practices of the Town of Saugerties. Of these three towns, only the Town of New Paltz engages in illegal and unethical budgetary practices, such as the illegal and unwarranted tax levies which penalize village property owners. The 2011 town budget has to be adopted in a week; all of these illegal and unwarranted town taxes on village property owners should be removed from the budget.
Terry Dungan, Mayor
Village of New Paltz
Thank you to Fox and Hound Wine and Spirits
On Saturday, Oct. 30 Fox and Hound Wine and Spirits generously donated ten percent of the entire day’s proceeds to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. This was done in support of my four-year-old son who has cystic fibrosis, other local families battling cystic fibrosis and others who have sadly lost their battle to cystic fibrosis. The day was a huge success and we are so appreciate of all the work owners Nick Ciallelo and Tom Edwards, as well as employee Kristin Branche, put in to make this day happen! Their support was truly remarkable considering they knew little about cystic fibrosis and had never even met me or my son Eamonn prior to being asked if they’d be willing to sponsor a fundraiser. New Paltz is very fortunate to have such supportive business owners in our community. It is with this type of help and support that CF will, in fact, one day stand for “Cure Found.” We are forever grateful and loyal customers. Thank you for hosting a “Shop for a Cure” day and more importantly, thank you for helping fund a cure and adding more tomorrows to Eamonn’s life and others living with cystic fibrosis. And to everyone who came out and shopped, thank YOU for helping make this day a success!
It was our pleasure to provide another YMCA Haunted Halloween House at Hasbrouck Park this year with a theme inspired by global climate predictions, the “Drowning of Manhattan.” We loved working the crowd; and you, the crowd, were sensational. Many of you played right along with the theme.
Once again, scores of volunteers from the community came forth with energy, skill and enthusiasm to put together the complex set and cast. We’re grateful for the many SUNY New Paltz students who took time from their busy schedules to help, including their chapter of Future Teachers of America, Circle K Kiwanis group, Women’s Field Hockey, LaCrosse and Cross Country, and men’s Cross Country teams, along with the New Paltz High School’s Peer Leaders.
Without the help of the Village of New Paltz, however, the event would never have taken place. The mayor, village board and Amanda, the clerk, made all the necessary provisions and approvals. Both the dedicated Department of Public Works and our wonderful Police Department made sure everyone and everything was safe. Kudos to you all.
We also celebrate the organizations and businesses in the community whose contributions of all kinds made this happen: Bill Dietz Tree Service, Paul’s Kitchen, True Value of New Paltz, Craig Shankles of PDQ, New Paltz Community Acupuncture, Catskill Fencing, Enchanted Toys, Paul Colucci Excavating, Gadaleto’s Seafood Market, TSA Scuba, Mountain View Floor Covering, Columbia Beauty Supply, Dedrick’s Pharmacy, Rock and Snow and the Kingston YMCA for providing official support. We will also still appreciate and apply any donations to this year’s production. Please call 255-9297 for information.
Thanks to all who helped and all who came, braving the cold in such good spirits.
Ann & Dan Guenther
for the whole crew of the YMCA Haunted
Halloween House at Hasbrouck Park
P.S. The grandmother searching the line of people for her lost grandchild, Chelsea, was part of the cast. But thanks to all of you who took her cause to heart. With your help, we would have found her!
Stand up and deliver
So what’s my take on the election from the property tax standpoint? (Let’s pretend you asked.)
Well, Taxnightmare officially endorsed Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General so naturally he won. You doubt me? Eric voted against the bogus tax cap -- one of only eight in the State Senate to have the cojones to do so.
The tax levy cap guarantees that your individual bill will go up at least as much as the cap number, 4%, 2%. Then the State will promptly cut its share of aid to education making it necessary to cut positions. The costly cadre of administrators, superintendents and such, will be in charge of the cuts and certainly will NOT cut their own salaries and perks.
There go your kid’s teacher and his chess club. After all, can you expect the 700 or so school superintendents and their retinues to live on less than $220,000 a year? (too often more?) No sacrifices for them.
Talk about putting the fox in charge of the henhouse...that’s what the cap does, kids.
I -- seeing as you asked -- voted for Cahill and Bonacic in our area. Who wants to break in new talent when we have two guys who are experts on school funding and understand using property taxes for schools sucks?
In addition, Bonacic understands -- and dislikes -- the abuse of tax-exempt status almost as much as I do...$800 billion off the tax rolls, $26 billion for “religious” exemptions alone. One suspects the founding fathers in their zeal to protect religions from dissolution and the public from religious persecution did not anticipate acres of holy cows and motels and gated religious communities supported by hapless property taxpayers tithed to support established religions to which they do not belong. You and I pick up the property taxes -- schools, county and local -- for these religious tax exempts.
So having these guys in office -- though it is all too true they have NOT delivered promised relief -- is a savings in energy. My energy. Both sponsored our Omnibus relief and reform property tax limit bill. We expect them to get these bills passed. They should be primed after all their time in office being badgered by tax reformers like me to do something.
We didn’t want to waste more time we don’t have explaining the ruinous tax system to newbies, while middle-class families everywhere in the state -- from New York City to Ticonderoga -- are taking on a pile of debt just to keep their homes from tax delinquent foreclosure.
Something is rotten in New York State and you damn well know what it is. Atrocious, chaotic, inequitable, humongous property taxes are supporting everything -- counties, schools, local governments, roads, Medicaid (ouch!) and every other item of public life that Albany doesn’t want to bother about.
Stand and deliver Kevin and John. This is the last mulligan you guys get.
A few clarifications
Thanks very much for the kind article in last week’s paper about my work with injured and orphaned animals. I want to correct a few mistakes.
First, there are actually over a dozen (not just four) active NYS-licensed wildlife rehabilitators in Ulster County, and others who are licensed but semi-retired or retired. We need more!
I am one of only four federally-licensed migratory bird rehabilitators in the county. We need more! I am allowed to take in ANY wild bird.
I am NOT licensed to rehabilitate rabies-vector species (raccoons, skunks or bats). That requires an additional special license which involves special training, testing and caging overseen by the NYS DEC. As a matter of fact, there currently are NO wildlife rehabilitators in Ulster County who may legally work with nor even transport rabies vector species. We desperately need a rehabilitator with a rabies vector license in Ulster County!
Although it is somewhat difficult to find us when you need us, please do not give up! Most veterinary hospitals, state and local police, pet stores and animal sanctuaries or shelters know how to reach us. There’s several lists on the Internet of licensed rehabilitators, including the following sites: the NYS DEC; Wildlife Watch in New Paltz, the NYS Wildlife Rehabilitation Council and the National Wildlife Rehabilitation Association. Leave a message with your phone number if we don’t immediately pick up your call. We constantly network with each other, and one of us will get back to you as soon as possible.
I would like to encourage anyone who is at least 18 years old, has a little bit of extra time and concern for wildlife to consider becoming a wildlife rehabilitator. Although we are not legally permitted to charge for our services, the “profit” in our work is in the ability to lessen the suffering of helpless animals, and hopefully, set them free when they are grown or healed. Anyone interested in becoming a wildlife rehabilitator may find information on the NYS DEC web site, or may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is this what it will mean
Did anyone notice the article in the Poughkeepsie Journal about Sen. Lindsay Graham’s speech at a recent International Security Forum? For me, it’s quite discomforting to read that he wants to “neuter the regime of Iran by destroying their Navy, Air Force and have a decisive blow to their Revolutionary Guard.”
We’ve already spent in excess of $1 trillion of US taxpayer money on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. We’ve spent $700 billion to bailout Wall Street; $152 billion in 2008 and another $787 billion in 2009 to stimulate the economy as a result of failure on Wall Street and massive job loss. Where are the voices who were (and still are) so passionately against health care reform and taxes for the rich in our country?
Where are those passionate voices when it comes to talk like Graham’s? Will the voices allow more talk of war to escalate to reality simply because the dialogue is from a Republican Senator? Is this what the new Congress will mean in 2011? Is this what ‘real reform’ will be for our country?
Night of 100 Pumpkins
A recent New York Times article describes an abandoned New York City subway station where 103 street artists from around the world create works of art in a secret chamber that no one will ever see. Reading the article I couldn’t help but think about the amazing pumpkin artists of New Paltz.
Street painting has been recorded throughout Europe since the 16th century. Street painters in Italy are called madonnari. In England they are called screevers. The first chalk painter in the US was Sidewalk Sam, who began painting in the streets of Boston in 1973. What makes someone choose to do such elaborate work in a place where it will never be seen or in a medium that will wash away and vanish the first time it rains? I wonder about these street artists as we haul away 155 pumpkins and toss them into the compost pile where they will vanish into dust.
In New Paltz every year thousands of people flock to The Bakery to view the pumpkin art in all its fiery glory. In 1972 the first International Street Painting Competition was held in Grazie di Curtatone, Italy. In 1990 the first pumpkin art contest was held at The Bakery.
Our judges are local artists. Patty Tyrol, Ken Burge, Kevin Cook and Vivian Wadlin judged the contest this year. They awarded over 60 prizes all donated by the generous business community of New Paltz. Prizes came from Karma Road, Gomen-Kudasai, Hokkaido, In Good Taste, Cocoon, Maglyn’s Dream, Inquiring Minds Bookstore, P&G’s, American Craftsman Gallery, Handmade and More, Earthgoods, Gadaleto’s, The Gilded Otter, Barnaby’s, Main Street Bistro, Mohonk Mountain House, 36 Main, Isabella’s Treasures, Water Street Market, La Stazione, Jack’s Rhythms, Rock and Snow, Groovy Blueberry, The Bicycle Rack, Rhino Records, Main Course, New Paltz Outfitters, Enchanted Toys, Manny’s, Shapers Hair Salon, Steve Jordan, Rambling Rose, Unison Arts, John DeNicolo, Thomas Sarrantonio, La Bella Pizza Bistro, Horsefeathers of New Paltz, New Paltz Community Acupuncture, Moonlight Café, The Bakery, My Towne USA. Please shop locally and let these store owners know how much you appreciate them.
Music for the event was provided by West African drummers Assane Badji, Amadou Diallo and their students. The Bakery provided hot cocoa, cider and pumpkin bread. Thank you to all the staff at The Bakery for working so hard and for recognizing what it means to create community. Most of all thank you and congratulations to all the pumpkin artists young and old who give us so much joy on Halloween.
Please visit our website www.ilovethebakery.com to see pictures of the pumpkins and the event. If you took photos, please share them on The Bakery’s Facebook page.
The Bakery in New Paltz
My rally good time
I was there. My trip started at midnight, I boarded the bus at 1 a.m., arrived in DC at 7 a.m, was on my feet until I got back on the bus at 5:30 p.m., and finally arrived back in Kingston at close to midnight. I didn’t see one minute of the “show” and I couldn’t make out anything coming from the speakers, so I learned quickly that the place to be was the surrounding circle, just outside of the mall.
That’s where all the young folks were parading by with their signs -- clever signs, with their one main message being: “Don’t lose your marbles -- let’s do this together with our brains in tact.” It began to be clear to me that fear and anger will only send us off, doing whatever would be against our own interests. There were no political answers, no vote Democratic, or even Working Party, nothing political at all. Just keep your sanity -- and get it right.
The other message that one could take from being at the rally was: We’re all in this together. There was a goodly amount of Muslims, Christians, Jews, Mexicans, Asians, white and black. Miraculously, the colors blended in so that after a while, you really couldn’t distinguish one from the other.
My defining moment was when I called out to a young man, around 20 years old, to compliment him on his sign.
He turned to thank me with a smile and began to turn around when I hollered out to him: “I’m sorry. I apologize.” He turned around again, came towards me, rested his sign down and said: “You have nothing to apologize for. I know that you didn’t cause this. It’s obvious that you tried to turn it around. It’s our job now. Have confidence in us. We will do this and we will do it right. Apologies are not in order.” He smiled, picked up his sign and went back to his parade.
That was enough for me. I sat down on the curb with other people my age whose backs were aching and we marveled together as we watched this younger generation proceed with determination and what we perceived as remarkable peace and unity. I wondered if Stewart and Colbert had spread some fairy dust over us, but I guess I’ll never know.
What I will do is to try to maintain the sanity that I got from being there for as long as possible and try to spread it around for as long as it lasts. Here, have some: Peace, love, sanity and diligence. After we all calm down, let’s come together and go to work.