Everyone knows the local community has been hit as hard, or harder, that the rest of the country. We are all tightening our belts and spending less when ever we can but so many of our household expenses are out of control. Just look at your tax bills, water bills, utility bills, grocery prices and the price of gas to get back and forth to work, to mention a few. The Consumer Price Index doesn’t seem to reflect the actual cost increases we all have had to absorb.
The 1800 Ulster County CSEA workers are all being affected as well. Their current contract expires in a few weeks with no sign of a new one in sight. Not only will there be no raises but some employees will actually lose their jobs as positions are eliminated by the county executive in his drive to “protect Ulster County residents” from the financial hardships caused by the downturn in our economy. Yes, county services will continue, but every one of these county workers will have less to spend next year. And, yes, they would have spent it locally just like the county executive preaches.
The good news is that Terry Gilbert, current president of Local 856, is said to be working hard to soften the financial blow to his fellow workers by petitioning the local in Albany to allow members to forgo their union dues until such time as a new contract has been ratified. This will certainly not replace even a fractional percent annual raise but most members are assessed over $50 each month and will now have a little more of their own salary to spend on their families. Over half a million dollars back into our local economy! All without any cost to county government or the residents of Ulster County. Every CSEA member should e-mail Terry and let him know what a great idea this is and give him your support. The county executive should use his influence in any way possible to support this creative idea as this is certainly a “win-win” situation for every resident of Ulster County. Thank you, President Gilbert.
Yes, as New York City resident, Patricia Walsh, said in a Dec. 17 New York Times column, “It’s amazing what other people throw out.” Besides being a boon to the environment, recycling can generate badly needed revenue for businesses, municipalities, individuals, and other entities.
But whereas Ms. Walsh and hoards of others like her literally scrape the bottoms of countless barrels on a daily basis, collecting cans, bottles, etc., to put food on the table, many hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical facilities across America, discard their recyclables, adding to our country’s ever-growing “eco-burden.”
Alas, it may require special expertise to design efficient, hygienic recycling systems for use in medical facilities. But, if what is good for the goose is good for the gander, and given the fiscal challenges most medical facilities face today, shouldn’t every one of them be recycling whole hog, too?
League takes its stands
As we all know, all levels of government are facing serious economic difficulties. The road to recovery means difficult choices such as raising taxes, cutting services or both — actions that will affect the quality of all our lives.
However, there are sometimes creative ways to preserve critical civic services without incurring additional taxes. The League of Women Voters (LWV) has always encouraged government agencies to look for ways to maintain quality services by reorganizing them for better economic efficiency. In times like these, it is particularly important that we press our elected officials to do this.
We are fortunate that here in the mid-Hudson region, SUNY New Paltz’s Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO) and Pattern for Progress have been working together with local officials to see what services might be shared.
One area currently under study is our justice courts. While some may feel detached from this particular government activity, everyone’s tax dollars are used to support the locally funded court facilities, clerks, and justices as well as the county-funded jail, public defenders, probation officers, and corrections officers that make this system work. Are there ways to “work smarter, not harder” to deliver the same quality of justice for fewer dollars?
The LWV and CRREO are co-sponsoring a conference, “Justice and Our Justice Courts,” to deal with this particular issue. The event will be held at SUNY New Paltz on Wednesday, Jan. 12, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Multi-Purpose Room in the Student Union Building. It is a great opportunity for us all to learn all about the organization and functioning of our local justice system. The conference will feature a panel of knowledgeable presenters including DA Holley Carnright, Public Defender Andrew Kossover and Ulster County Magistrates Association head Tim Cox. We urge everyone’s attendance.
The event is offered at no charge but SUNY needs to know you are coming so that refreshments and background materials don’t run out. Contact Joanne Bernardo at (845) 257-2901 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you will be attending.
Frank Cassetta, board member
League of Women Voters, Kingston
Fracking and you
What is the future of vertical and horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in New York State? Several weeks ago Governor Paterson vetoed the bill passed by both the New York State Senate and Assembly to temporarily ban fracking in the Marcellus Shale. Instead he issued a Special Order (with different dates for banning fracking) which has mixed reviews from all parties involved except for the oil and gas industry who are pleased.
The next steps are in the hands of the new governor and you. To quote ecologist and author Sandra Steingraber, “From the right to know and the duty to inquire flows the obligation to act.” Become informed yourself and share that information about the environmental health consequences of fracking with friends, family, neighbors and co-workers. Call and send emails to your elected officials, both at the state and federal levels all the way up to President Obama. Demand they help protect our environment - all living beings share the same air, water and land. Do what you can to reduce your energy foot print. Every action makes a difference.
Again, Dr. Steingraber, “We are standing at a place where two rivers meet: a stream of emerging knowledge about the combustion of what fossil fuel is doing to our planet is joining a stream of emerging knowledge about what synthetic chemicals derived from fossil fuels is doing to our bodies.” Dr. Steingraber, a 30 year survivor of bladder cancer, links human rights to the environment with a focus on chemical contamination from polluting practices. Her next book will cover the environmental threats to children’s development. You might also want to mention this to the elected officials you will be contacting. Any way you look at it, fracking is bad news.
Rosalyn Cherry, New Paltz
Public workers to the rescue
Recovery from this past week’s blizzard would have taken much longer were it not for the dedicated crew of state, county, city, town and village highway workers who worked around the clock to clear our streets. Things were back to business as usual on Tuesday. Employees were able to drive to work, residents were able to shop in local businesses, and the streets were safe for our children to enjoy their vacation from school because our highway crews had worked tirelessly to clear the streets.
It’s a good thing this blizzard hit before Dec. 31., though. When the next big snowstorm hits, we’re going to see the real impact of the recent cuts to public services. Due to the shortsighted cuts in the state workforce and layoffs in local government, the snowplows won’t be coming around so quickly come Jan. 1, 2011.
CSEA Southern Region President