After reading “Letters to the Editor” in Woodstock Times the last few weeks, it became quite obvious that the deeply rooted animosity still exists.
JUST A THOUGHT
I was listening to Alan Chartock at one point in the WAMC fund drive exhorting listeners to pledge money, and he said “Where are the people up in Plattsburgh? Where are the people up near the Canadian Border?” and the thought occurred to me: Why, they’re up near the Canadian border, Alan. And you’re all the way down in Albany. I never really understood the need for WAMC to become a huge, sprawling, monolithic beast of a radio station, and thus require ever more funds to keep operating. Whatever happened to local radio, “local” meaning, like, within a 100 mile radius? Is that so bad? Do we really want a station that feels like it takes forever just to read its ever-growing list of translator call letters at the top of the hour?
CREATIVITY IS A POSITIVE PART OF THE SCHOOL DAY
Each year, it seems, there is another attack on the elementary music program. The key phrase in the Onteora superintendent’s letter concerning moving the elementary school band, orchestra and chorus to an hour before school starts is “The Onteora District must also ensure that our children are well educated.” Music and arts education in general are not seen as a real, vital part of education. At best, they are apologized for being utilitarian, useful in strengthening other skills. They are undoubtedly that, but that is not why we humans sing, paint, write, dance, recite, act, imagine, strum. If, in the last hour of the day, the classroom is half empty because so many students are singing or playing a musical instrument, isn’t that a good thing, a great thing? Why not capitalize on it instead of undermine it, and make that last hour a creative arts time for all; offer poetry, creative writing, maybe a literary magazine, drama, a fine art activity. Creativity could be seen as a positive, integral part of the school day for all students.
I don’t care how you spin it, there is no doubt that you will lose kids with this plan, for a variety of reasons. By moving these vital activities to before school, you are sending the message that these programs truly are extra-curricular and not important enough to be part of the school day. So don’t complain when your kids sit in front of video games or TV because they only know how to watch and be entertained, instead of creating themselves; or they shout and bang and scratch records because they don’t know any other way of expressing themselves. I know there is enough creativity amongst the Onteora faculty and administration to find the time for academics and the arts, without sacrificing either.
ALLOW MUSIC PROGRAM TO CONTINUE
This is in response to the letter from Phyllis McGill, Superintendent of Schools at Onteora Central School District. She announced the upcoming removal of band, orchestra, and chorus during school hours for grades four, five, and six. As a professional musician, I find it especially distressing when we undervalue America’s greatest cultural contribution to the world, music. The new proposed schedule would make it virtually impossible for most of the students to continue resulting in the decimation of the band itself. The Onteora Music program is blessed with a talented, knowledgeable, and devoted faculty who contribute enormously to our children’s education. My son Charlie is currently in 4th grade band and my other son Jackson is going into 3rd grade and hopes to join band as well. As part of my son’s music experience at Onteora he has learned music, history, teamwork, confidence, and discipline while continuing to excel in his other academic subjects. It would be a terrible loss if any aspect of this program be cut. Are students’ performance and graduation rates so poor in the Onteora school district that the music program has to suffer? Where is the evidence that cutting the music program would lead to improving students’ performance and graduation rates? Please allow the music program to continue.
GOD LOVES JUSTICE
Presidential aspirants are not mentioning God this year. Perhaps the reason is that a depth understanding of the Divine is taking hold in these terrible times. In the Hebrew Bible, accepted as scripture by Christians, God stands for “justice and righteousness.” Psalm 94:4, for example — and there are many other instances — says that God “loves justice.” We can say that the Hebrew and Christian Bibles together assert the nature of God as love and justice.
Our warfare, our coddling the wealthy who should be but are not aiding the poor, our continued domination of women and our persecution of gays, our assaults on healthcare, the ongoing suffering of the unemployed — these are the awful anti-Biblical currents of behavior in our world.
God will not “bless” such endeavors no matter how often we ask. Maybe that’s why we seem not to be asking any more. We are becoming ashamed.
Rev. Finley Schaef
I would like to take this time to thank the following three wonderful members of our community. Jeff Harrigfeld for helping with the WHAiV (Woodstock Honors & Appreciates Its Volunteers) float, the music on the green through the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce & Art and for his work with the Economic Task Force; Chris Andersen at Nevessa Studios for his help with the WHAiV float, the Christmas Eve Committee and for always being supportive; Fred Nicolai for his help with the float, his many years of steadfast service with Woodstock Area Meals on Wheels and the American Legion Post 1026. We are lucky to have good neighbors like these.
Sam Magarelli, WHAiV
SCRAP WETLANDS LAW REVISION
The proposed revision of the Wetlands and Watercourse Law is another example of the town board’s extravert spending on lawyers, consultants and engineers without any obvious benefit to the town. This is another explanation of why the town board is $300,000 over budget.
Supervisor Jeff Moran said the proposed changes to the Wetlands and Watercourse Law were “minor and ministerial.” Councilwoman Cathy Magarelli “described the proposed changes as procedural and linguistic rather than substantive.” An obvious question is why we are spending so much for so little?
A wetlands consultant at $75/hour rewrote the law. The town’s land use attorney at $150/hour prepared the EAF. The town’s planning consultant at $150/hour prepared the documents necessary for the zoning change. When spending someone else’s money, our town board never asks how much is it going to cost?
The changes to the Wetlands Law have never been discussed in public and the town board has never explained why they want to change the law. Instead they simply announce the changes are merely linguistic, not substantive.
At some point, there will be a public hearing and there are some obvious questions to ask this town board. The most obvious is why you are spending so much money to make “minor and linguistic” changes a law? No justification has ever been offered about why these changes are needed, and the expenses incurred seem frivolous and unnecessary.
There is no justification for changing the existing law which has served us well. The town board should scrap the inconsequential changes in the Wetlands Law, save the town some money, and find some real problems to work on.
WATER SYSTEM SHOULD HAVE BEEN CHECKED
Thanks to Jeremy Wilber for his quick response to my letter of June 9. But I have to take issue with his assertion that “the town will simply have to abide by whatever determination is made by the state agency,” referring to the DEC’s conclusions about the capacity of Woodstock’s water supply with respect to the demands for water made by the RUPCO extravaganza. The fact that the DEC concluded that a permit will only be granted after certain tests are made on the water system, shows that the Town Board’s proper role in this matter, which is to represent the interests of the townspeople, is not merely to wait passively while an outside agency does its work, especially when it comes to something so critical as our water supply.
What if there had not been an en lightened DEC around to see that the town did its job in this matter and we were left only with the results of a legal procedure that had been tossed out on a technicality? A technicality that in no way addressed the validity of their assertions? Would that have been ok? If you prime the pump and no water comes out, being correct legally is meaningless. Something like the patient dying even though the operation is declared a success.
Come on, Jeremy, in all the years this project has been kicked around, you don’t think town government had an obligation to check our water capacity? Especially after issuing water emergencies?
A PASSENGER ON THE BOAT TO GAZA
I will be a passenger on The Audacity of Hope, the first U.S.-flagged ship to join the international flotilla sailing to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza on or about June 25. Friends and family have asked me why I’m willing to participate in this potentially dangerous mission. For me, it’s a matter of conscience. I can’t know what I know and not act on that knowledge. Horrendous human rights violations are being perpetrated on the people of Gaza by Israel with the full knowledge and support of the United States. 1.5 million Gazans are being collectively punished. Gaza has been described by United Nations officials as the world’s largest outdoor prison. The infrastructure of Gazan society was purposely devastated by the Israeli Operation Cast Lead of 2008/2009. Many Gazans are homeless or living in refugee camps, and unemployment is over 45 percent. 80 percent of the population exists on a subsistence level, only with humanitarian aid supplied by the United Nations. Even with the opening of the Rafah border by Egypt, ingress and egress of people and goods are severely limited. Basic medical supplies are also severely limited. Many die because of the lack of basic medical care. Gaza is a society that is holding on by its metaphoric fingernails. The list goes on and on; it’s impossible to take in what the lives of these besieged people must be like. It’s almost numbing. So, I sail to Gaza to try to break the siege by focusing the world’s attention on these crimes against humanity.
FREEDOM FLOTILLA, STAY HUMAN
My husband, Nic Abramson, and I are preparing to travel to Athens very early Tuesday morning, June 22. For the past year, we have been part of the U.S. organizing committee for the next Freedom Flotilla. We have raised well over $400,000 for our U.S.-flagged boat, The Audacity of Hope, and we now expect to sail with 8-10 ships and approximately 300 passengers from dozens of countries.
Unfortunately, due to the U.S. material aid law, we will not be carrying desperately needed humanitarian aid to the Gazans. Rather, our cargo will be an outgrowth of our campaign, To Gaza with Love — we will travel with thousands of letters of support and hope for peace with justice, written by U.S. citizens to the citizens of Gaza. Our goals are to bring international attention to Israel’s ongoing illegal occupation of Palestine, to raise awareness about U.S. complicity in supporting and funding this policy, to break Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza, and to bring freedom to the Gazan people. In speaking about the passengers on our boat, Alice Walker calls them the Freedom Riders of our time.
Nic will be one of the 35 passengers on the boat, and I will be part of the land support team. The Audacity of Hope will sail from a Mediterranean port sometime around June 25, despite efforts by Israel and the United States to stop us. If you are interested in following our progress, please go to ustogaza.org and/or to witnessgaza.com.
Many of you have supported this effort morally and financially. Now is the time to make sure that we get as much coverage as possible. Please help by spreading the word to your friends and colleagues. If Israel reacts violently to our non-violent mission, please call and write your elected representatives to insist that they protect unarmed U.S. citizens. Thanks again for your support and for your interest in learning more about an issue that often receives distorted coverage in our mainstream press.
GATEWAY OVERLAY DOES ITS JOB
Proposed zoning changes to the Woodstock Gateway District would benefit only one owner of commercial property in his efforts to develop a hotel complex at the gateway to Woodstock. It appears that Councilwomen Rosenblum and Magarelli are constructing change in the Gateway Overlay to meet the needs of one property owner, not the other residents of this district, and not the town as a whole. The present zoning, put into place to protect the Gateway has done its job well and should remain in place. Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken! Councilwomen Rosenblum and Magarelli want input. Please give it to them.
The radical concept of a public library is a unique American invention. In 1833 the people of Peterborough, New Hampshire created a public library accessible to every citizen. Today, public libraries are one of the most ubiquitous institutions in the U.S. They even outnumber McDonald’s and Starbucks. Despite their popularity and widespread use, libraries are often underfunded; perceived as nice but not essential.
Last week, I calculated the value of my use of the library for the month of June by using the Library Use Value Calculator located on the Woodstock Library website at woodstock.org. My benefit was a jaw-dropping $794.21. For me that’s not just nice, it’s essential.
WHY DOES PUBLIC SCHOOL FAIL
It seems evident to me that the primary purpose of K-12 education is to prepare the student to become a successful adult. In our society, this means that the student should be prepared to either attend a college or university or be prepared to enter a career that does not require additional education. Unfortunately, statistics released by the state and recently published in the local papers indicate that the local public schools are not doing a very good job of fulfilling their purpose. In the Kingston, Onteora, Saugerties, Rondout Valley and New Paltz districts, the percentage of 18 year-olds that are prepared to enter college or a career is between 28% (for Kingston) and 55% (for New Paltz) with the weighted average (using the 2010 enrollment) of these 5 districts at around 37%. To put it another way, for every 100 students who enters school in one these districts at age 5 and spends 13 years in school, only 37 will be prepared to enter adult life at the age of 18.
By any definition, it is evident that the public school systems in the region (and in New York in general) are failing their mission. I don’t point this out in order to attack public education in general or the school districts in particular — I am only highlighting the facts.
Once it is admitted that public school education is failing, the next question is why it is failing and what — if anything — can be done to fix it. One of the most common answers that people point to as a factor in the failure of public education is the lack of money. However, I don’t believe that the statistics supports this belief. Using the same five districts as an example, the yearly educational cost per student is between roughly $17,000 (for Saugerties) and $29,000 (for Onteora). This means that over the 13 years of a student’s education, the total expenditure is between $221,000 (for Saugerties) and $377,000 (for Onteora). It seems to me that this should be an adequate amount of money to prepare a single student to enter college or a career.
Another common answer to why public education is failing is that the teachers and staff at public schools are not doing their jobs. I don’t believe this is the problem. All of the teachers and administrators that I know are well trained. They are motivated and care intensely about their students and education. Teaching is not an easy profession and is not entered into lightly. It takes commitment and dedication. Given this, I believe that the current “blame the teacher” attack is grossly misplaced.
So, if it is not the teachers and it is not the money, what is the problem with public education? Perhaps it is the system itself? Perhaps the idea of a state mandated curriculum doesn’t work? Perhaps dividing children into arbitrary grade levels doesn’t work? Perhaps the responsibility for a child’s education belongs with the child, not the state or the school? I don’t know the answer to any of these questions, but I do know that what we are doing in public education isn’t working and that to continue to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results is the definition of insanity.
The writer is founder and a staff member of the Hudson Valley Sudbury School.
HOW ABOUT AN ALBERT DAY
Woodstock the Colony of the Arts. That has been established thanks to Ralph Whitehead and many others.
It was nice of the town board to designate “Traum Day” in Woodstock for their reputation for musical excellence. I’m proud the Café Espresso brought Happy to town in the early 60’s.
Maybe the town board will consider designating a day to Albert Grossman.
Mary Lou Paturel
ONE VOICE FOR LAOS
I’m a local teenager who’s helping to raise money for an orphanage of 600 children in Laos who barely survive on 15 cents per day. I became involved in this project with a bunch of my friends and with the guidance of Evelyne Pouget, whose inspiration is how everything began. After our first meeting with everyone and discussing our goals, I became very excited to be involved. The main way the kids in this project decided to contribute toward raising money was to create a slew of fundraisers within the community! Our first fundraiser will begin this Saturday at the Colony Cafe in Woodstock. We will be hosting the One Voice Benefit for Laos with The Paper Planets, Doors, The Day Dreamers, and DJ Evan Shornstein. These local bands will be our entertainment for Saturday, June 25 from 6 p.m.-10 p.m. There will be a $10 admission fee in order to raise money for our cause. We want to keep this as a teen event so please do not invite any babies or grandparents. The Colony has been renovated and a cafe will be open. They will be creating a special menu for everyone of tacos, pizza and ice cream for sale. On top of organizing really enjoyable gatherings for the youth in our community, I think it’s so important to contribute to the lives and well-beings of the youth around our world. This is the perfect opportunity for you to contribute while also enjoying our fun multi-school end of the year party! Please come out and dance!
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE WATER EXPENSE
I wonder what the water district users feel about the possible levy on them, only them, of upwards of $80,000 for the required testing of Woodstock’s wells in order to comply with the DEC requirements for hooking up RUPCO to the system? Please, let all of us on the Town Board know. If you write or email, please copy all of us. If you call the office, 679-2113 x 7, ask that your name be placed on a list. I hope to hear from you.
We are a town that prides itself on its openness and its acceptance of differing viewpoints. We are creative and caring people. We are thankful for those who work to help the town either as volunteers or elected officials. We look after our neighbors and we help when help is needed. We may not agree with each other but we do, for the most part, treat each other with respect.
Most of us who came here have become a part of the fabric of reason, tolerance, friendship and creativity. We run the risk of wearing away that fabric if we give credence to name calling and accusations. The differing voices must be heard but nasty rhetoric from those that silence others by bullying them, must be ignored.
I will be a supervisor who will champion the best ideas, from wherever they may originate and who will climb mountains to see that they’re reached. Together we will preserve the peace, love and harmony that is Woodstock.
I will be a Supervisor who will focus on the projects and plans that make sense and which will improve the quality of life in Woodstock.
My experience serving on the Town Board, Planning Board and as the current Deputy Supervisor, gives me the added skills to achieve this.
I will fight ferociously for the preservation of our town, our history, our land, our environment and most of all, for you.
Your vote for me on September 13, Primary Day, will enable me to be your Democratic Candidate for Supervisor, for that is the only way I will run in the final November election. Thank you.
In this modern world of convenience, we find ourselves in a real dilemma regarding our source of life, food. We’ve become an over-fed and under-nourished nation because while enhancing our pantries, we’ve shortchanged our future by succumbing to the pleasures of eating anything, anytime of year. We’ve been seduced by the profit-driven mechanized food industry and seemingly accepted less flavor, nutrition, fewer varieties, and in trade have received a long list of additives and genetically modified foods that don’t belong in human bodies. All of this leads to a culture that provides fast food with empty calories and little actual nutrition. Many of us have lost touch with the idea of bringing the family together and sharing time during meals. Fast paced life and the drive to gain more income has put the family dinner on the back burner while we mindlessly stuff our faces. Americans, and seemingly more and more of the world’s population, are in “alimentary alienation”.
So how do we manage to feed ourselves well and survive this onslaught of cheap (in all ways) food? The answer is really nothing new. Growing fruits and vegetables and making food from scratch reduces the alienation our modern culture has created. Instead of just stuffing things in our mouths and getting no real satisfaction, people become involved in the process by observing the growth and reaping the true rewards of working the soil.
The extra reward of growing your own food is that the kitchen returns as the center of family life. When children grow up with real food coming from the earth, they learn to appreciate the value and especially the complex flavor of all this wonderful produce. They know where and how it all happens and they’re more inclined to eat well, eschewing the foibles of fast food and junk food snacks. Learning to work for what you want, an ethic that has diminished in our age of over-entitled children insisting on immediate gratification, is an added bonus. While tending to the garden one learns patience, gratitude, compassion, wonder and awe and the value of having time and space to meditate on the beauty of our natural world. For me, the silence alone is enough to keep me happily pulling weeds while in contemplation of this magical universe!
If you don’t have a plot of earth to plant, try the community garden and support our local growers at farmer’s markets. There’s nothing like the flavor and the stunning array of heirloom varieties that show up every week at our very own market on Wednesdays! Summer’s here! Start digging!
TOWN NEEDS BETTER PLANNING
I am a single father of two wonderful teenagers at Onteora High School. I am also a land surveyor making a modest income at a local engineering firm. The money that I earn has to be used to meet the present needs of my family as well as invested carefully to meet our future goals. I am, therefore, aware of the financial struggle that many local family’s experience on a daily basis.
I found the recent budget confusion very troubling. The fallout made it appear more like a shell game than the effective and efficient use of public funds. As you may be aware from my previous letters, a reason that I entered the race for a Town Board seat is because I feel we need better planning. The Town receives a finite amount of money in taxes. Better planning must occur that takes into consideration our present needs as well as invests strategically in our future. A positive outcome of this may be that decisions are no longer made in terms of politics. Rather they can be made for the long term benefit of the community. Infrastructure decisions (i.e. like the water supply) could be advanced in a more-timely manner. The need for shell games (and the resulting finger-pointing) would be replaced by sound fiscal management.
I continue to reach out to all registered Democrats to sign my nominating petition. If you would like to sign on, please call me at (845) 514-0004 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks.
How has it become standard operating procedure for the United States to be fighting at least five wars simultaneously?
In Iraq we have established the largest military base in the world. In Afghanistan we are in our 11th year of that bloodshed. In Pakistan we send armed drones to fire missiles at suspected enemies. In Yemen now more drones, fired from our military bases in Virginia. In Libya 11,500 bombing sorties have been made so far by us and our surrogates, for what?
No country has the right to do this. None. There is plenty of horror and tears and heartbreak. Where is the outrage?
UNITED THEY STAND
Have you noticed that the Republican Party stands united behind no “new” taxes for the wealthy; more “natural” gas and no regulations for the Big Oil and Gas Industries — i.e. BOGI’s? Have you noticed that many Democrats are joining them and do you wonder why?
Have you thought about the Supreme Court’s decision to allow corporations unlimited amounts of money for TV and radio advertising during elections and how it’s affected our democracy? Have you noticed that our representatives no longer represent their constituents but instead represent the industries that fund their campaigns?
Could it be because in order to be elected they still need our votes, and since elections are now bought and paid for, and since the distribution of wealth is so unequal, in order to win candidates simply must succumb to the corporation’s demands? Once the corporations have bought their candidates, they then fund advertisements that sell their product, (the candidate) to the public, just as the cigarette industry sold its products to us despite the fact that they would make us sick.
Yes, we’ve been had — and now with a few exceptions, (like Maurice Hinchey) we no longer have candidates to represent our needs. Instead we’ve become customers who are manipulated to vote for candidates that will serve their clients needs, (like the Bogi’s and Big Pharma) and not ours.
Is there still hope for us? Only if we stick together and not allow the Corporations to divide and conquer us, as they have been doing successfully for some time now. One of their methods is to distract us with issues like Gay Marriage and Abortion rights, in order to take our focus off their unequal distribution of wealth, and their stunningly successful agenda of eliminating all regulations on our formerly free clean air and water rights.
What’s left for us to do? Get together — organize, show up at meetings and rallies, sign petitions. Drop our differences and stand together on the larger issues. It’s summer time — time to get out before the winter comes and you’re stuck in front of the propaganda machine (TV). That’s what they’re counting on. Let’s not let them divide and conquer.
ARTS BOARD SUPPORTS PLAYHOUSE
The town of Woodstock has not really had a good introduction to the new owners of the Woodstock Playhouse. I encourage everyone to go to the website of the New York Conservatory for the Arts (www.nyca.org) and take a good look.
The timing of this growth spurt for NYCA and the Playhouse, as they come up for air, is proving to be a fortunate event for the town as well as for all of the people who worked so hard over the years to bring the Playhouse to completion.
While renovations were going on at the Playhouse, NYCA continued its classes and productions already on their very full schedule. Now in addition to those classes and productions and renovations, NYCA has hired and is housing a summer stock cast of 20 actors from New York City to perform during the premier summer stock season at the newly enclosed & air conditioned Woodstock Playhouse featuring “A Chorus Line,” “Anything Goes” and “Hair.”
A Grand Opening Gala & Show is being held on June 30 at the Playhouse and there are still some seats available. Be a part of Woodstock history and buy a Gala ticket now! The remaining shows, dates and tickets et al, are available on the Playhouse website — www.woodstockplayhouse.org. The tickets are inexpensive compared to NYC & the surrounding areas and this group deserves full houses. Give them a try and support the new Woodstock Playhouse. Wait until you see it! It’s gorgeous!
Cynthia Goldberg, President
Joan Roberts, Acting Secretary
Woodstock Arts Board, Inc.