As citizens are busy getting registered to vote and learning about the candidates, the election results in many cases are already pretty well guaranteed by those who drew the voting district lines ten years ago.
You learned in school about gerrymandering, the drawing of weirdly shaped districts that best serve the political party in charge. Alas, gerrymandering is still alive and well.
But you can do something about it. And the opportunity won’t come again for another decade.
Attend a free League of Women Voters discussion on redistricting at the Esopus Town Hall in Port Ewen from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, October 16. Then get the State Assembly and Senate candidates in your district to promise to support a non-partisan commission to handle the drawing of district lines.
Candidates are worried about voters being fed up with a dysfunctional state government, so they’re listening. Use your voter power to get real and lasting reform.
League of Women Voters of the Mid-Hudson Region
PRAISE FOR THE VILLAGE FIRE DEPARTMENT
On September 28 an early morning fire struck 123 Partition Street. Our store, English Garden Custom Framing, was in that building. When we arrived at the fire, we stood across the street and watched as the firefighters moved merchandise around in our store in order to fight the fire. With everything going on, they carried each item as carefully as if it were their own. How amazed we were that, when it was over, only one item had been broken. Our thanks go out to these wonderful firefighters who volunteer and put their lives in danger to help all of us. To them we extend our gratitude and admiration for a job well done.
John Klimowicz and Ed Schukal
FOR THE RECORD
For whatever reason, Mr. Helsmoortel has drug me into this issue. As usual Mr. Helsmoortel only tells his version and not the factual version. Yes, I did attend the public hearing for the Town Budget in 2009.
I did ask the question if any town of Saugerties part-time employees receive health benefits. I never mentioned any names (as stated by Mr. Helsmoortel). I do not have any issues with judge Ricks. Mr. Helsmoortel stated that he and one town justice received health benefits. I made no further comments on this issue. As far as if I already knew the answer, I was told by others and was not sure, so I decided to ask, as a tax payer, and find out for myself.
I also stated that at the present time all Planning and Zoning Board members and alternates are receiving a $50 per meeting stipend. I suggested that this practice be eliminated. Members on each board, as in the past, will proudly serve their community gratis. This would save approximately $700 per month. (Again as a taxpayer.)
As far as “past practice” (being established), this is a term usually used in union contract negotiations, not in an application regarding town law. Past practice issues given without a majority Town Board vote, would result in bad government decisions. Is it fair to say who qualifies and where is the line drawn? For example part-time Town Police are on call 24/7/365 and do not get health benefits.
Does it say in town law that “past practice” constitutes town law? The statement “that any Town Board member will affirm that they were included in the conversation when this decision was originally made.” Where, at a Town Board meeting or behind closed doors, where many issues are pre-decided?
The fact still remains that there exists no documentation of any vote taken to address this issue.
Joseph P. Roberti Sr.
DECISION TO GIVE TOWN JUDGE HEALTH INSURANCE WAS SECRET, BROKE PRECEDENT
Last week, Greg Helsmoortel attempted to explain his decision to provide $17,748 in health coverage for part-time town justice Wendy Ricks. Perhaps Helsmoortel didn’t realize it, but my previous letter was based on information I received from the town. On September 2, I submitted a Freedom of Information request asking for the date of any town action to grant Ricks health insurance. Despite Helsmoortel’s claim, there is no record in the Town Board minutes of a public discussion ever taking place.
Next, I asked for a list of previous town justices that received health insurance. The answer I received was that Wendy Ricks received health coverage effective February 1, 2007, and “no other justices have had health insurance.” I’ll leave it to Helsmoortel to explain why the information in his letter wasn’t given to me earlier.
Assuming Helsmoortel’s letter was the proper response to my request, it did provide some useful information. I spoke to a former town justice who believes a previous Town Board made a decision to deny health coverage for the position. A search for this decision is underway. I spoke to a current town justice who said he believed health coverage was unavailable to him for the 13 years he served prior to Ricks receiving benefits.
Therefore, it can be determined that from 1979 to 2007, town justices did not receive health insurance. In 2007, a decision was made by Helsmoortel to break a 28-year precedent. Yet, there is no record of a public vote or discussion taking place. Despite Helsmoortel’s lame explanation, taxed-out Saugerties residents can read between the lines.
Joe Roberti Jr.
Saugerties Republican Committee chair
HASS WILL MAKE TERRIFIC JUDGE
George Hass will be the next great non-attorney Saugerties town justice in the tradition of the late Dave Wachtel, who served in the position for 28 years. George had a very distinguished law enforcement career and has worked in several local courthouses, including the Saugerties Justice Court. He is well respected, honest and fair. George will make a terrific town justice for Saugerties. Please join me in voting for George Hass for Saugerties town justice on Election Day.
GOP CHAIR GRASPING AT STRAWS
The recent attack by Saugerties Republican Committee chair Joe Roberti Jr. against supervisor Greg Helsmoortel concerning health insurance for town employees was another weak, unsubstantiated issue spewed out to voters with the hope of gaining a political foothold. It was proven to be patently false.
Voters can be sure that Mr. Roberti will continue to try to create issues where none exist. I would remind him that politics doesn’t build character, it reveals it!
Saugerties Democratic Committee chair
HINCHEY PANDERED AT WOUNDED WARRIOR EVENT
On Friday, October 8 I had the privilege of being one of hundreds to welcome the Wounded Warriors at the Holiday Inn in Kingston. I say privileged because without these brave people, freedom would be lost.
As a Vietnam veteran it was a particularly moving tribute to witness the rightful gratitude and praise heaped upon them — unlike the horrific, shameful treatment directed towards us upon our return. Nevertheless there was one sour note. At the start of the ceremony, congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-Hurley) was allowed to speak for five minutes. He took 15 minutes and used this opportunity to campaign and pander to the veterans. There was one problem with this. This wasn’t about the vets, but the wounded warriors, who are not vets, but still in the military and might be sent back to a combat zone.
If Mr. Hinchey really cared about these people, then why does he continually vote to cut the defense budget? Knowing this, I among other vets, and the SOS (Support Our Service People) walked out until he finally finished with his “me, my and I.” Yes, Mr. Hinchey also served. But this gave him no right to take away from this grand event in order to pander for votes. He should be ashamed; only arrogance has no shame.
THIS VOTER HAS HAD ENOUGH
I’m tired of the same old games played by Democrats. They always have some excuse to spend more money or take more control of our lives or inflict some new outrage on the culture. I’ll be voting for George Phillips for Congress this year, an honest human being for a change. Phillips is compassionate and responsible, intelligent and practical. After college, he spent two years working to improve the lives of disadvantaged children as a volunteer high school teacher in Louisiana. He also taught for a short time as a substitute in inner city DC public schools before beginning work as an aide to congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey. While on congressman Smith’s staff, Phillips worked on foreign affairs, business, immigration and senior issues, so he comes with a high level of practical congressional experience.
Phillips’ mantra is, “Had Enough?” Enough waste and out-of-control spending? Enough ignoring our Constitution? Enough unrelenting growth in the size of government and its intrusion into every aspect of our lives? Enough illegal immigration? Enough job destruction? Enough with the liberal agenda? Most would agree with Phillips that we’ve had more than enough.
Phillips is married with one child. He is friendly, upbeat and vigorous. He has the education, the experience, the energy and the determination to improve our government. I’ll be voting for George Phillips this year.
RICKS HAS THE EXPERIENCE
It’s been said before by other letter writers, but it’s worth repeating. The types of cases our Saugerties town judges deal with today are far different from what they dealt with two decades ago when traffic violations and speeding tickets dominated the dockets. Today, crimes like domestic violence, sexual assault and drugs are now part of their caseload, and it’s in all of our interests to elect a judge who is both qualified and experienced in the complexities of the law. Wendy Ricks is that person. She received her law degree from the University of Buffalo, has worked as both a former assistant Ulster County district attorney and a former Ulster County attorney. She is past president of the Ulster County Bar Association and has practiced law for 20 years. Wendy is currently serving with distinction as our Saugerties Town Justice. Qualifications matter, so on Election Day I’ll proudly cast my vote to re-elect her.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM MOUNTAINTOP REMOVAL
In spite of known serious environmental impacts, mountain top removal mining was allowed to proceed and is still going on. The lesson is worth bearing in mind when we consider the practice of hydraulic fracturing in natural gas mines. As with mountaintop removal, horizontal hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) has its specific set of environmental impacts. Fracking is as risky as off-shore drilling in the Gulf. Less than a month ago in San Bruno, California, there was a gas fire and explosion with catastrophic results. With these unpredictable tragedies what will it take to stop this new technology where tons of water, sand and undisclosed chemicals are forced against shale to release natural gas?
We can start by demanding that the New York State Assembly vote to stop this type of gas drilling and ensure adequate review of safety and environmental concerns. The New York State Senate passed a temporary moratorium in August of 2010 and now it is time for the Assembly to step up. They are planning to return to Albany for unfinished business. They need to do this sooner rather than later — not wait until after the November elections. New York State could be a role model for other states to slow down - what’s the big rush to get started?
Please contact 1) Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver at 212-312-1420, 2) Assemblyman and chair of Environmental Conservation Robert Sweeney at 631-957-2087 and 3) your Assemblyman (for most Peter Lopez at 518-943-1371). Tell them they must get Bill A.11443B on to the Assembly floor for a YES vote for a moratorium. Urge everyone you know across the state to also call their assemblyperson. Visit district offices. Let your voice be heard.
Let’s act now to make sure the citizens of our state first know more about horizontal hydraulic fracturing before drilling permits are issued. It was never truer that an ounce of prevention is a worth a pound of cure. Just ask the families of Appalachia who live downstream and downwind from mountaintop removal.
HAD ENOUGH OF THE REPUBLICANS
I’d like to ask all those who have George Phillips yard signs or bumper stickers just exactly what it is they’ve “had enough” of. Is it the fact that the Republican minority in Congress has abused every parliamentary maneuver, especially the filibuster, to try to thwart president Obama and the Democrats’ legislative proposals — even when the legislation has been full of ideas that the Republicans themselves have supported and put forth?!
It is clear that minority leaders John Boehner and Mitch McConnell have no concern for the well-being of the American people. All that’s important to them is that they regain control of Congress so they can pave the way for their corporate bosses to skewer the economy again and return American workers to the “rightful” place of servitude to the ruling class, forever in debt and reliant on the emergency room for their “health care.”
Yeah, I’ve had enough of it, too. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to send Phillips to Washington to add a bullet to Boehner’s gun. I feel very fortunate that I can vote for Maurice Hinchey, whose obligation is always to his constituents, whether he’s in the majority or not.
We must all contact our friends and relatives around the country and urge them to vote for their progressive/Democratic candidates so we can keep power out of the hands of the conservative/tea-bagger pawns of corporate interests and allow the hard-won progress of the Obama administration —affordable health care for millions, the start of real Wall Street reform and a genuine path to economic recovery — to continue.
THANKS TO THE FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY
We are delighted to inform you that October 17-23 is National Friends of Libraries Week. We owe much to the Friends of the Saugerties Public Library. The members of the Friends are our staunch supporters, providing community-wide newsletters, the summer reading program for children, teens and adults and raising funds for library use. They do this through memberships, the annual library Book Fair, an ongoing book sale and other events. The Trustees of the Saugerties Public Library want to take this opportunity to thank the Friends for all their hard work, dedication and support.
Ted Conathan, president
Saugerties Public Library Board
ANOTHER GREAT MUM FEST
Sunday October 3, Saugerties celebrated our annual Mum Festival. Seamon Park looked beautiful! Many thanks to the Mum Festival Committee: Ethel Resso, Marge Block, Mark Smith, Marie Finger, Connie Marcus, Lucy Kunst, Maureen Rothe, Mary Leahy and Julie Dunn. The park is maintained by superintendent George Terpening, his crew of Rich Rhoades, Mike LoPinto, and the summer crew of Nick, Emma, George, Jordan, Nate and Nate. They do a great job. Congratulations to Mum Queen Marissa Schatzel and her court, Danielle Prichard and Brooke Littlefield. Hats off to the merchants who sponsor the Mum Festival and give us the title of “Top Ten Coolest Villages in the USA”! [sic]
Please support our local merchants whenever you can.
Former mayor, village of Saugerties
GIRL SCOUTS THANK KIWANIANS
The Girl Scout Community of Saugerties is most appreciative of the financial donation received through the generosity of the Saugerties Kiwanis Club and to Alice Tipp who was instrumental in obtaining it.
The 150 Girl Scouts, comprising Daisy, Brownie, Junior, Cadet and Senior levels, will benefit directly through the enhancement of the existing programs aimed at developing character and moral integrity. This will also ensure the continuation of traditional events.
Monies received will help lessen the burden of individual troops to provide patches, badges and awards for achievements and to enable assistance for those girls in need. The 2010-11 year will be highlighted by a Saugerties G.S. meriting the Gold Award (Girl Scouts’ highest award), in addition to the Halloween window painting in the business district, participation in the Holiday in the Village celebration, caroling, Father/Daughter Prom, Ecumenical G.S. Sunday, cookie kick-off, bridging ceremony and numerous troop activities. Thank you, Kiwanians, for helping to make it happen!
Volunteer community chair