Monday, March 23, 2009

Mapping New Paltz Walking Trails

When Google Maps first added the "walking" feature I thought it was a pretty cool idea, but not one that was complete. Sure, I can get walking directions to London (sort of), but look what happens when you ask for walking directions from Stop and Shop to Meadowbrook:

View Larger Map

Obviously the Google Mappers don't know that we preserved the walking path between this condo community and the New Paltz Plaza (no, we really can't call it the Ames Plaza anymore). I know Google is good about fixing things that are wrong if you ask, but understanding the nuances of adding my own maps is a little beyond me.

But now there's WikiWalki, a user-edited database of trails that combines the ease of Wikipedia with the database of Google Maps. I gave it a shot by eyeballing the visible location of the Rail Trail to see how easy it is:

View Trail at
Trail Map widget provided by

It's not perfect by any stretch - for one, I stopped mapping because it's 2:30 in the morning and I couldn't follow the line on the satellite photo very clearly, so I was afraid I would map people right into the Wallkill. But since it's a wiki, anyone can come along and improve upon my work and extend the Rail Trail map from Gardiner to Rosendale.

Bicycle-Pedestrian Committee, Senior Task Force, and anyone else interested in pedestrian needs, please take note!

(And did anyone notice that the pedestrian-in-crosswalk signs have returned on Main Street without fanfare? I'd like to know who to credit for that!)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Village Spending Freeze: End to Innovation?

It's a common pattern that is sad to watch: great strides toward more sustainable and environmentally-friendly practices are made during economic boom times, only to be all-but-undone when municipalities start cutting their budgets and freezing spending. Is that the fate for New Paltz Village?

Like every level of government, the Village of New Paltz is struggling with the realities of the current economy. Terry Dungan initiated a controversial spending freeze last month, and there can be no doubt that the fiscal crisis is at the root over bickering about the solar panels on Village Hall. It's funny how government officials act, isn't it? During boom times they spend like nobody ever loses money and during a crisis they think that no spending is okay ever. The rest of us have to budget for good times and bad, but governments somehow are allowed to act surprised no matter what happens.

So for the Village, this surprise manifests in ways like spending freezes and fights with the Town to get more money. Since we apparently never think of saving money when the economy is good, can we think about how to use innovation to save a little money in the long term now that times are tough? Many environmentally sound practices, like the 2005 solar panel installation, cost a bit of cash up front but provide environmental and economic benefits down the line - they save us money in the long run. Does it make sense to spend money during a freeze to save money later? Probably - I for one have no faith that our elected officials will plan for a rainy day during the next boom time, so why not now when we're thinking about how difficult things are?

I was looking at various ways that roads can create energy, and honestly I think forward-thinking isn't nearly enough to finance a solar road network or anything close to it. However, the idea of speed bumps that power street lights is actually pretty cool - they're almost certainly cheaper than a road, we use or could use speed bumps in various locations, and I'm guessing that there's a grant out there somewhere that could help us finance these things.

The question is, can our mayor and our town supervisor play nice with each other for awhile and look into some serious changes, or would they prefer to continue defending their fiefdoms and use that as an excuse for not doing something exceptional with their jobs?

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Difference Between a Cactus and a Caucus

(ha! ha! funny, it is a joke people!)

Caucus Update (see my previous post-rant on this topic here): At last Monday’s Democratic Committee meeting there was a discussion about the timing of the caucus and its impact on absent college student voters if held in June. Proponents of a September date spoke of the merits of a shorter campaign season. Some members felt the earlier June date was better for an incumbent because elected officials would know whether or not they were nominated and could plan accordingly. Additionally, this earlier timing would allow elected officials to focus on the busy budget time in the fall. I still believe, in the name of little “d” democracy, the caucus should be held in September.

There was a debate about the ramifications of positioning the caucus before or after independent line petitions are due in mid-August. One question that came up: can someone sign an independent petition and vote at the caucus? The group was not clear on the answer. We should have an answer to that by the next meeting. (Or if you think you know, please comment below!) Either way, if election law allows it, the committee proposed they write the caucus rules to clearly state that someone can not participate in the caucus if they already signed an independent petition. Procedures for monitoring this were discussed.

Two scenarios emerged:
1. If the caucus is in June, before the petitions are due, people could caucus and then later sign a petition. So if there is a June caucus, in late August all petitions could be checked against the caucus vote. This would allow the committee to knock an opponent off the ballot, that is, invalidate them for breaking the rules.
2. If the caucus is in September, the list of petitioners can be referenced at the caucus so the committee can check people at the door.

This is some hardball stuff that citizens seeking the Democratic nomination and/or and independent line need to know about! BTW - Apparently numerous candidates have already submitted letters of interest to the committee, but this information is not shared with the full committee until the candidate search committee has reviewed all applications. It is unclear as to when this will occur.

If you are wondering about whether or not you can vote in the Democratic caucus: Unless you were registered Democrat before last November’s election or you are new to the community and intend on registering as a Democrat at least thirty days before the caucus, you are out of luck.

The committee decided that they will vote on a caucus date as soon as the political calendar is released in April. Last year's political calendar came out on April 11th. The only scheduled committee meeting in April is on Thursday the 9th. However, my guess is they may schedule another meeting in April if the calendar does not come out by the 9th, otherwise, we will not know the caucus date until May 4th (which just happens to be my birthday.)