Saturday, August 29, 2009

Meating the Need

First of an occasional series about Family of New Paltz.
I've spent some time at Family of New Paltz helping out recently, and I've gained a broader perspective on all the food drives held during the year to benefit them. I've been a pretty typical donor to those drives, I think: I look in my pantry for stuff that we haven't eaten and probably never will and toss it in the collection bin. I've learned a few things about how Family (and probably other food banks) operates which will inform my donations, and might even change my philosophy on people in need.

Crisis in Timing
Family of New Paltz gets a big chunk of food every month from a food bank service, but this month the timing sucks. The food bank is involved indoing an inventory that will keep Family from its regular pickup until late September. Typically the regular food drives are enough to supplement what they get, but August was a light month, with only one drive by the Green Party, and even though they were packed to the gills last week, most everything's gone now. August is a time of vacations, so I doubt there's ever a lot of drives in August. And this year, of course, a hell of a lot more people are out of work and looking for help. The end of the month always sees a spike in demand, because Family only gives out emergency food every 30 days to the same people, so typically those packages are picked up when the food stamps have already run out.

Dare I say it? It's the perfect storm in hunger?

What to do?
If you want to know all the reasons why I think Family and organizations like it should have to be providing food to people, stop me in the street. You'll probably condemn me as a heartless conservative, but I'll tell you what I think. However, if you think you'd be nodding along with me as I go on my rant, read on as I try to convince you that now's the time to do a little more.

The economy's in the crapper, not because the Republicans free market deregulation old-boy-network system didn't work, but because they didn't have the guts to let the cycle finish because some companies are "too big to fail." Yes, I believe that George W. Bush's biggest economic mistake was demonstrating that he's not a conservative, doesn't have faith in the American people, and doesn't believe that capitalism actually works. There are no atheist in foxholes, they say, and apparently there are no free market economists in a recession. The Great Recession was lengthened and deepened by a failure to stick to solid Republican values when they were needed most. So if you're conservative, if you're Republican, and if you were secretly disgusted with Bush, please recognize that many people are now down and out because he ran the Republican philosophy into the ground. It's not your fault that many people believe that Republicans are soulless and uncaring, but it's up to you to show them how wrong they are. I know you believe in individual responsibility, as do a lot of people that were screwed by this recession, so take responsibility for paying it forward by buying a couple of things and dropping them off at Family.

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What food do they need?
I've always held the attitude that beggars can't be choosers, but I have to call shenanigans on myself here. If we all take the creamed corn out of the pantry and buy a box of spaghetti, there's going to be a lot of badly-balanced meals out there. I've seen the kitchen there, and I have asked the staff what's most needed so you can get a better idea of what to give.
  • Meat. Do you buy meat in bulk, either delivered to your house or from Sam's Club or just when it's on sale? Grab a steak or some chicken legs from your freezer. Every food package is supposed to have some meat in it, and even giving only one piece to a family the stuff always goes fast.
  • Vegetables. Many area farms donate extra fresh produce (the Gardens for Nutrition even has a plot that volunteers tend just for that purpose), so during the summer there are days when there's lots, but of course they don't keep. Canned vegetables are a great supplement to those donations.
  • Fruit. Canned fruit never stays on the shelves.
  • Cereal. Every emergency food package should get a box of cereal, and does if there's any around. People generally donate stuff that's a little more nutritious than Froot Loops, which I'm sure is a disappointment to the kids but generally better for their teeth.
Family has an awful lot of pasta, and it makes meals stretch a long way, but this week you can probably get more of a bang for your buck with another food donation choice.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What is the plural of caucus? (2)

My post on the Republican caucus inspired a lot of spirited emails and phone calls... Please, a reminder - a "gadfly is used to describe someone who persistently challenges people in power, the status quo, or popular positions". The fact that this riled up so many of you - so much so - that many of you felt the need to communicate with me with such anger and horror and a strong, strong need to clarify, means, well, that the Gadfly is doing her job well.

That said, here's some updates:
1) The Democratic incumbents who were not nominated by their own party did not seek out the Republican party. The Republican party chair, Butch Dener, initiated, as in, he invited them.
2) Just because they were all amenable to the idea of the interview, not all of them interviewed. Jeff Logan was out of town and Jonathan Katz because of a "brain freeze" by Butch. :)
3) Just because they were open to the idea of interviewing, that does not mean we know whether or not they will or will not attend the caucus, will or will not get nominated, and/or accept or reject the Republican nomination if so chosen. That all remains to be seen - for all of the candidates.

Okay, enough for today. I will have a lot more to say about local politics, partisanship, and strategy - so stay tuned.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Woodland Ponds: A view from the Table

I haven't read the live blogging that went on during the Village Planning Board meeting last night, because I want to articulate my thoughts without being distracted by whatever excellent points my esteemed coblogger may have made.

Last night's meeting was long, hot, and complex. I'm grateful as many people showed up as did, and that as many of them stayed for the duration as did. I'm glad that Bill Mulcahy recorded most of it before he had to go, and that three Village Board members were in attendance.

I'm particularly thrilled with my colleague Linda Welles for doing such a fine job of expressing our frustrations. She told the Woodland Pond representatives that it's completely unfair to come to us for solutions to problems that were out there from day one, screaming about urgencey because they need to get people moved in next month or their funding will dry up. It's not only unfair to the Planning Board, it's terribly unfair to the people who have been planning on moving in to the facility.

I have found that the more aggressively an applicant wants to push forward with an agenda item, the more it makes me want to slow down and look more carefully at the information. Why are you pushing me to judgment? Is it because you just realized we meant it when we made you agree to these conditions, or is it because you're afraid if I look too closely that I will see things that may sway my decision in a direction you don't care for? Like Linda, I'm going to make my decision on the facts; but I for one won't be bullied into making that decision before I think the facts are all before me.

I found it incredibly refreshing that so many senior citizens were in attendance, but I regret that we don't have a public comment period at our meetings, because I really would have liked to have heard what they had to say. There were also many environmentalists in attendance, but they're quite good at making their views known to me. Since we don't have a public comment period, I would like to extend an invitation to people to comment here, email me, or call me to share their views. I want to know what people think, because that's my job. I won't put my full number here on the internet, but 9947 is all you really need to know to find me.

The chairman, Ray Curran, did a spectacular job of reminding the applicant that this urgency was created by circumstances unrelated to the Planning Board, and that the urgency doesn't mean we won't look at the issues as thoroughly as we would any other matter. In fact, I would go so far as to say he held their feet to the fire. He also controlled the meeting like a pro, keeping myself, the other members, and the applicant's representatives on point.

I wish the Woodland Pond Board would show up to the next meeting so I can meet these local folks and make sure that they know we aren't doing anything to hold up their approvals, and that any delays are simply related to the fact that the Planning Board has a job to do, and we owe it to the community to do the best job we can.

Monday, August 24, 2009

What is the plural of caucus?

I have written a bit about the Dems in this town, along with their impending caucus on Monday Sept 14th - At the high school at 7:00pm New Paltz Democrats! I know of no new candidates since I blogged last on the topic.

But there is another caucus in this town, held by the Republicans. It will be held on Wednesday, Sept 9th, 7:00pm at the Town of New Paltz Community Center (behind Town Hall).

Interestingly enough, ALL Democrats up for reelection - Toni Hokanson, Jeff Logan, Kitty Brown, Jonathan Katz, Phil Johnson - those same registered, incumbent Dems that their own party chose not to endorse - interviewed with the Republican party - as in, they are seeking the Republican endorsement and ballot line.

Can we all say BLECH! I am not a strident Democrat, but this is ridic people! I am one of those people who actually thinks there is a difference between the Democrats and Republicans, and switching hats for political expediency, for me, is well, shameless and pathetic.

As a registered Democrat (albeit conflicted), this will certainly impact my vote at the Democratic caucus.

According to Butch Dener, the only invited, announced candidate to decline an interview was Mike Nielson for Highway Superintendent. Mike is a registered Democrat who has already been endorsed by the Working Families and Independence Party. Mike says his views are not in line with the Republican Party, and he is focusing on beating his opponent, Phil Johnson, at the Democrat Caucus (and at the polls in November). I like his style.

There is one Republican seeking a nomination at the Republican Caucus. As per Butch, Ken Campbell has expressed a desire to be nominated. I know him not at all, except that he wrote a poorly written letter in support of Phil Johnson in the New Paltz Times a couple weeks ago. Update: Ken is a Democrat also, and probably will also try for the nomination at the Dem Caucus.

Butch also says, "WE ARE NOT endorsing anyone,, but ,,, I will entertain comments from the floor,,, maybe, in favor of a candidate,,, maybe..."

The only other ballot line activity I have heard about is that Toni Hokanson collected enough signatures to get on her self-created independent "Common Good" party, which in the paper this week she said was "an insurance policy to make sure I'm on the ballot."

kt tobin flusser

How did we get here? (5)

WAIT -- shheeshh - another topic at the end... some other right of way issue at the back of the Lent subdivision.... property owner is here and does NOT appear to be amenable to granting the right of way... it is the secondary access entry

Curran - this is very similar to the earlier discussion and it needs to go to public hearing.. but we don't have the info we need to get there yet.

Drayton - they can only build half the road right now. The VPB needs a plan - a site plan amendment.

Curran - that is the only way they can get it on the sept 1st docket.

ok, now i am really out, even if they keep talking. out.

kt tobin flusser 9:43pm

How did we get here? (4)

Drayton: wants to add wording so that Residential is excluded and the developer is fighting it. They just agreed I think to change "uses" to "development". good.

Drayton: now they are discussing whether or not to take out "mining" as reasonably acceptable...?? it is out. curran: "I really think we have discussed mining enough."

Drayton: a bunch of things I missed or dont understand... legalese stuff.

There is a maintainence road? Not sure where... also something about working with the aercheology dept on something that needs a sign. Tom Rocco wants stronger language on forbidding ANY new structures on the land unless related to education, safety, and environment(?).

Drayton: put stronger language for motorized vehicle exceptions to the land.

Drayton: something about not being able to force public access... WVLT guy - they are not involved in maintainence beyond compliance to the easement. there are two portions, the wet side and the western portion which will have trails for the public. and curran confirms, that specification is part of the easement.

Terence - what happens when easements are violated? Fines? what is the mechanism. Are there any non-monetary remedies?

Curran: when does the issue of public access come into play? have you spoken with an entity to manage that piece? Developer: we have not spoken to anyone about it lately... but they will - curran asked him to read that part... i *think* they are saying all they have to do is "say" they will deal with the preserve later

Drayton: "You have taken this as long as you can?" Developer: "It is not your role". Curran is now asking Seth to speak so I think he will counter this argument.

Seth: comments to make stronger and clearer... Purposes clause needs work. And would like to see strong languages on public purposes. Paved pathes for accessiblity ONLY needed. Suggest- intent is natural setting.. need wording that cannot be misunderstood in 5, 10 years.

Tom Rocco: what about impermiable surfaces? lots of discussion about paving...

Seth - in terms of public access.. there needs to be something somewhere because everyone agrees it is the goal to have a preserve... this concept plan was presented during site plan review. there is tremendous interest in creating this... the next step is to move forward with the general public input, low impact, natural setting, should interact seemlessly with surrounding lands.

SOOOO - if the parties change in the meantime, we need a more forthright statement about the commitment to this project...

Developer - we wrote a letter 2 years ago saying it could be done with their ability to say yay or nay to what happens. Cynthia Rosenberg (?) - the WP board has liability issues with this and will not sign off in that way now.

Now the easement talks about precluding from things happening, not assuring they will happen.

Curran - is there any way that a later WP board could say no to this later on?

Rosenberg- YES.

Curran - With this language, can you get out of this?

Rosenberg - YES.

Developer lawyer - General public on private property creates liability issues.

Drayton: WP board has a particular point of view... they should get the insurance now to show good faith.

Curran: I really want to know - again, is there anyway they can get out of this?

Developer lawyer - If you can say unreasonably acted in getting the public access - not trying, they are not acting in good faith.

Drayton - it is common to get insurance on trail easements.

Seth - if it is just about the liability I agree that is a resolvable issue. But he still wants a letter of intent. Rosenberg - No.

Lawyer - not budging.

another Devo rep - the board is local as are the residents and he has faith that this will happen.

Rachel - heart goes out to the people who want to move into WP. site plan approval in 2007, why is the info just getting out now?

Devo lawyer - we have never even mentioned the EnCC as holding stuff up or otherwise

Rachel - well that is part of the problem... for example, the critter crossings..

Rosenberg - we see Muniz all the time (somebody interrupts) let's get back on track

Rachel - section - how are values set out in the easement? and with public access... why can't it say you have the value to make that happen? with a commitment.

Pollution protection has been added to the easement, good.

Linda w. - was Seth's language added about carry in/carry out?

The section on dumping - in or out?

Michael z. - In condition for C of O - last sentence reads that the easement must not proclude public access... since there is no mention in the easement, why not comfortable - the preserve drove the basis for the easement to begin with -- so why not specifically refer to open space committee language be a part?

WVLT - Not putting it in, using generics, means any non-profit, could be the entity, not just the open space committee.

Tom Rocco - but it is part of the agreement, this stipulation - now outside the conservation easement.... so it prevails in or out of the easement? Lawyers say yes.

hopefully wrapping up

Drayton - wants to go back to Rachel first - two more points:
Rachel - section one still not satisfactory - needs Seth's addition - biodiversity issues, the beaver needs to be specifically mentioned as part of conservation values
Drayton - she took out nan's report, but open to referring to it as not a planning report. Devo lawyers fighting it. Seth suggests "as documented by the Hudsonia report."

-article ten .... Rosenberg - we never said we would have this time of hashing out and we need this my tomorrow at 8am for a board meeting

Linda Welles - I feel very disrespected by this process... the timing, you are telling us you needs this by an 8am meeting... we scheduled this emergency meeting in the middle of summer for you

Devo lawyer - you are pushing us beyond the needed process and did not give us the needed materials

Linda - this is our job and you are rushing us and not letting us do it

Curran - this is a question of interpretation.

Drayton - I don't think Rachel's changes would change the intent of the document. She was doing nothing inappropriate.

Devo lawyer - We had an agreement and only needed this meeting because changes were being made. (HUH? kt IMO - they waited TOO long to do this and hence, the MESS.)

Curran - can we suggest stuff to add and leave it at that for now?

Devo lawyer - Yes.

Only a straw poll tonight, board will not vote to approve the easement for two weeks.

Rosenberg - our board has already voted, if VPB makes changes it needs to go back to another WP board for another vote

so wait -are they voting now because of that... seems that way, they are voting to approve the easement with the revisions from tonight

thank you and good night

kt tobin flusser 9:29pm

How did we get here? (3)

Terence would like to know how we keep track of occupancy - something verifiable on an interim basis? Drayton says the building inspector can do it, Terence wants a regular visit schedule to do so.

I have lost track what % move in at what time they are negotiating... Terence wants it to be safest for all occupants- All people that live there deserves the left hand turn lane (as specified by the previous planning board), we can negotiate, but all need to be safe... There was also some talk about DOT requirements are tweaked based on the fact that residents will be older than the general population.

ok... next topic: conservation easement
Drayton: it is an agreement btwn Ermin estate, Woodland Pond, and the Village NP allowing for public access to the property. (also involved is the Lent property.)

Dave Clouser has not reviewed it yet.

This topic will not have a public hearing, Sept 1st is only for the left hand turn? It is required for the C of O. It is signed by the Village Board - not the Planning Board. The Planning Board can review and provide feedback to the VB.

Developer is saying this is good to go. Curran keeps saying it is not a PB issue.

WHAT??? on to next topic... the agreement with Walkill Valley Land Trust for another easement - ah - this must be the Millbrook Preserve!

Developer: the C of O cannot be issued with basic elements including an agreement with a non-profit, protection of the property as permanent open space, for a reasonable cost, and WP must approve anything that happens on the land.

Drayton: she made revisions to strengthen the wording for the land trust and what the role of all parties are. She says Seth McKee informed her work -but I know not all of his feedback was incorporated... oh good - Curran says Seth can talk later on that and the EnCC can talk too. Developer is now complaining that only WVLT should be the only voice right now and that was the extent of their agreement. "frankly he did not anticipate that this is a document to be open to public comment..." curran: "are you surprised?" developer not happy. curran and terence want their consultants and team to chime in. other developer interjecting again how they are surprised by this, that it is the form, not the content. curran - "that is up to us to decide."

kt tobin flusser 8:03 pm

How did we get here? (2)

Ray Curran, Planning Board Chair, has just announced that this is not a public hearing. Only solicited input by the board will be heard tonight. There will be a public hearing on Sept 1st.

Tonight is a working meeting - no decisions will be made.

Bill Mulchahy is here and is filming.

first agenda item: phasing in of the DOT required turn lane, applicant will update issue tonight.

An older lady just asked that the thermostat be turned down... the response it that the AC is working the best it can at this time. Windows are now being opened. Some by the mayor himself.

chazen rep is presenting an alternative to the original left turn lane - until it is ultimately constructed. that the lane is not needed for the the occupancy levels at the opening phase (but what if they never get the right of way??? wonders kt) they say they will enter into agreement with the property owner soon, terence has asked what are the guarentees it will get signed. they say they have a "gentlemen's agreement".

drahten (village lawyer, sorry i know i am spelling her name wrong) is saying that from an attorney point of view, nothing can move forward without a site plan application (and that this should have been done a long time ago.) ray curran clarifies that in early formulations the developer did not know they would need this, something about the county and its purview.

ray curran is saying that we need a plan b if they don't succeed in getting the right of way - and the answer is that occupancy will not fully be able to be met.

dave clouser is now speaking - he had the numbers rerun on the DOT specs - you could only get to 60-70% max run without the left turn lane.

developer keeps saying the agreement is forthcoming, next week at the latest and does not see a need for talk of a plan b.

dave clouser adds: one of the conditions of site plan approval is embodied in this issue, it must happen to get a C of O.

linda welles would like more evidence that they can provide this agreement before the public hearing on sept 1st. it is silly - kt's words - to have the hearing if this is not resolved my then.

linda welles wants to know if there are safety implications of constructions at the entrance of the site while people are moving in. they say they will have traffic control personnel and it will be on the "side" of the road. ray curran is saying it is such a small amount of people moving in early. (kt asks? number please?) linda asks! 55 people from from sep 14th to oct 31st.

dave clouser reemphasizes, again, not C of O without the right of way in writing.

kt tobin flusser 7:40 pm

How did we get here??

I will be live blogging tonight from the Village Planning board meeting about Woodland Pond.

I am mortified that the FEIS (Final Economic Impact Statement) was approved in 2007 and we are now, tonight, about to witness an emergency meeting over:
1) the conservation easement which under standard procedure is finalized before construction begins, and is complicated in this instance, as it includes the specifications - which will greatly impact the future - of the Millbrook Preserve
2) a right of way for a DOT mandatory left turn lane onto North Putt - which word on the street, the property owner is not budging on - another issue that absolutely should have been resolved before a shovel hit the ground.
3) There is also an extensive punch list that building inspector Muniz has said must be completed before a Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) can be granted. (That is, before anyone can move in.)

And, the developer is playing the "if you don't give us the C of O" and fast-track the conservation easement, and let them postpone the DOT requirements, then they will soon those their financing. All sounds very, very sketchy to me.

A crowd is gathering outside the locked meeting room door... and bill mulcahy has threatened to show up with a camera... this should be fun... to be continued... the first live Gadfly blogging ever!

kt tobin flusser 7:00 pm
* disclosure: my fellow gadfly Terence is on the Village PB, but the opinions here expressed are mine, and mine alone

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Did somebody swat the Gadfly?

Over a month without any new posts . . . what gives? Well, life happened to both of us. If we could get more intelligent-yet-somewhat-polite people to participate we could prevent such sad little gaps, but blogging is apparently not a participatory sport for most of the residents of Die Pfalz, so we'll make do.

Some quick updates:
  • The contest response was underwhelming - one and a half entries. Thank you to the person who submitted a complete entry! Having the community review a single entry is just plain silly, so I'll probably just show it to kT and we'll decide if we like it or not. Again, if there's a particular type of prize that would be motivational, please let us know - but if you do, you'd darn well better submit an entry if we agree to it!
  • I've been avoiding committing to any political candidates yet, because I want to know who's running and make as informed a decision as I can. My biggest personal criterion is transparency in government, which means that incumbents with a track record for secrecy are going to have a harder time impressing me that untried candidates who have no such baggage. I'm sure kT has different criteria than I do, and if either of us endorse any candidates here it will not be a collective endorsement unless we say so. I kinda hope we disagree - the whole point of this blog is to get different New Paltz viewpoints represented.
  • The free pool experiment continues.
  • Woodland Pond will be the subject of a special Village Planning Board meeting on August 24. They want to change some of the requirements for getting a certificate of occupancy.
That's all I can think of off the top of my head.