Saturday, January 30, 2010

Back in business

Someone made a new sign for my lawn. This one is on heavy-duty cardboard so it might not hold up in the weather as well as the heavy-duty reused plastic sign I used to have. But like most people in favor of giving our kids a healthy place to learn effectively, I am going to save my money for the modest tax increase instead of spending it on propaganda.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thieves and scoundrels!

Readers here will get another preview of a letter I just sent to the editor.
Many of my fellow New Paltz residents may have seen the sign I placed in front of my home on South Chestnut Street, which proclaimed, "Homeowners are for the Middle School - Landlords are NOT!" My home was a good location for this sign, because it is not only highly visible, it's just down the street from a very expensive anti-Middle School sign on a rental property. (There are several of those large signs around town, all of which are on multi-unit, non-owner-occupied buildings.)

This morning I discovered that the sign, which was secured to a tree in my yard by and Eagle Scout well acquainted with knots, was missing.

I respect the fact that people have differing views on the Middle School. I welcome debate. I'm even open to change my own position, if I hear enough evidence to sway me. I do not have children in school, so I will not be swayed by emotional arguments, but I relish a factual debate.

I draw the line at supporting petty thievery to silence the opposition.
And yes, I'm filing a police report and sincerely hope the bastards are caught. On the other hand, if they need to be this petty they must be scared.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Signs of the times

Walking through New Paltz this rainy morning (it's what able-bodied, community-minded folks like to do from time to time) I see that my handmade sign that reuses an old plastic sign fared better in last night's weather than either of the large, wooden ones erected in opposition on Chestnut Street. (The two that are nailed illegally to a utility pole near 46 North Chestnut did just fine, but I will be calling Central Hudson to see if they intend on removing the signs from their private property, or if they'd rather publically oppose the project.) In particular, the shattered 2x4 on North Chestnut will have to be replaced, and that's going to cost money.

One thing most people in New Paltz don't know about me is that I was a landlord. Before I owned a home I had four multi-unit buildings (8 units in all). It was a small operation, but I completely understand what it takes to make a living as a landlord. It was probably tougher for me to make a buck than a serious landlord, because I'm not very good with tools (I had Henry Papka of In Living Color take care of most of the tougher work; his prices are reasonable and his results are excellent for all handyman stuff), didn't have much of a cushion to ride things out when I had a vacancy, and I couldn't really save money by buying supplies in bulk. I did review tax assessments of my properties to make sure they weren't being assessed at too high a value.

Probably the biggest reason I wasn't making money hand over fist as a landlord is because I did actually keep up with maintenance. I know a lot about the rental buildings in New Paltz, and I know that they (usually) comply with the bare minimum required. My wife lived in an apartment owned by a prolific landlord in this are for seven years, and after complaining about a dangerous maintenance situation for three of them she asked him to fix it before she would accept another rent increase. He decided to evict her instead, and has since only rented to college students, who don't complain so much. I've had access to many more buildings that confirm that her experience was no fluke.

I guess it's just cheaper to oppose giving our kids a safe and effective learning environment (which the state is requiring, after all) than to use that money to keep one's tenants safe and comfortable. At least that's my view as someone who has been both a landlord and a committed member of my community.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The signage battle

I have to wonder if the folks involved in are going to find a single owner-occupied home to place one of their giant signs on. You have to pay to play here in New Paltz, and these folks just can't stand the fact that they can't charge gullible students insanely high rents to live in subpar conditions without paying more in taxes from time to time to support the community in which they make their obscene profits.

I lived in a house like that while in college, and these landlords are just as singleminded and community-hating as mine was.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What the Middle School opposition is saying

I'm trying to read between the lines of the message being sent by those who are opposed to renovating the Middle School.
  • It's going to cost us far too much money, they say. They say it with full-page ads in the New Paltz Times (which run $800, I've heard), and they say it with mass-produced lawn signs. The supporters are sticking to writing letters and repainting their old signs.
  • They say it with a lot of landlords, who are paying taxes that will not directly benefit them or their children. Many of the supporters have children in the school system (although some of us are supporting it because it benefits the community, which we see as a home, not a revenue source).
  • They never say they don't want to support education, even though some of them probably do. People get emotional about children (some love them, some hate them) and it's probably for the best to leave emotions out of the discussion because they just cloud the issue.
  • They find interesting ways to frame their arguments. This week's paper has several folks pointing to the gym roof collapse is proof that this renovation isn't necessary. I'm intrigued - wouldn't a freshly-renovated building require less maintenance and be less likely to have problems?
  • They never refute the claims that construction costs are lower now than they will be in the future, which lowers the project costs.
  • They complain about the lack of community involvement in the process, which has been ongoing for three years and has included articles, blog posts, superintendent coffees in the morning, informational meetings with discussions at night, and two full election cycles that saw two outspoken supporters of the project win seats of the Board of Education. I think everyone has the right to air their views, but please don't insult my intelligence by suggesting that lack of interest on doing so somehow taints the process. Should Maria Rice have offered wine and cheese to entice you, or would that just raise your tax-dollar-wasting hackles a bit more?
Lagusta Yearwood said that those in opposition can simply be ignored, and I wish I could agree. However, the people who complain about lack of community involvement are feeding inaccurate and incomplete information to people who are equally inattentive, and who might just cast an uninformed vote. I won't try to change somebody's mind but I sure as hell will make sure I correct any mistakes they are basing that decision on. The worst thing we can do for New Paltz education is allow ignorance to cast a vote.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Paradise Lost: death of a numbering scheme

When 36 Main opened I was very excited. It wasn't just a classy wine bar and place to eat, after all . . . it was a classy place that was using its address as its name. With 36 joining 60 Main, I envisioned a numbered New Paltz, with every business forgoing the clumsiness of names in favor of using its own address for a dual role.

We'd eat our pizza at 68 Main, maybe, or get it delivered from 4 NPP (New Paltz Plaza isn't quite as cool-sounding with numbers, but it's my dream, so I'm going to be consistent). That new deli/restaurant/caterer/food thing at 175 Main would continue to get interesting letters about it in the paper, and as a community we would decide the fate of old 196 Main and its kids. 25 Plattekill and 1 Veterans would form the hub of municipal activity, at least as long as the community continued gamble that two governments are better than one.

But my dream is shaken, and shaken hard. 60 Main is going to be changing its name soon, as Justin Holmes (best known for his legal battles against SUNY, which led to his frustration with the local judiciary and a run for town justice) is, with partner Amanda Stauble, turning into slash /root grassroots technology collective. Stauble describes the venture as a place where "you get a cup of coffee and sit to meet with a consultant. You can pay them by the half hour or the hour to sit with you and help you figure out what is wrong with your computer, or how to use a new program you're not familiar with, or work with them on designing a website for your business- what ever you need. Their only incentive is to make you like their work and effort and hope you come back next time you have a question or need services."

This is all well and good, but it shatters my dream of a new New Paltz order.

Friends, won't you sign this petition demanding a better New Paltz?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Anecdotes about school discipline

So I was having a conversation recently about getting into trouble in school. I was a kid that at least wanted to do the right thing, and when I got into trouble it was for things like chronic lateness (why they want kids in school early when their bodies want to sleep late, and vice versa, has always been beyond me), but I did manage to see the inside of an in-school suspension room more than once. We didn't actually call it ISS, but it was the same concept - sit there and do nothing quietly while being watched by a teacher too incompetent to actually teach but too tenured to dismiss.

One of the people I was talking to, a current New Paltz high school student, said in reply, "I once walked out of ISS because I knew that I would get OSS instead."

More than all my analysis of the school code of conduct, I think that one comment supports my idea that it's stupid to send kids home, because that's where they would rather be. The only ones who don't want to go home are the ones whose parents beat them, and sending them home would be cruel.

So why, why, why, do we have out-of-school suspension?