Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tale of Two Court Cases

I've been watching the development of Don Kerr's plight with interest.  Much like Bill Clinton, we knew all about Don's legal wranglings when we reelected him in 2009, but the New Paltz Times feature article update on his case has brought a lot of outrage against him to the forefront.  The timing of that article confused me, but the irony of it amused me.  The reactions of the local citizenry has been even more instructive.

Timing is everything
I've always been annoyed by the print world's habit of dating publications in a way that didn't seem to be in synch with the real world.  I understand that you're writing in advance of publication dates, but the science and business of publishing makes it possible to hit the newsstands on the same date listed on your front page.  Our local paper consistently shows up on Wednesday, but has a Thursday publication date.  Until now it was only an annoyance to a pretty pedantic fellow (your truly), but in this case it made them look downright silly.

The paper with the Thursday date gave an update on Don's legal case on Wednesday, only a few hours before the case was closed.  I have to assume that the editor and publisher didn't want to look like asses, so they obviously didn't know about that court date.  The last court date was well over a month ago.  Why did they run a story when they did?

Drawing the line between public and private
When his case first hit the news, Don Kerr claimed that elected officials have no expectation of privacy.  I would say that's true to some extent - if it's said in public or in the public record then no, no privacy.  Whatever the editorial decision drove the comical timing of the original article, covering the story was fair game.  In fact, I would have to say that it's appropriate to cover the publicly- available portion of any relevant court case pertaining to an elected official.  Probably not divorces, estates and the like, but cases which are relevant.  Don was accused of using a substance disallowed by the district he represents, so it's relevant.  Edgar Rodriguez was suing the district he represents, so it was also relevant.  Why one was covered and the other not is quite beyond my understanding.  I can guess, but you can be sure that the guess foremost on my mind would be considered libelous by the owner of Ulster Publishing.

Hypocrisy and outrage
I've been watching my Facebook feed and I've seen a lot of outrage over the Kerr case.  One person in particular was quite strident, so I reached out to her.  She had privately taken me to task for covering the Rodriguez case when That Paper would not, because she believed I was being overly intrusive by obtaining publicly-available court documents in that case.  I'm afraid my message to her (redacted below to remove personally-identifying information) was a bit strongly-worded:

I believe you're a hypocrite and I'd like to give you the chance to prove me wrong.
I would like to invite you to make a guest post on the New Paltz Gadfly regarding your feelings about Don Kerr. Be aware that I will be commenting to compare and contrast your reaction to this case with your reaction to my posts about Edgar Rodriguez.
I welcome the opportunity to a lively and public debate with someone who sees things differently than I, and I expect that the local court of public opinion will weigh in heartily.
How about it? Care to take a more visible stab at the Kerr situation?
Not surprisingly, she declined the challenge.   Apparently when Edgar is in court suing the district it's none of our business, but when Don gets pulled over for doing something that could send a mixed message it is.  I'd still like to invite someone to post on Don's situation and how they feel about it - even if that person isn't actually a hypocrite.  Agree or disagree, I will treat you with courtesy and only attack your ideas, not you personally.  I know that asking people not to resort to name-calling renders a lot of people ineligible, but I'm hoping someone can find intelligent ways to debate the topic, rather than taking cheap shots like calling Don a "lovable oaf."  Violence may be the first refuge of the incompetent, but name-calling is the first refuge of the incompetent pacifist.

Positive signs on the School Board
Edgar Rodriguez voted against Don Kerr's presidency because he thinks Don's approach to drug problems doesn't acknowledge the realities of addiction.  I didn't see that it made it to That Paper, but Don is also interested in addressing the over-the-top zero tolerance policy.  I like this; the current code of conduct rewards students for bad behavior by sending them home.  This means kids with drug problems and criminal proclivities have plenty of free time to pursue those interests, and the district washes its hands of the problem.

I fully support Mr. Rodriguez and Mr. Kerr in their fight to create a rational disciplinary policy for the New Paltz Central School District.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Wow, It Has Been So Long - I Heart You New Paltz

I have not posted in months but this fabulous picture motivated me to fill you alls in on where I am at…

Butch Dener, Chair of the New Paltz Republicans and Andrew Cuomo. You do recall the hard time I gave him about cross endorsements, right? Butch says he is NOT endorsing Andrew, and supports and will work hard for Rick Lazio.

Anyway, you may have noticed that I am on the school board now, and just recently was elected Vice President. Plus, besides that, I have a pretty cool job that takes up a lot of my time. (Here is a like to a report we just recently released.)

Anyway… I miss the Gadfly, and Gadlfy-ing. Here are some things I would blog about if I had time:
1) The things the press writes about, as in cherry picks (e.g. THE LAW, as in Don Kerr, no trial etc, etc )and the things it does not write about (e.g. MULTIPLE LAWSUITS against the school district and SUNY New Paltz, as in Edgar Rodriguez, all suits LOST, etc, etc )
2) Pesticides. The push statewide outlawing the use of pesticides on school grounds. Our village passed a resolution in 2007 to outlaw them on village property. We need to press the Town to do the same, pronto. Children are dying, I kid you not.
3) Climate Smart Communities. Yays to both Village and Town for passing the Climate Smart Communities Pledge. Now, both governments, please put your money where your mouth is and follow through on the pledge’s commitments. The Town voted to fund ICLEA and the Village to put in more crosswalks, yay, but this is just the beginning.
4) Wetlands Law. Seriously? We don’t have a Wetlands and Watercourse law in the Town or Village. Shameless. This is not a tree-hugger issue. Every 1% loss of wetlands within a watershed can increase total flooding by almost 7%. This is an environmental AND ECONOMIC issue. Please press the town to move forward, email Toni Hokanson (supervisor) or Dave Gordon (town lawyer) to move forward and get this Town law passed so that once the Town passes a law the village can adopt it as well, with a village overlay district.
5) Crosswalks. Oh, did they make the community work hard, but yes, we will be getting more across Main Street. The village board , sans Patrick O’Donnell, voted to fund $3000 plus for up to three more crosswalks across Main Street. The county and DOT is paying for most of it. Don’t get me started on how much MORE we need our Town and Village government need to promote walkable and bikable New Paltz. (Patrick did vote for the sidewalks, it was the Climate Pledge he abstained on.)
6) On topic.. the DOT South Putt Improvement Project has been bumped WAY down on the priority list. I have a 9th grader who WANT S TO WALK THE TWO MILES TO SCHOOL but I have to forbid it, as it is NOT SAFE. I repeat, he wants to walk FOURS MILE A DAY instead of TAKE THE BUS and I have to FORBID IT. SOOOOOOOO not COOl, IT IS KILLING ME. It is a county road, let’s make them take responsibility for it.
7) The NP Govt Efficiency Project . SIGN UP to submit your name to be a part of the decision making team. Email me at for details. Brittany Turner and Pete Healey have complained about transparency in this project. Personally, my impression is that they have not made a lot of decisions yet & my primary concern is speed, this is taking way too long.
8) The freaking POOL. Seriously? My friend Marianne recently wrote - “Unexamined privilege is ugly”. The situation at Moriello, once again/still, with the swim team, the rates for non-NewPaltzians, how we FUND this privilege, access for all, etc, etc, needs to be examined, everything. It still does not sit right with me.
9) I have to give a shout out to my two fave NP bloggers – Lagusta and Martin – when the Gadfly is dry, check them out, you won’t be sorry.
10) So, so, so, so, so many school board issues. DARE is dead. The MS remains a mess, I am ashamed about the status of that building and am working hard - as are my fellow board members - to rectify. A lot of work needs to be done, and yes, I signed myself up to do it. I am there. Please reach out if you have ANY thoughts on this or other topics.
Okay, just for kicks, here are some more picks from Andrew Cuomo’s rally in NP today:

Lastly, check it out, I will be on WDST tomorrow morning chatting with the super cool Greg Gattine at 8:15 am. Call me Gadfly, call me Pundit… I just – seriously – want to make the world, or at least NP, a better place.