Sunday, August 22, 2010

South Putt Corners Road - A Dilemma

I was quoted in the paper this week, "South Putt Corners is an accident waiting to happen." There is currently a petition being circulated by the New Paltz Bike-Ped committee requesting that Ulster County "restore the widening of South Putt Corners Road to its former high-priority status, with work starting in 2011." You can find more info at the above link - including a video - and find petitions at The Bicycle Rack, The Bakery, Bicycle Depot, Rock & Snow, Catskill Mountain Multisport, Bistro Mountain Store, or Eastern Mountain Sports.

Here is my dilemma. I live a stones throw away from the Middle School and my son, who starts ninth grade this September, and who has walked to school for the past three years, really wants to walk to the high school - approximately 2 miles each way. This would be great daily exercise for a kid who abhors organized sports, and even at a slow 15 minutes per mile pace, he could walk it faster than the bus ride.

What would you do? Would you let him walk? If so, would you send him up Main and down South Putt (more time on South Putt but sidewalks on Main) or down Rt. 32 and up South Putt (less time on South Putt but no sidewalks on Rt. 32)? See the poll on right to answer. (If you answer "Other", please provide detail in the comments section.)

Help a gadfly sharpen his saw

I'm much better at observing what people do when they're already in office than talking to them about their plans if they make it.  To that end, I would like the help of my readers in interviewing candidates for the 2011 village elections.

Please tell me what issues you're going to be most interested in hearing about in the coming months.  I will take those data and create a poll so I can get a sense of the priorities of this particular slice of the community.  This will allow me to be consistent as I write about the candidates (which I plan on doing whether or not they talk to me directly), and it will also allow me to make sure I focus on the topics which others find relevant.

A reminder:  anonymous comments are permitted, and all comments are moderated.  If you would prefer your comment not be published, make a note of that in the comment itself and I will honor that request for this post.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Mayoral candidate profile: Jeremy Blaber

When I first saw bouncing around Facebook a post in which Jeremy Blaber declared his candidacy for New Paltz mayor, I said to myself, "why?"  He's a Kingston guy, I said to myself, so is this just some kind of stunt to generate some buzz? Luckily for me he was the first candidate to accept my invitation to chat.

It turns out that Blaber, who presently splits his time between Brooklyn and Kingston, didn't choose New Paltz without reason.  He lived in the village for three years before starting a job with the Working Families Party, which took him down to Brooklyn.  He's careful to point out that New Paltz has a very high transient population, and that his own ties here are at least as strong as some other rumored candidates.

So why New Paltz?  He told me when we sat down at the Muddy Cup Cafeteria today that he's probably going to return to the village in the near future, regardless of how his candidacy goes.  However, he plans to "run a very aggressive race" for the job, with plans to spend $10-15K on his campaign.  "I'm not trying to buy the race, but I am serious about it," he told me.

Blaber has reached out to all the possible candidates mentioned in the gossip pages, since (as far as I know) no one else has declared as yet.  He's hoping to run as part of a slate of candidates, and he's searching for the right mix. As for what their party will be called, he thinks he may run a contest for ideas.  All he knows for sure is that he will steer clear of anything that suggests affiliation with Working Families, because that kind of confusion has caused trouble for candidates in the past.

"2011 is going to be an interesting election year, and it all starts with New Paltz," he told me.  He expects the race to be interesting, and he understands that he needs to set himself apart from other younger candidates that may emerge.  Expect a platform of unifying the various factions of New Paltz; better communications with the village board, town council, and residents; and greater inclusion of District 9. In fact, he's planning on starting with a non-partisan voter registration drive targeting the thousand new freshmen arriving on campus this weekend.

Since he mentioned the "U" word, I asked him his views on merging our governments.  Like me, he's not willing to believe that it's a bad thing, or a good one, without more information.  I also asked him about one of my other favorite issues, that of districting up the village board so each member is elected from one district and the mayor is the only at-large official.  He believes it makes for a more accountable and responsive government.

Blaber doesn't expect this to be an easy campaign, and he's planning on winning it "block by block by block."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

David Dukler's Comments at the 09/18/10 School Board Meeting (my new favorite Gadflyl!)

This most recent controversy about personal behavior only reminds us that we are living in the age of “People” magazine, where everyone’s life is put on display, true or not.

Of course, having a standard against which persons serving in the public domain are judged is both necessary and important. Seen in that light, the recent spate of articles in the New Paltz Times regarding Mr. Kerr could be seen as serving the public interest, reporting done to inform the public about the deeds of its public servants. Is this not the role of a newspaper?

We can also reflect on the investigative article that this same paper ran this year on yet another member of the board. The article examined the long career of this member, years which had been accompanied by controversy. It was the result of extensive research, involving many hours of footwork and interviews. What you say! You don’t remember the article? The reason for that is it was never published. This article was withheld from publication by the editor of the New Paltz Times. It is relevant here because at the least, it spoke to a little-known fact that when this individual first ran for the school board, they were in the process of suing the school district. While I have not seen this article, I know enough to infer that much of the information would have given a fuller picture of the controversies and the story behind the story regarding this public servant. Why wasn’t this story published? Doesn’t the public have the right to know about this individual’s deeds, or misdeeds, as well?

Nevertheless the public was informed about this a few weeks ago in a letter to the editor. In it, the writer was responding to the present controversy. Pete Savago had written a letter critical of Mr. Kerr and taking him to task regarding the most recent allegations. The writer of the letter indicated that Mr. Savago questioning Mr. Kerr’s behavior was hypocritical in that Mr. Savago himself had been charged with DWI while serving in the UC legislature. The writer then questioned why the above-mentioned article had not been published, as I have done. What you say! You don’t remember that letter? In fact, these parts of the letter were redacted by the editor so once again, the public was not given the full story.

These actions would suggest that the New Paltz Times is not unbiased in its reporting of the news. Rather, it would seem that they pick and choose the stories that represent their point of view and in effect, use their news pages as an extension of their editorial point of view. The public is not given the full picture, but one that is selectively told by the paper to advance its own agenda.

If, on a local level, we are to remain an informed public, we must demand honest and unbiased reporting from our only source of print news. The failure of the New Paltz Times to live up to this standard as mentioned above, the excellent reporting of school board meetings by Mike Townsend notwithstanding, is a problem looking for a resolution. Without it, the public remains ill-served.


Last night's school board meeting, and the subsequent press coverage, were certainly entertaining.  I avoided taking a position until last night; the fact that I know Mr. Kerr made me want take the time to gather the facts so that I could be sure that our relationship (which I would characterize as an acquaintanceship, albeit a strong enough one that he offered me a ride recently) did not bias my view.

Two out of three reporters have filed their stories; the only one missing is for our local weekly paper, which comes out a day before its publication date; that story should be available Wednesday next in print.  The articles which are out, one in the Times Herald Record and the other in the Daily Freeman, didn't include my comments, so I will reproduce them here, with helpful links that I couldn't figure out how to include orally:

My comments this evening are focused on the Code of Conduct, and the "zero tolerance" policy that underlies it. The district's code of conduct in its present form makes it theoretically possible for a student to receive out-of-school suspension for using an iPod, and for a number of other offenses including serious ones like drug dealing and bullying.
In today's society, where almost all adults must work to keep their households afloat, OSS is more of a reward than a punishment, and should be reserved for those rare and extreme cases where keeping a child in school poses a danger.  In fact, a few months ago a New Paltz high school student told me that yes, he has deliberately broken rules to earn himself a three-day vacation from school.
Instead of sending kids home where they will be unsupervised, I suggest we revamp the code of conduct to keep most student offenders in the building.  There they can be supervised, and held accountable for their assignments. The district could even explore a community-service component, demanding that troublemakers give back to make up for their disruption.  OSS is an abdication of responsibility which simply transfers a problem out the school's influence. It's one of the strongest reasons why the zero-tolerance policy is ineffective.
I would like to see these changes take place from the top down, starting with the Board itself.  Many people in this room feel that Don Kerr should not be afforded the luxury of being deemed innocent until proven guilty.  If the Board agrees with this position, then Mr. Kerr's punishment should send a strong message. Don't go easy on him - make him continue in the thankless job of Board President, and demand that he give back to this community by paying for all the necessary training out of his own pocket.  After he's been President for a year, I have no doubt that Mr. Kerr will see the error of his ways.
It was slightly tongue-in-cheek, but it was completely true.  The Code of Conduct sucks, and needs a revamp as I've been saying for months (and will be getting one this year regardless).  The President job also sucks, even when the man in the job doesn't have his own deeds haunting him.  He has to set the agenda, run the meeting, and take it on the chin for every action the school does and does not take.  There are two other members who have been President before, and three who according to past practice are unqualified because they have never served as VP or President.  Neither Patrick Rausch nor Bob Rich wanted the job.  That's because they know it's a beast and a half, and takes countless hours of unpaid time to do well.  And that remark about the training? Well, Don's already paying for it out of his own pocket, because they didn't budget for it.

There was over an hour of public comment, and I can't fault either reporter for redacting my viewpoint, but there were other omissions that I think were more glaring:

  • Justin Holmes and several others suggested that this is an opportunity to review our society's inconsistent messages about marijuana use.  His partner Amanda Catherine Stauble probably did the best job of it, however; she explained how as a DARE graduate she watched as several friends discovered that pot isn't as bad as the program claims, and how those lies lead kids into falsely believing harder drugs are no big deal.
  • David Dukler, former school board member, pointed out the biased editorial practices of the New Paltz Times regarding coverage of school board members and candidates. His comments did a much better job than I have of pointing out how rampant yellow journalism is in this community.  Not a surprise that this was ignored; the Record took my inquiries into Edgar Rodriguez' lawsuit against the district and turned it into an article on Steve Greenfield, who wasn't even running. Gotta protect your own, right?
  • There are rumblings of a time- and money-wasting legal action to get Don Kerr to resign.  I say it's a waste because there's no legal recourse, period.  If this was a concern, it should have been addressed when he ran for reelection.  Public comment is appropriate, but please don't piddle away my tax dollars dragging this out any longer.
I would like to address Ed Burke specifically, since he does occasionally comment here.  Folks referred to this as a "witch hunt" because there are people who are using this incident to attack Don, even though they don't particularly care about this issue.  I don't believe that describes you, but please don't be naive.  One of Don's most outspoken critics told me about his own pot use in the parking lot, and the room was packed with people who feel that removing Don from this position will help them keep their unreported cash rents in their pockets rather than paying their share for our kids' education.  It is possible that there are people who agree with you for reasons other than those they state.  It's Don's fault he gave them the ammunition, but that doesn't mean everyone has the kids' best interests at heart.

Note: per this blog's code of conduct I have attempted to contact each person named in this post.  I have not yet obtained email addresses for Patrick Rausch, Bob Rich, or Ed Burke.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Open call to New Paltz Village candidates

If you're thinking of running for office in the Village of New Paltz in the May 2011 election, I would like to talk to you.  Here's what I would like to know:

  1. What are you running for?
  2. Have you announced?  (I will not force your hand; someone already tried to get me to do this to a potential candidate but I'm not that easy to manipulate.)
  3. Would you be interested in providing:
    1. a guest post here?
    2. an interview?
If you would like to contact me and do not have my contact information, feel free to leave a comment on this post.  All comments are moderated and I will be the only one to see them; they will be removed after I have read them.  Just give me an email address or phone number (or Facebook profile) at which to contact you.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Yet again, New Paltz is at odds over . . . what, exactly?

I have been asked to comment on the recent joint town-village . . . thing.  I have some thoughts, but not enough to form a cohesive opinion.  I have also invited one of the involved parties to share their perspective here.

Until one or the other of those things happens, please consider this a forum for debate.  I will try to get comments approved as frequently as I can, but the current local and internet climates preclude me from turning it off altogether.