Friday, December 30, 2011

Reevaluating recycling

I haven't talked nearly as much about the New Paltz Recycling Center as I should have.  Hidden behind the highway garage on Clearwater Road, it's so unknown that Google Maps confused it with the BMX track.

Recycling in New Paltz has had a tumultuous history.  When it was part of the highway department, it was never all that clear how much money it was making or losing, or exactly how many deer carcasses town employees dumped around back.  After it was split off and the Hudson Valley Materials Exchange signed a lease, it didn't get much better, because HVME paid little or nothing and again, it wasn't clear how much the place was making or losing.  Now HVME is gone, and the trailers of stuff belong to the town and are sold by the "ReUse Center."

The center makes most of its money by selling bulk scrap metal and other recyclable materials.  The retail aspect could continue to grow, but I think the way the town collects recycling is bass-ackwards.

Town residents shouldn't pay for a permit, and shouldn't pay to dispose of anything that the center can sell for money.  It's insulting to charge me money to drop off something that you can resell.  Make the permit to recycle free, and charge for garbage, period.  The town of Rochester has a free permit, and they keep it free because supervisor Carl Chipman doesn't want his recession-plagued residents to start dumping garbage on the roads.  You can market the free permit and encourage more people to drop off those cash cows.  It's even been suggested to me that the town could invest in a bottle machine, or some other method, that would allow the often-idle employees to collect more money by retrieving deposit bottles.

The center makes money, and even if it didn't, it improves the quality of life in the town by keeping crap off of our roads.  Let's drop the barriers to recycling and increase how much this underutilized service can make.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Police commission: needed?

Move to dissolve Town of New Paltz Police Commission sparks controversy | New Paltz Times

Is having a police commission, which is not very common, a good thing? My gut is "yes," but I agree that it doesn't work as well as it could. The commission is two broad areas of concern, as I recall:

  1. fiscal issues such as the departmental budget and personnel promotions, and
  2. personnel issues, like promotions and citizen complaints.
A side note here:  this is a recollection because I couldn't easily find it on the town web site.  I didn't see the link to the town code anywhere obvious, but that thing's search function is so horrible I would rather have the law quoted right on the police commission's portion of the town site.

Five volunteers aren't really able to do both of those jobs justice, and I think they're both critical to maintaining a thoroughly transparent and absolutely right-sized force.  
  • Given the size of the budget, I think it's worth making sure that financial professionals, the kind that will probably never get elected and is willing to work for free, look over this immense spending plan.
  • At the same time, having a group of people reviewing complaints makes sure that monitoring our protectors doesn't get lost in the wash of town business.
Jeff Logan says that "more government doesn't equal better government," and I imagine he disagrees with his father on the issue of consolidation, but I digress.  More government is a problem if it prevents things you want to encourage, or encourages things you want to prevent.  A citizen board reviewing complaints makes it easier and faster for a citizen to register one, and for the officer to have the matter resolved.  The fiscal oversight in no way slows down the town's budget process - the police commission found savings which weren't implemented because the budget wasn't passed on time.  More government in this case means better service for the same cost.  What's the down side?  The town council is reviewing a thoughtfully prepared budget?

I agree with Ira Margolis that the commission isn't perfect.  There's too much emphasis on money, at times, and not enough on the long-term consequences.  
  • Jeff Logan called the donation of a new police dog "the gift which keeps on taking."  
  • Our local police, like departments nationwide, have strong incentives to prioritize crimes which will generate income.  Specifically, they get to keep money and property seized in drug crimes, or some portion thereof.  It's the flip side of "running a government like a business:"  some crimes are literally worth more to the police than others.
  • Every part-time officer we've hired has eventually become full-time.  Part-timers are hired because hey, they're so much cheaper because there's no benefits to pay.  Too bad it never stays that way.
  • Giving SUNY security police status created another police force in the heart of our community, one which has no citizen oversight and heightens the sense that the college is apart from New Paltz.  Better to have them pay for the same police protection as the rest of us, just as they do for fire protection.
With the dual responsibilities the commission has, these kinds of decisions and events don't get the scrutiny they deserve.  Should we be mitigating for the external pressures on our police?  Do we consider the logical progression of our own decisions?

I'd rather see the commission stay.  The fact that they've annoyed our elected officials shows they're looking deeper than expected, and I like that.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Retooling and back to work!

Okay, break is over, everyone back on your heads.

The New Paltz Gadfly has been gestating, and is being born anew.  There are going to be a few changes to the blog, but never fear, change is good!

  1. First off, it's just me here on in.  I enjoyed having kT Tobin blogging alongside me for over two years, but she's decided to move on to other things.  I hope she decides to weigh in as a commenter from time to time so that her viewpoint will not be entirely missed.
  2. This gives me a chance to get away from politics!  The Gadfly drifted political, but politics was never my personal preference.  I prefer talking about government.  What does that mean?
It means I'm not going to get caught up on nonsense like political campaigns.  Only once has a local politician that I've supported actually been the person I thought he was after he was elected; that was Mike Nielson.  It's impossible to tell what someone is really like when they're sidling up to you to curry favor, so I'm putting the curry aside.

This reinvigorated gadfly is going to be interested in what these people are doing once they're in office.  If I interview an elected official I am going to try to avoid using direct quotes, which should minimize how much they can use this blog to look good.  Instead I will focus on observing their actual behavior, and just paraphrase their excuses.  No puffery, just a critical eye.

There's a lot of local government to talk about.  The village, the town, the school district are all definitely local, and largely what I've focused on in the past.  However, my political campaign helped me to understand how much county government impacts us, so I am sure to pay some attention to our local legislators; one of them is too steeped in the development world to even have an opinion on the most important issue to effect our senior citizens (sure wish he'd mentioned that during the campaign, hmm?) and the other will have plenty of opportunities to show his colors, whatever they may turn out to be.

It's the dawn of a new era, and like a phoenix, this gadfly is ready to set the world on fire.

Friday, November 18, 2011


This gadfly is taking a hiatus from public commentary and participation.  New Paltz has always been able to carry on without me, and right now I need to carry on without New Paltz.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

No election results

Election results are among the most popular posts here, so I'm very sorry they were not posted.  You can find all results here.  I was busy, and so was my co-blogger.

Friday, November 4, 2011

TPW endorses: Ulster Countywide races

There are only two countywide races, and only one is contested.  Nevertheless, I've thought long and hard about who to vote for.

County Executive

Mike Hein is running for his first full term (the transition to the charter form of government gave him three years to start), and he has no opponents.  Considering the amount of money he's spending on billboards, though, I have to ask a simple question:
What office is Mike Hein running for?
If you feel the need to throw up a few lawn signs just to let people know there's an election, fine.  It seems paranoid to me, but I'm not a politician, so what do I know?

But Hein is spending money on this unopposed race, which tells me that he has set his eyes on an office that he is not running for.  Hinchey's Congressional seat, perhaps?

I take a dim view of people leaving an office they were elected to in order to do something else.  It doesn't matter if that something else is political or not, and it doesn't matter if you are leaving a day early or several years in advance.  I think it is a fundamental violation of the trust placed in you by the voters.

Obviously it doesn't matter who votes for Hein, but I want to be very clear that if he even sneezes at a higher office I will forevermore consider him just another scumbag politician.  I hope not, because I find him to be approachable and engaging.  Time will tell.

District Attorney

This has been a difficult decision for me.  It's a simple job:  prosecute crime.  Seems like the simply defined jobs are the toughest ones to evaluate candidates for.

I've gotten a lot of pressure to support each candidate in this race.  The political pressure I expected, and a good amount of emotional blackmail from supporters in one camp.  That's made me hesitate all the more, because if I feel manipulated I need to take a step back and make a decision for the right reasons.

So what factors are there to consider?  Both Sennett and Carnright have long track records as attorneys.  Each has worked extensively both prosecuting and defending the accused.  That's pretty much the minimum I would expect for anyone running for the DA position.

Carnright is proud of his conviction rate, but it's not a figure that impresses me.  The bulk of criminal defendants can't afford a private attorney, and public defenders often only look at case files when they're in the courtroom.  Even when the defendant is represented, a plea bargain counts towards the conviction rate.  A high conviction rate is to be expected in our present system.

The incumbent is big on "going after" gangs, and I appreciate aggressive prosecution of violent offenders.  His challenger says he wants to focus on crimes against youth and the elderly, which is another way to say the same thing:  I will be tough on crime.  Again, I expect nothing less.  To be fair, the police are the ones who "go after" the bad guys; the DA's critical job is to make sure that they go to jail, hence the loudly-touted conviction rate.

While the current officeholder talks about himself, so does his opponent.  Lots of attacks have come out about Carnright's being soft on public corruption and unable to distance himself when he needs to.  Should he have recused himself in the Tim Matthews case?  I think so.  Was it wrong for him to keep money in an "off books" account when the law specifically lets him?  I don't think so.  Do constant attacks say more about the attacker anyway?  I tend to believe that.

When a candidate is nothing but an empty suit, someone whose main claim to fame is "I'm not the other guy," it's always tough for me to support him.  I never voted for Rick Lazio, and it was only my intense hatred of George W. Bush that got me to hold my nose and vote for John Kerry.  This challenger has been aggressive enough that it's commented on by pundits, but I won't say that he is without substance.  The posturing makes me think he doesn't choose his campaign staff with the greatest of care, though, because he ran a better campaign when he talked entirely about his vision for the office.

Neither man would tell me that he would be willing to use his discretion as a DA to avoid prosecuting crimes that are immoral in his eyes.  If either had I would have wanted to know more about those morals, but frankly I wish I could vote for someone with that sort of character.  We've had many DAs prosecute because they found an action personally offensive, like marrying same-sex couples, so it would be nice to see the opposite for a change.

I've seen accusations that our fedora-wearing candidate was in The Bronx DA's office, he "went after" cops.  This really goes to the heart of the matter.  Do we want a DA who won't prosecute police?  I sure don't.  I think police protection is a delicate balance, because you want violent and dangerous people off the streets, but you still want to preserve freedom for the rest of us.  Cops are not a protected class, nor are they a convenient target.

Those accusations don't trouble me, but they do speak to the commitment against public corruption on all levels.  Either man will do a good job prosecuting violent criminals, swindlers and bad people of all stripes . . . except for those in government.  I have come to be convinced that the incumbent does soften the blow against police, public officials, and corruption from within, so I think we should give someone else a try.  I am supporting the challenger in this race for this reason.  I have come to like and respect both men, and I have been treated poorly by some of my so-called friends for struggling with this decision, which nearly caused me to change my mind.  I do not think either one is evil, and I am glad I don't have to do that job myself.  I've spent far more time thinking about this race than I should have, and I simply hope that my decision doesn't disappoint me as sorely as a vote I cast back in the spring has.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

TPW endorses: county legislature

No one seems to have a clear idea what goes on in county government, which is something I can only blame our current legislators for.  Now that we are switching to single-member districts, the new representatives will, I hope, start feeling like they are accountable to their constituents.

District 20

includes the village and those areas that you always thought should be part of the village:  I'm running in this district, so I won't spend a lot of time telling you why you should vote for TPW.  In fact, I said it best in the New Paltz Times, so go ahead and read it there.  It's time for a change, and I'm the change we need.  'Nuff said.

District 17

includes all the rest of New Paltz and a smidgen of Esopus.  We have three choices there:

  1. Les Kalmus, an Esopus resident who owned an IT business for many years.  Les has classic Republican values (don't spend what you don't have, privatizing always makes things better) and a low-key demeanor.  I don't expect Les to grab the spotlight for political gain.  Nobody hates him.  He's doing this to try to make a difference.
  2. Steve Greenfield, New Paltz resident and former school board member.  Steve is an excellent researcher with an inflammatory style.  He came out firing both barrels against Susan Zimet before she left this race, and then took her WFP line when she did.  I've crossed swords with Steve, even on issues where we agree.  Steve is a polarizing force who always backs up his positions with facts.
  3. Ken Wishnick, the replacement for Zimet on the Democratic line.  Ken has a lot of experience with planning and administration which could be put to good use on the county level.  He also has expressed questionable judgment in the past; when he was on the Town Council he helped write the job description for Town Planner, and then resigned to apply for the job he created.
I can't support Ken for the same reason I can't support Jean Gallucci - he doesn't see a problem with how he handled that issue, and I fear that other morally grey matters will trouble him in the future.  Despite the fact that when we disagree it's explosive, I like Steve and his ideas; I just wish that "explosive" wasn't such a common part of his equation.  I know that I won't agree with Les on some issues, such as whether we really know enough to decide Golden Hill's fate, but I can tell that he is someone who can work in a diverse group without it getting personal.

I believe that both Steve and Les will work hard, and that I could work with either of them, so for a tie-breaker I look to the town itself.  We have seen how bad things get when our supervisor and mayor hate each other; do we want legislators that can work with our community?  I do, and I am really not sure if Susan Zimet dislikes Steve Greenfield or Hector Rodriguez more - the evidence of disharmony with both men runs rampant through the news and letters pages.  With collaboration as the tiebreaker, I am recommending a vote for Les Kalmus in District 17.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

TPW endorses: town races

I have a pretty harsh view on voting these days - if you don't know anything about the candidates, I don't think you have any business voting.  I've gone so far as to suggest we run pure write-in elections to force people to pay attention, or stay home.  It's as much about beating myself up for ignorant voting as anybody else . . . I mean, how many people do you know who have a clear idea who they want as a Surrogate's Court judge?  Why have I ever found it okay to cast an uninformed vote?

A lot of people vote anyway, either by party line, or based on incumbency ("throw the bums out" or "I know that name").  Voting is important, but finding the time to be informed is not easy.  To that end, I continue to share my personal endorsements.  I hope that by sharing my reasons for supporting one or another candidate, it will help others cast more thoughtful votes.

Today, the New Paltz town races.

Supervisor and highway superintendent

These are easy:  we're down to one candidate each, so it's just a question of which line you want to vote on.  No endorsements necessary.

Town justice

I am not voting in this race.  There is only one candidate, and I think we can do better.  A decade into the 21st century we have a court staff that doesn't know how to use email (a problem they resolved by taking the email addresses off of the town's court site), and yet Justice Bacon is lobbying to raise their pay.  He doesn't know how to run an office, his courtroom is always loud and disorganized, and he doesn't appear to know criminal law.  I wish we had a better choice, but he's not getting my vote.

Town council

Four candidates are running for two seats this year, making this a big deal.
  • Kevin Barry is best known for his opposition to the Middle School project and the town's wetlands law.  He is passionate about property rights and controlling taxation, neither of which I have a problem with.  However, he has to learn to rein those passions in a bit.  He can be downright aggressive when he's talking to people who disagree with him, and he has shown a lack of decorum at public meetings, blurting out comments at inappropriate times.  I have been told by people I trust that they've felt physically threatened and nearly come to blows with him at times.
  • Jean Gallucci spent many years working for the town and village, and then served on the village board.  Her financial acumen is above and beyond that of anyone on or running for the town council.  Her judgment concerns me . . . she got her husband a job with the village as the parking meter guy while on the village board, and doesn't see a conflict of interest there.  She also has a poor attendance record as an elected official.
  • Randall Leverette gets flack as being "anti-police" because of how demanding he is for information as a police commissioner.  I know this is not the case - like me, he likes the idea of being safe from crime.  Also like me, he doesn't believe that this means just writing a blank check to the department; if you can't measure it, you can't manage it.  It's the same kind of common-sense approach that has been used in the highway department.  No matter how much we love or hate a particular governmental service, the only way to fairly evaluate it is with hard data.  There is nothing wrong with expecting more data from our police, firefighters, clerk, assessor, or any other department.
  • Ray Lunati is best known for his vocal opposition to laws restricting development on the flood plain.  I was on the planning board, and I disagree with him.  Notwithstanding the environmental concerns, every inch of asphalt and building we add to our town makes the flood plain more likely to flood, which imperils people on that side of the river.  Ray has shown that he is extremely focused on that issue, nearly to the exclusion of all else.
My vote is for Leverette alone.  I think Barry will let his passion get the best of him, Gallucci has questionable judgment, and Lunati is simply too focused on one narrow aspect of town governance.

Friday, October 14, 2011

SUNDAY 10/16! New Paltz Flood Aid Benefit Concert at Hasbrouck Park 12-7

Leading up to Sunday's concert, New Paltz Flood Aid for Farmers, Families, and First Responders has collected over $30,000 from our 10/2 kickoff event and in sponsorships, donations, and concert ticket sales. But we still have a long way to go. What we have collected so far is just drop in the bucket compared to what our affected farms and families have lost. Nearly 250 acres were completely lost by our local New Paltz farmers this season, and many more are still in jeopardy due to the ongoing rains. Many families living in close proximity to the Wallkill River lost all their possessions, including some that have lost their homes forever. We need to continue to collect funds for the most in need in our community in the wake of Hurricanes Irene and Lee.

Our next event is this Sunday October 16th, from 12:00pm to 7:00pm at Hasbrouck Park, an all day benefit concert. Gates open at 11:00. General admission tickets are $2o for adults, $15 for college students, senior citizens, and children age 12-18; with free admission for children under age 12. There are also $100 VIP tickets.

This big musical event will include both local bands and musicians from afar - plugged in and acoustic. Our lineup includes: Ratboy Jr., Mark Sager and the Black Horse Riders, the Trapps, Casey Erdman and Friends, the Greyhounds, Mr. Roper, Dzuibecko, Connor Kennedy Band, Hector Tajeda (a local farmer who lost all of his crops), the Bow Thayer Band, Patrick Carlin (George Carlin's Brother), Alexis P. Suter, and Flood Aid All Stars: Larry Campbell, Teresa Williams, Steven Bernstein (of Levon Helm’s Band), Randy Ciarlante (of The Band), Byron Isaacs (of Levon Helm’s Band & Ollabelle), Jim Wieder (of The Band & Levon Helm’s Band), Erik Lawrence, Vito Petrocitto, Jeremy Baum and much, much more. This event will be streamed live on the Internet via webcast.

For more information about New Paltz Flood Aid, or to find out how to make donations or buy 10/16 concert tickets, visit If you are a New Paltz family or farm in need, please call Judy Ness at 845-332-8432.



Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What's up with the school buses?

I had a meeting at the middle school this morning, and I was leaving around the time that most of the kids were arriving.

Actually, the building was packed with kids, the ones who arrived by bus.  Out front, though, was a long line of cars dropping kids off in ones and twos.  Each child would dutifully wait until the parent's car pulled to the front of the line before getting out.  I saw no child get out of a car more than twenty feet from the front door, and there was a line of cars spilling out onto Manheim.

I assume that this is a daily occurrence.  I don't get to the middle school all that often, so it was new to me.  It makes me wonder, though, what the problem is with the buses that so many parents drive their kids to school.  I have some theories:

  • The walk from the bus area is too far.  This is possible, since no child was traveling as much as fifty feet from car to door.
  • Bullying happens on buses.  I know it did when I was a kid.
  • The time on the bus is too long from some parents (or children).
Beyond that, I have no clue.  Are there any driving parents who can tell me why they do it?  It seems like it adds a lot of time to an adult's morning routine, adds even more pollution from idling engines, and doesn't utilize buses that the district has to run anyway.  Are one or more of my guesses correct?  Is there another reason?

Saturday, October 1, 2011

New Paltz Flood Aid - 1st Event Tomorrow 10/2

In the wake of Hurricane Irene, New Paltz Flood Aid was created to help those most in need after the flooding. The monies generated by Flood Aid will be distributed to the New Paltz farmers, families, and first responders most affected by the flooding.



Sunday, October 2nd, 3pm-8:30pm @
Water Street Market

Rain date: Sunday, October 9th
$20 suggested donation
On August 24, 2011, the
Village of New Paltz passed a resolution declaring the first week of October the inaugural "New Paltz Local Food Week". Less than a week later, Hurricane Irene hit our region. As a result, this first year's focus will be on helping the people in our community most impacted by the flooding. The kick off event on Sunday, October 2nd will be a potluck fundraiser. Six local bands will be performing: The Love Taps, Ratboy, Seth Davis, SnowBear, The Sweet Clementines, & The Bubba Band. Local chefs will be preparing local food, and there will be raffles contributed by local businesses, and sign-ups for volunteer opportunities.


Sunday, October 16th, 12pm-7pm @ Hasbrouck Park, rain or shine, gates open at 11:00
$20 Individual/General Admission

$15 College Students with ID & Kids 12-18/General Admission

(Kick-off event attendees on 10/2 get these tickets for $5 off the regular price.)

Free to Kids under 12/General Admission

$100 VIP

This all day benefit concert will raise money for the people in our community hit hardest by Hurricane Irene flooding. All proceeds will go to the farmers, families, and first responders in New Paltz who were most impacted by the floods. This big musical event on Sunday, October 16th will include both local bands and musicians from afar - plugged in and acoustic, including: Ratboy Jr., Mark Sager and the Black Horse Riders, the Trapps, Casey Erdman and Friends, the Greyhounds, Mr. Roper, Dzuibecko, Connor Kennedy Band, Hector Tajeda (a local farmer who lost all of his crops), the Bow Thayer Band, the Greyhounds, Patrick Carlin (George Carlin's Brother), Alexis P. Suter, and Butch's Flood Aid All Stars: Larry Campbell, Teresa Williams, Steven Bernstein (of Levon Helm’s Band), Randy Ciarlante (of The Band), Byron Isaacs (of Levon Helm’s Band & Ollabelle), Jim Wieder (of The Band & Levon Helm’s Band), Erik Lawrence, Vito Petrocitto, Jeremy Baum and much, much more. This event will be streamed live on the Internet via webcast.

The New Paltz Community Foundation will administer, manage, & distribute all the funds. Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley is managing our ticket sales.

DONATIONS: You can make a donation here or donation checks can be made out to "New Paltz Community Foundation" with "FLOOD AID" in the memo. Their mailing address is the New Paltz Community Foundation, P.O. Box 1112, New Paltz, NY 12561.

TICKETS: To purchase tickets for the 10/13 all day concert, you can do so here, or at the 10/2 event - Kick-off event attendees on 10/2 get these tickets for $5 off the regular price!

SPONSORSHIPS!!!: Visit our website to learn about sponsorship opportunities.

Find us at:

on Facebook, search for New Paltz Flood Aid

on Twitter, NPFloodAid

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Safe to drink?

"I got a notice in the mail two days after the boil order was lifted," said a friend to me yesterday, rolling her eyes.  She doesn't spend time on Facebook and had heard about the lifting through friends.

I got emailed the lift notice by the village clerk, and then shared it on Facebook, posted it here, and told everyone I met about it.  I'm glad that the village took the extra step of sending out an email, particularly since some water users didn't know about the health alert for two days.  Not everyone can be reached via email, and I'm at a loss to suggest a way to get the word out about a health crisis that is as comprehensive as the mail, but not as hazardously slow, although I've suggested some low-cost options like the email alert that could at least increase the message saturation.

The boil order was a pain, but it sure made me think about how we use water.  Every time I turned on the tap, or poured from a plastic jug, I pondered how fragile our dependence on water is.  We use it to drink, cook, wash, and flush away our excrement.  Some people say that after the oil wars, the fights will be over water.  It seems abundant here, particularly during a brutal flood season, but this boil order makes me realize that clean, safe water is not guaranteed and should never be taken for granted.

The lack of comments on my posts about our water and sewer problems makes me wonder what this blog's small base of loyal readers thinks about water safety and water usage in New Paltz.  Am I the only person who isn't in government who is concerned about water?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

2011 Democratic and WFP Primary Results


Democratic Primary

Hector Rodriguez 212
Tom Cotton 77
Write in 1

Working Families Primary

Hector Rodriguez 8
Tom Cotton 0
Write in 1

Water ban lifted

Boil Water Notice Lifted 9/13/11

Village and Town of New Paltz Public Water Supply

The Village of New Paltz in conjunction with the Ulster County Health Department are advising that the municipal water supply is once again, meeting and exceeding the standards set forth in the sanitary codes of New York State.

Therefore, the boil water notice is lifted and consumers of the Village, Town water districts and State University at New Paltz may again consume/ drink the water.

Additionally the Village Board extends their gratitude to all consumers inconvenienced during this event.

Water Boil Alert Over

New Paltzians no longer need to boil their water. The alert/restriction is over.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Slow boil

Some village residents may not have known about the boil-water order until today, two days after it was enacted.  The notice which came in the mail was postmarked yesterday, at New Paltz, so that's probably the day that it actually got to the post office.

The order is precautionary only - as of yesterday, no tests by the Board of Health have turned up any problems - but I think we need a new way to get the word out than gossip, Facebook, and the mail.

The time it takes to print out the mailing labels and put them on notices probably took up all day Thursday, which is why it took so long to get them into the mail.  I've been knocking on doors anyway, so I have been speaking to a lot of people about this issue.  Some of the people I spoke to yesterday evening had only found out a few hours earlier, so Facebook and the like weren't serving some segments of the community well.

The notice was also on local access cable, the village web site, and probably posted in a number of other places that don't reach everybody, but represent a good-faith attempt to get the word out about this issue.

There's been talk about a better way.  SUNY uses mass emails and texts to alert its community, and there's also the option of robocalls to reach all village residents (or water users in this case) in time of crisis.

But, these systems are not free, and our village (like every other level of government) has to balance the need for a solid emergency response with the resources to pay for them.  I have some suggestions that are, or could be, low-cost or free.

  1. Phone chain.  It's an old-fashioned idea that could be very effective in this case.  Concerned residents sign up, and village employees call the top person on each list (the number of which would be governed by the number of people participating) to give them the message.  With a phone chain, you leave a message if you don't get the person, but you keep calling down the list until you do reach someone.  The people who get the word this way will tell their friends, post online, and so forth because that's what people do anyway.
  2. Leverage SUNY by asking them to expand their alert system to include New Paltz residents.  It's a successful system that is presumably already paid for, so if the college decided to charge anyway it should be a nominal cost that is much less than inventing our own wheel, so to speak.
  3. Police signs.  The New Paltz Police has one or more electronic signs (complete with radar detectors!) that can be rolled into high-visibility locations and programmed with custom messages. Put them in strategic spots with the boil order notice to inform drivers and others.
These infrastructure issues seem to be cropping up more and more, so let's find innovative ways to keep the public informed for a minimal cost.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Announcing: FLOOD AID for New Paltz Farmers, Families, and First Responders

Photo credit: Vince Looft & Rick Rauch

Announcing: FLOOD AID for New Paltz Farmers, Families, and First Responders

September 9, 2011

Theresa Fall 845.401.4499
kt Tobin 845.206.8853

Sunday, October 2nd, 4pm-9pm @ Water Street Market
Rain date: Sunday, October 9th
$20 suggested donation
On August 24, 2011, the Village of New Paltz passed a resolution declaring the first week of October the inaugural "New Paltz Local Food Week". Less than a week later, Hurricane Irene hit our region. As a result, this first year's focus will be on helping the people in our community most impacted by the flooding. The kick off event on Sunday, October 2nd will be a potluck fundraiser. Local bands will be performing: The Love Taps, Ratboy, Seth Davis, SnowBear, The Sweet Clementines, & The Bubba Band. Local chefs will be preparing local food, there will be raffles contributed by local businesses, and sign ups for volunteer opportunities.

Sunday, October 16th, 12pm-6pm @ Hasbrouck Park, rain or shine
There will be two types of tickets sold: Lawn & VIP Tent This all day benefit concert will raise money for the people in our community hit hardest by Hurricane Irene flooding. This big musical event on Sunday, October 16th will include both local bands and musicians from afar - plugged in and acoustic. There will be live auctions of items and gift certificates from local businesses. All proceeds will go to the farmers, families, and first responders in New Paltz who were most impacted by the floods.

Both events will be streamed live on the Internet via webcast. Donated items and gift certificates for the raffle and live auction can be dropped off at The Mudd Puddle, The Antique Barn, or Mixture.

For general information about New Paltz FLOOD AID, email or check for updates on Facebook, search "FLOOD Aid for New Paltz Farmers, Families, and First Responders". If you are a New Paltz family or farm in need, please call Judy Ness at 845-332-8432. For information about the 10/2 Kick Off event, contact Theresa Fall at Water Street Market, 845-401-4499; and for info about the 10/16 Benefit Concert call Judy Ness at 845-332-8432.

What turbid water means

I'm trying to wrap my mind around the boil water order and other issues with water in New Paltz, and I'm sure I'm not the only confused person in the community.  I contacted the Ulster County Health Department and spoke with Shelly to get some answers.

Both of our water systems - the water coming out of the tap and the stuff going down the toilet - can have problems during what we used to call "hundred year floods."  They are different problems, caused by the same thing - too much water.

The boil order is because of the massive amount of water feeding into the reservoir system that the village taps into.  The water gets stirred up (that's your "turbidity"), and because of the volume there's no way for the water treatment plant to filter the stuff back out.  The stuff which is stirred up could be just about anything one might find in a body of water . . . silt, sand, fish poop, critters too small for the eye to see . . . hence the precautionary order to boil our water.

Flooding also makes it impossible for the sewer plant to clean up all the water before it goes into the Wallkill.  That's the source of the consent order you may have heard the village is under.  Our system backs up far too easily, coming out of manholes in its raw and smelly state and getting right into the Wallkill.  It's a more serious problem, but since no one is drinking Wallkill river water, most members of the public aren't clamoring for an immediate solution.

I was completely unclear about how the two are related, but that doesn't minimize how serious the problems are.  Frankly, the village board needs our help in finding ways to solve our infrastructure problems, with the sewer system being tops on the list.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sewage plant alert - boil your water, New Paltz!

Public Notice:

Village and Town of New Paltz Public Water Supply
Due to extended periods of heavy rain the Village of New Paltz is issuing a notice to all Village and Town public water supply users. Water for human consumption must be boiled for a minimum of three minutes to ensure it is safe to drink until further notice.
 You will be notified when the boil water notice is lifted.

For further information, please contact the Ulster County Health Department at (845) 340-3010. For current update, call the Village of New Paltz Water Treatment Plant at (845) 255-2637. The treatment plant number is for update status only for an emergency call the New Paltz Police Department at (845) 255-1323. 


I spoke with Bleu Terwilliger, Superintendent of Public Works, who was quick to point out, "You ain't gonna die."  He characterized the boil order as "precautionary" because of the "increased turbidity" due to the amount of water coming through the treatment plant, but said that the plant is functional.

The Village Clerk's office is sending out a media release, a mailing, and delivering notices to affected businesses today.  I checked three businesses before the notices were delivered; two had heard unconfirmed rumors of the order.  

The owner of one pizzaria asked, "If this is a problem now, why wasn't it after Irene when the flooding was worse?"  He hasn't been willing to sell fountain soda since the tropical storm out of concerns for the water quality.

River of Poop?

New Paltz definitely has sewer system problems, and I don't think people realize how serious they are.  Our main treatment plant shut down completely during Irene, and lots and lots of Paltzian poop doesn't get processed on its way to the river when that happens.  Something similar happened on the Deerfield River in Massachusetts, "resulting in a continuing discharge of untreated wastewater" downstream.  I'm not a pro, but untreated wastewater sounds a lot like turds to me.

Under condition of anonymity I learned that the fire department used to pump out the plant directly into the Wallkill, but they no longer support the practice.  The DPW handles that now, by doing things like opening up the sewer main on the bottom of Water Street and letting it run into the storm drain.  I've seen the spot they're talking about, but as a layman I can't be sure what I'm looking at:

The fines levied against the village, I'm told, are less than the apparently incalculable cost of actually repairing and upgrading the sewer system.  I say incalculable because everyone agrees it is more than the village can afford, but not one is willing to hazard a guess as to the actual price tag.

This is a crappy situation, and I don't think most people realize that I mean that literally.  I don't think the village government is negligent, just unable to make the upgrades needed to act.  What's harder to say is whether people are willfully ignorant of what happens when they flush their toilets, or if better communication would help.

So keep boiling your water, and if you swim in the Wallkill, try not to swallow.

A view from the table

My second Republican caucus I got to sit at the table - and what a view it was!  Politics never gets boring in New Paltz.  I went in believing that my remarks as a candidate would be the most memorable part of the night to me, but the place really heated up, and it wasn't because the room was packed.

Although outnumbered by the Democrats in the room, the Republicans were mostly hesitant not to vote for one of their own.  Randall Leverette and Ray Lunati got the nod for Town Council over Jean Gallucci and Kevin Barry, both former Republicans who switched registration to Democrat because that's how non-thinking voters in this town usually vote.

The nomination of Peter Cordovano for supervisor came as a surprise to many, although more than one person told me that they believed it was orchestrated some time ago.  I thought Peter looked genuinely surprised, but the theory was that his nomination was made to protect Toni Hokanson.  Peter would win because Republicans prefer GOP candidates, and then after he declined the committee to fill vacancies would appoint Toni to the line.

I don't buy it.  Why?  Because if Peter is that convincing an actor (he really seemed stunned), he would not have waffled when he was asked if running and serving would have an impact on his law practice.  That waffling was honest, and I'm sure it cost him at least the one vote he fell short.  If this had been rehearsed, he would have acted shocked, then recover, and speak with confidence when he accepted instead of saying, "I think I'll do it."

It may well be that Peter would have decided running on short notice was foolhardy, and that the committee (of which he was a member, as well as chairman of the caucus, before his nomination) would have selected Toni.  Maybe Diane Lucchesi even had that in mind, although she said she nominated him out of a desire for a Republican candidate for the job.  But I don't believe he was in on it.

Politics?  Sure.  Conspiracy?  Bah!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New Paltz Republican Caucus Results 2011

New Paltz Republican Caucus Results -unofficial

Contested races:

Town Supervisor
Democrat Susan Zimet 28
Republican Peter Cordavano 27
Democrat Toni Hokanson 14

(personally, I thought in the spirit of democracy they should have done a two-way run off)

Town Board
Winners: Republicans Randall Leverette & Ray Lunati
Losers - Democrats Kevin Barry & Jean Galluci

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Info / Form for Submitting Damage Assessments

from Toni Hokanson - FOR PEOPLE & BUSINESSES WITH IRENE DAMAGE ---- Here's a link to the damage assessment form. First, fill out the damage assessment form and turn it into Town or Village Hall. Then, take pictures keep detailed descriptions. Save receipts. Utilize your own insurance first. Get at least 2 estimates before hiring. Keep all records. Everyone who turns in a form will be kept up to date on the process moving forward.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Information about the curfew

I spoke with Michael Zierler yesterday to get some answers about the curfew, since he was (maybe "is," I'm not certain) acting as public information officer.

The resolution's intent was twofold, he told me.

First was to prevent people from being out in potentially dangerous conditions because they were curious.  "You can stand outside your house," Michael told me, but "nobody should be out just to see what's going on outside."

The village and town wanted emergency services personnel to be able to focus on things like downed trees and flooding, instead of people "intentionally swimming in the river or accidentally driving through flood areas," Michael offered as examples.

Likewise, the curfew was to keep the streets clear for essential emergency vehicles.  "The entire personnel had been working for 16 hours already," Michael told me, and empty streets removed both a distraction and a potential delay in the form of vehicles.

Police advised downtown businesses to close, and rode up and down the streets announcing the curfew over their speakers.  Notifications were spread via social media, local access cable, municipal websites, and over the phone to anyone who called any town or village office.

There was also a countywide ban on driving, Michael said, although New Paltz police were not stopping people "just for driving."  No checkpoints were set up to stop drivers.

Another underlying concern was the fact that it was impossible to assess roads for damage.  West of the Wallkill, where they won't be checked until the bridge is passable again, there's still a travel ban to the best of my knowledge.

Perfect Timing! Joint Town-Village Meeting Tomorrow 8/31

Tomorrow, Wednesday, August 31st, there is a previously-scheduled Joint Meeting of the Town Board and Village Board. Public comment starts at 7 pm at Town Hall. If you have a complaint, question, comment or encouragement regarding Hurricane Irene and the response to it, now's your chance, while the memory is still fresh. Reps from the Police, Fire and Rescue Squads will be there to help field questions.

Agenda -
Public comment
Old business: Floyd Kniffen - annexation
3 outstanding requests for water hookup
Contract with Village for Moriello Park
Update on Park Point project
New business: Crossing Guard
Offices formerly used by NPPD
Aqueduct repair update

Classes Resume Tomorrow at SUNY New Paltz

from SUNY New Paltz: ALL CLASSES WILL RESUME WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 31ST! Classroom technology may be limited or unavailable. HAB and SUB staff, please contact supervisors for work locations. Phone service is restored. 2222 and 911 are functional. Records and Registration, Student Accounts, Bookstore, Parking, and Campus Card Services will be relocated to South Classroom Building with limited functionality.

A Message from Mayor Jason West

Thank you everyone for your patience the past few days. The EMT's, police officers and firefighters all thanked us for yesterday's curfew; they said it made a huge difference. It meant they didn't have to respond to their daily number of calls on top of helping evacuate, rescuing stranded people, and dealing with downed trees and power lines, fires, and other emergencies caused by the hurricane. We've lifted our travel bans on most of the roads east of the Wallkill. We didn't know until later this morning which of our roads were safe to drive on. There is a list of closed roads posted on the New Paltz Police Dept. website. Please don't drive around the barricades: it's inconvenient, but they're there for a reason. Until the Wallkill recedes, we can't get crews and equipment west of the Wallkill to inspect those roads. DO NOT move the barricade blocking the bridge, even if the road looks clear. We will unblock the roads when we know they are safe to walk and drive on. So there is still a travel ban on roads west of the Wallkill. I understand how many people will ignore that unless we physically stand there on every street and stop people from driving. However, please help out by not risking your lives by driving down a street we have clearly told you is unsafe to drive on. The person who put up that barricade knows something you don't. They know what's down that road, and took the time to leave as clear a message as they can to anyone who may see it, that they should not go down there. Please respect that. I know a lot of people were inconvenienced yesterday, but it was necessary to free up enough of our very limited, exhausted people and resources to deal with this crisis. We were very lucky; it could have been much worse, and there will be lots of articles written about it. But be proud of your emergency workers. The police, firefighters, EMTs, Red Cross, community volunteers, Trustees and Town Councillors, the public works employees of the Town and Village, the Town and Village Clerks and others were mobilized coordinating our efforts. And everyone involved did a fantastic job.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Absorbing Irene

As the sodden ground tries to absorb the flood waters, we are all trying to absorb the impact of Irene on New Paltz.

I've spoken with many people and some public officials about the state of affairs right now and their impressions of same.  This is, without a doubt, the worst situation New Paltz has faced in well over a generation.

I don't have time to compile what I've learned quite yet, so only two quick time-sensitive items:

  1. South Oakwood has a short closure due to a tree falling on a power line.
  2. The nursing home on Jansen Road had its entrance bridge completely destroyed . . . again.  No vehicle access unless they've finished patching together a temporary solution.

Update from SUNY New Paltz

SUNY New Paltz All Tuesday classes are canceled.

Student Union Building basement, van den Berg Hall, and Haggerty Administration Building are closed. Employees who report to these locations are asked to contact their supervisors for instruction regarding work location.

All other offices are open, but have limited functionality.

Huguenot Street Farm - Irene Damage Photos

Many small animals - rabbits, mice, etc - lost their lives after trying to climb up as high as they could on the tomato plants

Yes, that is the Green Works Regatta "boat". Last time I saw it, it was stationary in a field.

Travel Update

via Town Supervisor Toni Hokanson: Travel ban lifted with a few exceptions. Do NOT drive around barricades, even if you do not see water. Some roads are compromised and some are not yet evaluated. Mandatory evacuations are being lifted on a case by case basis. Recreational use of the Wallkill River is prohibited.

New Paltz Local Farms Hit Hard

Many of our local farms are located adjacent the Wallkill River, and were hit hard by the recent flooding. Reports from Huguenot Street Farm, farms on Springtown Road, and Taliaferro Farm indicate major losses.

Here's a video documenting the damage to Taliaferro Farms on Plains Road.

Updates: Irene /Floods In New Paltz

Dry ice will be available at 3pm from Central Hudson on Rt 9w in Lake Katrine (by the old Mirons) and in Poughkeepsie at Home Depot on Rt 9 opposite Marist Colle

The missing rafters were found early this morning.

SUNY New Paltz - Hasbrouck Dining hall is stocked and serving continuously until 8 p.m. today. Student Union food service venues are closed. The Athletic and Wellness Center will be open from 2 to 10 p.m. The Health Center and Psychological Counseling Center are open and operating on normal hours.

Irene aftermath

This morning my Facebook feed was full of damage reports, relief, and frustration about the Irene effect on New Paltz.  They included:

  • Confusion over the New Paltz curfew by citizens, and anecdotal suggestions of confusion by law enforcement as well
  • Reports about where dry ice is available to people without power
  • Videos of flooding
  • Strong defensive reactions by emergency personnel, suggesting to me that people have been giving some of them crap over the above-referenced curfew
  • Pictures of downed trees
  • Lamentations about not having power
A lot went on yesterday.  Our officials made tough decisions with variable amounts of information.  Reports about actual conditions were contradictory and probably sometimes accurate.  Information about the curfew was also inconsistent.

I hope to be speaking to Michael Zierler, who assumed the role of public information officer of the town and village during Irene, about the response and how well information was disseminated, and to get a more accurate picture of what actually did happen.

From what I know and believe at this point, emergency services did an excellent job, but communication was, as always, a challenge.

Please feel free to comment on your Irene experience - I'm curious how New Paltzians have weathered this storm.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Irene / Flood News from New Paltz

Village Mayor Jason West and Town Supervisor Toni Hokanson have declared a State of Emergency in New Paltz - it was enacted for 8:00 pm, Saturday August 27th 2011 & shall be in effect til 8:00 pm September 1st, 2011, or until lifted by a subsequent Joint Executive Order of the Supervisor and Mayor of New Paltz.

Ulster County Executive Mike Hein declared all county roads closed to non-emergency services personnel/vehicles early today. Around noon, the Town and Village of New Paltz banned all pedestrian and vehicle traffic except for Town Village official business or evacuation. Both the mayor and supervisor warned residents that due to the massive amount of water all roads must be checked for structural damage - roads may look fine but actually have structural damage. People are urged to stay off the roads and stay away from the river.

Many areas of New Paltz had mandatory evacuations: Springtown, Sunrise, Kaegill, High Ridge, Dug Road, Coffee Rd., Cragswood Rd., Mountain Rest (from 299 to Canaan Rd, which is at 111 Mountain Rest), Rapp Hill, Julia Avenue, Calvin Blvd., Charles Lane, Lewis Lane. Town and Country Condominiums, western most ground floor units. Water Street, single family homes to the south of the box factory, at the intersection of Pencil Hill, Water St., Plains Rd and Mohonk Ave.

At 8pm Sunday, the Wallkill River was predicted to shortly crest 6 feet ABOVE the road on the Carmine Liberta bridge. The cresting record, last set in 1955, was broken by 7pm. This is a VERY dangerous place to be - there are already (stupid!) people in kayaks and tubes that are missing... Seriously people, stay away from the river - we need the police to focus on emergencies - NOT chasing people away from the river.

There is a curfew for both residents and businesses from 7pm Sunday night till 5am Monday morning. There is also a ban on alcohol sales tonight. (This news was Wall Street Journal worthy apparently.) (Gannett too.)

On the SUNY New Paltz campus - Hasbrouck Dining Hall is open till 9:00 tonight. The lines are long but students have been advised to please be patient and stay on campus. Tomorrow, classes are cancelled, and only essential personnel (University Police Department, Food Service, Maintenance and Custodial) need to report to work. There is an emergency shelter on campus at the Health and Wellness Center.

School district - the New Paltz Central School District will be closed Monday, August 29th, 2011. All activities scheduled for the 29th will be rescheduled.

Central Hudson will be distributing dry ice and water on Monday.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

2011 Democratic Caucus Results

Zimet 167
Hokanson 56

Town Council (2)
Gallucci 162
Barry 148
Leverette 81

Highway Superintendent
Marx 97
Johnson 64
Takacs 54
Lecesse 6


Town Clerk
Roseanne Mazzacarri

Town Judge
Jim Bacon

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Democrats fire their engines

The race for town supervisor is starting to shape up for registered Democrats in New Paltz.  Mid-Hudson News reports that the New Paltz Democratic caucus will take place August 23.  In the past it's been held at the high school, so I'm guessing they'll try for that location again.

Once again, the local Democratic party committee is apparently opting not to back the party member who is already in office.  In the spirit of "what's old is what's new," they will be supporting former supervisor and current county legislator Susan Zimet for the job over incumbent Toni Hokanson.

I don't know who else will be trying to get the party nod, but here's a tip:  be prepared to bring a couple hundred of your registered Democratic friends to secure any nomination from the party.  You can be sure that both Zimet and Hokanson will.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Slash Root to Host First Ever Hudson Valley “Hack-and-Tell”

Tuesday August 16th 8:00pm
Slash Root Cafe and Technology Dojo
60 Main Street New Paltz
(845) 633-8330

Forum will showcase local technology innovation
NEW PALTZ, NY – Following a trend among developing tech-sector regions, the Hudson Valley will hold its first “Hack-and-Tell” next week.

Hack-and-tell is a forum in which technology innovators show inventions, programs, or experiments that they are developing or have completed. No sales pitches are allowed.

“The Hudson Valley is becoming one of the fastest-moving growth zones for the nation's tech sector,” said Justin Holmes, founder of SlashRoot. “We're geographically in the middle of the Hudson Valley and proud to be the leader of the regional innovation culture, so it makes sense for us to host this event.”

Applications from interested participants are due Friday, August 12th at 5:00PM here.

you can RSVP on Facebook

New Paltz Caucus Dates Announced

Democratic Caucus
Tuesday August 23rd
New Paltz High School
6:30 PM

Republican Caucus
Wednesday September 7th
New Paltz Community Center
7:00 PM

Two primaries for the village County Leg seat - Democrat and Working Families - will be held on Tuesday, September 13th.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Greenfield announces for District 17

Because I have a sincere interest in getting to know my possible coworkers, I attended Steve Greenfield's announcement that he's running for legislature in the new district 17.  The entire announcement should be on Channel 23 sometime soon.

Steve has a problem with incumbent Susan Zimet:  he doesn't think it's okay that she has a lobbying business.

By contrast, he pointed to his three years on the New Paltz School Board as proof that he doesn't try to profit from his influence.  He also said that he will bring his knowledge of emergency services, infrastructure, education, land use, and transportation to bear upon problems at the county level.

When asked about Golden Hill, the only specific issue which came up before I had to leave, he hedged his bets a bit.  He acknowledged that there are some services which can't be provided well by private industry, because there's no profit in it; however, he didn't specifically say that Golden Hill is one of those.  He would solve that problem "by the numbers," he said.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Recycling roads

A couple of weeks ago I had a chance to go down Plains Road with Highway Superintendent Mike Nielson, so I could see what a recycled road looks like.

Plains Road was the first one in New Paltz which was resurfaced by a process that allows for the reuse of the existing asphalt on-site.  Reusing materials is nothing new, but typically the road gets ground up and carted away for reprocessing, and ends up on another road elsewhere in the county.  This equipment allows it to be ground down, picked up, melted, and mixed with some new material right there; then it's laid back down and rolled.

Here's Mike, annoyed that I have a camera but explaining how the whole shebang works:

There are limits to this technology.

  • Because of the length of the train, short roads and dead-ends can't be resurfaced like this.
  • If there are deep cracks in the road bed, a full replacement will be needed anyway.  Anything that needs to be ground down more than five or six inches can't be replaced this way.
  • The process leaves the road pebbly, and it still needs to be sealed, which isn't the case with traditional road replacement.
  • Nielson hasn't tested it to see if the results can stand up to our highest-wear roads, like Horsenden. (The fact that we send our truck traffic along that narrow, windy road is another problem entirely.)
I haven't looked at a full cost-benefit analysis, but the benefits to the residents are pretty clear:  a two-week process, including curing, took six hours to complete.  It's also pretty cool to watch:

Making campaign promises is easy.  Fulfilling them, not so much.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Video from Rally to Celebrate passage of Marriage Equality Act