Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New Paltz GreenWorks Endorses Complete Streets

(Letter to the Editor, New Paltz Times 01.26.11)

On Tuesday, February 8th, the Town of New Paltz Highway Department will be sponsoring a Complete Streets workshop. Kudos and thank you to the town for making this event free to New Paltz residents. We think it is wonderful that our town and highway department are taking a leadership role in this endeavor, because Complete Streets is a framework that many of us embrace and recognize as a viable path towards creating roadways that are safe and welcoming to everyone: walkers, joggers, bikers, wheelchair users, and motorists.

The Complete Streets ( initiative is built upon the premise that roads are not just for automobiles. However, most roads were designed only for cars, and engineers and planners are confronted with the challenge of a) finding ways to retrofit existing roads to safely accommodate other users, and b) designing, planning, and approving any future roads to meet the needs of all users. The challenges are great, but not insurmountable. For example, in parts of our village, we have the legacy of very narrow roads that were built for horse and buggy travel! But that does not mean we should not rise to the challenge of creating a walkable-bikeable community that is safe and can accommodate everyone.

This workshop will give decision makers and policy makers the tools they need to implement the Complete Streets program in their community. It will be held from 8:00am to 3:30pm at the New Paltz Fire House (next to Village Hall). For more information, contact the New Paltz Highway Department at 845/255-5050 or download an application form at (click on Departments, Highway Department).

As proponents of green living and all efforts to reduce our carbon footprint, we wholeheartedly endorse this workshop and encourage a high turnout from our New Paltz elected officials, planning board members, planners, engineers, and activists.

Theresa Fall and KT Tobin, New Paltz GreenWorks

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Complete Streets Feb 8 Workshop in New Paltz

(from the press release)

Highway Superintendent Michael Nielson announces a Complete Streets workshop to be held at the New Paltz Fire House on Plattekill Avenue. The Tuesday, February 8 event will run from 8:00 am to 3:30 pm event and is free to New Paltz residents. The cost is $40.00 for non-residents.

Lois Chaplin of the Cornell University Local Roads Program is the program presenter. Ms. Chaplin’s background includes 20 years of experience as a bicycle and pedestrian safety expert at Cornell, where she has instructed and designed materials for fellow educators, law enforcement, and most recently planners and engineers.
The streets of our cities and towns ought to be for everyone, whether young or old, motorist or bicyclist, walker, wheelchair user, or bus rider. Complete Streets is a national movement bringing attention to the need to plan and design streets accessible to everyone.

The workshop will build upon this public interest and provide background for a wide range of users in ways to make communities safer for everyone. The workshop will include planning strategies, basic design and maintenance principles used in bicycle and pedestrian-friendly communities. Additionally, participants will learn how to perform an assessment of their own community's walkability and bikeability. Other topics covered include traffic laws, essential items for the advocate's "toolkit," education strategies, multi-use facilities, and enforcement.
The workshop is suitable for citizen advocates, local officials and planning board or council members for villages, towns, cities, and counties who are interested in learning the basics of how to safely accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians in their community.

For more information, contact the New Paltz Highway Department, 845-255-5050. Workshop applications are available online at click on Departments, Highway Department. For more information about Complete Streets, visit their website at

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Busing a rhyme

I can't really weigh in on the question of transporting our kids to school without admitting that I have already been hammered for wanting to "hammer on" this issue.  That was the phrase that I used when I I sent a Facebook message on the subject to the three school board members who are my friends there (luckily another board member quietly defriended me after my call for transparency during his last reelection campaign; I'd hate to risk a violation of the open meetings law), and one of those friends took exception to the phrase.

I'm not a musician, but I think that "hammer on" is a way to create a sustained note through continuous pressure on a guitar string.  My board member friend, I fear, anticipated an approach much more aggressive and nasty.  I can't say I can blame anyone on the board for such a reaction; in New Paltz it's rare to find someone who is willing to debate using truth and logic instead of passion and half-truths.  In addition, I'm no stranger to passionately arguing for a position I care about.  Hopefully I've learned my lesson.

Now, about those school buses

I've been following a local school bus strike threat for the Shawangunk Journal, and it's quite amazing what I have learned.  New Paltz drivers start at $22.90 an hour, while Rondout Valley pays about $23 an hour for its bus contractor.  RV's drivers are considering a strike because they make so little, but as it stands now the districts which privately contract are paying a rate per hour that is comparable to our local driver hourly rate.

How much should busing really cost?
Keep in mind, the hourly rate in New Paltz doesn't include sick time, vacation, retirement, vehicle procurement or maintenance.  We voted down a new school bus proposal just last year, and privatizing busing is one of many options the board is going to consider to resolve the insane budgeting problems they face.

I've had people tell me that they would not feel comfortable with contract drivers. This is an emotional argument, and I sincerely hope no board member dares consider it.  I want facts, and only facts, to make this decision.  Facts might include:

  • The way that private companies are regulated by the state in comparison to how the district is regulated
  • Documented records of safety and screwups.
  • A comparison of how often private companies need to send in a substitute unfamiliar with the route versus how often the district needs to do so.
  • An analysis of transportation times, both overall and with a substitute at the wheel.
  • A comparison of background check requirements.
Starting now, and going forward, I am going to sound a note for privatizing our busing.  Unless strong evidence is presented to show that we really need to be spending three, four, or more times what neighboring districts do for their busing (Rondout Valley privatized 19 years ago, and so far their biggest problem is the threat that three drivers will strike), I am going to continue to keep hammering on that note until I am heard.  Short of consolidating districts (which is outside the scope of this post), I can see no more effective way to save tons of money with very little downside.

Friday, January 7, 2011

No Permanent...

There is a famous quote, which initially pertained to foreign policy, that I often contemplate with respect to my own involvement in local and larger politics:

"Therefore I say that it is a narrow policy to suppose that this country or that is to be marked out as the eternal ally or the perpetual enemy (of England). We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow."

This has evolved to be a guiding principle for success in politics: No permanent friends/allies, no permanent enemies.

I get the pragmatism and compartmentalizing of issues, but - My biggest problem with this is that if I ally with people who I have previously not just disagreed with, but who have actually conducted themselves in a way I deem poorly or have otherwise exhibited bad behavior - am I not validating and legitimating their previous stances and/or behavior by aligning with them?


ps. I know this is a blog about New Paltz issues & um, if you don't think this is an issue for more than just one resident (me!) I urge you to read the last six months of That Paper.

Sennett is a "Formidable Candidate"

According to Hudson Valley Times reporter Hugh Reynolds, the Ulster County DA seat is "in play" this year and New Paltzian Jonathan Sennett is a "formidable candidate".

Many New Paltzians (& others in the county...) may have had a chuckle - I know I did - when Reynolds noted that Sennett needed, "some tweaking of out-of-step leftish tendencies".

What makes Reynolds think "leftish tendencies" would be out of step? Where's the evidence? Part of Sennett's previous campaign platform was to repeal the Rockefeller drug laws. Now that is a done deal.

What else you got? His predicted opponent, incumbent Holly Carnwright, has not exactly been, shall we say - "Tough on Crime". This portends to be a feisty election, I look forward to intense debates about how we handle crime and punishment in our county.

Gary Kitzmann

New Paltz Democratic Committee Member Gary Kitzmann died yesterday after a long illness at Kingston Hospital.

According to Glenn McNitt of the Political Science department at SUNY New Paltz, "Gary was a long time leader of the campus community, as Chair of the Physics Department, a Vice President for Academics for the UUP Chapter, senior member of the faculty, an elected Trustee of the Village Board, and a NYS Committeeman of the Democratic Party from Ulster County."

memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, January 15th at the Copeland Funeral Home.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A 2011 Wish List for New Paltz

  • A New Paltz high priority study proposal that includes a solution for a New Paltz government that will be both efficient (less dollars) and effective (more democracy & representativeness) & be something both village and town residents can be enthusiastic about
  • A school district budget that passes on the first vote - one that does not devastate the academic program, does not unduly increase the tax burden, and if includes job elimination it is done only via attrition and retirements
  • An Albany that has the gumption to shift the tax burden off homeowners and to a more progressive system - e.g. income
  • A solution for the middle school dilemma & all school district buildings that is uniting, not divisive
  • A logical code of conduct in our schools, which eliminates the practice of zero tolerance and in necessary cases instead of sending kids home for “out of school suspension” better punishes or teaches them
  • An equitable fee system at Moriello Pool & a way for all town residents to have year-round access to the playground there
  • A redistricted county political map that includes a logical district map for New Paltz’s county legislator district
  • A civil and feisty race for this new district seat, with a winner that is focused on New Paltz’s issues (not using it as an obvious stepping stone)
  • A more logically mapped congressional district
  • A successful run for county DA by New Paltzian Jonathan Sennett
  • Civil and feisty campaigns for village mayor and trustees this spring, with familiar faces and new contenders
  • A mayoral campaign that results in a win by someone who actually knows New Paltz
  • An even greater turnout (compared with 2008) at the Democratic caucus this fall
  • A New Paltz Democratic Committee that actually endorses and campaigns for its candidates
  • Hotly contested runs for town supervisor, town board, clerk, & highway superintendent
  • A viable second, or even third, political party (sorry Butch)
  • An election where every candidate is listed only on the line of the party that he or she is actually registered in
  • More shared services and collaborations between the town, village, school district, and SUNY
  • A new SUNY New Paltz president who is genuinely committed to the entire New Paltz community
  • A wider South Putt Corners Road
  • Water and sewer infrastructure for South Putt Corners Road
  • A New Paltz GreenWorks map of our carbon footprint - so we can measure our reductions
  • Wetlands and watercourse laws passed in the town and village
  • Prioritization of sidewalks as the cornerstone of our community - instead of repairing concrete, brick, and bluestone with black top - restoration and expansion of our historic sidewalks (Stone Ridge is an excellent model)
  • A Millbrook Preserve - with firmer commitments from the surrounding landowners to donate their land
  • Complete master plans for both the town and village that are constructed in sync and are actually used to guide our planning and development
  • A recognition by the residents who live west of the Wallkill that it makes no sense to build in a flood plain
  • A decisive win in the fight against fracking
  • More public access TV shows
  • No more tasers for SUNY or New Paltz police
  • That Woodland Pond is able to stay open, let alone make its PILOT payments
  • A summer camp for kids in New Paltz
  • Record setting attendances at the New Paltz Third Saturday Art Loops, COTA, the Regatta, the Taste of New Paltz, and all our parades: Halloween, Gay Pride, Memorial Day, and Phools Parade
  • More Questionable Authorities shows!
  • That Family of New Paltz gets more support & there are less people that need them
  • A reliable local newspaper that prioritizes information over sensationalization
Happy New Year from KT Tobin & Terence P Ward