Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Friday, June 24, 2011
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
This past week, I found three.
- Bill's Garage. Bill has been working on cars in this area for about as long as I've been alive, and there's a reason he doesn't advertise - people really, really like him and his crew. They're professional, they're competent, and they're nice. I have had a frustrating, intermittent battery drain in my car for over a year, and last week I found my battery dead when I needed to be in Kingston for an important appointment. I was panicked, but no need. Billy, one of Bill's mechanics, offered to drive to my house with the mondo insta-charge machine. He showed up fifteen minutes later and I was on my way a few minutes after that. They since pinpointed the problem, my air conditioner relay, and swapped it out for a replacement in a couple of minutes. They didn't charge me for either service.
I had a similar "why bother charging you" experience a couple of years ago. I went to gas up at Stewart's on 32, and my gas door didn't open. That's a problem! Luckily I was near Bill's and they were open. Jody, another excellent mechanic there, determined that the cable had slipped off the hook. He went in through the trunk, reattached it, and sent me on my way. Again, this was a service, and one I gladly would have paid for, but they felt no need because the time they spent was inconsequential.
My wife and I bring all of our auto work to Bill's, and they always let me know if they can't do the job. For example, there are systems in my hybrid car that they are not trained to work on. Instead of farming it out and marking it up, Bill always tells me when I'm better off bringing it to the dealer for service.
- New Paltz Eye Care. Formerly located on Plattekill Avenue, this practice was purchased a few months ago by one its doctors, Dr. Elinor Descovich, and moved to a Main Street location last October. They recently joined our health plan, and I am thrilled.
I've had my eyes checked in a lot of shopping-mall eye care chains over the years, and the service has ranged from marginal to terrible. The first doctor to fit me for contact lenses comes to mind: he wrenched my eye open with both hands while sternly ordering me to relax. I've never been entirely confident that my prescription was accurate, and always left feeling at least mildly dissatisfied with the service and competency.
What a difference a local business can make.
First of all, I have never had such a thorough eye exam in my life. Dr. Descovich performed the usual tests for tracking, glaucoma, and the like, but she also did a careful analysis to look for things like tearing and separation of the retina and other eye problems. Throughout the procedures she took the time to answer all of my questions, both about the tests and about her qualifications and experience. There are many different kinds of eye care professionals, and it's important to know who is trained to do what. As it happens, her twin sister is the shop's optician, and takes care of the actual eyeglasses.
I always feel like the refraction tests (which determine your prescription) are a bit subjective. Which one is more in focus, this or that? They fly by quickly and it's so hard to tell. Dr. Descovich made sure I was comfortable with my opinions, and explained why, for the reading glasses tests, she couldn't actually slow down. (For that particular test, the speed of focusing is a key factor. No one ever told me that before.)
One series of tests I had to opt in for, because they involve those dilating drops. In the past, I've had them tossed in my eyes, and then I was sent on my way barely able to see. Since I agreed to have my eyes dilated, I was told that I could relax in their waiting room as long as I needed to. Not only that, but they gave me a sunglasses insert to slip behind my glasses so I wouldn't be blinded when I stepped out into the sun.
This place is a class act.
- Wireless Zone. After months of considering it, I made the switch to a smart phone yesterday. I opted to try Wireless Zone, the Verizon reseller near Village Pizza, in part because Verizon has an attractive data plan, and in part because I know the owner, Brian Hons, although I've never been a customer.
I am a pain in the ass when it comes to technology. I believe these tools we use should make our lives easier, and that means that I don't want a huge learning curve. If I have to spend a lot of time learning how to use an application, then the developer has missed the point.
Denise answered all of my questions. She clearly had experience using the Blackberry, the Android, and the iPhone. Although she was very clear that it was personal preference, she had enough knowledge to help me make an informed decision.
Another area that concerns me with phones is what will it really cost me? Cell phone companies love to give you the advertised price, but a lot happens between that number and the amount on the monthly bill. Denise was able to tell me how much my bill would be, and also gave me a good idea of the first month's charges, which tend to be larger and are often a nasty surprise.
I had a moment of panic when I was told that I couldn't transfer my prepaid number to a contract phone with another provider. Instead of telling me there was nothing she could do, Denise double-checked, and found out that a recent change had made it possible after all. I've seen plenty of sales help dig in their heels, fold their arms, and shake their heads; the turning point for me was when Denise chose to ask questions instead.
When I was home with my new phone, I quickly discovered that I couldn't hear incoming calls, but there wasn't any problem with the outgoing. Problem! Was this phone defective?
Back to Wireless Zone I went. I regret not getting the name of the employee on duty yesterday afternoon, but he smiled and told me that the screen-protecting plastic that I had left on was the problem - it covers the microphone. Remove it, and all will be well. That didn't make sense to me at all, but I have an audio engineer in my home, and I asked him about it. He confirmed and explained: it only causes a problem with incoming calls because the plastic impacts the noise reduction.
I loathe dealing with call centers for large companies, and I love the fact that Wireless Zone is a buffer. They deal with the crap, and I get taken care of like a human being should be.
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Anti-Tax Cap resolution passes 5-0 by the New Paltz Central School District Board of Education, June 15, 2011
WHEREAS, the quality of our public schools is essential to the future of our children, our community's well-being, and the health of our local and statewide economy; and
WHEREAS, as a solution to New York's property tax crisis, the Governor of New York and members of the New York State Legislature have pledged to consider enactment of legislation imposing a 2% cap (or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower) on the annual growth in school district and local municipal tax levies (S.2706/A.3982 or A.7916); and
WHEREAS, viable alternative solutions such as the extension of the Millionaire's Tax (S.5453/A.7802), a Circuit Breaker (S00912A/a.5542A), and full reform (A.00047, S.01152/A.00416) have been rejected; and
WHEREAS, state funding for public education has not kept pace with the inflation of core costs such as health insurance, pension vesting, and energy; in conjunction with a considerable increase in unfunded mandates imposed by Albany, including the substantial new APPR process being added to the local burden with no funding with which to create and test it; and
WHEREAS, decreases in state funding directly impacts the tax levy cap itself, and has no calculated exclusion like the proposed partial pension increase exclusion; and
WHEREAS, state mandated pension fund contributions are one of the largest components of every school district and municipal budget over which local officials have little control, and are increasing at exorbitant rates annually such that bills from the State Retirement System (ERS) will increase 43% and bills from the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) will increase 21% in the 2011-12 school year; and
WHEREAS, any property tax cap must be accompanied simultaneously (1) by ending the practice of pushing state costs onto local school districts and municipalities, and (2) by a repeal of current underfunded or unfunded state mandates that require local municipalities and school districts to significantly increase spending and therefore local property taxes; and
WHEREAS, the New Paltz Central School District has already cut back on staffing of teachers and administration and made considerable program cuts and salary freezes over the past few years; and
WHEREAS, a property tax cap without repeal of costly underfunded and unfunded state mandates will inescapably lead to drastic cuts in essential local school district programs and services, as well as significant layoffs of school district employees; and
WHEREAS, the proposed cap override of 60% a supermajority vote is undemocratic, allowing 40.1% of voters to determine the result; and
WHEREAS, school districts are dependent on real property taxes to fund public education and a 2% tax cap will have significant negative impact on the quality of the New Paltz schools; and
WHEREAS, the proposed cap will not lower existing property taxes; and
WHEREAS, New Paltz Central School District Board of Education is committed to supporting property tax reform that provides actual property tax relief for its community;
BE IT RESOLVED that the New Paltz Central School District Board of Education hereby records its opposition to the passage of the 2% Property Tax Cap and that the Governor of the State of New York and the members of the New York State Senate and New York State Assembly must reform the cost drivers that lead to high property taxes in New York as the central element of any effort to provide property tax relief to the residents and businesses of New York State.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that a copy of this resolution be forwarded to the Governor, Senate Majority and Minority Leaders, Assembly Speaker and Minority Leader, and the members of the State Senate and Assembly representing residents of the New Paltz Central School District.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
I was asked to step up after lamenting the lack of choice in local elections, and I thought hard about it before choosing to accept. I won't say I thought long and hard, because I was asked a week ago Monday, but I didn't agree without thinking it through thoroughly.
Since I entered this race quite late compared to the other candidates, and since I'm not the lifelong political operative typical of these campaigns, I have a lot to learn about the process and about how people in this district feel about their county government. This blog is a testament to my values and my progressive beliefs, which I will apply tirelessly to the job.
I understand that some people don't want to vote for a Republican in this day and age, believing that anyone with that label will blindly follow the GOP in lockstep. There was a similar belief about Roman Catholics voting the Pope's conscience until about 60 years ago. My early supporters include members of the Democratic, Green, Working Families, Republican, and Independence parties, and my heart is warmed by their encouragement.
Please like my Facebook page below to keep in touch as I build my campaign's infrastructure. By tradition, we Gadflies may announce our candidacy here, but we don't use this blog as a campaign platform.
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Thursday, June 2, 2011
So last year I went to the New Paltz Republican caucus for the first time, and it was suggested that I nominate Mike Nielson for Highway Superintendent. He didn't take the line, but his actions since would make any fiscal conservative proud, especially considering that one longtime member told me afterwards, "Let's see if your boy Nielson can do the work with his full-time job in Kingston." It was certainly a splashy way to enter into party politics.
Nevertheless, I regret doing it, and I won't do it again.
As I told Nielson recently, if we're going to have party politics, let's have party politics. Although my nomination failed, at least two registered Democrats ran on the Republican line for town positions last year. I don't think that's right.
There are good reasons for a candidate to want his or her name on more than one line. And with the timing of local caucuses - this year both are expected to be in August - it makes sense to try for as many as possible, to avoid that awkward feeling when your own party gives the nod to someone else. It's legal and it's appropriate.
It also undermines democracy.
In college, I made it a habit of running for the main leadership role of a club I belonged to every year. I never wanted the position, but it bothered me that only one candidate was willing to step up. That's not democracy by any measure I understand, even if it works in countries like China and Russia. Democracy is about choice, and not just the choice of which line to vote for Toni Hokanson on.
I'm a thinking voter, and I do my best to choose a candidate based on qualifications. I've never voted a party line in my life. Many people do vote their party line, though, and don't care about choices, because they only see their preferred row. These folks are also done a disservice, because in their ignorance they can cast a vote for someone who isn't a member of their own party.
So my dilemma is that there are some good candidates in this town who I may vote for in November, but whom I won't be supporting come the caucus because they belong to another party, and in my mind belong on another line. But New Paltz is a town virtually run by a cabal which excludes not only Republicans, but many Democrats and virtually all members of other parties.
In short, there's no qualified Republicans willing to step up. No one willing to help me, to help us have a choice.
To curtail any suggestions to the contrary, I have a career I love which requires me to be out of town when most local meetings are held. That alone makes me an inappropriate candidate for any local elected office, so I can't step up and put my money where my mouth is.
I'd like to shake the trees, though, and help find some willing citizens to take a stab at civic duty. New Paltz has too long been bereft of choice on Election Day, and I for one would very much like to help solve that problem at the Republican caucus by casting a vote for a GOP candidate or two.
For county legislature, Sue Zimet was nominated for the new District 17. The local committee, lead by Corrinne Nyquist, chose Tom Cotton as their candidate for District 20, not the incumbent legislator Hector Rodriguez. Rodriguez is not giving up easy, he says he will petition so that there will be a primary for the seat in September. According to Hector, when he asked Nyquist why she was not supporting him, she said it was retribution for his support of Jason West in the recent village mayoralty campaign. (West ousted Tom Nyquist from his multi-term stretch as mayor in 2003.)
And with Joseph Eriole the nominated candidate in District 12, we have another New Paltz pol (sort of), because while 12 is the Plattekill district, Joe lives in the southern tip of the school district and has his law office in the village.
Related note: The local Dem caucus will be in August. Yes, August. I don't have an exact date, will post it as soon as I do.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
The first 100 people to arrive by foot or bike (any other means than gasoline) to Water Street Market this Saturday get a free t-shirt designed by New Paltz Middle School art students. Enter a FREE raffle to receive a mountain bike valued at $400 donated by The Bicycle Depot!! Come get information from sponsors New Paltz GreenWorks, the Climate Action Coalition, and the Bike/Ped Committee and enjoy live music, button making and free popcorn.