Sunday, January 22, 2012

Word to the wise

If I (or any New Paltz resident) asks for your campaign lawn sign and place it on my lawn, and then ask for a replacement when it goes missing, don't say to me, "I always assumed you were voting against me."

The cognitive dissonance of that statement is so very, very strong that I wonder how you can put your pants on in the morning, much less run a village.  March of 2015 cannot come soon enough.

Friday, January 20, 2012

We are the 99%, at least in spirit

At the New Paltz School Board meeting this week, there was a report by a representative from Alliance for Quality Education, a group focused on restoring millions of dollars' worth of state aid to local schools, and to make sure that the aid is distributed equitably.

I heard AQE's director, Billy Easton, speak at an event at Rondout Valley High School a few weeks ago.  He was on fire as he showed how the cuts disproportionately harm the poorest districts.  In fact, in the latest round of state aid shuffling, Rondout Valley is losing another half-million dollars.

Listening to the AQE rep speaking in New Paltz, I was amazed by the difference.  The fellow was hesitant and apologetic as he explained that our district isn't really one of the ones that AQE's mission will help.  Finally, Superintendent Maria Rice said it for him.

"We're a wealthy district according to state standards," she said.

Sure enough, while Rondout Valley lost half a million, board members here reported that the new state aid allocation will have them "about even," in Kt Tobin's words.

We may well feel like we're part of the subjugated majority in New Paltz, but there's at least one group out there which thinks we get too big a handout, and wants to take some away.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Occupying New Paltz

Like most New Paltz residents, I haven't visited Occupy New Paltz in Hasbrouck Park, nor do I think there's anything wrong with that.  They're the ones hanging out in tents in the cold; I tend to agree with Jason West that it's their job to reach out and explain to me why.

West is reportedly disappointed with that lack of outreach (but given that the same reporter claimed there was only one protester left, which has been denied by Amanda Sisenstein, the group's informal liaison, at a recent village board meeting, I wonder if that reporter even shows up for the things he writes about).

At that same meeting, former trustee Robert Feldman complained about the protest.  That's great.  Feldman couldn't be bothered showing up to finish out his term as a trustee - twice - but he finds the time to show up and whine.  Does anyone listen to this guy anymore?

I wasn't able to attend that meeting, so I spoke to a trustee who does show up to do her job - Sally Rhoads.  Sally is also one of a minority of trustees who still take my calls; apparently in the politics of the village the idea is to be responsive until you're elected, and then to become much too busy to talk to voters and taxpayers.

Sally and I discussed various rumors and conjecturing going on about the local Occupy protest.  Are they stealing resources?  Making a mess?  Causing problems?  She told me that these were the kinds of questions the board had, as well.

  • Electricity is being used by the protesters, taken from an outlet in the gazebo.  Apparently that outlet was once locked, but not in my memory.  Sally wasn't aware that park users regularly plug in cell phones and other devices to that outlet until I told her.  The board feels that paying for the electricity is appropriate.
  • Fire safety is a concern, given that electric and/or kerosene heaters are being used around nylon tents.  Firemen are nervous and the board wants the heaters to go.
  • Noise complaints were talked about, as well; apparently loud music has been heard in the early morning hours.  It's not clear if the police were ever called about that.
  • Sexual assault of one or more Occupiers hit the news early on; according to Rhoads, the perp never identified himself as part of the movement, and was effectively stalking them.  As noted in a letter to the New Paltz Times, the Occupiers turned him in.
  • The gazebo has been taken over, which was not part of the original plan, and it concerns the board.  In the above-referenced article West mentions that people feel like it's an intrusion to visit, so it's safe to assume that those few people who might want to enjoy the gazebo at this time of year don't feel welcome in their own park.
  • Trash isn't being picked up timely, and my sense is that if sanitation doesn't improve the board will have to act.
  • Being in the park after dark is now, pardon the pun, a grey area.  The board is allowing Occupy to stay there, but according to Rhoads if someone else were to hang out in the park or pitch a tent for the night, it wouldn't be okay.  I haven't spoken to the police about their approach to this yet.
  • Drunk and disorderly people in the park have apparently been our usual locals, who aren't used to their gazebo being Occupied.
So the movement continues, but it's not clear exactly what it is that's being moved.  Many progressive people I have spoken to, including explicit supporters of the Occupy movement, are puzzled by Occupy New Paltz.  Given the questions asked by the village board, even the members who claim to have visited, our governing body has nary a clue what they're doing in the park and are simply reacting to complaints and rumors by asking village resident Amanda Sisenstein to get answers.

So like most things in New Paltz, we have gone off half-cocked on this protest.  Maybe it's a good thing, but even our elected officials can't provide any specific reasons why.  There are many complaints, but those complaining are equally ignorant.  Maybe the idea of having a nationally-known protest visit our park gives us a warm and fuzzy feeling of radicalism, but thus far the only thing it's accomplished is the creation of rumors and the Occupation of the village board's agenda.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Salary comparison: New Paltz and Lloyd

This week's New Paltz Times conveniently has the salaries for officials in New Paltz and Lloyd town government on opposite pages.  It's an interesting comparison.

  • New Paltz pays its supervisor $19,312 more than Lloyd
  • Board members earn $9,469 in Lloyd, $469 more than here
  • They pay their highway superintendent $19,000 more
  • Lloyd's town clerk makes an extra $7,755
  • Our justices get $2,614 less each than theirs
In all, New Paltz pays its town elected officials $14,547 less than its neighbor to the east.  The supervisor and highway superintendent are pretty much a wash; for some reason, each town values one of those positions significantly higher than the other.  Given that the highway superintendent's budget is part of the budget which the supervisor presents, it seems that New Paltz has had a strong supervisor for many years, while Lloyd's town council is comprised of people who watch out for the salaries of other positions instead.

Of course I'd rather see elected officials get paid minimum wage (with overtime, of course), complete with filling out time sheets, and I'd do it at all levels of government.