June 18, 2014
Why I support the IDC (and not Cuomo)
I've been a vocal supporter of the Independent Democratic Caucus since their initial formation. I don't always agree with them, and I frequently don't love the results of a Republican-controlled State Senate. Nonetheless, I think they're pretty much the only glimmer of hope in Albany. Why?
Because the last thing New York State needs right now is party discipline.
On the one hand, the state is absolutely trending Democratic. On the other hand, party discipline is what has kept the Senate Republicans in power. Both parties took the 2010 redistricting of legislative districts to mean "grab everything we possibly can for our party", and Governor Cuomo let it sail through.
Promises of change? Discarded.
I gag when I hear "The Assembly works by consensus" when the people claiming that it's a good thing leave out "of the majority party, behind closed doors." I regularly despair over systems that are meant to reward loyalty to party and party leaders rather than listening to voters. I try not to pay attention to the wanderings of the party leadership - in any party - because their rhetoric about the will of the people never turns up when it's time to structure the government.
Perhaps worst, lately, are the ever-clearer outlines of "Cuomonian" New York. Jimmy Vielkind listed them brilliantly:
Chaos is NOT Cuomonian
Always take the deal
Cuomo only respects force
Rule 2 is the bright spot, occasionally making it possible for things to happen that Cuomo and his donors don't love. Rule 1 is the catastrophe, and rule 3 is the sign of how difficult change may be.
The IDC violates rule 1 just enough to create possibilities for rule 2. The IDC seems to go out of its way to present itself as orderly if different. However, its very existence has become the friction point that opens new possibilities, perhaps even possibilities that will let us out of the current logjam. I want to see a lot of IDCs, in both parties and in both houses.
I dream - right now I don't dare hope - of a New York where elections are contested, and where no party leader or governor hopes to control the government by fiat or favors. I dream of a legislature where members are free to vote as they want on every vote, not just the ones where their votes don't matter. I dream of a governor who listens rather than tells.
Negotiation will never disappear. I understand politics involves pragmatism. We do, however, need to abolish the structures of control that keep New York bound in the chains of money and institutional intertia.
June 6, 2014
Dryden Solar Tour Saturday, June 7th
The first Dryden Solar Tour of 2014 will be held THIS SATURDAY, June 7th, at 1:00pm at 8 Genung Rd.
This is the home of Craig Higgins and Jacque Lopez, who have 4 ground mounted arrays that were installed in March of 2007. Each array consists of 10 Sharp model 170 panels. The total system production is 6800 watts. This event is being held in conjunction with the 2014 program of Solar Tompkins.
Please visit SolarTompkins.org for the full schedule of Solar Tour dates in all the towns in the county. That web site will also show you the dates for our Community education meetings. There will be two in each town. You are welcome to come to one or several meetings to get the information you need to make the switch to solar this year. The dates for Dryden Community meetings are June 18 (Varna Community Center, 7:00) and July 1 (Dryden Fire Hall, 7:00).
April 22, 2014
Former Mount Varna stirs, take two
It's not nearly as nice as the last proposal, but this may be as much as is possible on that awful fill site.
Site Plan review is at 7:00pm, Dryden Town Hall, this Thursday, April 24th. (It was rescheduled because the plans weren't in for March 27th.)
March 30, 2014
History Under Foot
Wednesday - April 9th - 7PM - Dryden Village Hall (corner of George and South streets)
It all began when David Waterman's dog started digging up patent medicine bottles in the yard. Suddenly, he noticed there were artifacts all over and realized, with the help of the Dryden Town Historical Society, he could discover their origins. But Waterman didn't stop there. He traced the time line of his property - within the area designated as Lot 59 on the New Military Tract - back to the Revolutionary War soldier who was originally granted ownership of the property and the grandson who inherited it.
Join the Dryden Town Historical Society on Wednesday, April 9th, beginning at 7 PM in the Dryden Village Hall (at the corner of George and South Streets) to watch a PowerPoint presentation on Waterman's research and learn how to go about digging up the history of your own property .
The doors will open at 6:30 PM to view dispiays and, as always, this event is free and open to all with donations gratefully accepted.
March 24, 2014
Former Mount Varna stirs
It's not nearly as nice as the last proposal, but this may be as much as is possible on that awful fill site.
Site Plan review is at 7:00pm, Dryden Town Hall, this Thursday, March 27th. (I can't make it because it's Sungiva's sixth birthday.)
February 8, 2014
14850, 13068, and 13053: Colors Don't Quite Tell the Story
I was surprised a couple of months ago by a story on "Super Zips" in the Washington Post. The story was mostly about the concentration of wealthy well-educated people in neighborhoods around Washington, DC, but the map showed some interesting data for around here.
As I expected, we have no "Super Zips", places in the top 5% of wealth and education (calculated in some strange way to produce a spread across a range). Tompkins County does stand out from its neighbors, as do many collegetowns:
Zip code data on wealth and education for the Tompkins County area.
The part that's most interesting to me, though, is that the Freeville and Dryden zip codes are in the same band as the Ithaca zip code. The local standouts are Lansing, which is just wealthier to reach the next color band, and Newfield, which isn't.
|Zip Code||Median Household Income||% College graduates||Position|
Looking at the data, though, it's pretty clear that the Dryden and Freeville zip codes are similar, but even though the Ithaca zip code is in the same color band, it's more about what the Post chose to value than deep similarity. Lansing changes color - but its rank of exactly 80 was the bottom score needed to do that.
Maps don't always tell stories as neatly as they promise.
February 7, 2014
Father-Daughter Dance Saturday, Ice skating trip 18th
More happening in Dryden:
6th Annual Father-Daughter Dance
COME DRESSED UP AND READY FOR A FUN FILLED EVENING OF DANCING, REFRESHMENTS AND MEMORIES!
FEE INCLUDES MUSIC, REFRESHMENTS AND A DIGITAL PHOTO
When: Saturday, February 08, 2014
Where: Varna Community Center
Time: 6:30-8:00 pm
Cost: Advanced tickets are $10.00/couple or $12.00/couple at the door. $5 per additional child
Ages: 4-12 (daughters age) Fathers, Grandfathers, Step Fathers, Uncles, and Legal Guardians Welcome!
Attire: Fun and Formal
Please pre-register with The Town of Dryden Recreation Department by printing a program registration form from: www.dryden.ny.us/recreation or register online www.drydenrec.com
ICE SKATING AND A MOVIE FIELD TRIP
Keep the kids out and about over February Break!
Who: Boys and Girls Grades 4-5 Fee: $20.00 per child, includes transportation, admission to Cass Park Ice Rink and Skate rental, and admission to the movie
Date: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 Time: 11:00 AM-*5:15 PM
Registration minimum: 4
Registration Maximum: 10
Skating at Cass Park begins at 11:45 AM and ends at *1:45 PM. Regal Cinema for movie, rated G or PG
Fee DOES NOT include lunch or movie concessions. Please bring a bagged lunch or money for lunch at Cass Park. Concession stand offers pizza, fries, bagels and snacks.
The van will leave the Dryden Town Hall at 11:00 AM and returns at *5:15 (Times are approximate until movie listings become available)
*Register at the Town of Dryden Rec. Department, 93 East Main St. www.dryden.ny.us/recreation or online at www.drydenrec.com*
*Does this trip sound great but you have a 6th or 7th grader? No problem! We are doing it all again for 6th and 7th graders on February 20th! The only difference is we will view a PG or PG-13 movie.
February 6, 2014
Etna Chocolate Festival Saturday, Varna Pancakes Sunday
My favorite annual Dryden event is Saturday: the Etna Chocolate Festival, Saturday from 10:00am to noon at Houtz Hall (the Etna Post Office). Memories.
On Sunday, the Varna Community Association will have a Pancakes / waffles / french toast / bacon / sausage / biscuits / hashbrowns / eggs / fruit / more breakfast from 8:00am to noon.
Neither of these is free, but both are wonderful.
January 3, 2014
Lane elected Chair of County Legislature
Mike Lane became Chair of the Tompkins County Legislature last night. Lane, who represents the eastern side of the Town of Dryden, succeeds Martha Robertson, who (still) represents the west side. (A corner in the northeast is represented by Brian Robison, who also represents Groton and the eastern edge of Lansing.)
The storm didn't stop the organization meeting, though it halted much else.
December 30, 2013
Highway Superintendent salary stays the same
It was a short meeting, less than half an hour, and the minutes will likely show more of the discussion. Two 4-1 votes, both with the Supervisor in the minority, kept the Highway Superintendent salary as it had been budgeted, around $68,000.
First, Town Supervisor Mary Ann Sumner moved a $52,000 salary. No one seconded that.
Next, Linda Lavine moved a compromise $60,000. Sumner seconded.
Resident Joanne Cipolla-Dennis asked why the town was doing this and got a mix of answers from Sumner about experience and inflation. New Highway Superintendent Rick Young spoke, and was pretty restrained, though he described the pay cut proposals (especially an earlier $37K one) as "a kick". He made it clear he would be sticking around whatever the salary.
The vote on Lavine's compromise was 4-1 against, with only Sumner in favor. (Lavine voted against her own compromise.)
Lavine then offered a motion to keep the salary as listed in the 2014 budget (around $68K). I think Steve Stelick seconded it. The vote was 4-1 in favor, with only Sumner against.
Stelick suggested that the Town needs to figure out some standard way to have this work, and said that the lack of such a plan was why he voted to keep the salary the same.
"determining the salary of the Highway Superintendent"
My understanding is that the outcome is likely to be a leaving alone or a lowering of the salary, so this isn't a strange post-election payoff, but it is a strange post-election tinkering.
Changing the salary of an elected official during their term apparently requires a referendum, but doing it before the term starts apparently doesn't.
I've heard arguments that a less-experienced Highway Superintendent deserves a lower salary, but this seems like a very strange coda to an upset election. It's not even the newly elected Town Board considering the action. After past conversations about how making this a civil service position would create turmoil, I'm suddenly wishing the job had civil service protections.
Update: The Board voted 4-1 to keep the salary the same.
November 14, 2013
After a decade...
It's a little over ten years since I started this site. The Dryden Republicans had just won an election that gave them complete control of the Town Board. The major issue that year was the Democratic Supervisor's insisting on audits for the fire companies, which didn't go over well.
In 2005 and then in 2006, Democrats were elected to the Town Board. By 2007, four of five Town Board members, including the Supervisor, were elected on the Democratic line. After this year's sweep, the only two Republican elected officials remaining are Judge Chris Clauson and Town Clerk Bambi Avery, both of whom won in 2011 with more votes on the Democratic line than on the Republican line.
Living in Dryden didn't have that much to do with this. I was extremely lucky to take up writing it at a time when the balance of voters was shifting rapidly and the issues (most notably fracking) ran severely against Republican talking points.
I've slowly reduced my involvement in Dryden politics, something made much easier thanks to great people joining the conversation and making me feel like I could step away. I'm no longer on the Democratic Committee, for example, and I plan to stay off for a while at least to watch my kids grow up.
As for Living in Dryden, I'll still be posting, but it's going to be occasional. When I first started, I set a goal of posting every day. That wasn't sustainable for just one writer, much less one writer who's doing too many other things.
Right now, I'm also pouring energy into (yet another) book. This one, on hand tool woodworking, might appeal to more people than my usual programming books. I'm writing it in the open, so take a look. It's only a small bit so far, but you can see what's to come. I also blog about that occasionally.
There will be more here - probably a lot more. Dryden remains a fascinating place. I'm just trying to feel less obligated to write about it!
Thanks for keeping Dryden interesting.
November 13, 2013
Have (some) Dryden Republicans given up on elections?
[Building on a piece I started writing in October.]
It's been a very strange fall. Normally, around Labor Day, the Dryden roadsides blossom with political signs, especially in years like this one with county elections as well as town elections. For the first time in a long while, every seat that's up for election this year is contested.
I've been puzzled, though, to watch as Democratic signs went up but only a few scattered Republican signs, and those for incumbents Steve Stelick and Jack Bush. The Shopper ads for the Republican town candidates are a mix of their usual past slogans. "Individual Freedom & Personal Responsibility" meshes nicely with the sign that hung in their office for a long while:
The ads for the county legislature candidates are especially strange, with the candidates from both the east side and the west side directing their fire at west side Democrat Martha Robertson. The weirdest moment of that was in a Shopper ad with a bullet saying that "Mike Lane is a nice guy but enables Martha Robertson to do this with his votes". The second part of that statement is the clearest sign I've seen that the Republicans running for county legislature have spent no time whatsoever studying how the legislators actually work with each other.
Then, last night (October 17th) I went to my first Town Board meeting in a while. Between an ad in The Shopper calling on "Town of Dryden voters" to "Come join us. Voice Your Opinions." and the news that the Town Board had demanded and received the Planning Director's resignation last month, I expected a crowd.
I'd heard of a consistent band of angry folks attacking the board for daring to proceed with Critical Environmental Area (CEA) designations, but I wasn't prepared for a crowd that seemed to demand a fight. One speaker dared them to call the Sheriff, one told me "any time, buddy", and there was at least one other invitation to a fight. It wasn't a friendly crowd by any means, announcing its lack of trust in the board and especially the supervisor repeatedly.
I'm not sure what the crowd at the meeting thinks about it, but the Dryden Republicans went down to a resounding defeat in last week's election.
The two Republican incumbents, Highway Superintendent Jack Bush and Town Board member Steve Stelick, lost narrowly, Bush by 26 to Rick Young at the latest count and Stelick by 66 behind Democratic newcomer Greg Sloan. The other Republican candidates lost horribly. Democrats won County Legislature seats by 2-1 margins. Democratic Supervisor Mary Ann Sumner, the target of that angry crowd, won by 1830-1375.
(I'll post a fuller story when the official results go up.)
I would like to give lots of credit to the Dryden Democrats, who ran some great campaigns, but the larger story seems to be the decline of the local Republican party and strange choices by its leadership.
Dryden has changed dramatically since I started writing ten years ago, and not just in voter registration. The battles over fracking left a lot of Dryden voters skeptical of the Randian property rights rhetoric the Dryden Republicans relish, and the party didn't seem able to put together much of a story. Its lead candidate, Ron Szymanski, is pretty well remembered for his pro-drilling rhetoric.
This still should have been a winnable race for them, as Republicans historically vote at higher levels in local races. I suspect that 2011 made some Republicans less eager period, and the barely even minimal campaign (awful signs, very late) that most of their candidates ran made it worse.
The craziest piece, the most self-defeating piece, was running the legislative race as an attack on Martha Robertson. I get that Republicans don't like her, and neither does my former high school classmate who is now unfortunately our Congressman. Running someone against her, even someone unlikely to win, though, was a great way to increase west side Democratic turnout. Blasting bizarre attack ads out over Facebook, where they seemed to hit pretty much everyone in Tompkins County, though, was an especially bad idea. Apparently there were also similar TV and radio ads.
That brought out people who just wanted to vote a Democratic ticket as a show of support before next year's Congressional race. I'm reasonably sure that approach brought out many more than the 26 votes that cost Jack Bush the Highway Superintendent seat, and maybe the 66 that cost Steve Stelick the Town Board seat.
This last-minute prank didn't help either, at least with anyone who was paying attention. Maybe it was supposed to be about Steve Stelick and Jack Bush, who've demonstrated an interest in clean water in the past, but I don't think it was a wise reminder of the views of the rest of the Independence ticket for Dryden offices:
It was a weird year, one where most of my predictions fell flat. The continuing strength of the fracking conversation and DRAC's strong presence made it a hard year for Republicans whose rhetoric was tarnished by past fracking battles. Despite that, I didn't see any kind of Democratic sweep coming.
The Republicans certainly could and even should win elections here, but I don't think it's possible on their current course. That makes me worry that we'll have effectively uncontested races (much like the City and Town of Ithaca) in the near future, something I dread. (The Republican victories in Lansing and Newfield are signs that we're not necesssarily there yet.)
I'm not sure what to predict for the angry crowd at the Town Board meeting. CEAs are gone, and took the Planning Director with them. Perhaps the end of that saga (which alas I never especially covered) and the magnitude of this loss will ease tensions a bit. I'm not counting on it.
November 8, 2013
A Journey is a Destination: Walking the Jim Shug Trail
The next meeting of the Dryden Town Historical Society will feature guest speaker, Cynthia Cantu, who is developing a mobile app to identify the natural and historical highlights encountered on the Jim Shug Trail to Dryden Lake. While the app is not yet ready for distribution, Cynthia is prepared to show us the some of the features she plans to include.
The event will be held on Wednesday, November 13th, beginning at 7 PM in the Dryden Village Hall. As always, this event is free and open to all with donations gratefully accepted. The doors will open at 6:30 PM.