Much of the rest of the Dryden news in today's paper is only in the print edition, not online. There's an article on Bryn Carr, a recent Dryden High School graduate who is studying archeology and anthropology at the University of Durham and researching medieval skeletons in Serbia.
Cathy Wakeman discusses this coming Saturday morning's meeting of the Dryden Central School Strategic Planning process, which will be looking at the school's decision making process, strengths and weaknesses, near term challenges, and long-term challenges. She also notes that the Etna Community Church was having an Ash Wednesday service today, and that Holy Cross Church will be having its McGilligan's Ball next Sunday, the 18th, at TC3.
Briefly in Dryden lists:
A lasagna dinner will be held starting at 4:00pm on Saturday at the Varna Community Center (map).
Early bird tickets for the Dryden Central School's 2006 Multi-year Reunion - which get you in for door prizes - must be purchased by March 12. Regular tickets are available until July 21. Tickets are available at Dryden McDonald's and Burger King, or online.
There will be a rummage sale from 9:00am to 1:00pm on Saturday, March 11th in the Dryden Middle School cafeteria. Dryden Junior National Honor Society is sponsoring it, and booths cost $25 each.
The Dryden Youth Commission needs a Dryden resident to join them.
On the opinion page, the editorial looks at the contrast between upstate and downstate.
There isn't much in this morning's Ithaca Journal about Dryden, but there is a piece about the federal government suing New York State for its delays in overhauling our voting system. We'll be voting on the classic lever-based machines in November. The lawsuit may cost New York $49 million in aid, though it doesn't itself ask for anything beyond a plan in 30 days.
I'm with NYCO in finding this all a bit strange:
I always find it perversely fascinating when the all-powerful federal government, so accustomed to snapping its fingers and sending mighty armies speeding across the globe on a whim, confronts the awesome inertia that is Albany. There has to be some kind of way to harness and use that mighty natural force for good.
I'm not entirely sure why the federal government is so upset. Rather than attempt to standardize one set of machines across the country, they passed it down to the states. New York, similarly (and foolishly in my opinion), passed it down to the counties. New York may have taken more time sorting out the many things the federal law left open to the states to decide, sure - but this looks to me like a mess at every level, which each layer of government pushing the work down to the next layer.
(The towns, fortunately, handed this up to the county, so it can't reach down to the Dryden level.)
This winter, I've been trying to shovel my driveway rather than use my snowblower. The snowblower is small, loud, doesn't turn off until it runs out of gas, doesn't do a great job anyway, and is buried further in my basement than I'd like to deal with today. It's been an easy winter for this experiment, and fortunately today was the first real snow since my cold started - the first day I felt up to dealing with it.
Anyway, shoveling has its own strange rhythms. I tend to start at the bottom of my driveway, where the plows pile heavy, wet, salted-and-sanded snow. It's a bit tricky to clear the whole path to the road when traffic is flying by, but today's traffic was inching along. I'd try to shovel while they were paused, then stop while the cars were moving. Someone rolled down their window and said "thanks," I'm guessing because I stepped back at the right time.
Another driver rolled down her window, and we had this exchange:
Her: I just have to tell you, I used to drive friends by this house and tell them it was the color I wanted. Then one day I came by and you'd scraped it all off.
Her: It turned out great, though!
Conversation between pedestrians and motorists is apparently possible when the cars are moving that slowly.
Because of the weather, the Les Roberts event in Lansing tonight has been postponed.
This morning's Ithaca Journal takes a look at the plans for Dryden's new Town Hall, noting that construction could start this summer and costs will be around $2.4 million. The print edition includes a drawing and a map that shows just how strangely the property is laid out. One thing bothers me about the article, the box that claims:
As the Town of Dryden readies to put plans for a new town hall out to bid, it has determined there is more than enough money in town coffers to cover the approximately $2.4 million cost.
This means the project will have no direct impact on town taxpayers.
That last line sounds good, but it's misleading for a lot of reasons. First, the money collected has already had a direct impact on town taxpayers. It didn't fall from heaven. Second, from what I understand, most of that money reflects general savings by the town, not a dedicated fund for the Town Hall. Spending that money means spending money that wasn't allocated explicitly for the Town Hall, and removes other possibilities. I'm very glad we're not looking at an immediate tax increase to pay for the building, but "no direct impact" isn't a very direct statement.
There's an article on a TC3 student preparing for "a five-week trip to West Africa to fulfill internship requirements for a TC3 degree in human services."
On the opinion page, a readers question section includes letters by Captain Lawrence Jackmin of the State Police in Freeville and Donna Ten Kate of Dryden questioning the Journal's decision to publish a photo including the body of a State Trooper killed in Horseheads by bank robbers. Dryden resident and Journal Managing Editor Bruce Estes defends his decision to publish it:
Showing Journal readers that their police and firefighters can pay with their lives for protecting our community played a big role in my decision.
As public budgets have eroded fire and police protection in all of our communities, it is important for citizens to see the potential consequences of those budgetary decisions.... Citizens are asking their protectors to do much more with less.
In the picture of Andrew Sperr killed in the line of duty, I saw the sacrifice others make for our safety. The sacrifice that Sperr, 33, made for us deserves to be remembered vividly and completely even if it makes us uncomfortable. The stakes of not having a community remember that sacrifice would dishonor a man who paid a huge price for our safety.
Finally, yesterday's snow still leaves the area with only 34.3 inches of snow, 19 inches below the average.
This morning's Ithaca Journal opinion pagecontinues yesterday's complaints about the Journal's publishing a photo including the body of a State Trooper killed in a shootout with bank robbers. One letter, from Monica Armstrong of Dryden, argues that:
Most of us realize when we see a headline that an officer has been shot we can in our minds visualize a horrific scene. We do not need a printed picture to enhance what we already have surmised.
There are another two letters on the Journal's publishing a photo including the body of a State Trooper last week. John Bailey of Dryden complains that the Journal published this photo but wouldn't publish the cartoons of Mohammed, while Daniel Cornell of Dryden finds printing the photo "offensive and printed in extremely poor judgment."
Otherwise, it looks like we had a quiet weekend in Dryden. Also, this is article #1600 here - they pile up over time!
It turns out I'd bookmarked the listing for the Aramark building at 13 and Etna Lane, and clicked on it by accident yesterday. It's now listed as " In Contract", last updated March 2nd. Maybe something interesting will happen there.
Yesterday I made what I hope will be the last necessary major energy-efficiency improvement to my house for a while. A few years ago, I had the furnace replaced and the house insulated, but since the water heater still worked, I left it alone. Since then, the water heater's had problems, spraying water into the basement (faulty valve) and often running out of hot water quickly. I called Performance Systems Contracting to see if I could do solar hot water, but the house is too shaded, at least for now.
Since that won't work, I opted for an on-demand heater (which could eventually work with a solar heater). My old heater was a 40-gallon tank in my basement full of hot water that was kept at a constantly hot temperature, whether I needed to use it or not. My new heater is a smaller box that heats the water as it flows by.
I was a little shocked to see that the Energy Guide sticker on the old heater claimed an annual cost of $164 and the sticker on the new heater claimed $166, but then I looked more closely. The old heater was based on natural gas costing 60¢/therm, while the new one was based on 91¢.
Looking at my most recent gas bills, supply seems to be around $1.00, while supply plus delivery cranks that up to $1.75. The delivery number includes some charges that stay the same regardless of the gas I use, so it's not going to change to reflect usage as much. The new heater is listed at 187 therms/year, while the old one was at 272. As it's an on-demand heater and it's just me in the house. I hope to use even less than 187. (I don't know how they calculate estimated consumption.)
The installation was mostly smooth. Sediment in the old water heater blocked it from draining, so it was very heavy when Matt and Dave removed it. They knocked off the valve and 40 gallons of hot water poured down my driveway, a strange but largely unavoidable waste of energy. The new unit is much smaller, though packed with electronics, and it needed a new vent hole rather than using the chimney. (I now have two unused chimneys on the house.)
One thing that worries me: while both my furnace and water heater are much more efficient now, I've gone from units with pilots to units with electronic ignition. An extended power outage in winter is now a really big problem, sometihng I need to think about in the future.
If you'd like to see more of the heater and its installation, I've posted a gallery of photos, this time with some meaningful captions.
This morning's Ithaca Journal includes Briefly in Dryden, which announces the Dryden National Junior Honor Society's rummage and craft sale, which will be held this Saturday from 9:00am to 1:00pm in the Dryden Middle School cafeteria.
Briefly in Dryden also mentions that Beyondmeasure, the Dryden High School a cappella group, was honored again as one of the best 20 high school a cappella groups. There's a list of members for 2004/2005, the group being honored, and for 2005/2006, the current members.
The county took a big step toward implementing the new public safety communication network, authorizing an $8 million lease. It's also budget season in the Ithaca City School District, with Superintendent Judith Pastel submitting two budget proposals.
In state news, Senate Democrats asked for accounting of where the governor's, Senate's, and Assembly's borrowed money actually goes. Governor Pataki's spokesman wasn't interested in publishing the information,and changed the subject to the legislature's lack of participation in the Freedom of Information Law. While I'd like to see the legislature under FOIL, it's depressing to see that the Governor's office is apparently happy to have quiet slush funds rolling around. The Syracuse Post-Standard had a great exploration of these funds in 2004, but it shouldn't require investigative reporting to figure out where the government is allocating this money.
Agenda items include the feasibility study for a water district in Ellis Hollow, the new Director of the Tompkins County SPCA, the Etna Fire Company, tax breaks and fuel allowances related to fire companies, the Village of Dryden's use of the Town's Zoning Office, and that perennial favorite, the Cortland Road Sewer District.
On the opinion page, John Bailey of Dryden writes that "It's time America's free press practice due diligence and investigate what makes True Islamists so violent and determine whether Islam is truly a religion that is understanding and compassionate toward all."
I still haven't seen any news at all of Freeville's village elections, but ads about the Village of Dryden elections have been running in The Shopper for the past two weeks. A week ago, Democrats Mary Ellen Bossack and Jim Willer asked "What's in the 2006-2007 Dryden Village Budget?", referring to a budget that comes from the Mayor after elections.
In this week's issue, Willer and Bossack ask "How does Dryden Village hire its staff?" and write that they "believe that all civic jobs should be publicly posted." Republicans Dan Wakeman and Randy Sterling claim that a vote for them is a vote for "fiscal responsibility, public works, public safety, economic growth, and commerical center revitalization."
Village of Dryden elections will be held on Tuesday, March 21st, from noon to 9:00pm on the second floor of the Dryden Village Hall (map).
This morning's Ithaca Journal takes a look at the Six Mile Creek Volunteer Monitoring Partnership, twelve volunteers backed by the Towns of Dryden, Carolina, and Ithaca as well as the City of Ithaca who sample the water in Six Mile Creek. The Community Science Institute coordinates the project and provides the testing, and has a page about the project. (I wrote an article about their training in 2004.)
On the opinion page, Nancy Suci of Dryden writes:
I think we must defend our interests too, with intelligent diplomacy and persuasion. But we must also remember that our government's first responsibility is to our own people, their education, housing, health care and the civic freedoms that define our constitutional democracy. In my adult life this ideal of good government seems no longer accepted.
This morning's Ithaca Journal reports on Oneida County District Attorney Michael Arcuri's run for Congress. Incumbent Sherwood Boehlert "said Monday he'd reached a decision [about running again], but wouldn't elaborate." The reporter asked Arcuri and Boehlert their positions on a number of local and national issues, and compares them.
An article on baby-sitting includes Tom Archibald, Rural Youth Services program manager for Danby and Dryden, talking about a free â€śSuper Sittersâ€? training program.
The Tompkins County SPCA will have a lot of dogs available for adoption in the near future, as 62 dogs, many of them puppies, will be arriving from Enfield over the next few weeks.
The March 8th issue of the Dryden Courier leads with two stories about Dryden schools. The first explores plans for "Poem in Your Pocket Day" and other poetry events to be held at Dryden High School and Middle School later this month and early in April, talking with teacher Karen Cunningham and media specialist Andy Dutcher. The second, whic comes with pictures on the cover and inside, visits the Dryden High School production of "Hello, Dolly!", which will be be performed Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:00pm in the Dryden High School auditorium.
Inside the paper, there are two articles on Dryden Elementary School students' artistic ambitions and successes. An article chronicles Alexander Leshkevich's interest in drawing and his recent winning of top honors in the New York National Education Association's Great Public Schools Contest, a second consecutive win for Dryden. The other article looks at a second floor-tile design project at Dryden Elementary. Earlier, students had created a design for the entry of the school, but now they've created two designs for the cafeteria, which will be installed over the summer.
On the editorial page, there are two letters of support for Jim Willer in his campaign for Dryden Village Trustee. Matthew White of Ithaca writes that "I was delighted to hear that he is running for public office, and I would trust him to represent me any day." Jonathan Hochberg of Dryden endorses "Jim Willer to provide us with the kind of common-sense leadership we deserve."
There's an article on the Seven Lakes Council of Girl Scouts, as this is National Girl Scout Week.
In sports, Anthony Jerome of Dryden is named a member of the 2006 Finger Lakes Newspapers Wrestling All-Stars. In the Section IV state track meet, Dryden's Megan Stuttle came in 11th in the long jump, while Jason Pelletier came in 14 in pole vault and Matt Trevits came in 22nd in the 55 meter dash.
Finally, as I've been following Spencer-Van Etten's sports fundraising after a number of Dryden residents wrote letters about it, there's an article reporting that Friends of S-VE Sports succeeded in funding spring sports.
Cathy Wakeman's Dryden Town Talk announces the Dryden High School production of Hello Dolly!, to be held tomorrow through Saturday at 7:00pm at Dryden High School. She also mentions the Photo History Day coming up this Saturday from 10:00am to 2:00pm at the Dryden History House (map), where we'll be scanning photographs for the Historical Society, allowing you to keep originals while still sharing your history. Looking forward to next week, she reminds readers that Village of Dryden elections will be held on Tuesday, March 21st, from noon to 9:00pm on the second floor of the Dryden Village Hall (map).
Looking beyond the town boundaries, County Legislator Martha Robertson was in Canandaigua yesterday protesting a stop by President Bush to promote his Medicare drug plan:
â€śWe can do better,â€? Robertson said. â€śWe should repeal it and start over and save the taxpayers buckets of money.â€?
Will Congressman Sherwood Boehlert retire? That's been a popular question in political circles for years, but it looks like we'll finally have an answer tomorrow. Boehlert's made a decision and shared it with President Bush, but won't announce it formally until tomorrow at 3:00pm in Utica.
Four Democrats and a Republican are already running for Boehlert's seat, and the article also mentions the prospects for State Senator Jim Seward to run, though apparently he doesn't live in Boehlert's district.
There's also an article on Irish heritage in Groton that mentions St.Patrick's Church in McLean, which "was disbanded in the 1950s."
This morning's Ithaca Journal reports on the Dryden and Freeville village elections. For Dryden, a contested race, the Journal talks with Democrats Mary Ellen Bossack and Jim Willer and Republicans Dan Wakeman and Randy Sterling. Incumbent Bossack and challenger Willer push for greater transparency on the budget and the sewer plant replacement project. Sterling promises that "it'll just be business as usual" and incumbent Wakeman points to his experience.
In Freeville, none of the races are contested. Candidates include Mayor Lotte Carpenter, running for re-election, Trustees Diana Radford and Penny Beebe, running for two-year terms, Trustee Lloyd Purdy running for a one-year term, and Arthur Marchese running for a four-year term as Village Justice.
In Congressional politics, it sounds like Sherwood Boehlert's announcement today may be retirement, though that won't be certain until after 3:00pm, when he actually makes the announcement.
Local Briefs announce Photo History Day, which will be tomorrow from 10:00am to 2:00pm at the Dryden History House (map). We'll be scanning photographs for the Historical Society, allowing you to keep originals while still sharing your history.
A different Local Briefs announces a Citizen/Congressional hearing on health care issues which will also be held tomorrow,at TC3 from 1:00pm to 5:00pm.
The County Health Report includes issues with a number of local private water systems.
On the opinion page, Arthur Barry of Dryden writes that "Darwinian Evolutionists want their theory to replace faith in God." John Carberry's editorial raises some serious issues for St.Patrick's Day revelers to consider, and reflects in many ways the perspective I've inherited from my mother's Irish family in Auburn. It's good to see someone reflect on what Irish history might mean today.
I've been depressed enough driving past the empty storefronts on West Main Street, but apparently I'm not the only one who sees them as a sign that we need change around here. The Spitzer campaign's first commercial includes Charlie's Diner and its For Rent sign in an ad about the need to change the way Albany works.
Here are some stills. The voice-over here on the Dryden bit is "For every New Yorker drowning in property taxes..."
Charlie's Diner needs a tenant.
(And yes, I do think Spitzer's sincere about making New York State - all of it, including Dryden - great once again.)
The Journal reports that Congressman Sherwood Boehlert announced his retirement today at a press conference in Utica:
"It's time," said Boehlert, who turns 70 in September and is in the final year of his term as chairman of the House Science Committee. "I have worked long and hard and, I think, effectively. Now I want to do some other things."
The next month should see some major pushing in politics, as both parties sort out who is running for the seat and what other seats that might leave open. There are already four Democrats running, and one Republican, but perhaps others will join the fray.
As part of a three-day series highlighting Sunshine Week, the Ithaca Journal reports on how residents can participate in their local government meetings. It opens with one of the usual suspects who attend meetings:
To Simon St. Laurent, being part of a community means knowing what its public officials are up to, and giving them suggestions and insights along the way.
That's why the Dryden resident attends nearly every Dryden Town Board meeting, reporting on them through his online Web log, www.livingindryden.org. That way, he says, people can read what he writes, and perhaps be enticed to attend the meetings themselves.
"If I keep going, some people might come to see that as normal," St. Laurent said.
It does seem to be working to some extent - I've seen more people at Town Board meetings lately without a specific issue that's drawn them. Not a lot more, but hopefully the number will grow. The article mostly looks at the 3-minute rule for public comment, which is fairly loosely enforced in Dryden. The article notes that the City of Ithaca has a timer that rings when a speaker has one minute to go, and again at three minutes. The print edition has a large table highlighting rules for various municipal bodies and listing when they meet and where to get an agenda.
Another aspect of government, the village elections coming up Tuesday, gets examined on the opinion page. Republicans Dryden Town Supervisor Steve Trumbull and County Legislator Mike Hattery endorse Republicans Dan Wakeman and Randy Sterling. There are four letters in support of Democrat Jim Willer, from Matthew White, Richard Nowogrodzki, Basharat Wani, and Jonathan Hochberg.
I noted Congressman Sherwood Boehlert's retirement announcement yesterday, but today the Journal has a fuller article and a followup piece looking at the potential impact on Cornell and regional politics.
Stepping away from politics and government, a team of Dryden students won the T-S-T BOCES Eckerd Drug Quiz, and will compete March 29th in Syracuse at the next level of competition.
I'd heard lots of rumors that State Senator Jim Seward would run for Congressman Boehlert's seat when he retired. However, after yesterday's retirement announcement, WHCU reports that Seward will run for re-election instead:
SEWARD WAS RUMORED TO BE EYING BOEHLERTâ€™S SEAT, BUT THE REPUBLICAN SAYS AFTER CAREFUL DELIBERATION HEâ€™S DECIDED TO STICK WITH STATE POLITICS.
HE'S SAYS WITH 20 YEARS OF SENIORITY, AND AS CHAIR OF THE SENATE INSURANCE COMMITTEE HE CAN BEST REPRESENT THE PEOPLE BY HIS WORK IN THE STATE SENATE.
TC3 hosted a healthcare forum on Saturday, one of over 90 being held by Healthcare NOW!. That's at the top of the front page, while the bottom of the front page has an article talking about how hard it is to move patients in New York from hospitals to nursing homes, because the nursing homes don't have room - despite the state's frequent claims that excess nursing home capacity is costing us. Something doesn't add up in all of this.
Two Dryden residents are on the opinion page today. Jeanette Knapp of Ellis Hollow writes about the continuing work of the women's movement today, while Debra Niemi of Freeville adds her letter to the pile of those complaining about the Journal's decision to run a photo including a state trooper killed in the line of duty.
There's also a Jay Gallagher piece on the state budget which looks at the colliding impacts of income and property taxes.
If you live in the Village of Dryden or the Village of Freeville, you have an opportunity to vote tomorrow. Freeville's races are non-partisan and uncontested, while Dryden's are partisan and contested.
I've been proud to work with Mary Ellen Bossack and Jim Willer on their campaigns for Village of Dryden Trustee. I'd like very much to see Bossack continue her work on the Village Board and to see Willer get a chance to apply his interests and his business knowledge to village government. I don't cover the villages as much as I should on this blog, but there's a tremendous amount going on especially in the Village of Dryden lately, and having these two on the board would encourage me that it's in good hands.
Since Congressman Boehlert retired and Senator Seward decided to run for re-election rather than Congress, I've been wondering who the Republican contenders would be.
Newsday reports that State Senator Raymond Meier has entered the race, and challenger Brad Jones is staying in. Swing State Project reports that Meier is well to Boehlert's right, but not as far right as Jones would like to see.
That does, however, fit the predictions of Tompkins County Republican Party vice-chairman Mark Finkelstein:
"I expect we'll have a candidate with strong Republican values," Finkelstein said. "We're going to hold the seat, probably with a candidate who is more, you might say, in the traditional Republican mainstream."
Though Walter Mebane, a Cornell professor of government, described the district as "gerrymandered to be a Republican district," it could be a very interesting year.
This morning's Ithaca Journal reports on the arraignment of a man for allegedly stealing $50,000 from Lakeview Cemetery in Lansing. The arraignment itself was in Dryden - and I think was this one, disrupting a Planning Board meeting - but I couldn't figure out why it took place in Dryden, given that the cemetery is near Cayuga Lake and the man's last address is given as Ithaca. The discussion of his being a flight risk "from Dryden to Peekskill" may be the answer, though.
There's also an article on the upcoming Congressional race, where newly announced candiate Raymond Meiers has been busily spending his State Senate campaign account on self-promoting ads in advance of announcing his run for Congress. Senator Jim Seward was doing the same, but decided not to run. It's all legal, but makes me wonder yet again about New York State's campaign finance laws and the war chests incumbents pile up even without opposition.
The Journal's editorial examines Boehlert's legacy and what it means for the district.
If you live in the Village of Dryden or the Village of Freeville, you have an opportunity to vote today. Freeville's four races are uncontested, while Dryden has two Democrats and two Republicans running for two 2-year Village Trustee seats.
I was delighted to see Democratic incumbent Village Trustee Mary Ellen Bossack hold her seat tonight with 148 votes, while Republican incumbent Dan Wakeman held his seat with 140. Republican challenger Randy Sterling had 138, and Democratic challenger Jim Willer had 98.
264 people voted today.
This morning's Ithaca Journal reports on yesterday's village elections, in which incumbents won their races across Dryden and Freeville. In Freeville, 24 people voted, and Mayor Lotte Carpenter, Trustees Diana Radford and Penny Beebe, and Village Justice Arthur Marchese were elected unopposed. In the Village of Dryden, the current tally for the two Village Trustee positions is 148 for Mary Ellen Bossack, 140 for Dan Wakeman, 138 for Randy Sterling, and 98 for Jim Willer. The Journal reports that there are nine absentee ballots to be counted, but that still leaves Bossack safely in the lead and might only switch Wakeman and Sterling's positions. The Journal quotes Bossack:
I'm pleased that we had a better turn out of Democrats than we have in the past. The more people are involved, the more democratic the process will be.
Total turnout was 264 at the polls, plus those nine possible absentee ballots. Last year's total turnout was 240.
There's also an article on the cowboy lifestyle of Eric Kincaid. I'm pretty sure it was Kincaid I saw riding with a pack horse (or maybe mule?) behind him along Route 13 by Finger Lakes Fresh. I cursed my failure to bring a camera that day, but since he's living on Hunt Hill Road, I may yet see that scene again.
This week's Briefly in Dryden offers lots of events:
Cortland Cooperative Extension will hold a "From the Ground Up" presentation for farmers who want to balance their soils on Thursday from 10:00am to 2:30pm at the Dryden Fire Hall (map).
The Dryden Youth Opportunity Fund will be taking grant applications until April 30th, "to provide resources for the long-term benefit of Dryden area youth through innovative and creative programs and activities that go beyond the basic educational requirements of public education."
Dryden Senior Citizens will meet at 11:30am Monday at the Dryden Fire Hall (map). The program, by Gina Prentiss and Trish Sprague of the Dryden Town Historical Society, will explore the importance of identifying and recording information in collections. (Old photos are great, but photos with people's names or places attached are often more fun!)
The Dryden Youth Commission is looking for a new member.
On the opinion page, Kristie Rice, chief of the McLean Fire Department, adds her voice to the complaints about the Journal's publishing a photo including a state trooper killed in the line of duty. The Journal's editorial looks at flaws in New York State's sunshine laws and ways to fix them.
If you take your own trash to the county's solid waste facility, you'll also want to read a letter from Ken Thompson, Tompkins County solid waste manager, about new flat fees for cars, trucks, vans, and trailers. The online version leaves out the fees, but they are $5 for cars, minivans, and SUVs, $10 for pickup trucks and full-size vans, and $10 for "Altered cars (e.g. trailers).
I've been covering the local Congressional race pretty generally, but don't have the time to focus on it. Fortunately, there's another blog - Take Back New York's 24th - that has the race under a magnifying glass, or maybe a microscope. I believe the author is a Democrat from Trumansburg, and the site has strong opinions along with news, but I've never seen coverage of a Congressional race like this before.
There were nine absentee ballots in the Village of Dryden race, plus one affidavit ballot, and a margin of ten votes between Mary Ellen Bossack and Randy Sterling. That meant a trip to the Board of Elections this afternoon, though a somewhat more cheerful one for me than last November's.
County Democratic Committee Chair Irene Stein and I were there for the Democrats, while Dryden Mayor Reba Taylor, Deb Hattery, and Mahlon Perkins were there for the Republicans. Election Commissioners Elizabeth Cree and Steve DeWitt oversaw the proceedings.
Nine ballots were counted today, six Republicans and three Democrats. We challenged one Republican military ballot because the sender hadn't checked which reason he had for a military ballot, but it will likely get counted in the final tally unless someone goes to court to prevent it, which I don't expect. It was the only ballot with a visible flaw. Affidavit ballots are challenged pretty routinely, but today's was filled out perfectly.
The results in today's counting were 5 votes for Dan Wakeman, 5 votes for Randy Sterling, 5 votes for Mary Ellen Bossack, and 2 votes for Jim Willer. That leaves Bossack on top with 153, Wakeman in second (and still winning a seat) at 145, Sterling in third at 143, and Willer crossing into triple digits at 100.
There are still a few absentee ballots out there, and they could arrive in the next few days, but there don't appear to be enough to change the winners. We'll see!
This morning's Ithaca Journal visits the Dryden School District as they try to sort out their budget for next year in the face of challenges, including a 40% increase in utility costs, which have already caused problems for this year's budget. Fuel costs are expected to climb 15%, benefits 12%, and contractual obligations 4%. Superintendent Mark Crawford hopes to reduce staffing through attrition. Based on the Governor's budget, a 14% tax levy increase might be necessary to cover a 7.5% budget increase, but district business manager Teresa Carnrike hopes the legislature will add to the Governor's budget as usual.
On the opinion page, Gry Wildenstein of Freeville writes to support the publication of cartoons of Mohammed and condem the response.
I flew to Texas for a conference right after the March meeting of the Dryden Town Board, and I'm still getting my notes in order. Fortunately, Town Board member Mary Ann Sumner has posted an excellent summary of what happened there.
(I was especially happy about the plans for public input on what to do with the parts of the Town Hall site beyond the Town Hall itself. It should be a very nice change from reading about those ideas in the paper while not hearing them at meetings.)
This morning's Ithaca Journal is quiet about Dryden, except for a note on Cornell Garden Plots. I wrote about them last year, but their web site seems to have vanished.
The garden plot distribution will be held on Saturday, April 29th, at 102 Thurston Hall. 20' x 25' plots cost $18 each. Gardeners who had a plot last year may now request the same plot at 9:00am on the 29th. Everyone else (and gardeners who want different plots) uses the same system as before, sending a self-addressed stamped envelope to:
Cornell Garden Plots
PO Box 871
Ithaca, NY 14850
The letter should include name, email address, phone number, and the number of plots desired. Gardeners will assemble at Thurston Hall on the 29th at 10:00am to choose their plots, in the order that their letter was received.
I was delighted Tuesday to receive a copy of the new edition of The Mapless Map: Guide to the Streets, Structures, & Places of Tompkins County, Complete from the author, Jim Rolfe, who apparently reads this site.
As it promises, the book is mapless, but it has something I've frequently found more useful: a 171-page list of street and place names and descriptions of how to find them. For streets, that's which other streets they connect with, and for places it's an address or a description. Want to know where Lacey Corners is?
LACEY CORNERS (Tn Dryden) That area encompassing the junction of Cortland RD (SR 13), North RD & North ST, nr TC3 entrance.
Hamlets, TC3, Cornell, and Ithaca College buildings, and a variety of other places are covered, making this an amazingly handy reference. Rolfe has been updating this book regularly for the past few years, building on the 1992 work of Robert Eastman.
It covers the whole county in remarkable detail, including private roads. Unless you know your way around already, you may still want to use it in conjunction with a map, but it provides a level of detail you just can't find on maps, even (or some days, especially) on online maps.
There's also emergency contact information, discussion of where to find out more of the history of these roads, a list of mobile home parks, and a list of courts in the county.
I've used and enjoyed the previous edition, which I bought at Mayers in Ithaca, and look forward to using this one as well. I highly recommend this unique little book.
This morning's Ithaca Journal reports on a new effort to expand the TC3 honors program by giving 15 full scholarships to Tompkins and Cortland County students who enroll in at least 30% honors classes, and are either in the top 20% of their high school class or have a 90 average. The TC3 Foundation is starting an endowment to help fund the scholarships.
There's also a list of TC3 recipients of the President's Citation.
Looking beyond Dryden, there's an article on State Senator Raymond Meier's early hopes and opinions in his run for Sherwood Boehlert's Congressional seat.
At the state level, Jay Gallagher looks at the burgeoning off-book state debt, in an article that's very similar to last year's Post-Standard series on slush funds. It links to a full list of projects funded by the governor and legislators through authority debt. As before, the Willow Glen Cemetery is on there for $80,000, and I suspect that the $50,000 Assemblywoman Lifton found for the Freeville and Dryden fire departments came from the same source, though too late to be included in that list.
The most astounding part of the article, though, is State Senator Mary Lou Rath's effort to defend the current system whereby legislators hand out money without oversight or a clear explanation of where it comes from. Even in an age where government secrecy seems more broadly accepted, this is just too difficult to read without laughing or crying:
"I would welcome more transparency in this process," she said. "But then we would be played off by one community against another. I don't want to be used as a political football."
She said, for example, when she obtained some taxpayer money to help demolish some industrial buildings in the Erie County town of Tonawanda, officials in neighboring Amherst heard about it and "went nuts" since she hadn't done anything similar for them.
"In the end, we have to trust the elected representatives, who are on the ground," to decide which projects to fund, Rath said.
Politicians are supposed to be political footballs. That's their job! Or does never having to worry about getting re-elected mean they've forgotten that aspect? One tough part of being an elected official is deciding which projects to support and which not to support. Getting publicity for the people you make happy without expecting other people to notice seems bizarre at best, corrupt at worst.
And it's not the elected representatives who are really on the ground - it's the voters. Hopefully someone, maybe even a Republican who can't tolerate this kind of eagerness to add to the state's debt, will remind Rath of her obligations to voters.
(Oh, and this New York Times article on the state's new budget suggests that even with a $2-4 billion surplus, the state is still planning to pile on new debt:
There is also concern about the state's level of indebtedness. From March 31, 1995, to March 31, 2005, New York State's debt grew to $48.2 billion from $27.9 billion, up 73 percent, and increased to $2,509 from $1,537 per capita, according to an analysis by Alan G. Hevesi, the Democratic state comptroller. Under Mr. Pataki's budget plan, debt would increase more than 17 percent by the end of the decade, to $56.6 billion. It is unlikely that the Legislature will cause that number to shrink.
And that's just the official debt, I think. Argh.)
On the print version of the opinion page, Maureen Brull of Dryden asks about "a surcharge for natural gas users due to the mild winter and lower than expected usage." I haven't seen it on my NYSEG bill - there's just a -10¢ weather adjustment, but if anyone's heard about this, leave a note in comments.
The online version of the opinion page also has a letter from Irene Scott of Dryden, charging that "the Journal is more 'in awe of' and provides more 'positive' coverage for those who break the law than those who uphold it." Former County Legislator candidate W. David Restey writes to suggest that Journal editor Bruce Estes "should teach a course at Cornell on Backpedalling Finesse" for his explanation of the publication of a photo including a slain state trooper.
I haven't seen a huge number of deer this year - though I did hit one at slow speed on Hanshaw Road a few weeks ago - so I was surprised to look out my window on this scene:
It didn't seem to mind me taking pictures, so I went outside and found more deer, four of them, who started thinking about leaving when I came out and finally took off when the dogs came out.
It's been a quieter year here for deer sightings than some, but there are lots of them on the hills and in the fields, nibbling on all the nice food we put out for them. (Well, we don't put it out for them, but the deer just think we're generous.)
I must be doing something right, as my NYSEG bill claims that my daily power consumption has declined from 21 kWh in February-March of last year to 8 kWh this past month. I traded in my basement dehumidifier for one that seems to know not to run when it's too cold, gave away a freezer, replaced most of the lightbulbs in the house with compact fluorescents, and moved from a computer that drew150-200 watts to one that usually draws 30.
Maybe all those changes really did make a difference. Still, that seems like an implausible drop. Hmmm....
This morning's Ithaca Journal is quiet on Dryden, but has two articles on state news relevant to our future. There's an article on the state legislature's effort to finish its version of the budget today, and a piece by Jay Gallagher on Spitzer's discussion of upstate NY's economy as Applachia.
I grew in Corning, well-aware that Steuben County was part of Appalachia, and both Tompkins and Cortland County are designated Appalachian by the Appalachian Regional Commission. The economic reasons for that designation are unfortunately alive and well:
The numbers supports Spitzer and Morelle. Last year, the number of jobs in West Virginia (1.4 percent) grew at seven times the rate they did upstate (0.2 percent), according to the state Business Council. In the 1990s, Appalachia's population grew 9 percent, compared to less than 1 percent upstate.
In 2002, the average annual personal income in Appalachia was $25,470, according to the Appalachian Regional Commission, the federal agency that promotes economic growth in the region. That was $1,390 more than the New York portion of Appalachia, state Business Council President Daniel Walsh said.
I find Governor Pataki's reponse to this devastatingly weak:
"Appalachia doesn't have Empire Zones. Appalachia doesn't have centers of excellence," Pataki said. While acknowledging there are "pockets" of poverty upstate, he said "we want to send a positive message" to outsiders."
Right. The economy's not doing too well, and we have real poverty issues here. Better not let anyone know about it or they'll think it's a bad neighborhood. I don't always agree with Jay Gallagher, but today, I'm happy to agree with this completely:
Spitzer's words, inflammatory to some, might have the effect of getting a debate going on what needs to happen for the upstate economy to revive. A debate on the most important issue facing upstate may break out, in all places, in the gubernatorial campaign.
A pair of articles in this morning's Ithaca Journal suggest that property tax payers will be facing a larger bill from schools soon. The Dryden School District is looking to further reduce a 12.87% tax levy increase in a budget that already cuts 14 positions:
Should the latest budget proposal be adopted, three teachers at the elementary school, two at the middle school and three at the high school would be lost, with varying impacts on program. Also cut would be three elementary school monitors and one teacher aide at both the middle school and high school.
For the high school, this would lead to an eventual phasing out of the French program and English class sizes would increase. The art and business programs could also see staffing affected.
In the middle school, students given in-school suspensions would end up in the principal's office rather than in a specialized classroom and the delivery of Academic Intervention Services would have to be adjusted. Case loads for special education teachers would also increase.
Assuming the cuts were approved, grades three through five would see larger classes, going generally from 18 or 20 students to 21 or 23.
Dryden schools are working with the budget numbers from the Governor's budget, which are likely lower than the final numbers will be, but this still sounds grim.
Ithaca Schools are looking at a less grim 5.4% tax levy increase, but are still trying to cut that budget further.
Writing about the Dryden schools' budget work this morning reminded me that I hadn't yet covered the Dryden Courier's March 22nd issue. It has an article on last week's discussion, which started by looking for a 7.5% spending increase budget. (The board's more recent work brings that to 6.85%, but that leaves the 12.87% tax levy increase.) Superintendent Mark Crawford hopes that they'll be able to reach smaller staffing levels through attrition, and they've already cut lots of equipment. A following article notes that the board will put a bus purchase resolution up for a separate vote, and that it's creating a simpler middle school Spanish class to help students focus on what they need for graduation requirements.
There's an article on the front page about Village of Dryden Mayor Reba Taylor's planning no-tax-rate-increase budget, but the budget hadn't yet appeared, and there's no news on whether spending or the tax levy will climb. Taylor seems to be counting on annexing property into the village, which seems likely to take a long time. An audit showed that the Village thinks it has $5000 more in the bank than it really has, and the auditor stressed the importance of keeping department heads to their budgets.
Jeff Lydon, new director of the Tompkins County SPCA, gets a profile, and emphasizes that the shelter will maintain its no-kill policy.
Alia Shimer sorts recyclables in a photo taken at Cassavant Elementary during Family Reading Night activities, and Freeville Elementary students talk about their favorite characters inside the front page.
On the editorial page, Kathy Zahler writes to point out the Courier's total lack of Village of Dryden election coverage, and Congressman Sherwood Boehlert writes a long goodbye to his district.
In Briefs, First National Bank of Dryden earned a 5-star rating from BauerFinancial for financial strength and stability for the 68th consecutive month. Klein's archery will celebrate its 16th anniversay with free use of their indoor range and video archery on April 8th from 9:00am to 5:30pm, and will have a chicken barbecue as well at noon. Dryden High School softball will be fundraising to pay for dugouts for the varsity field with a raffle, and the Lacrosse fundraisers gave the school district a check for $4749 to cover the costs of JV Lacrosse at Dryden.
The sports section takes a closer look at that JV Lacrosse program, talking with coach Kevin Scott and exploring the possibility of assistant coach Sean Mack becoming coach next season when Scott returns to Long Island. There's an article noting pole-vaulter Jason Pelletier's participation in the National Scholastic Indoor Championship in New York, and an overview of softball teams in the area that starts with Dryden.
In this morning's Dryden Town Talk, Cathy Wakeman reports on Bob and Doris Speer's efforts to encourage people to become bone marrow donors as part of their supporting their granddaughter, who has leukemia. They've set up a fund at Dryden United Methodist Church, collecting donations to cover the $65 cost of volunteers signing up to make themselves available as donors. The church will be holding a dessert auction this Saturday night as a fund-raiser. Tasting begins at 6:00pm, and the auction at 7:00pm. There will also be a chicken barbecue fundraiser for the Student All-Night Extravaganza at Clark's Food Mart on Saturday.
Briefly in Tompkins reports that Democratic Congressional candidate Bruce Tytler has dropped out the race, citing the challenges of a late start. Tytler announced he was running on a cold day in February, even stopping by Dryden to speak and talk with residents. I'm sorry to hear of his departure, and wonder what Take Back the 24th will have to say about it.
CORTLAND RESIDENT CATHERINE BERTINI SAYS SHEâ€™S SERIOUSLY CONSIDERING ENTERING THE RACE, WITH TWO OTHER REPUBLICANS.
BERTINI IS A PROFESSOR AT SYRACUSE UNIVERSITYâ€™S MAXWELL SCHOOL OF CITIZENSHIP AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS AND SAYS SHE WANTS TO CONTINUE HER COMMITMENT TO PUBLIC SERVICE. BEFORE WORKING AT S-U SHE SERVED AS THE UNDER-SECRETARY FOR MANAGEMENT AT THE UNITED NATIONS.
It should be an interesting year.
I've heard a few times from Dr. Peter Waldron, a missionary in Uganda, who had some questions about people he'd gone to high school with in Dryden from 1960-4. I just stumbled on a story about him being released from a Ugandan prison. I hadn't seen a message from him since early February, and he was apparently arrested February 20th for assault rifle possession, a charge he denies. Freepeterwaldron.com has more information on his arrest, confinement, the charges he faced, and his release.
The front page of this morning's Ithaca Journal is dominated by an article on the county's expansion of the plastics it will accept for recycling, shifting from plastics coded 1 and 2 to everything from 1 to 7 except 4. (4 includes shopping bags, bread bags, shrink wrap, and margarine tub tops.)
At the state level, it looks like New York's legislature has decided to try to make everyone happy, except those keeping an eye on the state's debt level. I don't often agree with E.J. McMahon, but this quote is perfect:
"They aren't cutting taxes, they are cutting checks," he said. The checks that will be sent to taxpayers in the fall will come at election time for every seat in the Legislature.
Also potentially unhappy are counties, many of which will unexpectedly lose the sales tax on clothing and shoes under $110, and the rest, including Tompkins, will likely face pressure to abolish theirs. (That's only in the print edition of the Journal.) The Journal's editorial worries about some of the spending, though it concludes that "compared to the heady days of the late 1990s, when the state not only spent surplus cash like the proverbial drunken sailor but tacked on lots of debt to boot, Albany deserves some credit for avoiding the urge for unbridled madness." Of course, legislators also "tossed a hefty $170 million into the â€śmember itemsâ€? fund they each get to distribute in their districts," so we'll be hearing more about slush funds in the future.
I worry that New York State seems to be running in the opposite direction of measures that might promote stability: saving money when it's available to stimulate the state economy during a downturn. Instead, we're spending what we have, plus a bit more, when it looks like we can, and we'll get to cut again when times aren't so good, but people most need help from the state.
There's an item at the bottom of the Journal's online editorial listing state aid to muncipalities from the state. The formatting didn't quite work there, but I think Dryden's pieces should look like:
|Municipality||2005 aid||Gov. Increase||Leg. Increase|
|Town of Dryden||$44,032||$1,431||$8,791|
In letters, Chris Kimball of Dryden writes in to praise the restaurant Watercress and the return of its chef, Hans Butler.
Dryden High School senior Simon Horrocks will be speaking at an FFA state competition in May, having placed first in the regional Extemporaneous Public Speaking competition, second while delivering a prepared speech, and second in a Job Interview contest.
Dryden resident Jean Dennis is featured in a story about Lansing resident Brent Larsen meeting Billy Joel. Dennis organized backstage time with the singer, surprising Larsen, who has muscular dystrophy, and his family.
We had a dry March this year, with Ithaca airport getting 1.81 inches instead of the usual 2.27. That's a lot more rain than some other places got, but with our smaller amount of snow, I'm guessing we're well below our usual spring water supply.
NYSEG, owner of a largely empty building on Route 13, is incensed about cuts the New York State Public Services Commission would like to impose, and took out a full-page ad on the back of the Journal. It points out how much executive staff they've already shed, ignoring that it was the result of a supposedly profitable merger, and complains about "junior accounting PSC staff" repeatedly. Of course, as the article points out:
Not mentioned by Laurito, but also being disputed by regulators, are $6.9 million in incentive pay for personnel at NYSEG and two related companies.
Don't get me wrong - I think NYSEG generally does a fine job of delivering power. At the same time, though, I think they'd be better off spending money on that job that on full-page ads on the back of the Journal. (If you want more of their perspective, visit their site at nyseg.com/forsafety. Er, well, it's just a button you can push to show you support what they said in the ad. (And also, I'd have been just as happy without the supposedly competitive energy supply market in the state.)
Briefly in Tompkins notes that the budget state legislators passed includes $2.4 million for athletic facility construction at TC3, and another article reports that that budget's school funding figures should be out today.
The Empire State Regional Council of Carpenters had a sign and handed out fliers (32KB PDF) about labor practices at the new TC3 dorm construction. The Pike Company is apparently importing non-union labor from Rochester through subcontractor Pooler Enterprises.
I talked with Brian Noteboom, a Council Representative. He pointed out that while the law forbidding community colleges from owning dormitories forced TC3 to set up the TC3 Foundation to create their dormitories, that foundation no longer has to abide by the prevailing wage laws that normally apply to college construction.
I've felt it was strange that the state forbade community colleges from having dormitories, but now I have yet another reason to find that law bizarre. Hopefully this banner got some people thinking, including people at TC3 and maybe even in Albany.