August 1, 2006

August heat

This morning's Journal warns of a hot couple of days to come, with temperatures in the 90s today and tomorrow. They also provide advice on keeping cool.

Karel Westerling's ex-girlfriend testified against him in his ongoing rape trial, stemming from his arrest last December 5th.

There's also an article on updating the tax abatement application process at the Tompkins County Industrial Development Agency.

Update: It's not online, but the Life section has an article called Top of the Trees, which explores Cornell's tree-climbing class. Climbers visited trees in the Cornell Recreation Connection Park on Fall Creek in Dryden, as well as on Mount Pleasant.

Posted by simon at 8:08 AM Comment

August 2, 2006

Upstate resources

Anyone interested in the relations between upstate and downstate NY - and possibly upstate and the rest of the country, when it comes to water - should take a look at this piece from NYCO exploring energy and water.

(And NYRI is a proposed power line from upstate to downstate, shuttling our power down there without any apparent benefit to upstate at all - except brief construction jobs and likely long-term higher energy prices! Oh, wait, that's not a benefit.)

Posted by simon at 5:00 PM Comment

Eating food from right here

I noted Local Food Week earlier, but Cathy Wakeman goes one step further and explores the local food options in the Town of Dryden itself. I've wished for a while that there were more ways to enjoy food that's produced right here, and she lists a number of excellent options.

There's more on the Karel Westerling rape trial.

Dryden county legislators Martha Robertson and Mike Hattery are quoted in an article on the county's consideration of the density policy for the Industrial Development Agency. The approval urges the IDA to apply more conditions to density policy tax abatements than to regular industrial abatements, which Robertson praised:

Planning committee Chairwoman Martha Robertson, D-Dryden, said the resolution's wording was aimed at setting a “higher bar? for tax incentives for density projects than for regular industrial projects.

“There should be something extra these projects should provide to the community,? Robertson said.

Hattery saw it differently:

Mike Hattery, R-Dryden, is also a member of the IDA and voted against Tuesday's resolution. Besides having reservations about the density policy in general, he also said he disagreed with the resolution's clause about contractors needing to have an apprenticeship program, because he feels it's discriminatory against other contractors.

We'll undoubtedly hear more from these two legislators on the subject, as both are on the board of the IDA itself.

The mandatory "Hot enough for you?" article is also in today's paper, along with local residents' comments including one from Buz Ortiz of Dryden on riding his motorcycle to keep cool.

Posted by simon at 5:04 PM Comment

August meetings

The public notices page for August lists meetings for this month.

Unless otherwise noted, all meetings listed here are at the Dryden Town Hall (map).

Posted by simon at 5:17 PM Comment

August 3, 2006

Westerling trial continues

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports on Karel Westerling taking the stand in his own defense at his rape trial. Closing arguments are expected today.

There's an article on a new farmers' market in Brooktondale; it would be great to have one of those in Dryden.

There's also a general article on a state bill designed to increase the pace of rural broadband reaching new places.

Posted by simon at 12:57 PM Comment

August 4, 2006

New York campaign finance laws have enormous gap

Now here's a gigantic hole in the campaign finance dam:

As a candidate for governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer is barred from taking more than $50,100 from any single donor.

But that has not stopped wealthy donors from legally circumventing these state contribution limits to shower six-figure donations on the Spitzer campaign. Their technique? Using limited liability corporations as a vehicle to give well above the maximum the state allows.

In fact, this year's statewide political campaigns are awash with donations from L.L.C.'s, which are business entities that can be set up for as little as a couple of hundred dollars and provide special tax benefits and limits on financial liability. Six of the eight major-party candidates for governor or attorney general have taken donations from individuals who have contributed the maximum and then donated further through L.L.C.'s.

The donations are legal in New York State races, but restrictions have been put on them at the federal level and in New York City races.....

New York’s limit of $50,100 per candidate is already the highest among the 37 states that have a donation limit and far above the $2,100 limit for federal campaigns, according to a recent study by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's School of Law. While corporations have a donation limit of $5,000, L.L.C.'s have the same limit as individuals in New York State....

It is not clear how many of the L.L.C.'s are legitimate businesses - many clearly are - and how many are simply set up as a channel for donations. But there is nothing to prevent an individual from setting up multiple L.L.C.'s for the express purpose of donating well beyond the individual limit, according to the State Board of Elections.

I guess we have something new to ask candidates: whether they'll put a stop to this nonsense. New York's campaign finance laws need a complete overhaul.

Posted by simon at 8:08 AM Comment

Etna Volcano erupts

No, don't worry. Lava isn't flowing, and there isn't ash everywhere. The Etna Community Association just sent out their latest creatively titled newsletter, and I'd like to post some of their announcements here:

Etna History Book

Judy Auble-Zazzara, Etna's hamlet historian, has compiled a book of Etna history from 1820 to the present, "Photos and Tales of Etna, New York". It doesn't appear to be for sale, but it's available in the Etna Post Office for readers.

16th Annual Etna Community Yard Sale

The Community Association will be having a yard sale on Saturday, September 9th from 9:00am to noon at Houtz Hall. They'll take donations from August 26th to September 8th. I like their list of things not to donate: "Please, no adult clothing, house paint, household chemicals, radioactive materials, etc."

Soup and Salad

It's a while off, but they'll be having Soup and Salad Suppers at Houtz Hall on two Wednesdays, October 18th and November 15th, from 5:30pm to 7:00pm.

I keep hoping they'll have a chocolate festival again, but I guess that I'll probably have to wait for February for that.

Posted by simon at 12:47 PM Comment

Deliberations begin

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that the jury began its deliberations in the Karl Westerling rape case yesterday. I don't see any news updates on the Journal site announcing a verdict, so I'm guessing it's continuing.

There's also an editorial on the removal of the TCAT zone system, which will cut the price of a fare in half for those going between Ithaca and the outer areas of the county, including most of Dryden. I'm hoping that will increase ridership significantly.

In breaking news, there was a contained fire at Wilcox Press, and a dump truck accident at 13 and Lower Creek Road.

Posted by simon at 5:46 PM Comment

August 5, 2006

Westerling convicted

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that Karel Westerling was convicted of kidnapping and rape yesterday, and now faces up to 25 years in prison.

An early-morning fire at Wilcox Press Friday was the result of machinery friction in a scrap paper compactor. Varna, Dryden, Cayuga Heights, Freeville, and Etna departments responded. They had the fire out in half an hour, and spent another hour looking for possible spread of the fire with thermal-imaging equipment.

Varna also responded to a dump-truck that tipped over at Lower Creek Road and Route 13 yesterday morning.

A Freeville man was charged with DWI..

The local history feature looks at the Cayugas, whose territory included western Dryden.

Posted by simon at 9:21 AM Comment

August 7, 2006

Prosecutor-politicians and property taxes

The Journal is quiet on Dryden this morning, but they did run a Jay Gallagher article wondering how Eliot Spitzer might compare to Republican former prosecutors Thomas Dewey and Rudy Giuliani. (Congressional candidate Mike Arcuri is also a prosecutor; technically, Spitzer is Attorney General, representing the state but not a District Attorney.)

Over at the New York Times, they compare property tax increases to income increases. Their focus is on the New York suburbs, but a lot of those issues are familiar. A few choice bits:

Property taxes grew two to three times faster than personal income from 2000 to 2004 in the suburbs surrounding New York City, a sharp reversal from the 1990's, when incomes soared and property taxes climbed more modestly, a review of statistics by The New York Times has shown.

In Nassau County, the tax collections rose 29 percent from 2000 to 2004, while total personal income went up only 11 percent, according to data from the state and the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. In Bergen County, N.J., property taxes jumped 26 percent, three times the growth rate of income, about the same ratio as in Westchester.

And in the sharpest rise in the region, property taxes soared 41 percent in Somerset County, N.J., while income inched up only 5 percent.

Most states experienced a similar squeeze, data compiled recently by the Census Bureau shows. After years of moderate growth, property taxes started climbing steeply when the steam went out of the stock market in 2000, slowing income growth. Nationwide, property taxes grew 28 percent from 2000 to 2004, though income went up only 16 percent.

But it is in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut that the reversal has been most dizzying, with the states faring better than the nation in the good years and worse since 2000....

In the session that recently ended, the Assembly in New York State — where income growth from 2000 to 2004 was among the lowest in the country — increased school aid and approved property tax rebates that mainly benefit suburban homeowners....

New York City property taxes are rising rapidly as well, up 47 percent since 2000, compared with just 5 percent from 1995 to 2000. But city property taxes are lower than those in the suburbs because most of the city's revenue comes from income and sales taxes....

With rising incomes came a flood of revenue from income and sales taxes. In New York and New Jersey, some of the states' bounty was funneled to local governments in the form of increased aid and property tax rebates. In New York, for instance, the state enacted the School Tax Relief program, or STAR, which saved homeowners billions of dollars and provided billions to school districts starting in 1997....

In New York, counties and municipalities alike kept property tax increases under the annual inflation rate of 2.5 percent from 1995 to 2000, according to an analysis by the state’s comptroller, Alan G. Hevesi, that was released in April.

But since the stock market cooled in 2000, there has been a sharp reversal: Income growth slowed, stopped or in some counties actually declined for a year or two before recovering in 2004. Worse yet, property taxes began to soar. From 2000 to 2004, property taxes in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut rose twice as fast as income.

New Jersey and Connecticut have similar problems, they report. They don't mention upstate at all, alas, though I think a lot of this will be familiar.

Posted by simon at 5:21 PM Comment

August 9, 2006

Freeville needs a new diner... again

This morning's Ithaca Journal is quiet on Dryden again, but an empty building in Freeville is a story.

I was up early and rather hungry this morning, so I thought I'd go up to Gramma's (where Toad's used to be) in Freeville again. I think I was last there in June, though maybe it was earlier. Alas, it was closed, with a for sale sign on the front window.

I'm afraid Amy Dickinson will have to ask for prayers for a diner again.

Posted by simon at 8:34 AM Comment

August 11, 2006

Journal: D. A. Wilkinson delivers

This morning's Ithaca Journal editorial reflects on the promises District Attorney Gwen Wilkinson made in the last election, and how that worked out:

One week ago today in Tompkins County Court, Wilkinson's promise paid its first dividend for the residents of Tompkins County.

It was late last Friday that a jury of his peers found [Dryden resident] Karel “Ricky? Westerling guilty of multiple felony counts related to the armed kidnap and rape of his estranged girlfriend....

That trial offered many of the traps that can derail domestic violence and rape cases. The victim, who at first submitted a statement against her attacker, weeks later recanted after several conversations with Westerling. On the stand, she said Assistant District Attorney Linda Gafford urged her to tell the truth, so she returned to her original statement and testified against her ex-boyfriend.... The DA's office rose to its job as well, weaving a clear image of Westerling as an abuser and making sure jurors understood the fear and pressures that can make victims switch stories.

By prosecuting this case aggressively, and delivering multiple felony convictions, Wilkinson and her staff have sent two vital messages. To potential perpetrators, that they will face dogged prosecution. To future victims, that the criminal justice system can punish and protect, and can be worth the faith it demands we all place in it.

There's no report on last night's Town Board meeting. None of their reporters were there, so I guess that's not surprising. Community centers were a key issue, with the board divided and uncertain about what they'd meant to be doing when they committed $25,000 to the budget for community centers last fall.

Posted by simon at 8:29 AM Comment

August 14, 2006

Bears, virus threaten Dryden

Last week, bears and the West Nile Virus held a joint press conference announcing their intentions to take Tompkins County for themselves.

Hold it - it's a little less exciting, though still important. Saturday's Journal had an article on bears coming into the area, The print version includes a picture of a bear on Hungerford Hill Road this past June.

There was also an article on West Nile Virus being detected in a mosquito trap at the corner of Hanshaw and Warren Roads, the first time this year it's been found in upstate New York.

Finally, if you want to register to vote in September's primary elections, Friday is the last day to get your registration in.

Posted by simon at 7:16 AM Comment

TC3 surveying transfer graduates

This morning's Journal reports that TC3 professor Joe Cambridge is looking for TC3 alumni to survey about their experiences moving from TC3 to four-year colleges. The article talks with a 2006 TC3 grad on her way to a four-year school:

The savings and convenience motivated Tiffany Volkert, a Dryden native, to spend her first two years of college at TC3. She graduated this year and will transfer in the fall to St. John Fisher College, a private school in Rochester.

"I'm pretty prepared," said Volkert, who commuted to TC3 and worked off campus while fulfilling prerequisites for a major in business management. "Going to TC3, you have to be pretty independent."

The print edition of the Journal reports on the state's "let's make sure voters notice us and vote for us - but not solve any actual problems" project, the legislature's tax rebate checks. Homeowners can expect them between late September and late October. In the Dryden school district, those with a basic STAR exemption will see $199.08, and $332.46 for those with a senior exemption. In the Ithaca district, a basic STAR exemption yields $170.55 while a senior exemption gets $284.42.

Enjoy the cash, but remember that this is the legislature's option for not actually changing any structures while ensuring that a large number of likely voters receive checks shortly before the election. It's a special New York absurdity, one that complements the tangle of our energy policy very nicely.

Finally, today is not a good day to take Thomas Road from Ellis Hollow to Route 79. The Caroline Highway Department is replace a culvert.

Posted by simon at 7:33 AM Comment

August 15, 2006

County breaks ground on Mount Pleasant

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that the ground-breaking ceremony for the county's emergency communications system was held on Mount Pleasant yesterday. The new system should be operational by July 2007. Given the tremendous cost, I really hope this thing works.

The county budget process is in motion, with departments putting in requests that would lead to a 12% tax levy increase. The legislature has directed the County Administrator to prepare a tentative budget with a 2.8% tax levy increase.

On the opinion page, Daniel Cornell of Dryden writes that "the real heroes of this country are making true and honorable sacrifices, being away from their families and spending years of their lives in a war zone."

Posted by simon at 6:31 AM Comment

August 16, 2006

Eight Square Schoolhouse event next Saturday

The History Center will be having their Eight Square Schoolhouse Festival next Saturday, August 26th from noon to 4:00pm:

An afternoon of family fun - unplugged! The History Center will host its annual Eight Square Schoolhouse Festival on Saturday, August 26 from noon to 4 pm at its historic eight-sided schoolhouse on upper Hanshaw Road (just east of Route 13). Step back in time and experience a school day in 1892. Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy music by June Apple, musical storytelling with Dave Ruch, old-fashioned games, spinning demonstrations, arts and crafts, scavenger hunts and a Purity Ice Cream social at our famous, octagonal, one- room schoolhouse!

The Eight Square Schoolhouse, built in 1827, is one of the earliest schools in Tompkins County and the only remaining brick octagonal schoolhouse left standing in New York State. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2000 became an official project of Save America’s Treasures. Tours of this unique structure will take place throughout the afternoon.

Free and open to the public, this event is sponsored by the Dryden Mutual Insurance Company with support from the New York Council for the Humanities.

Posted by simon at 6:23 PM Comment

Visit Robertson's Corners this Sunday

The Dryden Town Historical Society will be gathering at the Plantation Inn this Sunday to talk about the history of a part of town that's currently growing rapidly: Robertson's Corners, around the intersections 366 has with Baker Hill Road and Route 13.

Today the busy intersection of Rte. 366 and Rte. 13 is best known for the commercial interests located there. You can buy anything from furniture to plants, enjoy a good meal, and even plan a family vacation. But did you know that area, Robertson's Corners, was once the home of George Robertson, who in 1798, was Dryden's first resident freeholder and later became known as the "father of the town of Dryden"? On March 1, 1803, the first town meeting was held at the home of George Robertson on the Bridle Road (now Dryden Road) at the corner of Baker Hill Road, where the Plantation Inn is now located.

Join the Dryden Town Historical Society on Sunday, August 20th, from 2 to 4 PM to learn more about the early settlers and activities of Robertson's Corners. Rain or shine, we will meet at the Plantation Inn (corner of Route 366 and Baker Hill Road). Refreshments will be served and, as always, this program is free and open to all.

We'll be looking at both the early history and the recent changes. I'm hoping the audience can help answer questions about how things have changed there over the years, and we'll have pictures and stories to bring the past back to life.

Posted by simon at 6:50 PM Comment

August 17, 2006

David Makar for Dryden Town Board

On Tuesday night, the Dryden Democrats gathered for a caucus at Dryden Town Hall and nominated David Makar to be our candidate for Dryden Town Board this fall.

David has run his own website business for three years, with customers in Groton, Ithaca, and the Binghamton area. He lives on Slaterville Road, Route 79, and has been discovering that even though his mailing address says Ithaca (mine does too), he definitely lives in Dryden.

David Makar introduces himself to the Dryden Democrats
David Makar (center) introduces himself to the Dryden Democrats.

Here's a bit of what David had to say the other night:

I want to take just a few minutes of your time to talk about this town board race. This seat on the democratically elected town board is owned by you – voters of the town of Dryden. The seat is not owned by one person or one party, it is owned by the people. The people choose who represents them in this seat on the town board. I hope you will work with me over the next 12 weeks so I can be the representative in your seat on the town board.

Here are three of the topics and themes I would like to focus on as a town board member.

  1. Economic development – at the 13/366 intersection; in Dryden Village and in the hamlet of Varna. With rising gas prices we need local shops to provide us with local services. We can’t afford to drive 15 miles for everyday errands. We need to work together to ask the town to provide a safe environment for businesses to grow and an economical reason for new businesses to start in Dryden. When we know the owners of local businesses we learn to trust each other. This doesn’t happen overnight. We need to spend time working to support our neighbors and to know they will be there for us, if we are there for them.

  2. Broadband Internet and reliable cell phone service throughout the entire town. Every house should have access to inexpensive high speed internet and reliable cell phone service. This is not just for entertainment and social purposes, this isn’t just for business purposes; this is for our own safety and security. In an emergency we need to be able to call out for help.

  3. Dryden’s community centers strengthen the fabric of your town. The town relies on community centers for recreation programming and as a place to provide shelter and safety in an emergency. The community centers need support from the town. The town and the community centers need to work together.

I hope you will consider me today, help me to campaign and that you will support me with your vote on November 7th.

David's opponent in the race for this 1-year term will be Republican Dan Tier, who was appointed by the board to fill the seat in January.

Posted by simon at 12:29 PM Comment

Local produce, history, candidate

I never got to covering yesterday's Journal, so here's two days of stories.

Cathy Wakeman continues her discussion of local foods, visiting Back to Basics on 13 at Irish Settlement Road and Ludgate Farms on Hanshaw Road. She also notes the Robertson's Corners event at the Plantation this Sunday.

Today, Briefly in Tompkins notes the candidacy of David Makar for Dryden Town Board.

It's been a pretty quiet August for Dryden.

Posted by simon at 5:13 PM Comment

Freeville farm Organic; Etna candidate Libertarian

It's been a while since I reported on the Dryden Courier, but it's time to get back into it.

This week's cover has a picture of plants growing at Cornell's Freeville Organic Research Farm, which just received certification that it is in fact an organic farm.

Also on the cover, Etna Congressional candidate Mike Sylvia explains why he is running for Congress on the Libertarian ticket. Sylvia needs to collect 3500 signatures within the district by August 22nd to get on the ballot, which currently includes Republican Ray Meier and Democrat Michael Arcuri. In the editorial, the editor hopes to get to write some "local boy makes good" stories.

The Courier also reports that Congressman Sherwood Boehlert secured $23,563 for equipment and training for Freeville's W. B. Strong Fire Company.

There's an announcement of Sunday's historical program at the Plantation, and an article on new Dryden Football head coach John Nicholas, who moves up from being an assistant. They also include a schedule for fall sports.

Posted by simon at 5:30 PM Comment

August 18, 2006

Meier much more conservative than Boehlert; Novak cheers

Lately I've had a few questions about how Ray Meier, the Republican now running for the retiring Sherwood Boehlert's Congressional seat, compares to Boehlert. Here's Robert Novak's perspective - someone hoping for as conservative a government as possible - from Human Events:

4. In other cases, the general election outcome is far less certain, but the nominees are still more conservative and more outspoken than the members they hope to replace.

...

  • State Sen. Ray Meier (R-N.Y.) faces a tough race, but he is at least slightly favored to replace liberal Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.).

I'd love to see an issue by issue comparison of Boehlert and Meier, but haven't found one yet.

Posted by simon at 7:43 AM Comment

Stocking backpacks; request to dismiss land claim

This morning's Journal has a picture of Charles and Ruth Reniff of Dryden filling backpacks with school supplies at the Salvation Army, though I can't find the picture online.

There's also an article on the state's request to dismiss the Onondaga Nation's land claim suit, which includes the eastern side of Dryden. There's a longer version of the story online, including the Onondaga response to the filing.

Posted by simon at 7:57 AM Comment

August 21, 2006

Etna Lane stays closed

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that Etna Lane will remain closed until September 29th, extending the closure from August 31st. (The county is repairing a box culvert.)

Posted by simon at 8:04 AM Comment

The August Town Board meeting

I had a very hard time at this month's Town Board meeting. It was long, though not terribly long - done by 10:30, sooner than some. It wandered a number of times, but not that wildly. I'd missed the July board meeting, so I was wondering if maybe going away for a month and coming back was just difficult.

After thinking about it for a while, I think the basic problem was that the board wasn't even in a position to provide guidance on a lot of the issues that came up. It seemed to be a meeting full of ongoing issues that hadn't yet been resolved, and new issues that all required some kind of major plan before the board would recommend doing anything.

Town Board members review a proposal
Town Board members review a proposal.

The most frustrating parts centered on community centers, emergency services, and recreation. None of these is a new issue - they've all been common subjects in both board meetings and political campaigns. I was painfully surprised by how unprepared the board was to discuss all of these topics.

The first case where I was left wondering was when the Varna Community Association came to the board with a request for a generator so that they could be a feeding station in case of a disaster. They'd been startled to hear at a Cornell University-Neighborhood Council meeting that Cornell's disaster response facilities were only for the "Cornell community", with no provision at all for their surrounding neighbors. After that wake-up call, they'd talked with the Varna Volunter Fire Company and Red Cross Emergency Services Director Mike Raffe to find out what they could do for the Varna area.

They asked the board about the possibility of funding a generator for the property, or endorsing the idea so they could start applying for grants and legislator member items. Dan Tier questioned whether they'd talked with the right people about emergency services, and doubted that connecting to a natural gas line (rather than having propane tanks) was wise. Marty Christofferson didn't seem to believe that Cornell wasn't interested in providing services to its neighbors, and cited TC3's work on similar things.

In the end, the board pushed it off, not even providing the endorsement saying that they really needed to develop a disaster plan that would include the whole town. That felt strange to me, since disaster planning has come up on a regular basis. Dryden sponsored the work that led to TompkinsREADY, and Mike Raffe is a regular speaker at meetings. Disaster planning has come up repeatedly in the past, and there's a Project Impact budget line for some of it as well.

Before this meeting I'd thought Dryden had a pretty good set of projects going on around disaster planning and mitigation. After it, I'm not sure anyone really knows.

There were two other community center questions that left my head spinning.

Jessica Houle, who grew up in Conger Trailer Park, is attending Cornell, and continues to do amazing work through the OURS program, came to the board with Rachel Kutcher to talk about prospects for a new community center there on Kirk Road. The board seemed appreciative of what she'd accomplished, but not too warm about having the town involved in actually building on those accomplishments to create a center for kids and adults. It was an interesting proposal, involving land currently owned by Covenant Love Church and developing a facility that Covenant Love could contribute to in exchange for use by their school. The board didn't seem interested in helping, though, and for me the low point came when Marty Christofferson suggested buying a truck and filling it with old computers to drive from place to place rather than building the kind of stable place a community center is supposed to be.

Jessica Houle and Rachel Kutcher discuss prospects for a new community center
Jessica Houle and Rachel Kutcher discuss prospects for a new community center while Marty Christofferson listens.

In the end, Environmental Planner Dan Kwasnowski offered to talk with them and see what approaches he could find for them. I'm glad he stepped up to it, but it's strange to see the Environmental Planner doing that while the board can't provide guidance.

Recreation Coordinator Jen Dube brought a request from the Varna Community Center to replace a mold-infested carpet. The board had approved $25,000 for community centers at budget time. (Originally I'd heard $100,000, but that number kept falling over the course of the budget process.) Dube had tried to use that budget line as program money earlier in the year, only to be told it was for capital projects, and now she brought this, thinking it an appropriate use. The Board didn't seem to think it was an appropriate use, but no one actually knew what an appropriate use was. There was talk of forming another committee to discuss it - which would potentially take the conversation from public view - and a lot of dithering. Steve Stelick, who'd championed the money originally, bemoaned "seeing us fumble something because we didn't do it right."

The strange compromise they reached was holding back $17,000 - which seems loosely tied to possible projects at the Ellis Hollow Community Center and allowing each of the four community centers (Bethel Grove, Ellis Hollow, Varna, and Etna) to apply for $2000 each this year based on the programming they were offering.

Recreation Coordinator Jen Dube presents to the board
Recreation Coordinator Jen Dube presents to the board.

Dawn Potter of the Varna Community Center was prepared with a list of programs Varna has worked on and wants to work on, but the board didn't seem ready to discuss that either. Instead, there was vague discussion of the need for a town-wide recreation plan that included the community centers.

Finally, on emergency services, the Etna Fire Department's performance remains a concern. The board hasn't signed a contract with them or paid them for this year. Dan Tier reported "hearing positive things" from the department but it sounds like there's not much hard data on how adequate their call response has been and will be. Tier offered to talk with them "one on one", and Mary Ann Sumner asked to be in on that conversation, as she lives in the Etna territory. Then the board discussed an emergency services coordinator, mostly had questions, and continued that to a later meeting.

These are all difficult issues, involving taxpayer money, neighborhoods, and people we'd like to see do well. I don't expect the board to have instant answers for everything.

Unfortunately, at this meeting, it felt like the board had very few answers for any of the questions they were facing, substantial disagreements internally on what they'd meant by past actions, and very little clear vision for the future.

I know people think of government as something they only want to hear from when they have a problem, but it seems pretty clear to me after this meeting that our government isn't ready to address those problems. I don't think this is something instantly solved at the ballot box this November or next, but the Town Board needs to find direction on all of these issues, and soon, and we - members of the community - need to help them find those answers.

For a gentler report on the meeting, see Town Board member Mary Ann Sumner's summary.

Posted by simon at 12:47 PM Comment

August 22, 2006

Southworth library adjusts

I'm a little late with today's report on the Journal... which means I missed reporting on the tour of Sherman Farm today. If anyone went and can report on it, leave a comment!

The local section's front page had an article on change at Dryden's Southworth Library, talking with Sarah Dovi, the new director, and looking around the historic building.

Dryden Ambulance won a central New York award for excellence in EMS.

Posted by simon at 9:17 PM Comment

Dryden Town Board meeting Wednesday AM

The Journal's late-breaking news notes that the Dryden Town Board will be meeting tomorrow at 11:00am at Town Hall to "award the construction contracts for construction of the new town hall and authorizing the town supervisor to sign the same, including any change orders, and such other business as the board may deem necessary."

I'd love to see the alternative energy ordinance introduced there - we'll see!

Posted by simon at 9:28 PM Comment

August 23, 2006

Organic dairy farming

I hoped yesterday that someone would get to the tour at the Sherman's dairy farm, and sure enough, this morning's Journal visits the farm and talks about what organic farming has to offer farmers and consumers:

Even in the transition, Williams [a farmer from Truxton] can taste the difference.

“The milk tastes different; it tastes better,? he said.

They raise much of the food on the family's table, from their garden to chickens and pigs. “Once you get started, you realize the food you buy (in stores) is questionable,? said Williams, whose parents gave up farming in Ulster County in eastern New York in the late 1960s. When short on their own eggs, the family buys organic eggs, but even those are not as good as their own.

“My yolks are orange; their yolks are yellow,? Williams said, noting that for organic milk as well, “demand is unbelievable here in the Northeast. Stores run out of it.?

...The switch to organic made all the difference for Sherman Farm.

“We would not be here if it wasn't for it,? said Sherman, who works the 1,400-acre hilly farm with his uncle Vaughn Sherman and Vaughn's son, Ryan Sherman. “We wouldn't go back to farming conventionally.?

Ernie Balch, 95, of Dryden, joined farmers of all ages, elders such as himself, teen girls and boys and at least one young Amish farmer to hike to the corn field where Zimmer and a group examined the crop and soil. He also walked to the pasture, where grazing and pasture practices were discussed. Balch grows “beets, carrots and posies.? Organic growing is nothing new to him. He said he started gardening organically in the 1940s.

Lots to think about. (And David Makar also wrote on organic dairy farming recently, if you'd like more, especially pictures.)

On the opinion page, Beverly Brown of Dryden encourages readers to visit the military museums in Sampson State Park on Seneca Lake.

Posted by simon at 8:58 AM Comment

August 24, 2006

Electric delivery rates to fall; rebate

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that the New York Public Service Commission rejected NYSEG's proposals for electric delivery rates hikes and instead ordered a reduction and a rebate:

The state Public Service Commission ruled unanimously that the Binghamton-based utility has to cut its delivery rates by $36.2 million starting in January and also send out $77 million in refunds to its customers. The size of the refund checks for individual customers hasn't been determined yet, commission officials said.

Before you get too excited, remember that delivery is currently only 40% of a typical electric bill and that prices of the power itself are more likely to fluctuate, probably up. NYSEG, of course, is still howling about this, though I have to wonder what they're raking in when they're still selling power, and "The commission also decided that the profit margin on the electricity NYSEG sells should be cut from 35 percent to 17.5 percent."

The Journal also reports in Briefly in Tompkins that the Town Board approved a contract for Town Hall construction, and that the Village of Dryden received $400,000 in federal aid for housing rehabilitation.

The Monitor reports that a Dryden man was arrested for trying to rob a TC3 student at knifepoint.

Posted by simon at 10:05 AM Comment

August 25, 2006

Dryden school renovations near completion

The Dryden news in this morning's Journal is good news: there's an article on the approaching completion of renovations at the Dryden, Freeville, and Cassavant elementary schools.

Posted by simon at 10:15 AM Comment

August 26, 2006

Motorcycle ride for transplant

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that there will be a motorcycle ride to raise funds for a young mother's transplant operation. Registration is at the Dryden McDonalds at 10:00am, and the ride itself starts at noon.

There's also a report on inductions into TC3's chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

On the opinion page, Dave Rossie raises one of my favorite ideas: making passenger rail real again.

Posted by simon at 10:43 AM Comment

August 28, 2006

Empire Zone landing

This past Wednesday's Dryden Courier explores the recently awarded Tompkins County Empire Zone, which has segments along 13 both at the Route 366 intersection and immediately north of the Village of Dryden. It sounds like it will be a while before the zones are active, able to give tax relief in exchange for job creation.

There's also a photo of Dryden's co-valedictorians and a story celebrating the naturalization ceremony for Alice Lin, one of those valedictorians. The editorial welcomes all the new citizens naturalized at that ceremony.

There's also a listing of the middle school honor and high honor rolls, and sports has a brief outlook piece on Dryden Girls Soccer.

Posted by simon at 6:15 PM Comment

August 29, 2006

Gas: $3 to $4 for rest of decade

This morning's New York Times (registration required) reports that American automakers seem to have concluded that high gas prices will require them to shift their product lines:

The Chrysler Group, which depends more heavily on sales of pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles than any other Detroit automaker, said Monday that it expected gasoline prices to remain at $3 to $4 a gallon for the rest of this decade.

... Mr. LaSorda, who had traveled here for the start of production of a four-door version of the Jeep Wrangler, was asked whether gasoline prices had peaked. "I would hope so,'' he replied, "but we're planning internally as if it is $3 to $4 a gallon.�?

Mr. LaSorda said Chrysler had prepared a business model based on the assumption that gas prices would remain in that range for the next three to four years. That is about the period of time it takes for an automaker to develop a new vehicle.

I doubt they'll leap to create my pickup truck, but it's good to see automakers finally responding, even if the news isn't so bright.

Posted by simon at 7:57 AM Comment

Southworth Library book sale coming up

This morning's Ithaca Journal notes that the annual book sale supporting Southworth Library will be held September 21st through 23rd, running from 9:00am to 9:00pm on the 21st and 22nd, 9:00am to 1:00pm on the 23rd.

Posted by simon at 8:07 AM Comment

More from Human Events on Meier

I mentioned earlier that Human Events had posted an article celebrating how much more conservative Ray Meier is than the current Congressman, Sherwood Boehlert. Now they've devoted an article to Meier's conservatism:

A "Rep. Ray Meier (R.-N.Y.)" will also be a large upgrade for conservatives. While Boehlert (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 40%) was at best a middle-of-the road Republican ("Don’t call me a liberal!" he’d growl with a wink), the 52-year-old, former Oneida County Executive and State Sen. Meier is a good-as-Goldwater conservative. There are numerous votes one could point to - including on abortion, on which Meier stands foursquare for life - on which a Meier instead of a Boehlert in Congress would make a difference for conservatives.

I guess Meier won't be running as a moderate Republican, despite the changing demographics of the district or the general state of politics this year.

Posted by simon at 7:17 PM Comment

August 30, 2006

Town Hall groundbreaking today

If anyone would like to see the start of the last phase of a long process, there will be a groundbreaking for the new Town Hall today at 2:00pm. The site of the new Town Hall is a bit further east from the old one, at 93 East Main Street.

(I may or may not be able to make it - we'll see.)

Posted by simon at 9:48 AM Comment

August 31, 2006

September 11th memorial

I'm just now getting to yesterday's Ithaca Journal. Cathy Wakeman reports on Dryden Fire Department member Jenn Wildridge's assembling a September 11th memorial service that will be held Monday the 11th at the Village Green at 7:00pm.

Wakeman also notes a bus trip to the Carrier Dome this Saturday afternoon to watch Dryden Football play a game against Penfield, and a new fall schedule for the Dryden Presbyterian Church. (Sunday school will be at 9:30am, and worship at 10:30am.)

It is indeed the wettest recorded summer, causing trouble for area farmers.

The county is working toward a budget for next year, while the Ithaca schools are testing out their bus routes.

Posted by simon at 12:28 PM Comment

Katrina's impact

This morning's Ithaca Journal follows up on a New Orleans resident who evacuated to Dryden after last year's Hurricane Katrina as well as a number of volunteers.

The editorial notes that Freeville has some good news, as one of two places in the county (with Ithaca College) that didn't show an increase in crime between 2004 and 2005. Upstate New York seems to have growing problems, even as downstate's crime eases. They conclude that:

It is far too soon to announce a rising crime wave. Socio-economic and criminal justice factors may prove the recent spike in criminal activity in Tompkins County and Upstate to be a short-lived aberration. Still, the average citizen has a central role in preventing and combating crime, and recent numbers and headlines remind that it may be time for us all to brush up on our crime-fighting skills.

Posted by simon at 12:35 PM Comment

Town Hall groundbreaking

Usually when people talk about politicians wielding shovels, even golden shovels, it isn't meant to be a compliment. However, the Dryden Town Board seemed to have a good time yesterday at the groundbreaking for the new Town Hall, and quite a crowd turned out to cheer them on.

Town Board members break ground
Town Board members and Zoning Officer Henry Slater break ground, toss it around a bit.

Crowd gathered for the ground-breaking
Crowd gathered for the ground-breaking.

Board members talked a bit about the process that brought them there and thanked a lot of people for their help. Board member Marty Christofferson rhapsodized a bit about the park features to come on the 46 acres, while emphasizing that there was no plan yet.

Posted by simon at 12:44 PM Comment

Alternative energy law coming...

While the groundbreaking for the new Town Hall, which will use geothermal heating and cooling, proceeded, a law meant to allow town residents to install alternative energy systems is still in the works. Town Board member Mary Ann Sumner reports on the progress toward a law over at Dryden Democrats:

So once again, the final draft is ready to go out. It's actually FinalDraft.v6. And once again I have the feeling I'm throwing it into the fan. Since changes were still being kicked around, it could not be introduced at the August 23 meeting or yesterday's ground breaking meeting. Now it will be reviewed one last time by anyone still willing to reread it and, barring any further last minute objections, will be introduced at the September 14 Town Board meeting. If no substantial objections are raised, board members may set a public hearing date near the end of September. Once again barring substantial objection, the Board may vote, following the close of the public hearing, to pass the law.

Soon, hopefully soon.

Posted by simon at 12:51 PM Comment