November 1, 2007

Benefit tomorrow helps after motorcycle accident

Back in June, a pair of motorcyclists waiting to turn into their driveway on Route 13 were rear-ended, winding up in the hospital with traumatic injuries. This Friday, tomorrow, there will be a benefit for them from 5:00pm to 10:00pm at the Dryden VFW on Route 13. Tickets are $20 in advance (and the article lists many places to find them) or $25 at the door.

The article also looks more deeply into issues with Route 13 and with New York State's insurance policies for motorcyclists. I suspect a lot of Dryden residents will nod their heads when they read:

Nancy said she is frustrated with -- among other things -- a straightaway stretch of Route 13 near her house and the New York State Police barracks. Drivers use the spot to pass at high speeds, she said.

"We've tried for years to get the speed limit lowered in this area," she said. There have been four fatalities in front of their house, she added, and everyone living near her has been in an accident in that area.

I tend to regard all of 13 in Dryden as dangerous - sometimes for the design of the road itself, and always because of the way people drive on it. It's especially strange that there would be a lot of speeding near the State Police barracks, but somehow it does seem to happen.

There's more on the Ithaca Wastewater Treatment Plant coverage issues, noting Dryden's 2% ownership again.

On the opinion page, there's a new set of letters to the editor:

Normally, when I report on letters to the editor, I try to describe them pretty neutrally. Unfortunately, I cannot extend that courtesy to John Bailey, both because of the way he asked his question and because of the way he tells the story here. He spent most of his time politely accusing Mary Ann Sumner of not believing in God, and when he finally got to the question, it didn't start as "her foundational values in making decisions" but rather "how you'll be making decisions affecting people that do believe in God and have faith."

Bailey is also wrong that "nor were other candidates given the opportunity to voice their opinions" - the moderator asked the other candidates if they were interested in answering, and none of them, Republicans included, wanted to answer. Perhaps they knew the question was asked in way too loaded a fashion?

As someone who quite definitely believes in God, and who believes that our faith can and should inform our values and our politics, I am utterly appalled by the confrontational approach Bailey took at the forum, and find this letter a continuation of his attack.

Posted by simon at 8:42 AM Comment

Halloween parties

I was a little concerned when I heard that the Dryden Community Cafe open house was Halloween night, at the same time as the costume contest and firetruck rides at the Neptune Hose Company. I needn't have worried - both events were busy, and some people got to both.

Crowded cafe
Crowded community cafe.

The Community Cafe included a "lock-up" of the Dryden Elementary and Middle School principals to raise money for the cafe, complete with the perpetrators being brought in by the Dryden Police:

Hauling in the principals
Hauling in the principals.

It was great food and great fun, with a large and changing crowd. They're still working on putting the place together, but they've made a great start. It's also bigger in there than I remember, which should be great.

Over at Neptune, Mike Lane hosted the annual costume contest, with Mary Ann Sumner and Mary Ellen Bossack, Marlene Luss as judges. Folks from the Dryden Veterans Memorial Home were serving coffee, cider, donuts, and candy.

The costume contest
The costume contest at Neptune Hose Company.

They were both great events. Want to see more? I've posted galleries, one for the Community Cafe and one for the firehouse celebration. It also looked like lots of kids were trick-or-treating in the village.

Posted by simon at 12:50 PM Comment

November 2, 2007

More endorsements

Today's Ithaca Journal mentions a TC3 open house that has, alas, already happened today. The rest of the Dryden activity is on the opinion page, in letters to the editor.

  • County Legislator Mike Hattery of Dryden writes to support Cheryl Nelson for Town Supervisor and Stan Marcus and Walter Keeney for Town Board.

  • Kyle Downey of Dryden writes that "Dave Makar is good for Dryden," and encourages readers to vote for him for Town Board on Tuesday.

  • Christa Downey of Dryden supports Dave Makar for Town Board as well.

Tomorrow's the last day the Journal will be publishing letters to the editor on local elections, and they all had to be in by Monday.

Posted by simon at 5:00 PM Comment

November 3, 2007

An election-year conversion? (and more lies, alas)

Back in June, I kept hearing rumors of a possible Republican primary for Town Justice. I knew that Republican Committee Chair Jim Crawford supported Drug Court, but apparently he wasn't the only one. As summer went on, however, it seemed clear that the Republicans had reached an accomodation, avoiding a primary but still leaving Clauson's interest in Drug Court an open question.

In today's Journal, Clauson appears to take advantage of that accomodation, arguing that:

"I refer a lot of people there," Clauson said. "Without a doubt, I have in the last 90 days referred or asked people if they would like to go to drug court, and they all have said no. That's not my fault."

That says nothing at all about his performance before the past 90 days, something his clerk doesn't keep track of. (You'd think someone might remember.) It's hardly a strong record from which to attack his opponent.

The Journal also seems to have run out of paper for its opinion page, running just a single page of letters and consigning the rest to the Internet. One that made the printed page (but not the Web), from attorney Michael J. Dick challenges my own letter to absentee voters, which emphasized Leifer's taking seriously the prosecution and incarceration of criminals, a key part of what the justice courts are supposed to do. I did not claim that Leifer would personally prosecute or incarcerate, and I would be surprised to hear that Clauson opposes the prosecution and incarceration of criminals.

(An earlier version of this article, based on an early draft of the letter, was angrier at Dick. I still wouldn't want him as my attorney.)

In print and on the web is a letter from Joe Solomon of Dryden seeking reader support for his campaign for Town Board. On the web, and only on the web:

  • David Makar of Dryden takes a hard look at this race and what it means for Dryden.

  • Brent Nelson of Freeville, apparently Town Supervisor candidate Cheryl Nelson's son, seems to think that Democrats are puppets. It's a painful sign of how far Dryden Republican politics have fallen this year that a candidate's son would send that kind of bizarre allegation to the paper. (He also quite plainly doesn't understand that Democrats lack the party discipline that Republicans display at least occasionally.)

  • Barry Rollins of Ithaca writes to support Cheryl Nelson for Supervisor.

  • Former Town Board member Dan Tier of Dryden supports Stan Marcus for Town Board.

  • Jean Locey of Dryden writes to support Jason Leifer for Town Justice

  • Linda Shutts of Dryden writes to support Mary Ann Sumner for Town Supervisor and David Makar for Town Board, and notes that she:

    cannot remember seeing a local campaign where one side so mirrored the ugliness of national politics. Having little substance to recommend their candidates, the Republicans have resorted to name calling and personal attacks.

  • Brian Morgan of Freeville writes to endorse Chris Clauson for Town Justice.

  • Mary Ann Sumner of Freeville writes to explain why she is running for Town Supervisor

  • Jason Leifer of Dryden explains why he is running for Town Justice.

That should be the last round of letters in the Journal on local elections. I wish they'd indulge in some fact-checking, but I'm not surprised that an unscrupulous Republican campaign has led to at least a few unscrupulous letters.

On the bright side, Darts & Laurels has two Dryden-related laurels. The Finger Lakes Land Trust sends a laurel to volunteers who helped clean up "an enormous roadside dump in the Town of Dryden", and Linda Kelley sends a laurel to Peggy Brewer and the folks at Laser & Brewer for their compassion when she realized she had lost a valuable piece of jewelry.

Posted by simon at 4:49 PM Comment

Campaign finance filings, except Clauson

New York State has recently begun to require political campaigns to file their financial statements electronically. It's not a great system, with problems like Windows-only software that is apparently less than fun to use, but it does mean that anyone who'd like can look up campaign finance statements online - if they're filed. The only way you don't file is if your campaign has neither raised nor spent $1000.

If you enter "Dryden", you'll get the statements for the Town of Dryden Democratic Committee and for the Town of Dryden Republican Committee. You can explore in some detail what's come in, both in annual filings and in specific 32-day and 11-day before the election reports. You can find similar information for the Leifer 2007 campaign for Town Justice.

I can't, however, find anything at all for Chris Clauson's campaign for Town Justice. The many signs, glossy brochures, glossy lit drop piece, office in the Village of Dryden, and participation in a television commercial seem like they must have cost something well over $1000, and even "in kind" contributions have to be recorded. Town Justice campaigns also have to have finances separate from the party committee, and the candidate shouldn't know who has donated.

Filing a complaint with the Board of Elections is a long slow process that will only get decided long after the election, but I have to say that this lack of basic filing is just plain strange. Am I missing something?

Posted by simon at 5:36 PM Comment

Dryden schools security; benefit

The Cortland Standard has a lot of Dryden news in today's issue. There's a long article about preparations to limit school shootings that starts at Dryden Elementary.

They also have a report on the benefit for Keith and Nancy Yaeger that around 150 people attended at the Dryden VFW last night. It sounds painfully clear that insurance only covers part of the bills from their June accident, when they were rear-ended while waiting to turn their motorcycles into their driveway on Route 13.

Posted by simon at 8:25 PM Comment

November 5, 2007

Clauson keeps dodging on drug court

There's new data that suggests that Chris Clauson indeed had an election-year conversion to Drug Court. Today's Journal has an article that makes it clear that:

Of the 159 Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) and Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) cases Clauson heard between 2003 and 2007, none were referred to Ithaca Community Treatment Court, also known as drug court.

Clauson, after years of hostility to drug court, is now left disputing "the characterization that he could mandate that someone go to drug court." After years of not offering it as an option, Clauson's saying that "it doesn't work as much as I want it to work because it's voluntary," is simply bizarre.

Briefly in Tompkins notes a snowmobile youth operator safety course that will be held on Saturday, November 10th, from 8:00am to 4:00pm at the Dryden VFW. Participants should be between the ages of 10 and 17. It will be jointly held by the Tompkins County Sheriff's Department and the Dryden-Caroline Drifters.

Posted by simon at 7:45 AM Comment

Help Raquette Lake

While everyone thinks we're going to the polls tomorrow to vote for local candidates, the citizens of Raquette Lake are hoping that the rest of the state will give them permission to fix their water supply. They're in the Adirondack Park, so the land transfer for this particular fix requires a statewide vote.

There are more details in the League of Women Voters' Education Guide. The state will receive twelve acres, and the town will receive one. The DEC already let the wells be drilled, and the state legislature has passed this twice, as required.

So, in my first November 2007 Living in Dryden endorsement, I urge readers to vote yes on Proposition 1.

Posted by simon at 8:17 AM Comment

Jason Leifer for Town Justice

Dryden hasn't had a contested race for Town Justice in a long time, but this year's has been spirited. For me, it's an easy choice: I encourage readers to help elect Jason Leifer our next Town Justice.

Jason Leifer

Even before he took up the Town Justice race, Jason had impressed me tremendously. His energy, his wit, and his understanding were clear to anyone who spoke with him about politics or family. He'd talked for a while about running for office this year, but chose Town Justice because he felt it was necessary, needing more attention and his expertise.

Jason's commitment to the courts is clear. He sees them as a critical component of our community, and wants justice to be served at all times. I believe wholeheartedly that he will ensure that the courts run fairly and efficiently, leaving participants convinced that whether or not they won their case, it was handled correctly.

Posted by simon at 8:26 AM Comment

David Makar and Joe Solomon for Town Board

David Makar is a phenomenon. His energy and persistence have amazed me from the day he first decided to run for Town Board. He put up a giant whiteboard with a plan that seemed hopelessly ambitious, and then he went out and achieved it, knocking on door after door to introduce himself to the community. He already, it seemed, knew more people in Dryden than I did, and has kept on meeting people.

David Makar

In his one year on the board, David has pushed hard to get things done, and done in as timely a manner as government can manage. He worked with the community centers to sort out money the town had promised them but never figured out how to deliver. He's worked with the fire companies on the emergency service committee with fellow Democrat Mary Ann Sumner. He's devoted energy to looking for ways Dryden could use the revolving loan for economic development, after years when the money sat there without even collecting interest.

David takes Town Board responsibility seriously, and is always looking for ways to help Dryden - all of Dryden, not just his own corner of Bethel Grove (or Besemer Flats, the eastern edge), or the Village of Dryden, which has traditionally received most of the attention. He's out and about constantly, talking with people in West Dryden, Freeville, Varna, Ellis Hollow, and Etna.

I first met Joe Solomon at Town Board meetings, where he was asking for safety improvements to Lower Creek Road. It's easy to see the need for safety when cars have crashed into your house but Joe did more than just come and ask - he talked with neighbors, encouraging them to come to a later meeting. He stayed for much more of the meetings than the part dealing with his issue, something I have to say is very unusual.

Joe Solomon

In addition to a willingness to listen, Joe brings professional skills that are directly relevant to the Town Board's work. While he wouldn't do engineering work for the Town (and his work is focused on bridges, which the county handles anyway), his ability to speak and read engineering would give the Town a substantial advantage in dealing with some complex problems it faces, especially around the never-ending questions of water and sewer infrastructure.

I'm delighted with these two candidates, and hope you'll support them Tuesday.

Posted by simon at 8:42 AM Comment

Mary Ann Sumner for Town Supervisor

Mary Ann Sumner has accomplished a lot in her last two years, despite being in a 4-1 minority and then a 3-2 minority on the board, and is ready to take the lead as Town Supervisor.

Mary Ann Sumner

Mary Ann brings the financial skills that a town supervisor needs to manage a budget. She's already digested a largely incomprehensible budget document into clear explanations of where Dryden spends money and where the money comes from. It was interesting to see people's shock at the first candidates' forum when they learned that a third of the Town's core budget comes from sales tax, and that the Town has around $5 million in fund balances. This basic information simply hadn't been shared in the past.

I've also been pleased to see Mary Ann's work on other issues. She first noticed the HUD revolving loan money that the town was collecting without putting it back into the community. She responded to resident concerns that a zoning interpretation which had helped keep Cornell's windmills off Mount Pleasant was now prohibiting anyone in the town from putting up residential-scale windmills, and the law she developed was passed by a majority Republican board by a 5-0 vote.

This year, she's worked with David Makar on the emergency services committee, connecting with fire chiefs and fire company boards to smooth out the many issues remaining between the companies and the board. They've been able to take $25,000 that had been allocated for an emergency services coordinator and save it for other fire needs. She's also played an active role on the board, especially where finances and budget are concerned.

I should add that she's shown remarkable patience in the face of bizarre efforts to smear her patriotism. Questioners at forums have thrown bizarre accusations at her, trying to impugn her values and make claims that she's a dangerous radical. Some of the questions I've heard from Republicans wondering privately are so far out that it's hard to imagine what paranoid mind is telling false tales.

For those who need reassurance, Mary Ann is definitely not a radical, though she is certainly a Democrat. In 2004, she was a solid supporter of General Wesley Clark for President, hardly a leftist choice. She consistently emphasizes financial reponsibility, transparency, and her deep belief that the Town should avoid financial risks. She has worked well with Republicans for the last two years, helping the Board get things done.

It's deeply unfortunate that the campaign has taken such a personal and frequently false turn, but Mary Ann has kept her head up, and deserves to be elected on the basis of what she can do and will do for Dryden.

Posted by simon at 9:14 AM Comment

November 6, 2007

Where to vote

It's election day, and polling places will be open from 6:00am to 9:00pm. Depending on which district you live in (see the district map (597KB PDF)), you can vote at:

  1. Etna Fire Station - 26 Wood Road, Etna (map).
  2. Freeville Fire Station - 21 Union Street, Freeville (map).
  3. Dryden Fire Station - 26 North Street, Dryden (map).
  4. Varna Community Center - 943 Dryden Road, Varna (map).
  5. Etna Fire Station - 26 Wood Road, Etna (map).
  6. Dryden Village Hall - 16 South Street, Dryden (map).
  7. Dryden Fire Station - 26 North Street, Dryden (map).
  8. Bethel Grove Church Activity Center - 1749 Slaterville Road, Bethel Grove (map).
  9. Varna Community Center - 943 Dryden Road, Varna (map).
  10. Reach Out for Christ Church - 318 Johnson Road, Freeville (map).
  11. Dryden Baptist Chapel - 138 Virgil Road, Dryden (map).

All polling places for Dryden are the same this year as they were last year.

Posted by simon at 5:19 AM Comment

November 7, 2007

Democrats win Town Board; Clauson holds Justice

It's been quite a campaign, but it looks like the Dryden Democrats did beautifully, and even in our one loss gave a 16-year incumbent a real challenge. The Board of Elections is showing:

Town Supervisor: Mary Ann Sumner 1479, Cheryl Nelson 1356

Town Board: David Makar 1517, Joe Solomon 1410, Stan Marcus 1300, Walter Keeney 1285

Town Justice: Chris Clauson 1607, Jason Leifer 1316

All of these are unofficial results, and will probably close a little when absentee ballots are counted, but I don't think there's much chance of any changes in who won.

I'll have much more to write about this when I'm rested and coherent. I was running yesterday from 5:00am to 1:30am with only about a twenty-minute break in there, so I'm pretty far out of it. Right now, I need to go back to bed, and hope that having written this will let my mind shut down so I can rest!

Posted by simon at 6:01 AM Comment

Town Board: winning across the town

I was nervous about last night's results because I knew going in that turnout was tilted toward the more typically Republican districts. Election District 2 around Freeville, and 6, 7, 10, and 11 around and south of the Village of Dryden all had above 40% turnout. Turnout in the west side, which tends more Democratic, was weaker, especially in Varna and West Dryden.

I didn't need to worry, though, because of a trend that makes me happy on a wide variety of levels: residents all over the town are becoming more willing to vote for Democratic candidates in local races. With the exceptions of District 2, Cheryl Nelson's home district, and District 3, the incredibly Republican but small corner by McLean, every district in the Town of Dryden was more willing to vote for Democratic candidates than they had been in 2003 or 2005:

DistrictDescription% Dem 2003% Dem 2005% Dem 2007Dem Trends
1West Dryden39%44%52%all up
2Freeville area37%42%36%up then down
3Malloryville/McLean14%37%31%up then down
4Varna67%67%74%stable to up
5Etna46%51%59%all up
6Village of Dryden24%37%40%all up
7E and N of Dryden20%32%41%all up
8Snyder Hill, Rt 7968%67%73%down then up
9Ellis Hollow Creek74%74%79%stable to up
10South Central Dryden28%38%43%all up
11Dryden Lake24%35%37%all up
Total41%49%52%all up

Want to see a map? The Board of Elections has one.

The numbers for 2003 represent the Town Supervisor race between Steve Trumbull and Mark Varvayanis. The numbers for 2005 are from the Town Board race, and are based on the top two vote-getters, Republican Steve Stelick and Democrat Mary Ann Sumner. (It's not a perfect comparison.) The final column for 2007 includes the current figures for the Town Supervisor race between Mary Ann Sumner and Cheryl Nelson.

I omitted 2004 and 2006 for two reasons: a large group of people with generally different priorities votes then and only then, and those priorities may lead to different results further down the ballot, in local races.

In general, it looks like the town is getting bluer and bluer, more Democratic-leaning all the way across, except in the northeast. (I'll try to put together some red/blue color maps like these to make all this clearer, but it'll take a while.)

I know that some of this has to do with the national scene. I also think a lot of this may have to do with candidates' growing willingness to go door-to-door, bringing their message in person. Finally, I hope a lot of this has to do with the style of campaign we ran.

I don't think this is the end of neighborhood politics by any means, but after a campaign that felt polarizing, it's great to see the town less geographically polarized than it's been in years.

Posted by simon at 11:31 AM Comment

November 9, 2007

Four years

By a strange coincidence, I wrote the first post here on November 6, 2003, four years to the day before Tuesday's election. After a bruising loss that removed all the Democrats from the Town Board, I wrote:

The whole process has me thinking a lot harder about where I live and why, and a blog seems like the right place to do it. Thinking in public is kind of strange, and sometimes even embarrassing, but it also seems worth doing. There isn't a whole lot out there on Dryden, and it's taken us a few years to figure out where we are. Maybe this will help some folks find their way around, and heck, maybe it'll be interesting generally.

I think it's lived up to the interesting part, certainly - interesting enough that there's now a reasonably-sized group of people who also write regularly about Dryden issues. A few people have found their way to and around Dryden with the blog's help, so I think that's all worked out well.

As happy as I am to see Town politics shift back toward the Democrats, I still had the same strange sense in talking with people this year that I had in 2003. Even though it was a hotly contested race, news of that contest hadn't reached a lot of people until the very end, and even then the details seem to have stayed fuzzy. I think a few hundred Dryden residents see this blog every week, but most of the traffic, last I checked, was coming in through search engines from all over the place. A lot more people still get their Dryden news from the ever-shrinking coverage in the Ithaca Journal than get it from here.

That's okay, though - I've never set out to compete with the Journal or the Cortland Standard or even the Dryden Courier. This work is about changing things at the margins, helping people who are slightly interested become more interested, and helping people who are interested enough to find local news too weak find more information. I don't have the time to write that much, or the funds to promote that much.

If I could add a local sports section to attract more interest, I would - but I don't have time to go get the pictures and follow the teams the way that kind of work demands. (The Odessa File does a great job of mixing sports and news, for example.)

It's tempting, I'll admit, to declare victory and go home, having achieved much of the original purpose of the blog. It's found new purposes along the way, though, and I'll keep it moving along. There's a lot more to come on our quest to eat locally, on our continuing work on the house and garden, and on Angelika's orchard, as well as Dryden's news, politics, and events generally.

2343 stories so far, with 439 comments. More soon!

Posted by simon at 12:09 PM Comment

November 10, 2007

Dropping a God-Bomb

[I originally posted this at Street Prophets, a site on religion and progressive politics, but it definitely belongs at Living in Dryden too.]

At the last of our Dryden candidate forums, in the middle of an ugly campaign, a well-known member of the community attacked our Town Supervisor candidate for comments on her blog that suggested that she didn't believe in God. I was astonished both by the attack and by the not particularly accurate letter that followed it, but this creates another problem for me personally. This kind of attack makes it much more difficult for me to present my faith-based reasoning for many of my own political positions.

You can hear the original exchange (667KB QuickTime audio), or just read the transcript. I've highlighted the part of the exchange I find most troubling.

Moderator: John, you have a question?

John: Yeah. Mary Ann, this is directed to you first but is open to the rest of the folks.

Mary Ann, this is directed to you because it's kind of public record, at least what I've gathered from your blog, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, because I know that stuff is, you know, open to interpretation, but I infer from some comments on your blog that you don't believe in God. I think it's important - and I've got, I've got that here - and maybe I'm inferring it, but you can defend the comments that you made, but -

One, "I'd be happy if God was dropped from the Pledge of Allegiance" is on your blog, and I think it's understood that you don't pledge the allegiance to the flag.

In another area, it says "it's a fun trip as O'Keefe uncovers one criterion after another and he (and I) can't help comparing ourselves" - you being the I - "ourselves to the hypothetical average person: I live in the state where I was born; have lived in the same house for more than five years; am a high school graduate; believe in God - oops, no."

So that's, that's where I'm getting that. And I'm not finished, but I - this is an important question for everybody, because I'm looking at the leadership, potentially, of the Town of Dryden, and I think it's important for us as a people to understand the values that people will be basing - the foundational values that people will be basing decisions on. And everybody has the right to believe what they believe in. That's the great thing about America.

And I just want to ask you specifically, because of these comments, how you'll be making decisions affecting people that do believe in God and have faith.


Mary Ann: I assure you my decision is


John: The question is, I'm just looking at ...

Audience: Let her answer the question, John, let her answer the...

John: I'm just asking the foundational values...

Moderator: John, John...

John: I just want it to be clear - I'm just asking a question.

Mary Ann: I assure you, all of you, that my decisions on the Town Board have nothing to do with my spirituality one way or another. I don't intend to interfere with your spirituality, and I presume you wouldn't infringe on mine. I'm confident that there's an amendment in the Constitution that says that the government does not interfere with religious practice.

Moderator: Would anyone care to respond? I thought we put that to rest with the '60 election, but... Okay - let's go back to the window.

The question wasn't precisely a question - it was pointed clearly at one candidate, and wasn't presented as a question so much as a "this is what's wrong with you - I dare you to reply." (His followup letter to the editor makes him sound like a sheep set upon by wolves - he certainly wasn't.)

Looking beyond that, John weaves through a lot of different takes on why religion might matter to politics, but there's definitely more than just a "foundational values" question here.

Non-Christians over Christians

The part that worries me most is:

how you'll be making decisions affecting people that do believe in God and have faith

This seems to leap wholeheartedly into the strange world of "only Christians should rule other Christians," something that seems incredibly at odds with the Bible at multiple points. To take a simple example, consider Romans 13:1-7, a section that regularly troubles people unsure how political Christians should be:

Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil.

Wherefore [ye] must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute [is due]; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

Remember who Paul was talking about - these rulers were Roman pagans, not Christians. This passage likely gave Constantine comfort in his rule over the Roman Empire, Calvin comfort in his rule in Geneva, and James I comfort when this version of the Bible was produced on his request. However, it was written to give Christians advice on living in a world ruled by non-Christians, and tells them to accept that rule.

Paul's advice also echoes Jeremiah's letter to Jews living in exile in Babylon (29:5-7), where Jeremiah accepts that they have no hope of taking over:

Build ye houses, and dwell [in them]; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace.

I don't think that either of these passages can be read as "Christians should stay out of politics" - they describe life under governments where there simply wasn't politics. At the same time, however, they make it clear that living under the government of someone whose religion is not your religion is something that can be accepted, not necessarily a problem for God's plans.

The "people that do believe in God and have faith" need to have faith in God, not in Christian politicians.

No religious test

Challenged on the question of how she would treat religious residents, Mary Ann fell back on the First Amendment, saying that "the government does not interfere with religious practice." The moderator's closing comment about "we put that to rest with the '60 election" goes further, reminding the audience that voters elected a Catholic in 1960 despite fears that John F. Kennedy would hand America over to the Pope.

In both cases, the candidate wound up saying something to the effect that "my decisions ... have nothing to do with my spirituality one way or another" or "whose fulfillment of his Presidential office is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation". (Kennedy had time to prepare a much fuller answer, of course.)

This is where we end up when these kinds of questions are posed this way. Here, the question posed was "why should I trust a likely atheist to govern Christians?" In 1960, the question was "why should Protestants trust a Catholic to rule over them?" These questions of trust emerge directly from the questioners' distrust of particular groups, and trying to defend the distrusted group isn't much of an answer to someone already lacking trust.

We're fortunate that our Constitution includes some useful shields to raise against these kinds of questions, but Article VI, section 3 and the First Amendment don't exactly provide a positive-sounding answer.

Is there a better way?

John is right that "foundational values" of candidates are something that voters could do well to know about. The whole point of candidates forums is to figure out who candidates are and what they'll do - to decide who best to entrust with government.

I think there is a good way to ask this kind of question, something that could well fit inside the one-minute limit and produce some useful answers from the entire set of candidates:

Where do your values come from?

I'd hope candidates would feel welcome to answer that with the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, the Koran, Profiles in Courage, their parents, Bertrand Russell, the Dalai Lama, or whatever they thought most appropriate. They could talk about how their values led them to their current task, and why they think it's important. Voters would then have a chance to evaluate their answers, pondering how that fit with their own hopes for a candidate.

Instead, we had a moment that just made an ugly campaign uglier, polarizing the room and the conversation. What should be an ongoing discussion about our values and our faith turned into an attack and a parry, making it harder for the conversation to go any differently the next time.

Posted by simon at 8:55 AM Comment

Looking beyond the election

The election pretty well wiped me out, and I haven't kept up with the past few days of either the Ithaca Journal or the Cortland Standard. Here's a quick look at Dryden-related stories in the Journal:

And in the Cortland Standard:

  • The Town of Dryden tax rate stayed flat, though spending increased 10%. The fire district budget also climbed 4%.

  • An article on the budget passing has more on the fire companies, and also this news:

    Cheryl Nelson, a resident of Dryden, suggested the town consolidate the fire departments into one paid fire department. None are currently paid. Nelson said the fire department issue was one concern she heard while campaigning for supervisor. She also suggested the supervisor position be made full-time and be paid as such. Neither of these suggestions was acted upon.

    Paid fire companies are vastly more expensive. I'll have to track down some numbers on that. I'm also surprised that Nelson would call for a full-time supervisor position after she'd emphasized in her campaign that it is and she thought it should be a part-time job.

Today's Journal also includes County Historian Carol Kammen talking about blogs as future source material for historians. I'm very pleased that she likes and recommends this blog, and she also recommends Five Wells, Mary Ann Sumner's blog.

Posted by simon at 11:01 AM Comment

Veterans Day observance tomorrow

The Dryden Veterans Memorial Home will be having its Veterans Day observance tomorrow, Sunday, November 11th, at 11:00am at the Village Green between the Methodist and Presbyterian churches on North Street in Dryden.

I hope to be there, though I'm volunteering at the Varna pancake breakfast and we'll see how that goes.

I went in 2005 and posted a gallery of photos of that year's observance.

Posted by simon at 11:31 AM Comment

November 12, 2007

IC leftovers move swiftly to Freeville

The Journal's Life section has an article on Ithaca College's donations of food to the Freeville Food Pantry, salvaging food that is cooked but not served to students. Students and volunteers pack the food at IC and deliver it to the pantry, at the Freeville United Methodist Church, and they may expand to Dryden as well.

Posted by simon at 12:19 PM Comment

Veterans Day 2007, Dryden

I didn't manage to escape cooking pancakes in Varna in time to get to the Dryden observance of Veterans Day, but Jason Leifer did, and sends pictures.

Raising flags
Raising the flags over the Dryden Village Green.

Honor Guard
Honor guard at Veterans Day observance.

Posted by simon at 12:26 PM Comment

November 13, 2007

Lots to think about elsewhere

The only Dryden news in today's Journal is a DWI arrest on Route 366, but there's a lot to think about in this issue that might eventually affect Dryden:

That last one worries me for the long term. While biofuels seem like a better source of energy, they're not inexhaustible. My worst paranoia is reflected in this Upstate 2050 story, but hopefully we can find a saner balance.

Posted by simon at 7:58 AM Comment

Life after the election

I've had a hard time wrapping my head around it being November 13th - for most of the past few weeks, I looked at the world as if it was ending on November 6th, election day, with some slight chance of an extension into November 7th, for a recount.

Since the election, I've been noticing other priorities resurfacing, like a book I need to write, a furnace that needs a new filter, more work to do in the garden before winter, painting and flooring work to do upstairs, and a whole pile of projects I'd postponed.

All of those projects can and maybe will overwhelm me at some point, but right now, the sheer relief of the election being over (and even largely won) is vastly stronger than my shock over the pile of things to work on. (Maybe it helps that I accidentally obliterated all my old email from March through early November?)

Posted by simon at 8:39 AM Comment

National and local

I just sent this to a local political mailing list, but think it serves as a good explanation of why I focus on Dryden politics and not on the usual national issues that people think of as "politics":

Maybe I'm unique, having concluded that national politics is largely how people distract themselves from the more immediate impact they could have in local and state politics, but I don't see [being less than interested in fights between candidates for president] as a dire problem for our civic culture.

I'd rather focus on the massive cleanup job our country faces after eight years of a concerted assault on our civic culture than on the relatively minor differences between the Democratic candidates.

Yes, I slightly prefer Edwards, then Obama, then Richardson, then Clinton. No, I don't think it's "trivializing" to say that the differences are less important than the similarities.

That's probably as much as I'll ever write here on national politics. I have hope that they'll improve, but it's just as important to me - or even more important, since so many people only seem to pay attention to national politics - to focus on what happens locally, in conversations where I can have a direct impact.

I have this crazy vision that if people focus on what works best in their local community, the good ideas (and people, eventually) might percolate upward. We can all be players in local politics. Let's make that work.

Posted by simon at 10:51 AM Comment

Some final thoughts on the 13/366 Corridor Study

While sorting through the piles of paper that accumulated during election season, I found my printouts of the Route 13/366 Corridor Study, and remembered that I'd promised long ago to write up my concluding thoughts at the end of a long explanation of what was in the report.

My final conclusions are pretty simple: This report is a clumsy sales pitch for ideas in the Tompkins County Comprehensive Plan.

I think the front page of the Corridor Management Plan makes its priorities quite clear:

"Tompkins County has crafted an inspiring vision for the community. The recently adopted Comprehensive Plan.... The NYS Route 13/366 Corridor Management Plan (CMP) offers a perfect "next step" in the evolution of creating the vision.

The references to plans created below the county level are less enthusiastic, less "vision"-filled, and that plays through the document. The CMP builds on the goals outlined in the County Comprehensive Plan, and nothing can deter it from pursuing nodal development. All the information collected from the public is answered with nodal development. Nodal development is the One True Path, and everything else follows.

I should make it clear that I think nodal development is an important goal - it's how people lived until the automobile let us scatter, and it offers huge efficiencies and advantages. The network of farms, hamlets, villages, and cities is an age-old pattern that I don't think sprawl can beat in the long term.

So where does this report fall down? At the start of Section IV, where they proposed two scenarios: nodal development and the existing pattern, and then follow those, assuming that their modeling will answer the question of "why should we do this?" instead of answering that question directly.

Think about the proposals the report makes, and the proposed benefits. The costs include:

  • A brand new node on the 13/366 overlap, between NYSEG and BB Farms.

  • Major infill development all over the Village of Dryden. (Doubling the population? I'm not really certain.)

  • "As Varna is significantly built out, opportunities for nodal development will need to take the form of re-development as homes and businesses turn over." (Does that mean tear down and start over?)

  • Restrictions on new driveways in the corridor area.

In return for all that, we'd see:

  • The same number of new traffic lights.

  • Fewer driveways along the road.

  • Fewer signs along the road.

  • Better bus stops and hopefully service.

  • Maybe fewer turn lanes.

  • Maybe a 10% reduction in gasoline use.

A 10% reduction - maybe - in gasoline use is a good thing, but I'd hate to be the person trying to sell this plan to the Town and Village planning boards on that basis. This is a lot to ask - especially of the Village, which isn't generally thrilled about large new development - in return for benefits that come out to around 10%. (There are a few side proposals I noted earlier that are also worth doing, but don't require changes to zoning.)

I do think that the Town and Village need to take a hard look at their development plans, but making these things work requires motivation at more immediate levels than "this is a good planning idea". Nodal development is a good answer to a lot of things, but simply calling for nodal development - even with these proposed benefits - isn't especially convincing to those who aren't already on the bandwagon.

So what might provide better motivation?

I'd suggest that $5.00 gasoline is sounding more and more plausible every day. Growth in demand for oil is outpacing demand in supply. What can the Town and Village do to prepare for that? And what if it goes higher still?

That question might lead to some of the same answers this plan provides, but it might lead elsewhere. Wherever it leads, it includes a concrete answer to the difficult question of "why".

Posted by simon at 12:19 PM Comment

More blogs in Dryden?

Over the past few weeks I've heard more from and of people in Dryden who want to start their own weblogs. For them, I just updated the What You Need to Do This piece that's always linked near the bottom of the left-hand column.

Also, I do keep a roster of "Dryden Bloggers" in the left-hand column right under the Recent Comments list. I'm happy to post links to Dryden residents blogging, whatever the subject they've chosen. It even seems to generate some traffic. Just let me know!

Posted by simon at 8:29 PM Comment

November 14, 2007

Seatbelt season

It's always seatbelt season, really, but State Police are busy enforcing seat belt laws, starting from a checkpoint in front of their barracks on Route 13 in Freeville.

The opinion page has two Dryden letters:

  • Cheryl Wagner of Freeville writes about today's Borg-Warner union vote. (There's mention in the article of 38-year employee Cheryl Nelson; I'm wonering if it was supposed to be Cheryl Wagner. But maybe there are multiple Cheryl Nelsons around, and multiple Cheryls who have worked there for 38 years.)

  • Gary Rith of Etna writes to complain about Democratic election signs that were stolen just before election day from his property and a neighbor's. (We did have a few complaints about stolen signs this year, though nothing like the wholesale disappearances that seemed to plague the Wilkinson campaign in 2005.)

Looking beyond Dryden, NYSEG's Voice Your Choice has opened its fourth round for 2008. I find the program annoying and pointless; others find that it just doesn't work.

The Journal seems to have left yet another county news story off their web site, but no one spoke at the county budget hearing last night. Legislator Nathan Shinagawa says some glowing things about budget chair Mike Koplinka-Loehr, which I'm guessing combines with yesterday's endorsement from Kathy Luz-Herrera to make Koplinka-Loehr a likely candidate to replace Tim Joseph as Legislative Chair. Western Dryden legislator Martha Robertson also mentioned her interest in the position in yesterday's article. I guess we'll see in January. (Update: The article is on the site, just not linked from Local News. Weird.)

Posted by simon at 7:16 AM Comment

November 15, 2007

Final election results

These are still unofficial, but it looks like the Board of Elections counted absentee ballots.

The Board of Elections is now showing:

Town Supervisor: Mary Ann Sumner 1550 (+71), Cheryl Nelson 1422 (+66)

Town Board: David Makar 1601 (+82), Joe Solomon 1487 (+77), Stan Marcus 1366 (+66), Walter Keeney 1343 (+58)

Town Justice: Chris Clauson 1703 (+96), Jason Leifer 1381 (+65)

Town Clerk: Bambi Hollenbeck 1892 (unopposed)

Those who had a lead seem to have gained a bit more of a lead.

There's one part of the result here that surprises me a lot, though: the relationships between Town Justice votes and the other votes. Jason Leifer may have lost to Chris Clauson by over three hundred votes, but he still outpolled Stan Marcus and Walter Keeney, the Republican Town Board candidates. Clauson outpolled fellow Republican Cheryl Nelson, the candidate for supervisor, by almost 300 votes, and Mary Ann Sumner, the winning supervisor candidate, by over 150. There seem to have been a lot of people who went into the polls and only voted for Town Justice. (3084 total votes for justice; 2972 for supervisor.)

The trend I pointed to earlier - voters supporting Democrats more across the Town - is still in place after the absentee ballots. The only district where I noticed much of a change was Varna, which shifted slightly Republican in absentee ballots, but not enough to change the trend:

DistrictDescription% Dem 2003% Dem 2005% Dem 2007Dem Trends
1West Dryden39%44%52%all up
2Freeville area37%42%37%up then down
3Malloryville/McLean14%37%32%up then down
4Varna67%67%72%stable to up
5Etna46%51%59%all up
6Village of Dryden24%37%40%all up
7E and N of Dryden20%32%41%all up
8Snyder Hill, Rt 7968%67%74%down then up
9Ellis Hollow Creek74%74%80%stable to up
10South Central Dryden28%38%43%all up
11Dryden Lake24%35%36%all up
Total41%49%52%all up

(You can see more details on how this table was calculated in my original results story.)

Turnout was definitely strongest on the east side and southwest.

DistrictDescription2007 Turnout
1West Dryden28%
2Freeville area40%
6Village of Dryden46%
7E and N of Dryden46%
8Snyder Hill, Rt 7940%
9Ellis Hollow Creek43%
10South Central Dryden45%
11Dryden Lake45%
Posted by simon at 8:36 AM Comment

Licenses, unions, turbines

County Legislator Mike Hattery leaped on Governor Spitzer's pulling back on his drivers' license plan to send a press release complaining about "actions that undermine citizenship".

On the opinion page, Louise Edelman of Dryden writes to support the International Association of Machinists at Borg-Warner, and Ellis Hollow resident Peter Davies writes to support wind turbines.

Posted by simon at 12:24 PM Comment

Pie and chili contests Saturday

Bake a pie! Make some chili!

The Dryden Community Cafe is going to be having a pie contest and chili cook-off this Saturday, November 17th, from 2:00pm to 5:00pm. Pies have to be at the Community Cafe, 1 West Main Street on the Four Corners, by noon. Judging begins at 2:00pm, and judges will include Town Justice Joe Valentinelli, Village of Dryden Mayor Reba Taylor, and Margaret Ryan.

You can find the entry form here.

Posted by simon at 5:49 PM Comment

November 16, 2007

Freeville man injured in Genoa blast

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports on a propane explosion in Genoa that severely burned a Freeville man and injured a Moravia man. The two were removing a valve from a thousand-gallon propane tank when it exploded.

Inside, there's news that has received $100,000 in grants for workforce training.

In political news, it sounds like one Democrat, Molly Fitzgerald, edged out Republican Joseph Fazzary to become the third of three State Supreme Court judges elected this month. The other two winners were both Republicans, Phillip Rumsey and Michael Coccomo. I'd heard of Fazzary through his work as Schuyler County District Attorney, where he seems well-liked.

I'll cover the editorial in a separate article.

Posted by simon at 7:40 AM Comment

Pledging allegiance

I'm glad to see today's Ithaca Journal editorial on the Pledge of Allegiance, which I think makes a crucial, if perhaps understated, point in its final paragraph, especially the last sentence:

The beauty of the First Amendment is that it allows the public to debate issues, since most speech is protected. Sumner's critics have every right to call her actions into question, but that doesn't mean that they are right. Calling into question her patriotism is a bit harsh, especially when you consider she'll take an oath of office soon to uphold the law and do the best she can for Dryden. Dryden would be better off judging her by her actions as a government official rather than what she does during the brief period at meetings when the pledge is recited.

I'd go beyond calling it "a bit harsh" - I'd call this campaign deeply unethical, an effort to smear Sumner's character to avoid having to talk about how much she offers the people of Dryden. (The Journal's editorial never gets to the lies about the POW/MIA flag or the questions about God, though, so maybe they just don't know.) Unfortunately, a couple of decades of this at the national level seemed to inspire local Republicans to think this kind of campaign is acceptable at the local level. I've talked before about why I think they found it necessary.

Mary Ann Sumner emphasized - from the first time this question was asked - the importance of her oath of office, to uphold the Constitution on which this country is built.

It's a bit strange, though - the Republicans seemed to try to keep their candidates free of this particular conversation, with supporters talking about it at candidates forums but never the actual candidates. It became clear that the Republican party was in on it when Republican Chair Jim Crawford's letter to absentee voters came out, sent to both Democrats and Republicans. It's kind of a strange letter, bringing up the Pledge of Allegiance issue in the middle of a paragraph in the middle of a page that started out sounding cheerfully not very partisan.

I'd heard rumors of a truck driving around with signs saying "I Pledge Allegiance and I Vote - for Cheryl Nelson", but I hadn't actually seen it until the morning of election day. I was driving around putting up "Vote Today" signs when I came upon something new - a Republican rally at the 13/366 intersection. Republican Chair Jim Crawford, Supervisor candidate Cheryl Nelson, Town Board candidate Walt Keeney, Amos Nelson, Brent Nelson, and a few other folks I didn't recognize were there with signs, including the one I'd heard about.

Nelson sign, election day
Nelson sign, election day - "I Pledge Allegiance, & I Vote".

Three Republicans were holding signs right in front of a large Jason Leifer for Justice sign on private property, so I got out and told them to leave. Walt Keeney offered me donuts, but departed. One, Brent Nelson, refused to leave, saying that it wasn't my property. After a call to the property owner, he finally left, leaving me with some not so cheerful insults and something about my head and my ass. (Note for the future: telling a computer book editor that he's a "pencil neck geek" isn't much of an insult.)

I came back with my camera, recording their demonstration for the Dryden history books.

Amos Nelson, Jim Crawford and Walter Keeney at 13/366
Amos Nelson, Republican Chair Jim Crawford and candidate Walter Keeney at 13/366.

Cheryl Nelson and supporters
Cheryl Nelson and supporters.

A few of them came back for the evening rush hour too, but I had better things to do at that point than take more pictures.

Cheryl Nelson's parting Shopper ad makes it clear that she was proud of the pledge campaign and her son's behavior on election morning, so I think it's safe to say that they abandoned keeping the candidates above the campaign by the end.

I have little doubt that this Republican campaign opened a new chapter for partisanship in Dryden. While the Republicans (probably wisely) took some steps to insulate themselves from their national party, adding an independent (if strangely named) "All the People" line, running a Karl Rove-style campaign doesn't make your opponents friendly. Relentless attacks on people's character, especially ones based on falsehoods, don't make the political arena attractive to people who aren't all that partisan to start with. Nelson's closing ad makes it pretty clear that she's proud of the campaign and would do it all the same, which makes me think it's unlikely that the local Republican party will become any less partisan than it was this year - even though it didn't work.

Which brings me to my last question about this campaign: what effect did this tactic have?

I had a very few complaints from Democrats who suggested that their doubts about our candidate's patriotism would keep them from voting for her, but she polled only 51 votes behind David Makar, who seems popular even among active Republicans, and she beat Cheryl Nelson by 128 votes.

It was the "off-off year" (only local elections, not even county) in which Republicans generally have vastly better turnout. The last time we'd had one of these was 2003, when the Republicans took the Supervisor seat by a 3-2 margin and won a 5-0 Town Board. We had great candidates - and for a while it seemed the Republicans didn't have any - but this shouldn't have been a year where Democrats won, no matter what the national political scene might look like. The people motivated by national politics don't usually come out in these "off-off years".

My hope was that while the Republicans might be able to excite their base with these issues, their affect on Democratic voters would be minimal, and gargantuan efforts to get Democrats to the polls would help us win at least some seats.

Looking at the results, though, I don't think that's what happened. The Republican base feels smaller this time than in 2003, when Steve Trumbull had 1800 votes, and even among Republicans, Chris Clauson's 1703 votes dwarf Cheryl Nelson's 1422.

I don't know if the patriotism campaign was less motivating than I'd feared, if perhaps it even alienated some possible Republican voters, or if voters just weren't interested. The Justice race seemed to drive Republican turnout on the east side especially, but Clauson's coattails weren't long. (The Republicans had been hoping Cheryl had coattails - that really didn't work.)

I'll have more election analysis when I can get clearer picture of how many people from each party went to the polls, but for right now, I'm pretty comfortable saying that this was not only a despicable campaign, it was one that didn't work.

I hope local Republicans will learn from that.

Posted by simon at 8:49 AM Comment

An inside day for chickens

I don't think the chickens have figured out snow yet. We gave them a bigger enclosure behind the coop to enjoy, but so far today they seem to think that the coop and its fenced front porch are enough excitement.

Chicken coop in snow.
Chicken coop in snow.

Posted by simon at 12:13 PM Comment

November 17, 2007

Caroline school improvements

I've generally covered the Ithaca schools less and less, unless something was directly relevant to Dryden residents. Most Dryden elementary students in the Ithaca School District attend Caroline Elementary, so this report of safety improvements should be welcome. There's also an article about the latest in Ithaca High School's continuing racial tensions.

(The Ithaca schools certainly deserve their own Living in Dryden-style blog, but I worry that I'd overwhelm this blog if I covered Ithaca schools news in any depth lately.)

Two Dryden residents received awards recently - Ellen Fagan, honored as a Sweet Adeline of the Year, and Samuel Jason Merrill, who was inducted into TC3's Alpha Gamma Nu Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa honor society.

In broader prospects for Upstate, Ithaca Forward shares its reflections on September's "I Live NY" event in Cortland.

Posted by simon at 9:04 AM Comment

Republican campaign splurges

While we Democrats were wondering if we could afford to send out photocopied black and white mailings and lit drop pieces, the Republicans went on a multimedia binge - web advertising, a real live office, and even television. (We all skipped radio this year.) I'm not sure how effective it all was, but these will be hard things to forget:

Republican 'Deal of the Week'
Part of the animated Republican 'Deal of the Week'

Chris Clauson's office in the Village of Dryden
Chris Clauson's office in the Village of Dryden

TV ads on Republican site
TV ads on Republican site.

Apparently the Republican TV ads ran on cable, on CNN and maybe more.

I look forward to learning how much this all cost when the campaign finance filings appear - and really hope that the Republicans remember that donations of goods and services have to be reported as well. All those glossy brochures and signs had to come from somewhere...

Posted by simon at 9:37 AM Comment

Less sewage than expected

There always seems to be more sewage than expected, but there had to be an exception. Matt Cooper reports in this week's Dryden Courier that the Cortland Road Sewer district appears to be sending less sewage to the Village of Dryden's Waterwater Treatment Plant than anyone had thought likely. Installing those flowmeters seems to have produced some pleasantly surprising data.

Elsewhere in that article, Cooper notes that the Town's 2008 spending will climb 7.9%, while the tax levy will climb 2% and the tax rate will remain flat. The Town increased spending from its fund balance by 35% to keep the tax rate. Public works spending jumped 191.5%, thanks in part to $401,000 of higher contract costs and $385,000 for salt storage. Fire company spending also increased, with Varna and Etna receiving the biggest increases from the town, though not as much as they had requested.

Near the end of the article, in the continuing discussion of the problems of Lower Creek Road's 10mph curve, former Supervisor candidate Cheryl Nelson makes another surprising (to me) suggestion: that the Town contract for police. After a campaign in which she seemed to call for keeping government small and cheap, we now have her calling for a full-time Supervisor, a single paid fire department, and police to supplement the Sheriff's Department. As it happens, I think the Town should probably talk with the Village of Dryden about contracting some coverage, but it's very confusing to see this after the last few months.

Also on the front page, Cooper visits the Dryden Middle School production of Alice in Wonderland, which sounds like it was gigantic, in cast, sets, and production numbers.

On the opinion page, the editorial is pretty confusing. It seems to call for non-partisan local government, but spends most of its time decrying one-party government. When it gets to Dryden, they write:

Dryden is even more evenly split than Newfield with regard to major party affiliations: 2967 Democrats and 2,701 Republicans. But the number of unaffiliated and minor party candidates [voters?] is nearly as large a number.

In Dryden, it seems as though the diverse political landscape means that people in government will actually have to talk to each other about basic issues. In a one-party town the basic issues are already decided.

I agree that we're doing something right in Dryden, but I have to admit that I don't really understand the rest of the article.

Also on the opinion page, they note that the George B. Bailey Agency won a Gold Award for its insurance services brochure.

Sports has photos of the Dryden Girls Swimming and Volleyball teams.

Matt Cooper's Inside Dryden column recommends today's Chili Cook-Off and Apple Pie contest, and writes about how to donate to the Dryden and Freeville Kitchen Cupboards. He reports that the Dryden Guest Artist series will continue November 28th at 7:00pm in the Dryden Middle School/High School auditorium, featuring Dan Hammond and the River Rat Project. He reports on the W.B. Strong Fire Company's continuing search for their history, and visits the Society for Creative Anachronism's dueling session at 4-H in Dryden.

There's an article on the Dryden Youth Opportunity Fund's efforts to provide community support for Dryden youth.

Even with the confusing editorial, this week's Dryden Courier is a fine example of what local reporting should look like. It's good to see that someone realizes how much is going on in Dryden, and that it's worth in-depth articles.

Posted by simon at 9:50 AM Comment

Fishing in Dryden?

I'm contemplating taking up fishing next year, ideally in the stretch of Fall Creek that's a fifteen minute walk from my house. I've seen people fishing there, near the Route 13 bridge, but it doesn't seem to come up as an ideal spot in any of the sites or books I've seen. The only places in Dryden that people seem to praise are Fall Creek around McLean (though preferably on the Groton side) and Dryden Lake, for ice fishing.

It sounds like there are brown trout in Fall Creek, stocked by the state, and some small bass and other trout. Above Route 38 in Freeville, it's trout season all year, while below it trout season runs from April 1st to October 15th. Black bass seem to be in season all year on all of the creek in Dryden.

The last time I went fishing was in 1990, with my father in the Thousand Islands. He caught a fair number of fish, mostly pike; I caught nothing. I did have a cheap reel suddenly run out and then explode on our last day last chance, but by the time we got the line in, there was nothing there. There wasn't anything visible to grab it. Oh well. (I've had better luck saltwater fishing off of piers and boats, but nothing tremendous.)

Any thoughts on fishing here? I'm just getting started, not looking to be particularly fancy.

Posted by simon at 9:09 PM Comment

November 19, 2007

Cheryl Nelson as Fox News host

I was a little surprised to find a comment from losing Republican Supervisor candidate Cheryl Nelson here last night, but the more I looked at it, the more it looked like she's learned well from the kind of Republican story-telling that's common on Fox News.

First, make sure you don't reply to the most direct charges against your side, but to something softer.

Begin with a friendly greeting:

Hi Simon,

Next, dismiss your opponent completely, conceding only that their foolishness is fun to watch.

Reading your blog is like seeing a car wreck - you know you shouldn't look, but you just can't help yourself.

Expand that dismissal to a broad and unsubstantiated claim about your opponents' party.

Now I know why the Dems. are against people that actually work for a living instead of wasting their time doing this all day.

Shift gears from accusations of childishess to an vague but plausible accusation that has nothing to do with the original posting.

Maybe instead of playing with your blog all day, every day, you might think about getting your outdated campaign signs removed from all yards.

(This has the additional benefit of ensuring that I'll spend a few more hours driving around Dryden to find what we missed before. Of course, there's no detail on where they might be.)

Then convert that accusation into a public concern - using the always helpful "People are saying" formula:

People are commenting that they are polluting the visual environment!!!

And turn it into an accusation of hypocrisy, however minor:

Due to your strong environmental stance, I am sure that you wouldn't want that, would you??

Next, broaden it into a claim of how much better your party is, of course:

Maybe you could learn from the Republicans professionalism in expeditiously removing signs.

For symmetry (?), make sure to get in another attack on the value of the site you're commenting about, and make people wonder how honestly comments get reported:

I am sure this message will get posted to your site, so hopefully you will print it in its entirety instead of your half-baked, one-sided versions that you seem to post regularly.

Finally, make sure you close friendly:

Thanks and have a good evening,

Fortunately, we're not on Fox News here - Cheryl can't shout me down or cut me off. I replied very briefly yesterday, but here are a few responses.

  • That's the first time I'm ever heard Living in Dryden called a "trainwreck", even by an annoyed Republican. Most of the complaints that I get are that it's too calm, and most people seem to come here for the content, not for a weird spectator thrill.

  • I don't consider Living in Dryden a "waste of time" - I consider it a community service.

  • I don't spend all day on Living in Dryden. Most posts are written before I start work (at my full-time job) in the morning or after I finish at night. Sometimes I manage to get a short post or two in at lunch. Some days I just don't get to it.

  • There may still be some signs out there - I'll have to double-check again, as noted above - but most of them disappeared within a few days of the election.

  • I heard a few complaints that signs generally are visual pollution during the election. I've heard zero since, though "people are commenting" somewhere else is always possible.

  • Republicans have left scattered signs around too. The State Supreme Court candidates (on both sides) seem to have been the worst offenders, but there's been a Clauson sign at Pro-Lawn on 366 for a long time.

  • Comments that aren't obviously spam get posted as submitted, unless there's an obvious problem with the content, in which case I contact the commenter. I do my best to ensure that everyone real who comments here gets heard.

We'll return to our usual programming shortly.

Posted by simon at 8:45 AM Comment

Arcuri visits Dryden

I couldn't make it, but today's Ithaca Journal has an nice article on Congressman Michael Arcuri's visit to the Dryden Town Hall on Saturday. I'm especially happy to see that a lot of the folks quoted in the article are from Dryden and Freeville. Impeachment seems to have been the big question, along with health care.

Martha Ferger asks Mike Arcuri about Iran
Martha Ferger asks Mike Arcuri about Iran (Photo by Kathy Zahler)

(I'm sorry to report that I hadn't listed this event here - I learned Tuesday that it was happening, then later that it was cancelled, then it was happening again...)

On the opinion page, John Steele of Dryden writes to express his shame over Dryden's choice in the recent Supervisor race.

Posted by simon at 8:56 AM Comment

Changing sewer district boundary for TC3 dorm?

Saturday's Cortland Standard has a more detailed look at a strange problem with TC3 and the Cortland Road Sewer District:

TC3 President Carl Haynes said Friday no one noticed the that the college's fifth dorm, completed during the summer, was outside the sewer district boundary that runs through the middle of the campus.

Haynes said the college is asking for the sewer district boundary to be moved south to the college's property line.

The college is also looking into building two more dormitories, which raises larger questions about the moratorium on new construction in the sewer district. (The Town runs the sewer district, which feeds into the wastewater treatment plant in the Village of Dryden. This is one small and kind of funny part of an incredibly long and complex conversation about the future of the plant and the district.)

Posted by simon at 12:21 PM Comment

Tasty chili and pies

(Thanks to Patrick Reynolds for this article - I was away on Saturday, visting my parents in Corning.)

On Saturday, the Dryden Community Center Cafe hosted a chili cook-off for local organizations and a pie contest for individual chefs. With chilis hot and mild, meaty and vegetarian, they had something for all tastes.

The chili winners were the Historical Society, the Dryden Foreign Language Teachers, and Kiwanis. The pie winners were Laurie Poirier, Bev Babcock, and Beth Peck. Congratulations to them all, and thanks to pie judges Reba Taylor, Joseph Valentinelli, and Margaret Ryan.

The cafe planning seems to be coming along nicely. They had chairs and tables for guests to eat at, a new counter where the eventual kitchen will be, and a couch and toys at the back of the room. The performance stage got put to good use, with folk and a cappella music while people ate.

More pictures of the event can be found at the cafe's website.

Posted by simon at 12:29 PM Comment

November 20, 2007

A bright spot in the Town Justice race

As I conclude reporting on November's election, I'd like to bring attention to something in the Town Justice race that I think demonstrates the importance of competitive elections.

It seems safe to say that before this year, Town Justice Chris Clauson was not a fan of Drug Court, and Dryden Republicans had highlighted their opposition to the Court in 2005 in both the District Attorney's race and the County Legislature races.

This year was different, and I think credit goes both to the Republicans - my understanding is that new Chair Jim Crawford and Dryden Village Trustee Randy Sterling had a lot to do with that side of the conversation - and to the Democrats, Jason Leifer especially, for pressing it as an issue in a competitive race.

I never thought I'd hear Clauson saying things like:

"Personally I wish [drug court] wasn't voluntary. I wish that the state would make it mandatory sentencing," Clauson said "It doesn't work as much as I want it to work because it's voluntary."

I worry about the value of election-year conversions, but I hope that this one will stick. Given support for that position from both sides of the aisle, I have real hopes.

Posted by simon at 6:54 AM Comment

Dryden pastor to certify Town of Ithaca union vote

This morning's Ithaca Journal mentions that Bethel Grove Bible Church Pastor David Jones was authorized by the Ithaca Town Board "to verify that a majority of the employees have designated the Teamsters union through authorization cards." It sounds like the cards, to join the Teamsters Union, have already been signed. (Dryden's highway department is represented by the Teamsters as well.)

Briefly in Tompkins notes the Dryden Senior Citizens' November 26th meeting at the Dryden Fire Hall at 11:45am, with lunch served at 12:15pm. Bring your own table services, and it's $5 for members, $8 for non-members. (Membership is $5 a year.) Professor Dan Pukstas of TC3 will be speaking.

Posted by simon at 7:25 AM Comment

November 21, 2007

County budget passes; election dart

The County Legislature passed an amended 2008 budget last night, cutting TCAT funding but adding funding for an additional corrections officer. It sounds like rural bus routes will likely be cut - I'll keep an eye out for changes that affect Dryden. The budget includes a 2.82% tax levy increase.

On the opinion page, I'm not sure why the Journal didn't publish it in Darts and Laurels, but David Weinstein of Ithaca (actually Varna) sends a dart to the Dryden GOP "for trying to question a candidate's patriotism as a means for gaining office."

Posted by simon at 12:41 PM Comment

Coming soon in Dryden

Somehow I missed Cathy Wakeman's Dryden Town Talk in this morning's Ithaca Journal - too much to do on the eve of Thanksgiving, I fear. There is, as always, a lot going on:

  • Dryden students played at last Saturday's Fall Instrumental Music Festival in Groton, making up 50% of the Jazz Band. She also notes the upcoming November 28th event with Dan Hammond and the River Rat band, at 7:00pm in the Dryden Middle School/High School auditorium.

  • Also on the 28th, just before the concert, the Middle School Parent-Teacher Organization will be having a "Navigating School Technology" event.

  • The Dryden Youth Opportunity Fund will be lighting an Honor Tree in Time Square - bulbs may be purchased for $5 to honor someone special. The money will help support the DYOF's activities.

  • Salvation Army bell-ringers will be appearing at Clark's soon, but they could still use more bell-ringers.

  • The Southworth Library will have a Christmas miniatures workshop December 1st. Preregistration is required. They also have access to new test preparation information.

  • On Wednesday, December 5th, the Red Cross will hold a blood drive at the Dryden VFW from 1:00pm to 6:00pm.

She has a lot more detail on all of these.

Posted by simon at 2:51 PM Comment

November 22, 2007

Deer donations; veteran photos

This morning's Ithaca Journal has a story that combines classic Thanksgiving themes of hunting and thankfulness, looking at the donations of deer from local hunters to food banks.

The opinion page is devoted to photos of local veterans.

Posted by simon at 10:22 AM Comment

November 26, 2007

AIDS memorial quilt at TC3

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports in Briefly in Tompkins that part of the AIDS Memorial Quilt will be on display from Wednesday through the week in the TC3 Forum. World AIDS Day is December 1st, and there will be events all week.

On the Life page, they have an article on local food in area restaurants, and takes a look at "food citizenship".

On Saturday, I missed the winners of the T-S-T BOCES Senior Hairstying Competition, where second and third place went to Dryden students. The Caroline portion of Six Mile Creek will be getting some invasive species removal thanks to a state grant, and we may see some greener NYSEG vehicles around.

Posted by simon at 12:28 PM Comment

Local food cookbook

Former Varna resident Beth Skwarecki has kept up her Sustainable Food Blog, and I'm happy to see that she's now finishing up a Local Food Pocket Cookbook. I'm still kind of going out to see what I can find, and either hoarding (canning or freezing) it or cooking up randomly-created combinations of food.

Hopefully her cookbook will help me get a little more organized about this!

Posted by simon at 6:16 PM Comment

November 27, 2007

Cornell gas line changes

This morning's Journal includes Gary Stewart's report on Cornell's modifications to the gas line it will be building to connect its power plant to the pipeline that runs through Ellis Hollow. It sounds like it will be narrower and generally less intrusive, and I'm curious to see what this looks like:

A proposal has been developed to directionally drill under Turkey Hill, Dodge, Game Farm and Pine Tree roads to minimize impact to the pavement at these crossings.

The Monitor lists a DWI on West Dryden Road.

Looking beyond Dryden, the Journal's editorial continues to worry about the lack of competition in local elections. I wish they'd spend some time actually talking with rank and file political committee members to get a sense of how these things run (or don't), but I can believe that County Republican Chair Mike Sigler called a huge list of people and found no takers. As much as I emphasize local politics here, it's hard not to see that most people don't find it interesting or useful. The Journal's reporting, or lack of it, plays a role in that apathy, though so do a lot of factors. (I'm working on some proposals around ballot access that might help, but still depend on people wanting to run.)

The print edition reports that while 5% of Upstate New York residents are immigrants, including a third of doctors, 10.3% of Tompkins County residents are immigrants.

Posted by simon at 8:53 AM Comment

November 28, 2007

Darfur benefit; airport bookings up

Freeville residents Siera Haley and Bec Groves-Haley appear in a picture accompanying an article on a Friday benefit for refugees in Darfur sponsored by the Northern Light Learning Center, a local home-schooling cooperative.

There's also an article on increased bookings at Ithaca airport, which quotes Tammy Graham, of AAA Stone Travel.

On the Life page, there's an article on how global warming might affect Upstate agriculture.

Update: A reader notes that I missed a story, in which Dryden resident Marty Hatch questioned the aesthetics of Cornell's proposed Milstein Hall. I've disliked this project since I first saw the drawings, and have to agree with his description of it as "a fulfillment of architectural ego without any consideration of context or public good." At least it's not in Dryden.

Posted by simon at 5:22 PM Comment

Village of Dryden tree lighting Friday night

The Dryden Community Cafe blog has a reminder that the Village of Dryden Christmas tree lighting will be this Friday, November 30th, at 6:00pm on the Village Green in Dryden, between the Methodist and Presbyterian churches on North Street. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be there, as will Beyond Measure and the High School Brass Ensemble.

The Cafe itself will be open, as will the Southworth Library, the Methodist Church, and the History House.

It sounds like there will be going on more this year than last year, when weather cramped the festivities, but not quite as much as in 2005.

Posted by simon at 5:50 PM Comment

Etna craft fair Saturday

The latest eruption of the Etna Community Assocation newsletter, The Volcano, announces that they'll be having the Etna Holiday Craft Fair this Saturday, December 1st, from 9:00am to 2:00pm at Houtz Hall, on Lower Creek Road in Etna.

They also have an announcement for the women's Victorian Christmas Tea December 9th at the Etna Community Church, and for Christmas Eve services there.

There's also an article on the Etna Cemetery, with a thank you to retiring caretaker Dwight Widger and hopes that others might help. The Community Association reports on the grants they received from the Town, which they plan to use to repair the roof of Houtz Hall in the spring, with hopes that future grants will help cover siding and heating issues.

They have advice from the Post Office on shipping packages, and a thank-you to the businesses that have helped out their Soup and Salad events.

Looking ahead, I'm delighted to see that they've announced plans for another Valentine's Chocolate Festival, to be held February 9th, and an Easter Egg Hunt on March 23rd.

Posted by simon at 6:00 PM Comment

November 29, 2007

Turnout for November

I got a new pile of election data from the Board of Elections yesterday, though I'm still working to figure out what it means.

1308 of 2967 registered Democrats voted on November 6th, while 1270 of 2700 registered Republicans voted. That gives Democrats a 44% turnout, and Republicans a 47% turnout.

456 of 1759 voters registered without a party ("blanks") voted, while 111 of 482 voters registered to other parties voted. Blanks had 26% turnout, and the minor party voters had 23%.

None of the races were decided by margins that looked anything like the 38 voter difference between Democrats and Republicans, however:

  • Chris Clauson, a Republican, won the Town Justice race by 321 votes.

  • Mary Ann Sumner, a Democrat, won the Town Supervisor's race by 130 votes.

  • The gap between the Democrat with the most Town Board votes and the Republican with the most Town Board votes was 235 votes; the gap between the Democrat with the second most Town Board votes and the Republican in the same position was 145 votes.

The strongest turnout was among Republican voters in the east side of Dryden - District 10 (Irish Settlement) had 57%, District 11 (Dryden Lake) had 55%, Districts 6 and 7 (around the Village of Dryden) had 54%, and District 2 (Freeville) had 50%. The strongest Democratic turnout was 54% in District 7 and 52% in District 9 (Ellis Hollow). The strongest Blank turnout was in District 9 at 37%, with District 7 close behind at 36%.

Overall turnout, at 40%, was below both 2006 (63%) and 2005 (42%).

I'll make more of this data available as I figure out ways to make it intelligible on the web.

Posted by simon at 6:25 PM Comment

November 30, 2007

Local Christmas trees

Cornell Cooperative Extension just posted a list of Christmas tree farms in Tompkins County.

Red Barn Farm, on Neimi Road, is listed as offering both cut trees and trees you can cut yourself, while Ludgate Farms on Hanshaw Road has cut trees and live Blue Spruces.

Posted by simon at 11:37 AM Comment