September 4, 2006

New York State median incomes fall 2.7%

Here's a story worth contemplating on Labor Day.

Update: Er, no. The Detroit Free Press miscalculated, and New York's income climbed 0.71%, while the country fell 2.8%.

New York State residents seems to have lost some ground lately on median income, with a 2.7% decrease 0.71% increase from 1999 to 2005. (2005 dollars are used in both comparisons.)

Before some readers start jumping up and down about how that's proof that New York's high taxes cause us terrible problems, pause for a moment to look over the map. North Carolina, constantly touted as a place New Yorkers go to, fell 11.3% 3.6%; Michigan fell 12% 14.9%, Utah fell 10.5% , Oregon 10.4% 7.2%, and Mississipi 10.3% 13.6%. Gainers include Rhode Island (4.4%), Wyoming (4.1%), Montana (1.6%), North Dakota (1.2%), and the District of Columbia (0.5%).

Something is certainly happening, but it's a story with deeper roots. Median incomes for the US as a whole are down about 6% 2.8% for that period.

(The original Detroit Free Press article is here.)

New York also has the unique combination of above-average income and above-average poverty rates. No, I didn't know that 3 in 10 residents of upstate NY cities lives below the poverty line. In New York City, it's 2 in 10.

(In the Town of Dryden, it was around 1 in 10 in 2000 at 7.3% for families and 12.4% for individuals. There is no 2005 data available for the Town, but the county's poverty rate climbed from 6.8% to 10%, so I suspect Dryden's has climbed as well. )

Posted by simon at 4:08 PM Comment

September 5, 2006

Manufacturing declines; affordable housing needed

There was lots of news about the county and region over the holiday weekend. Neighboring Cortland County lost 51.7% of its manufacturing jobs between 1990 and 2005. Tompkins only lost 9%, but we had a lot less to start with. Service jobs in Tompkins climbed 25.1%, while Cortland service jobs climbed 19.1%.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is making a comeback, with 29 cases in Tompkins County since June. If you encounter these symptoms, call a doctor:

Bishop noted that pertussis begins with mild cold symptoms including sneezing, runny nose, low-grade fever and a mild cough. Within two weeks, the cough becomes more severe and is characterized by episodes of numerous rapid coughs followed by a high-pitched “whoop.? Coughing episodes may recur for one to two months and are more frequent at night.

Yesterday's paper reported on a problem with the county's "relatively stable economy that continues to draw people to the area": a housing shortage, especially in affordable housing. A study concluded that Tompkins County will need 2500 more affordable housing units to avoid high housing costs, above 30 percent of household gross incomes.

Posted by simon at 8:35 AM Comment

School renovations complete; county reductions

This morning's Ithaca Journal includes a look at what's coming to local schools this year, and notes the completion of the Dryden elementary school renovation projects.

There's also an article on the county's likely 2007 budget. The budget to be unveiled tonight is what the legislature asked for - no tax rate increase - but will also include service cuts.

An article on the Tompkins County Beautification Brigade notes their plans for expansion further into the county. I don't know if Dryden's on their list.

Posted by simon at 5:25 PM Comment

September 6, 2006

212 new homes in Dryden

In an aside in an article about the possible impact of a new sewer system in the Town of Lansing, the Journal notes that Dryden led the county in new home construction last year, with 212 to Lansing's 211. I'm not surprised, given the construction I've seen around Etna and elsewhere - Dryden is definitely growing.

NYSEG continues its unremarkable customer service with a website-only approach to letting customers choose their natural gas provider.

At this point I'm pretty well convinced that the benefits of deregulating power and gas are pretty close to zero, mostly forcing people to wander through a maze of not-very-different choices differentiated rather poorly. At least with electricity there's some sense that you can sort of choose the source of your power, but with natural gas it's even harder to see a point. It's just gas, right? Wouldn't it make sense to buy it in maximum bulk and share the cost? (You could still offer price insurance for people averse to risk.) Apparently that's just not exciting enough a business opportunity.

The initial county budget looks tight, and drains the fund balance, so there's probably a huge amount of work left to do on it.

Posted by simon at 8:38 AM Comment

September 7, 2006

Community fun Saturday

There are fairs, festivals, and fun all over town this Saturday:

  • The Etna Community Association will be having a yard sale on Saturday, September 9th from 9:00am to noon at Houtz Hall, at the intersection of Lower Creek Road and Etna Lane.

  • The Freeville Harvest Festival will run from 9:30am to 3:00pm, in front of the Freeville Elementary School and next to the church. They'll have food, a variety of booths, performances, and fun for kids.

  • The Ellis Hollow Community Fair will run from noon to 4:00pm at the Ellis Hollow Community Center on Genung Road. They'll have their white elephant sale and book sale, as well as all kinds of booths with food and fun.

Should make for an exciting weekend! I posted articles last year on the Freeville Harvest Festival and Ellis Hollow Fair if you would like a bit of a preview.

Posted by simon at 8:56 AM Comment

12 years for Dryden rape

This morning's Ithaca Journal leads with the 12-year sentence handed down yesterday to Karel "Ricky" Westerling for his conviction on rape and kidnapping charges following an incident last December.

There are two articles on the Ithaca schools, one in the print edition looking at the welcome freshman got at Ithaca High School, and the other exploring the possible cost of a major construction bond.

Posted by simon at 12:45 PM Comment

September 8, 2006

Thanking Gadabout

This morning's Ithaca Journal editorial recognizes Gadabout, the local bus system that "provides on-request, door-to-door transportation services to elderly and disabled residents of Tompkins County." The editorial encourages readers to donate to support this - "as we swell with pride, maybe a few extra dollars can fall Gadabout's way."

In The Monitor, there's a Dryden DWI and an arrest for rape of a minor that was arraigned in Dryden Town Court. (No address is given for the defendant.)

Posted by simon at 8:05 AM Comment

September 11, 2006

Post-9/11 preparedness

Saturday's Ithaca Journal started an article on first responder preparedness with a quote from Etna Fire Chief Thomas Lobdell, visits the McLean and Varna companies, and ends with a quote from Freeville Chief Andy Downs. It's a mixed story, with more resources available but questions about priorities and accessibility. Dryden Chief Ron Flynn is quoted in another article about the persistent volunteer shortage, as is Deputy Chief Tom Warner.

There's a more detailed than usual report on county legislative votes, something I'd like to see the Journal do regularly.

There's also a 15-day public comment period on the NYSEG delivery rate reduction the state ordered.

S & S Tree Service of Etna gets a laurel from the Finger Lakes Land Trust for donating "a huge load of wood chips for one of our trails."

Posted by simon at 8:37 AM Comment

9/11 Memorial tonight

I won't be able to make it tonight, but I wanted to highlight that the Neptune Hose Company will be having a 9/11 memorial tonight at 7:00pm tonight on the Village Green in Dryden:

Planned are remarks by members of the department, the ambulance service and village police, the reading of a poem and a wreath-laying ceremony.

"We want the community to remember what happened, for the individuals that lost their lives," said Dryden Deputy Chief Tom Warner.

(The Village Green is on North Street, Route 13, just north of the four corners intersection of Routes 13, 38, and 392. It's the area between the Methodist Church on the corner and the Presbyterian Church.)

Posted by simon at 8:55 AM Comment

Fairs Saturday

Dryden had an action-packed Saturday this past weekend, with the Etna Community Association yard sale, the Freeville Harvest Festival, and the Ellis Hollow Fair as well.

A busy Etna yard sale.
A busy Etna yard sale.

Booths at the Freeville Harvest Festival.
Booths at the Freeville Harvest Festival.

Ellis Hollow Fair.
Eating at the Ellis Hollow Fair.

Varna Volunteer Fire Company demonstrates a car rescue.
Varna Volunteer Fire Company demonstrates a car rescue at the Ellis Hollow Fair.

I didn't get around as much as I wish I had, as I was registering voters at the Ellis Hollow Fair, but I've put up a gallery of photos I took Saturday if you'd like more.

Posted by simon at 5:44 PM Comment

September 12, 2006

9/11 remembrance

I was looking through the print version of today's Journal and figured they just hadn't made it to yesterday's 9/11 memorial on the Village Green. The online edition, however, reports that around 80 people were there last night, with speakers including Rev. Alan Kinney of Dryden United Methodist Church, John Bailey, Dryden Police Chief Margaret Ryan, and Dryden Ambulance Director Clayton Bronson.

Tompkins County employers are definitely looking to expand their workforce, according to the latest Manpower poll.

The editorial invites readers to leave comments on stories at the Journal's web site, a new feature. Perhaps it will spark some discussion, or maybe it'll just be shouting matches. We'll see, I guess. (It does require registration.)

Posted by simon at 8:03 AM Comment

September 13, 2006

Alternative energy ordinance; hiking trails

This morning's Ithaca Journal reports that the alternative energy ordinance will be introduced at tomorrow's Town Board meeting, hopefully eventually freeing Dryden residents to take further steps to generate power for their own homes.

I'm happy to see that the Town took on a project I was once considering doing for this site, creating a map of hiking trails in the Town of Dryden. There are lots of them out there - actually, I suspect more than the Town listed - but it's great to see.

Dryden and Ithaca high schools need more progress in English, and George Junior Republic needs more progress in middle-school math, according to a No Child Left Behind report published by the State Education Department.

The print edition has an article on the retirement of Freeville and Cassavant Elementary principal Paula Thoma and the arrival of new principal Audrey Ryan.

Local Briefs note that TC3 will be shut down on Sunday because the water will be off for construction. It will reopen on Monday as usual.

After yesterday's primary, Hillary Clinton will be facing John Spencer for US Senate, Eliot Spitzer will be facing John Faso for Governor, and Andrew Cuomo will be facing Jeanine Pirro for Attorney General. The results for Tompkins County had the same pattern of winners and losers, though with different margins, especially in the Senate primary.

Posted by simon at 7:55 AM Comment

Save Sapsucker Woods meeting tonight

Thanks to the Ithaca Community News, I just noticed a new group, Save Sapsucker Woods. It seems to have formed in opposition to Rocco Lucente's plans to build more houses near Sapsucker Woods Road, on the Town of Ithaca side of the road.

They'll be having a meeting tonight at Kendal at Ithaca at 7:00pm.

Posted by simon at 9:40 AM Comment

September 14, 2006

New Cortland Standard web site

I'm delighted to report that the Cortland Standard now has a web site. Their issue on the 12th includes a report on the Dryden 9/11 memorial, and I'm sure there will be more Dryden news to come.

I often find the Cortland Standard's Dryden reporting deeper than the Ithaca Journal's, and always a good complement to it, but I've only been able to get the paper when I'm on the east side of town, which isn't consistent enough. This should be a tremendous help.

Posted by simon at 7:47 AM Comment

September 15, 2006

Races to watch

I'm finally catching up to yesterday's Ithaca Journal, which mentioned the Dryden Town Board race in an editorial on local elections to be decided this November:

The rest of the Tompkins County card includes a contest in Dryden for a one-year term on the town council. There, temporary board appointee Daniel Tier, who finished third in 2006 in a race for two council seats, squares off against local businessman David Makar for the right to complete a board term vacated by Mike Hattery when he was elected to the County Legislature last year.

Posted by simon at 8:17 AM Comment

Alternative energy law introduced

This morning's Journal sort of suggests that the Town Board passed an alternative energy law last night, though it was only introduced:

Residents of the Town of Dryden moved one step closer to generating their own sustainable energy Thursday night, when the Dryden Town Board agreed on the county's first zoning provisions for household wind and solar energy systems.

The Board agreed to move ahead with the law, taking it to a public hearing, but there wasn't much discussion indicating that the board members agreed with all of its provisions. There were objections that the law was too restrictive - a major shift from concerns expressed early on that it shouldn't be too open - but I expect a much larger conversation at the public hearing, scheduled for October 3rd.

Tompkins County is once again a big winner in the New York State borrowed pork sweepstakes, getting the fifth-most dollars of any county in member items from the Assembly Speaker's discretionary funds despite our small population. Common Cause/NY has more details, including a spreadsheet. (None of the listed items went to zip codes 13053 or 13068; 14850 got $2,367,000.)

(And no, I don't consider that money coming in a good thing - the source is so tainted by New York State inside politics and creative finance that the whole system needs to be shut down and member items forced to go through public approval processes with on-budget money. Tompkins should be able to hold its own in a fair process.)

Update: Looking at the spreadsheet in detail, it looks like $2.2 million of that went to Prisoner's Legal Aid, which has an Ithaca regional office, but the spreadsheet uses a 212 area code phone number. The legislature's PDF listing says the same - I'm not sure what's up with that, but I doubt the money actually came here. Weird.

Karel "Ricky" Westerling, sentenced earlier this month to 12 years in prison for rape and kidnapping, is now charged with assault for a July 5th incident in Lansing, along with a Sunset Circle resident and two McLean residents.

Finally, on the opinion page, Katrina Blair of Dryden encourages donating to "those organizations that need it and do good." There's also a guest column by Michael Koplinka-Loehr on the state of the county budget process and what's at risk.

Posted by simon at 8:27 AM Comment

September 18, 2006

Surprise gift at Varna church

Saturday's Darts and Laurels tells of a wonderful surprise for the Varna United Methodist Church:

LAUREL: From Alice Humerez, lay leader of the Varna Methodist Church. On Aug. 26, our little Methodist Church in Varna had a chicken barbecue. You and your two teenage daughters stopped early, after visiting friends at Cornell, and we invited you in to have your dinners. When you left you asked how much the dinners were and we told you $21. You paid and left in a hurry and after you had left we realized that you had given us $500. Sir, you walked into our church as a man concerned with the reasons we were having the dinner, but you walked out an angel without your letting us know even your name. As you must have seen, we struggle to keep our church open and right now we have many projects that need to be finished before the snow sets in: a bathroom that has needed remodeling for years and a chimney that is near to falling down. The $500 you donated to our church will definitely go toward all the work we need to do. How can we say thank you for such a generous donation? From the "Apples of Gold" we send this message to you and all who are generous in their giving: "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen nor touched, but are felt in the heart." Thank you so very much.

I hope the anonymous donor enjoyed his chicken, as what he gave will have a lasting effect on a lot of people.

The History Center also gives a Laurel to those who helped with its Eight Square Schoolhouse Festival. Also on the opinion page, Chris Bell of Freeville writes on the role of churches in the gay marriage debate.

There's an update on the bicycle suitability map project, and more details on the Ithaca schools' proposed bond project.

Posted by simon at 12:28 PM Comment

September 19, 2006

Alternative Energy Ordinance available

If you'd like to know what the new rules for windmills and other alternative energy conversion systems in the Town might look like eventually, you can read the proposed Renewable Energy Facilities Law of the Town of Dryden, New York.

This was introduced at the last Town Board meeting, and will have a public hearing October 3rd 5th. There are a fair number of steps to go before this becomes law, but hopefully homeowners in Dryden will be able to install small systems soon, while those opposed to large-scale systems like those Cornell proposed and withdrew last year can rest easy.

Posted by simon at 5:52 PM Comment

September 20, 2006

Housing, budget

I'm behind on, well, everything, lately, but here's what the Journal's reported this week.

On Monday, they reported that the Tompkins County housing market is steady, with the median price of a home sold January-June climbing from $150,000 in 2004 to $174,000 in 2006. They also reported that the County Legislature would be discussing proposed budget cuts.

Tuesday's editorial started by discussing Mike Lane's concession last November, but goes on to talk about the shape of the county budget and the choices ahead. If the Journal is trying to warn legislators that they might lose based on those choices, it seems like they might be smarter to say so than to start with a graceful concession and then dive into the budget pain. There's also a letter from former Dryden legislative candidate W. David Restey on the low turnout for the Republican primary.

The big news in today's Journal is weather: the rainiest summer on record helped and hurt crops, and an emerging El Niño will affect weather patterns this winter.

Posted by simon at 7:55 AM Comment

September 21, 2006

Books on sale at Neptune Hose Company today

This morning's Ithaca Journal report that Southworth Library's annual book sale runs from today through Saturday at Neptune Hose Company (map). Today and tomorrow it's open from 9:00am to 9:00pm, while on Saturday it will run from 9:00am to 1:00pm.

The opinion page has a letter from the director of the SPCA defending their policy of not adopting animals out to homes with other un-neutered animals. (I have mixed feelings about this. It's sort of a good idea in general, but keeping a dog breeder from adopting a kitten doesn't make much sense to me.)

Posted by simon at 9:00 AM Comment

September 23, 2006

Thanks for 9/11 memorial

This morning's Journal includes a Laurel from Jenn Wildridge, thanking everyone who made this year's 9/11 memorial possible.

Yesterday's Journal had a letter from John Rochford of Freeville, concerned about unnecessary roughness in a Dryden football game.

Posted by simon at 3:13 PM Comment


Living in Dryden will be taking a break for the next week, returning October 2nd. I'm hoping to have more articles on the drastic changes this summer in my yard/garden, as well as the latest in Dryden news and events. Hopefully my head will clear enough to get some energy back here!

Thanks for reading!

Posted by simon at 3:17 PM Comment