November 3, 2013

Usually best to ask the candidate

Who is.
Who is Ron Szymanksi?

I'm not sure why the Republicans were asking this. Szymanski isn't John Galt, and he's broadcast his views pretty widely. He's fond of fracking.

Vote for Mary Ann Sumner for Town of Dryden Supervisor!

Posted by simon at 11:41 AM Comment

November 5, 2013

Vote today

Today Dryden voters will elect a Town Supervisor, two Town Board members, and a Highway Superintendent. There are also races for County Legislator, County Judge, District Attorney, and State Supreme Court Justice.

Polls are open from 6:00am to 9:00pm today.

Polling places in the southeast corner of the town have changed. Sadly, Reach Out For Christ Church, which always put out an amazing spread of food for voters, is no longer a polling place. The district that voted there is now split between the Freeville and Dryden fire stations.

You can find out where you vote a few different ways. This form should tell you your polling place, though it didn't find me. The official map is here, but it requires a Silverlight plug-in to work, and not everyone has it. If that doesn't work, this map (click to see a bigger version) may be helpful:

Current election district boundaries .
Current election district boundaries in the Town of Dryden.

Workers at the polling place can also help you, as can these resources at the Board of Elections.

Once you figure out what district you're in, you can figure out your polling place:

  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 Fire Station - 26 North 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. Dryden Fire Station - 26 North Street, Dryden (map).

If you'd like to see a sample ballot before going in, the Board of Elections has them.

Posted by simon at 6:10 AM Comment


It's been a much quieter year politically, but still a very weird one. I'm not sure what useful I can say about Independence party signs promising "Clean Water", when the Dryden part of that line is identical to the Republican line - and the Republican line is where you find the pro-fracking candidates.

Not all of them are pro-fracking: Steve Stelick is a notable exception, having voted for the ban. Highway superintendent Jack Bush hasn't said much about fracking that I've noticed. Supervisor candidate Ron Szymanski, though, is very much on the record supporting fracking and opposing Dryden's ban. Bette Minarski hasn't said very much that I can find.

I'm puzzled by the pretty much unexplainable backdating of a document attempted by the Environmental Planner to make it look like the board had fully approved something they were planning to repeal anyway. While I don't think it makes Supervisor Mary Ann Sumner look attentive - dates really need to be in the right year - I don't think there's anything there rising to the level of fraud that Republicans keep claiming to see.

On the Town level, I heartily encourage you to vote for Mary Ann Sumner for Supervisor and Jason Leifer and Greg Sloan for Town Board. Steve Stelick is also an excellent choice, bringing experience and a record of working well with the board. "Clean water" actually is one of his priorities.

On the County level, I've been puzzled. Amy Scott-Foster and Nancy Werany, the Republican candidates, seem to be aiming all of their fire at Martha Robertson - not because they think they can beat her, but because they hope to embarrass her in her Congressional race. "Mike Lane is a nice guy but he enables Martha Robertson with his votes" may be the weakest Dryden campaign slogan of all time. It's wrong, too, if anyone pays attention to how they interact and vote.

That makes my county endorsements incredibly easy - Martha Robertson for the west side of Dryden and Mike Lane on the east side.

On the propositions, I'd strongly encourage you to Vote No on Proposition 1. New York is way too tempted by get rich quick economic development schemes, and casino gambling is pretty much the perfect example. Why bring more of that poison here?

Posted by simon at 7:52 AM Comment

November 8, 2013

A Journey is a Destination: Walking the Jim Shug Trail

The next meeting of the Dryden Town Historical Society will feature guest speaker, Cynthia Cantu, who is developing a mobile app to identify the natural and historical highlights encountered on the Jim Shug Trail to Dryden Lake. While the app is not yet ready for distribution, Cynthia is prepared to show us the some of the features she plans to include.

The event will be held on Wednesday, November 13th, beginning at 7 PM in the Dryden Village Hall. As always, this event is free and open to all with donations gratefully accepted. The doors will open at 6:30 PM.

Posted by simon at 8:15 AM Comment

November 13, 2013

Have (some) Dryden Republicans given up on elections?

[Building on a piece I started writing in October.]

It's been a very strange fall. Normally, around Labor Day, the Dryden roadsides blossom with political signs, especially in years like this one with county elections as well as town elections. For the first time in a long while, every seat that's up for election this year is contested.

I've been puzzled, though, to watch as Democratic signs went up but only a few scattered Republican signs, and those for incumbents Steve Stelick and Jack Bush. The Shopper ads for the Republican town candidates are a mix of their usual past slogans. "Individual Freedom & Personal Responsibility" meshes nicely with the sign that hung in their office for a long while:

Saint Calvin.
Saint Calvin Coolidge and his reversible axiom.

The ads for the county legislature candidates are especially strange, with the candidates from both the east side and the west side directing their fire at west side Democrat Martha Robertson. The weirdest moment of that was in a Shopper ad with a bullet saying that "Mike Lane is a nice guy but enables Martha Robertson to do this with his votes". The second part of that statement is the clearest sign I've seen that the Republicans running for county legislature have spent no time whatsoever studying how the legislators actually work with each other.

Then, last night (October 17th) I went to my first Town Board meeting in a while. Between an ad in The Shopper calling on "Town of Dryden voters" to "Come join us. Voice Your Opinions." and the news that the Town Board had demanded and received the Planning Director's resignation last month, I expected a crowd.

I'd heard of a consistent band of angry folks attacking the board for daring to proceed with Critical Environmental Area (CEA) designations, but I wasn't prepared for a crowd that seemed to demand a fight. One speaker dared them to call the Sheriff, one told me "any time, buddy", and there was at least one other invitation to a fight. It wasn't a friendly crowd by any means, announcing its lack of trust in the board and especially the supervisor repeatedly.

I'm not sure what the crowd at the meeting thinks about it, but the Dryden Republicans went down to a resounding defeat in last week's election.

The two Republican incumbents, Highway Superintendent Jack Bush and Town Board member Steve Stelick, lost narrowly, Bush by 26 to Rick Young at the latest count and Stelick by 66 behind Democratic newcomer Greg Sloan. The other Republican candidates lost horribly. Democrats won County Legislature seats by 2-1 margins. Democratic Supervisor Mary Ann Sumner, the target of that angry crowd, won by 1830-1375.

(I'll post a fuller story when the official results go up.)

I would like to give lots of credit to the Dryden Democrats, who ran some great campaigns, but the larger story seems to be the decline of the local Republican party and strange choices by its leadership.

Dryden has changed dramatically since I started writing ten years ago, and not just in voter registration. The battles over fracking left a lot of Dryden voters skeptical of the Randian property rights rhetoric the Dryden Republicans relish, and the party didn't seem able to put together much of a story. Its lead candidate, Ron Szymanski, is pretty well remembered for his pro-drilling rhetoric.

This still should have been a winnable race for them, as Republicans historically vote at higher levels in local races. I suspect that 2011 made some Republicans less eager period, and the barely even minimal campaign (awful signs, very late) that most of their candidates ran made it worse.

The craziest piece, the most self-defeating piece, was running the legislative race as an attack on Martha Robertson. I get that Republicans don't like her, and neither does my former high school classmate who is now unfortunately our Congressman. Running someone against her, even someone unlikely to win, though, was a great way to increase west side Democratic turnout. Blasting bizarre attack ads out over Facebook, where they seemed to hit pretty much everyone in Tompkins County, though, was an especially bad idea. Apparently there were also similar TV and radio ads.

That brought out people who just wanted to vote a Democratic ticket as a show of support before next year's Congressional race. I'm reasonably sure that approach brought out many more than the 26 votes that cost Jack Bush the Highway Superintendent seat, and maybe the 66 that cost Steve Stelick the Town Board seat.

This last-minute prank didn't help either, at least with anyone who was paying attention. Maybe it was supposed to be about Steve Stelick and Jack Bush, who've demonstrated an interest in clean water in the past, but I don't think it was a wise reminder of the views of the rest of the Independence ticket for Dryden offices:


It was a weird year, one where most of my predictions fell flat. The continuing strength of the fracking conversation and DRAC's strong presence made it a hard year for Republicans whose rhetoric was tarnished by past fracking battles. Despite that, I didn't see any kind of Democratic sweep coming.

The Republicans certainly could and even should win elections here, but I don't think it's possible on their current course. That makes me worry that we'll have effectively uncontested races (much like the City and Town of Ithaca) in the near future, something I dread. (The Republican victories in Lansing and Newfield are signs that we're not necesssarily there yet.)

I'm not sure what to predict for the angry crowd at the Town Board meeting. CEAs are gone, and took the Planning Director with them. Perhaps the end of that saga (which alas I never especially covered) and the magnitude of this loss will ease tensions a bit. I'm not counting on it.

Posted by simon at 8:03 PM Comment

November 14, 2013

After a decade...

It's a little over ten years since I started this site. The Dryden Republicans had just won an election that gave them complete control of the Town Board. The major issue that year was the Democratic Supervisor's insisting on audits for the fire companies, which didn't go over well.

In 2005 and then in 2006, Democrats were elected to the Town Board. By 2007, four of five Town Board members, including the Supervisor, were elected on the Democratic line. After this year's sweep, the only two Republican elected officials remaining are Judge Chris Clauson and Town Clerk Bambi Avery, both of whom won in 2011 with more votes on the Democratic line than on the Republican line.

Living in Dryden didn't have that much to do with this. I was extremely lucky to take up writing it at a time when the balance of voters was shifting rapidly and the issues (most notably fracking) ran severely against Republican talking points.

I've slowly reduced my involvement in Dryden politics, something made much easier thanks to great people joining the conversation and making me feel like I could step away. I'm no longer on the Democratic Committee, for example, and I plan to stay off for a while at least to watch my kids grow up.

As for Living in Dryden, I'll still be posting, but it's going to be occasional. When I first started, I set a goal of posting every day. That wasn't sustainable for just one writer, much less one writer who's doing too many other things.

Right now, I'm also pouring energy into (yet another) book. This one, on hand tool woodworking, might appeal to more people than my usual programming books. I'm writing it in the open, so take a look. It's only a small bit so far, but you can see what's to come. I also blog about that occasionally.

There will be more here - probably a lot more. Dryden remains a fascinating place. I'm just trying to feel less obligated to write about it!

Thanks for keeping Dryden interesting.

Posted by simon at 12:18 PM Comment