Letters to the Editor, Jan. 5, 2012

We appreciate this opportunity to clarify and correct statements made in the article.

Birchez Associates, Kingston

Watch your language, please

In “Students Favor Midtown Rail Trail” (Dec. 22, 2011) by Lynn Woods, your very excellent writer uses the word “stakeholder” as in “the Bard College students have been meeting with stakeholders … ” I find the use of that word troublesome.

For one, it implies that the people who needed to know were involved, so not to worry, and if you weren’t invited, well, it was for stakeholders. We saw that word used in the recent dustup over the Pike Plan: “stakeholders” apparently did not include the citizens of Kingston. Shopkeepers, shoppers, tourists … the stakeholders were invited, and how well they did their job if they did anything would be cast as their concern.


All citizens are stakeholders in any and all public works, indeed in any and all private works where their laws and government is to have a say. As to the Rail Trail, again, the citizens are the stakeholders and some citizens that live very close to the trail may, or may not, have greater concern and may or may not represent the best needs of the city itself. So, some years pass and a citizen in Kingston might say, gee, a Rail Trail? In Kingston? We have one?

Happy Traum and friends have a song “Barbed Wire.” “Barbed wire, it’s just a sin, it locks me out, but it also locks you in … ” Words can do that too. And Frost too: “Before I’d build a wall I’d seek to know what I was walling in or walling out.”

“Stakeholders” is one of those words that George Lakeoff, an American cognitive linguist and professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, might warn us about: use of some words accidentally has us saying things that, if we thought about it, we didn’t mean to say. The word creates a division, a wall, where no division needs to be made.

Gerald Berke, Kingston

Letter to the attorney general

Subject:  Review of local development corporations.

Dear Mr. Schneiderman,

I applaud your review, long overdue, of how local development corporations collect and spend taxpayer money. I suggest your office also review the Kingston Trust Fund tax returns for the year 2008-09 and following.

The Fund is registered as a 501(c)(3) and has net assets of $19.4 million. The net assets increased by $2.5 million over the fiscal year. The Fund manages the health care costs of teachers in the Kingston City School District and annual contributions to the fund are a line item in the KCSD budget. In the 2011-2012 budget, taxpayers paid $25.2 million into that fund. And yet, the fund demands the district increase its annual contribution, citing premium increases, without allowing the district any insight on how the money is being spent. The fund director, a retired teacher and former union leader, is paid an annual salary of $210,000. The director defends this amount by saying he’s underpaid compared to other executives.

I believe this is an abuse of taxpayer money and trust and have long advocated for the District to cap its annual contribution to health insurance, as many corporations have done, to the 2010-11 level and put the responsibility for ongoing premium expense on recipients, active and retired. I should add this fund is totally owned and managed by the union.

I would appreciate an acknowledgement of this correspondence and you plan on how to follow through in investigating this taxpayer abuse.

Ron Dietl, Kingston


There is one comment

  1. gberke

    It gets uninteresting when each “side” arguing for its case presents itself in the best light without including all the relevant information, some of which would weigh against them. The reader is left to decide from the limited facts presented but some not presented by either “side”…
    It’s not interesting because it is presented solely in an adversarial format with no possibility of objective resolution… In Getting to Yes, the results of a multi year Harvard study on negotiation, the term “principled negotiation” is introduced: fairly negotiating for what one needs, not out of strength, not out of feigning weakness, but out of principle… what one needs, not what the traffic will bear, not winner take all. So both sides can trample about the issue without fear of anyone going too near the truth. Or so it seems.

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