My mother, rest her soul, advised me when I got in this business never to talk to people about religion or politics. She didn’t mention guns, so how was I to know there’s no talking to people about that subject, either?
Last week’s Ulster County Legislature session on guns at UPAC in Kingston demonstrated that it is a narrow ledge indeed that constitutes a middle ground between those who fervently believe in their right to bear arms and those just as strongly convinced that guns are the big problem.
About 45 people spoke on the pro-gun resolution ultimately approved 14-8 by the legislature. I counted 35 in favor, about 10 against, with a few people asking for compromise. Judging by the hand-held American flags being waved, the crowd seemed at least eight-to-one pro-resolution. People who spoke against it, including one woman who told how her young nephew was paralyzed for life after suffering multiple gunshot wounds, were booed and hissed. As a demonstration in fundamental democracy, it was encouraging that people cared enough to come out on a cold, rainy winter night to express themselves. But the quality of expression was ugly. It was obvious that one side did not want to hear what the other side had to say.
I came to appreciate this standoff better after running into an old friend from Shandaken a few days later. And I wasn’t taking sides.
A few weeks ago, the Shandaken Town Board, in a split vote, passed a resolution opposing the new state NY SAFE gun control statute. According to published reports, more than 1,500 townsfolk signed an on-line petition asking the town board to reconsider its decision at its regular monthly meeting.
According to the 2010 census, Shandaken has 3,085 residents (which may or not include weekenders). While every petitioner might not have been a certifiable taxpayer, public officials tend to listen anytime almost half a town’s population expresses an opinion.
Regarding the above, the conversation with my friend went something like this: “I see you’ve got some controversy over guns up there in Shandaken?”
“What controversy? The town board voted on it. And they got it right.”
“What about the 1,500 people who signed petitions against it?”
“What about it? The town board voted. That’s it.”
His angry, incredulous glare convinced me to drop the subject.
A good investment
New Paltz county Legislator Ken Wishnick, a Democrat, took umbrage with Republican legislature Chairwoman Terry Bernardo for spending $1,200 in public monies to rent Kingston’s cavernous UPAC Theater for last week’s (pro-gun) legislative meeting. Wishnick, a first-term Democrat, could be right on the issue, but comes across as unduly partisan in this instance. (Not that bashing Republicans ever hurt anybody in New Paltz.)
After attempting to deal with overflow crowds at two previous public sessions on gun control, the chairman acted prudently in moving it to a larger venue. And spending $1200 to accommodate almost 900 people — that’s about $1.35 a head — seemed to me a pretty good return on investment.
Theater director Chris Silva put things in perspective. “It’s always good to see a full house at UPAC,” he told the crowd.
We’re not Newburgh!
This just in. Forbes Magazine has named Poughkeepsie one of the most “miserable” places (ranked 18th) in the country. While hardly a garden spot with what seems to be a murder every month, the Queen City owes its miserable status to inclusion with hell-hole Newburgh in a federal Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) from which the Forbes editors drew their data.
Naturally, as reported in the Poughkeepsie Journal, local officials were outraged. While defending their town, a mini-Newburgh in its own right, most deplored the comparisons with the Hill City, 15 miles southwest and across a broad river.
Payback, as they say, can be hard. For years, towns up and down the valley have been using Newburgh, an All-AmericanCity in the 1940s, as a convenient foil to explain away their own local failures. “Hey,” the saying goes, “we’re not as bad as Newburgh.”
For sure, Les Miserables will not play at the Bardavon Theater in Poughkeepsie any time soon.