Shandaken residents opposed to the gun control measures of the New York State SAFE Act had their say at the town board meeting on Monday, March 4. Twelve of the over 60 people present spoke in support of the board’s February resolution that registered objection to the new law, while one person presented a petition with 283 signatures, calling for the repeal of the anti-gun-control resolution.
At last month’s meeting, the board voted 3-1 to approve the resolution proposed by council member Vin Bernstein, despite an overwhelming percentage of public comments in opposition to the resolution. As word got out that disappointed Shandaken residents were organizing a petition, gun control opponents circulated emails encouraging attendance at the March meeting, when the ratio of opinions expressed was reversed from the previous public comment period.
Shandakenite Karen Charman read the petition, which stated, in part, “[We] do not feel it is proper for the Shandaken Town Board to use the town as a platform to advance individual views on the highly charged topic of gun control.” As she presented the petition to Bernstein, she pointed out that 80 percent of the 283 signers were residents of Shandaken. The councilman replied that this number comprised about seven percent of the town population of over 3000.
“Over 2500 people in Shandaken didn’t sign this petition,” he stated. “I feel we represented, with that resolution, a majority of the town. In New York State, 34 out of 62 counties have made resolutions to repeal the SAFE Act.”
“How much of that is a coordinated NRA effort?” shot back Charman, prompting Bernstein to insist that the opposition to the SAFE Act is a grass-roots movement that includes a large number of townships in the state approving similar resolutions.
Hank Williams took the microphone next, remarking, “I heard the young lady speak, and she has deep concerns. But I’ve lived here 30 years. We have a lot of veterans here who have been fighting for our rights. For people to say you don’t have a right to put forth a resolution and vote on it — they should be saying that to Albany.”
Glenn Howard, commander of the local American Legion Post, suggested that rather than legislate against guns, “we should keep track of our mentally incapacitated people. Every home should keep track of their children and not let them watch violent videos. I support the grass-roots effort of our board to send a message to Albany.”
Olivebridge resident Herman Rivera alleged that many people who kill with guns are under the influence of legal drugs prescribed by doctors. “Something’s wrong, and it’s not the guns. People have changed. I’m a federal firearms dealer, I sold thousands of guns, and none of my guns ever killed anybody.” He held up the form that people have to fill out to obtain a firearm, offering it to Charman as evidence of the thorough vetting process already in place for gun buyers. Charman accepted it, asking if she could keep it. Rivera said yes.
Other speakers, including town council member Jack Jordan in his prefacing remarks, observed that there are already numerous laws on the books restricting gun ownership and suggested that the SAFE Act was pushed through hastily as a political gesture. Shandaken town justice Tom Crucet was among those who asserted that the law is unconstitutional, not only because he feels it violates the Second Amendment but also because of laws against ex poste facto legislation: “Due process is required before you take something away.”
Former county legislator Fawn Tantillo of New Paltz echoed this objection, stating, “I shoot for fun competitively, and I hunt. I’ve proven I’m a responsible gun owner. I had to defend my children and three of their friends when a state trooper chased a criminal into my house. I shudder to think what would’ve happened if I hadn’t been able to threaten the criminal with my gun and prevent him from taking one of my children. Stop passing laws to make me a criminal, and put real criminals in jail. The SAFE Act doesn’t make us safer.”
Supervisor Rob Stanley cut off the comments as the end of the hour was approaching. He expressed appreciation that, while exercising freedom of speech, “we can sit here and have a civil conversation. Please use restraint when you put out comments publicly. We can agree to disagree and move on.”
Other town news
The Shandaken town board voted 3-2 to join the efforts toward Scenic Byway designation for Route 28, including adoption of the attendant Corridor Management Plan, which restricts off-premise signage along the highway. The approval comes after years of wrangling over whether towns will give up rights to self-management as a result of Scenic Byway designation. Stanley said he was satisfied that the language now included in the plan will forestall that possibility. Bernstein stated that he felt the “home rule” issue was still a potential problem and voted against the resolution, as did Alfie Higley. Stanley, Jack Jordan, and Doris Bartlett cast votes in favor.
The Town Clerk’s Office and Building and Zoning Departments will now accept credit and debit card payments for permits, fees, water bills, licenses, taxes, and other charges pertaining to the town. Payments by credit and debit card will be accepted at the Town Clerk’s window, through the mail, by email, or by telephone. There will be no cost to the town for the service itself, but a small convenience fee (2.45 percent or $3, whichever is less) will be charged to the customer.
Planning consultant David Gilmour, hired under a grant from the Hudson River Valley Greenway, presented a draft of a recreation master plan for the town. Among the plan’s recommendations are rehabilitation of the ballfield at Glenbrook Park and the Pine Hill tennis court; expansion of offerings within playgrounds; development of signage and trails leading to parks and within parks, as well as a rail trail; providing options for skating and sledding; and enhancement of summer and winter rec programs.
While only 1.5 percent of Shandaken’s municipal budget goes to recreation, additional funding sources include donations and impact fees from developers, the DEP Good Neighbor Fund, and grants. Gilmour also pointed out that building restrooms at Big Indian and Phoenicia Parks would eliminate the need for rental of mobile restrooms, saving money in the long term.
The draft of the Parks and Recreation Comprehensive Master Plan can be viewed on the town website, https://www.shandaken.us, and comments from the public are invited.