If feeling grateful and expressing gratitude are correlated with improved mental, emotional and physical health, then New Paltz should be a healthy community indeed. More and more, scientific studies are linking what are commonly referred to as positive emotions or ‘learned optimism’ with chemical changes in the brain and other parts of our bodies. What once may have appeared ‘hokey’ or ‘California Dreamin’ pop psychology is now gaining increased credibility among professionals in the physical and mental health communities. There are certainly many things to be grateful for as we look around us in New Paltz.
Living in a largely law-abiding, quiet community with clean air and pure drinking water would be more than enough for hundreds of millions around the world who lack such basic amenities. In addition, our rural, low-density, drop-dead gorgeous natural surroundings are certainly good for at least a once-daily release of healthy endorphins into our systems, with the potential to produce in all of us a feeling of well-being.
A friend and writing colleague of mine has a gift for not only interpreting statistics, but being able to explain them in simple layman’s terms. He recently cited some figures on local school districts where the data showed that the number of students receiving free or reduced price lunches was significantly lower in the New Paltz Central School District than in any other district in our region.
Our area is home to a number of prosperous farms and orchards; our village storefronts are packed with lots of good ‘stuff’; as we drive around town or walk through the village, we see mostly smiling faces, and for those experiencing personal trials and tribulations, this generous and caring community provides a helping hand through a network of non-profit, faith-based and community service organizations.
Simply writing these words may have lowered my blood pressure a few points. Hopefully reading them will have similar benefits.
Starting off on the right foot…again
Once upon a time, in 2009 to be more precise, our two municipalities got off to a good start by seeking to explore ways to achieve financial savings and lower taxes through more effective and efficient government. Their simple yet powerful vision for helping taxpayers was described in a grant application sent to the New York Department of State. Grant writer Nikki Koenig Nielson reminded us all in her Jan. 30, 2013 letter to this newspaper that the purpose of the grant and ensuing study had been to: “help the public distinguish between fact and rhetoric in order to develop and contribute informed opinion and participation.” New Paltz was given $54,500 to pursue this vision.
So, how do you think our government officials did with that $54,500? Do you feel better informed about government efficiency and effectiveness? Have you seen helpful facts emerge from the over two years of committee meetings? Did the village and town politicians avoid rhetoric? Not exactly.
Instead, as grant writer Nielson reminded us in her letter, what happened was unexpected and certainly not anticipated by the elected officials who voted to submit the grant in the first place. “What we did not anticipate was that our community’s currently elected representatives would railroad the process to meet their preconceived outcome, silencing the community’s questions when the questions would not produce an answer that fits their vision of a predetermined result.”
We now hear that those same elected officials are going to give it another try, this time using $70,000 of our taxpayer money. This is an opportunity for all New Paltz citizens to get involved so that this time we help keep them on the right path. It turns out that the whole kerfuffle never was about ‘coterminous and consolidation’. It was about efficiency and effectiveness. Let’s make sure the focus stays firmly on that goal this time around.
Whoops…is that my blood pressure? I think I’ll take a little walk along the rail trail behind Dressel Farms, find a nice bench in the sun and look at the ridge for a while.