I’m writing this to caution the public about a movement in the works by a special-interest group with a sinister plan. Its followers are making an effort to oust our board president, superintendent and, most likely, other administrators along with them. The plan is to use you to accomplish their deed.
I have gladly volunteered more than 20 years of my life to serve this community and Ulster BOCES on its school board, and I’ve been extremely satisfied with my ability to work with many other board members during those many years. This has especially been true during the past two years with the current school board members. They have earned a tremendous amount of respect from me, as they have proven to be some of the most passionate, dedicated, honest and hard-working persons that I’ve worked alongside of yet and we work well together.
Yet there is something that is very disturbing to me, nagging in fact. It’s that small group of individuals that I mentioned above, who are being led by one woman obsessed with driving our leaders out; one woman who is absent most of the year but resurfaces annually at election time to engage in her own private campaign. Again this year she has been actively pursuing candidates to run, hoping to unseat the incumbents and then oust the board president and Seth Turner. To see the evidence, all one needs do is follow the negative, mean-spirited comments about the school board and our superintendent posted on Facebook. (In fact, among the most recent posts to Saugerties PACE Facebook page include a reference to Mr. Turner as “delusional,” by the spouse of one of the current year’s candidates and a comment made by another group member that [Turner] “has to go.”)
One example of her animosity toward our president and superintendent — and the pattern it has created — was revealed last year when she approached me and then called me repeatedly attempting to get me to run. Eventually I said, “If people choose to write my name in as a candidate, I would be willing to serve.” The 2013 election results provided me with over 800 votes, and I am very grateful for each of the votes I received.
After meeting with the “leader” and many others, I heard many comments about how “we need to get rid of” the board president and Seth Turner. Board of education service has always meant dedication to students, public education and fiscal responsibility to me. Naturally, when I heard the comments, it was disturbing to me. I never believed in “dancing anyone else’s dance” and ethically I could only participate in my profession and public service by my own standards. In fact, I consider such behavior to be unethical at best. Once serving, I saw firsthand that the current board and its leadership were doing a phenomenal job, as was the superintendent of schools.
Since then, not one of the “followers” or the “leader” who had approached me initially, have been in touch with me again, until we had a conversation at the March board meeting at Cahill School.
I have also learned (from the board president) that the “leader” had similarly approached a former board member when he ran. He, too, had been advised by that very same person that she wanted George Heidcamp and Seth Turner taken out. Then later, once the former board member settled in and decided that the board was extremely proficient and the superintendent was an asset to the district, he refused to yield to the group’s demands. And so, he too was abandoned.
The writers are members of the Saugerties Board of Education. Hyatt is the main writer (and the “I” throughout the letter); Heidcamp, who serves as the board president, is co-signer.
Keep out cookie-cutter development
I was in favor of HITS and the festival venues coming to town, but I’m less thrilled now, when I hear the press announcements about the proposed Holiday Inn Express. Saugerties is on the radar, and the poachers are coming. More and more commercial blight is on the horizon — chain stores and franchises that will turn Saugerties into yet another characterless community. But we actually have regulations to stop that from happening.
All the major roads leading to the village are subject to Gateway regulations. But not one person on the Planning Board or the Town Board has mentioned the fact that that Holiday Inn Express is going to be sited on a Gateway — and thus subject to local design standards. According to Gateway regulations, the architecture and design should conform to the unique historical and rural character of Saugerties.
In other words, commercial developers are supposed to enhance — not blight — our beautiful community. Will the Holiday Inn Express follow the design regulations? Maybe not. Consider how the Planning Board allowed the new Verizon mall to ignore — or actually defy — the law. The reason? Supposedly no one on the Planning Board felt there was anything wrong with putting up buildings that belong in Paramus.
Now we have yet another franchise developer proudly announcing that this “new” (aka same-old) Holiday Inn Express will look like the one in town of Ulster — a slap in the face to Saugerties. But not one Saugerties official has said a word of protest.
Saugerties can’t continue to be spineless or we will lose the very thing that Holiday Inn Express is bent on exploiting to its advantage — that is, Saugerties is a destination for travelers. We’re not just a destination for HITS or the occasional festival on Winston Farm. We don’t need to cater to their needs at the expense of losing our small-town ambience. But we will, unless our officials speak out. The stream of tourists who come to town are looking for something special, something like the village shops and restaurants that can’t be found in Paramus or the town of Ulster. The buildings along the gateway roads should reflect our uniqueness, not mar it.
Surveillance, jaywalking tickets go too far
What type of place do you feel Saugerties is? Progressive? I would like to think so. I see a community of thinkers, creativity, workers, and change. New businesses meeting the old and traditions carrying on. So when I recently read two articles in Saugerties Times about efforts being made by our police department I became concerned.
One article discussed the enforcement of pedestrian laws stating that a $250 fine will begin “officially” being enforced by plainclothes police officers positioned around the village…oh and town the article did mention the town as well. Just in case you were wondering if you cross the road in any way that is deemed illegal or walk illegally on the sidewalk you will be ticketed and pay the town or village wherever you so happen to be walking $250. Same deal goes for you drivers…watch out for those pedestrians just stepping off the curb— that fine could be yours as well!
Next article was the use of cameras in the village. Yes we have some in place now. However the reasons described in the article seem a bit of a stretch for our little town— do we really need cameras with license plate-reading technology that can track and store everything you do and reference a database to see if you have a criminal record? Yes, the chief remarked “but big brother will not be watching” oh and “we will not use it to track residents through the village or anything like that”! Ronald Reagan said “trust but verify”… Saugerties you should verify and you decide does Saugerties police department have the right to violate your fourth amendment right to privacy? Not according to the NYS Civil Liberties Union. I have been told this is for “safety” and it’s “proven” to “protect”…well then I ask why only put them in the village? If your true concern is the safety and security of the people wouldn’t cameras outside the village be acceptable too? I personally feel not only is it none of your business when or where I am in or out of the village, that this type on privacy invasion will have negative impacts on our local village businesses. Who honestly wants “big brother” monitoring and storing your personal travel log for as long as they want? I have asked both village and town boards, our supervisor and mayor if they would consider having a public forum to see if our town has an issue with being watched! We are not allowed to vote on this…at the minimum hear what the tax payers have to say about being watched and forcing exasperated fines on our citizens for crossing the street!
Jaywalking laws to be enforced
From comments posted to Saugertiesx.com
“Not the town we grew up with. Way too many tourists thinking that they’re using the road as a sidewalk.” –Pamela Sue Goetz
“I am sick of following the rules while the rest jaywalk – including the postal carriers. Not saying I am an advocate of these extreme measures but they have been threatening to give tickets for more than a year and the threats need to be backed up with action or what is the point?” –Justine Smythe
“This should be posted on the Saugerties Tourism page. Surely we will want to let visitors know, right?” –Sakinah Irizarry
“Oh this is funny. Nowhere in the world, except Saugerties, do the painted crosswalks suggest you cross two streets to get to the opposite corner. Try crossing from the Reiss Insurance parking lot to the bakery. I always end up at the Village Pizza. I’m laughing so hard. Who couldn’t talk their way out of a summons for this fiasco?” –Barton Friedman
“Taxes aren’t high enough they look for any way to gain more revenue that’s ok I’ll stay out of town and away from the local businesses.” –Edward Lorentz
“Plainclothes officers?! Really?! What kind of ‘gotcha’ nonsense is that?!” –Erica Pivko
“Anything to make a buck. What about all the heroin and pill dealers? People are dropping dead in this town…and you’re gonna hassle for crossing.” –Graham Green
“Wow don’t crack down on real crime… Let’s just bother people that don’t cross correctly… really?” –Jeraldine Benter-Sweeney
“You’re missing the point here. Someone else is going to get killed in the village. If preventative measures aren’t taken, another pedestrian will be hit. People are constantly crossing the street with no regard to oncoming traffic. They step out from behind parked cars where you can’t see them (particularly at night) and just start crossing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this. Pedestrians must be held responsible just like the drivers.” –Danielle Filak McCutcheon
“People seem to think that ‘pedestrians have the right of way’ no matter the circumstances. Pedestrians do have the right of way — only in crosswalks. Hopefully this action by the police will result in a more educated pedestrian population.” –Theresa Naske
“Yes there is a lot of crime but the way people cross and walk is wrong and people get hurt and killed then the person who hits someone has to live with it even though it’s not their fault and some insurance companies will drop you even if it’s not your fault.” –Eileen Quirk Weaver
“Although I agree that people seem to do whatever they want in that town lately. It’s called Darwin.” –Pamela Sue Goetz
Spring cleanup gratitude
A great big thanks to the Village DPW for cleaning up our streets! The crews did a real nice job under terrible conditions. Thanks, guys.