General aviation — a versatile tool
When I first got my pilot’s license 22 years ago, I knew flying would be an important part of my life. What I didn’t realize was that general aviation would touch so many aspects of my life — from supporting my business and family farm, to helping me to give back to my community through charitable flying. It just illustrates to what extent general aviation is a diverse tool that is connects so many patients, businesses and communities.
In the insurance industry, you don’t have advance notice of when your clients will need you most. My company, Sprague-Killeen, couldn’t rely on booking outrageously expensive last-minute commercial flights to provide our customers the in-person service and support they need. That’s why we use business aviation to fly employees to clients and educational seminars across the country. We can fly from Ellenville to Dallas for a meeting and be back the same day. This gives our business a competitive advantage that we couldn’t have otherwise.
I grew up on my family’s farm and still use the plane to help support it. My family has a herd of heritage cattle, unique breeds dating back to the settlement of the U.S. Not only do we use the aircraft to monitor our land and cattle, but if any of the cattle are injured or become ill, they need immediate care from a specialized veterinarian. In emergencies, I’ll fly to Seneca Falls and bring the vet back to Grahamsville rather than driving 3.5 hours each way.
I am not alone. General aviation also has a significant impact in New York, supporting 37,800 jobs and an economic output of over $7 billion. New York also has robust aviation education programs across the state, training the next generation of pilots, mechanics, airport managers and aviation support personnel — and, it plays a critical role in supporting emergency services, medical care, firefighting, law enforcement and charitable medical flying.
As an example, as a long-standing pilot with Angel Flight East, one teenager I flew several times had a serious stomach disorder that required life-saving treatment from a research hospital in Baltimore. He needed to get from Hamilton, N.Y. to Baltimore regularly, but his condition prevented him from traveling for more than two hours at a time. His medical equipment and time limitations meant he couldn’t fly commercial airlines. Using general aviation and flying into smaller airports meant that we could get him to the critical care he needed.
Some people in D.C., however, continue to push proposals to privatize the nation’s air traffic control system. The biggest problem with this proposal is that it is congressional oversight of our public aviation system that protects all of these critical services and use of small airports and aircraft, along with routes to small and mid-sized communities. Our public air transportation system supports so many different aspects of our communities and lives. Let’s keep it that way.
Legislative budget feedback
Last week, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein presented a $324.8 million budget to the Ulster County Legislature (and the general public) that reduces spending by $5 million compared to the 2016 budget, which was $330 million. The 2017 Ulster County budget reduces county-level property tax assessments (for the fifth straight year) despite the added expenditures associated with the full costs of state-mandated services like democratic elections and social safety-net services.
In addition, Ulster County government has undertaken the tasks associated with rebuilding numerous bridges and highways within Ulster County’s infrastructure. An additional state mandate from the New York State Consolidated Courts has mandated that the Ulster County Family Court needs major renovations in order to accommodate a third Family Court judge that was added in 2015. Relocating the Ulster County Family Court is going to cost between $8 million and $19 million [depending on the outcome of] the upcoming ballot referendum that allows the Family Court to move from the City of Kingston to the Town of Ulster. Consequently, it is imperative that the upcoming ballot referendum passes on Election Day in order for our budget to remain fiscally reductive.
Another factor that makes the reductions in the 2017 budget so impressive includes the skyrocketing costs associated with the healthcare coverage of the Ulster County Government’s employees. The cost of health care services and health insurance plans have increased after the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, and Ulster County government has responded by downsizing its staff through early retirement incentives and attrition.
One component of the Ulster County budget that warrants analysis is the anticipated increase in sales tax revenues for 2017. In 2014-15, sales-tax revenues accounted for 33 percent of all revenues taken in by Ulster County while the 2017 budget anticipates that 34 percent of all revenues will be derived from sales tax receipts. This obviously points to the proliferation of the tourism industry within Ulster County, but these trends also beg the need for more industry-related economic development around the area. The successes of the tourism industry are known to be tied into gasoline prices and the state of the overall economy, so the continued growth of tourism around Ulster County is not something that should be taken for granted.
Although the jobs market could be better in Ulster County, we are in better fiscal shape than most New York counties. In recent years, there has been a coordinated effort to reduce the size of government and reduce county-level spending. If a resident needs assistance on the county level, they can reach their county legislator and receive a response almost immediately (in my case, for sure). We would all hope that larger areas of government on the state and federal levels were as efficient, but as the size of a territorial jurisdiction increases, the efficiency of government decreases. We all wish that the state and federal governments were more efficient, responsive and fiscally responsible!
Ulster County Legislature
Saugerties and Malden
Faso has my vote
I’m a wife and a mother of a veteran. I care deeply about this country and the brave men and women who keep it free. In the last eight years the Obama administration has slashed the military, retreated from the world stage and generally made us less safe. We can’t afford to double down on the status quo.
Zephyr Teachout would continue the worst aspects of the Obama foreign policy and add a few disasters of her own. She’s called President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran “successful.” The deal immediately lifted sanctions and gave the rogue regime access to $150 billion, funding which John Kerry and others have been forced to acknowledge could be used to fund terrorism.
Professor Teachout is also no supporter of Israel. She has dodged question after question about the Jewish state and Israel’s right to defend itself — starting in 2014 during her failed run for governor. Just like her flip-flop on the SAFE Act, Teachout was forced to walk back her previous non-answers on Israel and the anti-Semitic boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
Zephyr Teachout has also refused to answer how she would respond if the U.S. was again hit with a terrorist attack here. When a debate moderator asked her in June “What’s the best response to an attack on American soil?” she offered bland leftist ideology. In other words: Stuff happens and the people of this country should accept it. Wrong answer. On Nov. 8 I’m voting to restore U.S. security, and John Faso has my vote.
How to be great
There’s a letter by a New York Times editor, Michael Luo, to a woman who told him to “go back to China.” Luo, a Harvard grad born and raised in the USA was more saddened than angry at the encounter, having experienced this sort of prejudice many times before. But perhaps he was surprised that a well-dressed woman on the upper East Side of New York would yell, “go back to your f—-ing country.” He comes to the conclusion that “you had these feelings in you, and, the reality is, so do a lot of people in this country right now.”
Maybe we should thank candidate Trump for helping bring to the surface the ugly underbelly of America. It by no means represents the majority of our citizens, but it is deeply disturbing to see the roiling pot of hatred which has been bubbling over during his campaign. You can’t fix a problem, nor cure a disease, until you identify it. It’s obvious that we as a nation have a lot of work to do.
Oft-quoted words by Abraham Lincoln, made on the occasion of his first inauguration to a population scarred and deeply wounded by the war between the states, have never been more appropriate, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
Hillary Clinton has said that “America is great because America is good.” Let’s not let fear, anger and resentment define us. Let’s celebrate our diversity and use what can divide us to make us better. We need to be good to be great.