Saugerties Times letters (3/9-15)

Broken cap in Saugerties

Saugerties taxpayers are aware that if the Saugerties Town Board stays within the cap set forth by the State of New York, property taxpayers will receive a property tax refund, which this year amounted to about $240 in hard, cold cash. For me it was a surprise as I had forgotten that the Governor had even proposed that during his campaign. But be that as it may I did get a refund check and it was a pleasant surprise.

However, the Saugerties Town Board chose to not be so generous with this year’s budget and voted against the tax cap on spending, boosting taxes 5.25% in town taxes, an amount exceeding the rate of inflation and other economical indicators. So, the rate of inflation is flat, other indicators certain not creating panic attacks but the board, with the exception of Councilman Schirmer, took taxpayer’s refunds away from them using “contractual expenses” as the driving force. Contractual expenses are just that.  Contractual expenses mean union contracts need to be settled, changes in retirement, contributions and increases in health insurance. So, if the Board was aware that they were facing these expenses, then why wouldn’t they hold them in escrow to be used when they came due?

What they did instead was break through the cap and raised our taxes by 5.25% making Saugerties, one of the “coolest towns in the country” one of the highest taxed. The Board could argue that the tax increase wouldn’t be more than 50 or 60 dollars. I don’t know the exact amount but it would have been easier to send me a bill for the 50 or 60 dollars and let me keep the $240 and let me keep my refund.


Robert Aiello


This letter was posted separately:

Letter: Saugerties pool report premature; community involvement sought – Recent reporting gives the impression that we have a design and estimated price tag for a facility. This is not the case.


The real threat

The President has called for a special agency to help people who are the victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

During his recent speech to Congress, the president also made a point of using the phrase “Islamic extremist terrorists.”

What was sorely lacking, however, was a mention of the number of hate crimes being committed in our country by white Christian extremists.

If we are going to “secure our nation” as this president keeps vowing, then he needs to be more honest with Americans about the extent of the problems caused by extremists of all stripes or persuasions.

The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks and has reported its alarm over the growth of these extreme-right wing groups who identify as Christians. They represent the single, largest threat to peacefulness in our democracy.

I understand it is difficult for the president to speak to this since he has con-joined to Steve Bannon, a leader of white supremacists and a hate monger and anti-Semite.

Jo Cicale


No answer Faso

Representative Faso sent a survey asking if support Judge Robart’s order stopping President Trump’s muslim ban (“muslim ban”, Trump’s words). In reply, I asked Mr. Faso three questions, checking the box on Faso’s form that I wished a reply.
Trump said his Executive Order is unreviewable; he and spokesperson said if Trump says vital to national security, court can have no say. Ninth Circuit’s ruling, upholding Robart’s stay, said they can and should. You say?
Trump said he has secret information that backs his order. Ninth Circuit said must produce this evidence, if exists; they can keep secrets. You say?
Trump said court should not pay attention that Green Card holders are included in order. Ninth Circuit said if in order, must rule as if intended to be enforced. You say?
Faso did not respond to any of my questions.

Demetri Kolokotronis


Faso, listen to the people

Rep. John Faso says he doesn’t think town-hall style meetings are productive. I think what he means to say is that he doesn’t have any fun doing town hall meetings.

He thought being a congressman meant hanging out with the good old boys’ network, speaking at fancy dinners, and meeting with hand-selected, like-minded members of his peer group.

Deciding to run for office means choosing a life of public service. That means you actually have to serve the public. And sometimes, the public doesn’t agree with your position or your voting record.

Holding office also means responding to constituent letters. I am still waiting for a response to a letter I wrote him over a month ago. No acknowledgement, no reply.

Faso should attend a town-hall meeting and listen to the people he represents. He owes that to his constituents.

Miriam Berg


Rush to repeal

In John Faso’s Op Ed piece in The Hill 2/23/17 he brought up several proposals relating to the replacement of the ACA. He was not sure what proposals would be put forth, but did say “We will reform ACA in an open and transparent way.” So far this is not what is happening.

Some members of congress in the Republican party are currently formulating replacement of the ACA in closed sessions that exclude even members of their party, including Mr. Faso, not to mention Democratic Congressional representatives. They are being as secretive as possible about what’s being formulated and denying information to elected officials and to the public. How is this open and transparent?

In Mr. Faso’s discussions with the Poughkeepsie Journal (3/3/17) he was thoughtful in his analysis of changes that might make improvements to the ACA and benefits he would protect. But so far the process is being railroaded by a small number in the House led by Paul Ryan who seem bent on pushing their agenda without regard for other’s concerns, including Mr. Faso’s.

As my representative I implore him to stand up to his colleagues who would bulldoze the positive aspects of the ACA and “throw the baby out with the bath water” under the battle cry of “repeal”. He should stand fast on the stated goal of making improvements to our health care system, which entails, not just access, but the ability to actually have quality health care for all.

Robert Place


Who really wants to repeal ACA?

Who really wants the Affordable Care Act (ACA) gone? Three fractions of Americans:

Category 1 — Income >$200k/yr  and sure of having a high-premium, low-cost-share low-deductible health insurance plan lifelong. Certain that he/she will never go off current insurance for any reason. Hates being taxed to support “Obamacare.”

Category 2 — Middle income, wants “control” and “freedom.” Prefers tax-deductible Health Savings Account (HSA) + High Deductible Health Plan to ACA-compliant insurance. Accepts risk of calamities in two straight years wiping out the HSA before deductible is reached.


Category 3 — Lower income denies s/he will ever need health insurance. Resents penalty for not having it. Too proud to apply for subsidy. Backup tactic: ER .

The subsidies the ACA provides come mostly from taxes on category 1. These people would get a tax cut with ACA gone, but only for the stratosphere would it amount to much ($197,000/yr for 0.1 %). Persons under the $200,000 level don’t finance subsidies with their taxes, though they can be penalized for not buying health insurance if not exempted.

Good coverage for 20 million previously uninsured individuals is a visible benefit to our country. By how it reshaped health insurance beginning  in 2010,  ACA also benefits the vast majority of insured Americans who may need someday to negotiate a different plan.  It assures we will be able to have (not just “have access to” ) comparable coverage in the individual market priced per ACA standards.

We would lose a lot with ACA gone. The worst loss is coverage of pre-existing conditions. Without ACA, someone who wanted to change employment status and get an individual new insurance plan would not be offered a community rating based just on age, region of residence and smoking status. He/she would have to go through medical underwriting. Insurers would go back to selling policies with a premium set higher and or a higher deductible for pre-existing conditions. Community rating is why the ACA can aspire to cover pre-existing conditions at affordable rates. Without community rating, coverage for pre-existing conditions will be unaffordable for most if adequate and  inadequate if affordable.

Then who should want to keep the ACA, with certain improvements, to not replace it  with a cheap veneer? Anyone not in one of the three  categories above. That’s almost all of us, not just those who got covered because of the ACA. Contact  Representative Faso  “Don’t vote for repeal!”

Paul Ryan: “Freedom is the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need. Obamacare is Washington telling you what to buy regardless of your needs.”

Stephan Shafer


The real deception

President Trump continues to sign executive orders at a furious pace. He is eliminating government rules that protect us, calling them “job killing regulations.” This is a terrible deception. Executives of industries from every sector of the economy have been sending wish lists to the White House, lobbying for the elimination of rules they claim are too burdensome. In response, the President has demonstrated that he is more interested in helping his billionaire friends, and those billionaires he wishes were his friends, to maximize their already out-sized profits. Trump shows a complete disregard for the health and safety of the very people he claims to love: middle-class, working Americans, when he rolls back the rules and regulations that protect us from unscrupulous corporate greed.

My public school education taught me that one of the most significant characteristics of Americans, one of the traits responsible for truly making America great, is the unsurpassed ability of ordinary Americans to find solutions to problems, to bring ingenuity and creativity to obstacles, to overcome, and not be overcome by, difficulties.

Corporate executives have been meeting with Trump at big tables, looking very important and serious for the cameras. But as soon as the cameras disappear, these “titans of industry” all begin crying and whining, “Regulations are hard. We can’t figure out how to comply with these rules (without surrendering our massive profits). Make them stop!”

It appears their enormous wealth and private school educations have left them unable to summon the “can do” spirit and apply some American ingenuity to figure out how to both comply with regulations and make a profit. The two are not mutually exclusive.

America’s executives need to stop whining and fretting, stop trying to figure out new ways of hiding their wealth and avoid paying taxes. They need to hire the people who will do what they cannot, who will show them it is possible to comply with regulations while at the same time paying decent wages and supporting the health and stability of the middle class. And yes, even make a reasonable profit.

This country is overflowing with good, smart people, all of whom attended public schools, who carry the can-do American spirit in their hearts and minds and know how to help…if only someone would listen to them, and hire them on to make America great, again.

Deidre J. Byrne


ACA resolution in Legislature

I authored a memorializing resolution entitled “Opposing a Full Repeal of the Affordable Care Act without a Comparable and Immediate Replacement Plan That is ready for Implementation” which moves to the floor of the Ulster County Legislature for a full vote. The resolution addresses several areas of the Affordable Care Act which most Americans believe should be inclusive within our health care system. Prior to the ACA, consumers of health insurance were discriminated against for pre-existing conditions, as most insurance policies did not provide any coverage until a minimum of six months had transpired and nothing prevented those with pre-existing conditions from being charged higher premiums. Prior to the ACA, dependants of policyholders were typically not able to stay on their parents’ plans up to the age of 26 and nothing prevented insurance companies from placing lifetime caps on the coverage of policyholders. The ACA placed mandates on these three areas of insurance coverage. In addition, Medicaid’s coverage for prescription drugs which causes gaps in co-pay amounts above a certain spending threshold (“Donut Hole”) is another issue that I address in my resolution. This results in excessive out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs that are purchased by seniors. My resolution calls for Congress and the Executive Branch to research how the coverage gaps in prescription drug co-pays can be lowered.

Another area of concern that I address in my resolution deals with the reimbursement methodologies that Medicaid uses to disperse funding to individual states. Under the current system, states receive funding based upon the specific number of claims filed and the types of treatments that are incurred in each respective state. A switch to a finite-based block-grant funding system for each respective state would probably change the formula that New York State currently uses to reimburse individual counties. If this were to happen, Ulster County would likely lose out on millions of dollars of reimbursements.

Two recommendations that my resolution makes are for the Federal Government to research how the spending-deductible-thresholds for catastrophic plans can be lowered and how funding for a proliferation of sliding-scale-based clinics can be established in individual states. This would enable those without insurance to receive medical treatments and coverage which would help fill the gaps that still exist within our system/society where over 60% of all personal bankruptcies are from healthcare bills. Ideally, such policies can help improve upon a healthcare system that is ranked 37th in the world with a life expectancy age that is ranked 42nd in the world!

Chris Allen, Ulster County Legislator



Dumockery now

It’s my fault — it’s your fault — we’ve done it together. We’ve done it by ignoring the fact that true democracy means being involved at all times, but most particularly during elections. I know that many working people, simply do not have the time that retired or rich people (who only have to spend a bit of time following the market) have. But we all must find time to engage in what’s going on in our country. That means that we have to do more to inform those that leave the house at 6 a.m. and return to eat, watch a movie and then go to sleep. I do not blame them, since I would not have a working stove, roof, gutters, etc. without them. I’m simply saying that those of us that have time to go out to a restaurant, or movie theatre have the responsibility to focus on our dissipating democracy.
Right now, the Whole Word is Watching Us. We now know that the man we’ve voted in to lead our country, simply doesn’t know the rules. It’s hard to believe that there is nothing in the constitution that demands certain proof of knowledge of our counties rules and regulations, including the right to free press, but here we are. I tend to watch a lot of MSNBC and get the rest online.
Fortunately, I live in an area that has a population that knows that we can’t just sit back and watch democracy vanish. So we have meetings. All you have to do is to buy the paper you are reading here, and keep up with the meetings, which seemed to catch on right after the Women’s March. I want to make it clear that this is not a women’s movement, it’s not a white, black or Muslim movement. It’s a movement for the United States of America, which has an urgent need for We, the People to come together to maintain a state of government that has and I hope will still be a standard bearer for a world.
We need to turn out for all elections including local elections, which will be coming out soon.  Remember, we are supposed to be a government Of the people, For the People, and By the People.”

Jill Paperno