Saugerties Times letters (3/23-30)

Combat acts of hate

I’ve read about the anti-Semitic incident that happened at the Saugerties Junior High recently. It is imperative that the Saugerties school district take a more proactive approach to fighting racist activity. In recent months, amongst other groups being targeted, Jewish Synagogues have received bomb threats, hundreds of gravestones have been desecrated, and school racial incidents have increased. In the early 1960’s, my father attended Catholic school in Queens. Many of the students would travel through Jewish neighborhoods on their commute to school. One day, the entire student body was shown the 1956 film Night and Fog, a documentary with disturbing footage that is “graphic because there is no other way to present it.” It chronicles the rise of Nazi ideology and the sadism suffered by concentration camp prisoners — torture, medical experiments, starvation, gas chambers and piles of bodies. The film was shown to the entire student body in the format of an assembly, with the aim of teaching empathy.

I recall my 8th grade class trip to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, and the feelings of horror and empathy prompted by what I saw there. Because it was graphic and gruesome. It sticks with me more than what I read in books. Are students today still shown graphic visual accounts of the Holocaust? How are students in Saugerties learning about the Holocaust (and empathy) beyond reading assignments? I realize educational tools like documentaries and school trips may have fallen by the wayside due to current testing requirements. However, acts of hate, no matter how seemingly minor, need to be taken seriously and addressed in a manner that will be effective and long lasting.

Jess Mullen


Defensive school officials

Re the “Anti-Semitism in School” article: I was appalled at the defensiveness exhibited by the school officials at this incident. If someone speaks that way, they don’t do it in isolation; they do it in some confidence that family and/or friends feel the same way and will applaud them. It seems to me that — especially with white supremacy being perniciously fostered by our new administration, schools should make an active effort to teach their students about discrimination of all kinds and its dangerous effects — as in lynchings and the Holocaust. Not only have Jews and blacks been targets of discrimination but so also, in the past, have presumably white Italians, Irish, Poles, and Asians. This is a problem that needs to be addressed forcefully and openly, not by sitting behind closed doors, hoping it will go away. It won’t.


Phoebe Hoss


Seek consolidation ideas to lower taxes

Last year, Governor Cuomo announced a competitive grant program to promote municipal consolidation and shared services that reduce property taxes. This year, the Governor is proposing for counties to develop consolidation plans to be placed before voters.

There are over 4,200 taxing jurisdictions in New York State and about 30 in Saugerties alone! This creates an overlap of government services and is one reason our high property taxes are so high. Over the past decade, the average Saugerties homeowner is paying $1,765 more in total property taxes and many residents are at their breaking points!

Saugerties officials have worked in the past to consolidate and share services. However, I urge our leaders to think differently and come up with new plans that will dramatically lower property taxes.

For example — health insurance. Saugerties and other towns had large health insurance increases last year. An official from a neighboring town told me that an idea was floated for towns and the county to join together to purchase group health insurance with a potential discount of 20% which could save the Town of Saugerties $420,000. Sadly, the proposal never got beyond the discussion phase.

I urge town and county officials to revisit this proposal and seek other consolidations.  The only way to attract jobs and keep younger generations from fleeing Saugerties is to significantly reduce our overwhelming tax burden.

Joe Roberti, Jr.


Solar clarification and Solar’bration

A Community Notes announcement in the March 16 issue of the Saugerties Times mistakenly stated that Solarize Saugerties will provide “maintenance and service costs for the next 25 years” for the newly installed rooftop-solar system at the Greco Senior Center.

The solar system is a donation from Direct Energy Solar to the town as a result of the successful four-month Solarize Saugerties program launched in March 2016. Solarize Saugerties, an all-volunteer team formed to promote solar, does not provide maintenance or service for the system.

What we do enthusiastically support is your joining the Solarize Saugerties team, town officials and your neighbors at the center for a Solar’bration on Saturday, March 25 at 3:00 pm when the town will acknowledge Direct Energy Solar for the generous donation, and Direct Energy Solar will kick-off a solar promotion for homeowners. Light refreshments will be available.

The Direct Energy Solar promotion includes a $250 donation to the Community Foundation of Saugerties for each solar contract signed during the promotion. The donations will help rebuild the Small World Playground. Homeowners who sign a contract during the promotion receive a $2,000 discount off the contract price.

Solarize Saugerties Team
Mary O’Donnell, Team Leader


Faso Votes

John Faso’s rhetoric in regard to heath care legislation has not been as radical as some in the GOP. He said he favored “reform and fix” of the ACA rather than outright repeal, but has not effected any changes to that end. Though he speaks to constituents of his opposition to defunding Planned Parent hood, his concern for loss of subsidies for those of low and middle income, amongst other issues that could affect some 100,000 of his own constituents alone, he has not taken a stand in the House. In fact he was the deciding vote passing damaging legislation out of the Budget Committee.

Though he says this vote was just a “procedural” matter, he is in effect toeing the line for Trump, Ryan, Chaffetz, and the like, as they railroad draconian changes to health care through Congress. He has used similar cover in the past as in his vote to block long negotiated water and stream protection from the dumping of coal wastes, saying they were “covered elsewhere”. From corporations making payments to foreign governments to allowing the mentally ill to purchase guns, Faso has voted over 90% in favor of Trump’s agenda, should we expect something different on health care?

How can we trust his rhetoric if his actions belie no effort to support it? What is his plan to actually put into effect the principles he has espoused? The vote on GOP  health care legislation comes as early as Thursday. We need to push him to vote ”No” on legislation as it stands and insist on measures that would encourage health care coverage, not disenfranchise millions by removing financial support while giving vast tax breaks primarily to the very wealthy.

His office’s contact information can be found at his website:

Click on “CONTACT” then “Office Locations”. Keep calling, or try different offices, if you can’t get through. E-mailing helps too. We need to let him know we are paying attention to his actions , not just accepting  his “line.”

Marcus Arthur


Trump’s nation of Philistines

Though at the moment President Trump’s proposed budget is getting little attention, it is important to note that it contains the blueprint of a carefully conjured plan to “Make American a Nation of Philistines” in its intention to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts. A budget proposal is a statement of philosophy and sends a message about who we are as a nation.

Support for the arts, whether through music, sculpture, dance, theatre, painting or the written word, encourages exactly the kind of expression and exchange of ideas and perspectives needed to keep democracy strong and vibrant. The arts keep us compassionate, keep our hearts supple and our minds open.


Trump’s current budget, with its emphasis on military spending, at the expense of programs that enhance our quality of life and strengthen a commitment to an open democracy, strips away the kind of government investment that serves all the people by supporting the preservation of our collective cultural heritage.

Support for the arts enriches our children’s lives and gives them a means of expression beyond computer clicks and social media. Studies demonstrate that children who are exposed to the arts while in school perform better academically and are more resilient as they go on to college and later life. The arts help connect people by giving them a means of expression when words may be too difficult. Art therapy has been a boon in aiding veterans and the elderly alike overcome feelings of helplessness, alienation, loneliness and depression.

Supporting the arts is good for business, providing 21st century businesses with workers who bring creative problem solving and critical thinking skills to strengthen America’s economic future. Whether a local theatre company, a rural museum, or a small dance troupe, government support of the arts creates jobs, generates revenue, and underpins tourism.

Supporting the arts means supporting some of our nation’s smallest businesses and entrepreneurs. Trump’s current budget proposal seeks to subsidize big businesses and industries with tax breaks and reduced regulatory oversight. By withdrawing that tiny portion of our budget allocated to support the arts while increasing spending for the military, for weapons, for an unnecessarily costly wall, threatens to hasten our metamorphosis into a nation of philistines with barbaric brawn but no compassion, no heart and no soul. That hardly seems like a way to Make American Great.

Deidre J. Byrne


Faso must vote no on Trumpcare

John Faso was elected to serve all the people of his district, but has already betrayed our trust by voting to bring Trumpcare before the full House. His excuse is that Medicaid raises taxes. But when people have no insurance they use emergency rooms for healthcare, and the rest of us pay the huge emergency room bills in our taxes. Sick people with no insurance lose jobs, can’t support their children, can’t pay for housing, and we pay for public assistance in our taxes. Our taxes are already skewed so that ordinary people pay more than the rich. Under Trumpcare ordinary people, many of whom are just getting by themselves, will be paying more in insurance premiums and more in taxes, while the rich get yet more tax breaks. What a stupid, cruel piece of legislation. John Faso can only redeem his name as a decent man if he votes No on Trumpcare.

Naomi Rothberg


Mandate chain pharmacies to take back unused RX drugs

In his State of the County address, Ulster County Executive Mike Hein states “You should be able to return your unused prescription drugs to the very same place you got them, the pharmacy.”

Injuries and deaths from prescription drugs have soared in recent years. Far too many families have tragically lost someone to an overdose. Nearly half of opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid (CDC). Medications are the leading cause of poisoning deaths in children. 70 percent of teenagers say it is easy to get prescription drugs (2014 Partnership for Drug-Free Kids).

In 2014, the DEA expanded the Controlled Substances Act to allow pharmacies to take back controlled medications. Dr. Nathaniel Katz, an assistant professor at Tufts University School of Medicine said that prior to 2014 “they only removed an infinitesimal fraction of the reservoir of unused drugs that are out there. It’s like trying to eliminate malaria in Africa by killing a dozen mosquitoes.”

In 2016, Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid and Walmart reported revenue of $28.6 billion, $28.9 billion, $.7.8 billion, and $124.62 billion respectively. Yet no chain in Ulster takes back controlled pharmaceuticals. The closest DEA Disposal Locations are independent pharmacies in Rock Hill, Liberty, Greenville and Coxsackie. Local law enforcement agencies absorb the cost of destroying collected pharmaceuticals. The cost surely isn’t prohibitive for chain pharmacies.

A new Rockland County law, passed by a unanimous vote, requires chain pharmacies to take back drugs and safely dispose of them. Ulster County youth and families deserve no less.

Cheryl DePaolo