Election process reform
The League of Women Voters of the MidHudson Region, which includes both Ulster and Duchess Counties, is strongly committed to a fair election process. An important part of the democratic election process is how our elections are conducted. There are four important parts of this process as defined by the Brennan Center for Justice:
- Campaign contribution limits;
- Public Financing;
- Commission of Public Finance;
- Contribution Disclosure requirements.
The proposed local law, introduced in May by Ulster County Executive Mike Hein to bring campaign finance reform to Ulster County contains each of these elements. It is modeled after and adapted from the successful New York City law, and similar approaches have been successful in Connecticut and Maine.
The proposed local law is supported by both the New York State and Mid-Hudson Chapters of the League of Women Voters, joined by Common Cause, The New York Public Interest Research Group, the Working Families Party and Citizen Action of New York.
So far, the proposed local law has remained in the Laws and Rules Committee for several months. There are some political disagreements to be ironed out. The limited discussion in the Laws and Rules Committee has revolved around several misunderstandings regarding its provisions. For example, some individuals seemed to believe that public financing would be contingent on the tax cap or a lack of County fiscal problems. However, the proposed local law guarantees $50,000 each year for matching funds independent of the tax cap or any County fiscal problems. Others seemed confused over when the contribution limits would apply, suggesting they would only be applicable during the year of the election. In actuality, the limits apply to the entire election cycle. Thus, the $1000 contribution limit for contractors doing business with the county, for example, is a limit that extends over four years of the election cycle for county-wide candidates.
The Legislature should take up this resolution as soon as possible and open it up to public discussion. The discussion should include the executive, both legislative parties and the public. The LWVMHR would gladly participate in the discussion. Speedy adoption would again put Ulster County in a leadership position for action in this area. It would be a real step towards voters reclaiming our democracy and assuring fair elections.
Jolanda Jansen, President
and the Board of the League of Women Voters of the Mid-Hudson Region
Verizon rolls over Saugerties
What happened to my neighbors in this corner of West Saugerties is very disturbing.
It’s an example of how our government has increasingly become a “corporatocracy”: government of, by and for Corporations with vast resources and influence who can roll over the “little people” — the citizens of this country.
Verizon wanted to set up another cell tower because Woodstock needs more coverage. Too many people in Woodstock, especially on the weekends, are using cell technology to watch movies and communicate. An existing tower that has been unused for decades sat in the woods just below the old Woodstock Town Dump on a privately owned (by Goosetown Communications) 5 acre plot of land. Most of the closed landfill is in Woodstock, but the edge that is in Saugerties backs up parallel to private properties that are wooded and hide the old tower structure. There is plenty of room in the landfill to put a Woodstock Cell Tower up at the Woodstock end of the landfill, well away from all housing. But that would cost Verizon more money and they would have to deal with the Woodstock Zoning Board, which has a history of more fiercely protecting it’s environment. So they rolled over us instead.
It’s much cheaper for Verizon to use existing structures, and Saugerties requires them to do that whenever possible. Co-locating on an existing structure allows them to bypass existing zoning laws as well.
And there is a very outdated (The FCC Communications Act of 1996) federal law, obviously written by and for the corporations, that states municipalities canno use health effects when considering placement of cell towers! What? The cell companies cynically knew that there would be growing scrutiny of the health effects of cell tower radiation, and just like the cigarette manufacturers and the oil companies and all the other wealthy corporate powers who care only about their shareholder profits at the expense of people and the environment, they have been actually writing our laws, handing them to bought and paid for congress members who submit them verbatim. Google “ALEC.” This takeover of government is aided and abetted by the campaign finance rulings, notably Citizens United. Representatives elected to do “the People’s business” now spend most of their time fundraising to be able to win elections that are costing more and more money so that to sit in Congress is now obscenely expensive.
But Towns still have independent power to consider other impacts, such as quality of life, property values, the views of citizens — when deciding whether or not to issue permits or to issue variances.
And Verizon told the Town that no one lived near the tower! This was absolutely untrue! My neighbors live within 200 feet of this tower! Bill is a U.S. Veteran who earned a Purple Heart in Vietnam. He has found sanctuary in his home and healing on his land for decades — he was here long before cell phones were invented and cell towers were an issue.
But Verizon threatened to sue the Town and the Zoning Board caved, saying they had no choice as the Town does not have the deep pockets that Verizon does. Even though municipalities have been winning similar suits involving cell tower placement (see www.feb.se/EMFguru/Law/town-reject.html), the Town chose to allow Verizon to negatively impact the “Quality of Life,” the property values and safety of its citizens for a cell tower Saugerties citizens do not need and it’s neighbors made clear they do not want.
Now my neighbor has a “For Sale” sign up on his road. I am the same age as he is. I know I would not have the energy to start over and create the home my husband and I created here in Saugerties when we were younger. I just hope that my neighbor will not be too traumatized by this experience and will be able to find a safe haven somewhere else more accommodating to people and the environment than to rich Corporations who use threats of lawsuits to successfully intimidate small town government.
Late last spring, I had surgery to replace a heart valve. After my operation, I was instructed to eat a “heart healthy” diet with lots of fruit, fish, vegetables, grains and little red meat, fried foods or other unhealthy substances.
This led me to search out new, healthier places to eat. I have three favorites: In the Sticks, Love Bites, and Black-Eyed Suzies. The former is out on Blue Mountain Road in the Town near Platt Clove Road. The other two are located on Partition Street. All three feature local fresh foods with many healthy choices. They all have constantly changing menus with original creative meal and drink choices.
Love Bites has new owners and a revised menu this year, Sticks is a year old and Suzies has recently added outdoor seating so reservations are no longer required. Hours and days vary considerably, so check with Google. All have great food and interesting artistic interiors with friendly staffs. Weak legs make food preparation at home difficult causing me to frequent all three.
I must not leave out another wonderful new place on Partition Street. Olsen and Company is a tiny deli which features healthy local food and goods. Seating is very limited. Enjoy all of the wonderful fresh foods while they are still in season.
The unsung heroes
The “Blizzard of ‘17” was a snow storm, that we hadn’t seen the likes of, since 1993, with it’s intensity, severity, and mid week timing and snow falling at the rate of 2-5” per hour. With totals of up to 2 feet and winds, howling at over 35 mph, I was amazed and thankful, that the town roads in Saugerties were kept clean and passable. Within only a few hours, after the last snowflake fell, the town roads, throughout the town, were not only opened up, but almost completely clean. By 8 p.m. the streets of Barclay Heights and Glasco were down to the wet pavement, a feat that could only have been done by a committed and dedicated, highway deptartment.
So many times we, the public, take for granted the work these men do. We have a tendency to think of only the fire, police and EMS as people who protect us and keep us safe. What we usually fail to recognize is if it wasn’t for the roads being kept clear and passable, police, fire and EMS wouldn’t be able to get to us during a “state of emergency” such as this. The men who drive the plow trucks for the Town of Saugerties, truly are the “unsung heroes!” Thank you all for a job well done!
Lisa and Albert Bruno
Touched By Chase-Salerno journal[Ulster Publishing] has published an array of articles over the years. But, I don’t think any will ever touch me as much as the current articles [in Almanac Weekly] by Erica Chase-Salerno who is openly sharing her story about her Stage 4 terminal cancer. She has written that she is just months away from her death. Ms. Chase-Salerno also continues to write her Kids Almanac column which has provided families with an extensive choice of affordable, family-friendly events even while facing her cancer.
The thought of this young mother leaving her family is overwhelming even though I don’t know her personally. Cancer is an epidemic in our country and it bewilders me why we are not more outraged. We get very excited by the gains in treatment and that is indeed valuable. However, we must get to the root of why our country has among the highest rates for cancer and cancer-related deaths.
I have my own opinion — some backed by science — that cancer is caused by the widespread toxins that we are exposed to everyday. We are told that this and that is safe, but ignore the cumulative effects of toxin exposure overloads.
To Ms. Chase-Salerno, I am saddened for you and your family and I keep you in my prayers for what’s ahead. You’ve touched many lives through your wonderful, upbeat column. Now, you’re touching even more by sharing a very important story about your cancer. God-speed.
Jo Galante Cicale