Saugerties Times letters (9/21-27)

Faso got this one right

Congressman John Faso was one of only eleven GOP who voted NO on HR 806, as did 188 Democrats. The bill passed 229-199. Rep Faso got this one right.

Mr. Faso wrote to me on Sept 13 “I voted against [H. R. 806] the Ozone Standards Implementation Act to help protect the health and well-being of constituents across the 19th Congressional District. Ozone and other ground-level pollutants have been linked to negative health outcomes across the population including those most at risk of respiratory diseases. H.R. 806 passed the House without my support on July 18, 2017 and now awaits action in the Senate.”

Stephen Shafer

A safer school zone

Just in case you haven’t noticed, there have been many changes made on Washington Avenue, in the Village of Saugerties. To ensure that it is safe for children walking to and from school, as well as all pedestrians, the speed limit was lowered; crosswalks and double yellow lines were painted on the road; a solar electronic radar was installed; pedestrian cones have been placed at intersections and the police are monitoring the area.


Since these changes, there has been a noticeable reduction of speed by motorists. It is my hope that everyone will be safer as a result.

My gratitude goes to Mayor Bill Murphy,  The Village Board, Superintendent of Schools Seth Turner, Mike Hein and the Ulster County government, The Village DPW,  Police Chief Joe Sinagra, and all those who have worked to make this area “A Safer School Zone”.

To all motorists, who obey the speed limit, thank you.

Tony Elia

The new confusions

I’ve about had it with the bars around here. I stopped in one the other day for a drink while waiting for an order from a local shop. This young drunk saw a young man who he thought was gay and started to go after him just because of that. The young man left before realizing what was happening, but the drunk got nasty and went on about bashing the gay kid in the most scurrilous fashion. The language that he used was the worst I have heard in a public setting.

He probably thought he was entertaining his audience. There were three people there besides me, including the owner. They smiled, apparently embarrassed by what he was saying. They were used to it. Foul language is so commonplace in this bar that it doesn’t bother anyone anymore, except fools like me.

Later I reflected on how several of the bars that I know are trashy with four-letter words. Used to be that when you heard something like that the bartender cautioned the individual to watch his language; not any more. Why is that? I think it is a metaphor for the times, which are trashy and disgusting on their own. We have lost our way as a cohesive (and coherent) society, and this is one way we as a society express that loss.

I am reminded of some history I learned that had a similar bent. A man named Jacob Leisler took over the New York government during the colonial period. He did not commit an offense in doing so, but his enemies had him hanged and drawn and quartered in his own front yard (which happened to be the site of New York’s City Hall). That was a society grown sick by hatred. Leisler was cleared in a subsequent change of administrations, his body exhumed, and he was given a state funeral.

But he left his mark. Thing is, Jacob Leisler was a crude man. His followers were like that, too, and the nastiness that developed among the two levels of society was so severe that progress in New York’s government was delayed for more than twenty years. A common denominator in all that was the grossness of the language used, and in the middle of it all a gross governor named Cornbury became the biggest thief of his time. Later, once people got their heads back on again, they called these times “the Confusions.”

We are in a confusing time today. We have a leader who represents a gross distortion of the values that we once took for granted. The power brokers behind him are rapacious thieves. They are systematically going about the dismantling of the very structures that house those values, casting them aside with the casualness of a four-letter word. Their followers see the end of their own isolation in the course of events, but in reality all they are getting is one disappointment after another as their hopes for a future that includes them fade.

This moral transformation is not the sole doing of the vulgar new political class, although that is the latest manifestation. This goes back to the post-war era, when commie-bashing (laughable in hindsight), politically evil appeals to God, and a gross indifference by the people to values prevailed. Socialism is the new bugaboo word, immigrants who look different the new commies, God has been insinuated into a government structure specifically defined to exclude religion, and people are as indifferent to values as the bar crowd is to vulgar language.

I’m not saying that the gay-bashing drunk is a victim of the times; I don’t believe he is; the times have enabled him, not crucified him. He is just a sick kid. He lives in a time when the moral imperative has been set aside, trashed like language itself, when governments become dysfunctional solely because of hatred and we all flounce about in a state of confusion.

I guess I’ll drink at home.

Vernon Benjamin

Antiquated tax posturing

Two extreme and debilitating storms have hit our nation, leaving displacement and destruction behind. Federal, state and local government resources are strained, even as thousands of people volunteer their time, contribute money, and donate household items to aid the storm victims. Enormous sums of money will be needed to restore and strengthen those devastated areas.

The government resources, measured as both financial assistance and the men and women who staff various agencies, all require tax dollars to provide relief in the way of housing, insurance reimbursement, medical supplies, logistical support and a dozen others functions of government. Yet, at the same time, our president and his super wealthy cabinet members want to relieve themselves of as much taxation as they think they can get away with, calling it tax reform.

In this country’s formative days, the cry against “taxation without representation” had merit. America was a colony with very little control over its spending priorities, governance or funding. It was geographically disjointed and sparsely populated. And, perhaps most importantly, it was primarily an agrarian society. People’s lives were closely tied to the land they farmed; families provided for their own most basic needs while also caring for their aging relatives. Not one of those things is true in today’s America.

As Americans today, we enjoy robust representation at every level of government, from our villages boards and townships, to our county legislatures, to state representatives and two houses of Congress at the federal level. We can visit the offices of our various representatives, phone, fax, email, tweet, post on Facebook and make our thoughts, wishes and needs known to any and all of our representatives in myriad ways unavailable to our early American counterparts. We can fund lobbyists, we can give to super pacs. We have plenty of representation.

It is time to set aside the antiquated posture that being asked to pay taxes is somehow a violation of our rights, an infringement on our freedom, something to avoid or scheme to get out of. To live in this country, the greatest country in the world, is a blessing and a privilege. How can we teach our children that when much is given, much is expected, that nothing in life is free, yet balk when asked to contribute to rebuild and strengthen our infrastructure, to provide health care for all of our people, and to assure our elderly that they will be able to live decently in their later years?


Deidre J. Byrne

Swart congrats

I would like to offer a heartfelt congratulation to Town of Saugerties Police Lt. Ken Swart who, last week, graduated from the FBI’s National Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

The FBI National Academy only accepts the best law enforcement personnel from around the globe. Lt. Swart was one of only 260 officers selected for this session of specialized training offering unmatched training and networking opportunities. The experience and knowledge Lt. Swart gained will be an asset to the Saugerties Police Department for many years.  I was honored to travel to Quantico with Chief Sinagra, who is also a graduate of the National Academy, to attend the ceremony and express our community’s pride and appreciation for his tremendous accomplishment.

Well done, Lieutenant!

Fred Costello, Jr.,
Saugerties Town Board, Police Liaison

Hope Rocks

September is National Suicide Prevention as well as Addiction Recovery Month. As we know, these issues have impacted nearly every American, to some degree.  Recent statistics illustrate a historic epidemic rise in unnatural death at the expense of these issues.

I would like to thank the many individuals, organizations and corporations who demonstrated an outward response to these deadly trends at the recent two-day Hope Rocks Festival located at the Cantine Veteran’s Memorial Complex in Saugerties on August 19 and 20. This festival, believed to be the first-of-its kind, brought hope and possibility to a topic previously shrouded in shame and blame.

Over 3400 festival attendees received a unique opportunity of education, advocacy and support found at its centerpiece attraction, Hope Village. This festival attracted people from nearby states and counties in search of answers and information to make recovery possible. The Hope Village, sponsored by the Saugerties Lions Club, boasted what could be considered the largest collection of service providers ever available to a general population. 48 agencies, groups and organizations of national, state, county and local scope provided support and information for all stages and needs encountered in addiction, depression and social isolation. Formal presentations by experts in the areas of addiction and suicide were given in the Hope Tent located in the Hope Village. Additionally, workshops, counseling and peer groups took place throughout the weekend.

Also included as part of the Hope Rocks Festival were activities, exhibits, food, vendors and incredible live music. The many amenities and attractions were designed to attract as wide a demographic as possible with the objective of providing a non-judgmental and accepting environment filled with resources for any and all who may be part of the greater struggle. From the outset, it was clear these objectives were met.

Special thanks are offered to the 113 festival volunteers, the sponsors and donors, 48 bands and performers, the 29 food and craft vendors, the service providers, the athletes and the Town of Saugerties for allowing us to host an event of this magnitude.  Additionally, special thanks are directed to the Sawyer Automotive Foundation, Raising Your Awareness about Addiction (RYAN) and the Ulster County Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention for your assistance, support and charitable works.

Plans are underway for anther Hope Rocks Festival next summer. For more information on the Hope Rocks Festival visit our Facebook page and website: Donations are still being accepted.

Joe Defino,
Hope Rocks Festival Coordinator, Teacher

Services up, spending down

With the Ulster County budget being unveiled next month, I think it is important to realize how much progress we have made towards making Ulster County Government fiscally responsible and financially solvent. Prior to my election into office in 2013, the Ulster County Budget was $363.6 Million Dollars for 2012; this year’s budget in 2017 was $324.9 Million Dollars. In 2005, Ulster County Government employed over 1,750 employees who received benefits, in 2017, that number of employees has been reduced down to 1,303. All four budgets that I voted on have reduced county spending, one of them was tax neutral with no tax increase and three of them reduced county property taxes.

Prior to the charter change within Ulster County Government that added a County Executive Branch of government and a Comptroller’s Office, 33 County Legislators worked together with various Governmental Departments in running County Government. Under this structure, County Government became bloated and county spending became burdensome on the taxpayers. The reconstruction of the Ulster County Jail ended up running tens of millions of dollars over-budget and taking 2½ years longer to complete than what had been promised to the taxpayers. Fiscally, this led to a 39.8% tax increase on the County-level for the 2006 budget. This mismanagement of governmental affairs led to the Charter change which brought us our current form of government which has 23 County Legislators, a County Executive’s Office and a Comptroller’s Office.

Under this current system, county government has been reduced by 37% and county spending has declined by over $38 Million Dollars. And despite these cuts in County Government, services to Veterans have been increased; mental health services have been streamlined to add the availability of mobile-based services along with nighttime services, and infrastructural repairs are being completed across Ulster County (like the Sauer Bridge in Mt. Marion that was replaced in 2014). This current structure of county government has been fiscally responsible and responsive towards addressing the needs of our veterans and our infrastructure, and false statements that suggest otherwise demonstrate a biased view of County Government that is blatantly slanted against the County Executive and the current legislature. In my third term, I look forward to providing truthful and accurate information to the taxpayers.

Chris Allen,
Ulster County Legislature, District 2

Rockin Around Saugerties a success 

The Saugerties Chamber of Commerce held its 9th annual street art auction this past Saturday September 16th. This years event-Rockin’ Around Saugerties (RAS)-featured Rocking Horses. Over 200 people attended and over $23,000 was raised. The proceeds of the auction will be divided between the chamber, the participating artists, the Back Pack Foundation providing food and supplies for Saugerties High School students. The Chamber uses its proceeds to help support community activities. There will also be two scholarships awarded to graduating Saugerties High School students.

We would like to thank the following for making this event such a great success: Sawyer Savings Bank for “womanning” the door, Erika & Gerard Price and the fabulous staff at SPAF, The Royal Decision of Empire Merchants North for providing Dark Horse Wines, Bob Siracusano and Ray Tucker, auctioneers extraordinaire, Saugerties High School Key Club, Beth Murphy, Jamie Fine, Mike Harkavy, Barry Kerr, Patti Nadel and Marcia Corwin.

Hope to see you all next September.

Mark Smith, Chair
Peggy Schwartz, Vice-Chair