The views and opinions expressed in our letters section are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Hudson Valley One. You can submit a letter to the editor here.
An apology from Officer Sisco
To the LBGTQ+ community, the town and village of New Paltz residents and elected officials: I would like to begin by saying my apology may be lengthy, but this is my first opportunity to publicly address the community about my actions. I am a much better writer than I am a speaker, and I feel to be transparent and genuine. The quality of my words would suffer if cut short, so please bear with me, as this letter is truly coming from my heart.
To the New Paltz Police Department and all law enforcement. I apologize if my actions have made the difficult job we already do, that much more so. I have been a faithful servant of the law for much of my adult life and more than a third of my life in general.
I took an oath, and right, wrong or indifferent, I should have considered if my actions would affect us all. I make no excuses but understand that I am human and I am fallible. One of the most important values that is drilled into you in the police academy was that “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”
We are strong because we are together. My desire to be an individual weakened the bonds that bind us, and for that I am truly sorry. My actions were mine and mine alone. My brothers and sisters in blue should not have had to suffer for it.
To the town and village of New Paltz residents and the greater New Paltz community, I have many words. First, I have always put you before me! I remember the day I was sworn in. and I genuinely believed that I had found a home here. As I worked more and got to know the people of this town, I found it harder and harder to not be emotionally vested in your lives. I’ve watched your children grow up. I’ve been there for life altering moments, both good and bad. I’ve performed CPR on you, I’ve held your hand while in an ambulance, I’ve caught bats in your living room, I’ve helped you get into rehab, I’ve had beers with you downtown, I’ve taken pictures with you, I’ve embraced you when you’ve lost loved ones.
This is still who I am. This is officer Bob Sisco. But I have grown and changed in other ways through this experience. My lack of judgment and ignorance hurt many in our community and made people feel unsafe. And I even attracted national attention to our quiet town, and not in the way I had hoped. Again, for that, I am truly sorry. Just know that I am still that same cop who will still be there for you, as I always have. However, I have been humbled by this experience which has increased my understanding of the marginalized members of our community.
Finally, and most importantly, to the LGBTQ community I would like to say that your words did not fall on deaf ears. I listened. I would like to specifically address the transgender community, because although I understand the importance of the movement, I feel an apology would not be as sincere if not specifically to the group intended.
Sometimes, there comes a time in a person’s life where something so drastic and life-changing happens that it literally overloads their senses. I felt your senses overload. I watched as you all commented and posted. I deserved it. “Ignorance is no excuse.” A popular quote by my father growing up, but the lesson would not truly be learned until it was too late.
What struck me the most was how unsafe people in our community felt after hearing my words. As a marginalized person in this country, I should have been more sensitive to others who are also going through the struggle.
Unfortunately, I was ignorant and hurtful. My blackness does not define me, nor give me insight into the lives of other marginalized people, but it is who I am. I did not choose it. This was how it was explained to me by a transgender associate of mine whom I’d worked with for years. I’m hesitant to say friend because he too was extremely hurt by my actions and words. He said that he always knew he was a “he.”
But then he said. “Imagine looking in the mirror and seeing someone else. Someone who at times it disgusted you to be.” I have thought long and hard about that. I have never consciously discriminated or treated anyone differently because of their race or gender identity.
I realized that while I was not being discriminatory I was not learning or understanding. I was actually ashamed when I found out about the horrors that transgender men and women had suffered because of people who didn’t understand them. But I am not one of those people.
I have spent a good portion of my time away from patrol to learn and understand not only why my words were so hurtful, but also what I can do to repair your trust in me. Twenty hours of community service may have been part of the agreement, but I know it cannot make up for what I have done. I have already begun my own dialogue with the LGBTQ+ community and will continue to work on repairing the damage long after the 20 hours has been completed.
I have committed myself to being a better friend, neighbor and police officer. Maybe I don’t deserve it, but I am asking for your help. Help me be better, for you and for me. Give me the opportunity to learn and hear your voices and opinions. My goal with the video was to open a dialogue so we can start talking. It was ignorant, misguided, insensitive, hurtful and delegitimizing to many in our community. It cost me friends and family. Yet it has also helped me grow, given me a greater understanding of the power I have as an officer and the responsibility that must accompany it.
With your help. I know I will be a better police officer. My apologies mean nothing without actions to back it up. I know moving forward, my actions will speak louder than words, and it will take time to demonstrate my genuine remorse for the hurt I have caused. This apology is my start, and I will work every day to gain your trust. This I can absolutely promise you.
Community participation in policing
As a result of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Executive Order 203 issued in June, a transparent community collaborative in New Paltz and over 500 other municipalities are in the process of writing a plan/report for local police reform and reinvention due April 1, 2021. Following the spring protest on police killings of people of color on June 12, he issued a four-page executive order, the Police Reform and Reinvention Collaborative. He clarified it in mid-August in a 135-page guide extending the order title to Resources & Guide for Public Officials and Citizens.
This guide spells out on page 2: “Involve the entire community in the discussion.” Furthermore, the process must be “collaborative .. [and it would be a] mistake … to impose top-down solutions.” The discussions need to be public, transparent and comprehensive with the sharing of all discussions, information and data. For example, in addition to the list of stakeholder groups, they need to include formerly incarcerated people, members of communities like Meadow Brook housing complex in New Paltz, LGBT community members and immigrants of color.
Instead, the town board of New Paltz inappropriately appointed five community members when they were only supposed to “convene the head of the local police agency and stakeholders in the community to develop such plan…” as per Executive Order 203. Altogether the New Paltz Town Board appointed five community members, police chief and one board member that call themselves the New Paltz Police Reform and Reinvention Committee (NPPRRC). The NPPRRC has boxed itself into a corner where they have taken the position to listen to the community and not to engage in a collaborative decision-making process resulting in an exhausted committee without broad community support to defend any reform or reinvention of policing that they come up with for New Paltz. They are losing the community support that wants to participate as equal partners.
The goal now for NPPRRC is to open the committee membership and collaboration process before a complaint is filed by community stakeholders in the governor’s office that can jeopardize funding for the police in New Paltz.
Feel free to call me if you have any questions at 255-9652 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Silence is golden
I go for the strong, silent type: bison.
Blueprint to kneecap democracy
It is a brutal truth. There is no bottom to Trump’s pettiness and petulance. Same as it ever was … To quote SNL: “Our top story tonight — Trump still a loser!” Generalissimo Framcisco Franco, who is still dead, would be proud. Give it up little con. man! You have become part of dark history now and a one-term president!
All Trump had to do was accept defeat gracefully like all others have done, but instead he chose to double down on losing what he never had to begin with — dignity! He’s not getting anywhere with his lawsuits. Surely there’s something there. He’s got a hunch. And he’s repeated this hunch several hundred times on Twitter. Doesn’t this make it true?
I’m waiting for the comments from Trump supporters that the real evidence just hasn’t been revealed yet. For a man that loves America so much, he sure has a funny way of showing it. I kinda like this thing, though. We get to watch Biden keep winning and Trump keep losing over and over again.
All this shows is that he’s never truly cared about the country, or even about his own supporters. He’s in it for himself and willing to take the whole country down with him, Trump supporters and all. The mark of a true, fully committed and unrepentant narcissistic sociopath. He has made this country and its image in the world much, much worse. He has severely damaged democratic institutions, and repeatedly and brazenly trampled on generally accepted norms that any leader, let alone the leader of the free world, would follow. Trump needs to serve as a warning to America of the loopholes and cracks in the Constitution and the election process.
No matter how long he delays, at noon on January 20, 2021, Joe Biden will be our president and this Trumpery will be over. You might need a brain transplant to believe otherwise. And the Republicans who continue to placate this behavior, a weaponizing of his presidency are certainly co-conspirators in this obvious attempt at destruction. May karma bless you threefold.
Silence is assent
We, the citizens, parents and teachers, have great power and responsibility to create change in our schools. We have sacrificed our children’s natural and critical development as social, creative and spiritual beings. We have substituted schooling as a replacement for education. We have allowed our children to become victims of corporate-driven curriculum, destructive testing programs and captive subjective technologies and algorithmic conclusions and directives. We must redirect and return the education of our children to the parents and teachers and away from the control by politicians, bureaucrats and union leaders.
Parents and teachers need to organize and demand the return of our children to schools which focus on education: teaching our children that they can learn, think and create in ways special to them. As children return to the classroom, they need to be embraced in a welcoming environment, facilitated by loving teachers freed to focus on each child and their uniqueness. Advanced students need to be given the opportunity to coach those students whose knowledge and skills have been affected by the consequences of the coronavirus.
Teachers and parents need to organize and demand that their children’s education be freed from political and acadumbnik designs, and that their union leaders return to their professional commitment to serving our children’s education, not schooling.
Muck boot time?
When questioned at a town board meeting by a Woodstock taxpayer as to why our part-time supervisor Bill McKenna accepted a 2.25 percent raise, he said, “I used to have another business,” making it sound as though his supervisor’s salary was his only source of income and his company no longer existed.
I ask those of you who saw Bill McKenna driving east on Tinker Street with an extension ladder in the bed of his pick-up truck or inside Woodstock Lumber, did you wonder what he was up to, could it be he was preparing to repair one of the Town of Woodstock’s building roofs, or…?
Support the community stars
In these times of gratitude it would be thoughtful for the community to acknowledge the selfless efforts of two wonderful stewards of community involvement and selfless duty to their fellow man and woman and a young songwriter with a dream.
No matter the event, Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, a parade, a funeral, a dedication or even a backyard barbecue, Peigi Mulligan, whom Bill Payne affectionately refers to as the ‘Piper Laureate of Saugerties’, with bagpipes in hand, often accompanied by her husband Pat, would appear and perform. Gaetana Ciarlante, similarly, regardless of the event, would be there leading a group in song whether the national anthem or God Bless America or organizing a concert or a fundraiser somewhere in the town.
Gaetana, the founder of S.O.S (Support Our Servicemembers) has, for many years, given of her time and talents and both she and Pieg, have done so without expectation nor seeking headlines, fanfare, money or awards. It’s just who they are. It’s what 4th of July grand marshals are made of. Don’t forget them. If you see them, once this pandemic fades into history, whether at a pancake breakfast or a church hall, tell them thank you.
Another star in the community is Ian Flanigan. At 30 years old, his tireless efforts to break into the music scene and his meteoric rise to fame with appearances on The Voice and Austin City Limits is what great songs are made of. All of Saugerties can be proud of this homegrown celebrity, but keep in mind that the hardscrabble life of a songwriter is no walk in the park. It’s a tough life for Ian, Ayla and their daughter and not without obstacles along the way.
They can always use your support. So as you watch The Voice or see him perform at Hope Rocks or anywhere else, keep in mind that this is the way of life he has chosen, some might say it has chosen him, made tougher in these times of Covid. There are no grants or tax breaks or anything like that for songwriters. It’s just a man with a dream. Support his art, art everywhere, whether the performing arts or otherwise. They all struggle to make ends meet.
Malden on Hudson
Police courtesy and efficiency
I have often read about the horrific behavior of some police officers.
Within the past two months, I had contact with local police who were kind and helpful. On one occasion an officer along with a rescue-squad team came to the home of a friend who had fainted. Everyone was kind and competent. And my friend did not need hospitalization after being carefully examined.
And this week while I was baking pumpkin pie my smoke alarm went off. I could not get any other help, and I was unable to stop the alarm. A police officer and two firemen came to my apt within two minutes of my call. They could not have been nicer or more helpful. No damage was done.
Let’s remember to praise our police officers and volunteer fire fighters. We are lucky to have such great people in our community.
Lesson at the bird feeder
I have been trying to figure out a way to feed birds other than the sparrows that are hoggng all the seed at the feeder. In my investigation, I found an online article that gave some suggestions for using different kinds of birdseed to discourage sparrows from coming. \In the article, some folks inundated with sparrows will go to extremes to get rid of them, because of the cost of the fast disappearing seed. In the comments people spoke about some being willing to kill the sparrows, using glue and shooting them. I was surprised that people willing to feed birds could also be willing to kill them. To be fair, I don’t believe that this was more than only a few, but they stirred up a lot of enraged responses from bird lovers.
I tell you this to lay the groundwork for what I gleaned and tried to do to not be just feeding sparrows at my feeder. First I found out that sparrows liked crack corn, which is about the cheapest feed. I decided that I’d buy a second feeder, and fill one with cracked corn and put the mixed bird food in the second. The sparrows loved the cracked corn. But they also dominated the mixed seed feeder.
I’d read that some folks put striped sunflower seeds as feed to reduce the sparrows coming because they do not have beaks that easily break the striped sunflower seed open. It took me a while to find striped sunflower seed, and when I did it was expensive. It’s the same variety that humans eat. Feeling frustrated, I decided to only fill one feeder with striped sunflower seeds and nothing else. Sparrows came in droves. Pulling the seeds out of the feeder, feeding the squirrels gathered below and working hard to break open the seed shells, I watched the expensive seed quickly disappear.
Feeling like this challenge was one I was not winning, the titmouse, cardinals, gross beaks and blue jays would have to dine somewhere else.
This morning when I came downstairs from a night’s sleep I saw that my last experiment seemed to be working. The sparrows were eating the cracked corn, millet and black sunflower seed I’d mixed together. On the striped sunflower feeder was a flock of titmouse and chickadees eating with their thick beaks.
The lesson that came to me was to forget the cost, feed the sparrows what they want, so I could feed the birds being pushed away. I translated this into giving the people who are hungry what they want to eat, so everyone can have a place at the table. Only if our country’s leadership could learn to feed our hungry, they’d stop rioting, the hard workers would find jobs and everyone could sleep with a full stomach at night.
The striped sunflower seed cost more, but all birds will survive until we run out of seed, which is the deeper question for us and the birds.
Lights for the future
It seems that almost every culture and religion has some celebration involving lights. More than half the country recently celebrated the end of a time of darkness and a new dawn, with our recent national elections — and hopefully an age of enlightenment to follow. (The past four years of denying science is anathema to us.)
Right now, there are two lights at the end of the tunnel. At least three effective Covid vaccines are in the works. But all the science-based advice is still to hunker down for the foreseeable future.
The other light concerns climate change, for which there will never be a vaccine. But all of the actions on the part of Biden and his inner circle (John Kerry among them) have brightened our days.
It seems that there is still the potential for a sunny future for all of us.
Dan and Ann Guenther
Rochester solar farm
Your reporting titled “Woodstock looks to become the first municipality in Ulster County with a solar farm” isn’t correct. The Town of Rochester has been having community solar farm operational since 2019.
Please don’t flush wipes
Last week, some of our DPW staff spent their morning cleaning out filters at one of our sewer pump stations clogged with disinfectant wipes. They politely said “a strong stomach” was needed.
Without a healthy DPW staff, we run the risk of toilets and sinks backing up, property damaged by stormwater, drinking water disruptions, roads getting neglected, etc. This is especially nerve-wracking as we enter flu, water-main break and plowing season.
Please only flush the four ‘Ps’ — poop, pee, paper and puke. Disinfectant wipes and paper towels should never go in toilets because they block and break pipes when pressure spikes. Always toss paper towels, dental floss, tampons, sanitary pads, condoms and all wipes (baby, makeup and cleaning) even if they’re labeled flushable in the trash.
Mayor Tim Rogers
Sauce for the goose
In 2016 when Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, protests erupted across the nation declaring that he was not their president. That he cheated the election because of Russian interference and now there are protests occurring across the nation again declaring that Biden is not their president. A great number of Biden supporters are outraged, claiming that the recent protests will question the legitimacy of the transference of power.
When anti-Trump protesters did the same thing four years ago, did the protests start this elimination of a peaceful transformation of power that Biden supporters are holding so dear to them? I would argue that four years ago they opened a Pandora’s box that now cannot be closed with the protests that occurred nationwide against Donald Trump.
It started with the protests in 2016 where the anti-Trump protesters went nationwide claiming Trump was not their president. Did they not think that this gave the opposing side an opportunity to do the same thing if Trump didn’t get re-elected? Although this is true, Trump supporters do have a history and assumption of violence, when Biden supporters do not.
I also would argue that the anti-Trump individuals protested in a subverted protest against Trump as opposed to the Trump supporters that are overtly protesting that have resulted in violence.
I am deeply saddened to learn that my state senator, Jen Metzger, was not re-elected by a thin margin of under one percent of the vote. Ulster County has been my home area since 1963. I’ve always paid attention to politics and politicians since high school, whether local, state or federal. Senator Metzger has worked harder and accomplished more for the constituents of the 42nd District during her two-year term than most state senators I’ve witnessed do in their entire careers.
I want to publicly thank Senator Metzger for her bills that helped close the broadband gap, supported family farms, protected the environment, and expanded affordable access to teleservices. She partnered with local leaders to protect survivors of domestic abuse, house homeless veterans, equip volunteer first responders, expand rail-trails and parks, help communities improve energy efficiency, and many other local efforts.
Senator Metzger accomplished important improvements with her Democratic colleagues on climate issues, making our justice system fairer, ensuring women’s reproductive rights, passing the Child Victim’s Act and enacting election laws to make it easier for citizens to exercise the vital right to vote. Simply put, Senator Metzger worked every day to make New Yorkers’ lives better and more just.
Starting in January, citizens ought to pay close attention to what Mike Martucci (aka the School Bus Guy) does for this district and how he votes. I await to see how state senatorial districts are to be re-drawn and whether that will increase my chances to have a state senator I can be as proud and appreciative of as I am of Jen Metzger. My hope is that new opportunities will soon come for this most talented and dedicated public servant. Jen, thank you for your service.
Inevitable second wave
In a November 25 letter, reader John Habersberger expressed his displeasure with Governor Andrew Cuomo and Dr. Anthony Fauci. He packed his missive with so much sarcasm there was no room left for facts. New York State ranks 14th (not first) in deaths per 100,000 population since the beginning of the pandemic, and 41st over the past seven days, meaning the measures taken by the governor have been highly successful. South Dakota, by contrast, has seven times more deaths per capita than New York. The governor’s executive orders attempting to mitigate the effects of the pandemic may not be enforceable in real time, but if contact tracing reveals a superspreader event criminal charges can be brought after the fact without violating the Fourth Amendment.
As for Dr. Fauci, his early advice about masks was based on information received from China which turned out to be incorrect. Who’d have guessed? However, like all good scientists, when confronted with new data to the contrary, he revised his recommendations. Once enough medical professionals in the US began seeing cases in March, it became clear that the virus was highly transmissible through respiratory pathways and masks/distancing became our best defense against the spread. Dr. Fauci revised his stance on April 3, the same day that President Trump said the virus would go away by itself. Mr. Habersberger writes of Dr. Fauci, “He has been wrong from the beginning…”, implying that he continues to be wrong, but then acknowledges that “… he has reversed every one [of the directives].” Well, yeah, that’s what scientists do. When presented with data that contradicts a hypothesis, a good scientist modifies the hypothesis, not the data.
President Trump has muddied the waters throughout the pandemic by insisting it would just go away “like a miracle” by encouraging crowds, by discouraging masks, and by publicly downplaying the seriousness of the disease, even though he privately acknowledged that, “This is not the flu. It is vicious.”
Dr. Fauci since April 3 has been consistent in his message, and the states that have followed his guidelines have had a far better outcome than those which have ignored them. I’m not a virologist or an epidemiologist, so I take the advice of those who are, and every one of the experts in these fields has the same message. The president’s coronavirus advisor, Dr. Atlas, is a radiologist. If you’d rather take his advice, let me also recommend that the next time you have chest pains you go to a dermatologist. After all, he’s still a doctor, right?
The first shutdown failed because of the confused and contradictory responses by the president and Republican governors. The virus knows no state borders, no political boundaries, no ideological allegiances. Absent a consistent message from the top, and with Americans ignoring common-sense travel restrictions, the predicted second wave was inevitable, but the hot spots are obvious. The map of increasing Covid cases and deaths looks just like the electoral map, with the red states highest in new cases and the blue states mostly declining. Governor Cuomo’s attempts to control the disease are doomed to fail if we New Yorkers choose to ignore them.
Then there’s the Amery quote, “In the name of God, go!” This could easily be used on President Trump, who has sat here too long for any good he has done.
Defunding the police
Walter Wallace Jr. was shot and killed by police officers in Philadelphia. His own family called 911 because Walter needed help; he was in the midst of a mental-health crisis and what did they get? A dead son. The police met Walter with violence in a time of crisis. Walter was holding a knife. A knife is not equal to a gun, and he was ten feet away from officers when they shot him. The police used excessive force. Their hands went immediately to their guns. The police are not the judge, jury and executioner.
This is exactly why we must defund the police. Police are not trained or prepared to handle situations like this. Walter Wallace Jr. was going through a mental-health crisis. If mental-health responders or counselors could have responded, the outcome would have been so different. He would still be alive.
Defunding the police is about reallocating the police’s enormous amount of money. By defunding, you give communities the money and resources they need to thrive, which will lower crime rates. Police are not appropriately trained for the extensive range of situations they encounter. The money will go to other people, better equipped to handle situations that a police officer might typically be called to, saving tons of lives.
But ultimately, defunding the police is a much larger issue than just reallocating funds. It is about dismantling the system that was built to target BIPOC in America. Defunding the police would cut off the resources cops use to criminalize black communities. By divesting from the police, we must invest in what actually keeps us safe, mental-health programs, public education, healthcare, housing, living wages, clean air and water, and so much more.
Responding to an anti-Semite
I knew it was only a matter of time before letter writer Fred Nagel was back with another of his anti-Israel unsubstantiated screeds. Tell a lie often enough and people will begin to believe it.
For example, take Nagel’s lie that Jews “have been funding attacks on black movements and the left for decades.” The reality is that Jews were and have been the earliest and strongest supporters of black civil rights e.g., Jews made up roughly half of the white Northern volunteers involved in the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer project and approximately half of the civil-rights attorneys active in the South during the 1960s. Jews have been beaten and died on behalf of the black civil-rights fight — remember the deaths of Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner — both Jewish.
Fred continues his anti-Semitic rant by accusing Jews of having the audacity of pushing back against anti-Semitic groups that foster lies about Israel, while not acknowledging the harm done by e.g., Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic rhetoric and support of the BDS (boycott/divestment/sanctions) movement.
Nagel incorrectly calls Israel “a racist state,” but fails to mention that Israel has to deal with the Palestinians who really practice ethnic and religious hatred, so much so that their governments financially rewards those terrorists who murder or maim Israeli citizens.
So, not only does Nagel demonstrate his anti-Semitic beliefs, but he goes one step further by demonizing the “Israeli Lobby” for the “lynching” of a black candidate i.e., Reverend Warnock — currently running for the Senate from Georgia.
Besides this smear being unfounded, Nagel unfortunately does not address the issue of the Rev Warnock’s relationship with the Rev Haynes — a vocal supporter of the bigoted Farrakhan.
Maybe I wasn’t clear
I question why Democrats would think Republicans should cooperate with Biden after they refused not only not to cooperate with Trump, they denigrated his supporters. As I said, the nicest thing said about me as a Trump voter was I was deplorable. They had no concern to what the rest of the world thought when they ran a phony investigation and impeachment over Russian collusion. Three-and-a-half years on a charge they knew came from a Clinton campaign paper.
I hope the Republicans are able to hold the Senate and stop many of Biden’s programs, as I oppose the programs — like the Iran nuke deal, the Paris climate accords, trade deals with China — which I feel hurts our country and especially working people.
I remember presidential elections back to Eisenhower and never recall the voters of one candidate attacked both verbally and in some cases physically by the opposition. Would you dare put a Trump bumper sticker on your car? While I was opposed to most of Obama’s policies, I never attacked him personally and never went after his supporters, some of whom were friends and/or relatives. The difference now is I thought they were wrong, they think I’m evil.
On another subject I just read that the CDC said it now thinks at least 53 million Americans have already had Covid-19 (it’s a possibility as many as 100 million). Taking their lower number and their reported Covid-related deaths at 263,000, that means that 99.995 percent of victims survive, making me wonder if what we’ve been doing isn’t a massive overreaction with a great deal more collateral damage than was necessary.
I don’t wear a mask. I think they’re as useful as Dumbo’s feather — he thought it made him able to fly — and people think it protects them from Covid. If masks are really effective and so many people wear them, does it mean all those who’ve gotten sick in the second wave weren’t maskwearers?