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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Right In Our Faces

The conversation was brief and actually something of an accident. I had called the Lewis County Treasurer's office to confirm a story I had heard that the Board of Legislators had given the Lewis County Manager a $10,000.00 raise. The Treasurer's office was unsure but thought the information was correct. To confirm, they forwarded me to the Legislative floor. I was expecting to get Clerk of the Board Teresa Clark on the phone. Instead, County Manager David Pendergast answered my call.
At this point a couple of things need to be pointed out. Besides being County Manager, Mr. Pendergast is also Budget Officer. The Budget Officer duties are considered to be part of the Manager's responsibilities, thus the Manager has received a salary of $75,000.00 with no additional money for Budget Officer.
I asked him if it was true that the Board had given him a $10,000.00 raise. He responded that it was, but clarified that the $10,000.00 was being shown as a separate salary now in the Budget Officer salary rather than being added to the County Manager's position. Since no one seemed aware of this possibility, I asked if this raise was budgeted for in the recently passed county budget. He replied that it was not. I then asked if he felt this was proper and after a brief pause he replied "The Board felt it was proper and voted in favor of it."
The excuses given for the raise are the additional duties of the public transportation system and that he is running the IT department.
Folks, this raise should never have happened. At a time when the country is in recession, when the northern New York unemployment rate is rising, and when the State of New York is cutting back state aid to local governments, handing out an unbudgeted raise to an already well paid position is bad judgment.
To use the excuse of additional duties is adding insult to injury; downright rubbing the taxpayer's nose in it. We are living in a time when many, if not most people are working harder for less, assuming you are fortunate enough to be working at all. There are a lot of farmers that will work all year and not clear $10,000.00 this year and the County Manager will receive this as a raise. Yup, we taxpayers get to work longer hours and pay more taxes, but if you're in favor with the Board of Legislators, no worries, we'll take care of you, budgeted or not.
Let's not forget the effect of this on county employees. The department heads will not receive a raise in this year's budget. Now that the legislators have surprised everyone by pulling the County Manager's raise out of their hats, imagine the effect on morale this is likely to have on department heads. This could complicate any union negotiations, also. So much for leading by example.
Mr. Pendergast, when I asked if this unbudgeted raise was proper, you hesitated, if only for a second. I believe it is not proper. The unbudgeted part suggests slight of hand, and otherwise it's just damned tough out here in the real world...and with the state breathing down your neck reality must be starting to set in on the county better be soon.
Do what your board apparently either couldn't or wouldn't do- have the character and show the leadership to turn down this untimely and unbudgeted raise.
It would be refreshing to have someone in this county get something done by showing leadership rather than by how much they can rub in our faces.

Monday, November 23, 2009


This letter was sent to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) after the DEC expressed its intention to issue Barrett's Paving a permit to start a quarry. This quarry would be located adjacent to the Village of Port Leyden, potentially exposing residents to environmental hazards including dust, noise, and blasting accidents. Sheila has stated the issue better than I can so here it is.

November 16, 2009 VIA FAX: (315) 785-2242

November 16, 2009

Mr. Mark Wiggins
State Office Building
Watertown, NY 13601

Re: DEC Findings Statement
Barrett Paving Materials, Inc.
Millick Quarry
(T) Leyden, New York

Dear Mr. Wiggins:

I am shocked by the DEC’s intention to issue a mining permit for the above-captioned project. Your allegation “that a balance of project need by the applicant and public safety and environmental concern by the public and interested parties have been met” is, frankly, preposterous and flies in the face of the published DEC Mission Statement. Specifically:

DEC Mission and Issue Priorities
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) was created on July 1,1970 to bring together in a single agency all state programs directed toward protecting and enhancing the environment.
Indeed. This project will destroy a rural environment that boasts clean air and peace and quiet.

DEC Mission

"The quality of our environment is fundamental to our concern for the quality of life. It is hereby declared to be the policy of the State of New York to conserve, improve and protect its natural resources and environment and to prevent, abate and control water, land and air pollution, in order to enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state and their overall economic and social well-being." - Environmental Conservation Law, Article 1

The DEC has been provided with photographs showing uncontrolled dust (on more than one occasion) and pollution at Barrett’s location in Boonville, a blatant violation of its SPDES permit. By their own admission in language contained in the DEIS, these “best management practices” will continue. How such practices will enhance the health, safety and welfare of the people of Port Leyden and their overall economic and social well-being is a mystery to me. The DEC has taken no action, as required in Environmental Conservation Law, Article 1.

DEC's goal is to achieve this mission by embracing the elements of sustainability - the simultaneous pursuit of environmental quality, public health, economic prosperity and social well-being, including environmental justice and the empowerment of individuals to participate in environmental decisions that affect their lives.

After the period for Public comment ended on July 10, the DEC published letters from citizens commenting on the proposed project. NOT ONE LETTER IN SUPPORT OF THE PROPOSED QUARRY WAS RECEIVED. The empowerment of individuals to participate in environmental decisions that affect their lives?? People attempted to participate and were clearly ignored.

Mr. Mark Wiggins
November 16, 2009
Page Two

In addition to letters from concerned citizens urging that this project not be approved, the DEC received a letter from the Pipeline Safety Trust, a national watchdog organization setting out the possible adverse consequences of allowing this project to move forward. It goes as far as to point out that the DEIS merely copies marketing data from the Iroquois Pipeline brochure. It is chilling in its predictions. The DEC received letters from the American Lung Association, Trout Unlimited, an organization concerned with pollution and wildlife preservation and the NYS Office of Mental Retardation, representing individuals with disabilities of all kinds. Organizations of this magnitude do not lend the credence of their names to causes that are to be taken lightly. Their input for those for whom they advocate was obviously taken lightly by the DEC.

Foster Green and Healthy Communities
· Use DEC's program areas to encourage smart growth
· Clean up contaminated land, especially in urban centers
· Reduce local waste generation and maximize recycling
· Promote community greening and urban forestry
· Preserve open space and working landscapes

Smart growth? How exposing a tiny Village, 365/24/7 to respirable crystalline silica, a named Category I carcinogen, can be equated with smart growth and the promotion of a green and healthy community begs comprehension. Community greening? This project will destroy it. And while open space will be preserved, where there is now community access, the open space will be only for the benefit of Barrett Paving.

Connect New Yorkers to Nature
· Promote environmental education and outdoor experiences for all age groups
· Increase participation in hiking, camping, fishing, hunting and trapping
· Provide state-of-the-art facilities and high-quality and unique outdoor experiences
· Preserve and provide access to green space close to where people live, work and play

The land in question will be lost for the purposes of environmental education and outdoor experiences for all age groups, since it will no longer be appropriate for hiking, camping, fishing, hunting and trapping. There will be no state-of-the-art facilities and certainly no possibility of unique outdoor experiences anywhere around this quarry. And in keeping with its mission statement, that the DEC maintains that this project will preserve and provide access to green space close to where people live, work and play is, actually, absurd.

Mr. Mark Wiggins

Page Three

Promote a Toxic-Free Future
· Reduce waste and use of toxics
· Promote green alternatives and technologies
· Support alternatives to the use of hazardous pesticides
· Promote product stewardship
· Enhance public access to information on toxics

Respirable crystalline silica is toxic. This project can in no way be construed as contributing to reduction of toxics. No agency – not the CDC, not the American Cancer Society, not the American Lung Association, not OSHA, not MSHA – has ever published PEL (Permissible Exposure Limit) guidelines for residents who live near mines/quarries.

Lafarge North America is the largest diversified supplier of construction materials in the U.S. and Canada. It publishes Material Safety Data Sheets for all its products. While it has not done a PEL study for those who live near mines/quarries, it sets out explicitly the hazards of respirable crystalline silica which is produced by the extraction of limestone from the earth. What it does set out in its MSDS is the prescribed PEL for miners which, by the way is no more than eight hours, and then only if the worker is wearing protective gear.

The Village of Port Leyden will be exposed to this named Category I carcinogen 365/24/7. We can hardly be expected to live our lives wearing protective gear. The letter written by the American Lung Association to the DEC stresses the need for use of green alternatives and technologies. Neither Barrett nor the DEC has addressed this issue. Shame on you.

Safeguard New York's Unique Natural Assets
· Conserve, protect and restore watersheds and coastal resources
· Apply state-of-the-art management techniques, including ecosystem-based management
· Ensure sufficient water management infrastructure for New York's future
· Promote sound land use and planning
· Add unique and valuable ecosystems to the Forest Preserve
· Protect biodiversity and unique ecosystems across New York

Mr. Mark Wiggins
November 16, 2009
Page Four

Having read the DEIS and the DEC’s Findings Statement, I see no evidence of any of the above-captioned objectives being met by this project, nor the DEC’s insistence that they are. Many area residents have their water supplied by wells. Wells were tested prior to the commencement of the project. Since part of the DEC’s mission statement is “the simultaneous pursuit of environmental quality, public health, economic prosperity and social well-being, including environmental justice and the empowerment of individuals to participate in environmental decisions that affect their lives,” it would seem incumbent on the DEC to ensure they are implemented. The DEC’s intention to issue a mining permit belies your stated commitment.

Work for Environmental Justice
· Reduce environmental and health impacts on communities overburdened by pollution
· Ensure equal access to environmental decision-making
· Promote urban greening, open space access, and other environmental benefits in overburdened areas
· Increase community-based enforcement

A rational person would conclude a rural area such as the Village of Port Leyden that has managed to keep pollution levels low – and not without cost - would be applauded for its efforts.

The DEC’s decision to issue a mining permit in this case tells communities like Port Leyden that their input doesn’t count. Clearly, the decision-making process is one-sided. Barrett Paving Materials is the largest of 14 subsidiaries on Colas North America, based in Canada. The largest shareholder in Colas North America is Bouygues, a corporate giant with its headquarters in Paris, France. Their headquarters are housed in an environmentally tony building that has won no less than 17 prestigious awards for ecological savvy. Clearly, their input matters to the DEC. That they would disrupt our well-being for their own gain has not been taken into consideration on behalf of residents. There has been no equal access to environmental decision-making in this case. And that’s very, very sadly telling.

This project does not promote urban greening, open space access and other environmental benefits. Farming and agricultural activities and the land required for them are disappearing from Lewis County and rural areas throughout the United States. This project will erase still more of it.

And, if the Board of the Town of Leyden approves this project and it is operated with Barrett’s best management practices – which include pollution and blasting accidents - as is the location in Boonville, will the DEC help this community enforce your stated mandates? Given the decision to issue a permit, I truly believe not.

I understand all too well that Barrett has satisfied the minimum requirements of the SEQRA process and that in theory you have no choice but to issue this permit. Had the DEC any corporate conscience, it would have referred this case to a court for decision.

Mr. Mark Wiggins
November 16, 2009
Page Five

I do not understand how the DEC can ignore Barrett’s reputation – amply documented in the DEC’s own files - particularly when it has been provided with compelling evidence that visually verifies, with dates - their carelessness and callousness at all their locations in New York. In this case their refusal to grant an extension of time for public comment, requested because of the death of Carol Lustyik’s mother is, I think an unashamed indication of their disregard for the community they will adversely impact. I liken the DEC’s decision to assigning a child molester community service at a daycare center as a teacher’s aide.

Sheila Callahan
P.O. Box 116
Port Leyden, NY 13433
(315) 348-4350

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Answer Is...No

A few posts back I asked the question "Does Rick Lucas Want To Be A County Legislator?". Well the votes are in and the answer is a resounding NO. In fact barely had the votes been counted in his win over Joe Baruth in the District 8 Lewis County Legislative race when Lucas admitted in the Watertown Daily Times that he is interested in becoming Assemblyman for the122nd district, the seat now held by Dede Scozzafava. I reported that this was likely in my post and it has been reported to me that Lucas scoffed at my suggestion that he really was more interested in being an assemblyman than a county legislator. Watertown Mayor Jeff Graham reported yesterday on his blog that Lucas wants to run for Assembly and that Jefferson County Legislator Ken Blankenbush is also interested.
Lucas must not become an assemblyman. His time on the Lewis County Board of Legislators has been devoted to advancing his own private agendas. In my opinion he has demonstrated not even a remote understanding of ethics nor does he demonstrate any interest in the subject of ethics. He has refused to recuse himself from certain issues, even when the Lewis County Ethics Board has told him he should. He either doesn't understand the difference between abstaining and recusal or he doesn't care.
The cynic in me says, "Wow, he'll fit in with the rest of state government just fine " when I watch him thumb his nose at ethical concerns, but we can''t let cynicism rule our decision making.
Lucas can run if he wants to of course. However, he does need to improve his vocabulary. Run for Assembly or not, Mr. Lucas needs a tutorial on the definitions of "abstain" and "recusal".

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lewis Legislators Protect Themselves-But Not Taxpayers

On Election Night 2009 the Lewis County Board of Legislators announced a Tentative Budget with a 3.5% tax increase. More importantly, the Legislators raided the Fund Blance to the tune of about 2.1 million dollars in order to get the tax increase down to the current tentative level.
By using the high amount of fund balance, your fund balance, your tax dollars, the Legislators are avoiding making any tough decisions on unnecessary or frivolous positions such as the Trail Coordinator or making tough decisions regarding high level staffing salaries or positions.
By avoiding their responsibilities they are hoping to avoid angering certain constituencies, but in taking the safe route they are wasting your hard earned money and just plain aren't doing their jobs.
By releasing their plans at this late date they are hoping to avoid being held responsible for their actions. At this time you still have about another 45 minutes to get out and vote. Make use of that time if you read this and have not yet done so.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Brazen Hoffmanites

Former Lewis County Democratic Committee Chairman Peter Cecconi had both his civic and his religious sensibilities affronted this morning as his family attended church at St. Peter's Catholic Church in Lowville, N. Y.
There in the parking lot of the church was a Hoffman campaigner handing out anti-abortion material to parishioners entering the church parking lot. This raises some questions on a couple of levels. First, while we are well aware of the official position of the Catholic Church concerning abortion, it would seem at a minimum, poor taste for a political campaign to bother people on their way to church in a gratuitous and obvious way to gain political favor for a political candidate.
Perhaps more importantly, at the St. Peter's site, the old parochial school is now a voting site and campaigning is forbidden within 100 feet of a polling place and Mr. Cecconi took real offense to this perceived infringement.
Like an old testament prophet, like Moses come down from the mountain (or if you know Pete, the mountain itself) Mr. Cecconi confronted the interloper and demanded he cease his activities.
Cecconi notified a number of authorities, including media sources but at last report the campaigning in the church parking lot continued.
I am uncertain what, if any actual legal issues may exist here, but this symbolizes the smugness and self rightousness of the Hoffman campaign and supporters. Indeed it symbolizes the dangers of the far right ideology. While reasonable people may disagree over the abortion issue, the true believers at the heart of the Hoffman campaign are far from reasonable people. Only they know what is right concerning abortion, only they know what is right about gay marriage, only they know what God's message is concerning these issues, only they know how to read the Constitution, and on a Sunday morning while taking your family to church they will shove it down your throats in the church parking lot.
The behavior of the Hoffman zealots should send a strong warning to the voters of the 23rd Congressional District. Their ideology is narrow, rigid and uncompromising and that will be the approach of Mr. Hoffman if elected.
While I was typing this I was notified that others were upset and complained about the tactics of the Hoffman camp. Kudos to Pete Cecconi and others that challenged their methods and also to the local priest that, I was just informed, asked the campaigner to leave.

Gerald A.Smith No Longer Write In Candidate

Saying "We can't chance a Hoffman victory" Gerald A. Smith threw his support today to Democrat Bill Owens and urged friends and supporters to do the same. Mr. Smith, who some were going to write in on the ballot in the 23rd Congressional District because of his progressive politics and for being the "real" Democrat feels we no longer have the luxury of a vote on principle's alone and urges all Democrats to vote for Mr. Owens.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Joe Baruth Endorsed By CSEA For Lewis County Legislator in District 8

Trick or Treat

The days are ticking by until election day and no sitting Lewis County Legislators have taken a position on what the Lewis County Budget should look like. Horror stories are emanating from the bowels of the Court House on the size of an alleged budget deficit for this year that will only compound the difficulty of the already difficult budget making efforts that are now under way for next year. From the Board of Legislators we have only silence.
Past practice for budget making was weeks of Legislative meetings, usually with the Legislators meeting as a "Committee of the Whole" to discuss the size and scope of the budget as well as budget priorities. These meetings were open to the public and the budget cards were on the table.
It would appear that this budget year is going to be extremely nasty and with a number of Legislators facing competition the budget process is hidden in the County Manager's office.
Reportedly, even the CountyTreasurer has been told not to talk to the public about the process, to the extent she knows about it.
This is unacceptable. Voters and taxpayers have the right to know and need to know their elected officials thoughts on the budget, especially in a year where the process has reached a critical stage. There is no excuse for any elected official going along with the silence and hiding that is taking place. If a Legislator doesn't know where the budget stands, they have the right and the responsibility to demand answers. Shame on those that remain silent, either because of cynical political posturing or out of cowardice, and in this case, ignorance isn't bliss.
It looks like the Board of Legislators has a belated Halloween gift planned for taxpayers after election day and "it ain't gonna be no treat".

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hiding the Budget While Seeking Re-Election

The Lewis County budget has been located and it resides on the County Manager's desk. County Manager David Pendergast has been acting as the budget "czar", finally unveiling the budget to the Ways and Means Committee on Thursday, October 22, according to this morning's Watertown Daily Times.
While the County Manager is the Budget Officer, it is unusual that there would be so little Legislator involvement with the budget at this late date. Legislators are usually brought into the process in September, listening to budget presentations by departments and asking questions and setting priorities. Now, only two weeks from presenting the Tentative Budget, the Ways and Means Committee made up of only three of the ten Legislators has finally been brought into the process. The Ways and Means Committee is chaired by Legislator Jerry King, famous for attempting to close the Croghan Transfer Site even though it was making money and for turning last year's budget process into a three ring circus. Now, he and his committee appear to be the only Legislators that have had more than a peek at the budget. Why am a grabbing for my wallet?
As it stands now, we're looking at 24% tax increase. The County Manager calls this "unacceptable" and that is an understatement. But what is as galling is the smoke screen process
that seems to be deliberately followed this election year.
What is to be done about reducing this onerous 24% tax increase? What cuts are Legislators going to make? Will it be like last year where vital services such as the Emergency Management Coordinator was proposed to be cut while keeping a luxury like the Trail Coordinator? What are the Legislator's priorities? What other taxes or fees will they attempt to raise?
Oh, we're going to find out early in November...after...yes... the elections. Taxpayers have a right to know what their Legislator's positions on the budget are and to be able to hold them accountable. How convenient that the entire budget process thus far has been kept under wraps in one man's office.
The Legislators were elected to represent the taxpayers and have the fiduciary responsbility of Lewis County as their main charge. They can't do either while willingly or unwillingly being kept in the dark.
The taxpayers and voters need to start demanding answers from their Legislators starting now. This undercover budget process is an affront not only to our pocket books but also to democracy.
It would appear that Board members that have opposition are hoping the clock runs out before having to make their budget opinions known to the public.
Don't allow this to happen. Get on the phone now, but most of all remember the dismal budget track record of each of these people, primarily Lucas, King and Hoch, each exhibiting misplaced priorities. Lucas can't seem to stop spending, the self serving motel study is a case in point.
In this case they can hide, the budget that is, ...and they can run, for office that is,.. but you can
find them and catch them on election day.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Check Out This Site... Outside Looking In
See "A fight to the finish"- an excellent piece on the Baruth vs. Lucas Lewis County Legislative race.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Gerald A. Smith for Congress

We're being treated to a rather wild three way race here in the 23rd Congressional District. After a century and a half of one party Republican dominance we finally have a real competitive race-something political junkies like myself salivate over. So why am I, a Democrat, distinctly unenthusiastic?
Don't worry, I'm not going to delve deep into any personal psychoanalysis over this but I am going to look at our choices. That is where my angst is coming from.
In this race we have Dede Scozzafava, who by her record and her philosophy is a Democrat pretending to be a Republican.
Then we've got Doug Hoffman, a tea bagger's teabagger if there ever was one, pretending to be the "Real" Republican while running as a Conservative.
Finally, there is Bill Owens, a lifelong Independent who is pretending to be a Democrat.
I'm sure some of you may be thinking that only a political junkie could allow his/her mind to be tormented by this but let's look at the choices.
As a progressive Democrat there is really nothing here for me. Dede on most issues is more progressive than Bill Owens and even she doesn't seem to think health care reform is a pressing issue. Owens hasn't embraced the public option for healthcare
and on social issues he has been less than clear on his stances.
Forget Hoffman. His stances go beyond what even my most conservative financial instincts can tolerate. He has appealed to the screaming townhall meeting types and that philosophy will do nothing to move our country forward.
So what do I do? Ignore my principles and as a good Democrat vote for Bill Owens..or for Dede because of some of her progressive social stances and ignore the bad stuff?
No can do. Dede has made way too many mistakes (who calls the cops on reporters?) and as for the lifelong Independent who is now a wannabe Democrat Bill Owens... Well, I'm sick to death of Blue Dogs. I'm not going to support another Democrat that is likely to stonewall some of President Obama's best iniatives like healthcare. We've got enough Blue Dogs, thank you very much and it's time to close the kennel.
Yeah, I'm disappointed that after 150 years of Republican congressional rule that the Democrats have put up an Independent pretending to be a Democrat. So does that mean I'm not going to vote? Nope.
I'm voting for my good friend and real Democrat Gerald A. Smith from Barnes Corners as a write-in. He's not pretending to be anything, not even a candidate, but he's got my vote.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Budget, Budget,...Whose Got the Budget?

The best kept secret in Lewis County right now is our budget situation. This should be a hot topic, front and center in public discussion. The budget is apparently being kept under wraps in the County Manager's office.
The budget this year could be really bad news for county taxpayers if the Pilot Agreement with the windmill company has to go to the fall back agreement due to the loss of EZ benefits and Rick Lucas and Co. keep up their big spending ways.
The budget process in Lewis County starts in August with department heads and begins in earnest with the Board of Legislators and the Treasurer's Office in September. The budget process has always been a very public process but things are different this year. It appears from this vantage point that the budget is being hidden because it is just plain ugly and certain legislators that are up for election are facing strong challenges and could be hurt by the bad news.
Jerry King is the Finance Committee Chairman and he completely mishandled last year's budget-turned it into a three ring circus really and it may be that the County Manager is trying to protect King and his allies Rick Lucas and Joyce Hoch from themselves.
The budget should be out in the open for the public to see. The Tentative Budget needs to be completed soon and taxpayers have the right to know what is going on with their tax dollars.
Sources tell me that not even the Treasurer's Office and even some legislators know what is taking place with the budget and that is just plain wrong. This appears to be heavy handed politics and it is not responsible representation.
We don't have to look to Albany for political shenanigans these days. Just look at Lowville...and don't expect to see a budget.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Farming for Votes

I just took a look at Bill Owens' campaign ad highlighting the price crisis gripping dairy farmers. It's good to see politicians paying attention to the problem, but after looking at the ad I have to wonder, do they really understand the problem and if elected will they really try to address the issue?
This isn't a new problem. Like so many national problems we now face, (trade and banking are others) the political root of the problem began in the Reagan Administration and nobody, Democrats included, has taken a serious approach to fixing the price issue. Dairy farmers need a price for their milk that is based on the cost of production, not arbitrary federal support prices and cheese speculation on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. From 1949-1983 milk prices were based on a percentage of "Parity". Parity, to keep it simple was a formula that among other things took into consideration the cost of production. While there were still ups and downs, the perpetual price crises like these of the past 25 years were avoided. In 1983 the Reagan Administration set out to and succeeded in removing milk prices from the Parity formula. Ostensibly, they reasoned that farmers had it too good since they claimed there was a growing "surplus" of dairy products and well we had to put some farmers out of business- and oh yeah, those that survived the politically created crisis would have a life of "drinking free Bubble Up and eating that rainbow stew" to quote Merle Haggard. Of course, all that has really transpired is a twenty five year decline in the farm end of the dairy industry at the same time that processors are enjoying record profits and consolidating at an alarming pace.
Had a surplus been the issue in 1983, it could have been handled without removing farmers from the Parity formula. Had the United States established an on going mandatory supply management system, fair prices could have been maintained, surpluses managed and the economic devastation of much of rural America could have been avoided. It really wasn't about surpluses, however, it was about the Reagan Administration's willingness to auction off family farms so that corporations could gain record profits.
This brings me back to Bill Owens' ad. Yeah, somebody's making a profit off of farmer's backs and there have already been plenty of studies and investigations that point out who. What we and Mr. Owens, Ms. Scozzafava and Mr. Hoffman need to understand is this- even if the store price should drop to lower levels, the farm price of milk can not remain at 30, 20 or 10 year old price levels. Further, as well meaning as they may be, most of the current aid proposals are band aids that substitute taxpayer dollars for fair market prices and that is not acceptable. Make the processors pay a fair price based on a cost of production formula, control the supply with an ongoing supply management program and leaning on the taxpayers won't be necessary. Right now farmers are being screwed, the processors are paying a thirty year old price for farm milk and laughing all the way to the bank, while the taxpayers are being hit again. Maybe this is necessary in the short term, but a long term solution is twenty years overdue.
Will the candidates remember farmers after November? Will they fight for the necessary change or continue to worship at the altar of corporate America?
I'd like to think they will, I'd like to hope that they will, but as a long time political activist (progressive Democrat) that cut his teeth politically in farm activism and politics please forgive my skepticism. I've seen more than one politician run and win while proclaiming to be a friend of the farmer and then watch as they learned the mono-toned poltico speech of Washington D.C. and turn their backs on those that put them there.
Mr. Owens, we need a real solution and you damn well better mean it. This is a problem created by politicians and it's past time for politicians to fix it.

One Day Last Week

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


"I did do due diligence." This was how Lewis County Trail Coordinator Robert Diehl was quoted in today's Watertown Daily Times in an article about the Lewis County Board of Legislator's decision to open roads that essentially connect Tug Hill to Brantingham at last night's board meeting. Unfortunately for Mr. Diehl and Lewis County's trail honchos Mr. Diehl's "due diligence" points out just how pathetic landowner support for providing trails is in Lewis County. This is as expected. ATVs, unlike snowmobiles impact the soil directly and do immense damage, and what right thinking farmer or forester that depends on the land for a living is going to allow this type of activity to take place on their property?
The real casualty in this process, however, has been clear, logical, thinking. In fact, whatever the opposite of clear, logical, thinking is, is what has been taking place relative to ATV trail development.
For example, logic would dictate that since not enough actual trails were able to be opened to ATVs, Lewis County would have to back away from its plans to open up roads. However, in Lewis County "due diligence" seems to mean that if you look for the trails and no one allows you across their property, it's okay to just go ahead and open up public highways regardless of what state law has to say. I'm sure Mr. Diehl looked high and low for trails. The mere fact that he looked for trails and could not find enough landowners to make the project successful does not give Lewis County the authority to open up public highways to ATV use and essentially turn them into an ATV trail system. This turned out not to be about opening short distances of highways to connect long stretches of trails as state law envisions, but rather turned into opening long distances of highways to connect three extremely short stretches of trail.
The other slap in the face to logic was that roads should be opened, seemingly with no regard as to the legality of the opening, because of the claim according to the Times article that even though roads are closed "ATV riders still run their road, but now they do it at higher speeds because they don't want to be caught"... Logic...anyone? First let's asume for the sake of argument that the quoted statement is true and we have no real evidence that it is. In fact, since the County roads were closed, most people report a noticable decline in the number of ATVs on the roads. But, for the sake of, we don't step up enforcement, but we do take action as a county government and open roads illegally and potentially expose every taxpayer in Lewis County to more liabilty, read that higher taxes, so that a few law breakers feel more comfortable? Logic...anyone?
And, not for nothing what about that quaint old notion that local governments should themselves obey the law and their board members should actually live up to their oaths of office to uphold the laws of New York State?
Given the difficulties Mr. Diehl has faced in performing his "due diligence" one has to further question the rather remarkable claim in brochures and other promotional material that Lewis County's trail system is "90% private landowners". Now, I mean seriously, I mean logically, are we expected to believe this?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Does Rick Lucas Want To Be A County Legislator?

The 23rd Congressional District here in northern New York has a hot three way race underway that appears to be up for grabs at this time. The contenders are Republican Dede Scozzafava, Democrat Bill Owens, and Conservative Doug Hoffman. The betting favorite has been Dede Scozzafava but recent polls suggest that this election is anybodys at this point.
Dede is the current Assemblywoman whose district covers Lewis County and the possibilty that she may be moving on is causing speculation as to who may be interested in her position.
One name that has been turning up in the politcal rumor mill is none other than that of Lewis County Legislator Rick Lucas. His name appeared as a possible candidate in a recent post by Mayor Jeff Graham on his blog and since then his name has come up in other conversations as well as a possible Republican candidate for Assembly. The rumor mill even has Mr. Lucas making plans as to who the Republican Committee in Lewis County might pick for his replacement on the Board of Legislators should he actually run for Assembly and win.
Mr. Lucas would seem to be suffering from a severe case of "counting his chickens before they hatch" given he is facing a strong challenge from Joe Baruth and it is in no way a sure thing that he will be re-elected. Some would say the lad is "a bit full of himself".
So... my questions are- Does Rick Lucas sincerely wish to be Lewis County Legislator for District 8 in Lewis County and represent the people of this district, or is he using this position as a stepping stone to position himself for higher office, in this case the Assembly?
Is he willing to inform the voters of this district of his interest in the Assembly position?
Do the voters of District 8 understand that if Mr. Lucas were re-elected to County Legislator and successfully ran for the Assembly, that they have really given the Lewis County Republican Committee their vote and the right to pick his replacement?
Of course this is speculation, but it is informed speculation. Rick Lucas needs to step up and tell the voters of District 8 his intentions. Is he going to let the voters decide who will be County Legislator and serve out his full term if elected or is he going to run for the Assembly and let the Republican Committee decide for the voters who will represent them as County Legislator?
District 8 includes the towns of West Turin, Osceola, Montague, Pinckney, andHarrisburg.

Monday, September 28, 2009

All For One and..well...All For One

Road resurfacing where it ends near Montague Inn.
View of road work from the Liberty Road.

Another view of road resurfacing from the Liberty Road where Sear's Pond Rd. turns by the Montague Inn.

Where the resurfacing begins on Sear's Pond Road at Gardener's Corners.

Closeup of new resurfacing.

What do Lewis County's over emphasis on an ATV "trail system", a short section of resurfaced highway in the Town of Montague, and a study to see if more motels are needed in Lewis County have in common? They all have the potential to directly benefit County Legislator Rick Lucas.

His activities regarding the ATVs are well known (see my first post) and he has yet to recuse himself from the issue as he was advised in a December 2005 letter from Lewis County's ethics board. He was advised this because of his family's ownership of the well known snowmobile/ATV destination known as the Montague Inn. Although he has abstained from many votes on the issue he has remained actively involved in promoting and pushing for ATV trail expansion, often in the form of allowing ATVs on public highways. He has spoken out, in my opinion inappropriately, in a number of public venues promoting the ATV issue.The concept of "recusal" seems to escape him.

This summer a short section of Lewis County highway was resurfaced in the Town of Montague beginning at an intersection known as Gardener's Corners on the Sear's Pond Road and continuing for about 1.4 miles to just past the Montague Inn. Given the sorry condition of other County roads in the Town of Montague one has to wonder what makes this 1.4 miles of highway so important. From Gardener's Corners to the Montague Inn there exists, to the best of my count only 2 domiciles, 3 if you count the house right at Gardener's Corners. So... it seems unlikley that the high number of residents pushed the decision. After a bit of an uproar from Montague residents, other County roads may now receive some attention. Appearance is important, and one cannot escape the the appearance, the feeling, the perception that it may have not been a coincidence that the only road in the Town of Montague to receive major attention by the County this summer led to the Montague Inn.

Now we come to the new County hotel/motel study. Once again, in my humble opinion Mr. Lucas has put his foot in the part of the pasture that should be avoided. Legislator Lucas introduced a resolution to spend $8000.00 of taxpayer dollars to have a consulting firm do a study to see if a proposed hotel/motel in Lewis County is feasible. First, this was just a bad way to spend taxpayer dollars. The hotel/motel owner should fund their own study. Anybody want to fund a study for a gas station, a dairy barn expansion, a Krispy Kreme, etc., etc. ? You get my point. But in my opinion Legislator Lucas with his connections to the Montague Inn with its own motel should not have involved himself with this resolution. Again a self serving perception is created. Could not Mr. Lucas apply the results of the study to the Montague Inn business? Could the results of the study be used to enhance the value of current property if it were to show a need for more motel rooms, including property with connections to Mr.Lucas? With conflicts of interest, the perception is as important as the reality. It is my perception that the reality on this Board of Legislators is to not take conflict of interest issues seriously.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Davy Crockett for Legislator

Davy Crockett's motto was "Be always sure you're right- then go ahead!" Pretty good advice whatever century you are living in. It implies that before making a decision, especially a decision based on a preconceived notion, that doing the necessary research is in order.
It would apear to close observers (or maybe even not so close) that the Lewis County Board of Legislators are the anti-Davy Crockett's. The motto in the Legislative Chambers seems to be "If I think it, it must be true".
Take a look at last years budget fiasco. With great fanfare and with an attempt to create a crisis atmosphere the Board of Legislators announced that they found it necessary to lay off 52 employees. They did this without looking at what services were provided, what funding streams paid for the salaries and most importantly, displayed a warped sense of priorities by planning to eliminate a vital position such as the Emergency Management Coordinator, while at the same time maintaining the Trail Coordinator position.
The bottom line here was that last year's "crisis" was largely contrived, the Legislators had to admit in essence that they really didn't have a handle on what they were doing and had to back away from most of the cutbacks- after unneccessarily disrupting the lives of the targeted employees and the taxpayers that were depending on services provided by these same departments.
Did this episode teach our hard chargers anything? Apparently not. Earlier this year, Legislator Jerry King announced to the Board of Legislators that it was necessary to close the Croghan Transfer Site because, he claimed it was losing money. He thought it, so it must be true, right? Not to be out done, Legislator Rick Lucas immediately chimed in that keeping the Croghan Transfer Site open was costing his taxpayer constituents in Osceola money. Apparently Legislator King thought it...and Legislator Lucas also thought it to be so.
It turns out the Legislative Committee in charge of solid waste had been told ahead of time that indeed the Croghan Transfer Site was making money and was in the black. King and Co. chose not to go with the facts presented and decided to listen to whatever inner voices were telling them the opposite. The Legislators spent weeks trying to prove that the Croghan Transfer Site was losing money, but depsite throwing every cost they could think of at it, it still showed a profit. Again, after lots of wasted time, effort, and stress, the Board of Legislators had to admit they were wrong and leave the Croghan Transfer Site open to continue its excellent service to the people of the Croghan/Diana/New Bremen area.
Ah, but now they've learned, right? Check again. This mornings Watertown Daily Times has a story about Lewis County bringing its Community Recovery Center back under County control after attempting to privatize the services. Anyone with the slightest understanding of the dramatic need for services in this area in Lewis County could see that this was a doomed plan simply based on the dollars budgeted. But, as with the other instances what the Legislators "thought" took precedence over facts, and once again they have been forced to back peddle.
Now, this year, this county is facing a real budgetary crisis. What will this Board of Legislator's priorities be? Will they "Be always sure you're right- then go ahead"?
We know the answer to both of those questions. These are the "anti-Davy Crockett's".

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Flywheels & Pulleys, Constableville, N.Y.

Looking downhill on Rt. 26 with C-Ville nestled at the bottom.

Several views of the Flywheels & Pulleys grounds.
This is a popular and steadily growing event. I'm told it is now in its 34th year.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ride The Invisible Trail

So where are they? Check out the brochures produced by the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce with the help of "I Love New York". Also, check out the Adirondackstughill website maintained by the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce with the "I Love New York" logo prominently displayed.
In the brochure and on the website Lewis County is advertising that it's ATV trail system is "90% private landowners". Really? Are the private trails invisible trails? Are they secret trails?
Take a look at Lewis County's second attempt at a trail map. The only private land that I see indicated on the map is near Turin, N.Y., near a ski area and a restaurant. No other private trails are shown on the map.
Where are the trails on private land that make up 90% of Lewis County's ATV trail system according to advertising? According to news articles, Lewis County is charging a trail permit fee for the trails on Lewis County Reforestation Land and for the trails on private land.
It is my opinion that the County can not charge a permit fee for trails on land that they do not own. Tell me this-How have ATV riders been finding these trails on private land that allegedly make up 90% of Lewis County's trail system that they have been paying a trail permit fee to use? Do ATV riders possess a special instinct that leads them to these trails or are they paying for something that does not exist?
Folks, in my humble opinion this is a major farce. Yeah, somewhere, there may be a few trails on private land opened for short distances, properly marked as open to the public as they need to be that I have not seen..but if so.... where are they? They surely don't make up 90% of the trail system and therein lies the farce.
Just look at the map. The "trail system" is mostly roads and some curly cue routes on Lewis County Reforestation Land. 90% private landowners?


Sorry for the prolonged absenteeism. The best weather for baling hay this year has been occurring over the last two weeks and we had to take advantage of it. We put up some of the nicest horse quality hay that we ever have. Today we are planning to put up a small amount of third cutting that is absolutely beautiful.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thank You

Just a note of thanks to the websites and bloggers that have acknowledged my foray into the blogosphere. Also, thanks to those that have taken time to check out my site.

Scenery Uncovered

Sugar River Falls At Talcottville
Looking Over The Black River Valley At The Adirondacks From A Hayfield

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fiduciary Irresponsibilty

The Lewis County Board of Legislators in their headlong rush to impose ATV riding on the entire county appears to have left taxpayers exposed to a big liability hit.
New York State General Obligations Law protects property owners, including municipalities, from liability exposure from recreational activities.
If someone allows a recreational activity such as snowmobiling to take place on their property, the General Obligations law, broadly speaking, exempts the landowner from liabilty arising from in this example, a snowmobile accident.
The major exception to this exemption is if the property owner charges the user for the privilege of using the property.
The Lewis County Board of Legislators has chosen to charge a trail permit fee for using ATV trails on Lewis County Reforestation Land. In doing so, the Legislators have failed to live up to their duty of protecting county taxpayers and have essentially thrown fiduciary responsibility to the wind. By charging a permit fee for the ATV trails, Lewis County has removed a layer of liability protection and has put every taxpayer in the county at extreme financial risk.
A record personal injury case was recently decided in favor of an off duty policeman who brought suit against the State of New York after being injured while driving an ATV across state land. The off duty officer won a $14.8 million dollar lawsuit, which by the way is about $5 million dollars more than currently resides in Lewis County's General Fund. Importantly, the State lost this case and the State was not even charging for the trail. Are you ready to fork over more tax dollars so a limited number of people can make a buck off from ATV riders?
It must be noted that the driving force behind the ATV trail effort has been Legislator Rick Lucas who conceivably stands to gain financially from this effort. This is even after he was told in a letter from the Chairman of the Lewis County Ethics Board that he must recuse himself from this issue. Recuse means to completely separate oneself from an issue, not merely abstain from votes while continuing to influence the direction of events, as is the case with Mr. Lucas.
This is a sweet deal. The taxpayers take the risk while a few people like Rick Lucas look to gain.
Not just the taxpayers appear to be at risk. The property owners that have agreed to allow ATV trails across their property as part of Lewis County's so called trail system may also be at increased liability risk due to Lewis County's actions. Specifically, under Lewis County's ATV Trail system, property owners that allow ATV trails across their property receive free trail permits. These free permits are a form of compensation and likely will cause the landowners to lose liability protection that they would otherwise have under the General Obligations Law.
Lucas and his posse will talk about Lewis County's liabilty insurance and the ATV Clubs insurance as a means to deflect this cricism. Ask yourselves this question- Do you feel confident that insurance companies will cover claims when push comes to shove in light of Lewis County's
irresponsible behavior? A high ranking Lewis County official recently admitted to me that Lewis County understood the risk involved in losing the protection of the General Obligations Law and decided to charge the permit fee anyway.
The most important aspect of the Board of Legislator's job is looking out for the County's finances.The Board of Legislators has failed in their fiduciary resonsibilty and put taxpayers in harms way in their rush to appease a few loud voices and special interests, among them Mr. Lucas.
We are not in good hands.