Monday, January 30, 2006

Dryden School District

At Living in Dryden, Simon points to the WHCU announcement that the School Board has appointed Jeff Bradley to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of John Curatolo. It's a good idea to visit the Board of Education site or the District homepage where there's tons of information about the schools.

Washington Journal

Washington Journal is by far my favorite TV program. At this website you can watch or listen to the live show from 7:00AM to 10:00AM or tapes of many recent shows - though it's a bit sketchy with my modem connection.

This morning it's well worth listening to Donald Marron, Congressional Budget Office, Acting Director. For one thing, his speaking style is a bit comical. But especially because he offers such an objective analysis of the Federal Budget. It's just amazing to witness his command of the budget, his instantaneous replies to complex questions. And, by all means, visit the Congressional Budget Office site for the Budget and Economic Outlook report or the Cost Estimate of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. Even though they're PDFs they download in a reasonable amount of time and are fascinating to read.

Also on Washington Joural this morning is Benazir Bhutto, Former Pakistani Prime Minister, 1988-90, 1993-96. If you think Middle Eastern women are cowering behind the burka, think again.

From the Women's International Center

Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan, 1988-90, 1993-96

On December 2, 1988 Benazir Bhutto was sworn in as Prime Minister of Pakistan, becoming the first woman to head the government of an Islamic State.

In the preceding decade of political struggle, Ms. Bhutto was arrested on numerous occasions; in all she spent nearly 6 years either in prison or under detention for her dedicated leadership of the then opposition Pakistan Peoples Party. Throughout the years in opposition, she pledged to transform Pakistani society by focusing attention on programs for health, social welfare and
education for the underprivileged.

Since assuming the office of Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto has emphasized the need to heal past wounds and to put an end to the divisions in Pakistani society - including reducing discrimination between men and women. Ms. Bhutto has launched a nationwide program of health and education reform.

Benazir Bhutto was born in Karachi in 1953. After completing her early education in Pakistan, she attended Radcliffe College and Oxford University. As well as obtaining a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, she also completed a course in International Law and Diplomacy at Oxford.

Ms. Bhutto is the author of "Foreign Policy in Perspective" (1978) and her autobiography, "Daughter of Destiny" (1989). She received the Bruno Kreisky Award for Human Rights in 1988 and the Honorary Phi Beta Kappa Award from Radcliffe in 1989.

Though Bhutto faces several corruption charges, she's hardly hiding out.

Support the troops - bring them home

A reason to bring Americans home from Iraq that conservatives can get behind:
Bird flu death confirmed in Iraq

Friday, January 27, 2006

Comprehensive Plan Goals

The Dryden Comprehensive Plan is full of interesting information and ideas. But it's a bit difficult to sort through. Pages 32-38 list ten clear goals, each with its own six to ten objectives. Here are the goals:

  1. General: preserve the rural and small town character of the Town of Dryden, and the quality of life its residents enjoy, as the town continues to grow in the coming decades.
  2. Agriculture: Promote the long-term economic viability of the agricultural community in the town, and preserve agricultural land resources, without unduly infringing on property rights.
  3. Commercial: Provide for a variety of options for town residents to purchase goods and services in locations convenient to home and work while preserving the rural and small-town character of the town.
  4. Economic: Provide for a wide variety of employment options for town residents.
  5. Housing: Provide for a variety of affordable, high-quality housing options for all town residents.
  6. Open Space and Environmental Protection: Preserve the natural open space resources, environmentally sensitive areas and unique flora and fauna of the town as it develops in the coming decade.
  7. Parks and Recreation: Develop a system of park and recreational facilities designed to serve the variety of recreational needs of town residents in a cost effective manner, and located so as to provide easy access from major town population centers.
  8. Public and Semi-Public Facilities: Develop and maintain public facilities such as water and sewer and road infrastructure in an efficient and cost effective manner.
  9. Public Safety: Ensure provision of a comprehensive system of fire, police and emergency services and communications to protect life and property throughout the town.
  10. Transportation: Provide for a safe, efficient and diversified transportation system to serve the needs of all town residents.

I think writing a Comprehensive Plan is like writing a utopian novel except that, rather than starting with a blank slate, planners can start with an assumption that there are things about the existing community that we like and would like to enhance. I'm happy to see, in these stated goals, a balance between protecting resources and planning for growth.

One thing conspicuously absent is culture and education. I guess that's two things. Our public schools, community college and public library, not to mention proximity to Cornell, are huge influences on the community. Perhaps, like parks and recreation, we should address cultural and continuing education opportunities. I'm not very likely to play softball in the coming decades. But I sure do enjoy a good bookclub.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Stormwater Runoff

Well, I know lots more about stormwater management than I knew yesterday morning. Still, 98% of what I know can be summed up by saying, "We should do it." I have in my hands a draft of "Town of Dryden Local Law for Stormwater management and Erosion and Sediment Control."

Last night at the Planning Board meeting Dan (it will probably be weeks before I can write Dan's last name without looking it up) led a discussion of the proposed. According to his notes, the goal of the 1972 Clean Water Act is to insure that all waters of the United States are "fishable" and "swimmable." Phase I addressed regulation of sewage treatment plants and industrial waste. I get that part. For the moment I'll just skip over the next sentence, "It also included Non Point Source discharges through grant programs for agriculture and Hydrologic Habitat Modification, and regulation of stormwater discharges resulting from large scale development in threatened waters (almost entirely downstate) and select developments that disturbed over 5 acres at a time."

Now, thirty-three years later, we're in phase II of the Clean Water Act which "seeks to regulate discharges that affect water quality and quantity." This involves: 1. Regulated Municipal Separate Stormwater Sewer Systems, and 2. Construction activities disturbing greater than one acre. I don't know what #1 is. Luckily #2 is self-explanatory.

The Clean Water Act, a federal law, requires local governments to regulate, among other things, stormwater runoff. A model local law is provided by the EPA. The Dryden Environmental Council has been working on the model law (all twenty-four pages of it) for several months and has passed it, with their modifications, on to the Planning Board. Later this year the Planning Board and the Environmental Council will make recommendations to the Town Board.

The challenge to the Board will be to use this legislation as an opportunity to show Dryden residents some of the pollution problems in Cayuga Lake, Fall Creek and Six Mile Creek and to explain what individuals can (and soon, must) do to help fix the problems.

Watch this space as I struggle to understand the technical language in the proposed law and translate it and pass it on.

Meantime, you can get ahead of me by reading the Clean Water Act or the simpler What is Stormwater Runoff?

Monday, January 16, 2006

Al Gore's Speech

Al Gore speaking at the DAR Constitution Hall today.
Fear drives out reason. Fear suppresses the politics of discourse and opens the door to the politics of destruction. Justice Brandeis once wrote: "Men feared witches and burnt women."

The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors. The very existence of our country was at risk. Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the Bill of Rights.

Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of missiles poised to be launched against us and annihilate our country at a moment's notice? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march-when our fathers fought and won two World Wars simultaneously?

It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same.

Read it here or better yet, look for it on C-SPAN. The delivery is inspiring.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Town Board Meeting

The Board was in good humor tonight and still able to zip through dozens of agenda items in about two and a half hours.
  • Dan Tier was appointed to fill the vacancy created by Mike Hattery's resignation.
  • A special use permit was issued to Missty Leonard for her planned hair salon "Highlight Your Life" at 2215 Dryden Road.
  • Mike Hattery reports that he'll be on the County Board Health and Human Services committee and the Public Safety committee.
  • Zoning Officer, Henry Slater, submitted a photo of the telecommunication tower recently completed by Crown Castle Atlantic at 1395 Dryden Road.
  • Henry also presented proposals for a Pinckney Road Water and Sewer District. He reports that now that this proposal is done, work on the Ellis Hollow proposal is proceeding well.
  • Resolutions were accepted allowing the Freeville Fire Department to buy fuel from the town and authorizing the Highway Superintendent to share equipment with other municipalities.

Okay. I'm bored. There's lots more but most of it wasn't all that exciting the first time through. [ed. It's a mistake to report on the meeting so soon after the meeting itself.]

We did see drawings of the planned Town Hall. Mike Lane expressed concern that options for future growth are limited. Marty Christofferson said (I told him I'm writing this down) "There's lots of space for a long time."


Thursday, January 12, 2006

2006 Elections

There are a number of reasons to be deeply concerned about the upcoming Congressional elections. We're seeing a dangerous effort by the Bush administration to eliminate or sidestep constitutional checks and balances of the legislative and judicial branches of government. In addition, influences of fundamentalist Christians are having bizarre effects on both domestic and foreign policies. [ed. Let me hasten to add that I know fundamentalist Christians do not represent most Christians. It's the "fundamentalist" part I have a problem with - not the Christian part.]

This year, more than ever before, it's extremely important for everyone to become as well informed as possible, to find candidates with rational positions and support them as strongly as possible. This is not strictly a partisan issue. Irregular Times points out that has targeted several Republicans (Reichert, Gerlach, Fitzpatrick, Weldon, Pryce and Wilson) whose voting records shows support for less than half of the seriously conservative legislation that faced the 109th Congress. These six Republican Representatives are vulnerable in their districts but are not the most serious threats to progressive values.

Irregular Times ranks legislators based on their votes on key issues (see House rankings). In New York State, for example, the least progressive Congressmen are Fossilla (R Richmond County), King (R Suffolk County) and Reynolds (R Genesee County). Boehlert, by comparison, scores nearly as well as the least progressive Democrats. Yes, we want to regain a Democratic majority in the House and Senate. But let's be sure we're working on the most important districts, not just the easiest ones.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Highway Department

Many thanks to Jack Bush, Highway Superintendent, for spending nearly an hour and a half with me explaining how the department works and answering my questions. I did get to "meet" the snowplows - all twelve of them filled with sand and neatly angled in their spaces in the garage. I may get some of the numbers wrong here (I wasn't taking notes.) Jack, if you see an error that distorts the meaning please let me know.

Jack was a Highway Department employee before he was elected as Superintendent in 1999. At that time there were twenty-two or more employees. With an eye toward fiscal responsibility, as people retired or left, Jack did not replace them. When the department reached twelve employees it became clear that was too few. There are now sixteen with one additional position that can be used to hire temporarily as needed.

There are 163 roads, totaling 193 miles, in the Town of Dryden for which the Town is responsible. The Superintendent assesses the condition of the roads and prioritizes (I wish I could remember how many miles) to be repaired every year so that all roads get the attention they need over a cycle of several years.

Jack is also following a plan for replacing equipment when it's around six years old before repair costs get too high. Equipment slated for replacement this year includes a 1999 ten wheel dump truck, a 1984 (!) grader, a 2000 pick-up truck, a 2004 lawn tractor and a 2004 pick-up truck. Hmm... Those last two seem kind of new for replacement. In addition, the Superintendent is asking the Town Board to authorize the purchase of a used asphalt paver ($60,000), a new skid steer loader ($47,500), a used industrial vacuum ($65,000) and a trench box ($6,000). I trench box supports the excavation where sewer or water lines are being maintained.

I commented that the mild weather must be making things a bit easier. This morning they were cutting some trees and retrieving a deer carcass, among other things. But Jack pointed out that, though the roads and most of the ground in the Village are bare and dry, the drifts this morning on Mt Pleasant road were more than the pick-up plow could handle. I had planned to drive up that way to get a picture of my favorite tree. Sure enough. It was about eight degrees colder up there and the drifts were pretty impressive.

While I was there, I took the opportunity to drive down Hurd Road and Hunt Hill Road, which I've never looked at very closely. That area, in the south part of the town, is very different from my neighborhood. It is hilly and heavily wooded. There are some beautiful homes - mostly new, unusual designs, often quite concealed by the woods. I love this kind of sightseeing. You know I designed my house and I'm still working on the landscaping. So I see a lot of "Hey, I could do that." Or "Hmm... I wish I could afford that." Or "Good grief. What were they thinking?" I must say, this last often applies to royal blue metal roofing sometimes on a nineteenth century house.

It was a great morning. Jack, thanks for the time. I look forward to visiting again.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Town Board Organizational meeting

Yesterday I sat on the dais at the Dryden Town Board for the first time. At Living in Dryden, you can see Simon's unflattering picture of the swearing in. The organization meeting is structured around a fairly boring list of rubber stamp resolutions authorizing, for example, the Ithaca Journal as the "official" newspaper for legal notices, the names of the people who can sign checks, $100 petty cash for the Town Clerk and reimbursement for Justices attending training.

Among the more significant actions taken is the modification to the resolution contracting Mahlon Perkins as the attorney for the Town which will require a written contract specifying what responsibilities are included in "regular agreed upon Town business" for $2,215 per month. By default this will define other "reimbursable business" paid at $180 per hour.

The District 10 polling place has been changed from the Dryden Baptist Church, which is apparently too far from District 10, to the "Reach Out for Christ Church." Makes me glad I don't live in that district. But I plan to visit the polling place to see how I would feel having to go there to vote.

The Investment Policies and Guidelines were adopted without any change from last year. But I pointed out the reporting requirement in paragraph 6(c and d). (See last years Resolution #26.)
c. Within sixty days of the end of each of the first three quarters of the fiscal year, the Supervisor shall prepare and submit to the Town Board a quarterly investment report, which indicates the new investments, the inventory of existing investments and such other matters as the Supervisor deems appropriate.

d. Within 120 days of the end of the fiscal year, the Supervisor shall prepare and submit to the Town Board an annual investment report; recommendations for change in these investment guidelines; the results of the annual independent audit, the investment income record; and such other matters as the Supervisor deems appropriate.

To the best of my knowledge there has been no such reporting in recent years. In fact, no one can seem to remember when the last independent annual audit occurred. Supervisor Trumbull agreed to undertake the required reporting. We discussed asking the bookkeeper for a monthly budget report. There was no mention of an independent audit, but when I spoke to Dawn after the meeting, she indicated that now that she's cleaned up much of the sloppy record keeping left by the former bookkeeper, she would welcome an independent audit although it demands a great deal of time.

I pointed out that the "Fair Housing Plan" which has been adopted year after year is fairly meaningless. (See last year's Resolution #30) The resolution states that as a result of grants received in 1995 and 1998, "the Town must 'take actions to affirmatively further fair housing.' " The resolution goes on to cite some informative details from the 2000 census, but the only affirmative action defined is for the Code Enforcement Officer to "maintain a dialogue" with several local agencies. The resolution states, year after year, that "the Town has not undertaken a formal study of fair housing problems." We agreed to postpone adoption of the plan until the next regularly scheduled meeting. In the meantime, we'll consult with Henry regarding fair housing problems. We will consider undertaking a study of fair housing issues and consult with Thoma Development regarding possible funding for such a study.

Finally, committee assignments were discussed. Some assignments will depend on the appointment, at the next scheduled meeting, of a councilperson to fill the current vacancy. Meanwhile, I have agreed to serve on the following committees: Highway and Highway Fund Bills committee, Highway and Public Works Committee, Assessment Review Committee, Community Block Grant review committee, Representative to the Planning Committee and Representative to the Conservation Committee.

In addition, we discussed the formation of a new committee to look in to issues surrounding cable, internet and wireless phone access technology. That committee will include Marty Christofferson and myself.