Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Devil You Know

I've been slow to support any of the Democrats planning to run against Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY 24th district). I was thinking of directing my attention to another district - say the 29th - where defeat of a Republican is much more important. In my mind Boehlert has been a reminder of the possiblity of bipartisan progress. His good environmental voting record and leadership of the Science and Technology Committee in the face of incredible opposition have set important standards for moderate Republicans. On Friday, at the same time Boehlert announced his decision not to run again, The Hill wrote: "GOP insiders were not surprised by his announcement given that ... House GOP leaders are considering a plan to abolish the Science Committee..." (Thanks to PM Bryant at B and B for that lead.)

A March 2005 report from Congressional Research Service summarizes efforts to reorganize congressional committees to reflect Homeland Security reorganizaiton in the Executive Branch.

So, now I'm going to have to pay attention to the 24th district race. Thanks to Simon at Living in Dryden for pointing me to Take Back NY's 24th for all you need to know about the race in this district.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Defend ANWR Again!

I'm so discouraged. This from the League of Conservation Voters yesterday:
Washington -- The Senate narrowly passed a budget resolution Thursday that would open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, setting up another showdown in Congress this year over the most fought-over piece of land in America.

Republican leaders approved the measure 51-49 after securing the vote of Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, by offering up to $10 billion in projected revenues from drilling in the Alaskan refuge and in offshore waters to rebuild the hurricane-battered Gulf Coast.

The House and Senate take turns approving and defeating measures to allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. As recently as December 2005 the House approved drilling and the Senate defeated it. Now roles are reversed.

This much remains true: Environmentalists have to win every battle; developers only have to win once.

New York Senators Schumer and Clinton and Representative Boehlert, from my district, are staunch defenders of ANWR. But if you're from another district or state, or you know someone from another district or state (does that cover all of us?), visit the League of Conservation Voters Scorecard (or find the LCV icon on my sidebar and enter a zip code), find a legislator who needs to be educated and do your best.

For information about drilling in ANWR see the Almanac of Policy Issues. For the savvy reader who wants to see what the opposition's saying, look at where the recent Senate vote is reported as a "Victory." The site is owned by Arctic Power, "a grassroots, non-profit citizen's organization with 10,000 members founded in April of 1992 to expedite congressional and presidential approval of oil exploration and production within the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."

(Cross posted at Five Wells)

Friday, March 17, 2006

Meeting Room vs Courtroom

It was bound to happen. Town meetings take place in the same room that's used for town court. I've been wondering what happens when someone is arrested and has ato be indicted during a town meeting. Last night Judge Claussen came into the Planning Board meeting and announced that he needed the room. With him was a man in a business suit and handcuffs, looking like a deer in the headlights, and two other men, one of them presumably a police officer, though there was no uniform.

Our meeting included five Planning Board members, the Environmental Planner and me. I've wondered what would happen if the Town Board meeting were interrupted with five Board members, five or six staff members and usually a dozen or more members of the public and a reporter or two. The Judge said the indictment would only take about fifteen minutes. We could have taken a break and returned to our meeting. But we were on the last agenda item, cluster development, which will be carrying over to next month anyway. So we took the opportunity to adjourn. We are, if not a one-horse town, at least a one meeting-room town. We're breaking ground on the new Town Hall not a moment too soon.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Dryden School District

Dryden Central School District invited community members to a strategic planning meeting last Saturday to respond to the following questions:

  • What are the most important factors to be considered when the Dryden School System makes decisions?

  • What are the major strengths of the school system?

  • What are the major limitations or weaknesses of the school system?

  • What challenges will the school system face over the next two to five years?

  • What are some things the school system will need to do differently in order to help students and graduates thrive in the 21st Century?

About fifty people were there. Superintendent, Dr Crawford, estimated that about 40% of the people there were faculty or staff. I was happy to see Dryden Village Trustee, Mary Ellen Bossack, who is also a teacher at Dryden Elementary School and Dryden Town Councilperson Dan Tier, who has kids in Dryden High School and former Tompkins County legislator Mike Lane.

The "Future Search" technique used by facilitator, Chet (whose last name I can't spell and can't find in print) involved rotating groups of five people asking and answering the questions so that each person asked one of the five questions five times and each person answered each of the five questions once. Trust me on this. I know it's hard to visualize, but it's not that important. Answers were summarized and categorized as highly representative, somewhat representative or unique.

I doubt anyone's very surprised by the answers. People are proud of the skill and dedication of the teachers and administration and the support of parents and the community. People are worried about curriculum and taxes. Specific results will be available soon from the district office.

I was happy to have a chance to reconnect with the district. My kid graduated in 2000 and I've been out of touch since then. I was surprised, as I always am, at how nice the building is. Information on bulletin boards reveals concerns of students and faculty. The student artwork in the cafeteria, where the meeting was held, is spectacular.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Town Board March meeting

Two questions about water and sewer districts were asked at the start of the March 9th meeting. An Ellis Hollow Road resident asked: if the cost per household of the a water and sewer district for Ellis Hollow Road exceeds the NYS Comptroller's guideline, will the town seek residents opinions about proceeding with the formation of the district. Although exact costs are not yet available, it seems likely that the cost will exceed the Comptrollers guidelines and the sense of the Board is that residents opinions will be sought regarding how to proceed. A Lower Creek Road resident asked if the new Pinckney Road water and sewer district covers the area indicated in the Comprehensive Plan. It does not. It only covers the commercial area along Route 13 near Pickney Road.

Highway superintendent, Jack Bush, asked for, and the Board approved, an amendment to the January resolution authorizing purchase of equipment. The cost of a ten wheel dump truck with snowplow, estimated in January to be less than $135,000, is now expected to cost up to $165,000. Additionally, the purchase of a single axle dump truck with snow plow, up to $70,000 was authorized. I believe this replaces the pick-up truck with plow ($25,000) in the January resolution. By delaying replacement of the grader, the higher cost of the snowplow equipment is well within budget.

Mike Hattery reports that the Public Safety Committee of the County Board is looking at improving the sheriff's road patrol and the jail board out costs. Martha Robertson reports that the Community Justice Alternatives to Incarceration Advisory Board (CJATIAB - can you believe that's an acronym?) is studying why the jail population is so high at this time. Martha also reports that there are 75 applicants for deputy administrator in Steve Whicher's office. Irene Stein is retiring and the County is looking for a new director of the Office of Aging. Finally, the county is examining allocation of funding for Beautification available through the room tax. It is expected that each town will receive $4,000 - $5,000 this year or next, targeted to beautification projects around gateways to the county.

Andy Scriabba, Town Engineer, reported on the proposed Pickney Road water and sewer district and preliminary results of the Ellis Hollow water and sewer district study. Scriabba reiterated the need for a masterplan for the new town hall site. (See Environmental Planner's plan described below)

Jennifer Dube, Recreation Coordinator, submitted fundraising guidelines and reported that parents and coaches have agreed to authorize the Recreation Coordinator to supervise funds raised by the Friends of Dryden Youth Football and Cheerleading and the Co-ed Softball Fun League.

Town Attorney, Mahlon Perkins, reports that the proposed telecommunications tower ordinance has been reviewed and is ready to be submitted to a public hearing. A hearing has been scheduled for the next Town Board meeting, April 13.

Henry Slater, Zoning Officer, reported on a proposed ordinance to specify qualifications of electrical inspectors. The proposed ordinance has received strong support from the NY Board of Fire Underwriters. A public hearing has been scheduled for the next Town Board meeting, April 13.

Environmental Planner, Dan Kwasnowski, submitted a proposal for a process to solicit public input for a plan for use of the land surrounding the new Town Hall site. The plan calls for the formation of a Town Parkland Advisory Board which will host community workshops in April and May to develop a draft map and plan. The draft plan would be available for further review and revision through June when a final map will be prepared for presentation to the Town Board in September.

There was discussion of improved recruitment and training in the Etna Fire Department. In light of difficulty recruiting volunteers in all fire departments, there was discussion, but no action, regarding a possible tax break or fuel allowance for volunteers.

After discussion of all items on the printed agenda, the Board went into Executive Session to discuss a real estate transaction.