Thursday, June 29, 2006

Meetings and Entertainment

Last night's public information meeting regarding the proposed new town hall drew not a single person other than reporters, town elected officials and staff. Oh, wait. There might have been one. I don't know the name of the person who thanked the board for the work on this project.

I don't know to what extent the zero public participation is caused by the town's inability to publicize meetings and to what extent it's just that people aren't that interested. If it's the latter, that's okay. It means people know what's happening and trust elected officials to do the work. If the former, well, that's just wrong and we should fix it.

I'm inclined to think we have a pretty good grip on publicity because following the meeting I stopped at Montgomery Park where more than a hundred people were gathered for the town sponsored Burns Sisters concert. I like the Burns Sisters and I love concerts in the park. We should do more of that.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Constitutional Amendment

Senator Orin Hatch is on Washington Journal talking about the flag-burning amendment. The wording of the amendment doesn't specifically prohibit flag burning. It simply gives Congress the authority to legislate regarding treatment of the flag. So, the issue isn't just flag burning. It's also, perhaps primarily, an effort to limit the authority of the Supreme Court. It seems to me Hatch has a tough sell saying on the one hand that protecting the flag is important and on the other hand that this amendment doesn't actually protect the flag.

The discussion of the flag-burning amendment is full of terrible rhetoric. There's repeated emphasis on the "unelected justices" making laws. Do the Senators think we've forgotten that they confirmed the unelected justices? The justices, of course, do not make laws. They protect the constitutionality of laws enacted by Congress.

If the issue is the power of the court, I've got a better idea. Let's have an amendment to specify that if there's a voting irregularity that makes the electoral vote too close to call, the popular vote will be the deciding factor in the election of the president.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Varna Firefighters

On my way home tonight, I was intrigued by a billow of black smoke from the direction of Varna. Having discussed the current ban on open burning with the Etna fire chief last night, I couldn't help wondering what was going on in Varna. I pulled into the Varna Fire Department to find this training going on.

Adding foam and water to the fire creates huge clouds of steam and smoke.

But, of course, the firefighters win. Thank you, Natan, Duane, Barbara and Nancy, for explaining the procedure and encouraging me to take pictures.

(Cross posted at Five Wells)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Meetings, meetings, meetings...

Last Thursday, after a lengthy discussion of a proposed subdivision on Wood Road, the Planning Board considered the proposed Renewable Energy Ordinance. While Board all members agree that it's time to encourage residents to install renewable energy sources, some members have concerns about visual impact and safety of wind energy towers. The ordinance, as drafted by environmental planner, Dan Kwasnowski, addresses these concerns.

If you find yourself craving face time with Dryden neighbors, consider the Youth Commission meeting tonight at 6:30 at the Dryden High School library (Jessica Houle will introduce plans for a community center near Congers mobil home park) or the Village of Dryden meeting at 7:00 at the Dryden Village Hall (where the proposed skateboard pare is on the agenda)or the Dryden-Freeville trail meeting Thursday (check with Dan at for time and place).

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Conservation Advisory Council.

One of the most difficult and most fun things I do for the Town of Dryden is to represent the Dryden Town Board to the Conservation Advisory Council. The difficult part is that the things the Council works on are somewhat technical and I have to do some research to understand the issues. The fun part is the lively open discussion among well qualified people taking positive action to protect natural resources and enhance the quality of life in the Town.

The main agenda item last night was to review proposed legislation to allow residential wind energy installations and other renewable energy sources. We were expecting some controversy and there was a bit of tension underlying the friendly banter at the beginning of the meeting.

Environmental Planner, Dan Kwasnowski, related the hiring of a new intern to work on updating GIS information and to research riparian buffer zones, purchase of the land needed to continue the pedestrian trail from Dryden to Freeville and some other small items as we eased toward discussion of the controversial renewable energy ordinance.

Stuart Davis and Judy Pierpont, who were active in the group that opposed the Cornell wind farm project on Mt Pleasant were in the audience. Happily, their presentation included a copy of the wind energy law recently passed in the town of Malone. That law was designed to allow residential wind energy use while explicitly excluding industrial wind farming. Davis and Pierpont provided a point by point comparison to the proposed Dryden legislation.

While some conservation Council members, as well as at least one Town Board member, favor exploring industrial wind farming as well as other renewable energy sources, the law we're working on now is explicitly intended to enable the safe installation of residential wind, solar and geothermal energy now, while research on the more controversial industrial scale wind farming continues.

The pace of the early part of the meeting was extremely slow. One member recommended that because of the gravity of the issue, we adhere to parliamentary procedure. We agreed to proceed point by point through the documentation Environmental Planner, Dan Kwasnowski, has prepared. It was 9:00PM by the time we reached the first line of Dan's paper. People started to relax as we discussed the Special Permit process and Short Environmental Quality Review vs Long Environmental Quality Review and other details that had been hashed out at last month's meeting. By the time we got to scenic/view impact, we were clearly all on the same team.

I should mention that scenic/view impact is only page 3 of 10. By 10:00PM people were starting to mention limiting the discussion. I've been planning to introduce the legislation at the July 13 Board meeting. So it was important to me that we get all the way through the proposal so that the language can be finalized and reviewed before it's introduced to the Board. At 11:00 a motion to adjourn was made and defeated. One member had to leave but we still had a quorum. Another member was planning to leave and give a proxy to the chairman. But she was persuaded to stay.

By midnight we had discussed and voted on each of the twenty-six details that will be included in the legislation that will be recommended to the Board. Consensuss was reached on most details. Differences of opinion and a need for further research were noted some. At midnight I believe we all felt that the recommendation the Conservation Council will make to the Town Board is a sound one. My heartfelt thanks everyone for plowing through this. I hope next month we can return to work on riparian buffer zones.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

2006 Elections

The best place I've found to follow news about 2006 elections is this NPR map. Separate maps for Senate, House and governors races identify states where elections are occuring in 2006, the party of the incumbents and mark states where NPR analysis indicates critical races are taking place. Clicking on any state yields a pop-up window with more information about the race.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Upcoming Meetings

It's becoming a crowded calendar for Dryden Democrats this month. In addition to regularly scheduled meetings listed in the sidebar, the following special meetings have been scheduled:

Tuesday June 6, 7:00PM at Neptune Hose Company - Renewable Energy Workshop.

  • Gay Nicholson, EnergySmart coordinator of this region (NYSERDA)
  • Steve Nicholson, Chair of the Environmental Management Council and owner of a wind/solar off grid home
  • Peter Arena, Performance Systems Contracting
  • Dan Roy, Renovus Energy
  • Dan Kwasnowski, Town of Dryden Environmental Planning.

Thursday, June 8, 7:00PM Note that the regular Town Board meeting will be held at the VARNA FIRE DEPARTMENT.

Wednesday, June 14, 7:00PM at Varna Fire Department - Public information meeting regarding a proposed Ellis Hollow water and sewer district.

Wednesday, June 20, 7:00PM Dryden Village Hall - Public Information meeting regarding proposed Skateboard Park.

Check Town of Dryden Public Notice page for agendas of special and regular meetings.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Jonathan Tasini

Earlier I wrote about the Tompkins County Democratic Committee debate over endorsing Senator Clinton. Many committee members, dissatisfied with Clinton's failure to oppose the war in Iraq, are following or supporting the campaign of Jonathan Tasini.

Capitol Confidential, reporting on the upcoming Working Families Party convention, writes:
U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton wants the line, but so does anti-war activist Jonathan Tasini, who failed at the Democratic convention to get traction personally but claimed a victory in getting the Dems to pass a resolution condemning the Iraq War. Clinton has come under fire from some liberals - many of whom have found a haven in the WFP - for not firmly condemning the war and demanding immediate withdrawal.

As I once heard on The West Wing, "Good. That's how it's supposed to work."