Sunday, July 23, 2006

Barbara Lifton

Saturday, July 22, I received Barbara Lifton's direct mail piece announcing "town meetings to provide legislative update." Sadly, four out of five of the meetings listed took place on July 19 and 20. The is still one upcoming one in Lansing August 1.

Compounding the problem of the late mailing, is the fact that it announced a July 19 meeting in Danby. On Monday, the 17th, Lifton put out a recorded phone call explaining that the meeting listed for July 19 at 4:00 in Danby was an error, and the meeting would actually take place in Dryden.

Let me point out that town meetings are not a good forum for "legislative update." One-way communication like that can be covered in print and is pretty much a waste of face time for everyone involved. In this case, thanks to the publicity errors, only five people in addition to Lifton and her assistant, were involved. For an hour and fifteen minutes (!) Lifton read budget figures from index cards, including the factoids listed in the mailing and at the website above. At 5:15, after 40% of the audience (read: two people) had left, Barbara set aside her index cards and said, "Let me tell you about a couple of big issues." She sat down and spoke from the heart for a few minutes about her work on voting machine selection and about proposed legislation to enhance Longview's cooperative program with Ithaca College's gerontology department.

Finally, there were a few minutes left for Brian June to express some concerns of the School Board and for me to mention issues under consideration by the Town Board. Lifton said she's interested in meeting with Brian and communicating via email with me.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Arcuri for Congress

I met Michael Arcuri Tuesday and spent some time going door-to-door in Freeville. At the risk of "damning with faint praise," I find Arcuri to be smart, progressive and personable. While I do hold him accountable for the inadequacy of his campaign, I think it's time to rally support. 24 Democrat, who is as disappointed as I am with the campaign, has posted twenty solid reasons to support Arcuri at Take Back the 24th. I remind you, it's primarily the campaign I'm disappointed with, not the candidate.

Arcuri is in the unenviable position of having a day job while he campaigns. And he's serious about his work as District Attorney in Oneida County. So, it's more important than ever that staff and volunteers take up some slack. If Arcuri's time is limited, he has to have effective press coverage, a knock-your-socks-off website and direct mail campaign, an army of supporters speaking on his behalf and a manager who makes sure every minute he can spend in public pays off.

In addition to the overall importance of sending Democrats to Congress, we really don't want to be represented by Ray Meier with his "stay the course" in Iraq, continue cutting taxes for the rich, increase oil exploration, and hands off health care positions. We really don't. Even Republicans will find little in common with this dyed-in-the-wool Bush-Cheney supporter.

Arcuri supports a realistic strategy for ending the war in Iraq, Constitutional privacy rights, increased access to affordable health care insurance, energy conservation policies and development of renewable energy sources, stem cell research, improved transportation and lower energy cost to encourage business development and enforcement of existing gun control laws. He opposes unlawful wiretapping, tax cuts for the wealthy and "staying the course" in Iraq.

Friday, July 14, 2006

July Town Board Meeting

It was a full agenda. And I missed seeing Simon in the audience. I think this is the first regularly scheduled meeting I've been at that Simon wasn't at.

The public hearing for Clifford Smith Electric & Realty's Dollar Store project was kept open 'til next month. They've decided to subdivide the property (that open field just north of A-1). Their overall plan includes another retail tenant, or perhaps office space. But the Department of Transportation won't review the plan with that part open-ended. Subdivision will allow them to proceed with plans for Dollar General while they continue seeking a tenant for the remaining portion. Presumably next month's hearing will include the Environmental Quality Review necessary for them to move forward with plans for Dollar General. Several concerns remain including traffic at the North Street intersection, the general appearance and landscaping of the site, and the Village of Dryden moratorium on sewer construction. This subdivision will not include the wetland portion of the property.

Tracy Kurtz presented the Dryden Youth Commission 2005 Annual Report. She also related efforts the Youth Commission is making with the middle school, the high school, police agencies and the Youth Bureau to identify youth needs in the Town of Dryden. Tracy also said that Jessica Houle will be nominated for a Youth of the Year award for her amazing work with young people from Conger's Trailer Park.

Raul Aguirre, from Finger Lakes Land Trust, presented information regarding a property left to them by Louise Park Dabes. The 50+ acre property, between Route 366 and Mount Pleasant Road does not meet Land Trust criteria for property they want to hold, but does include an important viewshed. As such, the Land Trust recommends that the Town accept the property with a deed restriction guaranteeing that it will remain undeveloped and be used for non-motorized recreation and education. The Board is generally supportive of the idea and will consider what will be needed to accept and administer the property. In exchange, the Land Trust would like help building a small parking lot for access to the Ellis Hollow Nature Preserve.

Duane Testut presented a petition from Baker Hill Road residents requesting a lower speed limit. Attached to the petition is a series of dramatic photos demonstrating limited visibility at the crest of a steep part of Baker Hill. Highway Superintendent, Jack Bush, will work with Duane to put together information necessary to increase the likelihood that a reduced speed limit will be approved by the state DOT.

Mike Lane recommended that the Board form a study commission similar to the one active in the 1980s to explore the feasibility of forming a regional waste water treatment district to include the Village of Dryden and the Village of Freeville both of which are facing huge problems upgrading their waste water treatment facilities. The projected $5 million cost of replacing the Village of Dryden facility would present a huge tax burden if financed by Village residents alone. One town sewer district, which includes the high school and TC3, discharges into the Village plant and development in that area is being stalled by the Village's sewer construction moratorium. Since state and federal funding for sewer construction is virtually non-existent (in contract to 87% funding that was available in the 1980s) a regional approach may make the project affordable and may enhance the prospect of getting outside funding. It's also possible that Tompkins County would participate because of the need to dispose of leachate from the Caswell Road landfill.

Highway Superintendent, Jack Bush, shared photos of the spillway at Virgil Dam following recent rain. The spillway is doing a good job accommodating flood waters and no doubt relieving problems downstream properties have had in the past. Jack also talked about construction and landscaping plans for the existing Town Hall site in conjunction with construction of the new Town Hall. Jack is eager to proceed with construction of the sewer extension across the existing parking lot east of the Town Hall so that will be complete and employees will have access to that parking lot while landscaping plans south and west of the town hall are put in place. Two possible designs for the sewer extension have been included in bid drawings for the new town hall, but the final design has not been determined. Jack anticipates that Highway Department and Recreation Department offices will move to the existing building when other town departments move to the new site next year.

Recreation Coordinator, Jennifer Dube, presented the recently issued Newsletter, which announced summer recreation programs, Concert in the Park artists and the newly revised recreation department website. Jennifer requested approval for a third part-time temporary assistant position, within the existing budget, to help cover afternoon hours when the two current assistants are not available.

Town Attorney, Mahlon Perkins, asked for approval of resolutions approving the Code Enforcement agreement with the Village of Dryden and the purchase of the Tuttle property adjacent to the new town hall site.

Environmental Planner, Dan Kwasnowski, asked the Board to approve a contract with Barton and Loguidice to proceed with engineering plans for rehabilitation of the railroad bridge near Springhouse Road. If you haven't seen the Barton and Loguidice Trail Study Report, you should ask Dan to lend you a copy. Over the years that the Town has been considering the project, the cost has risen to more than $700,000 (not including town overhead and the purchase of property). But the B&L report shows what an attractive asset the trail will be.

Sadly absent from Dan's report is the Renewable Energy Ordinance. Work on the grant proposal for the trail and other projects prevented Dan from drafting the ordinance. He assures us this will mean only a one month delay. The draft will be finished this month in time for the town attorney and the appropriate Board committee (me and Steve T) to review prior to the August Board meeting.

Town Clerk, Bambi Hollenbeck, asked for approval of the appointment of Patricia Millard as Deputy Town Clerk, filling the vacancy soon to exist due to the retirement of Nita Baldwin.

So, it was after 10:00 when we got to the "Goals and objectives that the Board wants the Fire Departments to accomplish." The discussion was lengthy and covered tiered response, Town planning for emergency coverage, plans for a new County dispatch system, and more. But I didn't actually hear any "goals and objectives" except that the fire chiefs should meet and work something out. Hasn't that already been tried?

I'm out of time here, and I want to write more about Fire Departments later. Also to consider Steve T's request that the Board consider changing the length of the term of supervisor. While this is an important question, in order to put it on the ballot this year, a decision would have to be made in August. Marty's impulsiveness aside, I don't think we've ever decided anything that fast except permission for Cayuga Press to move out of Dryden.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Women for Spitzer

Last Saturday Eliot Spitzer's wife, Silda Wall, spoke to a group of about seventy Democratic women at a Ramada Inn brunch in Lansing. Ms Wall urged women in the audience to help more women get to the polls. "Set a goal," she said, "Five women." Sounds modest, but if we could all do just that, it would, well, quintuple the number of women voters.

Wall addressed Spitzer's position on issues important to women in New York including health care and the gender wage gap. Spitzer's website isolates the following topics: jobs, property taxes, education, reform, public safety, health care, transportation and environment. The site doesn't insult women by having a separate tab for "Women's Issues." They're all women's issues.

While Spitzer's "On Day One Everything Changes" speech is loaded with rhetoric suitable for the occasion of accepting the nomination, his statements on the website define specific achievable steps toward economic revitalization (including my personal favorite: universal broadband access - I should mention that not all the links work on Spitzer's website, but the pages load quickly. I appreciate that.)

Spitzer doesn't need a special flag for abortion issues. He's frankly pro-choice and a strong advocate for women's privacy. He doesn't need a special flag for gay rights. He plans to "draft and propose legislation to legalize gay marriage in New York State." (NY Times)

There are other single issues on which I don't agree with Spiter's position: the death penalty, the Iraq war. And I wonder why Spitzer's website is almost spectacularly silent about his running-mate, David Paterson.

Still, I support Eliot Spitzer. I thank Silda Wall for her work in spreading his message and for the "Women for Spitzer" mug - a gift for attending the brunch.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


Dave, at Ithaca Is Home, raises some interesting points about where he lives and how he identifies with his community. Dave lives in the southwestern corner of the Town of Dryden. His house is in the Brooktondale fire district but he's not eligible to join that fire department 'cause he lives in the town of Dryden. Happily for us, he's joining the Fire Department in the nearby hamlet of Varna in the Town of Dryden. Meanwhile he lives in the Ithaca school district and has an Ithaca mailing address. Confused yet? No, he doesn't have multiple dwellings. He just happens to live at the intersection of multiple overlapping jurisdictions.

I live in the northwestern part of the Town of Dryden and I have an Ithaca phone number and a Freeville mailing address. It's easier for me to identify with the Town of Dryden than it is for Dave, 'cause I live in the Dryden school district.

Former Tompkins County legislator, Mike Lane, makes a convincing case for eliminating townships and consolidating local jurisdiction in the county government. I think I understand the efficiency that might be possible in a consolidated government. But I cling to my sense of community and the feeling of belonging to Dryden.

In 2000 there were nearly 100,000 people in Tompkins County, nearly 30,000 of whom live in the city of Ithaca. 14,000 live in the villages of Dryden, Freeville, Groton, Cayuga Heights, Lansing and Trumansburg. The remaining 56,000, a majority of the county population live outside the incorporated city and towns and so, would be represented directly by the county government. Do I think that representation would be as strong for the unincorporated areas as it would for the city and towns? No, I do not. The Town of Dryden did not accept the Tompkins County comprehensive plan because it differs in some ways from our own comprehensive plan. There are still things we like to do for ourselves, 'cause we know our neighbors better than representatives from the other side of the county do.

Now I have to find out more about the differences between the Town and County comprehensive plans. And more about why Mike feels county government would be more effective. And whether or not we can strengthen town government. Dave, wanna join my study group?