Friday, December 29, 2006

Public Works.

Dryden Highway Department and Public Works have been busy despite little need for snowplowing. Among many other things, they've been extending sewer lines along East Main Street toward the site of the new town hall.

I talked to Superintendant Jack Bush recently about how they handle soil removed from such construction projects. I was happy to learn that all topsoil is stored for future use. But they often have to dispose of subsoil. Some is stored on Johnson road. The department also keeps a list of residents' requests for fill. So, rather than paying to dispose of fill or trucking it to Johnson Road, they are often able to deliver fill to a site closer to where they're working.

The same is true for woodchips generated by all those roadside trimming projects in the spring and summer. Any Dryden resident can ask to be included on the list by calling the Highway Department at 844-8620. I was happy to get a load of woodchips last summer and now I'm thinking of all the ways I might use a load of fill.

A resident recently asked me if the community could be involved in the spring clean-up at Dryden Lake usually done by the Public Works Department. I'm a great believer in volunteer efforts and Jack agrees that it could work. If other people are interested, I'll find someone to coordinate the work. The Town is not responsible for maintenance of Montgomery Park, but I must say the landscaping there could use some sprucing up. Anyone want to take that on?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Dryden Democrats January Meeting

From Simon, our Committee Chair:

The Dryden Democrats will be having another gathering on Sunday, January 14th, at the Candlelight Inn (49 West Main Street, Dryden) from 4:00pm to 6:00pm.

It won't be a meeting, but there will be political conversation, much of it focused on the Village of Dryden's upcoming elections. This was a fun event last year, and I'm hoping to repeat its success.

If you'd like to come, please bring something you'd like to eat. Drinks will be provided.

Simon St.Laurent
Chair, Dryden Democrats
drydems mailing list

Friday, December 15, 2006

Dryden Emergency Services

I wish I'd reported on the last Town Board meeting before this article was published. In fact, I wish I'd followed my instinct and invited the fire chiefs to the meeting. The reporter, Tiffany Edwards, seems like a nice enough person whose main handicap is being very new in town. But she has described the fire department issue using several concepts that I specifically told her were not what we're talking about. We're not talking about mediation. It's really not a dispute. And we certainly haven't decided anything.

As the fire chiefs know, the Town Board has been considering for more than a year, creating a staff position for an emergency services coordinator. Emergency services are hugely important in the town and are a major budget item. It's difficult for Board members to make long range plans for emergency services and we rely heavily on the expertise of the chiefs of the four departments. When they disagree it becomes impossibly time consuming to collect enough information to reach a reasonable solution.

So, it seems like a good idea to hire someone to help sort this out. And it seems like this person could help save time and aggravation for the chiefs as well as for the board members. But I think it's important to remember that the chiefs are the chiefs. They're the ones with the information necessary for any decision making. (I will say, the Town could have collected and synthesized better information over the years this discussion has been going on - but we didn't)

I've had more than enough of "He said..." "She said..." (although there isn't actually any "she" except me.) The Town Board meets on a regular basis and the Fire Chiefs meet regularly. But at least in the past year we've never met all together. The chiefs have all been present at public Town Board meetings a couple of times. But those meetings are not conducive to discussion.

I think we all have the same goal: to provide the best emergency services we can for the most reasonable cost. Now we need to clarify that and begin working on how to achieve it. A paid coordinator won't help if the chiefs won't talk to him or her or if they don't agree on the goal or if they have conflicting sub-agendas of their own.

I've worked with Community Dispute Resolution Center facilitators on other projects. They are excellent at keeping meetings focused and assuring that everyone is heard. I want them to help board members talk to and listen to chiefs. I don't go to chiefs meetings, but just for once, I want to be sure the chiefs are talking and listening to each other. If we go forward with the paid coordinator position, that person will be responsible for making recommendations to the board. We need to be sure that the chiefs feel they are fairly represented or we'll only be adding a new layer to an already contentious situation. Before we hire someone and throw them to the lions - well, I want to say something about feeding the lions, but that sounds condescending. I just want to be sure the Fire Chiefs think it's a good idea and will try to work with him/her.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I'm often surprised by the names of Committees in the House or Senate. This morning CSPAN is repeating a press conference with Rep George Miller (D-CA), incoming chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee. We haven't heard enough recently from this Committee, whose slogan, if not mission, is Protecting the Interests of Students, Workers, and Retirees. Committee structure, like budget structure, reflects what we think is important enough to command our time or money.

The next Town Board meeting, Friday January 5, 2007, is an organizational meeting. Many ritual actions required by Municipal law will be taken. Check out the minutes of last year's meeting to see what I mean.

Nearly the last item on the agenda will be the Supervisor's appointments. Of the ten committees listed in last year's minutes, five never met and most of the others only met once in 2006. Given that committees are where the work underlying policy decisions should be taking place I think this is a problem.

So, I'm planning to put together some suggestions for a but more rational committee structure and some goal setting ideas. Anyone want to make suggestions?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Iraq Study Group

I would not have thought it was possible to feel as optimistic about national policy as I do this morning. I have a whole new list of names to research for possible inclusion in my list of heroes. One of the most wonderful aspects of yesterday's news about the report of the Iraq Study Group is the surprise factor. It's been a long time since Congress and the President accepted an independent report with such apparent open-mindedness as they have received the report of the Iraq Study Group. That indicates that the Iraq Study Group has done its job thoroughly. It's not enough to write the report if you can't get anyone to read it.

I'm comforted by the mere existence of United States Institute of Peace, facilitator of the Iraq Study Group; by the knowledge that not so long ago Congress acted on an idea, first stated in 1792, to establish "an office for promoting and preserving perpetual peace in our country." I am similarly comforted by the roles played by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Center for the Study of the Presidency (CSP.)

From the Timeline page of the Institute of Peace:
In March, Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) asks USIP to coordinate the Iraq Study Group and appropriates funds for its administration. Three other organizations are asked to assist: the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Center for the Study of the Presidency, and the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. Congressional organizers select former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III, and former chairman of the House International Relations Committee Lee Hamilton as co-chairs of the ISG. The co-chairs, in consultation with the supporting organizations, choose the other members of the ISG.
I recognize problems with the process. Why did we wait three years to start the study? Why did we wait 'til after elections to release the results? I question the use of the term "bipartisan" instead of "non-partisan." I'm horrified at even the suggestion of committing more troops to Iraq. But at some point I'm prepared to accept the work of well qualified people who seem to done a thorough job of collecting the facts and exploring the alternatives. I haven't read the entire report yet. I'm printing it out now. So far, it seems to be an example of the clearest thinking and clearest writing I've seen in a long time.

This image is a tile I've had since I was in high school. I bought it at the drug store around the corner from my best friend's house. On the back it's got sticky tape with remnants of sheetrock from someplace I lived in the past.

Picasso painted many versions of peace doves. This one, with the many colored people dancing, has always been my favorite. Doves are not enough. In fact, as Bill has explained to me, doves are not inherently peaceful at all. Having no meaningful weapons, they haven't developed any behavioral inhibitions for aggressive behavior. You may have seen them beating on each other at your feeder. In fact, in captivity, they engage in bloody battles. (Sidenote: For some reason Bill met the Postmaster General of the United Nations in the fifties and this dove issue came up in conversation. The Postmaster was so impressed that he declined to use any dove designs for UN stamps for the duration of his term in office.)

So, with fervent hope and a grain of optimism, today I'm hanging the peace dancers where I'll see them every day. Perhaps in some magical way, the energy of being reminded daily of the possibility of peace will coalesce and contribute to the peace effort. Or perhaps it will remind me to talk to everyone I know and lots of people I don't know yet, about the possibility of peace and the importance of working for it.

(Cross posted at Five Wells)