Sunday, August 26, 2007

Congressman Hinchey

Yesterday Tompkins County Democrats hosted a reception to express appreciation to Congressman Maurice Hinchey for his work on behalf of his constituents in District 22.

Hinchey spoke at length about the grim realities of Bush administration, referring to Bush often as "the most impeachable president" ever. His speech was painfully reminiscent of the one he gave two years ago at Cornell Law School. Then, as now, I listened hopefully through the long list of Bush's impeachable offenses I already understand only to be left hanging at the point that I wanted to hear what's going to be done. At that time Hinchey said Congress was too intimidated to launch impeachment proceedings. Yesterday Hinchey said simply "there isn't enough support..."

The idealist in me hates this. It's not enough to say "It's the right thing to do, but we're not doing it 'cause it can't be done." But I have this annoying memory of doing exactly the same thing last year on the Town Board with the Sustainable Energy Ordinance. I'd like to do whatever we can to encourage development of wind power, but there's not enough support on the Board or in the community, so I settled for a proposal making development of residential wind energy devices possible.

Congressman Hinchey has worked with Senator Feingold to introduce two censure resolutions in the House and Senate. It's not enough, but, distasteful as I find this phrase, it's better than nothing. In fact, it's a lot better than nothing.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Farm City Day

It was beautiful weather for Farm City Day at Lew-Lin Farm. I was eager to see the farm because the Town of Dryden has been working with Tompkins County and farm owners, Lew, Linda, Steve and Lisa Stuttle for more than a year on a Farmland Protection grant for purchase of development rights. With this funding the Stuttles will be compensated for placing a permanent conservation easement on the farm's 419 acres assuring that this valuable farmland will continue in agricultural production for generations to come.

Farm City Day is intended to give city dwellers a look at farm operations. Hayrides took visitors on a guided tour of the farms beautiful pastures and cropland.

Just look at this beautiful cow.

I'm always drawn to border collie demonstrations. I used to have a border collie (and sheep.) She was much more skilled than I with collecting the sheep. If the sheep knew where they were going it worked out fine but I never learned how to communicate with her what I wanted her to do with the sheep once she had them. This dog is from a Border Collie Rescue group. I really, REALLY want to contact them to arrange to get a dog. But that would mean getting some sheep. And that would mean arranging some way to feed them separately from the horse. And that would mean... Sigh. I don't think I should do it.

I have pictures from displays of the Farm Bureau, Soil and Water Conservation, Cornell Farmworkers Project, Quality Milk Production Service and more. But I've run out of time.

One more. There was a hay bale toss contest. I challenged David Makar. But we went to get chicken barbecue instead.

Friday, August 10, 2007

2007 Budget Transparency, Part 2

I'm putting this up even though it's not final. The numbers are accurate but the format will change.

The budget for expenditures is harder to illustrate than revenues. It's more complicated and understanding it depends on what you're interested in. I imagine you can't read the fine print so here's a summary.

The budget can be divided into:
  • Emergency Services - 20% (red and yellow)
  • Highway Department - 40% (green)
  • General fund - 40% (blue)

Breaking it down further:

Emergency Services

  • Fire Departments $791,869
  • Ambulance $311,100

Highway Department

  • Equipment & Machinery $670,000
  • Roads & Bridges, labor $535,500
  • Roads & Bridges, material $483, 000
  • Employee Benefits $347,000
  • Snow Removal $219,000
  • Other $148,000

General Fund

  • Public Works $482,424
  • Culture & Recreation $467,714
  • Administration $412,223
  • Employee Benefits $293,000
  • Building & Planning Dept $261,880
  • Court $135,128
  • Contingency $75,000

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

2007 Budget Transparency

On the threshold of the 2008 budget process, I'm working on a report to make the town budget easier to understand. The trick is to make it simple enough to hold the reader's attention for a minute while including enough information to be informative.

Setting aside the water, sewer, lighting and emergency services districts, because they only affect people living in the districts, the graph looks like this. It seems self explanatory to me except, perhaps, for the Fund Balance - the money available this year from prior years' surpluses. Does that make sense?

I think I want to add in the ambulance district (the entire town) and fire district (entire town except the McLean fire district.) What do you think?

For the sake of simplicity and objectivity I'm using the dollar totals. I'm trusting that people who want to can calculate the total and the percentages.

Watch this space for corresponding coverage of expenditures.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Upcoming Meetings

Okay. I have to ease back into this. The longer I'm away, the harder it is to get started again. It's like a conversation with a really, really long pause.

The August Town Board meeting is Thursday, August 9 at 7:00 PM. The agenda is here. It sounds like the meeting will be really, really dull. But you certainly never know. Most of the detail of what people plan to talk about doesn't make it onto the agenda. So, there are always surprises.

I'm working on a budget report and a couple of articles for the proposed newsletter. This is a good time to start making the budget understandable just as we move into the 2008 budget process. More about that later.

Next week the Conservation Board meets on Tuesday at 7:30 PM (probably about riparian buffer zones) and the Planning Board on Thursday at 7:00 PM will be talking about the current project to bring the zoning ordinance into conformance with the Comprehensive Plan.