Thursday, August 28, 2008

An open letter to Bill and Hillary Clinton:

This opinion piece appeared in the Townsman, August 21 edition.

Dear Bill and Hillary,

What a thrill and an honor it was to have you stroll through our town. Of all the places you could have visited you chose ours. Everyone to whom I've spoken that had the good fortune to greet you was still radiant with the excitement. Yes, they touched history; you were so generous to share it with them, and with such graciousness. We were very glad to have you as guests and we hope that you will come back many times. We are sorry that the town's BIGGEST BLOCKHEAD, who insisted on lecturing and hectoring you on political matters, accosted you. Please know that he does not represent the people who make our town the wonderful place it is. I happen to know that some of the people who reached out for your handshake never voted for either one of you, but still honor and respect your service to our country and our state. These, with the many people who have supported you both, are the respectful and hospitable people we are. Please, visit again. Bring Chelsea!

* * *

Let's give credit where credit is due. First the details.
The bids for the 11,000 square foot Town Hall renovation came in too high. Five minutes after receiving this disappointing news supervisor Jeff Moran was informed that the 17,000 square foot Elna Ferrite building was up for grabs. The supervisor saw an opportunity to house all the town departments under one roof in a facility with ample parking. In order to make a serious proposal to the public he needed additional information that required professional services to the tune of $2000. He put on the August 12 agenda a resolution authorizing engaging such services. The agenda was posted August 8.
On August 11, George ("Jerry") Washington posted the following e-mail to councilpersons Jay Wenk, Chris Collins and Liz Simonson (but not to Terrie Rosenblum or to the supervisor). Janine Mower, failed GOP candidate for town board, was also copied. It read:

Subject: Funding Allocation
If any of you end up, in any way, approving the proposal to "Authorize floor plan for Elna Ferrite project." you will be giving Moran a license to do anything he wants to do without prior approval of the other elected officials and without an open public approval hearing or vote.
To even think of approving such an expenditure is tantamount to treason and rejection of your oath to protect the rights of the people.
If Moran wants to have this done let him pay for it himself. He didn't ask for approval before committing to the work. It's his project, let him fund it.
There are other options to consider that are more favorable than Elna on land we already own.
No one has justified the need for additional space, we are not effectively using the space we have in the Town Hall (bays 1 and 2) and we are not taking care of the buildings and property we currently occupy.
The Elna proposal should be stopped and no funds approved.

Then on the morning of August 12, Janine Mower e-mailed the following alarum:

Subject: town board agenda item
Hello Fellow Woodstockers,
I'm sending this urgent announcement along to inform you of a discussion to be held Tues night about the 'Elna Ferrite Project' My concern is- has our town board already decided to purchase the Elna Building? [sic] without our permissions? [sic]
Let your voice be heard on this expenditure of taxpayer funds.
with warm regards,
Janine Fallon- Mower

Janine had the conviction to go to the August 12 meeting and let her concerns be known, speaking up even though absolutely not one "fellow Woodstocker" came out to support her. George ("Jerry") Washington chose a supine absence rather than a vigorous presence in his battle against treason (my word, treason).
Chris Collins and Jay Wenk, along with Rosenblum and the supervisor realize it is the town board's obligation to acquire available information in order to make a judicious decision, and voted up the resolution. Liz, as is her custom, held out for the "holistic" approach and voted no. Chris and Jay deserve a pat; not many men can stand up to "Jerry," especially when he's in a fit of high dudgeon.
While "Jerry" buys the lumber and erects a gallows and Janine issues urgent announcements, consider this, fellow Townsman: The town board cannot purchase the Elna Ferrite building without a permissive referendum. You and I will ultimately decide on whether such a purchase makes sense, if indeed the proposal ripens and is not shucked for some other idea.
My take on the proposal? Assuming the money makes sense, I still won't be sold until I know (and agree with) the disposition of the Town Hall and the existing town offices on Comeau. We do have a lot of buildings and they do cost money to maintain.

* * *

Okay, let's face it, Ed Sanders and Jay Wenk aren't going to tell us anything about the Committee For Woodstock's Future (CWF). Eventually the information will be pried out of them by the snail paced Board of Elections, but for now we're just going to have to wait before we find out how much money this mysterious racket has raised, and how much money it has spent aside from the $1000 each to the political campaigns of Craig Barber, David Lewis and Jay Wenk.
But wait a second; maybe not. On August 18, former councilwoman Toby Heilbrunn sent the following e-mail:
A benefit to secure a headstone at the Woodstock Artists Cemetery for John Ernst, Pearl Bond, and Della Bond will take place Sunday afternoon, August 24, at two locations in Woodstock. The event-coordinated by Ed Sanders and Mikhail Horowitz and titled "Framed by the Hills: A Celebration of the Residents in the Artists Cemetery"-will kick off with a presentation of poetry and music at the Fletcher Gallery, 40 Mill Hill Road, at 2 p.m., after which there will be a tour through the cemetery. Painter John Ernst, poet Pearl Bond, and their daughter Della were long a vibrant part of the cultural life of Woodstock. The Fletcher event will feature Sanders, Horowitz, Gilles Malkine, Danielle Woerner, Brian Hollander, Janine Vega, and others offering salutes to Ernst, the Bonds, and many other residents of the Artists Cemetery.
Suggested donation at the gallery is $12. Those who can't attend but would like to chip in to the Ernst/Bond Stone Fund can make out a check to The Committee for Woodstock's Future, Box 729, Woodstock, NY 12498.

A recipient of the e-mail was former councilman Bill McKenna and currently candidate for the Woodstock Democratic Committee. He e-mailed Toby the following:

I'm curious, why are donations being made out to a political group, and one that is in violation of election law? Will all of the donations go toward the headstone or will some go toward future candidates for office? If so, what is the split? Who is on the committee? I look forward to hearing back from you.

I'm counting on Toby to let Bill know who the Committee for Woodstock's Future is, and I know you are. PO Box 729, for those of you just coming back from vacation, is Ed Sanders'. The CFW has not filed with the Board of Elections. There is no record of it receiving not-for-profit status. If it's a DBA ("do business as"), wow, some biz. If you run into Mikhail Horowitz, Gilles Malkine, Danielle Woerner, Brian Hollander or Janine Vega maybe they can tell you for whom they are raising money.

* * *

On a final note, the biggest hooray and congratulations to the Maclarey family, Connie, Rosanne and their daughters Kathy and Luanne for being honored with the 2008 Alf Evers Award for service to the community. Rosanne, obviously quite surprised when the honor was announced, said upon acceptance on behalf of the family, "We're not rich people. We try to give to our community with our time. We love Woodstock very, very much." And boy, do they. The Alf Evers Committee again made a great choice.

Woodstock Town Board Meeting, August 19 2008

This article appeared in the Townsman, August 21 edition

Woodstock, August 19 2008

The Woodstock town board's monthly meeting saw all of its routine business taken care of, but had to have been a disappointment to councilman Jay Wenk who saw several of his proposals shot down. The public portion of the meeting also put Wenk on the defensive when taken to task by councilwoman Terrie Rosenblum for running up attorney fees, reminding Wenk "the board agreed that calls to the attorney would go through the supervisor." Wenk was not clear about his reasons, mentioning a memo from the attorney for the town and then misrepresenting its date. Councilwoman Liz Simonson advised the board not "belabor this," and asked that the meeting move on to other topics.

Announcements from the board included Simonson's caution about the spiraling cost of providing health insurance to Town employees, this year costing the taxpayer $620,000.

Wenk was unhappy to see one of the departments had purchased incandescent light bulbs instead of florescent.

Supervisor Jeff Moran read from communication between he and the New York State and Ulster County departments of health, including sections of NYS law, advising the Town that because the municipal water system served only 2400 people a public hearing on the water emergency plan was not required. Wenk had been trying to get such a hearing on the agenda for months. George ("Jerry") Washington, speaking from the floor, disputed the supervisor's information and after extracting Moran's commitment to "follow the law" he promised to return with the correct information. Wenk, unable to remember what state agency he contacted (upon Simonson's prompting it appeared to have been the Committee on Open Government) also thought Moran had wrong information, and anyway could see no problem with holding a public hearing on the matter. The matter died with Simonson's pronouncement, "It would be a waste of time to have a hearing on this."

Minutes for previous meetings were accepted, as was the town clerk's report and payment on audited vouchers in the amount of $274,905.22 was approved. Simonson joined the rest of the board in approving budget transfers she had not personally inspected. A transfer of $23,915.51 from the Town Board Equipment line to the Town Hall Renovation/Rehabilitation capital project meant that the appropriation made last year for a fuel efficient car for use by Town departments would not be used for the intended purpose, this after both Wenk and councilman Chris Collins groused that in the year since the town board adopted its so-called 'carbon neutral' policy no substantive action had occurred.

$2308 was appropriated for a backup software system and components to replace the current failed system. The justice court was authorized to amend a $3000 grant application to purchase a computer information server. The Performing Arts of Woodstock were given the break in rental fees for the Town Hall as they had requested at last week's meeting.

Twenty-five minutes were spent discussing Wenks "no idling" resolution calling upon Town employees to not idle their vehicles for more than one minute, and going on to say that "all the citizens of, and visitors to the Town…asked and invited" to do the like. Moran found the language of the resolution "sloppy," Rosenblum not only found it lacking in detail but also noted, "I see nothing in here that will help the problem." Kiki Randolph, speaking from the floor, noted that in the winter she probably idled her car for more than a minute to let it warm up. Simonson felt the resolution could easily be amended for the purpose of passage, and thought the issue "has become very political," but with Collins also dubious about the enterprise Wenk withdrew his resolution.

Wenk also saw his idea of milling several white pines recently felled on the Comeau property into eight by eight timbers to be used to delineate parking spots was shot down when it was pointed out the material was susceptible to rot and that the committee engaged in improving the upper Comeau parking lot was less than enthusiastic about installing what it considered to be potential hazards and certainly obstructions to plowing in the winter.

Committee reports led off with Collins updating the board on the County's soon-to-be released brochure on tips for residents facing the coming winter where steep hikes in home heating fuel costs are expected. Rosenblum praised Collins for his involvement and hoped the Town will find effective ways of disseminating the information he has gathered. One land use issues, Collins offered to arrange for presentations on the subject of comprehensive plans by the director of the Ulster County planning board, Dennis Doyle and Peter Fairweather, a planning consultant who had worked with Saratoga Associates when they formulated the Town's 2000 comprehensive plan that has not been adopted. The board agreed with Collins' proposal and it was guessed that the presentation might occur sometime in September.

Rosenblum, reporting on recreation, praised Howie Lipson and his daughter Heather for the exceptional Sunmmer Recreation Program that just concluded it 2008 season. As liaison to the Woodstock Library she reported the proposed library budget will increase from 2008's $466,000 to $537,000 (a 17.8% increase) if approved by the voters at the annual library vote to be held on September 4 from the hours of 12:00 noon to 10:00 PM.

The committee reports, which with the exception of those mentioned were of little consequence, ended with Moran's update on the information gathering with regard to the possible purchase of the Elna Ferrite building to house Town departments. His report instigated a somewhat lengthy rehash of discussions already heard on the matter. Finally it was decided that a productive discussion could be had with the public once more information was ascertained.

The meeting began at 6:30 PM with an executive session to discuss collective bargaining with the CWA union, whose members have worked without a contract since the last one expired at the end of 2007. No action was taken. The public portion of the meeting began at 7:30 at the Community Center with a pledge to the flag, Wenk sitting down as usual. The meeting adjourned at approximately 10:10.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

PO Box 729

This opinion piece appeared in the Townsman, August 14 2008 edition

Update, fellow Townsman, on the Committee For Woodstock's Future (CWF):

As you may recall, Jay Wenk listed a campaign contribution amounting to $1000.00 from the CWF, giving two addresses for such committee: 186 Meads Mountain Road and PO Box 729, Woodstock. 186 Meads Mountain Road does not exist. I asked Jay who rented PO Box 729, but alas, he would not say. The CWF to date has not made the legally required filings with either the County or the New York State Boards of Election.

Then this curious e-mail was forwarded to me:

From: Edward Sanders
To: Toby Heilbrunn
Sent: Thursday, August 07, 2008 9:33 AM
Subject: Maybe you could send this around?

Message: Framed by the Hills
A Celebration of the Residents in the Artists Cemetery
Sunday August 24, 2008 2 pm. Fletcher Gallery 40 Mill Hill Road:

-a benefit to pay for a memorial stone at the Artists Cemetery for John Ernst, his wife the poet Pearl Bond, and their daughter Della:

Poems and Musical Celebrations by Ed Sanders, Mikhail Horowitz, Gilles Malkine and others (including Brian Hollander performing a salute to John Herald)

There will be readings, performances and music at the Fletcher Gallery, followed by a Walking Tour through the Artists Cemetery
to pause and pay tribute to a number of its artists, poets, philosophs, musicians and other residents

$12 suggested donation

You may send a donation
to the Ernst/Bond Stone Fund to
Box 729 Woodstock, NY 12498
Make checks out to The Committee for Woodstock's Future
[End message]

I received the above forward about thirteen seconds after finding out that PO Box 729 is not only the address of the Committee For Woodstock's Future, but also the Woodstock Journal, a defunct publication that in the past had been trotted out during local election cycles, and which hosts a web site.

The editor of the Woodstock Journal is Ed Sanders. I e-mailed him questions concerning the CWF, and have yet to receive a response.

So far this is what we know:
_ * The CWF raised several thousands of dollars at an art auction held at the Colony Café in June of 2007.
_ * The CWF issued check numbers 1003, 1004, and 1005 each in the amount of $1000.00 to David Lewis, Craig Barber and Jay Wenk for their political campaigns.
_ * The CWF, to date, appears to be in violation of New York State election law, which requires organizations that raise money for political purposes to file certain forms with the New York State Board of Elections.
_ * The mailing address of the CWF, PO Box 729, Woodstock, is the mailing address of the Woodstock Journal, edited by Ed Sanders.
_ * Jay Wenk, an elected official, when asked for specifics concerning the CWF and PO Box 729, demurred.
_ * Ed Sanders has been sent questions regarding the CWF (, but either hasn't read his mail for several days, or is otherwise too busy to tend to such nonsense.
_ * It is possible that on August 24 some very reputable people, including an editor of a local newspaper, are going to involve themselves in a money raising event sponsored by this murky committee that refuses to make a public accounting of the money they have so far collected and spent for political purposes.
_ * The Ulster County and New York State Boards of Election have taken no action, although they are quite aware of this situation.
_ * And the plot sickens

While visiting the Woodstock Journal website, I noticed that the page, "Vote Fraud Treason in America" is in the process of being updated. I hope Ed can interrupt this important chore to provide us, fellow Townsman, what information he may have on the CWF.

Hey, I'll read anything, so while at the Woodstock Journal web site I paused and paid tribute to a number of residents of Ed Sanders' funereal imagination, finding some amazing pages - not in the process of being updated - concerning the previous administration's tireless effort to gut the zoning law, extend water and sewer districts into Shady and Wittenberg, and build mini-malls from the Village Green right up to Cooper Lake. God, what horrible people they were!

But the real popper was this:

"Woodstock has one or two former drug dealers that are somewhat powerful and lurk in the background promoting development. Drug dealers bring a kind of sneaky, querulous mind-set to a small town, especially if they are behind excessive development. And so part of the current unpleasantness in the visually pleasing, still forested town of Woodstock is a ripple effect from such as these."

Study this paragraph for a moment, especially the modifiers.

"One or two…" Why not one or three? Or one or four? How strangely vague.

"Somewhat powerful…" Oh no, wait! The former drug dealers are also…

"Sneaky, querulous…" Okay, I can imagine sneaky drug dealers, but whining or complaining (which is what querulous means)? Let's put it all together: Woodstock has one or two somewhat powerful, sneaky, whiny former drug dealers…People write like this when they're sleep deprived.

Let's put the groggy prose into new pajamas:

Please, one or two former members of the sneaky, querulous CWF, step forward, tell us where the money is, and not be part of the current unpleasantness in the visually pleasing, still forested town of Woodstock, for we wish not the ripple effect from such as these.

Meanwhile, those of you paying $12 "to pause and pay tribute to a number of its artists, poets, philosophs, [what a sweet touch; philosophs indeed] musicians and other residents" of the Artist's Cemetery, be sure to get a receipt but DO NOT use it as a tax deduction.

Woodstock Town Board Meeting, August 12 2008

This article appeared in the Townsman, August 14 2008 edition

During a long and largely productive meeting the Woodstock town board took another step toward the possibility of consolidating the Town offices, including police, dispatch and courts currently located in the Town Hall, and all the other municipal agencies with the possible exception of the maintenance department currently located in the Comeau town offices in the Elna Ferrite building on route 212 on the Bearsville Flats. In a 4-1 vote, councilwoman Liz Simonson the lone dissenter, the board authorized architect Robert Young for a fee of $2000 to draw up and provide the Elna Ferrite owner, Diane Legier, a floor plan describing the various departments' needs. Under the scheme proposed by supervisor Jeff Moran, Legier will study the plan and then give a price for sale of the building renovated to suit the Town. According to Moran it would cost considerably less for a private entity to do the work than it would if performed by a municipality.
With the Legier price for a built-to-order facility the Town officials could then compare its value to the estimated $2,000,000 cost of implementing the Town Hall renovation as originally conceived and approved by voters in a referendum at the end of 2007, however for a maximum expenditure of 1.65 million. In April of this year bids far exceeded the authorized amount, and at the same time the availability of the Elna Ferrite building, a 17,000 square foot former manufacturing facility, became known.
"This authorization [for Robert Young's services] will help us get a firm idea of what the cost will be for housing all Town departments in a single facility with ample parking," said Moran. "It does not commit us to the purchase of Elna. All it will do is tell us if Elna is a viable alternative for meeting the Town's needs."
There was considerable discussion about how the Town Hall and the Comeau house will be used if vacated by the Town. Councilwoman Terrie Rosenblum and Councilman Chris Collins both discussed their meeting with representatives of Our Town, an ad hoc group that facilitates discussions of town issues. Both felt Our Town would provide a good forum for a community discussion on the merits or demerits of the Elna Ferrite proposal. "But we need solid figures," argued Rosenblum. "The public will have to know what the relative costs are in order to help us with a decision." Collins also promoted Our Town as the proper forum for discussion on what to do with the Town Hall and Comeau house if they were to be vacated.
A previous expenditure of $2700 paid to Young for initial inspection and analysis of the Elna Ferrite building irritated board members, who felt the supervisor should have gotten authorization for it. Moran apologized, explaining that he interpreted the board's wish for more information at their last meeting in July as giving him the authorization.
The meeting began with Moran's announcement that due to other commitments Sam Magarelli would be unable to coordinate the fourth annual Volunteers Day, which had coincided with the annual fireworks display at Andy Lee Field. This year the August 16 celebration will include Rene Cantine's Guitar Festival and the annual presentation of the Alf Evers Award to an individual for his or her service to the community. The town board and two-dozen attendees were then delighted by the presentation of Girl Scouts Elise De Santis and Lyndsey Meyer, who for their Gold Award project are staging a concert from 5:00 to 7:00 pm the day of the fireworks, proceeds to benefit the Woodstock Youth Program. Both young ladies thanked Mr. Cantine for his generous assistance in their endeavor.
Ulster County legislator Don Gregorius updated the board on the County's "Heating Summit," a gathering of state of local officials at the behest of County administrator Michael Hein and Ulster County legislature chairman David Donaldson to address the impact of steep home heating costs in the region. Gregorius recited a number of steps the county is taking, with a final report of recommendations due out in September. People with limited financial resources were encouraged by Tammy Cooper of Family of Woodstock to contact her agency for assistance in filling out forms required for heat subsidies.
Judith Chase was appointed by the board to lead a task force whose mission will be to "submit appropriate designs for the Jane Van De Bogart memorial on the village green." Last month it had been announced that Assemblyman Kevin Cahill secured a $4000 grant for such purpose.
Councilman Collins created a stir with his announcement of a fund-raiser to memorialize John Ernst, a Woodstock artist who died some years ago and is buried in Massachusetts. Under questioning it was disclosed the event's sponsor was the Committee For Woodstock's Future, a shadowy political organization that shares a PO Box with the Woodstock Journal, a defunct publication, and which last year made political contributions of $1000 each to councilman Jay Wenk, David Lewis and Craig Barber. No details of the committee were disclosed, causing councilwoman Rosenblum to openly distance herself from the organization with "a cloud over it."
Wenk complained about traffic he encountered the previous Saturday afternoon.
Town Clerk Jackie Earley announced that South Peak Veterinary donated their $260 fee for providing and administering rabies vaccine at the annual Rabies Clinic to the Town's spay and neuter fund. A letter of thanks will be sent from the Town.
Moran reported a spate of vandalism on Town properties, and there was a discussion on how to address it, with suggestions ranging from establishing a curfew on Town properties to increasing police patrol. No action was taken.
Some stretches of the Comeau trails were described as potentially hazardous because of the installation of pallets meant to prevent erosion and protect tree roots. It was decided to get the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation involved in a discussion of how to improve the trails' safety and protect the ecology at the same time.
The town will engage the services of an engineer to study and recommend steps to improve the hazardous sidewalk that passes in front of the Woodstock Cemetery on Rock City Road.
Moran discussed the possibility of closing either the Community Center or the meeting room portion of the Town Hall to save on heating costs this winter. Simonson, expressing her wish for a more "holistic approach" thought the Town should consider going to a four day week if it really wanted to save money. David Boyle rose from the audience to volunteer to insulate the vents of the Community Center to help keep down heating costs.
The board unanimously agreed to incur costs for engineering plans for lighting and drainage for the upper Comeau parking lot.
The Town will advertise for a new animal control officer.
Signage will be installed on Pine Grove Street to create a safer egress from the CVS drugstore.
Edith Le Fevre, representing the Performing Arts of Woodstock, along with Ann Washington made a fervent plea for lower fees for use of the Town Hall. "Ideally," said Ms Washington, "it would be great if you would take Sam Mercer's suggestion and just give the use of the building to us as a grant," but went on to say they would be grateful for any break on the fee. Both attendees and the board appeared very sympathetic to their request, and the board may at their next meeting reduce the fee, taking into account PAW's donation of tickets to performances and other factors.
The board agreed to most of the recommendation from the Ulster County Planning Board with respect to the proposed codification of the zoning law, with the exception of its wording respecting affordable housing. Rosenblum would prefer the Town explore "artists housing" as alternative language.
The sale of the California Quarry to the Open Space Institute will likely proceed, the Town prevailing in its wish to maintain access to the quarry rubble to be used for emergency road repairs.
At the request of the owners of the buildings in the Bearsville development that formally housed Simulaids, the Town will send a letter expressing its support for maintaining the viability of the light industrial zone the buildings are located in.
Responding to concerns of some attendees, the board established a policy of requiring insurance from uses of Town buildings, but created a process where entities could seek waivers if their activities did not appear to present a danger to themselves or the property.
A resolution pertaining to bookkeeping was unanimously adopted, and the board adjourned at approximately 12:10 AM.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wind and Gas

This opinion piece appeared in the Townsman, August 7 2008 edition

Gosh, still no word from councilman Jay Wenk to enlighten us on the mysterious "Committee For Woodstock's Future," the organization that to our belated knowledge dispersed $1000.00 each to Craig Barber and David Lewis for their losing campaigns last year for the Democratic nod for councilman and supervisor respectively, and $1000.00 to Jay Wenk's successful bid for councilman. If Jay is concerned that his campaign received funding from a political organization ignorant of New York State election law, then we can only assume he must be quietly, diligently searching his memory for whomever it was that gave him the check for $1000.00, and then contacting that person and strongly urging him or her to make the required filings with the Board of Elections. Jay is a man of great diligence, as witness his years long protest at military recruiting stations and his refusal to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. I am sure he has probably already contacted the Committee For Woodstock's Future to express the concern of the Committee For Jay Wenk's Integrity if they don't get cracking with the proper disclosures. You can call the Ulster County Board of Elections at 334 5434 and ask how Jay's efforts are paying off.

On a related topic, a local student of the national political scene, Stu Moore, contacted me with the following idea: off shore politicking. The idea is to take the enormous gasbags popping out of the earth every election cycle and process them off shore. You might wonder, gee, why not process the gas onshore? Answer: the smell. Moving the business off shore assumes, of course, that whales and porpoises and other mammals of the sea won't be nauseated by the vapors the same way humans are. But according to Stu Moore, and apparently most of the world's leaders, if whales and porpoises still haven't evolved into terrestrial beings along with 99.999% of the rest of us mammals, isn't it time to just give up on them? Are whales and porpoises really that important, especially now when we are in such need of gas and have this potentially unlimited supply? Another possible glitch to development of off shore politicking is a recent study indicating that political gas has about one thousandth the BTUs found in the same cubic meter of methane, and although capable of sparking heated debates it is still not able to fuel so much as a candle to shed light. Fortunately the brokerage firm, Bear-Sterns, has been resurrected to raise capital for the venture. These people are not stupid. After studying the results of the above-mentioned study their first endeavor in order to attract investors is to persuade politickers to speak out of the other orifice.

Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens, who recently announced his multi-billion dollar investment in turbines to be powered by windbags, had no comment on the gasbag proposal.

The Committee For Woodstock's Future cannot be contacted for comment.

* * *

The following is an appreciation. I promise not to name names. I see your names, often repeated in the various programs provided by Woodstock's various arts organizations. Yes, among the list of donors. Some of you have appeared on these lists for so many years that I just want to run up to you on the street and kiss you. I'm sure that the arts organizations that benefit from your generosity thank you. The rest of us should thank you even more. Centuries ago it was monarchs and the Medici's who supported art. In those days with the exception of public fountains and edifices the masses were mostly excluded from the enjoyment of art. But thanks to you, ye Donors, there is no one in our Town without an opportunity to see great painting, listen to great music, experience wonderful plays and/or attend the multitude of events, readings and exhibits that regularly gild our little polity. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

* * *

Bad omen department. I lately made the acquaintance of a very talented young actor here for the summer as a cast member of a local production. He recently graduated with honors from Columbia University and will at the end of the summer head off to France and a year of teaching English. I asked him how he enjoyed visiting here. Oy! Mind you, he was quick to say the land is breathtakingly beautiful and most of the people very nice and interesting. But there is no nightlife for young people, there is no affordable housing (he's landed on a comfortable sofa provided by a hospitable supporter of the arts), there are indeed very few young people here, there is really not much to do. He thought I was putting him on when I told him Woodstock had once been a beacon of hipness and youth (I mean, this guy is young). I've come to that age that really appreciates conversation with the young; it's like chatting it up with someone from another planet, sooo interesting. I've also come to the realization that I live in a community more concerned with preserving wetlands than making it interesting or possible for youth to survive here. Just a note.

Woodstock Democratic Committee Election

This article appeared in the Townsman, August 7 2008 edition

Woodstock, August 4, 2008

With the required petitions filed with the Ulster County Board of Elections it appears there will be contests for seats on the Woodstock Democratic Committee in some of the nine election districts in Woodstock to be settled by a Democratic primary to be held this coming September 9. Each election district will be represented on the committee by two members.

Ulster County legislator Brian Shapiro and Marcia Panza, both incumbent members of the committee, are running unopposed in District 1. In District 2 incumbent Jeff Moran, who is also serving his first term as Woodstock town supervisor, is also running unopposed with former Woodstock town board member Bill McKenna. Councilwoman Liz Simonson, current District 2 representative, did not petition for another two-year term. Long time committee member and former commissioner of the Ulster County Board of Elections Harry Castiglione is running unopposed with Cathy Magarelli to represent District 7. Magarelli has served as the committee's treasurer. In District 8 incumbents Rennie Cantine and former Woodstock councilman Gordon Wemp are also unopposed. Cantine was instrumental in arranging the many open air music concerts in town, and Wemp currently serves on the Woodstock Recreation Commission.

Incumbents Tom Ocker and Ralph Goneau will face off against Mike Veitch and Jane Valand in District 3. Veitch, a loser in the 2003 election for the Woodstock town board, prevailed in a race for the Democratic Committee in 2004 only to be soundly defeated for re-election in 2006. Many remember him for his participation in the "bounding ballot box" episode during the highly controversial 2005 Woodstock Democratic caucus in the Bearsville Theatre. Valand is a new comer to the local political scene.

District 4 Democrats will see a race between former town board member and incumbent committee member Steve Knight and running mate Thurman Greco against David Lewis and Adam Pollack. Greco is noted for her individual effort to raise funds for the committee to cover the rent for the committee's use of the Catskill Center for Photography's facility in Woodstock for meetings. She also serves on the Get Out The Vote committee. Lewis, currently serving on the Woodstock Environmental Commission, in 2005 and 2007 went for the Democratic nod for town supervisor, coming up short in both attempts. Pollack recently came up short in his bid for a seat on the Onteora school board.

Woodstock Councilwoman Terrie Rosenblum, current chair of the Woodstock Democratic Committee, is running with David Gross against the husband-wife team of councilman Chris Collins and incumbent committee member Sheila Eisenberg in District 5. Gross, a current member of the Woodstock Environmental Commission was recently appointed to a county legislature committee to help formulate a 'bigger, better bottle bill,' a law to require deposits on more types of bottled beverages, including bottled water, that will be proposed to the New York State legislature. Eisenberg is a former journalist.

The race in District 6 between incumbents Fran Breitkopf and David Corbett versus husband and wife team Linda and Ulster County legislator Don Gregorius could have implications. In 2011 representation to the Ulster County Legislature will be changed from its present configuration of multiple representatives from the same district to so-called single member districting. Woodstock, instead of being represented by two elected officials, currently Brian Shapiro and Don Gregorius, will be represented by one. Were Shapiro and Gregorius both to be elected to the committee the jockeying could become interesting.

District 9 promises a clash of the Titans, with proven vote getter, incumbent committee member and former Ulster County legislator Sam Magarelli teamed with Sasha Gillman squaring off against equally successful vote getters and incumbent committee members, former councilwoman Tobie Heilbrunn and councilman Jay Wenk. It is not yet known whether Wenk will be financially supported by the Committee For Woodstock's Future, the shadowy group that has raised and dispersed moneys last year for Wenk's and other local political races while not registering with either the state or county boards of election. A question to Wenk regarding this has so far gone unanswered.

The September 9 primary will be conducted at voters' usual polling places between the hours of 12:00 noon to 9:00 PM. It is expected that the familiar voting machines will still be in use.

"I'm concerned that because the Woodstock Democratic Committee races are the only thing on the ballot that Democrats might fail to participate," said chairwoman Rosenblum. "But it will be an important race for the local Democratic Party. Any Democrat who attended the 2005 fiasco and last year's well-organized and fair Democratic caucus knows the difference that a good committee can make."

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Mr. Rove or Mr. Rogers?

This opinion piece appeared in the Townsman, July 31, 2008 edition

"The power of money is the soul of democracy."

Doesn't that statement appearing in Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain, published in the early 1920's, annoy you? Like many annoying statements it has an inconsolable ring of truth. How many of you already have been pestered by the Obama and McCain campaigns for money? And who gives them all that money, and why? Fortunately, we have election laws that require candidates for public office to disclose major sources of the money funneled into their campaigns. The purpose of these laws is to inform us voters on what special interests are contributing to what candidates and to what extent, and then to let us draw our own conclusions. Occasionally we hear of a candidate who fudged election law being fined or jailed or both.

I had occasion recently to review campaign financial disclosure statements submitted by Craig Barber, David Lewis and Jay Wenk.

Barber and Lewis, you may recall, had teamed up briefly in Spring '07 with councilwoman Liz Simonson to form the Sustainable Woodstock Party, which then afterward dissolved with the speed of a "spinned" newspaper left in a pelting rain. They then went on to seek the Democratic nod for councilman (Barber) and town supervisor (Lewis), but came up short.

In June of '07, before the August Democratic caucus, there was a political fundraiser, an auction as it were, held at the Colony Café sponsored by the Committee for Woodstock's Future (CWF).

According to a financial disclosure statement by Lewis to the New York State Board of Elections (NYSBOE), on July 1, '07 his campaign received a $1000.00 contribution (check # 1003) from the CWF, whose address he listed as "PO Box 729."

Barber reported receiving on July 12, '07 $1000.00 from the CWF (check # 1004) whose address he listed as "PO Box 729."

Jay Wenk reported receiving on July 6, '07 $1000.00 from the CWF (check # 1005) in both his NYSBOE disclosure statement (with no address), and on his disclosure statement to the Ulster County Board of Elections, where he listed the CWF address as "186 Meads Mountain Road.

Nice fundraiser!

But who was or is this mysterious CWF? My curiosity only intensified when I discovered that "186 Meads Mountain Road" does not exist in Town records.

Let the following e-mails between Jay Wenk and me try to unravel the mystery.

July 28, 2008
Dear Jay
If you have a second, perhaps you could answer a simple question concerning the campaign financial reports you filed both with the County and NYS Boards of Election (UCBOE and NYSBOE) in your capacity as the treasurer of Friends of Jay Wenk.

1) The hand written copy you submitted to the UCBOE did not include a verification signature, or date (although the BOE did stamp an August, 2007 date). Was this an oversight?

2) Of the $1830.00 in contributions you reported to the UCBOE, $1000.00 came from a "Committee for Woodstock's Future." The address you listed, 186 Meads Mountain Road, does not exist. Could you please provide the correct address?

3) Of the $4536.00 in contributions you filed electronically with the NYSBOE you itemized $1000.00 as an un-itemized contribution with the explanation "Committee WDSTK Future Fundraised." You gave no address for the Committee.

4) In the electronically filed financial disclosure statements from David Lewis and Craig Barber, who you may recall were running for the Democratic nomination for town supervisor and town councilman respectively at the same time you were running for nomination as councilman, they each reported a $1000.00 contribution from the Committee for Woodstock's Future, and gave PO Box 729, Woodstock as an address for the organization. Is this, to your knowledge, the same Committee for Woodstock's Future that you listed as residing at 186 Meads Mountain Road?

5) In your NYSBOE electronic filing you list "Committee C. Barber" as a contributor of $400.00. Did this $400.00 originate from the Committee for Woodstock's Future?

6) As of today, July 28 the NYSBOE has no record (Form CF-02) of a Committee for Woodstock's Future. Were you aware the committee may have had no legal status for the collection and disbursement of campaign contributions?

7) Assuming all this was a harmless mistake, are you willing to disclose to the voting public the principals of the Committee for Woodstock's Future, and require them to make the proper filings? Of particular interest would be the report on the June, 2007 auction at the Colony Cafe, which according to election law, "Items received for an auction must be reported as In-Kind contributions at fair market value. The entire amount received for an item will then be reported as a contribution on Schedule A, B or C." Also, it appears that you received check # 1004 from the Committee for Woodstock's Future, Mr. Barber received check # 1005 and Mr. Lewis received check # 1003. One may infer check #'s 1000, 1001 and 1002 had existed, and by law one should know how they were dispersed. Also, by law one should know if there were any subsequent expenditures after check # 1005.

I'm running the story this week and hope that you can get back to me soon with your response.
Jeremy Wilber, Townsman

July 29 Jay responded:
These were all oversights, and wherever the two BOE's required updates, they were provided. If any info was not listed it was because the BOE's and I missed it. At this point I think the PO address is the correct one, and that Committee was asked to make the proper report. You will have to ask Craig and David your other questions. The $400 was from Craig's campaign

July 29 I wrote Jay again, repeating his letter to me and inquiring:

To your point "that Committee was asked to make the proper report," asked by whom, you? Who did you ask? Who is the treasurer of this Committee for Woodstock's Future?

To your point, "I think the PO address is the correct one," this does nothing to identify the Committee. The Post Office will not release the name of the box renter. Again, could you please just let me know who the principals of the committee are?

To your point "wherever the two BOE's required updates, they were provided;" as of this moment there is no filing of this political committee with the NYSBOE or the UCBOE. None, even though more than a year has passed since the Committee raised (at least) $3000.00 for political races. Also, unless you were closely associated with this Committee, how would you know the "required updates were provided?" Did you personally make the filings? If not, who assured you that they had been filed?

In discussing this matter with an UCBOE employee this whole matter was described as "very fishy."

What are you, the recipient of at least $1000.00 (and possibly $1400.00) from this unknown, unregistered entity going to do to disclose to the voting public the principals of the Committee for Woodstock's Future, and require them to make the proper filings?

Jeremy Wilber, Townsman

As the hours tick there has been no response, so we can't unravel the mystery yet. No doubt, considering Jay's history of rectitude there is a simple explanation.

Fire Commissioners Mull Tests of County 911

This article appeared in the Townsman, July 31, 2008 edition

Woodstock, July 24 2008

The Woodstock Fire District Commission in a unanimous vote during their monthly meeting at the Company One firehouse decided to conduct tests on pagers tuned into the Ulster County 911 radio frequency to see if better communications can be established with areas of Woodstock that presently have trouble receiving radio signals from the Town's tower located at the Town Offices on Comeau Drive. Areas particularly suffering poor reception are Zena, Willow and Wittenberg. In years past these areas had been adequately served, but it is believed that increased foliage has dampened the radio signal's propagation. As a result, volunteer firemen and rescue squad members in those areas described often cannot be alerted to an emergency by the Woodstock Emergency Dispatch service, which depends on the Comeau tower to page them.

The County 911 maintains four emergency communications towers throughout the county, and it is believed that one or more of these towers could serve more if not all of Woodstock's needs for emergency pager alerts.

The Woodstock Police Department, according to Police Chief Harry Baldwin, does not have the same problem as the fire department with radio communications. He attributed the better communications to the police department's use of "high band" frequency, while the fire department relies on "low band" frequency. Also, the police department years ago installed a repeater, a device to relay radio signals from one location to another, on the Moncure tower on top of Overlook Mountain, to facilitate radio communication.

Fire Chief Mike Densen said the fire department's main area of concern was getting pagers to work. Although some of the fire department's hand-held radio devises for voice communications may not work in some areas of the town, the (higher powered) truck radios almost always did.

In attendance at the meeting were several employees of the Woodstock Emergency Dispatch service, including department head Laurie Hamilton. It is one of the department's duties to send pager alerts to volunteer fire personnel, and there was concern over the ramifications of the County's possible occasional failure to do so. According to Densen, "If we go with the County it will be in their ball park; if there is a complaint it will be their problem." Dispatchers were also concerned with the protocol once the County had sent out pager alerts. The fire commissioners seemed to go out of their way in an attempt to assure the dispatchers that voice communications would still be routed through their department and that their role in emergency situations would not be diminished even if the County were to assume sending out pager alerts. 'This is to get our radios to work [better], not our personnel," said commissioner Don Allen. "If we can co-exist with 911 it will enhance all our emergency services, including highway," said commissioner A J Rose. "There is no attempt to disrupt the livelihood of our dispatchers."

Since the enhancement of the County 911 emergency service earlier this decade it has been the concern of local emergency dispatch services in the several townships that maintain them that their departments would be seen as redundant and eventually phased out.

In Woodstock's case there are four to five full-time dispatchers and several part timers to maintain the service that operates from the Woodstock Town Hall twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. There is usually at least one dispatcher on duty for each shift, although in times of extreme crisis, for instance the 1999 hurricane Floyd event, there can be more. The service, which is reached by dialing 679 2422, dispatches fire and police. The Woodstock Rescue Squad, which provides para-medical services and emergency medical transport and operates under the auspices of the Fire District as Company Five, is also dispatched by the service. The 2008 Woodstock township annual budget allocated $198,000 from the general fund for the service, almost all of which is salaries. This amount does not include benefits.

For many years the fire district, which has taxing authority independent of the Woodstock town board, contributed one-third of the total paid in salaries to the Town for its share of the dispatch service. This year such contribution amounted to approximately $63,000. There have been rumblings in the past that the fire district may abandon the local dispatch service and go entirely with the County 911, which would cost it nothing. However, the commissioners at this meeting seemed to go out of their way to dispel such notion.

Even if the fire district were to do so, Woodstock would still want to maintain the current dispatch service for the town, according to Chief Baldwin. "The County 911 only responds to emergencies," he explained. Complaints of noise, errant dogs, dead animals on the road, to name some situations annoying to the public, but which do not constitute an emergency will be ignored by the County 911, explained Baldwin. Also, the local dispatch service receives numerous "walk-in" complaints that would not be handled by the County 911. In short, according to Baldwin, if the Town wants to maintain a 24/7 service to respond to all emergency and non-emergency matters that involve the police they will either have to maintain the current dispatch configuration, or pay for additional police officers to sit behind a desk to process complaints.

Dispatch salaries range from $15.00 to $18.00 per hour; police salaries range from $21.00 to $26.00. "Do the math," said Baldwin.

In other business, the fire commissioners voted unanimously to appoint Stuart Rothkoph to fill the vacancy created by the death of commissioner William Van Kleeck. Rothkoph previously announced he will step down at the end of the year and not run for the remaining 3 years of Van Kleeck's term when it comes up for special election this coming December. Before Rothkoph's appointment Duncan Wilson, Mike Lorenzo and Jim Hanson had been mentioned as possibilities to fill the seat. There remains the good prospect of Lorenzo and/or Hanson seeking election later this year. Commissioner Jim Brunner, whose five-year term expires at the end of the year, announced his intention to run again.