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!
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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.
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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:
Subject: A LASTING BOND
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.
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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.