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May 24, 2015
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The power is ours

In a democracy, there are different ways for people to be empowered. In the run-up to Election Day on Tuesday, one way seems obvious: at the ballot box, citizens still hold real power—one man, one woman, one vote at a time—if they chose to exercise it. Another vehicle for empowerment can be seen these days every time a group of citizens gathers in Orange County at the construction site of a natural gas compressor station in the Town of Minisink, NY to raise their voices and hoist their protest signs against an industrial-scale project being built in their residential neighborhood.  Read more

Sunshine, long overdue

Sunshine laws were created to ensure citizens access to government meetings where public business is discussed. For a time last week, there was precious little sunshine to be found as the Sullivan County Legislature held a closed-door meeting on Thursday regarding the county’s publicly funded tourism promotion efforts. By Friday, however, the sunshine thankfully broke through as legislators apparently had a change of heart.  Read more

Open For Discussion: A Note On Comments

Everyone has an opinion. Great opinions and the thinkers that express them are what make debates and conversations interesting. On websites, opinions of the readers are expressed through comment sections. This is the opportunity for the reader to give their take on a subject, regardless of whether or not others may agree. Opening that channel has its advantages as well as its disadvantages.  Read more

Sun power

Sullivan County government took an important step toward a sustainable energy future when county officials inaugurated a solar photovoltaic (PV) installation at a county office building in Liberty. The solar array is expected to produce 49.8 kilowatts (kw) of electricity for the Robert B. Travis building, which houses the county’s department of family services. The county’s first solar venture was a 15 kw solar demonstration project at the Bethel bus facility constructed several years ago.  Read more

Competing values

There are a number of ways to look at the disagreement in Lackawaxen Township, PA between Kittatinny Canoes owner David Jones, who purchased land on the banks of the Lackawaxen River to operate a boat launch business, and a variety of citizens and stakeholder organizations, including the Lackawaxen River Conservancy, that fear the consequences of a large livery business there. Lackawaxen township officials find themselves caught in the middle.

How shall we view this dispute?  Read more

Confused about organic food?

Early last month, researchers from Stanford University published a study that concluded organic fruits and vegetables have no significant nutritional advantage over conventionally grown food. News headlines ranged from USA Today’s “Study sees no nutritional edge in organic food” all the way to one online blogger’s “Study: Organic Food is Just a Crock” from the Daily Caller. Right away, people took sides, rejecting or applauding the study’s conclusion.  Read more

Welcome to the sustainability revolution

A relentless drumbeat of news in recent months suggests that climate change is for real, that it is happening faster than expected, and that it is largely caused by human actions. For instance, according to the National Ice and Snow Data Center, arctic ice is at record summer lows, shrinking in early September to an area 45% smaller than lows reached in the 1980s and 1990s. The rate of loss this summer was 50% worse than projected. And August was the 330th month in a row worldwide with temperatures higher than the 20th-century average.  Read more

Government for the people

In this polarized society, in which the population seems to be pretty much evenly divided on practically every issue from the federal to the local level, it is immensely surprising to get a result as lopsided as that in the recent survey on natural gas drilling sent out in the Town of Callicoon. About two thirds of the respondents said they were opposed to drilling and fracking, about one third in favor. The margin is big enough that it is hard to ignore regardless of any imperfections in method with which the process might be charged.  Read more

Preserving local jurisdiction

There’s been a lot of controversy at Upper Delaware Council (UDC) meetings recently with regard to private property rights, and their primacy in the River Management Plan (RMP). The controversy came to a head in the discussion leading up to the adoption of the UDC’s five-year plan last week. The document is prefaced by the results of a poll on the council’s top priorities that had been taken at a workshop in June, which in draft form listed “protect and respect private property rights and land use” as number one.  Read more

Yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as in-kind matching

At a town board meeting last month, the audience greeted with snickers a board member’s response to a query about how the town was going to come up with matching funds for a six-figure state grant without raising taxes. Her statement? She said the grant would be matched by in-kind contributions.  Read more