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September 30, 2016
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Fixing the state with a constitutional convention

Lawmakers in Albany have shown for years that they are not interested in bringing real ethics reform to state government, despite the fact that 41 legislators have been convicted or accused of committing crimes in the past 12 years. If lawmakers don’t feel like taking action on a specific matter, there are not many ways for constituents to force them to do so. However, there is one political action in which the voices of the electorate could carry more weight than politicians, and that’s in a constitutional convention.  Read more

Making it easier to vote

There is a real possibility that if the rules for primary elections were standardized across the country, and people could choose to vote in either primary and independent voters were allowed to participate in the process in all states, Bernie Sanders would be the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and Hillary Clinton would be playing catch-up. But political parties are not run by the state government, and they make their own rules.  Read more

Let’s move into the 21st century

A lot of politicians like to talk about open and transparent government, especially when they are on the campaign trail, but at a last week’s meeting of the Sullivan County Legislature, a couple of its members suggested that openness can be taken too far.  Read more

The addict next door

I knew that I was going to be facing trouble when I came around after the first seizure. This would have been around 2003 or 2004.  Read more

Earth Day 2016, measuring progress

April 22 will mark Earth Day 47 for our over-taxed planet, a good time to take stock of the environmental progress we’ve made over the decades, which in some cases is significant and, in other cases, looks more like regress.

The modern environmental movement was sparked, at least in part, by Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring,” which detailed the enormous damage being visited on plant and animal species because of the overuse of the pesticide DDT. The public was outraged, and the pesticide was banned.  Read more

Benefits of the state budget

With the economy on the rebound, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature agreed to a new state budget on March 31, which Cuomo called one of the best budgets in years. That might be overstating the case a bit, but there is a lot in it that various groups will like.  Read more

The vagaries of zoning

Had developer Philip Geras waited a few months before starting his project of converting a dilapidated former seasonal hunting cabin/lodge into an apartment complex, it is safe to say it would have stalled and, in fact, might never have seen the light of day. But the Tusten Town Board didn’t impose its moratorium on the construction of multi-family houses in the town until after Geras initiated the paperwork on his project.  Read more

If the people speak loudly enough…

Sometimes issues percolate up through the body politic, and the voices of people calling for the leaders to do the right thing become strong enough to drown out the requests and demands of the wealthy and powerful. That’s what happened on March 16; the U.S. Senate voted 49 to 48 not to end discussion on legislation that would have created the National Voluntary Bioengineered Food and Labeling Standard. That might sound like a thumbs-up on the legislation, but it actually represents a block.  Read more

New York voters want ethics reform

With Dean Skelos, the convicted former New York State Senate Majority Leader, and Sheldon Silver, the convicted New York State Assembly Speaker, both due to be sentenced on corruption charges next month, it should come as no surprised that 90% of New Yorkers believe that ethics violations are a major problem in Albany, according to a Quinnipiac Poll released on December 14, 2015.  Read more

Not in anybody’s backyard

Following the first years of furor over fracking for natural gas in this area, it seemed for a while that the conflagration had died down. In November of 2011, the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) voted against approving fracking regulations, and since then there has been a moratorium on fracking in the Delaware River Basin while that body ponders how to proceed. In 2013, the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division affirmed the right of state towns to ban fracking via zoning.  Read more