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October 26, 2014
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my view

The River Reporter may print submissions of up to 600 words as My Views on its editorial pages. They must be signed and include the correspondent’s phone number. My Views are printed on an as-space-permits basis only; we recommend that readers who want to be sure that their views are represented submit a 300-word letter. No more than one My View from any one author will be printed in any three-month period. The deadline is 1 p.m. on Monday.

Sham reform on the ballot

The manner in which New York redraws legislative district lines to reflect new census data is in desperate need of reform. Under the present system, legislators are responsible for the task, and they use this power to serve their own interests, not those of the voters. Incumbents competing in the general election have a better than 90% chance of being returned to office—and if you factor out those who are removed from office because they are embroiled in ethics scandals or criminal investigations, then it’s 95% (tinyurl.com/7wnf4d2).  Read more

America: One nation under God

What does it mean to live as one nation under God? To me it means to live with laws that create justice for all. Despite the politics of including God in decision making, God’s values of love inspire and direct good laws and actions. If you look at successes in justice, you will find decisions formed from thoughtful, kind-hearted and fair action and law. When something is wrong in our system, God’s grace works to help us be an instrument of his peace. Recently I was a witness to this grace.  Read more

Got a farm bill? Thank Congressman Chris Gibson

Virtually every sector of New York’s economy benefits from the U.S. Farm Bill. The federal government’s agricultural and rural development programs are absolutely crucial to upstate New York and the country as a whole.

The Farm Bill sets federal policy; including conservation efforts, dairy and crop-insurance programs, medical research into Lyme disease, infrastructure development (most notably broadband programs), beginning farmer and specialty-crop programs, plus farm-to-market promotional and incentive programs.  Read more

Sullivan County’s positive social service reforms

A few years ago the Sullivan County Legislature embarked on efforts to reform the county Department of Family Services. It had become evident that Sullivan County had become a destination for Medicaid benefits. A culture had evolved where housing the poor had became a business, as thousands of Medicaid apartments and shelters became more than temporary placements of the poor and those in need.  Read more

Harms of gas compressor emissions

In August, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) published an Environmental Assessment (EA) about potential environmental effects of the natural gas East Side Expansion Project by Columbia Gas Transmission LLC, a subsidiary of NiSource, in accordance with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. This FERC EA concludes that the project would not significantly affect the quality of the human environment and recommends the commission find “no significant impact” and require certain mitigation measures.  Read more

Unforced Errors and Election Odds

Will the governor’s missteps create an opening for a progressive reformer?

Andrew Cuomo must feel like he’s been run over by a truck. A few months ago he seemed invincible. Heading into this fall’s election his campaign had more than $30 million on hand and there was no serious opposition in sight—Republican gubernatorial candidate, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, consistently trailed the governor by 30 points in the polls. A second term seemed assured.  Read more

Reply to unhappy Lackawaxen fishermen

[Editor’s note: On July 30, The River Reporter printed a letter from John and George Westenberger (www.riverreporter.com/letters-editor/4302/2014/07/30/why-stock-lackawaxe...), who criticized the lack of fishing opportunities on the Lackawaxen River this summer due to water releases from Lake Wallenpaupack to operate the PPL hydroelectric plant at Kimble, PA. The Westenbergers received a reply from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, and this version of that reply was forwarded from the commission to The River Reporter.]

John and George Westenberger:  Read more

New invasive plant: Battling mile-a-minute vine

UPPER DELAWARE RIVER VALLEY — A new non-native plant species has arrived in the Upper Delaware River valley region—mile-a-minute vine (MAM). This plant is listed on the Pennsylvania Noxious Weed List because it can “directly or indirectly injure crops, other useful plants, livestock, poultry or other interests of agriculture, including irrigation, navigation, fish and wildlife resources, or the public health.” Early detection and rapid response is the best defense to the spread of this aggressive invader. Summer is the ideal time to enlist the aid of the public in documenting the location of MAM infestations as they enjoy the outdoors and recreate along the river.  Read more

NORSU responds to Dr. Nancy Hackett

NORSU response to comments made by Sullivan West School Superintendent, Dr. Nancy Hackett in the July 31, 2014 River Reporter:  Read more

The character of a river hamlet at stake

The Narrowsburg School is not in our backyards. Narrowsburg is in the school’s backyard. In a situation unique to Narrowsburg, the business that goes in the school building will have an undue influence on the nature of the hamlet. If a drug and alcohol rehab, then all of Narrowsburg will be a drug and alcohol rehab.

If a community center, than all of Narrowsburg will be a community center.

This is a simple truth and has nothing to do with emotion or picking sides or NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) or rehab laws or legality of school sale or anything else.  Read more

A cloud collector in The Weather Project

Ever since my husband and I moved into our farmhouse in Beach Lake, PA in 2006, I have dreamed of connecting to the community through my life experience in the arts as dancer, actor, writer. For The Weather Project, Tannis Kowalchuk, artist director of NACL, contacted me to create a cloud character with magical powers of destruction and creation, like the Furies in Greek mythology. My character’s name is Nimbula, a Cloud Collector, member of the Cloud Collectors’ Local 12743. My sister cloud is Queen Cumulus, played by Cass Collins.  Read more

Speaking up in Pike County

As a long term resident of Pike County, I’m sorry to say that I have been negligent in my duties. While enjoying all the privileges of living in this wonderful community, I left it to others to take responsibility for keeping the area pristine and attractive, as many others have done. Politics is an area I endeavored to stay as far away from as possible, feeling that my vote would absolve me of any further responsibility to the community.  Read more

An apology to Joan Buto

[Editor’s note: The following opinion, an apology to Joan Buto and family, refers to the Tusten Town Board meeting of July 9.]

The efforts to bring highly needed services to Sullivan County were not well received by a group of concerned citizens who claim to have the best interests of Narrowsburg as their agenda.  Read more

Clarification about the Narrowsburg School

We would like clarify apparent misunderstandings of, and rectify misstatements made by others regarding our offer to the Sullivan West School Board (SWSB) for the Narrowsburg School building and the nearby 14 acre parcel.  Read more

The long-ago death of a Vietnam soldier recounted

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Readers may recall a feature article in The River Reporter (November 6, 2013) about native son Dennis Baker’s book, “Restless Hearts: What if Fallen Heroes Could Go Home? a fictional account using the real names of local soldiers who fought in and did not return from the Vietnam War. Recently, we heard from Baker, who recounted this incident that is helping bring closure to one soldier’s family.]  Read more

Why the Buto offer is not higher

I feel compelled to bring a major flaw in the thinking of the Sullivan West School Board (SWSB) to your attention and hopefully to the attention of your readers.  Read more

Black bear controversy in the Catskills

The population of black bears in the Catskills is steadily rising. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) 2013 black bear harvest summary, 636 bears were taken in the southeastern zone of the state. This number is up from the 2012 hunting season, which had a take of 442 bears, and is also higher than the previous five-year average of 521 bears taken per season.  Read more

Changes rehab addresses local concerns

First, Changes [Treatment and Recovery, Inc.] would like to thank the Sullivan West Central School Board for all of their hard work and time spent. It was no easy task, knowing how people felt, to make this decision. Secondly, we would like to clear up some of the confusion and misconception that we have been reading about:  Read more

Competitors for the Narrowsburg School speak

NARROWSBURG, NY — This week The River Reporter received press releases from both parties that have placed bids to purchase the old Narrowsburg Central School from the Sullivan West School District. We print these statements here for your perusal.

Press Release from Changes Treatment and Recovery, Inc. (6/16/14)  Read more

A right to peace and quiet

Those of us who live along the Delaware River near the Lander’s Skinners Falls Campground can certainly empathize with the residents of Bethel and the “Backlash over Mysteryland ‘Noise’” described in The River Reporter’s last issue (June 5-11). For years we have suffered music blaring till early morning hours without any noticeable control. As mentioned by Randy Weinstein, the bass from these events can be deafening. Many times one cannot have dinner outdoors or leave windows open on cool summer nights because of the booming bass and illegal fireworks echoing through the river valley.  Read more

A tribute to my mother

Be born at the end of May in 1961. Grow up in a Polish and Irish Catholic household in Queens. Lose yourself in the strident world of ballet. Wake up at 5 a.m. every morning to practice. Get called a “bun head” at school, and be the tallest girl in your grade. Don’t let it bother you, because you like being a tall bun head. Move to Long Island in high school, lose yourself in the transformative world of acting.  Read more

Drug court success, one case at a time

[The following is an open letter to the Sullivan County Drug Court written by Bazely B., a participant in the court’s assistance and oversight program.]  Read more

Obamacare’s bright promise

April 1, 2014 will forever be a bright spot in American history, as President Obama announced from the White House Rose Garden that more than seven million Americans secured health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. For these deserving Americans, having quality, affordable health insurance was no April Fool’s joke. It was a dream that finally came true.  Read more

Another idea for locating the food hub

In Sullivan County, where agriculture is considered one of our primary economies, why not teach it here?  Read more

Will the governor’s property tax reform really work?

Our new New York State (NYS) budget includes an interesting section that Gov. Cuomo believes will lessen our local property tax burden. It builds upon the 2% property tax cap enacted back in 2011 that requires local governments to cap annual tax rate increases at 2% or the rate of inflation, whichever was less. It further stipulated that any proposed taxation above the cap needed a 60% supermajority approval by voters. Now, the 2015 state budget calls for a two-year freeze of residential property taxes for homeowners in jurisdictions that keep their tax increase under the 2% tax cap.  Read more

Would an Orange County casino mean none for Sullivan County?

The time is nearing for developers to submit their applications to build casinos in New York State.

The decision will impact upstate economic development like none other, particularly Sullivan County.

Allowing one, better yet, two casinos in our area will have the potential to revitalize the Catskills, which has experienced years of economic decline.  Read more

The face of addiction in Sullivan County

A few years ago my friend told me that we had friends who were addicted to heroin. I scoffed and said, “Well, I don’t know any.” Little did I know that a few years later I would know all too well.  Read more

Summing up the Bloomingburg election

When the dust cleared on the last day of the Bloomingburg voter registration trial a number of issues were made clear. One very important concern was left unclear.  Read more

‘Sparring’ over the site for a food hub

After reading [last week’s] article in the Times-Herald Record, headlined “Sullivan spars over food hub; most legislators oppose $110k deal,” I can only shake my head. The property they are “sparring” over is an approved lot in an industrial park that I own and developed at a cost of close to one million dollars. The property proposed by Legislator Alan Sorensen is a vacant lot across the street from mine, which is zoned for residential use and has no approvals for any development whatsoever.  Read more

Our high local property taxes: how they hurt

We’re just emerging from the worst economic recession since the 1930s. Unemployment, “underwater mortgages” and property tax burdens took their toll on struggling homeowners throughout the nation. Sullivan County suffered more than most. Even today, years after hitting bottom, the New York State Labor Department finds 8.9% of Sullivan County’s workforce unemployed, a number higher than the state or national averages and much higher than the 6.5% rate reported just prior to the recession.  Read more

Those who talk the talk must walk the walk

I cannot help but feel that some of my colleagues have enjoyed talking the talk about economic development for the past two years, but have failed to walk the walk when it comes time to support initiatives that would truly benefit Sullivan County’s economy.  Read more

Do dairy farms need more milk security?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has opened a public comment period with the nation’s state agriculture departments to hear their suggestions for hardening the security of dairy farm milk houses and bulk milk tanks. Design of potential new security regulations comes in the final implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011 (FSMA). Under the act, FDA alone is tasked with oversight of developing anti-terrorism security measures to be implemented on dairy farms. State recommendations to FDA are due by March 31, 2014 and will be published in the Federal Register.  Read more

Remembering Art Peck

Art Peck was a unique individual. Much has been written about him since his death such a short time ago. Art left his mark on this community in many ways. He successfully expanded the market he bought on Main Street, Narrowsburg, NY to a new building on Kirk Road and later opened two more stores in nearby towns. He then found a way for Peck’s employees to own the business.  Read more

Letter of resignation from Glenn Swendsen

[The letter below was sent by Town of Tusten Highway Superintendent Glenn Swendsen to the Tusten Town Board on March 10.]

Dear Supervisor Wingert and Town Board,  Read more

Why are property taxes so darned high? Part III of this series, continued

This article is the continuation of “Why are property taxes so darned high?,” a multi-part series examining Sullivan County’s local property tax burden. Most recently, I wrote about two reasons for our high taxes: (1) a huge growth in the size and costs of local governments and (2) the rural nature of the county with its sparse population footing the bill for local services, especially road maintenance, which is very costly. Here are a number of other reasons for our high property taxes.

Reason #3: Lack of commercial tax base
  Read more

Why are property taxes so darned high? The third in a series of articles

The first article in this series, published by The River Reporter on December 26, 2013 revealed that Sullivan County’s local property tax burden is among the highest in the nation, more than twice the national average. The second article, published in our January 30, 2014 issue, provided a general overview of the kinds of local government services that tax revenues pay for. This, the third in our series, explains why our local property taxes are so high today.  Read more

Protecting our water supply from chemicals

Most of New York State’s drinking water comes from right here in the Catskills, and it is renowned for its taste and purity. Our water is simply amazing, and we need to protect it for all of us who live here, and the 19 million people in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania who rely on water from our Delaware and Catskill watersheds. Our Catskill water is so pure, it reaches the taps of New York City unfiltered. Sadly, for the most part, we take it for granted that its purity and supply is being protected with vigilance by governmental regulatory agencies.  Read more

Your local property taxes; The second in a series of articles

The first article in this series (published in the December 26, 2013 issue of The River Reporter) focused on the comparative cost burden of Sullivan County’s property taxes. It revealed a sobering fact: measured as a ratio of the incomes of the county’s residents, our property taxes rank among the very highest in the entire country. Indeed, our “property tax effort”—our ability to pay—places our taxes in the top 1% nationwide. Property taxes take almost 7% of the annual incomes of Sullivan County residents, while typical homeowners elsewhere in our nation pay less than half this much.  Read more

A response to ‘In defense of the slaughterhouse’

Jennifer Young’s op-ed piece, “In defense of the slaughterhouse,” (The River Reporter, December 19-25, 2013) demonstrates in-depth awareness of the horrors of factory farming, yet characterizes meat consumption as okay as long as it’s “grass-fed.” She admits “it’s healthier to be a vegetarian,” but adds, “not because meat is bad for you.”  Read more