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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
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
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
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
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
Small towns are fragile, none more so than Milford, a town of a half-mile square that sits on the edge of the largest and most economically active metropolitan region in America. The fact that it exists, mostly intact, is a testament to its citizens and some luck. But it is facing a major change that could end up being the tipping point of protecting this national treasure. Read more
The fraudsters behind a pyramid scheme go to great lengths to make the program look like a legitimate multi-level marketing program. Pyramid schemes don’t work unless somebody loses. Those at the bottom of the pyramid are essentially defrauded by those on top.” (www.sec.gov/answers/pyramid.htm) Read more
The derailment of the Metro North 5:54 a.m. from Poughkeepsie was tragic indeed. Derailments are rare, but they do occur more often than we hear about. Most of the derailments happen at low speeds and rarely involve injuries. The 5:54 wasn’t so lucky. As it rounded the curve after the Spuyten Duyvil station, it derailed, left the tracks, and the head car barely missed landing in the Harlem River. The engine and all 10 train cars crashed that morning, most landing on their sides or seriously listing. Read more
Regarding the small privately owned wind turbine electric generator proposed to be placed above Yaegerville Road in the Town of Denning, it should be obvious to everyone that energy produced from clean accessible renewable sustainable “green” resources is better for everyone than to burn coal, or gas, or nuclear fuel in a thermal electric generation facility. We should encourage the use of wind energy. Each project though small, though tall, will be an incremental improvement for our environment. Read more
The same factors that contribute to urban homelessness, that is, a lack of affordable housing and insufficient income, also lead to rural homelessness. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness Geography of Homeless report, there are approximately 14 homeless people on average for every 10,000 people in rural areas. Perhaps the most distinguishing factor of rural homelessness is the access to services. Many rural homeless assistance services lack the infrastructure to provide care to their homeless population. Limited modes of transportation and the tendency for federal programs to focus on urban areas are contributing reasons for the lack of adequate services for the rural homeless. Rural areas also tend to have higher rates of poverty. Read more
With the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change being released lately, scientists are as sure that we are causing the planet to warm by burning fossil fuels as they are that cigarettes kill. We can now see the negative effects of climate change right out of our windows. From extreme floods and mega-droughts affecting our food supplies to sea level rise and higher and more powerful storm surges devastating coastal communities, climate change is costing our economy dearly. Read more
Once again this election season, I received campaign literature with a bold headline: “This is OUR Town!” This time the candidates are Lang and Pierce for town council. I have tried to figure out just who belongs to “Our Town.” I wondered if I owned our town, seeing as how I was born and raised here. Then I thought maybe seniority had something to do with it. I would hope that these are not requirements in either case. Read more
It’s not easy to keep straight in your mind just what the controversial new zoning law in the Town of Delaware is all about. I find this a helpful trick: Draw a square on a piece of paper and then draw a line across it so you have two parts, the top one smaller than the bottom. In the top part, write “DR,” for Delaware River zoning district. In the bottom half, write “RU,” for Rural Use zoning district. Before the changes, there were many parcels of land in Delaware like this. Read more
On November 5, the people of Sullivan County and the entire state face a monumental decision. Do we vote to amend the New York State Constitution to allow class three gaming in New York State? The implications are enormous. What is at stake are the billions of tourism dollars that pass over our borders into New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Canada and now Massachusetts each year. Read more
We are head over heels for your personality
Our relationship with you is life-long
Time spent together is unforgettable
Amazing river, you need a tribute song
Need an artist who resonates with your tempo
Appreciates when the rhythm is slow
Responds to the natural crescendo
Write a chorus that speaks to your flow
A mix of rock for your bottom,
Some blues for your mountain skies
Country for the scenery
Inspired by love, as is seen through your eyes
You mirror the goodness in each of us
And mirror the goodness in the world
An unlimited source of intelligence Read more
Zoning is likely to be a campaign issue this year in the Town of Liberty, at least in part, because town officials are split about whether zoning should be changed to prohibit the expansion of summer camps in residential neighborhoods. What is clear, however, is that in some cases, officials don’t enforce the zoning that already exists. Read more
The “Town Law Manual” published by the New York State Association of Towns states: “When a town board member votes on a proposal before a town board, he or she is representing, through that vote, the views of all of the residents of the town. Thus, a high personal responsibility rests on individual town board members. It requires that they exercise careful consideration in making important decisions which will affect the lives of town residents and businesses.” Read more
Local school districts and sponsors should be commended for taking part in “Rachel’s Challenge” [see the story on page 16]. It is good that our children learn the values of kindness and compassion—a counter viewpoint to the “me first (and only?)” view so prevalent today.
Rachel’s Challenge is a self-described “non-profit, non-political, non-religious organization” that was created in memory of the first student killed at the Columbine High School shooting, Rachel Joy Scott.
Teaching children to be nice to others raises the question “why should we be nice to one another?” Read more
As I reflect on my 20th summer in Sullivan County, the beauty and talent that surrounds me and is activated within me continues to flourish, astound and inspire. Encounters from beginning to end have been an intimate and fulfilling journey. Read more
A growing number of residents in the Town of Delaware are wondering why the town spent about three years redrawing the boundary of the Delaware River (DR) zoning district. There must have been reasons for such a big investment of time and effort. But we still don’t know what they are. Read more
I am more than perturbed at what went on at last night’s Bethel Town Board meeting. You allowed a woman from our community to go on and on about the “dirty Chasidim” strewing garbage all over the lake. She made several defamatory, derogatory and anti-Semitic remarks about a community that has lived peacefully in Bethel for many generations. Read more
At a special meeting of the town board this past Wednesday, the Town of Delaware passed controversial zoning amendments that have attracted of a lot of news coverage and letters in this and other local newspapers. Despite the controversy and public concern, no public comment was allowed at the meeting. The residents in attendance, who have devoted so much time to the issues raised by these amendments, did not deserve this high-handedness. Read more
My grandparents escaped the pogroms of Russia and came to America with the hope that life for their children would be free of the anxiety and poverty that was their European history. And like the Germans, Italians and Irish who preceded them, they faced hostility that lasted a generation or more, but finally found their way, and managed to blend in. Read more
The secrets, the answers, the solutions are most often hidden within the simple basics. Complexity, bureaucracy and rhetoric are fertile breeding grounds for misinformation and untruths, not to mention great cover for those seeking to perpetrate ill will upon humanity. These conditions also provide for the proliferation of viruses, but offer little in the way of solutions. The reason I bring this up is that I believe humanity has been infected with numerous viruses. Not the biological type but rather the type that infects the entire being: the mind, body, and spirit. Read more
A recent Times Herald Record editorial declared that the ability of a “mere majority” of legislators to amend Sullivan County’s Charter was hasty, emotional and bad governance, and that only the public should have the power to amend the charter. It expressed concern that the amendment would deter qualified job applicants for the county manager position, and that it would further deter an appointee from acting boldly and with vision, due to perceived lack of job security. Read more
The current zoning regulations for the Town of Delaware’s properties within the designated Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River Corridor are simple, clear, and straightforward.
The proposed zoning amendments for some properties within the river corridor are not. Read more
[This article, written by Indian artifact hunter Stephan R. Woll, is dedicated to the memory of John (Jack) B. Niflot, Town of Fremont Councilman and Basket Historical Society President who died at his home on June 2.] Read more
The zoning amendments currently before the town board in the Town of Delaware have had a bumpy ride.
Originally they included gas compressor stations as a special use. The board pretty quickly dropped that. Was that because of the public outcry? For the sake of an easier environmental review process? We were never told why.
The amendments also originally gutted the town’s noise law. When this was pointed out, there was denial that the amendments did not gut the noise law. But they did. Eventually that part was also dropped. Read more
“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
—John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Those words, spoken by President Kennedy during his inaugural address, resonated with the entire country. They told the world what freedom truly means: being able to choose what you want to do for your nation. Rather than the dictates of the state telling people what to do, it is the people stepping forward. It is the people asking what we can do for our great nation that gave us our liberty, to ensure the continued liberty of our children. Read more
A message from the publisher
By Laurie Stuart
The cicadas are on a 17-year cycle. I seem to be on one that is seven. For it was seven years ago that I packed up a few boxes and moved myself to Berkeley, CA for 10 months. That time it was for seminary; this time I am packing for a ministerial internship.
Interestingly, I don’t plan these things. Read more
On June 20, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on the House version of the 2013 Farm Bill. It received a solid trouncing, going down in defeat, 195 to 234. Obviously, the House leadership is challenged with a House majority that defies being led and with an inability to build consensus. A dose of cluelessness, too, as both Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, Collin Peterson, (D-MN) were convinced they had the necessary votes for passage until the vote was actually underway. Read more
Is there more plastic debris spread upon the American landscape than stars in the sky? I think so.
The spread of litter and trash may have reached the point of no return, as far as our ability as a people to turn back the clock and reverse this stain upon our nation, making the United States one of the dirtiest places in the world. The ever-present evidence shows clearly our loss of a “land ethic.” Read more
There you are, moving gracefully as a beauty queen. In breathtaking ways your margins turn this way, and sway that way, around the curves of earth’s body. Statuesque rocks on either side—standing holy as the pearly gates.
Creeks and streams full with energy and anticipation. Traveling from afar, driven—full of purpose, as they rush to join you, to generously donate whatever you need, to give their abundance, and assure your existence—eventually disappearing—becoming one with you. Read more
On May 15, 2013, Dr. David Sager was terminated from his position as the deputy commissioner of the Sullivan County Department of Family Services (DFS). He was given no warning or explanation—just a letter from DFS Commissioner Randy Parker telling him to collect his belongings and leave.
In recent months, news outlets, employees and taxpayers have cheered Sager and Parker for streamlined procedures, client support and cost-savings at DFS. Read more
The Town Board in Delaware will hold a public hearing on May 29 to discuss proposed zoning amendments. Originally the amendments included a provision allowing gas compressor stations as a permitted special use. That section was removed at the May town board meeting without much discussion.
But the board did not remove the section gutting Delaware’s noise law. A gas compressor station could obviously come to town without any special provision in the zoning law. The weaker the noise law, the more attractive the town. Is this the reason for gutting the noise law? Read more
It has been nearly a year and a half since I began my tenure serving as Wayne County’s coroner. Something that continues to impress me is the stunning reality that no two deaths are exactly the same. Certainly, details of one case may spark flashbacks to previous events investigated by the Coroner’s office; however, the specific and very personal circumstances of each death make my duties a very sensitive experience indeed. Read more