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April 16, 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.

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

Time to reform milk pricing rules

[Editor’s note: This open letter, calling for real reform of the current USDA milk pricing formula, was sent to Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), chairwoman of the U.S. Senate’s Agriculture Committee, with a copy to The River Reporter.]

Dear Senator Stabenow,  Read more

Milford at the tipping point

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 wealth gap

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

A derailment by any other name is still….

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

Engineer responds to Denning windmill controversy

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

Homelessness; It’s not just an urban problem

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

Taxing carbon

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

Our town, your town, whose town?

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

Delaware’s new zoning in a nutshell

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

Legislators support gaming

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

The Delaware River needs a song

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

Is a summer camp the same thing as a drug rehab facility? One candidate responds to citizen’s query

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

Our Congressman replies

Dear Staff and Publisher of The River Reporter,  Read more

An open letter to the Town of Delaware Town Board

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

Faith: a foundation for kindness

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

The eclectic nature of the Sullivan County music scene

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

Canada Geese flying over the Delaware

One recent August evening I watched a scene of great beauty: a formation of Canada geese in flight over the Delaware River. The group had formed itself into a V. This I had expected, but two things about the configuration took me by surprise.  Read more

Still looking for reasons in Delaware

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

An open letter to Dan Sturm, Town of Bethel Supervisor

Dear Dan,

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

Delaware’s troubling new law

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

It ain’t over

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

New hard drive for humanity

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

Sullivan’s charter amendment was warranted and proper

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

Zoning amendments in the Town of Delaware

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

The Muncee Delawares: what they left behind in the valley

[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

More trouble in Delaware

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

Where have freedom, liberty and justice gone?

“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

Making ready, making room

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