Bradley let the seven district plan, which
lumped Olive, Shandaken and Hurley together with three representatives
(Ward Todd, Robert Parete and Linda Bertone, who switched parties
soon after the election), stand for the 2001 election even though
he deemed it unconstitutional for failing to comply with equal
representation laws. His reasoning for letting it stand was
the short time before election for redrawing lines.
The new 33-district legislative plan was devised by the GOP
majority after a higher appeals court rejected a Republican
nine-district plan. As things now stand, each district would
have one representative. Shandaken would be joined in a district
with the towns of Hardenburgh and Denning, as well as a small
portion of the town of Rochester. On Wednesday, though, after
this paper's deadline,the legislature was set to hold a special
meeting to approve yet another new plan. They were also saying
that by having okayed the 33-district plan, which they don't
want to follow, they have effectively rendered the November
referendum on single-member distriocts moot.
The last-minute plan submitted by county attorney
Frank Murray, a Republican appointee, seeks to divide the county
into 13 multi-member districts. Murray has said that the 13-district
plan would be best because each district would have between
two and four representatives and 15 of the county's 20 towns
would be left intact within their districts. Also, he said,
the difference in the number of constituents represented by
various legislators would be no more than 5.6 percent - lower
than the so-called "population deviation" in any plan
considered by Bradley.
The current 33-district plan has a population deviation level
of 4.1 percent, but does split up several towns. Ulster County
Democratic Committee Chairman John Parete of Olive called Murray's
plan "either the most diabolical plot in the history of
politics, or they're so obsessed with maintaining their power
they're willing to make themselves look foolish." The county
is divided almost equally among registered Republicans, Democrats
and non-enrolled voters. Democrats long have maintained that
so-called "single-member districts," like those approved
by Bradley, would create a Legislature that better reflect the
county's political makeup.
Parete said that he believes it's more than
coincidental that Murray's 13-district plan was submitted just
after current Legislative Chairman Ward Todd, our current legislator,
announced his impending resignation from the Legislature. "If
he's not running, obviously there's no district existing here
that he ran in before, but that's true of other matchups as
well," Murray said when asked about the timing of his latest
plan. "Obviously, if you don't have incumbents to protect
in some districts, there's less to be concerned about for those
The subsequent elections in 2004 and 2005 are required by Bradley's
decision, which calls for finalization of the current project
next year, then regular elections two years from now.
Goodbye to the Todds?
SHARP serves as the Town of Olive's not-for-profit coordinator,
and was instrumental in the building and continuing operation
of the Tongore Pines Senior Housing project in Olivebridge.
Todd said this week that taking the Chamber position requires
that he resign from his elected position in the legislature,
leaving those in Olive
wondering who will represent them over the summer and fall,
before new districts take effect for the November elections,
and it remains unclear whether Todd will remain as Vice President
of the Catskill Watershed Corporation Board of Directors, for
whom he also serves as one of two Ulster County representatives.
The corporation's annual meeting was slated to be held Tuesday
evening, April 22. Just hours before the CWC meeting, staffers
reported that they had no idea what Todd would do.
Todd said just before the meeting that it was his intention
to stay on at CWC at least through the end of June. "I'm
continuing my duties with the legislature until then, and I
would like to do same with CWC," he said.Todd did say that
beyond July he was not sure if he would stay on at CWC, and
that he would discuss the matter with Board of Directors of
Todd is slated to be re-elected but that decision was reached
before anyone knew he was stepping down. CWC representatives
are chosen by a vote of Town Supervisors in each county. When
CWC was created in the late 1990's it was decided that its Board
be made up of elected officials because it would make the personnel
on the board be accountable to the public. If he decides to
remain at CWC Todd would serve a multi-year term.
CWC Press Officer Diane Galusha said Tuesday that CWC legal
staff have interpreted the policy to mean that as long as someone
is an elected official at the time of appointment it doesn't
matter if he or she loses that status at some point. The 56-year-old
Shandaken Republican told reporters last week that he got the
Chamber job in part because of his experience in economic development
and that he will assume his duties on July 1, the day after
he is scheduled to resign from the Legislature.He was offered
the job following a special meeting of the Chamber's Board of
Directors when both an 11-member search committee and the board
unanimously voted to offer him the position.
Todd will succeed Len Cane, 73, of Kingston. Cane, a former
broadcaster, served 34 years as the 1,200-member Chamber's first
and only president. A nationwide search was launched to replace
Cane and it attracted more than 100 candidates. It ultimately
came down to two local applicants. Joan Lawrence-Bauer, 51,
of Big Indian, a public relations specialist, owner of the Business
Development Group, a member of the Chamber Board of Directors,
was a finalist with Todd.The terms of Todd's agreement with
the Chamber require him to resign from the Legislature and leave
his position with the radio station by June 30.
Republican Jane Todd, up for re-election to town board after
serving one full term, informed GOP leadership that she will
not run for supervisor of neighboring Shandaken as had been
rumored and probably won't return as councilwoman.Todd said
she couldn't wait for her term to end.
"I'm counting the days," she said.
Trustee Neil Eisenberg, before casting the
sole dissenting vote on the budget, objected to the scope of
the planned cuts, stating, "I don't like the budget. I
don't like the direction we're going." He had previously
supported Superintendent Hal Rowe's recommendation to close
the West Hurley school as a cost-saving measure.
The board unanimously voted to abolish seventy-nine positions
in teaching, non-teaching, and administrative areas, but Rowe
said this step was necessary to give the employees sixty days'
notice in case the budget fails to pass twice and a contingency
budget is forced on the district. Even then, not all positions
would necessarily be cut. If the adopted budget passes, all
but approximately thirty-six of the positions will be reinstated.
Probable cuts in this more hopeful scenario include eleven elementary
teachers, an assistant principal at the middle/senior high school,
a life skills assistant, a behavior intervention specialist,
three academic intervention staff, four custodial workers, and
two cafeteria staff.
Two parents, Rachel Roden and Richard Mantey, and administrator
Vincent Bruck urged that high school assistant principal Ron
Linchner not be laid off. Bruck, an assistant principal of long
standing, has seniority and is in no danger of losing his job,
but Linchner, like middle school assistant principal Angela
Armstrong, was hired in 2002. Bruck said Linchner serves as
"educator, disciplinarian, parent, mentor, and role model"
and predicted that "curriculum, programs, staff development,
and students will all suffer" if he is removed. Linchner,
who supervises grades ten and eleven, outlined his duties, which
include assigning aides, monitors, substitutes, and chaperones,
carrying out discipline, intervening in crises, overseeing parking,
implementing security measures (heightened since the onset of
the war against Iraq), and other tasks.
High school principal Barbara Ruben spoke passionately about
the progress made in her school over the last three years and
her fear that staff reductions would impede forward motion.
She said, "The high school culture encourages students
to challenge structure," and loss of an assistant principal
would cause "immediate and long-term domino effects, more
study halls, and increased safety issues." Middle school
principal Gayle Kavanaugh asserted Armstrong's importance to
her school, remarking that before Armstrong's hiring, "No
matter how many hours I worked, I could not meet the needs of
all students." Layoff of an assistant principal, for a
savings of about $84,000, is a feature of budgets associated
with both the proposed West Hurley closing and the reorganization
plan adopted by the board.After the administrators spoke, Rowe
said, "I agree with all these comments.
Administrators are more important than ever when we begin to
pare down staff. Unfortunately, we are faced with a budget target
that requires extraordinary effort and extraordinary action."
Referring to the seventy-nine layoffs, he said, "None of
it feels good. It's pretty ugly stuff." Audience members
stepped up to argue against other cuts. Parent Maureen Millar
said, "I have concerns about loss of three AIS [Academic
Intervention Services] staff. We tend to fail those who have
the most difficulty in school. In 2000-01 we had a 5.8 percent
dropout rate. That is too high." AIS cuts are also part
of both plans considered by the board. Ninth-grader Hailey Pearson
emphasized the importance of the New Visions and Indie programs
at the high school, which had been on a list of potential reductions
but were not cut from either budget. Parent Dakota Lane and
social worker Dimitri Hernandez defended the role of social
workers at the high school, while district health coordinator
Robin Sears expressed concern about the potential loss of a
school nurse. These positions were among those that might be
abolished in the case of a contingency budget, along with high
school teachers in all fields.
Staff cuts involved in the adopted budget but not in the budget
for the West Hurley closing include: a life skills assistant
for special education classes, four custodial staff, two cafeteria
staff, one office worker, and half of a speech therapist's position.
In other news, four buses have been booked so far to carry Onteora
residents to Albany for a demonstration of support for public
education on Saturday, May 3. In response to threatened state
aid reductions and the legislature's perennial failure to adopt
a budget before legally required local budget votes, New Yorkers
are organizing to send a message to Governor Pataki and state
legislators. In the New York State School Boards Association
(NYSSBA) Newsletter of March 17, NYSSBA president Sandra Lockwood
writes, "Anyone who cares about public education should
plan to participate. This is an opportunity to show the strength
of grass-roots support."
School districts from around the state are sending delegations,
New York City has 100 buses of demonstrators registered, and
the New York State School Administrators Association is sending
its entire board of directors. Groups from Onteora's teachers,
non-teaching staff, and administrators unions plan to attend,
and Onteora School Board student representative, Jenny Ogg,
said the high school Student Affairs Council is organizing a
student delegation. Trustee Meg Carey said the cost of the trip
by bus would be under $5 per person. Children are welcome, and
she suggested bringing picnic lunches. Activities are planned
for the whole afternoon, beginning with a rally at Empire State
Plaza at 1:00 p.m. Parents should contact their PTA to register
and get more information, while other community members may
register by calling Carey at 657-2914. The Board of Education
meeting schedule includes meetings Tuesday, April 29 at 6:15
p.m. at Middle-Senior High School; Wednesday, May 7 at 7:00
p.m. at Woodstock Elementary. The budget vote is May 20.
A member of the American Society of Dowsers,
Ralston keeps company with a small group of people who keep
alive the ancient art of dowsing, a tradition that dates back
as far back as the time of Moses with the story of his son Aaron
producing water from a rock (Exodus chapter 17, verse 6) often
quoted as the first written evidence of the practice.
Ralston says she got interested in dowsing
because she believed she could do it. Her intuition led her
to contact a Tillson dowser named Don Wood who showed her the
basics and then brought her on as a dowsing partner. "Everybody
has the ability. It's kind of like learning to play the piano,"
Ralston said last month over tea in her home in Samsonville.
"You get a dowsing rod and have some one show you how to
Although she says there is no concrete answer
to how dowsing works, Ralston describes the practice as an attunement
with the natural vibrations of the earth that science recognizes
as the random collision of atoms and molecules. "Working
with the vibration of water, recognizing that it is there and
you can use it, enables you to tap into it." Ralston said.
While she says that some people may have more of an ability
to attune themselves than others, "having the confidence
or belief that you can use what is there" is essential
to successful dowsing.
This idea, she says, is similar to what inventor Thomas A. Edison
was getting at when he was asked exactly what electricity was.
"I don't know, " he purportedly replied. "But
it's there. So let's use it."
Ralston said when she dowses for water she
mentally poses a question in her mind such as one asking for
the best flowing water vein on a particular piece of property.
She then pictures the water, let's go and relaxes. "Dowsing
works better if you are not concentrating too hard," she
said. "I get the best results when I am sleepy or tired."
In this state of mind, Ralston walks the property with her dowsing
rod, asking additional questions that will enable her to provide
her client with the site of the water vein and its estimated
depth and gallon per minute flow. The entire process, she said,
can take up to an hour and a half.
If you are picturing Ralston walking the property with a large
forked stick, think again. "Those were used by the old
timers," she said, remembering "Gus" from Accord
who would dowse with a huge stick that would hit him on the
shins whenever he got a positive response. "I did not want
to dowse with that," Ralston said.Instead, Ralston, like
the majority of her contemporaries, uses smaller and lighter
instruments such as the "Y-rod" which is shaped more
like a "V" and spans about body width. She holds the
rod in front of her with the V shape perpendicular to her body.
When she passes over something that meets the question in her
mind, the V points downwards. Another common dowsing rod, she
said, are the "L-rods" which swing freely in tubes
held in each hand and cross together to indicate a positive
response. These, she says, she prefers for locating pipes buried
underneath the ground rather than for locating water.
In addition to finding water sources, Ralston
offers a host of other services such as map dowsing to find
lost items, people and pets, and working with earth energies
to determine the most suitable location for the placement of
homes, beehives, barns and gardens. She also lectures on the
art of dowsing and is available for private and group instruction.
Ralston's practice is called Dowsing Unlimited and she can be
reached during normal business hours at 657-5115.
The Modocs' plan calls for developing approximately
150 acres of the 225-acre site, which the tribe optioned late
last year. Planners say the casino, if approved, should be operational
by 2005. The county Legislature recently renewed a three-year
contract with the Modocs that will put $15 million per year
in county coffers, if the casino comes to fruition.The Catskills
Casino Resort would include a roughly 155,000-square-foot casino,
40,000 square feet of meeting and convention space, 600 hotel
rooms, a 2,000-seat theater and parking for 3,000 cars and 100
buses, trucks and recreational vehicles.
Food-service establishments also would be part of the development,
though no information about the number and size of such establishments
has been provided. The casino's general gaming area would have
3,025 gaming positions, a 60-seat Keno room, a 200-seat race
book room, a bingo hall and support functions. By comparison,
the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut has 11,230 gaming positions,
and the Mohegan Sun Casino, also in Connecticut, has 10,000.
A study conducted by Albany-based Creighton Manning Engineering,
in conjunction with the state Department of Transportation,
said that while traffic will increase on U.S. Route 209 if the
casino is built there, the capacity of the road is sufficient
to handle the extra vehicles.
Peak traffic, which would occur on Friday evenings
and Sunday afternoons if the casino is built, would be approximately
1,300 vehicles per hour, according to the study. This is divided
into patron trips, estimated at 1,036 per hour, and employee
trips, estimated at 258 per hour.Currently, traffic on Route
209 adjacent to the proposed site is estimated at about 550
trips during the afternoon commuter hour and about 540 during
peak traffic hours on Sundays.
Most of the traffic coming to the Catskills Casino Resort -
about 81 percent, according to the study - would reach the casino
via U.S. Route 17. About 12 percent would travel north to the
site along Route 209, and the remaining 7 percent would travel
south along Route 209 to the casino. Communities along the Route
209 corridor north of the site - such as Rochester, Marbletown,
Hurley and Kingston - will experience an increase in traffic
volume of between 7 and 13 percent, based on proximity to the
site, according to the Creighton Manning study.