Follow Up on the
The most inflammatory
topic raised seemed to be about Olive Day and whether the
town’s Democratic Party, which has held the event
as a fundraiser for the past 30 years, was paying to have
the park cleaned up afterwards. After many remarks on the
subject by all candidates it is safe to say that regardless
of what has happened in the past, Olive Dems will pay full
freight from here on in.
Barringer said he was asked “many times” by
residents why there is rarely competition for the supervisor
position, so he decided this year to change that. He also
said he was motivated by what he called unnecessary raises
for town officials and employees and wants to rectify that
by returning to the supervisors position, one that he held
in the 1970’s, and dropping its salary $10,000.
Leifeld warned listeners, and Barringer, that the supervisor’s
job is completely different now than it was back when his
opponent had it. Leifeld feels that Olive is pretty much
full grown and therefore “the tax base won’t
change much,” presenting a dilemma for officials that
want to keep providing services but keep taxes down. The
efforts to make Route 28 a scenic byway, Leifeld said, represent
the best way to get grant funds into town, which is why
he has had Olive take the lead among regional towns on the
As for Large Parcel issues, Leifeld said he would continue
efforts to have the Ashokan reservoir removed from that
state legislation. Barringer complained that the Leifeld
administration has already spent $50,000 on lobbyists to
go to Albany and make that happen, but have so far been
Councilman Bruce LaMonda said that he is proudly running
on his record, calling himself “a proven fighter for
citizens in Olive” and one that aggressively fought
against the infamous Large Parcel Bill and one who will
continue to do so. He warned that the matter may rear its
head again because the State Office of Real Property does
not accept the value of the Ashokan Reservoir that the town
and the City of New York agreed to in a settlement two years
LaMonda also had the morning’s sole emotional moment,
holding back tears as he thanked his wife, Carol (a columnist
for this publication) for her years of inspiration and support.
Linda Burkhardt said she hopes that the Ashokan Reservoir
property and Olive no longer fit the criteria to qualify
for participating large parcel program, which is designed
to limit the fluctuation of the value of infrastructure
like reservoirs and power plants year after year. She also
feels that, in general, the election this year should not
be about providing on the job training for new recruits.
“Experience is vital,” she said.
Council candidate Craig Grazier, perhaps the event’s
most composed speaker, alongside town justice incumbent
Timothy Cox, noted that the Ashokan does not fit the large
parcel mold well because it is municipally owned and will
stay that way.
“The only thing that goes up and down at the Ashokan
is the water level,” he said. Grazier, while new to
politics, views running for town board as an extension of
his lifelong work in community service.
Rita Vanacore, running on her own line, said that large
parcel appears to be the State’s attempt to deal with
the privatization of resources. Vanacore added that voters
should choose her because she does not belong to any political
“By being non partisan I do not have a political agenda,”
Don VanBuren said that regardless of all the above, the
town must “pound the state” to get lawmakers
to amend the large parcel legislation and remove reservoirs
from the list of eligible infrastructure. VanBuren, another
political novice, said he has developed an interest in public
service. He also noted how nervous he felt, at several points.
“There’s really a lot going on in town and I
really want to be involved,” he said.
Candidates for superintendent of highways, incumbent Jim
Fugel and challenger Chet Scofield, mixed it up over the
town’s highway budget. Both were asked how they would
make cuts to the costs of taking care of the roads and bridges.
Scofield admitted that he had not taken a good look at the
budget and was therefore not ready to speak specifically
about any cost cutting details. However, he did imply that
if he did look it over, he would find something.
“There’s always room for improvement,”
Fugel jumped up and said “the only way to cut the
budget is to cut services,” and said that most residents
would find such cuts hard to accept. Fugel also said that
taking care of roads has become more sophisticated, and
that full blown paving has become the norm, even on the
smallest of lanes.
Cox and town justice challenger Earla VanKleek each said
that they feel they bring different skills sets to the bench.
He also publicly noted that the town court, which doubles
as its meeting hall, badly needed new carpeting. She said
that local justices are the closest to the people, and that
being an attorney isn’t necessarily the best thing
to be for a judge, noting that, “Those not schooled
in law have the most common sense.”
Town Clerk Sylvia Rozelle is running unopposed this year.
At Saturday’s event, Leifeld announced that Rozelle
planned on attending but became ill the day before.
Much discussion was held about the possibility of televising
town meetings over public access television, as in neighboring
Woodstock and Shandaken, and making working budgets and
proposed resolutions better available on the town’s
Both ideas were soundly supported by all challenging candidates
and joked about by Leifeld, who said he couldn’t understand
why anyone would want to watch town business on the television,
or try reading so much budget material.
He then smiled subtly at his own humor.
Plenty Good Enough Life
Thus started a day of specifics, from increasingly extreme weather
patterns to dramatically higher precipitation levels, in winter
as well as spring and fall.
The problem with increases in winter precipitation, of an average
20 to 30 percent over the next decade, is that it results in
greater runoff, said Lowery. Which means better planning for
floods and erosion must be made. Meanwhile, he added, with snow-covered
days decreasing by as many as four to eight days per month under
the best scenario, and by 10-15 days per month under the worst,
the region’s winter sports industry would grow ever more
expensive to maintain.
“Many skiers could leave New York to ski elsewhere,”
said the official from the same agency that owns Belleayre,
and is currently holding off on long-planned expabsion to the
facility. “In fact, one study predicted that conditions
will make all ski areas in the Catskills ‘highly vulnerable’
by the period 2010 to 2039.”
“Obviously, forests do not get up and move, and it is
unlikely that trees in the Catskills will be killed outright
by rising temperatures. But warmer, dryer soils will favor reproduction
of trees more commonly found to the south or at lower elevations,”
Lowery continued, after noting that dairy farms will likely
have to start air conditioning their barns within the next 10
years. “Species composition of our hardwood forests will
shift away from the yellow birch-beech-maple type to types dominated
by oaks and hickories.”
The only answer to even worse scenarios, he said – setting
the trend for the remainder of the conference – was to
start adapting and shifting the ways local towns and businesses
operated. Which, he added, was essentially more doable in rural
communities such as those in the Catskills, where natural resources
were still available.
The idea of hazard mitigation planning in general,was the focus
of much of the remainder of the morning sessions, where state
and local officials talked about creating better planning for
future flood disasters in the Catskills, as well as what worked
and what didn’t anymore in regards to bridge, road and
“The bottom line is, we need to get out of the floodplains,”
said Delaware County Commissioner of Public Works Wayne Reynolds
bluntly, showing off even blunter images of flooding throughout
the area in recent years. “It’s time to take a hard
lok at things.”
On a brighter scale, Schoharie County Planner Lillian Bruno
talked about a new program she’d initiated utilizing a
Community Rating System for town and hamlet flood protections
that would cut costs of national flood insurance for homeowners
in communities that participated. A whole crew of officials
from the neighboring town of Hunter presented all they were
up to, from using temporary rechargeable electric Zip Car rentals
to attract tourists from the city and Europe to the building
of a new solar-aided wind generator at the town’s recycling
station and highway garage.
Big moves are also building towards the use of grass pellet
heating systems, in Delaware and Greene counties, on a municipal
basis, as well as a new company et up to manufacture the same
locally, using grasses from former and still-active dairy farms
throughout the area.
Wood’s getting new and better applications as well, noted
another panel who spoke about the new Woody Biomass energy options
utilizing pellets made from wood chips and other matter, being
tried out in a host of local schools including Onteora.
And in Sullivan County, the Town of Forestburgh is running light-bulb
exchanges, helping write grant applications for homeowners,
and using other means in what’s proving to be an effective
means of not only cutting down their community’s carbon
imprint, but saving money for taxpayers and town taxes.
At the day’s half-way point, author and motivational speaker
Mimi Katzenbach tied things together with a local twist by talking
about how smaller communities like those in the Catskills needed
to “make a U-Turn” on many things and return to
what she dubbed a “maker culture of localized products
and solutions where people could still have what she recalled
elders talking about from the region’s past: “a
plenty good enough life.”
“Yes, there is good news about climate change. But to
find it, we have to shift our focus from how the climate is
responding to what human beings are doing, to how humans are
responding to what the climate is doing,” Katzenbach said
as the women in her audience leaned forward and the men crossed
their arms. “The key to the Transition process is what
I call the three “R’s” of Transition: Relocalization,
Resilience, and Reskilling.”
By the end of her talk, the men were leaning forward, to. And
ready for solution- and project-specific infrastructure sessions
for planners, highway superintendents, and anyone interested
in new sorts of economic development.
Throughout it all, Alan Rosa, the former town supervisor who
now heads the Catskill Watershed Corporation, event’s
sponsoring agency, beamed about the future, and the growing
optimism of the fellow officials and can-do sorts in attendance.
He promised that, within a few weeks, a full report and copies
of everyone’s presentations would be available online.
And then the U-Turn would be started, in earnest.
an email early Tuesday morning, Superintendent Leslie Ford wrote,
“I’m glad to reach what seems will be a solid successor
agreement, and maintained a positive relationship with our valued
teachers.” She added that school board members fully participated
and supported the agreement. School board president Laurie Osmond
said many parties were involved during the long night including
Ford, Interim Business Administrator Don Gottlieb, OTA president
and Middle School teacher Corey Cavallaro, the district’s
lawyer, and a State appointed Assistant Director of Conciliation
(fact finder) through the Public Employment Relations Board
(PERB). Osmond said there were also other OTA and NYSUT representatives
present. During a phone conversation, Osmond said that after
a 15 hour all-night meeting she was surprised that everyone
was still in good spirits. “I feel like the board went
into mediation session fully unified, committed to seeing this
through and finding a solution for everybody.”
Details of the new contract have not become available. Both
the rank and file of teachers and the Onteora school board still
need to vote to ratify the agreement. Ford said that she expects
to have board ratification “in the next few days.”
The district and the non-teacher’s association (ONTEA)
have not reached agreement on a new contract. Osmond said that
she hopes to come to agreement with that union in the near future.
The five-year contract that expired on July 1, 2008 that has
remained in effect in lieu of a new pact, provides first year
teachers with a Masters Degree with a base salary of $53,687.
In the State of New York a teacher cannot gain tenure without
a Masters. A teacher can teach for five years without a Masters
degree. Under the old contract a teacher receives a yearly Step
increase of 3.5 percent. This can fluctuate and at 22 steps
(22 years of teaching) a teacher has reached a cap on allowable
According to a chart provided by Cavallaro, Onteora teachers
are neither the highest nor the lowest paid in the county. Under
the old contract, they rank fourth from the top, out of ten
Cavallaro, a week ago, warned against lower paid teachers. “It
would seriously hamper our ability to recruit teachers,”
he said adding that last year Onteora lost three employees to
higher paying districts. Onteora also no longer has the highest
paid long-tenured teachers or those making over $98,000. Since
a large group of senior teachers retired two years ago, the
district ranks number four from the bottom in those paid top
dollar, compared to other districts in the county.
Currently Onteora teachers pay five percent of their health
care premiums. The average county wide is near ten percent.
The costs of health care and retirement benefits have been driving
the budget increase in recent years. In the 2009/2010 budget,
the instructional employees benefit plan increased by 14.73
percent or $1.6 million, the largest increase in the budget.
At the same time there has been an increase of only 1.5 percent
in the instructional budget.
An employee family health care plan costs $15,685 per year.
Ford would not give details of the new pending contract, but
said the health care issue was a “biggie.”
She said everything needed to be considered with contracts,
not only salary, but the biggest problem of the rising cost
of health care.
She also said that she expects changes in State funding, possible
mid-year State cuts, smaller State input in retirement funds
and the Federal stimulus money coming to an end to create financial
holes in the budget. “In these times,” she said,
“we have to look at the whole financial situation, look
at the whole financial package and see what we can offer differently.”
What led to the stand off between OTA and the district, according
to Cavallaro, was a failure to have fruitful negotiation meetings
for nearly a year. Between April and September of 2008 an impasse
was jointly declared and a mediator hired, only to resign after
In January of 2009 things came to a halt. According to Cavallaro,
at this time the district requested that PERB appoint a fact-finder.
Between June and September 2009, the district canceled two out
of the three fact-finding sessions, information Cavallarro provided
The teachers began picketing on the first day of school, September
8 of this year and a crisis center was established. Past board
members would not attend any joint meetings with the union,
but five of the seven current school board trustees said they
would get involved once a new board majority took over in July.
After board members Michelle Friedel and Richard Wolff resigned
at the end of June 2009, two new trustees were appointed, Tom
Hickey and Rob Kurnit. They have been trustees for a little
over a month. Trustees Anne McGillicuddy, Osmond and Hickey
attended a joint meeting October 5, 2009.
The union threatened to hold a strike vote at 6 a.m. on Tuesday,
October 13. It is illegal in the State of New York for teachers
and other public employees to strike. A teacher could be fined
two days pay for each day on strike and possibly face additional
fines. The administration obtained a temporary restraining order
Friday, October 9, in an attempt to block a strike vote from
Also, on Friday October 9, the school board approved a list
of over 200 potential substitute teachers pulled from other
school districts in the event a strike. The board also approved
$200 a day, double a day’s pay for substitutes to cross
the picket line, if need be, in order to keep the schools open.
John Daido Loori, Abbott of the Zen Mountain Monastery
in Mt. Tremper and founder of the Mountains and Rivers
Order of Zen Buddhism, died at home at the monastery on
the Old Plank Road October 9, surrounded by his loved
ones. He was 78 and had been diagnosed with lung cancer
18 months ago. More perhaps than anyone in Shandaken’s
modern history, the lives he touched and the legacy he’s
leaving have profoundly impacted this town and region,
and the world beyond.
Many hundreds of people since 1980 have settled in these
valleys to be close to the institution he created and
to share in its communal life. His twenty books on Buddhism
have touched millions, interpreting for western readers
the core values of a major religious tradition which originated
in Japan but which has developed under Loori its own uniquely
American path. The monastery in Mt. Tremper has evolved
into one of the world’s leading teaching centers
of the Zen tradition, and one of largest and most influential
in the United States.
“He played a very formative role in broadening the
output of Zen, from the way it was originally perceived
as mostly meditation, without compromising the rigor of
the traditions,” said Robert Thurman, a longtime
friend, professor of Buddhist Studies at Columbia, and
the founder of Tibet House in New York and the Menla Mountain
Retreat Center in Woodland Valley. “He encouraged
people to get into the environmental arts, engage in the
livelihood of the community by starting Dharma Communications
(the order’s media arm), do prison work, and focus
on the ethics of the community. He was also really great
in his own right as an artist.”
Raised in a working class family in Jersey City, at ten
Loori began a lifelong love and study of photography.
Later he joined the Navy, and worked as a physical chemist
for 17 years. In his late 30’s he became a student
of renowned photographer Minor White, where he first began
to explore the connection between creativity and spiritual
experience. He later wrote “I was able to enter
the religious life through the back door of the arts,
and gradually trust my life to lead me where it would.”
In the early 70’s Loori was introduced to the Zen
tradition by master Eido Shimano at the Dai Bosatsu Zendo,
a monastery in Livingston Manor, and beginning a period
of training that included extended visits and artistic
collaborations at the country’s leading Zen centers.
He started the Zen Mountain Monastery after finding an
old Lutheran retreat open for spiritual uses in 1980.
In the nearly 30 years since, ZMM has become home to a
key communications center and publishing concern, an environmental
studies center, and a range of teaching programs.
Daido is survived by his wife, Rachel Loori Romero; brothers
Joseph Loori and Sal Salerno, sons John Peter Loori, David
Loori, and Asian Loori; and four grandchildren. Funeral
arrangements by the E.B. Gormley Funeral Home. A major
memorial service is being planned for the region in December.
Jar Of Olives...
My Brother Or Sister’s Keeper...
Twenty-five flags made by the Senior Art Group, by the children
of the Library’s summer reading program, and by day campers
of Olive Recreation were displayed at the ceremony opening The
Walkway over the Hudson, a state park with National landmark
Status. Olive joined forty-nine other towns in “The Walking
on Air Procession.” Primo and JoAnne Stropoli represented
Samsonville; Lenny and Ellen Holmes, Krumville; Kate McGloughlin
and Sarah Stitham, Olivebridge; Jeannie and Billy Bachor, Shokan,
and Deb Weir for Boiceville. Other residents joined this enthusiastic
group bearing flags and goodwill from Olive.
My flag was actually chosen to represent Olive in the fifty-square
quilt. There were many better-crafted and designed squares,
so I am convinced that the subject matter was the only reason
for their choice. I chose to represent us with A JAR OF OLIVES.
The American Legion has constructed a kiosk at the side of the
building on Mountain Road in Shokan. It reads: “In honor
of those who served.” Names of veterans will be listed
and honored there.
It reminds me that each of us can serve in some way, and that
we each are here to help one another. How do you help out? First
of all, be informed. Attend town meetings, all are open to the
public, to keep informed and add your ideas. Sometimes the Town
Board can outnumber its audience. The only person you can count
on to be at every single meeting is Everett Cook. He gets lonely
there. Join him sometime. If you can’t attend in person,
check out the Town website. Stop by the town office and ask,
“What’s new or what can I do?” There are seniors
who need company; there are handicapped who might need someone
to shop or do an errand. Churches, civic organizations like
the Fire Department and Ambulance Services need volunteers.
Or you could sing as the combined choirs of Samsonville and
Olivebridge Methodist churches did in a concert organized and
starring Rene Bailey and her Saints of Swing Band. Ed Baldyga
sang a solo of “Danny Boy” that brought tears to
the eyes of the audience.
Or you could join the Cub Scouts at their breakfast at the Olivebridge
Firehouse next Saturday, October 24.
There is a force called synergy that believes that the energy
of many people or many ideas combine to create a solution that
is bigger than the sum of its individuals. Many voices, many
hands and many ideas contribute to the greater good.
For example, someone could videotape our public meetings. A
civic organization might set up a recycling center at the parks.
Returnable cans might add to a club’s coffers and help
the environment at the same time.
Someone answers the 911 call. Someone delivers Meals on Wheels.
Someone sits on the Zoning Board of Appeals. “Someone”
all can’t do it all, but someone may want to do a little
more. Even a phone call to a shut-in makes someone’s day
a little better. We need to be our brother or sister’s
keeper. After all, this small town is our geographical family.