Follow Up on the
For The New...
the board included rescinding of the 5-8 middle school plan
and election of a new board president and vice president.
By a unanimous decision, newly elected board member Ralph
Legnini was chosen as the board president. Trustees Michelle
Friedel and Rick Wolff nominated Maxanne Resnick as Vice
President, but she was defeated by Laurie Osmond, approved
by newly elected menbers Donna Flayhan, Ann McGillicuddy,
Osmond and Legnini.
Legnini explained in a written statement that board members
and the public don’t always have to agree, but everyone’s
voice will be heard. He added that he appreciated the school
board’s unanimous decision to elect him.
“Considering the divisiveness over the past number
of years it was a real nice, classy gesture by everyone,”
In a 5-2 vote, the school board rescinded the middle school
plan that would have closed Phoenicia elementary school
and create a 5-8 middle school. Legnini, Osmond, Flayhan,
Resnick and McGillicuddy all voted in favor of rescinding
the plan, with Friedel and Wolff voting against.
The board debated over the last sentence of the resolution
that placed the 5-8 option in a moratorium for further discussion.
Resnick, who initially voted in favor of the Middle School
plan, voted to rescind… but wanted more wording.
“I can support this just so long as it doesn’t
preclude that discussion of a five-eight going forward or
some of the other things,” she said.
Ford said it was written so it does not prevent anyone from
“It indicates that there will be further discussion,”
But trustee Flayhan voiced concerns with the wording because
they were elected to specifically rescind the plan and move
Trustee Wolff said, “Now we don’t have any plan
right now, but as we go forward we don’t know how
long it’s going to be; you don’t want the question
raised at all?”
Flayhan explained that the subject could still be raised,
but feared that the additional sentence was too specific.
“What we want to discuss as a body is all the options,
not just this particular configuration,” she explained.
The school board changed the wording of the last sentence
to include the 5-8 Middle school plan, along with all other
options that will be up for discussion.
In other business, the school board got into a lengthy discussion
over the creation and continuation of six committees. The
audit committee is state mandated; it’s only current
member, Sante Moesle, reminded the board that they must
attend the next meeting on July 7th and appoint a chairperson.
The facilities, policy, technology, audit, communication
and green committees were up for debate.
Flayhan said that too many committees creates a lack of
transparency and results in more bureaucracy. Friedel added
that when she attended the New York State School board training,
she discovered that, “committees can be very controversial,
there are pros and cons to each side, as we are finding
out.” She said that they should look at what the district
“The reason you have committees is for the board to
give committees a charge, look at the goals, look at our
policies and come back to us, so we are not overburdened,”
All the committees were eventually approved, but Osmond
and Flayhan abstained from the communication committee vote.
They were not specifically against the committee but concerned
about specific responsibilities, costs of calendars, purposes
and newsletters. Wolff explained that former board member
Dave Patterson started the communications committee in order
to get more information out to people in the district. Flayhan
said communication to the public should be the responsibility
of hired administrators. Ford said the newsletter began
with the communication committee but has become more student
centered with the help of administrators.
Other Side Of Memoirs
I don’t even mean stories that they might be saving for
their therapists--- tales of obsessive love, days of sorrow
and despair, bad nights filled with suicidal thoughts or murderous
Oh, no, I mean full-on, BIG stories, huge secrets that they
have never shared with a soul before. Stories about cheating
and binging and lying and more. Stories about bags of stolen
money stashed in the basement behind the boiler, or husbands
that are secretly gay, or how they are sleeping around, binging
on drugs and alcohol, lying to their friends and families. Accounts
of spouses who hit them, or spouses they hit. Stories of elderly
parents who are being mistreated, or parents who are knocking
around their kids,
Stories that, frankly, make me blush, which is no easy feat.
Oftentimes I am scared, because the stories come from so deep
in the heart, so filled with fear and shame, that I don’t
know what to say. I’m not a therapist, and have been known
to be greatly unawares, going through my life on only a wing
and a prayer.
But when someone tells me one of their secrets, there’s
only one thing I know for sure--- I will take these stories
to my grave. And I think that’s why people are sharing
these anecdotes with me--- because they know I will never, ever
tell a soul.
Because I was honest in my memoir, Hats & Eyeglasses, because
I told about my own addiction and how horribly it affected my
life, and, most importantly, because I admitted that I had never
told anyone about my own demons, people feel that they can share
anything with me. And because the book is funny, because I made
them laugh in between cringing for me, they feel that there
might be something lighthearted and utterly human in what I
did. They always start off by telling me that what they’re
doing is worse than what I did, which I often doubt. But because
they cannot see anything remotely humorous in their own stories,
it does seem like mine was a combination of the horrific and
the hysterical, like Lucy becoming a kleptomaniac or an overeater
while at the chocolate factory. Cue up the laugh track!
So people have been emailing and telling me that they are staying
up all night for 5 days in a row playing online poker and then
walking into the operating room to do surgery, or that they
have stolen their kids college fund and put it into a slot machine
in the local casino. They stop me at the post office and ask
if they can meet me for lunch. I can see the look in their eyes,
the furtiveness, the tears welling up. And part of me wants
to run away. I'm afraid that their secrets will overwhelm me,
that I'll take on their problems as my own. But I don’t
run away. I meet them at Bread Alone, and over grilled portobelo
mushroom paninis I listen, because I wish that when I was in
trouble--- when I was playing poker online and lying and afraid
all the time--- that there might have been someone, anyone,
that I could have opened up to.
Do I think that would have changed the outcome for me? No, not
at all. But I think that it might have moved things along quicker,
that I might have stopped earlier than I did, and that when
people tell me their dirty little (and big) secrets, it brings
them one step closer to stopping the downward spiral of their
own lives. I hope that by telling me they are taking the first
step to getting help, or telling the truth to their families,
or maybe even telling the truth to themselves..
At least that's what I tell myself. So if you see me at the
supermarket, please don’t hesitate. I’m dying to
know what’s on your mind.
Martha Frankel’s great book, Hats & Eyeglasses: A
Family Love Affair With Gambling, is available in bookstores
and online... and is a real blast. Get it!
Declaration Of War?
“I am urging Ulster County residents to stick together
and defend Belleayre against unjustified criticism and if they
continue, I urge Ulster residents to boycott Hunter and Windham,”
Donaldson said at the county legislative offices in Kingston,
standing alone despite invitations to his fellow legislators
to join him. “It’s all about money… I say
we take a stance here in Ulster County.”
Donaldson’s attacks against his neighboring county, and
the state, came after he and the legislature were called to
the carpet by Coalition to Save Belleayre Chairman Joe Kelly
in a June 24 press release for not being supportive enough of
its major ski area.
Kelly’s angry missive reacted to news that a bill proposed
by state Sen. James Seward to set up a commission to study unfair
competitive practice’s on the state’s part in the
outdoor recreation industry had passed both the state Assembly
and Senate and was awaiting the governor’s signature.
Officials in Greene County have complained that Belleayre and
similar facilities have an unfair advantage because they can
charge lower prices than private businesses and, thanks to taxpayer
funding, not have to worry about losing money.
“The Ulster County Legislature has been totally AWOL on
this issue,” wrote Kelly in his call to action aimed directly
at Donaldson, Chairman of that body. “The inattention
of this county administration to this issue is mind-boggling
to me. These governmental officials say tourism is important
to the county, but they sit back silently while Greene County
relentlessly attacks the biggest attraction in western Ulster
County. If they aren’t willing to fight for a property
that pulls 200,000 visitors a year across the county from Kingston
to Highmount, what will they fight for?”
The state-owned ski area, created in 1949, has been the center
of much controversy in the past year since former Governor Eliot
Spitzer announced an Agreement in Principle with local developer
Dean Gitter and his Crossroads Ventures to conjoin their proposed
upscale Belleayre Resort to long-awaited expansion plans for
the family-oriented ski area. The September, 2007 “compromise
plan” was signed on to by a number of national and state
environmental organizations who had previously opposed the resort
development, spurred Kelly’s Coalition to come out as
avid supporters’ of Gitter’s development, and focused
a private ski area response, led by Greene County’s Hunter
and Windham Mountains, to have the increased competition of
such a public/private entity looked into.
The legislation now sparking all the battle-cries is for the
formation of a blue ribbon commission okayed last month, “to
examine issues surrounding the public ownership of outdoor recreational
facilities and make recommendations regarding methods to promote
competition in the outdoor recreation industry.”
The measure passed unanimously in the state Senate and with
only two no votes in the Assembly, one of those being Ulster
County legislator Kevin Cahill. It is currently awaiting signing
by Governor Dave Paterson, who has yet to veto a legislative
bill sent to him. The blue ribbon commission will include appointed
members that represent the interests of both privately and publicly
owned outdoor recreational facilities.
The move to create a commission to look into unfair competition
on state-owned Belleayre’s part, as well as other publicly-owned
recreational facilities being increasingly paired up with private
development around the state, started during the Spring and
Summer of 2007 when Spitzer began holding a series of closed-door
talks involving Gitter, state DEC officials (also in charge
of the resort and expansion’s environmental reviews),
and opposing environmental organizations. In his Albany offices
with strict gag orders.
A story on the current and expected effects of Climate Change
on the Catskills, state and entire Northeast ski industries
last summer yielded comments from Hunter Mountain Ski Center
owner Orville Slutzky, then turning 90, that he and other ski
areas were worrying about increased competition as their markets
“The ones who’ll come out the winners in all this
are the state-owned areas. If we’re not careful, they’ll
be all that’s left,” Slutzky said. “As for
building hotels up there at Belleayre, I don’t think the
state constitution allows it. This stuff needs to be looked
into if you ask me.”
Those concerns pushed the two Greene County ski areas to get
their county legislature and state representatives on board
to push for the current legislation, which aimed its sights
at state competitiveness after discussions with the trade association,
Ski Association of New York, and other northeast ski areas,
showed a reluctance to go after private development.
In addition to the 30-plus members of SANY, the blue ribbon
commission legislation and opposition to the current public-private
Belleayre expansion plans have also been signed on to by the
state-owned ski area’s nearest neighbor, Delaware County-based
According to Kelly, though, any attack on the current expansion
plans are an attack on the state-owned ski area’s survival.
“This legislation was pushed through by Greene County
real estate interests in protectionist efforts to grab an ever
greater share of the skier visits to the Catskill Region,”
he said in his press release, sent to the entire ski industry
press as well as the county and state legislatures. “We
call on Governor Paterson to veto this legislation and urge
all Belleayre Mt. supporters to call and e-mail the governor
on this matter,”
Donaldson, upping the ante after Kelly’s challenge, went
one better by not only taking on his neighboring county and
their two main businesses, but the state legislature as well…
including not only Senators William Larkin and John Bonacic
but, by inference, the body’s new Senate Majority Leader
Dean Skelos, a longtime supporter of Belleayre and friend of
“If this legislation becomes law, it calls into question
the State’s right to provide low cost recreation for its
citizens,” Donaldson said in his press conference. “Are
they going to study the impact of Jones Beach? Bethpage Golf
Course? State Campgrounds? And how about local parks, pools
and the like, that receive State funding? When they finish studying
the impact of State recreation outdoors - will they then study
the impact of the State University system on private colleges?
The State has legitimate interest in operating recreation facilities
and does it well and in line with its mandates. The study being
proposed is a waste of time and money.”
In a separate interview, Donaldson grew even sharper in his
criticisms. referring to his own experience with blue-ribbon
panels and commissions created at the county level that “just
go on and on and really come back with nothing.”
Asked about Donaldson’s dramatic stance after the press
conference, the chairman’s fellow legislators were supportive,
but also admitted not having read the blue ribbon commission
legislation being questioned so vehemently.
District Two’s second legislator Don Gregorius noted that
although Donaldson’s Hunter/Windham boycott was not something
the legislature had ever agreed on, his chairman’s stance
represented “an educated decision” and he would
support a resolution calling for the governor’s veto of
the state legislation to create a study commission… if
it came up.
But he added that with Donaldson now on vacation in Ireland,
it was unlikely any formal action would be taken in the coming
“I’m very disappointed. Besides having a lot of
people in Ulster County - a lot of employees in Ulster County
- we do a lot of business in Ulster County,” noted Hunter
Mt. Manager Russ Coloton of Donaldson’s diatribe in a
personal interview. “It’s a shame that this is being
blown out of proportion. I think it’s pretty fair legislation…
To make this a Hatfields and McCoys thing with Ulster County
is not good.”
The Hunter manager’s equal at nearby Windham Mountain,
Tim Woods, added that he found it “curious” that
Donaldson, and Belleayre-supporter Kelly, would be so vehemently
opposed to the state creating a commission to look at state-owned
Speaking on behalf of Bonacic, long seen as a key supporter
of both Belleayre and the resort project, the Senator’s
Chief of Staff, Langdon Chapman, said his boss disagreed with
the base assumption of the legislation but believes taxpayers
have a right to know how their money is spent. Furthermore,
he found Donaldson’s attack offensive.
“After scrutiny, we believe Belleayre will come out smelling
like a rose,” he said, accusing the Ulster County Legislative
Chairman of employing scare tactics and nonsense.
Finally, Dennis Lucas, head of the Coalition of Watershed Towns
but also supervisor of the Town of Hunter, whose economy could
be hurt should anyone heed Donaldson’s words and actually
boycott his town’s leading destination, said that although
his regional entity wasn’t getting involved in the situation,
he was personally offended by what was happening.
“I think what this comes down to is having someone look
long and hard at the impacts of this Spitzer deal, Lucas said.
We need to know the effects of what’s being planned on
neighboring counties, other ski areas, and other businesses.
Our state has a responsibility to the entire state in regards
to Belleayre, and not just its supporters. There’s an
awful lot of state money involved in all of this. With growing
concerns about Climate Change, this has become risky business.”
Hits Our Shores
With all of the ‘For Sale’ signs going up in the
area, it’s natural to wonder just how directly related
they are to the dramatic shift in the economic landscape within
the past year and signs along that trail are alarming at a glance,
to say the least and even more so the closer you look. With
the dollar shrinking under huge budget and trade deficits, food
and fuel prices climbing expeditiously, even moderate income
families are reaching limits already breeched by those in less
fortunate circumstances as economic forecasters speak of a "foreclosure
tsunami" bearing down on us.
Chief Deputy Ulster County Clerk Nina Postupack reports that
judgments of foreclosure in the county, from January to June
16th this year, have swelled to 143, compared to 82 in 2007
and the sharply upward trend seems to be just getting started
after holding to a reasonably gradual increase since 2003, which,
she said, is as far back as the system currently in place would
allow her to check. (There were 71 in 2006; 69 in 2005; 70 in
2004 and 65 in 2003.)
For homeowners in Olive, with a pressured reval inflating their
properties near the height of the last real estate bubble, the
current deflation in true value doesn’t paint a pretty
picture but there are much more threatening situations developing
which deserve urgent attention. Since national media has been
soft-pedaling or ignoring these developments (for reasons which
will become apparent), some readers may be as shocked as if
NASA suddenly discovered parking tickets on its Mars rovers
but the evidence and indications are too abundant and substantial
for us to ignore any longer. So, this report will outline them
as simply and concisely as space will permit.
Cutting through a forest of financial opinion from experts with
vested interests is a bothersome chore for anyone who wants
to know what’s really going on and how it is destined
to impact our region, so I’m going to distill the views
to a few representative examples.
Trends Research Institute is described by The Economist magazine
as "a network of 25 experts whose range of specialties
would rival many university faculties" and its CEO, Gerald
Celente, has a perspective on the current situation widely shared
on Wall Street. A Dutchess County resident since 1979, Celente
maintains an office in Kingston as part of the firm’s
operation which strives "to see where we are, understand
how we got here and forecast where we're going and to provide
insights and directions to help better prepare for what the
future may bring."
"It’s more than the Northeast. This is a global meltdown.
Every stock market around the world is involved," Celente
said on Monday. "The New York markets started to unravel
almost a year ago-July 24th, to be precise-when the subprime
problems hit. But, it’s much bigger than subprime; it’s
all of these leveraged buy-outs- the Blackstones, the Carlyle
Groups, Cerberus (Capital Management LP) that have been buying
all these multi-billion dollar companies, Chrysler, Hilton,
with virtually no money down. The subprime is an easy one to
blame- ‘the little people went in over their heads, hee
hee’-but how about all of this commercial development-
the malls, office buildings, condominiums? Now you have a credit
squeeze and foreclosures are just a part of a huge problem that’s
not going to go away. It’s only going to get much worse,
When Celente returned from a trip to South Africa last week,
he said he found a notice of a fuel oil delivery on his doorknob
and had to wonder "How are people going to afford this?
How are elderly people on fixed incomes; people that are living
from paycheck to paycheck now- how are they going to be able
to make it?"
T old that was the answer being sought by the present phone
call, Celente bluntly responded, "They’re not going
to...This is what people don’t want to face and they’re
not talking about it. ‘Well, maybe things will chanage
around.’ Yeah, maybe Santa Claus will come, too... People
are not prepared. They’re not standing up, taking precautionary
actions. No one is. Every community should be cutting back now.
Every community should have contingency plans and they’re
not doing it. They don’t want to face it. ‘The future
is off limits’ is what it basically comes down to. If
there’s a cabinet position that’s missing, it should
be, as Kurt Vonnegut said, a Minister of the Future."
Celente wasn’t one to be shocked by Martian parking tickets,
as he points out, his Trends Journal newsletter forecast the
coming "Panic of ‘08" before the fact and his
projections for the near future are as grim as a Diogenes searching
for an honest man in the U.S. Senate. Recent trips to Rome and
Paris showed him first-hand how swiftly rates of exchange, based
on the "petro dollar," are shifting to make up for
the loss in value of the American dollar.
"What they’re going to have to do in order to salvage
the dollar is raise interest rates," said Celente, reciting
a familiar see-saw theory of economics. "They’re
going to start doing that after the election and slow down an
already slowed down economy even more. When you lower interest
rates to juice the economy, you devalue the dollar and that’s
part of what got us into this in the first place, following
the phoney ‘Dot-com’ bubble burst of 2000. After
9/11 they lowered the interest rates 17 consecutive times, flooding
the marketplace with cheap dollars, building on speculation
instead of letting the decline of excess take its course. Anybody
who thinks these Presidential candidates are coming up with
a solution, don’t know the first thing they’re talking
There are other strong indications to suggest that a political
solution isn’t in the offing and, more than that, when
you look closely at the precise mechanisms which produced the
crisis and the deliberate structuring of current situation,
a political and economic landscape becomes visible which is
infinitely more alarming.
To do that, we’ll need to look at views which diverge
from Celente’s on certain key issues, like the allegations
that energy and food prices are being driven up by major speculators
at the Wall Street casino; allegations that were the subject
of hearings by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission last
week with New York Mercantile Exchange President James Newsome
and others testifying in regard to possible regulation of energy
futures markets. An examination of this and other issues will
help to explain exactly what is happening to the economy, how
and why it’s happening and what we can expect in our future.
As we will see in the second part of this report, when we look
at author William Engdahl’s detailed analysis (as representative
of a school of thought apart from Celente’s understandably
defensive stance as a commodity trader, himself, since 1978),
of how the creation of what is now called the "Enron loophole"
eight years ago and a crucial change in the way oil is traded
has led, deliberately, to today’s situation. We’ll
also engage in some obvious and nonpartisan speculation of our
own as to where it’s leading us and justify the call of
an "alarmist" when an alarm needs to be sounded.
Jar Of Olives...
The Shokan Reformed Church, commonly known as the Stone Church
on Route 28, is having a Flea Market on July 5 from 9 to 3.
Table space costs $15.00 and can be arranged by calling Lynn
Swenson at 657-2547. The rain date will be July 12.
There’s no good news out there on the cable networks,
so I plan to share some good news with you before I comment
on the fact that we will be prisoners in our cold homes eating
four-dollar-a-box cereal with five-dollar-a-gallon milk this
winter with oil and gas prices going through the roof.
Here’s a sampling of Olive’s good news:
LeGrand Shultis and wife Dottie just celebrated 74 years of
marriage. Now that’s a long attention span!
Bruce and I just had our 43rd wedding anniversary. Thirty-one
more to go, sweetie!
Michael Gagliardi just got married on June 21.
Sara Sofranko made the Dean’s List at Cortland.
Caleb Merante was the Salutatorian of the Alternative School.
Kathy Carle retired.
DonDuBois became a great, great grandfather.
June is a month for celebration. It is the month for weddings,
graduations, births, retirements, and school endings.
June is usually not the time of year to hear chainsaws. As I
write this column, I hear dueling chainsaws going as people
try to prepare for what will be a challenging winter with heating
oil at least double last year’s quoted prices. Gas prices
have passed the “Shock and Awe” phase of public
reaction. Now we get to see the surcharges tacked on bills for
deliveries and utilities. Food at the supermarkets has climbed
a few cents higher each week. The food market is the only market
that has been on an upward curve. The stock market has tanked.
The housing market is deplorable.
As a topic of conversation, people grouse and complain about
the economy and ask, “What are THEY going to do about
this?” First of all, I am not sure who THEY are, but I
know it is time to start making some noise about it so THEY
can hear us loud and clear.
I am listening to politicians discuss which path to take to
lead us out of this economic quagmire. I want to scream back,
“Do it all! Do something!” I truly believe all the
technology is out there. Cars, even big ones, can get much better
mileage. You can buy “chips” that increase a car’s
mileage, but car manufacturers dissuade purchasers by saying
that these alterations will void the manufacturer’s warrantee.
We are overlooking the free energy of sun and wind. Why not
run our vehicles and furnaces on processed garbage so the bears
can’t strew it up and down the neighborhood on pick-up
days? We have the options, but the corporate empires have not
divvied up the loot in this new era of Capitalism. The problem
lies not in the options but in how our economy will structure
the profits. CEO’s are sitting down to corporate lunches
sorting out whose pockets will benefit from which alternate
Why not go back to bartering with countries that hold us hostage
with oil? Why not trade wheat and corn for oil? We can exchange
one carton of Doritos for a barrel of crude oil. Let’s
not worry about the dollar’s worth against the pound,
euro or yen. They need food; we need energy products. I know
that’s way too simple, but we do have some bargaining
chips. (Chips! Did you get that pun?)
Also, let’s get rid of all that excess packaging. I am
noticing more shoppers bringing their own cloth bags. Why can’t
manufacturers pare down the paper and plastic that envelops
the product? When Bruce, JanWullum and John Parete went to Lillihammer,
Norway for the winter Olympics, the “paper” plates
and cups were edible because they were made of cornstarch. The
animals, and hungry spectators, could consume the waste.
Can you imagine the cost of school bus transportation that will
fall on the backs of the taxpayers? Onteora is, geographically,
the second largest school district in New York State. Why not
consolidate some runs? The first high school late-run might
be incorporated with elementary dismissal. Some schools, and
industries, are trying four-day weeks to conserve energy.
Until THEY make some changes, WE will have to make some concessions
to our lifestyles. I, personally, will drop the temperature
of my hot tub a single degree and drink my Merlot without ice.
Seriously, there are ways we can conserve. Even small sacrifices
multiplied by millions can change the economy.