Follow Up on the
Which meant she’d have to explain to them who Williams
was, and all that was entailed with the shooting of a movie…
something that seems to be happening with increasing regularity
around these parts in recent years.
“I told the kids in my school that his was the voice
of Genie in ‘Alladin,’ and had a role in the
new ‘Robots,’ and they all said, ‘Oh right,
it’s Mr. Robot Man,’” Johnan recalls the
day after Williams’ shoot along Route 28. “Then
their casting people came up to me with a request…
did I know any eight year olds? I said my daughter, Elyssia,
will be getting off the bus right out front where they’re
shooting at 4 with a friend who might be what they were
looking for. But you know what? They picked my daughter
Elyssia Johnan, it turns out, will be appearing in the new
film Williams is shooting for 2006 release, The Night Listener,
as the face in a picture frame… much better for the
shy school starter’s daughter, according to her mom.
The Night Listener, also starring Toni Collette of About
A Boy fame, along with Sandra Oh of Sideways, is based on
the 2000 novel by NPR regular Armistead Maupin about a writer
attempting to bounce back from a broken relationship by
striking up a long-distance telephone friendship with a
dying boy, only to be confronted by troubling doubts about
identity. Patrick Stettner (The Business of Strangers) will
direct the Hart Sharp Entertainment project, which will
continue shooting around the area over the coming weeks.
Already the stories coming from the set, usually centered
around Williams’ sweetness and genuine ability to
touch all the fans that approach him, have become legion.
“My friend Ingrid Yanowski’s 14-year old daughter
Devon had been cast for the production but was then turned
down, on set, when it was discovered they actually wanted
someone much younger,” said our own advertising director
Marie Shultis. “’Awww… so you went and
grew a foot since this morning did you,’ Williams
told her as he came over to where Devon and my daughter,
Diandra, were standing. He signed autographs for all of
Diandra said the experience of talking with Williams, one
of her favorite actors, both live and as a cartoon voice,
“He was really nice,” she said. “He said
‘Hi’ and like when he signed the autograph he
wrote, ‘Write On.’ He was very friendly.”
Both Shultises added that the girl eventually picked by
the production, for which Williams is reportedly working
for a low $65,000 pay amount, was a 9 year old home schooler
in the area on vacation named Tiffany.
Yanowski, for her part, said she and her daughter had no
hard feelings about the false call, and loved being around
Williams, who they said talked quietly but intently with
all who approached him, seemingly to the hold-up of the
entire shooting schedule.
“”What can I say? She was a foot and a half
Johnan, meanwhile, said that during a break, Williams came
to the Discovery Preschool and said hello to all the students.
“’It’s Mr. Robot Man, It’s Mr. Robot
Man,’ was what they all said,” Johnan recalled.
“He was very soft spoken, asking each of my students
what their names were and if they liked school. He kept
saying how sweet he felt the school was and stopped with
everyone, asking about their bracelets and such.”
Johnan added that Reservoir Deli owners Julie and Brian
Scott were approached because of the presence of a large
cow outside their business. The film is supposed to take
place in Wisconsin.
“They changed all the license plates and everything,”
she added about the production. “It was an exciting
day for all of us.”
As for the autographs collected, Diandra Shultis summed
such treasure up well.
“It was on lined paper from my notebook,” she
said. “But my mom says I can get it framed.”
the one side was a large, sometimes-heckling crowd of Olive
residents, angry over major tax hikes brought on them by
the OCS board’s decision last summer to reapportion
taxes throughout the sprawling district using the controversial
new “Large Parcel” valuation alternative, as
well as a new possibility that two dozen West Shokan students
could be redistricted from the Bennett to the Phoenicia
On the other side, equally stalwart and confident, was new
Superintendent of Schools Justine Winters and her Business
Administrator, Victoria Garone, who presented a $43,011,778
budget proposal for the coming 2005/2006 school year that
represents a tight 3.86 percent hike over the current year’s
figures, and comes in a trifling third of one percent below
what the district would face were its budget voted down
a second year in a row, forcing Onteora into a second year
of austerity spending.
According to Winters and Garone, who gave a trio of fast-paced
Power Point budget presentations before getting to the total
spending figures proposed for the coming year, the major
savings they’d affected for the coming year was a
drop of 8.7 percent in district Special Education costs.
But they also noted careful trimming elsewhere, all as a
means of getting a budget passed this year despite a rancorous
climate evidenced by the arms-crossed and often belligerent
It was that presence, which numbered over 200 and filled
the school cafeteria to the bursting point, which set the
tone for at least the first half of the March 15 meeting.
Following a presentation on the district’s winning
Science Olympiad team, as well as a request by the Phoenicia
American Legion Post to retrieve its war memorial in front
of their community’s elementary school, over an hour
was spent hearing from a myriad of speakers, most from Olive.
Despite OCS President Marino D’Orazio’s opening
statement that the board could not legally discuss matters
involving Large Parcel decisions until formally asked to
by the state Office of Real Property Services after they
announced the presence of such a parcel within the district,
Olive Councilman Bruce La Monda started off by stating how
he was their representing 4,000 “very angry”
taxpayers who considered the whole issue “one of principal.”
La Monda’s fellow councilperson, Linda Burkhardt,
followed up by listing the various expensive things the
Town of Olive had done to avoid the Large Parcel tax change,
from successfully revaluing New York City’s Ashokan
Reservoir property for the betterment of the entire school
district (and a 28 percent hike in town taxes) to starting
a townwide reval.
“What else can we do? Is this all an exercise in futility,”
she asked, noting how she and others in Olive had been told,
a year ago, that they could avoid the tax hikes if they
“got their house in order.” “I would like
to be able to take this board at its word.”
Others spoke passionately about how hard it had become for
many old-timers in Olive to survive, because of the new
tax burden. People stood and cheered for their neighbors,
the orators. After school board candidate Rita Vanacore
spoke about the board facing lawsuits because of its actions,
several people started shouting from the corners of the
room until D’Orazio called for quiet, and a bit more
Finally, D’Orazio called for a five minute break from
the litany of speakers, which included several people from
the Phoenicia School praising redistricting plans, as well
as the afore-mentioned West Shokan parents noting how such
changes could ruin both their community and their kids.
When people returned, business proceeded into the evening’s
stuffed agenda, which included old business from March 1
and 8 meetings that had been cancelled because of snow.
It was only after Winters and Garone finished their budget
presentation that things finally started to calm down and
actually go quiet, audience-wise. A number of Olive residents
started leaving, carrying away their packets of lengthy
anti-Large Parcel handouts, handed out by the new ad hoc
organization Olive Matters and the more activist Charlie
D’Orazio and others on the board praised the new administrators
for their budget-cutting skills, making sure to point out
that a failed budget would effect few savings, and little
more than such painful phenomenon for the district as cancelled
Boardmember Dave Patterson gave an update on his Communications
Committee, noting that a district-wide newsletter could
be expected later this month, with a budget-specific follow-up
in early May.
Then Winters presented her redistricting proposal, put together
with a committee that included herself, Garone, Transportation
Director Betty Hughes and Carol Bush, Oneteora’s Head
The primary reason for the redistricting, Winters explained,
was to alleviate overcrowding at Woodstock Elementary caused
when students from West Hurley school were redistricted
there this year after their own school’s closing.
Three bus routes would be shifted to help create a better
mix of students per facility than what currently exists,
with 210 students at Phoenicia Elementary, 359 at Bennett
School in Boiceville, and 402 students at Woodstock Elementary.
Bus Route 5002, nicknamed the “Orange Pumpkin,”
and covering from Glasco Turnpike in Woodstock west to Mink
Hollow, will send 13 new students to Phoenicia.
Bus Route 5003, the “Blue Sailboat,” will take
12 students out of Woodstock from the Wittenberg Road area
Lastly, Bus Route 3001, the “Red Apple,” will
shift 24 West Shokan and Boiceville students from Watson
Hollow and Moon Haw, as well as Beechford Circle, from Bennett
to Phoenicia schools.
Noting the controversy caused by the latter proposal, Winters,
Hughes and a majority of the OCS board members all noted,
repeatedly, that this was a first proposal open for many
Board discussion of the proposal centered on their need
for alternatives, as well as a better sense of what would
happen if no changes were made. Questions about variances
yielded the fact that Woodstock had 24 this year, of which
10 went to Phoenicia and 14 to Bennett; Bennett had 44,
of which 21 went to Woodstock and 23 to Phoenicia; and Phoenicia
had only 6, split between Woodstock and Bennett.
It was decided that full and final discussion of redistricting
couldn’t happen until discussion of pending plans
to reconfigure classes to create a new 6-8 Middle School
had occurred. Finally, it was noted, by D’Orazio,
that all talk of redistricting proved painful.
Because of the size and geography of the Onteora district,
he said, configurations would always be “somewhat
wacky.” Worse, the old town and hamlet lines that
people had grown used to might be impossible to adhere to.
“This is just a first sort of step,” he said
of the new controversy.
As for the older ones, tied up in the new battle lines,
he needed say no more than what had already been made evident.
The Onteora School District’s next meeting is on April
5 in the same location,. Budget Adoption is set to take
place April 19.
Far Can Too Far Be?
made progress (with the legislature) last week when they
showed up in force and they weren’t crazy,”
said Parete of the Large Parcel tax protest at and outside
of the legislature’s meeting in Kingston. “Everything
was civil and orderly and that’s how you’re
With the meeting chamber packed to capacity, the hallways
crowded and comings and goings extending beyond 8 p.m.,
rally organizers felt the turnout was larger than the few
hundred reported by local media. Members of Olive’s
Large Parcel Committee also complained of the one-sidedness
of media coverage, consistently repeating the “fair
and equal” slogan of Parcel Law proponents, they claim,
and ignoring Olive’s side of fairness in the issue.
“The parcel bill is as ‘fair and equal’
as Fox News is ‘fair and balanced,” said one
demonstrator, standing near a make-shift pizza oven on wheels
that was busy serving free slices at the curb near the county
building on Fair Street. “If ORPS (Office of Real
Property Services) thinks that each home sold for a given
amount should be taxed the same no matter where it’s
located, boy, do I have some swamp land picked out for their
“There are many inequities in the system,” observed
Parete on Tuesday. “It’s an oppressive and distressing
way to fund programs from highway maintenance to health
care, largely because the value of a home is not always
indicative of a person’s wealth or ability to pay.
The 91% increase Olive residents are realizing is part of
an overall tax inequity that is being brought to light now...
It sounds like a no-brainer when you just cite house values
and taxes in the different towns, yet the valuation of houses
grows at a larger rate in Woodstock than in Olive, so that’s
a false argument. If the school has a budget increase of
10%, Woodstock may realize a 13% increase when Olive realizes
only a 7% increase because property has increased at a greater
percentage in Woodstock for that given year.”
“We have our work cut out for us,” said U.C.
legislator Peter Kraft, who also weighed in on Tuesday.
“It’s important, for example, when it’s
brought up that a $200,000 house in Woodstock isn’t
paying the same taxes as a $200,000 house in Olive, that
you’re doing an apples and oranges kind of comparison.
We’re in the process of looking at the impact of the
equalization rate on the Town of Olive and then looking
at like properties, so we can go back and demonstrate to
our fellow legislators that there is a difference.”
Kraft said that at the time of the legislature’s vote,
they were aware of the school tax hike of over 56% in Olive
and the town’s negotiations with ORPS on the reservoir’s
value but that the preliminary figures from Dorothy Martin
at U.C. Real Properties Tax Service suggested a 28% raise
in county taxes for the town rather than the 91% jump which
“At that time, we were hearing rumors that the county
administrator would be presenting a budget with a 40% increase,”
explained Kraft, who feels the Large Parcel Law would have
been rejected at the county level with better information.
“We eventually cut that down but that was the information
we were working with at the time of the vote.”
He said that District Legislators representing Olive, Hurley
and Marbletown, (Richard and Robert Parete and himself),
would be working in the coming months to educate the rest
of the legislative body, which adopted the law by a 17 to
15 vote, so that they will scuttle it when it comes up for
renewal later this year.
One of the more obvious inequities in the law is pointed
out by Olive resident Rita Vanacore, who notes that her
own home, reassessed less than 8 years ago, would be assessed
at almost 3 times the value in Woodstock because “Woodstock’s
financial needs are much greater than those in Olive...
basically because we have no town...we can’t even
have a parade because all we have is route 28 and 28A and
they can’t be closed.”
Vanacore touches upon the severe rules imposed by the reservoir’s
presence, such as the absence of a public rest room in a
pizza parlor and other such commercial restrictions which
are laced intricately into the legal agreements which brought
Ashokan Reservoir into existence both as a handicap and
an asset. But the importance of the historical context of
Olive’s plight is one paramount feature of their situation
which Large Parcel fans are consistently reluctant to acknowledge
argues John Tisch, who addressed the legislature on Thursday.
Tisch and others have complained in the past of the “mean-spiritedness”
of neighboring towns desire to impose this “tax assault”
on Olive for their own gains and questioned “not so
much their lack of compassion” but other tangibly
“missing ingredients in their sense of honor.”
One demonstrator on Thursday compared the refusal to take
into account the permanent crippling of Olive’s economic
base by the introduction of the reservoir with self-righteous
arguments against parking spaces for the disabled because
everyone should “park equally.”
For others at the demonstration it was a matter of sovereignty
akin to the state’s current desire to forget about
all those old treaties with Native Americans and impose
sales tax on tribal reservations. The reservoir REPLACED
other taxpayers and revenue sources, said another, stressing
that seizure of these “replacement funds” was
“outright robbery compound(ing) the takeover of Olive’s
prime properties.” One rally organizer raised questions
about the personal gains in tax relief being enjoyed by
the families of the
District 2 legislators who pushed so hard for the law behind
“The residents of West Shokan, Olivebridge, Samsonville
and Krumville are forced to drive miles to reach NYS Route
28 on narrow, winding, dangerous Route 28A,” Shokan
resident Robert Tischler told the assembly. “These
same residents are compelled to drive between 10 and 15
miles to get to the Town of Olive’s meeting hall and
police station. Residents of Shokan, Ashokan and Boiceville
have to drive between 10 and 15 miles to get to Olive’s
town offices and library. For weeks after the disaster of
9/11, when all roads across the reservoir were blocked,
Olive residents were compelled to drive between 10 and 30
miles to get to Route 28. What has made these restrictions
and inconveniences tolerable to the residents of Olive was
that the Ashokan Reservoir taxes were paid to the Town of
Olive. That was the trade-off.”
“Through manipulation of facts and figures, more wealthy
and articulate communities try to show us that we are not
paying our fair share of the taxes,” said Kathleen
Ruiz in her address to the legislature. “Well, it
is a fact, if one looks carefully at the figures, that Olive
has consistently paid a greater share of the tax burden.
In fact, from 1947 to 1988, Olive paid 32% to 57% of the
Onteora School District taxes- more than any of the other
towns in the district. Even when Olive was ordered by the
Supreme Court to reduce the value of the reservoir and to
not reevaluate properties, the Town of Olive lost a large
portion of its assessed value, yet during this time still
paid over 25% of the total Onteora budget.”
Ruiz, an Olive Large Parcel Committee member, said that
she regretted not
being able to get some of the research her group has done
on the impact of the law in Olive into her speech. She cites
a member of a family in Olive since 1800 declaring with
tears in his eyes that he did not want to have to move;
a resident who had to choose between his heart medication
and his taxes who chose to hold on to his home and other
examples of local economic distress.
On a positive note for Olive taxpayers, Robert Parete expressed
confidence that the protesters’ message was getting
through to some in the assembly who acted on misleading
information during the first vote.
“It’s always important that people are given
the opportunity to express their feelings on any type of
legislation proposed or implemented by - in this case, the
county government,” said Kraft. “Whether it’s
on a town level, a school board level, a state level or
a national level, it’s democracy in action.”
The good part was that he knew the deceased, and many of
his friends and family, and felt blessed when asked to lead
the services. But the hurtful side of things was buried
in that same good, having to do with Umhey’s youth,
and the difficulties all pastors feel in granting comfort
to the afflicted, no matter the closeness of tragedy.
And yet in his church’s scheme of things, such difficulties
are a blessing, too.
It’s the Easter season, and Pastor Killam has been
busy. In fact, he says this is his second busiest time of
year, after Christmas. And possibly the most dear to his
heart, what with the seriousness of the events being commemorated
over the coming weeks.
Killam moved to Phoenicia with his wife from New Brunswick,
and has since started a family in the home he keeps next
to his Phoenicia parish, which served as a Baptist church
until bought by the old Chichester-based congregation that’s
been steadily growing since the young pastor came to town
at the age of 21. He says that at first, he worried whether
he’d be able to adjust to the changes involved, having
spent his youth in the same home he was born into.
Killam talks about the differences between his congregations:
Willow’s is made up of old families, and has a steady,
unchanging air about it. Phoenicia’s is more mutable.
The parish in Olive, he says, is in the capable hands of
a whole other pastor, Wes McCullum, who Killam talks to
with some regularity.
He says what he loves about his church is its unchangeable
nature, its consistency. He grew up within it. He’s
felt a calling since his early teens, when he started ministering
to the needs of his peers.
How are his days filled? Much time is given over to the
reading of scripture and the writing of his sermons, which
he likes to start off pen to paper. His great inspiration,
apart from The Book, are the people he meets with on a daily
basis, or through his other activities, which include a
teen and bible study group.
Asked about the times we’re in and any thoughts he
might have about finding comfort in them, it’s hard
for Killam to get beyond his calling with a simple, “people
should come to Christ.”
But then he talks about the weight of practicing compassion
and living a life with love, of influencing others through
the setting of a just example.
“We need to look outside ourselves,” he says,
matter-of-factly, his Canadian lilt adding music to his
simple, elegant statements.
We talk a bit about the idea of Rapture, and how he feels
the time may be imminent for the Second Coming, a subject
that arises in Bible Study classes with regularity. Yet
in the next breath, he speaks about the need for everyone
to live their lives in balance. He is uncomfortable, albeit
in a church-mouse-quiet way, about the manner in which some
have been using the idea of Jesus’ return as a license
to use up the environment, or even set policy to hasten
How does he see his new community?
He mentions the fights and skirmishes that break out, within
and between the communities of the Route 28 corridor. But
then he expresses amazement at how people still come out
for each other, and show unwavering support, when the need
Such as what he saw, and led services for, at Killam’s
funeral earlier this same day.
Pastor Rodney Killam says he’s glad to be where he
is. He chose our area for his first pastorship.
He is glad to be among us.
Especially as this Easter season approaches.