A misty-eyed town supervisor presented a plaque with the badge
of the late
Peter K. Wittl mounted on it to an assembly of Olive’s
finest at this month’s
town board meeting.
Supervisor Leifeld, who has a background in law enforcement
on the county level and is retired from 25 years of service
as a correction officer, said
he had never seen a similiar ceremony and would have to work
his way through
Wittl, who died suddenly of a heart ailment earlier this year,
started his service to the Olive Police Force in 1989, studying
at the police academy through the first half of that year. Highlights
of his career were recited by Leifeld, including the life of
a heart attack victim he saved through his swift application
of a fibulator last year and a house he saved from
destruction by a stove fire while on routine patrol in 2003.
One officer receiving the permanently retired badge 1830, said
that Pete was never able to retire but that his presence would
remain evermore in the office where the plaque would be hung.
”There’ll never be a shift without him,” the
officer said. The plaque was already in place by the end of
Councilwoman Helen Chase remarked on the wide range of Olive
residents that had attended Wittl’s memorial service,
a testimony to the many types of
people his life touched. Leifeld added that Wittl “personified
what a police officer should be in a small town, dealing with
people with respect on a daily basis. He did a good job.”
Two of the applicants for Olive’s vacant assessor’s
position impressed the town board sufficently for appointment
this month despite some regulatory
barriers to the full-time position.
Robert Breglio, who had been an assessor for a town in Scoharie
County for 14 years but, as a retired schoolteacher, faced income
of his pension guidelines, was appointed as a consultant to
oversee the reval process from the town’s perspective
and will be paid on an hourly basis for his service. William
Cook’s knowledgement and qualifications also impressed
and he has been hired as interim assessor as he completes the
state requirement process.
Where six months ago board members were complaining of too many
people begging to be heard at Onteora School District board
meetings, much of the discussion at OCS’s October 5 meeting
at the West Hurley School, closed for the past year, was about
how to get more people out to board proceedings now that things
have setytled down with the controversial Large Parcel issue.
Trustee Herb Rosenfeld requested a motion to change school board
meeting schedules in order to add two to Phoenicia Elementary
and another two to Woodstock. He noted how even though half
of the district lives live on its east end (Woodstock/Hurley),
most meetings are being held at the High School in Boiceville,
excluding even Phoenicia. At a past school board meeting Rosenfeld
made a similar request and was able to change two meetings to
West Hurley School, one in the autumn and the other in late
“I think it is a good thing to bring this school business
to as many places as we can, it is not an impossible task for
us and I believe that it will get more people involved,”
the board’s sole Woodstocker said.
Trustee Cindy O’Connor disagreed, “I am all for
communication but take tonight, we had our architects here,
this was a pretty important meeting and we are here in West
Hurley, a school that is closed, I do not see many people out
there…” She added that such lack of attendance should
be taken into consideration when deciding where to have meetings.
Trustee Marino D’Orazio, the board’s former president,
explained how meetings at the High School were also sparsely
attended unless the topic was Large Parcel.
All meetings March to May are set for the High School because,
O’Connor said, it is “centrally located.”
D’Orazio answered, “Centrally located, but not for
The School Board voted against the change of schedule, five
to two with Rosenfeld and D’Orazio voting in favor
In main business, architects from KSQ Architects gave a presentation
on their plan of business for a year-long facilities study commencing
in the coming weeks. They are currently conducting a walk through
of all district buildings and so far have toured Bennett and
Phoenicia, with the remainder structures, including West Hurley,
scheduled for the next few weeks. The request for the study
was made by the Future of The District Committee based on shifts
in population, new educational standards, aging buildings and
technologies. Through a bidding process, KSQ was hired by the
school board and is okayed for up to $50,000 in spending.
The eventual goal is to use the report for long-term planning,
with substantial public input.
Trustee Mary Jane Bernholtz introduced members of the mandated
new audit committee she is chairing and former trustee Kathy
Hochmann gave a report on progress for the district-wide Communications
Committee, which recently won an award for its first year of
The Office of the Ulster County Clerk ha invited area residents
to research Supreme Court records pertaining to the construction
of the Ashokan Reservoir during the week ending October 14 in
the Ulster County Records Center located at 300 Foxhall Avenue,
Kingston New York. In memory of the fact that the current year
represents the 100 year anniversary of the passing of Chapter
724 of the Laws of 1905, which allowed for reservoir construction
in Ulster County, researchers will be able to look through information
contained in the Ashokan Reservoir Transcripts which are Supreme
Court records of the court proceedings that document the various
legal procedures undertaken a century ago. Additionally, there
will be several exhibits on display that document the timeline
of events including a “Notice of Application for the Appointment
of Commissioners of Appraisal” and the “Affidavit
of Posting” as well as maps for the areas of West Shokan,
Shokan, and Brodhead. These visual displays will help provide
firsthand knowledge regarding how the lands were taken to provide
New York City with pure drinking water. Those who are interested
in attending should call (845) 340-3415 to make an appointment
between the hours of 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM. An aid to the transcripts
is also available online at www.co.ulster.ny.us/archives/AshokanFindAid.pdf
A freak of nature that demolished part of the October fest at
Belleayre was not enough to dampen the spirits of those affected.
Event organizers are calling the event a success.
When Belleayre Superintendent Tony Lanza arrived at the ski
center Saturday morning he was astonished to see that a large
portion of the vendor tents and all their inventory had been
The tents were ripped apart and some had flown down the slopes.
One inch thick steel spikes used to anchor them had snapped
like iceycles. Ski Boots, snowboards, and all sorts of festival
wares were strewn about everywhere like toys.
“The devastation was absolutely phenomenal,” Lanza
Art Snyder, Director of the Ulster County Emergency Management
Department, said that the cause of the wreckage was a short
burst of what are called straight-line winds that rushed the
location at about three AM Saturday morning.
“There was no evidence of tornado activity, but that doesn’t
mean this was any less destructive. “
A tornado is a rotating column of air that extends from the
base of the thunderstorm. They are usually a funnel shape with
the narrow part near the ground. Straight-line winds are very
strong winds that can exceed 100 miles per hour. They produce
damage that shows a lack of a rotational damage pattern. Straight-line
winds are common with the gust front of a thunderstorm or originate
with a downburst from a thunderstorm.
The area affected was very specific, a 200 foot square in the
Ski Centers parking lot. Outside of the square nothing happened.
For example, plywood signs standing on end remained erect just
outside the strike zone, Lanza said.
Lanza said that the Vendors worked with Belleayre staff to set
everything up the best they could. The opening of the festival
was delayed until noon Saturday, but before it closed Sunday
afternoon 8000 people showed up.
On Saturday Morning, there was talk of canceling the event,
but Lanza was glad the vendors agreed to make the best of it.
“There was such a spirit of working together,” he
said,” It ended up being a great weekend.”
Onteora Junior Senior High School will hold its annual Homecoming
Weekend October 14th and October 15th. The Onteora Spirit Weekend
will commence with a barbecue on Friday October 14th starting
at 5:00pm in the foyer outside the cafeteria. There will be
hamburgers, hotdogs, salads, coffee and dessert for a small
fee. Immediately following is the annual Bonfire Bonanza at
7:00pm. At 8:30, the Homecoming Dance festivities will begin
for grades 9 through 12, where the Homecoming King and Queen
will be introduced for the first time. On Saturday morning October
15th, several associations will host food tables or booths to
promote their organizations. At 12:00pm, don’t miss the
Homecoming Float Parade!! The annual “Parade Of Athletics”
will take place on the football field at 1:00pm. All 19 fall
teams will be represented. Modified, Junior Varsity and Varsity
athletes will participate with their respective coaches in sport
attire. On the field following the parade, is The “Recognition
of the Senior Athletes” with their parents. At 3:00pm,
Onteora Central School Varsity Football versus Sullivan West
football team, for the Homecoming Game.
The Ulster County Housing Consortium has completed a Housing
Strategies Report that explores the extent of the housing challenges
facing individuals and families and the priority strategies
that are needed at all levels of government to ensure access
to housing within the communities of Ulster County. The Report
is a plan of action that provides a means to “a healthy
housing mix,” establishing the context of housing needs,
presenting an overview of regulatory and programmatic opportunities
and barriers, exploring the roles of housing providers and regulators,
assessing community acceptance issues, and providing a “toolbox”
approach for all stakeholders to respond to the challenges.
Findings in the report include the facts that housing prices
have doubled in the last 6 years whereas household income has
increased less than 25%; that median housing prices now require
an income of approximately $65,000 to be affordable; that rental
costs for a 2 bedroom unit requires an hourly wage of nearly
$15.00 to be affordable; that public education and outreach
on the importance of housing in community and economic development
efforts is Job 1 to improve community acceptance of housing
at all price ranges; and that County-wide housing friendly policies
are needed - linked to comprehensive plans, regulatory tools,
and incentives from all sources.
Furthermore, the new report has determined that the current
problems are not “self-correcting,” that the market
alone will not be sufficient to deal with the problem, and that
coordinated action will have to be taken to create affordability,
especially where such rentals have been lost.
The Ulster County Housing Consortium coordinated the preparation
of the Report. Project management was the responsibility of
the Ulster County Planning Board. Funding was provided by a
grant from the Governor’s Office of Small Cities (GOSC)
and the Ulster County Planning Board.
At the same time, the Kingston Housing Authority recently closed
its waiting list and is not taking any more applications for
subsidized housing for the first time in its 57-year history,
while the city’s Office for Community Development, which
saw applications pour in when it reopened its list this month
to would-be participants in an affordable housing program, is
also expected to close its waiting list by the end of the week.
Any questions should contact the Ulster County Planning Board
at (845) 340-3339.
Ride The Bus!
Ulster County’s public transit Director Cynthia Ruiz and
a growing number of transit experts are saying that public transportation
throughout Ulster County is underused, mostly because people
don’t know much about the service and how it interfaces
with their schedules and travels. As a means of building ridership
in these times of rising fuel costs, Ulster County Area Transit
has been hosting phone-a-thons to encourage county residents
to utilize existing programs, including CitiBus, Rural Transport,
Adirondack Trailways, and Mulligan Bus.
People who call in to register, who must be at least 16 years
old, will be asked for their home and work addresses, work schedule,
other regular trips for which they’d like to take public
transportation, such as shopping, and any special needs they
may have, such as using a wheelchair. In return, they’ll
receive one free round-trip bus pass on Ulster County Area Transit,
a letter outlining where the nearest routes and schedules are
in relation to their individual requests, and bus schedules
for those routes. They’ll also be entered into drawings
for free dinners, CDs and other prizes.
Ulster County Area Transit will use a geographic information
system (GIS) mapper to match requests with existing services.
In addition, the agency will look at areas where many people
are interested in riding the bus, but where service may not
currently reach, in order to plan for future route and schedule
The Ulster County Area Transit phone-a-thon will be Saturday,
Oct. 15 and Sunday, Oct. 16 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.
Local callers can call (845) 340-3333, while those for whom
Kingston is not in their local calling area can reach the agency
toll-free at (888) 827-8228. Phone-a-thon surveys can also be
filled out online at www.co.ulster.ny.us/ucat.
Weather News More than 8 inches of rain fell on much of the
Hudson Valley on Saturday, October, flooding numerous basements
and closing some local roads.The rain total was more than twice
the amount that came down April 2 and 3, but weather experts
said the softer and drier ground at this time of year is able
to absorb more precipitation than in the weeks just after winter’s
end. Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. said it was dealing
with about 3,600 power outages scattered across its eight-county
coverage area and numerous fiure departments, including Olive,
were called out for basement pumping and road closures. The
National Weather Service posted a flood warning Saturday afternoon
for the Esopus Creek below the Ashokan Reservoir, even thought
the reservoir was only 88 percent full and not in danger of
overflowing. The greatest amount of rainfall in the Hudson Valley
on Saturday was 11 inches in the city of Hudson. Kingston had
9.9 inches, Boiceville was at 8.5 inches; the Greene County
village of Tannersville and the Dutchess County village of Tivoli
each had 8 inches, Ellenville had 7.9 inches; High Falls had
7.7 inches and Poughkeepsie had just under 6 inches. According
to Daniel Smiley Research Center natural resource specialist
John Thompson, this past summer yielded the hottest June in
its 106-year record and the second hottest July on record. June,
which averages 65.9 degrees F, heated up to 72.7 F, 6.8 degrees
higher than the 106-year average. July, which typically hovers
around 70 degrees, hit the 74.6 average mark. Logging in as
the second hottest August on record, temperatures averaged 74.6
F — 5.9 degrees hotter than the 68.7 historical mean.
The deputy clerk of the Ulster County Department of Motor Vehicles
recently resigned as part of the latest developments in an ongoing
investigation into a “money-for-licenses” scandal
that some have pegged for the change in leadership at the county
Clerk’s office. The deputy had been named in a state and
federal probe that allegedly started with post 9/11 looks into
the county’s Muslim population, much of them Pakistani-born,
and ended with seven people, including two Ulster County DMV
clerks, being convicted. The convicted clerk had been appointed
in 1996 by then-County Clerk Albert Spada, who retired last
month and has been unavailable for comment ever since.
Several clerks and “license brokers” dealing with
the county DMV were sentenced in federal court in recent months
for various lengths of probation and prison terms, plus varying
fines and amounts of community service, for their involvement
in he case.
The last day in November is still the date pegged for finishing
the new Ulster County jail even though construction officials
on the project have started calling the date a “moving
County legislators were told in September that the expected
completion date of the project, the county’s largest and
costliest to date, would be at least two months later than the
contractors’ most recent estimate, which was for the time
of the announcement. The project originally was to be completed
in the spring of 2004.
The building will house the county jail, Sheriff’s Office
and other criminal justice-related county departments when completed.
Parts of it are allegedly complete, but still need full inspections
before being made available for use.
Most of the meeting at which the latest announcements of tardiness
were made was held behind closed doors in executive session,
with Committee Chairman Michael Stock noting that the presence
of lawyers necessitated the move. He also pointed out his continuing
optimism that the project will be finished anon.
Legislator Richard Parete, D-Accord, said the project, which
is about 20 months behind schedule and more than $12 million
over budget, is in worse shape now than ever before, and there
still are major aspects, including the construction of a communications
tower essential to the building’s operations, that remain
For the first time in years, three state Supreme Court seats
in the Third Judicial District will actually be up for grabs
via the popular vote November 8, with the major parties failing
to cross-nominate all but one of six candidates in recent judicial
nominating conventions. Party chairmen from the seven counties
in the Third District - Columbia, Greene, Ulster, Sullivan,
Albany, Rensselaer and Schoharie - met in Albany in late September
to select who will run on their party’s line with Democrats
peggingthree of their own: incumbent Edward O. Spain, Albany
City Court Judge John C. Egan Jr. and Albany County Attorney
Michael C. Lynch; while Republicans gave the nod to Ulster County
Public Defender Paul Gruner and Albany lawyer Tom Marcelle,
who also is counsel to the Albany County Legislature’s
minority and Spain. Rensselaer County Surrogate Judge Chris
Hummel failed to gain GOP support but will continue running
on Conservative and Independence Party lines.
Gruner, of Stone Ridge, was unseated as Ulster County Surrogate’s
Court judge last fall by Wallkill Democrat Mary Work, who had
been an Ulster County Family Court judge.
State Supreme Court justices serve 14-year terms. They are paid
$136,700 a year.
Democratic political pundits say the change in endorsement policies
and actualities reflect a growing acceptance that the governor’s
office will likely go back to Democrats next year, along with
an overall pendulum swing across the nation leftwards.
Republicans, meanwhile, are saying it’s all just a fluke.
An 800-pound young bull moose was killed on the Thruway near
the Kingston exit when it was struck by a tractor-trailer on
September 29. State police said Pierre Legault, 55, of Quebec
struck the moose about 10:35 p.m. Legault was not hurt, but
his 2006 Volvo big rig had to be towed from the scene. The moose
apparently suffered head trauma, said Wendy Rosenbach, a spokeswoman
for Region 3 of the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The animal was removed the next day, and Rosenbach said it was
to be examined by the department’s wildlife pathology
Although moose at one time were indigenous to the region, over-hunting
and disease have all but eradicated the animal in New York.
There’s a small population of moose in the northern Adirondack
Mountains, she said, and the species can be found in abundance
in Vermont, Massachusetts and Canada.
A moose was killed in an accident in Dutchess County in April
and about two weeks ago, a moose was spotted by Greene County
sheriff’s deputies patrolling along state Route 23A between
Catskill and Kiskatom.
Rosenbach said it is possible the 3-year old moose killed Thursday
is the same one that’s been spotted elsewhere in the region.
She said it’s not uncommon for young bull moose to set
out for new territory in search of a mate.
President Bush, increasingly concerned about scientist’s
predictions about a probable avian flu pandemic, revealed Tuesday
that any part of the country where the virus breaks out could
likely be quarantined and that he is considering using the military
to enforce it.
After the bungled initial federal response to Katrina, Bush
suggested putting the Pentagon in charge of search-and-rescue
efforts in times of a major terrorist attack or similarly catastrophic
natural disaster. He has argued that the armed forces have the
ability to quickly mobilize the equipment, manpower and communications
capabilities needed in times of crisis. But such a shift could
require a change in law put in place after the Civil War to
hold down the threat of the nation slipping into military dictatorship,
and some in Congress and the states worry it would increase
the power of the federal government at the expense of local
As a standby precaution, Bush in April signed an executive order
that added pandemic influenza to the government’s list
of communicable diseases for which a quarantine is authorized.
It gives the government legal authority to detain or isolate
a passenger arriving in the United States to prevent an infection
Experts agree there will certainly be another flu pandemic —
a new human flu strain that goes global. However, it is unknown
when or how bad that global epidemic will be — or whether
the H5N1 bird flu strain now circulating in Asian poultry will
be its origin.
The United States is currently unprepared for a possible outbreak
of pandemic flu which could kill up to 1.9 million Americans,
according to a draft official plan recently drawn up by the
government. The 381-page plan calls for quarantine and travel
restrictions but concedes that such measures “are unlikely
to delay introduction of pandemic disease into the US by more
than a month or two,” while making vaccines and medicine
available only to those who could afford it, causing possible
civil strife across the nation.
Almost simultaneous to his calls for the right to use the military
on a domestic basis at his will, the president recently redefined
his War on Terror in terms of what he is calling, “the
central undertaking of this century: defeating the forces of
Islamic radicalism.” In a speech that outlined his administration’s
step-by-step plan for confronting the 21st century’s “ideology
of hatred” he called for further preventing of attacks
before they occur via increased military presence on a global
basis, improvement of homeland defenses against terrorists (including
his use of the Army within states), the actual killing and capturing
of terrorist organization leaders, here and elsewhere, the flat-out
denying weapons of mass destruction to “outlaw regimes”
and others who would share and use them, and a doctrine that
clearly aims to destroy all nations he finds in opposition to
US viewpoints and “outlaw.” He insisted on calling
Iraq, “the central front in our war against terrorism.”
To many analysts, the president’s speech was an effort
to shore up waning public support not just for Iraq but for
the war on terrorism in general. A mid-September Gallup Poll
showed 53 percent of Americans saying Iraq is not worth going
to war over, compared with 45 percent who said it is.
Also, Bush recently told Palestinian ministers that God had
told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, and create a Palestinian
In a new BBC series on the current War on Terror, Palestine’s
Nabil Shaath says: “President Bush said to all of us:
‘I’m driven with a mission from God. God would tell
me, “George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.”
And I did, and then God would tell me, “George, go and
end the tyranny in Iraq …” And I did. And now, again,
I feel God’s words coming to me, “Go get the Palestinians
their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace
in the Middle East.” And by God I’m gonna do it.’”
Meanwhile, new laws getting readied for passage through Congress
would grant the Pentagon new powers to conduct undercover intelligence
gathering inside the United States—and then withhold any
information about it from the public, even granting
new exemptions from disclosing any “operational files”
under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA. “Information
operations,” as the new powers are called, is a military
term used to describe activities including electronic warfare,
psychological operations and counterpropaganda initiatives.
Hundreds of post offices nationwide, including several in our
area, the Westchester District, which includes Columbia, Dutchess,
Greene and Ulster counties, have started staying open until
7 p.m. on weekdays starting Oct. 1 and be open until 4 p.m.
Among those effected in the area are the main post offices in
Kingston, New Paltz, Poughkeepsie, Saugerties, and * Woodstock.
At the Wiltwyck Country Club in Kingston last Thursday night,
local Developer Dean Gitter got a pleasant surprise.
The event was nothing out of the ordinary. A Business appreciation
dinner sponsored by the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce and
the Ulster County Development Corporation.
What was out of the ordinary, however, was the announcement
of a new accolade.
A delighted Paul Rakov, Gitter’s publicist, explains.
“Dean and Emerson Place received the first-ever Heart
of Ulster County award….. The award was given to Dean
for “outstanding devotion to employees and citizens of
Ulster County.” The award was new and not announced prior
to the event. Dean was completely surprised and quite moved
by the long, warm ovation he received from the crowd,”
Rakov said Friday.
Ward Todd, the President of the Chamber and long time Gitter
supporter, said that Gitter was a great choice for this first-time
honor because of how he and Emerson Place saved more than 50
jobs after the Emerson Inn was consumed by fire last April.
According to Rakov, Gitter continued to pay the employees for
four months until the new Emerson at Woodstock opened last August.
To keep what he described as an excellent staff, Gitter immediately
announced his plan to open a temporary eatery in order to keep
them. He signed a two-year lease for the Mill Hill Road building
that formerly housed Woodstock’s famous establishment
called Deanie’s. Gitter said he needs about 2 years to
sort out insurance issues relating to the Emerson (which cost
$7 million to build), then design and build a replacement.
Some of the employees displaced by the fire have been moved
to Gitter's Catamount Café and The Lodge, creekside businesses
on state Route 28 in Shandaken that are a part of Emerson Place.
And Gitter said more might work at the Lodge if additional guest
rooms are added. Project architects are currently working with
the Shandaken planning Board to determine how to expand the
But the new Emerson, which Gitter has vowed to rebuild, is not
expected to be built on the site of the old.
"We will be opening the Emerson Inn and Spa for sure,"
Gitter said in May. "We are looking for those places that
want us ... whether or not Shandaken is that community remains
to be seen."
The Emerson Inn and Spa was named "Most Outstanding Inn
in North America" by Conde Nast Johansens this year. And
just days before the fire, Gitter learned the Emerson had been
selected by Mobil Travel as one of three four-star spas in New
Gitter is best known for his most current and controversial
project, a massive golf resort slated to surround Belleayre
Mountain Ski Center. That project, calling for two golf courses,
two hotels and hundreds of residential units on 1900 acres,
is now under review.
State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, not the most popular guy in
town just now, will be holding a public session on current school
finance legislation proposals on Friday, October 21 in Rosendale,
including the possible elimination of real property taxes for
the support of education; and the requiring of school districts
to submit annual budgets to the state department of education.
Local costs of public education would be covered by a statewide
income tax. The meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m. (and include
a question and answer period) at the Rosendale Community Center
just outside the town center on Route 32 South. The event is
sponsored by the Property Tax Reform Task Force, a coalition
of the Towns of Marbletown, Rochester, Rosendale and Wawarsing,
established in April 2004. The Task Force supports equitable
tax reform at the local, county and state levels, and is developing
a network of communities and citizen groups throughout the state
to coordinate efforts on property tax relief. The group is supported
by the Association of Towns of the State of New York, representing
more than 900 towns throughout the state, and the Ulster County
Supervisors Association, representing 20 towns in Ulster County.
Information about the Property Tax Reform Task Force can be
found at its website at www.hvpropertytaxreform.org.
Millions of dollars in federal contracts for Hurricane Katrina
recovery efforts that were handed out with little or no competition
will be rebid to prevent any waste or abuse, new FEMA chief
R. David Paulison said recently, adding that although he did
not have a total figure for what was being rebid, included are
at least four agreements for $100 million each for housing and
construction services awarded immediately after the storm hit.
The government has been accused of overpaying for some contracts
that were awarded with unusual haste in an effort to speed assistance
to Katrina’s victims, as well as of giving those contracts
to friends of the current administration.
Meanwhile, a “Katrina Reconstruction Summit,” hosted
by Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) and sponsored by Halliburton,
the company Vice President Dick Cheney used to head, recently
brought some 200 lobbyists, corporate representatives and government
staffers to a room overlooking the Capitol for a five-hour conference
that included time for a “networking break” and
advice on “opportunities for private sector involvement.”
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) sent his budget
director, Bill Hoagland, who cautioned that federal Katrina
spending might not exceed $100 billion. But John Clerici, from
a law firm that helped sponsor the event, told the group that
spending would “probably be larger” than $200 billion.
“It’s going to be spent in a fast and furious way,”
Clerici told gathered lobbysits.
But even with all that money, and the facts tied to the ways
in which the recent hurricanes exposed the weakness of the levee
system around New Orleans, federal officials are now saying
they won’t rebuild the barriers higher and better - at
least not right away. Col. Lewis Setliff, the engineer overseeing
the levee repairs for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said
the Corps only has the authority to rebuild levees to the strength
they were prior to the storms that damaged them. Without approval
from Congress, which has been reluctant to spend on such matters,
the Army engineers cannot build the levees higher and stronger.
And even if Congress were to give that approval soon, it would
come too late to allow them to be finished by the time the 2006
hurricane season begins in June.
Only about 1.5 percent of the $1.5 billion awarded by the Federal
Emergency Management Agency has gone to minority businesses,
less than a third of the 5 percent normally required.
FEMA has been publicly estimating that just over 68,200 refugees
still remain in shelters, down from a high of 300,000 after
Katrina hit Aug. 29 and Hurricane Rita’s Sept. 17 arrival.
Last month, FEMA launched a $2 billion program to pay three
months of upfront rental costs for homeowners or renters whose
residences were destroyed by Katrina. Eligible victims can receive
$2,358 per family to rent anywhere in the country, and could
continue to get assistance for up to 18 months as FEMA works
with state and local authorities to rebuild the devastated communities.
So far, FEMA has spent $1.3 billion to help Katrina victims
find homes, and 600,000 have registered for the rental program.
But victims still in shelters face an Oct. 15 deadline, set
by President Bush, to find more stable housing - including apartments,
trailers and in some cases, hotels. Meanwhile, FEMA is weighing
whether to extend a program that reimburses the American Red
Cross for the cost of hotel rooms for victims. FEMA Chief Paulison
said that when Bush set the deadline before Hurricane Rita hit,
“that set us back a little bit.”
FEMA has been trying to set up transitional housing for evacuees
but has run into problems. After the agency signed a $236 million
contract with Carnival Cruise Lines for three ships to provide
housing, most evacuees rejected the offer. Those ships now are
being used to house city employees from New Orleans and other
emergency workers involved in the cleanup effort. The agency’s
plan to set up 30,000 temporary homes every two weeks also has
fallen flat. FEMA hasn’t been able to secure enough public
land for evacuees. And when land is made available, Paulison
said, the agency has to put in water and sewer lines, electrical
power and other basic services before it can allow people to
Asked if it was a mistake for FEMA to have ordered 120,000 trailers
and mobile homes after Katrina, including from our own Camper’s
Barn in Kingston, Paulison said, “Those were ordered before
I got here.”
Those trailers and mobile homes are expected to be delivered
to Louisiana for evacuees in the coming weeks. The optimum size
of each park will be about 200 housing units, but they also
may be placed on the property of residents with destroyed homes.
A push, starting in the Midwest, towards state-sponsored “youth
hunts” is one of many state and private initiatives emerging
this fall that aim to ensure that hunters don’t become
an endangered species. Stating that the urbanization of landscapes
such as ours, along with increased competition for kids’
time - from cellphones, television, and other modern diversions
- has diminished the ranks of young hunters, state and private
efforts to bring back hunting are now ranging from trying to
repeal laws that limit youth hunting to psychology-based campaigns
aimed at getting young people familiar with gun use.
But such moves are setting off alarm bells with hunting watchdog
groups. Long-established safeguards governing the sport are
being undercut, they say, and state agencies are aligning with
the hunting industry as never before.
Anxious to reverse the decline in the sport - and the resulting
drop in state revenues from hunting licenses - hunting and gun
groups and state wildlife and conservation departments are pursuing
several initiatives. The National Shooting Sports Foundation
(NSSF), a trade association representing the firearms industry,
is funding new hunting programs in 25 states, part of its Hunting
Heritage Partnership with state wildlife agencies. The National
Rifle Association is developing a campaign to begin early next
year to open more public land in all 50 states to hunting. The
National Wild Turkey Federation’s new Families Afield
program is targeting 33 states that currently make it illegal
for youths to go deer hunting before age 12. It also is deploying
new youth programs like Xtreme Jakes, which combines elements
like rock climbing and mountainbiking with target shooting in
Between the mid-1990s and 2001, the number of hunters dropped
7 percent to about 13 million, according to the US Fish and
Wildlife Service. By 2025, that number is projected to drop
24 percent to about 9.9 million, according to a recent study
conducted for pro-hunting organizations.
Critical elements in President Bush’s political coalition
have grown less enthusiastic about the job he is doing, recent
polls and Congressional developments are showing. A recent poll
has shown that evangelical voters, Republican men, Southerners
and Protestants have lost considerable intensity in their support
for the president since the beginning of this year. The split
is being blamed, according to pundits, on the president’s
apparent “cronyism” in nominating his attorney Harriet
Miers for the Supreme Court, the no-bid nature of so many hurricane-recovery
spending projects, immigration and other issues.
Bush’s overall job approval is at 39 percent - with 21
percent strongly approving. The number of people who strongly
approve of Bush’s job performance has eroded over the
last year, most notably among key groups like evangelical voters,
down from 49 percent who strongly approved in January to 33
percent now; Republican men, down from 57 percent to 42 percent;
Protestants, down from 36 percent to 25 percent; and Southerners,
down from 32 percent to 22 percent. While four of five Republicans
say they approve of Bush’s job performance, enthusiasm
in that support has dipped over the last year. In December 2004,
soon after his re-election, nearly two-thirds of Republicans
strongly approved of his job performance. An AP-Ipsos survey
found that just half in his own party feel that way now.
Only 28 percent say the country is headed in the right direction,
while two-thirds, 66 percent, say it is on the wrong track,
the poll found.
Meanwhile, the administration’s push to pay for hurricane
recovery by slashing out social benefit programs for the nations
neediest seems to be further alienating Congressional and other
of the nation’s remaining moderate Republicans. Among
the current probables are new legislation to impose curbs on
the Medicaid program for the poor and disabled, student loan
subsidies for banks, farm subsidies and food stamps.
Despite the polls and recent grumbling about his performance
from some Republicans, Bush insisted Tuesday during a White
House Rose Garden news conference that he still had “plenty”
of political capital that he would spend getting lawmakers to
go along with his proposed budget cuts, plus his Iraq strategy
and other issues.
“We need to have presidential leadership and it can’t
be the usual suspects,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman
Judd Gregg, R-N.H. “They can’t just send up another
list of the requests that they made at the beginning of the
budget process and claim that they’ve done their job.”
Other signs of growing problems include the recent Senate battle
over the setting of policy against the use of torture in the
U.S. military, which the White House has threatened to veto;
the legal troubles of Senate leader Bill Frist and House Majority
Leader Tom Delay; the continuing fallout from last Spring’s
Republican intervention in the Terri Schiavo case; skyrocketing
federal budget deficits; rising gas prices and a growing discussion
about oil industry “price gouging;” and growing
worries about the actual and political costs of the war in Iraq.
Delivering a rare wartime slap at Pentagon authority and President
Bush, the GOP-controlled Senate voted 90-9 on Wednesday to back
the amendment that would prohibit the use of “cruel, inhuman
or degrading treatment or punishment” against anyone in
U.S. government custody, regardless of where they are held.
Sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the proposal also would
require all service members to follow procedures in the Army
Field Manual when they detain and interrogate terrorism suspects.
Bush administration officials say the legislation would limit
the president’s authority and flexibility in war. However,
Bush has never vetoed a bill, despite threats, and scrapping
a measure that provides money for pay raises, benefits, equipment
and weapons for troops while the country is fighting wars in
Iraq and Afghanistan would open the president to a flood of
As the CIA leak investigation heads toward its expected conclusion
this month, it has become increasingly clear that two of the
most powerful men in the Bush administration were more involved
in the unmasking of operative Valerie Plame than the White House
originally indicated. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice
President Cheney’s chief of staff, has come into focus,
despite initial denials, as one of the people who leaked information
about Plame to the media; as did Karl Rove, President Bush’s
top political adviser.
In October 2003, White House spokesman Scott McClellan told
reporters that he personally asked Libby and Rove whether they
were involved, “so I could come back to you and say they
were not involved.” Asked if that was a categorical denial
of their involvement, he said, “That is correct.”
What now remains a central mystery in the case is whether special
prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has accumulated evidence during
his two-year investigation that any crime was committed. His
investigation has White House aides and congressional Republicans
on edge as they await an announcement of an indictment or the
conclusion of the probe with no charges. The grand jury is scheduled
to expire Oct. 28.
Fitzgerald is investigating whether anyone illegally disclosed
Plame’s name or undercover CIA job in retaliation against
her husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV. In the summer of 2003, Wilson,
a former diplomat, accused the White House of using “twisted”
intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq based on firsthand
evidence: At the behest of the CIA, he had flown to Niger in
February 2002 to investigate the administration’s assertion
that Iraq was trying to purchase uranium in the African nation
for use in its nuclear weapons program. Wilson returned unconvinced
the assertion was true. However, Bush himself made the charge
in his 2003 State of the Union address, prompting Wilson to
spread word throughout the government and eventually make public
Many lawyers in the case are surmising that Fitzgerald is considering
whether he can bring charges of a criminal conspiracy perpetrated
by a group of senior Bush administration officials. Under this
legal tactic, Fitzgerald would attempt to establish that at
least two or more officials agreed to take affirmative steps
to discredit and retaliate against Wilson and leak sensitive
government information about his wife. To prove a criminal conspiracy,
the actions need not have been criminal, but conspirators must
have had a criminal purpose.
The big question on everyone’s minds in D.C. is whether
the special prosecutor will determine involvement by the President
and Vice President.
A new study suggests the price of fresh fruits and vegetables
has a stronger connection to weight gain among children than
whether they live near fast-food outlets. The study examined
the weight gain of 6,918 children of varying socio-economic
backgrounds from 59 U.S. metropolitan areas as they advanced
from kindergarten to third grade. Researchers compared the weight
gain figures with the price of different types of foods and
the number of food outlets in the areas. They did not examine
what the children ate, however. The results showed that young
children who live in communities where fruits and vegetables
are expensive are more likely to gain excessive amounts of weight
than kids who live in areas where produce costs less. That connection
was stronger than the proximity to fast-food restaurants.
On average, children in the study gained 29 pounds. But for
the region with the highest relative price for produce - Mobile,
Ala. - children gained about 50 percent more excess weight as
measured by body-mass index (a ratio of height to weight) than
Health advocates reacting to the Rand Co. study have suggested
providing fruits and vegetables free to schoolchildren to improve
nts and teachers, but it’s not clear whether it’s
affecting children’s weight.
Meanwhile, another new study that followed Americans for three
decades suggests that over the long haul, 9 out of 10 men and
7 out of 10 women will become overweight. Half of the men and
women in the study who had made it well into adulthood without
a weight problem ultimately became overweight. A third of those
women and a quarter of the men became obese.
The findings, published Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine,
show obesity may be a greater problem than indicated by studies
that look at a cross-section of the population at one point
in time. Those so-called “snapshots” of obesity
have found about 6 in 10 are overweight and about 1 in 3 are
The findings re-emphasize that people must continually watch
their weight. The study shows Americans live in an “environment
in which it’s hard not to become overweight or obese.
Unless people actively work against that, that’s what’s
most likely to happen to them.”
Obesity raises the risk of heart disease, some cancers, diabetes
and arthritis, and being overweight raises blood pressure and
cholesterol, which in turn can raise the risk of heart disease.
A recent Marist College poll found that New York State’s
registered voters divide over whether they would like to see
Rudy Giuliani run for president in 2008, with 49% wanting to
see him make the run, and 46% of the state’s voters preferring
he not. 40% of New York State’s registered voters want
Senator Hillary Clinton to run for president, although a majority
would prefer she not seek higher office. Only 17% of registered
voters want Governor Pataki to run for the presidency in 2008.
52% of New York State’s registered voters say they would
definitely vote to re-elect Hillary Clinton to the U.S. Senate
in 2006. 32% would definitely vote against her. 8% would like
to wait and see who runs against her, and 8% are unsure. 54%
of New York State’s registered voters rate the job Hillary
Clinton is doing as senator as either excellent or good. Senator
Charles Schumer’s approval rating is currently 55% among
New York State’s registered voters.
In match-ups for the 2006 election for New York State governor,
New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer outdistances his
potential opponents by substantial margins including Rochester
businessman Thomas Golisano, former Massachusetts Governor William
Weld, former Assemblyman John Faso, Assemblyman Patrick Manning,
and New York’s Secretary of State Randy Daniels. 61% of
registered voters rate the job Eliot Spitzer is doing as attorney
general as either excellent or good, the highest rating received
by these statewide elected officials. Meanwhile, 38% of New
York State’s registered voters rate the job Governor Pataki
is doing in office as excellent or good. He received his lowest
score of 34% in a similar poll conducted in April.
50% of registered voters think New York State is headed in the
wrong direction. This is down from a high during the Pataki
administration of 65% in April. A majority of voters in New
York City and its surrounding suburbs now believe the state
is moving in the right direction. But, only 31% of registered
voters upstate feel the state is headed in the right direction.
49% of registered voters think New York State is currently in
a recession, a decline from 55% in a similar poll conducted
in April and a full 13 point drop from last fall. However, 61%
of upstate voters still think the state remains in a recession.
The Catskill Watershed Corporation’s Board of Directors
on September 27 approved rules for a new program to provide
grants for community planning efforts intended to improve water
quality and enhance the quality of life in the Catskill-Delaware
New York City Watershed. County, town and village governments
will be eligible to apply for funds under the Local Technical
Assistance Program (LTAP) to develop comprehensive land-use
and open space plans, zoning laws, environmental protection
statutes, highway and infrastructure maintenance plans, strategic
capital investment plans and other initiatives.
The aim of the program is to reduce non-point source pollution,
protect sensitive natural resources, improve community and economic
viability and enhance municipal and community partnerships towards
Application materials are being developed. The deadline for
the first round of grants will be announced.
The new program is funded by a $1.25 million allocation from
New York City in conjunction with the 2002 Filtration Avoidance
Determination exempting the City from filtering its Catskill-Delaware
water supply while environmental protection, economic development
and education programs are conducted. The CWC runs many of those
programs. For details, go to www.cwconline.org, or call 845-586-1400,
or (toll-free) 877-928-7433.