Care For Us All?
Parete, who originally proposed the idea of developing a health
insurance program for both the uninsured and underinsured
residents of Ulster County in March, said he was "thrilled"
about the Chairman‚s decision to establish a seven-member
committee to look into the possibilities of doing so.
"No one should have to worry about health care. It should
be a basic right," he said. "To me it is a
unique and wonderful opportunity for Ulster County to be an
innovator and leader in this area."
According to a report released by the U.S. Census Bureau in
September, the percentage of Americans without health coverage
rose from 14.6 to 15.2 in 2002, a jump of almost 6-percent.
In Ulster County, Parete, said, that translates to almost
30,000 residents, and does not include people who could benefit
substantially from having the opportunity to purchase affordable
supplemental insurance - such as dental, optical and prescription
plans - that could be used to augment existing health
plans providing only minimal coverage.
"Nobody talks about the people who are underinsured,
"Parete said. "They are not counted. A senior without
a prescription [plan] just goes without."
The mission of the Ulster County Health Insurance Advisory
Committee, as communicated by Gerentine on Sep. 30, will be
to "assess the health insurance needs in Ulster County"
and "to advise the county Legislature whether
an affordable program may be organized."
State law currently prohibits the county to administer any
group health program for residents, Parete said, but it is
possible that an insurance company could act as a third-party
"The insurance companies might charge for this,"
he explained, "but they would charge the individual who
is purchasing the plan as part of the premium. It would not
cost the county a dime."
Parete said he hopes the committee develops a plan to put
out an RFP (request for proposal) to various insurance
companies who might be interested in administering a county
wide program. He also said he intends to provide committee
members with copies of his original proposal for their review,
and will make every effort to attend all of the committee‚s
meetings, which will be open to the public.
"We all know that there is a problem. Health care premiums
are rising and it‚s unaffordable. I am looking forward
to working with the members of the [committee] to develop
a workable public policy that will benefit our citizens,"
Ulster County Personnel Director Thomas Costello will chair
committee. The remaining six members include: Roundout Savings
Bank President Daniel Devine, American Cancer Society representative
Lillian Jones; Ryan Insurance agent and Olive resident Diane
LeFevre; healthcare consultant Laura Kaplan; former Highland
school district administrator William Miller; and former Legislature
chairman and social services commissioner Thomas Roach.
A deadline for the committee to present its findings has not
yet been established.
"She drives the kids to the school in the morning, leaves
the bus in the school parking lot across the street, comes
here, and is back at the school at 2:30 to do the afternoon
run," said Mr. Gonzales. "She handles it just fine."
Despite the much publicized closing of Singer-Denham - frustrated
by sagging sales, the owner blocked the entrance to the neighboring
Boiceville Supermarket to protest the grocery store‚s
sale of what he believed to be competing merchandise - Gonzalez
said he believes there is still a market for such a business
to operate in Boiceville.
"I did all the homework looking at the potential and
saw that there is a need for a store in the community,"
he said by telephone last Friday, having just finished up
an early morning meeting with a new distributor. "There
is nothing [carrying a large selection of lumber] nearby except
in Woodstock or Fleischmanns."
And of the big-box stores, such as Home Depot and Lowes Home
Improvement House located within a mile of one another
in the Town of Ulster, Gonzalez said, he is not worried.
"They got their own business and we plan to stay competitive,
treating customers fairly and stocking housewares and the
little small stuff that they don‚t carry."
Gonzalez also said in addition to stocking a full line of
hardware, home, plumbing and electrical products, C &
S will cut glass, sell propane and kerosene, and offer free
deliveries. "We also sell stove pipes," he added.
"We carry so much stuff in here it‚s unbelievable."
Although C & S will open as an independent hardware store,
buying directly from various distributors, Gonzalez said he
is in the process of looking into partnering with ACE Hardware.
Should such a deal be made, Gonzalez said, C & S
would be represented as an ACE store and would buy directly
from the company wholesale.
"Everything is looking good," he said of the potential
relationship. "They have cheaper prices, which will allow
us to be more competitive."
Gonzalez said he has not yet set a firm date for the store‚s
launch this month because he wants the shelves in his store
to be full of merchandise before opening for business. "We
are working with the new distributor one step at a time to
make sure we kick off with a bang," he said excitedly.
And although he plans to carry an extensive selection of quality
lumber by early Spring, Gonzalez said that initially the store
will open with just the basics, "2 x 4‚s and other
standard pieces." The reason for waiting, he said,
is because lumber is currently selling at a premium because
demand is high.
Large quantities of U.S. lumber are currently being shipped
to Iraq to rebuild the country's infrastructure, Gonzalez
explained, driving prices through the roof. As an example,
he cited a 4‚ x 8‚ piece of plywood that normally
sells for $14 now going for $21, an increase of 50-percent.
With the building season slowing down with Winter, Gonzales
added, it makes more sense to wait for prices to come down
before stocking his store.
Currently, the Gonzalez‚s have hired six employees and
plan to hire six more in the Spring when, as Mr. Gonzalez
optimistically put it, "everything kicks in."
Among local officials on hand at Belleayre last Friday were
Zoning Board members Kathy Nolan and Glenn Miller. Among private
citizens on hand were candidates Bob Cross and Joe Munster
and local developer Dean Gitter, who spent the afternoon at
the crowded "Community Character" session.
The highlight of the "Tools for the Future" session,
which included updates on the setting up of a "First-Stop
Shop" referral system for businesses seeking help, an
update on progress towards new Workforce Development training
programs at SUNY-Delhi, and a look at the region‚s top
infrastructure and technology needs, was a presentation on
"Regional Branding/Marketing" by former journalist
and current public relations specialist Reginald Oberlag,
who presented elements from a new report calling for, among
other things, the creation of a non-political, non-governmental
agency to promote the Catskills on a non-touristic, product
and services-oriented basis.
"In order to create prosperity while preserving our quality
of life, we propose the creation of the Catalyst Catskills,
not just a business incubator, but a blast furnace of creative
thinking and program implementation for a successful Catskills
region," Oberlag said in his speech before an attentive
audience. „This is what we want to do: accelerate the
rate of prosperity without changing the things we love about
the Catskills: it‚s beautiful landscapes, its small
town charm, the peace and tranquility and neighborly caring.
Further defining the plan he put together with Joan Lawrence-Bauer
of the Business Development Group, Maggie Inge of Avalon Training
and Amy Kenyon of the Watershed Ag Council, Oberlag noted
the need for something not geared just towards tourism, but
working with the second home market that is „probably
creating half of the revenue characterized as tourism, as
well as the creation and promotion of local products and services
in ways similar to Vermont.
"We need to create a coherent image for the region∑
in other words, a Regional Branding effort that will convey
a strong, emotional; and intellectual message that tells the
magic of the Catskills", he continued, outlining the
new plan being simultaneously presented to the larger Business
Roundtable for approval in the coming weeks and months.
In that plan, Oberlag and his fellow marketers are asking
for the creation of a Catalyst Catskills organization to "implement
the marketing plan and prioritize projects." This would
include paid staff geared towards brokering relationships
between local businesses, developing marketing programs and
the creation of a business seat on the influential CWC board.
The goals the oft-mentioned plan refer to include: An increase
in the media household income, an increase in the number of
businesses based in the region, an increase in sales tax revenue
and an increase in the number of jobs available in the region.
Furthermore, it suggests that, "Prior to planning or
implementing any promotion of the region, the group will determine
with elected officials and business leaders exactly what businesses
and jobs will be welcomed and fostered in the region, where
they will be located and what the rationale for their success
Furthermore, the new report acknowledges the significant sense
of growth and visibility given the Catskills since the 9/11
tragedy and sees it as a means to creating sustainable growth
and development for the long term.
"The threats to our success come from within," the
report notes, after positing that a time of opportunity might
be passing. "Though it is traditional to blame outside
forces for our lack of progress and success, the fact is that
our inability to cooperate with each other within the region
has done more to stymie economic development than any outsider
would ever consider doing."
A full marketing plan is then outlined, albeit in large strokes,
pending approvals and refinement of mission.
Among other key elements cited in the report were the need
for increased eco-tourism opportunities in the region, following
the statement that „much of the necessary tourism infrastructure
is already in place.
Most audience members seemed enthused by the presentation
after Oberlag‚s talk, although some, including Gitter,
grumbled that similar efforts have been talked about throughout
the last decade.
Mundi's Comedic Ways
The author of scores of books ˜from bodice-rippers to
vitamin bibles˜ Hester writes under multiple pseudonyms;
"Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I don‚t
know who I am." As she often uses the names of local
people, places and streets in her novels, Hester Mundis has
created a doppleganger world out of her imagination, a fictional
Mundisverse that exists alongside her real one and is connected
by this similarity of names. It's a dizzy version of the occult
"as above as below" dictum. And continuing the multiple-personality
theme, Hester is the alter-ego of Joan Rivers˜ she writes
her jokes and all the copy on the Joan Rivers‚ website.
She even looks like Joan's long lost sibling. Hester is a
four-time Emmy nominee for her TV writing, and she's "done
my share of stand-up." Oh, and Hester also found the
time to raise a chimpanzee named Boris and write a book about
it; No, He's Not a Monkey He's an Ape and He's My Son.
The Manitou Lodge that Hester has made her home was called
the "Fine & Dandy Cottage" in the 1930s, and
was a boarding house for hunters. Hester bought the Lodge
in 1971 and has lived here ever since; "We‚ve had
four weddings and a funeral here," she quips, in a reference
to the title of a Hollywood movie. "The owner had Fuller
Brush, so he had all these door-to-door men, and he‚d
treat his salesmen to a weekend at the lodge." Hester
shows me the old "House Rule Book. Rule number eight
is; "Do not handle guns in the house." I see a fish
on the wall in one of the old photos, an 1887 Tarpin I recognize
from The Country Inn in Krumville. "Oh, yes," says
Hester, "I gave that to Larry (the former owner) years
Hester segues into a tale of Loretta, a former owner
of Manitou, and the mysterious circumstances of her husband‚s
death. "This six foot tall man supposedly drowned,"
Hester exclaims, leading me into the bathroom and pointing,
"in this tub! I don‚t think so." The tub does
look too small to drown in, but then again, people have drowned
facedown in puddles. "She ran off with Bart the bartender,
then whoops, Bart disappeared. You don‚t cross Loretta!"
This leads into a story about one of the house ghosts. "Her
husband Dave left a pair of boots that he‚d only worn
once, and no matter who you were, anybody that came to the
house, the boots always fit. No matter what the size of your
foot." Hester offers these "one size fits all"
boots of a ghost as proof of supernatural life. "Oh,
he was here for years. He'd turn a light off here, turn a
TV on there. Then, when my last dog died, he seemed to go
with the dog."
By now we‚ve wound around to the living room, where
what used to be the outside chimney is now inside, due to
the addition of the living room and bar. „This house
came with 32 beds. Look, this is the original bar, bar back,
original bar mirror∑ - and there's probably some original
alcohol in these bottles!" She laughs, then adds, "Only
kidding!" She gestures outside and says; "The house
came with its own bowling alley too, beautiful, with an oak
railing." We continue the tour, and I see a photo of
Hester and her husband sitting with Ernest Hemingway.
She follows my glance and says; "Isn't computer generating
We head into the sunroom and look out at a lush backyard.
"I've been here 32 years. I remember when there were
milk deliveries!" says Hester. "This house has a
soul. Things were different back then. Being a writer, you
don't always get your checks on time. Sometimes I'd kite a
check. I'd go into a store, and they'd say "How much
you want?" I'd say 200, I'd get 200. Every storekeeper
carried you; it was a whole different kind of banking system
back then. Everything was different. In the post office, they'd
say, - 'Your mother is having a good time in Florida!', because
they'd read her postcard to me."
And then there are Hester's books. The Olive Free Library
carried her novels, to some controversy. "I'd have to
say, this one has a little sex in it!" Jessica‚s
Wife, which Hester wrote in 1976, was read 'for the dirty
parts' by the local kids. " I have to add to what Rosalie
Burgher told you in this paper. Remember she mentioned the
switch from writing a name on the library card to just a number
system? That was partly inspired by my books! Some people
didn't want others to know they'd read them.' Hester runs
her fingers along a shelf full of her book titles, The Nana
Banana Chronicles, My Chimp Friday, Earl Mindells' Vitamin
Bible, Tame the Rising Tide and pauses at one book to say
"I got 35 hundred for my first book, but this one built
my living room." She gestures at the beautiful room,
paid for by the success of one book. "I used all the
names from up here. In my first book, it was very gothic,
I used ŒMoonhall‚ after Moon Haw. That book, Moon
and Shadow, has my most embarrassing scene. I have woman attacked
by a man in a bear suit. Like she couldn‚t tell? Come
Hester punches up the JoanRivers.com Website on her computer.
"I was the former head writer of her TV show, and she
called me after she read one of my scripts and said; - This
is the funniest thing I ever read, when can you come out here?'
She flew me to Vegas. I had the best time of my life. Joan
is so funny and elegant. She can take one look at what you‚re
wearing and know the knock off, and how much. She's outspoken
and tells the truth all the time. And, when she cleans out
her closet?" Hester‚s lip curls with a conspiratorial
smile, "I happen to get some very high end things."
She pulls another book off the shelf. "I ghost-wrote
Joan's The Life and Hard Times of Heidi Abromowitz, about
the quintessential tramp. I embroidered on Joan‚s jokes
and added plots, I used stuff from great tramps in history."
On the Website is a cartoon Joan, a countdown to the Emmys,
fashion, jokes, the buzz on "Bennifer" and other
celebs. "I get paid to read trash and gossip,"Hester
sighs. She points to a joke about a fake "reality show,"
which reads "Ten dieters test their willpower seated
at a pastry cart. The person who eats the most desserts with
the least carbs wins free liposuction."
After years in the city in various high-level editorships
and copy chief positions, Hester moved to West Shokan and
never looked back. "I love it here. I still wear my Manolos,
but my life is here. It's magic."
Hester lives with her husband Ron Van Warmer; "He's only
three years older than my son. People took bets against us,
but everyone in town knew we‚d make it. We‚ve
been married 21 years." Ron is the manager of the Lodge
at Catskill Corners. "We love our life. Look at all the
rooms in our house! We love to pick a room and have cocktails."
At this point, Wazzo the cockatiel lands on Hester‚s
head and trills. "Oh hello!" she trills back. Hester
gestures at a row of empty Dom Pérignon bottles. "When
we drank each one we wrote down who we were with and put the
note in the bottle." With Wazzo still on her head, I
ask Hester about all the hats on the wall. "Oh, yes!
We have parties where everyone gets a different hat. We have
KGB hats, Australian bug hats∑ She shows me a hat with
little corks dangling from the brim to keep bugs away. "All
kinds of hats!" Hester turns to a picture of a beautiful
woman on the wall and says, dramatically, as if to explain
everything; "My father was an attorney∑" but
my mother was vaudeville."