Only time will tell if in the coming years, our nation will
function fairly or worse than fairly going forward. Given
our differences the election’s highlighted and the tightening
control of our governance by one party, we doubt that functioning
smoothly is well, in the cards. Like most people, we’re
thankful our electoral process appeared to work as designed
and we didn’t fall victim again to the ultimate national
identity theft, a stolen election. No, this time it was won.
We take heart that the 13 colonies are still mostly united,
that our state is fundamentally sober, and that people in
our neck of the woods are collectively capable of making better
choices for themselves than people in many parts of the country.
Closer to home there are more reasons to be optimistic. Our
new administration at Onteora under Justine Winters is off
to an excellent start, making progress on a number of fronts
including working with the state to get decisions on the large
parcel bill out of the hands of local school boards, where
it clearly doesn’t belong. The administration and the
board are also reaching out the community with a new committee
to help chart the future of facilities in the district…hope
perhaps for the West Hurley school. And there’s a new
Communications Committee under new trustee David Paterson
that’s looking to pull the community more closely into
the district’s decision making process and keep us better
informed. All new developments, all good. Even in Olive, some
of the anger and the militancy surrounding the large parcel
issue is beginning to soften, as, we think, it should.
At the county level, the election seemed to have confirmed
that we’ll soon enter the final year of Ulster County’s
ancient political dynasty, which, over generations, sometimes
rose to mediocrity but more typically embodied the worst of
small-to-mid sized government: Patronage of every conceivable
sort, incompetence, fiscal irresponsibility, pick your problem.
Change we think, is coming next year, but not apparently before
we’re hit with yet another 24% county tax increase.
We think people have had enough of a bad thing, they’re
ready for something better, and the county’s changing
voting pattern is a hopeful sign for that.
Elsewhere in the region things continue to go fairly well.
The broad economic direction is positive, bolstered substantially
by continued strength in the real estate market. Westward
up the 28 corridor, Margaretville and Andes are showing signs
of a modest renaissance. Hunter continues to benefit from
the continued investment and creativity of the Catskill Mountain
Foundation. Folks in Woodstock seem to have discovered that
Shandaken and Olive are every bit as interesting to explore
as their home town, even Kingston’s business districts
seem to be doing okay. Then of course there’s Belleayre
Mountain, the 28 corridor’s largest employer and its
biggest visitor draw. Things are off to another great start
there, with found money from the state in the capable hands
of Superintendent and ski-marketing guru Tony Lanza. However
it’s put to use, we think the net result will be more
visitors and a mountain that’s bigger and better.
Amongst our area’s cultural & teaching centers,
things are busy as well. Frost Valley YMCA has new programs
up and running and a higher local profile, and events like
the recent colonial reenactments have highlighted some great
stuff going on at the Ashokan Field Campus in Olivebridge.
Tibet House’s Menla Mountain Retreat off Woodland Valley
has been quietly hosting some major conferences, and Oliverea’s
Full Moon Resort has been booked solid with interesting gatherings
since, well, spring.
Our towns are generally in decent shape and here, as with
county government, we do have the ability to move things forward.
Olive is moving forward with its reval and people are adjusting
to the tax change. In Shandaken people are focused, properly
so, on infrastructure issues, mainly water and sewer, with
cell service still on the slow track, which is, to be sure,
an improvement over the past year’s no-track. With the
Belleayre Resort review in a judicial holding mode the town’s
overt tensions have certainly quieted, a welcome relief. But
the process will go public again sometime early next year,
along with issues of the town’s now non-existent role
in that. Shandaken’s also moving forward again with
its Comprehensive Plan, and with its new consultants vowing
not to factor the resort issue into the process in any way.
What does that mean? Is that framing a house without knowing
if it has to accommodate an elephant? No one knows yet. But
they are the folks who’ve been hired, and they’re
definitely the folks to call if you want to build an international
airport, a casino, or an open pit copper mine. Soon enough,
we’ll see what they’ve got in mind for us.
Thanksgiving’s coming, a good time for reflection on
what we do and we don’t have, and what we treasure about
both. It’s been a nice fall, late in coming but long
in staying. Whatever the coming seasons hold for our nation,
here our communities are strong, our future solid, and our
prospects for keeping and building the kind of place we want
to live…good. Very good actually. As always what it’ll
take is just about everyone. As usual, what we need to find
is ways to work things through together. If there’s
any place that can happen, it’s right here.