Shame on you, Berndt Leifeld:
On July 17, 2004, I wrote to Berndt after reading the Olive Press
story concerning the voting for the Amendment (excluding reservoir
land) to the Large Parcel Bill in Albany. As I recall, the
bill was tabled as it came up to vote.
This bill would have helped Olive, and to say I was devastated
was putting it mildly. Again, Olive loses. I felt
Mr. Leifeld should have been present in ALBANY, as Jeremy Wilber
was, to fight for his community, not just hire others do his work.
He has tried to say he knew nothing about the bill before it was
passed, yet there is record of him "seeming to remember
something" about this, but again, he never followed
My letter of July 17 was to criticize our Town Supervisor for
what I felt was poor job performance. As a public servant,
he needs to be accountable for his actions or lack thereof.
I wanted to SHOUT to Berndt... that he should do... "some
work for a change you just might know something for a change."
That was in response to his "I don‚t know" about
the vote in Albany - I felt he should "try finding out when
they vote - call them the day before."
I felt that "the job is too, too much for you to handle.
There is too much at stake." I asked you to "stop
blaming everyone else" and yes, I even suggested that it
was time for you to "retire and take your staff with you."
I was angry. VERY ANGRY when I wrote this letter.
I signed this letter Angry Olive Resident, and not with my name,
for fear of reprisals. I guess my fears were realized, but
by the wrong individual. You had the audacity to take my
unsigned letter, and a hand written voucher that had been submitted
by the person you thought wrote this letter, and make a comparison.
End of story - in your mind, you had the "guilty party"
and you were determined to do something about it. Paula
Minew has been doing the police car maintenance for years.
All of a sudden you decide it would be better to "rotate"
these services to the other businesses in town. In your
words, "share the wealth." Reprisal? What
else could it be?
When news of your assumption that Paula had written this letter
came back to me, I met with you to come forward and let you know
it was NOT Paula, but myself, that wrote the letter. By
your own account, you showed my letter and Paula‚s voucher
to several people, including a couple whom you stated do this
kind of comparison "for a living" and they all agreed
that there were similarities. You never once faced Paula
and asked her to her face if she wrote it. And you never
once considered that Paula had just buried her mother two weeks
prior to this letter coming out and probably had a few other things
on her mind.
When I admitted it was my letter, you were explosive in your response.
I don‚t think many would believe that you could behave the
way you did that morning, throwing papers around the desk, yelling
and finally stomping out of the room and ending the meeting.
You left me even more fearful than I had been when I wrote the
You did call Paula and apologized to her. Did you also retract
your assumptions to all those you blatantly insinuated her involvement
with this? From what I am now hearing, it‚s possible
you still don‚t believe that she is NOT involved.
In fact, I‚ve recently heard that you still insist that
she had something to do with it, and that I couldn‚t have
written this letter!
It‚s because of that Œrumor‚ I am again, publicly
stating that I AM the person that wrote the original letter to
Berndt Leifeld on July 17, 2004. And yes, it was "unsigned"
and it was critical of his, in my opinion, complacent management
of our town. It‚s time EVERYONE knows that Paula Minew
did NOT write this letter - and does not deserve to be singled
out for it‚s content. It‚s time our town started
paying attention to how town business is being conducted.
More time should be spent working on the problems facing our town
than using political muscle to retaliate against criticism.
Let‚s all step back, take a deep breath and look at the
shape of things in the Town of Olive. In my opinion, under
the current Democratic Administration, we have: no cell tower,
a closed road and dam; controversy with a police commissioner‚s
status, and taxes increased over fifty percent.
What are our elected officials doing? It seems to me that
they are pointing fingers in more directions than a weathervane
in a windstorm. Talk about running for cover!
I feel that rather than "too little to late" petitions
from Councilman Bruce LaMonda, (who seems to be the point man
in every paper on the tax issue) the Town Board dropped the ball
BEFORE this legislation was passed. Perhaps more attention
to detail by the board would have resulted in a different outcome
for Olive residents and taxpayers.
The Olive Town Board should be contacting other elected officials
and working out solutions to our problems rather than running
hither and yon trying to "shift the blame."
Olive T. Ruth
West Shokan, NY
Editor‚s Note: We have been inundated with false-name letters
of late. Many, we suspect, are from the same man. In the spirit
of the previous letter, we print this one in the week. But no
more. Please, use real names.
The Onteora School Board chose to enact the Large Parcel Bill
that was meant to correct wide swings in tax assessment. Instead
it created larger swings in assessment. Some people in Olive received
tax bills that were 60 to 120% higher than last year. Next year,
when the Large Parcel Bill is amended or rejected, other towns
will experience shock waves of tax spikes and valleys.
The only way to fairly equalize assessments would be to have a
current re-assessment of all six of the towns within the Onteora
School District. About half of them, including Olive and Shandaken,
have not had recent evaluations. The Onteora School District,
and any other school district, already possesses the legal right
to re-assess towns within the school tax district. If the District
has entered the business of tax assessment, it should go all the
way: Each house, no matter where it is, should be assessed using
the same formula. That is the only fair way to "equalize"
taxes. Since the District already had that legal right, why did
they choose to hurt Olive and benefit Woodstock and Shandaken
by enacting the Large Parcel Bill? They already had the ability
to equalize taxes and never did it.
The following is a letter to Senator Bonacic...
I read your "News and Views" news letter regularly and
find it quite interesting and informational. However, I don't
recall any item or article in which you celebrate the "Large
Parcel" legislation but I do understand that you were one
of two sponsors. I believe the other was Kevin Cahill. Am I correct
Let me see if I have this fairly interpreted;
NY City owns a very large reservoir in the
Town of Olive and Town of Hurley. This reservoir sits on
property that is taxed by the Onteora School District. The Town
of Olive residents have traditionaly paid a lower [school] tax
than surrounding town residents due to the tax "contribution"
by NYC. The Towns of Woodstock and Shandaken now pay a lesser
tax than they did in prior years because the "Large
Parcel" adjustment allows these two towns to benefit from
the large NYC tax which is derived from land in Olive and Hurley
that cannot be developed or used to generate taxes. The Onteora
School Board opted to impliment the Large Parcel Act which caused
my school tax for the current year to soar 68.75%. The next
thing one knows is that the County Legislature will decide to
spread the NYC Real Estate tax among the other [poor] towns [like
Kingston, Marble- town or Rosendale].
If you had anything to do with this bit of craziness; thank you
so much. If you did not, I would appreciate your denial or to
what extent you participated.
My comment on the Large Parcel thing is that I/we do not think
a School Board should have the authority to "juggle"
the tax liability(s) and make life more pleasant for those who
live outside the town [and] conversely more miserable for us who
live] where the large parcel resides. As I/we see it, NYC will
continue to be assessed the same tax but the Onteora School Board
in it's wisdom can spread that portion a little more equitably
[as in Socialism].
Please tell me what I am missing and/or that I "doth
protest too loudly".
Are you running for re-election in 2004 ?? We are already "sharpening
up our horns" for the Olive Onteora School Board members.
They make Benedict Arnold look like a Patriot. Or... secede from
the Onteora School District and form our own.
Glenn T. Anderson
Today, I sent this letter to the Governor, Commissioner of Education
Mills, Chancellor of the Board of Regents Bennett, Senators Bruno,
Bonacic and Larkin, Assembly member Silver, Cahill and Casale,
and School board president D'Orazio:
I am writing to you to about my concerns over the "large
parcel law" that was passed last year by the State Legislature.
I realize this is a long letter and I appreciate the time you
or more likely, your staff members are devoting to reading it.
How ironic that a reservoir picture appears on the school's homepage.
[The italics sentence was only in the letter to the school board
president.] When the large parcel bill was passed, we learned
that the new law would include NYC reservoirs, and if the school
district decided to adopt it, it would cause a huge increase in
taxes in the Town of Olive, the town that contains most of the
Ashokan Reservoir lands. Olive is in Ulster County, and is a member
of the Onteora School District, along with the Towns of Woodstock,
Shandaken, Hurley, and small parts of Lexington and Marbletown.
The School Board conducted a couple of public hearings that were
well-attended; the majority of folks in attendance, besides elected
officials from the various towns, were from the Town of Olive,
and of course all were opposed to adopting the large parcel bill.
However, the school board decided to adopt the bill this year,
and when the school tax invoices arrived, Olive residents were
hit with a 56% increase. To someone who attended those meetings,
is a graduate of Onteora High School and has roots that go back
to 1790 in the Town of Olive, it comes as no surprise that the
school board adopted the large parcel provision. It was clear
from the demeanor of the board at the public hearings that their
minds were made up, the public hearings were for show only. It
seemed to me they regarded the Olive residents who attended the
hearings as ignorant, non-elite, and rather scary. At the same
time, they believed the large parcel somehow corrects "inequity"
between the towns ˆ oddly, given the situation, between expensive,
erudite Woodstock and cheap, low brow Olive.
I am an education professor, and these issues are not unfamiliar
to me. Equity is much in fashion in education circles. Rumor has
it that NYC and the problems of school aid equity created most
of the State budget delay. It is a term bantered around when discussing
resource distributions between suburbs, cities and rural areas;
upstate and downstate; poor schools and rich schools; the list
goes on and on. I always wonder when I hear these discussions
how far one should push the concept. It is nice in idealistic
terms to strive toward equity -- all in the education field see
it as a worthy goal -- though it is somewhat hard to achieve in
a capitalist society ˆ but does it extend to equity from
student to student within the school? Does Olive have fair representation
on the athletics teams? Are Olive kids equally represented in
advanced classes? On the cheerleading squad? On grading distributions?
On receiving graduation awards? I‚m only going from anecdotal
evidence ˆ I guess if I FOILED I could find out for sure
(I suspect the Board will never voluntarily give out the data)
-- but from my experience, the answer is "probably not."
Olive is my hometown, and nearly all of my family lives there,
and has lived there, for generations. For 100 years Olive has
given water to New York City. Our ancestral lands were stolen
from us to make way for the Ashokan Reservoir. Today, we live
with that beautiful artificial lake; it is both a blessing and
a curse. First, we still mourn, in vivid memories passed down
from generation to generation, the loss of our lands and the decimation
of our history. It is the breathtaking and bittersweet watery
grave of our past. Second, there has been less development in
Olive than there might have been had the Esopus Valley been left
alone, to take its natural course of growth. To be sure, we enjoy
the pristine environment that the Reservoir, and its land restrictions,
has protected. At the same time, this has prohibited much business
from locating in the town, and although the Reservoir has created
some employment, it has taken away many more jobs. As a result
there is not as big a tax base as our neighbors have. Third, we
confront, on a daily basis, closed roads and detours, because
of threats to the watershed in the aftermath of 9/11/01.
These inconveniences are hardly a new thing. Never a morning person,
I still remember the long detour of my high school bus that happened
more than 25 years ago. That time it was for a more benign reason
than terrorism, though it was still a dangerous situation. The
Traver Hollow Bridge on NYC's Route 28A, which links the hamlets
of West Shokan and Boiceville, had to be closed because pieces
were falling off, something that was discovered after a school
bus went over it. My three mile trip transformed into 20 miles.
Several times our bus was sent back home, because we left West
Shokan so early, and arrived at the school after the determination
was made to close due to snow. New York City was in dire financial
circumstances at that time, so once again no one in power cared
about the rural folks in the Town of Olive. It took three years
and a lawsuit by local community members before the bridge was
rebuilt and my short bus ride was restored.
I have a house in Samsonville in the Town of Olive, built on land
my parents gave me. It is a weekend residence, as I must live
in the Capital District to find appropriate professional employment.
Obviously, I am a fortunate person, and the absurd tax increase
will not bankrupt me, although I still must dip into hard-earned
savings to pay for it (and with the recent increase, my school
tax bill for Onteora is now more than three times as large as
in Castleton, where I'm proud to say my district is Schodack Central
Schools in Rensselaer County). But I know many Olive residents
who are not weekenders like me (albeit a hometown weekender).
They may not be writing to you as I am, but I want to be their
voice. There are senior citizens on fixed incomes. There are couples
with mediocre jobs struggling to raise families. There are old
timers who are land rich but cash poor who face astronomical tax
increases. Why should they have to move entirely or sell some
of their land to developers (and non-native weekenders) to pay
for the outrageous school taxes? Is not intact land in rural areas
something worth preserving? Don't local people deserve to stay
in their hometown? Do Town of Olive residents have to take another
indignity because they are host to a NYC reservoir? Why does the
biggest beneficiary, Woodstock, or any of the other towns deserve
to benefit from having the reservoir in the district? What have
residents of their towns given up as a result of its presence?
What was the legislature thinking when they passed this unfair
law, and allowed a biased school board to make this important
I have not addressed the other issue, which is not really related
but adds to the indignity of this enormous tax increase. In 2001-02,
on average OCS spent 23% more per student than did all NYS public
schools ($15,090 to $12,265). In 2002-03, an article in the Kingston
Daily Freeman reports that OCS spent $15,538.15 per student. District
Business Administrator Snyder is quoted: "We are the second
largest geographic school district in the state and you have neighborhood
schools, which means they are spread out." He doesn't directly
state that as being the cause of the high costs, but the article
follows his statement by reporting that Onteora's costs for transportation
are $1,090 per student, which is the highest in the county. Even
in the unlikely event that OCS has transportation costs of $1,090
and other districts have a cost of zero, that still leaves more
than half of the difference in expenditure unexplained.
For help the article turns to School Board Trustee Eisenberg.
He is quoted: "I actually like where we're spending our money
as opposed to where we're not spending our money. We [sic] much
heavier on the instruction." So then I guess he is saying
the higher costs are not from transportation? Let's return to
the data. In 2002-03, according to NYS Education Department School
Report Cards, per student instructional costs at OCS were $8,068
for general education and $24,906 for special education, compared
to $6,649 and $15,575 at similar schools, or $6,968 and $15,712
at all public schools in NYS.
How about at three Ulster County peers? At New Paltz, they were
$6,801 and $16,274; at Rondout Valley, they were $7,171 and $17,547;
and at Saugerties, they were $5,945 and $15,816. So, yes, instructional
costs are higher. (Duh.) But why? Is OCS better than the peers?
Better than NYS Education Department-defined similar schools?
Better than all public schools in NYS? Or even somehow different?
I looked quickly through comparison data to see if any numbers
jumped out at me. OCS has a limited English proficiency population
that is 1% of the students. This compares to .8% at Rondout Valley,
1.7% at New Paltz, .5% at Saugerties (statewide, 6.8% of students
are LEP). OCS has a free-lunch eligible population of 14.4%, compared
to 11.4% at Rondout Valley, 13% at New Paltz, or 13.4% at Saugerties
(statewide the figure is 37.7%).
The attendance rate at OCS is 93.3%; it is 93.4% at Rondout Valley,
94% at New Paltz, or 94.5 at Saugerties (statewide: 92.3). The
suspension rate at OCS is 1.7%; at Rondout Valley it is 8.4%;
at New Paltz it is 6%; at Saugerties it is 3.9 percent; and statewide
it is 4.7%. At OCS, 3.7% of students dropped out of school; at
Rondout Valley 4% did; at New Paltz it was 1.8%; at Saugerties
it was 5.4%; statewide it was 7.3%. The proportion of students
classified as having disabilities was 14.6% at OCS, 11.8% statewide,
16.3% at Rondout Valley, 13.9% at New Paltz, and 9.8% at Saugerties.
Tentative conclusions I would draw from these proportions are
that students at OCS and the peers are not as needy - they are
much less likely to not be proficient in English, or to be economically
disadvantaged, and so eligible for a free lunch, than students
statewide. Also, OCS is less likely to suspend a student, and
Rondout Valley and New Paltz are more likely to suspend a student
than schools statewide. (Whether this is because all the students
at OCS are angels or because the school tolerates inappropriate
behavior is not answered by the data.)
Regardless, these numbers do not answer what might be driving
the higher instructional costs. Here is another data category:
in terms of a breakdown of staff, OCS had 352: 60% are teachers
(211), 9% are non-teaching professionals (9%) and 31% (110) paraprofessionals.
For Rondout Valley, the total is 340; 64% teachers (217); 11%
non-teaching professionals (36) and 87 paraprofessionals (26%).
For New Paltz, the total is 261; 67% teachers (174); 11% non-teaching
professionals (29) and 22% paraprofessionals (58). For Saugerties,
the total is 306; 70% teachers (215); 7% non-teaching professionals
(20) and 23% paraprofessionals (71). Statewide, there were 217,739
teachers (64%); 40,823 non-teaching professionals (12%); and 84,072
Assuming that paraprofessionals mean teacher's aides, a part of
those higher instructional costs are coming from the larger proportion
of "paraprofessionals" at OCS than at the peers or statewide.
Which, I guess, is explained in this quote from the article: "Trustees
also said special education costs, at $2,590 per student, include
work that provides assistance in regular classrooms as part of
long-term planning in the district." The problem with this
quote is that the number $2,590 is wrong, by a lot. It is probably
just an editing error, but who knows. The actual figure for special
education costs, per student, was $24,906 in 2001-02.
Then Pupil Personnel Director Boyce is quoted: "The consultant
teachers and teaching assistants offer support to the students
without disabilities. They maintain a high level of instruction."
No facts are given in the article to support the district's and
Ms. Boyce's assertions, and unfortunately, I have only anecdotal
evidence with which to evaluate the information. But, based on
conversations with regular education students in the school, and
also from my educational background, I think this is stretching
the truth. Sure, having one or two or a few extra adults in the
classroom probably helps the teacher, that's a no brainer. But
how much regular education students actually get out of aides
that are hired to help students with disabilities is debatable.
And, sadly, how this justifies OCS spending $9,331 per student
more on special education than at similar schools in the state
remains unanswered. Simply put, this is a very out-of-touch school
board and administration. The district dealt with two divisive
issues recently: closing the West Hurley Elementary School and
the large parcel law, given those decisions and these figures,
is it any wonder that the school budget was voted down twice this
year, and one incumbent board member was resoundingly defeated?
I attended town meetings, and I apprehensively watched the events
as they unfolded in the newspaper. I cannot register my disapproval
by voting on the OCS budget or in the school board election, since
my legal residence is Castleton (is that taxation without representation?),
but I am not willing to sit by and watch while Olive's land is
stolen once again. No one has the right to take money from the
pockets of Olive residents and call it redistribution or equity.
In my world that's called theft, and by any definition it is a
crime. I am left with no choice but to refuse to pay my Onteora
school tax bill this year.
Gina Giuliano, PhD
On Thursday night September 9, our County Legislature, passed
by a significant margin, a memorializing resolution, that requests
our Federal legislators to implement Congressional Bill HR1322.
This legislation is entitled "The Emergency Retiree Health
Benefits Protection Act" and would require companies to restore
the medical benefits that were in effect when their employees
retired. This legislation would insert a requirement in the ERISA
regulations that now only protects pensions, but excludes health
benefits. The memorializing resolution was originally submitted
by County Legislator James Maloney (R-I-C) and was approved on
a bi-partisan basis (28 yes, 4 against and 1 abstention). The
winning margin is important, in that it demonstrates, that our
county legislators acknowledge that thousands of our retirees
and surviving spouses, in this area, both Republicans and Democrats,
are being adversely impacted by the health care costs that are
being shifted on them increasingly each year. For those whose
pension income is not adequate, it is difficult to absorb this
new burden, when they had the right to assume that their health
care costs would be covered after retirement. This is particularly
onerous on surviving spouses, whose pensions may be half of what
their deceased spouse received. Additionally, IBM pensions have
had no significant cost of living adjustments in the past 20 years
and the buying power of the dollar has depreciated by almost 50
percent. As an aside, the present CEO of IBM, is projected to
receive a pension of over 8 million dollars annually. This particular
pension should be adequate to handle any health premium cost shifts.
This clearly is not a partisan issue, but responds to the plight
of our residents, some of whom may eventually be forced to utilize
our over burdened Medicaid system. The Democratic Minority Leader,
David Donaldson, had also submitted a like resolution and a merged
resolution was enacted. The actions by of all of the Democrats
and the large majority of the Republicans who supported this resolution
are commendable and Ulster voters should acknowledge their efforts.
We will now request that our U.S. Senators submit legislation
like HR1322, in the U.S. Senate.
Addition Federal legislation will also be necessary to restrict
the perverse ability of corporations to reduce payments of health
benefits and create imaginary revenue. The Wall Street Journal
recently published a detailed article on this subject and referred
to this phenomena as a corporate "Cookie Jar" and is
used when they wish too enhance the appearance of their earning
reports. Accounting games are also played by corporations with
the employee pension funds that are in reserve for retiree pensions
and create what is called "Vapor Profits." In fact,
in the past four annual reports, IBM's profits contained almost
five billion dollars in "Vapor Profits" which represented
17 percent of their reported profits.
The spiraling health care costs in the U.S. will ultimately require
a national effort to optimize our inefficient system and the bi-partisan
effort demonstrated last week by our county legislators, is a
Benefits Restoration Inc.
New York State Director
The Onteora administration and board of education are facing two
very big issues - death and taxes.
Taxes - the large parcel vote. I have heard each member of the
Onteora board of education state they believe the large parcel
legislation should not be forced on school districts. If this
is the case, why did the majority vote yes? Why did the Onteora
BOE put themselves in the position of redistribution of the tax
base. If they believed the legislators put them in this position
and this is not their responsibility, they should have voted no.
Death - Kevin J. O'Connor. Where does the Onteora board of education
draw the line between the safety of our children and protecting
the school district from admitting to negligence and wrongdoing?
This is a question I believe each board member needs to ask themselves.
I thought a board of education's responsibility was the safety
and education of our children. If the board and administration
believe their job is protecting the school district, I wonder
how they sleep at night. How are we teaching our children to take
responsibility for their actions if the adults they look up to,
don't do the same? I have heard each member speak of the safety
of our children many times at meetings and in the local newspaper.
In death and taxes, their words don't support their actions.
The Onteora board of education and administration need to be reminded
of the diatric goals listed on the agenda of each meeting, which
are: Increase community input, awareness and support of district
issues through effective communication. Formulate a budget and
governance structure based on effective use of resources and district
needs that the community can support. Foster a safe, respectful
and healthy school culture. Maybe we should request each board
member and administrator write these goals ten times each.
If the philosophy and policy of this board of education is not
standing up for what they believe (redistribution of taxes is
not their responsibility) and protecting the school district from
admitting to negligence and wrongdoing (Kevin's death) I ask the
parents of Onteora children, is this a board you want watching
out for the safety of your children? I would not. I want a new
board and a new policy.
The Onteora Townships Taxpayers Association greatly appreciates
the time and hard work of Jeremy Wilber and the Woodstock Town
Board for their appearances before the Onteora School Board. Their
efforts helped bring about a fairer distribution of tax responsibility
in the school district. Thank you.
Joe Doan, president
Sam Mercer, vice-president
The article in the September 2 editionabout the bear being "moved
away" was very interesting, but made one major mistake.
It describes the incident that happened and the larger issue of
the bear and people encounters. But it does not offer any solutions!
It should be common knowledge now what needs to be done to protect
both people and bears. But like our political process, ignorance
still seems to abound. Please do not just write articles detailing
bear problems, but also give us some concrete solutions. Your
article stated, "the problem was simple. A growing bear population
on the one hand, and a growing human population on the other.
The result is a marked increase in bear/human interactions. And
a marked increase in the lack of knowledge of what to do when
one encounters a bear." So, please tell us vividly, boldly
and simply (as obviously many people still don't know) what to
do to prevent these incidents. Not leave out food, bear proof
garbage cans etc. Unless we continually educate people on what
to do, the bears will suffer and ultimately so will we. We are
all connected, whether it's obvious or not. Its ultimately not
the bears who are the problem, but us. One solution offered was
extending the hunting season. Is this the most enlightened way
to deal with this? Just kill them? We can do better. We must do
Mount Vernon, NY
Hello and Welcome to Tax Answer Fone brought to you by New York
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If you know the name of the Tax you are interested in paying,
please Press the "I Want to Pay that Tax Too!" button
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press the "You think your Tax Is High...You Should See Mine!"
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button now. If you would like to hear our most creative tax pick
of the week, please Press the "FU!" button now.
Feature 1: You have chosen to browse through our selection of
Taxes. Beginning Tuesday enjoy our special Double Feature! See
the wildly talked about "The Tax Collector Always Rings Twice"
starring James Gandolfini as the Tax Collector. (After coping
with pain over their right eyebrows for months, the Legislature's
resident neurolgist orders an MRI.) Find out if this cures the
sounds of cash registers ringing in their heads! Or does the legislature
just want a group vacation in Bali????? Showtime at 7:30 a.m.!
Arrive on time! Due to the surprise ending, no one is admitted
after the movie begins.
Feature 2: "Dinner with the Auctioneer." Mario Cuomo
comes out of retirement to star in this foot stompin flick which
follows at 6 p.m. Once again, we see the Tax Collector in the
classroom of a creative writing class writing drafts of new taxes
and fees. What is it that he is holding under his other arm? Could
it be the films from his first MRI that showed there was nothing
wrong with the sponge of a brain that resides in his head? Will
it be a sponge forever? Will the Tax Collector learn Wang Fung
Ho Hiya! and kick the crap out of all these stupid property owners
that can't pay their taxes? Or will he finally be fixed and star
with Jackie Chan in her next movie "The Billion Dollar Tax
Bill"? Hang on to your seats folks - this one is an Oscar
Thank you for calling Tax Answer Fone! A taxpayer funded service.
Big Indian, NY
I take with great pleasure this opportunity to address the upcoming
election for Ulster County Surrogate. I've been a practicing attorney
for almost 30 years and have practiced in Ulster County since
1978. Almost 18 of those years have been with the District Attorney's
office. My recent resignation with that office now allows me to
put my full faith and support behind Judge Paul Gruner for Surrogate
Court Judge. Judge Gruner's position as Public Defender coincided
basically with my position as Senior Assistant D.A. As adversaries
over the years I have interacted with Judge Gruner on thousands
of criminal cases that included dozens of trials and hearings.
His respect for the Court, the attorneys, the parties and the
juries is beyond reproach. His demeanor in court is incomparable.
His devotion to the law is more than admirable.
As most voters realize, the person elected to the Surrogate Court
position will be required not only to sit as Surrogate, but will
have enormous responsibilities in Ulster County Court where the
vast majority of criminal cases are tried. Criminial trials are
probably the most demanding of any work for a trial attorney.
It requires an intimate knowledge of the Penal Law, Criminal Procedure,
and I believe, most importantly a working knowledge of the Rules
of Evidence. Out of all of the judges and attorneys in Kingston
over the last two decades that I have worked with, I dare say
that there are only four of them who may have spent more time
in court with Paul Gruner than I have. Throughout those years
I also observed Judge Gruner maintaining a private civil practice.
Simply stated, Judge Gruner excels in possessing the necessary
requirements that are expected for the next Ulster County Surrogate.
It is easy to say that a candidate for Judge is fair and compassionate.
There are dozens of attorneys, including without hesitation Judge
Work, who fit that requirement. It is, however completely different
to say that a candidate is not only fair and compassionate, but
possesses decades of various legal experience, would have complete
command of the law and Rules of Evidence and has had the years
of trial experience that is a prerequisite for the position of
being a trial judge.
Judge Gruner, to say the least, is equal to the best jurists that
I have encountered in 30 years. Variety of experience is what
is required for a judge to stand out above the rest. I urge you
to vote for Judge Paul Gruner.
Michael J. Miranda
Mount Pleasant, NY
We appeal to all the citizens of Ulster County, including Democrats
like ourselves, to vote for Republican Paul Gruner on November
2 for the position of Surrogate Judge.
Voting for judges should have nothing to do with political party
affiliation. Mary Work, Judge Gruner's Democratic challenger,
has been ensconced in the family court for the past 15 years and
has faced no opposition or scrutinization on the basis of merit
over the past two decades. Her tenure has been solely the result
of partisan politics, as have many family court judges.
Family court is the only court in the country that ignores the
laws of the land and relies upon the discretion of one fallible
person, a judge, rather than the rule of law. This is the case
with Mary Work and other family court judges who have become all
too powerful and self-serving, backed by nothing more than an
entrenched political party machinery that keeps them in office
and helps them avoid the scrutiny of their constituents.
In 1995, Judge Mary Work, based upon false accusations, authorized
two child abuse investigators to go to the Woodstock Elementary
School to interrogate my son in the presence of the school principal,
in an effort to determine if I was guilty of child abuse. As a
prominent member of the Woodstock community at the time, I was
appalled that this investigation took place, let alone the fact
that it was done AT TAXPAYER EXPENSE. My eleven-year-old son vehemently
denied the charges, and they were immediately dropped. If he hadn't
spoken up - for any reason - my name would have been held in a
computer bank of suspected child abusers until he turned 21 years
of age. Over these past five years, I have interviewed and met
many men and women whose children were too young to testify to
their innocence, as well as those whose children were too intimidated
to say anything at all in their parent's defense. This is just
one outrageous example of the injustice and absurd proceedings
that are often daily routine occurrences in our county's family
court at 16 Lucas Avenue in Kingston.
In the course of the past five years, I have hosted and produced
a cable TV show for the sole purpose of bringing attention to
the extraordinary abuse in the family courts of the Hudson Valley
and Catskills. My friend, John Heard, joins me in these efforts
and in support of Paul Gruner. We both welcome any change to the
long-standing status quo of horrific mistreatment in these kangaroo
courts. (Hearing Examiner John Beisel, a Republican, is a relatively
recent addition to this court; he has been consistently fair and
diligent and we can only hope that he will continue to work in
Both John and I feel compelled to speak out at this critical time
to alert our fellow citizens: this is not a time to vote partisan
politics. Voting for judges should have nothing to do with party
affiliation, but rather should be determined by competence and
judgment. Mr. Gruner is an excellent, well respected Ulster County
attorney. He currently sits on the Surrogate Court, having been
appointed by Governor Pataki, and I urge all of you to support
him by voting Republican on November 2, regardless of your party
The tyranny of family court is finally coming to light through
my efforts, John Heard's participation in this cause, and the
voices of many others who have risked losing their children by
speaking out. In this spirit, we both hope that Judge Paul Gruner
will usher in an era of change in the Surrogate Court. Family
Court Judge Mary Work is part of a tapestry of entrenched judges
from Albany to New York City. We all have seen what happens when
someone is in power for too long. Join John and I in making this
necessary change by electing someone of high standards to the
Surrogate Court bench. Every citizen should spend a morning or
afternoon observing the injustice in the Ulster County Family
Court and learn firsthand about what we have stated here.
West Hurley, NY
We need a change in this country. George W. Bush has given this
country four years of unsuccessful policies. His policies have
lost millions of jobs, caused many people to loose their health
insurance and most of those that do have health insurance have
seen their cost continue to escalate. He has socked seniors with
the largest increase ever in their Medicare monthly payments and
even worse he started a war with no end in site. Who knows what
else he‚ll do in the next four years if he's elected.
Bush started the war in Iraq to get rid of Saddam Hussein and
to save this country and the world from terrorist‚s attacks.
You have to ask yourself why is this country footing most of the
bill. Why are so many America troops dieing in Iraq to save the
world from terrorists and so few from other countries? Why don‚t
other countries like France and Germany have more soldiers on
the ground to help us? Why, because George W Bush decided to go
it alone. Now there‚s some talk about starting the draft
again because some say we need more troops in Iraq. Who knows
what Mr. Bush will do next if he gets re-elected?
I don‚t think Bush has done anything to make things better
for me and this country and that‚s why I‚m voting
for change by voting for John Kerry and John Edwards.
The following was sent to the town board recently...
Please accept my resignation as Town Historian of Shandaken, effective
immediately. Appointed under Supervisor Neal Grant, I have enjoyed
the privilege of fostering and preserving a part of the history
created by generations of my ancestors and their fellow Shandakenites.
The recent Shandaken Bicentennial Celebration, 1804-2004 was the
result of hard teamwork. My assistant Town Historians June LaMarca
and Maureen Nagy deserve SPECIAL accolades for their dedication
throughout the two-plus years of planning and implementation.
Although my historical interests are now directed toward the Capital
District area of New York State I will continue to follow the
course for Shandaken‚s historical efforts: securing, preserving
and disseminating its richest asset, the Town‚s history.
To this end I recommend Maureen Nagy as Shandaken Town Historian
following my tenure. Maureen had proven to be a dedicated, resourceful
and thorough assistant historian, qualities absolutely necessary
for the position of Town Historian. It is my sincere hope that
politics will not play any part in this appointment, but that
qualification will be the deciding factor.
Best wishes to the Town of Shandaken and all its peoples.
Historically and very truly yours,
Charles J. Zimmerman