Up on the News
While the overall hike in
the tax levy from this first stab at budgeting, up for discussion in
the coming weeks, is for just under 7%, the levy for the general fund
portion of the budget, or the non-highway department half, is slated
to skyrocket over 11%.
In contrast the Highway department side of the budget has an increase
of less than one quarter of one percent. With a tax levy increase of
only $27,302, the Highway side of the equation drags the general fund’s
On Monday, Supervisor/Budget Officer Peter DiSclafani made no such distinction.
“It’s about a 6.8% increase,” he said.
With no discussion, DiSclafani announced that the preliminary budget
had been prepared and the board agreed to submit it to the County as
is required by law.
Taxpayers will have a chance to be heard on the budget next month at
a public hearing set for Monday, November 3 at 6:30 pm. By law, the
budget is supposed to then be adopted by the Thursday following the
November 4 election… which can be extended by several weeks, legally,
if need be..
The largest single chunk of the tax increase comes from the town’s
Ambulance Department, whose administration is seeking almost an 18%
increase over this year’s funding. The department has seen substantial
cost increases before. Last year the department was given a big increase-
from 2007’s $218,496 to $250,400 for 2008. Now the department
wants another $44,607 to bring the total operating budget up to $295,007.
Department Captain Richard Muellereile spoke briefly at Monday night’s
town board meeting. He did not discuss specifics of the proposed increase
but did note that the department’s revenues are coming in as expected,
perhaps slightly better than usual.
If they get what they want for next year, the Ambulance Department would
for the first timehave a budget that exceeds the town’s Police
The police are asking for a hike too. Operating this year with $278,093,
the Cops want a 41/2% jump to $290,803.
As for employee salaries, all are set to receive a 4% raise.
In contrast to all the above-mentioned increases on the general side
of the budget, the Highway department side of the budget has only an
increase of less than one quarter of one percent.
Highway Superintendent Eric Hofmeister said Monday that he had to increase
the budget $27,302, but other than that no spending hike was necessary
to take care of the town’s roads next year.
“The increase is only for payroll. There’s plenty of money
there to do things,” he said.
Other notable budget increases include a jump in spending in the Phoenicia
Fire District. District costs were $185,000 this year. Next year they
are expected to be $222,167. The town’s three other fire districts
have either minimal increases or none at all.
Copies of the preliminary budget are available at town hall.
First attempts at budgets in neighboring towns have seen similar surprises
in recent weeks, with Olive superintendent Bert Leifeld waltzing his
Preliminary spending plan out October 7 at “an 8 or 9 percent
hike” over last year’s, including a requested 27 percent
hike in highway costs, as well as uncontrollable rises in the cost of
fuel, insurance, and workman’s compensation, as well as a major
drop in mortgage tax revenues. In Woodstock, the preliminary 2009 town
budget prepared by Woodstock supervisor Jeff Moran calls for a property
tax increase of approximately eight percent, a measure that the supervisor
deemed necessary in order to compensate for a drop in revenue, primarily
from mortgage tax receipts, and a rise in costs, while maintaining town
services at their current level.
Both towns are scheduling several special meetings before November to
discuss ways of lowering their spending plans.
At the recent Shandaken town board meeting, Gary Gailes of Big Indian
suggested that it might behoove the board to form a committee to start
looking for new areas of revenue, given the likely drying up of outside
moneys from county, state and federal levels of government.
Along those latter lines, Governor David Paterson recently set November
19 as a date when state legislators are to return to Albany to discuss
further cuts to this year’s state budget, which he sees slipping
into greater stress with recent losses on Wall Street, a major revenue
source for all New Yorkers.
Expected to come up will be further cuts to state programs, likely including
localized revenue sharing, in the 2009 budget scheduled to be presented
by Paterson in January and voted on by the state sometime before or
after its April 15 budget new year deadline.
Hold on, folks, it could prove a rocky ride…
Blessing On Wall Street
Gerald Celente, top futurist at the Trends Research Institute he directs
in Rhinebeck, can legitimately make that claim, as can the many who subscribe
to and heed his firm’s newsletter, the Trends Journal. But, apparently,
the congressional leaders who were stunned to silence by descriptions
of the situation from Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve
chairman Ben Bernanke at an urgent Capitol Hill meeting last week cannot.
Media reaction cascaded across the political spectrum when the gravity
of the damage began to become apparent. “Staggering,” wrote
Nicholas von Hoffman in The Nation on the 19th, “(S)o deep and sticky
it may be necessary to sacrifice wildlife programs, preschool education
and scientific research. Even without knowing the numbers, we can kiss
health insurance goodbye.” Conservative pundit Patrick J. Buchanan
announced “the party’s over,” predicting that the Crash
of 2008, “which is now wiping out trillions of dollars of our people’s
wealth” will usher in the era of a “more sober and much diminished
Celente, a financial Nostradamus whose record of accurate forecasts stretches
back into the 1980s, has been waving a red flag since July of last year,
warning of an inevitable collision with harsh financial reality. He is
emphatically not at all surprised at how dire the situation has become.
“We’ve been saying this loudly and clearly,” Celente
declared Saturday afternoon as he prepared a Trends Research bulletin
for a Monday release. “It’s bigger than the collapse of Wall
Street. It’s the collapse of the American empire. Wall Street is
a just a symptom of the collapse. It’s much bigger.”
As Wall Street does its imitation of the melting witch at the end of The
Wizard of Oz, Celente sees a larger scenario crumbling in the nation’s
infrastructure which he believes will unavoidably alter the destiny of
the entire world.
“It’s not like they’re pulling a rabbit out of a hat,”
he said. “They’re doing it in broad daylight, with the cameras
rolling. This isn’t a federal bailout. It’s a bloodless coup
by the ‘Wall Street Gang’ taking over Washington. There’s
no doubt about it. Now they don’t have to worry about the ‘too-big-to-fail’
companies. They’re in control of the biggest. They’re in charge
of the government.”
Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor in the Carter administration
who co-founded the global-interest Trilateral Commission with David Rockefeller
in 1973 to create a “New International Economic Order” summed
up the future of the state in his book Between Two Ages: America’s
Role in the Technetronic Era , declaring that the “nation-state
as a fundamental unit of man’s organized life has ceased to be the
principal creative force: International banks and multinational corporations
are acting and planning in terms that are far in advance of the political
concepts of the nation-state.” Brzezinski, currently an advisor
to presidential aspirant Barack Obama, outlined his ideas for the state’s
replacement at that time and elaborated a geopolitical redesign of the
world in subsequent books. Advisors to both McCain and Obama are cited
by numerous sources as contributing directly to the current state of affairs.
Celente endorses neither of them.
Quoted liberally in every major newspaper in the land and many abroad,
it’s difficult to name a news-oriented network program to which
Celente hasn’t contributed his analysis . Sought-after keynote speaker
for corporations like Metropolitan Life, Bank of America, Dupont, American
Express and many others, his words bear substantial weight in the business
community whose fate he now discusses with tones of woe, forecasting a
devalued dollar, massive unemployment and the same kinds of strife inflicted
on the Third World nations which defaulted to the World Bank and International
Monetary Fund in decades past. By now, Trends is no longer a voice in
the wilderness and many others have joined the alarm, some declaring that
the circumstances have been deliberately orchestrated.
Identifying Secretary Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, as the player
spearheading the “coup” with demands for unrestricted authority
to expedite a $700 billion “bailout” from taxpayers that Celente
views as a “heist,” he offers a further prediction: “Having
accurately forecast the current financial debacle, we confidently now
forecast that taking swift sction will prove- as it did in Iraq- far more
catastrophic than allowing Wall Street to suffer the consequences of its
greed and mismanagement.”
Dean Starkman, writing in the current Columbia Journalism Review, takes
a similar view of the dark heart of the crisis, chiding the business press
for “ignoring the simplest, most basic but most important”
concern in “the breath-taking corruption that overran the U.S. lending
industry, including and especially the brand names, and the extent to
which Wall Street drove that corruption.” Finding coverage, including
that of the Wall St. Journal, “treated the global credit panic as
a given, as though it were the result of some kind of natural disaster
or a particularly nasty turn in the business cycle,”Starkman believes
the media has misplayed “a story that promises to surpass in scope,
gravity, complexity and social and economic consequences anything this
generation of business reporters and editors has ever experienced.”
A self-described “political atheist” disciplined to view things
as they are rather than as he would wish them to be, Celente elaborated
the corporate and political underpinnings of the current ‘coup’
in fascinating detail (forbidden by the space afforded here), noting he
had begun seeing through the charade of office-holding spokesmen (and
women) for true power when he spent an hour with Ronald Reagan in the
1970s while hiring the future President for a firm he represented. Although
he had once been politically involved in New York and Washington, including
a stint as assistant to the Secretary of the New York State Senate, Al
Abrams, Celente stepped away from that partisan world to fine-tune his
BS meter during the Jimmy Carter/Iran hostage crisis.
“Anybody that believes that Washington is going to bail them out
is delusional,” said Celente, also a martial arts master, originally
from the Bronx, whose timber of voice brings to mind Michael Parenti,
with shades of Lenny Bruce, when transmitting irony. “So, the first
thing to do on a local level is to call every legislator in your area.
Make a nuisance of yourself. Tell them you don’t want to hear why
they’re in favor of the bailout- you’re not interested. You
know enough about the details. You’re not up for bailing out Wall
Street. Here’s the federal government telling the State of New York,
Vermont, wherever, to pony up for these people. You’re going to
start hearing intelligent people say ‘hell, no.’ Until Congress
votes on the (Paulson) plan, it is not yet a fait accompli.
“This is a perfect Titanic sinking. The metaphor couldn’t
be more clear. This unsinkable great ship goes down and the little people
are too small to save. They were locked down in steerage. The wealthy
were given the lifeboats. They were too ‘big’ to sink. The
same thing is happening now.”
Saying that he thought the consequences of the collapse will trigger a
new and viable third party initiative, Celente sketched the next steps
of the falling house of cards, citing commercial real estate, seeing large-scale
folding of industry in China and numerous other items lurking in the near
future. He offered advice to those who may be concerned about the stability
of their own banking service.
There are over a hundred banks in our region. Some of them, including
the “too-big-to-fail” banks, will go under, Celente believes.
“Everybody’s threatened. Everybody,” he said. “A
small, sound bank could be in great shape. I don’t know what their
balance sheets look like, so I can’t comment but they could be a
good investment. If your money’s protected and they didn’t
overplay the real estate markets, great. Commercial loans will be the
next shoe to fall. People aren’t talking about it. They call it
‘non-residential construction,’ ha! How about ‘commercial
real estate’? All these malls, developments, office buildings, condo
complexes. What’s going to happen when you don’t fill them
up- when you see more bankruptcies? It’s not the subprime problem.
Not the mortgage problem. That’s the smallest part of it. How about
these leveraged buyouts? All these multibillion dollar companies bought
on a future earnings base with virtually no money down?
Banks used to loan money to build businesses. Now they loan for speculations.
The real estate markets are dying and they’re not going to recuperate.”
Celente suggested those concerned to inquire into their bank’s balance
sheets, how many foreclosures they’re facing or delinquencies on
loan payments. Are people paying their mortgages on time? Do they have
enough in reserve, relative to exposure? Are they on the FDIC “problem
list”? What is their exposure to credit default SWABS? Do they have
anything with collateralized debt obligations? If they had to sell their
financial instruments, mortgage-backed securities, could they be sold
on the market? Nobody wants to buy them.
There will be books written about this week in finance which will be able
to offer a measure of perspective unavailable to us, today. Corporate
structures, built upon bigness, distance and endless growth are doomed.
The final collapse will be horrendous. Yet, in all of the shattering darkness
of the fall, Celente sees a glimmer of light.
“The good news is that something corrupt is dying,” Celente
said. “The culture of greed and fraud is being exposed for what
it is and when we learn how to survive in the ruins and people move forward
from there, we can create a much better, more human system.”
At the same
time, the DEC is looking to take the opportunity, given all the local
support Belleayre has drawn in recent weeks after it looked like cuts
would be more drastic than they turned out to be, to get everyone talking
about the future of the Catskills.
DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis will be the keynote speaker at the upcoming
Local Government Day being held at Frost Valley YMCA Camp on Wednesday,
October 22, an annual event sponsored by his agency this year, along with
the Catskill Watershed Corporation and state Department of State.
The next day, Thursday, October 23, the DEC will host a day-long conference
on the future of the Catskills to which all in the region are invited…
including those Belleayre supporters who are continuing to say that any
cut to the ski center is too much, state budget crisis or not.
“In budget times like these it’s hard to do all we want to
do,” DEC Region Three Director Willie Janeway at a September 30
dedication ceremony for a new picnic pavilion at the new Kenneth L. Wilson
State Park in Wittenberg when asked about the pending ski center cuts,
the same day his Albany office was preparing final details on what they
were planning to do for the coming ski season. “All I can tell you
is that we’re doing all we can to keep services as much the same
as we can.”
An October 1 press release from Grannis’ office in Albany outlined
what’s planned at Belleayre, the agency’s first official word
since news that it would be moving its annual Autumn Festival over the
coming weekend to Arkville, spurring wild rumors of the ski area being
shut down altogether.
“Belleayre Mountain will be open for riding and skiing seven days
a week for the 2008-2009 season. Weather and conditions permitting, Belleayre
will open the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, Nov. 28, and run through
March 2009, operating six lifts and 41 trails and glades,” the press
release read, noting a slightly shrunk season and scope than past years,
but nothing like what many expected. “All programming will be available,
including the popular ‘Kidscamp,’ racing programs, and –
new this year — the adaptive ski program. Trained instructors from
Belleayre and Helen Hayes Rehabilitation Hospital will provide coaching
for the adaptive community.”
So what about across the board cuts called for by Paterson and the state
legislature in recent months?
“In response to the state’s fiscal situation, Belleayre is
taking a number of steps this season to operate more efficiently while
continuing to deliver a world-class regional skiing experience. Two lifts
that are adjacent to other, more highly used lifts will be closed, a change
that will have only a marginal impact on lift capacity,” the release
continued. “While snowmaking and grooming on most of the mountain
will be unchanged, several of the less frequently used trails will be
open on a natural cover basis. Use of the ‘Half Pipe’ terrain
also will be weather dependent. In addition, advertising will be reduced,
and other operational and administrative efficiencies achieved.”
Daily lift tickets would increase slightly to account for higher fuel
costs and increases in other operational costs, as well.
Grannis was noted mentioning state Senator John Bonacic and state assemblyman
Kevin Cahill’s advocacy of the mountain, and a statement by Cahill
pointed out how, “Commissioner Grannis and Governor Paterson have
demonstrated a keen understanding of the significance of this facility
to the region.”
Subsequent statements from Bonacic and Coalition to Save Belleayre head
Joe Kelly found the state senator stating that, “Belleayre is greater
than a ski center” and any cuts would end up hurting state revenues,
as well as the local economy. Kelly, a longtime advocate for the ski center,
noted, “The later opening and earlier closing will come as a cost.
No one should forget that the rural towns and villages of these counties
contain huge public holdings of forest preserve and watershed lands that
present an economic challenge to reasonable growth… Those of us
who love this facility and those who rely on it for our economic survival
just cannot let the facility slip backwards.”
DEC Spokesperson noted over the recent weekend that spending had been
planned at about $6.5 million. if everything was kept the same this year,
while projections for the total were as high as $7.2 million, “largely
because of increased fuel costs. Instead, it’s going to be just
under $6.4 million now, an $825,000 reduction of projected spending geared
towards cutting rising fuel needs as well.
As for the upcoming Local Government Days, to be held Wednesday, October
22 and Thursday, October 23 at Frost Valley YMCA Camp in Denning the first
day and Belleayre the second, Janeway was enthusiastic. He said the idea
was to not only provide the sort of governmental hands-on aid the Catskills
Watershed Corporation had first designed the event for, but to seriously
use everyone in attendance to “move the Catskills forward.”
DEC Commissioner Grannis will be the keynote speaker at Catskills Local
Government Day, which requires registration with the CWC (www.cwconline.com)
by October 10. The event will feature presentations and displays on recreational
use of public and private lands, scenic and cultural trails, and collaborative
approaches to making the most of the natural amenities of the Catskills.
“Catskills Environment and Economy Day,” which the commissioner
will also attend, is the official name for the October 23 event at Belleayre.
With conference planning assistance from the Catskill Institute for the
Environment (CIE), this summit will feature speakers on forest management,
agricultural “buy-local” campaigns, bird and fish populations,
and the ecological threats of acid rain, climate change, and invasive
species. A morning panel on Threats to the Catskill Environment will be
moderated by Dr. Sam Adams of CIE, and Lisa Rainwater, Catskill Center
Executive Director, will moderate a panel on Community Based Economies
and Natural Resource Management. The day’s concluding discussion
will be led by DEC Regional Directors, Willie Janeway and Gene Kelly.
For more information please contact the DEC at (845) 256-3018, or to register
Janeway, in Wittenberg last week, said that in addition to overseeing,
and highlighting, projects such as the new Picnic Pavilion at Wilson State
Park, which was accompanied by a green renovation of the facility’s
maintenance building, he’s looking to work through the coming years
of budget leanness by focusing on planning issues, as well as bettering
service and stewardship quality.
He’s enthused by Grannis and Paterson’s continued backing
for movement on the Catskill Interpretive Center project that had first
been set for construction back when Governor George Pataki came into office
“We’re still in the contracting phase for our design team,”
he said. “But this will give us time to proceed with care. Especially
while there’s a hold on any significant capital expenditures.”
Asked if, given that hold, whether he’d heard anything about major
capital improvement plans at Belleayre, including the 2007 Agreement In
Principal for a private-public partnership building of the long-planned
Belelayre Resort with ski center tie-ins, and massive state land purchases,
Janeway widened his eyes.
“We’ll be looking at how the overall Catskills are doing,”
he said, referring back to the upcoming October 23 event he’ll be
hosting, as well as his boss visit to Frost Valley the day before.
“We have to take a look at all the processes we’re managing,”
“The party basically
was in shambles,” said Parete. “We couldn’t get candidates
and we were up against a very well established machine. I mean, this
was a completely Republican county except for the City of Kingston and
the Town of Olive. Marbletown, for instance, had a slim Democratic majority
but they couldn’t vote a single one of them into office. So that
was the situation when (Assemblyman) Kevin Cahill and (Representative)
Maurice Hinchey came to the Boiceville Inn (which he owns) and asked
me to take the chairmanship and go out and find people who were willing
to be involved.”
Whether he found them or they found him, for many in our county’s
current leadership John Parete WAS Ulster County’s Democratic
Party. He was the one person who was always available to anyone with
questions, willingly shared what he knew, and was a touchstone for many
— and not just Democrats — looking to understand or be involved
in local, regional, or state-level politics.
But in recent weeks he’s resigned his volunteer party post and
announced that by the end of the year he’ll be leaving the paid
job he’s held since 2005 as the county’s Democratic Election
Commissioner. Although holding the positions simultaneously is common,
some see it as a conflict of interest. Rather than giving up one post
he’s opted instead out of both.
The relevant background is that seeds of dissension with Parate’s
leadership were sown deep last year, when he backed Vincent Bradley’s
bid to participate in the party’s primary for the county District
Attorney’s race. In the ensuing months tensions continued as some
party members felt he didn’t support John Sennett, their eventual
nominee, with his usual energy. Sennett narrowly lost that race to GOP
candidate Holly Carnright as a direct result of Bradley’s independent
candidacy. It was the only major position county Democrats didn’t
win in that election, and the only setback they’d had in recent
Currently Democrats hold 20 of 33 legislative seats, along with a large
and growing enrollment edge. Although long-term demographic shifts are
clearly a factor, few in either major party would argue that Parete
hasn’t been the driving force behind the shift in leadership.
Like him or not — and most people seem to — consensus is
that he’s been one of the most effective party leaders in the
county’s modern history.
If Parete’s disappointed by what’s happened he’s not
saying so. He isn’t surprised that Republican legislators joined
with a minority of Democrats in forcing the dual-position issue to a
head through proposed changes to the county Ethics Law. For them, he
surmises, perhaps it was a chance for payback to the guy most responsible
for moving them to the minority side of the aisle.
“This has been a great experience and a great education for me,”
Parete said. “There’s a lot of people out there who are
focused on improving the quality of government and the political process.
I’ve enjoyed working with them because anybody who puts their
name on a ballot line is somebody I respect. It’s easy to complain
about things but people who are willing to step up and take responsibility
are rare. So I have nothing but the utmost respect and friendship for
the people who’ve been my opponents. They’re not enemies
or even adversaries, just people I respect and with whom I’ve
differed. And I’m incredibly grateful to Maurice Hinchey and Kevin
Cahill, who’ve always been there and have supported me every step
of the way.”
“But the truth is,” Parete continued, “We’ve
been successful with every single thing we wanted to accomplish. We
gained a majority in the legislature and held it through the next election.
We elected a terrific Sheriff, Paul Van Blarcum, and great judges, Mary
Work to Surrogate Court and Tony McGinty to Family Court. And we didn’t
just change the politics of the county, we changed the government of
the county. Now, this year, we’re voting on a County Executive
and a Comptroller for the first time. ‘Till now we were nearly
the largest county in the state that didn’t have a County Exec.
But by January we’ll have one, and I think Mike Hein will do a
great job. And in the process we’re actually reducing the size
of county government from 33 down to 23 legislators. We did it by forcing
a referendum on redistricting and an end to multi-seat ‘megadistricts.’
And we did it by opening up county government and turning it into something
that’s finally accountable to everyone. So I feel like we’ve
built a base and a structure from which this party should be the favorite
in every single race from now on. We’re earned the trust that
people have given us, and we’ve changed the climate.”
“So I think it’s a good time for me to move on,” Parete
concluded. “I’m not a kid, I’ll be 67 at the end of
the year. I still have our business The Boiceville Inn, which has supported
our family for 38 years and helped us raise four great kids. I’m
thrilled to be leaving the Commissioner’s position in Cathy Minh’s
hands; there’s nobody better qualified. And I’ll continue
to chair the party in Olive where I can focus on my friends and neighbors,
and where we still have a few more projects. The sewer system is a big
deal, we need to insure that our seniors have adequate housing, and
we’re hoping to expand recreational opportunities for Olive residents
but also for everyone from Kingston to Pine Hill. But we could use some
new people with new ideas and new visions and I’m always hopeful
they’ll come find me.”