Again: All Dems!
there were no municipal races beyond a ballot initiative to bond a
financing increase for the Phoenicia Library in Shandaken, which passed
easily, the big countywide race for sheriff went solidly for Shandaken’s
own Paul Van Blarcum, a former town councilman. Furthermore, although
unable to win over enough voters in the widespread 41st State Senate
District to overcome the well-funded popularity of longstanding incumbent
John Bonacic, county legislator and former New Paltz supervisor Susan
Zimet did defeat the GOP candidate as a Democrat in total Ulster County
votes, as well as in all individual districts in both Shandaken and
Zimet lost her overall bid based on large Bonacic margins in Sullivan
County, near his Orange County home base, and Delaware County, where
the entire county Board of Supervisors came out in his support.
Similarly, statewide races for Governor, U.S. Senator, Attorney General,
and even Comptroller all went handily to Democrats, despite past records
that saw Shandaken traditionally voting solidly Republican, like neighboring
Greene County, and Olive holding enough of a GOP minority to keep
it in play.
The only point of electoral contention in either town, it seemed,
was the countywide proposition to shift Ulster’s form of government
to a new charter system that will involve a smaller legislature and
the election of a county executive to oversea day-to-day functions.
Although both towns went narrowly for the proposition in the end,
as did the county on a slightly wider margin, both Shandaken and Olive
saw one district go against the measure.
The plan to increase the amount of funding the Phoenicia library gets
from the Town of Shandaken sailed to success with a total of 607 votes
in favor and only 310 opposed.
District one voters (Phoenicia) supported the measure by a vote of
283 to 105. District two (Shandaken) also supported by a vote of 105
to 58 and District four (Mt. Tremper) helped usher the increase in
with a vote of 122 to 46. Only District three (Pine Hill) which has
its own library, failed to support the plan with only 97 voting in
favor and 101 voting against.
The Phoenicia Library Association had on the ballot a budget referendum
to increase the funding the town of Shandaken supplies the Main Street
Library from the current $54,550 to $83,000.
That’s a hike of $28,450. Library officials estimate the average
increase to taxpayers will be about two dollars a year each.
Supporters say the library has only received an increase of $4,243
over the past six years.
The national news regarding Democrats, as noted voluminously elsewhere,
has seen the House of Representatives and very likely the U.S. Senate
shifting to Democrat hands, the latter via razor-thin margins in two
states that would likely remain nail-biters throughout the coming
weeks. New York State played a large role in both, and appeared poised
as of press time to hold significant influence on a national basis
over the coming two years.
The race for control of the House ended up being called on behalf
of the Democrats with the surprising but hard-fought victory of political
novice Kirsten Gillibrand, 39 of Hudson, over incumbent John Sweeney
in the district directly to our north. Sweeney had been a major supporter
of the controversial Belleayre Resort project being proposed by local
developer Dean Gitter, and had recently brought in the federal Environmental
Protection Agency to push for approvals of an alternative development
plan put forth by Gitter to avoid full adjudication of his plans before
the state Department of Environmental Conservation, now shifting to
Democratic hands for the first time since 1998. Sweeney had also been
instrumental in stalling PCB cleanups of the Hudson River that has
been pegged to be paid for by General Electric, one of his major supporters.
Also of key importance, from a local to a national level, was the
election of former Woodstocker and Orleans frontman (and singer/songwriter)
John Hall to the 19th House District to our south, as well as the
replacement of retiring GOP moderate Sherwood Boehlert by Democrat
Michael Arcari to our north and west. Not to forget the national leadership
of U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer in strategizing the Democrats’
win of the Senate, re-elected Senator Hillary Clinton’s efforts
at bringing out the vote for her party statewide, and the various
New Yorkers now scheduled to gain powerful committee chairmanships
and influence in the new Congress.
Statewide, the sweep of all major government positions by the Democrats,
led by new governor Eliot Spencer, suggests upcoming shifts in policy
towards the region, although how that plays out is yet to be seen,
given the Downstate roots of all those elected.
The new county charter, which passed 15,533 to 15,371 outside the
City of Kingston and 2,631 to 2,076 within it (both being needed for
such a matter), will take effect Jan. 1, 2009, with a new county executive
to be elected in 2008 following the election of a county comptroller
in 2007. The charter implements a separation of powers between a county
executive and a slimmed-down Legislature, and replace the current
part-time Legislature chairman’s position as chief fiscal officer
for Ulster. The executive will appoint and supervise the heads of
each of the county’s departments, making the legislature more
of a policy-making body, with approval power for all of the executive’s
appointments and expenditures. 21 of the 57 counties in New York are
currently under the direction of a charter.
As of press time, Van Blarcum was ahead of former state trooper Kevin
Costello 35,409 to 19,548. In 1998, he ran unsuccessfully against
current Sheriff J. Richard Bockelmann in 1998.
Bonacic was winning his bid for re-election with a total of 46,325
votes to Zimet’s 33,815 districtwide, with 255 of 291 in. But
in Ulster County, his tally was only 18,519 to the Democrat’s
19,443. Early results showed Republicans on track to hold their 35-27
majority in the State Senate, with only a few races showing a possible
gain for Democrats in the metro area suburbs. Democrats similarly
stayed firmly in control of the 150-member state Assembly, where they
held 104 seats.
In Shandaken, voters went for Zimet over Bonacic 584 to 447 on strict
Democrat/GOP party lines, and 626 to 555 with Conservative, Independence
and Working Family lines included.
In Olive, Zimet took Bonacic 1147 to 447 on party lines, or 1307 to
The Charter passed in Shandaken 438 to 403, with only District Two,
Shandaken, going against it 88 to 62.
In Olive, the Charter passed 631 to 625, with District One, Shokan,
running 174 to 167 against it and District Two, West Shokan, going
130 to 102 in the negative column.
That determination, expressed in an October 25 letter to US
Environmental Protection Agency Regional Administrator Alan Steinberg
by Watershed Inspector General James Tierney and his Chief Scientist
Charles Silver, is widely understood as expressing the position of
the incoming Spitzer administration.
“We write to make clear that we agree with your staff and further
to indicate that the development proposed for the eastern portion
of the Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park poses an unacceptable risk
to the quality of the Ashokan Reservoir,” said Tierney. “On
the other hand,” he said, “we believe that a properly
designed and appropriately sized development project on the western
portion of the site…is technologically feasible.” The
letter also appears to recommend that the acreage comprising the eastern
portion of Crossroads’ proposed project site be acquired by
Tierney, an Assistant Attorney General jointly appointed by Spitzer
and outgoing Governor Pataki, told The Phoenicia Times the position
reflects his office’s detailed scientific and technical review
previously submitted to all parties in the project’s now 6 1⁄2
year old environmental review. It comes on the heels of EPA’s
recent determination to refer the entire project, including a 20%
downsizing option proposed by Crossroads in recent months, back to
its ongoing SEQRA process for full trial-like adjudication. The developer’s
appeal of that decision by state Administrative Law Judge Richard
Wissler is still pending.
The critical issue, according to Tierney and Silver, is the danger
posed by the project to the waters of the Ashokan Reservoir which
they call “the most serious threat to (the city’s) overall
water quality.” That reservoir is currently classified as “impaired”
by DEC, because of its high level of suspended sediments or turbidity,
which Tierney and Silver believe could be significantly impacted by
the level of construction proposed for the resort.
According to Tierney and Silver, “turbidity interferes with
the effectiveness of drinking water disinfection and assists in the
transport of pathogens,” posing a significant public health
threat. To keep the Ashokan’s water drinkable, DEP has had to
add to it some 24 tons of aluminum sulfate or alum every day, for
much of the past two years. This, explained Tierney, is a “last
resort” measure to keep the Ashokan’s water usable, and
is both complicated and expensive. According to some estimates, he
says, every day the City has to add alum to the Ashokan’s water
also costs them $65,000 in dredging expenses, just to remove it from
Westchester’s Kensico Reservoir, where it settles as sludge
now 6 feet deep in many places, and that has to be removed by divers
with giant vacuum pumps. “Without this extended alum use,”
say Tierney and Silver, “ New York City would have violated
regulations that would, in turn, trigger filtration.”
Thus far, the City has managed to forestall filtering the Ashokan’s
water, at an estimated $8 billion for the plant and $100+ million
annually to operate it. That “Filtration Avoidance Waiver,”
or approval from the federal government to continue using the water
unfiltered, is expected to be renewed for another five years by EPA
early in 2007. But that approval is based on the city’s compliance
with, among other things, EPA mandated mitigation measures to reduce
turbidity which the proposed resort construction would jeopardize.
Developer Dean Gitter declined opportunity to comment for this story,
providing instead a November 1 response letter from Crossroads Ventures
counsel Dan Ruzow to EPA’s Steinberg. Ruzow pointed out that
the principal source of turbidity in the Ashokan Reservoir is “the
operation of the Shandaken Tunnel by DEP itself.”
“We are at a loss,” said Ruzow, “to understand why
Mr. Tierney and Dr. Silver decided to share at this time their largely
outdated comments... which have been largely superceded by the scaled
back concept in design presently being explored with regulatory agencies...We
continue to believe that the Belleayre Resort poses no threat to the
water quality of the Ashokan Reservoir.”
two town board members that shave was not enough. Republican Councilman
Robert Stanley was unhappy with a $5000 raise for Cross and he continued
to look for answers about Ambulance Department spending just as he
did the week prior at a budget meeting on the board.
Democratic Councilman Peter DiSclafani was not satisfied with the
explanations used by Cross to defend some spending. Both voted no
on the plan.
“I have reservations,” DiSclafani said.
The discussion on the budget, which was also the subject of a public
hearing that same evening, was a free wheeling one that lacked any
real data. Even a small item like the pay for a town Webmaster ended
with more questions than answers. This year the job paid $1200. Cross’s
plan called for the pay to double next year. The board agreed to drop
it back down after Stanley noted that there was no proof to show why
the pay should go up so much, but by the time the budget vote came
everyone forgot to make the change so it stayed at the $2400 Cross
It was easy to forget things at that point. The town hall was alive
with news that Shandaken’s ambulance squad had revealed that
it couldn’t provide adequate coverage to the town on winter
weekends because it had to cover Belleayre Mountain Ski Center instead
(see related articlebelow).
The news came out after Stanley questioned the need for a $60,000
amount in the Ambulance Budget to hire more ambulance staff.
During the public hearing on the budget there were complaints about
the lack of financial data supplied by the town to the public for
review at the only opportunity for public comment on the spending
The proposed budget was available, but it contained no figures from
the 2006 spending plan to compare to.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Pine Hill resident Richard
In addition, the Onteora
board of education has started mulling over costs and bond methods
as they move forward in reconstruction proposals for the school district’s
five buildings based on a recent bond presentation given by Salvatore
Pennini of Public Finance Associates. Although the school board has
not decided on any of the three plans proposed, or the scope of reconstruction
costs, ball park figures for the cost of such efforts are quickly
The Meet the Candidate session has been scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday,
November 17 at the Onteora Middle-High School auditorium in Boiceville.
All in attendance will be given a copy of the candidate’s brief
Resume and a Reaction Form to fill in and promptly return at the end
of such session. All Reaction Forms will be presented to the Board
of Education for their review and consideration.
According to board members, the candidate to be met is Leslie Ford,
who is currently the principal and superintendent of a 607-student
charter school district in Hanford, California. With a master’s
degree in psychology from Chapman University, a master’s degree
in educational counseling from the University of San Francisco, and
a doctorate in organizational leadership from the University of LaVerne,
Ford has drawn deep praise from all board members and is scheduled
to spend the entire day before her evening session with the public
Nov. 17 meeting district staff and support groups.
Last Spring, the board decided against hiring both Granville schools
Superintendent Daniel Teplesky or Cherry Valley-Springfield Superintendent
Nicholas Savin to replace the late Justine Winters, who stepped down
from the superintendent’s position because of health problems
in February, following two years of popular service to Onteora, and
then passed away from cancer in May. Peter J. Ferrara, a former Ellenville
superintendent, was hired as an interim superintendent but resigned
when the board learned about civil rights and special ed troubles
he’d encountered at his previous position. Since then former
Sullivan County school administrator Jack Jordan, a Pine Hill resident
and former candidate for the school board, has served as interim superintendent.
As for the pending repair and reconfiguration issues, Pennini noted
that currently it was a good time to finance a building project, since
interest rates are relatively low and gave bond figures on two types
of building constructions including 31 percent of State aid. Depending
on the type of construction to the buildings, interest rates range
from 4.10 to 4.25 percent.
A new building or additions can allow up to twenty years of state
aid and reconstruction will allow up to fifteen years, Pennini said,
explaining new structures in State aid. He said in the past state
aid was more tailored to the bonds, but now the state has its own
set aid rate.
“For a reconstruction project you will get your aid over fifteen
years, regardless of how many years you elect to finance the project
Therefore, Pennini continued, “it is important that we structure
the bonds to match the way you’re going to be receiving your
rate…we try to match these, one-to-one.”
Reconstruction costs include any type of renovations or reconfigurations
to the buildings.
“So what does this mean to my tax bill?” said Pennini.
Based on a fifteen-year fluctuating bond chart each town is rated
per $1,000 on the assessed value. In the first year, the town of Hurley
is rated at $.0194, Marbletown at $.0197, Olive at $.0144, Shandaken
at $.0780, Woodstock at $.0215 and Lexington at $.0251. To figure
out the total cost in dollar amount, the assessed value of a homeowners
property is divided by 1000 and then multiplied by the tax rate shown
for each town, times the amount of a bond proposed. This will give
an approximate figure of taxes owed yearly for any particular bond.
Using this formula, a rough figure on each town was calculated based
on a $200,000 house. If all the district’s buildings were renovated
as proposed in Plan A, the estimated cost would be $40 million. Taxes
based on that particular years’ rate, a household in Woodstock
would pay $172; Hurley $155; Marbletown $157; Olive $115; Shandaken
$149, and Lexington $148.
If the district’s buildings were renovated including a Master
Plan of separating the middle school from the High school, while adding
an additional grade six at the Boiceville site, the total cost estimate
is $70 million. Based on a $200,00 home, on that years’ bond
rate a household in Woodstock would pay $301; West Hurley $271; Marbletown
$275; Olive $201; Shandaken $259, and Lexington $259. Woodstock would
pay the highest amount of taxes and this is not including the Large
Parcel Legislation, which may also cause a shift in the tax rate.
The school board has not decided on which of the three plans proposed
and how much money to ask from taxpayers. Armand Quadrini of KSQ architects
wanted to express that this is just a snapshot on how a bond could
Pennini replied that his figures tend to be conservative, noting that
he found the 4.25 percent interest rate on the twenty year building
additions schedule “a little bit high,” while other incentives
might possibly come into play to bring the costs down. Interim Superintendent
Jack Jordan said if a bond were passed this school year the district
may be eligible for an additional ten percent from State aide.
Except for the central campus plan, where all schools would close
leaving only the Boiceville site, the Onteora district has no plans
to add additional exterior space. If this plan were chosen, KSQ architects
discussed an additional wing to the High School in order to extend
the middle school beginning at grade five. Costs have not been specifically
pointed out for the addition, but the total bond cost for the central
campus plan is estimated at $62 million.
Assistant Superintendent for business, Victoria McLaren added that
the district currently holds a triple A credit rating from Moodys
financial services, an independent credit rating company. This will
make bonds easy to purchase.
Having taught herself
to play guitar, taken lessons with Cool Jazz virtuoso Lennie Tristano,
and studied music at various colleges—Barnard, Hunter, and Bard—she
acquired an eclectic taste in music and found herself eventually drawn
to the beauties of classical songs and chamber music. Voices of the
Valley features pieces written and, in some cases accompanied by,
contemporary composers living in the Hudson Valley. Several upcoming
CD release parties (see below for details) will give classical fans
the chance to hear Woerner perform with artists from the CD, including
musical comedian Peter Schickele of PDQ Bach fame, pianist Barbara
Pickhardt, who is also conductor of Kingston’s Ars Choralis
chamber choir, cellist Susan Seligman, and composer and pianist James
The inspiration for the CD came from a concert Woerner performed in
2000, when she was among the first artists to participate in SUNY
Ulster’s artist-in-residence program, created by the late Larry
Berk, then director of the college library and information services.
(The CD is dedicated to Berk, who passed away on October 29.) The
concert showcased local composers Woerner had worked with, including
Schickele, Fitzwilliam, Robert Starer, Aurora Northland, Robert Baksa,
and Alan Shulman. Audience response convinced the participants to
make the collection of songs into a CD.
Recording began in fall 2001, soon after the events of 9/11, adding
poignancy and significance to Fitzwilliam’s song cycle Eternity,
a setting of five Emily Dickinson poems reflecting on death. Anna
Margarita’s Will by Woodstock author Gail Godwin was set to
music by Starer, who also lived in Woodstock before his death in 2001.
Godwin reads the text aloud on the CD. Woodstock poet Pearl Bond provided
text for a series of songs composed by Aurora Northland. Woerner explains,
“Pearl wrote extraordinary poems about her relationships with
unicorns, which were very real to her. Aurora turned these voluptuous
poems into songs.” Schickele’s Three Songs for a Wedding
consists of poems by Dante Gabriel Rossetti and fifteenth-century
English poet William Cavendish. “The Cavendish songs are funny—I
don’t think Peter can help himself,” says Woerner. “The
Rossetti is one of the most beautiful songs I know, about having known
a person in another life.”
Originally from the suburbs of Philadelphia, Woerner has performed
professionally in New York City and with local groups such as the
Delaware Valley Opera in Middletown and the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra.
She teaches voice at Vassar College, at Dutchess Community College,
and in her home studio. She is a soloist with Ars Choralis and an
organizer of Voices for Peace, which has performed songs of protest
at Martin Luther King Day in Woodstock, the Rosendale Music Festival,
and several rallies in New Paltz.
She recently wrote an article for Classical Singer magazine on the
process of self-producing a recording. “There’s nothing
like performing for a live audience,” she says, “but I
also want to focus on recording—that’s where your legacy
CD release parties for Danielle Woerner’s Voices in the Valley
will be held Saturday, November 11, 2-4 p.m. at the SUNY Ulster library
in Stone Ridge; Saturday, November 18, 5-7 p.m. at the Kleinert-James
Arts Center in Woodstock; and Saturday, December 8, 2-4 p.m., also
at SUNY Ulster. She will be signing CDs on December 1st (during the
annual Woodstock Open House) from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Golden Notebook.
She will be performing as a soloist in Bach’s “Magnificat”
with Ars Choralis on Saturday, December 1st at 7 p.m. at Holy Cross
Church, Kingston, and Sunday, December 2 at 4 p.m. at Reformed Church,
Saugerties. For further details, see http://hvmusic.com/artists/danielle/playdate.shtml.