For over a month there has been a problem with how to
supply the entire town with adequate ambulance coverage.
The trouble began in November when Ambulance Chief Jerry
Pearlman said that his squad could not handle the town
and Belleayre Mountain Ski Center on weekends anymore
and the squad was forced to make a choice: either cover
Belleayre or cover the town. He and the squad’s
other primary responder, paramedic Lisa Benjamin, made
it clear that they have chosen to serve the town first
and Belleayre second.
This created a tiff between the mountain and the town.
Belleayre is part of the town, Belleayre Superintendent
Tony Lanza said, and so it deserves the same emergency
service as anyone else. Perhaps, responded Pearlman, but
since the ski center doubles the town’s population
on winter weekends maybe it should take care of itself
or at least pay for the beefing up of the town’s
The first “solution” was announced before
Thanksgiving by Lanza. He said Belleayre had made a deal
with Margaretville Hospital to take over the first response
position that Shandaken had. The deal, however, never
The second solution came from town hall, where Supervisor
Robert Cross Jr. announced the hiring of another full
time ambulance squad member.
But the man hired to help solve the staffing problems
of the Ambulance squad resigned less than 24 hours after
being appointed, saying he quit because the details of
his employment had been misrepresented to him by Cross.
Until Monday, December 4th, Craig Apolito of Big Indian
was a part time member of the paid Shandaken ambulance
squad. As part of a plan to solve coverage problems, Apolito
was made full time by a unanimous vote of the town board,
despite a public warning that evening from Pearlman that
he did not recommend the move.
On Tuesday Apolito sent his letter of resignation to Cross.
In it he said that he felt he had made his position clear
last month as to what conditions he would accept in order
to take the full time position.
“On or about November 16th you called me at home
to offer the position of Chief Medical Officer of the
Ambulance Squad, indicating that there were changes to
be made,” Apolito wrote in the December 5th letter.
“At that time time I told you I would be interested
in the position should it become available…”
Cross had made the inquiry to Apolito following Pearlman’s
highly publicized warning last month At the time, with
no solution in sight, it appeared that Pearlman might
resign from the post.
But according to Apolito, Cross again contacted him, after
extending the offer, to see if Apolito would work under
Pearlman should Pearlman keep his position. Apolito said
he flatly refused.
Regardless, Cross put forward a resolution to hire Apolito
anyway. Following the meeting, Cross asked reporters to
give the town board credit for solving the Ambulance coverage
problem by hiring Apolito.
All was well, until the next day when a surprised Apolito
heard that he was hired.
“Last night…I was offered a position as a
full time paramedic, working for Pearlman. I am declining
this appointment. You understood at the time we spoke
that I was interested in being the Chief Medical Officer,
that I would not work for Mr. Pearlman,” Apolito
For several days it was unclear how his resignation would
affect ambulance coverage. However, Cross then suddenly
announced a third solution: that the deal with Margaretville
Hospital was back on, for real this time, and they would
be the first to be called if an ambulance was needed at
Belleayre. Shandaken would serve as a back up unit, Cross
said. Lanza confirmed this, saying that he had it from
Cross in writing.
But once again it appears to not be the case. On Monday,
December 18, Margaretville’s Ambulance Chief, Patricia
Delameter, said that Cross did contact her to see if she
would take the responsibility for Belleayre on and she
agreed, as long as the proper written authorization was
drafted by the town.
But, she said, all she got was a letter from Cross saying
he wanted her to take the job over. When she informed
Cross that the letter was not sufficient, he informed
her that the deal was off. Once again, Shandaken would
be the first response unit for any Belleayre Emergency,
Cross told Delameter. It would simply go back to the way
it was before anything was even mentioned.
On Tuesday, December 19, Pearlman said he had nothing
to add, but was curious about the details of the agreement
between Cross and Delameter and what it meant for his
“This is an ongoing, long saga that’s still
developing,” Pearlman said.
Big Plans Ahead
Shandaken Supervisor Robert Cross Jr. has big plans for
town. He says that little Shandaken has become too big
for its britches, and he is taking steps to make more
room for its burgeoning bureaucracy.
Cross has visions of a whole new Town Hall located near
the Phoenicia Diner on property donated by developer Dean
Gitter. He also said he is taking steps to buy land elsewhere
in the Phoenicia hamlet to construct an ambulance building.
“We have outgrown our infrastructure,” he
said last week. “The services the town offers are
much more than they used to be.”
As Cross enters the final year of his second term, he
appears to be focusing on this issue. Recent problems
with the ambulance department have caused the department’s
space issues to be discussed privately.
Cross said the squad needs not only its own headquarters
and space to park ambulances and house equipment, but
also residential space to give staff a place to stay while
on duty. To accomplish this, he said, the town is trying
to purchase land in Phoenicia to build an ambulance building
on. While he said he has whittled the option down to one
location, he refused to say specifically where it is.
It should be noted that there has never been any public
discussion on the purchase of land for this purpose, nor
is it clear how the purchase and construction of the building
would be funded.
When asked, Cross said the building could be put up with
“There’s plenty of money out there to build
things,” he added.
In recent years, Shandaken has been unsuccessful at acquiring
grants funds to pay for other infrastructure improvements
like upgrades to the Pine Hill water system and to the
Phoenicia water system. Both districts borrowed money
this year for improvements. In explaining Phoenicia’s
bonding of over $50,000 to pay for expenses left over
from building a water filtration system this year, Cross
said the district is no longer one that warrants grant
funds for such projects in the eyes of the state and federal
agencies that dole out such funding.
There are other issues as well. In the mid 1990’s
the town, under the late Supervisor Neil Grant, built
an emergency services building near Glenbrook Park in
the hamlet of Shandaken. That building was said to be
meant to house the ambulance department, but somehow the
town’s police department inherited the structure.
Even with the police and their equipment in the building
there is still ample room left over for at least one ambulance,
although both town ambulances remain housed in the Phoenicia
It remains unclear why the Glenbrook Facility is not used
by the Ambulance department or is under consideration
as a facility that could solve the department’s
space isssues in the future.
Cross also wants to build a community center/town hall
on land in Phoenicia donated by Dean Gitter. He has said
that project would also be built with grant funds.
The town does have a capitol fund, known as the Good Neighbor
Fund, that was supplied by the City of New York in 1997
as part of the historic watershed deal reached that year.
When it was granted the fund contained $601,000 and was
earmarked for only capitol improvements authorized by
the City. Last year the town purchased a new police car
and a new ambulance with the funds and purchased miscellaneous
ambulance equipment as well.
The fund is now down to approximately $515,000.
Ulster County lawmakers approved a $315.64 million 2007
budget on December 6, raising the property tax levy by
7.52 percent, after much talk over the planned layoffs
of 25 county employees. They voted down a last-minute
attempt to save the jobs before ultimately approving the
budget, 20 to 11.
The adopted budget cuts 54 positions through layoffs and
elimination of vacant positions. The 25 layoffs are in
the departments of Social Services, Buildings and Grounds,
Public Health, Office for the Aging, Tourism, Personnel,
Highways and Bridges, the Sheriff’s Office and the
Golden Hill Health Care Center.
County Administrator Michael Hein said the budget was
based on reform and streamlined operations for the taxpayer,
after last year’s 38.6 percent property tax hike.
Last year’s budget came in at $300.24 million, with
a tax levy of $64.97 million. The tax levy for 2007 is
set at $69.85 million. He noted that the layoffs were
a part of “right-sizing” to evaluate the county’s
needs rather than blindly increase personnel.
The final budget, which contains a significant increase
from the County Administrator’s proposed spending
plan of $300.19 million released in October, reflects
a state-recommended change in recording $14.6 million
worth of sales tax revenue that is distributed to the
towns and city of Kingston.
The budget downsizes the Tourism Department, consolidates
the Alternative Sentencing and Community Corrections departments
under the Probation Department, and incorporates the Office
for the Aging with the Department of Social Services.
The Ulster County Administrator’s Office will draw
up projected positions, salary levels and other details
for a restructuring of the county Buildings and Grounds,
Highways and Bridges and Public Works Administration departments
now that the Legislature’s Public Works Committee
has approved a proposed outline for a centralized structure
with a single commissioner. The streamlined structure
will replace the current two-commissioner system, in place
since 1995. The changes are expected to take effect by
March or April 2007 and require approval of a local law.
The proposed consolidation of Kingston and Benedictine
hospitals will provide the opportunity for enhanced services
and new programs that will afford better health care for
the community without experiencing any loss of services,
particularly those involving such hot button issues as
reproductive health, the CEOs of both institutions told
a state Assembly Health Committee hearing in Kingston
on December 11. The benefits of a collaboration will eliminate
the duplication of services that currently exists, end
a “competitive medical arms race” between
the two institutions, reduce operating expenses, create
a de facto single medical staff, lead to the establishment
of new “centers of excellence” and a host
of new specialties, and allow for greater access to capital
to improve the infrastructures of both hospitals, said
Michael Kaminski, president and chief executive officer
(CEO) of Kingston Hospital, and Tom Dee, his counterpart
at Benedictine Hospital. As a result, many of the Ulster
County residents who now seek medical care elsewhere,
including care for low-level surgery and maternity - an
estimated outward migration of 30 percent - will feel
comfortable receiving that care at home, they said.
The hearing in the Ulster County Legislative Chamber chaired
by state Assemblyman Kevin Cahill (D-Kingston) and attended
by state Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D-Sullivan County),
both members of the Assembly Health Committee, was one
of seven around the state. The hearings were intended
to gauge citizen response to the recently released report
by the so-called Berger Commission on the state’s
health care system that recommends closure of one of Kingston’s
two hospitals if they are unable to come up with a plan
for consolidation by the end of 2007.
The report of the Commission on Health Care Facilities
in the 21st Century, the independent panel that takes
its shorter name from that of its chairman, Stephen Berger,
the former New York Social Services commissioner, also
called for Kingston Hospital to continue providing access
to the reproductive services currently offered in hospital
at a location “proximate” to the hospital.
It also called for a reduction in licensed beds from a
current total of 367 at the two hospitals to between 250
and 300. The report concluded there is too much duplication
of services by the two hospitals and too high a vacancy
rate at both.
What the two hospitals have arrived at so far, according
to their CEOs, is a reorganization that would create a
parent corporation over both hospitals with Kingston hospital
retaining its secular mission and Benedictine its faith-based
Kingston Hospital would continue to provide women’s
health services, including elective first trimester abortions,
at a site “next to the Kingston Hospital campus,”
Kaminski told Cahill and Gunther. Both hospitals would
continue providing all emergency reproductive care that
is needed as is currently the case.
The two local hospitals have engaged in numerous failed
attempts to merge over the past 50 years, the most recent
of which was in 2004. Religious health strictures and
reproductive health care, including abortion, tubal ligation
immediately after childbirth, birth control, family planning
and safe-sex counseling, and the distribution of condoms,
have always been the stumbling point.
Several speakers and a sizeable number of the approximately
150 people attending the hearing are clearly still concerned
about isolating reproductive health services in a separate
location, even one adjacent or “proximate”
to the Kingston Hospital building.
“A separate building or an easily segmented area
invites a threat to safety and confidentiality,”
testified Clare Coleman, president and CEO of Planned
Parenthood Mid-Hudson Valley.
“The report singles out and stigmatizes health care
for women,” testified Andrea Park, executive director
of the YWCA of Ulster County. Like several other speakers
testifying, the Park added that she believes the commission’s
recommendations are on a “fast track,” with
the full report requiring either approval or disapproval
in its entirely by the state legislature by December 31.
Benedictine’s Dee took issue with what he believes
is an “anti-woman” view of the hospital in
some quarters. Benedictine operates a highly acclaimed
breast center and its breast and ovarian cancer care have
“received national recognition as benchmark programs
hospitals should be providing in their communities,”
Ulster County Legislator Peter Kraft faces a charge of
driving while intoxicated, after being stopped for a traffic
infraction at 3:49 am Sunday morning, Dec. 17. The Ulster
County Sheriff’s Office says Kraft was stopped on
Route 28 in Shoken after deputies observed Kraft crossing
pavement markings. Deputies found Kraft to be intoxicated.
He faces a misdemeanor DWI charge for having a blood alcohol
count of greater than .08 percent, the legal limit. He
was released on tickets to appear in Olive Town Court.
Kraft, a Democrat, lives in Glenford and is one of three
legislators representing District 3, which includes the
Towns of Hurley, Marbletown and Olive. He acknowledged
the charges Sunday and said he was at a friend’s
house for a Christmas party and made a poor decision.
Kraft was elected to the legislature in 2003.
The Kingston Area Football League has said yes to accepting
teams from the Onteora District into their league. Locally,
parents and players will be fielding two youth football
teams to play at Dietz Stadium each August in a move that
organizers feel will help build up local football prowess
and interest to once again field an OCS varsity team in
the coming years. Onteora dropped its varsity football
last year citing a drop in local interest.
The two teams, each with 20 to 25 players, will include
a Junior team of players aged 8 to 1o and a senior team
for players age 11 to 13. Two head coaches have yet to
be named who will help align the new efforts with existing
Onteora modified and JV programs. In addition, funding
will have to be raised for team uniforms
An introductory meeting for the new program will be announced
in the coming months for play to start next August.
So Low Tech...
The town of Shandaken remains decidedly low tech. As 2007
draws near there is no progress yet on providing the town
with cellular service, despite constant claims from Masterpage
Inc. that they still plan to build a tower on town property
near Glenbrook Park to provide a signal in that immediate
area. Plus the town has taken a step backward in the march
toward the digital age by abandoning its website. The
site, said to provide all sorts of information about the
town and its government, has not been updated since October.
This problem should be remedied at the town board’s
annual reorganization meeting on January 2, when it is
expected that a new webmaster will be hired. The old one
resigned when there was a dispute over how much the job
A midnight swearing in, a 6 a.m. jog, an outdoor inaugural
ceremony and a free James Taylor concert will mark Eliot
Spitzer’s first day as New York governor.
Spitzer, who campaigned on a promise of “Change
Begins on Day One,” will start his new job on Jan.
1 with a predawn run in downtown Albany and will stage
his ceremonial inaugural at noon on the lawn behind the
state Capitol, an area known as West Capitol Park.The
open-air event will be “the first test of people’s
heartiness and willingness to participate in the rigors
of government as we envision it in New York,” Spitzer
said with a grin, while joking that the Old Farmer’s
Almanac predicts temperatures of 15 below zero that day.
There will be no black-tie gala, a notable difference
from Gov. George Pataki’s 1994 inauguration. In
another departure from Pataki, Spitzer will pay for the
event from the $5.5 million remaining in his campaign
account. Pataki set up special fundraising committee for
his inaugural, with some of the money coming from people
who wanted to do business with the state, and did not
release the names of donors until Democrats successfully
Spitzer, who is still currently the state’s attorney
general, will be joined at the ceremony by fellow Democrats
Lt.-Gov.-elect David Paterson and Attorney General-elect
Andrew Cuomo. Missing: embattled Comptroller Alan Hevesi,
also a Democrat, who won re-election in November despite
investigations about his using a state employee to chauffeur
his wife. The state Ethics Commission concluded he knowingly
and willfully violated the law. A local district attorney
has launched an inquiry and Spitzer - who has said Hevesi
has compromised his credibility to function as the state’s
top auditor - has had his office calculate how much Hevesi
should reimburse the state.
Taylor, who is married to an Albany native, and Natalie
Merchant, who grew up in western New York, will headline
a free concert at 5 p.m. at an arena just four blocks
from the Capitol. Also, Spitzer and his wife, Silda, will
host a reception for the public at the Capitol from 1:30
to 3:30 p.m. Those who want to attend are encouraged to
sign up through www.inaugurationny.org.
Longtime Pine Hill residents Wendy and Carl Cappello were
awakened around 2AM last Thursday, December 14, by a fire
that within minutes engulfed their home on Upper Birch
Creek Road. Although they both escaped without injury,
the house was completely destroyed and all their possessions
lost, along with two of their three dogs. Investigators
believe a possible propane leak may have caused the blaze.
Firefighters from Pine Hill and Big Indian responded,
although not in time, according to Chief Lowell Smith,
to have saved the home. The couple is temporarily relocating
A benefit to assist the couple is being planned for January.
While their insurance is expected to cover many of their
losses, a bank account, Friends of Wendy and Carl, has
been set up to help them reestablish themselves. Contributions
can be dropped off at Ulster Savings Bank in Phoenicia,
or mailed to the account at USB, PO Box 217, Phoenicia
NY 12464, att: Friends.
The Ulster County Development Corporation (UCDC) Board
of Directors has announced that Irene MacPherson, UCDC
Director of Business Attraction and Marketing since 1998,
has been named as the Interim President of the Corporation
effective December 22, replacing Chester J. Straub, Jr.,
46, who recently announced his resignation to accept a
position with The Technology Research Development Authority
in Titusville, FL. Robert Ryan, the new incoming Board
Chair for 2007, emphasized that “Ms. MacPherson
has been the initial contact for new private sector commercial
and industrial start-up, expansion and relocation projects
for the organization. With her cultivated regional and
national network of brokers, site consultants, business
contacts, her extensive knowledge base, as well as her
activism in many business, cultural and civic organizations,
Irene will provide continuity and solid direction as UCDC
A Search Committee for a permanent replacement has been
appointed. Future announcements and details will be forthcoming
regarding the position.
UCDC is a private, non-profit organization that acts as
“a catalyst for creating wealth, improving the quality
of life and fostering economic opportunity for Ulster
County and its citizens.” The agency had come under
fire in the last year for having pushed a number of major
tourist-based businesses, including the locally-controversial
projects of developer Dean Gitter, without county oversight.
Hector Rodriguez, chairman of the county Legislature’s
Economic Development, Housing, Planning and Transit Committee,
said Straub offered to resign a year ago, but the development
corporation’s board asked him to stay on while transitions
were made and a plan for the county’s economic future
County Legislator Robert Aiello, a longtime critic of
Straub and how the UCDC operates, has said Straub is not
the kind of out-of-the-box thinker that Ulster County
needs. Aiello, R-Saugerties, hopes the development corporation
board will hire a successor who has more of a marketing
March Gallagher, chairwoman of the Ulster County Industrial
Development Agency, a subsidiary of the development corporation,
said although she has enjoyed working with Straub, she
thinks his time on the job has run its course. The new
economic development strategy for the county will serve
as a guide for the new president, she said.
“It’s sort of a perfect time to get someone
new involved,” she said.
The Onteora School Board tabled plans to discuss the district’s
bond process and the three grade configurations, middle
school proposals and the possibility of closing another
elementary school at its December 12 meeting. No date
was set for future discussions, but during public be heard,
a few people weighed in on the subject.
In other news….
It was announced that James Walker, the interim assistant
director of pupil personnel services, was hired near the
end of October as a consultant for thirty days, as needed
at a per-diem rate of $500 a day. Connie Hayes announced
her resignation at an October 10 school board meeting.
Deborah Fox, the district’s assistant superintendent
for curriculum and instruction said the position of assistant
director to pupil personnel is not being filled and the
administration is “looking at different leadership
The facilities committee discussed ways on how best to
use a $662,000 grant earmarked for improvements on the
district’s infrastructure. The two major suggestions
still under debate are wiring for computer technology
or fixing up the high school auditorium. D’Orazio
said that the money will be coming from the State, but
it will still need to be voter approved. This is part
of an EXCEL state grant (Expanding our Children’s
Education and Learning). This money is guaranteed until
The school board approved a resolution to draft a letter
to the town of Olive asking them to send a letter to the
department of transportation requesting a traffic light
in front of the High school on route 28. The board agreed
to also draft their own letter to the department of transportation,
requesting a traffic light for safety reasons.
Board member Cindy O’Connor said, “I have
one concern: I just want to make sure the traffic light
is used for dismissal basically for the busses because
I have concern that the traffic light is going to be used
for children crossing the street and that concerns me
because the traffic is moving so fast and the people are
not going to be used to that light and people will go
She reminded the board that the district policy is a closed
campus. Trustee Rita Vanacore said the district would
request control over the light, giving way to yellow flashing
lights when there is not a school event or dismissal time.
Lastly, Middle School principal Gayle Kavanagh announced
her retirement this year effective June 30, 2007. She
has been principal at the middle school for nearly eight
The Judge Snag
The recent death of state Supreme Court Justice Vincent
G. Bradley and the appointment of fellow Justice Michael
Kavanagh to the court’s Appellate Division —
both justices in New York’s Third Judicial District,
which includes Ulster, Greene, Columbia, Albany, Rensselaer,
Schoharie and Sullivan counties, who kept chambers in
Kingston and primarily heard cases in Ulster County —
has created a caseload burden in a judicial district that
gets about 9,000 new cases per year.
With Bradley’s death and Kavanagh’s promotion,
there now are only six justices for the district’s
seven counties. It has been estimated that Bradley’s
death and Kavanagh’s promotion left 1,100 to 1,200
cases to be picked up by others. Ulster County has the
second-highest caseload in the district, behind Albany.
State Supreme Court Justices John C. Egan and Michael
C. Lynch already have taken some of the caseload in Ulster
County, and Surrogate Court Judge Mary Work and Ulster
County Judge J. Michael Bruhn have been authorized to
pitch in, as well. Rebecca Millouras-Lettre, president
of the Ulster County Bar Association, said more relief
is needed. She said Lynch and Egan are only in the county
a couple of days each month and Bruhn and Work have their
hands full with cases in their own courts.
The Third Judicial District will receive some relief when
the governor appoints a successor to Bradley. There will
be no appointment to for Kavanagh’s post because
he still is considered a Third Judicial District justice.
Ulster County lawmakers are reconsidering whether heterosexuals
in long-standing, financially interdependent relationships
with county employees should be included in a resolution
extending benefits to employees’ domestic partners.
The original action was brought forth as the result of
a pending lawsuit against the county initiated by the
Civil Service Employees Association and three county employees
from the Mental Health Department in September which claimed
that homosexual county employees do not enjoy the same
health-care benefits as their heterosexual colleagues.
The suit is based on the state’s Sexual Orientation
Non-Discrimination Act and calls for an extension of benefits
as well as payment of damages since 2003 - the year the
state law took effect.
The lawsuit has been on hold pending the Legislature’s
action on the proposed resolution that extends benefits
to county employees in gay, lesbian and heterosexual relationships
that are financially interdependent.
Members of the county’s Health Committee sitting
on a Domestic Partnership Assessment Subcommittee have
developed a set of criteria to go along with the proposed
domestic partner coverage that specifies individuals must
be single but not married or separated; have lived with
their domestic partner for at least a year; and must show
two forms of financial interdependence, such as utility
bills or a mortgage.
But County Attorney Joshua Koplovitz said the resolution
will most likely be modified to apply only to homosexual
county employees. Legislature Majority Leader Jeanette
Provenzano said including heterosexual partners may be
considered down the road, but argues that the county should
only address concerns in the lawsuit for now.
“Heterosexual couples have the option to get married,
and therein lies the difference,” said Legislator
Brian Shapiro, D-Woodstock.
Health Committee Chairman Robert Parete believes the domestic
partner benefits provision should include heterosexual
county employees. Minority Leader Glenn Noonan opposes
the idea of domestic partner benefits altogether, warning
that the county will “open up the floodgates”
if it extends the benefits.
The full Legislature plans to vote on the extended benefits
Ed Grants Now
The Catskill Watershed Corporation Education Committee
has announced that applications are available for the
next round of Watershed Education Grants. Pre-school through
12th grade students are the target audience for Round
10 of the Grant Program, designed to increase awareness
and understanding of the New York City Water System and
the West-of-Hudson Watershed which supplies 90 percent
of the water supply for nine million people.Guidelines
and applications that can be downloaded and filled out
on-screen are available on the Public Education page of
the corporation’s web site, http://www.cwconline.org/.
Applicants may also call Education Coordinator Diane Galusha
at 845-586-1400, ext. 29 (toll-free 877-WAT-SHED) to obtain
hard copies of the forms and guidelines. The deadline
for submitting applications is February 2, 2007. Awards
will be announced in the spring. Round 10 projects should
take place during the 2007-2008 school year.
Members of the Ulster County Legislature’s Environmental
Committee are reaching out to other counties enrolled
in the state’s mandatory 48-hour pesticide notification
law as the county prepares to educate the public about
the measure, which takes effect Jan. 1.
The state law requires commercial applicators to send
48-hour written notification to the owners of adjoining
properties for most pesticide spray applications. It also
requires retail businesses to post warning signs and homeowners
to mark off treated areas larger than 100 square feet.
The county Health Department will enforce the regulations,
and consequences include fines and criminal sanctions.
Local Meth Lab?
Two Woodstock residents have been arrested following a
narcotics investigation. An investigation initiated by
the Narcotics Unit of the Ulster County Sheriff’s
Office received intelligence about possible methamphetamine
production in Woodstock.
Michael Baron and Ashley Roefs, both 19, were arrested
at the scene and charged with a number of drug-related
A State Police Mobile Response Team outfitted with hazardous
material protective gear executed a search warrant and
after police searched the residence for evidence, they
confiscated cocaine, marijuana, a “recipe”
for methamphetamine production and instructions, several
items, chemicals and apparatus used to manufacture the
drug, a scale, “bongs,” drug packaging material
and drug records.
Meth abuse continues to fuel an increase in crimes like
robbery and assault, straining the workload of local police
forces despite a drop in the number of meth lab seizures,
according to a survey Tuesday.
About half the counties in the nation have reported that
one in five inmates are jailed because of meth-related
crimes like robberies and burglaries. County law enforcement
officials consider methamphetamine their primary drug
problem, more than cocaine, marijuana and heroin combined,
the survey of the National Association of Counties found.
Last month, the White House drug-policy office set a goal
to cut meth use by 15 percent over the next three years
and increase seizures of meth labs by 25 percent.
The Bush administration asked an appeals court recently
to overrule a federal judge and allow the White House
to keep secret any records of visitors to Vice President
Cheney’s residence and office. To make the visitor
records public would be an “unprecedented intrusion
into the daily operations of the vice presidency,”
the Justice Department argued in a 57-page brief to the
U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia.
The government was responding to an October order, by
U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina, to release two
years of White House visitor logs to The Washington Post.
The newspaper, researching the access lobbyists and others
had on the White House, sought Secret Service records
for anyone visiting Cheney, his legal counsel, chief spokesman
and other top aides and advisers.
In his ruling, Urbina questioned the government’s
primary argument against releasing the records - that
the logs are protected by Cheney’s right to executive
privilege. The government’s response was twofold,
focusing largely on the ownership of the records. Attorneys
for the Justice Department called Urbina’s decision
“flatly inconsistent” with his ruling’s
acknowledgment that the Secret Service had only limited
and temporary control over the visitor logs. Since the
records are ultimately controlled by the vice president’s
office, the Secret Service is not authorized to release
them, the government said. Moreover, Congress has excluded
presidential and vice presidential records from the public’s
reach - making the visitor logs untouchable, the government
A lawsuit over similar records revealed in September that
Republican activists Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed -
key figures in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal - landed
more than 100 meetings inside the Bush White House.
In similar territory, Middle East analyst Flynt Leverett,
who served under President Bush on the National Security
Council and is now a fellow at the New America Foundation,
revealed recently that the White House has been blocking
the publication of an op-ed he wrote for the New York
Times. The column is critical of the administration’s
refusal to engage Iran.
Leverett’s op-ed has already been cleared by the
CIA, where he was a senior analyst. Leverett explained,
“I’ve been doing this for three and a half
years since leaving government, and I’ve never had
to go to the White House to get clearance for something
that I was publishing as long as the CIA said, ‘Yeah,
you’re not putting classified information.’”
According to Leverett the op-ed was “all based on
stuff that Secretary Powell, Secretary Rice, Deputy Secretary
Armitage have talked about publicly. It’s been extensively
reported in the media.” Leverett says the incident
shows “just how low people like Elliot Abrams at
the NSC [National Security Council] will stoop to try
and limit the dissemination of arguments critical of the
Got A Passport?
New travelers’ requirements being imposed by the
U.S. Department Homeland Security are set to take effect
at the end of January, later than originally planned but
still a shock to many used to quick jaunts to Canada or
Mexico, which previously did not need passports for re-entry
into the U.S. New adult passports cost $97 apiece, while
passports for individuals under the age of 16 cost $82.
Generally, it takes about six weeks to receive a passport
in the mail. However, if applicants need to speed up the
process, they can pay an additional $60 fee and provide
an overnight return envelope to get their passport in
about two weeks.
Beginning January 23, anyone, including U.S. citizens,
traveling by air between the United States and Canada,
Mexico, Central America, South America, the Caribbean
and Bermuda will be required to present a valid passport,
Air NEXUS card or U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner document,
according to the Department of Homeland Security.
And as early as Jan. 1, 2008, a valid passport or other
document determined by Homeland Security will be required
for all such travel by land, sea or air.
According to the U.S. Department of State’s Web
site, the goal of the new rule -called the Western Hemisphere
Travel Initiative - is to strengthen border security and
facilitate entry into the United States for citizens and
legitimate foreign visitors by providing “standardized,
secure and reliable documentation.” That documentation
will allow the Department of Homeland Security to quickly,
reliably and accurately identify a traveler, according
to the Web site.
Individuals applying for a passport for the first time
must do so in person. During that process, they must provide
valid identification, usually a driver’s license,
in addition to proof of citizenship. In the case of a
minor applying for a passport, parents must provide identification.
A child under the age of 14 needs both parents to sign
for their passport. She said in the case where one parent
is deceased, a death certificate needs to be provided.
In cases where a couple is separated or divorced, proof
has to be provided that the parent signing for the passport
has sole custody
Meanwhile, a new report from the travel industry charges
that the U.S. government isn’t doing enough to prevent
the nation from losing ground as a top international tourism
destination, travel industry leaders. Potential foreign
visitors are turned off by “what is widely perceived
as a complicated and confused visa” process, triggered
by post-9/11 security rules.
Acknowledging its poor image among foreigners, Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security Secretary
Michael Chertoff announced last January a joint initiative
that, among other things, sought to reduce visa hassles.
But the initiative hasn’t produced adequate results,
says the new report from the World Travel & Tourism
“Everyone celebrated that two secretaries were coming
together to solve the problem,” says Vince Wolfington,
an American who chairs the London-based WTTC.
“The follow-up, for all practical purposes, has
really been non-existent,” he says.
Alluding to the departments’ so-called Open Doors
initiative, Wolfington said, “We have half-open
The State Department said it could not immediately comment,
and a call to Homeland Security was not returned.
In the past five years, global international travel has
increased by 17%. Over the period, the United States saw
a 4% decline in visits from international travelers.
Foreigners who come here tend to spend twice as much money
as domestic tourists, and they tend to return to their
countries with a more favorable image of the USA.
“Right now, we live in an environment where members
of Congress are not convinced they want more travelers
in this country,” says Geoff Freeman, the group’s
Detailed information about passports and applying for
them can be found online at http://travel.state.gov. The
application for passports also can be downloaded from
Roberto Rodriguez will take over as Ulster County commissioner
of social services on Jan. 8. In the position he will
succeed Barbara Sorkin, acting commissioner since the
spring, and oversee a $100 million annual budget and 325
employees, will earn an $89,614 annual salary. The Ulster
County Department of Social Services (DSS) is the county’s
most costly department.
The vote to appoint Rodriguez was 22-9. Some of those
who opposed his selection said they were concerned because
Rodriguez lives in Cornwall, Orange County. He said he
will move to Ulster County before assuming his post.
Where he lives is important because the commissioner of
social services is legally responsible for foster children,
for whom DSS serves as legal guardians. The commissioner
needs to be available 24 hours a day to sign documents
related to their care. There are about 185 children in
foster care under custody of DSS.
For the last two years, Rodriguez, 59, was managing partner
for a real estate and e-commerce start-up company. Prior
to that, from 2002-2004, he was president and chief executive
officer of New York United Hospital Medical Center in
Port Chester, a facility with 600 employees and a $60
million annual operating budget. From 1998 to 2001, Rodriguez
was executive director and CEO of the Los Angeles County/University
of Southern California (LAC+USC) Healthcare Network. LAC+USC
had a $740 million annual operations budget and more than
7,000 employees. While there, the network won the Foster-McGraw
American Hospital Association prize for excellence in
community services. Rodriguez also served for four years
as the executive director and CEO of the Lincoln Medical
and Mental Health Center in the Bronx and as the vice
president for budget and finance and chief financial officer
for SUNY-Old Westbury.
A Vietnam War veteran, Rodriguez served in the U.S. Army
and was a recipient of the Bronze Star. He is married
with two children.
Meanwhile, registered nurse Anne L. Cardinale of Kingston
has been appointed as Ulster County’s Office for
the Aging Director, replacing outgoing Office for the
Aging Director Kathryn M. Puglisi on January 8, 2007.
Cardinale, 59, has been a Senior Care Specialist for Benedictine
Hospital since July, 2001. In that position, she was responsible
for the coordination of senior care services, inclusive
of acute care, long-term care and community outreach programs.
She founded the popular BeneCare Program while at Benedictine,
which provides wellness courses for seniors throughout
Ulster County. Cardinale’s other positions at Benedictine
Hospital were as the Care Coordinator for the Care Coordination
Department and a staff nurse for the Emergency Department.
She began at Benedictine in February, 1996. Cardinale
worked as a nurse manager from 1986-1996 at the Ulster
County Residential Health Care Facility, a 40-bed skilled
nursing unit in Kingston. She was responsible for the
supervision of a professional and auxiliary staff of 30
registered nurses, LPNs and nurses aides. Cardinale is
currently president of the New York State Nurses Association
- District 11. She is also active in United Way, is a
member of the Ulster County Program Advisory Council –
Alzheimer’s Association and is a member of the Ulster
County Memory Walk planning committee for Alzheimer’s.
Cardinale’s annual salary is $64,228. She resides
in Kingston with her husband Frank, who is well known
in the community as the longtime manager for the Kingston
Legion baseball team.
The Bush administration has also asked an appeals court
to overturn a ruling that would require a redesign of
the nation’s currency to help the blind. The appeal
seeks to overturn a ruling last month by U.S. District
Judge James Robertson who ordered Treasury to come up
with ways for the blind to tell the difference between
different denominations of paper currency.
Robertson had ruled in a lawsuit brought by the American
Council of the Blind. The Council proposed several options
for changes - from printing different size bills to changing
the texture by adding embossed dots or foil. In his ruling,
the judge said that of 180 countries issuing paper currency,
only the United States prints bills that are identical
in size and color in all their denominations. He said
the current practice violates the Rehabilitation Act,
a law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability
in government programs.
In the government’s appeal, Justice Department lawyers
argued that visually impaired people are not denied “meaningful
access” to money by the way the nation’s currency
is designed. They noted the existence of portable reading
devices that the blind can use to determine the denomination
of paper money. The government said the blind can also
make use of credit cards rather than currency.
No More Leaks
Federal prosecutors are trying to force the American Civil
Liberties Union to turn over copies of a classified document
it received from a source, using what legal experts called
a new extension of the Bush administration’s efforts
to protect national-security secrets. The novelty in the
government’s approach is in its broad use of a grand
jury subpoena, which is typically a way to gather evidence,
rather than to confiscate all traces of it. But the subpoena
issued to the ACLU seeks “any and all copies”
of a document e-mailed to it unsolicited in October, indicating
that the government also wants to prevent further dissemination
of the information in the document.
The subpoena was revealed in court papers unsealed in
federal court in Manhattan recent;y. The subject of the
grand jury’s investigation is not known, but the
ACLU said that it had been told it was not a target of
The subpoena, however, raised the possibility that the
government had found a new tool to stop the dissemination
of secrets, one that could avoid the all but absolute
constitutional prohibition on prior restraints on publication.
The disputed document, according to the ACLU, is three-and-a-half
pages long and unremarkable, and its disclosure would
be only mildly embarrassing to the government. It added
that the document “has nothing to do with national
The ACLU said the subpoena was an effort to chill speech
about the Bush administration. “The government is
involved in a very conscious effort to suppress its critics,”
said Anthony D. Romero, the ACLU’s executive director.
Lauren McDonough, a spokeswoman for Michael J. Garcia,
the United States attorney in Manhattan, declined to comment
beyond acknowledging the ACLU’s filing.
In the past, the government has fired and prosecuted government
officials who provided classified information to people
not authorized to have it. It has also tried to force
reporters and others to identify the government officials
who leaked to them.
The judge will rule on the motion to quash shortly. The
Espionage Act makes it a crime for people who have unauthorized
possession of some kinds of national security information
to receive, retain, disseminate or refuse to turn it over
to the government when asked. But ACLU lawyers say the
document does not meet the statute’s definition
and that, in any event, a subpoena is an improper way
to enforce the law.
In its filing, the ACLU also argues that the government
is misusing the grand jury that issued the subpoena.