Cross said the proposals
would need to be reviewed by the board before making any decisions.
The matter, he said, would need to be voted on.
When the decision to request RFP’s was made, it was not a unanimous
one. Councilman Rob Stanley voted against the idea because he saw no
clear reasoning behind the plan to just go ahead and build one tower
on the town’s property at Glenbrook Park. Stanley felt the RFP
should ask for a professional study to determine the best locations
for towers in the entire town with an eye toward getting as much of
the town covered with cellular service as possible. A tower on Glenbrook
park may, or may not, be a suitable location Stanley said. If it were,
allowing one company to build on the site may make it difficult to get
other companies to come to town once that location is secured by a competitor.
Worse, he said, the tower will get built at Glenbrook and not fit into
any network of towers outlined in a future study.
It should be noted that for years Cross has had a plan in mind for a
few tower sites, but has never made clear what he was basing it on or
where specifically those locations were. Some are on private property,
where owners can strike lucrative deals with tower developers in exchange
for allowing the tower on their land. Furthermore, while working out
a deal with Masterpage Communications, Cross was the sole negotiator
for the town. That deal, a plan to build a tower at Glenbrook as the
first of three throughout town, fell through in the spring and was criticized
for lacking sufficient data to support the conclusions reached about
Now another element of the cell saga has surfaced. A 41.73 acre parcel
overlooking Phoenicia has been acquired by a new company owned by Cross’s
wife Vicky and Deputy Supervisor Jane Todd's daughter Jennifer Murphy.
The company, ViJen Holdings, LLC, an apparent amalgam of their names,
was formed in April 2007 and shares a mailing address with Ms. Murphy
and her husband on Long Island. The property, undeveloped at present,
appears ideally suited for a cellular communications site for Phoenicia
and the central part of the 28 corridor through the town.
According to deeds filed in the Ulster County Clerks office it appears
that a clause banning the construction of towers on the parcel, which
was on the deed of previous owner Richard Stokes, was removed from the
deed when ViJen bought the property.
It remains unclear whether the ViJen property is one Cross identified
as a potential site when discussing sites with Masterpage, but the Supervisor
was asked Saturday if he felt the ViJen property was a suitable spot
for a tower.
“No comment about that,” he said.
The tower issues will be discussed at the September 10th town board
The Red Books?
New locations for the Red
Book, which lists school bus routes and times of pick up for children,
were also announced as a safety measure. Instead of being available
at local post offices, the lists will now be available at neighborhood
schools, the OCS central office and transportation office, and Hoyts
headquarters… all in Boiceville. Additionally, the Red Books will
not contain any information on special education routes, with parents
being notified individually of such matters. This is to address privacy
issues regarding such students.
Moraca said that the decision to limit access to the bussing information
was meant to deter would—be child predators.
Another major change will affect variance students. Although at the
August 14 school board meeting, Moraca announced the elimination of
a shuttle bus between elementary schools, in an August 23 letter to
parents Moraca said that variance student can take a bus first to their
home school and then transfer to a “variance shuttle” bus
to their variance school. The letter continues, “Alternately in
the afternoon, they will be picked up at their variance school, shuttled
to their home school, and will ride the bus home.”
The district was never responsible for transporting variance students,
although exceptions were made if a shuttle bus was in the area. Also,
transportation was provided for Woodstock parents, whose kids went on
to Phoenicia School after West Hurley School closed.
Moraca said approximately 70 families have their kids on variance.
“I am sure there is going to be fallout,” he noted. “I
am sure there is going to be complaints because people were used to
the (shuttle) bus being there, but fiscal responsibility - we have to
deal with it.”
Moraca could not give a total cost savings by eliminating the shuttle
bus runs. School board trustee Maxane Resnick had requested specific
cost savings to the district at the August 14 OCS meeting.
“Obviously given the impact of the 70 families because that is
going to be big news,” said Resnick. “When are they going
to get the letter because they have to figure out their plans by September
A special education shuttle bus that runs between elementary schools
will also be eliminated.
“I think it is unrealistic to ask these special needs children
to have to get off a bus with their attendant and get on another vehicle
so we can shuttle them, so instead the vans for our elementary schools
are all designated specifically for whatever school they go to,”
Moraca said, adding that this would cut back on missed classroom time
where special education kids tended to be late for morning classes and
early dismissal time.
As a reminder Moraca explained that Private, Parochial school, Day Care
and Babysitter care transportation requests must be filed by April 1
Moraca asked that the school board to consider a secondary supervisory
position in the transportation department that will eliminate the Head
Bus driver position. The creation of bus driver/dispatcher position
will require a more experienced person and must take a transportation
test to qualify.
The board was set to vote on the proposal August 28.
Johnson said it was true that the man was driving with a suspended license,
but that he was unaware of that at the time he did the hiring. Once
he found out the matter was corrected. Now, Johnson said, all persons
hired need to produce proof of holding a valid license.
National Gets Local
Hinchey, who is sponsoring
a two-pronged resolution of censure in the House of Representatives
against President Bush and Vice President Cheney to match one introduced
in the Senate by Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), has spoken publicly of
impeachment but has yet to add his name to an impeachment bill (H Res
333) introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio. This “lapse”
has disturbed many local constituents and was the topic of Tuesday’s
“They trying to get HR 333 forward to the House Judiciary Committee,
some of whom have already voiced support for it, and Maurice has spoken
out very strongly that this administration is, in his own words, ‘the
most impeachable administration in history,’ guilty of multiple
grievous crimes. Yet he has so far not signed onto this bill,”
said Tarak Kauff, one of a group of seven who had originally secured
the appointment with the Congressman. “We hope to change his mind
today. There’s no difference between Maurice and ourselves on
the grounds for impeachment. The question is- and it’s very puzzling-
why he’s not pressing for impeachment- which the Constitution
calls for, by law, in a situation like this. It’s mandated. It’s
not a judgment call.”
A letter to Hinchey, dated July 25 and bearing over a hundred signatures,
including professors, town council members and other figures of note,
quotes Senator Barbara Boxer’s recent comment that “the
Constitution does not permit us to take (impeachment) off the table”
to bolster an argument that “Congress is not at all doing its
job in failing to bring impeachment charges.” It also observes
that “Congress has a lower approval rating now than even the President.
The public that elected this Congress to end the war and correct the
grievous wrongs of this administration feels betrayed.”
Kauff, a Woodstock resident, said that the group’s first letter
requesting a meeting was turned down but they persisted, saying they
felt strongly that the issue was “urgent and critical enough to
warrant a direct meeting.” They offered to come to Washington
if the Congressman was too busy to meet in Kingston. Following a supportive
article in the Kingston Times, Hinchey’s local chief-of-staff
Dan Ahouse did agreed to what Kauff describes as a “very intense
“We said we’re not going to stop; we’re going to take
public action,” Kauff related on Tuesday morning. “We must
address this issue. Don’t get us wrong. We like Maurice. We think
he’s done some great things. But this is the most critical issue
for our country since the Civil War.”
Kauff said that when Hinchey, who was out of the country, returned,
he agreed to meet seven of the group at his relatively small Kingston
office but added that there were many more people involved who wanted
to play a role, so Kauff suggested to them that they come and remain
“You can carry impeachment signs, do street theater, wear your
‘Arrest Cheney First’ t-shirts,” he told them. “It’s
a free country and it’s your right as citizens to express yourselves.
When we come out of the meeting, we’ll let you know what happened
and we can take it from there.” Then, “apparently his office
heard that there was going to be a lot of people outside and called
me (Monday) to say Maurice would like to include everybody and changed
the meeting place to the community room in the Rupco Building at John
and Fair Streets. I said okay but we don’t want to dilute the
conversation by just having Maurice address the crowd.”
Jeff Lieberson, a spokesman in Hinchey’s D.C. office said that
“The Congressman believes that President Bush and Vice President
Cheney are the most indictable officials in history and he’s one
of the most outspoken critics of them in Congress. He’s introduced
legislation to hold them accountable in many ways and, as much as he
would like to see them impeached, he recognizes that the votes are just
not there. There’s certainly not enough support for two-thirds
of the Senate to vote to convict and, additionally there’s 17
months left for this administration and these proceedings would take
months and months.
“So, you would essentially tie up the Democratic Congress from
doing its good work in trying to reverse bad policies,” Lieberson
continued. “So, as much as he would like to see them gone tomorrow,
he recognizes that it’s not practical. He’s introduced resolutions
to censure them- companion legislation to what Senator Feingold did
in the Senate. It’s a way to note in the historical record that
a co-equal branch of government stood up to this administration and
formally admonished them for their actions. There are two resolutions-
one has to do with Iraq and the other with ‘rule of law’
issues- domestic spying, polices on torture, firings of U.S. attorneys
and so on. It’s just a way to hold this administration accountable.
“Now, if this was two years into a possible 8 year administration,
circumstances might be different. Time is running out and the support
isn’t there in Congress. Congressman Hinchey is hoping for a constructive
dialogue on these points.”
Olive resident Judith Boggess offers a different perspective; “They
keep saying they don’t have enough people in the Senate to put
it through but our thought is to get it going in the House and see what
happens in the Senate; see who’s against it. That alone will speak
Kauff agrees. A member of Veterans for Peace, Middle East Crisis Response
and United for Peace & Justice- groups he notes as sympathetic to
the removal of Bush and Cheney from office but uninvolved in the immediate
action, Kauff said “We debate his reasons. Our position is that
a head count is not the issue. You NEVER have the votes when you start.
You do what is right; what you’re honor-bound to do- uphold the
Constitution and protect the democracy. If you’re the only one
doing that, so be it. At least you will have done your duty and represented
the constituents in your district. There’s an overwhelming majority
in this district clamoring for the impeachment process to begin. No
one knows if there’ll be a conviction.
“Let us at least have a trial. Let the American public see the
full extent of what has happened. All the Democrats and some Republicans
on the Judiciary Committee have said they know impeachable offenses
have been committed. Lying the public into war, illegal wiretapping,
suspended habeas corpus, authorized torture, corporate looting of the
treasury- we’ve never seen such criminality. People elected this
Congress in hopes that they would be able to halt this runaway administration
and stop the war. They have done neither. If they’re waiting for
2008 to elect a Democrat, there’s 15 or 16 months left and who
knows what further damage can be done. You’re going to let him
continue committing all these crimes and never challenge it? The balance
of powers between the executive and other branches of government- the
fundamental basis of a democratic republic- is crumbling.”
Although Hinchey’s censure resolutions reads sternly like a document
of impeachment, the resolutions carries no actual consequences in law.
Some critics at the national level have also shown surprise at Hinchey’s
decision, saying that while the Senate cannot bring their own Articles
of Impeachment, the House has no such excuse. An article in the Sept.
6, 2007 Rolling Stone magazine makes a strong case for a private profit
motive behind the Iraqi occupation, noting that an astonishing percentage
of the hundreds of billions pumped into the country has simply disappeared
or dissolved in frauds and swindles by no bid contractors.
Author David Lindorff, whose book The Case for Impeachment: The Legal
Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office was published
last year by St. Martin’s, has written that the censure resolutions
from Hinchey and Feingold will “geld” the impeachment measure
introduced by Kucinich.
“(I)f it passes, besides giving members of Congress cover for
not supporting a genuine impeachment bill, will do absolutely nothing
to stop the Bush/Cheney destruction of the Constitution,” Lindorff
observed on the liberal-progressive website Buzzflash. And that is precisely
what Kauff and his group were planning to argue on Tuesday.
2000 - The
Town Assessor Race
This year, Rosalie Boland
- who’s long held that full-time job - is retiring and two slots
on the board of Assessors are open with three candidates running, Heidi
Clark, Rose Rotella, and John Horn. One will end up serving as Chair,
another will assist them, the one with the lowest vote total will do
neither. The third member of the board will be Lynn Davidson, elected
in 2005 with a term running through 2009.
In an unusual twis,t though, also on November’s ballot is expected
to be a yes/no referendum question which changes the structure of the
town’s assessment office from our current elected-assessor system
to one that’s run by a single assessor, appointed directly by
the town board. Most towns now utilize this structure, which is intended
to de-politicize the job by removing consideration of election and reelection
from its purview. Whether that might mean more or less continuity between
administrations here is Shandaken is anyone’s guess. We will it
appears, be voting on the shift in structure as well as the positions.
If the referendum is approved, the non-chair positions will presumably
be eliminated in early 2008, though how that might impact the preparation
of next year’s tax roll is as yet unclear.
Heidi Clark, who’s running on both the Republican and Democratic
lines, has worked for the last six years as Boland’s assistant,
effectively managing the office. She’s lived here since 1984,
married her husband Don of Pine Hill in ’85, and is raising two
teenage boys. They operate the Family Christmas Tree Farm in Big Indian
and produce Zaz brand mustard products.
Clark says the Assessor’s job is “to make sure that everybody
is fairly assessed,” and that “it’s more than likely
that the vast majority of properties are fairly assessed.” She
wants people to feel comfortable about coming in, and to let them know
that “the Assessor’s office is for them. If people have
questions, we’re just real people. If we don’t have the
answers, we’ll find out.” The goal, she says, “is
that everybody’s got to be treated fairly.”
Clark declined to address questions related to past town assessment
practices, indicating she may need to testify about them in two ongoing
lawsuits concerning the town’s 2005’s tax roll. She believes
the current tax roll is fundamentally fair, and does not believe a revaluation
of the town is necessary.
Like Clark, Democrat Rose Rotella was offered nomination at the GOP
caucus, though she declined it. A licensed realtor since 1974 and a
member of the Board of Assessment Review for the past five years, she’s
troubled by some of the town’s tax practices she’s seen
in that capacity. She believes much of Shandaken’s assessment
data is not accurate and is quick to acknowledge that a wide variation
exists in assessments townwide. “It’s not fair,” she
says, “that some people are assessed at 100% of market value and
most others aren’t.” And she acknowledges that each year
when the office certifies that every property is assessed at a uniform
percentage of market value, it’s not true. “Some people
are saying everything’s fine,” she said. “It’s
not fine. It’s not fine and it’s not fair.”
“I want people to be able to keep their homes,” said Rotella.
“That’s my agenda. There has to be a way that we can tax
everybody fairly and still be able to protect the families who built
this town, and can’t afford more increases. Until we can figure
that out, I don’t want to see a reval, because of the numbers
of people who’d be hurt by it. But “a reval could be OK,”
she said, "if the assessors could take into consideration the social
factors involved. It’s complex and I don’t have the answers
but there’s got to be a way.”
John Horn, running on the Republican line, also takes a significantly
critical view of the town’s tax roll and practices. A resident
of Chichester for seven years, Horn is a member and past chair of Shandaken’s
Planning board, and a former Mayor of the Westchester town of Pleasantville.
“The current assessment records,” he says, “are not
very good, and the key factor is to get them up to date.” According
to Horn, many of the records are either incomplete or significantly
in error. And he says the resulting disparities between assessments
are in many cases extreme, citing as an example 10 properties which
each sold for about $190,000 in recent years, but whose assessment varied
by as much as 100 percent.
Asked whether a revaluation would solve these kinds of inequities, Horn
said “Of course it would, but that’s not a decision the
Assessor makes. It’s a Town Board decision and it takes a lot
of guts on the part of a Town Board. But it should be done, obviously,
because it’s the only way the tax roll will ever be fair.”
“Theoretically,” says Horn “it’s a self-correcting
system but any taxpayers who’s ever tried to contest their assessment
knows it’s not. The burden of proof is on the homeowner and the
ordinary Joe doesn’t have a chance. It’s been rolling along
year after year and no one’s willing to make a stink about it.”
It’s always possible this could be the year that changes in Shandaken…We’ll
keep you posted.
In related news, the Town Board will hold a public hearing Monday September
10 at 6:30 PM, for comment on the proposed town law concerning a single
Appointed Assessor appearing as a referendum on November’s ballot,
with a possible vote to follow at the regular 7PM board meeting.
He has said that he always
liked the fighting spirit of the CWT, which led to the creation of the
CWC, better than the Corporation’s more consensus-conscious mission
to ease New York City’s presence in the Catskills region via grants
and loan giving, as well as oversight of its regulations on a local
The way Meehan would often tell it, distrust and ill will had been building
for generations in the Catskills when, in September of 1990, the New
York City Department of Environmental Protection drafted new regulations
to prevent pollution of its upstate water supply. New York City faced
construction costs of $4 billion to $8 billion to build a filtration
plant, with annual operating costs estimated at $500 million.
There was one alternative. If a municipality wanted a waiver from the
filtration requirement - what became known as a Filtration Avoidance
Determination - it had to demonstrate that it had adequate controls
in place to protect the watershed from sources of pollution. So the
New York City Department of Environmental Protection developed a comprehensive
set of regulations to restrict new development and control pollution
from manure in fields, salt on roads, failed septic systems, and oil
and gas from cars in parking lots.
Never mind that the fight was raised by the late State Senator Charles
Cook as he was facing a tough election battle against a former comrade.
Many watershed dwellers, including Meehan, believed the proposed regulations
would cripple what there was left of the region’s economy after
the stock market downturn of the late 1980s.
The Coalition, funded with monies supplied by Cook, sued the city, and
that action led to a negotiation that lasted several years. In 1997,
thanks to the Coalition’s efforts, an historic agreement was reached
that not only gave the city a filtration waiver but also compensated
the upstate communities for the harmful effects that were to come.
Now, 10 years after that deal was made, Meehan used terms like “tired”
and “frustrated” to describe the state of mind that led
him to his decision to step down.
Unhappy with the way the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ignored
the Coalition’s main concerns when it gave the city another 10-year
filtration waiver last month, Meehan recalled at his last meeting on
August 20 how he had discussions with other Coalition members back in
the early 1990s about the city’s tenacity.
“We thought back then that their ultimate goal is to wear us out.”
he said. “Well, some of us are tired. Some of us are frustrated.
Some things are not moving at all. It’s time for some personnel
changes. Maybe that will make it better.”
He noted that he had announced months ago that he would step aside once
the EPA rendered last month’s verdict, adding that the effort
needed to fight for the rights of the watershed in that process had
become overwhelming, even distasteful.
“The trouble with these negotiations ... the posturing can just
about make you sick, and I’m not very good at it,” he said.
The Coalition is suing again. This time the defendant is the federal
Environmental Protection Agency, not the city. And as the region begins
this new chapter, Meehan hopes that new leadership in the Coalition
can help reach a compromise with the federal agency and change the direction
the battle is now headed.
“We shouldn’t create wars,” he said.
Alan Rosa, the executive director of the Catskill Watershed Corp., was
present at Meehan’s farewell meeting. A founding member of the
Coalition like Meehan, Rosa blasted the city for recent legal actions
designed to lower the taxes on city property in the watershed, and in
a saber rattling tone insisted that the city needs to be stopped.
Rosa said the city is suing no less than 10 towns over land assessments
and that those towns lack the resources to mount any substantial defense.
To put it in perspective, Rosa said that in one lawsuit in the town
of Olive the city wants its land value dropped to about $100 million.
The town now values that land at $600 million. Rosa suspects the city
is using the tax challenges as a way to finance the watershed agreement.
“That lawsuit is equal to the entire amount the city is giving
the Watershed over the next 20 years,” he said. “And that’s
just one of 10 lawsuits. ... If the city doesn’t get it one way,
they’ll try and get it in another. Someone has to listen to this
Nodding in agreement, Meehan said this was an example of what made him
decide to step down.
“It’s a step forward. I hope it makes it better,”
The Executive Committee will decide next month on a new chairman. Meehan’s
advice to whoever takes over was short and to the point, reminding all
that the Coalition is an advocate for the watershed and its people and
should work for the best arrangement for both.
Among those named as possible successors to Meehan on the all-male board,
made up of town supervisors from throughout the watershed – once
unanimous but now a few short due to recent political battles –
is current CWT Vice President Dennis Lucas of Hunter, as well as board
newcomers Bob Cross and Jeremy Wilber, supervisors of Shandaken and
Woodstock, respectively, and Ulster County’s representatives now
that longstanding member Bruce LaMOnda of Olive wasn’t reinstated.
Meehan didn’t mention current financial straights the organization’s
numerous lawsuits, over everything from city recreation regulations
to state DEC reviews of local development, have forced it to face.
“Think about where things could be. Don’t think about where
they are,” he said.