It's time for the Belleayre Mountain $10 lift ticket week from
January 26-30! Tony Lanza and his staff have decided to create
an all out Winter Festival in the villages surrounding the mountain!
Phoenicia has been asked to create a Mardi Gras Celebration and
Parade on Friday, January 30th! Belleayre is bringing the Belleayre
Beast to rumble down Main Street and lead the parade! Party-goers
can begin with drink specials and beads at Al‚ s Restaurant
on the comer of Rts 28 & 214 from 5:30 on, with the parade
beginning from the back parking lot at 7:30! The Rotary is building
a float and everyone is encouraged to dress-up and join the parade!!
Other fun stops in town that will be hosting Mardi Gras parties
and having drink specials are the Woodland Valley Inn, Sportman‚s
and Phoenicia Hotel!! Make the rounds in your costume and collect
beads and win a prize for best costume! The Phoenicia Hotel and
Cobblestone Motel are hosting the band, Captain Squeeze and the
Zydeco Moshers at the Phoenicia Hotel from 8:OO pm!! Free beads
with each drink purchase!! Our local restaurants are putting on
fabulous special Cajun and Creole menus for the evening gala!
For example, you‚ll find Seafood Gumbo at Mizuna Cafe; Shrimp
Jambalaya, Pork Chop Etouuffe and Pecan Pie at the American Cafe;
Red Snapper Creole, Oyster & Artichoke Soup at the new Woodland
Valley Inn; and Cajun and Creole dishes at La Duchess Anne.
Our shops will have specials and be open later than usual!
The Belleayre Lodging Association is supporting the efforts with
a donation towards decorations, with each establishment covering
the extras! Our community can be very proud of how our businesses
really get out there for the fun of all!
See You There!
Kimberly M. Wendt
Two and one half years ago I moved from NYC to West Hurley with
husband, composer and percussionist David Van Tieghem, my 5 year
old daughter and my mother, a retired writer and painter.
After moving, we discovered that in 1658 a great-great grandfather
Jacob VanEtten came to Kingston and founded the Old
Dutch Church. He must have loved the land as we do, coming all
the way from Holland. Discovering this history gave
me a sense of belonging and pride in what has been preserved
here. What if the Old Dutch Church had been blasted, making
way for an asbestos filled office building in
My husband and daughter have asthma, so I wanted to get
them out of NYC. Although we live on busy Rt.28, it is manageable
now, and a good place to start my business, Woodstock Furniture
Gallery. I make furniture out of antique wood, rescued from structures
slated for demolition, preserving history in hand-made pieces.
As we shape the future of the Catskills, how do we want to live
on this land, and present our area to visitors? Where does
the greatest tourism potential exist in the long run? Heritage
tourism is the fastest growing sector of the tourism industry.
The drama of historic hamlets, the mystery of original buildings
and the facts and folk lore of roads dating back to early
days of settlement are everywhere in the Catskills, and are the
kinds of places visitors want to explore.
Initiatives, museums and sites exist to preserve and share the
Catskills‚ heritage. The Federal Government established
the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area, alocating 10 million
dollars to protect and interpret the history of the valley, to
encourage development respectful of this heritage.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation sees pilot
programs carried out across America. When communities tell
stories of their pasts, the places that embody those
stories are protected and history comes alive. The Travel Industry
Association of America reports, cultural and historic tourists
stay longer and spend more money than other types of travelers.
The Belleayre resort would have an horrific effect. Clear-cutting
529 acres of high elevation will cause erosion, siltation of streams,
flooding of homes and roads, destroing trout fishing and wildlife
Barrons July 28th edition reads, "a glut of courses and a
dearth of players are ruining the economics of golf...the
golf boom has fizzled unambiguously in the past few years and
threatens to become a king-sized bust." Pesticides,
herbicides, fungicides and fertilizers from the golf course will
be carried by wind and rain into ground and surface water.
There is not enough water. Gitter acquired the Pine Hill Water
Company, seeking official sanction of the fragmentation
of the system, and wants to secure Pine Hill‚s third water
source for the resort. Despite numerous letters explaining that
fragmentation places the system below minimum health standards,
the DEC approved the permit modification.
Belleayre will generate 500 vehicular trips per hour, thousands
of trucks bringing construction materials for 8 years.
Our view of the night sky will be limited by lights of the mega-resort
glowing over the area.
Taxpayers will experience a 9% increase in property taxes, a $250,000
deficit, over-crowded schools, housing emergancies for Belleayre
employees, police, fire, road, and maintenance services will be
overwhelmed and Gitter admits he will offer only low paying
It is still possible to preserve the beauty of our land, our wildlife,
our history and our communities. We have control over the direction
these issues take, if we take action now.
West Hurley, NY
It was with great interest that I attended the DEC sponsored public
hearing at Margaretville Central School last Wednesday. I hoped
to learn everything possible about the proposed Crossroads Project
that is intended to be built in the towns of Middletown and Shandaken.
There was a large attendance at both the afternoon and the evening
Speaking for the project were a couple of Delaware County elected
officials, the supervisor of Andes and the Delaware County Board
of Supervisors‚ chairman. When I looked closely, I caught
a slight twinkle in their eye that seemed to say increased tax
revenue. I guess that if for any reason the project is denied
its present proposed location, then they
can relocate to Andes or Harpersfield.
There were a couple of local business people who spoke in favor
of the project, but I suspect their motivation was more profits
for their companies. The reason I suspect this is neither individual
stated that their quality of life would be improved by this endeavor.
There also were a few individuals in favor of Crossroads. It seemed
to me that they either were employed by Crossroads or were just
close friends of some of the people associated with the project.
One individual stated that if the managing partner said it would
be done right then they were sure that it would be so. This seems
like a huge leap of faith to me.
On the other side of the coin, there were individual after individual
speaking on behalf of their respective entities. National and
local Audubon Societies, Adirondack and local trail clubs, NYCDEP
and many others. Each and every speaker raised real concerns about
the validity of the Environmental Impact Statement and the Crossroads
Project. These individuals represented thousands, if not hundreds
of thousands, of members of their organizations.
Many individual speakers from the affected communities spoke well
into the night. These community members spoke with passion and
concern. Their concerns ran the entire gamut right down to an
aphid which is destroying hemlock timber and may be accelerated
by the clear cutting necessary for this project.
There were a few serious questions queried toward the NYS DEC
itself. Why did they declare the DEIS complete and distribute
it just before Christmas? One argued that there was not enough
time for people to review a 3,500 page document and formulate
questions even without the holiday in the mix. Another asked why
the public hearings were scheduled in the middle of the week in
the middle of January when our weekend visitors could not be present.
Still another asked how the NYS DEC could be the lead review agency
when in fact it is currently involved in the expansion of its
own Belleayre ski facility. Belleayre is in the middle of the
proposed project and can only benefit from implementation of Crossroads.
Out of the multitude of speakers, I did not hear one person that
requested that this project should be constructed so that they
could 1 have one of the 700-plus $6 to $8 I per hour jobs that
it will generate.
As I drove home that evening something occurred to me. The people
representing the project were the ones with the power and money.
The opposition to this project was the little guy, "we the
people," the quiet majority. Time after time, power and money
have beaten down the huddled masses.
Make no mistake, this was just a skirmish, the battle for victory
for either group remains a long and cumbersome task. Be assured
that there will be no winner at the end of this conflict, but
only a community torn apart within itself. And what for? Why,
for power and money, what else?
Jerry A. Fairbairn,
I have been a visitor to this area for 45 years and a homeowner
for 13. My relatives built businesses here and were longtime
members of the community since the 1940‚s.
I am concerned about the Bellayre Resort for numerous reasons,
but mostly on the quality of life, my family and our future.
The sheer magnitude of this project boggles the mind. Cutting
400 acres of Catskill Park woodland to build a golf course is
irresponsible at best. Golf courses are notoriously toxic
and the runoff will most likely compromise New York City‚s
But clearly I am concerned about the length of construction, the
safety of the highways and the negative impact on this area.
I love where I live in Shandaken, it is like no where else.
I have seen the lack of zoning in the Blue Ridge mountains.
Pegeion Forge, for example, is a nightmare of development.
I will never go there again. We know that Bellayre Mountain
is family friendly and has been expanded without massive over
commercialization. Having seen the cross roads plans, I
know that the personal touch which is so endemic to this area,
will be "forever lost", rather than "forever wild".
But let me speak to the real issue here, and my area of expertise,
politics. As a veteran legislative director, I became involved
in this issue as a homeowner several years ago quite by accident.
I picked up a local newspaper and then started asking questions.
Questions in Shandaken, questions in Albany, Questions in New
York City. Questions of local, state and national elected
officials. It became apparent to me that Crossroads were
influencing the process. However, this process, I came to
learn was one sided. The people in Shandaken hadn‚t
been heard from. Consultants, lobbyists and lawyers were
hard charging elected officials in the State Capital. As
a private citizen I became alarmed.
For the past several years Cross Road Ventures have made contributions
to the community here in Shandaken. Catskill Corners, The
Emerson Spa Motel, and support of the Bellayre music festivals
are all admirable. They are attempting to be businessmen
and good neighbors. These efforts are laudable. They
are small businesses in character with our area. However
the golf project isn‚t. Cross Roads has spent a great
deal of time and money sending monthly advocacy newsletters to
residents. In July 2002, a newsletter entitled "Full
Disclosure", was used to neutralize a local newspaper editor
who opposed the golf course. Cross Roads didn‚t disclose,
however, their massive efforts to influence elections and government,
through powerful law firms, lobbyists and public relations at
all levels of government. The hard working people of Shandaken,
however, don‚t have such resources and have chosen to live
in an area that is devoid of urban sprawl.
I am not against development. But we aren‚t talking
about Urban Renewal or a jobs program here. We are
speaking of one of Gods precious gifts to man and our stewardship
over it. Our land, our water, and our safety.
Governor Pataki recognizes the importance of this stewardship.
As an observer of the 2004 State of the State address on January
7, 2004 (in Albany), the Governor in his wisdom said "Our
environment, like our freedom, is inherited from our ancestors
and borrowed from our children. Both are given to us in
the trust that they will be preserved and improved for the next
"Together we've worked hard from that trust. Theodore
Roosevelt once observed that the nation behaves well if it treats
the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the
next generation increased, and not impaired, in value!"
I embrace these words. Once we develop these lands, there
is no turning back. I applaud the Governor for his stance
and implore the D.E.C. to embrace the tradition, values and sanctity
of our Catskill home that we have labored to preserve for generations.
Having attended much of the public hearings that took place at
Onteora High School on the Belleayre Resort Project, I would like
to make the following observations: the unruly, uncivil and just
plain rude behavior of resort opponents at the hearing toward
anyone who cared to speak in favor of the project was a disgrace.
After all, who in their right mind feels the least bit comfortable
or even safe speaking in favor of something that is opposed by
a crowd of booing, hissing, and threatening people. As a result,
a number of people who I know came out to speak in favor of the
project left the meeting early in disgust. Free speech is a precious
right but not when it is used to abuse, intimidate or otherwise
deter others from exercising their right to free speech.
Give the resort opponents their full due. They were well organized,
packed the hall with people from all over the Northeast, and they
mostly all spoke from the same script (even if they didn‚t
know what town they were in).
Predictably much of the press from around our area has chosen
to characterize resort supporters as mainly area business people
and resort opponents as the "local community" as if
none of "us locals" had a positive thought about this
project coming to Shandaken.
As I left the meeting that night I stopped briefly to inquire
about a fellow who was busy handing out anti-resort placards and
who appeared to be coaching anti-resort speakers on what to say.
I was told his name is Eric Goldstein, a big cheese lawyer working
for the natural Resources Defense Council out of New York City.
This is the same group who refused to support the 1997 Watershed
Agreement signed between the upstate towns and NYC because the
agreement didn't go far enough in restricting development in the
This is the same guy who last year petitioned New York City to
remove another 25 percent of watershed lands from any future development.
It would appear that Goldstein and his pals would really like
nothing better than to see all of us pesky little people who now
populate the region to simply go away. As they probably see it,
what better way to safeguard NYC‚s drinking water than to
make it virtually impossible for us to build anything now in our
town that would add to the town‚s tax base, help lower our
taxes, create jobs or attract tourists to come and support our
I would like to believe otherwise, but if history is any guide,
over the past 100 years NYC has succeeded in driving out thousands
of local residents to make way for the reservoirs. Now with the
help and support of groups like the NRDC, it appears that NYC
is determined to drive out those of us who dared to remain.
That's the message that seemed clear after last week's hearing.
Mt. Tremper, NY
If there are any doubts as to why we don't need ANOTHER hotel,
golf course, restaurant, parking lot, thousand toilets, hundred
tons of garbage, sewage, pesticides and pollutants, etc. etc.
all emanating from the proposed "Belleayre Resort",
all one need do is take a short drive over to the "illustrious"
Concord Hotel and check out the surrounding town of Monticello
to see the impact the Concord has had on that town. Or, try the
"lovely" Nevele Hotel in Ellenville to gauge just what
a resort hotel can do to a community.
Better yet, take a drive to Atlantic City and visit the glorious,
magnificent hotels on the boardwalk, but avoid the surrounding
slums that were supposed to benefit from these cash cows.
Right now there are plenty of hotels and golf courses in the Catskills,
all of which are underused and of NO benefit to their communities.
The only benefit they serve is to enrich their developers.
Make no mistake; Dean Gitter (Crossroad Ventures) is a real
estate "developer" (see: Donald Trump). Okay, he's a
peanut compared to Trump, but their goals are the same. Mr. Gitter
is NOT an altruist. He is NOT interested in improving the lives
of anyone in Shandaken or Middletown, with the exception of himself,
his cronies, and his supporters. The proposed Belleayre Resort
has one purpose, and one purpose ONLY, and that is to line the
pockets of Mr. Gitter and company, to make him richer than he
is already. By the way, there‚s nothing wrong with
being rich, just in the way it‚s achieved. When it‚s
at the expense of others and the environment, it is unconscionable.
We are extremely fortunate to be living in a "forest preserve"
(Forest: as defined in Webster‚s dictionary; "A wood
of native growth; A tract of woodland which has NEVER been cultivated")
NOT a "resort, country club, or CONDO preserve". You
want condos and country clubs- the Hamptons is an ideal choice.
You want forest, natural beauty, clean air, pesticide-free land
and water.choose the Catskill Forest Preserve, as it exists NOW.
Dean Gitter is not a Catskill native. Ironic, since he blasts
the opponents of his Belleayre Resort as being "outsiders".
Yet, he professes to "know what's best" for this community.
As a further insult to the community, he selects friends who are
also "outsiders" to serve on his "development"
team: Richard B. Fisher, formerly of Morgan Stanley, now a senior
advisor to Investcorp (one of the largest real estate developers
in the world) and Kenneth D. Pasternak, CEO of the Knight/Trimark
Group, both also NOT Catskill natives, to build this monstrosity
so out-of-sync with the environment. Hello Dean∑if this
project is supposed to create jobs for locals, why are you hiring
non-locals for the top spots? Let‚s get some local input
on this travesty.
We all agree our area could use a financial "shot in the
arm". However, a project of this size and scope is ridiculous.
Our fragile environment and eco-system cannot accommodate something
of this magnitude. I‚m sure, if we all search our hearts
and our minds, instead of being swayed by the dollar signs dangled
before our eyes, there‚s a compromise somewhere to be had.
None of us wants to leave behind a legacy of concrete and steel
where there used to be a mountain.
Joni Mitchell put it so aptly: ".don't it always seem to
go that you don‚t know what you‚ve got Œtil it‚s
gone∑..THEY paved paradise and put up a parking lot∑.
As much as the environmentally-minded don't want this resort,
unfortunately they will get either it or the equivalent in a multitude
of pint-size pollutors across the region. Witness the situation
in Fleischmanns, where long-term local residents have largely
squared off against newcomers and part-timers to allow illegal
junkyards to mushroom along streams feeding into the Pepacton.
The problem is that there is a lot of pressure felt by local populations
for economic development, and if they don't get it from a Crossroads,
they will turn to less conspicuous but equally-damaging alternatives.
In a way this is worse, because it not only degrades the environment
but compromises public officials who would allow activity to take
place that is illegal under the Memorandum of Agreement.
The DEP, which in the case of Fleischmanns has acquitted itself
as the flaccid member of the NYC water bureaucracy, would be no
threat to this type of development.
The clear-cutting of 500-plus acres of forest sickens me, but
so does the prospect of various local politicians who, with
outstretched palms, will pollute and destroy the environment anyway,
under the pretext of delivering more jobs to their constituents.
Your January 15th editorial "What If" raises troubling
questions for Shandaken residents about casino gambling in our
town. Although the Belleayre Resort developer has publicly opposed
bringing gambling here, he intends to sell the permits for the
project, should they be granted, to a major resort operator.
The "major resort operator" would likely be a corporation
primarily responsible to its shareholders, who would want to make
a profit. The proposed resort presents an appetizing site for
a casino. New York City is only 125 miles away; a resort would
be already built with 1200 bedrooms, 2 golf courses and a ski
area. To provide a comparison, the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut
is only slightly larger with 1400 bedrooms, 2 golf courses and
no ski area.
An agreement is already in place by the governor to site a casino
in Ulster County .Our county legislature has made an agreement
with an Oklahoma Indian tribe regarding casino gambling; the agreement
includes a clause requiring any town in the county to receive
the casino, if chosen for the site.
The social and economic effects of the explosion of legalized
gambling in our country have been widely documented, although
less widely disseminated. A few relevant facts taken from the
National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling (www.ncalq.orq):
-Half of casino revenues come from problem or compulsive gamblers
.5% of Americans (15 million) have a serious gambling problem
-Within 50 miles of a gaming facility, the rate of gambling addiction
jumps to 15% .Local rates of personal bankruptcy, crime, depression
and suicide increase where gambling is introduced on a large scale
-Cost-benefit studies show that casinos require $3 of additional
tax revenue to cover local costs of social services for every
dollar of new tax revenue that the state receives
I have a relative who cannot stop betting on the horses. He recently
convinced his 90-year-old mother to sign a large home-improvement
loan on their residence, but sadly a lot of that money is going
to support his gambling addiction.
The belief that a big influx of gambling money will bring increased
happiness has not proved true for other communities. I hope people
in our town will look carefully at these issues before supporting
a major resort operator in getting their foot in the door.
Mt. Tremper, NY
On behalf of the planning board of the Town of Shandaken, I would
like to thank Lynn Davidson for her five years of service as a
member of the planning board. Lynn served as vice chair and also
participated as a representative of the planning board on the
comprehensive plan committee. The number of hours she spent as
a volunteer serving the Town of Shandaken is inestimable and she
deserves a hearty round of applause.
I am in agreement with and support Edna Hoyt's position that Jane
Todd is in a conflict of interest being on the Town Board and
being a member of the Sharp Committee. I had this opinion before
Edna made it an issue when I heard Sharp had awarded a grant to
the Phoenicia Hotel and then I saw Jane Todd‚s name displayed
on the side of the hotel as well as the Shandaken Republican Headquarters.
The question that begs to be asked is, is there any quid pro quo,
(something for something) here?
When I worked in procurement at IBM it was essential that we,
"not even have the appearance of impropriety." Jane
Todd wearing her two hats does not meet that criteria. What does
it mean when Mrs. Todd states, "I went to the US Office of
special Council and got a determination that I am not prohibited
from...holding public office." That answer sounds too general
and what does it mean, "I went to...?"
Mount Tremper, NY
Re: "Erosion eroded" article, last issue, about
the project to restore the Esopus stream bank at Woodland Valley.
In addition to those mentioned that were instrumental to the project,
others should be included. Gary Capella and staff of UCSWCD
worked on the project from day one, integral to the team. Thank
you to Gary, Cathy, Quentin, Jake and all the staff at UCSWCD.
Secondly, Harry Jameson, the Town Tinker, provided
on site assistance, and finally thanks to Bruce Duffy and Trout
Unlimited, for their continued support.
From all the neighbors on the stream, Thank you!
Last year things in the valley seemed to be good. Nature
stirred in her normal rhythms. Spring brought the profusion
of white-flowered shadblow that always decorates the otherwise
barren banks of the brook; they herald the awakening trout.
In May the wild azaleas burst forth in their delicate pinks and
whites, soon to be followed by the simple, yet in the same breath
complex, blossoms of mountain laurel. Millions of wild strawberries,
whose runners had cleverly insinuated themselves throughout the
valley's game trails and sandy corridor, bloomed their tiny flowers
and set fruit. The old apple trees, stubborn survivors of
nineteenth century orchards, brought forth fruit in their tenacious
manner that would eventually nurture the deer and prompt bears
to climb up and shake their venerable branches in late summer.
Wild turkeys would peck at the drops.
We stocked the brook for fly-fishing and then stocked it again.
The accommodating rains kept the streams full and the fishing
was, for once, almost always good.
We held our parties at the old Inn, ate our beefsteak in the manner
of the Millers˜rare, sliced thin, rolled in hot melted creamery
butter and laid on slices of fresh bread, all on a platter.
We danced the old dances˜Alabama Jubilee, Catskill Mountain
Stomp, Virginia Reel, Red Wing, and the rest.
But things were not good at all. Trudi Miller was dying.
The inscription in an old book given to her as a child tells something.
On the flyleaf of The Young Folks' Cyclopaedia of COMMON THINGS
(copyright 1885) are the words:
Miss Trudi Clare Miller
Dr. Gertrude G. Mack
The bright-eyed precocious only child of Paul and Alice Miller,
she was the golden girl of our valley. It was not a stretch for
Doctor Mack to expect Miss Miller, age six, to be able to read
and understand the quaint yet instructional, alphabetically arranged
"Cyclopaedia" from her grandfather's era. TRIANGLE,
TROMBONE, TROUT˜ah, trout:
...Trout are caught with the rod and line, and may be fished for
in several ways, and with several kinds of bait. In fly-fishing
the bait is a common fly, grasshopper, cricket, or some other
live insect, or a fly made by hand. The rod should be ten
or twelve feet long, and should have a reel with about fifty yards
of fine silk, grass, or hair line wound on it. The line
in use should be about half as long again as the rod. The
fisherman must learn to throw this so that the fly will fall lightly
on the water, the fly first and the line afterward.
Trudi grew up in the ancestral slabsided house that her grandfather
had built on the lip of Panther Mountain, overlooking Woodland
Brook. As a callow youth, I thought that such a country
life must have been heaven for Trudi˜to be so close to that
lovely trout stream, surrounded by those mountains 365 days a
year. But of course, such a confinement must have galled
her to an extent. Soon enough she found a way for her brain-power,
her beauty-power (for she was lovely), her Trudi-power to propel
her from Boiceville's Onteora High School to Cornell. Then
on to Chapel Hill for a doctorate in political science.
And so forth and so on. Program officer at the National
Science Foundation, Visiting Scholar at the Brookings Institute,
teacher at major universities, author.
Her life was an adventure that took her many places, but eventually
the draw of the valley brought her back. She settled in
with her husband Jim Infante, and feathered her deceased Uncle
Phil's cabin nest˜Green Gables. There they lived, in
a contentment of love and an accommodation to each other's frailties,
surrounded by the forest places of her childhood, and next to
neighbors who'd known her since the very first.
Then, this season of cancer, and the hope and wish and prayer
that the medicos could work one of their potential miracles of
a Sloan-Kettering nature.
In late September my nephew caught a nice batch of trout and I
brought some down to Trudi and Jim˜since fresh trout has
ever been a favorite meal of anyone named Miller. She could not
face the thought of eating them, and sent them and me back up
the mountain; she called them precious˜trout too precious
to waste. And I thought, "Not as precious as you Trudi,"
and finally admitted to myself how very very sick she was.
She died six days later.
There is a strain of wild azalea on the old Miller property and
at Green Gables˜Pinxter (Rhododendron periclymenoides)˜admirable
for its beauty and resilience to a harsh climate. In spring it
sets an abundance of delicate pink flowers that waft a heady perfume
not soon forgotten by bee or mortal man. Trudi's father Paul once
said, when comparing them to hybrid azaleas of the gaudy sexless
type marketed at garden centers, "Those fancy ones aren't
worth the powder it'd take to blow them up." A portion
of Trudi's ashes now fertilize her beloved Pinxters. How
very like them she was.
Now, how this homage to Trudi relates to the coarse underlying
intention of this letter (a begging for alms to help us stock
Woodland Brook this year), I do not know. Perhaps you can
find a connection. I felt compelled to make this Trudi's letter,
and that's that. At any rate, I ask that if you can help
with the stocking of brown trout for the fly-fishing section of
the Brook, that you make out a check to the WOODLAND TROUT FUND,
and send it to me:
Vernon, CT 06066
No public official always likes what gets reported in the press,
and it's unfortunate that town board member Jane Todd views our
news coverage as skewed to reflect negatively on her. We have
no such intention nor do we believe that‚s true.
Last October the Catskill Mountain News and The Phoenicia Times
ran a letter-to-the-editor in which one Shandaken town board member
raised three separate conflict-of-interest issues concerning another.
Two months later, the writer, Edna Hoyt, sent us another letter
- one she‚d received - notifying her of her immanent
dismissal from the board of the SHARP Committee, whose director
is another town board member, Jane Todd. Lonnie and Ruth Gale,
SHARP‚s two founding board members, resigned in protest
over what they saw as the political nature of Hoyt‚s forced
Since Todd and SHARP President Ernest Gardner both used the term
"libel" with respect to Hoyt‚s letter, I went
back and read it very carefully. The letter had strong opinions
but said nothing potentially libelous. Libel is a legal
term with a number of very specific criteria, including the knowledge
that what is said is intentionally false. It's almost impossible
to substantiate, especially for an elected public official who
are all but exempted from bringing such claims. And while
our courts have made it clear they're not in the business of determining
what's true and what isn't, they've also consistently supported
everyone‚s right to voice their personal opinions. In a
small town, in any town, the events above were news and we reported
them because that's our job.
Ms. Todd's response to the story was a letter accusing me of "spreading
malicious lies and distortion" about her because I quoted
Hoyt. Edna Hoyt was quoted accurately, Lonny Gale was quoted
accurately, and Jane Todd was quoted accurately. In fact I called
Todd back a second time, to make sure she fully understood what
Hoyt and Gale had said, so that her response could be as direct
and appropriate as possible. The story did contain one small factual
error that I do apologize for: I wasn't aware that Joan Munster's
employment with SHARP had recently ended. Apart from that,
there were no inaccuracies, distortions, or errors of any kind
concerning Ms. Todd or her family. As for her "correction"
on SHARP‚s board composition, there was no error: Exactly
as reported, there were, until recently, six SHARP board members
On the substantive question involved, Hoyt‚s letter raised
the ethical issue of Todd‚s potential conflict-of-interests,
not the legal issue of whether under federal law, her two positions
constitute a violation of the Hatch Act. But since most of the
money that passes through SHARP is not federally administered,
that determination has little relevance with respect to any administration
of non-federal grant funds. And it has no relevance with respect
to the other conflict-of-interest issues Hoyt raised: Todd‚s
actions in 2000 regarding the Pine Hill Water Company and her
land purchase in Big Indian. Although Todd may feel she has adequately
addressed the later, neither issue is in my view resolved. In
fact they now appear to be exacerbated by a citizen‚s group
having formally asked for Todd‚s recusal from issues connected
with the Belleayre Resort on the basis of the land purchase. Because
the town board majority understands these are problematic issues,
they‚ve come up with a partial solution, the creation of
a town Ethics Committee. Although Shandaken‚s long managed
without one, I think there‚s a likely reason the new board
majority requires one now: to rule, as needed, that nothing Jane
Todd has ever done may have violated Shandaken's conflict-of-interest
In my view, faulting a newspaper or its publisher for reporting
the news and quoting its sources accurately is not an appropriate
response to a story one may not like. I also think it is unreasonable
to attribute views expressed in letters-to-the-editor to the newspapers
in which they are published. I think it‚s positive Ms. Todd
chose to address some of the issues raised in Hoyt‚s letter;
that‚s what public dialogue IS. Providing a forum for that
is a vital part of the role newspapers play, especially when all
views are permitted to run without comment, as we run them.
Finally with respect to "the truth" as Ms. Todd appears
to lay claim to it, I do find it odd that she says she performs
her duties as a grant administrator "at no cost to the taxpayers."
Everything she does in her capacity as a paid grantwriter and
administrator is paid by taxpayer dollars. They're just not all
dollars that are paid solely by Shandaken's taxpayers.
Publisher, The Phoenicia Times