on the News
Off To Iraq
Van Blarcum is something of an old hand at this. A few years back he
spent a year helping to train a new police force in Bosnia, working
under the auspices of the United Nations. As part of that project, he
saw a need for shoes while in the Balkans and spearheaded an effort
to get local residents to help out. The result was an outpouring of
thousands of pairs of shoes- and eventually, a Van Blarcum run for the
county sheriff's position, which he lost.
meanwhile, was recently granted a one year leave of absence from the
Shandaken Police department in case he gets sent to Iraq. Which is in
itself a victory on many levels for the young officer, who has progressed
as a law enforcement officer despite his handicap of having lost part
of a hand to a fireworks accident when a teenager.
Addressing Van Blarcum's leaving the same day he left, March 9, Shandaken
supervisor Bob Cross, Jr. complained about how the police officer had
left on such short notice, having only alerted him that he might be
leaving two weeks earlier. He spoke about how, with freshman town councilman
Joe Munster on vacation in Florida through the end of the month, Van
Blarcum's decision to go to Iraq was leaving the town in a potential
hot spot, should any emergencies arise.
January Van Blarcum proposed, and the board passed, a resolution requiring
a supermajority of the board - 4 of its 5 members - for consideration
of any resolutions that aren't presented on the town's agenda four days
prior to its monthly meeting. To date, that has included changes in
wording of resolutions, as well as emergency matters.
said that he would seek to have Van Blarcum's resolution rescinded at
the town's April board meeting because he feels it keeps the remaining
councilmen from being able to take vacations while Van Blarcum is in
Blarcum, meanwhile, said that he is hoping to get to come back for at
least three more meetings before the end of the year, during his leaves
of absence each month.
about the current mission on Monday, which will also see Sheriff's Desputy
James DeMille of Port Ewen going to Virginia for tests this week, Van
Blarcum said that as far as he knew, the current mission is occurring
under the auspices of the U.S. State department.
On January 29, the first class of 466 Iraqi police recruits graduated
from an intensive eight week training program to begin policing duties.
The training focuses on modern, democratically based policing methods,
and includes subjects such as Human Rights, community policing, domestic
violence, search and seizure, and firearms training.
training curriculum has been used in rebuilding police forces in other
post-conflict areas such as Kosovo, and is taught by international police
training experts from a number of countries," said a Department
of State press release on the program.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld praised policerecruits while in
Baghdad on February 23. Meanwhile, Assistant Secretary of Defense Mira
Ricardel countered press questions the same day in Washington by noting
that the Department of State police training programs should be seen
as different from the U.N. program that saw Van Blarcum and others go
to the Balkans in the late 1990s.
objective is not to engage in 'nation building,'" Ricardel said
in a press conference that day. "Our mission is to help the people
of these countries so that they can build their own nation. That's an
Blarcum said that he, Frisenda and DeMille will be part of 1,000 law
enforcement officers chosen to go to Iraq. While there, he said his
job will be to "interview, vet and train the local police."
said that he had talked to Cross and Republican councilman Jane Todd
about not being paid while he is gone. He added that should such a request
be impossible to handle at such short notice, he would donate his pay
back to the town, possibly to its recreation committee.
don't think I'll be missing a whole lot," Van Blarcum said of the
coming year. "Hopefully there will be no major decisions before
the board while I'm gone."
noted that most of the major issues before the town will be going before
the town's planning board and zoning board of appeals, not the town
applied for this last year but didn't hear anything certain until Monday,"
leave a void that makes it hard for the rest of us to do our jobs,"
130,000 U.S. combat troops are leaving Iraq over the next two months
after deployments of up to one year. They will be replaced by some 110,000
fresh soldiers and marines, according to the U.S. Defense Department.
Forty percent of those coming in are reservists, according to Centcom.
Twenty percent to 25 percent of the homeward-bound soldiers they are
replacing are reservists. Many of the arriving army troops underwent
a two-week training course run by the Jordanian military to sensitize
them to Arab society, the Department of State website has reported.
They've also studied strategies used by the Los Angeles Police Department
for policing urban, gang-controlled areas.
Best of Intentions?
In the process of responding to issues raised by the audience, Cross,
for the second time in his three board meetings, found it necessary
to diverge from his strict new policy of limiting public comment to
those who'd signed up to speak in advance. Of those who did sign up
and speak, a number expressed frustration with Cross' new rules, which
have eliminated the audience's ability to ask questions or have any
kind of direct exchange with town board members.
resent this form of a meeting" said Susan Robertson, one of the
first to speak. "I feel very offended to be put through this process."
Loud applause followed her statement.
you have a public meeting without allowing the public to speak, you're
basically shutting us out of the process" said Comprehensive Plan
Committee Member Chuck Perez, a supporter of Cross, also to loud
have to have a real discussion here, Bob" said Friends of Catskill
Park Chair Judy Wyman.
out of line," Cross shot back.
disparaging of the meeting format continued, along with others critical
of the resolution many had found troubling. Cross' initial version,
circulated four days before the meeting, directed the town's Zoning
Revision Committee to recommend excluding casino gambling from "any
residential or hamlet commercial zone in the town", and adult entertainment
from "any residential zone." If ultimately adopted, the exclusions
would have left three types of zoning districts in which casinos could
be interpreted as permissible, and four for adult entertainment. A second
version of the resolution, distributed just prior to the meeting, had
been re-drafted to correct some of the apparent oversights in the original.
Asked by Dennis Ladner about the two versions of the resolution circulating,
Cross initiated a brief moment of levity in the room by explaining,
"The only thing that's changed on that is the way it's written."
opposed to casino gambling and I don't think this resolution is going
to do the job" said Perez. "I think we should go on
record as being opposed to (State Senator John) Bonacic's bill."
who represents Shandaken, is a leading proponent of gambling in the
Catskills, who last month introduced legislation to permit the issuance
of gaming licenses or "compacts" to non-Indian casino operators.
Bonacic opposes the legislative prohibition of casinos from the state's
Catskill Park, and is known for his strong advocacy on behalf of both
the Belleayre Mountain Ski Area and Crossroads Ventures proposed Belleayre
asked that the town board write a letter to Bonacic expressing its opposition
to the expansion of casinos to include non-Indian operators. His remarks
were greeted with enthusiastic support from the crowd, but no response
from the board.
then rose to ask whether she could speak, as the sign-up sheet had been
removed when she arrived for the meeting a few minutes after its start.
here on time," responded town Ethics Committee Member Helen
Morelli. Cross asked how many others also wished to speak but weren't
signed up. When about 6 raised their hands, he let them have the floor.
suggested the town institute a moratorium on casino gambling and adult
entertainment while the issues are researched.
was called on to clarify the existence and composition of the town's
Zoning Review Committee, whose existence few in the crowd seemed to
know much about. Cross indicated it was an informal group set up last
year under planning board auspices, consisting of Beth Waterman, John
Beyer, and Bob Kalb from the planning board, Jay Braman and Keith Johnson
from the ZBA, and the town's Zoning Enforcement Officer Mike Molloy.
Two of the six, Braman and Kalb, no longer hold official positions with
the issue was raised by planner Charlie Frasier that the town board
start holding workshop meetings to better allow public participation,
Cross moved to establish them but didn't receive a second.
is why it doesn't work, Bob," said Perez, rising angrily. "Here
we have no chance to comment on how you're changing the very way the
town does business." Again, Perez was rounded applauded by the
Modica suggested that Cross consider restructuring the current meeting
format, which Cross explained had been instituted because "there
was a problem of cross-talk in the room. This format," said Cross,
"has given me a chance to hear all of you out there."
fact is that people are being heard tonight because you're not following
the format," countered Di Modica.
other business, the town board appointed Gerry Setchko and John Horn
to the planning board, filling the seats vacated voluntarily by Kalb
and involuntarily by McGowan. A third request by the planning board
to have Beth Waterman re-appointed its chair was again not acted on
by the town board.
Cross reported that the State Office of Real Property Services has agreed
to bring the settlement period covered under its threatened lawsuit
up to the present, but that the potential settlement figure remains
unchanged at $700,000.
also raised the likeliness that the town will soon have to undergo a
full real property re-evaluation, as Woodstock, Olive and other towns
are now beginning or considering. According to Cross, should we fail
to do so, Shandaken will end up paying a larger share of school taxes
than the other towns in the district.
progress on implementing the town's nascent cell tower law completed
last year, the board did not commit to moving toward implementation.
Council member Jane Todd said "I think we have to look at the draft
law that was done", suggesting it may now be headed back to a committee
as yet unnamed.
ready for public hearing" said Di Modica.
The couple has been in the area for what averages out at a decade.
They were drawn to the mountains by a wish to simplify their lives
and put more focus into projects of their own making. They had had
enough of the metro area's corporate world, even though Robison notes
how he's been pulled back into it somewhat by a decent-paying job
that's got him commuting to Newburgh on a daily basis.
Both feel that Prima Materia would never have happened anywhere but
here. It's their attempt to create something of the region, which
could also possibly set up a means for them to eventually be working
The publication got its start after Robison noted that there was a
shortage of outlets for short fiction writers. Poets had a scene.
Visual artists and non-fiction writers were well-served. So he started
posting notices, and placed an ad in the Woodstock Times, seeking
"I was very conscientious- too conscientious," he recalls,
noting how he tried sending detailed critiques to all those he rejected
at first, until he found such efforts time-consuming and often more
hurtful than anticipated. "I was learning as I went on."
Robison printed his first two volumes of Prima Materia, originally
intended to come out twice a year - along with two books he's published
under he and Klein's BlissPlot Press, with a web-accessible printing
press in Tennessee. The new volume, he adds, is his first to be actually
printed in Kingston with Tri-State Litho, a choice he feels comfortable
with, even if it is slightly more expensive.
The way things work is that Robison gets his manuscripts in. He reads
all, chooses what he wants to publish, edits the pieces, finds an
order to put them in, writes an introduction, finds art work- all
with Klein helping at all stages. When things are in order he e-mails
Microsoft Word and Photoshop documents to his printer.
"My whole childhood was about reading and drawing," Robison
says. His career has involved years of professional writing in the
corporate training world; his creative output has included recognition
in New York City writing circles.
Klein adds how enthusiastic she's felt about Robison's seeing the
project through, and how rewarding it was to work more closely with
him on their Autumn, 2003 book, The Other Face: Experiencing The Mask.
Both comment on how it was important for them to realize that the
joy of setting up their publishing company was not monetary, but creative.
They talk about the concept of Right Livelihood, and of the pleasures
each has found having found a new level of maturity while making the
Catskills, and Mt. Tremper, their home.
They are currently in the process of expanding their family by adopting
a daughter from India.
They are committed to where they live.
Both see the future of the area being in the unique livelihoods people
build for themselves, moving beyond looking at employment as a passive
entitlement with no guiding ethics. They want to make their income
from things that give back to, and reflect, the community they live
in. And most of the people they know think similarly, and have built
up their own livelihoods in a similar fashion.
"You have to look into the soul of what you do and ask if it
is destructive in any way," Robison says.
"Our view of this area is that it can thrive on cottage industries,
arts and crafts, internet businesses, and heritage and eco-tourism,"
By focusing on bringing the region's literary accomplishments to light,
just as its arts have gained world attention, what they're believing
is more than viable. It's a right likelihood.
Our Man In Port-Au-Prince
and Special Photo Gallery Supplement
here is getting back to normal on the streets," Heil wrote after
the craziness of a weekend that saw rebels entering Port-Au-Prince,
the U.S. Marines going in, and Haitian President Aristide either fleeing
or, as he is saying, being kidnapped from the country. "Gas stations
are opening, the markets also, and police are constantly patrolling
the streets. They are enforcing a six o'clock curfew every evening
until this Friday, it is said. Sunday morning when word that Aristide
had fled, the Chime took to the streets looting, killing, and burning
buildings. We were attacked with machetes and shot at that morning.
But by the evening the police had pushed the Chime into hiding and
taken back control of the capital."
I e-mailed Heil, asking about what the situation felt like. Was the
gore upsetting, the violence?
"I haven't seen anybody die, except for dead bodies and a man
shot but still alive," he wrote back. "I trained as an EMT
so I've been exposed to this before and the gore doesn't shock me,
but watching other journalists trying to make photographs of dead
bodies is strange. It's not bad, but it just feels out of place."
What was it like living under
"After dark I pretty much stayed indoors because it was very
dangerous until the police enforced the curfew on Saturday,"
Heil replied. "Sometimes it is unusually quiet. At night I hear
a lot of gunfire and fire fights, but that is starting to slow down.
There are church bells in the morning, the siren to end the curfew
and many roosters. The city smells horrible most of the time, with
open sewage and not much rain, but sometimes it smells really good
with the burning charcoal and just the smell of everyday life.
What has he been eating?
"My diet consists of corn flakes and lowly coffee for breakfast
and greasy spaghetti sometime during the rest of the day... with grease
and ham that comes from who knows where. I still haven't seen a single
Were people playing music or singing, I wondered.
"I have not heard any Haitian music but a lot of gangster American/French
rap," James replied. "I think the music is much more influential
than realized, setting a gangster mentality that many young people
"What did people think of you coming in without an assignment?"
I wrote Heil.
"I am submitting my photos to a Stock Agency but there are a
lot of people here without assignments paying their own way,"
So why did he go?
"One reason I went is because it is a good way to get started
in the photography world," Heil replied. "But what I really
want to do is to bear witness and using photography in an artistic
way draws attention to what is not in the mainstream media."
Heil noted he was preparing to return to Chichester on a Saturday
flight now that American Airlines was allowed to schedule once more.
And then the electricity died.
to Olive Press
Cross said he believes that being close to sewer plant is not a plus
in terms of real estate value and, in his opinion, being at an elevation
lower than the golf resort could put the property's well water in jeopardy,
because the runoff from the project could taint water quality.
Asked why the Ethics Committee met without publicly announcing the sessions,
Cross said they didn't need to because it was a personnel matter. But
Robert Freeman, the executive director of the state Committee on Open
Government, said all committees are required to post their meeting dates.
Todd, who could not be reached for comment, has been accused of a conflict
of interest by Friends of Catskill Park, a citizens group. Judy Wyman,
a founding member of the group has said that, as far as she is concerned,
the issue of Todd's alleged conflict of interest has not been settled.
As for the Ethics Committee's findings, she said, "I would like
to see the written report and see the criteria on which they based their
judgment." A letter from the Catskill Heritage Alliance sent this
week accuses the ethics board of violating state open meetings laws
and asks for a reversal of their decision.
In a Jan. 2 letter Marc Gerston, attorney for Friends of Catskill Park,
asked Todd to recuse herself from participating in and voting on matters
pertaining to the resort project.Gerston alleged that Todd purchased
property within the boundaries of the 1,960-acre resort just 19 days
before Crossroads Ventures began a series of land acquisitions to secure
the land for the project.
Cross said the ethics panel did some research and found that one parcel
now slated for resort use was purchased that close to Todd buying hers,
but it was more than a mile away from the Todd property. Furthermore,
Cross said, it was not purchased by Crossroads Ventures but by another
Gerston said public officials "shall not engage in conduct which
creates even the appearance of impropriety," and said any official
who stands to secure financial gain from the approval of the resort
project must recuse themselves.
Research by Phoenicia Times has uncovered that the Todd's 11.5
acre property, adjacent to but not technically part of the proposed
Big Indian Country Club, Resort and Spa, appears to serve at least one
and possibly two critical functions in the resort's overall transportation
access. According to Crossroads' Layout Plan (Volume 1, Section
1, figure 1.6 in its Draft Environmental Impact Statement), the company's
mapping clearly shows that the Todd's property will be used for
a new road to connect the resort's entrance road with its emergency
The Todd's property also appears to provide the most practical
future site for railroad access to the proposed resort. The new road
to be built across the property would run parallel to the Catskill Mountain
Railroad's right-of-way. According to Crossroads' detailed
mapping confirmed by aerial photography from Ulster County Information
Services, the railroad line and the new ìconnectorî road
would be separated by no more than about 150 feet, the approximate space
required for a railroad station and vehicular access to it. The connector
road, about 400 feet in length, would begin at the same point on the
Todd's land as the driveway to their cabin and connect with contiguous
Crossroads landholdings to the West of their property line.
Asked if she was aware that Crossroads' mapping showed a new road to
be built across the property, Todd said "I did not know that."
She also said she was unaware of any formal arrangement with the developer
that might exist.
"It must be a preexisting easement" said Todd. "I remember
there was an easement when we purchased the property."