Monday, October 24, 2011

Good News Doses

 The fame of Thomas Cole, the Catskillian who is sometimes hailed as founder of  the first distinctively American school of art, and who is often hailed as founder of what came to be known in the 19th century as the Hudson River school of landscape painting, is spreading.  September 1 was the starting date, and the Brazos Valley Museum in Bryan, Texas, was the starting place, for a traveling exhibit whose title is “Wild Land: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Landscape Painting.”  The exhibit, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, will go from museum to American museum for the next five years. “Based on scholarship from Cedar Grove, The Thomas Cole National Historic Site, says the web site , “this emmersive [sic] and interactive exhibit will take the visitor both into the studio and into the woods.”  And perhaps it will impel visitors to enrich their experience by means of a trip to Cedar Grove, Cole's home and workplace, here in Catskill.
  Another exhibit could serve to bring in other visitors.  Those visitors would come in from the east.  They would be inspired by a special show, opening January 13, of paintings by Cole and by his contemporary, Asher B. Durand,  in the Louvre.  Yes; that place in Paris, France.  And with it, sub-titled in French, will be screenings of  “Thomas Cole: Painting the American Landscape," the film made by Cedar Grove staff.
  BTW: the National Gallery of Art, in Washington DC, exhibits Cole's 1841-42 set of Voyage of Life paintings, distributes a leaflet saying, among other things, that "Upon his death in Rome at the age of forty-seven, Cole was universally mourned."  (wwww/mga/gov).  Actually, he died at home in Catskill.

Official members of  GreeneLand’s Democratic Party gathered on a recent Monday night in Cairo, at Gallaghers banquet hall, for their biennial reorganization conference.  And they took part in transforming a potentially bruising contest into a happy event.
The hundred or so Democratic activists from the county’s sixteen municipalities were expecting to be obliged to take sides in a contest over the office of county chairman.  They were expecting to be obliged to choose between Tom Poelker of Windham, the incumbent, and Doreen Davis, party treasurer and leader of the Catskill Democrats.  Both of those leaders had circulated letters soliciting support.  The choice between them had nothing to do with ideology or current issues—nothing like the much-publicized strains in many States and towns between Tea Party Republicans and regular or established Republicans.  The need to choose between them did, however, bear prospective consequences for relations between mountain Democrats of GreeneLand and lowland Democrats.  Those relations are always a bit sensitive, as are relations between north county Democrats and south county Democrats.  Many of the conferees did not want to choose between those esteemed candidates.  Some planned to cast blank ballots.  Some couples among the conferees planned to split their votes.
  What happened, instead of a clash, was an accommodation.  Before the meeting, Mr Poelker approached Ms Davis in confidence.  He offered a proposal:  he would make a “lateral shift” into an appointive office called “executive director” of the county’s Democratic Party, and would continue to serve as its representative on the governing board of the New York State Democratic Party, while she would take over the county chairmanship.  Ms Davis readily concurred.  Then, at the meeting in Cairo, before the election of new officers, Mr Poelker was called upon to deliver his annual report.  After reviewing the activities and the fortunes of Democrats in GreeneLand in the past few years, and after saying that he had aimed to serve as chairman for one more term, he sprang the surprise.  He described the arrangement that he and Ms Davis had worked out, called it a “win-win” deal, and nominated Ms Davis for the office of Greene County Democratic Party Chairperson.
The vote was unanimous.

Wrong Times
 A bit of GreeneLand political history was recalled in a recent (Sunday, 10/9/11) New York Times story, incorrectly.  The story’s immediate focus was trickery in a pending recall election in Arizona.  The recall sponsors’ target was a Russell Pearce, president of the State Senate and author and staunch champion of harsh anti-immigrant legislation.  The trick, performed by the Pearce’s allies, consisted of recruiting a sham candidate whose Hispanic name offered a chance of siphoning away votes that would otherwise go to Pearce’s other (as in real) challenger. When the case went to court, according to reporter Mark Lacey,
The judge said the Cortes case was distinct from others in which sham candidates were put forward, including a dispute from upstate New York in which opponents of Linda H. Overbaugh, a candidate for the Greene County Legislature, circulated petitions on behalf of Linda L. Overbaugh, who had not given her consent to run.
  When I read that passage, I recognized what I took to be an error—by the judge? by the reporter?--that deserved to be corrected, even if nobody noticed the item.  To that end, I sent e-mail messages to Linda Haines Overbaugh and to the Times’s Corrections Desk.  In the latter I claimed that back in 2009, Linda H. Overbaugh was endorsed by GreeneLand’s Republican committee for election to the legislature, but her supporters mistakenly circulated petitions on behalf of Linda L. Overbaugh, who is a real person (and kinswoman), who resides in the same electoral district as Linda H., whose correct home address was stated, and who disclaimed any interest in being a candidate.  When the error was spotted (after the filing deadline), the validity of those petitions as support for Linda H. Overbaugh was questioned, and a State Supreme Court judge ruled against allowing either Overbaugh to appear on the ballot on the Republican line.  To verify this version of events, I suggested, check with Linda H. and with Elections Commissioner Thomas Burke (contact numbers provided).  
My messages went out at mid-morning on a Monday.  On Tuesday morning, a Times staffer called  Mrs Overbaugh (Linda H., that is), who confirmed the gist of my recollection.  By Tuesday evening a Correction had been broadcast on line, and it was published in the Wednesday Times:

An article on Sunday about a judge’s finding that supporters of Arizona State Senate President Russell Pearce recruited a candidate to siphon votes from his opponent in a recall election referred incorrectly to a 2009 New York race for Greene County Legislature, in which petitions were circulated on behalf of a candidate who had not given her consent. In that race, supporters, not opponents, of Linda H. Overbaugh mistakenly put the name of another woman, Linda L. Overbaugh, on the petitions, resulting in their disqualification.
  The New York Times is a great news organization.

 The economy is stagnant.  Jobs are scarce.  Housing prices are down.  Loans are not being repaid. Big banks, national and international, are sorely troubled.  But many of the smaller, community banks  are still healthy.  And in the case of GreeneLand’s main community bank, “healthy” is an understatement.  For the fifth straight year, the Bank of Greene County’s assets, loans receivable, deposits, and net income have gone up: to $547million from $326million; to $301million from $207million; to $470million from $284million; to $5.3million from $2.3million.
   As bank president Donald Gibson says in the parent company’s annual report, these gains are all the more noteworthy in light of the “national economic crisis” of 2008 and subsequent events whereby “many banks struggled, and even failed.” 
   As compared with the previous fiscal year (July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010), the bank achieved gains in of 8.2 per cent in net income, 10.5% in assets, 11.4% in deposits.
    Among its other “gains,” however, were unwelcome ones, such as “non-performing” loans (when promised payments don’t come in).  These increased not only in dollar size but also as segments of total loans: to 2.1% of all outstanding loans, as compared with 1.33% and 1.01% in the previous two years.   Similarly, non-performing assets, evaluated at $6.7million as compared with just $3.9 million in fiscal 2010) were pegged as of the end of the last fiscal year at 1.23% of total assets, as compared with just 0.79% and 0.64% in the previous two fiscal years.
    Mr Gibson reports too that demand for residential loans has slowed during recent months.  Moreover, property loans totaling $3 million are now in foreclosure, the number of loans that are in the process of foreclosure has “grown substantially,” and more would have reached foreclosure status but for the fact that, in consequence of recently adopted regulations, the process in New York takes two years to complete.  (One property that has gone through all the foreclosure steps, and will go up for auction on November 16, is Lange's Groveside resort in Acra).
    By comparison with other banks, the BOGC is in a flourishing state.  It can readily cover its dividend yield of about 3.8% (especially since the parent company, Greene County Bancorp, owner of a majority of shares, waives its right to dividends).
    Among the laggards is the Buffalo-based M&T Bank, a regional giant (nine States, 13,000 employees, 750 branches, $79 billion in assets) touting (on its web site) “a tradition of careful, conservative and consistent management.”  That institution reported losses in earnings, rate of return and net income; and its share price recently hit a 52-week low. 
    We mention that particular bank because it is plaintiff in a foreclosure action against defaulting borrowers who bought the former Orens Furniture store and warehouse in Catskill, undertook to transform the warehouse into up-scale condominium apartments (Union Mills Lofts) then pulled the plug.  The State Supreme Court judgment of foreclosure puts the amount owing as $1,120,381.44 “plus interest, costs and disbursements, attorney’s fees and other amounts….”

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