Friday, March 16, 2007

Out of Comptrol

Aspects of the quarrel in Albany last month over selecting a new State Comptroller deserve to be remembered. Particularly memorable for GreeneLanders is the contribution made by a local representative to the annals of political sophistry.

The need to pick a new Comptroller arose from the fact that the incumbent, Alan Hevesi, having just been re-elected, was forced to resign over misuse of State funds. The choice of successor was legally/constitutionally the prerogative of the State’s legislators—Assembly members and Senators together. By a substantial majority (156 to 56) the legislators chose one of their members, Thomas DiNapoli, over the other nominee, Martha Stark. They did so in the wake of a procedural bargain that had been struck by Gov. Eliot Spitzer, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate President Joseph Bruno. The agreement called for getting a blue-ribbon panel of former Comptrollers to find qualified candidates whose names would be submitted for choice by the legislators. The panelists produced three names. Mr Silver and Mr Bruno were not satisfied. Instead, they jointly endorsed another candidate, Assemblyman DiNapoli. To that choice, and to the moves that led to its availability, Governor reacted angrily. Mr DiNapoli was “thoroughly and totally unqualified,” he said, and the people who brought his name forward showed “stunning lack of integrity.” The latter sentiment was echoed loudly by one freshman Assemblyman, Greg Ball (Putnam County Republican), who accused his colleagues of “violation of public trust.” His interpretation evoked boos, hisses, catcalls, and calls for resignation, which the speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, declined to quell.

Voting by the legislators showed curious lines of connection and cleavage. When the Comptroller question was put to a vote, most of the Assembly’s Democrats (including Tim Gordon, who represents the northern part of GreeneLand) spurned their gubernatorial co-partisan and voted for Mr Napoli, whereas all of the Senate’s Democrats voted for Stark. Most of the Senate’s Republicans supported DiNapoli, a Democrat, while the Assembly’s Republicans were divided: 17 for DiNapoli, 25 (including their Leader as well as freshman Peter Lopez, who represents other parts of Greene County) for Stark.

The Comptroller issue occupied, and preoccupied, the State legislature for more than a day. It was the main piece of business and main story in the news media. Yet on the official web sites of the State Assembly and Senate—the regular records of decisions and deliberations--it received no attention at all. Mr Silver and Mr Bruno evidently have decided to treat it as a non-event. So, evidently, have Mr Gordon and Mr Lopez; they did not issue statements about the case, or post statements on their web sites.

In contrast to his silent colleagues, Sen. Jim Seward, who represents GreeneLand and other localities, posted a statement on his web site, and distributed one to district newspapers. For connoisseurs of political rhetoric, that essay deserves close attention. Here is the text of what appeared in The Daily Mail (2/7):

The media have included stories in the last week about the choice of a new state controller to fill the position vacated by Alan Hevesi, who resigned after pleading guilty to theft.

The state constitution specifies that the state legislature will select a comptroller when a vacancy occurs. I joined a panel of other legislators as a member of the Senate Finance Committee to interview various candidates. The senate majority leader, assembly speaker and governor--the three men in a room-- had agreed that the three former comptrollers would recommend candidates, and subsequent to their recommendation of three candidates, there was disagreement over whom that list would include.

Those arguing that the agreement to select from a list constitutes a reform forgot one thing: that agreement was developed by "three men in a room," not rank and file legislators. Choosing from a predetermined list was the ultimate backroom deal. When the legislature as a whole became involved, 212 legislators rejected the approach of three men and opted to order from the whole menu—not just the appetizers.

Included on the screening panel were three former state comptrollers -- two of whom had service as state legislators before becoming comptroller and one of whom was a former elected county executive. A state legislator serving as comptroller is more the norm than not in recent history. Hevesi, who just resigned, was a former state assemblyman. In fact, the voters of the state returned him to office in November. In 2002, he faced a former assemblyman, John Faso, who garnered about 48 percent of the vote that year in losing to Hevesi. Clearly, the voters have not rejected the concept of having a former legislator in the comptroller's chair.

Our current process produced former comptroller H. Carl McCall, who by many financial observers has been adjudged an effective comptroller, and for now, we have the process we have. The current process may be flawed in placing so significant a position as our state's chief financial officer -- and the attorney general in the case of vacancy in that office -- in the hands of 212 legislators. Maybe it is time to assess how we can develop an improved process for choosing a comptroller and attorney general.

Should we have a line of succession, like we do in the governor's office, or put the decision back into the hands of the voters? I trust the voters. That's why I have signed onto legislation that would change the process for filling vacancies in the comptroller's and attorney general's offices by putting the vacancy back on the ballot for a decision by the people of the state, not elected legislators, in a special election. The alternative, and one certainly worth looking at, is filling the position by appointment until the next election. That would give the voters a chance to fill the position and would remove the added expense of a special election. Some have criticized the legislature for not choosing from the three "finalists" proposed by the panel of three former state comptrollers. I am not bound as a legislator by, nor is there some special virtue in, selecting from a list developed by three former comptrollers and endorsed only by the governor. I cast my own vote, whether the legislative leaders have agreed on a list or not. One of the jobs of the comptroller is to audit state agencies, which are run by the governor, and in my view it is not a good idea to have a comptroller handpicked by one man whose agencies and actions the comptroller is called upon to audit, evaluate and investigate. New York state legislators have been good enough to be congressmen, U.S. senators, and even presidents. I certainly think one can -- again -- function as comptroller.

That appraisal of events is noteworthy on several counts.

(1) COP OUT. Conspicuous in the foregoing discourse is an omission. While addressing his and his fellow legislators’ choice of a new Comptroller, Senator Seward neglects to mention how he voted. (This marks a contrast to what he wrote on his web site, namely, “I voted for Assemblyman DiNapoli.”).

(2) ELISION. Having finessed the question of how he voted, Senator Seward buys an excuse of sorts for skipping the business defending his choice. He does not seem to need to argue that his candidate was the most qualified one, or that, even though his candidate was not the best qualified, he was still, on balance, the optimal choice. And yet Senator Seward is defending an action by “the legislature” that “some” (an elusive crowd) “have criticized.”

(3) DANGLING COMPARISON. Senator Seward does address the matter of qualifications, but only in a question-begging manner. He recalls that legislators have been Comptrollers before, and he estimates that since State legislators “have been good enough to be congressmen, U.S. senators, and even presidents,” then a State legislator surely “can…function as comptroller.” Those words serve indirectly to acknowledge that the majority of legislators’ chose one of their own. They say nothing about the qualifications of Assemblyman DiNapoli.

(4) ARBITRARY DISMISSAL. Senator Seward acknowledges that “Some have criticized the legislature for not choosing from the three ‘finalists’ proposed by the panel of three former state comptrollers.” He makes the valid but idle point that he was not obligated to heed the panelists’ recommendation. He also contends that there is no “special virtue in selecting from a list developed by three former comptrollers and endorsed only by the governor.” But surely there IS special virtue in that procedure. It is a likely antidote to cronyism and narrow partisanship. At the very least, such candidates deserve to be accorded a presumption of suitability.

(5) RED HERRING. Most of Senator Seward’s essay deals with procedures for choosing Comptrollers when the office is vacant between elections. It defends and it befogs what was done in this case. Senator Seward avers that since “One of the jobs of the comptroller is to audit state agencies, which are run by the governor,” then “it is not a good idea to have a comptroller handpicked by one man whose agencies and actions the comptroller is called upon to audit, evaluate and investigate.” Invited here is the inference that what happened in this case, or what could have happened, was “a comptroller handpicked” by the governor. Not true. The senator’s own text establishes that the new Comptroller was, and legally had to be, chosen by the legislators. Mr Seward encourages belief that the legislators, or a majority of them, showed a streak of commendable independence, refusing to be bound by the terms of a “backroom deal” struck by “three men.” In point of fact, he and a majority of fellow legislators chose to heed the cues of two men, who decided to disregard the terms of the deal they had struck with the third party. That deal consisted of agreeing to consult professional experts on Comptroller work, and to accept their nominations of candidates for selection by the legislators. If the legislators had adopted the candidate endorsed by the Governor, they would not have been accepting a handpicked choice. They would have been accepting the advice of independent advisers who had been selected by mutual agreement between three leaders. Mr Bruno and Mr Silver welshed. Mr Seward and a majority of State legislators supported them.


Main Moves

GALLERY NUMBER EIGHT will open soon in downtown Catskill. Terenchin Fine Art, says proprietor Patrick Terenchin of Athens, will specialize in “contemporary work by regional artists, emerging and established.” Some items displayed at 462 Main Street will come from the stock that Patrick has been marketing on his web site, Citypictures. His landlords, Hudson Talbott and Rudie Berkhout, will not also be leasing their adjoining storefront, at 460 Main; that is reserved for their own art work, in what will become, by mid-year, the Village’s ninth gallery.

FINGAR INSURANCE also is headed for downtown Catskill, just a couple of doors up from the incipient Terenchin Gallery. The office will be managed by Tammy Vincent, with frequent cross-Hudson visits from Greg Fingar and his brother Mark.

OSCAR’S is the eponymous name by Oscar Myint for the sushi bar that he will be opening soon at 396 Main Street. Landlady Michele Saunders has given the place a glowing makeover, replete with a bit of Rudi Berkhout’s holographic art.

MOVING IN soon to an office at 48 West Bridge Street, meanwhile, will be a Coldwell Banker Prime Properties office, installed in what has been Michelle Harm’s Hair Razors salon. Manager Lesley Smith (who also runs the firm’s Greenville branch) says they’ll start with three agents and they expect to grow.

FURLOUGHED: Barbara Valicenti, director of GreeneLand’s Probation Department. This being a personnel matter, authorities are tight-lipped about whys and wherefores. We hear that it’s all about (a) compensatory leave, or (b) “nasty, difficult person” management, or (c) other. According to its official web site, the Probation Department has a full-time staff of 14. Its officers “supervise over 100 felony offenders, 230 misdemeanor offenders, and 75 juvenile respondents.” Internal evidence, however, indicates that the site’s information is not current. Thus, readers are told that “probation supervision in Greene County saved more than $3 million in jail and residential placement costs”—in 2004.

IMMINENT. Striped bass fishing season opened today. Classes on “Dealing With Wildlife” and “Making Maple Syrup” will be given tomorrow, at 12:30 and 2:30, at Cornell Co-operative Extension’s Agroforestry Resource Center in Acra. (518 622 9820). A primer on preserving historic resources, archaeological and cultural, will be given by Julian Adams, of the NYS Preservation Office, on Sunday, from 2 pm., at Beattie-Powers House in Cataskill. Information: (518)9434764 or

AUDITIONS for roles in a GreeneLand production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” will be held this weekend and next at Columbia-Greene Community College. Artistic director Joseph Capone says all roles are open. Performances will be given June 22, 23, 29 and 30, and July 6 and 7, at Historic Catskill Point. Inquiries: (518)943-2680.

CHOPPED: the work force at Stiefel Laboratories in Oak Hill. The number will be cut, according to a Daily Mail story (3/8) from 362 to 337 employees, and nine vacancies will not be filled. Stiefel Labs is a venerable, cosmopolitan, family-owned company, with a global work force numbering about 2500, specializing in skin medications, such as Acne-Aid, Brevisol, Claripel, Dermavite, ZNP. TOO MUCH. Could one person (i) be expelled from a reputable club; (ii) incite fellow members of another club to disband and get a new charter, just to be rid of that pest; (iii) sue his or her club because its leaders failed to send flowers when her or his dog died; (iv) sleep for three nights with the expired dog? DAILY MAUL. “Maintaining our distinct quality of life is central and our goals in short, enabling the city to take advantage of new opportunities by keeping Hudson true to its nature.” “As Hudson continue to reconnect it people and places in the community for generations to enjoy, community wide interaction and dialogue are critical.” --Richard F. Tracy, mayor of Hudson, in display ad in Hudson-Catskill Newspapers, 3/15/07.

LEADING QUESTIONS What’s the speed of dark? How much deeper would the ocean be without sponges? Why do psychics have to ask you for your name? What happens if you get scared half to death, twice?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Comings &

WINDFALL AWAITS. On Tuesday (3/13), Catskillians get to vote themselves a bargain. They can approve a $16.7 million improvement package for their public schools, at a cost to local taxpayers of—wait for it; you won’t believe; trust us on this—zero. Thanks to State aid entitlements and special grant money, the project can be implemented without increasing the District’s budget. But an affirmative votes must be cast. Vote at the High School, any time from 6 am. to 9 pm. There’s no catch. Believe it.

ARTISTS' SNUB is a suitable name, in contrast to the nominated Artists' Ledge, for a proposed condominium development along Catskill Creek in Jefferson Heights. The plan submitted by designer Richard Drao calls for building an18-unit structure in space currently occupied by Tatiana’s restaurant and the former Jimmy’s bar. The building design looks eminently consistent with local style, but the placement is such that the place from which Thomas Cole painted his famous “View of the Catskill Creek” would be obliterated. Stop Number 3 on the Hudson River School Artists’ Trail, established just last year, would be gone. As presently proposed to the Village planning board, the project would dishonor the very artist it nominally salutes. A revised site plan that preserves the Trail site probably would be good business.

TODAY (Saturday, 3/10), another promotional event animates downtown Catskill, with galleries and shops staying open beyond normal business hours. Among special Second Saturday events is play-acting, in the window of DREAM, by ace thespians Emma Parsons and Andrea Cunliffe. Starting at 6:30, they’ll bring Oscar Wilde to Main Street. Meanwhile, at the Muddy Cup, Chronogram magazine sponsors an evening of music and poetry, plus art works by Patrick Milbourn, while at the Arts Council’s gallery, an “Outside the Lines” show of young artists’ work will open on the ground floor, with teachers’ works shown upstairs. In anticipation of St Patrick’s Day, bagpiper John Gallagher will promenade on Main Street, Irish Step Dancers will perform at the former Hose 5 firehouse, the Firehouse Tavern will serve green-tinted beer, and Garden Gate Café will dish out corned beef and cabbage, and strollers will encounter chances to buy raffle tickets yielding, to lucky winners, a trove of merchandise. The winning ticket will be drawn by Village President Vincent Seeley at the Doubles II tavern. Later, in Stella’s Lounge at Catskill Point, George Fletcher & the Tequila Mockingbirds will entertain. And across the way, at Creekside Restaurant, from 10 pm., Albanyans Melanie Krahmer & Rich Libutti, versatile musicians, will perform as “SIRSY.” Earlier, some incredibly inexpensive meals are being offered by fund-raising volunteers: corned beef & cabbage at the West Side Fire House, from 3 pm. to 7, for $7 or less; roast beef, at Catskill United Methodist Church, from 5 to 7 pm., for $11 or (for young and old) $10.

TOMORROW (Sunday, 3/11). Circus! in the Catskill High School gymnasium, at 3 pm. Two children get in free (!) for each adult ticket ($8 if bought in advance, $12 at the door). Sponsored by Catskill Kiwanis Club. **Masterpiece Found in Warehouse Fire. Curator Elise Effmann talks about the re-discovery of “View of Fort Putnam,” one of the three paintings that made Thomas Cole’s early reputation, in the ruins of a fire-ravaged dealer’s warehouse. From 2 pm. at Cedar Grove, The Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Catskill.

MOUNTAIN BUDDIES is the sporting goods store that, as foreshadowed in a recent Seeing Greene, is coming to ever-improving Catskill. Jim Halla and wife Kristen will be moving their stock from Hudson to the choicest of Main Street sites here: the double store front in the restored CPC site, between MOD café and Beginners Mind gallery. They are now packing up--which means that, to make the shift easier, they are offering bargains aplenty at 17 N. Fourth St in Hudson. Their paddling, hiking, climbing and camping gear will make for synergy with the fishing equipment sold on West Bridge Street by Tom Gentalen of River Basin Sports.

FINAL LAP is the name chosen by Bob Herschel for a new store full of NASCAR gear (in miniature), to open in a month or so on the south side of West Bridge.

GLOBAL WARMING. The topic will be aired on Monday (3/12), from 7 pm., in Greenville Town Hall, under the guidance of State Museum geologist L. Taury Smith. Sponsors for this free event, according to H. B. Gilmour of Cornwallville, are “Neighbors For Peace, an informal coalition of Greene County residents who have been meeting for the past several month to…discuss such films as...‘An Inconvenient Truth’.” Dr Smith is pursuing the idea of capturing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, pumping them deep under ground so they cannot damage the atmosphere. E-mail queries to or .

HOSED? Gasoline prices have surged lately, and GreeneLanders are being gouged disproportionately—as usual. A gallon of regular hereabouts costs $2.66 or more. That’s above the national average by about 16 cents; above the New York City average (about $2.51); way above the Texas average ($2.35); about equal to the State-wide average ($2.67; vs. $2.44 in Massachusetts and $2.90 in California); a few cents higher than at Albany stations .

ON THE BLOCK. A once-great Catskill estate will be offered soon for auction in a foreclosure action. Located on 3.6 acres at the end of Grandview Avenue, close to Rams Horn Sanctuary and Catskill Creek, it was known in its heyday as the Lloyd Newcombe estate and then, derisively, as the odoriferous Poodle House. If the main house were not such a disaster internally, it would be worth more than the assessed value ($265,000), and even more than the asking price ($499,000) when it was offered on the market. Renovated, it could be the perfect country inn. The auction will be held on April 2nd, in the lobby of the county courthouse, at 10 am.

HAROLD TOMPKINS died last week (3/5). A Navy veteran of World War II, an automotive service professional, a widower, a Mason, a founding member of the Catskill Boat Club and of Catskill Kiwanis, he was best known--apart from being an extraordinarily fine gentleman—for 65 years of involvement with GreeneLand’s firefighters. Past president of Catskill’s Hose 1 company and of the Greene County Volunteer Firemen Association, director of Hudson Valley Volunteer Firefighters Association, member of Catskill Fire Police, sparkplug of construction of Fire Safety Training House, instructor in firefighting safety, member of the Royal Order of Blue Vests, of the R.O. of Red Vests (they maintain the Firemen’s Home), and of GreeneLand’s R.O. of Nutbusters.

RE-SCHEDULED to appear on television’s “Today” show, live, now at 8:30 am. on Monday (3/12): GreeneLand’s roadfoodie, Brigit Binns.

EXHIBITING, from Wednesday (3/14) down at the Metaphor Gallery of Contemporary Art in Brooklyn: GreeneLand painter Gabe Brown. To get a sense of the works, click to the gallery’s web site,

OUR RIVER. “Far more than a short river flowing through New York state, the Hudson is a thread that runs through the fabric of four centuries of American history, through the development of American civilization….

For those living in the United States the Hudson is the river of firsts: the first great river that explorers came upon when they arrived in the New World; the first river that led explorers into the continent’s uncharted interior; the river that was the first line of defense in the American Revolution; the river of America’s first writers, the river that inspired America’s first great painters; the river that millions of immigrants first encountered when they stepped off their boats onto their new land; the river whose deep-water port helped New York City become the nation’s foremost financial center; the river that inspired America’s first conservationists. --Tom Lewis, The Hudson. A History (2005).

P.S. The second blog item above was changed after posting so that Artist's and Artist's became Artists' and Artists', and zoning board became planning board. Moreover, several items were inserted after this morning's 12:30 am. posting.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Nonogenarian

On the occasion of his 90th birthday, Raymond Beecher took some time off yesterday from his research and history writing, reluctantly, to accept tributes. One of them came from the governors of GreeneLand. Speaking for his fellow legislators, flanked by a score of local notables, chairman Wayne Speenburgh delivered a resolution expressing “appreciation and recognition” of Mr Beecher’s “many years of exceptional public service and outstanding contributions to the residents of Greene County.”*

The proclamation was delivered, appropriately, at Cedar Grove. Among Mr Beecher’s gifts to posterity is the rescue of that Catskill estate, that historically momentous site, that precious GreeneLand asset, from obliteration. Eight years ago, the home and the studio of America’s foremost 19th century landscape artist were derelict and ripe for demolition. Acting as patriarch of the Greene County Historical Society, Mr Beecher instigated, and bankrolled, a salvage expedition. The restored Cedar Grove, now sustained by a small professional staff and a squadron of local volunteers, with permanent and special exhibits and with internationally respected speakers, attracts a surging volume of visitors. Were it not for Mr Beecher’s “hard work, determination, timely action, irresistible charm and, yes, beer money (and then some),” according to Cedar Grove booster David Barnes, “there would be no Cedar Grove now, to celebrate Thomas Cole and the birthplace of the Hudson River School of landscape painting.”*

Among other Beecherian feats are the books—four so far---and the journal articles, and the “Greene Gleanings” columns. And courthouse renovation advice, based on poring expertly over old records. Thirteen years as County Historian. Decades as Coxsackie historian. Chairmanship of the American Revolution Bicentennial celebrations in 1976, and of the Greene County Bicentennial celebrations in 2000. Early, vital contributions to the restoration of Olana, home of Frederick Church, Thomas Cole’s foremost follower. Sustained participation in activities of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. And 50 years of commitment to the Historical Society, with stints not only as chairman but also as president, museum curator, fund-raiser, Historic Register instigator, and librarian.

In recognition of manifold efforts that have “ensured that future generations will have their heritage preserved,” the Historical Society’s trustees adopted a resolution on Wednesday night, establishing in Mr Beecher’s name a scholarship fund for local high school graduates who intend to study history or a related field.

On an earlier occasion, when the honoree was a lad of 86, Greene County’s legislators took cognizance of the “wisdom, hard work and generosity” that have emanated from this “soldier, educator, historian, churchman, writer, philanthropist and public servant.” They hailed Mr Beecher as a “Greene County Treasure.”

These days, when not shopping and cooking and cleaning for himself, or mowing his grass, or chasing away invading geese, or dispensing advice, or quietly funding a good cause, or studying historic records, the widower and new nonogenarian composes a fresh chapter.

By the way: at yesterday’s ceremonies, he announced a pledge of support for Cedar Grove’s new endowment fund. One million dollars.

*P.S. The first two paragraphs above are inaccurate. When Mr Beecher was lured to Cedar Grove on Friday, he did not expect to be greeted there by tribute-bearing GreeneLand legislators; he was ambushed. The event was not publicized in advance to Cedar Grove's members or to the public.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Regular Greenery

WEEKEND ENTERTAINMENT Friday (3/2). Deanna Kirk trio, with Peter Einhorn and Lou Pappas, from 8:30 pm. at Stella’s Lounge, Catskill Point. Saturday (3/3). Lex Grey & Co. present nostalgic down & dirty ditties, from 9 pm. at Stella’s. --Gilbert & Sullivan Players of New York City perform selections from “The Mikado” at Catskill Mountain Foundation movie theater, in Hunter, from 8 pm. (518-263-2063 x202; Sunday (3/4). Bard Conservatorium of Music students perform Beethoven, Bach, Paganini & Mendelsohn pieces at Beattie-Powers House, Prospect Avenue, Catskill, from 2 pm. --Beethoven’s Wig (=musicians, in case you wonder) perform(s) at CMF movie theater from 3:30 pm. WEEKDAY EDIFICATION Thursday (3/8). “Business Outlook for Greene County” illuminated by Industrial Development Agency ramrod Sandy Mathes. Sponsored by the Business & Professional Women but open to the public, at the Quarry Steak House, from 6:30 pm. For information: Joan Young, 943-4992.

FOUND. A workman’s derby hat. Pre-tied cravats. Black stockings, made on site more than a century ago. New York Fashion Bazaar of February 1888, advertising Lydia E. Pinkham’s vegetable compound as well as, with engraved illustrations, ladies’ “toilets” (=ensembles; outfits). These items emerged recently from the walls of the former Oren’s Furniture warehouse during renovation. So did copies of The Atlantic Monthly of 1872, of Frank Leslies’s Lady’s Journal (1873; “devoted to fashion and choice literature”), of Spelman’s Fancy Good Graphic, of The YMCA Watchman and The Christian Advocate and Presbyterian Home Missionary (1882, addressed to Miss P. Lynes), of Dr D. Jayne’s Medical Almanac (1911; “for gratuitous distribution”), and of The New York and Chicago School Journal of 1892, with advertisements for a Philosophical, Electrical and Chemical Apparatus from Queen & Co, for Horsford’s Acid Phosphate for Dyspepsia, and for what Dr Stephens of Lebanan, Ohio, promised as a cure within 20 days of the opium/morphine habit. In 1939, Silver Screen magazine sold for 10 cents a copy, while rival Hollywood Screen Life cost a nickel. A cover story in the latter featured Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier, stars of “Wuthering Heights.” During that year, while the big metropolitan newspapers focused on European warfare, The Catskill Daily Mail, in keeping with its “mission” to “guard, serve and inspire the mighty future of Catskill, Greene County and the Hudson Valley,” concentrated on local events. In mid-June, Catskill hosted the Hudson Valley Firemen’s Convention, with headquarters at the Saulpaugh Hotel and greetings from Village President Arthur Haysom, Honorary Chairman Seth Cole, and Fire Chief Watson Brandow. High School seniors published a first yearbook, The Rip Van Winkle. The Hudson River Night Line, idle for the previous 18 months, resumed operations with a steamer accommodating 2600 passengers. The venerable Salisbury Manor in Leeds was available for sale. Local taxpayers’ share of the Catskill schools budget came to $66,282. Claude Mossman of Tannersville advertised for help locating his missing Great Dane and Irish Setter. Among advertisers were Day & Holt, the Catskill Savings Bank, W.W. Henderson memorials, Millspaugh funerals, Tanners National Bank.

STRUNG OUT? Since the start of 2007, as reported in The Daily Mail, GreeneLand has acquired three new music equipment shops. To Mountain Top Music in Tannersville have been added, still more recently, Chris Kovacs’ Guitar Source and Rick Perrine’s Sound Sync Music, both in Coxsackie.

DUSTUP. Rumor has it that ashes recently appeared mysteriously on aisles at the new Wal-Mart. They were scattered there, says Ms Rumor, by a local pastor who heeded the request of a lately deceased congregant. She had asked to be cremated, and to have her ashes scattered around WalMart; “Then I’ll be sure my daughters visit me twice a week.”

GYM RAT A: “I want to get stronger than any of my daughter’s boy friends.” GYM RAT B: “I want to get stronger than my girl friend’s boy friends.”

GEEZER’S PRAYER: Grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.


When a man composes a screed, gets it printed and published as his own expense, distributes it far and wide, and does not have a manifest financial stake, then we are apt to take him seriously. We are apt to credit him with sincerity, with strength of conviction, and even with a presumption of credibility. Qualifying for attention by that standard is the recently distributed (“FREE. Please Take One”) Greene County Newsletter proclaiming


It’s Here, It’s Serious, It’s Going Unpunished!

The GCN occupies 8 tabloid-sized pages. Not many of them, however, sustain its thesis. The main problems are three-fold:

Anonymity. Seriously compromising the GCN's credibility is name-lessness. We are told that the document is the handiwork of “authors.” Those unidentified expositors allegedly relied on “contributors” but kept them name-less too, along with “victims of police abuse,” so as to “protect them from police retaliation.” Yeah sure. Credibility then hinges on citing readily verifiable events and public records.

Spurious claims. Under the heading “Summary and Conclusion” the putatively plural authors claim to have “described” in previous pages “just a fraction” of a Greene County situation marked by “police and politicians breaking the law.” But that statement falsifies what appears in the preceding verbiage, namely,

Sidetracking. The Newsletter opens with a promise “to inform the public of the problem of police corruption by members [sic.] of the New York State Police Department in Greene County.” Then, after alluding to news media coverage (and avoidance) of the alleged problem, the putatively plural authors specify their “allegations of police misconduct”: “harassment, stalking, grand larceny, illegal dumping, malicious prosecution, fabricating evidence, fabricating charges, police brutality, troopers leaving their posts against orders to commit illegal acts, conspiracy to put a local man out of business, conspiracy to deprive people of their civil rights, and child endangerment.”

That formidable catalogue of charges offers remarkably little in the way of what is conventionally designated as “police corruption.” That phrase (like “official corruption”) brings to mind graft, bribe-taking, extortion, and the like: making illicit profits out one’s position. In any event, the “Allegations” list does not get used in the usual way, as an introduction to systematically unfolded of cases. Successive paragraphs do not chronicle episodes in which named troopers engaged in the named forms of misconduct. The 'authors' do cite one event, in which a State trooper, Sgt Pat Cullen, allegedly brought a charge of harassment against a civilian, Robert Meringolo. That case is cited under the heading “Security Tape Shows Troopers [sic.] Fabricated Charge.” That the harassment charge was spurious is said to be attested by four un-named tape-viewing “independent parties.” No information about judicial disposition of the case is supplied. And no other incidents are cited. Instead, readers are offered:

--The precedent. Two GCN pages consist of a reprinted New York Times account of an evidence-tampering scandal, involving several State troopers “over a decade ago,” in the community of Sidney NY. The story, while proving that police corruption is more than a hypothetical possibility, sheds no light on GreeneLand actualities.

--The “enablers.” Two GCN pages consist of branding named targets, individual and collective, as facilitators of GreeneLand’s corruption. The cited abettors are Linda Fenoff and her Greenville Press, “State Police,” “Internal Affairs,” District Attorney Terry Wilhelm, The Greene County Legislature and Captain Patrick Regan (commander of the GreeneLand barracks). They are held to be guilty of failure to heed information about police misconduct. They are not held to be perpetrators.

--The reward. Half of one GCN page is given to an offer of a $5000 reward “for information leading to the arrest of person or persons who stole approximately 13 pieces of antique flagstone from Freehold during the Freehold Beautification Program…. THE PRIME SUSPECTS IN THIS ROBBERY ARE NEW YORK STATE TROOPERS.” From this statement one can infer prudentially that while the “authors” believe that a theft occurred and that it was perpetrated by State troopers, no case has been developed officially.

--The ‘testimonials.’ One full GCN page consists of an alleged compilation of “What the [sic.] people are saying about the Greene County State police corruption scandal.” No sources are named (so as to “protect” them “from police retaliation”). None of the quoted statements consists of attesting to, let alone establishing the existence of, “the” GCSPCS.

--The prescription. Occupying all of the Newsletter’s final page are 39 words in the form of an “open letter” to the State Police Superintendent, requesting that Sergeant Cullen be removed “from this community.” That request (“Instead or protecting us, we view him as a danger to the people living here”) comes ostensibly from “Greene County Residents” but they, like our “authors” and “contributors,” are nameless. And the request’s terms weaken the credibility of the charge that Greene County is infested with State police corruption. If that were the case, then transferring one middle-rank trooper would not solve the problem.