Friday, August 29, 2008

Summerizing Greene

DEPO$IT$ of GreeneLanders in First Niagara Bank accounts will be given to the State Comptroller unless properly claimed soon by appropriate persons. Named as missing depositors in an advertisement (whose author confounds principle with principal) are people who, in several cases, should not be hard to find. The names are Howard Dunn (Catskill), Beth Finch (Catskill), John and Mallory Schlenker (High Falls Road, Catskill), Craig Huther (Coxsackie), Regina Peterson (Coxsackie), Kevin Wiley (Coxsackie), Brandon and Eric Lafever (East Durham), Katie Riley (Palenville), Carl Zoccola (Round Top) and—we saved him for last--Frank McDonald. His address is given as 125 Water St, Catskill. In fact he lives at 18 Livingston St, Catskill, and is so listed in the telephone book. Also listed in the directory and at the addresses named in the ad, are Dunn, the Schlenkers, and Zoccola. And there’s a P Finch at the address of Beth Finch. Can’t the bank find these people?

RIP RUNS. GreeneLand has acquired a new public transit bus. Replacing a seven-year-old vehicle which has logged 200,000 miles, the new Rip Van Winkle Express will continue to do the regular work of transporting needy clients of county agencies such as Veterans Services, Office for the Aging, Health, Social Services, Community Action and ARC. But, as County Planning Director Warren Hart says (as reported in The Daily Freeman, 8/24), other passengers are welcome. A route schedule is accessible at . Meanwhile, the county legislature has launched a survey with a view to devising cost-effective improvements in private, public and human services transportation in GreeneLand.

HAILED in Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel as one of America’s “coolest” small towns, in company with Port Jervis NY, Yellow Springs OH, Mazomanie WE, Belfast ME, White River Junction VT and Truth Or Consequences NM: the GreeneLand county seat, Catskill. Author Laurie MacNeil dwells on the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, and observes that “after a period of neglect…, Catskill is attracting artists again, as much for its affordable Victorian homes as for its surroundings.” She erroneously names Albany as the town’s nearest city, and gives special mention to a gallery that has closed.

LIFELESS is the condition of Real Life Imaging, Dan Agosto’s once-thriving computer sales and servicing enterprise at 399 West Bridge Street (intersection of Route 9W and Route23A) in Catskill. Mr Agosto fell far behind on mortgage payments to vendor Orestes Vincent, and has not responded to successive notices of foreclosure. The property (with its contents?) will be put up for auction September 17th at the interim county courthouse. For a short time this year Mr Agosto occupied a shop on Main Street in Catskill, but soon fell behind in rent payments to Catskill Mountain Housing. The shop’s contents, we understand, were put out on the sidewalk.


--from the West Bridge Street intersection with Maple Avenue (Route 9) in Catskill: the upside-down Sawyer Motors billboard. They knew about the reversal. Decided to just go with the novelty.

--from Route 23 in Cairo: Birch Hill Power Products. In this case, the business had been flourishing, but proprietor Kurt Yates decided to move to Florida (near his ailing father) and return to the hospitality trade, which he learned when his family ran a hotel in Freehold. Locals remember Kurt as “a fine man with a heart of gold” and with a “a princess of a wife.” Kurt’s head mechanic at Birch Hill, Wayne Winnie, has opened his own repair operation (tractors, ATV’s, snowmobiles; 518 622 0578) in Acra.

--from 32 West Bridge Street, Catskill: the eponymous 32 West Kidz, a mostly-for-kids, mostly-shoes store that opened a year ago. Proprietors Sandy and Bill Beck IV closed it for good yesterday (8/28) after a prolonged half-price closeout sale. Then they started to pack the remaining inventory for trucking to the gigantic Labor Day weekend flea market in Stormville NY. With new inventory they’ll concentrate solely, says Sandy, on their thriving Internet business:

NEW BUSINESS. A B S (for Always Best Service; 943-7073), run by electrician Ernie Root, will open Monday at 358 Main Street in Catskill. The location is immediately below furniture restorationist and landlord Mark Cooper.

IN PROSPECT is a new, staff-less kind of workout center. According to a Daily Mail reporter, it would be a franchise operation run by Sandro Cagnin in an “ecumenical entity” (he means eleemosynary) across from the county courthouse building in Catskill. That would be the former Full Gospel Tabernacle, which began life as the First Baptist Church. Members would be given keys. Monitoring of their activities, part of the time at least, would be done by remote camera. Although opening date will probably be in December, says the reporter, “fitness gurus [sic] can apply for membership online now.” )

ALSO IN PROSPECT is a new telecommunications tower in East Durham, on McCafferty Road, 90 feet high. Information about this Independent Towers company project is available from EBI Consulting, 21 B St, Burlington MA (sic) 01803 (845 313 1217); project 61084703-AMG.

PARTY TOMORROW (8/30) will mark the opening of GreeneLand campaign headquarters of Alexander (Sandy) Treadwell, Republican challenger to Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The site is on Main Street, Catskill, most recently occupied by the ephemeral Mountain Buddies store. Ms Gillibrand’s county headquarters also will be in Catskill, at 362 Main Street. She’ll make an appearance after returning from the Democratic Party’s national convention.

NEW POSITION. According to a news release that was published verbatim in our daily newspaper (8/16), the winner of the 2008 Caruso International vocal competition held in Round Top at the Altamura Center for Arts and Culture is Lawrence Harris, baritone and “former NFL offensive linebacker.” He played for the Houston Oilers. Will we next be hearing about defensive wide receivers?

“FEELING BETTER,” says a GreeneLand woman, “since I shed two hundred pounds.”

Referring to her dopey husband.

NOETIC NEWS. According to a report that appeared in two GreeneLand newspapers, Michael Habering and April Hannah of Coxsackie won first prize, worth $1000, in a

contest sponsored by the Institute of Noetic Sciences. Responding to IONS’s call for entries that will “help to change the world one minute at a time and help to shift the viewers [sic] level of consciousness,” they submitted two 60-second videos. Their winning entry, composed of segments of interviews with Carol von Kaenel and Brenda Jenks, “holistic practitioners” from Saratoga Springs, “focuses on the global shift in consciousness,” says Mr Habering, and it “reminds people that every thought, word and action that is expressed has great impact on others.” As for IONS, it was founded by astronaut Edgar Mitchell in 1973 and it “sponsors leading-edge research into the potentials and powers of consciousness, including perceptions, beliefs, attention, intention and intuition.”

“SCHMIDT HAPPENS…AGAIN”= our pick for headline of the fortnight. It heads a Greenville Press story (8/24; Linda Fenoff, p. 1) about renewed strains between Durham town council members and their code enforcement officer. He is accused of failing to perform assigned tasks, of making decisions that exceed his authority, and of making false claims about tasks performed.... His first name is Al.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Political Reforms, Good & Bad

----- Congressional candidate Alexander (Sandy) Treadwell distributed to news media recently (8/12) what his office billed as “a major reform package designed to add greater accountability and fiscal responsibility to Congress.” The message from Treadwell headquarters did not say when, where, or to whom the candidate delivered his reform package. Those omissions signaled to recipients that the words billed in news-story form as what Mr Treadwell “said,” words couched in direct quotations and ostensible paraphrases, were not actually voiced to actual auditors. Editors and news directors who received the message, all over the 20th Congressional District, discarded it.

------- The only exception was a TimesUnion blog item. That item’s author sketched Mr Treadwell’s proposals in a sentence. He also briefly reported a response in which a spokesperson for the Representative that Mr Treadwell is trying to unseat, Kirsten Gillibrand, cited her boss’s leadership in promoting transparency and accountability. The journalist also voiced an opinion whose terms (and tone) may account for the paucity of Press attention: “As with sunshine and butterflies, it's pretty tough to take issue with this stuff.” Maybe that estimate prevails among news professionals. If so, it is gullible, and the policy it sustains--spiking such “stuff”--is grossly irresponsible. The changes advocated by Mr Treadwell are not trivial. Their circulation offers an suitable occasion for thought about desirable ends and effective means. As it happens, some measures in the Treadwell package would yield gains for responsive governance, while others would be sabotage. Between diagnosis and suggested treatments, there is a disconnect.


------- As matters stand, says Mr Treadwell, “People view Washington as a distant, closed-door institution that pushes a political agenda of self-promotion instead of policies that address our needs.” Change is needed so as to rebuild people’s trust in Congress,” to “open up Congress to greater public scrutiny,” “to strip away some of the perks that do not promote good government” and to “make our representatives more responsive to taxpayers.”


------- Citing that diagnosis and those values, Mr Treadwell prescribes these changes in “the way our government does business”:

Term limits: a constitutional amendment to limit members of the House of Representatives to four terms (eight years) and Senators to two terms (12 years)….

Earmark Moratorium: a one-year moratorium will provide an opportunity for a thorough review and overhaul of pork barrel spending programs to increase transparency, prevent corruption, and ensure that these federal projects are worthy of taxpayer funding.

Franking Disclosure: this would require all taxpayer-financed mailings to list the cost for creating, printing, and distributing the mailer, ensuring that constituents know how their tax dollars are being spent. Being able to send out taxpayer-funded mailing is a privilege and greater transparency will help to ensure that this privilege is not misused.

Mandatory online posting of Congressional office budgets: The public should have access to how much their federal representative is spending on his/her office and a detailed listing of those expenditures. With each of the 435 members of the House allocated at least $1.1 million for office expenditures, taxpayers have a right to know how this money is being spent.

Accountability in Government Hiring and Promotion Practices: Taxpayers should have access to a user-friendly, easily searchable database that lists the salaries of all political appointees on the federal government payroll. The database would include salary, job title, and office of employment for each appointee. In addition, all members of Congress should be required to disclose family members who gained employment in a government position following the member’s election to Congress and also [sic] any promotions or salary adjustments of these employees if it [sic] was not gained through a promotional examination or collective bargaining.

Lobbying: The perception of lobbyist influence clouds government at all levels and Congress should take action to address perceived conflicts of interest and real influence peddling. [To that end:] ----- Elimination of the Revolving Door: the House should adopt Senate rules to end the “revolving door” culture in Washington. This includes: a two-year period during which former House members will be prohibited from lobbying Congress; an expanded one-year period during which former senior House staffers are prohibited from lobbying all House staffers, not just former co-workers; and a new one-year period that would prohibit any House staffer from lobbying his or her former office of employment. ----- Tougher Regulation on Family Member Lobbying: both the House and Senate should toughen their rules to ban all immediate family members of House representatives from lobbying a House staffer and all immediate family members of Senators from lobbying any Senate staffers. ----- Additional Disclosure: all members of Congress should be required to disclose information on their office website pertaining to any immediate family member or former staffer who is registered to lobby at the federal, state, or local level. In addition, the site would also list all lobbying clients of immediate family members or former staffs that merit disclosure under federal, state, or local laws.


------- Most admirable about Mr Treadwell’s reform package is recognition of an authentic, serious problem: the incumbency edge. Various conditions help elected legislators to entrench themselves in office without giving faithful service to constituents. Some of the enabling conditions relate to ignorant, inattentive, overly partisan constituents. Some relate to journalistic sloth. Some stem from system-rigging.

When a candidate wins election to legislative office, she instantly joins a secret society: The Incumbents Gang. Members of the gang, while being Republicans and Democrats and in other ways antagonistic, are not direct political foes. All have a common interest—staying in office—and success for one does not bring failure for another. All are inclined, then, to welcome insulating, comfort-giving arrangements: generous salaries and benefits (seldom publicized), hefty allowances for staff and office expenses, easy-to-evade rules about using taxpayers’ resources for campaigning, ready access to lobbyists’ campaign donations, discretionary grant-making authority (earmarks; member items), toleration of ethical lapses, safe districts.

Several measures in Mr Treadwell’s package would mitigate conditions that enable incumbents to stay in office without doing diligent representation. Those measures would make the activities of incumbents more visible to outsiders. They would curb some competitive advantages that incumbents enjoy, at public expense, over challengers.


------- The bad item in Mr Treadwell’s package is the first one: Term Limits.

------- Imposing mandatory limits on the number of terms that an individual can hold an elective office has become quite a popular reformist nostrum. It is the rule now, in slightly varying forms, for governors in 35 States and for legislators in about 16 States, as well as for many mayors and city councils. If its promised benefits have eventuated, however, the word has not gotten around. Meanwhile, its partisans make their ‘case’ without reference to experience, and they ignore its obvious causal implications.

A moment’s reflection can serve to indicate that Term Limits rules subvert the effectiveness of the other reform measures with which they have been coupled. Term Limits do not foster transparency or accountability. Instead of mitigating the unfair advantages that go with incumbency, they turn incumbency into a fatal handicap. In doing so they work against the cause of responsive governance. Here’s how.

*Lost choices for voters. Under Term Limits, eligibility to stand for elective office is restricted legally not only by age, place of residence and nationality but also by vocational history. (With regard to U.S. Representatives and Senators, the Supreme Court has ruled, by five votes to four, that the additional requirement can only be imposed by way of Constitutional amendment). Excluded from eligibility under Term Limits are candidates who have acquired more than a mite of on-the-job training. Under Term Limits, voters cannot keep in office an individual who, in their judgment, has done a good job.

*Lost incentives for contestants. Thanks to Term Limits, then, elected representatives are liberated from incentives to work hard and effectively for their electors. In large measure they would be free of the discipline that goes with being, of all things, elected representatives. Since Senator Jones can’t be re-elected (after a term or two or three) he would be foolish to go to the trouble, the heavy labor, of learning what his constituents want and how, through well designed legislation and carefully cultivated alliances plus administrative know-how, to meet their needs. He gets no pay-off from being a remedy finder and a people pleaser.

------- When he cannot be re-elected after a prescribed few years in office, how is an incumbent likely to behave? Mr Treadwell argues glibly that Term Limits “would shift the focus in Congress from constant re-election campaigning to public service.” That causal proposition is a crude way of acknowledging that under Term Limits, elected representatives would be emancipated from popular control. It is an oblique way of treating that emancipation as a blessing. It also exemplifies, and it cultivates, psycho-political naïveté.

Freed from the special discipline that goes with being an elected representative, an office-holder might indeed devote herself single-mindedly to “public service.” She could adhere righteously, paternalistically, to an internalized concept of The Right Thing, regardless of public or collegial opinion. She also could focus on private service. She could join colleagues in fattening the salaries, the pensions, and the other perquisites that go with public office. She could draw the pay and the perks while doing private business or just loafing. She could devote herself to the “public service” of a corporation or lobbying firm that offers lucrative employment at the end of his short political career. She would surely behave in light of the knowledge that quality of service to voters cannot affect tenure in office; she is going to be forced out anyway.


------- On this showing, Term Limits should be purged from any package of reforms that is aimed at improving the quality, the responsiveness, of governance by elected representatives. Other reforms on Mr Treadwell’s list would be therapeutic. But there is a conspicuous omission. (It is a particularly surprising omission, given Mr Treadwell’s experience as a State Secretary and Republican Party State Chairman).

------- Absent from the Treadwell package is recognition of one of the Incumbent Gang’s heavy weapons: control over drawing their own electoral districts’ boundaries. Those boundaries must be re-drawn periodically, in keeping with laws prescribing that for seats in the House of Representatives and in lower houses of State legislatures, district populations must be approximately equal. Authority to re-draw the boundaries reposes in State legislators. The members are obliged to draw district lines that are contiguous and compact territorially and that take account of local (county, municipal) boundaries. Within those constraints, they are free to suit themselves. And what suits them primarily is job security.

Their security of tenure depends on the party-political leanings of voters. A constituency is safe for a sitting Republicrat to the extent that a comfortable majority or plurality of her constituents are Republicrats. All incumbents are safe, accordingly, to the extent that in each district the voters, by a lop-sided majority or plurality, favor one party or another.

Efforts to give every incumbent a safe district are hampered by those pesky rules about numbers, contiguity, compactness and municipal boundaries. They are hampered too by a competing value: making life safe for the reigning party’s incumbents. But the two values can reconciled (as they often are in practice) by resort to the Sacrificial Lamb device: redrawing boundaries so that one or two junior members of the minority party lose seats while the other incumbents, of both parties, stay safe.

------- This venerable counter-democratic practice can be stopped. The solution consists of taking the power to re-draw the boundaries of legislative districts away from sitting legislators and assigning it to a Blue Ribbon commission. The commissioners would be instructed to pay heed to populations, contiguity, compactness and municipal boundary lines, while ignoring party registrations and previous election returns.

------- For the cause of responsive governance, that reform would surely be salutary. It also is practicable. Its adoption depends on popular support, which in turn depends on candidates’ pledges. If it were added to Mr Treadwell’s list, with Term Limits being deleted, voters would be offered a reform package that is worthy of support.

Comments on Seeing Greene blogs are welcome. They will posted iff senders identify themselves.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Traces of Greene

COMING SOON: arrests and homicide charges in connection with the Martha Conners murder case. While declining to share details of an ongoing investigation, State Police Investigator Scott Young says “good progress” has occurred, with a "resolution” likely to come within two weeks. According to another source, a quondam Catskill denizen, Travis Augustine, is in police custody now and is connected to the case although he is not the prime suspect.

GONE from the Cus D’Amato Boxing Gym in Catskill, as president and as a member of the board of directors, is Bill White. He alienated the other board members, we’ve been told, by staging an outdoor boxing demonstration on July 12th, without their approval, and effectively in competition with the Kittis auction. The board has been reorganized, with Sean Doolan, Windham attorney, as president. A new program in collaboration with the Community Center is under development. Veteran boxer Leonard Pierre will lead kids in the 11-16 age bracket through a regimen of fitness, strength and footwork training. No-punch boxing?

GONE from Main Street, Catskill, after eight months in business: the luncheonette called O’Fratello’s, and fronted by the memorable sign inviting folks to “squat and gobble.”

HELP! A Cairo–Durham student and her mom are sorely in need. Daniella Groezinger, aged 15, is afflicted with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, is receiving chemotherapy (second round) in Albany. Her mother, Joanne, a single parent, has been unable to work because of the tasks of caring for Daniella. She faces foreclosure on her Round Top home and is behind on other debts. We learn this from a friend, Pamela Pisarri, who, within the limits of her job (at Columbia-Greene CC) and domestic responsibilities, has mounted a begging expedition. Help has come from the Greene County Women’s Cancer League ($1000 in reimbursements for co-pays, travel expenses…), the Catskill Kiwanis Club, Ronald McDonald House, and some store accounts. Donations can be made by way of a custodial bank account in Daniella Groezinger’s name at the Bank of Greene County. The account number is 5201748615.

‘STOLEN” from the Albany District Attorney’s office, according to the reputed thief: Marie Beckford, who is now GreeneLand’s salaried, full-time Deputy Public Defender.. Actually, she came voluntarily—lured by opportunity to handle felonies and other more difficult cases. “They hated to lose her,” says her boss, Chief Public Defender Dominic J. Cornelius, “and rightly so. We’ve very fortunate to have a very experienced and competent law practitioner to serve the people of Greene County.” She succeeds Joseph Meaney, who previously had come from the Albany DA’s office and who returned to that metropolis last April, this time to the Public Defender’s office there.

MORE CATTING. For her birthday, Cindy Seward will be getting a decorated Cat-n-Around-type cat that is decorated with scenes drawn from the Cooperstown area. Her husband, Senator Jim Seward, got the idea after seeing the Catskill collection. To do the creative work he commissioned the top catterizer: Jim Cramer. Meanwhile, Patti Ferrara, whose “Caddie Cat” and “Magic Carpet Cat” add more than two units of glory to downtown Catskill, has devised another approach to feeling feline. She takes stuffed cat figures and gives them individually painted features as well as eyes that glow in the dark. Examples ($50 each) are on show at the Chamber of Commerce on Main Street.

This digital photo. "Palisades Clouds," earned Jack Gilman of Yonkers NY the grand prize in a competition sponsored by Scenic Hudson. For an enlarged view of the picture, click the link to that excellent organization's web site.

GASOLINE prices in GreeneLand have slipped below $4 per gallon for regular. As usual, prices here exceed prices in neighboring counties. Over in Claverack on Wednesday, a gallon of regular could be purchased for $3.76. Hudson stations were charging $3.78, and customers could be ripped off at the Rip Van Winkle Bridge entrance for $3.90, or for a bit more on west side of the bridge. Earlier in the week, in little Windham, per-gallon costs of regular ranged from $3.86 (lower than the Getty and Citgo prices in Catskill then) up to $4.00. At that time, the national average was $3.88, while in New York State the range was from $3.70 (in Binghamton) to $4. Summarily, GreeneLand motorists are still being hosed.

DAILY MAUL. “’We’re trying to peak everyone’s interest about Pandemic Flu,’ said Miller….” “Another world record and another rung up the chart of Olympic greatness.” “The vehicle proceeded to swerve on the slick payment after noticing Yuesler’s halogen bicycle lamp….”

Vendor and Victim

---------A once-eminent GreeneLander has figured recently in two newsworthy events. Francis J. McDonald, who is now an octogenarian, won distinction during World War II and thereafter for feats of inventive engineering. In later years he served as a Catskill Village Justice and as a local Conservative Party stalwart.

----------Last month Mr McDonald sold a historic property. Soon after completing that transaction, he was the unwitting victim of a grand larceny-scale robbery.

The property sold by Mr McDonald on July 21st , once known as the Wiltse Foundry, fronts on Water Street in Catskill and runs westward down to Catskill Creek. Brick buildings and ruined walls on the site date back to Civil War days. Work done there reputedly played a part in the construction of the Union Army ironclad vessel known as The Monitor. Mr McDonald too used the site as a foundry and machine shop, as well as for the three-floor bookstore that for many years was by his late wife, Barbara.

The property’s buyer is Hudson River Development Corporation, which is owned by Michael Ferro, the scrap metal mogul. When contacted by Seeing Greene, Mr Ferro said the venerable brick building that housed the bookstore, unlike the adjoining building, has “great old beams” inside and has “real restoration potential.” Both buildings, however, are now “full of junk”; “it’s a pigpen.” They must be cleaned out, some demolition is required, and the site must be purged of pollutants that have yielded a “brownfield” classification (no sleeping or eating allowed on site).

Two features of that transaction struck real estate-savvy local people, contacted by Seeing Greene, as surprising.

---------One was the provision that the buyer acquires title to a strip of land that in the distant past was the completion of Canal Street, a lane that runs from Main Street down to Water Street. The contract states that Mr McDonald and his wife, Barbara, acquired that strip of land from the Village of Catskill by way of the legal process known as adverse possession. The claim here is that since the parcel was occupied exclusively (since July 1959) by the McDonalds, was fenced “so as to preclude…use by the Village…and the public in General”; and was “neither improved, maintained nor entered upon” for at least 40 years, it stopped being Village-owned land. Seeing Greene was advised, however, that the law of adverse possession does not apply to municipal property.

The other surprise occasioned by the McDonald-Ferro transaction was the price. As listed in the deed filed with the County Clerk on July 24th , it is $112,000. That figure, knowledgeable sources opined, is a “colossal bargain,” “hard to believe,” “incredibly low.”

Among the astonished commentators was Jim Cunliffe, whose company , owns the land adjoining the former McDonald property, running south from that site down to Bridge Street. Mr Cunliffe is transforming the former Oren’s Furniture warehouse, which also dates from Civil War days (when it was flour mill and then an Union Army uniform manufactory) into a residential condominium complex. He had expressed interest in acquiring the McDonald property two years ago. “I offered him $350,000,” says Mr Cunliffe of Mr McDonald “and he agreed, back in September 2007 or thereabouts, in writing. But when it came to finalizing the contract, he started putting in a bunch of conditions. The deal lapsed—as had a couple of previous agreements.”

As for the robbery, the chief suspect is Michael Conine, 39, of West Bridge Street in Catskill. (On account of how he hobbles on his peg leg while drunk, we hear, he is known in some circles as “Kickstand”). He presently resides in the Greene County Jail, in lieu of posting $25,000 bail or $50,000 bond. Two of his friends also reside in the jail (as of 8/15), charged with receiving stolen property. Three more friends face the same charge.

Our account of aspects of the case should not be taken at face value. Police Chief Dave Darling has refused access to the relevant incident and arrest reports (on the spurious ground that “the investigation is ongoing”). District Attorney Terry Wilhelm and his chief assistant, ‘Chip’ Tailleur, have not returned our calls. Neither has Mr McDonald.

----------At any rate, according to the story we have pieced together, Mr Conine and some friends decided in late July to have a party. But nobody had money. Mr Conine believed, on the basis of past experience stemming from part-time employment, that Mr McDonald kept a case of vodka in the trunk of his car on Livingston Street in Catskill (just east of the Village post office). He went off to steal a few bottles. When he opened the car’s trunk, he beheld several {brown} paper sacks that, upon due inspection, proved to be stuffed with cash: $100,000 or more in value. {According to a second-hand source, the actual sum was $138,000}. This windfall did fund{an all-day} party and, according to charges filed, Mr Conine shared some of the loot with {his half-brother} Donald Roe, 41, of Palenville, with Tracy Jo Szpessy, 40, of Cairo, with Sheryl Wnenta, {53}, and with Debra Kelly, 53.

Mr McDonald learned of the theft only after police officers brought it to his attention. And they got wind of it when, we understand (perhaps incorrectly), one of the suspects, who was not known to be a member of the financial elite, undertook to buy his girlfriend a new car with $30,000 in greenbacks.

According to another story, authorities got wind of the case in consequence of a complaint from the chief suspect. Mr Conine called police after he went to the Red Ranch Motel, summoned a call girl, and paid her generously in cash. After leaving, he reportedly complained, she summoned a pair of thugs who proceeded to beat {him} nd steal his (so to speak) money.

----------As authorities follow the money trail, they expect to make more arrests. ( { } denotes addition or correction made after initial posting.)

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Post-8/8/8 Posting

POLITICAL NOTE 1. The House Race. There won’t be a primary election contest to determine what Republican (or Conservative, or Independence Party) candidate will challenge United States Representative Kirsten Gillibrand, whose sprawling 20th Congressional district (10 up-State counties) includes GreeneLand. The choices on November 4th will be either the incumbent, Ms Gillibrand, whose name will appear on the Democratic and the Working Families party lines, or Alexander (Sandy) Treadwell, a Lake Placid businessman who in times past has been Secretary of New York State and chairman of the State Republican Party, and whose name will occupy the Republican, Conservative and Independence party lines. That prospect was confirmed early this week when the State Board of Elections ruled that too many signatures on petitions filed by John Wallace and Michael Roque, who were aiming to be candidates in September primary elections to pick a Republican and a Conservative nominee, were not valid. While complaining about “antiquated” rules that govern decisions about the legal validity of their petitions, Mr Wallace and Mr Roque did not accuse the Elections Board of candidate bias, and they decided not to appeal the Board’s rulings. --------Mr Wallace, a Chatham real estate agent and retired State Police officer, coupled his withdrawal statement with an explicit endorsement of Mr Treadwell. Mr Roque, a retired U.S. Army colonel who lives in Saratoga County, did not do so. “I had hoped to be able to continue in this campaign…to give the voters a real choice,” he said, but “the process allows the lawyers to have a greater say over who is on the ballot than the voters.”

POLITICAL NOTE 2. The Outlook. For Mr Treadwell the elimination of Mr Wallace and Mr Roque from the nomination race is a boon. Occasions for strains and recriminations among co-partisans have been removed. The use of Republicans’ campaign funds on intra-party struggles rather than for the general election campaign has been obviated. The new situation, however, does not make a Treadwell victory certain, or even probable. In the estimation of Brian Tumulty of Gannett News Service (Poughkeepsie Journal, 8/5), “he still faces an uphill fight” against “a popular lawmaker….” who has raised $3.69 million for her re-election campaign.” --------Back in November 2006, in what has long been a Republican fief, that lawmaker scored an upset victory. She benefited from popular disenchantment with the Botch Administration and from eleventh-hour exposure of incumbent John Sweeney’s personal character. In winning the office she acquired the advantages that go with incumbency plus, as it happened, thanks to the national results, the advantages that go with membership in the majority party, the governing party, in the U.S. Congress. Ms Gillibrand also turned out to be an extraordinary fund-raiser and an extraordinarily diligent communicator. ------Stuart Rothenberg, the professional election handicapper, says (according to Tumulty) that Mr Treadwell’s “problem” is that Ms Gillibrand “is so well liked” and “held in high regard.” That factor, coupled with continued distaste for the Botch Administration and with widespread enthusiasm for Barack Obama as Democratic candidate for President, prompted Mr Rothenberg to change his rating on the election in this once-solidly Republican district from “leaning Democratic” to “Democrat favored.”

POLITICAL NOTE 3. The Rhetoric. Exemplified in the terms of John Wallace’s statement of withdrawal from the Republican nomination contest and his endorsement of Mr Treadwell is a distinctive feature of contemporary political talk. “I’m a little more conservative” than Mr Treadwell, said Mr Wallace (as quoted by Maury Thompson of the Post-Star), “but he is more conservative than Kirsten.” Among active Republicans, that way of talking about issues and choices is pervasive. Candidates for Republican nominations for elective offices, from the Presidency on down, avow “conservative” convictions, and they engage in disputes over who is the “real conservative” or the “more conservative” contestant. Commentators on intra-Republican contests reflect and reinforce this verbiage—or rather, this way of seeing the world. The underlying idea is that policy alternatives on the important current issues, foreign and domestic, economic and social, procedural and substantive alike, can be understood as positions on a single scale (“the political spectrum”). In Republican activist circles, moreover, political virtue is identified with adhering to the “conservative” pole rather than the middle position (“moderate” or “centrist”) or the opposite (“liberal”) side. In Democratic activist circles, however, the equivalent verbal orientation does not seem to prevail. Contests for Democratic nominations are not waged explicitly in terms of imputed degrees of “liberalism.” When incumbent Democrats have been challenged in primary elections by fellow Democrats (Sen. Joseph Lieberman being the prime example in 2006), they have been accused not of being “too conservative” but rather of being wrong about the Iraq war and about supporting other Bush Administration policies. The Obama-Clinton-Edwards-Biden-Dodds-Richardson-Kucinich contest for the Democratic presidential nomination was not conducted rhetorically in terms of degrees of “liberalism.”

WINDFALL(S). Catskill’s reborn, thriving, and structurally crumbling Community Center has received a big boo$t. At a gathering on Tuesday (8/5) at the center, Town Supervisor Peter Markou announced that a $400,000 Community Block Development grant has been authorized by the State’s Office of Housing and Community Renewal. And State Senator James L. Seward announced a grant of $250,000 in State funds to help with renovating the center. The grants will pay for capital renovations: including new heating and cooling equipment, plumbing, and roof and exterior drainage repairs. That will help, said Mr Markou, to alleviate some of the Center’s “major infrastructure problems.” In addition, the Community Center will be getting about $2000 from the Catskill Chamber of Commerce as its share of profits from auctioning the 112 ceramic Kittis, decorated by local children as part of the Cat-n-Around project. ------As reported in The Daily Mail, Senator Seward also spoke of grants to other GreeneLand agencies: $15,000 for air packs for Cairo firefighters; $10,000 for Community Hospice, $10,000 for the Catskill Chamber of Commerce, and $23,000 for the Catskill Police Department.

GASOLINE PRICES in GreeneLand now are targets officially of an investigation. The county’s legislators have resolved to learn why prices at our pumps are higher, often or always, than prices in neighboring counties. (To say that they are heeding a suggestion from Seeing Greene would not be couth).

“YUCK!!!!!” says the headline on the latest (7/28) Trip Advisor review of GreeneLand’s foremost (=biggest) resort. Immediately preceding headlines on visitors’ appraisals of The Friar Tuck say “A Nightmare of a Stay,” “In Need of Repair” and “Avoid, Even if Stranded.” Although some condo units receive OK ratings, reviewers also say “old and dirty,” broken tiles, slippery floor, “disgusting odor from green lake,” surly staff, shabby, rundown, leaky plumbing, squealing TV (“with fear, I truly believe”) damp carpets, threadbare sheets, terrible service, “reminds me of ‘The Shining’”.

SATURDAY WHIRL. -------Mountainward: German Alps Festival at Hunter Mountain Ski Bowl ( ). Russian musical treasures performed by treasured pianists Vladimir Pleshakov and Elena Winter at Catskill Mountain Foundation ‘s Doctorow Center for the Arts. In Elka Park, Saturday and Sunday, the Horton Foote play “Young Man from Atlantic” ( Over in Windham, art in abundance, with a tour of studios and galleries ( ) and a quilt show ( but the web site needs updating). In nearby Ashland, a Batavia Kill Stream celebration ( Meanwhile, a day-long hike through scenes that enchanted the early Hudson River School painters started this morning from the Mountain Top Historical Society headquarters in Haines Falls. -------Greenville: A “Little Live Earth” festival devoted to environmental awareness, with music, is currently under way at the Town Park. -------Cairo: A two-day Renaissance Faire ( -------Coxsackie: The Riverside Festival has returned, under Village Arts Council sponsorship, after a long absence, with parade & bands & vendors & fireworks. -------Catskill: The Village’s Second Saturday promotion offers shops and galleries (two openings at the Arts Council), “cat races,” a sidewalk wine tasting event, and fireworks. (Some public GreeneLand events do NOT get listed in the Greene County Tourism Department and the County Chamber of Commerce web sites. Not good).

PURGE THE P! Historian Ted Hilscher says, authoritatively, that Catskill’s Thompson Street should be Thomson. Village Trustees take note.