-----The shortage of paid work already is severe. According to the State Labor Department, our unemployment rate is close to 8 per cent of the work force. The official figure of 7.7% last December, as compared with 5.7% in December of 2007, is the mid-Hudson region's highest, and it tops the State-wide figure (6.8%--highest since 1994) and the national figure (7.1%). Eligible job-seekers can collect unemployment insurance checks for 26 weeks, with emergency extensions that can add 33 more weeks. Service agencies, private and public, are coping with rising needs for help. Real estate sales are down, mortgage payments are being missed, and ambitious subdivision projects--in Greenville, Coxsackie, Catskill, Cairo--may be stalled, or abandoned. ----While the new Obama Administration is promoting an ambitious national recovery package in Washington D.C., a plausible stimulus idea has been broached here. The mayor of Catskill Village, Vincent Seeley, proposes that property owners be incited to make improvements now by being relieved of the raises in assessed values and hence of tax liability. Eligibility for the break would be contingent on using local tradesmen and suppliers. That could nudge owners to get going with improvements before the deal expires. -----In the meantime, for GreeneLanders this year will be extraordinarily festive. Along with riverbank communities from Albany down to Manhattan, we will be drawn into celebrations of the four hundredth anniversary of European discovery of the Hudson River. The roster of Quadricentennial events is far from complete. Certainly it will include visits from the replica of the sailing ship, The Half Moon, that brought Henry Hudson and his crew to this section of the New World. It will include a heightened emphasis on landscape and riverscape art in our many galleries (including the Agroforestry Research Center in Acra, where the extraordinary photographic work of Tom Teich will soon be on exhibited. A play written by GreeneLand thespian Joseph Capone, about Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River school of landscape painting, will be performed by the Classics @ The Point troupe. The County Historical Society's annual tour of historic homes, instead of being concentrated on one community, will put a string of river-hugging GreeneLand estates on show. Scores of high school students will take part in every stage of developing a theatrical production based on River of Dreams, the illustrated book by GreeneLand's illustrious Hudson Talbott, with songs composed by GreeneLander Frank Cuthbert and direction provided by GreeneLand's (and Hollywood's, and New York's) Casey Biggs. -----"Greene County USA," a documentary crafted by veteran film-maker Jonathan Donald, will be screened in two GreeneLand venues during September 12-13, before its two half-hour segments, tracing local history from the Paleo-Indians (11,000 years ago) to the present, are televised on WMHT. And this Sunday (2/8/09) a Harvard University superstar, Prof. John Stilgoe, author of Landscape and Images and eight other books, will be at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site talking about the years, the hundred years, between Cole's artistic eminence and his re-emergence from oblivion. That talk (see www.thomascole.org) will be followed not by the usual on-site reception but rather by multiple receptions at galleries along Catskill's historic Main Street. At one of them, Gallery 384, Cole's birthday will be celebrated (a week late) with this Cole-tribute landscape painting by Roberta Griffin and with a cake whose frosting simulates the painting. -----That is just a sampling of things to come in '09, along with Irish and bluegrass festivals, and Mountain Foundation events. Winter sports at Hunter Mountain and Windham are thriving now. So, after a long time lapse, is ice boating off Athens's Riverside Park. So are Cornell Co-operative Extension's training programs in Acra: In this month alone, there have been or will be sessions on managing forests during climate change, beekeeping, pollen detection, bulb-forcing (to yield spring flowers before spring comes),, rural crafts, landscape maintenance, tractor operation and renewable energy. (http://arc.cce.cornell.edu). -----Springtime in GreeneLand will be punctuated by the usual village and school board elections, augmented by what shapes up to be a momentous special election to decide who shall succeed Kirsten Gillibrand as Representative in the United States Congress. Libertarian Party chairman Eric Kundle of Kinderhook says he'll join the race as an independent candidate. The National Republican Campaign Committee has already taken heed of the contest by finding fault with Democratic nominee Scott Murphy's tax payments, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has returned fire by accusing the Republican nominee, State Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, of gaming the taxpayers on his expense account. Mr Murphy made a quick trip to Washington D.C. in quest of campaign funds and a meeting with Senator Gillibrand. Mr Tedisco has announced that tomorrow (2/7/09) he will make appearances in four counties, outlining what he calls (inaccurately) his "principles for promoting economic recovery: real tax relief, a stronger economy and more jobs." (Those are not principles). His final scheduled stop is at the Duocommun Aerostructures plant (formerly DynaBil Industries) in Coxsackie. -----In Catskill, meanwhile, Lalli Vermani soon will open Catskill Liquors on West Bridge Street. Restoration of the Little Red Schoolhouse in Jefferson Heights will be celebrated. A bakery and a pub will open off Main Street. And Doug Kleeschulte is adding new bays to his Plaza Car Wash facility, plus a booth for washing dogs.
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