Almanack Contributor Mark Wilson

Mark Wilson

Mark Wilson's editorial cartoons - under the pen name MARQUIL - appear in newspapers and online across New York State. He also provides editorial illustrations and occasional commentary pieces for The Sunday Gazette of Schenectady and regularly chimes in here at the Almanack, particularly at election time and during the annual Adirondack Bracket. Mark lives in Saranac Lake.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

MarQuil On Essex County Government

Randy Douglas Essex County Govt


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

MarQuil Cartoon: Baby New Congress Arrives

baby new congress arrives


Monday, April 23, 2012

The Beat Goes On and On:New Assignments for Post-Star Reporters

For the first time since sustaining deep staffing cutbacks late last month, the Post-Star has reassigned reporting beats to fill the gaps in its lineup. In the process, the troubled newspaper has officially abandoned Saratoga Springs as an anchorage for its southern reporting.

According to the staff contact page at PostStar.com, the new assignments are as follows:

• Primary responsibility for reporting news for Washington County—the beat covered by recently laid-off reporters Jamie Munks, David Taube, and (in part) Tom Dimopoulos—now falls to Jon Alexander, who will continue to cover Northern Warren County as well as the rest of the Adirondacks. It is an utterly insane beat divided in the north by the length of Lake George—by far the largest coverage map of any of the remaining Post-Star reporters.

• Dave Canfield, who shared the Saratoga Springs bureau with Dimopoulos, will now be principle principal correspondent for the Saratoga County Hudson River communities of Moreau, South Glens Falls, Fort Edward and Hudson Falls

• Business reporter Blake Jones will now add the Village and Town of Lake George to her portfolio.

• Crime and Public Safety reporter Don Lehman will also take on Warren County government in the shift.

• Both Omar Aquije and Maury Thompson will keep their beats covering Education issues and Glens Falls /Queensbury respectively.

The move away from on-the-spot Saratoga Springs coverage marks a significant departure for the Post-Star. With great fanfare the newspaper opened a collaborative bureau in the spa city with television station WNYT-News Channel 13 in March 2004. As reported by then Post-Star business reporter Dan Higgins, Saratoga Springs was a key battlefield in the regional circulation wars before the recession: the Post-Star the Daily Gazette of Schenectady, and the Times Union all staffed bureaus there in hopes of finding new readers among the booming population. The Gazette Saratoga Springs office has since closed (though they still have a bureau in nearby Ballston Spa) and the Times Union shuttered its bureau in March of last year.

In other personnel shifts at the Post-Star, Donna Smith has joined the advertising department replacing Matthew Gonroff, and Christine Scrivner has joined the paper in the newly created position of Circulation Sales Manager. The new position might prove to be a hot seat as the region’s newspapers brace for the semi-annual Audit Bureau circulations reports due out next week.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Happy 150th, Charles Evans Hughes

Maury Thompson at the Glens Falls Post-Star alerted us to a significant and pretty thoroughly overlooked anniversary. Wednesday April 11, 2012 is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Charles Evans Hughes: Glens Falls native, Governor of New York State, Associate United States Supreme Court Justice, GOP presidential candidate, United States Secretary of State, and Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

To that resume let us also add: Adirondack vacationer.
» Continue Reading.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Mark Wilson: The Post-Star’s Public Shaming Policy

New York State keeps detailed motor vehicle accident statistics, compiling them year-to-year and county-by-county. Those data as well as the aggregate state figures compiled since 2001 are available online at safeNY.gov. The standards for data collecting and reporting have remained consistent since 2003, the year New York lowered the blood alcohol content standard for drunk driving, and the year the Glens Falls Post-Star initiated its policy on publishing names of teenagers busted for drinking.

Data in the following comparison are derived from police-reported accidents—collisions resulting in fatalities, personal injury or property damage. These records are more uniform within each region and over time than DWI ticketing, for example (another standard measure), which varies regionally and seasonally, skewed by periodic local crack-downs, check points, etc.

To get a sense of how the Glens Falls region’s statistics for underage drivers involved in alcohol-related accidents stacked up against the average statistics across New York, we set the number of alcohol-related-accident drivers aged twenty and younger both regionally and statewide against the number of alcohol-related-accident drivers from all age groups and compared the resulting percentages. A consistent drop in the regional percentage against the statewide percentage would suggest that the campaign was influencing underage drinking trends favorably.

The Results
While eight years of data form no solid basis for statistical analysis, the regional numbers—despite countervailing swings in the middle years of the range—seem to track overall with the statewide norms (even to the point of convergence with state figures in 2009 and 2010, the most recent years evaluated). While this may not be enough of a statistical sample to determine failure of the Post-Star’s policy and overall campaign, there is nothing here to encourage their advocates, either.

Not surprisingly Post-Star editors have not brought statistical analysis to bear on their policy of shaming teenage drinkers. Nor have they cited the statistics in their periodic recommitment to the campaign. If anything they seem to be spurred onward by their own often overheated editorial rhetoric on the subject: “Underage drinking is dangerous and if you don’t believe me, I will show you the headstones.”

Ken Tingley publicly declared his own immeasurable standard for continuing the crusade:

“If there is one young person who learns the lesson, if there is one young person who gets grounded for life for embarrassing their parents, if there is one young person who pauses to consider whether to accept a beer at the next party because they don’t want to see their name in the newspaper, then it is worth it.”

There is little doubt, given the power and range of the Post-Star’s editorial voice, that the shaming policy and Mr. Tingley’s angry bluster have successfully reached any number of kids (and/or their parents). On the same token, given the contrary nature of so many adolescents, can anyone doubt that as many kids may have reacted (sadly) predictably to Mr. Tingley’s bullying and ignored the grim statistics, or worse, headed defiantly in the opposite direction?

The lack of movement of the underage drunk driving numbers against the backdrop of statewide figures suggests, at the very least, that some neutralizing backlash may be at work here.

The Broader Picture
One of the more troubling aspects of the Post-Star policy is its selective and asymmetric targeting of underage drinkers for the sake of reducing the deaths of young people in motor vehicle accidents.

In 2010 alcohol was the primary cause of 30.5% of all motor vehicle fatalities throughout all upstate counties across all age groups. Speed, by comparison, was the primary cause of 29.2%. The statistics in the three counties served by the Post-Star were quite different: In Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties alcohol was responsible for 20.6% of motor vehicle fatalities, claiming seven lives, while speeding was responsible for 35.3% of motor vehicle fatalities claiming twelve lives. Moreover, in 2010 speed caused 439 injuries across the three counties (31.9%), while alcohol caused only 174 (11.3%).

When you add to that the fact that teenagers are far less likely to drive drunk (accounting for 9.3% of all drivers in alcohol-related accidents statewide) and far more likely to speed (accounting for 22% of all speeding-caused accidents statewide), the math becomes clear: speeding—and not drinking—is by far the deadliest behavior by drivers young and old on our roadways. It comes as no surprise that the Post-Star is devoting none of its diminishing resources to publishing the names of speeders in an effort to embarrass them and their families in a misguided effort—no matter how well-intentioned—to alter their behavior.

Two final thoughts on this subject
This challenge to (and argument against) the Post-Star’s policy of publishing names of teenagers fined for drinking should not be interpreted in any way as condoning the behavior. While it may be a rite of passage—as even Ken Tingley concedes—it remains reckless as it ever was. When combined with driving it has abundant potential to be life-destroying. The sole concern of this post is that the approach undertaken nine years ago by the editor of the Post-Star to combat the issue may simply have made matters worse.

The Post-Star is in many respects a fine newspaper. It is, to be sure, a troubled newspaper belonging to a troubled corporation in a troubled industry in a weak economy. The last thing the editors and publisher of the paper should be doing at this stage is alienating its future readers and subscribers in a way that from any angle looks like a double standard. The Post-Star needs to descend from the bully pulpit and get back to its number one responsibility to the community: reporting news.

Read Part 1: The Post-Star’s War on Underage Drinking


Monday, April 9, 2012

Mark Wilson: The Post-Star’s War on Underage Drinking

Ken Tingley is back in his bully pulpit. Two Sundays ago in his weekly column, the Editor of the Post-Star defended his newspaper’s policy of publishing the names of teenagers ticketed for violating underage drinking laws. In blunt and patronizing language, the crusading editor took on a recent South Glens Falls High graduate who had dared to leave a comment on the Post-Star‘s Facebook page objecting to the policy:

Mr. Mumblo was probably playing video games and reading comics when we reported the death of 17-year-old Jason Daniels in Warrensburg on May 18, 2003, and four months later, the death of 19-year-old Adam Baker, also in Warrensburg.

The policy was best described in a harsh editorial that ran on June 12, 2011, nearly eight years into the campaign:

Underage drinkers get their names in the paper. We publish the names of all kids arrested for consuming alcohol. We hope the embarrassment factor helps serve as a deterrent to parents and their kids. Not only does the kid’s name go in the paper, it goes on our website. And the Internet is permanent. So whatever they get caught doing today will follow them the rest of their lives.

From this it is hard to tell if the editorial board is angrier at the kids or their parents. The editorial proceeds to insult the children it hopes to protect:

Kids fib… Kids are lightweights… Kids are reckless… Kids are terrible drivers.

The final line of the editorial—A dead child is gone forever—reveals that the true target of the editorial (and the policy for that matter) is the parents; the humiliation of the children is merely a baseball bat to the gut to get their parents to pay closer attention.

Some History
On June 15, 2003, as New York State prepared to drop the DWI blood alcohol content standard from .1 to .08 percent, and after a succession of fatal underage drunk driving accidents in the region surrounding Glens Falls, Ken Tingley wrote a column outlining the Post-Star‘s policy on reporting crimes:

Here is what are (sic) policies are now:

• We don’t use the name of the child under age 16 charged with any offense – even if it is a felony – but we include the age, sex and town of residence. One exception: We will publish the name of any minor who is being prosecuted as an adult.

• We don’t use the name of the child age 16, 17 and 18 if they are only charged with misdemeanors or violations, but we include their age, sex and town of residence.

• We do use the name of minors age 16, 17 and 18 if they are charged with felonies.

• We do use the name of anyone 19 or older charged with any offense if the crime is deemed newsworthy because of unusual or interesting circumstances.

• We’ve also left it up to the discretion of the editor to print the name of a minor if major crimes or unusual circumstances are involved.

The column concluded with hints of transition:

With the recent debate over underage drinking in our communities, we debated recently whether it might do some good to start listing the names of teens arrested for underage drinking. We currently do not print those names unless there is a felony charge.One of our editors suggested that we should print the name of all teens arrested, that the embarrassment of arrest might be an appropriate deterrent for a young person, that it might even bring a weightier meaning to some parents who don’t seem to take the issue that seriously.It is something we will probably be looking at in the future.

The future arrived less than five weeks later when the Post-Star published the names and ages of six minors from Corinth who were charged with “the noncriminal violation of possession of alcohol by someone under 21.” The policy has remained in effect ever since.

According to data compiled by New York State, in 2003 the number of underage drivers involved in alcohol-related accidents in Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties stood at 19. The number rose to 25 the following year and dropped to 17 in 2004. In both 2005 and 2006 the number of underage drunk drivers involved in accidents shot up to 42 and has been declining steadily toward the 2004 level since. 2010 is the latest year for which the state has compiled statistics.

In June 2008 after another cluster of alcohol-related traffic fatalities involving minors, the Post-Star ran an exasperated editorial under the headline “Message is not getting through.” It began:

We give up.

No one seems to be listening anyway.

Sanctimonious and preachy? Out of touch with reality? OK, we concede. You’re right. Underage drinking is a rite of passage. A tradition. We all did it as kids. There’s nothing that can be done to stop it. Kids are gonna do what kids are gonna do.So have it your way.

Naturally, the editorial does not give up and charges once more unto the breach to deliver the message. It ends with a poignant appeal to the reader not to let the newspaper abandon the crusade.

By this point, nearly five years along, the policy of outing teenagers charged with non-criminal alcohol violations —despite the absence of any evidence that it was doing any good— was so conflated with the broader cause of stopping underage DWI as to be inseparable. For all practical purposes, under guard of the sharp hyperbole of the Post-Star’s editorial position, unquestionable.

Next, Part 2: Questioning the Unquestionable


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Will NCPR have its own Congressional District?

Among the standards used by the US Department of Justice in determining the validity of newly redrawn political districts are that district maps be compact and contiguous and respect natural and artificial boundaries. In drawing up the new map for the 21st Congressional District, Special Master Roanne Mann strictly followed county borders (artificial boundaries), with the exceptions of Herkimer and Saratoga Counties whose southern population centers would have thrown off the numbers.

For an equally useful artificial boundary that validates the common interest of the proposed 21st Congressional District, consider the frequency and signal strength map of North Country Public Radio. Broadcasting out of studios at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NCPR operates 13 transmitting towers, all but two—the Bristol Vermont tower reaches west to the NY shore of Lake Champlain, and the Boonville tower—located within the proposed district lines. In fact, the maps are so closely aligned, one would be hard-pressed to find another Congressional district (not counting Vermont and other single district states) where a single broadcaster has such identical and unrivaled coverage.

If nothing else, this convergence of maps raises a clear question to Bill Owens, Matt Doheny and (potentially) Doug Hoffman: Is your membership paid up?

The post was amended to reflect the fact that NCPR’s Boonville transmitter is outside the proposed district line.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New Congressional District (Almost) Unifies the Adirondack Park

Three years ago in anticipation of the decennial census, reapportionment and redistricting, Adirondack Almanack suggested a congressional district (red outline on the map) that would comprise the entire Adirondack Park and lands reaching to the St. Lawrence River from Alexandria Bay to Cornwall and the US/Canadian boundary from Cornwall east. If necessary there was plenty of room on the map for the district to expand below the park to accommodate larger numbers.

The numbers were loosely based on a guess that New York would lose only one congressional seat this time around. The fact that New York lost two seats in the reapportionment process, and that prison populations would no longer be credited to the prison’s district, meant that any resulting congressional district would have to cover more territory.

The map of the new 21st CD released yesterday by Special Master, US Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann (blue outline on the map) came pretty close to the imagined Adirondack/North Country district—with Watertown, Fort Drum and Tug Hill added for good measure. The only scrap of the Adirondack Park missing from the new district is the northeastern point of Oneida County, now assigned to the 22nd district. Oh so close, especially when you consider the extra wart on the new 21st CD below the Adirondack Park at Hinckley Reservoir, encompassing Gravesville and the town of Russia. Not to be petty here, but would it have killed someone to swap a few dozen Russians for as many resident Adirondackers settled around White, Long and Otter Lakes?

This post was amended to reflect the correct name and official designation of US Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Selected Holiday Art of Kathy Ford

Courtesy of the artist, here is a selection of Kathy Ford’s holiday glass paintings from the past twenty-five years (click below)

1987 Goose with Wreath

1994 Angel

1996 Kids Making Snowman

1998 Skaters on Pond

2000 Santa with Horn

2003 Little Girl with Snow Globe

2006 Carolers on Main Street

2008 Angel with Dove

2009 Little Boy Looking Up Chimney


Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Window on an Adirondack Holiday Tradition

Kathy and Lonnie Ford own a small hillside home in Saranac Lake. They’ve lived there for three decades, raising two sons along the way. The dominant feature of the 1931 Sears catalog bungalow is a large plate glass window installed by the original owner to support his wife’s cultivation of African violets. For the past 25 years Kathy, who is Production Supervisor and Senior Designer at Adworkshop in Lake Placid, has used the picture window for pictures: as a temporary canvas for her annual holiday greeting to neighbors and passersby.

The tradition was inspired by memories of smaller holiday window paintings made by Kathy’s mother. Since December 1987 Kathy has painted colorful images, from outdoor snowscapes to warm indoor scenes, across the eight-by-six-foot window. Lonnie, as chief window washer, is also in charge of setting up the floodlights that keep the mural visible after dark.

Over the course of 25 years, the composition of Kathy’s paintings has grown increasingly complex and detailed. What began as an image of a goose nested in a wreath had developed by year 20 into a three-point perspective Victorian streetscape, complete with carolers and a horse-drawn carriage.

As she swept this year’s mural sketches out of view, Kathy suggested that the 25th installment may be the most ambitious yet. For a project that most years takes up to 50 hours to complete, Kathy expects to spend over 60 hours this year.

The trick to this unique holiday offering is in the technique. As the windows are painted from the inside to be viewed from the outside, Kathy must apply the opaque acrylic paint in reverse sequence, moving from the finest detail to the most general shapes. It is an artistic discipline dating back to the Middle Ages and goes by the name “verre églomisé,” or in German, the appropriately tongue-twisting “hinterglasmalerei.” In any language it is an artistic challenge roughly similar to reproducing a Vermeer upside down and behind your back while gripping the paintbrush between your toes. The result—in Lonnie’s words—is “a Norman Rockwell from the outside and a Van Gogh from the inside.”

For all the effort, these ephemeral works of art remain only through the holiday season. Early each new year, Lonnie, as self-described art assassin, scrapes the paintings off the window in long acrylic ribbons.

To view the completed mural, drive or walk by the Ford’s at 194 (formerly 91) Lake Street (the hilltop section between Lake Street’s two intersections with Petrova Avenue) after the end of the week, but before the New Year.

To see some of Kathy’s paintings from previous years, see the following post.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

Spiegel House in Lake Placid Comes Down

The final curtain has dropped on the seven-year-long legal drama centered on a high-profile residence overlooking Lake Placid in the Town of North Elba. They are bringing down the house. In this case, literally.

The structure, owned by Arthur and Margaret Spiegel of Plattsburgh, was built on the Fawn Ridge development—at the head of the former Fawn Ridge ski slope—on Algonquin Drive starting in late 2004. As the house neared completion in 2005, it ran afoul of the Adirondack Park Agency. The Agency charged the builders with violating three provisions of the original permit for the development: building height, proximity to a slope, and vegetation clearing. The case proceeded to court while the incomplete structure remained standing, shuttered with plywood.

In August of last year, Essex County Supreme Court Judge Robert Muller rejected the Spiegel’s claim that the APA engaged in selective enforcement in the case, exhausting the family’s last legal recourse. A dispute over securing a local demolition permit delayed the building’s ultimate demise for the past year.

The first snow of the season in North Elba, which ordinarily highlights the roofs of the residences along the ridge line, instead highlighted the initial stages of demolition late this week. Chris Knight reports the complete history of the case at the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Leroy Douglas Pleads Guilty to Pollution Charges

A three-and-a-half year legal case against Leroy Douglas of Black Brook has ended. According to the Post-Star, Douglas pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges—prohibited solid waste disposal and endangering the public health, safety or the environment—brought by the Clinton County District Attorney against Douglas and his corporation.

The charges date back to the August 2008 discovery by New York State DEC officials of open oil drums and illegally disposed solid waste at the Douglas Resort property on the shores of Silver Lake. The Blog Adirondack Base Camp summarized the original charges from Douglas’s arraignment earlier this year.

Douglas’s attorney sought successfully to have many of the original charges thrown out, owing to the time lapse since the state cleared the dump site three years ago. Attempts to have the single felony charge of endangering the public health, safety or the environment on similar grounds were denied earlier this week.

The felony charge, which carried a maximum penalty of four years in prison and a $15,000 fine, was lessened to a misdemeanor as part of the plea deal. In pleading guilty to the lesser charges, Douglas and his corporation must pay fines of $5,000 apiece to settle the case. Douglas also agreed to have his property inspected to make sure the dump site has been fully remediated.

The pollution case is the latest chapter in Douglas’s long history of run-ins with state officials at various levels. The Plattsburgh Press-Republican provides a round-up of the Douglas saga.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

WAMC goes on the air in Lake Placid (UPDATE)

WAMC, the National Public Radio affiliate based in Albany, this week switched on a new broadcast translator in Lake Placid. On Tuesday, W204CJ (FM frequency 88.7) became the latest nodule in AMC’s spreading network of stations. The move into the resort community was first attempted in 2007 when WAMC’s President and CEO Alan Chartock tried to take over the FCC license for a frequency that was being renewed by NPR’s Canton, New York affiliate North Country Public Radio.

WAMC operates twenty-four broadcast and translator towers that send its programming to parts of over 40 counties in New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. The broadcaster’s expansive vision occasionally runs up against its original mission. Earlier this year on the final day of the legislative session in Albany, with votes on New York’s same sex marriage and budget bills still up for grabs, WAMC devoted both hours of its premier news analysis program, the Roundtable, to promoting a music festival in western Massachusetts.

This week, WAMC’s new Lake Placid listeners tuned in to Dr. Chartock’s signature frenetic exhortations during one of the station’s periodic fundraising membership drives. While they say there’s no second chance to make a first impression, public radio devotees in the Olympic Village might yet find some advantage to the timing of their new suitor’s arrival. North Country Public Radio holds its fall pledge campaign this coming week.

UPDATE:The trail was cleared for WAMC to operate the Lake Placid translator as part of an agreement reached in December 2007 when NCPR was seeking to upgrade to a full power signal from the weaker translator signal. WAMC sought a license to operate the same full power signal, but settled for the weaker translator in the wake of negative publicity. A third party broadcaster, Northeast Gospel Radio, Inc. from Rensselaer County also sought the full power license.

(Disclosure: Mark Wilson is a member of NCPR and contributes cartoons to the NCPR.org)


Friday, September 16, 2011

North Elba Boathouse Cases Heat Up (amended)

A federal court judge this week dismissed civil rights claims in a case arising from a planning board decision to modify plans for a proposed boathouse on Mirror Lake in the Village of Lake Placid.

This is the second legal challenge in the past year to the authority of Lake Placid/North Elba’s Joint Review Board to regulate boathouse construction. Both challenges have been shepherded by Lake Placid Attorney James Brooks.

Chief United States District Court Judge Norman Mordue on Wednesday dismissed all charges that the community’s planning board violated the United States Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection when it required a private property owner, developer Keith Stoltz, to shorten the length of the dock he sought to build behind his Main Street storefront. The court also remanded an Article 78 challenge of the review boards’ procedures to state court.

On August 23rd, in a separate boathouse case litigated by attorney Brooks, acting New York State Supreme Court Judge Richard Meyer issued a summary judgment supporting Mr. Brooks’s argument that municipalities have no regulatory authority over boathouses built entirely above navigable waters. Mr. Brooks, who is Judge Meyer’s former law partner, contended that the state Department of Environmental Conservation has the sole responsibility to permit and regulate such shoreline-adjacent construction throughout the state.

Attorney and SUNY Albany School of Law Dean Michael Hutter and attorney for the Town of North Elba Ron Briggs have appealed Judge Meyer’s decision as well as a number of the jurist’s intermediate procedural orders. Arguments in the case will be heard by the Supreme Court’s Third Appellate Division in Albany by year’s end.

Also on August 23rd, in related criminal indictments handed up by the Essex County Grand Jury, general contractor Dan Nardiello of Lake Placid and builder Robert Scheefer of Saranac Lake were arraigned on misdemeanor charges of construction without a building permit. The property owner William Grimditch of Lake Placid was subsequently arraigned on the same charges. Judge Meyer will hear the cases against the three men—all represented by attorney Brooks—later this Fall.

Disclosure: Adirondack Almanack contributor Mark Wilson serves as President of the Lake Placid Shore Owners’ Association. The Association has filed a friend of the court brief supporting North Elba’s appeal of Judge Meyer’s decisions.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Whiteface: The Mountain with the Irene Tattoo

Earlier this summer close observers noticed a small white soul patch etched on the southern (Lake Placid) face of Whiteface Mountain. Tropical storm Irene embellished it into a brilliant, narrow v-shaped slide. Whiteface mountain today (and ever after) is showing a bit more of the anorthosite that gave it its name.


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