Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Amy Godine On Black History in the Adirondacks

TMDA LogoBlack history in the Adirondacks has an anecdotal quality, maybe because the numbers of black Adirondackers have been so few. Here’s a story of a black homesteader who was good friends with John Brown. There’s a barn that may have sheltered fugitives on the Underground Railroad.  Outside Warrensburg is a place in the woods where a black hermit lived. And so on.

The temptation – and I should know; I’ve been a lead offender – is to make a sort of nosegay out of these scattered stories, pack them all into a story by its lonesome, a chunky little sidebar, and let this stand for the black experience.

It makes a good read, and it’s efficient. And it’s wrong. It reinforces the idea that the black experience in this region was something isolated, inessential. It ghettoizes black Adirondack history, and this wasn’t how it was. » Continue Reading.



Monday, September 22, 2014

Laurie Davis: 2014 Farm Bill Funding

adirondack harvest logoEvery 5 years the United States reviews and signs into law a new Farm Bill. We were due for a new bill starting in 2012, but it took until this past February for Congress to sort through what didn’t work in the past, add new things for the future, and generally agree enough on everything to have the President sign the bill into law.

Don’t worry, this isn’t a column about the intricacies of government legislation, but the Farm Bill is something we all should pay attention to because it largely governs our food systems. I’ve always thought that it should be called the “Farm and Food Bill” – then maybe we would take more of an interest. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Dr. King’s Struggle For Economic Justice Being Celebrated

dr martin luther king being attacked during a nonviolent march for the chicago freedom movement in 1966On Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 3 pm at the First Presbyterian Church in Saranac Lake, the Tri-Lakes will celebrate Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s life and continue his fight for economic justice. The Saranac Lake Ecumenical Council, local clergy, and dreamers of Dr. King’s dream are sponsoring this event. Dr. King’s efforts to achieve economic justice for all will be celebrated through his words and the music of the Civil Rights Movement.

There will be an eyewitness testimony from a local resident who worked alongside Cesar Chavez; excerpts from the Dr. King’s writings will be read, and the singing of music from the movement. A free will donation will be accepted to support Samaritan House, the Saranac Lake Ecumenical Council’s Homeless Shelter initiative. Afterward, refreshments will be served in the Great Hall. » Continue Reading.



Thursday, March 13, 2014

Foundations Partner to Provide Books to Pre-schoolers

Dolly PartonThe Glenn and Carol Pearsall Adirondack Foundation has partnered with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library to bring free books monthly to preschoolers throughout the Adirondacks.

The Imagination Library program was established in 1995 in Parton’s hometown in Sevier County, Tennessee as a way to improve preschool literacy. It is now available to all preschool children in the state of Tennessee and is expanding throughout the United States. » Continue Reading.



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How Do We Make The Adirondacks More Relevant?

getting ready by the riverRecently, Pete Nelson opened a conversation on a social level many of us have been thinking about and working on a professional level.   This conversation about the challenges facing a park whose population of residents and visitors does not reflect the shifting demographics of our larger society is keenly felt in the conservation, education and resource management professions.  There is a famous quote, paraphrased, that says you will only commit yourself to what you know and love, and you will only come to know and love that which you feel is relevant to your life.

So the question Peter opened for conversation – and if you check out the comments on his January 11th post you will see he stimulated quite a conversation – is how do we make the Adirondacks more relevant in the lives of those who do not currently find it so.  » Continue Reading.



Saturday, January 18, 2014

Adirondack Diversity And The South Side of Chicago

Mom's House, 89th and MayLast week I began a series arguing that racial and socioeconomic diversity is the number one issue facing the Adirondacks.  My multi-part argument is sustained in part by overwhelming demographics that I will be presenting soon.  But there is a deeper moral and cultural dynamic to my argument far more important than statistics.  I need to get to it first or the rest of the argument will suffer a lack of meaning.  As always, I’ll try to accomplish that with a story. » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Correction: Two Sides of Prison Life

Martha Joe Russell YusefJoe Hackett has spent time in prison. Yes, the well known local guide, columnist, and scout for Seventh Avenue has spent years in jail, not as a inmate, but as a recreation coordinator at Camp Gabriels, a former New York State Minimum Security prison shuttered a few years ago by the state.

Once a tuberculosis sanatorium, the 92-acre facility was sold to the state in 1982, which operated it as a 336 bed-prison until 2009. There many of the prisoners worked on forestry and community service-related, projects, yet not-withstanding, it was prison far, far from home and family for the men housed there. For them the “Dacks” was a cold, hostile and distant place.

The prison was built, as were most in the North Country, as an outcome of the ‘War of Drugs’ and in particular Rockefeller Drugs laws that resulted in mass incarceration and a resultant building boom here because most urban and suburban voters did not want prisons located in ‘their back yards.’ Under the leadership of the late Senator Ron Stafford, such projects were welcomed for the many solid salaries they offered and, as a result, New York Corrections is the largest employer in the North Country.

» Continue Reading.



Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Adirondack Farmers’ Markets and Low Income Consumers

Chestertown farmers Market 2012Each year, millions of dollars are wasted in uncashed food assistance program checks  representing dollars that could be benefiting low-income consumers, local farmers and the physical and economic health of our communities. These lost opportunities make it very important to effectively communicate information about these programs to consumers and farmers.

Four government programs offer payment options beyond the usual cash, check or credit card to eligible low-income consumers at farmers’ markets. Those options are: » Continue Reading.



Monday, November 19, 2012

Private Property:
Oliver’s War, Brandon Park and Paddling Rights

If New York State’s highest court issued a ruling tomorrow that said, “We are mindful that this interpretation deprives the public at large … of the pleasure and profit of fishing and hunting in a very large portion of the Adirondack forest, and gives to men of great wealth, who can buy vast tracts of land, great protection in the enjoyment of their private privileges,” what would your reaction be? Indignation? Outrage? Rebellion? Would you march on Albany? (Or here’s a novel solution … secede!)

Well, relax, there’s nothing to worry about. That ruling was issued 109 years ago and has been in place ever since. The story comes to mind for two reasons: the recent offer for sale of Brandon Park, and the lawsuit against Adirondack Explorer Editor Phil Brown for trespassing. » Continue Reading.



Monday, November 21, 2011

Lawrence Gooley: Occupy Movement History Lessons

A major issue of the day is the concentration of great wealth in the hands of a few. By its very nature, great wealth confers great power, and we all know what absolute power does. Today’s media bombards us with the fact that the concentration of wealth has skyrocketed in recent years, which once again reminds us, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” We’ve been here many, many times before.

Why are the “experts” not looking to the past? This concentration of wealth in America is not a recent, nor even a 20th-century, phenomenon. The following citations would fit perfectly on any CNN, Fox, or other broadcast, but their dates of origin might surprise you. (The headline above is from 1891.)

This first commentary sounds like it was voiced by an Occupy Wall Street spokesperson: “We want more light on these great social and economic questions. The people must be made to understand that when the property and wealth of a country is controlled by a small fraction of the people, popular self-government is no longer possible in that country. … When the time arrives in this free land when great wealth will be regarded as a paramount qualification for office, the end of American liberty is not far distant. We will then have a government of classes and oligarchies, in which the struggle for official position will not be between the rich and the poor … but between the wealthy classes alone, and in that struggle, caucuses and elections will be a farce, for the man with the largest bank account will be a predestined winner from the start. Capitalists themselves should be taught that … the preservation of the government … and the perpetuation of their own exertions … depend upon a happy, contented people, and that people are most happy and contented where the results of labor (wealth) are as evenly distributed as the circumstances and conditions of men will permit.” (1882)

Here are several others from different eras, but with similar concerns:

“And the constant tendency of the rich to use their wealth for the acquisition of influence and political power … of all the modern schemes of employing wealth, that of banking possesses the most attraction. Wealth … is in itself an element of power, and consequently an unequal distribution of property has a constant tendency to disturb that equality in the social condition of the community, which is the basis and support of equality of rights. But to incorporate wealth is to impart to it many attributes of power not belonging to it when … in the hands of individuals. … The large amount of wealth possessed by corporations is controlled by a few persons.” (1835)

“That the sub-Treasury scheme, now under consideration in the senate of the US, is calculated to create an alarming moneyed aristocracy, consisting of men in power … is not only opposed to the principles of a republican government, but is hostile to the interests of the people.” (1838)

“Sir, the shocking abuse of the banking which pervades the land … it is only by radical change of their conduct that they can ever regain the public confidence. … The honorable senator from Virginia … asks us to [again] place the public funds in them, after their recent breach of faith, their violation of all law, their outrages upon the monies of the nation, as well as upon the deposits of individuals, committed to their safekeeping. … They now look to a single and splendid government, founded in banks and other monied institutions …” (1838)

“The alarming tendency in this country is to the accumulation of capital in a few hands. The increase of wealth in the country is not over 5 percent per annum, while the interest in capital is nearly 10 percent. Consequently, the rich are growing richer and the poor poorer. … class against class, poor against rich, labor against capital. The interests of the two seem to be diverging more and more from year to year.” (1872)

“… the concentration of wealth represented by the gigantic moneyed corporations of the country, which seemed to grasp without resistance all power … and which threatened the destruction of the liberties and institutions of this country. … It controlled the press; it swallowed up legislative assemblies; it dictated its will and its purpose in public assemblies; and wherever it appeared, it seemed to be and indeed was without a rival in power, and without a limit in its purpose.” (1873)

“The great financial institutions of the country have been … largely allowed to direct the financial policy of the government. The strong arm of Wall Street has reached to Washington, and its heavy hand has been felt in our national councils. … wealth incalculable and ever increasing … placed in the hands of very few men … is not something wrong in that state of things which produces such unhappy results? … No wonder the workingmen of our country are in a state of unrest, and are groping around to find out how it is that when the land is filled with wealth, their lot is so cheerless and hard, and that such vast disparities in fortune exist …” (1886)

“The swift growth of large fortunes is the … cause of the impoverishment and the degradation of the masses. A great fortune is like a great snowball which boys roll down a hill on a mild day in winter, and which grows bigger and leaves bare a wider swath at every turn.” (1887)

“… the times which try men’s souls are here once more. European and American capitalists have bound the country in chains. The declaration of independence from British arrogance needs to be supplemented by a declaration of independence from the powers of concentrated wealth.” (1891)

“No manipulation of money can cure the evil of the concentration of wealth in a few hands, as it is not the cause. …After the Civil War, there were two millionaires in the US, and now there are 7000 such men, and one-half of the wealth of the people is in possession of 30,000 men.” [4% of the population] (1891)

William J. Stone, ex-governor of Missouri, commenting on the idle rich who possess wealth, but do no work and create no product: “When those who produce least, acquire most; when mere absorbers become the rulers; there is something essentially wrong in social and economic conditions. The enormous concentration of wealth which has taken place during the last thirty years has raised up a moneyed class in this country. …This is not only a moneyed class, but to a large extent, it is also a nonproductive class, for its wealth is represented mainly by investments in public and corporate securities in mortgages on real estate and manufacturing plants and in the stocks of banks and similar institutions. This colossal accumulation of wealth in a few hands is of itself a startling thing to contemplate. Patrick Henry, the great orator of the Revolution, once said, ‘We can only judge the future by the past.’ Look at the past. When the great empires fell, ownership of wealth had consolidated to a tiny fraction of the population. When Egypt fell, 2 percent of the population owned 97 percent of the wealth … in Persia, 1 percent … in Babylon, 2 percent … in Rome, a fraction of a percent owned all the known world.” (1898)

From the book Who Owns the United States by Sereno S. Pratt: “One twelfth of the estimated wealth of the United States is represented at the meeting of the board of directors of the US Steel Corporation when they are all present. The 24 directors are: Rockefeller, Morgan … They represent as influential directors more than 200 other companies. These companies operate nearly one-half of the railroad mileage of the US … plus Standard Oil, International Harvester, GE, Pullman, International Mercantile Marine, US Realty and Construction, American Linseed … the leading telegraph systems … banks, insurance companies, express companies …” (1903)

From the Foreword in Dynastic America and Those Who Control It by Henry H. Klein: This book proves that wealth is concentrated. History records that the decline of civilization in a nation begins with wealth concentration. Dynastic Europe is dead, but the dynasties in America flourish. Theirs is the power of life and death over the whole human race.” (1921)

If things are ever going to change, those who mobilize need to know what has gone before. Those in power know that change has been attempted many times. When they recognize history repeating itself, they need only guide the movement in the same direction from years past in order to maintain the status quo.

Photo Top: Newspaper headline, 1891.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.



Monday, November 14, 2011

Repeating Past History: The Occupy Movement

Despite the wisdom of elders and some noted quotations (“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it”), we are often caught up in another axiom that defines insanity: “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” When I was much younger, both of those ideas impressed me as I read books about French Indochina and France’s miserable, lengthy, disastrous attempt to rule, particularly in Vietnam.

It fueled my anti-war sentiment when the US decided to ignore the past and repeat the mistakes of the French. After another decade of slaughter, the results were the same. It struck me recently that “Occupy Wall Street” should read pertinent history to avoid the results of the past.

If you follow the media stories covering today’s movement (the 99 percent vs. 1 percent), you’ve heard about this new idea that the extreme wealth and corporate greed of the 1 percent should have limits. Likewise, you’ve heard claims from those favoring the 1 percent that by trying to raise taxes on the rich, the 99ers are waging class warfare against our wealthiest citizens.

Clearly, these are all new ideas resulting from a situation like no other. However …

If you enjoy history, you’ll probably enjoy this headline from 105 years ago, appearing in The New York Times of January 6, 1907: “The Country’s Wealth: Is 99 percent of it in the Hands of 1 percent of the People.” Similar stories appeared in many other publications.

What happened then is happening again today: supporters of the 99ers are speaking out on behalf of the unemployed, the underemployed, the underpaid, and the poor, while the other position is defended by those who feed off the 1 percent and must serve as their bullhorn. And, as usual, the 1 percent itself remains largely silent, content to have others speak out for them.

As for those siding with the 1 percent, who have declared the Occupy Wall Street movement as class warfare against the wealthy—it’s certainly a novel idea, right? These three quotations support that premise.

On the side of the 99: “The cry of class warfare was raised against us by the government and wealthy classes, as pure propaganda, in the hope of enlisting sympathy of the public against labor.”

On the side of the 1 percent, regarding tax loopholes for the wealthy: “… to collect the taxes, the administration now seeks to attack the rich and the thrifty … This becomes part and parcel of the class warfare which has been waged … to gain popular favor with the masses…”

And finally, against the 99, portrayed variously as troublemakers, lazy, shifty, drug abusing, etc.: “A peculiarity of all professional agitators of class warfare in the United States is their personal aversion to toil. Many of them never did a day’s work at manual labor. They know no more about the working people of America than a pig knows about Christmas, yet profess to be the tireless champions of the working class … and have hit upon a plan for feathering their nests without ever laying an egg. They just cackle and collect.”

Those who are involved in today’s issues would be well served by researching protests of years past, which might prepare them for arguments made against the movement. Read the three quotations again, and consider that they came from 1920, 1937, and 1949, respectively, but could just as well have been uttered by any number of talking heads who ramble on in today’s media, especially the day-long “news” shows.

Perhaps by knowing the questions that have been asked so many times in the past, and the answers that were given, there might be the possibility for change.

But for observers who look at history to see what has gone before us, it’s hard not to subscribe to another famous axiom: “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” General translation: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Photo Top: NY Times headline, January 6, 1907.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.



Wednesday, October 12, 2011

John Warren: What the Occupation is All About

Over the past few weeks Adirondackers have gathered to hear about their economic situation and what we can do about it. North Country Public Radio’s Brian Mann has been suggesting that the Adirondack Park Agency shift its focus toward economic development. Clarkson University’s Forever Wild initiative has brought forward plans to expand broadband services and connect local workers to new wired jobs. The Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) provided its own twist on our economic situation, offering a panel that suggested we’re not as bad off as others around the nation.

Missing from these discussions has been the big picture thinking about our economic problems, namely the changes in our economic and democratic system that have endangered the ability of young people to control their economic destinies.

At the ANCA meeting last week Jaison Abel, Senior Economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, reported that “The Upstate economy has generally proven to be more stable than average, and has performed relatively well through the recession and recovery to date” [Emphasis His]. His presentation (available as a pdf here), like most of the economic discussions in the Adirondacks lately, was misleading in its narrow scope.

Taking a wider view are the demonstrators that have been occupying cities and towns across America in recent weeks. The Occupy Wall Street movement began when a large group of people, calling themselves the 99%, established a modern day Hooverville at a privately owned park near Wall Street. Despite claims they are unorganized anarchists, they have met daily in a direct democratic assembly to make decisions and plan and prepare for what has become a nationwide movement to change the fundamental operation of our relatively recently failed economic and democratic systems.

In exchange for exercising their First Amendment rights to peacefully assemble for redress of grievances, they have been maced, beaten, and driven from the places where they have assembled for democratic change. News of police actions in New York City were widely circulated via social media (disturbing video 1, 2, and 3 for example) and served to grow the ranks of protesters exponentially.

In recent days there have been beatings, macings and arrests of many more in cities such as Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Albuquerque, Portland, San Francisco, and even in Des Moines, Iowa where a former Iowa state representative and a 14-year-old girl were arrested. Many of those arrests have included bystanders, independent media, legal observers, and medics caring for the injured. It appears that more than 2,000 have been arrested so far and with widespread demonstrations planned for Saturday that number is likely to rise. Demonstrations are expected to take place over the next week in Canton, Saranac Lake, Montreal, Plattsburg, Burlington, Glens Falls, Saratoga Springs, Albany, Utica, Rochester, Syracuse, and Buffalo.

Although the call for an end to corporate control of our economic and political systems is no more vague than the Tea Party’s call for an end to big government, the Occupy Wall Street movement has been characterized as unfocused and lacking concrete goals. Two videos that have gone viral in the movement serve to sum up most of the complaints being voiced, and counter the recent criticisms. The first, which has played frequently on the Occupy Wall Street livestream is an older video from George Carlin (warning: explicit language) who warns: “it’s a big club and you ain’t in it”. The second is the first cohesive response to the movement’s detractors from John Stewart.

It’s no surprise these videos come from comedians, a class of Americans who are often the only people who can be so direct in their critiques. They also reflect the nature of the movement itself, which is forced to use a kind of comic theater of the streets to be heard. There are more serious commentators as well. Bernie Sanders points out why he thinks protests are a necessary part of the process and even traditional conservatives have weighed in at The Atlantic. The Christian Science Monitor reminds us of the long history populists movements occupying Wall Street. The Nation published an Occupy Wall Street FAQ some weeks ago when the movement was small that explains in a serious way what it’s about.

This being a largely social media driven movement, videos and documents from the 1% have been used against them. Take for example this video of a Wall Street trader on BBC who defiantly claims “governments don’t rule the world, Goldman Sachs rules the world,” or the page from JP Morgan Chase’s website which reminded protesters that they had given $4.6 million to the New York City Police Foundation, a gift they said (even while the NYPD was keeping protesters from protesting in front of their building) that “was the largest in the history of the foundation and will enable the New York City Police Department to strengthen security in the Big Apple.” Both links have gone viral among the Occupy Wall Street movement. Some of most interesting coverage of the movement is being written by a group of reporters with the Village Voice toting cameras and smart phones and posting to the #OccupyWallSt and #OccupyWallStreet hashtags on Twitter. There have been more than sixty 24-hour livestream channels set up from occupations around the world in the last 24 hours.

No doubt there will still be some who say they just don’t understand what it’s all about, so it’s probably fair to say that the movement’s goals are to roll back a number of economic trends which Adirondackers, like nearly all Americans, are experiencing. For those who like charts with facts and figures, Business Insider has a series of charts titled “Here’s What The Wall Street Protesters Are So Angry About…“. Here are a few excerpts from the most salient:

Unemployment: Three years after the financial crisis, the unemployment rate is still at the highest level since the Great Depression (except for a brief blip in the early 1980s). A record percentage of unemployed people have been unemployed for longer than 6 months. The average duration of all unemployment remains at a near an all-time high. If people working part-time who want to work full-time and people who have given up finding a job through official means are included, the unemployment rate is at 17%. That is the lowest percentage of Americans with jobs since the early 1980s.

Corporate Profits: Corporate profits are at an all-time high. As a percentage of the economy, corporate profits are near a record all-time high. With the exception of a short period just before the 2007 crash, profits are higher than they’ve been since the 1950s, vastly higher than they’ve been for most of the last half-century.

Worker Pay: CEO pay is now 350 times the average worker’s pay, up from 50 times the average worker’s pay between 1960-1985. Adjusted for inflation, CEO pay has jumped 300% since 1990 alone and corporate profits have doubled. Average “production worker” pay has increased just 4% and the minimum wage has fallen. After adjusting for inflation, average hourly earnings haven’t increased in 50 years. While CEOs and shareholders have been cashing in, wages as a percent of the economy have dropped to an all-time low.

The 1%: The top 1% of American wage earners have the biggest percentage of the country’s total pre-tax income than any time since the late 1920s, almost 2 times the long-term average. Income inequality has gotten so extreme that the US now ranks 93rd in the world in “income equality” behind China, India, and Iran.

Social Mobility Through Hard Work: Social mobility in America is near an all-time low. The top 1% of Americans own 42% of American financial wealth; the top 5% own nearly 70%. 60% of the net worth of the country held by the top 5%. Taxes on the nation’s highest-earners are close to the lowest they’ve ever been. The aggregate tax rate for the top 1% is lower than for the next 9% — and not much higher than it is for almost everyone else.

Bank Theft: Despite bailing out the banks so that they could keep lending to American businesses, bank lending has dropped sharply except to the American Government, which has risen sharply. They’ve also been collecting interest on money they are not lending — the “excess reserves” at the Federal Reserve Bank. At the same time, because the Fed has slashed the prime rate to almost zero, the banks are able to borrow money for essentially free – as a result they have made $211 billion in the first six months of 2011. That’s one reason there is near-record financial sector profits while the rest of Americans have sunk to their economic lowest.

Check the facts for yourself, but one thing is clear – all the hand-wringing about our local economies in the local media has missed the point entirely.

Photo: Above, photo-shopped Occupy Saranac Lake illustration courtesy Aaron Hobson; Middle and below, two viral Occupy Wall Street photographs that have made the rounds in the past few weeks.



Monday, August 15, 2011

Scaroon Manor and Accessible State Lands

During the opening ceremony of the new Scaroon Manor Campground and Day Use Area on Schroon Lake, State Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward told a short story. Standing at a podium under a newly built pavilion on the sweeping grounds of the former resort turned DEC Campground, Sayward told a small crowd that when she was young, she “couldn’t afford to come here.” Once, she said, on a school field trip she had come to the Scaroon Manor resort by bus for the day and was amazed by what she saw. » Continue Reading.



Friday, December 5, 2008

‘I Have 18,000 acres in the Adirondacks;I’ll fly some of these cats up there in my private jet’

“I have 18,000 acres in the Adirondacks,” she said. “I’ll fly some of these cats up there in my private jet.”  That was the quote that lead me to an interesting post over at the Huffington Post by Laurence Leamer. At first I though the quote was about people – you know, like “hey, look at those hep cats – let’s fly them up to the Adirondacks on my private jet.” I was wrong – the cats were not hipsters, they were cats, feline.

The whole post is worth a read because it discusses the outrageous beliefs the wealthiest among us often have or condone. It’s not that they are the only ones – I hear the same kinds of idiocy from some of my neighbors – but it’s startling how public it is in the circles of the supposedly educated and cultured rich. » Continue Reading.



Monday, August 11, 2008

OPINION: Going Local in The Adirondacks

There was an interesting story in Sunday’s Press Republican about Gordon Oil in AuSable Forks. The company was founded by Clifford Gordon in 1921 and is now in it’s third generation. Part of the story was a tiny detail at the end that says a lot about our current economic environment:

“Starting out as Standard Oil of New York — or SOCONY, as the sign on top of the display [at Gordon’s main office] states — in the 1920s it became Mobiloil and then, in 1931, Socony-Vacuum.

Following 1955, every decade or so the parent company underwent business transformations, which included Socony Mobil Oil Co., Mobil Oil Corp., Mobil Corp. and, in 1999, ExxonMobil…

Lewis [Gordon, who operated the business with his brother Waxy for 50 years) recalled the big tanks they used to have, which were cut down for steel during World War II.

“There used to be storage in Plattsburgh,” he said. “Big barges would come through Whitehall and unload up there, and we would go get it.

“Now it all has to be trucked in. All the big companies had their tanks there in Plattsburgh. It’s kind of too bad.”

When the company switched to electrically operated pumps years ago it gave it’s older pumps to a local farmer who used them for many years. That’s the kind of localism we’ve lost and it’s to our detriment.

Localism – involvement in local politics, local economies, an understanding of local culture and the environment, underlies much of the Green movement. It’s not just politics and the environment, it’s about supportive communities of neighbors working together to protect each other from the sometimes ravenous capitalist economy (seen most recently in energy and food costs). It’s what was happening when Gordon Oil gave over those pumps to that farmer. It’s what was destroyed when those tanks were taken down and not replaced.

Localism is also the future we face. I was recently talking with a local hardware store owner, part of the True Value chain. He sells lumber, paint, the usual goods (plus his simply built furniture). He was telling me that he needed a special piece of lumber that he didn’t stock. He took his truck to pick it up at the Home Depot in Queensbury; they were out of stock, so he went to the Lowe’s and found what he was looking for. The piece of lumber cost him an additional $30 in gas for the truck, plus about two hours of time away from his shop. That piece of lumber could have been boughten for a fraction of the price not a quarter-mile away – albeit at a competing lumber store.

The story of the fuel oil storage facilities and the local hardware store owner are revealing for local businesses. They once stocked nearly everything a household needed. As corporations took over our world, local supplies (seen on store shelfs and those Plattsburgh tanks) have had to pared down their stocks as consumers have opted to drive long miles to shop at big box stores (or shippers have turned to trucking and on-demand wharehousing).

That is something that we’re going to see come to an end, although it make take a while for our neighbors to break their old habits. Even if the price of oil goes down before the election (as we argued it would), the damage has been done, and Adirondackers have started turning local out of necessity. That necessity is something local greens have been vociferously saying was bound to happen since the late 1980s, even as they argued for serious political efforts toward locally sustained communities.

The trend toward localism has already begun in a number of segments of Adirondack society – especially among small farmers and local wood products producers – but now we are going to see a much more general trend. Already Chestertown, North Creek, Schroon Lake, and surrounding areas have taxis – that’s right, cabs, right here in the North Country above Warrensburg. Not just a single car either, several companies that range widely through the mountains. You don’t need a taxi unless you are going someplace local.

James Kunstler (recently interviewed locally here) has been the most public area voice for localism. His books are a must-read for people interested in what future local economies could look like:

The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape (1994)

Home from Nowhere: Remaking Our Everyday World for the 21st Century (1998)

The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century (2006)

One thing Kunstler makes clear, is that it’s not just about energy – food is as important, and there are several ways to get informed about going local.

NCPR recently celebrated 10 years of the Warrensburg Riverfront Farmers’ Market, and new markets have been established around the region in recent years. Local Harvest does a good job online showing where you can find local farmers and farmers markets in our region, but eating local means more than local farmer’s markets. It means connecting with a local CSA (Community Supporter Agriculture) farm, it means growing your own food (alone and in cooperation with your neighbors), and it means shopping locally for locally produced goods.

Speaking of growing your own, Cornell Cooperative Extension has a program for beginning framers that has recently expanded on the web. According to NCPR who recently reported the news, the new site:

…guides new farmers, and farmers changing crops or marketing strategy, step by step through starting a farm business: from setting goals and writing a business plan, to evaluating land, to taxes and permits. There’s a frequently asked questions section, worksheets to download, and an ongoing forum. The website is the latest offering from the New York Beginning Farmers Resource Center. The center is based at Cornell, but its roots are in the North Country.

We need to get to know our local farmers. The Wild Center is holding two more “Farmer Market Days 2008” on September 11th, and October 2nd “in celebration and promotion of the wonderful local food producers in the Adirondack Region.” Naturally we can’t live on the mostly fancy foods the Wild Center’s program seems to focus on, but their effort is a good start to introducing local farm operations to the Adirodnack community at large.

Adirondack Harvest is a buy local food group that was started 7 years ago. They recently received a $50,000 grant to expand their program, which they describe on their site:

Since its inception in 2001, Adirondack Harvest has grown to encompass Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, and Warren counties in northeastern New York. These counties contain major sections of the Adirondack Park and the Champlain Valley. Our focus has been on expanding markets for local farm products so that consumers have more choice of fresh farm products and on assisting farmers to increase sustainable production to meet the expanding markets.

A more direct path to lessening food costs and supporting local farms comes from Adirondack Pork, aka Yellow House Farm and a member of Adirondack Harvest, where you can buy a whole or half locally raised pig (or go in on one with another family). A whole pig serves a family of four for about 6-9 months, depending on your eating habits. They raise a pig for you until it weighs about 200-225 pounds. Your pork is prepared for you by a local butcher – you tell them any special cuts, wrapping, etc., you want. Your meat comes to you wrapped, labeled and frozen. It takes a lot less freezer space then you would imagine, and its cheaper.

The bottom line is the economy is changing and the sooner we accept that it true and end our reliance on the big box stores filled with products from half a world away and their corporate partners. They have a stranglehold on our local economy and it’s time we fought back.



Monday, August 4, 2008

Welcome to The New Millionaires’ Row at Lake George

The Albany Times Union ran a story this week that is one of the few looks at the really wealthy in our area:

” ‘It boggles my mind when I give a client a monthly bill for $500,000 and they just open their checkbook and write me a check without flinching,’ said Dean Howland. He’s been building high-end custom homes on Lake George for two decades and recalls only a few buyers who took out a mortgage…”

Today’s buyers typically come from the New York metropolitan area and often own their own business or amassed wealth as CEOs and money managers.

They generally refuse to be identified publicly (fear? humility? shame?) but they include this family:

Howland is building the Assembly Point complex for a Westchester County family in the construction business downstate. The owners, who asked that their names not be used, paid more than $1 million for an undistinguished house on a waterfront lot just south of Diamond Point on the lake’s west side. They tore down the old house and paid $500,000 to blast 10 feet into bedrock for a foundation, terrace the steep slope to the lake and truck in tons of gravel for a storm water management system. An adjoining parcel came up for sale. They bought that, too.

The couple’s 21-year-old daughter desired privacy, so they built a cottage with a loft, deck, gourmet kitchen and bath with Italian glass tile.

A partial tally of their lakefront compound reveals: 15 bedrooms, 13 bathrooms, 6 kitchens, 18 plasma TVs, eight security cameras, one infinity edge pool, one sauna, one steam room, one boccie ball court, one Hummer, one Corvette, one Harley, two horseshoe pits, five kayaks, three Jet-Skis, two canoes, three golf carts and a boathouse with four motorboats.

Among those actually named in the piece include Robert J. Higgins (Trans World Entertainment Corp.); Lewis Golub (Price Chopper); John Breyo (Ayco); George Hearst (Times Union); Bob Bailey (Racemark International); and Vincent Riggi (Turbine Services Ltd.).

Stephen Serlin, Glens Falls obstetrician / gynecologist is owner of the 1895 Tudor revival Wikiosco, built for Royal C. Peabody in 1895 (that’s it at left). Peabody was founder of the Brooklyn Edison Co. – one of the country’s oldest electric companies and one that was charged with bilking its customers in 1920. It’s 11,000 sq-ft located just south of the Hearthstone Point, has “seven bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, seven fireplaces, staff quarters, a guest cottage and a 20-car garage. The asking price is $17.9 million.”

Phillip H. Morse, vice chairman of the Boston Red Sox, who got rich developing cardiac catheters, owns a newly built compound on the northern tip of Assembly Point estimated to be worth more than $20 million. The main house is over 10,000 sq-ft.

One wonders large a house it would take to cover the 2.6 million people in New York State without health insurance.



Monday, June 30, 2008

Do The Rich Confiscate Adirondack Natural Beauty?

Barbara Ehrenreich has an interesting article in the Nation this month about the what she calls considers “the general rule, which has been in effect since sometime in the 1990s: if a place is truly beautiful, you can’t afford to be there. All right, I’m sure there are still exceptions — a few scenic spots not yet eaten up by mansions. But they’re going fast.”

The places she describes, Key West and the Grand Tetons, have remarkable similarities to our own Adirondacks. Here is her description of Key West:

At some point in the ’90s, the rich started pouring in. You’d see them on the small planes coming down from Miami — taut-skinned, linen-clad and impatient. They drove house prices into the seven-figure range. They encouraged restaurants to charge upward of $30 for an entree. They tore down working-class tiki bars to make room for their waterfront “condotels.”

That’s something we’ve all seen in our area. But, as Ehrenreich points out, it comes at a cost, even for the wealthy:

Ultimately, the plutocratic takeover of rural America has a downside for the wealthy too. The more expensive a resort town gets, the farther its workers have to commute to keep it functioning. And if your heart doesn’t bleed for the dishwasher or landscaper who commutes two to four hours a day, at least shed a tear for the wealthy vacationer who gets stuck in the ensuing traffic. It’s bumper to bumper westbound out of Telluride, Colorado, every day at 5, or eastbound on Route 1 out of Key West, for the Lexuses as well as the beat-up old pickup trucks.

Or a place may simply run out of workers. Monroe County, which includes Key West, has seen more than 2,000 workers leave since the 2000 Census, a loss the Los Angeles Times calls “a body blow to the service-oriented economy of a county with only 75,000 residents and 2.25 million overnight visitors a year.” Among those driven out by rents of more than $1,600 for a one-bedroom apartment are many of Key West’s wait staff, hotel housekeepers, gardeners, plumbers and handymen. No matter how much money you have, everything takes longer — from getting a toilet fixed to getting a fish sandwich at Pepe’s.

It’s an interesting read, and one that echoes our own problems with affordable housing, low wages, and disappearing Adirondack style.



Friday, January 18, 2008

Adirondack Region Martin Luther King Jr Day Events

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is this Monday, January 21, 2008.

According to a press release from Adirondack Progressives: » Continue Reading.



Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Holy Guest Editorial Adirondack Man! Poverty and ADK Jobs

George Bryjak of Bloomingdale, Essex County has written an incredible guest editorial for the Adirondack Daily Enterprise:

As I enter the seventh decade of life, my most enduring recollections are of people toiling in Third World nations. As a young Marine in Vietnam, I watched three men ploughing a field like beasts of burden in the scorching heat. Two were yoked to a plough while the third stood on the blade. After about 60 slow yards of muscle-aching drudgery, they stopped. The men rotated positions upon completing a row with each man getting a much-needed rest every third pull.

The rest is even more powerful. A quick search for Bryjak’s work turned up a lot of material including an excellent piece entitled “Outsourcing the American Dream” in Z Magazine from 2004 on the threat of out-sourcing jobs. A sample:

A study of 400 of the nation’s top 1,000 companies concluded that by 2006, between 35 and 45 percent of current full-time IT jobs will be sent overseas. Using Bureau of Labor Statistics data, Bardhan and Kroll estimate that of the almost 128 million workers in the U.S., 11 percent—or just over 14 million individuals—are at risk of having their jobs outsourced.

IT positions will follow the millions of manufacturing jobs already lost, only at a more rapid pace. As Matthew Slaughter of Dartmouth College notes, “IT work will move faster because it is easier to ship work across phone lines and put consultants on airplanes than it is to ship bulky raw materials across borders and build factories.”

Significantly lower labor costs are the primary rationale for this job exodus. While telephone operators in the U.S. earn an average of $12.57 an hour, in India they make less than $1.00 Payroll clerks take home less than $2.00 an hour whereas their counterparts in the U.S. average $15.17 an hour. Business Week reports, “Soon, offshore accountants may do everything but on-site audits.” Medical billing may become the first occupational category to all but disappear.

We wonder – how did that estimate of 35 to 45 percent of IT jobs being outsourced by 2006 actually work out?

Mr. Bryjak, paging Mr. Bryjak.



Monday, September 4, 2006

New York Central RR – The Adirondack and St. Lawrence Railroad

Everything is well, now—we are done with poverty, sad toil, weariness and heart-break; all the world is filled with sunshine. – Mark Twain’s Sarcasm from The Gilded Age

Labor Day gives us a great opportunity to think about the historical memory of class in the Adirondacks.

For modern Adirondack workers Labor Day is little more than the season ending three-day weekend that signals the start of the annual southern migration of tourist everywhereis. » Continue Reading.



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