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, June 2, 2009

McHugh Nominated to Secretary of the Army

Congressman John McHugh has been nominated today by President Obama to become the nation’s 25th Secretary of the Army. McHugh, a Republican from Pierrepont Manor, has represented New York’s 23rd Congressional District since January 1993. He is currently ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, and serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

On the House Armed Services Committee, McHugh succeeded his predecessor in the district dominated by the Fort Drum, David O’Brien Martin. Since 1993 McHugh has worked his way up through Republican ranks until assuming the position of ranking member in this year’s 111th Congress upon the retirement of former Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter.

Despite serving on the committee over the course of the Iraq war, McHugh never lost popular support in his increasingly Democrat-leaning district. He forged alliances with New York Democrats serving on Congressional Armed Services Committees, Senator Hillary Clinton and Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand. He would leave the committee shortly after Congressman Scott Murphy of the neighboring 20th District joined.

As a position, the Secretary of the Army is a direct descendent of the Secretary of War, which was a Cabinet-level position from 1789 until 1947. In that year the office was renamed Department of the Army, and brought together with the other armed services under the Department of Defense.

Approval of McHugh’s nomination by the US Senate would set the stage for another special congressional election in the Adirondacks, and a probable short tenure for the eventual victor. The district will likely face a severe reconfiguration, if not outright elimination following the upcoming 2010 census and reapportionment fight.


Monday, June 1, 2009

DEC to Increase Dam Inspection


Monday, June 1, 2009

NYSDEC Dam Safety Regulations Posted for Public Review

In the closing stages of its efforts to strengthen dam safety across the state, New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation has posted for public comment amended regulations proposed following the failure of a southern Adirondack dam in 2005.

The proposed regulations would more than double those sections of New York’s Codes, Rules and Regulations devoted to dam safety (and here, and here), implementing a regimen of inspections and record keeping requirements for owners of dams across the state. The the amended proposed regulations would also strengthen the State’s enforcement capacity, allowing the DEC to undertake repairs of privately-owned dams in cases of imminent peril to the public. » Continue Reading.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Moose and Bear Pick Essex Co. Fair, Blueberries, and Rustic Furniture


Friday, May 15, 2009

Dredging the Hudson: An Illustrated Timeline of Delays

When the first bucketload of oily Hudson River muck rises today, ten miles south of the Adirondack Park Blue Line in Fort Edward, it will mark the end of a quarter century of preparation, study, legal skirmishing and no small amount of foot-dragging. Throughout, the goal has remained consistent: the removal of approximately 2,650,000 cubic yards of Hudson Riverbed sediment laced with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Here is a timeline of the delays:

September 1984 EPA formally places the Hudson River PCBs Superfund site on the National Priorities List. EPA chooses to take no remedial action, citing possible environmental risks posed by stirring up the PCB deposits. Babies born around this date will have graduated with advanced degrees in environmental sciences by the week clean-up actually begins. Unfortunately, considerably more babies will have graduated with degrees in law and public relations.

December 2000 After more than a decade of study and advances in remediation technology, EPA proposes a dredging plan to remove PCB pollution from a 40-mile long stretch of Hudson River between Hudson Falls and Troy NY. A final act of the Clinton Administration’s EPA.

(image right: In a last-ditch effort to derail the inevitable multi-million dollar expense of dredging, GE launches a PR campaign to convince the public and lawmakers to just let the PCBs be.)

August 2001 Following an extended public comment period EPA administrator Christine Whitman agrees to go ahead with the plan.

(image right: The decision by Whitman to back the dredging plan exposed a rift in the traditionally pro-industrial GOP. On the Hudson, the future of the river ran between Governor Pataki and his one-time protege Congressman John Sweeney.)

February 2002 EPA issues its official Record of Decision for a phased dredging project. Dredging scheduled to begin Spring 2005.

(image right: In March 2002 the EPA gets off to an impolitic start, siting the project field office in Saratoga Springs, 21 miles from the dredging site in Fort Edward. The decision is hastily reversed, prompting delays.)

October 2002 The war over cleaning up the Hudson River is eighteen years old, over twice the length of The War for American Independence.

(image right: Reenactors celebrated the 225th anniversary of the Battle of Saratoga at a Fort Edward farm belonging to a cousin of Fort Edward Supervisor Merrilyn Pulver, a dredging opponent.)

March 2003 EPA issues an adjustment to the dredging schedule to accommodate negotiations with GE on payment for and conduct of the dredging operations. Dredging scheduled to begin Spring 2006.

October 2005 EPA and GE reach an agreement on payment for and conduct of the dredging operations. Dredging scheduled to begin Spring 2007.

July 2006 EPA Region 2 Administrator Alan Steinberg cites delays in the delivery of specialized dredging equipment. Dredging scheduled to begin Spring 2008.

November 2006 EPA and GE agree to a Consent Decree that will begin dredging.

2008 EPA approves design of Phase I implementation plan.

Jan 2009 Modification to 2006 Consent Decree stipulating payment for clean water supplies for affected communities during the dredging operations. Dredging scheduled to begin May 2009.

May 15, 2009 In time for the 400th anniversary of the first chronicled exploration of the Hudson by Europeans, the innovative minds that helped build General Electric into one of the mightiest industrial empires in human history have finally run out of excuses to not clean up the river. Or so we believe. . .

(Cartoons originally appeared in the Glens Falls Post-Star, and Hill Country Observer)


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Lake Placid: Doris II Replacement; Lady of The Lake Sold

On Lake Placid, the era of the big public tour boat is over. At least for the time being. According to Brian Bliss, Manager of the Lake Placid Marina, a fully covered, thirty-foot aluminum pontoon boat has been purchased to replace the sixty-foot, one hundred-passenger Doris II, which was retired from service on April 16th. The new boat will handle sixteen passengers. Bliss says there are no plans to find a larger or more distinctive vessel to accommodate the sightseeing trade.

This is the second loss in as many years to Lake Placid’s once proud tour fleet. Lady of the Lake was removed from service before the start of last summer’s season. Lake Placid Marina sold the sleek vessel—built in 1929 by Hutchinson’s Boatworks of Alexandria Bay—to Brian Arico, former owner of Camp Minnowbrook on the lake.

Attempts to resell the boat for private use on nearby water were unsuccessful, and a prospective sale to an individual from Lake Eustis, Florida fell through at the last minute. Lady of the Lake spent the winter months alongside Route 86 in Ray Brook. Late last month she was finally sold to a private classic boat collector who transfered her to a flat bed trailer and hauled her away to Wisconsin.

The loss of Doris II and Lady of the Lake, along with the retirement to private ownership some years ago of the smaller Anna, ends a streak of large boat excursion service on Lake Placid dating back to 1882. Mattie (1882), Water Lily (1884), Ida (1886) and Nereid (1893) were all propelled by steam, as was the original Doris (1898) until her conversion to a gasoline engine in 1907. In March 1950, when Doris II was assembled on the shores of Lake Placid, she inherited the original 30″ by 36″ propeller from her namesake. Asked if Doris II might still have that same propeller, Brian Bliss said that logs and maintenance records were not retained over the years.

Photo of Nereid courtesy of Lake Placid Shore Owners’ Assn.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Happy Blue Line Day

On this day in 1891 the first report was issued proposing the Adirondack Park. The map distinguished parkland with a blue border.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Moose ‘n’ Bear Discuss Tedisco’s Concession


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Moose ‘n’ Bear Discuss The A-lists


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Opinion: Ken Tingley and The Pulitzer Jury

This week’s Pulitzer Prize to the Glens Falls Post-Star is not sitting as comfortably as it should. At the risk of being called a sour grape (the P-S published my editorial cartoons for a few years until Editor Ken Tingley and I had a disagreement in 2002), I compared the juror lists from this year and last.

Ken Tingley, who sits on the Post-Star editorial board, served as a Pulitzer juror this year (for editorial cartooning) and last year (for commentary). One of his co-jurors on last year’s panel was among the five jurors who awarded Mark Mahoney the prize for editorial writing this year.

Tingley recently told the paper, “When I was a judge last year, I came back and said to Mark, ‘We can play in this league. You can win this thing.’”

No one should diminish editorial page editor Mark Mahoney’s well-deserved honor. It’s just too bad that there was not a little more daylight between the award and Mr. Tingley.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Mark Mahoney of The Post-Star Wins Pulitzer

Mark Mahoney, chief editorial writer for the Glens Falls Post-Star has won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing.
The Pulitzer committee recognized Mahoney for:

“. . . his relentless, down-to-earth editorials on the perils of local government secrecy, effectively admonishing citizens to uphold their right to know.”

Finalists in this category included the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune.


Monday, April 20, 2009

Lake Placid Tour Boat Doris II Retired From Service

Management of the Lake Placid Marina has decided to suspend operation of the tour boat Doris II for the 2009 summer season. According to Dan Keefe, spokesman for New York’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, a Marine Unit inspector noticed “structural diminishment” to the hull during his annual visit last Thursday. The inspector advised officials at the Marina that no inspection to the vessel would take place until preliminary repairs were made. Lake Placid Marina Manager Brian Bliss characterized the damage to the 58-year old tourist attraction as chronic wear-and-tear. The structural work necessary to restore the hull to compliance was deemed prohibitively expensive. Lake Placid Marina owner Serge Lussi told the Adirondack Daily Enterprise that Doris II would not be restored to operation and that a search for a replacement has been launched. The 60-ft long craft, originally designed to carry 126 passengers, is presently stored on site. No decision has yet been made on sale or disposal of the craft.

Doris II was assembled in the spring of 1951 at George & Bliss boathouse (current site of Lake Placid Marina) on Lake Placid, from a kit of materials shipped from Bay City Boat Co. in Michigan. The purchase and construction were overseen by George & Bliss Manager Leslie Lewis and Captain Arthur Stevens, who skippered the original Doris on Lake Placid from 1903 until its retirement from service in 1950. Doris II was launched July 3, 1951 and toured her first paying customers along the 16-mile shoreline of the lake on July 12 (corrected from earlier version) of that year.

Until a replacement is found, the absence of Doris II raises the prospect of the first summer season since 1882 that Lake Placid will not float a large-capacity touring vessel. Last year The Lady of The Lake, another long-time icon of Lake Placid tourism, was removed from service. Tightened regulations following the capsizing of the Lake George tour boat Ethan Allen contributed to that retirement. A third Lake Placid tour boat of recent years, the Anna, remains on the lake under private ownership, according to Brian Bliss.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Opinion: Taxation Without Representation in the 20th CD

On this Tax Deadline Day 2009, residents of New York’s 20th Congressional District are stuck in unrepresented limbo. Two weeks after the balloting in the special election to fill the house seat, both sides have doubled-down, adding lawyers and recount strategists to their campaign payrolls. The lawyers have been challenging absentee ballots right and left (mostly right). Of the votes cast at the polls on Election Day, Republican candidate James Tedisco held a 65 vote (.04%) edge over Democrat Scott Murphy. And that right there is about where the pavement ends. Here are a few signposts to look for on the rest of the journey:

Timing is Everything
Though the partisan challenges make too spongy a foundation for solid analysis of the numbers, in most counties Murphy seems to have increased his margins in the absentee count over the Election Day machine count. One possible explanation for this phantom trend may be in the timing of the votes: any number of absentee votes may have been cast before the last week and a half of the campaign when Tedisco surged on his efforts to associate Murphy with the AIG executive bonuses.

The Saratoga Stakes
Domestic absentee ballots—due last week—have been tabulated and reported in eight of the ten counties in the district. The other two counties, Saratoga and Washington (both containing Adirondack voting precincts) have withheld progress reports while the ballots are being tabulated, awaiting a full and final tally.

Of the 6726 absentee ballots returned throughout the district, Saratoga County accounts for 1842 (twenty-seven percent). Capitol Confidential blog reports 714 (thirty-nine percent) of Saratoga’s absentee ballots have been challenged and must await a court ruling on their validity before being counted. The importance of every other skirmish in the recount hinges on the resolution of these challenges and the count of these votes. On Election Day, Tedisco won the machine count in Saratoga County with over fifty-four percent of the vote. If he manages to increase that margin in the absentee count (defying Murphy’s possible edge in early votes) then he may win the race without resorting to other stratagems. If not, go to plan B . . .

Pray for Reinforcement
On Monday, Tedisco petitioned to prolong the period for the return of military ballots to the district. Bear in mind this would not extend the postmark deadline for military voters—that was and remains March 30th. Apart from signaling a dim faith in the Pentagon’s capacity to fight two wars and deliver mail in a timely manner all at once, there seems to be little advantage in this maneuver other than the buying of time. Which brings us to the final signpost.

When in Doubt, Stall
Tedisco has pretty much put his career on the line in this race. It has already cost him his minority leadership position in the New York Assembly. If he loses here, he will be increasingly vulnerable to a challenge in his Assembly district should he stand for reelection. Fundraising for his next race will be tough enough without having to deal with the enormous debt this race will dump on him (which he will have to deal with even if he prevails). In short, Tedisco has nothing to lose by playing this recount out as long as possible, raising as much GOP money as he can while the national spotlight remains on him. Even if it means letting the residents of New York’s 20th Congressional District go a few more weeks or months without representation in Washington.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Welcome to the Adverondacks

At milepost 105 north of exit fourteen on the New Jersey Turnpike there is a word on a billboard that caught our attention last week. Actually it isn’t even a word—more like a head-on collision of syllables—set in a familiar blue font, against a milk chocolate background. The billboard itself was practically buried in the visual chaos of overpasses, smokestacks, tank farms, power lines, and inbound commercial jets that identifies that region of the Garden State, but just conspicuous enough for a carload of homing Adirondackers.

The word on the billboard, “SNACKORONDACKS” (full context “Go Camping in the SNACKORONDACKS”) is a recent installment of an advertising campaign for Snickers candy bars. The gist of the campaign is to fuse/graft/smash together unrelated words or phrases into something suitable for a linguistic freak show. The result: grotesque, fascinating, and as thoroughly targeted as musk bait in a wire snare. Use of the name Adirondack for a national advertising campaign (a blog comment from someone in the Pacific Northwest suggested it would be easier for her to go camping in the “SNACKCADES”) seems somewhat haphazard until you consider that Candy Baron Forrest Mars, Jr., son of the man credited with introducing malt nougat to the candy bar, keeps a family place near Ticonderoga. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 6, 2009

The 2009 Adirondack Almanack Bracket Champion is . . .


Stewart’s Shops triumphed over the Northville-Placid Trail to claim the inaugural Blue Line bracket title, proving beyond doubt that you do not necessarily need to be from the Adirondacks to be a champion of the Adirondacks. The winner will receive a suitably framable certificate replete with name, date and the colorful Adirondack Bracket logo, along with invaluable bragging rights for the next twelve months.

Reached for comment, Stewart’s marketing manager Tom Mailey said, “The Adirondacks are such an asset and we are thrilled and privileged to be a part of the experience. Our opponent, the Northville-Placid Trail, put up quite a battle. It could have gone either way, heads or tails, and when the dust and the coin had settled . . . we won and you can still hear the sounds of high fives throughout our shops.”

The last word goes to Karen, a staff member recently on duty in the Saranac Lake store, who divulged the champion’s secret weapon: “Its the customers. The customers are great.”