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.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tupper Lake Bank Robbery Investigation Continues

The New York State Police are continuing their investigation into the armed bank robbery at the Community Bank in Tupper Lake on April 10th. They have released the following identifying information on $50.00 bills that were stolen during the robbery:

Serial Number / Federal Reserve Bank District # / Series

IB30849903A / B2 / 2006
GA01293917A / A1 / 2004
AD52511085A / D4 / 1996
EB23155745A / B2 / 2004
1B81072465A / B2 / 2006
GB32244863A / B2 / 2004
GB19388624A / B2 / 2004
EF06406154A / F6 / 2004
CL08247764A / L12 / 2001

The State Police are requesting folks compare $50.00 bills in their possession with the ones reported stolen during the robbery. If anyone has information about this currency, they should contact the New York State Police at 518-897-2000.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Salmonella Found in Warren County Siskins

In late March and early April, cultures from three pine siskins from Warren County yielded Salmonella typhimurium. Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) wildlife pathologists also detected salmonella in a house sparrow found in Putnam County.

The bacteria may be spread via bird feeding. Following is a synopsis from Kevin Hynes, a biologist in DEC’s Wildlife Pathology Unit, with advice for bird feeders:

“The pine siskins that died from Salmonellosis were from two separate areas in the Town of Queensbury. I am not sure where the Salmonella in these cases originated, perhaps from bird seed that was contaminated during the manufacturing or distribution process or, more likely, from seed and areas around birdfeeders becoming contaminated by the feces of infected resident birds.

“Typically in the late winter and early spring we see the pine siskins and common redpolls dying from Salmonellosis. These birds are winter visitors to New York from Canada, and they appear to be unusually sensitive to Salmonella poisoning. The siskins and redpolls may also be stressed as they travel south in search of food. Occasionally we see our year-round resident birds like house sparrows succumbing to Salmonellosis, but not as commonly as the siskins and redpolls, which leads me to believe that the resident birds have a higher tolerance for Salmonella and can act as carriers, infecting feeders, and areas around feeders, with feces containing Salmonella bacteria.

“Try to keep your feed dry because Salmonella grows better in moist environments. It is a good practice to take your feeders down once a week and sanitize them with a 10% bleach solution (1 part chlorine bleach to 9 parts water), and shovel or sweep up the spilled seed under your feeders and discard it in the trash where birds will not have access to it. In addition, if you notice birds acting sick (sitting alone all “puffed up” or acting weak) you should take your feeders down for a week or two to allow the birds to disperse, clean up any spilled seed from the ground and sanitize the feeders by soaking them in a 10% bleach solution for at least 10 minutes before drying them and resuming feeding.  Wear gloves when cleaning bird feeders and wash your hands afterwards.

“If you find dead birds, caution must be exercised when disposing of the carcasses, because humans and pets are susceptible to Salmonella infection. Birds sick with Salmonellosis are easy prey for cats and dogs which can then become infected with Salmonella, which can result in sickness and death. The NYSDEC Wildlife Pathology Unit may be interested in examining birds found dead at feeders (especially if there are four or more at one time) please contact your Regional NYSDEC Wildlife office for guidance or visit the NYSDEC website.”


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bats Flying and Dying in Broad Daylight

The disturbing die-off of the Northeast’s bats has been mostly something we’ve heard about on the news.

Reporters have accompanied biologists into abandoned mines to witness bats dying or dead, piled on the floor of their winter hibernacula. » Continue Reading.


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.


Monday, April 20, 2009

A Dry White(water) Season

Low snowpack and scarce April showers have led to burn bans around the Adirondack Park. The drought also has river paddlers wandering, searching for streams pushy enough to float their colorful little boats.

“Whitewater kayakers are being forced into summer habits of traveling downstream, unfortunately by car, to seek water levels suitable enough to sink their paddles in,” writes Jason Smith, on Adirondack Lakes and Trails Outfitters blog. “The Hudson River along with the Moose River, in the central Adirondacks, offer reliable spring flow and are popular spring runs. But even these mighty rivers are running lower than usual. . . . [D]on’t be alarmed if you see a vehicle loaded with short, plastic kayaks driving aimlessly around your neighborhood.”

Other Adirondack critters known to crave a good spring rain are amphibians. In Paul Smiths, in the high-elevation north-central Adirondacks where ice was still on ponds as of Thursday, wood frogs and spotted salamanders began to move on a warm rainy night about two weeks ago, observes Curt Stager, professor of biology at Paul Smith’s College. The cold-blooded creatures live buried in the forest floor most of the year, braving exposure to predators and car tires on rainy April nights to travel to the ephemeral ponds where they breed. Peepers, American toads and other frogs and salamanders also congregate at waterholes this time of year.

Showers Saturday gave creeks and rivers a noticeable boost. The last two weeks had brought snow and then unrelenting sun. “They [herps] have been dribbling around. It was an early start and then it got cut off by the dry weather,” says Stager, who studies local phenology. “Every year is a little different in the Adirondacks. You’ve got to watch it for decades to notice a real pattern.”

High/dry kayaker sketch courtesy of Jason Smith


Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Ausable Two-Fly Challenge’s 10th Year

The Ausable Two-Fly Challenge will be held on the banks of the West Branch of the Ausable River, Saturday, May 16. Now in its 10th year, the tournament brings together fly fisherman from across the United States, who want to test their skills on the acclaimed river, while at the same time promote the 35-mile long river as a fishery and raise money to protect it.

Rules for the catch and release tournament are simple. Anglers are allowed to bring two barb-less hook flies, of any combination or patterns and once the flies are lost or unusable… you’re out. Anglers must fish with a partner and each must record the total number of fish caught, the length of each fish and the cumulative number of inches. Only fish handled by the angler and successfully released will count as caught fish.

The Two-Fly Challenge begins Friday night, at R.F. McDougall’s, with a fly tying demonstration and the opportunity to rub elbows with some of the best fly anglers from around the country. Anglers are asked to gather Saturday morning at the Whiteface Mountain Regional Visitors Bureau at 6:30 a.m. and the Challenge begins at 7.

The Ausable River Two-Fly Challenge is not a professional contest, but it will feature a pro-division. The pro-division applies to anyone who gets paid to fly-fish, including guides and anyone who professionally competes for money. Prizes will be awarded to winning anglers in both the amateur and pro divisions during the banquet dinner, which will also feature a guest speaker, raffles and auctions.

Registration is open to the public and for more information, contact the Whiteface Mountain Regional Visitors Bureau at 946.2255, or through e-mail at info@ausableflyfishing.com.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

DEC Wants Comments on Upper Salmon River UMP

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced that it is beginning work on a unit management plan (UMP) for five state forests, one fishing access site and conservation easement lands encompassing 8,951 acres along the Upper Salmon River. The UMP will also include a pending acquisition from National Grid that covers approximately 675 acres in Oswego, Oneida and Lewis counties.

The DEC is seeking public input and will hold a public meeting on Thursday, May 7, 2009, from 7-9 p.m. at its Salmon River Fish Hatchery in Altmar, N.Y. The evening will begin in an “open house” format that will allow the public to interact with DEC staff and view displays, followed by a brief presentation by DEC staff, then a return to an open house format. The public will be encouraged to fill out comment cards that can be turned in at the meeting or mailed at a later date. Those unable to attend the meeting may submit comments to the contact person by mail or e-mail.

UMPs assess the natural, physical and recreational resources of the landscape and guide state forest land management activities. The Upper Salmon River Unit is comprised of the Salmon River, O’Hara, Hall Island, Battle Hill and West Osceola state forests, which encompass 8,764 acres. The unit also includes the 36-acre Jackson Road Fishing access site and 151 acres of conservation easement lands covering Huckleberry and Burdick islands in the Salmon River Reservoir. Another 675 acres of land to be acquired in a pending acquisition from National Grid is part of the unit as well. These lands are located near the village of Redfield (north of the Salmon River Reservoir) and are in the towns of Orwell, Redfield, Osceola and Florence.

The five state forests covered by the proposed plan currently offer many recreational opportunities including hiking, camping, bird watching, fishing, hunting, trapping, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and all terrain vehicle (ATV) access for people with mobility impairments. In addition, these forests are managed to sustain important natural resources including forest products, clean water, clean air and wildlife habitat.

The initial comment period for development of the draft UMP will end on July 5, 2009. However, comments will be accepted continuously throughout the plan development process. After the draft plans are completed, DEC will hold a formal public meeting to accept written and verbal comments.

An informational package is available. Requests for this package, comments and/or questions regarding development of the draft plan should be addressed to: Upper Salmon River UMP, NYSDEC, 2133 Salmon River Fish Hatchery, Altmar, NY, 13302. The public also may e-mail any comments or requests for informational packages to rgpancoe@gw.dec.state.ny.us.


Friday, April 17, 2009

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Friday, April 17, 2009

Adirondack Weekly Blogging Round-Up


Thursday, April 16, 2009

APA OKs Lows Lake Floatplane Ban After 2011

Floatplanes will be prohibited from using Lows Lake after 2011 and the lake will be managed as wilderness under a resolution approved today by the Adirondack Park Agency (APA). Neil Woodworth, the Adirondack Mountain Club’s executive director, said the resolution adopted today is positive step and an improvement over earlier proposals for the lake. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Adirondack Events for Mid-April

Rick Moody — author of Garden State, The Ice Storm, The Diviners and the memoir The Black Veil — will read from his most recent novel at 7 p.m. tonight at the Joan Weill Student Center of Paul Smith’s College. The event is free, sponsored by the Adirondack Center for Writing.

Kayaks are on roof racks and the Northern Forest Paddle Film Festival returns to the Lake Placid Center for the Arts at 7 p.m. Friday. There’ll be five shorts about canoeing, kayaking, waterways and the paddling life. Proceeds support the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. $8-12.

April brings the spring whomp. Old-time fiddle and harmonica duo the Whompers are back in town, 7:30 Friday at BluSeed Studios, in Saranac Lake ($10). Musicians are invited to bring instruments for a second-set jam. On Saturday night, Whompers and friends play at the Red Tavern, in Duane. The place is off the grid and off the map, and the dancing goes late into the night.

In the pastoral hill country east of Glens Falls and west of Vermont, 10,000 spectators are expected to turn out Saturday and Sunday for the Tour of the Battenkill, the largest bike race in the country. Two thousand riders will blow through downtown Greenwich, Salem and Cambridge, but the real character of the race comes from remote dirt roads that have earned the event the nickname Battenkill-Roubaix, after the Paris Roubaix of France.

In Bolton Landing, Up Yonda Farm offers a guided Cabin Fever Hike at 1 p.m. Saturday. The walk winds through the farm’s trails to a vista overlooking Lake George. On Sunday the farm will offer Earth Day activities all day. $3; members free.

Monday through Thursday next week, days start warming at the greatest rate of the year. Impatient? At the Adirondack Museum at 1:30 Sunday, naturalist Ed Kanze presents “Eventually . . . the Adirondack Spring.” Free for members and kids; $5 everybody else.

On Monday the Lake Placid Center for the Arts begins a six-session life drawing course, 6-8:30 every Monday evening through May. $55. Call (518) 523-2512 to sign up. Gabriels artist Diane Leifheit runs the course. She will also offer pastel plein air evening classes beginning May 20 (sign up by May 11). The first session introduces pastels and materials, setting up to paint outdoors and mixing colors. The following four sessions will go on location around Lake Placid (weather permitting), capturing the early evening colors. $95. 6-8:30 p.m. Wednesdays, through June 17.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Curse of Adirondack Bank Robbers

The robber of a Tupper Lake bank (in a presumably fake beard and mustache, left) is still at large, six days after the heist. This is unusual in the Adirondacks. The general wisdom is that nobody has pulled off a bank robbery inside the Blue Line, at least in recent memory. Hold up a bank? Sure, quite a few have done that. But get away? That’s the trick.

There are only so many forest-lined roads in and out of any Adirondack town, and if the police are quick with roadblocks, the theory goes, it’s simple enough to sweat out the thief. In the 1970s, cops caught the robbers of a Willsboro bank waiting for the Essex ferry to Vermont.

Others, such as a husband and wife in St. Regis Falls, were picked up locally within hours, and a guy who took off on foot from Adirondack Bank in Lake Placid was met by police on the Saranac Lake end of the Jackrabbit Trail.

Jack Lawliss, retired commander of State Police Troop B, began his career as a Trooper in Tupper Lake in 1955. He worked on several bank cases inside the Blue Line, all solved. The Willsboro case stood out in his memory because the same bank was the victim of an unrelated robbery a week earlier, and those thieves were apprehended in Reber, five miles away. The institution had operated without incident for a century before then.

After Lawliss retired, a 1992 robbery of a Key Bank in Au Sable Forks ended in the arrest of Robert Jones, who had also held up a bank in Plattsburgh with his wife as getaway driver and their two kids in the back seat. To reduce his wife’s sentence, Jones later confessed to the kidnapping and murder of Kari Lynn Nixon, a 16-year-old Au Sable Forks girl who had been missing for seven years.

Admittedly, an exhaustive search of Adirondack police blotters and newspaper archives dating back to the creation of the park in 1892 is a daunting project that we have not undertaken, so if you know of any successful in-park bank robberies please tell us.

Meanwhile, bank hits seem to be a nationwide trend, and there have been three unsolved hold-ups recently in Canton, north of the Blue Line.

The manhunt continues around Tupper Lake. Roadblocks, dogs and a helicopter Friday afternoon failed to net the gunman, who is reported to have fled on foot in the direction of Saranac Lake. “Solitary robbers usually target a bank that is close to their place of residence, making a car unnecessary,” wrote George Bryjak, retired professor of sociology at the University of San Diego, in a scholarly look at bank robber demographics in Wednesday’s Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

Police agencies have not said how much money was taken. Following is the State Police’s complete press release:

On April 10, 2009, at 12:15 p.m., the New York State Police responded to an armed bank robbery at the Community Bank, located on Hosley Avenue in the town of Tupper Lake. The preliminary investigation has established that a suspect entered the bank and displayed a handgun. The suspect fled the bank with an undetermined amount of cash.

Suspect is described as a white male, tall with a thin build, last seen wearing a tan hooded jacket and blue jeans. Subject may have tried to disguise himself with a moustache and or goatee and wearing sunglasses.

State Police Aviation, Canine, Uniform and BCI personnel, Tupper Lake Police Department, Saranac Lake Police Department and New York State Forest Rangers remain on scene and are continuing interviews of witnesses and searching the area for evidence.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the New York State Police, Troop “B” Headquarters, Ray Brook at 518-897-2000.


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.


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