Just over a year ago, the North Country (specifically, Plattsburgh) was mentioned on Saturday Night Live to the great dismay of some, though it was hilarious to others (including me). In a skit, New York Governor David Paterson (Fred Armisen) tells how he’ll spend the remainder of his term: Here’s an excerpt: “Well, I’m going to do a farewell tour of upstate New York—hellholes like Plattsburgh and Peekskill. … I’m going to give those rock-eaters something to cheer about. Those freaks love me up there.”
The rock-eater comment was highlighted by the media, leading to all kinds of feedback, some of it very funny. Plattsburgh’s Mayor Donald Kasprzak weighed in with a video reply, as did Keeseville’s Speedy Arnold with a musical tribute. It was all in fun (laughing at yourself always is), but some folks up north and in Poughkeepsie were upset, feeling we were unfairly portrayed. And I have the proof to back them up. » Continue Reading.
NYS Governor David Paterson approved State land classifications recommended by the Adirondack Park Agency for State lands inside the Adirondack Park yesterday. According to a press release issued by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) “the classification approvals promote traditional recreational activities imperative to the economic well being of Adirondack communities while protecting essential natural resources, critical wildlife habitat, and significant historic resources.” The Governor’s action also sets in motion the development and implementation of unit management plans by the DEC. » Continue Reading.
The New York State Outdoor Writers Association (NYSOWA) honored former Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis with its “Friends of the Outdoors Award: at its annual fall conference. Grannis was recognized for “his commitment to the enjoyment of outdoor recreational opportunities available throughout the state and his continued efforts to encourage sportsmen to enjoy the natural resources that New York State has to offer,” according to a press release issued by NYSOWA.
“The award is given periodically to someone who has gone beyond the call of duty to protect and promote the outdoor experience,” the announcement reads. “It recognizes the individual or organization that has made significant and long-lasting contributions to preserving and enhancing the outdoor experience.” NYSOWA is a group of professional outdoor writers and media personnel that regularly cover outdoor sporting opportunities and issues regarding the natural environment. Among the changes credited to his tenure as DEC commissioner by NYSOWA was increased communication with DEC personnel and the media. “Ease of communications and access have contributed to greater information for the outdoors media and, consequently, for the sportsmen and women of the New York State,” the announcement said. “Scheduled press days and conferences have further increased information and understanding of the issues facing the DEC and the sporting community.”
The organization had high praise for Grannis, who was recently fired by David Paterson over DEC budget cuts: “Commissioner Grannis has proven himself as a friend of the sportsmen by his support, advice and encouragement on such issues as the Youth Hunting and Trapping bills and allowing the use of rifles in many Southern Zone counties. He has instituted a 10-year pheasant management program and has initiated new management plans for deer and bear. His willingness to work with various groups within New York State government and to facilitate solutions to crises is illustrated with the successful efforts to save the DEC pheasant farm and keep the Moose River Plains Recreational Area open in the face of state budget cuts.”
Pursuant to Executive Order No. 25 issued by Governor Paterson, all New York agencies are required to conduct a regular review of their regulations to ensure that they are current, reflect available technologies, establish clear standards, avoid undue burdens and are as flexible as feasible.
Accordingly, the New York State Adirondack Park Agency invites comments from regulated entities and interested parties to identify existing regulations that impose unnecessary, burdensome or excessive costs, paperwork, reporting or other requirements. The Agency’s regulations are contained in Subtitle Q of Title 9 of the Official Compilation of Codes, Rules and Regulations of the State of New York (9 NYCRR), which may be accessed on the New York State Department of State website.
The Adirondack Park Agency requests public comment which describe and quantify any burdens and suggests appropriate remedies that the agency may undertake to eliminate or amend regulations that are unnecessary, unbalanced, unwise, duplicative or unduly burdensome.
Public comments must be received on or before October 18, 2010. Submit comments in writing to:
Adirondack Park Agency Attn: APA-Executive Order No. 25 PO Box 99 NYS Route 86 Ray Brook, New York 12977
In addition, comments may be submitted electronically at the following e-mail addresses: [email protected]; and to Gaurav Vasisht at [email protected]; and to the Governor’s Office of Regulatory Reform at [email protected]
The approximately three million acre, publicly-owned and “forever wild” NYS Forest Preserve in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks is taxable for all purposes. Since 1886, that’s been the law. How can we make sure such tax obligations are paid, forever? I want it that way, and so do many others.
The law says that Forest Preserve lands shall be valued for tax purposes as if privately owned (Section 532a of the Real Property Tax Law). Late 19th century lawmakers recognized that downstate economic and other benefits of protecting upstate watersheds in the Adirondacks and Catskills more than justified waiving the State’s exemption from being taxed. And thus it has been ever since. » Continue Reading.
Governor David Paterson’s budget would zero-out money for land acquisition and impose an apparent two-year moratorium on state land purchases. Other components of the Environmental Protection Fund would also be reduced (33 percent across the board), but land conservation is the only category proposed for elimination.
This would leave the Adirondack Chapter of the Nature Conservancy extended on many millions of dollars worth of land that the state has agreed to buy for the Forest Preserve. The tracts involved are 65,000 acres of former Finch Pruyn land spread across 27 towns, and 14,600 acres surrounding Follensby Pond, mostly in the town of Harrietstown. State payment on an easement on 92,000 acres of former Finch land is also pending. » Continue Reading.
Among the recommended cuts in Governor David Paterson’s budget are two local prisons: Moriah Shock Facility in Essex County and minimum-security Lyon Mountain in Clinton County. Also on the block are the Adirondack Park Agency’s Visitor Interpretive Centers in Paul Smiths and Newcomb.
The cuts, if accepted by the legislature, would be less black and white for the VICs than for the prisons. The VICs, though currently reliant on state funding, also have in place a nonprofit support board in the form of the Adirondack Park Institute, which has been working to develop something of a private, Wild Center model to support the educational facilities independently of the state. Paterson’s budget estimates severing the VICs would save the state $129,000 in 2010-11 and $583,000 annually thereafter. Local officials can be expected to put up a fight for the prisons, but they were not successful in sparing Camp Gabriels, in Franklin County, which was shut down earlier this year. Lyon Mountain, which would close in January 2011, and Moriah Shock, which would close in April 2011, are two of four prisons suggested for closure (Ogdensburg medium security in St. Lawrence County and Butler minimum security in Wayne County are the other two). The budget proposal states, “The prison population is projected to decline by 1,100 inmates in the current fiscal year and by another 1,000 inmates in the 2010-11 fiscal year – reaching a total of 57,600 inmates. . . . Once the closures are completed, the workforce will have been reduced by 637 staff, including 17 managerial staff. (2010-11 Savings: $7 million; 2011- 12 Savings: $52 million).”
Here is a link to the Executive Budget briefing book.
All three of Governor David Paterson’s representatives on the Adirondack Park Agency board have reversed votes made in September and opposed designation of the waters of Lows Lake as Wilderness, Primitive, or Canoe. By a 6-4 vote the APA had added most of the waters and bed of Lows Lake to the Five Ponds Wilderness in September. The rest of the lake was classified as Primitive, which would have prohibited motorized use. It was later learned that the tenure of one of the APA commissioners had expired and the vote needed to be retaken – that vote occurred today and ended in a 7-4 reversal of the previous decision. » Continue Reading.
Late last week Governor David Paterson announced a two-year, $5.0 billion deficit reduction plan that he claims would “eliminate the State’s current-year budget gap without raising taxes, as well as institute major structural reforms.” The plan includes a second raid on the state’s Environmental Protection Fund (EPF), which the Governor swept clean of $50 million at the end of 2008, and a raid on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative’s (RGGI) carbon allowance auction proceeds. Those funds, amounting to about $90 million, had been slated for energy conservation and clean energy development. “Energy conservation and clean energy development,” says Adirondack Council spokesman John Sheehan, “are two areas where the investment would have provided both real savings for the taxpayer and clear benefits to the environment and public health.” None of the money collected from the carbon auctions since the New York began participating in January has been spent on energy programs according to Sheehan, who added that “this may be the first time in history that a dedicated fund was actually raided for another purpose before one cent of it was spent on its intended purpose.”
The proposed $10 million dollar raid on the EPF is the second within a year. About $500 million has been diverted from the fund for non-environmental purposes since 2003. The EPF is supposed to fund major environmental projects and provide local tax relief for landfill closures, municipal recycling facilities, conservation agreements, and expansion of the state Forest Preserve.
“A month or so ago, we wondered aloud why the Governor wasn’t spending the Environmental Protection Fund money that had already been collected since April 1,” Sheehan wrote in a recent e-mail to the media, “Now we know why.”
The governor’s announcement comes just a week after he said he would cut ten percent from the budgets of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and the Adirondack Park Agency (APA). The Governor’s plan announced late last year to cut state property tax payments to Adirondack municipalities that host state lands was rejected by the State Legislature this spring.
This proposal would transfer $90 million in RGGI proceeds and $10 million from the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) to the General Fund. It is currently expected that RGGI proceeds through the end of 2009-10 will total $220 million, allowing the state to meet its $112 million commitment to the recently passed Green Jobs legislation, as well as this $90 million General Fund transfer. Additionally, it is fully expected that after implementation of the DRP, the State would still be able to meet its original 2009-10 EPF cash spending plan of $180 million, which is equal to record 2008-09 levels.
Governor David Paterson announced this week (in Malone) that $17.5 million in Upstate Regional Blueprint Fund stimulus grants will be spent on 15 projects across the state. According to a press release issued by the governor’s office the funds are expected to support “projects that help provide a framework for future growth in regions with stymied development.” This first round of funding includes two Northern New York projects, one inside the Blue Line. Schroon Revitalization Group, LLC received nearly a million dollars for “the initial development of an 81-room resort in Schroon Lake for year-round access to the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain.” The development is being put forth as a cornerstone of the revitalization of the Town of Schroon Lake, Essex County.
The St. Lawrence Gas Distribution Project received $2.5 million for the construction of a 48-mile natural gas pipeline from St. Lawrence County into Franklin County. According to the governor’s office the new line has the potential to benefit 4,000 North Country residents. Richard Campbell, President and General Manager of St. Lawrence Gas, said new line will was “vitally important.” “Bringing natural gas to this new market area will provide an economic and environmentally preferred fuel choice to residential, commercial and industrial customers,” he said.
State Senator Darrel Aubertine, Chair of the Senate Majority’s Upstate Caucus, says that the pipeline will create jobs, pointing specifically to expected growth at Fulton Thermal and MaCadam Cheese.
Grant applications and awards were overseen by Empire State Development (ESD). More information about the Upstate Regional Blueprint Funds and application forms can be found at www.nylovesbiz.com. Applications for round II funding are being accepted until October 15, 2009.
The Adirondack Council has released its annual State of the Park Report, what it calls “a comprehensive review of how the actions and decisions of local, state and federal officials have helped or harmed the ecology and beauty of the Adirondack Park over the past year.” Attorney General Andrew Cuomo received high praise; Governor David Paterson received a split rating. Several Adirondack towns also are being praised for efforts to protect the environment. “There was a time when it seemed like environmental organizations only argued with local government officials in the Adirondacks—those days are over,” Adirondack Council Executive Director Brian L. Houseal said in a press release accompanying the report. » Continue Reading.
Governor David A. Paterson announced late last week that $120 million will be made available from Upstate Regional Blueprint Fund for grants to finance business investment, infrastructure upgrades and downtown redevelopment. Paterson believes the fund will support projects that help provide a framework for future growth in regions with stymied development. The Blueprint Fund will be administered by Empire State Development (ESD). Applications due June 15, 2009; Awards will be announced August 17, 2009 According to a press release from the Governor’s office: “The Fund will invest in projects that advance local development and small businesses, for instance making improvement to industrial parks and providing loans for purchase of equipment, real estate or other needs. Eligible applicants include municipalities, businesses, academic institutions, and non-profits and awards will range from $100,000 to $5 million. The program will give a preference to requests for loans, with principal repayments able to be recycled for future projects.”
To ward off corruption, all applications will undergo a competitive review process by ESD’s Regional Office Directors, with the support of the central ESD. Requests for business investment assistance will be reviewed on a rolling basis, and requests for infrastructure and downtown redevelopment assistance will follow a quarterly calendar, with the first round of applications due June 15, 2009, and awards announced August 17, 2009.
Upstate Regional Blueprint Funds application forms are posted on Empire State Development’s Web site at www.nylovesbiz.com. ESD is New York’s primary economic development agency which also oversees the state’s “I LOVE NY” marketing campaign.
The Adirondack Mountain Club has just announced the final death of Governor Paterson’s plan to cap tax payments on state owned land. The state will now continue to pay its fair share of local taxes on Forest Preserve lands in Adirondacks and Catskills and on other state-owned forest and park lands statewide.
Since 1886, in recognition of the impact of large state land holdings on local tax rolls, New York has voluntarily paid local property and school taxes on Forest Preserve lands. Over the years, the Legislature has extended the payments to other areas with large tracts of state forest or park land. In 2007-08, New York paid more than $170 million in local taxes on more than 4 million acres. Under the Executive Budget, those payments would have been frozen at 2008-09 levels, which would have caused double-digit property tax increases in some rural communities and severely undermined local support for open-space protection programs statewide. Local governments have the right to veto most state land deals financed through the Environmental Protection Fund. The proposed payment freeze was stricken in a budget deal last week, but it was not officially dead until the state Senate passed the relevant bill late Thursday.
While the tax freeze has been widely viewed as an Adirondack and Catskill issue, the fact is that half of the state tax payments in 2007-08 went to communities outside the 16 Adirondack and Catskill counties. For example, the state pays full property taxes on Harriman State Park, Sterling Forest and Allegany State Park, and pays school taxes for the site of Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Westchester County. In 2007-08, the state made $33 million in local tax payments in Rockland County, $19 million in Suffolk County, $11.9 million in Orange County, $4.8 million in Cattaraugus County, $3.2 million in Putnam County, $3.1 million in Chenango County, $1.8 million in Dutchess County and $1.2 million in Allegany County. The tax freeze would also have hampered efforts to protect New York City’s Catskill/Delaware watershed, which provides drinking water to 9 million New Yorkers.
Here is a statement from the Adirondack Council’s Executive Director Brian L. Houseal on what he calls Gov. David Paterson’s “proposed give-away to polluters” under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). My favorite part is when Houseal calls Paterson out on his Adirondack record (which makes George Pataki look like a saint) – “the Paterson Administration has displayed unexpected hostility toward environmental initiatives and Adirondack issues.” Stand back.
The Adirondack Council strongly objects to Governor David Paterson’s decision to give away pollution rights to polluters participating in compliance with the 10-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Not only is the decision bad for the environment, it is also bad for the economy. The decision is especially disappointing in light of President Barack Obama’s pledge to create a national cap-and-trade program similar to RGGI to control carbon dioxide emissions nationwide. It would be irresponsible to do anything to weaken the prototype program at this crucial moment. » Continue Reading.
Big political news this morning as an aide to Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand has told North Country Public Radio that she will be taking over the seat vacated by Hillary Clinton. Gillibrand beat john Sweeney for his seat in November 2006 and easily won re-election handily last year over Republican operative Sandy Treadwell. According to NCPR:
Gillibrand is a moderate who opposes same-sex marriage and gun control. Long Island Democrat, Carolyn McCarthy, says she’ll challenge Gillibrand in the primary next year. Gillibrand will be officially named today at noon at an event in Albany. She will likely face stiff opposition in a special election in 2010 and again in 2012. Possible Republican opponents include former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Governor George Pataki. But Gillibrand has proved herself to be a ferocious campaigner and fundraiser.
Governor Paterson’s pick sets off a round of political musical chairs across the North Country. State Senator Betty Little, a Republican, is expected to make a bid for Gillibrand’s seat. Should she win, that would trigger another contest for her state Senate seat. Other likely candidates for Gillibrand’s seat include Sandy Treadwell, from Essex County, who ran in 2008.
Here is the articles in the New York Times and the Albany Times Union.
All the stories we’ve followed about Gillibrand can be found here.
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