Posts Tagged ‘George Pataki’

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

David Sive: Wild Nature’s Legal Champion

David SiveLegal champion for nature, for our nature and for the wild, David Sive, eulogized in The New York Times recently, was a man who epitomized the truth that you protect only what you love, you love only what you understand and you understand only what you are taught. According to the writers of the Times obituary, David brought Thoreau’s Walden with him to World War II and he and the book survived the Battle of the Bulge.

That is a blessing, for David Sive went on to employ Thoreau’s transcendence, his own legal training, fierce guardianship of all he loved and consummate use of the English language in the courts of law to protect the Hudson Valley and its Highlands, the Catskills, the Adirondacks, our State Parks, and many other places.

Before David Sive, the idea of a citizen and their representative gaining standing to argue for the environment in a court of law was rare indeed. Thanks to him and other pioneers, it has long been practiced. One can always wish that more of our judges were better trained and more inclined in this direction, but that is another story. » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 23, 2012

Is More Forest Fire Dialogue and Preparation Needed?

The woods are dry out there. This week, forest fire fighters needed state police helicopters to douse a carelessly set, poorly extinguished fire up on Sawteeth Mountain. In such cases, the informal NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) policy is to fight and extinguish the fire as part of its legal responsibilities for care, custody and control of the Forest Preserve.

Ought there be a state policy of graduated measures to address forest fires in the Forest Preserve, particularly in remote areas? Greater dialogue and sharing of information on the subject of forest fire in the wilds of the Park, public or private, would be helpful. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Analysis: October Surprise in the 23rd Congressional District Race

On Saturday, when Dede Scozzafava’s campaign bus turned into a pumpkin, it came as a shock but not a surprise to North Country political observers. The unpredictable five-month, three-party campaign to fill the vacated House seat of Army Secretary John McHugh was elevated in its early stages to a war of surrogates for political forces both at the state and national levels, according to a close observer of New York GOP politics.

The source—speaking on background—said Scozzafava’s attempts to court organized labor (specifically her support for the Employees’ Free Choice Act) was responsible more than any other issue for attracting the political action committee Club for Growth to the campaign of Conservative Party candidate Douglas Hoffman. The money and advertisements that followed “put Dede in a position where she never had a chance to define herself.”

Former Democratic Rural Conference Chairman Stuart Brody, who lost a bid to become his party’s nominee in this election, agrees that outside attention and campaign contributions had a distorting effect on the race: “Money often obscures the message.”

While the National Republican Congressional Committee (which took charge of the Scozzafava campaign in September) was framing the contest as a referendum on Democratic policies and leadership in Washington, and the conservative media were building the Hoffman campaign into a referendum on both Democrats and centrist Republicans, New York State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long was using the insurgent Hoffman campaign to bend the State GOP ideologically to the right. “Mike Long feels he has something to prove,” according to the Republican Party observer.

And if Thursday’s defection to Hoffman’s camp of former Governor George Pataki notched a victory for the Conservative Party leader, Stuart Brody believes that “what Mike Long thinks means nothing. . . . Ultimately, the North Country is moderate. Folks think for themselves.”

Asked how he sees Scozzafava’s withdrawal effecting Tuesday’s result, Brody departs from the conventional wisdom that Hoffman will benefit. In step with his faith in the independent mindset of the North Country electorate, he feels that a portion of Scozzafava supporters, particularly those driven by organized labor interests, will find their way to Democrat Bill Owens.

Our Republican Party observer points out that it may be too late for the move to produce a large-scale change, citing the layout of the ballots on which Bill Owens holds line A, followed by Scozzafava on lines B and C, followed by Doug Hoffman on line D.

As for Wednesday, the lack of a Republican candidate does not guarantee any less intense an effort to impound and count and recount the ballots. With so much at stake from every angle, a close outcome at the polls will assuredly give way to a recount phase as long as (and exceeding the cost of) the campaign itself. Ask any of your next door neighbors of NY-20.

And the day after a victor finally emerges? The seat will be up for grabs again in less than a year; a mid-term election is already well under way in most districts. Former candidate Stuart Brody anticipates that a Democratic winner will be immediately challenged by Republicans. In the event of a Hoffman victory, Brody expects that a number of Democrats will step forward to challenge the Conservative—a number which may include himself.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

John Warren: Adirondack Railroads’ Time Has Come

The Adirondack Journal reported this week that Warren County supervisors “derailed” (pun apparently intended) a local tourist railroad development project by voting to pay a consultant for the design of two of the railroads train stations at Hadley and Thurman. Looking around the net, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what is going on, but it seems as though the county may be dragging its feet on the plan to improve the long neglected Delaware and Hudson RR tracks between Corinth in Saratoga County and North Creek, near the Gore Mountain Ski Area.

NY State Transportation Commissioner Astrid Glynn definitely is, when he announced $20 million in rail funding last week to go toward 15 projects statewide, extending the Adirondack Scenic Railroad from Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake was not on the list. In December 2006, former George Pataki had promised $5 million to make the 26 miles of track between the two villages passable. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pending Adirondack Related State Budget Items

Here is an e-mail recently received from the Adirondack Council’s John Sheehan outlining the pending Adirondacks related budget deals. According to Sheehan, this is the “Environmental Conservation budget plan agreed to by Legislative leaders, which is in the process of being passed by both houses. The Governor is expected to sign the bills.” At least some time soon, the budget is now a week late.

The big news for us is that it looks like the the money is available to finish the (Pataki initiated) Domtar land purchase, the Lake George West Brook money didn’t make it, but money to study the impacts of road salt did.

The Almanack reported in January Spitzer’s budget proposals relating to the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Spitzer’s Budget Proposals: Adirondack Edition

The latest on Governor Eliot Spitzer’s Budget Proposals courtesy of John F. Sheehan
Communications Director of The Adirondack Council:

Below is a summary of the NYS Budget as it relates to the Adirondack Park and the NYS Environmental Protection Fund.

Adirondack Park Agency

Budget same as last year ($6.2 million; $700,000 is federal money)

Staff remains the same at 72

$350,000 increase for computers and cars (located in DEC’s capital projects budget)

Olympic Regional Development Authority

– State Budget would rise to $8.6 million

– Total budget $32 million – they get most of their revenue from lift tickets

– $400,000 increase (benefits, retirement)

– staff level stays the same at 203

Department of Environmental Conservation

– Total budget $1.1 billion

– Decrease of $31 million from last year

– half of that decrease caused by reductions in federal aid

– DEC will eliminate some local and regional initiatives to compensate

– Total employees up by 4 to 3,752 (two of the 4 are likely to be assigned to invasive species control programs)

Environmental Protection Fund

Total of $250 million (guaranteed in statute) – $25 million could be added if the Bigger Better Bottle Bill is approved

Land

$66 million of the $250 is for open space protection statewide – that means purchases of new public lands and parks, conservation easements (development-limiting agreements with private landowners).

The other $184 million will go into the two other broad categories: Municipal recycling and solid waste projects and state parks, historic preservation and zoos/botanical gardens.

Additional Projects/Other Changes

Masten House – $125,000 from the EPF goes to SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry to purchase and rehabilitate the Masten House, on the site of the former iron mines in Tahawus, Town of Newcomb, Essex County. It will become a forestry research facility for the college, which owns nearby Huntington Experimental Forest. The college is based in Syracuse.

There are also three new categories in the EPF from which money may be drawn for specific purposes:

1. Air quality enforcement (only vague details available)

2. Renewable solar energy (community college tech training programs)

3. Farmland protection (plastic-waste and pesticide management programs)

Smart Growth Back at Department of State

This grant program to encourage environmentally sound community planning rises from $2 million to $2.5 million. It was transferred back to the Department of State, where the program started, after spending one year under DEC’s supervision in 2007.

The Sweep-Out

This is the worst news of the day, but not quite unexpected. Due to the $4.5-billion budget shortfall projected by the comptroller, the Governor will “borrow” $100 million of the unspent funds of previous EPFs. This is the largest sweep-out proposed since Governor Pataki started this distasteful practice more than five years ago.

Since the EPF was created in 1993, a total of $322 million in unspent EPF revenue has been diverted to other state purposes. If the Governor’s proposal is accepted, that amount would jump to $422 million in unredeemed IOUs. That would be nearly two years’ worth of missing revenues.


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

North Creek: Center of the Adirondack Universe?

Lame duck Representative John Sweeney has gone over the edge, into debt, and apparently, on vacation from the rest of the duties Adirondack voters once hired him to carry out. Rumors are also circulating at the Times Union’s Capitol Confidential blog that his house is for sale and he’s moving to DC – meanwhile, he has apparently never called Gillibrand to concede the race or to assist in the transition.

In North Creek, the bar owned by Sweeney spokesperson Maureen Donovan (Casey’s North), is up for sale. Donovan is now a two-time loser. She was let go from the Warren County Economic Development Corporation last January but landed on her feet as Sweeney spokesperson. We wonder if they’re both headed to the K Street lobbyists, for their next bite of our pie.

All of this saddens the North Creek New Enterprise. The NCNE was once a great little paper that was published in North Creek – was that is, until it was taken over by Denton Publications entitled “Local leaders hope for the best with this summer and became a mouthpiece for the Sweeney crowd. There was a funny article after the election on November 18thGillibrand.” Here’s a great quote:

Bill Thomas, Chair of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, said the election showed that people felt they wanted a new direction.

“I was very, very satisfied with everything John Sweeney did for us,” he said. “He was a great Representative for me, the Town of Johnsburg and Warren County, and I hope this new person will do the same.”

You “hope this new person will do the same”? Bill – her name is the Right Honorable Representative from New York, Kirsten Gillibrand. I mean, come on, you can’t even say her name? And how proud are you of Sweeney now that you know he intends to blow off the rest of the job we hired him for because he’s a sore loser?

And speaking of North Creek and Bill Thomas. The Press Republican (now also under new owners) is reporting that Thomas (who has also served as Johnsburg Town Supervisor for-ever) will be appointed to the Adirondack Park Agency (APA) in a flurry of last minute Republican appointments by George Pataki. Thomas has been a major proponent of the Gore Mountain – North Creek Ski Bowl connection – he says he’ll recuse himself.

The Ski Bowl Village at Gore Mountain is planning upscale trailside housing, an equestrian facility, retail shops and restaurants, a major hotel, two smaller inns, a spa, a private lodge, and a 9-hole golf course, all on 430 acres adjacent to the town’s Historic Ski Bowl Park, the original site of skiing in North Creek (and one of the first in the nation). The proposal has drawn tremendous opposition from locals who resent the Johnsburg Town board’s (led by Bill Thomas) turning over part of Ski Bowl Park to sweeten the developer’s deal (they’re from Connecticut).

The Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) – the state authority that operates Gore Mountain – has recently come under fire from some local business people (including Bill Donovan, Maureen Donovan’s husband) who objected to a 20-year contract that gave ORDA the rights to the Ski Bowl Park Base Lodge’s concessions, and use of a new lodge in winter – the Donovans apparently think that money from the sale of soda pop at the Ski Bowl should have went to them.

Which brings us to the Residents’ Committee to Protect the Adirondacks (RCPA), which has filed suit opposing the way the whole Gore-Ski Bowl-Private Development plan is being carried out (much to the dismay, no doubt, of local real estate guy and Johnsburg Planning Board member, Mark Bergman). Peter Bauer, Executive Director of the organization since 1994, to us some time ago that the plan to connect Little Gore and Big Gore was considered separately from the rest of the Ski Bowl development plans rather than as one interconnecting large-scale development as the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) requires.

And that brings us back to the newly Republican North Creek News Enterprise. This week they are reporting (in screaming HUGE HEADLINES) that “local officials wary of RCPA recommendations” – turns out that Peter Bauer has been named to Eliot Spitzer’s transition team and that apparently upsets the powers that be at the paper and their friend – you guessed it – Bill Thomas.

Of course we don’t take much stock in what the NCNE has to say anymore – back on November they were telling us that Hudson Headwaters Health Network guru John Rugge was “looking a little nervously at the future” – but he’s just been named to Spitzer’s transition team as well.

Keep up the (ahem) good work News Enterprise.

Oh yeah… the reward for the NCNE’s support for Bill Thomas and his crew? The paper gets to be named the official paper for legal notices, something Thomas and the Johnsburg board had refused to do when Denton first took over.

UPDATE 12/17/06: One local resident reports that MARK Bergman (thanks for the first name correction) is not the only real estate agent on the Johnsburg Planning Board. Our tipster also reports that Bill Donovan is on the Planning Board and is using the Front Street (Gore Mountain Village) project as a selling point for Casey’s North. Tipster also reports that the Donovan’s home in Wevertown is also up for sale “for $350,000… about twice what they paid for it a couple of years ago.” And…

I have known Bill Thomas for 20 years and I have a great deal of hope (okay, some hope…) that he will be relatively fair as an APA Commissioner. Especially as he is not running for re-election next year. He does much better when personal political considerations are not on the table… And, I can assure you that Bill Thomas is not at all displeased with Sweeneys departure. He immediately reached out to Gillibrand and I think they will have a good working relationship.

Regarding the NCNE [the North Creek News Enterprise]… they ran no less than 6 pro-Sweeney stories in the months before the election. When Kirsten came to town in September, they ran the story 3 weeks later in the form of a picture caption buried in the middle of the “paper”.

I also have a source deep within the republican party who tells me that Sweeney is in despair because he has no real prospects for his future. K Street likely doesn’t want him. He’s damaged goods with no where to go. Boo freakinhoo!

Thanks tipster… and thanks for reading the Almanack.


Monday, January 2, 2006

In New York The State of The State is The State of The Adirondacks

We normally keep our post here at the Adirondack Almanack to regional concerns. But it’s time for Governor Pataki’s State of the State Address – and while the Pataki Administration has been piling it high and deep, a more sober assessment, relevant for those of us inside the Blue Line, comes from the People’s State of the State. A rally is planned in Albany for tomorrow to urge New York lawmakers to do something about poverty in New York including its “skyrocketing heating bills, lack of access to affordable quality health care, and high housing costs.”

Some highlights from their press release:

Food lines at food pantries and soup kitchens remain at historically high levels and expect the situation to worsen following federal budget cuts and changes in the federal TANF program.

If we look back in time 25 years, a few of our local churches were beginning closet pantries. Today we have 43 food pantries and 22 soup kitchens in Albany and southern Rensselaer County alone, serving more than 2 million meals each year. Programs do not have the resources to do what they are being asked to do,” noted Lynda Schuyler, Director of the Food Pantries of the Capital District.

Anti-hunger advocates are seeking an increase in state funding for the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program from $22.8 million to $30 million. State funding is down $2 million from four years ago. Groups are also concerned about Congress’ elimination of all funding for the Community Food Nutrition Program, the main federal funding for anti-hunger organizations.

Unfortunately, there is probably no one monitoring the poverty situation in the Adirondacks (one of the poorest regions in the state) and no visible advocates for working poor families. There’s more here.

Another disturbing trend for our area is the effective elimination of the DEC ability to monitor our environment and deal with corporate polluters and exploiters. From Inside Albany this week we learned that nearly 800 staff positions have disappeared from the agency since the mid-1990s:

[Environmental Committee Chair Thomas DiNapoli, a Nassau county Democrat] invited DEC commissioner Denise Sheehan to answer questions about how the agency was coping with its severely reduced staff. However, she faxed her testimony, saying she was unable to appear. Sheehan gave no reason and didn’t send an assistant commissioner to read her testimony.

DiNapoli asked Assembly staffer Rick Morse to read Sheehan’s statement. It ran down a list of nearly a dozen examples of Governor Pataki’s “leadership” on the environment. They included the governor’s greenhouse gas initiative to cap carbon dioxide emissions. Also on the list were Pataki’s open space acquisitions. He counts 932,00 acres of land toward his goal of preserving a million acres. The statement did not mention the department’s decline in staff.

Not only were the numbers down, [Environmental Advocates] Tim Sweeney said. Governor Pataki’s general hiring freeze combined with early retirement incentives had stripped the agency of valuable knowledge. Valuable expertise and institutional memory had been lost in the retirements. The trend is likely to get worse. A comptroller’s report estimated that 38% of the department’s staff will be retirement-eligible by 2007. About a thousand more could go by then.

Worse indeed. More large scale developments like those at North Creek and Tupper, enormous development pressures on Warren and Essex counties, proposed wind farms in the park, roads being turned over to ATVs, snowmobile trails expanding every year, more visitors every year, all while year round residents deal with a serious lack of affordable housing, generations of local poverty, closing public schools, low-wage tourism jobs – the one state agency that should be taking a lead role on life in the Adirondack Park is asleep at the wheel.

2006 – here we come.