Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

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.


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, 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.


Friday, October 14, 2005

Home Building in the Adirondacks

The number of homes being built in the Adirondacks is getting out of control. The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) is understaffed and the local economy is increasingly dependent on new construction. The Glens Falls Post Star recently reported that home sales in Warren County are up 38 percent from 2004. More alarming is the fact that the median selling price of those homes, jumped nearly 20 percent in just one month — from $165,500 in July 2005 to $197,900 in August 2005.

This month’s issue of Adirondack Life has a large feature piece devoted to housing prices and related issues. Unfortunately, their webpage has taken a turn for the worst and they have exactly no content.

It’s clear that in our parts of the park the only real opportunity for young people is to become a part of the housing boom and work as laborers building houses. Local companies have continuous ads for workers and we see more and more workers from out of state. This summer we saw home construction workers from Montana and Alabama among others.



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