Saturday, November 24, 2012

book reading


I will be reading from my book, Juba, and hope some folks can come... thank you. 

Will 
Inquiring Minds Bookstore, 65 Partition Street/ Saugerties, NY 12477 (845) 246-5775 

whitewash

Want to see how the corrupt law enforcement of New York State will whitewash over a million dollars in ongoing fraud? Read the Register Star, the PR outlet for the whitewash.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Times Union on the Register Star and all about the pledge

http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Fired-for-taking-stand-on-story-about-sitting-4047110.php

That is the story of the Register Star Four and the story of the alderman who sat for his principles.

Once upon a time in the 1930s when we did the pledge like this, people were lynched for refusing to say the pledge. Not the supreme court's brightest moments:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minersville_School_District_v._Gobitis

Saturday, November 10, 2012

get the times union

http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Attorney-math-1-day-26-hours-4026396.php

To be clear: Tal G. Rappleyea was caught with a no show job, getting wages and a pension from Columbia County taxpayers for 9 years when he not one lick of work. But he is the only one caught, not the only one guilty.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

election day post

Here is the endorsement. And meanwhile, here is an interesting blog from East Greenbush. And over at my other blog I review the connections between three fraud in local government scandals.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

funny business in the budget

This is a good reason to vote out all long sitting supervisors, every single one.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

election news

Robin Andrews endorsements. Report on the congressional race. Interesting blog.

Tourism document.

A job.


PUBLIC NOTICE - TOWN OF TAGHKANIC - COUNTY OF COLUMBIA
Notice is hereby given that the Town Board of the Town of Taghkanic will hold a Budget Workshop ] – OF SPECIAL MEETING\FINAL ASSESSEMENT ROLL

Sunday, October 7, 2012

mountain lion photo: columbia county?

arrest in stuyvesant

guy claims this picture of a mountain lion is in columbia county

is it?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

governments lately on the comptroller website

Here is something from Greig.
Troy gets caught. Queens funny business.
Monroe county used bond issue to cover operating expenses.
Welfare investigator on the take.

Friday, September 7, 2012

a dog from kinderhook, dog fighting ring in Hudson (and more dog fighting in Stuyvesant?)

Read about the dog fighting ring here.

And here is a dog from Kinderhook in a newspaper in Atlanta. Go figure.

Also, tonight at the re-scheduled town board meeting (with no public notice) in Stuyvesant we learned that 1) they had an executive session for a "personnel matter" -- insufficient description according to Public Officer's Law -- after which someone, who knows who, slipped out the back door and sped off in a new grey Honda sedan and 2) the town of Stuyvesant is selling off its highway department equipment for unexplained reasons.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Thursday, August 23, 2012

back in the paper

Another Register Star article, so another blog entry, if you click there you'll get my response.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

ny times singles out Zack Marshall of Philmont

"I single out Miarden Jackson and Zack Marshall. The blithe grace with which Mr. Jackson delivered an air somersault and many dance phrases was marvelous. The rosy-cheeked Mr. Marshall has brilliance of footwork that often matches Mr. Hanna’s, but better yet is his effortless, through-the-body wavelike response to music — in one simple marking step, a curve passed up his body like a ripple."

Congrats Zack! Here's the link.

Friday, August 17, 2012

tci meeting in west ghent

I recommend Sam Pratt's blog and Gosspis of Rivertown to follow this story. Sam's blog will certainly have links to the Times Union Green blog and other spots at the Times Union, as they have been covering the story well too.

Monday, August 13, 2012

my novel is available

After 4 years, my historical novel is available, JUBA. Set in the Roman Empire, the story of the search for the sons of the Christian martyrs of Carthage, up the Nile, into Ethiopia. $15. Let me know what you think.https://www.createspace.com/3720651

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sunshine on the Hudson, the Podcast

Sunshine on the Hudson, first PODCAST

Here is the first edition. Have a listen. Listen to Republican Congressman Chris Gibson say that Barack Obama is okay with the drone strikes and that congress has oversight over the program... But others say there is no oversight. Who's right?

Then we get to Sleepergate update with phone calls.

Better production values in the future!

Thank you Mr. Gibson: full interview.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

it's on fire

TCl offers the lowest risk, lowest liability option for safe disposal of your non-PCB, PCB contaminated and PCB obsolete electrical equipment. We look forward to serving your disposal needs.

It's on fire.


PCBs were widely used as dielectric and coolant fluids, for example in transformers, capacitors, and electric motors. Due to PCBs' toxicity and classification as a persistent organic pollutant, PCB production was banned by the United States Congress in 1979 and by the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2001. Concerns about the toxicity of PCBs are largely based on compounds within this group that share a structural similarity and toxic mode of action with dioxin.
[...]
PCBs also have shown toxic and mutagenic effects by interfering with hormones in the body. PCBs, depending on the specific congener, have been shown to both inhibit and imitate estradiol, the main sex hormone in females. Imitation of the estrogen compound can feed estrogen-dependent breast cancer cells, and possibly cause other cancers, such as uterine or cervical. Inhibition of estradiol can lead to serious developmental problems for both males and females, including sexual, skeletal, and mental development issues.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

7-26-12: history, dog war, night activities in new lebanon, waterfall in philmont

An article about an historic site in Columbia County.

"I’ve been passing by the highway exit for the Martin Van Buren National Historic Site, outside Albany, NY, for the better part of four decades, shuffling back and forth between family in western Pennsylvania and family in Maine. I keep saying, “I’m gonna stop there someday”—and this morning, Tuesday, July 24, I decided today would be the day."

More on the same.

Dog war continues.

Taste of the Hudson Valley event. A blog entry on the same.

Nocturnal animals at the New Lebanon library.

Vandals in New Lebanon.

Taconic stage... what is this site and what is this event?

Some DWIs around the area.

Hudson school library agenda?


Thursday, July 19, 2012

want insurance? release your tax returns IN FULL. want to be president? no biggie.

Here is the audio of the phone call. This call verifies all the details: I sent in my tax return to Blue Cross so my kids could get health insurance. One page of about 30 pages did not make it into the file. I never got a warning. My kids' health insurance was dropped because one page was missing. I did not get to speak to the appeal office of Blue Cross. I lost my appeal.

Luckily, his tooth isn't too bad. Too bad I wasn't running for President. I wouldn't have had to release my tax return in the first place.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

pays as little taxes as he can?

For more on the dog v. town/county fight, click here.


At minute 2:10 and on Romney says he pays as little tax as he has too, like all good Americans. But...

...I can't play that game. If I were to be audited, I don't have lawyers and accountants and threats to bring to the table. Instead, I under report my expenses, just to be on the safe side, so that an audit would find I over paid and give them nothing to use against me. When in doubt, I don't deduct. I can't afford the risk.

I know of a pre-school that got audited. They had a donkey for the kids to play with. The IRS said they could not deduct the donkey expenses, as donkeys are not part of running a pre-school, although the animals were clearly popular with the students and the parents and served no other real purpose.

Here is another guy making much the same point here:

I worked for my dad's company in the late 80s. It was an oil-patch company in Houston that transshipped oil off of Supertankers (VLCCs & ULCCs) in the Gulf of Mexico. It was, in my opinion, a very well run company with a management team that were all owners, along with a corporate investor who funded a chunk and held some board seats. After the Valdez incident (not an accident, imo) corporate law started to place more and more legal liability on the CEO. My dad kept his position and sweated it out. They knew they had excellent training, very solid ops manuals, hired good captains and crews, etc. But you're operating two tankers parallel in the open waters with rubber hoses across them. Knowing what I do now about rogue waves, I'm damn glad they did this in the Gulf, which at least wouldn't be as likely to have them as the big bodies of water. Anyway, an accident could occur, even of natural/unpredictable causes. Or a sea captain as bad as Hazelwood could be at the wheel of the VLCC/ULCC being lightered (ie: not under the ownership or control of our company but the importer's company instead). The point is, when my dad wanted to retire, to care for my dying mother, none of the partners was willing to step up to be CEO. None of them could sweat the responsibility. Eventually one of the partners did step up and dad retired. But it took years. It makes me so insanely angry to see Romney trying to dodge his share of accountability when true job creators (at its' peak, my dad's company had 9 white collar jobs and over 70 workboat staff, all employees, plus pilots and other contractors, plus supply contracts that must have created jobs, etc) have to take considerable personal risk to run businesses. Dad could have gone to jail under Texas pollution law even if he hadn't been found the slightest bit negligent, if there had been an accident leading to a spill. Jail would have been admittedly unlikely, but it hung out there. Massive lawsuits and civil fines would of course happen, as would dragging his name through the mud. Even with the best plans, training and monitoring in place. Thankfully, the company ran successfully for many years before being sold and rolled into a larger int'l firm, free of spills. The upshot: Romney strikes me as [lacking courage] when compared to an actual entrepreneur and CEO.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

7-4-12: driving is dangerous, thieves in government

Happy July 4, America.

Baby hit by can in Hudson:
http://www.news10.com/story/18947211/authorities-baby-hurt-after-stroller-struck-by-car-in-hudson?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

Official gets arrested for stealing:
http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/County-billing-clerk-faces-fraud-charges-3682874.php

Motorcycle fatality:
http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/article/20120702/NEWS05/120702019/Motorcycle-accident-claims-life-Dover-Plains-woman?odyssey=nav%7Chead&nclick_check=1

Dumping arrest:
http://www.northcountrygazette.org/2012/07/03/bronx-recycling-firm-fined-for-unauthorized-waste/

Drug arrest:
http://capitalregion.ynn.com/content/top_stories/589314/three-drug-arrests-in-columbia-county/

Some anonymous guy in Hudson mouthing off:
http://www.voy.com/194846/26544.html

From REFORM NY:

Ethics issues continue to swirl around Michael Grimm, Staten Island’s representative to Congress. Less than a month ago, Grimm was cited for violating House ethics rules on fundraising. Now, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office are investigating allegations that Grimm’s 2010 campaign pressured contributors to give more than the legal limit,according to a report the New York Daily News. Questions about how Grimm raised money for his first run for office arrive as he prepares to run for a second term this fall.

Tonight the Clintons sat next to our table at the Blue Plate in Chatham. Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Chelsea & Marc Mezvinsky. A full Moon.
We (Claudia & I) were eating with Cheryl Roberts candidate for New York State Assembly 107th district and her daughter Emma. We all exchanged good wishes and Hillary wished Cheryl good luck in her race for assembly.

On July 4, this is nothing to be proud of:
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/07/03/government-sponsored-study-destroys-deas-classification-of-marijuana/

Monday, July 2, 2012

7-2-12: ghent and powerlines

Mothering Magazine question about Hawthorne Valley.

Here is the town of Ghent concerned about the new power line proposal:


At a regular meeting of the Town Board of the Town of Ghent, Columbia County, New York, duly held on the 21st day of June, 2012 at the Town Hall, Ghent, New ...

And they are all supposed to do one of these. Pensions.

Someone wrote a piece about the July 4 parade in Kinderhook

Sunday, July 1, 2012

7-1-12: public comments on electric line link

Tourism department.

High Falls Philmont photo.

Speaking of Philmont,  Philmont Community Day: "an excellent crowd of tourists and locals assembled"


Drug raid.


Car crash


7 Pillars of Wisdom

"Seven Pillars is a modern day “house of wisdom” providing an open and diverse community ways to discover wisdom through in-depth exploration of themes drawn from four main areas of concern: cosmology, revelation, mysticism and chivalry."

Speaking of New Lebanon, at the library great stuff.

Increase in spending at the community college.



Columbia County. NOTICE INVITING COMMENTS ON WAIVER MOTION. (Issued June 19, 2012). On May 25, 2012, New York State Electric & Gas Corporation ...


 CASE 12-T-0248 - Application of New York State Electric & Gas Corporation for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need for the Construction of the "Columbia County Transmission Project," Approximately 11.1 Miles of 115 Kilovolt Transmission Lines and related facilities in the Towns of Chatham, Ghent, and Stockport, in Columbia County. 
NOTICE INVITING COMMENTS ON WAIVER MOTION 
(Issued June 19, 2012)

If you have a google alert for Kinderhook, you get a lot of this stuff. This is more useful




Tuesday, June 26, 2012

structural malfuction


There is an article in the Register Star today about the suit against the town and a business owned by a town official being tossed out by the judge. I'll post the decision if anyone wants to see it, but essentially, the judge didn't buy my argument that standing should include more than the local effects of the business, that there needs to be a rational application of the law to apply to all in order to allow those living under the law to know what is and is not allowed. The judge sided with the town that the issue should be considered narrowly.

Courts probably don't want to have to deal with every case of insider dealing that the system of local control and 1200 jurisdictions creates in New York. There is no other mechanism to deal with insider dealing, though.

I know that these small towns should not have town courts and town highway departments. You simply spend too much money for too uneven a product, including complete incompetence and corruption, patronage and abuse of criminal justice, in many instances, by allowing 1200 jurisdictions to administer justice and buy equipment and hire workers. If you reduced the number of jurisdictions, they would be easier to police. If you get rid of town court and town highway departments, you could save boatloads of money and get better justice and better roads.

Speaking of police, I also know that a county of 65,000 people should not have 6 police forces, like Columbia County. Comstat, used in the New York City to put resources where they are needed, lead to an 85% reduction in crime over 20 years with no increase in spending. That's what this rural area needs: the ability to allocate resources based on hard data regardless of arbitrary political unit, "Hudson" or "Philmont" even Columbia County. If there is a crime wave in Philmont, take officers out of Hudson. You could save a lot of money and get a better product.

In terms of the town assessor, real estate taxes should, ideally, be largely replaced with other taxes, as property taxes are expensive to collect, inherently unfair, cause distortions in development, and punish farmers, retirees, and poor towns. But if we can't get rid of assessment, we should get rid of the local assessment office and standardize the system in larger units with layers of accountability by people who do not know each other. You can save a lot of money, or better yet, get rid of the tax all together and replace school funding with a better mechanism.

But what about zoning and planning, the issues at the heart of the case that was dismissed? My answer to this problem is more complicated and I'm still chewing it over. I know that letting many small towns around control zoning and planning has lead to nothing good and a lot bad. I know that the power in these boards, if there will continue to be boards, has to be more dispersed. I'm thinking...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

strange article in the register star

Here is the article. So, I didn't get the documents. Then I sued and I did get them. But somehow I shouldn't have sued and the town won. A victory lap in the Register Star? With a two year old quote from the Committee for Open Government (see this entry on my blog)?


When the court says "given that petitioner has received all the relief to which he is entitled, the matter must be dismissed as moot" that means I got the documents. So case dismissed. I won.




Tuesday, June 12, 2012

google search for racial terms suggest upstate New York is the countries second most racist region

Here is the full article and here is the quote:
From 2004-2007, the searches were most popular in West Virginia; upstate New York; rural Illinois; eastern Ohio; southern Mississippi; western Pennsylvania; and southern Oklahoma.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

dog wins case one

Here is the judge's decision. Well, $300,000 later, that suit is done. Four more to go.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

my response to the latest spin


On Thursday, May 17, 2012 The Register Star ran an letter by planning board member and former head of the Stuyvesant Republican party Tom Shanahan called "Courts have better things to do." I know Mr. Shanahan resents the fact that newspapers and the ballot box are not the only checks on government. Luckily, the founding fathers gave us a strong judiciary to stand up to factional government. James Madison, arguing for strong courts, said, "By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community."

I found out Mr. Shanahan objects to lawsuits the hard way. On October 26, 2011 I filed my first article 78 suit. On October 30, 2011, after Mr. Shanahan was seen observing my property, I was given a citation in town criminal court for dog barking. The charge is ridiculous but the charge allows up to 15 days in jail. When I showed up at the appearance date on the ticket on November 9, 2011, Judge Carrie O’Hare reported that the affidavit for this charge disappeared off the face of the earth. The town tried to prosecute me in the same way back in January 2011, a charge clearly based on a false affidavit. After I filed a suit in federal court, the town judge dismissed the first ticket, but not after the town hired a special prosecutor, on a dog barking charge, and spent more than $7000 on expensive Albany lawyers from Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna to prosecute me.

Since I filed my suits, this kind of nonsense has now stopped completely. I have not been ticketed for impossible charges. I do not have to endure hearings (the town put me through 16 in 2011). I don't have cars at the end of my driveway. The zoning officer stays away. I can operate my business without worrying about having to justify every action (even how I take out my trash) questioned before a board of busybodies. 

Filing these suits is not sending a message. This is fighting for my livelihood and freedom from oppressive factional government. What is at stake in these suits is the rule of law, the 14th amendment, and basic issues of fairness. 

Mr. Shanahan said, "Perhaps it is best encapsulated in a statement Mr. Pflaum posted about the most recent lawsuit on one of his blogs – 'My lawsuit is meant to send a very simple message: ...'" I never said this statement. It's in quotes. 

Mr. Shanahan said, "the courts are not there for the purpose of 'sending messages.'" Yet on August 5, 2010 in an article on a junkyard in New Lebanon in the Regsiter Star, the town attorney said that a suit was  would  “send a message to anyone in New Lebanon who’s violating the law.”  Google the phrase "send a message" and "lawsuit" and watch what happens.

Speaking about the lawsuit for information filed against the town clerk, Mr. Shanahan said, "Even the state Committee on Open Government, which oversees the FOIL law, applauded Town Clerk Melissa Naegeli’s diligence." This statement was long ago. Mr. Shanahan has clearly not been following the actual suit. I sued to get information Ms. Naegeli denied existed, including evidence that the Hook Boat club assessment is fraudulent. Although Ms. Naegeli mislead the court, I now have town officials on record that the documents exist, the ones they earlier denied. I consider that a complete victory.

Then Mr. Shanahan called my efforts "a frivolous abuse of the legal system." Mr. Shanahan can say this in a newspaper article but none of the town's seven (at least) attorneys have made this charge in court. 

Then Mr. Shanahan said, "For Stuyvesant, the legal fees to defend against them now amount to many tens of thousands of dollars – and it’s likely to go higher." Did Mr. Shanahan complain when the town spent $150,000 to target me? And now, why does the taxpayer have to pick up the tab to defend supervisor Ron Knott's personal interests or the personal interests of ZBA Secretary? 

As per New York General Municipal Law 805 (1)(c), officials cannot “receive, or enter into any agreement, express or implied, for compensation for services to be rendered in relation to any matter before any municipal agency of which he is an officer, member or employee or of any municipal agency over which he has jurisdiction or to which he has the power to appoint any member, officer or employee.” Mr. Knott signed a contract with William J. Better to defend his personal interests on the taxpayers' dime. Does the above law preclude this contract?

Then Mr. Shanahan said, "In the long run – surrendering to intimidation never turns out to be cheaper." My point exactly. As the zoning officer Gerry Ennis admitted, the town posted the ZEO at the edge of my property before dawn 25 times in June 2010, for example. I have a video of town board member Ed Scott threatening to beat me up for conducting a sound test mandated by the planning board on which Mr. Shanahan sits. The fire chief and town employee Steve Montie posted on the internet that I should move out of town and applauded Scott's vigilantism.

In addition, the town hired a special prosecutor, William Nolan, from the biggest law firm in the capital district to prosecute me in town court on a false, indeed impossible charge, based on a perjury then destroyed an affidavit proving a secondary account of perjury.  Mr. Shanahan was involved in the second incident of judicial harassment and destruction of evidence in October 2011 as above. 

Mr. Shanahan is part of the oppressive government that I am suing. If Mr. Shanahan got his wish and removed the ability of courts to keep tabs on local government, can you imagine the abuse and larceny that would be going on? Even now, the situation is not good.

Will Pflaum

Sunday, April 22, 2012

unmuffled: Think you forgot a few folks

unmuffled: Think you forgot a few folks: Commentary The local reporter responsible for writing about cops and courts, as well as the Hudson City School District, wrote in a blog ...

Saturday, April 21, 2012

story

http://registerstar.com/articles/2012/04/21/news/doc4f92266154fbf763632162.txt#blogcomments

That's the story in the paper. Here is the quote I emailed the reporter April 18, 2012 5:07:05 PM EDT:

Ron Knott hired the biggest law firm in the Capital District and spent $150,000 on Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna in 2011. And after all that time and money, can they name a rule and say I broke it? No. Meanwhile, the town supervisor, Mr. Knott, is breaking the very parts of the zoning law they still want to use against me if they can. If you live in a glass house, don't throw stones. One way to convince people to stop throwing stones is to pick one of the rocks they threw at  you up and throw it back. 

I would think the reporter would use the glass houses quote. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Grattan, the dynamo

An article this bad deserves two blog posts.

"Pat Grattan, R-Kinderhook has taken a pay cut, initiated the taping of meetings and posted county financial info online, all since January."

Wow. In just four short months he managed to post financial info online. How long does it take him to upload a video to youtube?

A mere 100 days and he has already NOT uploaded any data. After four hard months of work, the County website is exactly the same and just as crappy as always, thanks to the tireless work of that dynamo Grattan.

A pay cut? He has three other jobs, that dynamo.

I know internet access can be slow in Columbia County. But even I can upload some data faster than that and I have Fairpoint Communications DSL.

But you have to remember, the County IT department is full of crony relatives who only play video games and can't actually use computers, and they have to pass all idea through some guys who whisper a lot and act shady, so the fact that they also have dial up modems is not the only impediment to claiming that they uploaded data that they didn't actually upload over the course of an otherwise uneventful 100 days of business as usual with the boss away at this other job.

 "Monthly financial reports and resolutions are being posted on the county’s website."

Wait. The resolutions have been online for a year. Grattan, some dynamo. He's claiming credit for something that is really easy and was done a year before he got into office.

Mr. Dynamo came in, saw that the county website was crappy, and did nothing about it. All in a mere 100 lackadaisical days.

 "The Board of Supervisors is also having its monthly full board meeting videotaped for the local public access channel at a maximum cost of $1,200 a year."

And he put a big "NO VIDEO RECORDING" sign in front of the place where the meeting is, which makes not sense if he also wants to brag about paying someone to tape the same meeting.

So, other than stopping people from video recording the meetings and uploaded the video for free and instead paying someone to put it where no one can find it, claiming to have uploaded data you didn't upload or was already online, and looking at a fire hydrant, Mr. Dynamo did a lot more great stuff.

Like... like... trust me, he's really busy, a dyanmo, the county is in good hands now!

This story is like the Onion meets Pravda. 100 days to not upload a PDF.... that no one uploaded.



our local the Onion

I mean, this has to be a joke right? This is news? The guy is presiding over a corrupt empire and doing nothing about it as his thieving friend Robert Fitzsimmons hands out no show jobs to his own employees in private practice, with Grattan seeing no evil hearing no evil... and he has four jobs himself. What a dynamo! Mulligan-Moore: we want every penny back! (So we can steal it ourselves.)

Saturday, April 7, 2012

bring out the paper

I'm in the middle, or more like the end, of a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) lawsuit against the town of Stuyvesant. Funny to think that when Gerry Ennis revoked my permit on August 9, 2010 and the town clerk Melissa Naegeli emailed me to tell me I have no right to appeal on August 16, 2010 I did not know that the FOIL law existed. Never sent in a FOIL request until then. Now here I am arguing a FOIL lawsuit I filed pro se... and maybe doing a little better than just arguing a lawsuit.

I'll discuss the details of the case soon enough. We'll see how it plays out, my case is looking pretty good, but I'm not sure the Freedom of Information system is working as well as it should.

Freedom of Information Law and the right of the public to information is far too weak in New York State and United States. We have a solid right to publish our opinion. We don't have a solid right to get the information necessary to know what to say. If the government wants to cover stuff up, they can get away with it. If they get caught, nothing much happens to them.

Who's fault is that?

The process back in the 18th Century that lead to our Constitution was good. The anti-Federalists had good reasons to oppose the Constitution - like the power of unelected, lifetime appointed judges. Good points on both sides, mixed in with plenty of deception and power grabs. Both sides argued intelligently. The process worked.

When the anti-Federalist complained that there was no bill of rights in the first draft, Madison wrote back that you don't want a list of rights. There are things that should be rights that will not get on the list of rights. If you make a list, then that's it, anything not on the list isn't a right.

The anti-Federalists said, no, if you don't have a list then you might have no rights. The anti-Federalists won that one, except maybe Madison and company did get in the 9th amendment, which means there are other rights other than those on the list.

Madison had a point, as enshrined in the 9th amendment. Take FOIL. It's not a Constitutional right. It would have been a strange thing for people in the 18th Century to think of as a right. They didn't have photocopiers or carbon paper. They had printing presses and newspapers but documents, government documents, were hand copied pieces of paper. I guess you could require the government to make a copy and post it on a pole somewhere - and in fact, we have plenty of laws about "notice" that amount to just about that. They could not have imagined the huge amount of data and easy of copying that data that we have now, or even what we had 50 years ago.

So they didn't think about Freedom of Information. How could they? I also think the Founding Fathers didn't pay enough time thinking about embezzlement. And maybe 12 or 20 years would be enough for a Federal judge, who then has to be re-appointed (or not). And plenty more they didn't think about... which is why the Bill of Rights was never intended to be the end of the story.

The Founding Fathers knew things would change, so they left the door open for rights they hadn't thought to put in the Constitution back then. The Right to Information, FOIL or FOIA, is exactly the kind of thing they had in mind: an example of the kind of thing they had in mind when they said there would be things they did not have in mind.

When the government hides stuff, it should be a bigger deal than it is. FOIL or FOIA means don't hide stuff from the people.

The 14th amendment boils down to what's good for the goose is good for the gander. The 1st amendment means you have a right to your own head and body. The 2nd and 3rd are hard to figure out. The 4th amendment means, hey, this is my house. The 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th mean they can't railroad you, take your property and lock you up for nothing. All kind of basic common sense stuff in there.

And information? The government can't hide what their doing. Pretty simple. No hiding stuff is a pretty basic, simple idea. No secret meetings. No secret budgets.

I think Freedom of Information is covered by the 9th amendment, as we have laws and 40 years of legal precedent to back those laws up. The right to information is now part of the culture, as well as the law of the land. I think the right is now covered by the 9th amendment and there is no going back. FOIL and FOIA cannot be repealed (I would say).

But like everything else in the Bill of Rights, or even the Constitution generally, you'd be hard pressed to prove that the government actually follows what the paper says. The president can start a war without Congress, no matter what the paper says. They can strip search you for nothing. They can fly over your house with drone and take pictures of you. Hide the budget. Hide everything. Lock you up. Kill you, whatever.

Still, I think information is a right, even if it is violated by the government as completely as all the other rights. I think when the government hides stuff, it should be a big deal, like when they hammer you to try to shut you up. We know they shouldn't punish you for speaking your mind, arrest and strip search you for attending a peaceful demonstration and all the other stuff they do.

It's just as bad when they hide what their doing, hide the paper.

FOIL or FOIA is what the Federalists had in mind when they wrote the 9th Amendment. So hand over the documents. Post everything online. Open up the files. Bring out the paper.

Go file a pro se FOIL lawsuit.



Wednesday, March 28, 2012

stuyvesant zba again

There is an article in the Register Star by John Mason that is a good summary of the issues and what happened.

 I think mediation is the way to go now in the neighbor dispute (Serpico-Palladino), as I recommended to the town more than a year ago.

As to the second issue: Ronald Knott, the deputy supervisor and later town supervisor, is the author of the policy to spend 17% of the 2011 budget on zoning enforcement to close Glencadia Dog Camp. The town spent $150,000 hiring the biggest law firm in the Capital District, Whiteman, Osterman and Hanna in an illegal executive session. Ronald Knott participated, lead the charge and supported all of this.

One of the primary points in that process was whether of not the business qualified as a home occupation if the house and the barn were on separate lots. The law is clear that a home occupation required the business and house to be on the same lot. Meanwhile the town planning board refused my application to put the lots back together, which would solve the problem.

Meanwhile, Knott himself was operating a home occupation with a business and a house of separate lots.

That's the deal.


Friday, March 2, 2012

student-student teacher ratios

Per School Digger.com, here are the student / teacher ratios for local schools:

Hudson 10.3
Taconic Hills 11.8
Chatham 13.4
Ichabod Crane 13.4

Other nearby schools similar in size to Hudson but not in Columbia County:

Red Hook 15.0
Saugerties 19.2


Thanks Hudsonian.

Monday, February 20, 2012

county attorneys

Here is something I got off a list serve and have not researched to vouch for the info... comments welcome if this is not correct. Thank you.


County Attorneys: ALL REGISTERED REPUBLICANS

Robert J. Fitzsimmons
Andrew B. Howard
Clarissa D. Garvey
Charles E. Hoag, Jr.
Tal G. Rappleyea
Robert J. Fitzsimmons
Barrett D. Mack
Brent R. Stack

Assistant District Attorneys: ALL REGISTERED REPUBLICANS

David M. Costanzo
James A. Carlucci
H. Neal Conolly
Carl G. Whitbeck, Jr.
Dominic J. Cornelius
Robert M. Gibson 

Public Defenders:

Public Defender: Arlene Levinson
1st Assistant Public Defender
Robert Linville

Asst. Public Defenders: ALL REGISTERED REPUBLICANS

Maryellen Minor
Ian L. Crimmins
Kenneth G. Cranna
Virginia D. Mallon
Michael C. Howard
Jessica Howser
David Seth Michaels 

Now check the NYS Board of Elections website and who contributed to the Republican Party in the last political campaigns. 

Money for jobs: that's what it is all about. Same thing for the rest of the County payroll.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

why taxes are high and corruption is endemic

Columbia County has about 60,000 people. We also have about 21 highway departments, 5 police forces, 5 school districts, 19 assessors offices, 50 judges, 19 justice departments.

This situation is 1) wasteful; 2) inefficient; 3) breeds patronage and corruption through impossibility of oversight, along with no agency tasked with oversight.

Look at police. By having these multiple forces (sheriff, state police, Hudson police, Chatham, Copake, etc.), one central authority cannot allocate resources based on need. The resources are based on politics. COMPSTAT kind of efficiency and effectiveness is impossible.

Look at the highway department. Do we need 21 fleets of vehicles, 21 salt sheds, 21 billing departments, 21 purchasing authorities? No. If these resources were allocated on a need basis not on politics and tradition, how much could we save.

Look at assessment. This local assessor stuff is asking for trouble. You would get fairer and cheaper assessments by following the recommendations of this study.

Look at justice departments. Remember the New York Times series on terrible upstate small town judges? Anything change after that? In 1812, it made sense to have people travel a couple miles to their local judge: weather, horses, etc. Now it makes sense to have professional, appointed judges working full time with oversight.

Look at schools. This system with no choice for schools is terrible. In transportation and administration alone, consolidating the districts would have a tremendous amount. Allowing choice within the public system, let alone opening the thing up to charter schools, would put some pressure on the mediocre system we have.

From Hudsonian (thanks):

The top 10 teachers pay in Hudson:

Hungerford, Susan J $104,010.25 
Rees, Lucy A $96,617.00 
Peters, Charles M $95,681.00 
Aronson, Jay O $94,905.75 
Bonville, Thomas E $93,618.00 
Barletta, Anna M $92,150.05 
Libruk, Regina $91,636.50 
Ringer, Gordon D $91,579.80 
Dolan, Elizabeth A $91,488.00 
Huemmer, Ellen K $91,243.00


You can use the link (http://qvs.visiblegovernment.us/seethroughNY.net/contracts/school-contracts/Hudsoncityt063011.pdf) to view the current contract between the taxpayers of the Hudson City School District and the Hudson Teachers Association. 

Take a look at page 38 of the contract. You'll notice that the maximum amount any teacher can earn is $ 85,587. Is there something special about the teacher at the top of the list in Fact # 1 where she can earn almost $ 20,000 above the maximum in the contract?


Locally, the two cities that are probably the closest to Hudson in population are Rensselaer and Mechanicville. Another measure of efficiency (or lack thereof) would be to calculate and compare per capita rates or how much is spent on a particular service per citizen.

For example, using Hudson and it's Police Department, the per capita would be $ 303.17 or $ 303.17 for every resident of the city. This is calculated by taking the 2,035,162.11 in 2011 salaries and dividing that by the 2010 census number of 6,713.

Rensselaer's per capita is 248.18 ( 2,330,909.06 / 9,392) and Mechanicville's would be about $ 162.71 ( 813,540.24  / 5,000). The 5,000 is an estimate. I couldn't seem to get a real number but that's what one source had for 2009.

In summary, Hudson spends $ 303.17, Rensselaer spends $ 248.18 and Mechanicville $ 162.71. In other words, Hudson is 22% higher than Rensselaer and 87% higher than Mechanicville.


Here's a list of the top five (5) cop salaries in Hudson:

Richardson, Ellis 108,813.13 Chief
Finn, Lynne 99,313.75 
Moon Jr, Anthony 92,566.62 
Paolino, Richard 91,656.33 
Foutch, Thomas 89,079.85 

Here's the same for Rensselaer:

Famiglietti, Warren 93,067.21 
Fusco, Frederick 87,784.92 Chief
Terry Jr, Joseph 84,770.52 
Frankoski, James 82,023.00 
Nagengast, Anthony 80,452.29 

Here's the information for Mechanicville:

Rabbitt Jr, William 88,364.03 
Rocco, Peter 81,067.65 
Rocco, Louis 78,520.71 
Westfall, Scott 76,882.81 
Waldron, Joseph 76,874.73 Chief


The 2012 city Budget includes $ 40,000 for gasoline. Assuming $ 4.00 a gallon for gas, that's 10,000 gallons. Assuming each police car gets 10 miles per gallon, that would be enough gas to travel 100,000 miles per year or 273 miles a day 365 days a year. Does that sound reasonable? I realize that some of those miles are outside of Hudson (to pick up or drop off prisoners, etc.). Does anyone know how many miles of road there is in Hudson?


Sheriff's office:


Michael Merante $127,081(3rd highest in the County)
Brendan Filli $109,790
Louis Bray $106,400
Michael Stelling $101,092
Paul Graziano $100,716
Dave Barlett $95,328
James Sweet 92,931
John Davi $92,553

Sunday, February 5, 2012

why didn't the county sheriff release the name of the house?

The county sheriff's office seems to have covered for the supervisor. What is up?

drone strikes

Barack Obama thinks he can order the execution of anyone without judicial review. The administration picks someone, an American citizen, convicts them, then executes them and refuses to disclose the evidence to any court even after the fact.

If you are in Yemen, Pakistan, Afganistan, Iraq, Somalia, Obama can sign off and kill you if he doesn't like you. What's the policy? Is the congo okay? What if you are in Eastern Congo, hiding in the jungle? Can he kill you there? Or the Amazon jungle with the FARC? Just blow you up? Tajikistan? Siberia? You can't go to Yemen or Pakistan, which are officially allied counties: he'll just kill you. You can go to Iran or Cuba, though, since if he killed you it would be a big deal. Is there a list of places that are drone-able? Can Obama summarily execute an American citizen in downtown Berlin? How about London? Cleveland? Does anyone get any say on this other than Obama? What about President Gingrich? Would like him to kill anyone he doesn't like anywhere with no judicial review?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

crusader for open meetings

Roy Brown seems to be changing and growing. We all can learn from his example. I met with Mr. Brown on 1-17-2011, talking about attorney invoices for over an hour with observers, and found that he was indeed concerned about corruption in government. I appreciate Mr. Brown's initiatives.