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.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

ReformNY: Kruger Used Campaign Contributions to Pay Legal Fe...

ReformNY: Kruger Used Campaign Contributions to Pay Legal Fe...: New York’s notoriously weak campaign finance laws were highlighted this week as disclosure reports revealed that former Assemblyman Carl Kr...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

21 hours of work in a 24-hour period

As reported in the Sleepergate story, Tal Rappleyea claims to have worked 21 hours in a single day, October 1, 2010. Here you can see some of the typical work Tal says up doing.

You know, lying to me about a settlement he had no intention of honoring, working on hard to keep the town from complying with FOIL, helping them figure out how to allow someone to destroy a hill and wetlands and piss off the most famous guy in town, preparing for a meeting he was clearly in no way prepared for when it happened (don’t bother to prepare: you have no idea what will happen).

No wonder I never got my FOIL requests answered: Tal was working on them at 4 AM in a dream. No wonder they engaged in bad faith negotiations: Tal was asleep when he wrote than email agreeing to my terms.

What does it mean to work 21 hours in 24-hour period? I happen to know what it’s like. It was a winter night, about 2006.

I was just starting out. I had enough reservations to be in business but not enough to have developed new software to track them efficiently. I had enough work to keep me busy but not enough to be able to offer steady work to other people.

It takes me about an hour or two to get ready to head off to the city on a Monday or Thursday afternoon. I have to load up the dogs, program the GPS, clean up the barn again, get the dogs that are staying settled in, back then I would have had to do dinner, blankets... so I would start working about 1 PM and get off to the city maybe 2:30 or 3:30 and get back about midnight on a normal night.

It was about 11:00 PM, I was around Poughkeepsie, heading back upstate from a successful trip to the city. No terrible traffic problems, all done, almost home. I got a call from Brooklyn. Are you coming to pick up my dog? What? Yeah, I sent you an email. Oh no. I wish you had called me two hours ago when I was two blocks from your house. I have a flight tomorrow. Okay, I’ll be there but it will be well after midnight. That’s fine. We’re awake.

I turned around and headed back to the city. Around 1:30 I passed through Poughkeepsie again, fighting off the sleep. It was freezing, about 5 degrees and I had the driver’s window open. I had to stop and get out and walk around the van. Coffee. Get out again. I needed that cold air to keep me awake, the colder the better.

I pulled in to the barn at 2:30. I had a dog that didn’t want to get in the barn and was scarred, growling at me. It was too cold to stay anywhere other than the heated barn. With animals, only patience really works. I had to wait an hour for her to calm down and like me. You can’t get mad. Never works. You just have to wait. Finally, she let me put the leash on her. She went to bed.

I went to bed. With all that coffee, I couldn’t get right to sleep, as wired as I was.

Six thirty AM I was back in the barn. Back then, I thought I had to let them out as soon as they woke up so they wouldn’t poop in the barn. I know, it’s a barn, animals can poop in it. But they are all housetrained New York City dogs and they can wait and go in the yard, keep things clean. Back then I had chain link fences and always let the dogs out before 7 AM but no one ever complained about barking. Now I have wood fences and always wait until 7:30 to open the door and they complain, which makes no sense.

Anyway, Mother Nature is tough boss. I had dug a line with a shovel to bring water out to the barn. It was hard work, digging by hand, and somewhere along the line I got lazy. Somewhere, who knows where, I must have only buried the line three feet and six inches. That was okay for a while, but when Mother says four feet, she doesn’t mean three feet six inches, even if she lets you slide for a year. The line froze. No water in the barn. I had to haul buckets from the basement of my house.

I hauled a couple of five gallon buckets out and put them down. A Golden Retriever from Brooklyn checked these things out. Buckets? Water? She had never seen a bucket of water before. She’d seen a water bowl. She’d been to Prospect Park and gone swimming in the pond. What do you do with a bucket of water? She thought. She checked them out? Do you drink it or swim in it? Only one way to find out, she said to herself.

Now I’m about to make a Painfully Obvious Statement (POS). When you get to this POS (Painfully Obvious Statement), you will say, naturally, well, duh. That is the correct response to a Painfully Obvious Statement (POS): “Duh.” In fact this statement is so painfully obvious that even all the dogs in this story except this one knucklehead could figure the POS out immediately without any trial and error. The POS is so PO that even dogs can figure it out analytically. If the POS (Painfully Obvious Statement) is so obvious that even the vast majority of dogs can figure it out, it really should not be necessary to actually state it here when, presumably, everyone reading this blog entry is a human being (or having the entry read to them, although I supposed you could read the whole thing to a dog, in theory).

But I need to remind you: some of the people who read this blog are members of various Stuyvesant Boards (Planning, Zoning and Town). What may be obvious to everyone on the planet, including dogs, can sometimes be hard for members of Stuyvesant boards to understand. For example, the further away you are from a sound, the quieter it is. Or if you listen to a sound and can barely hear it, that means it is not loud. Dogs do understand these things, in general with your occasional exception. As a rule, members of boards in Stuyvesant cannot figure these things out. So here it comes, the POS (Painfully Obvious Statement) offered for the benefit of Stuyvesant board members:

A Golden Retriever cannot go for a swim in a five gallon bucket. The problem pertains to a fact of the universe called VOLUME. Larger things cannot fit inside of smaller things at the Newtonian scale in which we live on planet earth most of the time. If a big dog like that tries to swim in a bucket, the dog will knock the bucket over. When water is not contained in a tight container, it tends to head downward due to a phenomenon called gravity. We call this “spilling.”

To those of you who do not sit on boards in Stuyvesant, my apologies for having to take the time out to explain the basic rules of the small piece of the universe in which we live, stuff that even animals understand. I mean, if the town board of Stuyvesant can’t figure out that sound decays at the inverse square of distance, you can’t be sure they understand about gravity or volume either. Sometimes even dogs don’t understand that stuff as well as they should. I mean, 99% percent of the time dog do understand. But if 1% of dogs can’t figure it out, to be safe, I had better explain it to the board members who might be reading.

So the buckets got knocked over. That meant another trip back to the basement to get more water. I was heading back over the ice with those new buckets, each step was agony. It was probably about 8 AM by this time. I leaned up against a snowdrift and set the buckets down to rest. It was still cold, maybe 10 degrees. Even so, I fell asleep.

I don’t know how long I slept, maybe a few seconds or a few minutes, but I woke up with a start. How long would it be before someone noticed that I was missing? I would normally still be working in the barn until 10 or 11. It might take a few hours before she checked on me. In that time, would I freeze to death? I can’t just fall asleep.

I finished cleaning the barn and went in. The exhaustion is quite simply pain. You can be so tired that you fall down in a freezing cold snowdrift and fall asleep. You can be so tired that it actually hurts. You have difficulty performing simple tasks, like closing the door. I wasn’t sure I would make in up the two little stairs to my house and had to hold on to the railing.

That’s what it is to work 21 hours in a 24 hour period. When you start something like a business it takes some time to figure it all out. You never figure it ALL out but still, you get the point. You don’t have to be a genius or Hercules but there will be times when you just have to do whatever it is that has to be done. No one else really cares enough. It’s your business.

Does this happen now? No. This was not a good solution. Driving tired is not safe. I got a better reservation system now. I dug the whole line up and rented a back hoe and dug that water line the right way. I have water all the time now out in the barn. I got enough steady work to have steady help. This scenario won’t happen again.

Why? Working 21 hours in a 24-hour period is never a good idea. It’s not healthy. It’s not safe. It’s not productive. There is nothing good about it. I did it. I got through one rough day. It threw my whole week off, like having jet lag. This driving two nights a week, getting up the next moring, I told myself, this is not working. I can’t keep this up much longer.But Tal can. And just to take care of routine work…

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Columbia County

New year, government officials being sworn in today, and Columbia County is getting a new chair of the Board of Supervisors, new mayor in Hudson, some changes, nothing dramatic. While the new probable chair Grattan of Kinderhook seems to be a tremendous improvement in terms of integrity and intelligence over the hapless departing Roy Brown of Germantown, and we hope for good things in Hudson, the overall picture has not changed significantly.

Many elected officials in Columbia County do not understand our local economy. The state offers aid on the assumption that the local officials are in a better position to address local concerns than some state agency but this assumption is not borne out by experience. Some elected officials don't care about the economy. Petty patronage through the highway department, ginning up "us versus them" politics and making beautiful things ugly are fine to many of our leaders because actual economic growth, protection of natural resources and hospitality and openness to outsiders would undermine their own positions. I would offer the entire town board of the town of Stuyvesant, particularly the dishonest supervisor, Ron Knott, as examples of this kind of reactionary, close-minded and counter productive government.

We can think about the place we live, the time we live in, and come up with a plan that will be put into place by the existing institutions to create prosperity, protect open space, improve education, and reduce inter-tribal tension. I am offering such a plan in this post for 2012, as if people actually cared about those things, the environment and the economy, instead of just feathering their own nests at the expense of the public interest. We can pretend to have a functioning system of government and think about what this hypothetical government might do.


Columbia County should be an agro-tourism destination. Wait: you can't sum up a whole county in one hyphenated word--"agro-tourism"--and be done, right? There has to be more to it than that.

Well, no. Agro-tourism is compatible with light industry, second home ownership, the arts, the environment, and will lead to economic growth while protecting the land. Agro-tourism is not compatible with heavy industry and sprawl. Saying Columbia County is a place for agro-tourism covers almost everything.

County Level

Towns are too small to be marketing units in New York City and other places. The idea of the "Hudson Valley" is too nebulous and there is no governmental authority capable of protecting and encouraging the brand. The brand can't just be a trick. It has to actually mean what it says: agro-tourism.

Roy Brown was pretty proud of his billboard in Times Square. That billboard was the equivalent of flushing the taxpayer's money down the drain. Second home owners are not going to buy in Columbia County because of a billboard but might go elsewhere when they see that stupid thing.

If you say you are an agro-tourism destination, then you make it true, then you can easily and truthfully market the county almost effortlessly. Putting up a poster with a horse on it was just stupid.

I could get into the specifics, how to make this work. It's clear to me all the pieces to make a coherent County-wide strategy to protect open space, grow the economy and create unimagined prosperity. It would work.

Unfortunately, we have a government all mucked up with people who don't care about prosperity or preserving natural resources.