There are more than twice as many people as seats at the Farmers and Families for Livingston informational meeting tonight at the Town Garage. Pam Kline introduced the speaker; Koethi Zan and Peter Coan of Protect Ghent are now speaking about the broader implications of these analogous fights.
According to a Ghent resident dining at Kozel’s, a number of his fellow patrons dashed off from their suppers to respond to a fire at Love Apple Farm, just a mile or so north of the restaurant on Route 9H. Love Apple was reportedly sold by the Loken family in the past year to Francis Greenburger, the Time Equities magnate and founder of Art Omi.
As previously reported here in 2012, the Route 9H corridor north of the intersection with 66 has been the locus of an unusual number of fires in recent years. These have included the structure fires at Meadowgreens, the razing of Amanda’s Fireplace, and of course the two fires at TCI of NY (the second one truly catastrophic). A follow-up report in 2013 noted several other fires in the vicinity, not far from 9H.
Besides the obvious question of why so many fires are clustered in this neighborhood, the next question is why nearly all of the structures were total losses. Most fires in our area do not result in complete devastation of the home or building, but these fires are hugely destructive.
UPDATE: The fire is getting attention from all of the area’s major media. Video clips and photos of the blaze can be be found at: WRGB | WTEN | WNYT | Times-Union | YNN
In the past two years, Democrats held a 3-2 advantage on their Town Board; now there will be two Republicans, one Independence Party member allied with Young, and two Democrats. The statement from Young (a former Democrat, who turned Republican in the ’90s) would seem to imply both that she expects to continue to exert control over a majority of the Board, even from retirement; and that this election validated her autocratic management style.
But reporter Joe Gentile neglects to mention that two of Taghkanic’s losing candidates in this cycle are not merely close allies of Young, they are her close relatives.
Her son-in-law, Bob Rochler, lost his bid to become the Town Highway Superintendant (after the incumbent resigned in disgust following Young’s many personal attacks on him and his friend, Town Board member Deborah Gilbert) by a wide margin. And Young’s daughter, Carolyn Sammons, lost her second bid to rejoin the Town Board.
Tyree, a chef and property manager for controversial motocycle buff Alan Wilzig, has attempted to portray himself as independent. Tyree hits some vaguely conciliatory noises in the Reg-Star piece—as if to suggest that he does not plan to either mimic Young’s divisive style, or to use his narrowly-won political position solely to do his master’s bidding.
Not many Democrats in Taghkanic seem to be buying it; but Tyree now has an opportunity to show himself to have his own mind and ideas about the Town.
According to County Republican chair Greg Fingar, Democrat Larry Kadish lost to Erik Tyree (an independent running with GOP backing) by 7 votes after absentees were counted today. Kadish had beaten Tyree by 4 votes for Town Board in 2009, in a higher-turnout election.
Democrat Joyce Thompson holds onto her Town Board seat, and will be joined by Republican Ryan Skoda as the next highest vote-getter. (Taghkanic Democrats had complained that the GOP campaign confused voters into thinking they were voting for Skoda's father, Richard.)
Democratic incumbent Town Justice Brian Herman failed to make up the 125-vote deficit separating him from Republican challenger Glenn Schermerhorn, falling short by gaining 40 votes from absentee voters.
Absentee counting began around 4 pm Monday for Claverack, where Kippy Weigelt ( REP) holds a substantial lead over incumbent Robin Andrews (DEM). Counts for the much tighter Taghkanic and Chatham races are scheduled for Tuesday morning, starting with Taghkanic.
UPDATE: With all districts counted, Mort is ahead by 40 votes.
According to poll watchers for Democratic Town Board member Mallory Mort, the candidate has pulled ahead of his remaining opponent (and incumbent) Larry Van Brunt by 14 votes. Van Brunt had been ahead by 3 votes going into the absentee count.
Two out of four districts’ worth of absentee ballots have been tallied, and the remaining districts are considered more favorable to Mort than the first two. An all-but-final outcome is expected by the end of the day.
State Assembly member Didi Barrett issued a letter to the State’s Public Service Commission (PSC) earlier this week, urging them “to consider all options, including the underground installation of lines in order to preserve the land and the livelihoods of the people who would be affected by these lines in both Columbia and Dutchess Counties.” The full text of her letter follows below.
The Livingston Town Board voted against the proposal last night, according to Farmers and Families group leader Pamela Kline. The issue is also starting to get traction in local media, such as WNYT and the Poughkeespie Journal. Other groups are also opposing the higher lines; Dutchess County Legislator Joel Tyner posted this petiton on behalf of constituents in Clinton.
November 12, 2013
Administrative Law Judge
New York State Public Service Commission Empire State Plaza, Agency Building 3 Albany, New York 12223-1350
Dear Judge Prestemon,
I am writing to you in regards to the recent filings of proposed transmission line upgrades by New York Transmission Owners (13-M-0457), NextEra Energy (13-T-0455 & 13-T-0456), North American Transmission (13-T-0454), and Boundless Energy NE, LLC (13-T-0461) to the Public Service Commission in response to Governor Cuomo’s New York Energy Highway Blueprint. Each of these proposals would impact significant portions of my district, the 106th Assembly District, which covers major parts of both Columbia and Dutchess Counties.
This Hudson Valley district is truly one of the most beautiful in the state and the authenticity of the small rural communities, the world class soils and the extraordinary natural resources have made agriculture and tourism major economic drivers. However, in just the last year, residents across the 106th Assembly District are being besieged by the prospect of several new transmission lines, all of which have the potential to severely negatively impact the region. In addition to the above referenced projects, my district is also affected by NYSEG’s proposed transmission line through farms, historic sites and an outdoor arts center in the Town of Ghent, in Columbia County.
These projects impact a broad and diverse cross section of people. From deep rooted families who witnessed their land whittled away and views marred 80 years ago when the first lines were built, to young families – exactly who we hope to attract to our upstate towns -- who have only recently invested in this region, attracted by those very assets that will be negatively impacted by these transmission line projects.
Although I understand the need to update the electric grid across the nation, I cannot support a project which could adversely affect the well-being and economic security of my constituents and the region. I am concerned that these projects will result in the loss of prime agricultural land, have a damaging impact to the area's rich historic and cultural resources, and cause the destruction of many stunning view-sheds.
It is my hope that the PSC will consider all options, including the subterranean installation of the lines so as to preserve the land, its views and our treasured communities.
Thank you for your time and attention to my concerns. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact my office.
Last night at 401 State Street in Hudson, the audience was treated to the unusual spectacle of government trashing government’s own credibility—for the purpose of getting people to trust the government’s latest claims.
During this second informational meeting about the County airport, elected officials and Richmor executives struggled to create an impression that their Ghent facility was neither particularly busy, nor going to expand.
But when confronted with contradictory statements from the County’s own studies and grant applications, officials and executives came up with a novel defense: trashing their own previous claims.
After Richmor’s Maylon and Sharyn Richards repeatedly denied any intention to expand (a claim echoed by several officials), this attendee cited specific language from a 2012 grant application submitted by the County on their behalf.
As previously reported here, that application revealed the County’s hush-hush plan “to absorb a substantial amount of corporate and smaller freight aircraft operations” from “other airports in the region.” The application proposed renaming it the Upper Hudson Valley Regional Airport, and advocated “prioritization for the attraction of corporate aviation businesses... in order to service Richmor’s Corporate HQ [and] expand airport operations.”
In response, the author of that grant application—County economic development czar Ken Flood—rolled his eyes at hearing his own words. As far as all that stuff about expanding the airport, he said, “that was just grantsmanship.” Grantsmanship evidently being the new erm for “b.s.-ing fellow government officials in order to get funding.”
The State application was signed by Flood under penalty of perjury. Future recipients of grant applications written by Mr. Flood might want to consider that he may be using a gilded shovel... Meanwhile, Richmor’s reps claimed not to have been consulted by County about that application, or the 2003 study projecting up to 50,000 operations per year, though Ms. Richards is a member of the County’s Economic Development Corporation—and these documents repeatedly focus and rely on information about their business.
Likewise, when audience members pointed out the astronomical numbers of annual flights contained in various County studies, the responses from Richmor and various officials were that “Well, you know what kind of stuff gets put into government reports...”
This leaves the public to wonder: If people weren’t supposed to believe the County before, why should anyone believe it now?
The hearing also featured Richmor saying that a study claiming an improbable 19,200 operations per year wasn’t conducted by anyone with a financial relationship with the airport. Ghent resident Patti Matheney pointed out that in fact, the study was done by the son of the owner of Stanwyck Avionics, which indeed does work for the airport—and which many expect would be a vendor to install new equipment if the County’s plan goes ahead.
19,200 flights per years computes to over four takeoffs or landings per hour, every day, during daylight hours. As noted by local farmer Richard Harrison, whose property is near the airport, the actual number seems more like four per day.
Data from FlightAware, which in turn relies on FAA numbers, indicate more like 1,600 operations annually, excluding flight training. For more information on the County’s wild airport numbers, see this previous post.
Other headscratchers from the meeting included Richmor simultaneously touting the airport’s economic importance to the County, while bemoaning the steady decline in activity there; and officials still being unable to produce evidence of collecting any landing fees from Richmor, which contractually is obligated to pay the County $50 each time a turbined plane lands.
UPDATE: A prominent figure involved in County development writes that Phoenix Hudson has “ceased operations.”
The arrival of Phoenix Hudson last Fall occasioned the usual breathless local media hype, and backslapping among the Columbia County development establishment.
Phoenix, the latest company to take a shot at occupying the 70,000 square foot former Emsig button factory on 2nd Street, was expected to begin manufacturing plastic fencing by October 2012, “running at capacity by November” of last year.
“By the end of the year we hope to be up at around 20 to 25 people working there,” President John Tonelli told the Register-Star.
Tonelli received the customary invitation to address the Hudson Rotary. Then in June 2013, the Chamber of Commerce bestowed upon him its Business Person of the Year award, passing over more established businesses such as Basilica Hudson.
Lately, though, this site has received persistent tips to check into the status of Phoenix. Some even claim that the company has either already abandoned Hudson, or is on the verge of doing so. A daytime phone call to their office reached only a bland voicemail message, with no company directory. (Note: The Hudson Development Corporation provided the wrong number for Phoenix, sending me instead to Coldwell Banker.)
An in-person weekday visit to the company’s headquarters at the old button factory did not yield any signs of an active business employing 20-25 people. A single white Mercedes was parked out front, with plenty of weeds coming up through the concrete around the shuttered loading bays.
A lone employee emerged, identifying himself as “Dmitri.” Asked whether Phoenix was hiring, or manufacturing anything in the building, Dmitri indicated that for now the company is just selling off “existing inventory.” Would the company actually start making products locally at at some point? “Probably some time next year,” he said, though not too confidently.
Several candidates tonight in Columbia County won by fewer votes than the number of absentee ballots remaining to be counted. In some cases, the absentees could readily change the outcome; in others, it’s extremely unlikely.
To help determine which races are still close and which really are not, it’s a good time to break out a formula posted at this site a couple of years ago. This version applies to the candidate who is ahead on Election Night:
To see how this works, consider three undecided races in Ghent, Claverack and Taghkanic.
In Ghent, two candidates are vying for one remaining seat: Mallory Mort and Larry Van Brunt. Mort got 731 votes “on the machine” and Van Brunt got 734. According to sources, about 125 absentee ballots have been received so far. (A few more may trickle in, but we’ll use the 125 figure, assuming that not everyone casts a vote for every office.)
To overturn Van Brunt’s Election Night win, Mort must get 65 of the 125 absentees. That would mean he wins the absentees 65-60, picking up 5 votes. If he wins the absentees only by 64-61, it’s a tie. Meanwhile, if Van Brunt gets 62 or more of the 125 absentees, he wins by at least one.
In other words, in this Ghent Town Board race, every vote will really make a difference. Ghent Democrats are confident that Mort will win once the absentees are counted, though not by a huge margin.
For Claverack Supervisor, Kippy Wiegelt is ahead of Robin Andrews by 74 votes, 859 to 785. This site was told by a Claverack politico that about 120 absentees have come in so far. To secure victory, Wiegelt needs only 24 of the absentees: that would give him a one-vote win, 883-881. So even if Andrews takes 80% of the absentees, Wiegelt narrowly retains his lead.
That frankly looks like a lock for Weigelt, especially considering that unlike some other towns, Claverack’s absentees come as much from local nursing homes as from second home owners.
In Taghkanic’s Supervisor race, the numbers might seem similarly bleak for the Democratic candidate, though there’s a twist... Wilzig Racing Manor majordomo Erik Tyree leads current Town Board member Larry Kadish, 272-214, a 58-vote lead. A well-placed source indicates that there are 111 absentees to count at this point.
Tyree thus needs just 27 of the 111 absentees (25%) to hold on for a 299-298 win. Kadish would appear to be in serious trouble. However, in recent Taghkanic election cycles, absentees have overturned the Election Day result, sometimes quite dramatically, because the Taghkanic Democrats have a very robust absentee ballot ground game. One would still favor Tyree to eke out a not-very-convincing victory, but it won’t be by much.
N O T E : All of the above computations are based upon publicly-reported Election Night results, and more shaky reports of the number of absentee ballot returns. All of the projections above could vary somewhat, if the base numbers change.