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Zephyr Teachout announced today that she will run to replace Chris Gibson in New York’s 19th Congressional District this fall. This comes on the heels of her endorsement by Democratic Party leaders in the 11-county 19th District, an endorsement made even before Teachout announced she would run. Teachout’s name recognition and her strong showing against Andrew Cuomo in the last gubernatorial contest were the principal reasons for the endorsement.


The wind’s at her back: Zephyr Teachout is running for Congress. Photo: ActBlue.

Zephyr’s announcement is outstanding news for the people of the 19th District. She is smart, savvy, progressive and more likely to move the district forward—after decades of stagnation—than any other candidate around. Her campaigning skills and her name recognition give her a very strong chance against any Republican opponent (John Faso is probably the most likely). As a result, other Democratic candidates, such as Columbia County’s Will Yandik, should reassess their current ambitions and clear the field for Zephyr this fall. She represents the best political opportunity we’ve had in a very long time.

Fordham law professor and rising political star Zephyr Teachout is considering a run for Congress this year. Ms. Teachout moved to the 19th Congressional District about a year ago. Her candidacy would give Democrats a strong contender against a mediocre Republican field.

Zephyr Teachout
Zephyr Teachout for Congress. Photo: Wikipedia.

The idea of a John Faso or Pete Lopez succeeding Chris Gibson is depressing, as it would consign this area to continued backwardness for at least the length of the new Congressperson’s term. Teachout would be a refreshing and positive alternative: her experience, ambition, training and smarts could help begin to turn our area around.

We very much hope Ms. Teachout decides to run.

Florida has long been a setting for comedic catastrophe, as in the columns of Dave Barry or the novels of Carl Hiaasen. Now catastrophe looms again and while there is plenty of ironic destruction (and more to come), it no longer seems so funny.

A friend who spends time in Florida (the state continues to exert a pull on upstate New Yorkers) recently sent me news of a ridiculous situation near the Everglades: an oil company, Burnett Oil of Texas, wants to search for oil and natural gas next door to the Everglades in Big Cypress Natural Preserve. This would not only be a destructive and foolish thing to do but it flies in the face of Florida’s need to fight the effects of climate change, which it is already experiencing. If you feel fracking next door to the Everglades is selfish and counter-productive, please let the National Park Service know.


Flooding in South Beach. Photo: Miami New Times.

The business-as-usual and damn-the-consequences approach of Burnett Oil is all the more striking in that South Florida is in the vanguard of actually experiencing the effects of climate change. Rising sea levels and massive, violent storms do not bode well for the future of Miami and South Florida. An article by renowned environmental writer Elizabeth Kolbert (The Sixth Extinction) in the current, December 21 issue of the New Yorker outlines the dangers, present and future, in some detail.

Miami and —especially—Miami Beach face environmental challenges so significant that some experts think even the most expensive and elaborately engineered attempts to combat rising sea levels are doomed to failure. In light of this, conducting any harmful environmental activity in South Florida seems downright insane. And yet such activity is still utterly routine, in Florida and throughout the world.

Which may be the great environmental challenge of all.

I received a cheaply produced political flyer in the mail the other day—it was from Pete Lopez, getting an early start on next year’s Congressional election. The issue Lopez chose to highlight? Broadband and the lack thereof.

Ordinarily it would be a good thing to have a politico emphasize the need for broadband in our area and vow to help bring us up to speed. But Lopez is following in the footsteps of Chris Gibson, another politician who claimed for years to recognize the importance of broadband to this area and did fuck-all to make it a reality. This just seems like more of the same.

Pete Lopez
Pete Lopez: we need more broadband.

Lopez says he is counting on $500 million in state money to expand high-speed broadband to underserved areas. He says “a high priority for me will be to use these funds to build new Internet lines that would effectively serve our rural communities.” But he does not explain how he will achieve this. How, for example, will he persuade Mid-Hudson Cable to accept government funding to expand its service when it has rejected such funding in the past?

The question is of more than academic interest. Greene County ranks last in New York State in broadband availability, and the service it does have is arguably sub-standard.

Fortunately, another New York politician is on the case—New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. His office is investigating whether current broadband providers are actually delivering the speeds they promise. (Spoiler: in many cases, they’re not.) You can help hold your provider accountable by going to this page, filling out the form, taking the broadband speed test at http://internethealthtest.org and attaching a screenshot of your test results to the form you submit to the AG’s office.

My provider is Mid-Hudson Cable, and according to the test I am receiving less than half the speed I’m paying for.

I’d like to see someone do something about that, and with luck someone will. But it’s likely to be the Attorney General’s office, not Pete Lopez.

For those who may have missed it, the New York Times is running an editorial on its front page this morning. It is the first time the paper has done so since 1920. The editorial’s subject is of overwhelming importance in today’s America: the need for rational gun control. Here is the editorial in its entirety.

End the Gun Epidemic in America

​It is a moral outrage and national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency.

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

All decent people feel sorrow and righteous fury about the latest slaughter of innocents, in California. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are searching for motivations, including the vital question of how the murderers might have been connected to international terrorism. That is right and proper.

But motives do not matter to the dead in California, nor did they in Colorado, Oregon, South Carolina, Virginia, Connecticut and far too many other places. The attention and anger of Americans should also be directed at the elected leaders whose job is to keep us safe but who place a higher premium on the money and political power of an industry dedicated to profiting from the unfettered spread of ever more powerful firearms.

It is a moral outrage and a national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed specifically to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency. These are weapons of war, barely modified and deliberately marketed as tools of macho vigilantism and even insurrection. America’s elected leaders offer prayers for gun victims and then, callously and without fear of consequence, reject the most basic restrictions on weapons of mass killing, as they did on Thursday. They distract us with arguments about the word terrorism. Let’s be clear: These spree killings are all, in their own ways, acts of terrorism.

Opponents of gun control are saying, as they do after every killing, that no law can unfailingly forestall a specific criminal. That is true. They are talking, many with sincerity, about the constitutional challenges to effective gun regulation. Those challenges exist. They point out that determined killers obtained weapons illegally in places like France, England and Norway that have strict gun laws. Yes, they did.

But at least those countries are trying. The United States is not. Worse, politicians abet would-be killers by creating gun markets for them, and voters allow those politicians to keep their jobs. It is past time to stop talking about halting the spread of firearms, and instead to reduce their number drastically — eliminating some large categories of weapons and ammunition.

It is not necessary to debate the peculiar wording of the Second Amendment. No right is unlimited and immune from reasonable regulation.

Certain kinds of weapons, like the slightly modified combat rifles used in California, and certain kinds of ammunition, must be outlawed for civilian ownership. It is possible to define those guns in a clear and effective way and, yes, it would require Americans who own those kinds of weapons to give them up for the good of their fellow citizens.

What better time than during a presidential election to show, at long last, that our nation has retained its sense of decency?

Perhaps prompted by Thanksgiving, I’ve been looking for some good news to offset the grim drumbeat of November’s headlines. I found some bright spots close to home in the recent Greene County elections. These three Democratic victories represent three steps forward for the county:

  • Aidan O’Connor Jr. wins a seat in the Greene County Legislature, representing Durham.
  • Lori Torgersen wins a seat in the Greene County Legislature, representing Windham, Ashland, Jewett and Prattsville.
  • Doreen Davis becomes the new Catskill Town Supervisor!

Daesh may represent a growing worldwide scourge, climate change may have passed the point of no return and the Republican Presidential candidates may be know-nothings, opportunists and demagogues (not to mention obstructionists blocking every important reform in American society, starting with sane gun control policies). At least we’re making a little progress locally, thanks to the three winners cited above.

As Greene County’s largest city, Catskill should pave the way toward progress. The slate of Democratic candidates representing Catskill in tomorrow’s election are in a position to do exactly that.

Let’s start with Doreen Davis, who is running for Catskill Town Supervisor against incumbent Joseph Leggio. Doreen has done a terrific job as the Greene County Democratic Committee Chair, infusing new energy and commitment into the party at the local level. Her extensive Fortune 100 managerial experience and her ideas for improving economic development, citizen participation and digital infrastructure are far superior to anything her opponent can offer. She would be a superb supervisor.

Elect Doreen Davis Town Supervisor
Elect Doreen Davis Catskill Town Supervisor. Photo: Beth Schneck.

Doreen’s husband Crane Davis is a sterling candidate in his own right. A decorated Vietnam veteran (Bronze Star, Purple Heart), Crane is a communications professional—former Time Magazine correspondent and producer and host on Channel 13, WNET in New York— who also has extensive, high-level marketing and consulting expertise. He would be an outstanding asset for the city and county alike.

Elect Crane Davis to the County Legislature
Elect Crane Davis to the County Legislature. Photo: Beth Schneck.

The Davises aren’t the only highly qualified candidates running in Catskill, of course. Kevin Lennon, Joe Kozloski and Vinny Seeley are also running for the Greene County Legislature from District 1, alongside Crane Davis. Pat McCulloch is running for Town Councilman.

Help build a better Catskill: vote Democratic on Tuesday, November 3.

Last night, Lori Torgersen, the Democratic candidate for the County Legislature representing Windham, Ashland, Jewett and Prattsville, made some brief remarks at Fitness Concepts in Hensonville. She was articulate and persuasive and would clearly be a strong asset for her district in the legislature.

Lori Torgersen
Lori Torgersen. Photo: tpletcher.

Torgersen is bright, energetic and accomplished—she is especially well-regarded for her work (she was a co-founder) with the Windham Area Recreation Foundation (WARF).

From Torgersen’s website:

WARF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to establishing the Windham region as a preeminent four-season destination and bettering the lives of its residents and visitors through the enhancement of trail-based recreation opportunities. WARF’s accomplishments include bringing the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup to Windham for five of the last six years and building the extremely popular multi-use Windham Path. Perhaps most importantly, WARF raised over $200,000 in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene and devised a system to fairly and efficiently distribute the funds to businesses and individuals in need.

In addition, Ms. Torgersen cited two of Greene County’s longterm quality-of-life weaknesses and its subsequent lowly ranking within NY State: healthcare and broadband. She would like the county to fare better in both, and to do a better job of advocating for women’s interests as well.

If you missed Lori last night, you’ll have a chance to see and hear her tomorrow (Sunday, Oct. 25) at the Country Suite B & B from 2 to 4.

Vote Torgersen on November 3. She would help move Windham and Greene County forward.

I recently heard from Doreen Davis, the intrepid chair of the Greene County Democratic Committee.

Doreen wrote to let me know that, in addition to the Democrats’ traditional agenda of inclusion, opportunity and can-do common sense, this fall’s candidates share a focus on three important local issues.

Greene County Democratic Committee
Focused on important local issues.

These are:

  • A much-needed county-wide ambulance system
  • The impending construction of a jail and the need to balance ‘right-sized’ with ‘right-budgeted’
  • A determination to finally tackle the longstanding, abysmal lack of high-speed broadband in Greene County, after years of Republican inaction

All are excellent reasons to vote Democratic next month.

BTW, did you catch the Democrats’ national debate last night? A pleasant contrast to the ongoing Republican clown show, wasn’t it?

Pete Lopez is officially running for Congress. He’ll be running against ex-Assembly Leader John Faso, who was once his boss, and Dutchess County businessman Andrew Heaney in the Republican and Conservative party primaries next year. The identity of his Democratic opponent next November (assuming he can vanquish Faso and Heaney) is still to be determined.

“I see myself as a neighbor,” Lopez said in announcing, and indeed he comports himself that way. The problem, as I’ve noted before, is that behind Lopez’s friendly demeanor resides a far-right ideologue who would represent a step backward from the retiring Chris Gibson. There is also the question of whether Lopez is genuinely qualified to be in Congress, even though that bar is set very low these days.

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