Archives for category: HIgh-speed Bandwidth

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?

All politics may be local, as Tip O’Neill famously said, but that doesn’t mean that local elections necessarily amount to much. What O’Neill meant is that people tend to vote in their own narrow self-interest in local elections. Soaring rhetoric and grand principles seem to count for more in national elections, though even then voters seem to translate these in terms of their own political affiliations and belief systems. Especially now, when the country is so starkly divided.

Local elections have not changed much in Greene County in recent years. (National elections have not changed much in Greene County, either.) The county continues to lag statewide in many important areas, including education, health care and economic opportunity. Local officials nominally in charge of improving the situation have been a joke, and that’s phrasing it kindly.

Do local elections matter? Here in Greene County, not usually. But they could matter, with the right candidate(s).

Democratic Greene County Legislature candidates. Photo: Beth Schneck Photography.

There’s an election coming up in a few weeks—on Nov. 3—and a lot of new Democratic faces are in the mix. Let’s look at some of them.

Lori Torgersen is running to represent Windham, Ashland, Jewett and Prattsville in the county legislature. How would she make a difference? Her vision includes pursuing state, federal and private funding for important projects, including broadbrand, and working as an advocate for women’s interests. She has played a role in developing the Windham Path and organizing the Mountain Bike World Cup races in Windham. Almost everyone likes the former; some people question how much the latter does for the overall area economy, in part because it overlaps with her husband Nick Bove’s business interests. Still, Torgerson is saying a lot of the right things.

Aidan O’Connor, Jr. is running to represent Durham in the county legislature. O’Connor is a young paramedic who has extensive experience with Greene County Emergency Medical Systems and he is a driving force in the attempt to implement a coordinated, countywide ambulance service. God knows that’s something the county sorely needs.

Crane Davis is running to represent Catskill in the county legislature. Crane is Princeton-educated and a gifted communicator with political experience; he would seem to be an asset for Catskill.

Finally, Doreen Parsley Davis (who is Crane’s spouse and also the Greene County Democratic Committee Chair) is running for Catskill Town Supervisor. Doreen is a skilled political operative with extensive experience in managing large teams and budgets for Merck, a Fortune 100 company. Again, this sounds like experience Catskill could use.

Do local elections matter? This time, maybe so.

One of the major components of Gov. Cuomo’s recently announced “2015 State of Opportunity Agenda” is a broadband iniative that proposes to bring high-speed Internet access to every New York State resident by 2019. It is, the governor’s office says, “the largest and boldest state investment in universal broadband deployment in the country.”

But good luck making this ambitious plan work in Greene County. Given Greene’s god-awful business and governmental leadership, whatever money is spent here is likely to be wasted.

Warren Hart. Photo: Planning & Economic Development

Let’s look at the record. Greene currently ranks dead last among New York State’s 62 counties for broadband access—fully 79% of Greene County’s citizens lack access to even 6Mbps broadband, a minimal standard which will soon be revised upward. This, despite years of empty posturing by everyone from Congressman Chris Gibson to Planning and Economic Development Director Warren Hart.

It’s an absolutely pathetic record. If Cuomo’s broadband plan does seek local input to guide development, as it says it will, then let’s hope these clowns won’t be involved. (The governor’s website says input will come from the state’s Regional Economic Development Councils instead, which would mean the Capital Region in our case.)

Greene doesn’t fare a whole lot better in other quality of life measures, either. We rank 57th in county health outcomes (the Bronx ranks last here). In education, of the 429 school districts in 48 counties throughout upstate New York, Greene’s best showing is no. 145, for the Windham-Ashland-Jewett District. Catskill comes in at 396, and Cairo-Durham at 404.

What is the problem here? Why do Greene residents tolerate this sort of worst-in-class performance? Is it really impossible to imagine something better?

Last night, Barack Obama gave the strongest State of the Union address of his presidency. If Republicans and the political pundits were expecting any sort of contrition following the Republican victories last November, they must have been sorely disappointed. Obama was aggressive in defense of his policies instead, and vowed to veto any Republican attempts to impede them. Better late than never, as they say. It’s good to see the leader we thought we elected in 2008 finally emerge, and it’s good to see Obama abandon his attempts to find compromise with people who are so conspicuously wrong on every important topic.

Photo: Alex Wong, Getty Images.

Under the rubric of “middle-class economics,” the President proposed raising the tax rate on the richest Americans and large financial institutions to Reagan-era levels (i.e., still relatively low). The revenue would be used to provide tax breaks for working families, a higher minimum wage, expanded child care, two years’ worth of free community college and substantial investments in America’s ailing infrastructure, including broadband. It’s a sound, middle-of-the-road, common-sense approach which Republicans of course reject.

Speaking of broadband, Warren Hart, Greene County’s underperforming director of Economic Development, Tourism & Planning, was supposed to announce a new county broadband initiative last week. There’s been nary a peep in the press about this. Oops. Not that it matters; more than a year ago, Hart was talking about using towers designed for emergency cell service to improve the county’s broadband coverage. That was a clumsy idea back then and it remains so now. If the county ever does gain decent broadband, it will be through policies imposed from the top down, either at the state or federal level.

Progressive change, as ever, is likely to be incremental and the Republicans, at every level of government, will try to obstruct such change. But it was good to listen to the President set the terms of the debate.

Earlier this week, prior to the disastrous 2014 election results, I raised the question of whether my, or your, individual vote really matters anymore—whether anything would change regardless of which way we voted, or whether we voted at all. I was enormously frustrated and cynical when I wrote that, but I was also pretty much correct: under our current two-party system, the individual doesn’t count for much.

The American Unwinding Continues
Image from George Packer’s The Unwinding, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2013).

The mainstream media’s reading of the election results has been predictably superficial; the local media’s reading even more so. Yes, the Republicans won handily. Voters were unhappy, so they voted for “change.” This is of course starkly ironic, in that Americans heartily disapproved of Congress and Republican obstructionism before the election. Now we’ll have more of the same.

Still, one should never give up. What is the way forward?

For Democrats at every level (local, regional, statewide, national), the message needs to be sharper and stronger if the party is to stand for anything at all. Here in Greene County, I have nothing but admiration for Democrats who brave the odds and run for office (though I’d like to see them more dynamic and outspoken). But as regards the 19th Congressional District, I have to ask: what the hell was the party thinking? Surely Democrats will be able to come up with a more plausible candidate from this region the next time Gibson runs for reelection.

Timid, wishy-washy stances on every important topic contributed to the piss-poor showing of Democrats and progressives on Tuesday. A Democratic candidate in Ohio who wouldn’t even admit to voting for the president? Cuomo at the top of the Working Families ticket? (That party paid dearly for its mistaken “compromise.”) Candidates who were unwilling to address climate change or economic inequality? No wonder most people stayed home, or voted for the other side to voice their dissatisfaction (contrary to their own interests though that vote may have been).

Zephyr Teachout, who ran strongly against Cuomo in the Democratic primary, had this to say about the midterm results.

And the national news that Democrats lost—well, that’s a sign we need to return to our core progressive values with Elizabeth Warren-style populism if we’re going to win, not a set of manufactured milquetoast messages with no real ideas behind them. People feel powerless—we should address that honestly and directly, and take on the monopolists that are rigging the system. We need a trust-busting, pro-public school, clean energy Democratic Party that is unafraid to speak the truth and refuses the trickle-down ideology. So let’s keep up the fight.

She’s not talking about Hillary Clinton in 2016, folks.

I almost decided to ignore this election. Yes, the country is in dire straits and the stakes are indeed high. But it’s likely this election will have almost zero impact on any of our nation’s most important problems. For the first time in my life I’m tempted to skip voting altogether.

Vote Blue—Power to the People
Vote Blue 2014 POWER TO THE PEOPLE logo by Jeff Dombrowski.

And yet … there are differences. So you can argue citizens have a duty to choose, so as to minimize destructive outcomes. Chris Gibson is widely viewed as a nice guy, but that is no reason to vote for him, as this editorial makes clear. As for the rest of tomorrow’s choices, progresssive voters would do well to vote the Working Families Party line, with the exception of the choices for Governor and Lieutenant Governor. There, the vote should go for Green Party candidates Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones.

Here’s hoping I’m wrong, and tomorrow’s election will somehow make a difference.

Here in upstate New York, bad telecommunications service is taken for granted. Many areas lack wireless service. Most areas lack adequate broadband. And—something I hadn’t known—it turns out that New York State ranks third in the number of people with no telephone service whatsoever.

rotary dial telephone
Can we improve NY’s telecom infrastructure? Photo: Wikipedia.

Now someone is finally trying to do something about the state’s lagging telecommunications infrastructure. Last week, the Communications Workers of America, along with 16 other organizations including AARP, Common Cause, Consumers Union, Citizen Action, the Working Families Party and the NYS AFL-CIO,
filed a petition to the New York State Public Service Commission requesting a formal investigation of the state of the telecommunications industry.

The new Connect New York Coalition was joined by approximately 75 elected officials, including the Mayors of Syracuse, Rochester, Albany, Kingston and Poughkeepsie and many state assembly members and senators (though not Pete Lopez—no surprise there— or Cecilia Tkaczyk, which is a surprise).

The petition seeks to address these concerns:

  • The state’s unacceptably high ranking in the number of people with no phone service
  • A 500% increase in basic telephone service rates
  • Corporate plans—especially Verizon’s—to starve and abandon legacy landline service
  • The refusal of telecoms to expand broadband service to rural areas and many upstate cities
  • The steady deterioration in service quality and telecommunications infrastructure

This is very important stuff, and addressing it is long overdue. The quality of New York State’s telecommunications service has a direct impact on each individual citizen as well as the state’s overall economic well-being. The Connect New York Coalition’s petition to the Public Service Commission is a necessary first step toward improving telecom quality.

You can download a copy of the Coalition’s press release (in .docx format) here. For additional information, contact Dan Levitan of BerlinRosen Public Affairs, 646-200-5315 or

A December 4 article by Kyle Adams, one of the few local reporters I can stand to read, highlighted Greene County’s utter lack of progress in developing adequate broadband service. In fact, Greene’s record in this regard is so dismal that it warranted a visit from the federal government’s Government Accountability Office. The office is trying to determine the efficacy of the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service Broadband Loan Program.

In Greene’s case, of course, that efficacy is non-existent. Zero. Zilch. This is true primarily because Mid-Hudson Cable (identified only as “a small telecommunications company” in Adams’s otherwise straightforward article) declined a Rural Utilities Service broadband loan.

According to Warren Hart, the County’s way-overdue-for-replacement director of Economic Development, Tourism and Planning, Mid-Hudson declined the federal loan because of “the high administrative burden involved”. “It was just too much for this small company,” Hart said.

Warren Hart points out a vast expanse of nothing.
Warren Hart points to a vast expanse of nothing.
Photo credit: Kyle Adams/Columbia-Greene Media.

As someone who recently paid Mid-Hudson several thousand dollars to run a cable to my house, I’d maintain that Mid-Hudson calculated it would be more profitable to continue its business as usual, where extending service to anyone not served under the sweetheart town contracts it’s negotiated requires that hapless new customer to pay through the nose for the privilege.

Hart went on to lament that the county’s scanty broadband infrastructure is a handicap compared to more urban counties (as though this were just a geographic fact of life, and not a consequence of decisions made or not made by the county’s business and political leadership). He was joined in his hand-wringing by Jeff Friedman, executive director of the Great Northern Catskills Chamber of Commerce, another organization not noted for its succcessful track record.

I’m not sure which is worse: the continued false promises of improved broadband service from Congressman Chris Gibson on down to politicos at the local level, or the continued absence of said broadband service, with no improvements on the horizon.

Wait, though—Warren Hart has a plan. “Plan A,” he said, is to marry wireless broadband Internet service to the emergency communications towers planned throughout the county. The first such tower, at Windham Mountain, is expected to be completed in spring 2014. It is being constructed to improve emergency communications, though, not to provide broadband service. Hart nevertheless “hopes it will” provide broadband service.

No Plan B was mentioned.


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