Archives for category: Local Government

It’s encouraging whenever a local politician moves to do something worthwhile, so we salute Assemblywoman Didi Barrett for her recent call to Columbia County leaders to address the woeful broadband situation.

This site has been urging improved broadband coverage for years, but all we’ve had so far is lots of political posturing (I’m looking at you, Chris Gibson) and no real-world impact. Instead, local officials on both sides of the river drag their feet and resist any sort of positive initiative or, if they do try to act, they invariably screw things up somehow.

Didi Barrett
Didi Barrett speaks out. Photo: poughkeepsiejournal.com.

What’s more, David Salway, Director of the state’s Broadband Program Office, is projecting 2019 as a broadband delivery date. After years of pointless local delay, the state’s target seems unconscionably far off, even if there is a lot of work to do. Meanwhile, officials like Columbia County Planning Commissioner Ken Flood are “waiting to see” (the favorite activity of many local politicos) whether or not Columbia County is even eligible to receive state broadband funding.

By speaking out forcefully now, Barrett is calling attention, yet again, to the need to finally tackle, begin work on and resolve an intractable local problem that has been ignored for far too long.

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.

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.

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.

Former state Assembly Minority Leader John Faso, a Republican who said he was forming an “exploratory committee” last month, seems on the verge of formally announcing his candidacy for the 19th Congressional District. That, at least, is the strong impression given by a new johnfaso.com website, especially its “About” page.


The Fasos. Photo: johnfaso.com.

In the aforementioned About page, Faso says “A lot of us are left wondering if our children will have the same chances we did to live here in Upstate New York, start a career and raise a family of their own.”

I want to work to change that, he says.

How? By talking about broadband for years while doing nothing, like Chris Gibson? By doing nothing to improve rural education or medical access? By maintaining the stagnant upstate status quo, which seems to be the modus operandi of both political parties?

And speaking of both political parties, where are the Democratic candidates? So far we have John Patrick Kehoe, of Rochester—not a great start.

Is there no one who actually lives in the 19th Congressional District capable of running a compelling, charismatic, progressive campaign?

Last Thursday evening, the Greene County Democratic Committee, chaired by Doreen Davis, held the 14th Annual Salute to FDR at the Pegasus in Coxsackie. The featured speaker was NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joseph Martens, pictured below. His remarks were modest and cogent, noting the strong environmental efforts underway in the state.

DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens
DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens. Photo: Tom Pletcher.

The FDR Salute came on the heels of a tough 2014 that saw many Democratic Party setbacks. That’s all more reason to salute FDR’s gigantic legacy. Although Greene County is deeply red and conservatives profess great disdain for FDR’s ideas, ideals and the man himself, the county’s citizens remain deeply bound to the safety net our 32nd president did so much to create. The relationship is perhaps best expressed in a Tea Party slogan of a couple years back: “Get your government hands off my Social Security.”

Without Social Security, Medicare and the many other social welfare programs initiated or inspired by Mr. Roosevelt, local citizens would be in horrific shape indeed. And given the fact that the 2016 presidential election will revolve in large part around the issues of income inequality and concentration of wealth, FDR remains more relevant today than ever.

Hats off to the Greene County Dems for the night’s celebration.