Category Archives: Government

Ta Da Dump, Ta Da Dump, Ta Da Dump Dump Dump

What sort of backwards place is Bethlehem, anyway? Yes, backwards.

The Albany suburb is known for its excellent schools and well-heeled residents, the home to doctors and lawyers and such — but to that, I say, “WTF! Who closes the dump on a Friday?”

It’s not really a dump. The town transfer station collects your waste and dispatches it to landfills and recycling centers. This is not Albany, where you  just put a ratty old couch on the curb and it disappears overnight. No, in Bethlehem you drag it to the dump transfer station and pay them to make it go away.

De-cluttering a house is hard work, and lately my car has made many trips to a local storage facility and the dump transfer station. Too many trips to the storage facility and not enough to the dump transfer station, if you ask me, but that’s another blog post.

So, if you’ve ever filled your vehicle with crap and found that there’s nowhere to put it, like in Alice’s Restaurant, you know what I mean. Except in this case it wasn’t Thanksgiving, the dump transfer station was closed because it was FRIDAY.

Again, I ask you: what sort of backwards place is Bethlehem, anyway?

The War on Christmas Signs

It’s scandalous that Bethlehem refuses to allow signs in the town square that wish folks a Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah! I’m never one to take these things sitting down — unless it’s to sit down and pound out an angry screed to our town supervisor, John Clarkson.

Dear Mr. Clarkson,

It’s good to see that you embrace the spirit of Christmas, but most unfortunate that it’s the spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge you embody, shouting out a hardy, “Bah, Humbug,” in the face of Bethlehem residents.

I’m writing, of course, about your decision to ban the Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah signs from the Four Corners.

Yes, there is a Christmas tree, and yes, a menorah — perhaps the world’s largest menorah, actually — but how are we to truly experience the joy of these holidays without printed signs that wish us well?

Indeed, I felt great emptiness as I drove through the intersection on Monday and did not see a sign wishing me a Merry Christmas. Who is it that ruined Christmas for our town, I asked? I was not surprised to learn that it was you, the very same John Clarkson who this fall did not make sure our leaves were collected in a timely manner!

When I saw a photo of the sign that offends you in the Times Union, it only made matters worse. Here is the picture:

sign

How fiendish to deprive our citizens, especially our little children, the experience of seeing this wonderful sign that warms the heart and exemplifies the true meaning of Christmas. It’s shameful, that’s what it is!

What’s next? A ban on residents decorating their homes? A prohibition on displays that you find distasteful? Maybe you’ll outlaw inflatable Santas and only allow us to hang those sterile looking white lights, the ones that are so popular in socialist countries, like Denmark and Canada.

Let me tell you this , Mr. Clarkson: when it comes to your war on Christmas, you can expect voters like me to have our boots on the ground next election day.

I suppose that like Scrooge, you will keep Christmas in your own way and we will keep it in ours, but it’s my sincere hope that on the morning of December 25 you wake up and see the light shining through your window. Then you will dash to the Four Corners and  hang those signs where everyone can see them. Only then will Christmas in Bethlehem be saved. And yes, Hanukkah, too.

Sincerely,

An Anonymous Voter

Walk this Way

The roads around my house have never been more dangerous. More cars, greater speed, less focus on driving — it’s all made things very tough on pedestrians.

I’ve complained about the lack of sidewalks in my end of town, and years ago the powers that be claimed they would be doing something about it. Well, years later the powers that be acted. For the past few months, a crew from the Town of Bethlehem worked to lay down nearly a mile of beautiful new sidewalk. This fills in a gap that now allows you to travel all the way from Delaware Avenue to Route 9W without walking in the road.

sidewalk

It may not seem like a big thing to have a sidewalk, but this has already made me safer. For years I’ve run on the road, usually before dawn, and while I’ve done so with reflective gear and a very bright headlamp, it always feels dangerous when a car passes.

I’d say this is better for drivers, too. Now they won’t be startled by some nut out running on the road at 5am, distracting them from their eating, drinking coffee, texting, folding newspapers, reaching into the back seat, smoking pot — whatever. Yes, the aroma of weed often wafts out from passing cars at that hour.

Now, if the motorists can manage to stay on the road, I have nothing to worry about.

A Towering Mistake

Love it or hate it, the Empire State Plaza defines Albany’s skyline, and the jewel in this crown is the Corning Tower.

Maybe you’ve noticed that the building’s distinctive profile has been sullied by the construction of some sort of storage shed on the roof.  It’s bad enough that the Corning Tower has sprouted antennas in recent years, but the shed is nothing less than a huge wart on the nose of one of the city’s most important landmarks.


Most of you probably don’t care, but it’s wrong to mess with the vision of the architects — and of Nelson  Rockefeller himself — by ruining the clean lines of the building. According to Joseph Persico’s terrific biography, Rocky was an aesthete who was famously controlling over the design of the Plaza; the shed would have driven him mad.

Worse yet, according to All Over Albany, the structure is a permanent fixture.

What were they thinking? I’m guessing there was no serious consideration at all. It’s hard to imagine that an architect would be that disrespectful of a building so important — or that anyone could look at the plans and not see the damage they were doing.

There are buildings all over downtown that have had various structures and equipment piled on top of them. That’s a routine practice and most of it goes unnoticed, but what they’ve done to the Corning Tower? That’s an abomination.

A wider view after the jump…
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Deer in the Headlights

At about 1 a.m. Sunday, on my way to an ambulance call, I slowed down to let a deer cross Delaware Avenue in Delmar. It stepped up onto the sidewalk and paused in front of Bethlehem Town Hall, where it calmly watched me drive past.

This struck me as funny, having just read about Bethlehem’s new task force that will study the town’s deer problem and suggest some possible solutions.

What deer problem? Well, there are the obvious things, like the number of deer/car collisions and the damage deer do to property — but also they’re looking at the relationship between deer and Lyme disease.

I don’t know much about deer — certainly not as much as the big brains they’ve assembled for the task force — but something tells me this is like trying to change the direction the wind is blowing. If you read the committee’s web page and the meeting notes you’ll find oblique talk of hunting the deer with crossbows and deer sterilization.

Short of putting up a fence around town, will anything really be effective? Won’t new deer move in if you get rid of the ones already there?

So, here’s an idea: I have read that coyote urine keeps deer away. Maybe we need to import some coyotes — or, because that might not be popular, we could spray coyote urine. It could probably be spayed from a plane, but you’d obviously need a lot of coyote urine.

So, if you think the stench of coyote urine is not as bad as having all those deer running around, there you go. If there’s room on the task force, I’m available for the next meeting.

Don’t Drink the Water

Flipping through the dial this morning, I caught the local news on the radio, just in time to hear this interesting item: Albany residents are warned that two bodies of water, the Washington Park Lake and Buckingham Pond, are “infected” with a blue-green algae bloom.  The report advised people not to “drink the water.”

If you’ve ever been to Washington Park or seen Buckingham Pond, I’m pretty certain that the last thing in the world you would ever do is drink that water. And if for some reason you completely lose your mind and  do drink the water, the health department outlines some serious ramifications:

“Consuming water containing high levels of blue-green algal toxins has been associated with effects on the liver and on the nervous system in laboratory animals, pets, livestock and people.”

We get into frequent arguments at my house about The Walking Dead, which returns this Sunday night. Someone will say, “Where are they getting water? Imagine the time you’d have to spend locating and purifying water just to stay alive.  Very unrealistic.”

Yes it’s extremely unrealistic. Almost as unrealistic as the idea of dead people lurching back to life and consuming human flesh. I suppose if we can accept the zombie premise, the maybe we can let go of the fact that the show’s characters don’t spend time collecting water.

Suspension of disbelief is central to enjoying horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. When you start getting bogged down in in conversations about what’s realistic, it takes the fun away.

Instead, let’s talk about a real world issue, like who’s the numbnut that thinks people would drink the water out of the Washington Park Lake?

Observations from the Jury Box

I’ve been summoned for jury duty before, but never even had to appear at the courthouse. This time my number came up — and I was seated on the jury for the trial of a man accused of  criminal sale of a controlled substance in the 3rd degree, a Class B felony. He was arrested for selling $20 worth of heroin.

Here are a few impressions:

If you get called for jury duty, you probably will not serve. 150 people were summoned in my group and 14 were chosen. Everybody else was dismissed. We were told upfront, before selection even began, that our trial would last just two or three days.

Albany County Court gives jurors the VIP treatment. We were handled extremely well by court personel who went out of their way to make sure it was a positive experience. After the trial, the judge, Hon. Thomas A. Breslin, visited with us to thank us for our service and answer our questions about the trial. He would not address sentencing, which will not take place until August.

Court can be a lonely place. Our courtroom could accomodate nearly 300 spectators — and every single seat was empty. The defendant stood alone without friends or family. The charges that will send him to prison were not even interesting enough for a reporter to show up.

The whole case hinged on whether we believed the tesimony of an informant who conducted the drug buy. Initially, several jurors harbored doubts about her testimony — but as it turned out, theirs were not reasonable doubts. One would need to believe that she concocted an elaborate scheme to fake her drug buy and frame the defendant, all right under the nose of the police who had her under strict control. Could there have been some sort of conspiracy against the defendant? Yes. Was that a likely scenario? Absolutely not.

Overall, it was a fascinating experience.

Everyone should see what happens during a real trial first hand, if not as a juror then from the gallery. The prosecutor primed us in his openning statement by telling us this would not be like on Law & Order. He was right, it was not. And nothing you’ve ever seen can prepare you for being part of the real deal.

Breaking Camp

It was always obvious that people were living in the small patch of trees at Broadway and Church Street, near the Port of Albany. Driving past in the morning, you could make out tents and tarps and sometimes a bit of smoke from a cooking fire. Now and then you’d see clothes stung up to dry.

Not anymore.

This week, somebody — presumably the city — came in and cleared out the area. They didn’t do such a good job of cleaning up. If you walk through the site you can see bits and scraps of what was left behind by the people who lived there.

It reminded me a bit of the scene in “Ironweed” when a gang of thugs descend on a hobo camp to roust the squatters. No, people should not be living in the woods at the edge of town, but it made me sad that their little refuge was destroyed.

Think about what it would be like to live that way — and be thankful you know where you will spend the night.

Bedding

Lost Hat

Campsite

Fire Pit

Flickr slideshow.

Here’s Your Furlough, Governor Paterson

Monday is furlough day.

I’ll spend the time spreading mulch in the garden. Taking the day off may sting a bit, but it’s nothing compared to the trouble it will cause people struggling to make ends meet. They’re getting screwed.

No, if it’s my duty to help save the taxpayers some money, you won’t hear a complaint from me. But what about you, David Paterson?

This was your idea, so maybe you’d consider giving up a day of your salary. Leading by example sends a powerful message. If you take the same hit you’re asking of the state workers, there might not be so much ill will.

Cynics would call it an empty gesture, but a little symbolism goes a long way. It’s certainly better than what you’ve got going on now. Run it by somebody in your press office.

In case you’re curious, I took a job at the State of New York less than a year ago because it seemed a little more secure than working in TV. The way things are these days, I’m grateful to be working. Missing a day or two won’t kill me.