Consumer Protection

Changes in Putnam to the current laws pertaining to retail pricing are being held hostage to lobbying efforts by NY State Senator Greg Ball.  Why is he against advancing to a modern system that protects the consumer and gives choice to the retailer?  This revenue neutral department needs to move into the 21st century while maintaining its cost effective operation, and so do our retailers.

If this interests you, attend the county meeting Tuesday evening..

 

 

Term Limits for Towns?

Last year the Putnam County Legislature had the courage to move forward by enacting term limits.  Kent Fiscal Watch thinks term limits should be applied to all elected positions; federal, state and local.  We acknowledge that, with term limits, we would sometimes lose the services of experienced and respected officials, but limited terms also encourage the most capable to go on to higher positions and accomplish more.

Term limits help prevent office holders from being led astray.  Too many have come to public office with the intention to serve, only to be corrupted by personal power accumulated in their long tenure.

Limited terms also decrease the corrosive effect special interest groups have on the legislative process.  A regular turnover of officials is a costly challenge to the long-term funders who seek undue influence.

Most important is the space that will be provided for the next generation of leadership, fresh candidates, now discouraged by the high cost of unseating an entrenched politician.  New leaders often have more vigorous and open relationships with their constituents.

To encourage public discussion of whether the Town of Kent should follow the lead of the county legislature on the issue of term limits, Kent Fiscal Watch is holding a public discussion with Vincent Tamagna, Director of Putnam Public Transport, who advocated for term limits in the County Legislature, on March 20, 2013 at 7:30 PM at the firehouse located at 2490 Route 301.

Please make your voice heard by attending the meeting and/or contacting us here at www.kentfiscalwatch.org.

Support for Term Limits in Kent

Posted on behalf of Joyce Mitchell:

Recently, I sent an e-mail to all Kent Fiscal Watch members asking for their suggestions of issues to pursue and advising them that our Board had decided to promote term limits for the Town of Kent; that hopefully other towns might wish to pursue this goal, and that the County had done so, thus revitalizing their legislature.

Richard France and Dr. Enschauf replied:

Can I (Richard) assume now that my original recommendation for term limits, which I later expanded as an op-ed piece for ALL the area papers, is FINALLY being recognized as -- sadly -- the only course that We the People have available to us in dealing with the Hydra ? I say "sadly" because, like yourself, we too regret that we can't expect the people we keep electing to act with OUR best interests being their primary responsibility. Term limits isn't fool-proof; but as the campaign I worked on in Maine continues to show -- and by the same two-thirds majority that voted for it over two decades ago -- it's a damned sight better than the arrogant and corrupt prone conditions that it replaced.

Thus far, however, we fail to see how our County legislature has been "revitalized" by term limits. We are still squandering countless millions of our tax dollars on an obscene number of superintendents of schools (and the fiefdom that surrounds each of them); on a bus system (PART) that is so little used it doesn't even pay for the cost of the fuel it uses; and are now facing the additional costs of a feckless law suit over the County Clerk's refusal to obey the law. (There was no similar standing on "principles" when that venomous self-serving airhead, Sarah Palin, was screaming, "Don't retreat, reload" -- and pinpointing people like Congresswoman Gifford as targets. The smell of hypocrisy is stultifying !)

While our schedules tend to keep us mostly in Manhattan this time of year, our family has maintained at least one residence in Lake Carmel (and, for most of the time, two) since 1953. Our hope is to pass the remaining property onto our son or daughter one of these days. So, our check for $25, made out to Kent Fiscal Watch, will go out in next week's mail.

Elisabeth Frischauf, M.D.

Richard France, Ph.D

Kent Fiscal Watch is grateful for all comments pertaining to the matters we address; transparency, ethical and lawful behavior, and fiscal responsibility in our elected officials. Dr. France has given us permission to place his reply on our website.

Cordially,

Joyce Mitchell

KFW Letter to the Editor on Proposed Sewer District

17 December 2012

 

Dear Editor,

 

On Tuesday, December 11, a public hearing was held at 7PM at the Town of Kent concerning the proposed creation of a Sewer District along the Rte. 52 corridor for commercial property, 41 homes in Lake Carmel and the planned houses of the property known as Kent Manor. The meeting room was packed, mainly by the residents of Hill & Dale whose Palmer Lake is the proposed dumping site for the sanitized water from the sewage treatment plant to be built at Kent Manor. Although most residents expressed support for future business development, they cited fear of contamination of their swimming lake.

Unfortunately, the only person chosen to speak for the project was Jeff Contalmo of Insite Engineering, a firm that has already billed many hours to this project and will be greatly enriched if the project goes ahead as presented. He was unable to answer questions about long term safety and insurance issues and the agencies that hold that information were not present.

This project, while seeking to provide needed sanitation to the community, will enrich some at the eventual cost of many. That information, along with risk statistics, is missing and should have been presented to the public.

Of particular interest to Kent Fiscal Watch was that Supervisor Kathy Doherty failed to disclose to the public that she and her husband own property in the commercial corridor and could benefit financially from this project. When a member of KFW brought this matter to the attention of the public, she was verbally attacked by Doherty with a display of unbridled animosity. The meeting was filmed and will be on the public interest channels of FIOS and Comcast.

At the very least the Supervisor should have recused herself from the voting which was scheduled for December 17, or from promoting or influencing her team on the Board. In this time of low confidence in politicians fueled by the Leibell affair, an investigation may be warranted to see if any laws were broken.

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

Kent Fiscal Watch

www.kentfiscalwatch.org

Contact info: 845-721-5807

 

Now Here's an Idea — or Is It?

I can't decide whether to be snarky about this or not. I'd like to believe that this time the Carmel Central School District is planning to play straight with the public, but after the shenanigans with the bond vote in October it's kind of hard not to be suspicious about what the Board of Education and the Administration might be up to here. According to an extremely short LoHud article, the school district is forming a Capital Projects Advisory Committee and is soliciting for members. The article doesn't provide details about how the members will be selected, what the committee's mission is, how much time would be involved, or, well, much of anything. About all it says is:

To be considered for the Capital Project Advisory Committee write to Dr. James Ryan, Superintendent of Schools, Carmel Central School District, P.O. Box 296, Patterson, N.Y. 12563; fax to 845-878-4337 or email to sdieck@carmelschools.org. Deadline is Jan. 4.

Perhaps this is an honest attempt to engage the public in deciding how to proceed after the failed bond vote. Perhaps it's not. Either way, if you have an interest in our community and the success of our schools, this committee is definitely worth volunteering for. If it's a real attempt to reach out you'll have the opportunity to help shape how our tax dollars are spent. If it's another ham-handed attempt at following a recipe from The Prince, you'll know for sure it's time to get new people in charge. Either way you have the opportunity to make our community a better place.

Bumpy Ride Ahead

On Thursday, October 18 Kent Fiscal Watch hosted a public meeting at which our new Deputy County Executive, Bruce Walker, presented the proposed 2013 Putnam County budget and answered questions from an audience of about twenty residents. Having lived in New York State for nine years now and having been many times to budget presentations for the Town, the County and the Carmel Central School District, I was not expecting much.

I was surprised. Bruce didn't present the typical semi-coherent, obfuscated explanation of why it is absolutely imperative for taxes to go up much faster than inflation and for the most popular services to be cut. Instead we heard a tight, well reasoned and detailed proposal that has as its base the idea that the purpose of county government is to deliver necessary services affordably. Additionally, Mr. Walker was more on top of his subject than anyone I've ever heard from any governmental organization in New York — local, county or state.

His answers to the many audience questions showed more than just familiarity with the proposed budget and its direction. He demonstrated a real desire and ability to explain what's going on in county government (including the heavy burden of unfunded mandates), why he thinks parts of it need to change first (the parts that are under local control) and how he wants to change them (start with the many opportunities to cut spending without cutting necessary services). At the same time he came across as a sensible person who knows he has limited knowledge and insight who can learn from others, not some "kill government" zealot with simple answers to hard problems.

I think he recognizes that his approach is so foreign to "business as usual" that many long-time players in county government will find changes of the sort he advocates existentially threatening. I foresee an extraordinarily bumpy ride ahead. I just hope it's not also a dangerous one.

Now What?

On Friday, October 12 voters in the Carmel Central School District voted down a proposed bond package of nearly $5 million. In the aftermath, I see two crucial questions facing the community: First, what lessons should the community and the District learn from this? Second, what are we — the community and the District — going to do next?

It will be both interesting and telling to see how these questions are answered in the days ahead. Here is my two-cents worth.

In my view, the chief lesson here is that there is a limit to the public's tolerance for the sort of manipulative, election-bending tactics the Board and the District attempted to use during this referendum. They packaged an extravagant "fitness center," mostly intended to benefit the football team, together with a much larger package of repairs and upgrades at the high school. They closed down all of the polling places except the high school. They moved the date for the vote to a Friday when there was a home football game. And they extended the hours for the vote to ensure the polls were open when the football game finished. When questioned about this at a recent public information session, the District's Mr. Stark basically told the audience none of it was accidental.

From the result, the District and the Board should learn that treating the voters with disdain bordering on contempt is not a wise tactic. Notwithstanding the lesson from chapter XVIII of The Prince, people are not always so simple and inclined to immediate needs as the prince might think. As for the public, the chief lesson, I hope, is that voting actually matters. By voting we hold local officials to account for what they propose to spend tax money on. We do so even when those very officials try to rig the system to prevent just such a result.

With those lessons learned, the fact remains that many parts of the proposed bond are actually necessary. We all live here together. We have to decide how we move forward for our mutual benefit. Our schools are a critical service for our community. We need them to be successful. That means we need those who we have chosen to manage our schools to be good stewards of our money, and we need to provide the necessary funds when the Board and the District come to us with a clear, transparent, and honest need.

There are many items in the failed bond proposal that are probably necessary. I am convinced we need to replace the ancient boiler, for example. We don't want its failure to impact the operation of the high school. So, the community needs the Board and the District to prepare another bond proposal. The new proposal needs to be everything the last one wasn't: It has to be needs-justified, free from padding, and beneficial to all of the students at the high school. The Board and the District need to rebuild the public's confidence in the system. They need to restore closed polling places and put the vote back on traditional days and hours. They need to clearly and publicly abandon schemes to use school activities to try to manipulate how school votes come out. The public, for its part, needs to support a clear and necessary bond proposal when one is presented.