Sunday, December 3, 2017

No Bailout for CC's Justice System Leaders

The Register Star reported on the new Columbia County Bail Fund, and Supervisor Elect Mussmann and the citizens forming it should be commended on their proactive role in attempting to solve some of the pressing problems in our local criminal justice system.  Our local tax payers and concerned citizens should be very happy.

The reality and history, however, are even more disturbing than what was described in the article.  Our local system has been broken for years and despite some attempts for reform, it remains the same.  Everything Supervisor Mussmnan states about the system is true.  People do plead guilty to violations and misdemeanors, whether guilty or not, just to get out of jail.

The key public officer in this abuse is District Attorney Czajka.  It is standard operating procedure for this DA to state to defense counsel:  “Tell your client to plead guilty and I will recommend time served to the judge.”  Imagine yourself in such a situation.  Unfortunately, desperation takes control of reason.
About forty years ago Catholic Charities formed a bail fund that failed for lack of funds and public officials’ support.  The Columbia County Probation Department has had a Pretrial Release program funded by a State grant for years and it failed miserably in its purposes.  Bail issues for the poor and unconnected have been an ongoing issue in this County.

And the lack of nominal bail for an individual charged with nonviolent violations and misdemeanors has major financial and social consequences.
       First, the County jail costs about $100 per day per prisoner.  And if the defendant loses his job,  apartment, or both because of this incarceration, then he or she becomes dependent on the local welfare system, costing the taxpayer much more, particularly when there are children involved.  The costs snow ball when the defendant needs food, motel shelter, medical care, transportation and foster care.
       Second, the human and social costs that will be incurred are significant.  The trauma of family separation and resulting mental health issues are well documented.
       Think of the thousands of individuals and families that have been negatively impacted over the last fifty years because of our local failures.  Think of all that money wasted only to give us a false sense of security.

The criminal justice system needs to be dictated by what’s in the best interest of society, and that is saving the taxpayers’ money and human resources and helping to ensure a productive life for those charged with minor crimes.

Why isn’t our system working?  There is a disconnect between the County’s publically stated values and core beliefs and what is really going on.  Where are the criminal justice leaders who are willing to lead the County in another direction using evidence based on research and common sense?

A report from the Pretrial Release Representative provided a scoring system that would help determine if a defendant was a good candidate for ROR (released in own recognizance).  Why aren't our criminal justice leaders employing this scoring system?

This system can change, but it means introducing efficient evidence based procedures along with supportive values.  A number of existing public agencies and nonprofits in the County could help monitor individuals who have been released on their own recognizance, hereby reducing risk to the community.

We can only do this by electing and supporting public officials who have the core values and skills to implement such cost saving procedures.

Eugene Keeler

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Dawn Porreca Endorses Kathy Leck Eldridge, Janice Brodowski, and Carol Peckham

Dawn Porreca submitted the following Letter to the Editor to both the Columbia Paper and to the Register-Star on Monday, October 30.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Who's Paying for Ed Nabozny's Campaign?

This one is for people who like to follow the money.

The New York State Board of Elections has strict rules for reporting contributions made to candidates for public office, for obvious reasons. You can see those reports here.

Individual candidates may file their own reports or authorize a committee to manage their campaign expenses and file for them. Ed Nabozny has authorized The Friends of Ed Nabozny.

The Friends of Ed Nabozny reported various contributions to his 2015 campaign. Ed also received contributions from the Columbia County Democratic Committee and the Greenport Democratic Committee. But that was 2015. Since Ed elected to caucus with Republicans and lost the endorsement of local and county Democrats, he won't see any contributions from Democratic committees this year. But you would expect that Friends of Ed Nabozny is still behind him and, presumably, one or more Republican committees.

But The Friends of Ed Nabozny hasn't filed ANY of the four reports required since July in 2017.

Neither has the Greenport Town Republican Committee!

Perhaps the Columbia County Republican Committee has information for us. At least they have filed two reports (there was no county Republican primary).

However, although they do show contributions to John Faso and to Michael Blasl in their 11-Day Pre General report, there are NO contributions to Ed Nabozny. So who's been paying for all those signs, and the shiny color mailings we keep getting?

If you'd like to know who's behind Kathy Leck Eldridge, Janice Brodowski, and Carol Peckham, they have all authorized the Greenport Democratic Committee to represent them and all required reports have been filed.

 So who's behind Ed Nabozny? Are they hiding until after the election?

Thursday, November 2, 2017

What Happened to Greenport's New Solar Farm?

Almost two years ago, on December 30, 2015, Greenport signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with Solar City  for the installation of a solar farm on four acres of town property located on Middle Road. The farm was expected to produce 100% of the electricity the town government currently obtained from National Grid, at a substantially lower price—saving Greenport "tens of thousands of dollars in electricity costs each year." Solar City agreed to an "outside commercial date of operation" of December 18, 2016, with a penalty for each day past that date.

In February 2017, Solar City notified the Town Board that they were unable to meet that date due to "difficulty negotiating" with National Grid "over the need for costly substation upgrades." On March 1, in a "First Amendment to the PPA," the Board passed Resolution 35-2017 to extend the due date to December 31, 2017.

 A few questions:
  •  Did Solar City pay Greenport any penalty from December 18, 2016 to March 1, 2017?
  •  Does the First Amendment to the PPA, which is not available on the town's website, contain the same penalty for each day past the new outside date? 
  •  When asked at the most recent town meeting when the solar farm is expected to be operational, Supervisor Ed Nabozny replied that "as a layman's guess" it would be three or four months, which is past the current due date. Why does Supervisor Nabozny have to make "a layman's guess"? 
  • Why does he know so little about a project expected to save Greenport a lot of money? 
  •  If the solar farm is late again, will Supervisor Nabozny still be reluctant to collect a penalty from Solar City?
We pay Greenport's lawyers to write deadlines and penalties into contracts because when we lose time with a vendor we lose money. Is there more concern about Solar City's finances than about Greenport's?

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Independence Party Voters Agree: Change Is Coming to Greenport!

Final, certified results of the Independence Party primary were posted today on the Columbia County Board of Elections website. Kathy Leck Eldridge beat Ed Nabozny 41-13, compared to his 32-16 showing in the 2015 primary for Greenport town supervisor. Clearly, Independence Party voters in Greenport have changed their minds about Ed Nabozny.

And remarkably, Clayton Clark, a longterm incumbent whose name appeared on the ballot, lost his position on the Independence Party line to two write-in candidates, Janice Brodowski and Carol Peckham. Certified results for Greenport town council were Brodowski 36, Peckham 29, and Clark 20.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Assemblymember Barrett Endorses Democratic Slate in Greenport Town Board Races

Assemblymember Didi Barrett, who represents the106th Assembly District, has endorsed three candidates for Greenport Town Board: Kathy Leck Eldridge for Supervisor and Janice Brodowski and Carol Peckham for Town Council.  "I'm delighted that these women are running for local office," Barrett said.  "The way to make positive change happen is to have caring citizen candidates like Kathy, Janice, and Carol, who are committed to fighting for their neighbors and their town, step up to run -- and win! I am happy to support them."

From left to right: Didi Barrett, Kathy Leck Eldridge (Greenport Town Supervisor candidate), and Carol Peckham and Janice Brodowski (Town Council candidates)

Kathleen Leck Eldridge is a registered nurse and an administrator at a senior facility. Born and raised in Greenport, she said, " I know firsthand the struggles that our residents go through to find good jobs and affordable places to live.  I'm running because I want Greenport to be the town where anyone can say this is the place they call home."

After learning about Barrett's endorsement of the Greenport candidates, Eldridge said, "I want to work for this town the way Didi Barrett has for her district, with intelligence, energy, and a concern for what's important in our backyard.  We couldn't ask for a better leader to endorse our campaign."

Janice Brodowski, also a registered nurse, worked as a childbirth educator and in the obstetric unit, where she has overseen the birth of hundreds of Greenport and Hudson babies and watched them grow up as neighborhood kids and young adults.  She was also Greenport's tax collector for fourteen years. Given her extensive experience and long dedication serving the town and its families, Janice believes she will bring deep local knowledge, honesty, and compassion to the town board.

Carol Peckham grew up in upstate New York and now lives in southern Greenport.  Over the course of her career in publishing she launched and ran two profitable businesses.  Since being here, she has become a member of Greenport's Comprehensive Plan Committee.  She says that her business skills and knowledge of the town's diverse population will help her to make efficient and effective decisions as a member of the town board.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Who Is Minding the Store? Gene Keeler Is Asking

Why should a front-page article in the Capital District’s regional newspaper about DA Czajka’s acceptance of appointments to handle two high profile investigations in the City of Troy interest Columbia County citizens? Why should Columbia County voters care? Two issues jump out to the reader.

From the reporting, it appears Mr. Czajka is using a Rensselaer County Grand Jury to pursue two potential criminal matters after being appointed Special Prosecutor in both matters.

The first matter involves essentially the alleged misuse of 911 tapes to influence a potential election in the City of Troy. The second matter involves allegations of several Troy detectives entering a residence without a warrant and a resulting alleged cover-up.

First: Columbia County has its own problems that need to be addressed by a fulltime DA and his staff.  Mr. Czajka was elected to serve and protect Columbia County citizens not Rensselaer County citizens. Unfortunately, Columbia County has its own severe opioid problem, shootings in Hudson, environmental issues and white-collar criminals. Why is Mr. Czajka spending his time in Rensselaer County when he is needed here? Mr.Czajka is neglecting his official duties to protect and serve Columbia County citizens. His office’s recent record cannot justify his significant absence from local duties. A number of high profile local cases were not successfully prosecuted i.e. arson, sex, larceny.

Second: Who is paying for these investigations? As can be seen from prior special prosecutor cases in the Albany area tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on these matters. The Columbia District Attorney’s Office is primarily funded by local taxpayers. Is Rensselaer County going to reimburse Columbia County for the investigations costs and expenses as well as Mr. Czajka and his staff’s professional time? How are the costs going to be determined?

These questions should be of great concern to Columbia County taxpayers considering our own problems.

Why is Mr. Czajka engaging in this behavior that is in direct conflict with the interests of Columbia County citizens? Who is minding the store?

Eugene Keeler                         518-965-3563
75 Spook Rock Rd
Hudson, New York 12534

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Commerce Park Pipeline: The $3.5 Million Question

Commerce Park, located in Ghent, needs to upgrade its sewage system.  Columbia County rejected building a new treatment plant in favor of a pipeline with four pumping systems that will transport its effluence into the Greenport treatment center.

The Greenport pipeline is estimated to cost  $8.8 million and the home-grown County plant $4.5 million.  A June 23 press release from the Columbia County Board of Supervisors argued that although the home-made system seems much less expensive, when you add in its annual operating costs of $162,000 versus the $45,000 for the Greenport pipeline (which includes fees to this town), it comes out even.

Is that true?  As a Greenportian concerned about the upcoming waste, I used the County's calculations from their June 1 Resolution for comparing the cumulative 30-year cost for the Greenport pipeline to the cost for building a new County treatment plant.  I used the same 3% interest and monthly payments of $449,582, and added in the two different annual operating costs.  

Over that period, the Greenport pipeline would cost about  $14 mill and the County home-grown system about $10.5 mill -- $3.5 million less after 30 years, even with the higher operating costs. After 30 years both systems will probably have to be rebuilt.

So why is the County spending that much more money on the pipeline to Greenport?   The new pipeline will have a capacity of 75,000 gallons per day, although Commerce Park only generates 20,000.  Hmmm. Could they be thinking of dumping even more sewage into Greenport from the proposed Amedore Project? Is the Commerce Park pipeline a Trojan Horse for a monster development that will damage Ghent, Claverack, and Greenport? 

Also what does Greenport get out of that annual $45,000 operating cost?  Nowhere is this mentioned in any of the documents. Are we selling out our ability to develop our own commercial area for some paltry amount of money?

The Greenport Town Board needs to give us an answer.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Will Greenport Become the Outhouse for Columbia County?

The Claverack Town Meeting on June 10 was packed – not only with Claverackians, but also people from Ghent and a number of us from Greenport,  We were there to hear about the proposed monster Amedore development on 9H, just south of the Rt 66 interchange. The lawyer for the developer opened with a long-winded presentation describing the process by which Claverack can mutilate its zoning laws to provide for nearly 600 rental units on one side of 9H and some box stores on the other, mostly cut out from a swath of former mined areas and farm land. (An aside, George Amedore Jr., 46th District Republican Senator, is a Vice President of the company.)

Subsequent questions from Ghent and Claverack residents closely scrutinized the rationale for this development: Retail stores are failing all over the country.  Why would anyone think these stores would succeed in this rural area?  The new residents would be almost half low-income and seniors.  How many tax breaks was the developer getting for reclaiming the mined land, for building units for people with low incomes?  If fully populated, these units could add up to 25% to the Claverack population.  Where would these new residents – many low income or seniors -- come from?  Who would provide the services – emergency, water, and sewage, for these new citizens?

And that's why we Greenportians were there.  To get some answers on the sewage. Just a week or so ago, many of us learned about a new pipeline that will carry waste from Commerce Park in Claverack to Greenport's own sewage treatment plant.  This pipeline is good for both towns.  It solves some environmental problems with the current Park's treatment system, which relies on a disintegrating steel container and puts inadequately treated waste into the aptly named Mud Creek. We also have an arrangement with Stockport to receive flow that does not tax our system.  These arrangements provide some funds that will help pay off the bond that financed our system and contribute to our operating costs. Because the Greenport Water Department has recently succeeded in keeping most of the storm water out of our sewers, our treatment plant has extra capacity.  We now can handle what would come in from Stockport and Commerce Park.  

(An important aside: there's still a stink in the air in the neighborhoods around our treatment plant.  So, even before the Commerce Park pipeline is built, we need to investigate whatever is causing the odor so it won't get worse.)

But, now, what about this Amedore development?  Is the Commerce Park pipeline a Trojan Horse, opening up the possibility for piping into Greenport the development's own smelly effluence? Hmmm.  Maybe.  In a recent Register Star article Amedore was quoted, "I inquired with the county about the sewer line [to Greeenport]. If it is feasible, connecting would be something we would consider.”

Ok, guess again.  We can handle the existing waste plus whatever comes from Commerce Park, but if we become the toilet bowl for every major development in nearby towns, we would eventually reach capacity.  Then what would be left for our own town's development?  And why would Greenport support competing big box stores in Claverack at the expense of Greenport retail?

Greenport is considering a Comprehensive Plan, which, if adopted, would be its first.  As part of it, Fairview Avenue is cited as being an area that could still take on new retailers and multi-unit residences (with incentives to improve the strip's aesthetics). The Amedore monster, built a couple miles from Greenport, could be the death knell to our struggling Fairview Avenue retailers and The Falls, an elegant new residential addition to the northern part of our town. And by taking Amedore's waste, Greenport would be a major participant in its own demise.  

And what's our own town board doing? Are they aware of any of these issues?  Are we just going to be hit with a fait accompli next year, an agreement that allows this disastrous development to pipe its excrement into our town -- a nail in Greenport's commercial coffin?

So, for our own self-interest, Greenportians should join with Claverack and Ghent to oppose a development that will harm us all and that will bring no joy -- only a wasteland -- to our communities.