Feeds:
Posts
Comments

images of a woman

The following is the speech I gave (well, with tremendous artistic license… I actually wandered quite a bit!) at the Nathan Littauer HealthLink “Images of a Woman” event on July 31, 2019:

Good afternoon! I am Ann Thane.

I want to Thank Nathan Littauer for allowing me to share on such a juicy topic! Images of a woman… just think about the images that come to your mind when we think about women. 

I especially want to thank my Sista, Tammy Merendo, for this opportunity. Really, she’s the one that inspires me every day (and we talk every day) with her strength, her no-nonsense approach, artistry, humor, and of course, the swearing. We are both very good at swearing (in private, of course). I’m sure we’re the only two in this room guilty of this unfortunate choice!

SO, back to the juice! Women! Like all of us here “of a certain age”, we’ve lived several different lives over our time on earth, each decade, so different from the one before… from our clothes and hair, to jobs and locations, partners, people, food…

who here eats the same way you did as a 20 year old? 

Everything is just so different about every ten years or so. Our mental and emotional challenges change, and so do the heroes, or more to point today, the heroines.

Because as women, we are sisters on a sacred level and we have all experienced this special connection… sometimes in the line at the grocery store, or in the ladies room on the thruway… I have a very nice relationship with the women at the coffee stop I make every morning, yet we know very little about each other.

We share in this immensely complex thing labeled “female” and have common hungers that are expressed in many ways over the years. 

One thing is clear: we are born hungry from the moment we come kicking and screaming into this world. We are born hungry for touch and for attention, and this hunger for human connection is a steady stream that runs through our lives for all of our lives, whether it is satisfied or not. This desire to “be complete” carries us into the most baffling and rewarding searches of our lives. 

I have been extraordinarily blessed to have always had incredible female guides, mentors and friends at each stage of this journey. Over the next few minutes, I’ll walk you through the distinct stages of my life in the hope that you too recognize your similar experiences. For me, these women are proof of the existence of a higher power that is active, not distant, in my life. My belief system includes faith in a God or a Goddess or whatever is out there that will send who and what I need, when I need them.

Because I mentioned the word Goddess, I’m throwing in this shot of my mother’s mother, Marion Tigue, because she was a primary influencer in my life. ❤ I look like her and smell like her, and if I get really outrageously lucky, I’ll be at least half as good as her. She still whispers to me when I need her.

Thankfully, I’ve had very few times when I didn’t have two to three closest friends, usually girlfriends, that get my vibe: they are curious, creative, sensitive, and always funny. I come from people that love to laugh and this trait has carried us through some of our toughest times.

This includes the two wonderful sisters I was born with, Lisa and Marybeth, and my sister-in-law Betsy. They’re all incredibly kind, supportive and the perfect combination of whacky that has worked magic in my life.

SO, without belaboring this, I had a happy childhood. I was the first born to young newly-weds, followed rapidly by four more living children and two miscarriages.

My parents were loving and in love.

This is my dad. I’m about ten here. He was my whole world, really. I love my mother and always will, but my father and I were very alike and he treated me as both a father and an equal. 

This is my mother as a young woman. She was voted May Queen in 1954 at the University of Delaware and she was way prettier than Jackie O. They were a beautiful, white, professional, suburban couple that were the envy of their peers.

In the early sixties, they moved to a sprawling home in an affluent Catholic neighborhood on the outskirts of Wilmington, DE, and this is where I met my childhood soulmate, Patty Delate.

From the moment we met, we grew into each other like vines on a trellis. Patty is the fifth child in a family of thirteen. She was a pretty, athletic blond and one year older than me. I was small, skinny, homely, and shy, and mercilessly bullied by kids at school. She was smart, hysterically funny, mischievous, and spiritual, even as a child. We were both raised in the Catholic faith, but she “got it”, ya know? I alway wondered how she had been born with such an innate knowledge of spirit, and why I never felt that understanding.

Now, after all of these years and watching her through the magic that is FaceBook, I think she is just a very old soul, fine and strong, kind and selfless, doing the work she is meant to perform in this physical realm. She lives on the Alaskan coast and is a Nurse Practitioner and Wholistic Healer. She also travels often to the Democratic Republic of Congo to share her heart with people-in-need. 

I blame her for my love of chocolate (we made many, many excursions to an old-time candy shop up the hill from us), for my inclination to share all my thoughts and worldly goods openly with all friends, and am grateful that she fearlessly taught me to cook and bake.

She’s the one that taught me to explore and worship the beauty of the forest and the creeks. When we were together in the woods, we were transported to another realm of tadpoles, tree tops, raspberry bushes, and crayfish tucked in muddy crevices while we balanced on rocks above the water, crouched and contained.

She was my first true love.

I remember it being odd when we grew apart once we went to different schools and then she moved away to take up her journey through time.

Yet, there were others in the woods when I was a child. My cousins, Joan and Jane, lived just two blocks from me, and I spent wondrous amounts of time running down wooded paths and through back yards to get to them. It was great for us kids, but our parents lived and worked a little too closely together, in the family pharmacy business. The adults were ravenously, though not overtly, competitive. 

This came from their complicated dynamic. Basically, a set of sisters married a set of brothers. My mother was beautiful and favored by her father; my aunt was accomplished and favored by her dad. This was good and bad. The hunger for parental approval drove both my mother and aunt to be successful businesswomen and celebrated public servants. They taught my generation to love our communities, to volunteer, and to not just speak up politically, but to lead. 

All of my generation have inherited or been impacted by a family disease that continues to snake its way through our line.

Quick skip back to my dad, my daddy, my movie star handsome father. He loved being a husband and father.

We came first in everything, until we didn’t. There came a time that he couldn’t control his hunger for the serpent that is alcohol. It eventually took his life and he died by his own hand at the age of 42.

That was horrible. 

I was 17 and just starting my menstrual cycle, so I was also half out of my mind…and my first real boyfriend had just broken up with me… it was really, really terrible,

but suddenly, it was five years later.

I survived. Somewhat damaged and wobbly, but alive. In that time, I had two more serious relationships, and met my husband, Peter, at college. At that time, I was tall, thin and pretty (I thank my parents to the day for my braces) but I didn’t know I was pretty. I look back at photos of this time and don’t recognize that girl. 

Anyway, at that time, I was a bit out of control and a lot lost, but I stuck with Pete through it all. That is not the whole truth. He is my rock. He’s the one that stuck with me through pain and chaos. As did the next group of women that came into my life at a critical juncture.

Tracy (Bjork) Thompson and Jeanne Reeder were my roommates in college. After 40 years they are still my closest friends, though they both live on the West Coast. I see Tracy every few years and it has been about 20 years since I last saw Jeanne. Since the beginning, our connection has been immediate and intense. Back then, we were hungry to be grown up but still cool, to find our nest and our purpose. We were crazy thin and ate poorly. I remember big bottles of cheap german wine and lots of obnoxiously loud music.

Tracy is beautiful and confident and Jeanne is etherial and certain. They came to me at the perfect time, just starting out in life, when you make the friendships that will last a lifetime.

I learned from them that I could be open, intellectual, artistic and accepted. We indulged our new appetites for debate, living independently, and excess. Soon after they graduated, they left excess behind. I had a harder time of it.

These women have loved me through depression, dishonesty, addiction and distance. I deeply love them both to this day.

It was in my twenties that I realized I had a unique artistic voice. This was not quite in keeping with the realistic approach to drawing taught at the University of Delaware and left me insecure about my expressive technique. I look back at my work from the time and see that it is probably some of the best of my life, even though I had no confidence in my work at that time. 

This is the story of my life!

I will forever being seeking the effortless nature of my line then, and I have forgotten how I achieved some of the effects I achieved with paint. These are some images from that time. Obviously, in my 20’s I was obsessed with sexuality. You’ll see in a minute that I’m a kid at heart and my interest in the female form has not diminished, though now my rendered women have personalities and intent.

I met my in-laws in my twenties too. In this regard, I may be the luckiest woman in the world. My husband’s parents were loving and accepting of me from the very first time I met them. And my mother-in-law, Dottie, showed me maternal love that was completely patient, generous and stable. She was a FABULOUS baker. We all know baking is an art. She had “it”!

Bang.

Suddenly another ten years passed and I had moved, first to NJ to pursue my husband and a job, and then to Amsterdam, NY to become a wife and new mother. I think the thirties are the hardest decade to navigate. We grapple with balance between our needs and others, with new bills, uncertainty about the future, and the first failings of our bodies. Our first grey appears, along with the weight. We jealously watch folks that haven’t paired off still dressing up, going out, moving up in the job, and enjoying the unfettered life. 

Of course, this is not the experience of the single on the other end, but that’s another person’s life. Maybe next year’s speaker!

And you should pity me. I had to go through my thirties in the 80’s! The “80’s” is really another way of saying big bad hair, too much makeup, gigantic man-like garments, and music I’ve never made friends with. My apologies that had the time of your life in the 80’s. Rock on. This is just my experience and I lived a good portion of this period in New Jersey. Nuff said.

At the same time, you begin to move fully into adulthood. The hunger to be a great parent never leaves you. It is also an appetite that can never be sated and in time, we must all learn the hard lessons, some small, some catastrophic.  

I was a graphic artist by this time of my life, which sounds creative but is anything but. It is a competitive field that pays little and any really innovative work is eliminated by clients in the first round. We had moved upstate to be closer to the Thanes. They had retired in the Catskills, an hour from our house in Amsterdam. My husband worked in the construction field and I freelanced in Albany while juggling two little children. Thank goodness for the creation of the personal computer! This allowed me to work from home with the kids at my ankles. We didn’t have much, but never went without. 

And we always had wonderful meals, because I love to cook. It is a calling that is very similar to my drawing. Often, when I take a break from drawing or other mediums, I’ll jump to the kitchen. Food is colorful, fragrant, and delicious. 

In my early thirties, I made lavish meals to hide that fact that I was struggling with my drinking. I gained 70 pounds and was so self conscious, I didn’t want to leave my house. I certainly didn’t want to be seen in a bathing suit and there are few photos of me at this time.

I also realized that my compulsion for food was every bit a strong my desire to drink. This would start the sea-sawing up and down of my weight for the next couple of decades, but I could justify my sins because my cooking was spectacular. The disease of addiction is so insidious. Thank goodness, my mother-in-law was there, always with open arms and gentle, thoughtful encouragement, like I was her own blood. 

And just like that, I was pitched into the next phase of my life. God, to be 40 again physically is my dream! I was healthy and confident enough to feel all “growed-up”, but still vibrant enough to feel young, sexy and alive. My recovery work had introduced me to a growing circle of friends that knew everything about me, and loved me to a better life. I lost weight and began to truly enjoy my life by using the gifts God had given me for others.

I landed in the Walter Elwood Museum, first on the board and then as its Director. My children were in elementary school. I was active with the PTA, the Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation, and the local Democratic Party. 

While at the museum, I had the honor of taking over operations from Mary Margaret Gage, the denizen and keeper of city history and the quirky collection of 20,000 objects, assembled over the last century. She was another angel sent to guide me. 

The museum was her passion and reason for living. In a careful dance, she passed off the position to me with grace and restraint. And this is why: we loved each other. Mary Margaret was known to be difficult and direct, a formidable and fierce protector of her trove. I was scared to death of her. 

So I prayed. I prayed everyday to love her. No matter what she did, I would love her, and try to understand her. She must have been praying at the same time, because we came together and started to build a future for the museum in unison, until circumstance took her to Florida to live out her remaining years with her kids. Mary Margaret instilled in me the same passionate feelings about those collections that she had. She also demonstrated humble, anonymous service to others win her thoughts and actions. The Mary Margaret that I knew gave selflessly to her friends and organizations in our community. She has a special affection for children that may have surprised some. She never backed down from a confrontation, but would hold someone in a hard stare for several minutes until she unnerved them. She totally rocked! 

My second museum angel was MaryAnn Tomlinson. She was president of the board for most of my seven years. She listened to me whine and cry, and would then assure me that we could bring about the rebirth of a new organization to sustain the museum.

And we did it, with many other terrific women that are still giving to the museum and other organizations today: Barb Neznek and Diane Smith were on my board. They still play prominent roles in their communities, and you may know Barb through Healthlink.

The museum taught me so much and I loved that job. Everyday, I discovered a new, charming object with an exotic origin or story. I put all of my creative impulses into developing a new mission and vision, crafting policies, hosting events, marketing, rehabbing faded exhibits and bringing out forgotten surprises from the attic. I never thought there’d be another job that could top that one. 

Never say never. Ha!

Anyway, the famous Amsterdamian south-sider Virginia Whelly brought me onto the Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation board in the year 2,000, when I was 43 years old. A walking bridge from the parking facility over the railroad to an empty lot on the Mohawk River was all that existed of the park that we see in this slide. Did anyone attend the concert on Saturday night? Over 2,000 people were present. There’s some nice symmetry in that. 

Outside of the guy I sleep next to every night, a few folks in Amsterdam really stand out for the lessons they taught me. Virginia, of course, with Doug Nadler, Paul Parillo, Paul Gavry, and so importantly, Paul Tonko. They really are the ones that understood what revitalizing the waterfront could do for Amsterdam. Little did I know, this would lead to a twenty-year commitment to this redevelopment and thousands of hours of pushing for one thing or another. 

This heady time taught me that I had personal power to bring about change in my community. That’s a HUGE lesson. All of a sudden, I noticed that there were only a very few number of people doing everything, and that every board featured the same faces. Any of you do volunteer work? Am I right? 

And don’t those little PTA, library and sports team boards get political?! Whoa! I think several years on a committee or board should be a mandated qualification to run for any elected position. Lord knows there’s the need and maybe some of these people could learn how to work toward a common goal before spending our tax dollars.

My forties did not inspire a hunger in me for power as much as a realization that power lies in the hands of a very few. This realization jettisoned me into the next phase of my life with perfect preparation for the nonsense and wonder that is politics.

Bethany Schumann McGhee and I found one another in this arena and fought the good fight for about 15 years. It’s at this time in my life that I began to realize most news anchors, teachers, nurses and some of my friends were quite a bit younger than I.

My kids attended school with children from a family up the hill and we all became very close. I would be remiss to not talk a minute about Mary DeCusatis.

Kind and outwardly social, but intensely private too, we recognized our similarities quickly. We’re even born on the same day. Mary provided a haven for my children when I was trying to kickstart a career. She created a lovely home, with sumptuous meals and late-night board games. She shared her extensive knowledge of the city’s people and made all of us feel safe and protected. I’d end up working side-by-side with her husband (and another best friend, even if he’s not a girl) in city government for eight years.

Because by the time I was in my mid-fifties, I was Mayor of the City of Amsterdam and heavy again! But THIS was the best job I’d ever had in my life. It was endlessly stressful and challenging, but so incredibly rewarding.

I think my advantage as a woman mayor was how unfamiliar it was to my opponents; they just did not know how to communicate, much less collaborate, with a woman. The funny thing is that, I was serene most of the time, until the end of my second term. By that time, they had called out the guns on my council and the nuts called the radio stations everyday to complain about things they didn’t really understand. Politics can get so ridiculous, which is tragic because we must have government to manage our communal needs. 

And this is what that did too me.

Until I decided to take my life back.

As one can expect, it gets a little lonely in that office now and then. Thank goodness I fell into managing with extremely talented employees that were willing to work collaboratively.

We facilitated the biggest capital improvements to Amsterdam in 60 years, many that are still progressing today. I’m very proud of my record, but it only happened because God gave me the best team and volunteers. The following is just a smattering of significant projects and public art I championed during my time in office. You’ve already seen the waterfront park, but there is so much more!.

Nothing shows you who your friends are more than politics. It was at this time that God also sent me a hive of women to show me what it really means to be communal, and they are still my friends now.

They are persistent, kind, expressive and giving. They live lives of joy and small victories, magnificent plans, monumental sacrifice and challenge. They do this while making pottery or wreathes and beating a drum. They build community gardens, work countless fundraisers, and shepherded a group of children from the east end for years.

They will be there for you if you are painting a hydrant or managing the aftermath of a 500-year flood. They grapple with personal tragedies, illness and loss, while handing out candy to children at a Halloween event.

I’m going to flip through photos of these friends; Barb and Diane I’ve already mentioned but there is also Kari, Sherri, and Suzanna. Most importantly, there was Tammy Merendo, and once again in my life, I was a solidly connected to someone as if we were hardwired. 

Tammy Merendo is my Sista; my chosen sister. She has made me hungry again to live fully, unencumbered by my preconceptions or insecurities about myself that bob up to the surface now and then. She’s so amazing and I can barely believe that I would be so lucky to have the support of someone so fierce and sound.

And crazy like me. We all need that small bit of kooky in our bestie, right? We are crazy in the way of picking up the phone and calling at the same time, or being drawn to the same item in an auction. We love jewelry, folk art, great food and indulging all of our senses. She is the girlfriends that understands my mother issues and my most recent healthy diet attempt. She’s the girlfriend that has promised to help me transport and bury a body.

Just kidding.

Not really!

And here I am in my early 60’s, totally freaked out like a teenager in more ways than one. My body is unfamiliar again, I’m a bit unsettled and new challenges keep showing on the menu.

About 5 years ago, I decided to finally shift my eating habits to foods that were mostly unprocessed and as close to raw as I can get off a menu. I’ve stopped eating most meat because I intuitively think there is something wrong with it. It’s just not right that a chicken breast is the size of a turkey breast now. I think the meat is making us all big. 

But what do I know. I just eat a lot of vegetables & greens, nuts, sweet potatoes, and humus, and have discovered that I love to cook diverse dishes from all over the world. I went through a smoothie kick and have kept 50 pounds at bay for five years.

I feel good. I think I look good, but I’m still on the receiving end of the lesson game. My kids are stumbling their way to adulthood. They’re both doing really well. My son is an engineer that does some travel around the country for his job and my daughter is a nurse at Mt. Sinai in NYC. They both are really smart and have their own puzzles to work out. Hopefully, we’ve provided them enough in the way of guidance that their journey will be less painful, but in the end, we all must crawl before we walk into our full being.

My mother is 85. She lives independently, is vibrant and healthy for her age, and is a driving force for neighborhood revitalization in Wilmington, DE. My siblings and I are trying to manage planning from afar, though one brother lives close by and is her touchstone for the family. Again, this is uncharted territory.

I work a very good job for the State, but I hope one day I’ll be able to go full on as an artist. I’m so pleased to be asked today to speak at this particular event because I feel like this is an important time for women and I have come into my voice as an activist and an artist. My images are confrontational in their nudity and I like to play with traditional themes.

I find that expressing myself artistically is not a choice; it is what I have been born to do, just like some people have a talent for car mechanics or baking. Whatever that higher power is out there channels through me via the arts.

My current collaged illustrations express the beauty of the female form, psychology and sexuality. I portray singular subjects that give voice to my own struggles with aging, dignity, grief, vanity and power. We are all flawed and we are all fabulous. I am interested in commonly shared emotions of women, as these reflect the gravity and complexity of the feminine experience. 

I think the female perspective is particularly timely given what has been going on in the political sphere both nationally and globally. We watch decisions being made that will impact the environment, health, social justice, and individual freedoms for generations to come. The world has become so divided. 

I think it is time for women to come forward. Every one of us has scars and deficiencies. We have born and raised children. We have provided for our families and our communities. As incomplete as any one of us may be, when we come together, we are whole. I wish that this were the case in Albany and Washington, but also in every municipal chamber and board room. It’s gonna take more women. Because what we have is that sacred connection as mothers, and healers and leaders, to the power that exists in any room where women share space.

We know what it is to be female. We know how it feels to whisper excitedly about a first kiss or to watch the skin on our arms go slack and spotted. We know what it is to be underpaid, tapped out and under appreciated.

But because we are women, we naturally a drawn to nurture, to problem-solve, and to persist. We are drawn to each other for shoulders to cry on or to stand. 

So, I hope that today as I’ve walked you through some of the stages of my life, you’ve been able to touch on memories of people, places and important events that make such a rich and decadent stew. And I hope that you take care of yourself, that you eat and sleep well, that you take classes and have your vitals checked at HealthLink, and that you whisper your dreams to your sisters, so that those dreams will come true.

It’s been a pleasure to be with you today. Hang in there, Sistas!

Hello world.

Keep your eyes peeled. I’m up to new tricks.

Check out my page at:  www.thaneartwork.com.

Ciao…

but for the curious, the past many years are archived here.

Ann Thane 2019

The illusive Ann Thane, 2019. lol

Still-NOREVISED:
All, an error in my calculations was brought to my attention. Therefore, I withdraw my objection to the elimination of marketing funds, as this will take the budget over the prescribed tax cap. However, I point out again that this cut would be unnecessary had the council taken the ambulance service in-house. My revised veto is as follows:

OBJECTION TO BUDGET MODIFICATIONS • Resolution #14/15-241
In order to protect the interests of the taxpayers of the City of Amsterdam, I am objecting on this date, June 9th, 2015, to the following modifications to the proposed budget contained in the adoption resolution #14/15-241.

In general, the budget I proposed contained accurate and realistic estimates of revenues and expenses. It is unfortunate that the Common Council has decided to forgo the city ambulance proposal and thereby increase the tax burden on our property owners. In-house ambulance services have been proven beneficial to municipalities across the state in the way of hundreds of thousands of dollars in new revenue unrelated to property taxes or utility fees.

The modifications made by the Common Council substantially underestimate expenses for the city’s health insurance program and numerous other areas. The problem with doing this is that the “cuts” are not real; the costs that many of these items estimate are not entirely under the control of the city. The net result will be a significant deficit across all operating funds at the end of the fiscal year, while simultaneously damaging the ability of city staff to provide services.

I would object to all of these modifications if I had the votes to support my objections. Instead, I will only object to certain items that will lessen the negative financial impact of this budget in the hope that the Common Council will reconsider its actions. These objections are also constrained by the various tax caps.

OBJECTIONS:
1. Item 37 – Remove an additional $100,000 from the health insurance appropriation.
Removal of this modification will reduce the amount of the year-end deficit that will be caused by the underestimating of this expense. Again, this harkens to my prior veto of Resolution 240 citing the “practice of the County Board of Supervisors that earned negative comments during a recent audit. The OSC noted that the supervisors had adopted budgets that were structurally unsound, “The County’s declining financial condition is the result of poor budgeting and financial management practices, and the board’s failure to develop and use long-term financial plans”.” I reiterate, we should not make the same mistake here.

2. The amendment to increase the transfer from the Water Fund to the General Fund by $40,000 sponsored by Alderman Barone.
Removal of this amendment will prevent the loss of taxing power under the 2% annual tax cap. Retaining flexibility under this cap is important, as it will allow future administrations to more easily comply with the state-mandated cap and secure the associated compliance checks for our residents. It is particularly concerning that this action was taken so swiftly, without proper justification, analysis or thought, after lengthy discussion about the negative impact the loss of taxing power has on our taxpayers. Please refer to the OSC citation in reference to Item 37.

It is my hope that the Council will recognize my restraint in crafting this veto and that they will concede these few points to better serve our taxpayers.

In light of the aforementioned points, I hereby veto this budget resolution.

Mayor Ann M. Thane

once again, no.

OBJECTION TO BUDGET MODIFICATIONS • Resolution #14/15-241

In order to protect the interests of the taxpayers of the City of Amsterdam, I am objecting on this date, June 8th, 2015, to the following modifications to the proposed budget contained in the adoption resolution #14/15-241.

noIn general, the budget I proposed contained accurate and realistic estimates of revenues and expenses. It is unfortunate that the Common Council has decided to forgo the city ambulance proposal and thereby increase the tax burden on our property owners. In-house ambulance services have been proven beneficial to municipalities across the state in the way of hundreds of thousands of dollars in new revenue unrelated to property taxes or utility fees.

The modifications made by the Common Council substantially underestimate expenses for the city’s health insurance program and numerous other areas. The problem with doing this is that the “cuts” are not real; the costs that many of these items estimate are not entirely under the control of the city. The net result will be a significant deficit across all operating funds at the end of the fiscal year, while simultaneously damaging the ability of city staff to provide services.

I would object to all of these modifications if I had the votes to support my objections. Instead, I will only object to certain items that will lessen the negative financial impact of this budget in the hope that the Common Council will reconsider its actions. These objections are also constrained by the various tax caps.

OBJECTIONS:
1. Item 37 – Remove an additional $100,000 from the health insurance appropriation.
Removal of this modification will reduce the amount of the year-end deficit that will be caused by the underestimating of this expense. Again, this harkens to my prior veto of Resolution 240 citing the “practice of the County Board of Supervisors that earned negative comments during a recent audit. The OSC noted that the supervisors had adopted budgets that were structurally unsound, “The County’s declining financial condition is the result of poor budgeting and financial management practices, and the board’s failure to develop and use long-term financial plans“.” I reiterate, we should not make the same mistake here.

2. The amendment to increase the transfer from the Water Fund to the General Fund by $40,000 sponsored by Alderman Barone.
Removal of this amendment will prevent the loss of taxing power under the 2% annual tax cap. Retaining flexibility under this cap is important, as it will allow future administrations to more easily comply with the state-mandated cap and secure the associated compliance checks for our residents. It is particularly concerning that this action was taken so swiftly, without proper justification, analysis or thought, after lengthy discussion about the negative impact the loss of taxing power has on our taxpayers. Please refer to the OSC citation in reference to Item 37.

3. Item 27 – Reduce Mayor’s Marketing Lines by $30,000.
The funds expended under this line will help promote the soon-to-be completed Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook, update the City’s website, and otherwise improve the image of the City of Amsterdam. It is necessary to adequately market the positive aspects of our community to change undesirable perceptions about our municipality. Ultimately, this will increase outside investment in the City and alleviate many of the stresses cause by the current climate of disinvestment in real property. Failure to fund these efforts is shortsighted and detrimental to the future of the City.

It is my hope that the Council will recognize my restraint in crafting this veto and that they will concede these few points to better serve our taxpayers.

In light of the aforementioned points, I hereby veto this budget resolution.

Mayor Ann M. Thane

News_No
VETO STATEMENT • Resolution #14/15-239
I am vetoing this resolution on this date, June 5th, 2015.

I take issue with this resolution for several reasons:

1. Just as was the case with Resolution #14/15-226 (consent), this current resolution was introduced without prior public discussion by the Council in any committee.

2. Just as was the case with Resolution #14/15-226 (consent), this current resolution ignores the recommendations of the Golf Commission, a body that the Council had supposedly given complete control of course management.

3. Just as was the case with Resolution #14/15-226 (consent), this Council has not done any analysis as to what impact the action will have on the Golf Course Budget or City Operational Budget nor have they suggested how this anticipated revenue might be recouped in other ways.

4. Just as was the case with Resolution #14/15-226 (consent) and given that the Golf Course Budget must be made whole by tapping the General fund, this action will further negatively impact our city and its taxpayers.

In light of the aforementioned points, I hereby veto this resolution.

VETO STATEMENT • Resolution #14/15-240
I am vetoing this resolution on this date, June 5th, 2015.

1. The resolution cites “a difficult financial outlook” and that the “taxpayers are continually asked to bear the burden for balancing the city budget.” These conditions exist in every municipality and do not form the basis to ask the state to make an exception to the law that prohibits using sewer fund revenue for general fund purposes. The reality is that the City of Amsterdam operates at 39% of its constitutionally imposed taxing limit and that this budget and the last budget were adopted with property tax decreases.

2. Though the city’s financial records have been inaccurate, the identified accounting problems are being straightened out and the city does not appear to have a poor financial outlook.

3. This Council was presented a budget that was balanced through the inclusion of a new revenue source (city-run ambulance service). This proposal would have removed tax burden from our taxpayers. The Council has chosen to ignore this option.

4. The Council has proposed a shift of money from the Sewer Fund without specifying the amount needed or why it is necessary, given that they have adopted a proposed budget without this transfer.

5. This proposed transfer appears to be intended as a short-term solution to funding recurring costs. This was a practice of the County Board of Supervisors that earned negative comments in its 2013 audit. The OSC noted that the supervisors had adopted budgets that were structurally unsound, “The County’s declining financial condition is the result of poor budgeting and financial management practices, and the board’s failure to develop and use long-term financial plans”. We should not make the same mistakes here.

6. I have spoken with our financial advisors and have been informed that transferring fund balance from the Sewer Fund to support the General Fund may have a detrimental impact on the city’s credit rating, putting us at risk for a rating downgrade, which would then needlessly increase the cost of borrowing in the future.

7. There are critical repairs that must be made to the Waste Water System (treatment plant, pump stations, and distribution lines) that may require drawing from our established reserves. Further, it would be wise to accumulate Sewer Fund balance to defray future capital costs while there are significant high volume users on the system.

8. The Common Council sought state legislative action without discussing this with my office or staff. To approach the State without the counsel of staff or the Mayor is inappropriate. Clearly, it demonstrates an unwillingness to work collaboratively with this administration.

In light of the aforementioned points, I hereby veto this resolution.

MEMORIAL DAY 2015
May 25, 2015

Hello all and thank you for being here on a day that is not only a holiday but a holy day to those of us that are touched by the deep, searing meaning of this ceremony.

There are few occasions that I feel more honored to speak about as Mayor. I am called upon once a year to voice the anguish and gratitude our city feels, for so many of our families have experienced loss that is inexplicably sad.

Walls of granite across the land are etched with the names of young men and women that have given their lives – their promise and their futures – to our community and nation. The inscriptions are distantly cold, and can never speak to the marvelous lives that once coursed with flushed faces, laughter and intention.

The thought of this enormous loss is so daunting.

IMG_4668

The concrete finality of such loss breaks my heart and silences my muse. Waves of conflicts have washed over our nation, each surge pulling away those we love like glittering specks of sand tossed into the mirth of motion and then gone to a vast emptiness.

This reality overwhelms me every year. I think of mothers and fathers fearfully sending these children off to the military with pride and a sense of powerlessness that must be so difficult, but is nothing compared to the few that receive a knock on the door revealing a crisp, uniformed officer delivering news that ends all hope.

I die a little bit knowing each name on a memorial comes with a similar pronouncement and aftermath.

So, every year, I struggle for words. I stew for days with thoughts of patriotism, service, community and the terror that is bound up in the essence of this day. I think of our blessed way of life in the United States of America – of our abundance, joy and freedom and feel quite lost. I worry that I cannot adequately express our communal feelings…
So, I will start with our proud soldiers. It is because of our military that we are afforded peace. We are afforded personal freedoms and ease that allows us to actually ignore the privileges that others are fighting and dying for around the globe. We have access to food, healthcare and education. We can vote, or not. We can eat well, or not. We can thrive, or not. We can worship God or the devil or a light bulb, or not. We can even work or not, though I truly believe most people would prefer to earn a living than accept a handout. Americans are inherently noble people.

IMG_4677

I mulled this all over while at a bonfire the night before last. My friends and family gathered in a circle as warm as the pyre that drew us to its heat. A cooler of cold beer opened and closed while young children ran outside the ring of chairs. Young adults, so recently boys and girls, laughed lightly and courted in the flickering shadows of the periphery. We seated parents looked on with amusement and nostalgia, and then would gaze into the mysterious living thing that fire is.

We watched as logs were tossed into the coals and a burst of embers would explode into the night to drift upward and disappear into the black. Our heads tilted back on our chairs as we fixed our eyes on the speckled canopy of darkness.

I thought each hot, orange ember must certainly take its place amongst its far sisters, the stars, transported from this temporal reality to the sparkling realm of timeless light. I like to think that these tiny fragments that grace the sky are the ever-present evidence of the beauty of souls that are lost to us. Souls dance their way to the stars like embers and in the 300 years that we have been a sovereign nation, 1.1 million soldiers have filled the night sky.

For me, a woman of a certain age and temperament that does NOT believe in the devil or the omnipotent power of a light bulb, God has given us these stars as a sign that there is order, permanence and meaning in our lives that surpasses the inexplicable tragedies of this existence.

And I think it must be this faith that sustains us through violence, poverty and war. It must be this faith that gives young men courage to break away from the comforts of home. It must be faith that allows a mother a final kiss before deployment and it MUST be faith that gives a husband, wife or child the strength to bear a triangular flag beside a casket, the white stars on a field of blue held as closely as breath and tears.

These were my fireside thoughts the other night. I expressed them tearfully to my friend, John. We both stared in silence at the flames and then he turned to me and said, “Ann, it’s all true. This is so horribly sad. But there is this too: each soldier had given meaning to his or her life. They have served our country with dignity. They tried to carry democracy to a world that thirsts for our way of life. They went with selfless obedience to keep our county safe and free. The meaning of their lives is as vast and great as the sky above us.”

IMG_4674

We both went silent again. I think we both were crying. John is so right.

Please remember the gift of each one of those stars when you pledge allegiance to our flag and when staring quietly up at a haunted, star-filled sky. That magnificent sky is filled with love.

Thank you to the fine veterans that have served and to those that are still active today.

Thank you again to the Veteran’s Commission for organizing this event again, as you do every year. Amsterdam is grateful for your continuous advocacy on behalf of those that have served our country so well. And lastly, thank you to God, for planting us all in the soil of this great nation where such freedom and sacrifice may be reverently celebrated.

NYCOM ROAR

March Madness has more meanings than one, especially for our folk, mayors and municipal leaders that have gone through one of the most brutal winters in a decade or more. Our streets are heaving. Water and sewer lines are snapping with regularity. Abandoned properties have collapsed with the weight of snow and time. Our plowing, salt and overtime lines are long depleted. Let’s face it; we’ve never seen so many potholes. This past season has been disastrous for the City of Amsterdam and others like it across the state. March was mad all right. Warmer weather can’t come soon enough.
Male-Lion-1-1024x768
For my small city, March also marks the start of the budget process. Our Controller has assembled an un-doctored draft document of departmental requests, debt calculations and costs that we have no control over. It exceeds our cap by $1.5M. This includes the cost of pensions that went up this year by $400,000 and a bump in our health insurance bill of $900,000.

I take my place at the conference table with my most trusted staff and the balancing act begins. We identify wiggle room in some of the revenue estimates and begin going through the lines of each department, as though the myth that operating expenses are driving these astronomical increases is a reality. We all know they are not. We cannot cut pencils to get to a workable number.

I am very fortunate to have an extraordinarily talented team. We assesses the intricacies of the document with finesse and creativity. We play with the sales tax figures and increase the transfer from water to the general fund. We discover a discrepancy in the health insurance entry and remediate. We review the impact of PILOT payments and debt retirement. We propose new scenarios to produce much-needed revenues, such as providing garbage and recycling services to surrounding villages.

Over my tenure, we’ve adjusted our water and sewer rates to favor inside users. We’ve renegotiated the distribution of our sales tax allocations from the county and have arranged to receive a share of those allocations from surrounding towns by coupling them with the sale of water. We’ve restructured labor contracts and health insurance deals. We’ve taken recycling in-house, sell effluent from our wastewater plant to Madison County for a better rate, brokered an new solar energy contract, and get a cut of the action from our local “volunteer” ambulance provider, all to benefit our taxpayers.

Every year for the eight years of my term, we’ve worked to be more resourceful, more efficient, more transparent and less costly. In great measure, we’ve succeeded but as time ensues, there are less and less areas of benefit to visit. Our departments barely function with skeletal crews and aging equipment while costs soar to all-time highs. Our constituents demand more in the way of services and response, seemingly unaware of the tight constraints of our budget.

Even more worrisome, the state is deaf to our needs. The entire local juggling act is on the verge of collapse, yet every season brings a parade of sketchy programs that have us bounding over new hurdles and competing for space at the trough. This tact is neither innovative nor effective and we deserve better. We deserve MORE.

Still… March is not all madness. It’s also a time of new beginnings.

It’s time for the state to put down the whip and to pick up the olive branch. We, the members of NYCOM, come with outstretched hands bearing gifts. We bring experience, strength, ingenuity and most importantly, solutions. We are more than willing to work with the state toward our common goals.

You, dear reader, play an integral role in garnering the attention of our state representatives. Just as this month came in like a lion and looks likely to go out the same, we should lead our Pride. Use your voices to bring awareness to the plight of local municipalities. Use your contacts in the Senate, Assembly, state agencies and the media to send a message to Albany that ROARS.

After all, no one should ever ignore a hungry lion.

Mayor Ann M. Thane
NYCOM President
for the NYCOM Municipal Bulletin, 2015 Spring Edition