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Archive for March, 2009

compassion

O God! Educate these children.
These children are the plants of Thine orchard,
the flowers of Thy meadow,
the roses of Thy garden.
Let Thy rain fall upon them;
let the Sun of Reality shine upon them with Thy love.
Let Thy breeze refresh them in order
that they may be trained, grow and develop,
and appear in the utmost beauty.
Thou art the Giver.
Thou art the Compassionate.

baha’i prayers – `abdu’l-bahá

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cowardice

I’ve noticed how very ugly folks can get under the guise of anonymity. I’ve noted it on other blogs and have had some really mean-spirited stuff sent my way by snail mail, email, and sent gracelessly here as comment to my very own blog. Out of some sort of odd feeling of online duty, I’ve posted comments I didn’t care for.

It hit me tonight that unless someone is brave enough to include their name with their ramblings, I have no interest in posting malicious comments. I think it’s silly to. There are plenty of venues for cowardice out in cyberspace. Let the yellow-bellied seek their own level.

I enjoy this blog immensely. I post regularly about my thoughts, feelings, and dealings. I write extensively about my job – plans, actions and accomplishments. For those of you that don’t want to know the truth of what I do or say, please spend your time elsewhere.

May we all be granted peace.

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up and coming

Monday, April 6, 2009
Open House at City Hall
Hosted by Congressman Paul Tonko and I
Join us from 6-8pm as we celebrate improvements made to our beautiful building.

Saturday, April 25, 2009
Citywide Cleanup
We’re still ironing out the details on this one, but as it stands, each person that brings two large, clear garbage bags of litter on Saturday, April 25th (picked up, raked up or creatively retrieved) from our streets, parks, playgrounds and public areas will receive a certificate for a free lasagna dinner from Crystal Ristorante (Limit: first 500 folks.) Children can qualify for a gift certificate to Fariello’s Confectionery by bringing an additional bag of litter (first 500 children.)

So, thats: 2 bags litter per each adult or each child = 1 dinner gift certificate; 1 additional bag litter per each child = 1 Fariello’s gift certificate.

Of course, items must be gathered from the great outdoors and there are restrictions as to what we will accept. Unacceptable items include household trash, leaves, tires, paint, oil, gas, and hazardous materials. Tight restrictions will be adhered to at the unloading site (yet to be determined) and the City reserves the right to refuse any load.

We hope volunteers will take “before” and “after” photographs of specifically targeted areas, as well as action shots of the clean up.

The Citywide Cleanup will beautify the City of Amsterdam by reducing litter throughout the community. We will work together to rid our streets, waterways and public spaces of litter and illegal dump sites. We will teach our children to respect our land, beautify our environment, and encourage stewardship.

We need you. If you are interested in helping with this effort, please call my office at 841-4311 or your Alderman (see list below). You may also email me at: mayorthane@choiceonemail.com. We need help organizing, getting the word out, and leading the charge on the 25th!

Amsterdam Council Members

First Ward Alderman Joseph Isabel: 843.5185

Second Ward Alderman Daniel V. Roth: 542.0723

Third Ward Alderwoman Kim Brumley: 843.4311

Fourth Ward Alderman William Wills: 843.4660

Fifth Ward Richard Leggiero: 843.0808

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Sometimes it is necessary to veer off of the serious path that we pursue in our everyday lives and settle on a subject that we all find comfort in: food. The following is what we are having today in Shangri-La for dinner. It is always a family favorite.

Salmon and Corn Chowder

1 lb. boned, skinless salmon fillet
4 cups corn kernels
6 cups liquid (3 cups chicken broth and 3 cups water, or 6 cups salmon
or fish stock)
6 thick slices of bacon
2 Tbs. butter
1 cup chopped leeks
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup finely diced red peppers
1 lb. peeled potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 – 1 cup heavy cream
salt and freshly ground pepper
chopped chives (optional)

Remove any pin bones from the salmon and cut the fillet into 4 equal
pieces. In a food processor or blender, purée 1 cup of corn kernels and set
aside.

Pour the 6 cups of liquid into a wide sauté pan and bring to a boil.
Drop in the salmon pieces, reduce the heat to just under a simmer, and
poach the salmon for 8 minutes. Remove the salmon to a plate to cool,
and reserve the poaching liquid.

In a soup pot, brown the bacon. Remove the bacon to brown paper to
drain, and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat in the pot.
Break the bacon into small pieces and return one-quarter of it to the
pot. Add the butter to the pot and let it melt. Add the leeks and
celery, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the red peppers, potatoes, the
remaining 3 cups of corn kernels, the puréed corn, and reserved
poaching liquid, and stir. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat,
and simmer, partially covered, for 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes
are tender.

Flake the salmon into 1-inch pieces. (You will have about three cups.)
Add the salmon to the pot, along with the amount of heavy cream you
prefer. Heat gently and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Sprinkle with chopped fresh chives, if you like.

Serve 6-8

Author’s note:
– If you prefer to omit heavy cream, purée 2 of the 4 cups of corn
rather than 1 cup as above. The additional purée will thicken the soup.
– Omit bacon.

BUY THE BOOK!
Victory Garden Fish and Vegetable Cookbook
Marian Morash
(page 74)

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leading

A very good friend sent this to me tonight:
“To lead a symphony, you must occasionally turn your back to the crowd.”

To which I reply:
True to some extent, though really, you turn your back to the expectant crowd of passive folks and direct your attention to the crowd of people that are willing to work together to make something beautiful!

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Code Enforcement
Mission, Workload, Performance Standards and Adequate Staffing

Mission: Promote, protect, and improve the health, safety, and welfare of our citizens through effective code enforcement.

Currently, the department employees feel overtaxed, under-appreciated and understaffed. The community is frustrated by the growth of deteriorating structures and perennial problems associated with blight. The Common Council must balance budget constrictions and the expectations of its constituents.

In order to establish effective code enforcement in our City, we must enable better oversight of the department, set targeted, statistical benchmarks, and establish performance standards for staff. The Council must ensure that the zoning ordinances and maps are redrafted to so that they clearly articulate the desires of the community expressed in the Comprehensive Plan and spur revitalization of the municipality.

Action steps:
– weekly staff meetings
– establish a formal process of prioritizing cases
– better public relations/customer service enhancement
– better public access to case files
– assess current forms/documents
– maintain files/process paperwork in a timely, accurate fashion
– better communication between departments: APD, AFD, Engineering, Corporation Counsel
– better communication with Common Council
– set measurable performance benchmarks
(geographic coverage, target response times, data collection, reporting)

Management/tracking:
Reports should include:
– all existing information for each case
– priority status level
– assigned case officer
– date of each case entry
– all civil fines/administrative costs assessed by date of action
– liens attached
– final disposition of complaint at closure

Management must track:
– active (open) case count
– distribution of cases by priority for each officer (age of each case, type of violation, etc.)
– average time and minimum/maximum times from complaint to first investigation
– average time and minimum/maximum times for reporting all steps until final disposition

New computerized system will allow:
– centralized case management
– data auditing
– GIS in real time enforcement activities
– prioritization/scheduling
– interactive exchanges between departments

My suggestions:
Invest in resources to address unmet expectations:
– restructure department (implement supervisory position and part-time exterior code technician)
– develop organizational chart and new job descriptions, new schedule
– conduct costs/benefit analysis
– contract out work to “catch up” inspections, administration, planning review and enforcement services. Put out RFP for temporary, outside assistance.
– supply cell phones to each code enforcement officer
– implement GPS tracking system
– possibly increase application fees for permitting/building/planning services to support higher service standards

We will call a Codes Committee meeting in the near future to invite solutions and commentary from the Whole of the Common Council.

Staffing issues (in the Codes Department and others) and the zoning ordinance/maps redraft will be addressed while we are tackling the 09/10 budget.

We must work together to meet the needs of our community.

P.S. I have received seven (7) proposals for the zoning ordinance/maps redraft.

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fair share

The sales tax distribution agreement between the City of Amsterdam and the County of Montgomery, NY is set to expire on June 30, 2009.

Sales tax revenue is a vital component of the City’s operating budget, amounting to $3.5 million distributed annually to the City. This is 27 percent of the revenue collected by the City from all sources. The sales tax agreement is therefore of crucial importance to the City of Amsterdam and all towns and villages in Montgomery County.

During the past year, there have been a number of discussions with City Supervisors regarding the terms of a successor agreement. All City Supervisors agreed that they would act to promote the best interests of their constituents, recognizing that the fate of the County is inextricably tied to that of the City. The proposed agreement provides for an increase in the amount of sales tax provided by the County to the City of approximately 14% or $500,000.00.

The amount paid to the towns will not be reduced.

This change corrects longstanding inequities in the distribution of sales tax and emphasizes the importance of the future of the City of Amsterdam to the entire County.

The condition of the City is critical to the financial health of the County. High taxes in the City have negatively impacted growth and investment regionally. This agreement will help to keep taxes lower, thus encouraging development. It will provide much-needed funds for the City to demolish substandard housing, repair failing infrastructure and promote economic development. As the City grows and prospers, financial burdens on County government will be reduced and, ultimately, the sales tax invested in the City will lead to growth in the region and a reduction of expenses.

The proposed sales tax agreement – together with a spirit of cooperation regarding economic development – will allow us all to prosper. This proposal is unanimously supported by the City’s Common Council. It is my hope that the County Board of Supervisors will support this agreement in the same spirit. Clearly, as the City goes, so goes the County.

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