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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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a must

A new online friend, Darryle Pollack, has this posted. Please don’t miss it. Absolutely awesome; wish I had been there.

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breathing

As humans, we breath. We sip the ethers in and out all day and night, mindlessly, day after day. We recognize the warmth of the sun, the crumb under bare foot in the morning, a Spring breeze unsettling our hair when stepping out onto the porch, the far-off smell of dirt finally thawing… countless notations over a lifetime.

Seldom do we note our breath, until we notice our mortality.

I’ve been making good friends with the local hospital. It’s bright and clean and, as of late, a frequent destination for my family and me. My mother-in-law’s been a client twice in two months and my immediate loved ones have discovered the ease of the inexpensive cafeteria. The entrance to the building is marked by a Madonna on the rocks, eyes humbly cast down, arms spread with supplicant grace and quiet welcome.

It’s Wednesday. I pull into a slice of parking space and looked toward the entryway uneasily. Breath. Look at the steering wheel. Let go. Breath. “Wear your big girl panties”, Joey says. I think he means breath. I unlatch my belt and walk to the door, alone. I pull my black, wool coat to me. Down the hallway, I wait at the elevator. I notice the heels of my shoes and the textured pattern in the carpet. I am aware that I am pushing forward in time, one moment at a time. I inhale and exhale slowly.

The hospital staff is warm and efficient. Some recognize me and tender smiles, compliments, support. Today, they are all women of my age. I pass time in the waiting room, noting that every article and advertisement seems to sport a small pink ribbon doubled back on itself. Breath.

Pre-op prep takes place. I’m covered by a curtain, one thin blanket and a papery gown. I’m not used to being still. It’s hard. I breath in, experiencing the back of my throat and my expanding lungs. I look up at the orderly panels of the ceiling. I wait.

My nurse is Colleen. How ironic. I had just rediscovered my best friend from early childhood, Colleen, on Facebook the night before. A five-year old Colleen had taught me how to ride a bike, to love the woods, and just maybe how to really treasure friendship.

Colleen brings me more warmed blankets and hides my jewelry under my gurney. After an hour of listening to murmuring souls passing along the corridor, I am wheeled into another waiting area. A statue of St. Patrick keeps watch in this room, Tyrone Power in a beard, miter and flowing green robes. I watch the clock. I cannot forget to breath. A nurse named Meagan carefully marks the left side of my neck with indelible pen, a tattoo to lead the surgeon. Breath. The elderly woman in the curtained area adjacent to mine is confused. She doesn’t know what side of her body they will be cutting into.

Finally, I am wheeled into the metallic brightness of the operating room. It’s silvered lights and odd geometry are striking. We humans are soft in its angles. I skirt from the gurney to the table and lay my arms straight out at my sides to be strapped down, as open and helpless as the crucified. I breath, focus on the light, the calm voices of the experienced staff, the cutting antiseptic smells that permeate the room. I will myself to breath instead of holding onto my breath. The pharmaceutical drip begins and I forget what is going on.

They think I am here. I am not, though I continue to converse, even laugh. I will live through watching the surgery in a mirrored surface, a small piece of flesh pulled from my side. Later, I will see that the entirely surreal experience that took seven minutes will last well beyond the confines of time.

Back under Colleen’s care, I insist that I am good to go, ready to start off again, good as new, but she wheels me into a shadowed bay. I drift into sleep. Medicated breathing comes easy. I am helpless and it’s okay.

I am roused after an hour and gently pushed to assume my former self. I sit at the side of my cradle and pull the bedding to my chest, aware of my exposed back and the needle still protruding from the back of my hand. Colleen ministers to my needs. She then helps me to my feet, finds my belongings and pulls the curtain closed so that I may rediscover my dignity by myself. Breath for clarity. Breath for assurance. Breath because there is no other way. I shakily put on my heels and pretend to face the demon that is the afternoon.

Over the next few 24-hours, I wait, sometimes at the desk, sometimes behind the wheel of the car, on the cell phone or lying in bed. How automatic each contraction of the muscles in my chest is. Fate is air. It surrounds and sustains us. It is ever present and doled out in small puffs. I think of all of the breathing I have done, in short fits and swallows.

And somewhat surprisingly, because I thought myself so whole, I discover how desirous I am of continuing on… each breath the kiss of life, one at a time. So that’s it! I want to live. I want it very badly, beyond the involuntary movement of the shell I inhabit. I breath this moment in. I breath out. I move on and let go.

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poem

Poem on a Line by Anne Sexton, ‘We are All Writing God’s Poem’

by Barbara Crooker

Today, the sky’s the soft blue of a work shirt washed
a thousand times. The journey of a thousand miles
begins with a single step. On the interstate listening
to NPR, I heard a Hubble scientist
say, “The universe is not only stranger than we
think, it’s stranger than we can think.” I think
I’ve driven into spring, as the woods revive
with a loud shout, redbud trees, their gaudy
scarves flung over bark’s bare limbs. Barely doing
sixty, I pass a tractor trailer called Glory Bound,
and aren’t we just? Just yesterday,
I read Li Po: “There is no end of things
in the heart,” but it seems like things
are always ending—vacation or childhood,
relationships, stores going out of business,
like the one that sold jeans that really fit—
And where do we fit in? How can we get up
in the morning, knowing what we do? But we do,
put one foot after the other, open the window,
make coffee, watch the steam curl up
and disappear. At night, the scent of phlox curls
in the open window, while the sky turns red violet,
lavender, thistle, a box of spilled crayons.
The moon spills its milk on the black tabletop
for the thousandth time.

“Poem on a Line by Anne Sexton, ‘We are All Writing God’s Poem'” by Barbara Crooker, from Line Dance. © Word Press, 2008.

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chip off the old block

I’ve just had the most fantastic experience, though my arms and shoulders may not recover for days. I suspect my hands will tremble until the Ibuprophen kicks in.

After a rather disconcerting morning of self-examination and stabs at compassion, I decided to tackle the iceberg at the end of Stewart Street with a sharp shovel and not a small bit of consternation. Physical exercise in the great outdoors is truly the best cure for an ailing psyche. This particular inconvenience has bothered me all winter; the plow left a jutting swatch of snow at the end of our street that (I discovered today) had hardened into a monolith of sand, salt and very solid ice.

Fine. I set out in the late afternoon with determination, a picture in my massive black wool coat and bottle dark-brown hair. I wore boots with heels, of course, to bely my feminine core. I approached the enemy and surveyed the job. Ten feet long, four feet deep, two and a half feet tall. I estimated a couple of hours. I dug in.

I mean I chipped in. I smacked the edge of the behemoth with the point of the shovel. I marveled at its density, then began chipping away in earnest. After ten minutes, I had chipped away an area about two feet long and six inches deep. I began to understand the strength of my opposition. This was going to take a long time.

As I chipped, I wondered at my waning, middle-aged ability. How long would I be able to keep this up? No matter. I chipped on, passing the shovel from hand to hand with growing frequency and faced my fatigue. I mused at this wonderful metaphor for life… chipping away at the impossible.

I began to learn my trade. I found if I directed my efforts in one area, evenly hitting it with mild force, I could break off a great chunk. I silently celebrated every success. I was making progress, albeit slowly. I chipped on, becoming aware of my breath and the beating of my heart.

About fifteen minutes into my trial, my son showed up with the half moon of a garden edger to join me. As crazy as he thought I was, he wasn’t willing to let me labor alone. We went to war together.

Cars passed. A couple of neighbors dropped by and wisely suggested I direct a crew to come and take this baby out with a machine on Monday. I thanked them and chatted about personal responsibility, hopes, and conviction. They drifted away.

Another ten minutes had past when Jeremy Bartman and Ron Jemmott showed up, on their way back from a day of work with the Air National Guard. Still in uniform, they brandished two more shovels and immediately started in. They had driven by and, ironically, had been discussing how to become involved with the community. They wanted to be part of the solution. Honestly, God is good.

We rapped away at the icy mass and I am proud to say that by the time the rain began to fall with real intention, we had made a significant dent in that obstruction. More importantly, we all discovered the delightful importance of our small gesture. We’re not leaving our fate to others. Tackling this task together left us all inspired and I am deeply in dept for the gift these three young men have given me.

ice-chipping

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“It is only when people begin to shake loose from their preconceptions, from the ideas that have dominated them, that we begin to receive a sense of opening, a sense of vision.”

– Barbara Ward

Hear the words of the dancing God,
the music of whose laughter stirs the winds,
whose voice calls the seasons:
I who am the Lord of the Hunt and the Power of the Light,
sun among the clouds and the secret of the flame
I call upon your bodies to arise and come unto me.
For I am the flesh of the earth and all its beings.
Through me all things must die and with me are reborn.
Let my worship be in the body that sings,
for behold all acts of willing sacrifice are my rituals.
Let there be desire and fear, anger and weakness,
joy and peace, awe and longing within you.
For these too are part of the mysteries found within yourself,
within me, all beginnings have endings,
and all endings have beginnings.

charge of the god – author unknown

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Jesus saith,

Ye ask, who are those that draw us to the kingdom
if the kingdom is in Heaven?

… the fowls of the air and all beasts that are under
the earth or upon the earth and the fishes of the sea,
these are they which draw you
and the kingdom of Heaven is within you
and whosoever shall know himself shall find it.

Strive therefore to know yourselves and ye shall be aware
that ye are the sons of the Almighty Father; and ye shall know
that ye are in the city of God and ye are the city.

– logia fragment – verse 2- sayings of jesus

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