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Archive for June, 2009

http://www.thecorkfactory.com/

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Saturday starts with sensation: DEFICIT! SPENDING! AUDITORS! The local paper eagerly posts headlines that compel the reader to believe the ship has gone down and all that remains is a slight stream of steam and bubbles. The story is disappointingly one-sided, given that along with audit findings from the Comptrollers office (OSC), the paper was provided with the City’s immediate response to this report.

The untold story is that the Council had been made aware of the excess in expenditures months ago (some contract-driven and some by necessity) and that my administration has been working with a representative funded through the OSC for the past year to identify long-standing deficiencies in operations. Truth be told, the Council was presented with a comprehensive proposal to address our challenges BEFORE the OSC issued its findings and I am hoping for support of this initiative at the next CC meeting.

As I have stated before, I am grateful to the OSC for coming to the City early in my administration (arriving last summer and on-site until May) to conduct policy, procedure and budget analyses that will allow us to better our fiscal oversight and budgeting. Their recommendations concur with our internal assessment of operations over the past year and I am gladdened that we may meet the challenges we face proactively with a strategic plan of action that we may implement immediately.

The proposal presents an improved way for the City of Amsterdam to manage expenditures to avoid overspending. We will provide timely, clear financial management tools for the aldermen, the mayor and department heads. We will develop long-term fiscal policies, financial goals and operating plans, along with a strict expenditure discipline.

The specific work plan and timeline are as follows –

Revenue and Expenditure Tracking:
Months 1-2:
– Devise a simple, clear and informative monthly budget tracking report and fiscal impact statement for each financial action before the Council;
Months 2-12:
– assist department heads in the production of these tracking mechanisms to present to the Council at our bimonthly meetings.

Spending Controls:
Months 1-3:
– Develop a simple revenue and expenditure cash flow analysis;
Months 3-6:
– devise a simple, concise system that compares cash flow with the budget tracking report;
Months 4-12:
– manage spending by using the cash flow/budget tracking comparison system.

Budget Analysis:
Months 1-3:
– Conduct historical analysis of the last five years’ budgets, actual collected revenues and operating expenses;
Months 4- 6:
– comparison of current years’ budget with historical analysis;
Months 5-8:
– projection of next three years’ revenues and expenses.

Improved Budget Process and Format:
Months 6-9:
– Devise a simple, clear, and informative yearly budget presentation format;
Months 7-11:
– assist department heads to implement the reformatted document;
Months 11-12:
– compare proposed 2010-11 budget with historical budget analysis.

The financial challenges of the next few years require that the City begin this year-long financial control process now. I am pleased that we have been actively working toward taking this necessary action immediately and the state auditors responded very positively to our plan when I met with them on Friday morning. City Comptroller Heather Reynicke has already identified several avenues to fund this initiative in closing out this year’s budget. Our consultant’s credentials are exemplary, touting practical, hands-on management and operations experience at municipal, county, state, federal and international levels. Surely, $2,500 a month is worth spending to ensure that we are protecting the best interests of our constituents in managing a $23 million dollar business. I am certain that our Council takes its fiduciary responsibility very seriously and will respond to this challenge for the opportunity that it is.

May calm, rational thought rule the day.

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“… such feelings as lust, hatred, enmity, jealousy, and belligerence – should not be expressed; they become more and more frequent.
hatredExpressing them tends to make them stronger and more prevalent. It is better to reflect on the disadvantages of engaging in such emotions and to try to displace them with feelings of satisfaction and love. We should forcefully overcome negative emotions when they appear, but it would be even better to find ways to prevent them in the first place.

Lust and hatred give rise to the other counterproductive emotions and thereby create a whole lot of trouble in the world. We cannot be content to live with the consequences of lust and hatred. Of the two, hatred is worse on an immediate basis because it so quickly brings harm to others…

The root of lust and hatred is ignorance of the true nature of all living beings as well as ignorance of the nature of inanimate things. This ignorance is not just lack of knowledge but a consciousness that imagines the exact opposite of the truth; it misapprehends what is actually so. There are many levels of misperception, as in failing to understand what to adopt in practice and what to discard in daily behavior, but here we are talking about the ignorance at the root of all suffering.”

– His Holiness the Dalai Lama
How to Practice The Way to a Meaningful Life, 2002

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poem

Look to the Future

Look to the future
Detach from the past
Let the people go
Start a new this time
Look to the future
Love like it’ll last
Dream like it’s forever
No move envy
Look to the future
Have the star life
Learn from others
Take it in
Look to the future
Be proud with yourself
No more lies
No more disguises
Look to the future
Solve the unresolved
Be someone’s firefly
Stop living for yourself
Look to the future
Be the person
You dream to be
Stop fantasizing
Look to the future
It’s only gets brighter
From here on out
Detach from the past
Look to the future

– Leah Harlow

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poem

Questions

If on a summer afternoon a man should find himself
in love with only one woman
in a sea of women, all the others mere half-naked
swimmers and floaters, and if that one woman
therefore is clad in radiance
while the mere others are burdened by their bikinis,
then what does he do with a world
suddenly so small, the once unbiased sun
shining solely on her? And if that afternoon
turns dark, fat clouds like critics dampening
the already wet sea, does the man run—
he normally would—for cover, or does he dive
deeper in, get so wet he is beyond wetness
in all underworld utterly hers? And when
he comes up for air, as he must,
when he dries off and dresses up, as he must,
how will the pedestrian streets feel?
What will the street lamps illuminate? How exactly
will he hold her so that everyone can see
she doesn’t belong to him, and he won’t let go?

– by Stephen Dunn, from Local Visitations.
© W.W. Norton & company, 2003.

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pride and joy

“Go forth into the busy world and love it. Interest yourself in life, mingle kindly with its joys and sorrows, try what you can do for others rather than what you can make them do for you, and you will know what it is to have friends.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1805-1882

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My pride, my joy, my world.

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The importance of the Chalmers restoration project to the future of this city cannot be underestimated. Once completed, this $24 million dollar venture will bring $890,000 in property tax revenues, $102,000 in water/sewer fees, $180,0000 in sales tax generated by $4.5 million dollars in sales, all ANNUALLY. The 180-luxury apartments can revitalize our downtown and waterfront area in ways that will affect generations to come. It is vitally important that the City of Amsterdam support this effort in order to create an atmosphere that is inviting to other developers. Believe me, they are following this situation.

We need to make rational, informed decisions about our future. This City must be a cooperative participant in the growth of our region.

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Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.

Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.

This new day is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the yesterdays.

– ralph waldo emerson

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I’d like to thank Elks Lodge 101 for the opportunity to speak today as we gather to celebrate our flag – Old Glory – the proud banner that has flown for over two centuries as proof of our independence, commitment and honor.

This constellation of stars on stripes offers us a concrete hold to anchor the abstract concepts our nation had been founded on: liberty, religious freedom, democracy and unflinching sacrifice for the good of people everywhere.

flag hanging

For all of us, it represents so many young Americans that have given their hearts, souls and lives for our nation and in service to others. These are not anonymous faces; they are the boys and girls we sat next to in home room; they are the mothers and fathers that stood long hours in assembly lines manufacturing machinery, tools, clothing and cars; they are the sons and daughters we sat up with late into the night to ward off terrible fevers and kissed lightly before they drifted off to sleep. They are our closest friends and our greatest asset, and they have died for us. They have died for this flag.

Throughout history, this flag has been tested, tried and has survived battles against tyranny, both on our own soil and in battlefields across time and around the world.

It represents 6,000 patriots that gave their lives in the Revolutionary War, covered the bodies of 360,000 bodies in the Civil War, 116,000 in WWI, 405,000 in WWII, 54,000 in the Korean War, and 58,000 in Vietnam. All told, we have suffered well over 1.1 million lost in these conflicts and sadly, we still greet red, white and blue draped caskets every week at Dover Air Force Base as our sons, daughters, brothers, fathers, and closest friends return to final peace here at home.

The flag represents our deeply personal feelings of gratitude and love we all have for these brave individuals and their families.

And just as it is understood by each and every one of us that the flag is a graphic symbol of innocent blood shed for our protection, it also stands for the prosperity and pleasures we all enjoy – the summer picnics, volleyball, hot dogs, and ice cream. It stands for Halloween and happy children safely canvassing neighborhoods for candy in colorful costumes. It stands for a table at Thanksgiving laden with food, warm conversation and close family ties, as well as a twinkling Christmas tree spilling over with carefully preserved memories we call “ornaments” and gifts that are more about love than material content.

Our flag stands atop, or in front of, every courthouse, city hall, school and library in our nation and represents the “American Dream” we all aspire to – justice, education and free commerce. It is recognized globally as a source of assistance, inspiration, opportunity and leadership. We should be very proud today to stand in its presence.

In closing, I’d like to leave you with some words by Beth Chapmin who spoke movingly of our flag in 2005:

flag salute

“Our flag is more than three colors of cloth and millions of pieces of thread sown by hand. It is more than Betsy Ross and Francis Scott Key. It represents a message of hope and freedom that is carried in the hearts and souls of the people of a nation for generations.

I pray today that God will continue to bless this country and that we may never divorce ourselves to the preservation of that freedom for which our men and women have died and our flag still boldly stands.”

Now let us stand and with great pride, honor, humility and resolve – with great enthusiasm, fervor, patriotism, passion and respect to say our pledge of allegiance together as we have never said it before.”

With that, thank you again to the Elks Lodge 101 and the residents of the City of Amsterdam. I hope the next time we recite the pledge together, we keep the ardor of her words close to our hearts.

Photos by Mark Perfetti

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I’ve had the oddest convergence of circumstances lately – reconnecting with friends from high school on facebook, the loss of my aunt this week, the bullying incidents reported recently on several local blogs, and involvement in a suicide prevention initiative at GASD…

it’s kicked up some “stuff“.

I write a lot about faith and survival.
I write a lot about what I know.

When I was seventeen, I lived in a large, fairly upper-class house in a well-tended suburban neighborhood. We lived across from a spacious park with wooded areas, green fields and a picturesque stream. There were 27 children between my Catholic home and the three that surrounded it (made for great kick-ball games.) My parents were vibrant, attractive professionals of the Camelot generation. Mom was the beautiful, intelligent homecoming queen in college and my father was decidedly handsome, funny and very smart. They went from Nat King Cole, to Supremes, to Neil Diamond, to Sargent Pepper Beatles and beyond. It was a heady time. They both worked very hard to provide for their five children, entertained regularly and spared no kindness to their friends.

I had an amply happy childhood.

That said, every fairytale has its tragedy and this one hit us all quite unexpectedly in November of 1974. That was the year my 42-year old father gave into the demons of this story, hereditary alcoholism and depression, and took his life.

Really, the demons took him.

Anyway, shattered only glancingly touches on what this does to a family. My mother, suddenly left with five mouths to feed, a mortgage, a business, employees, and crushing grief, tried to prepare for the holidays. Both Thanksgiving and Christmas were horrid that year. One of the few memories I have of that time is of sitting in the darkened living room, no light but what emanated weakly from the tree… no light, barely breath, and so much quiet weeping. Thankfully, we cannot remember what is too painful to retain. I have only snippets of black, falling leaves, stone, and dreadful remorse.

The family was splintered into shards. I, reeling and naive, embraced teenage rebellion and dove into anesthetizing myself. The older of my brothers left home at sixteen and found work on a fishing boat in Maryland. My middle sister became independent and somewhat remote, retreating to spend time with her closest friends. My youngest brother and sister were too young to fully understand the magnitude of their loss then, but both have discovered the extent of that empty place over the years. We all struggled for many, many years…

but time is a healer too.

Time began to fill each of us with gifts. I learned that I am a survivor. I came to this understanding as surely and soundly as the earth we all stand on. We all came to know how much we had loved our father, and now looked upon each other with new eyes. Several of us overcame a common Northern-European fear of openly admitting that we actually love each other. We have gone on to marriage, children, careers and homes of our own. My mother is successful, active in business and philanthropy, and is still beautiful. We are all of us happy to a great degree, though some of us have been threatened by the various “family maladies”.

We are well.

Ann 1114

The greatest gift of this experience has been our discovery of faith, and not through the tradition of the generations that had preceded us. My brother and I are Quaker, my youngest sister is Unitarian, and my middle sister devoutly believes in a higher power of her understanding. My youngest brother is still searching, and I know that he will find that which he actively seeks. Each one of us has undergone tremendous difficulties since our common loss and have weathered it all with some grace and, blessedly, extraordinary humor. In fact, I will always appreciate how much every member of my family loves to laugh. I feel sorry for those that haven’t had the pleasure of this particular treasure in their own lives.

So, when I harp on here about survival, revitalization, rebirth and faith, it’s because of my certainty in these things.

I have my father to thank for this.

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You don’t need to be a chicken to cross the road. 🙂

Many of us find it difficult to envision what may be when faced with what is. This rendering and the ones below will be incorporated into our marketing materials for the downtown. We will entice property owners to take advantage of grant and low-interest loan incentives now offered, and attract new investors to this area. Most importantly, we hope residents of Amsterdam may realize the true beauty of this historic street and understand its potential.

“There is one thing which gives radiance to everything. It is the idea of something around the corner.”

– G. K. Chesterton, 1874-1936

1302_image_3_june 2

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“Ask, and it shall be given you;
seek, and you shall find;
knock, and it shall be opened to you.
For whoever asks, receives;
and he who seeks, finds;
and to him who knocks, the door is opened.”

– matthew 7:7:8, jesus of nazareth

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1302_image_1_june 2-1

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“They are able who think they are able.”

– Virgil, 70-19BC

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today’s secret

“It is so important that you are grateful for everything in your life. Many people focus on one thing they want and then forget to be grateful for all the things they have. Without gratitude, you cannot achieve anything through the law of attraction, because if you are not emanating gratitude from your being, then by default you are emanating ungratefulness. Be proactive and use the frequency of your being to receive what you want.”

The Secret, Daily Teachings: Day 39

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We are continually faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.
– John W. Gardner

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