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Archive for July, 2009

Send Thy peace O Lord, which is
perfect and everlasting,
that our souls may radiate peace.

Send Thy peace O Lord, that we
may think, act and speak harmoniously.

Send Thy peace O Lord, that we
may be contented and thankful for
Thy bountiful gifts.

Send Thy peace O Lord, that amidst
our worldly strife, we may enjoy Thy bliss.

Send Thy peace O Lord, that we
may endure all, tolerate all, in the thought of
Thy grace and mercy.

Send Thy peace O Lord, that our lives
may become a Divine vision and in Thy light,
all darkness may vanish.

Send Thy peace O Lord, our Father and Mother,
that we Thy children on Earth may all
unite in one family.

– pir-o-murshid inayat khan – 1921 ±

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Is coverage of local happenings unbiased? Should it be? Can it be?
What are the best and the worst sources of information in the community?
Why?

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Both.

Be comforted. There is true beauty and romance loose in the world.

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25 years too late

My first and lasting crush:

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THE THUNE AMENDMENT

One size doesn’t fit all, especially when it comes to The Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2009, otherwise known as the Thune Amendment, which will soon be up for a vote in the U.S. Senate.

The Thune Amendment has one purpose – to pass an across the board, one size fits all, gun carrying permit law, irrespective of every states’ rights, wishes, and laws. Even more troubling, the Thune Amendment seeks passage by circumventing the leadership and understanding of our local leaders, the ones who know our state, the ones who know what we need, the ones who know one size doesn’t fit all.

If passed, the Thune Amendment would impede New York from protecting its citizens with sensible, constitutional, and long standing laws and regulations regarding the carrying of hidden handguns. But this isn’t about the guns. It’s about the criminals who will thrive should this proposal become law.

Right now, local law enforcement in New York State has discretion over the issuance of concealed carry permits. The Thune Amendment would make it legal for individuals who can not qualify for a permit in New York State, to shop around for the lower standards of other states, circumventing New York’s laws.

Picture this- it would be legal for illegal gun traffickers to travel across the country with loaded handguns.

Scratching your head yet? So are us mayors around New York.

For us, it’s frightening to envision the new obstacles police could encounter when the world of legal and illegal guns no longer exist as one or the other, but rather one in the same.

Under the proposed law, a trafficker holding an out-of-state permit would be able to drive along the streets of cities like Albany, Binghamton, Schenectady, Syracuse, or Utica with a trunk full of loaded guns, enjoying immunity from police, unless actually caught selling to another criminal.

We know it doesn’t make sense, but that’s where you come in.

A vote on the Thune Amendment is imminent. This legislation would effectively gut existing New York State laws. Senators need to hear your voices. Call U.S. Senator Charles Schumer at (202) 224-6542 and Kirsten Gillibrand at (202) 224-4451. Tell them you oppose the Thune Amendment, and the way in which it seeks to evade our voices, our state’s rights, and our own wishes.

As mayors, we know there’s no time to waste.

Citizens don’t deserve The Thune Amendment. Mayors and police oppose it, and common sense invalidates it.

Submitted by Mayors: Gerald Jennings, City of Albany, Ann M. Thane, City of Amsterdam, Matthew Ryan, City of Binghamton, Robert Maciol, Village of New York Mills, Brian Stratton, City of Schenectady, Matthew Driscoll, City of Syracuse, and David Roefaro, City of Utica.

We are Mayors Against Illegal Guns members
http://www.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org/html/home/home.shtml

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Lately, character assassination, mis-truths and histrionics have become commonplace online. It’s disappointing, as this venue has terrific potential to provide a forum for community problem-solving that does not exist elsewhere. Locally, blog conversation has been lead far astray by a select few from what is important for Amsterdam to achieve our vision for revitalization.

To try to get back on track, I thought everyone might find a peek at my task list for the next week of some interest.

It is not exhaustive; it hits on larger issues and evolves every day. Each item will be further broken down into smaller tasks. It is also not inclusive of the ten-page, typed task list I use to track each department – this is just the Mayor’s office.

Revenue Sharing/Water agreements: Town of Florida
Water distribution/hydrant strategy
Lobby Albany/feds for stimulus allocations
North Shore BOA (Brownfield Opportunity Act) – grant implementation
Waterfront Heritage Corridor/Via Ponte:
– Bridge Street phase I – street rehab; plan for parking; final DOT approval
– Chalmers project
– train station relocation – feasibility study, funding
– pedestrian bridge – design phase
Traffic repatterning
Riverlink Park:
– Phase II – design, funding, possible war memorial
– local directory handout for visitors
– Riverlink Cafe – menu online
Downtown:
– property assessments/meetings with owners
– photograph interiors
– art guild: business plan, follow-up meeting
– Windows on Main
– East Main Street initiative
– establish historic guidelines
– list of potential businesses
Property Disposition:
– AHA/Rivercrest partnership (scattered site HOME grant)
– advertise identified properties for sale
Habitat for Humanity – development Montgomery County Chapter
Esquire property:
– ESD response
– secure roof
– marketing
AIDA:
– review goals established in January/determine progress
– high speed internet at Edson Street Park
– KEM Cleaners property
– County participation/economic development forum
– study successful programs in Albany, Hornell, Utica, Syracuse, Cornell
Ordinance Changes:
– Waterfront Commission, zoning, graffiti
Marketing:
– final changes to printed materials
– additional copywriting/photography
– targeted ads – Business Review
Golf Course: follow up on findings by Commission
Personnel meeting:
– mechanics, codes supervisor, clerks office, APD, golf course, seasonals
Common Council:
– prepare for meeting
– fiscal responsibility plan of action
– develop regular committee meeting schedule
Neighborhood Watch initiative; meet your neighbor event – plan
Suicide prevention task force – online outreach subcommittee
City Hall:
– building assessment/budget
City Hall Technology Committee:
– email security
– better phone service
– automatic back up
– regular website updates/upgrades (possible online payment of taxes/utilities)
– record management – scanning, storage, funding
– tech support
– new server
– computer usage policy/procedures
– cameras
– citywide WIFI
– hardware/software needs
Individual meetings with each department head
NYCOM: advocacy on behalf of municipalities

Should be a busy week, as they all are.

Clearly, we’ve got better things to talk about than the gossip that’s taken over the past few months. Everyone must resolve to move away from the dark, online game of cyber-bashing and name calling. It’s pulling us into an abyss.

For all of our sakes, move toward the light.

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“You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care nor your nights without a want and a grief, but rather when these things girdle your life and yet you rise above them naked and unbound.”

Try this one. It’s fun. Post what’s within your reach in my comment section.

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I’m happy to report that the City of Amsterdam, NY’s new website is up and running. Please check us out at: www.amsterdamny.gov

We will continue to make improvements over the next few months, and appreciate your suggestions and comments. There is a contact page on the site.

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This is the sum of all true righteousness –
Treat others, as thou wouldst thyself be treated.
Do nothing to thy neighbor, which hereafter
Thou wouldst not have thy neighbor do to thee.

– Hindu wisdom

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Just got back from Riverlink Cafe. I had a FABULOUS meal with my son. My entree: strip steak with seasoned butter, roasted zucchini, baked potato, and crispy salad with blue cheese dressing. Ian had Chicken Cordon Bleu with a zinfandel reduction, wild rice and roasted zucchini. The experience included warm rolls, white linens, silverware, china, fine glassware, a light breeze, mirror-like river and colorful sunset. We split the key lime pie. TRY IT! You’ll love it!

Lunch: Tu-SA, (11-3)
Dinner: TR-SA (4-9)

Concerts on Saturday nights.

We need to make sure this guy is a success, so that Riverlink Park is too. 🙂

PS… he’s got ice cream! Take the kids down for a cone.

PSS… the Park’s never looked this good or so clean.

PSSS… something for those of you that enjoy a glistening glass of refined goodness. The owner boasts that he has the finest wines in Amsterdam, specifically citing a selection from the Paradigm Winery. I know my husband will be pleased.

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poem

You are cloud, sea, forgetting; you are also what you lost in a moment– we are all those who have left. The reflection of our face in the mirror changes each instant and every day has its own labyrinth. The cloud vanishing in the sunset is our image; endlessly, a rose becomes another rose.

– Jorge Luis Borges

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For months, the Chalmers project has ignited a storm of discussion across the City, some of it thoughtful, more often politically charged and personal. The politics and slander are uncalled for and disappointing; it is more of the same bad behavior that Amsterdam has suffered from for far too long. That said, I will state my case one more time as to my reasons for wanting to see this project succeed.

1. We had contractually entered into a signed option agreement with a development firm, outlining benchmarks that had to be substantially met over the course of the agreement. The development firm has complied. It is quite simply wrong to renege on a contract because political winds shift or bounce the boat around. The time to have questioned the terms of this agreement was before the Council voted four-to-one to enter into the agreement. We must live up to our commitment, by law and in the name of honor.

2. In keeping with that thought, our reputation has suffered for years due to political infighting, personal agendas and poor performance. We finally have a shot at real change in this community as outlined in our Comprehensive Plan, a vision that hundreds of people in our City scripted. As is past practice, opponents to this project have taken every opportunity to undercut, paralyze or torpedo the effort, sinking to telling repugnant lies and casting aspersions, disregarding that the results of their actions will negatively affect this City for years, if not decades, to come. My fear in this regard has been born out by fact: Port City Preservation has pulled back from the Esquire project because of the actions of our Common Council and incredulous mayors from across the state had recently approached me on this topic because they had heard of these antics. Again, how frightening!

3. At the same time, members of the Council are in denial of these effects. They steadfastly refuse to acknowledge that they are putting our City at risk for being sued, that our reputation is being sullied, or that we will lose future opportunities to entice developers to the shores of our river. It is sad that they will push forward with the resolution to tank this project, beyond the question of legality, when it has such drastic and long-lasting consequence. It is my hope that they will yet reconsider, because

4. there are no other developers offering up $40M to rehab this site. There are whisperings and innuendo, but no flesh on those ghosts. It is miraculous that we have a developer that is not only still interested in seeing this project to fruition, but optimistic. We should be extraordinarily grateful that this firm holds its ground after being treated with distrust and derision. The use of historic tax credits and other incentives has been decried as suspect, inspiring outrage from the naysayers. For some reason, we reserve this insult for an outside entity; Mr. Tesiro has been inspired to rehab a vacant building downtown because of public money meant to incentivise the same kind of private investment, yet there is not a peep to be heard from the angry hoard.

5. Our community needs, and is ripe for, this kind of project. The economic impact will be striking ($890K property taxes, $102K water/sewer fees, $180K sales tax, $4.5M in spending annually.) In tandem with the Pedestrian Bridge, traffic re-patterning, Bridge Street reconstruction, Riverlink Park Phase II, relocation of the train station and efforts to revitalize downtown, we will make great strides towards bringing back an urban core to this city.

6. Re-purposing of factory buildings is a proven solution to the post-industrial decline experienced by cities across the country – successful projects are numerous on the web. The many benefits are ample:

“Historic Preservation is one of the most inherently “green” professions in addition to providing a multitude of benefits to communities. It can be an effective economic tool for redevelopment, foster business development, create jobs and strengthen communities. Yet many see efforts at historic preservation merely as exercises in nostalgia and as an infringement on property rights. The following are some reasons other than wanting to retain beautiful buildings for being a proponent of historic preservation:

When you choose to repair and restore an existing home or building, you are performing the ultimate recycling project. Sustainable practice recommendations include considering the embodied energy of products in addition to the long-term energy savings. When a historic building is demolished, all the energy used to produce and assemble the structure is wasted. Since the energy is already expended, preserving the building has much less impact on the environment.

Historic Preservation reduces landfill wastes. Estimates vary, but it is commonly accepted that between 15% and 20% of municipal solid waste comes from construction and demolition projects. Obviously, landfill debris would be reduced if more people choose to preserve an existing building rather than demolish and build new. When true preservation practices are followed during historic renovations (“repair rather than replace”), waste is reduced even more.

According to noted economist and historic preservation advocate, Donovan Rypkema, “Sustainable Development requires environmental responsibility, economic responsibility, and social/cultural responsibility.” Preservation and renovation of existing building stock is the one type of development that merges these three elements, helping maintain vibrant, livable communities in addition to being environmentally and economically responsible. In addition, historic buildings are often constructed of more durable materials than are readily available today.

We agree completely with the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s policy statement on community revitalization: “Revitalizing our historic hometowns and Main Streets is not about nostalgia. It is about reinvesting in our older and historic neighborhoods. Preservation-based community development not only protects our heritage, but also is a viable alternative to sprawl that creates affordable housing, generates jobs, supports independent businesses, increases civic participation, and bolsters a community’s sense of place.”

Historic preservation makes economic sense. Studies have shown that investment in historic neighborhoods and commercial centers stabilize property values, encourage redevelopment, stimulate business development, and generate tourist dollars.”

As Mayor, it is neither my wish nor intention to cause division in this community, but it is my responsibility act in the best interest of our residents. I am protecting us from a potential lawsuit and pointing toward a realistically bright future. This is the change people overwhelmingly elected me for. They want lower taxes, better services, improved infrastructure and new opportunity. This project will help get us there. I cannot and will not veer off of the course because the road’s gotten bumpy. This is too important for all of us.

Check out the successes others have experienced across the country:

Historic Landmarks
Warehouse spaces
Hat Factory
Gorman & Company

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buddha

Harmony Mills.

Phase II approved.

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For the first few days of this week, I attended the NYCOM (New York State Conference of Mayors) Annual Meeting in Saratoga. Three-hundred-fifty experienced and brilliant mayors from north, south, east and west attended. We were treated to various workshops and forums about finance, operations, legislative action, ethics, and economic development. It was enlightening and inspiring. I came away with this:

1. integrity and faith above all else;
2. do the right thing (not the political thing);
3. don’t let people get you down; and
4. our reputation in this State is in dire need of protecting.

Half a dozen mayors from all parts of the State came to me (unsolicited) to find out why we’d spoil a deal with a developer for the Chalmers project in this economy. This is frightening.

Our business and community leaders need to speak out. Everything I have predicted in regard to our reputation regionally is coming true.

At the same time, Harmony Mills in Cohoes has received its written nod from HUD approving their mortgage insurance for phase two. Their mayor is thrilled.

Are we willing to let this monumental deal slip through our hands? Will you weigh in? It’s your turn to act. Call your elected representatives.

COMMON COUNCIL MEMBERS

First Ward: Joseph Isabel
843-5185
P.O. Box 581, 26 Yale Street, Amsterdam, NY 12010

Second Ward: Daniel V. Roth
542-0723
7 Creekway, Amsterdam, NY 12010

Third Ward: Kim Brumley
843-4311
75 Evelyn Avenue, Amsterdam, NY 12010

Fourth Ward: William Wills
843-4660
17 Catherine St., Amsterdam, NY 12010

Fifth Ward: Richard Leggiero
843-0808
101 Florida Ave., Amsterdam, NY 12010

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