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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.
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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

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I was recently fortunate enough to greet NYCOM members, state representatives and staff at our Legislative Priorities Meeting in Albany. It’s always a thrill for me to be with my compatriots. I am inspired by their resilience, fortified by their ingenuity, and buttressed by our combined numbers. We represent of 12 million souls. We are STRONG.
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This is important because we, at the local government level, are under siege.

Local governments are being blamed for the skyrocketing tax burden in NYS. This leaves most of us incredulous. We skimp, we save, we slash and we’ve shared for decades to bring our budgets in at the bare minimum and yet, the finger of adversity points at us, the leaders at the local level, and demands that we do more, that we some how wring more out of our already depleted departments and smile as we do so. March in step! Tow the line! Chant the rhetoric that plays so easily to the masses.

Well, that’s not our job.

Our job, as mayors and elected officials, is to provide services and opportunities to our residents as effectively and mindfully as we can. We may have been elected into the political sphere but our jobs are grounded in the daily operations of our municipalities. We are intimately familiar with each potholed street, water main break, sewage overflow, rusty swing set, graffitied wall, abandoned home, lumbering shell of factory, and neighborhood of need. Our everyday existence is one of problem solving, hand holding and sometimes even baby sitting. And we do this all at very little cost.

So, we feel a real sting when these accusations are made. We are proud of our prudent spending and constant self-assessments. That “shared service” is being presented to us as a “new” concept is ludicrous. We invented it.

We must counter the narrative that local governments are spendthrifts with the truth.

The facts show that local governments are the most effective and responsive governments in the world. In NYS, most manage to stay within the recently levied tax cap/freeze and still provide much needed services to our constituents. Unfortunately, this structure is not sustainable. We cannot freeze revenues when our costs go up, sometimes by double-digit percentages.

The inherent financial dysfunction in this state cannot be addressed by squeezing the life out the hearts of cities, town, and villages. We cannot cut our way to prosperity.

Unless we cut our costs.

This is where we must speak with one voice, the voice of 12 million of the 19 million voices in NYS. We have “needs”, not “wants.”

We NEED the quick response of our state representatives to provide the tangible mandate relief promised to us. NYCOM has presented real analysis and workable relief solutions for years, shedding light on answers that skirt controversy while being thoughtful and innovative.

As the most neglected entities in state budgets, local governments NEED meaningful investment in municipal infrastructure so that our communities can sustain safe and heathy environments and support future growth. We NEED a long-awaited increase to our AIM and CHIPS allocations.

We have behaved so well for years, waiting with our empty bowls, but it is time to insistently and in unison voice our needs for “more, sir.”

Finally, this is the message that the state needs to hear: don’t make us the enemy. Be our heroes! Working collaboratively should be a readily attainable goal for all of us, not just for those of us with local zip codes. We must set aside political alliances and work together across the state to overcome the adversity we face. We must work together with urgency and creativity so that local communities thrive.

Ultimately, local governments are not the problem, we are the solution. Rebirth of this state will happen along our beautiful main streets and waterfronts, in our schools and in our historic neighborhoods.

I am certain that the future of this state is one that will be prosperous. The question is, how long will it take? I believe, like the Governor, that it can be sooner than later if we ALL pull together in one direction.

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Dear Rick:

It seems to me that you asked Mr. Villa and me to list our priorities, not to debate.

My priorities are as follows:

1. Financial stability/accountability, 2. Economic Development, and 3. Quality of Life.

Much of the success of this administration falls under these broad themes and our work in the coming years will continue along these lines. The following list is not all-inclusive but I hope the readers get a sense of the scope of work I propose.

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FINANCIAL STABILITY
and ACCOUNTABILITY:

• Craft a fiscally conservative budget that sustains operations and invests in improved performance. Make sure every dollar spent is necessary and effectively allocated.
• Continue the implementation of the 2014 Corrective Action Plan scripted by the Controller, Corporation Counsel, the former Council and I. Ensure that resources are allocated to the Department of Finance to adequately track, reconcile and report all financial transactions.
• Pursue grants to augment the $27M in funding for capital improvements, equipment and transformative projects that we have received over the past seven years.
• Share services creatively: I offered a list of 34 initiatives to the County that can benefit us by cutting costs, increasing efficiencies and, sometimes, produce much-needed revenue.
• Explore new services that will generate revenue to offset property taxes.

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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT:
• Expand water distribution to surrounding municipalities.
• Expand the Edson Street Industrial Park.
• Continue the redevelopment of our waterfront and downtown areas. Relocate trains station to urban core: create multi-modal transportation hub with commercial and banquet space.
• Repurpose industrial sites into multi-use commercial spaces, low tech incubators, or residential units.
• Continue to nurture partnerships with economic development entities (MCBDC, AIDA, CEDD, URA, CEG), our regional development partners on the MVREDC (I serve on the executive committee), state agencies and surrounding municipalities (our relationship with Schenectady is flourishing.)
• Capitalize on our location along the Thruway, Rail and River. The year 2017 will mark the 200th Anniversary of the Erie Canalway which will be an ideal time to showcase the new Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook.
• Build the Recreation Center to attract visitors from across the Northeast.
• Revamp our promotional materials and website to publicize opportunities in our community.

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QUALITY OF LIFE:
• Continue strategic infrastructure improvements (roads, water/sewer/storm distribution systems). Allocate necessary resources to our newly created Landbank.
• Fight blight through code enforcement, demolition, and targeted neighborhood revitalization strategies. Share code enforcement information and best practices with surrounding municipalities via the new software module we are creating with CTG and neighboring cities.
• Grow citizen engagement programs, e.g. neighborhood watch/beautification efforts, community gardens, citywide clean ups, etc.
• Support public safety departments adequately.
• Continue to offer recreational opportunities to youth and families at the Bacon Recreation Center and Creative Connections Arts Center, e.g. summer camps, free swimming lessons and transportation to city pool, after-school tutoring, sports tournaments, 4H club memberships, public arts projects, etc.
• Grow citywide celebratory events such as Spring Fling, National Night Out and Homecoming.
• Provide continued support for the downtown merchants, Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation, Library, Inman Center and the new Farmers’ Market.
• Continue to foster partnerships with the GASD, FMCC, SMH, W1shfu1Th1nk1ng, Centro Civico, churches and other not-for-profits to nurture body, mind and spirit.
• Continue to improve our municipal golf course, parks, playgrounds and monuments.
• Continue to promote historic preservation of our heritage properties.
• Re-engage community in master planning.

Again, there’s much more to this than I have listed here, but carving out a vibrant future for our city demands great thought, budgeting, planning and many, many hands.

One would think that, given the complexity of this job and extreme needs of this city, any candidate would have given considerable thought to priorities before announcing a run for office.

It’s been four and a half months since Mr. Villa announced. He hasn’t come up with any priorities in all of this time? THAT fact speaks for itself.

My motto:
“Be content to act, and leave the talking to others.”
~ Baltasar Gracián, translated from Spanish

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In memory of my friend: Robert B. Quick
February 27, 2015

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Betty called.

Betty called with terrible news.

The man she loved, the man she forged a formidable partnership with, the man she shared quiet moments with and the man that she had burned for

was suddenly and inexplicably

gone.

Betty called, and through her sobs and confusion, I slowly began to understand her anguish and this sudden rush of loss that is not meant to be understood because in one fleeting moment, the world, our world of neatly packaged relationships and routines, comprised of glances and smiles and words and touch

was forever altered without warning.

I looked out at the snow and thought even its whiteness carried a new emptiness.

Bob Quick, Betty’s husband, Kelly and Kevin’s dad, let’s face it, Bill’s dad too, and our friend, had vanished. And sudden, searing loss is not easily gotten through. I know because my father vanished just as quickly. It’s just terrible.

But there are blessings in every passing and most importantly, we shared in the life of this wonderful man and all have been touched by his exquisite and lasting love. Indeed, we are gathered here in that common bond. We have come together to celebrate the life of a loving and generous friend that has given so much to each of us, and his community.

We should be clear on this point, Bob would not have wanted us to gather in grief, though undoubtedly we cannot avoid it. Bob would have wanted us to commemorate his time with us with smiles and sharing and love for one another.

Really, he’d like us all to have a good, strong drink with good food in a nice place with an abundance of laughter. And so we shall after this service, most certainly if Betty has anything to do with this!

It’s daunting to talk about Bob, especially when I look out at a sea of faces that knew him better and loved him so long and so well but this is Bob’s gift to me: that I may paint this day with my impressions of him and hopefully touch upon qualities that spark recognition in each of you.

Bob entered my life while I was the Director at the museum. He was drawn to the museum because the kinetic star he was attached to named Betty had developed a passion for the heritage of this community and had discovered this quirky little repository of history hidden in Guy Park Avenue School. I’m fairly certain the both of us bemused Bob, but I’m just glad that they both turned up and never turned back. Bob watched our commitment, hard work, and lunacy and he liked it. He’d often shake his head with a smile and ask me why I’d ever put myself through so much torment for the not-for-profit life.

Flash forward ten years and he was asking me why I’d put myself through another election. The truth is, he knew why and he believed in me. More importantly, he believed in this city. His faith in this little city never wavered, though I saw him shake his fist as well as his head at times.

Amsterdam’s finest qualities mesh family, heritage, and complicated webs of connectedness that, really, those of us that did not grow up here cannot fathom. Perpetual visitors like me sometimes shake my head and smile. Bob was born and raised here and he loved this city as much as he distained everything that holds it back. He always understood its untouched potential and supported every effort to change its course.

I could go on and on about Bob’s contributions to this community, to the museum, hospital, Chamber, Liberty, Waterfront Foundation, United Way, sports teams, and countless others. This community has suffered a great loss. Because of Bob’s new absence, we are now called to fill that void for the city he loved.

Bob got his start in Amsterdam schools and made his lifelong friendships there with many of the men in this room. He loved these men when they were boys with skinned knees. He loved them through their first dates, through first jobs and first wives, through crushing loss and glittering nights on Florida’s coast. Bob cherished his friends and willingly shared his fortunes and fancy with gentle grace and sometimes great aplomb.

What a perfect counterpart to Betty, both being passionate, industrious, smart and generous to a fault. Both so elegant! Their parties were always perfectly orchestrated but comfortable and welcoming. And it was this gathering together that had always been their goal: to unite, to fest, to laugh and to share.

Indeed, I think Bob’s goal in building an empire was to provide for these times of camaraderie, which brings us to his professional life. This self-made man was extraordinarily accomplished.

Bob used his pragmatism, his strength and his intuition wisely. He took educated risks and surrounded himself with talented people. Because of his foresight, his business thrives today in Schenectady, Charlotte, NC and Austin, TX. His success is a wonderful tribute to his business acumen, but again, the success of his company was not his ultimate aim. It was the byproduct. His goal was to live life fully and fearlessly, and to live life WELL. Bob loved entertaining, sports, the arts, and traveling. He loved driving an expensive car while cranking the Supremes on the radio. He loved the sun. He followed it to Charlotte or Charleston or the Keys when it got too cold here.

Of course Bob decided not to come back on the coldest February in history! Look at all of this damned snow. He’s somewhere near the sun where it’s bright and beautiful and he’ll wait for us until we have the sense of timing to join him.

Bob sought the finer things out in life. It’s a lesson we must learn from this lovely man! Embrace your talents, your opportunities, and the glories this life affords you! Love your life!

Follow the lead of one that passed through this life so well: Coach. Volunteer. Travel. Invest. Play. Rest. Reflect.

Because that’s one of the things Betty pointed out that Bob was so aware of, be it when they’d retire quietly to their sitting room off of the bedroom at night or out by the pool on a warm summer evening. He’d turn to her and say, “I love my life.”

Period.

So love your family like Bob loved this complicated, boundlessly energetic wife.

Like Bob loved his daughter, Kelly and her daughters, Jillian and Lauren, find the space that is only yours, such as that between a daughter and her father, a relationship that weaves through giggles and tears to a time when you will trust another man enough to hand her over at the alter. Love your family steadfastly through all time and across miles. Maddie, just the mention of your name made him sparkle.

Love the family God gives you, your stepsons and in-laws. God blessed Bob with a son, Kevin, that he lost too early and a boy that he loved as a son. I know how deeply he cared for Bill as he spoke proudly of the confident, young man taking the wheel while he was out chartering new waters. We now see how prudent this transition had been and the company remains in good hands.

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Bob acted as a mentor and guide to so many of us in this room that we could probably get together after this service and launch a very successful business if we just take the advise he has given us over the years!

And we should all follow his lead by following his actions: by being kind and generous, by being loyal and courageous. Be fun loving. Be silly. Most of all cherish your gifts and be grateful that this great man touched your life.

We will miss you, Bob. Thank you so much for all that you have given us. We love you.

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QUESTION: do you follow the person that points out problems or do you follow the person that’s done something about them? The city’s finances have been out of wack for over a decade.

This administration has:

• called these problems to the attention of the council and the media for six years (documented in writing);

• WITH THE COOPERATION OF PAST COUNCILS,
purchased specialized municipal accounting software;

• WITH THE COOPERATION OF PAST COUNCILS,
hired outside experts to help unravel the problems;

• WITH THE COOPERATION OF PAST COUNCILS,
brought in $24M dollars in grants and stimulus funds to fix infrastructure & equipment, advance huge capital projects, and offset the cost of bonding;

• WITH THE COOPERATION OF PAST COUNCILS,
scripted the Corrective Action Plan submitted to the state in order to move past our troubles;

• WITH THE COOPERATION OF PAST COUNCILS,
reworked utility fees so that they BENEFIT CITY TAXPAYERS; and

INCREASED REVENUE by millions of dollars to the annual budget.

The FACTS speak for themselves. My administration has proactively handled problems with creativity and action.

That’s LEADERSHIP.

“Anyone can hold the helm, when the sea is calm” – Publilius Syrus

leadership

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Good Morning. I’d like to thank the Veteran’s Commission for once again allowing me the honor to speak on behalf of our city; to once again acknowledge how much we appreciate the men and women that have freely offered to serve this country we all love.
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Another year has come and gone since we last gathered on a crisp morning by our beautiful monument. The hours, days, weeks and months have been spent according to the demands of our daily lives – at work or at the doctor’s office, at a school function or social event, behind the wheel of our car or at the kitchen stove. Every day, we wake, dress, eat and blessedly sleep at day’s end. The seasons fall away from us like the leaves from these trees. We strive for financial stability, independence, and accomplishments both great and small. We engage with loved ones and peers in ways that are both mundane and incredibly poignant. We are afforded all of these instances of being because we live in a time of relative peace and some prosperity.

For the most part, we will finish this day fed and in our own bed, with a roof over our head and an opportunity to tackle tomorrow’s challenges as a new sun rises.

We are blessed.

This is the truth of our experience as civilians of a great and powerful nation – a country of promise – a country that has been heavily involved in wars and conflicts over its two hundred years of history. We have a way of living that is the pinnacle of comfort for others around the world.

Yes, we are blessed.

We are blessed because we have had the good fortune to have young men and women that have chosen to serve in the military, to defend our freedoms and provide us this unrivaled way of life that we have all benefited from.

Thank you, you men and women of the military, that have served us so well.

In thinking about this speech today, I was struck by the many reasons a young man or woman may choose this line of endeavor, to put aside the familiar and take up the mantle of a military uniform.

In times of peace, one can see the wonderful opportunities the military provides. They will leave high school and go off to boot camp, wet behind the ears, to find structure, purpose, schooling, travel, and a career. They will make friendships and associations that will survive a lifetime of what life will throw at them, and most of these bonds will outlast some jobs and marriages. It’s understandable why someone would choose this path.

It is so compelling that young people choose this endeavor in times of strife, yet again and again, the honorable call to action is bravely taken up. As long as men have gathered in villages to live communally, they have also stood together against oppression and fear. I am a child of the 60’s. I watched my grandparents and parents talk of the world wars, my father and uncle talk of the Korean War that left my uncle deaf in one ear and my father resolutely mute about his time of service, and saw kids from my neighborhood sent off to Vietnam.

I was too young then to understand the enormity of what they and the many families across this nation had experienced.

These young people, the kids we nursed, immunized, provided music lessons to and carted around to sporting events, left high school, still wet behind the ears, blew through boot camp and were deployed around the world to situations unlike any they had known before. After such a short time, our young recruits were charging the beach at Normandy, stumbling through cold, rough waters, an air assault and a barrage of bullets that would take 120,000 allied lives.
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Still green, they were deployed to the hot, humid and hostile jungles of Vietnam to walk waste deep in water, guns held over their heads, trying to avoid snakes, trip wires, gun fire and the relentless fear that has stayed with many for decades.

Still wet behind the ears, our boys and girls have been sent in heavy fatigues to the arid deserts of the middle east to track tyranny in the monotonous blowing sands and stinging heat that often soars well over 100 degrees, also fearing the anonymous attacks of guerilla warfare and land mines, only this time they face an enemy willing to strap a bomb to his or her chest and take out an entire section of city street.

With the advancements made in medical technologies, soldiers return with disabilities that they surely would not have survived in the past. Loss of limbs, head injuries and trauma are far too commonly born by our returning heroes. These young men and women have served us too well to be forgotten. We, the great nation that has been afforded so much in the way of serenity, have a responsibility to provide the ongoing support necessary to ensure that they may live lives that are full and fulfilled, as safe and stable and comfortable as any of us have come to expect. We must ensure that veterans are provided education and vocational opportunities, and jobs. We must ensure that no veteran goes homeless or without the medical provisions that will help them flourish once again.

To those of you that stand with us today as veterans, and those of you still in active service, I cannot understand the depth of your experience as soldiers but can, with great certainty, tell you that we people of this small community of Amsterdam are completely grateful for the gift of your time, talent, youth and commitment.

I’d like share the words of a mayor in another like community, Mayor Debbie Brinkman of Littleton, Colorado. We share her sentiment and gratitude:

“Since World War I, the United States of America’s Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard have fought in ten battles:
• World War II
• Korean War
• Vietnam War
• Bay of Pigs
• Grenada
• Invasion of Panama
• The Persian Gulf
• Intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina
• Invasion of Afghanistan, and the
• Invasion of Iraq

We open our arms and our hearts and welcome them all home. They did not all come home alive, they did not all come home whole, many are not yet home, and we continue to send many back into harm’s way. The enormity of their sacrifice is beyond compare. So how do we dare to believe two words, eight letters is enough?

John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

So, it isn’t enough to say it – we need to be it. Grateful. Thankful. Appreciative. The greatest prayer you can say is “Thank You.” Two words. Eight letters. But weighted with love, gratitude, humility and understanding.”

So, to each veteran that stands here today, under this heavy sky and waving flag, our words are not enough.
Know, as only a soldier can know, that you have our deepest respect, gratitude and love.
God bless.

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goals

September 2, 2014
DISCUSSION: COUNCIL GOALS

This meeting marks nine months of this council’s term. To date, I feel this council has not identified its goals or progressed any significant projects. Without direction, the Council’s decision-making and budgeting abilities have become reactionary and fractured. This is regrettable as I am certain that each and every member of this body truly wishes to see our City thrive.

This will only be possible by setting aside matters of small consequence and personal/political agendas. Giving time and effort to matters brought to light via anonymous sources, Facebook, or the morning talk shows take our focus away from items of real import. Actions of this nature equate to the fleas steering the dog and encouraging this negativity is reprehensible. This practice must stop.

I have given considerable thought to what may be done to improve the performance of this council and am sharing the following list, so that we may begin to work collaboratively on issues that will greatly impact our efficacy.

1. The first course of action must be a sincere willingness to work with my office and staff. My secretary has repeatedly sent out invitations to each member of this council to set regular dates and meet one-on-one to discuss operations and goals. I have only received the courtesy of a reply from Alderwoman Beekman. I respectfully request that the rest of you contact my secretary and make arrangements to meet.

2. I have also given thought to the Council’s committee structure. As all committees are uniform in membership (consisting solely of the five aldermen), I am hoping the Council would consider one or two additional members from our community with particular experience to add expertise to the mix. For example, a banker or accountant may be of great assistance to the Finance Committee. I propose that these individuals would serve on an advisory basis and believe this may strengthen our knowledge base as well as create new avenues for participation in government.

3. I must fill vacancies on several city commissions and boards, as well as establish a new Comprehensive Plan Committee. I request that each of you submit names and resumes of people that may be interested in filling spots on the Planning Commission, Urban Renewal Board, Zoning Board of Appeals and the Ethics Board so that they may be considered for a spot. (To the general public, please note, if members of the community are interested, they may contact my office directly without the intercession of an alderman.)

4. The following list of priorities should be vigorously pursued, starting with promises that had been made by this council and must now be fulfilled. In each instance, a plan should be put into place, tasks meted out, and a timeline for completion established.

Priorities include:
– Establish sources of funding for the Land bank, additional seasonal property maintenance staffing, and park improvements
– In anticipation of bonding, revisit the capital projects list and prioritize; develop five-year plan
– Review Transportation Department performance to date
– Review the Corrective Action Plan submitted to the OSC at the beginning of the year and determine what must be done to meet our responsibilities
– Set parameters for negotiations with labor units
– Request an update from AIDA as to progress (as was done with CEDD)
– Research legislation to incentivize property rehabilitation and development
– Identify priorities for next year’s budget; i.e, public safety departmental staffing/expenditures, OT or Land bank support

It is essential that this Council address these matters proactively and in cooperation with my office. I hope that the next 15 months are much more productive than the first nine were.

Mayor Ann M. Thane

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From: Gerry DeCusatis
Date: Fri, 29 Aug 2014 15:22:21 -0400
To: Office of the Mayor, Richard Leggiero, Ed Russo, Ron Barone, Valerie Beekman, Diane Hatzenbuhler, robert spagnola
Cc: Susan Alibozek
Subject: Fwd: resolution request

All:

The requested resolution appears to be an attempt to direct city employees in their day to day actions.  The direction of city employees is an executive power belonging to the mayor.  This power cannot be changed by a resolution. A charter amendment would be required and such an amendment would be subject to a mandatory referendum.

There is no “legalese” that will cure this proposed resolution.

Perhaps it would be helpful if I were provided with more details of the actual events that this is attempting to regulate along with some communication of the goals of the resolution from the requester.

G DeCusatis

_______________________________________________
On Fri, Aug 22, 2014 at 3:20 PM, Susan Alibozek wrote:

Gerry – below is a resolution draft requested by Alderwoman Hatzenbuhler.  The request stems from the removal of the fence at Milton Avenue, painting of murals on City owed property, etc.   There may be a Committee of the Whole at 6:30 on September 2 to discuss this resolution therefore if you can provide more legalese to the resolution it would be most appreciated.

WHEREAS, in the past City-owned property has been removed, used, painted etc. without the knowledge or consent of the Common Council.

RESOLVED, no city employee shall use, remove, paint, deface any City-owned property without the written knowledge and consent of the Common Council.

Susan Alibozek, City Clerk
City of Amsterdam

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MEMORIAL DAY 2014
May 26 • Veterans Field, Amsterdam, NY

Good morning all. I ask you to join me in a short exercise as we think about the meaning of Memorial Day.

Think of someone you’ve loved with all of your heart that has died. Choose one person that was your reason to live or your strongest support in this crazy, confusing life… that one someone that you still cannot live without that has died. They may be a parent, a spouse, a sibling, a child, or a close friend. Imagine as clearly as you can their smiling face.

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Think of all of the wonderful moments you shared… the laughter at the dining room table at Thanksgiving, the closeness you felt as children when you leapt together from rock to rock in a stream, the happiness you felt as you watched them stand in cap and gown for a graduation portrait, the gratitude you felt when they poured you a glass of milk because you were too small to manage, the understanding that passed between you as you accepted an engagement ring, the moments you spent together in silent reverie in a church pew, the harsh tears you shared when life was unbearable or angry…

Think about the last time you saw your loved one. That very last, irretrievable moment when you thought, “well, maybe this is it,” but deep in your heart, you couldn’t believe it. You gently held a bird-like hand at the bedside, you tousled someone’s already wild hair, you both stared off awkwardly into different directions, you noted how grown up he looked in that military uniform, you embraced her tightly in the hallway, you watched his headlights fade as he drove into the last bit of twilight before evening…

and then they were gone.

Think about how desperately you sought out the last remnants of their being… how you grabbed a shirt out of the laundry basket or a pillow off of the bed, and buried your face in it for a fleeting scent that would all too soon be forgotten… how you eyed the keys they left on the table or the sock by the bed as if they would insistently push back through the door to retrieve them… how you touched the hospital monitor to kick it back into rhythm… how you watched the clouds move across a sky suddenly imbued with a presence that was ripping your heart from its cage.

We all come to know mourning in ways that are small and terrible.

Think about how tenuous that memory of your loved one is… how everyday, color and realities sift from that image… how facial features and context breezily lift away in thin, transparent sheets… notice how blurred that face is in your memory and how difficult it becomes to hold on to the story of your time together because each day subtly subtracts remembrances without your knowing.

How at mercy we are to the evil thievery of time.

Days tick off of the calendar into weeks, then months, then years. We learn to live with muted recollection. We are stuck with photo albums that have frozen only fractions of a life that had been rich and tactile and deeply meaningful.

Now think of that loss in terms of the many, many souls we have lost to war. In fact, we have lost over 1.1 million in the three hundred years we have existed as a sovereign nation.

Think of that incredible loss to our hearts and to our country.

Our memories lift collectively from us like dandelion seeds on a light wind. They peel away until we stand before walls of lonely names without tether to the hearts that etched them there. The souls that wore these names and the uniforms of our country are gone forever, as are many of the loving people they belonged to.

It is the testament of each military monument, with names that have been scratched into stone that calls us all to the purpose of this day. They drive us as a community to never forget that each name held the magic of a life that we have lost forever. More importantly, each boy or girl that is memorialized on that monument took a selfless oath to serve our country.
This quote by Reverand Randolf Harrison McKim speaks to this selflessness and sacrifice perfectly: “Not for fame or reward, not for place or for rank, not lured by ambition or goaded by necessity, but in simple obedience to duty as they understood it, these men suffered all, sacrificed all, dared all, and died.”

On this day, we must grieve for we have lost generations of loved ones.

But just as we must grieve, so too must we also celebrate the lives of those dear souls that have ensured our prosperity, commerce, comfort and freedom. They have given us a country that values equality, ingenuity, religious choice and free speech.

All too often, we walk or drive past these monuments without thought to the spectacular gift of our everyday lives, so it is fitting that we gather as one to give thanks for each and every brave individual, both living and dead, that have taken the oath to serve in our military.

Thank you, each of you here today that had passed through the rigors of boot camp, crisply saluted a superior officer, presented your weapon with precision, and marched as one body with your company. Thank you to those veterans that had served decades ago but still stand at attention when our national anthem is played. Thank you for tending to the graves of your fellows and never allowing us to forget our duty to those that have passed.

Thank you to the young men and women that still take up the oath and grace us with their protection at present. You continue a tradition that is proud and honorable.

Thank you so much 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.

Mayor Ann M. Thane

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I attended a budget session this morning. I guess the Council’s big idea to manage the budget is to cut our Community and Economic Development Director, cut the proposed HR Secretary, cut the Corporation Counsel’s only staff person, and reduce the Recreation Department Assistant’s salary. I asked if they’d discussed these changes with Department Heads… ahhhh, NO. I was forbidden to speak at the meeting. These changes will dramatically impact operations and do little to change the property tax rate, but that does not seem to concern the Council.

Do you think this may be political?

When asked if they have a Plan B for Transportation, which has been bleeding $250K a year from the General Fund, the Fourth Ward Alderwoman stated that they’d look at it if worse comes to worse. Hmmm, rather than plan for any contingency, they are going to wait and see. Please understand that I began discussing this shortfall with the newly elected council in November of 2013. I asked them to please examine this situation and come up with suggestions to address this as we were about to embark on the budget process. They promptly set about with their four-month war over golf contracts, the Golf Commission, Shuttleworth Park and Spring Fling.

So, there’s no plan for growth and they’re cutting our economic development person just as this year’s round of funding is due in 20 days, NY Rising is in its final stages, we’re up to our chins in Brownfield neighborhood rehabilitation planning, land bank management, waterfront redevelopment and creation of a new code enforcement initiative with Schenectady. They’re dicing Corporation Council’s secretary in charge of managing office operations, scheduling and is the same individual that ensures $30,000 in traffic tickets are processed a year, solely to undermine the attorney’s ability to function effectively. They’re slicing the salary of the Recreation Department Assistant responsible year around for events management, regular email, social media and website updates, coordination of activities at the Arts Center, Bacon Rec Center, community garden and summer camp, and facilitates all programming for youth and families (the position brought in $80,000 in sponsorships last year.)

I’ve never witnessed such irresponsible governance in my life. I hope people are outraged. This group is downright destructive.

The public hearing on the budget is on Tuesday night at 6pm, though after today’s discussion, it is doubtful that this council will make their changes public before that time. TAKE ACTION! Come to that meeting and stand up to this nonsense!

Contact your alderperson and let them know they’re supposed to be working for you, not playing partisan games. To contact the aldermen, call or email them at the following:

First Ward: Ed Russo
332-8645
russo@amsterdamny.gov.

Second Ward: Valerie Beekman
842-1430
vbeekman@amsterdamny.gov.

Third Ward: Ron Barone
842-1105
rbarone@amsterdamny.gov.

Fourth Ward: Diane Hatzenbuhler
842-2490
dhatzenbuhler@amsterdamny.gov

Fifth Ward: Rich Leggiero
843-0808
rleggiero@amsterdamny.gov.

Of course, you can always drop a letter in the mail addressed to the entire Common Council.
Send to: Common Council, City Hall, 61 Church Street, Amsterdam, NY 12010

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There’s no other way to start this out but with gratitude for those that have supported me all of the way through this endeavor. It’s possible that in several minutes you will wish that I had been made speechless by this honor, but please bear with me.

First, thank you to Executive Director Peter Baynes and the most accomplished and gifted staff I’ve ever encountered. Your team exemplifies excellence in every application of the word. Thank you for cultivating an organization that cares for the individual needs of each community and is the motivating force for the aggregate. Thank you for accepting me, for nurturing me, and being patient with me.

Thank you to outgoing President Dick Donovan, and those that came before you, that set the tone and direction of this organization. Dick, your energy and resolute integrity have inspired all of us. You have carried our message to every corner of this great state. You teach us to never back down from our conviction that the state MUST respond to the needs of local government in order to forge a bountiful and sustainable future for all.

Thank you to my fellow executive board members for your warmth and welcome. I look forward to our regular meetings throughout the year much like children look forward to the holidays. I no longer think of my relationship with you as one of service. I think of you all in a very real way as family.

Which leads me to my Amsterdam family. To Congressman Paul Tonko, thank you for never forgetting your hometown while fighting in Washington DC for a stronger nation. I aspire to follow your example, with your ceaseless passion for public service and your vision for a revitalized Amsterdam through waterfront rehabilitation and heritage expression.

To Mary and Gerry DeCusatis, thank you for your years of friendship. To Mary, thank you for creating a loving haven for my children when I had nowhere else to turn and for your incredibly giving nature. Your home is a reflection of your generous heart and I love you for it.

To Gerry, my Corporation Counsel and my best friend, thank you, thank you, thank you. Years before the decision to run for office, we spent hours in the living room weaving the tale of how our city would thrive if we ruled our small world. You are the reason my administration works and the reason I can make it through the toughest hours. I love your resolve, your zany humor and your endless tolerance of my quirkiness. You are doing a fantastic job and are the best thing that ever happened to Amsterdam. If our local media pundits don’t know it, now 200 new people in this room do.

And now for the wellspring from which I emerged, my real family, people that are eloquent, hard headed and fun. With me today are several of the women in my family that sport the same obsessive drive to perform well, the same vibrant interest in politics, and the same easy laughter. My aunt, Mary Lou Andersen, was a true feminist in the 60’s. She showed us that women not only belonged in a world dominated by men, but that we would flourish there. My attraction to public service began as I watched my aunt’s weekly commute from Delaware to Washington DC. Thank you Aunt Mary Lou.

To her daughter, Joan, thank you for being here. You know you are much more a sister to me than a cousin and that the bonds we share probably flow deeper than this corporeal reality. I love you. To my cousin, Caroline, that religiously follows me and fights for me on Facebook from Florida despite the 50 years since we last met, thank you! I love that you are here!

To my mother, Peg Tigue, I am so glad that God chose you as the vessel that gave me life. You’ve taught me to be strong in impossibly difficult times, to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us, and that if everyone else can’t see that beauty, we do and we will make it so. My mother’s presence is felt across the City of Wilmington, Delaware – from its tall ship and waterfront redevelopment to the preservation of its most valued historical properties to the restoration of neighborhoods one house at a time through Habitat for Humanity. My mother is a crusader for urban revitalization. I don’t fall far from her loving branches and am so grateful for her particular genes. I love you, Mom.

To my husband, Peter, thank you so much for the life you’ve given to me and for the home you sustain. You are my harbor, my balance, my boxing partner and my hero. You provide me a safety net when I fall, constancy when the political world shreds at my will, and quiet dignity through every difficult bump in the road. You teach our beautiful children and me that honesty and loyalty are all that matter, and that family come before all else. Thank you, Pete, for staying the course through all of the toil, turmoil and sudden smiles. I love you.

To all of you in this audience, I love you for sitting through this speech so far!

It’s such a pleasure to look out over all of the faces gathered here today at our annual meeting. Yours are the faces of true leaders: intelligent, creative and committed to your communities in ways that few can understand until they’ve walked in your shoes… until they’ve received the call at 2am about a factory fire that’s consuming an entire city block in one night and will smolder for a month, or the call that the river is rising by several feet an hour and that you’ve got to evacuate several thousands of people before the devastation hits, or the call that two teenagers have been murdered in an inexplicably violent manner by two kids of the same age and the community is on the verge of rioting, or the half hour phone call describing the six-inch pot hole in front of an elderly constituent’s driveway.

Your commitment is astounding. You patiently endure council meetings that are contentious, labor negotiations that are highly challenging, lengthy budget sessions that are taxing in more ways than one, and manage to steadfastly oversee the ins and outs of daily departmental operations. You gracefully persist despite the biases of local newspapers, uninformed radio hosts, bloggers and Facebook hot shots.

Give yourself a hand. It’s the shared experience of the people in this room that give me the courage and inspiration to get up every day and once more do the job of mayoring.

I am extremely grateful to NYCOM for their guidance on this joyous and sometimes difficult journey into local governance. I think my first experiences with this organization were in rooms very similar to this one as I found my way to the ample well of knowledge provided in these training sessions. My first year in office was one of wide-eyed idealism and I burned like phosphorous that first year, soaking up anything and everything I could to bring new light to years of darkness that had plagued the City of Amsterdam. I immersed myself in Internet searches, online tutorials, budget workshops and, of course, regularly scheduled training opportunities through NYCOM.

In 2009, I received a call from now-Assemblyman John McDonald inviting me to serve on NYCOM’s executive board, a prospect that was both enticing and terrifying at the same time. I guess you can say I still had freshman jitters, but a good friend had given me sound advice in the beginning and I continue to chant this to myself to get through any challenge choice may bring me: “Put on your big girl panties and just do it.” It’s great advice and I encourage you all to fall back on it in times of trouble, no matter your gender.

NYCOM Executive Board meetings are generally around an assemblage of tables to accommodate 25 or so very smart, very savvy staff and board members with a combined experience level that spans decades and distance. They are congenial, knowledgeable, brave and amazingly apolitical. It is at that table, both then and now, that I witness some of the highest functioning governance, anywhere. I wish my council or the state legislature could attend to see how effective shared vision, ample research, probing discussion and working toward the common good benefits all involved.

Because that’s what our highest purpose is, in NYCOM and in life, to work collaboratively so that our communities thrive.

Certainly, we here at NYCOM have our work “cut out for us.” Local governments are under siege by a State government that sees us as frivolous and in need of guidance. Rather than make difficult decisions that may cut into campaign coffers, they underfund us year after year and shift the heavy cost of state legislative and budgetary inaction to the backs of counties, cities, towns and villages. This sluggish response to real need at the local level cannot be managed by capping our revenues.

We need the state to cap our costs!

Cap my costs and my budget will take care of itself, thank you very much!

And please, we are quite familiar with sharing services. We’ve been sharing and consolidating and creatively partnering for years. The fact of the matter is that our budgets are not fat and we’ve been balancing delicately constructed budgets with the provision of services without falling back on gimmickry since the inception of public service. At our level, the impact of our decisions about a pothole, a police vehicle, a fire hydrant, a city playground or an abandoned property is immediate and noted by our consumers, the voters that put us in office to properly manage their money. Believe me, if we do not meet the expectations of those voters, the consequences are harshly personal.

It is this personal message that must resonate in both chambers of the legislature and echo down the hallways of the capital building.

In order to make this message heard at the state level, we must redouble our efforts to educate our constituents and our state representatives. The beauty in NYCOM’s reaction to the persistent budgetary problems faced by the state is that, not only can we identify the origins and intricacies of these troubles, but we offer sound, innovative solutions as well. We are here to help!

The difficulty for us is communicating our message of hope effectively. And this is where you all come into play. We need YOU, the representatives of 582 member municipalities, to be the loud and insistent voice for responsible stewardship of our tax dollars.

We need YOU to loudly witness for the 11 million people we represent. We must understand the legitimacy and power that we posses when advocating for 11 million residents. Our interests cannot be ignored. We speak for 11 million of the 19 million people that live in New York State. Let that knowledge empower you when discussing local issues with your state senators and assemblymen. Let that knowledge drive your determination when speaking to the press, labor unions and state agency representatives. Let the destiny of those 11 million souls inform your actions when you return to your hometowns after this conference.

The future of NYS is in each of your hands and here’s a shared service we at NYCOM encourage you to take back to your constituents: Share our message. Be a catalyst for REAL change. Make it your personal responsibility to understand the NYCOM platform. Talk about mandate relief to everyone you can. Build coalitions with your neighboring municipalities, counties and school districts. Utilize our staff and resources, both printed and online. Follow the NYCOM example of setting political partisanship aside for the betterment of our communities. Be the leaders you had promised to be when you sought office.

I read a quote this morning by a very famous fellow named Anonymous which, I think, speaks perfectly to our situation. It said, “Put your future in good hands — your own.” I can’t think of any better advice… Just couple it with the panties.

In closing, own this: WE, the members of NYCOM, are THE force in this state to be reckoned with and we will have this our way.

Thank you again for this great honor. I look forward to working with you over the coming year.

Click on this image to see the Word Cloud of this speech:
Wordle: NYCOM Acceptance Speech

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So, God looked down at the City of Amsterdam and saw that we had amassed close to 200 volunteers for our litter pick up and decided to hold off on the rain as we had requested in our prayers. He turned off the faucet before dawn which gave the ground just enough time to be be manageable for our legions. Folks spread out in all directions and have gathered what may be our biggest load to date (we’ll find out on Monday when it is weighed at the transfer station.)

I’d like to thank the many individuals and organizations that came out strong for this day of service: St. Mary’s Healthcare, City of Amsterdam Democrats, Liberty, the Amsterdam Housing Authority, the Mental Health Association, Centro Civico, Target, AHS Track Team and W1shfu1 Th1nk1ng. This effort was a tremendous success from RT5W, Northampton, Union Street, to Locust Av, Kellog St, Church St, Grove St Slope, and East Main to the South Side, as well as all points in between!

The following are shots of the day.

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Hello all. Thank you for coming out on this chilly, gray morning. It’s not the most ideal weather for a gathering, so I especially appreciate your making the effort to come here today and pay tribute to our veterans. For my part of this ceremony, I’d like to tell you a story:

Once upon a time, I stood at the side of the road on Guy Park Avenue and watched the Amsterdam Veterans honor their comrades by walking a length of the city road to their WWI memorial. The day was brisk but beautiful. Clusters of my neighbors stood reverently, clasping their coats against a light wind with gloved hands, smiling and greeting folks they’d known their whole lives. Much like today, they were a mix of hats, scarves, and wool in the colors of autumn… gold, plumb, brown and rust… most were older folks and a few families brought together several generations of the same height, weight and hair pattern. They talked quietly with each other, noting the falling leaves, fleeting clouds, and onset of winter in the coming weeks.

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I held the hand of my little boy, Ian, who at the time had to have been about four or five years old. We were excited and happy to be at our first official parade in our partnership as mother and son. He was so young and perfect; a sprite with an immediate smile and mischievous glint in his eye. He could not imagine how deep my love for him was because, for a child, it is a given. He was born into the brilliant embers of my attention. He did not know of my long wait for him or my doubt that I’d ever be lucky enough to have a child. I gripped his mittened hand tightly as the procession started.

We watched as the veterans from wars long gone began to pass our station. A scattering of very elderly men that had survived the “War to End All Wars” and eight decades were driven in cars, still proudly wearing their dress caps, insignias, awards, badges and accoutrements. These men sat in stoic silence, weathered as the dried leaves, bearing witness to the time that had passed and memories that would soon be remembered only in books, instead of recounted person-to-person. They seemed to not notice the gathering around them. Their clouded eyes looked ahead in anticipation of their destination.

Men and a few women of WWII, who at the time were then in their late sixties and early seventies followed these vets. This was a larger group of soldiers than the first, still vital and dignified, survivors of a war of unthinkable brutality and loss. They wore, and still wear, their experiences with such pride. They had lived through a time of unsullied patriotism and vigorous optimism, when you could count on God, and County and your neighbor. The charm of that period lives on in the music of the 40’s… still lively with syncopated jazz riffs and sadly sweet, romantic ballads. Though their marching step was somewhat unpolished, they walked with a unity that can only come from the knowledge of their sure achievement in saving the world from tyranny.

Next came the men of the Korean War, men in their late-forties and early-fifties. This war is sadly referred to as the “Forgotten War.” These men walked with a solid gait, having persevered without the public accolades and attention of those that had served in the decade before or those that would come after. These soldiers walked with some ease and casually waved to the bystanders. As I watched, I understood that, had my father lived a longer life, he would have marched with this group. I squeezed my son’s hand and pointed out the beat of their feet on the pavement, and noted that my heart beat with that time.

The next wave of soldiers started to pass us. The Vietnam War Veterans were not much older than I, and I thought about my friends that had fought in that war. The times were so tumultuous and the decision to enter the military was more controversial than at any time that had preceded it in all of history. As well, the mechanisms of war were much more horrific and deadly. I thought of Kevin, a happy-go-lucky kid in our neighborhood that had come back from the sweltering humidity of Vietnam changed… more serious with an uncharacteristic edge in his demeanor. To my knowledge, he never spoke of his time there… not to his family and certainly not to us, his hometown friends. That he and others had returned to a nation that questioned the actions of these young men and women still haunts our days. These young soldiers made the commitment to serve our government without public reverence for their decision. That is a wound that must never be delivered again.

Contemporary men and women in service, marching crisply in unison, followed the Vets of the 60’s and 70’s. Some had already served in the Gulf and some could expect to be shipped to areas of conflict around the world at any time. They looked formidable in their desert combat uniforms, all tautly following command. I looked across the road at a mother anxiously scanning the unit for the unforgettable face of her child, and watched for the moment of recognition as she located the object of her love. Brimming with pride, she yelled out a name with joy and pointed rapidly so that her friends would not miss out on the gift of this moment. The realization of the sacrifice that she and her family had made was beginning to reach me like a scent carried lightly on a breeze.

The ROTC students from Amsterdam High School followed in step, their beautiful, unlined faces intent on their task. They lead younger children informally walking together from the boy scouts, girl scouts and, tying it all up at the end, the youngest Webelos and Brownies that may begin this march at age seven. Suddenly, the breath was pulled from my chest and the full impact of this parade of souls came to me. I stared incredulously down at the little boy at the end of my arm and could see the whole of this impossible offering.

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The oldest veteran to the youngest, silly sprout walks a path that tears our loved ones from the warmth of our hearth and sends them to the edge of the earth for the ideals our government is built on.

Regardless of politics, public furor, danger or exhaustion, our soldiers serve willingly, selflessly and courageously that we may continue to live in peace and prosperity. They enter into situations of loneliness, peril, boredom and chaos that others may have hope. Those that have marched in parades have returned to us. Remember also that others have not, or that they have returned to us broken and in need of our full support as a nation, as a community, as friends and as family.

THIS is what this day, Veterans Day, is all about.

Having grasped this concept, as desperately as I had held the hand of my son so long ago, let us all acknowledge that there can be no greater calling than that of a soldier and extend our deepest gratitude for the gifts that they have given so freely to us.

Thank you to the Veterans Commission for continuing this tradition and thank you with all of our hearts to each and every veteran gathered here today. God bless you and keep you, forever and always.

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There have been many, many items of correspondence back and forth between the Controller’s office, Council and my office regarding finances and reports from the Controller’s office. I offer the following to inform the rest of you as to the occurances over these past few years.

From: “Ann M. Thane”
Date: December 21, 2012 4:11:58 PM EST
To: Joseph Isabel , Valerie Beekman , Gina DeRossi , David Dybas , Richard Leggiero , Susan Alibozek , Ron Wierzbicki , Gerry DeCusatis , Ann Thane
Subject: FW: Accounting service engagement letter

All,

The City of Amsterdam has recently concluded its financial risk assessment process. The City shall take the necessary actions and steps to ensure its financial condition is properly stated and all current and future financial transactions are recorded correctly. An action plan has been developed, is in process, and will be updated as any anomalies present themselves in the data under review.

To date, the process has encompassed a partial review of the accounting transactions by various departments and sources (cash balances, capital projects, federal/state grants, current/prior fund comparisons, etc.) A review of operations by KVS, our accounting software provider, has also been conducted.

Darryl Purinton, our Financial Consultant, has identified areas of weakness requiring immediate remediation. It is apparent that prior year’s transactions must be addressed to ensure the integrity of data transitioned to the new accounting system.

The Mayor and Controller are requesting that the Common Council provide all necessary resources to address these inadequacies in an orderly fashion. Though the cost of assisting the Controller is escalating, our goal is to remediate and eliminate the weaknesses in the Department of Finance. This will be an evolving process that will perhaps take several months, reflecting the type and amount of problems that need attention. We must all ensure that this process is as expedient as possible.

The position of Deputy Controller has been submitted for advertising to local newspapers and will be posted online via several venues.

Please review the attached proposal and be prepared to discuss in committee before our first Common Council meeting of the year. Susan, will you please convene a committee meeting of the whole on January 2nd (6:30pm) and a resolution on for the night to bless off on this proposal?

Thanks, A.

—— Forwarded Message
From:
Date: Wed, 19 Dec 2012 11:57:00 -0500
To: Office of the Mayor
Subject: Accounting service engagement letter

Mayor

Please see the attached draft of an engagement letter for your review.

We can add or substitute tasks as you desire.

Some other tasks can include:

1. Review of the account coding for all cash receipts and disbursements and prepare correcting journal entries for all funds, except capital projects.
2. Review of the property tax receivable, liability and revenue accounts, reconcile them to supporting sub-ledgers and prepare correcting journal entries.
3. Review budgetary journal entries and reconcile them to Common Council authorization or lack thereof and prepare correcting journal entries.
4. We can look at other suggestions.

I look forward to your response.

Darryl

____________________________________________________________________________

From: Office of the Mayor
Date: Tue, 15 Nov 2011 11:00:41 -0500
To: Heather Reynicke , Ann Thane , Gerry DeCusatis
Subject: AS400

Hi Heather,

Will you please let me know where we stand with the AS400 and the County? We need the single password for all users, but still need the county to figure out why we are being dropped. We don’t have any other trouble with the network connection, i.e., the internet or red alert. Something must have happened during the floods to their server. This problem has greatly affected the the codes department’s ability to work with this system. I’d appreciate you trying to get to bottom of this situation.

Will you be at tonight’s meeting? I’d appreciate an update as to where we are with the software transfer, contingency funds, processing of purchase orders and the fund balance. Departments heads at yesterday’s meeting are concerned as they are not getting updates as to where they stand within the budget. Of course, each department tracks their time and expenditures, but it seems the checks and balances are not in place at this time. They’d also like to have KVS review the system with them so that they may suggest what is necessary to meet their unique needs.

Lastly, once a new controller is in place, I’d like to work on a plan of transition. Hope you are well on the mend. Thanks, A.

Mayor Ann M. Thane
City of Amsterdam
61 Church Street
Amsterdam, NY 12010

From: Office of the Mayor
Date: Mon, 19 Sep 2011 13:01:57 -0400
To: Heather Reynicke , Gerry DeCusatis , Ann Thane
Subject: Updated conversation

Hi Heather,

Just to recap a few of the items we discussed:

• we may need additional bonding to address asbestos remediation/demolition of the Esquire Building
• we need your recommendation as to whether we bond for emergency services rendered after the two floods
• we have not heard from a FEMA representative yet, but I have forwarded the FEMA application handbook for your review. Hopefully, you have reviewed the emergency purchasing policies with each department (per 9/1/2011 email)
• outstanding invoice: Municipal Solutions – please call
• staffing concerns
• conversion: postings, reconciliations, payroll accruals
• URA transfer
• disaster relief local law: wave user fees; please discuss with Gerry
• please advise the council as to the proposed cut of all departments by 1%
• resolution #11/12-42

There are a few other concerns we must attend to. I sent you the email concerning the actuarial review and retiree heath benefits.

I’ve looked over my ever-evolving task list for all departments and note the following open issues where your office is concerned:

• auction of old equipment
• AUD comes due November 1 (who is tending to this now?)
• Audit Masters/Time Warner audit
• S&P requirements: did you check with bond counsel to determine if we need to file required notices?
• Electronic payment form: US Congress submitted?
• computer/phone outages – need contact info/structure set up for when you’re not here
• demolition money: please square accounts with Roseanne

Lastly, we should have a plan to pass of responsibilities in December. Both of us may be gone and I want to make the transfer as smooth as possible. To that end, we will need a clear picture of:

• fund balance
• debt/capital project tracking (who is making debt payments while you are out?)
• reconciliations
• the status of the general ledger, year-end accounts payable/receivable

This is a lengthy listing of concerns and I know you are on top of much of it, but as we wind down this year, I’d like to feel that we are in control of every eventuality.

I hope your recovery is much faster than anticipated. Best wishes, A.

Mayor Ann M. Thane
City of Amsterdam
61 Church Street
Amsterdam, NY 12010

Controller’s Response:

—–Original Message—–
From: Heather Reynicke
Sent: Fri 9/23/2011 6:55 PM
To: Joseph M. Isabel; William D. Wills; William D. Wills – External
Email; Julie Pierce; Gina DeRossi; Richard Leggiero; jmiwcss@verizon.net
Subject: Finance Update

Dear Common Council,

Below please find answers and updates for all of the Mayor’s concerns.
Please note that this laundry list are only a few things that are
currently happening in the Controller’s Office. This list only entails
the items that the Mayor and I personally discussed on September 19th,
if it were not for that conversation, she would have no knowledge of the
daily on-goings in my office.

As you all know, I am the Chief Fiscal Officer of the City and the Mayor is the Chief Executive Officer. Each one of us having no control over the other. Although we must work together to be able to run the City responsibly, I see no concerns with any of the below listing.

The Mayor states the reason for her concern is based on the following from the Charter:
“To keep the Council fully informed at all times of the financial condition and needs of the City and to recommend such measures as he deems necessary to assure and protect its fiscal integrity.”

Ninety percent of these “concerns” the Mayor has do not hinder the fiscal condition of the City. Therefore, I find her request unwarranted and frankly none of her concern.

The only reason I am responding to her request is to inform the Council that I am working my hardest to complete all tasks but certainly cannot guarantee that they will all be completed before I leave.

I am in constant contact with my office for hours each and every day. I also am in contact with Audit Chairman Bill Wills for any concerns that arise with the audit.

Regardless of my absence, functions in my office are being completed.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

The following are my responses to the Mayors concerns:

we may need additional bonding to address asbestos remediation/demolition of the Esquire Building
I would need more information in order to request for a
resolution for more funding. Ie: dollar amount and specifics of
expenditures

we need her recommendation as to whether we bond for emergency services rendered after the two floods
The only recommendation I can make is that the City bond for
these expenses, in hopes that FEMA will reimburse costs. Fund balance
cannot be used, and the Contingency account has been nearly depleted
from overtime expenses.

we have not heard from a FEMA representative yet, but I have forwarded the FEMA application handbook for Controller’s review.
This is the Mayor’s responsibility as the Chief Executive Officer. All departments effected have already submitted cost estimates to myself and the Mayor.

Hopefully, she has reviewed the emergency purchasing policies with each department (per 9/1/2011 email)
The emergency purchasing policy exists within the recently updated Purchasing Policy that the Council has authorized. Each department head has received and hopefully reviewed the document since they are responsible for any purchase they make. As the Chief Fiscal Officer, is is my job to enforce the policy. Some departments have contacted me and I answered any questions they had. Any other departments can contact me if questions still exist.

outstanding invoice: Municipal Solutions – please call
Municipal Solutions has been paid, except for invoices related to contractual financial planning expenses. Invoice submitted from Municipal Solutions total well over the contracted amount of approximately 3,000. I have questioned the cost with them and am waiting for a response.

staffing concerns
I addressed the Council in executive session this week regarding staffing. I see no concern here.

conversion: postings, reconciliations, payroll accruals
Conversion is still being completed, as records need to be accurate before converted to the new system. Daily reconciliation is performed for all monies received and disbursed.

URA transfer
This was never a concern, completed.

disaster relief local law: wave user fees; please discuss with Gerry
This is the Council’s concern, I can only provide an estimate of revenue reduction it would cause.

please advise the council as to the proposed cut of all departments by1%
This is also Council initiated. I did provide a starting point, which is my recommendation, by cutting departments by percent make-up of the entire budget. I provided this to you at the September 6th meeting. It is up to the Council to move forward with this.

resolution #11/12-42
I am not sure what this resolution is since I am home.

Additional concerns:

foreclosure
The foreclosure process has been initiated and will be ongoingfor months to come. The new Controller will have to take this task over midstream as the process requires time lines to be followed.

AUD comes due November 1 (who is tending to this now?)
This is being tended to by my staff, as always done in the past. I may be requesting an extension due to the fact that conversion is not completed, and when it is, the compilation will be much easier to complete. In the past, it took the principal account clerk anywhere from 2 to 3 weeks to complete.

Audit Masters/Time Warner audit
This is the Mayor’s responsibility as the Chief Executive Officer and signer of all the contracts. Concerns involve litigation for these issues.

S&P requirements: did you check with bond counsel to determine if we need to file required notices?
Bond Counsel has been e-mailed. Awaiting reply.

Electronic payment form: US Congress submitted?
I am not sure what this request is for.

computer/phone outages – need contact info/structure set up for when you’re not here
I am not the IT person for the City. The Mayor needs to find someone to address these concerns. This is not my responsibility, but have been addressing all IT concerns due to the fact that no one else was willing to perform the functions.

demolition money: please square accounts with Roseanne
I believe Rosanne has been notified of all accounts months ago.

auction of old equipment
I do not handle this, and never did. Ray Halgas manages the sale of equipment and always has. It has come to my attention of a matter regarding the unauthorized sale of equipment from the Gold Coarse. I advised the Mayor and Corporation Counsel of the matter and the employee performing the action. To my knowledge, the employee has not been reprimanded. The only involment my office does have is collection of monies on the day of auction and recording disposal of such asset.

insurance trust
Is there a specific question here? The trust was not passed by the County, therefore, not passed by the City.

We need a plan to pass on responsibilities in December to make transition as smooth as possible.
To that end, we will need a clear picture of:

fund balance
Fund balance is approximately $600,000 as previously notified. debt/capital project tracking (who is making debt payments while you are out?)
Debt payments are made automatically and posted to the accounting system by the Principal Account Clerk.

reconciliations
Reconciliation is performed by the Principal Account Clerk, daily.

the status of the general ledger, year-end accounts payable/receivable
The general ledger is updated daily.

As previously stated, please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.

Thank you,

Heather Reynicke
____________________________________________________________________________

From: Office of the Mayor
Date: Thu, 3 Feb 2011 12:22:10 -0400
To: Heather Reynicke

Subject: Tasks

Are 2010-2011 opening balances brought forward?

Are you satisfied with the FYE 2010 AUD versus the AUD?

Has the 2010 BOND issue been reconciled and posted?

Are all current Chapter 13 claims filed and recorded?

Is the GL. etc. for the Capital fund up-to-date and in balance?

Are all NSF checks satisfied, including the really old ones which Gerry will have to help with?

Have all debt payments been made and duly recorded?

Has the budget been reconciled with the GL monthly? Is it in balance?

Has the PFY health been reconciled? Does the MCH Trust still owe us money?

Have the county and school been paid on there receipts for October, November and December, 2010?

Are the most current few years of tax receivables reconciled?

Has the spring, 2010 auction/sale been finalized with entries made?

Has the County been paid on the auction results(including entries in our system to reflect it)?

Have adjustments been made to the Trust fund to bring it into balance?

Have monthly health insurance payments been reconciled and posted?

Has the Riverfront Pollution Insurance policy been renewed and recorded?

Has the calendar year liability insurance been paid and recorded?

Are all grants recorded and accounted for?

Are EFC monies recorded and budgets adjusted accordingly?

Is the AURA GL up-to-date and reconciled, and have they received all required reports including loan status and cash balances?

—— End of Forwarded Message
____________________________________________________________________________

Please note the following as well, posted here on my blog:

no good is good news

Posted on June 27, 2009

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.

Read Full Post »

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The following is my veto of the Golf Pro contract in 2008. Most of the concerns I had then still exist. For this council to push forward with extending this contract for another three years would be wildly irresponsible, especially given that there is an RFP out now asking for proposals to take over these duties and more.

Our responsibility is to the 18,680 people that live here, not special interests.

“VETO STATEMENT • Resolution 08/09 – 147
November, 2008

I am vetoing the resolution because it does not protect the interests of the taxpayers of the City of Amsterdam.

Earlier in the year, I forwarded a resolution to provide for greater oversight and control of operations at the Golf Course. Even though the Council chose not to make my suggested changes, it is still the responsibility of elected officials to protect one of the greatest assets of the City of Amsterdam.

This contract, which was never reviewed or discussed as a Committee of the Whole Council, undermines the City’s ability to modify operations at the Golf Course, adjust for changing financial conditions, and implement long-range planning.

I cite the following items that are detrimental to the City’s interest:

– The term of the contract changes from a three-year term to a five-year term. This will prevent the City from benefiting from potential golf cart rental income and lock the City into the existing operations of the course.

– The contract gives the Pro a 23.6% raise (includes compensation for a Ranger. Without the additional employee, this would equate to a 13% raise.) Compensation will increase by another 2% over each of the next four years. City employees are held to a 3% raise per year.

– Retail space for the Pro Shop is rent-free for the five-year term of the contract. Electricity is free as well. All profits from the sale of equipment, supplies and accessories go to the Pro.

– The contract stipulates that the Pro submit a business plan, financial statements, a current balance sheet, and income statement to the City for review prior to the awarding of the contract. The business plan was included and states that the explicit objective of the plan is “to market the Golf Course and Pro Shop in order to promote business.” There were no real marketing incentives included in the plan beyond publication of tournaments on “bulletin boards and the local papers” and it lacked financial analysis completely. Most of the “plan” is merely verbiage that has been copied and pasted from the contract. The rest of the required financial information was not included in the contract.

– The contract changes wording that the Pro shall obey all reasonable orders and directions of the “Mayor” to “Golf Commission.”

– The contract directs that the Pro shall assist in the promotion of the the Course, but “promotion” is not defined.

– As was the case in the past, the Pro must publicize tournaments on bulletin boards and in local papers, but there is not stipulation that proof of these efforts be produced.

The Pro owns twenty carts for rent to golfers. All profits from the rental of carts go entirely to the Pro. We don’t know how many rentals there are in a season, because though they have been required since 1985, financial statements have never been produced. We do know that there are approximately 40,000 rounds of golf played a year. If only 10% of those rounds of golf involve rentals at $20 a pop, that’s $80,000.

– The pro stores the carts over the winter at no cost.

– Lastly, the final line in the contract is incomplete, stating it “needs to be added.”

The list above is what I’ve picked out when comparing this contract with the last contract. On top of all of this, we have no solid financial reports as to how the Course did this season, no projected budget and no plan to address debt of upcoming capital projects.

It would be prudent to have a shorter-term contract pending the development of long-term plans for the Course. I therefore veto this resolution.”

$80,000 + the proceeds from the Pro Shop + no storage, lease or utility costs + $25,000 for 6-7 months of work = a pretty good clip in the City of Amsterdam.

Read Full Post »

EDIT:
SURPRISE! The Recorder editorial board does not agree with me about the mural, just as they hadn’t about the $20M re-purposing of the Chalmers building (that’s the empty lot on the South Side now), beautification efforts downtown and at City Hall (oh, maybe they’re on board now?), demanding fiscal accountability from the Golf Course, or about just about anything else I’ve attempted to change in the name of responsible progress.

I guess they are in the business of expressing their opinion (though the “news” seems to get mightily slanted by their bias). The thing that disturbs me the most about the Recorder is its persistent pandering of misinformation; i.e., that “HUGE” parts of the mural are lifting or missing (not) and that my attention is holding up the project (not.) The mural can easily be stabilized and repaired to a point that there is time for more improvements.

They also claim that I won’t “play nice.” How condescending and incorrect. I have repeatedly asked to have a group of interested folks do a walk-through to suggest creative usages of the room and discuss marketing the building. Throw fundraising into that scenario. The AIDA Buildings and Grounds Committee is disallowing our entry because of political reasons and personal avarice. One might wonder why the Recorder isn’t on top of that?

For those of you that have not had the pleasure of personally visiting (or viewing on my FB page) the MURAL that has been the topic of recent radio and newspaper fodder, I post the following photos. Please note, the “house” referred to in the Recorder is actually Historic Ft. Johnson.

This mural is on the third floor of AIDA’s building on Main Street. Through my prompting, representatives from the State Historic Preservation Office visited the site to recommend preservation strategies. The mural, original light fixture and medallion that had graced a prohibition speak-easy are pictured in the photos below. They are stunning and photos don’t do the space justice. The little money it will take to stabilize and keep this treasure pales in comparison to the huge gain we realize in protecting our history.

When AIDA made me aware of their interest in the building, I was pleased, as I had indicated then that the mural was to be considered an irreplaceable piece of our history and strongly advocated for its preservation. I had anticipated their cooperation in this matter. My stance has never changed over the decade since I first saw the mural or in the two years since AIDA had become involved.

Some comments by local historians:

“Had a nice chat with Bruce Conover, whose father used to own the building. The mural long predates the Seely Conover Company presence. In the day that room had been the home of one of the Red Men fraternal groups that were popular at the turn of the last century, so the mural likely originated with them, or at least that was the Conover family understanding.”
– Bob Going

“Once again, please satisfy yourselves by consulting http://www.fultonhistory.com under “Worley Moat” 4/25/1894. “Artist Worley Moat is giving the interior of the new hall of the Kenneyetto Red Men in the Morris Hall block a realistic appearance, now being painted to represent numerous portions of the Mohawk Valley so dear to the red men of years ago.” Moat’s father owned a brewery on Washington St… End of question I think, since it came right out of the 1894 Amsterdam newspaper.”
– Peter Betz, Fulton County Historian

That the AIDA Board is waffling about its preservation at this late date is a disgrace. They should have had a plan in place from the start, but it seems that planning is not a strong suit of the AIDA Buildings and Grounds Committee. The building has not been marketed and I have seen no evidence of an articulated budget or plan for the building, or any other of their holdings.

Unfortunately, this committee has also disallowed a few folks (realtor, historic preservationist, general contractor, city staff and me) from walking through the building to assess the mural and make recommendations about repurposing the room and marketing.

Just what is it that AIDA does, anyway? I’ve requested a Strategic Plan for their organization for years. So far, nothing but silence. How does the board progress its purpose and goals if they don’t have any?

AIDA was created as an economic development tool for the city, to work collaboratively with and strengthen city government. It certainly was not meant to be an separate, unaccountable government. I have requested that the agency supply the Council with all financial and organizational documentation necessary to get an exact picture of the agency’s true condition. I have been promised these documents by August 15th. I’ll update you as to receipt of this information. I’m sure you’re just as interested as I am to see what this group is up to.

And now, the photos:

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IMG_3438

IMG_3439

IMG_3440

IMG_3441

IMG_3442

IMG_3443

IMG_3446

WORLEY MOAT, THE ‘CHICKEN ARTIST’ OF AMSTERDAM
by Peter Betz

When I read that Gloversville’s Common Council is considering once again allowing city residents to keep chickens, I immediately thought of Worley Moat, Amsterdam’s long-forgotten ‘chicken artist’. Because his story mainly belongs to Montgomery County rather than Fulton, I was almost ‘chicken’ to write about him, since, as Fulton County Historian, my general obligation is to keep my historical eggs in Fulton County’s basket. I hope ‘crossing the road’ by writing about someone who lived ‘to the other side’ of the county line won’t lay an egg with readers.

Two other recent events also brought Worley Moat to my attention. First, a local ephemera collector recently found and shared a scrap book filled with Moat’s artistic drawings of prize-winning chickens with me and second, Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane on her Facebook page recently shared photographs of some rediscovered 19th century wall murals of Mohawk Valley scenes located on the top floor of an old downtown Amsterdam building presently used by the Amsterdam AIDA organization which I and Amsterdam City Historian Rob Von Hasseln both think are probably Moat’s artistic work.

Just who was Worley Moat, why do we think he may have painted these lovely old murals, and what else did he do to cause him to be remembered? Starting a generation earlier, Worley’s father, Charles Moat, a coppersmith, immigrated to America from Hatfield, Yorkshire, England sometime in the 1850’s. According to a retrospective July 7th 1945 Amsterdam Evening Recorder article, Charles erected a brewery on Amsterdam’s Washington Street in the late 1860’s. The style of beer he brewed proved very popular with the many English émigrés working in the Sanford and other early Amsterdam factories. Charles Moat then invested in Amsterdam real estate and was president of the British-American “Sons of Albion” social club. He also served as President of the Board of Education, as a member of the Amsterdam Water Board, and as a village trustee, dying at 75 on February 11th, 1895.

Charles sold the brewery to son Walter on May 3rd 1886. Meanwhile Charles’ other son, Worley, followed a career path that seems based on his athletic and artistic abilities, plus his life-long involvement with poultry. He was first employed in the Amsterdam Daily Democrat’s Printing Department. Shifting careers, he became a member of Sanford’s rug pattern design team, probably a better outlet for his artistic abilities.

Worley’s greatest passion, however, was both raising and drawing prize-winning chickens, not surprising considering he grew up at a time in America when many very serious ‘poultry men’ engaged in breeding, cross-breeding and creating dozens of varieties of superior chicken varieties. Competitions at fairs and poultry shows, in which birds were judged via a very demanding list of criteria, were very serious business and significant prizes for breeding improved varieties were awarded. There were also a number of poultry magazines and journals promoting all this, and in these publications Worley Moat found his artistic niche as a sought-after, well-paid illustrator.

When I first heard of Worley Moat I immediately wondered where his unusual first name came from. A little research provided the answer. The NY Daily Tribune of October 1857 contained a tiny legal notice. Under the headline, “Nathan Worley, Cooking Apparatus, Plumbing and House-Heating” is found the statement, “The partnership heretofore existing between Nathan Worley and Charles Moat has been this day dissolved by mutual agreement, Nathan Worley having purchased the interest of Charles Moat, who retires from the business.” What Charles Moat did between leaving Worley & Moat in 1857 and appearing in Amsterdam circa 1867 doesn’t matter: Worley’s first name was obviously derived from his father’s former partner’s last name, probably given as a sign of affection and appreciation of Nathan Worley.

On January 28 1919, the Amsterdam Recorder published an old photograph taken in 1874. Among other early buildings shown is Moat’s Washington Street Brewery. In the foreground is a large brewery delivery wagon showing several men including Worley Moat. On June 17th 1939, it published a photograph taken in 1887 that also includes Worley, showing members of the J.D. Serviss Steamer and Hose Company, which frequently placed first against other hose companies around the state in running competitions. These were all proud, athletic young men in their absolute prime, stripped down to the bare essentials of what was then acceptable male clothing, white tights with black trunks, deadly serious about the business of “running out line and connecting nozzles” with their hose truck faster than their challengers.

Earlier on September 10 1884, the Amsterdam Daily Democrat headlined, “Victorious Once More”, declaring, “When the 6:35 train on the Central shot into the station last night, Worley Moat stood on top of the first car waving a small banner like a crazy man. In five minutes, more than 200 persons had swarmed off the train and up Main Street escorted by the Thirteenth Brigade Band to the Service Company’s house. Service Hose Company has returned victorious from a running contest for the third time within as many weeks.”

Other notices point to Worley Moat’s athletic abilities. On March 28 1930 Hugh Donlon in his Recorder column recalled, “It was only by a slender margin that Lincoln Eldredge, foreman of our composing room, lost a foot contest 45 years ago to Worley Moat, thereby depriving himself of glory and the newspaper editor who backed him of his ten dollars.” Another reference refers to Moat as “among the best oarsmen on the Mohawk River.” Yet a third notes that during July 1905, Moat and a companion, Peter Doran, lost a bet and had to walk from Fonda back to Amsterdam. He was also, of course, a member of the Amsterdam Wheelmen’s Club. Who during the 1890’s wasn’t?

Returning to our chicken saga, the earliest newspaper reference to Worley Moat appears on September 9th 1883 when he was 26 years old: he is listed as receiving First and Second Prize for his ‘Dominique’ variety leghorns at the New York State Fair.

But what connects local artist Moat with the recently-rediscovered murals painted on the walls of downtown Amsterdam’s AIDA building’s top floor? As usual, it’s just a matter of research. The connection is made with the discovery of an Amsterdam Recorder article printed April 25, 1894. “Artist Worley Moat is giving the interior of the new hall of the Kenneyetto Tribe of Redmen in the Morris Hall block a realistic appearance, now being painted to represent numerous portions of the Mohawk Valley which were so dear to the red men of many years ago,” exactly what the rediscovered murals show.

Worley Moat died prematurely aged only 51 on July 26th 1908. His passing received generous coverage in the Amsterdam Evening Recorder when he accidently fell down the stairs in his home at 131 Market Street, breaking his neck. His daughter Dolly discovered him at the bottom of the stairway in the morning. Reviewing his life, the Recorder reporter concluded, “A lover of poultry, he painted original sketches of first class birds used in leading poultry journals.” Worley, his wife and daughter are buried in Amsterdam’s Green Hill Cemetery, and no, his grave marker does not have a stone chicken carved on it.

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meetings

You know, I’ve lived through many a Common Council meeting but some are more difficult to sit through than others. Of course, we have a Madam of Misinformation that takes every opportunity to come to the podium and share rumors, conjecture, suspicions or outright lies as gauzy truth. Tonight, she intimated that we were only a few thousand from our debt limit and that we couldn’t afford to bond for much needed projects and equipment. This is far from the truth, as we are only at 23% of our borrowing limit, but this is yet another example of how incorrect she is in most instances.

The really low point tonight happened when Anthony Leggiero took to the stage to hammer this administration for ignoring the needs of Ft. Plain after the recent flooding, an act on his part that was so blatantly, politically motivated that it would take first place in a Repugnant Contest. To suggest that we would not care about or wish to respond to the needs of our neighbors is hideous. If this guy had been sincerely worried about our response, he would have called my office days ago to express his concerns and propose action. He never would have waited to spring this tirade in front of cameras and the press. How loathsome.

His rant also indicates how little he understands about a community reeling from tragedy. For the first few days after a natural disaster, residents, the municipal government, and state agencies are going through triage, assessing damage and working out a response plan. We certainly want to do everything in our power to help, but will find out first what is specifically needed in the way of labor or equipment. To shut down Amsterdam operations for a week as suggested by Leggiero and run off in the middle of an emergency, uninvited and unadvised, would be completely irresponsible on a number of fronts. We will reach out to the communities to the west as soon as these rolling weather emergencies have begun to recede.

My heart breaks for those so deeply impacted by the recent storms and, yes, I pray for swift recovery. I pray for the families and businesses that have lost so much. I pray that we will all pull together and get through everything that is thrown at this region. So, we will call and find out what we can do, where we can be, and what we can bring. We will help.

Our small city really does have a big heart, but sometimes, I just have to shake my head at some of the poor behavior I see.

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About twenty-five volunteers of all ages came out today to participate in the creation of a mural on the East End. The first layer of colorful paint has been applied to the bottom of the wall; Lara Kulpa will be painting the top on donated scaffolding. Textured patterns will layer on top of the base design. This is part of an effort to turn this neighborhood around by nurturing the pride that these kids have in public projects (community garden, mural, and next, a mosaic wall!) It was a great day and showing by all. Everyone was patient, well-behaved, and very helpful. Thank you, dear lord, for the beautiful weather.

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