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Archive for the ‘faith’ Category

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.

Quick-Robert

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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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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at prayer with mary

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“Come, Spirit,
make me docile to your voice.
Help me debate angels.
Let your will be done in me
even if it means
misunderstanding,
rejection,
scandal.
Give me wisdom to find you
in the irrational:
heavens gone awry,
astrologers’ predictions,
songs in the night.
Give me such hospitality of heart that
family,
foreign seers,
poor shepherds and animals
find a home in my presence.
Let me protect innocent children from
oppressive power.
Make me fearless of foreign lands and
unknown journeys.
When I cannot find you
do not let me rest until I search
home,
highway,
and temple.
Let me always insist on miracles to
celebrate love.
And when all I love on earth
lies lifeless in my arms
let me offer it to you with such freedom
of heart
that I am swept up into the heavens.
Amen.”

at prayer with mary – mary lou kownacki, osb – benedictine sisters of erie

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Memorial Day Speech
May 27, 2013

Good morning. Thank you all for being here.

It is a glorious thing that we have all risen, blinked sleep from our eyes and shuffled to the mirror, to mark one more day with a direct look into the glass, noting one more line, one more dark spot, one more sigh with one more promise to try for one more day.

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It’s a glorious thing.
We are all here.

God has given us a glorious day – cool and brilliantly sunny; a day shot with the verdant greens and vibrant colors of this new Spring. We are so blessed with this day and this early morning of communion. We are so blessed with this purpose and with our responsibility, for we are here in recognition of those that have given us this day with their lives.

We have come here with the knowledge that there are members of families all across this nation that had opened their eyes, and for the briefest of moments, lingered in the forgetfulness that sleep brings, before the terrible knowledge that a certain loved one will never again push away the covers of their bed and meet them in the familiar spaces that make up one’s home.

Families woke up today to silent rooms with empty spaces that will never again be filled. Even on days as glorious as this, when every surface is drenched with radiant recognition, the sunlight can seem senseless with loss.

We are here to share the burden of that sorrow and to offer our gratitude to those families for the heartbreak that they endure. Someone that they loved very deeply and completely has made the ultimate sacrifice and given their life for this nation, for this community, and for this day.

I encourage all of you that hear my words to take time today to visit every military monument in this city, as each stone is emblazoned with this names of young men and women that had readily offered up their everyday freedoms and comforts in the name of service. Take time to touch the cool, etched surface of granite and try to feel the enormity of each life given.

Remember that these are not anonymous names on a monument or numbered fatalities that are easily tallied. They were soldiers that stood in unison for the principles that make our country great… liberty, honor, valor, commitment, and selfless service to others. Most importantly, they were loved members of our community that had given the full measure of their devotion. They were our young ones and loved ones and unique souls that will never again know the kiss of daylight. Each left a family forever changed by grief and silence, just as our Country has lost the promise each young life carried for a greater future.

Our sadness is as palpable as the cool breeze that stirs the leaves and carries Taps into the distance.

But, because of this glorious day, we must understand the gifts that have been bestowed upon us and carry on with gratitude and obligation so that these sacrifices have not been made for naught. We must do all that we can to be supportive of our neighbors and the members of our community. We must nurture our children, treat our properties and environs with respect, participate in an open and honest governmental process, and dedicate ourselves to being honorable, involved citizens of a small city with big aspirations.

For those that have given us this day, we are obligated to bring prosperity and pride back to this small community.

And as a nation of small communities that make up the greatest power on earth, we must stand, as a bastion for all that is good and just. As a nation of wealth, we must share food, education, medication and resources so that the world is freed from poverty. As a nation built on equality, we must model tolerance, faith and charity. And as a just nation of unrivaled military might, we must democratically champion for the rights of the weak and the oppressed.

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This is what calls our boys and girls to duty and is what our young warriors have died for. We must never forget this higher calling.

Thank you so much to the Veteran’s Commission for organizing this tribute, year after year. We are all grateful for the work you do on behalf of the veterans of our community year round – from the careful tending of monuments to continuous advocacy on behalf of those that have served our country so well. Our veterans are the living embodiment of Amsterdam’s service to the defense of liberty and the nation. They stand here, not just in their own right, but also for all those who cannot.

In closing, please take time to remember those that proudly wear our uniform and actively honor our flag around the world today. We owe them our praise and deepest appreciation. Their service presses us to be our best.

It is a glorious thing.

To these many fine soldiers, we all pray, come back to us in the light and safety of God’s hands.

Amen

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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 memorialize how much we appreciate the men and women that have given so freely of their lives to serve this country we all love.

For the many years I have been afforded this opportunity, I have always been struck by the very intimate nature of this sacrifice. Young men and women leave kitchen tables and warm beds, jobs, boyfriends, wives, mothers and children to enter the military. It is an unimaginably poignant choice to make, and I have always understood this decision with sympathy from the perspective of a civilian.

But I cannot begin to understand the depth of this decision, as I have not the experience or knowledge of a veteran.

I cannot ever know what a soldier knows.

I cannot know the weight and force of the resolution to serve – to leave family and community for a higher purpose. A soldier sacrifices comfort, safety and autonomy for the comfort, safety and freedom of those they love and those in need.

A soldier must, with faith and willingness, turn one’s life completely over to others. One must commit, must train, and must learn to march in unison with precision, each thundering step a testament to tenacity.

A soldier may be deployed in times of peace or times of war to any corner of the world and must bear up under merciless conditions, which are sometimes as routine as loneliness or boredom, but sometimes so unbearably painful they leave permanent mental or physical scarring.

Soldiers know heat, humidity, cold, separation, stress and fear. More than that, they know faith and courage. They know the close relationship that humility has with pride.

A soldier must be able to take orders and give one’s undivided effort to see that they are executed, as an essential member of a squad, platoon, company, battalion, regiment, brigade, division and corps. Our soldiers make up the greatest military in the world and know, in the fullest sense, dignity and camaraderie.

Soldiers know complete and selfless devotion. They will shelter, support, or fall for the soldier standing next to them, in front of them, or behind.

Becoming a soldier, being a soldier, being a veteran is not merely a decision; it is a calling. It is the response of a special few that have answered in the affirmative – that they would become the caretakers of this nation’s defense and ensure the continued quality of life we enjoy on these quiet streets of manicured lawns, simple gardens, and homes of wood and brick. These special few know the ultimate cost of their gift of love and commitment to our community.

The men and women that stand among us today as veterans have proudly given years of their lives for our way of life and the beautiful flag that marks our destiny.

The words of General Douglas MacArthur are particularly fitting in this regard:

“The soldier, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training – sacrifice. In battle and in the face of danger and death, he discloses those divine attributes, which his Maker gave when he created man in his own image… However horrible the incidents of war may be, the soldier who is called upon to offer and to give his life for country is the noblest development of mankind.”

The truth of these words is evidenced as communities across the nation commemorate the selfless generosity of our men and women in uniform.

Today, on Veteran’s Day, we celebrate the extraordinary offering you have given to each of us. We mark your time and efforts with words, spectacle and memorials, but can never thank you enough for knowingly surrendering the innocence of your youth that we may pass our days protected from aggression and treachery.

To each veteran that stands here today, under the 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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A Prayer among Friends

Among other wonders of our lives, we are alive
with one another, we walk here
in the light of this unlikely world
that isn’t ours for long.
May we spend generously
the time we are given.
May we enact our responsibilities
as thoroughly as we enjoy
our pleasures. May we see with clarity,
may we seek a vision
that serves all beings, may we honor
the mystery surpassing our sight,
and may we hold in our hands
the gift of good work
and bear it forth whole, as we
were borne forth by a power we praise
to this one Earth, this homeland of all we love.

– John Daniel, from Of Earth. © Lost Horse Press, 2012.

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In response to a recent violent act that took the lives of two city youths and has affected hundreds of relatives and friends, a Community Task Force was formed between the City of Amsterdam, GASD, St. Mary’s Healthcare, Centro Civico, and passionate volunteers from our community. As is the case whenever we are faced with tragedy, there has been a welling up of support and compassion that is unmatched by any other community I’ve lived in.

The group’s been discussing aspects of grief and recovery and have come up with several tactics to help heal the deep wound many have suffered, especially our students that will be returning to school in a matter of weeks.

Recognizing this, four young men from the group organized a 3-on-3 basketball tournament focused on stopping violence and growing support for youth activities. John Sumpter, Calvin Martin, Casey Martin and T.J. Czeski put together an event that attracted hundreds of people of all ages. This is no small feat – volunteer scheduling, tents, raffles, refreshments, grills, generators, sound system, referees, score keepers, crowd control, promotion, t-shirts and team sign-ups had to be tightly coordinated. This was managed so well that the event ran as perfectly as the beautiful day God provided. I find it particularly inspiring that such young men are willing to take on the mantle of leadership, giving back so significantly to the city they have grown up in and love.

Huge thanks to all that were involved. The photos below are a few shots of the great day’s activities. Click on any individual photo to enlarge.

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As comments have closed on the Pars Nova site and Tim Becker felt my response was still worth posting, I submit the following as an addition to the Reflections on Friday musings:

I read this morning’s Recorder editorial with some amusement; point made for me. Either you want to believe stats or (apparently) not. Either you hang with the labels (apparently so) or not. Is a poll about safety put up within a week of a horrific killing valid? What would the poll have said the week before? Is a poll of 74 people out of tens of thousands significant? Is a poll that changes it’s wording mid-stream worthwhile? I put to you that this particular poll only exacerbates feelings of distrust and division. It does nothing to alleviate tensions in our community. As has been indicated in the other comments, it’s time to move beyond labeling and pandering to concrete solutions to problems which may be societally-based and affect communities across the nation.

Do shootings in Aurora indicate that the Metro-Denver community is more unsafe? That they haven’t done enough? Rather than honing in on the community experiencing such loss, the question begs an examination of contemporary family structure, changes in the role that organized religion plays, governmental responsibility, and the influence of mass media and the internet on today’s culture.

I find it odd that the Recorder continues to want to label the city as not doing enough, to tag Amsterdam with murders that, though tragic, really are unrelated and isolated, and insist that there we are only about spin.

Nah, son.

We’ve continually acknowledged that there are problems here, but must counter that we are not the urban nightmare falsely put forth in editorials, radio meanderings, blogs, or coffee shop gossip. The fact is that we are a relatively safe, active, and close-kit community. We respond to our problems thoughtfully and support those in crisis.

Truth is, Charlie, that I am very grateful to you specifically for your continued focus on the good things in our community (thank you for the nod this morning regarding Neighborhood Watch.) My comments about labeling are not solely pointed at you because the negative myth has been pervasive for decades. My goal is to stop this repetitive droning and move on to a message that is more realistic; not lollipops and roses, but welcoming, accessible, affordable, and on our way up.

small city. big heart.

The city, schools, hospital, churches and community organizations have already begun to meld together in a response that is once again immediate and compassionate, a trait that is ALWAYS present in our community during times of great difficulty. Residents and businesses are busily holding fundraisers and surging with support for these families.

That we’ve suffered and share in the grief driven by an egregious crime is not unique to Amsterdam and we will never be entirely free of crime. The reality is that shootings or murder are so rare here that they incite outrage. That’s a good thing. In other nearby communities, these tragedies happen with such regularity that they may go almost unnoticed. That’s the real story of our community and is what is deserving of ink.

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No one exptects to lose a child. To help these stricken families raise money for funeral services, please donate at the following links:

Peace for Pauly

Peace for Jonathan

“Entre lo que existe y lo que no existe,
el espacio es el amor.”

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gravity

Gravity

Carrying my daughter to bed
I remember how light she once was,
no more than a husk in my arms.
There was a time
I could not put her down,
so frantic was her crying if I tried
to pry her from me, so I held her
for hours at night, walking up and down the hall,
willing her to fall asleep.
She’d grow quiet,
pressed against me,
her small being alert
to each sound, the tension in my arms, she’d take
my nipple and gaze up at me,
blinking back fatigue she’d fight whatever terror
waited beyond my body in her dark crib. Now
that she’s so heavy I stagger beneath her,
she slips easily from me, down
into her own dreaming. I stand over her bed,
fixed there like a second, dimmer star,
though the stars are not fixed: someone
once carried the weight of my life.

– Kim Addonizio, from The Philosopher’s Club. © BOA Editions, 1994.

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I’d like to thank the Veteran’s Commission for once again allowing me the honor of speaking at this Annual Memorial Day Ceremony. I can honestly say that this is one of the greatest privileges afforded my office. Devoting these moments to the tremendous loss our nation has suffered is an appropriate way to share our feelings of faith and gratitude born of heavy grief.

As is the case in years past, I am mindful of how syncopated the elements are with the occurrences of this day and how they echo with the gravity of our common experience. Clouds have slowly worked their way through the night across a waxing moon – warm and unsettled – laden with moisture that may bring showers today. The air around us is heavy with expectancy – the enormity of the moving gray-blue sky above us stretches as far as our imagination and our memory. The breeze carries our heartbreak lightly amongst us. The flag stirs with our hearts.

Our hearts. We hold our loved ones in our hearts.

Perhaps you have noticed the many red hearts that are strewn today on the hillside beside the monument. There are precisely 3,727 hearts that represent every child enrolled in the Greater Amsterdam School District. It took me three days to cut these hearts out of construction paper, which is plenty of time to recognize the incredible gift that each child is, imbued with naiveté, laughter, mischief, talent and promise. It is cliché, but true, that these children are our future. They are the reason we work difficult jobs and strive to make our community and world a better place.

These hearts represent 3,727 living, breathing, inspiring reasons to be free and to live well.

And as we are considering the very large number of children that populate our elementary schools, middle school and high school, know this: that well over 3,727 children have perished as soldiers around the world since September 11, 2001… in fact, precisely 1,984 soldiers have perished in Afghanistan and 4,486 have given their lives in Iraq. 6,470 bright-eyed, dedicated and hopeful lives have been snuffed out. Add to that other military fatalities around the world in that time and you approach a number that is almost double the number of hearts you see around you. More than twice the number of children we send innocently off to school every day.

6,740 is a startling number, but it is nothing. In our two hundred years of proud US history, military losses to the violence of war have totaled 1,306,000 beating hearts. The Civil War alone claimed an unimaginable 625,000 lives. World War I took 117,000 lives; World War II took 405,000 lives; the Korean War took 37,000 lives; and the Vietnam War extinguished the lives of 58,000 men and women, though ask some of the men here and you will know that most were only boys… their best friends and family members. I imagine that 1,306,000 hearts would cover all of Veterans Field and then some.

Look out at the hearts. Know the value of each life they represent. We lost more than these anonymous hearts, or names on a monument, or numbers that are easily tallied. We’ve lost our young ones and loved ones and unique souls that will never know another kiss of daylight.

And we continue to pay in lives today around the world. Two more lives were added to this number in Afghanistan over night.

Our hearts break from this knowledge and we share this realization in the truest sense of community. Our communal heart, that is the family of Amsterdam, shares this pain for all Americans.

We must never forget that these brave young warriors gave everything so that we would live our lives to the fullest. We must never forget that these individuals, with lives to realize and loves that were timeless, died as soldiers fighting for the principles that make our country great… liberty, honor, valor, commitment, and selfless service to others.

Our city and country have lost more than we can know.

And yet, we must know gratitude. For God has granted us not only those that have given their lives for our peace and prosperity, but a community that honors our dead, and veterans that continue to dutifully care for the memories of our fallen heroes.

Amsterdam’s veterans are the living embodiment of our city’s service to our nation, representatives who served in all the wars of living memory. They stand here, not just in their own right, but also for all those who cannot.

Today, we will again be honoring several individuals that had served so proudly by awarding them the Amsterdam Veteran Service Medal. To these valiant individuals, we owe our continued thanks and support.

And to those that proudly wear our uniform and honor our flag around the world today, we owe our praise and deepest appreciation. We all pray, come back to us safely in God’s hands.

Before you leave today, please take a heart from the ground, in stillness and with respect, and keep it – that you may be reminded of the calling that lead our children away, never to return. Recall all that we have lost and all that we hold dear, and draw closer as a community because of what we so sadly, but so necessarily, know in our hearts.

Amen.

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poem


The Old Age of Nostalgia

Those hours given over to basking in the glow of an imagined
future, of being carried away in streams of promise by a love or
a passion so strong that one felt altered forever and convinced
that even the smallest particle of the surrounding world was
charged with purpose of impossible grandeur; ah, yes, and
one would look up into the trees and be thrilled by the wind-
loosened river of pale, gold foliage cascading down and by the
high, melodious singing of countless birds; those moments, so
many and so long ago, still come back, but briefly, like fireflies
in the perfumed heat of summer night.

– Mark Strand, from Almost Invisible. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2012.

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Good evening and welcome. To each and every one of you in this room and to those of you watching at home or online, thank you for caring about our City. It is a privilege to serve as Mayor of the City of Amsterdam, and to once again deliver this annual message.

This exercise makes me realize the wisdom of those that put the practice of the annual speech into place. While my experience may be one of studying city operations through a microscope, I remember that most constituents are gazing down from the window of an airplane.

The annual speech is a necessary discipline and an honor, but I must admit that it is a daunting task, as its content is so vast. While pondering this undertaking, I’ve been drawn to one theme that resonates with recent events and our shared fortunes. The phrase “tough times” comes to mind in relation to the difficult economy, crazy weather, infrastructure problems and at-risk neighborhoods.

Yes, times are certainly tough.

But just because times are tough, we do not give up. Adversity is something we are familiar with and despite the difficulties we face as a community, we meet our challenges with forceful determination. We are fighting through one of our most challenging periods in our City’s history and are holding our own. We are small, but we are tough.

2011 was a year that tested our resolve and spirit, and our community has risen to the occasion. We have reason to be proud on so many levels. Despite the financial stress felt by municipal budgets on all levels, we have weathered economic turmoil better than surrounding municipalities. Unlike the County and the School District, we have held to a self-imposed 3% tax cap. We managed this feat through creative measures that have added hundreds of thousands of dollars to our annual budget and cut spending to a bare minimum. In this past year:

• We’ve secured nearly $500,000 in additional sales tax revenue from the county.

• We’ve negotiated a new revenue sharing agreement with GAVAC that brings in $200,000 a year.

• We’ve taken recycling in-house, saving over $100,000 a year in expense.

• We are controlling discretionary overtime in all departments and have realized significant overtime savings with the addition of three patrol officers to the Amsterdam Police Department.

These initiatives have helped to shelter us from major tax increases or deeper cuts to essential services.

Our drive to succeed in tough times has resulted in the completion of key capital projects in our city that serve to enhance the quality of life of our residents. The completed projects are as diverse as they are numerous, rounding out one of our busiest construction periods ever. They include:

• Reconstruction of the Bridge Street corridor.

• Upgrades to infrastructure, including water, sewer and road systems on the South-side.

• Asbestos removal from City Hall, rewrapping of pipes, and new window inserts have resulted in tens-of-thousands of dollars in energy savings.

• $13 million dollars worth of improvements at the wastewater treatment and water filtration plants, paid for in part through stimulus funding and our agreements with Hero Beechnut.

• Removal of the fire-damaged Eddy Brush Company building and site remediation of brown-field issues.

• Demolition of 45 dilapidated and dangerous structures with some participation from Montgomery County.

• Repairs to Amsterdam’s Transportation facility including a new furnace, flooring, portable lifts, energy efficient lighting, as well as new buses, also funded through the federal stimulus program.

• Resurfacing of streets in each ward in the 2011 Road Program.

• Remediation and replacement of asbestos-covered water lines beneath Grieme Avenue Bridge.

• Construction of Riverlink Park Phase II includes new walkways, lighting and the new sculpture entitled, The Painted Rocks of Amsterdam by world-renown artist Alice Manzi.

• Additional improvements to the park include a new band shell, café deck and landscaping.

We have managed to complete these phenomenal projects in a year that we were challenged by a flood of dramatic proportions not seen in recent memory.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, we triumphed over a tumultuous set of circumstances which enabled us to see city operations at their finest. Staff mobilized to appropriately and effectively respond to the safety of the public, coordinating a comprehensive evacuation strategy, rescue efforts, temporary shelter, and traffic management protocols, all in a matter of hours.

Throughout the emergency, we were able to disseminate information in real-time through our facebook page and in partnership with WCSS and the Recorder. Because of this achievement, we now understand social networking to be more than a pastime. It is an essential tool of effective communication.

Volunteers displayed incredible compassion and selflessness, showing up in droves to assist their neighbors in recovery from tragedy in the weeks after the storms. We witnessed community partners cleaning homes and businesses, organizing donation drop-off sites and distributing supplies, all of which lent support in a time of great strife.

We are tough. We pull together.

Our strength is in numbers and our commitment to one another demonstrates the true character of the people of Amsterdam. 2011 was a banner year for volunteerism in our city. Not only did we host several successful events including National Night Out and the Main Street Winter Mixer, but we also geared our efforts towards community beautification with litter clean-ups, graffiti paint-outs, murals, plantings and gardens, all of which have had a positive effect in reshaping our image. We offered free concerts over the summer at Riverlink Park and Hero-Beechnut sponsored swimming lessons for 125 young children at Veteran’s Field swimming pool. Additionally, Spring Fling sought to highlight the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame’s Induction ceremonies while promoting commercial space in our Downtown area. This much-celebrated occasion brought 3000 people to Main Street. All of these initiatives were provided at no cost to our taxpayers.

While community-initiated efforts have begun to transform our image, we have also taken a more direct and professional approach to marketing our community. This year, those efforts were recognized by Empire State Development as “best in class” for website design and collateral printed materials. We were able to augment our presence with videos produced by Amsterdam High School students that are broadcast over the Internet and continue to garner attention.

In these tough times we have decided who we are and who we choose to be. We must embrace change and understand the opportunities it presents. We are a community of many cultures, and must be welcoming to those that wish to make Amsterdam their new home. Recently, Chinese immigrants have purchased 40 properties. They have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in materials, taxes, fees and labor, with the intention of bringing many more friends and families to our community. The investment made by these individuals will be transformative.

The coming year invites a host of exciting prospects, even those that will be difficult to surmount. We are faced with the imposition of a 2% cap on property taxes that will force us to be both brave and creative. Upon entering into the new budget season, we must have a complete and accurate accounting from our new Controller of all revenues, expenditures, departmental budgets, fund balance and debt.

These difficult economic times demand that we break new ground and create new relationships. We must meet our challenges with civility and measured thought as we reach out to our partners at the county, regional and state levels to find solutions. We must function as a regional participant to share funding sources, labor and equipment to adequately provide for the future.

Traditionally we have only thought to reach out to the County Board of Supervisors as partners. While we may certainly engage with the County in a number of cost saving initiatives, including records management, energy conservation, joint purchasing and cross-agency transportation options, we must establish new relationships with surrounding municipalities in the Capital District and Greater Mohawk Valley. We’ve seen evidence of this successful approach with the recent awards to the Regional Economic Development Councils. By establishing a commitment to collaboration we will increase the likelihood of securing necessary resources to realize economic growth.

This commitment must extend to the political parties that have traditionally been drawn to stances that are dramatically polarized. Our problems are universal. It is time to put political agendas aside, to identify commonalities in our positions, to rally people and resources, and solve the problems that we are charged to overcome. To this end, I have invited the chairmen of the Republican and Democratic City and County Committees, as well as the members of the Common Council, to assist me in this pursuit. This may be tough to do, but it’s time for the factions to move past their differences.

Tough times dictate that we create a network of like-minded communities. We have established a dialogue using the State’s regional model to explore avenues such as land banking, the continued expansion of water and sewer infrastructure for residential and commercial development, as well as long-range planning and investment in waterfront development and downtown revitalization. This dialogue also includes a proposal to relocate state offices to our city, which identifies us as a community worthy of investment. We are creating a new dynamic and have pride in the fact that several industries in our city have seen significant growth over the past year. Breton Industries, NTI Global, FGI and Mohawk Fabrics have all undergone expansion of their facilities resulting in more jobs and investment in our community.

We are going to continue to succeed in tough times. Over the coming construction season we will progress water distribution improvements on Market Street Hill. We will identify and remediate storm and sewer cross-connections around the city and we will implement the new traffic patterns to route visitors back to our downtown. We will install a new memorial at Riverlink Park to honor those lost on 9/11, roads will be resurfaced, valves and hydrants will be strategically replaced and we will complete the demolition of the Chalmers property.

We must also turn our attention to the Esquire property at the Mohasco site. On account of its advanced state of deterioration, the building has been found unsafe and requires demolition. The site must serve as a key driver for revitalization of that district. This coincides with other active projects targeting neighborhood revitalization on the East End, Reid Hill, waterfront heritage area and along the Chuctanunda Creek. As well, we are partnering with the Amsterdam Urban Renewal Agency, Montgomery County Habitat for Humanity and the Amsterdam Homeless Project to provide opportunities to those most in need during tough economic times.

We continue our fight to keep our residents safe despite economic stressors. Our neighborhood watch groups have been instrumental in bridging a relationship between the community and law enforcement. Awareness within the neighborhoods has netted arrests for drug and other non-violent offenses as officers utilize the information provided by the watch groups to enhance public safety. Thanks to these efforts, Amsterdam remains one of the safest communities in the Capital District.

It is during tough times that we need to be the most optimistic and hopeful. I am reminded each day that I am surrounded by a highly qualified and talented team who come to work each day impacted by limited resources and staffing, yet together we find the resolve to shoulder our responsibilities to those of you who pay our salaries. I want to thank these good people, our employees, on behalf of the residents of this community for the fine job that they do. When times are hard, they work harder.

These tough economic times cannot be used as an excuse to pull back or avoid progress. It’s a mistake we have made too frequently in the past. In this regard, we must address inadequacies in staffing that negatively impact city operations. These shortcomings limit our opportunities to generate revenue and address issues of great concern to our citizens. The condition of blighted properties is perhaps the most often-cited complaint heard in my office, on the radio, or on the Internet. We must strengthen our codes department by adding an additional inspector, even if the position is part-time, to manage health and safety matters. As well, we need additional seasonal help to cut grass and pick up garbage when property maintenance is an issue. In 2010, the year before the flood, we cleaned 210 properties, generating 351 full dump trucks of debris. Of course this past year, much of the efforts of these four men went to cleaning up after the disaster.

If we are to grow our tax base, we should again look to refunding the Community and Economic Development Department. While several development agencies exist, there is no organization that can fill the void created by the absence of this entity. We need this department to muscle comprehensive planning which includes revamping the Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan, Brownfield programs, the zoning rewrite, neighborhood and downtown revitalization; to coordinate community events and activities; to oversee property disposition and grants in a coordinated fashion; to coordinate activity between departments, state, county and development organizations; to assist struggling not-for-profits; to update the website; and to proactively research and propose new incentives for development and growth.

We cannot let naysayers and negativism determine our fate. We’ve been through floods, a hurricane and a global economic downturn and we are still here. We are small, tough and determined. I am reminded of a short quote by Thomas Buxton, “With ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.“ In every sense of the word, our community has been heroic in its perseverance. To those of you in our community that taken up the load when times are tough, that have reached out to your friends and neighbors with the offer of help, that love this community for what it has been, for what it is and for what it will be, I thank you for your commitment.

We are going to make it. We will be galvanized by our experiences; we will be better; we will be stronger.

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“The merry year is born
Like the bright berry from the naked thorn.”

~ Hartley Coleridge

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“What we are is God’s gift to us. What we become is our gift to God.”
~ Eleanor Powell

The following are photos of some of the many gifts donated by Amsterdam’s “Christmas Angels” to families-in-need.

This all started when one individual contacted me on facebook saying that he and his wife had done well in life and wanted to help out a family that was struggling to provide for their children on Christmas. As this is not in my normal line of duty, I told them I’d check with some of the local agencies and see what they may suggest. Not twenty minutes later, another person contacted me to say that she was terribly embarrassed, but that she and her family had fallen on hard times this year (disabled, unemployed and relatively new to our city) and would I know how to get them some help. I was able to hook the two up and everyone was quite pleased.

The next day, much the same scenario happened, all within a twenty-minute span. Over the ensuing two weeks, thirteen families with 28 children were aided by 37 Amsterdamian angels! My office has acted as the conduit (and industrious wrapping elves) for these connections, as most participants wish to remain anonymous. We’ve received toys, clothing, books, music, movies, sporting items, candy, food, gift cards and more. That said, I’m totally blown away by this amazing show of generosity by people who don’t even know the folks they are giving to. This is a great and inspirational show of kindness. Better yet, this is the real spirit of Christmas.

Most everything is wrapped and ready to be picked up on Wednesday by our identified families. Thank you to all the wonderful, caring people that made this Christmas the best I’ve had in years.

small city. big heart.

bet your bippie.


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prayer of the
farm workers’ struggle

Show me the suffering of the most miserable;
So I will know my people’s plight.

Free me to pray for others;
For you are present in every person.

Help me take responsibility for my own life;
So that I can be free at last.

Grant me courage to serve others;
For in service there is true life.

Give me honesty and patience;
So that the Spirit will be alive among us.

Let the Spirit flourish and grow;
So that we will never tire of the struggle.

Let us remember those who have died for justice;
For they have given us life.

Help us love even those who hate us;
So we can change the world.

Amen.

– César E. Chávez

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Thank you to all of the good people that helped me, supported me, and spirited me through this difficult process.

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