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images of a woman

The following is the speech I gave (well, with tremendous artistic license… I actually wandered quite a bit!) at the Nathan Littauer HealthLink “Images of a Woman” event on July 31, 2019:

Good afternoon! I am Ann Thane.

I want to Thank Nathan Littauer for allowing me to share on such a juicy topic! Images of a woman… just think about the images that come to your mind when we think about women. 

I especially want to thank my Sista, Tammy Merendo, for this opportunity. Really, she’s the one that inspires me every day (and we talk every day) with her strength, her no-nonsense approach, artistry, humor, and of course, the swearing. We are both very good at swearing (in private, of course). I’m sure we’re the only two in this room guilty of this unfortunate choice!

SO, back to the juice! Women! Like all of us here “of a certain age”, we’ve lived several different lives over our time on earth, each decade, so different from the one before… from our clothes and hair, to jobs and locations, partners, people, food…

who here eats the same way you did as a 20 year old? 

Everything is just so different about every ten years or so. Our mental and emotional challenges change, and so do the heroes, or more to point today, the heroines.

Because as women, we are sisters on a sacred level and we have all experienced this special connection… sometimes in the line at the grocery store, or in the ladies room on the thruway… I have a very nice relationship with the women at the coffee stop I make every morning, yet we know very little about each other.

We share in this immensely complex thing labeled “female” and have common hungers that are expressed in many ways over the years. 

One thing is clear: we are born hungry from the moment we come kicking and screaming into this world. We are born hungry for touch and for attention, and this hunger for human connection is a steady stream that runs through our lives for all of our lives, whether it is satisfied or not. This desire to “be complete” carries us into the most baffling and rewarding searches of our lives. 

I have been extraordinarily blessed to have always had incredible female guides, mentors and friends at each stage of this journey. Over the next few minutes, I’ll walk you through the distinct stages of my life in the hope that you too recognize your similar experiences. For me, these women are proof of the existence of a higher power that is active, not distant, in my life. My belief system includes faith in a God or a Goddess or whatever is out there that will send who and what I need, when I need them.

Because I mentioned the word Goddess, I’m throwing in this shot of my mother’s mother, Marion Tigue, because she was a primary influencer in my life. ❤ I look like her and smell like her, and if I get really outrageously lucky, I’ll be at least half as good as her. She still whispers to me when I need her.

Thankfully, I’ve had very few times when I didn’t have two to three closest friends, usually girlfriends, that get my vibe: they are curious, creative, sensitive, and always funny. I come from people that love to laugh and this trait has carried us through some of our toughest times.

This includes the two wonderful sisters I was born with, Lisa and Marybeth, and my sister-in-law Betsy. They’re all incredibly kind, supportive and the perfect combination of whacky that has worked magic in my life.

SO, without belaboring this, I had a happy childhood. I was the first born to young newly-weds, followed rapidly by four more living children and two miscarriages.

My parents were loving and in love.

This is my dad. I’m about ten here. He was my whole world, really. I love my mother and always will, but my father and I were very alike and he treated me as both a father and an equal. 

This is my mother as a young woman. She was voted May Queen in 1954 at the University of Delaware and she was way prettier than Jackie O. They were a beautiful, white, professional, suburban couple that were the envy of their peers.

In the early sixties, they moved to a sprawling home in an affluent Catholic neighborhood on the outskirts of Wilmington, DE, and this is where I met my childhood soulmate, Patty Delate.

From the moment we met, we grew into each other like vines on a trellis. Patty is the fifth child in a family of thirteen. She was a pretty, athletic blond and one year older than me. I was small, skinny, homely, and shy, and mercilessly bullied by kids at school. She was smart, hysterically funny, mischievous, and spiritual, even as a child. We were both raised in the Catholic faith, but she “got it”, ya know? I alway wondered how she had been born with such an innate knowledge of spirit, and why I never felt that understanding.

Now, after all of these years and watching her through the magic that is FaceBook, I think she is just a very old soul, fine and strong, kind and selfless, doing the work she is meant to perform in this physical realm. She lives on the Alaskan coast and is a Nurse Practitioner and Wholistic Healer. She also travels often to the Democratic Republic of Congo to share her heart with people-in-need. 

I blame her for my love of chocolate (we made many, many excursions to an old-time candy shop up the hill from us), for my inclination to share all my thoughts and worldly goods openly with all friends, and am grateful that she fearlessly taught me to cook and bake.

She’s the one that taught me to explore and worship the beauty of the forest and the creeks. When we were together in the woods, we were transported to another realm of tadpoles, tree tops, raspberry bushes, and crayfish tucked in muddy crevices while we balanced on rocks above the water, crouched and contained.

She was my first true love.

I remember it being odd when we grew apart once we went to different schools and then she moved away to take up her journey through time.

Yet, there were others in the woods when I was a child. My cousins, Joan and Jane, lived just two blocks from me, and I spent wondrous amounts of time running down wooded paths and through back yards to get to them. It was great for us kids, but our parents lived and worked a little too closely together, in the family pharmacy business. The adults were ravenously, though not overtly, competitive. 

This came from their complicated dynamic. Basically, a set of sisters married a set of brothers. My mother was beautiful and favored by her father; my aunt was accomplished and favored by her dad. This was good and bad. The hunger for parental approval drove both my mother and aunt to be successful businesswomen and celebrated public servants. They taught my generation to love our communities, to volunteer, and to not just speak up politically, but to lead. 

All of my generation have inherited or been impacted by a family disease that continues to snake its way through our line.

Quick skip back to my dad, my daddy, my movie star handsome father. He loved being a husband and father.

We came first in everything, until we didn’t. There came a time that he couldn’t control his hunger for the serpent that is alcohol. It eventually took his life and he died by his own hand at the age of 42.

That was horrible. 

I was 17 and just starting my menstrual cycle, so I was also half out of my mind…and my first real boyfriend had just broken up with me… it was really, really terrible,

but suddenly, it was five years later.

I survived. Somewhat damaged and wobbly, but alive. In that time, I had two more serious relationships, and met my husband, Peter, at college. At that time, I was tall, thin and pretty (I thank my parents to the day for my braces) but I didn’t know I was pretty. I look back at photos of this time and don’t recognize that girl. 

Anyway, at that time, I was a bit out of control and a lot lost, but I stuck with Pete through it all. That is not the whole truth. He is my rock. He’s the one that stuck with me through pain and chaos. As did the next group of women that came into my life at a critical juncture.

Tracy (Bjork) Thompson and Jeanne Reeder were my roommates in college. After 40 years they are still my closest friends, though they both live on the West Coast. I see Tracy every few years and it has been about 20 years since I last saw Jeanne. Since the beginning, our connection has been immediate and intense. Back then, we were hungry to be grown up but still cool, to find our nest and our purpose. We were crazy thin and ate poorly. I remember big bottles of cheap german wine and lots of obnoxiously loud music.

Tracy is beautiful and confident and Jeanne is etherial and certain. They came to me at the perfect time, just starting out in life, when you make the friendships that will last a lifetime.

I learned from them that I could be open, intellectual, artistic and accepted. We indulged our new appetites for debate, living independently, and excess. Soon after they graduated, they left excess behind. I had a harder time of it.

These women have loved me through depression, dishonesty, addiction and distance. I deeply love them both to this day.

It was in my twenties that I realized I had a unique artistic voice. This was not quite in keeping with the realistic approach to drawing taught at the University of Delaware and left me insecure about my expressive technique. I look back at my work from the time and see that it is probably some of the best of my life, even though I had no confidence in my work at that time. 

This is the story of my life!

I will forever being seeking the effortless nature of my line then, and I have forgotten how I achieved some of the effects I achieved with paint. These are some images from that time. Obviously, in my 20’s I was obsessed with sexuality. You’ll see in a minute that I’m a kid at heart and my interest in the female form has not diminished, though now my rendered women have personalities and intent.

I met my in-laws in my twenties too. In this regard, I may be the luckiest woman in the world. My husband’s parents were loving and accepting of me from the very first time I met them. And my mother-in-law, Dottie, showed me maternal love that was completely patient, generous and stable. She was a FABULOUS baker. We all know baking is an art. She had “it”!


Suddenly another ten years passed and I had moved, first to NJ to pursue my husband and a job, and then to Amsterdam, NY to become a wife and new mother. I think the thirties are the hardest decade to navigate. We grapple with balance between our needs and others, with new bills, uncertainty about the future, and the first failings of our bodies. Our first grey appears, along with the weight. We jealously watch folks that haven’t paired off still dressing up, going out, moving up in the job, and enjoying the unfettered life. 

Of course, this is not the experience of the single on the other end, but that’s another person’s life. Maybe next year’s speaker!

And you should pity me. I had to go through my thirties in the 80’s! The “80’s” is really another way of saying big bad hair, too much makeup, gigantic man-like garments, and music I’ve never made friends with. My apologies that had the time of your life in the 80’s. Rock on. This is just my experience and I lived a good portion of this period in New Jersey. Nuff said.

At the same time, you begin to move fully into adulthood. The hunger to be a great parent never leaves you. It is also an appetite that can never be sated and in time, we must all learn the hard lessons, some small, some catastrophic.  

I was a graphic artist by this time of my life, which sounds creative but is anything but. It is a competitive field that pays little and any really innovative work is eliminated by clients in the first round. We had moved upstate to be closer to the Thanes. They had retired in the Catskills, an hour from our house in Amsterdam. My husband worked in the construction field and I freelanced in Albany while juggling two little children. Thank goodness for the creation of the personal computer! This allowed me to work from home with the kids at my ankles. We didn’t have much, but never went without. 

And we always had wonderful meals, because I love to cook. It is a calling that is very similar to my drawing. Often, when I take a break from drawing or other mediums, I’ll jump to the kitchen. Food is colorful, fragrant, and delicious. 

In my early thirties, I made lavish meals to hide that fact that I was struggling with my drinking. I gained 70 pounds and was so self conscious, I didn’t want to leave my house. I certainly didn’t want to be seen in a bathing suit and there are few photos of me at this time.

I also realized that my compulsion for food was every bit a strong my desire to drink. This would start the sea-sawing up and down of my weight for the next couple of decades, but I could justify my sins because my cooking was spectacular. The disease of addiction is so insidious. Thank goodness, my mother-in-law was there, always with open arms and gentle, thoughtful encouragement, like I was her own blood. 

And just like that, I was pitched into the next phase of my life. God, to be 40 again physically is my dream! I was healthy and confident enough to feel all “growed-up”, but still vibrant enough to feel young, sexy and alive. My recovery work had introduced me to a growing circle of friends that knew everything about me, and loved me to a better life. I lost weight and began to truly enjoy my life by using the gifts God had given me for others.

I landed in the Walter Elwood Museum, first on the board and then as its Director. My children were in elementary school. I was active with the PTA, the Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation, and the local Democratic Party. 

While at the museum, I had the honor of taking over operations from Mary Margaret Gage, the denizen and keeper of city history and the quirky collection of 20,000 objects, assembled over the last century. She was another angel sent to guide me. 

The museum was her passion and reason for living. In a careful dance, she passed off the position to me with grace and restraint. And this is why: we loved each other. Mary Margaret was known to be difficult and direct, a formidable and fierce protector of her trove. I was scared to death of her. 

So I prayed. I prayed everyday to love her. No matter what she did, I would love her, and try to understand her. She must have been praying at the same time, because we came together and started to build a future for the museum in unison, until circumstance took her to Florida to live out her remaining years with her kids. Mary Margaret instilled in me the same passionate feelings about those collections that she had. She also demonstrated humble, anonymous service to others win her thoughts and actions. The Mary Margaret that I knew gave selflessly to her friends and organizations in our community. She has a special affection for children that may have surprised some. She never backed down from a confrontation, but would hold someone in a hard stare for several minutes until she unnerved them. She totally rocked! 

My second museum angel was MaryAnn Tomlinson. She was president of the board for most of my seven years. She listened to me whine and cry, and would then assure me that we could bring about the rebirth of a new organization to sustain the museum.

And we did it, with many other terrific women that are still giving to the museum and other organizations today: Barb Neznek and Diane Smith were on my board. They still play prominent roles in their communities, and you may know Barb through Healthlink.

The museum taught me so much and I loved that job. Everyday, I discovered a new, charming object with an exotic origin or story. I put all of my creative impulses into developing a new mission and vision, crafting policies, hosting events, marketing, rehabbing faded exhibits and bringing out forgotten surprises from the attic. I never thought there’d be another job that could top that one. 

Never say never. Ha!

Anyway, the famous Amsterdamian south-sider Virginia Whelly brought me onto the Amsterdam Waterfront Foundation board in the year 2,000, when I was 43 years old. A walking bridge from the parking facility over the railroad to an empty lot on the Mohawk River was all that existed of the park that we see in this slide. Did anyone attend the concert on Saturday night? Over 2,000 people were present. There’s some nice symmetry in that. 

Outside of the guy I sleep next to every night, a few folks in Amsterdam really stand out for the lessons they taught me. Virginia, of course, with Doug Nadler, Paul Parillo, Paul Gavry, and so importantly, Paul Tonko. They really are the ones that understood what revitalizing the waterfront could do for Amsterdam. Little did I know, this would lead to a twenty-year commitment to this redevelopment and thousands of hours of pushing for one thing or another. 

This heady time taught me that I had personal power to bring about change in my community. That’s a HUGE lesson. All of a sudden, I noticed that there were only a very few number of people doing everything, and that every board featured the same faces. Any of you do volunteer work? Am I right? 

And don’t those little PTA, library and sports team boards get political?! Whoa! I think several years on a committee or board should be a mandated qualification to run for any elected position. Lord knows there’s the need and maybe some of these people could learn how to work toward a common goal before spending our tax dollars.

My forties did not inspire a hunger in me for power as much as a realization that power lies in the hands of a very few. This realization jettisoned me into the next phase of my life with perfect preparation for the nonsense and wonder that is politics.

Bethany Schumann McGhee and I found one another in this arena and fought the good fight for about 15 years. It’s at this time in my life that I began to realize most news anchors, teachers, nurses and some of my friends were quite a bit younger than I.

My kids attended school with children from a family up the hill and we all became very close. I would be remiss to not talk a minute about Mary DeCusatis.

Kind and outwardly social, but intensely private too, we recognized our similarities quickly. We’re even born on the same day. Mary provided a haven for my children when I was trying to kickstart a career. She created a lovely home, with sumptuous meals and late-night board games. She shared her extensive knowledge of the city’s people and made all of us feel safe and protected. I’d end up working side-by-side with her husband (and another best friend, even if he’s not a girl) in city government for eight years.

Because by the time I was in my mid-fifties, I was Mayor of the City of Amsterdam and heavy again! But THIS was the best job I’d ever had in my life. It was endlessly stressful and challenging, but so incredibly rewarding.

I think my advantage as a woman mayor was how unfamiliar it was to my opponents; they just did not know how to communicate, much less collaborate, with a woman. The funny thing is that, I was serene most of the time, until the end of my second term. By that time, they had called out the guns on my council and the nuts called the radio stations everyday to complain about things they didn’t really understand. Politics can get so ridiculous, which is tragic because we must have government to manage our communal needs. 

And this is what that did too me.

Until I decided to take my life back.

As one can expect, it gets a little lonely in that office now and then. Thank goodness I fell into managing with extremely talented employees that were willing to work collaboratively.

We facilitated the biggest capital improvements to Amsterdam in 60 years, many that are still progressing today. I’m very proud of my record, but it only happened because God gave me the best team and volunteers. The following is just a smattering of significant projects and public art I championed during my time in office. You’ve already seen the waterfront park, but there is so much more!.

Nothing shows you who your friends are more than politics. It was at this time that God also sent me a hive of women to show me what it really means to be communal, and they are still my friends now.

They are persistent, kind, expressive and giving. They live lives of joy and small victories, magnificent plans, monumental sacrifice and challenge. They do this while making pottery or wreathes and beating a drum. They build community gardens, work countless fundraisers, and shepherded a group of children from the east end for years.

They will be there for you if you are painting a hydrant or managing the aftermath of a 500-year flood. They grapple with personal tragedies, illness and loss, while handing out candy to children at a Halloween event.

I’m going to flip through photos of these friends; Barb and Diane I’ve already mentioned but there is also Kari, Sherri, and Suzanna. Most importantly, there was Tammy Merendo, and once again in my life, I was a solidly connected to someone as if we were hardwired. 

Tammy Merendo is my Sista; my chosen sister. She has made me hungry again to live fully, unencumbered by my preconceptions or insecurities about myself that bob up to the surface now and then. She’s so amazing and I can barely believe that I would be so lucky to have the support of someone so fierce and sound.

And crazy like me. We all need that small bit of kooky in our bestie, right? We are crazy in the way of picking up the phone and calling at the same time, or being drawn to the same item in an auction. We love jewelry, folk art, great food and indulging all of our senses. She is the girlfriends that understands my mother issues and my most recent healthy diet attempt. She’s the girlfriend that has promised to help me transport and bury a body.

Just kidding.

Not really!

And here I am in my early 60’s, totally freaked out like a teenager in more ways than one. My body is unfamiliar again, I’m a bit unsettled and new challenges keep showing on the menu.

About 5 years ago, I decided to finally shift my eating habits to foods that were mostly unprocessed and as close to raw as I can get off a menu. I’ve stopped eating most meat because I intuitively think there is something wrong with it. It’s just not right that a chicken breast is the size of a turkey breast now. I think the meat is making us all big. 

But what do I know. I just eat a lot of vegetables & greens, nuts, sweet potatoes, and humus, and have discovered that I love to cook diverse dishes from all over the world. I went through a smoothie kick and have kept 50 pounds at bay for five years.

I feel good. I think I look good, but I’m still on the receiving end of the lesson game. My kids are stumbling their way to adulthood. They’re both doing really well. My son is an engineer that does some travel around the country for his job and my daughter is a nurse at Mt. Sinai in NYC. They both are really smart and have their own puzzles to work out. Hopefully, we’ve provided them enough in the way of guidance that their journey will be less painful, but in the end, we all must crawl before we walk into our full being.

My mother is 85. She lives independently, is vibrant and healthy for her age, and is a driving force for neighborhood revitalization in Wilmington, DE. My siblings and I are trying to manage planning from afar, though one brother lives close by and is her touchstone for the family. Again, this is uncharted territory.

I work a very good job for the State, but I hope one day I’ll be able to go full on as an artist. I’m so pleased to be asked today to speak at this particular event because I feel like this is an important time for women and I have come into my voice as an activist and an artist. My images are confrontational in their nudity and I like to play with traditional themes.

I find that expressing myself artistically is not a choice; it is what I have been born to do, just like some people have a talent for car mechanics or baking. Whatever that higher power is out there channels through me via the arts.

My current collaged illustrations express the beauty of the female form, psychology and sexuality. I portray singular subjects that give voice to my own struggles with aging, dignity, grief, vanity and power. We are all flawed and we are all fabulous. I am interested in commonly shared emotions of women, as these reflect the gravity and complexity of the feminine experience. 

I think the female perspective is particularly timely given what has been going on in the political sphere both nationally and globally. We watch decisions being made that will impact the environment, health, social justice, and individual freedoms for generations to come. The world has become so divided. 

I think it is time for women to come forward. Every one of us has scars and deficiencies. We have born and raised children. We have provided for our families and our communities. As incomplete as any one of us may be, when we come together, we are whole. I wish that this were the case in Albany and Washington, but also in every municipal chamber and board room. It’s gonna take more women. Because what we have is that sacred connection as mothers, and healers and leaders, to the power that exists in any room where women share space.

We know what it is to be female. We know how it feels to whisper excitedly about a first kiss or to watch the skin on our arms go slack and spotted. We know what it is to be underpaid, tapped out and under appreciated.

But because we are women, we naturally a drawn to nurture, to problem-solve, and to persist. We are drawn to each other for shoulders to cry on or to stand. 

So, I hope that today as I’ve walked you through some of the stages of my life, you’ve been able to touch on memories of people, places and important events that make such a rich and decadent stew. And I hope that you take care of yourself, that you eat and sleep well, that you take classes and have your vitals checked at HealthLink, and that you whisper your dreams to your sisters, so that those dreams will come true.

It’s been a pleasure to be with you today. Hang in there, Sistas!


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Hello world.

Keep your eyes peeled. I’m up to new tricks.

Check out my page at:  www.thaneartwork.com.


but for the curious, the past many years are archived here.

Ann Thane 2019

The illusive Ann Thane, 2019. lol

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All, an error in my calculations was brought to my attention. Therefore, I withdraw my objection to the elimination of marketing funds, as this will take the budget over the prescribed tax cap. However, I point out again that this cut would be unnecessary had the council taken the ambulance service in-house. My revised veto is as follows:

In order to protect the interests of the taxpayers of the City of Amsterdam, I am objecting on this date, June 9th, 2015, to the following modifications to the proposed budget contained in the adoption resolution #14/15-241.

In general, the budget I proposed contained accurate and realistic estimates of revenues and expenses. It is unfortunate that the Common Council has decided to forgo the city ambulance proposal and thereby increase the tax burden on our property owners. In-house ambulance services have been proven beneficial to municipalities across the state in the way of hundreds of thousands of dollars in new revenue unrelated to property taxes or utility fees.

The modifications made by the Common Council substantially underestimate expenses for the city’s health insurance program and numerous other areas. The problem with doing this is that the “cuts” are not real; the costs that many of these items estimate are not entirely under the control of the city. The net result will be a significant deficit across all operating funds at the end of the fiscal year, while simultaneously damaging the ability of city staff to provide services.

I would object to all of these modifications if I had the votes to support my objections. Instead, I will only object to certain items that will lessen the negative financial impact of this budget in the hope that the Common Council will reconsider its actions. These objections are also constrained by the various tax caps.

1. Item 37 – Remove an additional $100,000 from the health insurance appropriation.
Removal of this modification will reduce the amount of the year-end deficit that will be caused by the underestimating of this expense. Again, this harkens to my prior veto of Resolution 240 citing the “practice of the County Board of Supervisors that earned negative comments during a recent audit. The OSC noted that the supervisors had adopted budgets that were structurally unsound, “The County’s declining financial condition is the result of poor budgeting and financial management practices, and the board’s failure to develop and use long-term financial plans”.” I reiterate, we should not make the same mistake here.

2. The amendment to increase the transfer from the Water Fund to the General Fund by $40,000 sponsored by Alderman Barone.
Removal of this amendment will prevent the loss of taxing power under the 2% annual tax cap. Retaining flexibility under this cap is important, as it will allow future administrations to more easily comply with the state-mandated cap and secure the associated compliance checks for our residents. It is particularly concerning that this action was taken so swiftly, without proper justification, analysis or thought, after lengthy discussion about the negative impact the loss of taxing power has on our taxpayers. Please refer to the OSC citation in reference to Item 37.

It is my hope that the Council will recognize my restraint in crafting this veto and that they will concede these few points to better serve our taxpayers.

In light of the aforementioned points, I hereby veto this budget resolution.

Mayor Ann M. Thane

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once again, no.


In order to protect the interests of the taxpayers of the City of Amsterdam, I am objecting on this date, June 8th, 2015, to the following modifications to the proposed budget contained in the adoption resolution #14/15-241.

noIn general, the budget I proposed contained accurate and realistic estimates of revenues and expenses. It is unfortunate that the Common Council has decided to forgo the city ambulance proposal and thereby increase the tax burden on our property owners. In-house ambulance services have been proven beneficial to municipalities across the state in the way of hundreds of thousands of dollars in new revenue unrelated to property taxes or utility fees.

The modifications made by the Common Council substantially underestimate expenses for the city’s health insurance program and numerous other areas. The problem with doing this is that the “cuts” are not real; the costs that many of these items estimate are not entirely under the control of the city. The net result will be a significant deficit across all operating funds at the end of the fiscal year, while simultaneously damaging the ability of city staff to provide services.

I would object to all of these modifications if I had the votes to support my objections. Instead, I will only object to certain items that will lessen the negative financial impact of this budget in the hope that the Common Council will reconsider its actions. These objections are also constrained by the various tax caps.

1. Item 37 – Remove an additional $100,000 from the health insurance appropriation.
Removal of this modification will reduce the amount of the year-end deficit that will be caused by the underestimating of this expense. Again, this harkens to my prior veto of Resolution 240 citing the “practice of the County Board of Supervisors that earned negative comments during a recent audit. The OSC noted that the supervisors had adopted budgets that were structurally unsound, “The County’s declining financial condition is the result of poor budgeting and financial management practices, and the board’s failure to develop and use long-term financial plans“.” I reiterate, we should not make the same mistake here.

2. The amendment to increase the transfer from the Water Fund to the General Fund by $40,000 sponsored by Alderman Barone.
Removal of this amendment will prevent the loss of taxing power under the 2% annual tax cap. Retaining flexibility under this cap is important, as it will allow future administrations to more easily comply with the state-mandated cap and secure the associated compliance checks for our residents. It is particularly concerning that this action was taken so swiftly, without proper justification, analysis or thought, after lengthy discussion about the negative impact the loss of taxing power has on our taxpayers. Please refer to the OSC citation in reference to Item 37.

3. Item 27 – Reduce Mayor’s Marketing Lines by $30,000.
The funds expended under this line will help promote the soon-to-be completed Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook, update the City’s website, and otherwise improve the image of the City of Amsterdam. It is necessary to adequately market the positive aspects of our community to change undesirable perceptions about our municipality. Ultimately, this will increase outside investment in the City and alleviate many of the stresses cause by the current climate of disinvestment in real property. Failure to fund these efforts is shortsighted and detrimental to the future of the City.

It is my hope that the Council will recognize my restraint in crafting this veto and that they will concede these few points to better serve our taxpayers.

In light of the aforementioned points, I hereby veto this budget resolution.

Mayor Ann M. Thane

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VETO STATEMENT • Resolution #14/15-239
I am vetoing this resolution on this date, June 5th, 2015.

I take issue with this resolution for several reasons:

1. Just as was the case with Resolution #14/15-226 (consent), this current resolution was introduced without prior public discussion by the Council in any committee.

2. Just as was the case with Resolution #14/15-226 (consent), this current resolution ignores the recommendations of the Golf Commission, a body that the Council had supposedly given complete control of course management.

3. Just as was the case with Resolution #14/15-226 (consent), this Council has not done any analysis as to what impact the action will have on the Golf Course Budget or City Operational Budget nor have they suggested how this anticipated revenue might be recouped in other ways.

4. Just as was the case with Resolution #14/15-226 (consent) and given that the Golf Course Budget must be made whole by tapping the General fund, this action will further negatively impact our city and its taxpayers.

In light of the aforementioned points, I hereby veto this resolution.

VETO STATEMENT • Resolution #14/15-240
I am vetoing this resolution on this date, June 5th, 2015.

1. The resolution cites “a difficult financial outlook” and that the “taxpayers are continually asked to bear the burden for balancing the city budget.” These conditions exist in every municipality and do not form the basis to ask the state to make an exception to the law that prohibits using sewer fund revenue for general fund purposes. The reality is that the City of Amsterdam operates at 39% of its constitutionally imposed taxing limit and that this budget and the last budget were adopted with property tax decreases.

2. Though the city’s financial records have been inaccurate, the identified accounting problems are being straightened out and the city does not appear to have a poor financial outlook.

3. This Council was presented a budget that was balanced through the inclusion of a new revenue source (city-run ambulance service). This proposal would have removed tax burden from our taxpayers. The Council has chosen to ignore this option.

4. The Council has proposed a shift of money from the Sewer Fund without specifying the amount needed or why it is necessary, given that they have adopted a proposed budget without this transfer.

5. This proposed transfer appears to be intended as a short-term solution to funding recurring costs. This was a practice of the County Board of Supervisors that earned negative comments in its 2013 audit. The OSC noted that the supervisors had adopted budgets that were structurally unsound, “The County’s declining financial condition is the result of poor budgeting and financial management practices, and the board’s failure to develop and use long-term financial plans”. We should not make the same mistakes here.

6. I have spoken with our financial advisors and have been informed that transferring fund balance from the Sewer Fund to support the General Fund may have a detrimental impact on the city’s credit rating, putting us at risk for a rating downgrade, which would then needlessly increase the cost of borrowing in the future.

7. There are critical repairs that must be made to the Waste Water System (treatment plant, pump stations, and distribution lines) that may require drawing from our established reserves. Further, it would be wise to accumulate Sewer Fund balance to defray future capital costs while there are significant high volume users on the system.

8. The Common Council sought state legislative action without discussing this with my office or staff. To approach the State without the counsel of staff or the Mayor is inappropriate. Clearly, it demonstrates an unwillingness to work collaboratively with this administration.

In light of the aforementioned points, I hereby veto this resolution.

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Good afternoon and welcome to City Hall. It is my honor to offer an annual assessment of the progress this administration has made over time and to set some goals for the coming year.


The word “Renaissance” has been bandied about a bit lately, which is not a word I regularly cite in regard to our city. It is a word that suggests extravagance and romance. One imagines colorful medieval robes, mortared courtyards, writhing statuary, and spiraling baroque architecture all set in the rolling hills of Tuscany.

Not quite the picture of Amsterdam, NY in 2015.

Ours is a typical, twenty-first century, post-industrial American city that has experienced difficulty and true struggle over the decades. The beating heart of our downtown was ripped out, businesses and jobs fled the state, traffic patterns were hopelessly scrambled, and government’s frequent response had been to cut away funding for critical infrastructure, equipment and workforce. Amsterdam was vigorously torn apart in a physical way and the soul of this community tore in ways that have been ceaselessly painful and difficult to mend.

It’s easy to point out the trouble of past years, especially foibles of the last year. I will take a different tact. I see no good in giving ill will and dysfunction entry into a new year that may be recast into a time of faithful service, cooperation and most certainly progress.

With that, I will briefly highlight the successes 2014 brought us and plans for the coming year.

Fiscal Responsibility


We continue to heal years of chaos in our Department of Finance thanks in great part to the diligent work of our new Controller Matthew Agresta. I cannot say enough about the tremendous job Matt is doing. He is skillfully progressing the many tasks identified in our Corrective Action Plan that the prior council, city attorney, Matt and I scripted in response to an audit done by the Office of the State Comptroller. He’s readily taken command of staff, process and remedy. He’s successfully shifted his department from antiquated accounting software to the state-of-the-art municipal system that will allow for prompt reporting and analysis. He’s recommended an upgrade of the city’s computer and telecommunication systems, and will see to it that the technological needs of city government are met. He’s overseen the dissolution of the insurance trust and is finally progressing the foreclosure that had languished in the hands of his two predecessors. He has been directing reconciliations of internal records, bank statements, and the general ledger necessary to complete our reports to the State.

Thankfully, it looks like we will be in good stead at the end of this process, with a fund balance that is trending in a positive direction. This trend indicates that this administration has confidently led us through the global recession at a time when State government has limited our revenues and expenses have escalated at alarming rates. These crushing realities have devastated other communities economically.

The most important quality that our young Controller presents is that he is a consummate team player and puts partisan politics aside for the betterment of this community. It has been a pleasure to have a partner that willingly takes up the mantle of his office and works peacefully toward the goal of making Amsterdam thrive. Thank you, Matt.

And thrive we will, thanks to the many hands that make light work of our tasks. We have a tremendously skilled workforce and wonderful volunteers that hold the vision of a restored Amsterdam in their hearts and put their backbone toward my next topic:


Not to be confused with a fully realized renaissance, revitalization is an incremental process that takes time, patience and extreme effort. This past year saw numerous projects implemented and completed that improve the physical fabric of our surroundings.

This is a list of some of our many accomplishments.

• The Reid Hill neighborhood received two $400K Community Development Block Grants over two consecutive years that allowed for interior and exterior property improvements of over 50 structures. We coupled that with several demolitions and road improvements on Bell Hill that included curbing and sidewalks to an active pedestrian area. This year, we will apply for funding for these activities in the Grand Street area.


• Colonial Gardens and the Roosevelt Garden apartment complexes saw the complete rehabilitation of all 269 units, and 100 Woodrow Wilson apartments are under way. This reconstruction entailed complete renovation of all windows, siding, insulation, roofs, kitchens, bathrooms, carpeting, living space and common areas, ensuring attractive, safe and affordable housing to low-income families.

• The downtown traffic pattern rerouting has been completed without the “carmagedon” that had been anticipated by feverish naysayers.

• Footings to the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook are in place. We will see this structure rapidly develop over the coming construction season into the beautiful, treed, pedestrian bridge envisioned in our Comprehensive Plan.


• Shuttleworth Park saw the laying of the controversial new artificial turf and drainage. Thank you to Gabriel Paving and Contracting and the Amsterdam Mohawks for their extraordinary generosity in seeing that this job was installed by baseball season. We’ve also built a new deck, put new stadium seating in place and have constructed a warming hut by the creek for ice skaters, winter joggers and snow shoeing enthusiasts.

• Phase IV of our storm sewer infrastructure project was completed and we’ve just received $600K funding for Phase V. Over the past five years, the city has received $3 million dollars in grants to eliminate cross connections between the storm water and sewer systems, saving the city from costly fines while protecting our residents and natural environment.

• We’ve steadily progressed repairs to our water distribution system and now can report that out of over 1,000 hydrants, only six are out of service.


• Citywide volunteer clean-ups in the Spring and Fall have cleared out a six year total of 24 TONS of litter from our streets, water ways and public spaces. BRAVO to every man, woman and child that helped in this effort!


Our partnerships with surrounding municipalities continue to develop. Several notable projects will impact our budget and neighborhoods.

For several decades, our community has looked longingly toward the Capital District for inclusion. I am proud of our growing relationship with Schenectady. This is exceedingly important. We have not seen such opportunity for shared growth or collaboration since GE had its heyday.

I’d like to thank Mayor Gary McCarthy specifically for including Amsterdam in a vision for prosperity along the Mohawk that is natural and familiar.

• Our partnership brought a successful launching of the Capital District Land Reutilization Corporation (the “Landbank”), which is off to a great start. Through this channel, Amsterdam has received $562,000 in funding for over a dozen rehabilitation projects and demolitions. Work on the first rehab in Amsterdam, the Julia Street property, will be completed before the flowers blossom.

• Amsterdam threw its support heavily to Schenectady in support of its Casino application once it was clear Montgomery County was out of the fight. Their award will mean jobs for our residents and hopefully interest from developers along the river that see opportunities just upstream on our shores.

• Amsterdam and Schenectady have been working with the Center for Technology and Growth and are proud to announce a $550K grant with Gloversville and Troy to design a shared code enforcement module. This prototype will track blight, out of town landlords, and help us to better address deterioration of properties. It may one day be used across the state or better yet, the nation.


• Five capital district mayors have bonded together to take up the President’s National Mayor’s Challenge to End Veteran’s Homelessness in the Capital District. Amsterdam, Schenectady, Albany, Saratoga and Troy are committed to fulfilling this mission by 2016.

• We’ve been exploring shared service opportunities with Montgomery County. We will start by tracking actions we already collaborate on and a full inventory of public works equipment and laborers. Some additional initiatives I have been proposing since 2009 include shared records management, energy procurement and efficiencies, labor negotiations, and GIS mapping of critical infrastructure.

• We’ve negotiated a sludge disposal agreement with Madison County to take the particulate from our wastewater treatment plant. This deal will save our taxpayers $125,000 in our annual budget.

• We’ve opened up discussions with Fulton County to determine if selling water to their communities is feasible. We know our water will enable economic growth further north and south as it has on RT30 in the Towns of Amsterdam and Florida.

• We just signed a solar energy contract that will save the city $264,000 a year, resulting in $12M over the lifetime of the agreement.

• FMCC, Montgomery and Fulton Counties and CDTA have been meeting with us to possibly establish a regional transportation strategy that services our communities in a cost-efficient, effective manner.

• Of course, we are proud of the success we’ve had in bringing grant money to our city. This year’s regional economic development council awards target City Hall reparations at $225K, the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook $325K, and the aforementioned city infrastructure repairs of $600K.

Quality of Life


Across this nation, it is recognized that revitalization is spurred by amenities and attractions that enrich our quality of life. To that end, many, many hands are sharing in the responsibility for shoring up this city, and perhaps none so vigorously as those working to provide cultural and recreational opportunities for youth and families. W1shfu1:Th1nk1ng (especially TJ Czeski, Jon Sumpter, Casey Martin, Calvin Martin and Matt Moller) has played an integral part in outreach and mentoring to an at-risk community that has long been neglected. The women of the Creative Connections Arts Center (Barbara Neznek, Tammy Merendo, and Suzannah Hunter) offer instruction as well as loving, familial relationships to some children that have never experienced such caring. Danielle’s House provides welcome to the homeless and the school district has received funding that will allow us to address the nutritional and physical health of families that we had intended in last year’s “Reinvent Yourself Amsterdam” program.

Our recreation department has been at the center of much of this activity, coordinating events, spaces, and interested parties. Bacon Recreation Center and the Arts Center continue to be hubs of activity for fun and learning. We host basketball workshops and tournaments, Saturday morning play dates for toddlers, and Summer Camp to hundreds of children. We have an award winning 4H Club, community garden and after-school tutoring for any child that wants help. We offer free-swimming classes to kids at the city pool and free buses that get them there from our poorer neighborhoods.

Our annual events are growing in participants and impact. Spring Fling attracts thousands of visitors to our Main Street and our Farmers Market makes locally produced vegetables and products available to a community that is hungry for this opportunity (thank you to Sherri Crouse for being a primary organizer of both efforts!) W1shfu1:Th1nk1ng’s Annual 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament at Vets Field commemorates a moment of extreme pain in our community, marking the tragic murder of two young boys, as well as the willingness of this community to resiliently push back with love. The same rings true for National Night Out, populated by our Neighborhood Watch Association members, families and many organizations that are committed to fostering a safe and healthy environment for our residents.

It’s important to stop here and point out how safe we are in relative terms. In fact, our statistics show that the City of Amsterdam’s crime rate is trending downward over the past three years and compared to surrounding municipalities, we are very safe. This does not mean we must pull back from efforts to manage wrongdoing. It means we are going in the right direction. To this end we have expanded APD’s outreach to the public via electronic media and instituted “Tell us Tuesday” regarding wanted subjects. Tips from this avenue have led to successful arrests. We’ve developed the animal control site, “Furry Friends Friday” which will assist adoption of local rescued animals. We’ve expanded surveillance cameras in the Five Corners area, reinstituted walking beats in problem areas of the City, received a $100,000 Homeland Security Tactical Team Grant, and are partnering in a newly developing “Crime Stoppers” program. We will fill vacancies at the police department and come up with more programs that bring neighbors together and encourage youth.

Other areas where we’ve triumphed are as follows:
Sassafras Playground received a much-needed facelift from a group of dedicated volunteers and city staff. Rusty nails, splintered wood and vandalized areas were remedied and a fresh coat of paint brought the aged structure back to life for young families.

• The GAR Park and monument dedicated to Civil War Veterans below City Hall was reestablished. The lawn now hosts an expansive flower garden and labyrinth that attracts visitors from around the world. The cost has been negligible to taxpayers.


There are several projects we will aggressively pursue this year. They include:
IMG_8804Master Planning. Over the past few years we have compiled studies, reports, assessments and plans from various sources. We’ve generated the Waterfront Heritage BOA and Northeast BOA forums, train station relocation and waterfront walkway feasibility studies, the NY Rising strategic plan, a state-mandated Hazard Mitigation plan, the Fulton/Montgomery and Regional Economic Development Plans, the Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor Plan, our Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan and a couple of Municipal Golf Course strategic plans. This Spring, HUD will begin a citywide assessment of housing and community issues. All of these documents must be condensed into one cohesive executive summary. To that end, we will convene a Master Planning Committee to come up with a new guiding document that augments our older Comprehensive Plan. Some of the goals and strategies in the original document still hold for today’s world; others must be updated to address the evolving needs of our city in the 21st century. We should take this opportunity to think about where we want to be in ten years and what we may do purposely to achieve our desires. This will be an exciting and thought provoking process.

• As the cold season wanes and work again starts up on the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook, we will press hard to market the Chalmers and downtown properties on Main and Bridge Streets. We are planning a late-winter event that will feature hidden commercial and residential spaces that can be the envy of the Mohawk Valley.

• The Concordia assisted living facility will be built adjacent to the River Ridge Living Center, providing over 100 good paying jobs and much-needed access to this type of care in our City. The hotel downtown will be revamped and a new business will launch at the FGI building on Edson Street. The collapsing wall along Dove Creek will be repaired and RT5 will be reconstructed to alleviate annual flooding in that area along the river.

• We are well into the conceptual process necessary to build a new Recreation Center. Renderings, cost estimates and an initial operational budget have been conceived. We are studying several possible locations and have spoken to a few well-known developers about the project. We’ve also begun the arduous task of raising money with our not-for-profit partners to make this a reality. We are certain that this project will be successful on several levels, not the least being the wellbeing of our youth and families.

• We are also looking to convert Isabel’s Field to a ball park and playground facility that will support individuals with special requirements, i.e., those with mobility challenges needing wheelchair access, grab bars, etc. We know that this type of offering would attract individuals and teams from across the region and would be a proud addition to our recreational provisions.

• Just as every resident is responsible to keep up with the maintenance of their home, City Hall will see necessary reconstruction of several critically compromised areas of the building, including the back patio and portico off of the southeast wing. This is the primary seat of city government and protecting this asset directly signifies the pride we have for our heritage.

• For those of you that are aficionados of modern technologies, we will implement a mobile application available to smart phones and computers that makes it easier for residents to report concerns such as graffiti, potholes or suspicious activities in their neighborhoods. The application, used by many cities and towns across the country, allows administration to more effectively track work orders, set goals, and gather macro-data to support budgetary requests.

• There are many smaller actions that we will take to address our common concerns. We will be proposing new legislation targeting enhanced code enforcement efforts pertaining to vacant properties and restoration incentives. We will begin a scheduled program off employee training to keep our staff safe and secure. We will open up ways to generate additional revenues and cooperate with our partners. I hope that, in this Chamber, we will commit to respectful and considerate behavior.


It is the duty of this government to reconstruct the tattered quilt of this community into a colorful, well-constructed patchwork of hope. We must take the torn pieces of our physical reality and repurpose them into an environment that is vibrant and growing. This takes sincere good will, ingenuity and willing compromise. I humbly ask my fellow members of the Council to work WITH me and do all in their power to see that we succeed.

Thankfully, we may depend on the indelible strength and charity of the people of Amsterdam to assist us in this goal. Together, we will must keep to our dreams for this city and provide the foundation for a proud, kind and prosperous future.

As Lady Bird Johnson so aptly put it, “While the spirit of neighborliness was important on the frontier because neighbors were so few, it is even more important now because our neighbors are so many.”

May we all depend upon each other in these times of change. Thank you.

Mayor Ann M. Thane

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tooth and nail

In response to a recent letter from the Fourth Ward Alderwoman regarding the Recreation Department, the fact that the city DOES track every financial transaction is getting lost. We have a purchasing policy that demands quotes or RFP’s, purchase orders, invoices and the council’s consent by resolution for payment. The controller signs off on every purchase order ensuring that funds are properly allocated and that lines are not over drawn. The Fourth Ward Alderwoman audits these purchase orders and invoices. She sponsors the resolution that authorizes us to pay our bills or receive earmarked donations. Why DOESN’T she know where every penny is going? Is she telling us that for the past nine and a half months, she hasn’t understood what she was looking at?
If the Alderwoman wants the reporting mechanism changed (which the Recreation Director and Controller have both agreed to) she should work collaboratively with staff and the rest of the council to develop a format so that she may digest this information.

The Recreation Director and Controller, as am I, are more than willing to help. Further, if she cannot understand the budget we can set time aside to discuss this privately in a respectful way.

It is concerning that there is continued discourse about recreation department contributions as though there has been obfuscation or fraud, when every single donation is accepted through resolution and tracked by the controllers office. Donations that are earmarked for a particular purpose are ONLY used for that purpose. We are very careful about that so that the future may hold more in the way of sponsorships or contributions. The intimation that there is a lack of accountability is FALSE.

Other problems arise when the Fourth Ward Alderwoman asks for inconsequential information (i.e., the name of all teams that played in the parks for the past five years, the dates they played, and who they played.) or she asks our Recreation Director for the utility cost of each park. He DOES NOT handle this. He does not request utility funding, track invoices or issue payments. The Controller does and the Fourth Ward Alderwoman has repeatedly been told that fact.

My biggest concern is that in all of the drama regarding this small department, murals, the Mayor’s car, or basketball, I still do not see a plan to address the REAL issues or problems in the city… blight, public safety, and growth. These escapades set us all out chasing our tails instead of leading responsible change.

It’s been over nine months. What is the Fourth Ward Alderwoman’s plan? How will she and the council address our problems in a reasonable way? They must stop chasing rumor and innuendo and, instead, look for best practices and work collaboratively. Vilification of staff that has effectively been at this for years is deplorable. Why wasn’t exactitude at the golf course necessary earlier this year? The Transportation Fund is expecting a shortfall that could be as much as $100K. Where’s the outrage? Recreation is hardly a sliver of the budget and all is accounted for. How about finding out staff goals and figuring out ways to support them? What about infrastructure improvements? Needed demolitions? Equipment purchases? Should we put off all investment indefinitely and wish our problems away?

In six years, with the cooperation of past councils, we strategically changed our city in so many ways for the better. I see this process has stalled. Indeed, there now seems to be a willingness to fight tooth and nail for the status quo. It’s a shame. We should take advantage of the rest of this term to develop at least a couple goals and bring them to fruition. As I had indicated in my last letter to the editor, I hope opportunity, not discord, will become the focus of our council.

Mayor Ann M. Thane

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September 2, 2014

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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VETO STATEMENT • Ordinance 2014-1

I am vetoing this ordinance on this date, July 16, 2014.

This ordinance “prohibits the positioning of basketball equipment in such as way that play will occur on city streets or sidewalks.” I take issue with this change to our city code for several reasons:

1. There are already laws on the books that address interference with the flow of traffic, noise, and unruly or disruptive behavior. The Amsterdam Police Department may manage these situations readily if called upon. This new ordinance is unnecessary and is punitive with respect to the majority of respectful and law-abiding children.

2. The ordinance presents an uncomfortable bias that targets at-risk and impoverished neighborhoods . Those playing basketball are frequently on streets that do not have space for level driveways. Many times, these properties serve multiple families and existing driveways are needed for parking, are in poor condition, or there is an absence of an accessible driveway altogether.

3. The stated reason that the ordinance is for “the safety of the children,” is illusory. There have been no injuries reported and other play in the streets is not restriced. Basketball is not any more of a problem than skateboarding, roller skating, touch football, pick-up Frisbee or just walking in the street. The author of this ordinance points to discourteous behavior of youth when a car attempts to pass. This ordinance will not suddenly change the behavior of these young people any more than it will teach parents and guardians proper parenting.

4. It has also been suggested this is a safety hazard, when in fact these sports and activities have gone on for generations in the streets and there has not been one instance of reported injury in memory.

5. This ordinance sends the wrong message to our youth. We need them to engage in positive neighborhood play rather than become involved in less productive activities. It is important that our city provide recreation opportunities for all of our residents, young and old. In general our residents are tolerant of each other – this ordinance is an act of intolerance.

I agree with the aldermen that advocate for improvements to our parks. I am optimistic that they will provide the funding necessary for materials and labor to upgrade our recreational facilities and meet the needs of our constituents.

In light of the aforementioned points, I hereby veto this ordinance.

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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.


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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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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The Subject Matters host Joe Condon talks with Mayor Ann M Thane about the issues and community affairs concerning the City of Amsterdam NY and Montgomery County.

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compare and save!

Two of the most important responsiblities of an elected official are (1.) to ensure taxpayers that we procure the most economically beneficial and qualified service providers, and (2.) that procurements are free from favoritism.


I found this to be of interest today:

“The law provides that goods and services not required to be competitively bid must be procured in a manner to assure the prudent and economical use of public moneys in the best interest of the taxpayers; to facilitate the acquisition of goods and services of maximum quality at the lowest possible cost; and, to guard against favoritism, improvidence, extravagance, fraud and corruption.

Ethics and Conflicts of Interest
“Generally, local governments and school districts are required to have a code of ethics that sets forth standards of conduct reasonably expected of its officers and employees. Although a code of ethics is an entity-wide document, it may be beneficial to include standards for procurement activities in your code since procurement is a function where the public and private sectors meet to conduct business. Public procurement officials need to have a clear understanding of what business practices are permissible and what ones are not. It is also important that all local government and school district officers and employees maintain high ethical standards of conduct and avoid situations where there is even the appearance of impropriety.

Among the ways in which procurement activities may be addressed in your code of ethics are by the inclusion of provisions:
Purchasing activities are to be conducted in a manner that is in accordance with law, in the best interests of the local government or school district, avoids favoritism, wastefulness, extravagance, fraud and corruption, and fosters honest competition to obtain the greatest economic benefit for every tax dollar expended.
• Procurement officials should insist on and expect honesty in sales representation whether offered verbally or in writing, through the medium of advertising, or in the sample of a product submitted.
• Procurement officials must treat all vendors and prospective vendors fairly and equally.
• Procurement officials should discourage the offer of gifts, and decline gifts that in any way might influence or have the appearance of influencing the procurement of goods or services.”

“Seeking competition in the purchasing cycle isn’t just a matter of ensuring compliance with laws and local policy. The people who are directly responsible for making procurement decisions should help to create a cost-conscious and thrifty procurement environment, in which seeking competition becomes intuitive and “second nature” for the organization. The benefits of seeking competition, including the potential for cost savings, should motivate a culture of competition within your procurement function.”

New York State Office of the State Comptroller,
Division of Local Government and School Accountability,
LOCAL GOVERNMENT MANAGEMENT GUIDE – Seeking Competition in Procurement.

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best of the best

I culled much of the following from an online paper and tweaked a bit to make it generic, but with all of the recent discussion about commissions, boards and committees, this is a rather succinct inventory of what I think makes up a great team. These are characteristics I look for in my appointments regardless of political affiliation. Better yet, these are the attributes we should all be looking for in candidates that run for office and set the course for our various forms of government.


need to have several of the following characteristics:

Creativity and Entrepreneurship.
The organization/ individual would show evidence of creative thinking and innovation development. They would have shown in their own work that they have the ability to nurture several projects from inception through design and implementation, and these projects should be ones that test the existing boundaries of the field in some important way. In other words, there must be a “track record” in implementing innovations.

Diverse Funding, With an Eye Toward Sustainability.
A successful organization is not dependent upon a limited number of funders, but rather has a more complex funding mix that comes from different sectors: federal, state, local, corporate and fee for service. Ideally, they do not act in a way that presumes that existing third-party resources will be around forever. For that reason, they have developed business plans that are designed to move segments of their organization toward self-sufficiency.

A successful organization has an impressive governing board giving them important connections to corporations, foundations, strategists, financial experts, entrepreneurs, and others that can open doors for future growth and impact.

Clear Direction.
A successful organization has a clear sense of where it is headed, and its “umbrella vision” is ambitious and broad-reaching.

Sense of Abundance.
A successful organization has a “sense of abundance” rather than a “scarcity mentality.” In other words, the organization is of the mind that innovation helps to create more resources for the field overall – and does not feel threatened by a potential innovation that it does not own.

Clear Commitment to the End User,
Rather Than Existing Institutions or Systems.
A leader / board member must show a commitment to changes that help the organization, with no vested interest in outside entities or relationships. This individual must show a high tolerance for disruption in the status quo, even if this means the end of certain institutions or ways of doing business. The individual should have a solid track record in helping institutions and systems serve the end users better.

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another round

Please see the following report from the Golf Commission. The Commission had done extensive research and analysis before issuing an RFP last year and conducted interviews for restructuring operations at the Golf Course. The Council continues to ignore the best interests of the City of Amsterdam’s taxpayers and golfers. I have taken a hard line here and am willing to go to court over this, but would hope that the voices of reason will sway the Council to consider a compromise.

I am putting up a resolution to take the carts “in-house” tomorrow night. With the expected profits, we can fund staff, cart maintenance and gas, as well as have a Robert Trent Jones architectural consultant make recommendations to improve the course and begin to build the golf fund balance.

If the Council does not adopt this resolution, we are back to square one and all of this profit will go into the pocket of the Pro.

I humbly ask for your support. Please review the report and if you can, call or write a letter to your alderman, write a letter to the papers, write about this online, and speak at tomorrow night’s meeting. This blatant cronyism and misfeasance is unacceptable and must stop.


“The council is ignoring financial prudence by pursuing a contract with Mr. Joe Merendo and they have torpedoed efforts at moving the course into the future. Inexplicable to us, not once since taking office has the council reached out to the Golf Commission for any input on history, our plans, or to review/question our projections and recommendations. They have simply exhibited the unwavering pursuit of reinstating the existing golf pro under his previous agreement.
We have researched the typical comp for a municipal golf pro as well have the insight of what the three competing pros who responded to the RFP were requesting for income. Below are some excerpts from some web research on Golf Course Pro compensation.

According to the 2008 PGA Compensation survey, the average Head Professional made (across the country):
Average: $83,075.21
(Bottom 10%: $40,000.00, Bottom 25%: $51,150.00, Median: $69,500.00, Top 25%: $97,000.00, Top 10%: $140,000.00)

Assistant Pro (across the country):
Average: $39,874.67
(Bottom 10%: $22,537.50, Bottom 25%: $30,000.00, Median: $38,000.00, Top 25%: $47,000.00, Top 10%: $59,174.68)

This information is from 2005 according to the PGA.

The hours that a Head Pro works and the amount of golf he gets to play vary, just as much as their salaries do. Most Head Golf Professionals work around 48-60+ hours during golf season. In areas that experience cold winters and snow, the head golf pro might only work 32-40 hours a week during the winter. He will spend most of this time setting up the calendar of events for the following season, doing merchandising work for the golf shop, and at some clubs might even run some type of an indoor practice area. Some courses up north actually close for a few months in the winter time, but the head pro still puts in his time doing basic tasks.

Another thing to consider is that some Head Pros might own the golf shop merchandise and make a large part of their income running the shop, but this can be demanding of the Head Pro’s time and require longer hours and cause more headaches.

Another aspect of the job that varies a lot depending what type of course you work at, is the lessons, some pros may give lessons 3-4 times a week while other may give 3-4 or even more lessons a day.

It is important to note that Mr. Merendo does not work for the course in the off months, has little to no interaction with the course superintendant, never attends Commission meetings, and has virtually no role in marketing the course. This leads us to feel that his role should either command the bottom 25% of the head pro salary or a salary more in line with an assistant pro. This plus our knowledge of what the other pros who responded to the RFP were looking to make lead us to believe that a $50,000 per year salary plus the ability to gain additional revenue through lessons and retail (worth $10,000 or more per year if done right) is the correct compensation level for the position at Amsterdam Muni.

We have received quotes and done extensive research on cart rental revenue projections. The commission estimates that the cart rentals will bring in an additional $89,000 in revenue after lease, fuel, and maintenance. When factoring in the changes to pro compensation and additional staffing for the pro-shop the additional income is still $35,000/year. This extra revenue could be used to balance the budget, pay for course improvements without the need to bond, or could be used to reduce the cost of memberships!

The commissions goal was to put in place an energetic, competent, teaching pro. Providing lessons and clinics is the best and most effective way to bring in new players to your course. This is the foundation of building your next generation of golfers. As it is now, many members and players at Muni go to Fox Run for lessons. Joe Merendo admitted that he gives 20- 30 lessons a year and one youth clinic. All other pros consulted give in excess of 250 lessons per year.

Operational benefits of the change: Aside from the obvious monetary benefit, there are a number of operational considerations.

Single point of sale. Currently a player must pay greens fees at the cashier booth, then proceed into the pro-shop to pay for cart rental. We are the only golf course that any of us know of that does this. The change would allow both fee’s to be collected by one person.

By combining the pro-shop staff, who previously were employed by the pro, with the cashiers we will see an economy of scale. A cashier previously could perform no other task than sit in the booth and wait for customers. Under the new scenario someone working behind the counter will be able to offer customer service regarding merchandise, etc. So now one person can do the job that it took two to do before.

Additionally, as the staff will be city employees they can be utilized during slow times to support the greens staff by filing and maintaining water coolers and emptying trash bins on the course, filling ball washers, and even tidying up outside the pro-shop and clubhouse. All things that we have received numerous complaints about over the years.”

Less that a week ago, Alderwoman Hatzenbuhler grilled Recreation Director Rob Spagnola over a project that had been funded and approved last year. Shouldn’t she and the other aldermen hold the Golf Course to the same standard?

To contact the other aldermen, call or email them at the following:

Ed Russo

Valerie Beekman

Ron Barone

Diane Hatzenbuhler

Rich Leggiero

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

I repeat: this has NEVER been about the man. It has been about the MONEY. We must fully understand and control all departmental finances and operations. This includes the Golf Course.

BTW, Schenectady Muni brought the carts and pro shop “in house” last year, made the Pro a city employee and made $140,000 in profit last year.

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just plain busy

Kind of tired tonight and happened to be glancing through my calendar since the beginning of the year. Now, I know why I’m a bit drained. This is what I’ve been doing (not everything – just highlights related to my job. I have a whole life outside of the office too!):

Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council (MVREDC): weekly conference calls, biweekly meetings in Utica, planning for this year’s fourth round of funding, planning for the symposium in April.
Meeting weekly with new controller Matt Agresta; reviewing finance department priorities, operations and predictable tasks. Finalizing corrective action plan.
Meeting: investor interested in development of east end mill buildings.
Engineering: weekly departmental review of operations and projects.
Arts Center: help facilitate 4H, upcoming art exhibit, classes and promotion.
Committee of the Whole meetings / Council meetings.
Department Head meetings: coming together of all departments to facilitate communication, problem-solving.
Rotary meetings.
Landbank Advisory Committee meetings: prioritize projects, develop strategies for neighborhood revitalization and funding of our efforts.
Via Ponte / Waterfront Heritage Brownfield Opportunity programs: closing out Phase I, moving to Phase II – review inventorying, environmental assessments and planning for downtown redevelopment, train station relocation, and future traffic/parking solutions.
Community Action Committee meetings with GASD, SMH and various not-for-profits.
Reinvent Yourself Amsterdam” Committee meetings: launching citywide health program
Spring Litter Pick Up / Spring Fling: setting up dates, materials, etc.
Economic Development meetings: weekly, with URA, AIDA and Community & Economic Development department, as well as once a month with County.
Meeting: Matt Ossenfort to discuss health insurance and MOSA.
NY Rising meetings: plan for hazard mitigation related to economic development efforts. $3M available to the City of Amsterdam. 
Meeting with Secretary of State Cesar Perales to present code enforcement tracking software proposal with the City of Schenectady and the Center for Technology and Growth. Letter of request then drafted and sent to state.
Meeting with Senator Chuck Schumer and County Legislators to discuss city/county priorities.
Meeting with new HUD representative to plan for event targeting community revitalization, health and housing issues.
Meeting with Congressman Paul Tonko and Canal Corp to review progress of Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook project.
Meeting at Bacon Recreation Center to discuss success of Department of Juvenile Justice grants and programming at Bacon and the Creative Connections Arts Center. State would like to use us as a model for other communities.
NYCOM ethics training and legislative update sessions in Albany. Meetings with Comptroller DiNapoli, Attorney General Schneiderman, Canal Corp Director Stratton and other dignitaries from the Capital. Reception at the Governor’s mansion.
Called together County, FMCC and Fulton County representatives to discuss shared service opportunities in anticipation of this year’s budget and funding through the MVREDC.
Wrote and delivered State of the City Speech.
Yep. Busy, busy, busy.  🙂

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it’s about the MONEY

As seems to be the rage of the day, there are several fallacious premises being tendered when discussing this golf course situation.

Dollars funnel.

Starting with the letter from Karl (or whoever wrote this piece), we continue daily operations at City Hall, managing public safety, water/sewer maintenance, road repair, snowplowing, emergency response and the myriad of responsibilities government is charged with including oversight of our finances. Just because the golf course has become the topic du jour on FB, blogs or talk radio, do not mistakenly think this is the sole concern of this administration. Infrastructure has undergone a tremendous amount of strategic and “affordable” upgrades in six years (see my State of the City addressES at http://www.wildthane.wordpress.com) through the millions of dollars of grants we have secured. We’ve also advanced numerous projects and initiatives that have changed the physical landscape of our city. We continue with this work.

The user fee increases were implemented by the prior council to offset the heavy cost of the water and sewer distribution systems that our property owners were carrying. This shift allowed us to lighten property taxes for our city taxpayers and more fairly distribute water/sewer costs to outside users and not-for-profits. This has been good for city taxpayers.

The increase in debt had come about because we replaced aging equipment and funded long overdue capital projects that had been put off to the point of being hazardous to employees and residents. We also bonded in anticipation of revenue we would receive as reimbursement via grants. This has been good for our employees and residents.

Population has increased in our city and six industries have expanded operations here. We have a $20M assisted living project on the south side that will bring 75 professional jobs and an $5M industrial prospect at the Esquire site that will bring several dozen good paying jobs, both slated to launch this Spring.

The letter posits that the Golf Commission has based their recommendations on an outdated study by graduate students from the Masters in Business program at Union College. The study had served as a foundation for the Commission’s work, but they’ve spent the past three years doing additional analysis, talking with the PGA, golf professionals, cart rental firms, and doing comparative analysis of surrounding golf course operations. Working with the former Council, with Gina DeRossi serving as golf liaison and attending most commission meetings, the Commission put out a Request for Proposals to regional golf professionals to elicit workable, innovative ideas that may carry this facility into the future. This was done publicly and with the expectation of fair consideration.

The current Council has chosen to ignore all of this work and instead award the contract (albeit, removing performance measures such as financial statements, business plan or marketing strategy), refusing to acknowledge the failings of the course or the promising compromise I had offered that would have straightened this out weeks ago. The proposed changes we offer pay for themselves as indicated in the report submitted to the Council from the Commission.

Mr. Scott’s hiring would allow us to attract a whole generation of new golfers as he already has an agreement with the school system to teach golf to thousands of children through his “Cover the Distance Golf Academy” program. He also has a plan to spend twelve months of the year actively marketing our facility via traditional outlets and the internet (another failing of the current operation.)

The competitive analysis (I think that is what the letter mean by “competition analysis”) has been done, as well as comprehensive scrutiny of our operational failings. The key components missing at the course are managerial oversight, a defined business plan and a marketing strategy. This was also the finding so many years ago in the Union report. If the current contracts are awarded again, nothing changes and we will continue the spiral of decline. To date, we’ve experienced a 43% loss in membership, escalating costs, flat revenues and a decline in the physical condition of the course. Meanwhile, the council wants to award the contract worth well over $100,000 to the current golf pro for seven months of work instead of controlling those revenues for the betterment of the course. How does this action serve golfers or our city taxpayers? The course has unlimited opportunity to generate direct and indirect benefit to this city.

Everyone sees this for what this is: a flexing of political muscle for special interests. Until we overcome this unscrupulous behavior, this city cannot move forward. I work for over 18,000 people that include the 390 golfers at Muni. I have everyone’s best interest in mind. I hope that the Council puts special interests aside and starts acting for all of our taxpayers and not just a few. It would be ridiculous of them to force this into court.

I challenge this current council to tell me how awarding the current contract works financially for the city. I want to see their financial analysis.

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state of the city 2014

Mayor Ann M. Thane • February 4, 2014

In drafting this State of the City address, I am reminded that anything we want that is good and strong and worthwhile is hard to attain, especially if it entails change. It is slow in coming and resisted by the fearful and the deceptive. It must be hard-fought for and requires every ounce of determination. I am here to report that we are making steady strides in this battle and we cannot let up the fight.


To be healthy, an individual must exercise and eat well, make good choices when it comes to work or savings, and support one’s spirit with rewarding friendships and activities that nourish the soul.

As a community, we must be equally mindful of our health. Our measures are many, and though we struggle, we may gauge our resilience in the successes we’ve made to address the problems faced by this aging, upstate city. I am proud to again cite the action we’ve taken to allay the injury time has wrought on the City of Amsterdam.


No one can deny that the city is grappling with the results of years of poor management in the Controller’s Office. At the urging of past Controller Ron Wierzbicki, the state was invited in to review the city’s financial condition that ended in a scathing report, deriding the record keeping practices of the department. For years, bank accounts and the general ledger had not been properly reconciled, entries were made incorrectly, and capital projects had not been properly tracked. Though this finding is damning, it came as no surprise to this administration or the prior council that had already begun to take steps toward managing this crisis.


Early in 2013, the prior Council added the position of Deputy Controller to strengthen the department and ensure that there will be continuity and expertise outside of the election cycle. Mr. David Mitchell was hired for his lengthy experience in dealing with troubled institutions and his ability to bring organization to floundering accounting systems. We have been well served by this appointment. He has deftly begun the laborious task of untangling the mess he found and has instituted new procedures to alleviate years of questionable practices. He was able to close out the books for 2011/12, submitted a long-overdue Annual Update Document (AUD) and completed a single audit, which in turn protected several hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grants.

The prior Council contracted with two accounting firms to go back through our records, correct errors and reconcile all operational and capital accounts. This will ensure that our numbers are firm going forward. New Controller Matthew Agresta will revise and resubmit the Annual Update Document once more solid numbers are presented in an attempt to protect our favorable S&P and Moody’s ratings.

As recommended by the State, the prior Council and I drafted an initial corrective action plan that will be finalized and submitted to the Office of the State Comptroller showing our plans to protect the city from problems of this nature in the future. Staff and the new Council will be given training in municipal finance and utilization of our new accounting software. Written policies and procedures will be developed and implemented, and the Council will receive the accurate data it needs to make informed decisions about city operations.

The current Council will be responsible for developing a long-range financial plan, an action that is both prudent and timely. Though this entire process has been arduous, the resulting certainty will be well worth the pain. I remain optimistic that we are in better stead financially than has been predicted on some fronts.


As the budget season approaches, a keen focus on performance and accountability will serve us well. The Governor’s proposed freeze on revenues will apply tremendous pressure on our community, which already labors to provide necessary services to our residents. This will require us to be quite creative in finding new ways to sustain our city. Strict fiscal oversight in every aspect of city government is demanded in this time of stress; no facility or contract will escape this scrutiny. Nor can we pretend to address our fiscal constraints by questioning small expenditures that are inconsequential to our tax burden. We must look to departments that are underperforming with the realization that hard choices may have to be made. We cannot put special interests before those of our taxpayers. We must fastidiously re-examine the workings of each department and enterprise fund without prejudice, as well as target areas of spending that have historically saved us money for additional cost cutting or revenues, as in health insurance costs or pensions. We will engage the surrounding municipalities to increase efficiencies and craft new avenues for the profit of all.

Our growing partnership with the City of Schenectady is one that offers substantial reward. Our cities have both suffered the post-industrial decline encountered by all communities in the rust belt. Neighborhoods that surrounded bustling factories now circle crumbling behemoths of another era. Working family homes have slipped into disrepair and associated misfortunes have taken root: crime, litter, vandalism and fire have become realities that drain our coffers and esteem. So, it has been with great pride and enthusiasm that we have begun to work together to solve some of these long-standing problems.

A single distressed property will consume $109,000 in direct and indirect costs in a cycle that runs from deterioration to demolition. Multiply this cost by the number of affected properties in each city and the total is staggering. If all 735 properties now identified in various stages of decline in the city of Amsterdam progress fully to demolition, the cost to our taxpayers is $80,115,000. Schenectady’s 2,420 now distressed properties amount to a mind numbing $263,780,000. When we think of this cost infecting every aging city, town and village in the State, as we know it does, we see a situation that cries out for immediate remedy.
The key to reducing these losses to the tax base is to divert properties away from or out of the system as soon as possible. We are addressing this in two ways:

First, our cities and the County of Schenectady have formed one of five state designated “land banks” to proactively mitigate the costs of blighted properties through neighborhood planning, rehabilitation or demolition, and investment. The goal is to improve property values within the land bank area. The resulting decreases in delinquent taxes and emergency response costs will benefit our cities financially as well as improve quality of life for residents in those areas where abandonment is successfully reversed.

Second, the two cities have banded together with the Center for Technology and Growth (CTG) to develop a uniform code enforcement software module that will digitally track code enforcement violations. Currently, every municipality in the State uses its own forms, manual procedures and unique policies for code enforcement and the state legislature is blind to the impact this problem has on the bottom line.
No one can dispute that sharing information on arson, domestic violence, DWI, and other fire and police concerns is beneficial. Improved code enforcement reporting and information sharing will reduce the incidence of distressed properties and associated costs. Standard forms and procedures will facilitate sharing of data across municipal boundaries to protect banks from mortgage fraud, neighborhoods from the assault that blight delivers, and taxpayers from carrying the burden of lost prospects.

State legislators will be able to plainly see the astronomical costs associated with blight and act accordingly. The collected information will allow us to establish a basis for state code enforcement action and uniform urban policy making. For example, we may develop a state property owner ID system that will help identify absentee landlords shielded from prosecution through LLC’s.

This is exactly the kind innovative approach to fiscal stress that our Governor has called for. Our initiative will provide substantial and quantifiable taxpayer relief through shared service, government efficiency and economic development. I am very grateful to Mayor Gary McCarthy for allowing us to partner in this effort.
This administration has an unambiguous record of collaborating with several municipal counterparts to benefit city residents. From water and revenue sharing agreements with the Towns of Amsterdam and Florida to sharing the costs of workman’s comp, energy purchasing, demolition and solid waste disposal with the County, the city has capitalized on its available resources and has been able to leverage them for the good of our people. We’ve realized millions of dollars in new revenues over the past few years and more fairly distributed the cost of our water and sewer distribution systems.

Times of crisis often call out necessary qualities of ingenuity and devotion. Because of this, we should understand the significance of this time for our state and city and treasure its gifts.

Through the Governor’s NY Rising and Hazard Mitigation programs, we’ve worked with surrounding municipalities for a full recovery from the devastating storms of 2011 and 2013. We are forging plans to alleviate the risk of flood that are linked to our economic development efforts. One of the greatest achievements in this process will be the consolidation of all city, school and county strategic plans into one comprehensive document that will allow for even greater cooperation between the various governments.
Our partnering efforts have also played out in a regional sense. Amsterdam is a member of the six-county Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council (MVREDC). This year, our region was chosen as a top performer and awarded over $82M in grants and incentives to spur development. Our city scored well in this round, as we had in the past outside of the council’s activity, securing $12,219,000 in grants over six years for growing industries, waterfront revitalization, economic development, marketing, public works and infrastructure improvements.

In anticipation of this year’s round of competitive funding through the regional economic development council, I have called on representatives from the Counties of Fulton and Montgomery, Fulton Montgomery Community College, and various economic development agencies to identify projects in the public and private sectors that will create jobs and foster renewal for our constituencies.
The City will continue to establish and grow these valuable relationships, locally and abroad. There are marvelous people and organizations engaged in transformative work across the state, in community colleges and universities, Chambers of Commerce, not-for-profits and in business. My involvement with the New York Conference of Mayors and the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Commission allows me access me to ideas, best practices and networks that I am anxious to bring to our city.


The improvements we’ve made to the infrastructure in our community is of particular pride to this administration. We may point to the close of another year of intense construction bringing us a new traffic pattern downtown and marked rehabilitation of our water and sewer systems.
Through steady effort, we have replaced water lines and valves, and are now down to a mere six out-of-order hydrants out of over a thousand, a stark contrast to the dozens we inherited with lines that ran dry during tragic fires on Market Street Hill in 2008. We have been systematically identifying areas where storm water and sewer lines connect and have been able to avoid hefty fines from the Department of Environmental Conservation because of our systematic method in dealing with these problems.

The traffic-repatterning project was a long time in the making, having been identified as a goal in our comprehensive plan of 2004. Though many decried this initiative as doomed to monstrous accidents and confusion, the change has been pleasantly accepted and incorporated into our daily lives. The ability to travel east on RT5 has been good for our police and fire departments and easy for those wishing to circumnavigate the Riverfront Center and downtown.

This is yet another phase in the redevelopment strategy for our urban core, which will greatly benefit from this year’s start in construction of the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook. Demolitions of dilapidated properties on the south shore will take place in March, materials brought in for the footings and substructures by May, and by October we will begin to see our vision for this pedestrian bridge made real. Plans for a walkway along the north shore to Guy Park Avenue and the relocation of the train station will be laid concurrently to this activity.
We must continue the demolition of buildings that are beyond repair in order to stay the creep of blight in our older neighborhoods while doing all in our power to save those structures that carry the blue print of our unique heritage as a post-industrial community. There is a delicate balance that must be struck in order to preserve that which speaks to this interesting and beautiful past. We must approach each property with sensitivity to our history and do all that we may to safeguard the characteristics of this legacy while protecting our residents from safety hazards. Therefore, I ask that the Council bond not only for demolition but also the stabilization of decaying properties, and that they invest the seed money necessary to successfully launch our land banking efforts in partnership with the City and County of Schenectady.

As I have said many times in the past, combating blight in older cities requires multiple methods of attack. We increased the number of code enforcement officers this year to three, which has been an immense advantage in this battle. We are able to more deftly answer complaints and proactively stave off violations, often stopping unpermitted work and may target particular streets or neighborhoods for obvious disregard of our building codes.
We had selected a section of the Reid Hill area for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to help property owners with the cost of rehabbing homes and coupled that program with street reconstruction and demolitions. This assistance has been well received, with fifteen property owners engaged in this process. We will continue this endeavor in the coming year with a second grouping of properties that are contiguous to the first phase of work. We will also devote our attentions to East Main Street with a similar CDBG grant request for work along this visibly distressed corridor through the city.

It will be a significant year for construction in our City. We may expect to see the recently demolished Esquire site rebuilt with a new industry and a $4.4M building. A $20M assisted living facility will be built next to River Ridge on the South Side. Colonial Gardens at the northern entrance to our City will finish its $9.1M over haul, Roosevelt Apartments will be revamped for $3.4M and the Woodrow Wilson Complex with get a $12M make-over. The failing bank of Dove Creek will be shored up, the sanitary sewer system on Grieme Avenue will be updated and water-ravaged Henrietta Boulevard will get much-needed reconstruction.

Of course, our city has many other needs in the way of capital improvements that will have to be prioritized and funded by this council. They have been given an extensive list of projects and equipment from all departments that must be culled through and immediate action taken in areas that will impact the safety of our community. We will be undertaking this duty in the coming weeks.

In so many ways, we have our city workforce to thank for the services that are provided through your tax dollars. We have an exceptional police force and fire department and we are safe. We enjoy clean water and an efficient sewer system. Our parks are lovely, our streets are maintained and plowed, and we are readily cared for in emergency situations. I extend our shared appreciation for the men and women that keep our municipal services functioning to the best of their abilities when the weather is unbearable and budgets are tight. This is a never-ending task that demands unrivaled commitment in the face of adversity.
I cannot discuss the great effort is has taken to battle the decline age brings to a city without acknowledging the magnificent efforts of our volunteers that have come out twice a year for the past five years and helped with our Spring and Fall Citywide Litter Pick-ups. This year saw our greatest turnout to date, with hundreds of men, women and children stooped along roadsides disposing of plastic bottles, wrappers, cigarette butts, aluminum cans, paper bags and Styrofoam cups. To date, we’ve picked up an incredible twenty tons of debris! We cannot underestimate the very real impact this has on our city. Certainly, we are cleaner, but more importantly we show that we are willing as a community to actively right the wrongs exacted upon us because of a modern disregard for our environment. We show that committed individuals are the deciding factor in creating a vibrant place to live.










The fact is that the essence of this community is not found in its physical attributes – it is not found in its wonderful neighborhoods of which, and this bears repeating until everyone starts paying attention, MOST are attractive and great places to raise a family. The essence of our community is not in our industrial sites, small shops, many parks, memorials or churches – it is found in the hearts of our people.

This community again and again shows no matter how negative the airwaves, facebook or the blogs get, no matter what the circumstance or need, our people step up with love and strength in times of celebration or trouble. This past year is no different in that regard except that there have been so many instances where that spirit is evident.

Volunteers have been instrumental to the success of City-sponsored events, such as Spring Fling, National Night Out, or Homecoming (all of which were banner years in terms of the thousands that participated and attended.) Volunteers built a community garden with 40 children on the east end, painted murals across the city and created the most beautiful piece of public art in this city’s recent past, the mosaic at the Creative Connections Arts Center. Volunteers hauled stones from the river to build a labyrinth at City Hall for mediation purposes, planted 3,500 daffodil bulbs, and lit up thousands of colored decorations at Light Up the Sky, the Kristy Pollock Memorial Light Display and the new Bracchi Family Christmas Tree on the South Side. Volunteers brought us summer concerts all season long at Riverlink Park, hosted a historic tour of the West end, and a haunted tour of City Hall and Green Hill Cemetery. They connected in Neighborhood Watch groups to protect their friends and properties and hosted sporting events to fund programming for at-risk youth. They championed the interests of students, families in-need, the domestically abused, the grieving, the elderly, the homeless, and of course, this generosity extended to feral and abandoned animals.

Volunteers were critical to the success of the Bacon Recreation and Creative Connections Arts Centers. Though the City Recreation Department coordinated activities at both sites, the involvement of caring men and women acting in concert with our staff, especially the W1shhfu1 Th1nk1ng group and our Amsterdam Community Gardens Committee, have made a critical and lasting impression on hundreds of children that have passed through their doors. Families were confidently able to send their children safely to summer camp, tournaments, and a whole year of cultural activities and classes. For many of these young people, these facilities are a home away from a home that does not exist. This outpouring of love and support had been in response to the tragic murders of Jonathan DeJesus and Paul Damphier. We cannot forget the reasons for our rallying or the gifts that these angels have delivered to us. We must continue to fully support these facilities and organizations for the good of future generations.

These individuals fight on for the health of this city and it is the health of this city that will ultimately decide our destiny. It is with that thought in mind that several agencies, the City, GASD, St. Mary’s Healthcare and our business and faith-based communities, will roll out a “Reinvent Yourself Amsterdam” program this Spring focused on the mind, body and spirit of each individual, as the well-being of our residents directly correlates to the well-being of our community. We will offer opportunities for folks to exercise together, discover nutritional alternatives to processed and “fast” food, expand access to locally produced vegetables and meats, and explore new creative or spiritual outlets. We are fleshing this strategy out now, but it is one that has had great success elsewhere and will be a tremendous chance for each of us to embrace a new, more fully realized experience of life (or just loose a little weight!)


Each year that I am afforded this time to share my perceptions of last year and plans for the upcoming months, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the job you have blessed me with as Mayor. I thank each and every one of you for the challenge this presents me (my life is never boring) and for the support that so many of you have shown me personally. I am inspired by those of you that have given so much of your hearts to our Amsterdam and look forward to marching bravely with you through our difficulties. Together, we will triumph over hardship.

I must take this moment to also caution that party affiliations and personal agendas have no place in working as one for the good of this city. This council should be mindful that voting as a block to stop the advancement of responsible pursuit is tantamount to acting as a wall against progress instead of a bridge to our future. I respectfully ask that each of you act in an informed and independent fashion when making decisions on behalf of our residents. Cooperation is an action, not a word. I, again, sincerely extend my hand in welcome in this regard.

Lastly, to the general public and those of you that had taken part in the most important of civil liberties, the election: do not consider your job done once your vote was cast. Pay attention. Watch where your money is going and make sure your interests are being served, not the interests of one or a few.

I end now with a quote from one of the greatest men to ever have lived, whose simple life and deep commitment to his people serves as an inspiration to all of us:

“Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

Let’s be patient, but let’s make our dreams a reality.

Thank you so much.

Mayor Ann M. Thane

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January 21, 2014

For the past few weeks, the Mayor, Council, Golf Commission, golfers and city residents have discussed the organizational structure of the Golf Course.

The Council has voted to renew a contract with current Golf Course Professional Joseph Merendo for a term of two years, with an automatic month-to-month provision once the term is complete. The suggested rate of compensation is $25,500 per year, for a season that runs from April through October. In this scenario, the pro is not an employee of the city. He receives all golf cart, pro shop and lessons revenues and provides for a part-time Ranger, (3) three full-time employees (including him) and (3) part-time high school students. He absorbs the cost of carts and the pro shop.

Richard Scott has been recommended by the Golf Commission for the position of Golf Course Manager/Pro. In this scenario, Mr. Scott would be employed by the city, as well as the additional staff at the course, which involves compensation of $49,000 a year (12-months). The city would receive the golf cart revenues and a percentage of pro shop revenues and lessons fees. The net change in return to the city is projected to be approximately $30,000.

With increased marketing, it is projected that course revenue will increase from year to year.

I propose hiring Richard Scott as Golf Course Manager and Joe Merendo as Pro, provided Mr. Scott’s proposed changes are incorporated. This allows for increased supervision at the course, better marketing, and increased membership/greens fees.

It lifts the burden of managing employees and the cost of caring for carts and the pro shop from Joe Merendo. At the same time, it allows him health insurance coverage and additional benefits, as well as entry into the state retirement system. Mr. Scott benefits from having a popular golf pro on staff.

This hybrid solution will allow for positive changes at the course and satisfies concerns of current golfers. This is in the best interest of all involved.

Respectfully submitted,
Mayor Ann M. Thane

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