EDITORIAL: Where have students gone?

THE STORIES WE HEAR readers talk about don’t always match what’s on the front page. Take last week’s issue, for instance, when reporter Jeanette Wolfberg prepared a chart showing a large decline in public school enrollment countywide.

The chart showed that while the percentage decline varied from one district to another, taken as a whole the six public school districts in the county saw a drop in enrollment of 29% between the school years 2000 and 2016. This presentation of annual state data didn’t try to explain why the numbers have dropped, though the topic comes up frequently at school board meetings. But if you’re a taxpayer in Columbia County it’s worth thinking about.

The numbers reveal that all the districts saw double-digit declines over that period, which indicates that public education in the county is caught up in a long-term trend rather than bad decisions made by clueless school boards. On the contrary, school administrators and board members are acutely aware of their shrinking student bodies. The question now is: What can we do about it? Read more…

EDITORIAL: Easy voting = more voters

OVERSLEEPING is not an excuse for failing to vote in next Thursday’s primary election. Go ahead, sleep in. The polls don’t open until noon. Show up fashionably late. But please do show up.

Before going any further, yes, the Democratic and minor party primary for statewide and local candidates takes place Thursday, September 13, not the preceding Tuesday, as would usually be the case. The reasons are explained in our Page 1 story on the primaries.

This switch of days is a reminder that nothing in the Constitution or the laws of physics requires that we vote only on Tuesdays. Most states–34 of them–now have some form of early voting. But not New York. Maybe that’s why this state was ranked 41st out of 50 in voter turnout statewide in the 2016 general election. We’re tied with Mississippi. Read more…

EDITORIAL: CEDC gets paid

HOW MUCH WOULD YOU PAY for undeveloped land in Columbia County? Let’s say, for example, you wanted 33 acres near the intersection of state Routes 66 and 9H? Would you pay $10,272 per acre?

Ginsberg’s, the locally owned institutional food supplier in Claverack, paid that much last week to the the Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC). But this was more than a routine business deal. The payment of $339,000 and change ended a chapter in a long-running story about local economic development in the county.

As for value, if you wanted roughly the same amount of land in Kinderhook near the Rensselaer County line, there’s a property listed for $1.1 million. That comes to roughly $34,000 an acre. But if you want 57 acres in Stuyvesant you can have it for a mere $6,900 an acre. Location, location…. Read more…

EDITORIAL: They owe how much?

IT WOULD BE UNFAIR to call the Chatham Village Board The Gang Who Couldn’t Add Straight. So let’s stipulate, as lawyers say, that the board is not a gang.

Their math skills, however, have been remarkably consistent for the last year or so. Consistently screwy.

The mayor and the four board members are honest. They serve the village to the best of their ability. You see their dedication at every board meeting. They’re all smart, too. Read more…

EDITORIAL: What’s mail worth to you?

IN CASE YOU’VE EVER wondered, there are 32 U.S. Post Offices in Columbia County. That would be one post office for every 2,000 people. But as anyone who lives here can imagine, the math doesn’t work out anywhere near that neatly.

Each week we deliver papers to our subscribers through every one of those 32 post offices. Half of them are small–the size you’d expect for a post office in Hollowville, Austerlitz or Malden Bridge. Each one has a character all its own, which is nice but not nearly as important as the postal employees who staff those post offices, big or small. This newspaper would not exist without them.

So when President Trump issued an executive order last spring creating a Task Force on the United States Postal System, it raised questions about our survival. The report, scheduled for release last week, has been delayed. But the concerns it raises come from an earlier federal Office of Management and Budget “Reform Plan and Reorganization Recommendations.” The plan is to privatize the USPS. Read more…