EDITORIAL: High times ahead?

WOW, MAN. This is like really the best thing ever in New York… for Massachusetts. It’s legal now to have 3 ounces of marijuana and as much as 24 grams of concentrated cannabis. Or was it 24 ounces of weed and 3 grams of concentrate? No, but wait does this mean everybody who wants to get high on weed has to learn the metric system?

It will take more than a good scale to end marijuana prohibition in this state. But what’s Massachusetts got to do with it? It’s just that the neighboring state legalized adult use of marijuana a few years ago and now has a lead in the retail marijuana business. New York may not have all its rules worked out for a couple of years. Until the details of what’s permitted for the cultivation, processing and sale of the plant in all its various forms are adopted and coordinated, the marijuana users of Columbia County will likely find themselves traveling to places like Great Barrington to lay in supplies for the weekend.

The promise of adult recreational use of marijuana that comes with legalization doesn’t lie only in the freedom it gives people to use the plants the way they want. The new law is also intended to end a police and political tactic where young men of color—mostly Black—were locked up for possessing small amounts of weed at much higher rates than young men who are white, though the data show that whites and Blacks used marijuana at the same rate. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Omi deserves better

IT SEEMS SO SIMPLE. Art Omi needs some more inside space. You know the place; it’s on County Route 22 on the east side of West Ghent. It’s the non-profit organization that displays those big, colorful, nutty, magical what-ya-call-its.

Our grandchildren make sculpture like Art Omi shows, right? But the works of our offspring don’t require several tons of steel or other materials more permanent than paper and crayons. And come on, who can forget the elephant-sized deer that grazed on the lawn above the Charles B. Benenson Visitors Center. The center has an indoor gallery, cafe, offices and is the entry point for the sculpture and architecture park, which spreads northward across more than 120 acres.

One of the reasons Art Omi needs to expand the Benenson Center is to accommodate more kids in the organization’s art education programs. Art Omi also needs more parking. So in 2019 Art Omi submitted its expansion proposal to the Town of Ghent Planning Board. The board had questions. There were meetings and more meetings. A public hearing on the proposal drew strong support from the public. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Farewell to print? Not yet

WHAT I RECALL most from the March 19, 2020 issue of The Columbia Paper was the silence. An occasional truck on Route 66 downshifted passing the office. Now and then a car. Nothing audible from the sky.

Our four drivers carry the paper to every post office and most newsstands in the county. After they left it was too quiet to think straight.

Newspapers count the number of pages in each issue as one measure of the health of the business. The first paper in March was 32 pages, a reassuring sign that the economy would be stronger than the previous year. The second paper in March slipped to 28 pages, but okay, that’s still good for March. The third paper of the month was 24 pages. Read more…

EDITORIAL: You call this a law?

WHAT’S A COUPLE OF TRILLION bucks buy you these days? Gripes, impatience, distortions and the attention of every telephone fraudster, digital troll and social media predator that crawls out of the dark web. And this happens before most of the money reaches the people it’s intended to help.

That’s not entirely true. The last experience the country had with such a large domestic stimulus program was the tax break of 2017, when the biggest winners were the wealthiest people—the ones who needed it least. Very few of them complained.

But enough macro economics. What’s in this latest anti-virus law for the rest of us? As it turns out, quite a bit. Details about the new law are emerging, including the aid for the 11 counties in the 19th Congressional District, which includes all of Columbia County. Start with $400 million that will go directly to the municipalities of the district—counties, towns and villages. There is money for school districts, too. Based on population, this county will get $11.6 million as a part of the American Rescue Plan (ARP). Read more…

EDITORIAL: Election Day… again?

DID YOU KNOW there’s an election next week? Have you made your plans to vote and picked the person or people you’d like to see elected? Should we go over that first question again?

Yes, there is an election Tuesday March 16, 2021. But it’s only for residents of the four villages in Columbia County: the Village of Chatham, the Village of Kinderhook, the Village of Philmont and the Village of Valatie. Find the details in the election news story on Page 1 of this issue.

If you live in one of these villages you have good reason to scratch your head and express disbelief starting with: “What the…..” Voters went the polls in the November presidential and congressional elections. And about a month before that you were asked to elect village officials in contests originally scheduled for March 2020 but postponed until September because of the pandemic. Read more…