EDITORIAL: My speech to graduates

MY FATHER ONCE ASKED me what advice I would give my younger brother as he prepared to head off to college for the first time. Fathers take note: this is a very bad idea, especially if you have not rehearsed the answer ahead of time. It happened a long time ago, but I still recall the stricken look on my father’s face when I answered without hesitation, “Don’t take it too seriously.”

Fortunately, my brother did not heed my advice and went on get a good education. This story also has another happy ending in that it illustrates why no one seeks me out as a graduation speaker. With graduates preparing to confront the world’s absurdities, they’re better off hearing from somebody who earnestly seeks to offer inspiration with a straight face. Read more…

EDITORIAL: What’s wrong with a new supermarket?

CALL ME A NEWCOMER, outsider, even a “cityot” (hint to Manhattan sophisticates, think “city idiot”). But I’ve spent most of my life in the Hudson Valley, the last decade of it here in Columbia County, and even in that brief period I have seen the landscape change. It hits me as I commute the three miles from metropolitan Chatham to downtown Ghent.

When I arrived here, long after the Harlem Valley Railroad disappeared, the settlements of Chatham and Ghent seemed like distinct communities with physical boundaries clear to an untrained observer. The Village of Chatham and its associated businesses stopped abruptly after the Agway store south of the village line, and the hamlet of Ghent coalesced in earnest just past the bridge where over the Kline Kill before it swings north toward Valatie. There were and are modest homes along the way that reflect succeeding vintages, but there were stretches of farms too and woods.

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EDITORIAL: Responders respond to 911 plan

YOU HAVE AN EMERGENCY. You pick up the phone and dial 911. The person who answers is well trained and professional, asks all the right questions and gets you the help you need in the shortest time possible. Not many people in the midst of 911 call would stop to ask the dispatcher on the other end of the line: Wait a minute, who, exactly do you work for?

But that is the question that has come up among emergency responders in the county following the recent announcement by Roy Brown (R-Germantown), chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, that the board is considering whether to merge the county 911 emergency dispatch operation into the Sheriff’s Office. The goal is to save money, as much as $175,000, according to the Sheriff David Harrison. That’s a small part of the full $150-million county budget, but anything that saves money for taxpayers is welcome news. So why would anyone oppose it, especially if, as promised, no jobs will be lost? Read more…

EDITORIAL: Saland vote crucial on marriage equality

BLAME THE PILGRIMS. Huddled on that cold, clammy Mayflower off the Massachusetts coast, waiting  to go ashore in a new world, they came up with this paragraph, a compact, that all the men agreed to. It said that their everyday affairs would be guided by a civil government that they would form. They would all vote for their leaders rather than accept them as ruling by divine right. They also brought with them the odd (Dutch) idea that civil authorities should regulate marriage.

Almost 400 years later and we still haven’t sorted it out. Governor Andrew Cuomo campaigns around the state for the right of same sex couples to marry. The state Assembly has adopted a bill that recognizes the marriages of gay and lesbian couples. The state Senate has yet to act, but a bill is possible before the session ends later this month. Senator Steve Saland, who represents all of Columbia County and much of neighboring Dutchess, could be a key player in deciding the outcome.

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EDITORIAL: Change of heart’s not weakness

EDITORIAL WRITERS have always depended on an endless supply of unapologetically bad behavior and poor judgment by public officials. But the last few days have yielded what feels like a torrent of official apologies and changes of heart acknowledging failures. That’s a welcome development, unless it becomes a trend. After all, too much good behavior threatens the need for editorials like this one. Should I be worried?

The outcome of the school budget votes in Hudson and the Ichabod Crane central school districts prompted the most significant examples. In both districts the people who bothered to go out and vote rejected their district’s spending proposals. In Hudson the reason seems straightforward. Even with drastic cuts in staffing, a majority of the board backed a budget that would have raised the property tax levy by nearly 10%. Read more…