What to do about mercury

BUILDINGS ARE COLLAPSING under the ice and I have no idea how to get rid of the glacier where the sidewalk used to be. So worrying about mercury coming from the Lafarge cement plant across the Hudson River is low on my list of concerns. Besides, something measured in parts per billion seems insignificant compared to all the other toxic substances that have crossed my nostrils.

And still, it caught my attention that a Ph.D. research associate from the Harvard School of Public Health found that about 10% of 172 subjects tested within a 10-mile radius of the Lafarge cement plant in Ravena, across the river from the northern tip of the county, had elevated levels of mercury in their blood and hair. Read more…

Governor gives us his plan

UH, OH. MAYBE WE GOT what we asked for. Andrew Cuomo has proposed a state budget that might impose some fiscal discipline in Albany. That’s a scary thought. But whatever it does in the longer term, neither the process nor the immediate results will be pretty.

The governor released his first executive budget Tuesday, calling for a cut of over 7% in aid to public schools, a 10% cut in state agency spending and a huge hit to the Medicaid program, among other reductions. The school cuts will be amplified if the Assembly finally gives in and follows the lead of the state Senate in adopting a 2% cap on real property tax increases statewide. Read more…

What will happen to farmland?

WE GOT RE-GIFTED last Christmas with a very nice jar of jam. The re-giver earnestly informed us that he’d been assured by the original giver the jam came from one of the best open-air markets in New York City. I wanted to say: It’s amazing the things they can grow on asphalt these days. But I settled for reading the label. The jam came from a farm in Stuyvesant.

Like a lot of people these days, I’m disconnected from the reality of farming. When I was young, I stacked hay bales for a while one summer, and I’ve never forgotten the feel of an airborne, 50-pound bundle of grass smacking me in the face. Later, our kids had pets, and some of them had hooves — the pets not the kids — but we never had to make a living from livestock or crops. Whether in the supermarket or at the farm stand, I’m grateful people grow food so I don’t have to. Read more…

Bullying stops at the top

SCHOOL OFFICIALS TAKE BULLYING seriously for good reason. Kids need to know it’s wrong to pick on those who are smaller, weaker or otherwise vulnerable. Schools understand that teaching by example has the greatest impact. But what do you do when school officials act like bullies?

During a board meeting last month Taconic Hills school board President Ronald Morales instructed district Superintendent Mark Sposato to call the police. Mr. Morales was upset by a labor union lawyer representing two bargaining units in the district. The lawyer, Pamela Melville, insisted on continuing when Mr. Morales asked her to stop speaking to the board at the public forum. Read more…

Thoughts on a tragedy

I CAN OFFER no more than another voice of sympathy to the families of the nine-year-old girl and the other five people killed as well as those injured with Representative Gabrielle Giffords in the Tucson rampage Saturday. You didn’t have to know anyone involved to recoil in horror at the news, but the description of the event at which the shootings took place, a “Congress on Your Corner” gathering, made that shopping plaza seem a little closer to home.

The term “Congress of Your Corner” surfaced here after the election of Representative, now Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand in 2006. Ms. Gillibrand hadn’t been in office but a few weeks when she announced her first Congress of Your Corner. It seemed like a novel catch phrase at the time. If you Google the term now, it pops up all over the country, used by many members of the House of Representatives as shorthand for public meetings with constituents with no limits on what gets discussed. Voters expect elected officials to operate this way. Read more…