You call this a Senate?

YUUUCH! Just mentioning the state Senate and all the inane squabbling going on there is enough to make any sane person want to take a long, hot shower with lots of soap.

   If it weren’t so serious it would sound like a script for a screwball comedy. The Democrats, who won a two-seat majority in the Senate last fall were barely able to agree who would lead them because a handful of Democrats from New York City threatened to defect to the GOP if they didn’t get the powerful posts they coveted. Their tantrums got them most of what they wanted, but then two of them defected anyway, and early this month those two Democrats helped Republicans stage what’s been called a “coup,” taking over the Senate with a one-vote majority and installing as president of that body none other than one of the dissident Democrats.

   No sooner had they done that than the other Democratic defector decided that, well, he really was a Democrat, and he went slithering back to his party—which was apparently glad to have him—leaving each side with an equal number of votes: a deadlock. Are you following this?

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Start over with St. Charles

MY, MY. IF THIS COUNTY gets any more efficient it will make more money than it spends, and everybody who lives here will get a big fat dividend check at the end of the year instead of a tax bill. Sounds like paradise.

   You might think the county is well on its way to this mythical goal based on the crowing this week from the leadership of the Board of Supervisors over its latest proposal. Board Chairman Art Baer (R-Hillsdale) and his supporters believe the taxpayers could save as much as $400,000 a year to house, feed and transport our neediest neighbors if the county leases the St. Charles Hotel—the only sizeable hotel in the county—as an emergency housing facility. The hotel would also become a satellite office for the Department of Social Services (DSS) after that department moves to Claverack in 2011.

   That’s a big savings, and the figures have a basis in fact. But the way this proposal surfaced suddenly out of nowhere gives it a nasty odor that won’t go away anytime soon.

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New York’s junior senator has the right idea for healthcare reform

SENATOR KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND dropped by Claverack last weekend to speak to a county Democratic Party fundraiser, and the policy issue she stressed most passionately was neither the economy nor Afghanistan, not even global warming or the whackos in North Korea. It was the issue that may well define this era: national healthcare.

 

President Obama has called for a vote by August on a bill that has yet to be drafted for a program that may cost more than $1 trillion over the next decade. From what she said Saturday evening, the senator from Greenport has a pretty good grasp of the problem, a reasonable approach to fixing it and a clear sense of what’s at stake if she and her colleagues fail.

 

Lots of people who have lost their health insurance or are barely able to pay for the worst overall healthcare system in the developed world support what’s usually called a single-payer healthcare system. Don’t like the single-payer name? Then call it Medicare. If it works for older Americans, why not make it available to everybody?

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Will ring tones sound in Ancram?

ANYONE WHO’S VENTURED east of Claverack knows that darkness lurks there. This isn’t a metaphorical judgment on the far side of the Taconic State Parkway; it’s a fact. Along the highway and in many parts of the surrounding communities, cell phones might as well be pet rocks.

Engineers sometimes refer to places with no mobile phone service as “dark areas,” and folks familiar with this region know that the cell phone Twilight Zone along the Taconic extends north from the Columbia County line until you approach Chatham. Some people may welcome electronic isolation, but this technology has become an essential tool of life around the world, and almost nothing holds back its advance… except money.

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An exclusive ‘club’

AS A FORMER MOTORCYCLE OWNER, I can assure you that you don’t have to be rich to like riding one of these machines. But when you want to ride on your own mile-long motorcycle track, it probably helps to be a multi-millionaire.

   Or maybe not. So far Alan Wilzig, heir to a banking fortune and a Town of Taghkanic resident, has built a track that he can’t yet use because until last week he didn’t have permission from the town to pave the twisting course. The Ducati motorcycles he rides aren’t made for dirt tracks.

   A week ago the town Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) decided that he could go ahead and pave because he promised he would use it not as a racetrack, as he originally implied by dubbing his property Wilzig Racing Manor, but instead would operate as a “club or recreation” use under town zoning law. That sounds like a more sedate activity.

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