A long life? Not here

HOW’RE YOU FEELING? If you live in Columbia County, you probably feel a little healthier than your neighbors in, say, Ulster or Rensselaer counties. Unless you’re dead, of course.

As a matter of fact, you are likelier to be deceased sooner here than in most other counties in the state. This cheery news comes from the County Health Rankings study, part of a project of a joint effort by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. Read more…

Did somebody say ‘dysfunctional’?

LISTEN, CHILDREN, AND REMEMBER this lesson: Good ideas always start at the top; those of us who pay the taxes and do the work will never be smart enough to figure out what’s best for us. That’s what government is for. Now go to sleep….

That apparently sums up the attitude of the state Department of State, according to local school officials. The school boards and administrators from the Ichabod Crane and Schodack school districts applied for a state grant last October, asking for money to study what they called “functional consolidation.” The two adjacent districts wanted to preserve their traditional identities but find ways to share services and save taxpayers some money. Read more…

Will we learn from the Kohl’s deal?

START WITH A SIMPLE PREMISE: Everybody would like a tax break. Rich, poor or somewhere in between, all of us feel the bite and would welcome a little relief.

In theory this country has a progressive tax system–the more a person or a company earns, the more the person or company pays in taxes, up to a point; and while some get rich, money should move up and down the economic ladder. But over the last few decades, people who already had a lot of money have accumulated an even bigger slice of the pie, so that 20% of the population now controls 85% of the nation’s wealth. Read more…

Paws for reflection

WALKING THE DOG recently in the Village of Chatham we encountered two boys speaking Spanish to each other. We exchanged greetings in English, but as they headed up the street in the other direction, they giggled loudly, and one of them exclaimed, “Zapatos!”

He had it right. The dog was wearing shoes. Well, technically booties. He wears them every winter, and it’s easy to predict the human reaction based on gender. Men tend to chuckle dismissively, as if to say: Your dog’s a wuss. Women coo and say: That’s so cute. Seldom does anyone remark on the practicality of his footware. Read more…

You call this a budget?

RAISE YOUR HANDS: Who thinks the state should cut spending and reduce the tax burden on ordinary New Yorkers? Okay, now how many of you want to pay higher property taxes? … Anybody?

That always seems the choice left to taxpayers in lean years, and this one certainly qualifies as lean. Governor David Paterson issued his executive budget last week, and while it doesn’t cut overall spending, it does keep the increase below 1%, with significant reductions. Read more…