Fires are about to go out

TURN YOUR BURN BARRELS into planters. A state regulation takes effect next week that extends the ban on burning household waste to all parts of the state, instead of just communities of more than 20,000 people. No word yet whether the new rule applies to torches carried by irate trash burners.

The new ban covers every town in Columbia County.

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Don’t coerce healthcare workers

WHAT A TALENT Governor Paterson’s administration has for mixing the best of intentions with the worst political skills imaginable. Some of these missteps only hurt the officials who make them, but the unfortunate decision to require mandatory H1N1 swine flu vaccinations for healthcare workers in this state could have far wider and more profound consequences.

Some people fear all kinds of vaccinations regardless of the evidence. Others believe that concern over the H1N1 variant of the influenza virus is overblown. After all, the state Department of Health says that statewide the number of cases is low and holding steady. Maybe this version of the virus will just peter out.

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Walmart moves in… again

BIG BOX STORE DOESN’T QUITE CAPTURE the scale of the new Walmart Supercenter that opened in Greenport last week. By local standards, it’s more like a stadium store or a crater-center. What else do you call a building whose floor space covers nearly three acres?

One of the strongest arguments against new Walmarts involves how they and other large chain stores siphon off the customers of locally owned firms and hollow out village, town and city business districts. But that objection has little relevance to this case, because Walmart relocated less than a mile from its old store. The new Walmart has added a supermarket, but it will compete with the supermarkets owned by other chains, not local vendors.

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Who would sign this petition?

UNDER THE HEADING “What planet have you been living on?” comes the news that some folks in Copake are circulating a petition for a ballot proposition that would ask voters to end the way the town funds the Roeliff Jansen Community Library.

Perhaps it’s a prank. Dumb stunts surface every fall around election time. Think of all the morons who come up with the clever idea of stealing or defacing political signs. What an original and creative way to express your political views, huh?

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Homeless funds have wide impact

WHERE WERE YOU and what were you doing August 1 of this year? Whether or not you can recall, odds are you weren’t homeless. But as many 130 people in Columbia County didn’t have a home of their own that day.

A few years ago agencies that track and provide services to homeless people changed their method of assessing the homeless population to a “snapshot” approach, selecting particular days and having all the agencies report how many active cases they have open on that day. That’s where the date comes from. The new approach is supposed to be more revealing than the data previously available, though it too undoubtedly misses a lot of people, just like unemployment figures do.

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