What do Chatham taxpayers get?

SOMETHING FOR NOTHING? It sounds like officials of the Chatham Central School District want voters to believe that’s what they’ll get if they approve two ballot propositions next Tuesday, January 12. Everybody knows that when you get something for nothing, you get what you pay for.

But wait, the district isn’t flimflamming the public. Together, the proposals would authorize the board to spend just over $5 million for critical improvements and repairs, and paying for these projects will not increase school taxes. How does that add up? Read more…

Better to look forward than back

CALL IT ADVANCED AGE, human nature, a bad attitude or unfounded optimism–it’s hard to recall a year that we hoped would go on forever. Even if one came to mind, it wouldn’t be 2009. By any standard 2010 looks a more promising.

Good things did happen in 2009; think of the passengers and crew standing on the wings of an airliner floating in the Hudson River. But on balance ’09 summons images of natural disasters like floods–one of the worst last summer caused an estimated $5 million in damages to public property in the county–and blight that threatened to wipe out local tomato and potato crops. It also gave us the swine flu pandemic, which fizzled here, though health experts warn it could re-emerge. Read more…

Warm thoughts for holidays

A LOG ON THE OPEN FIRE? Electric lights on the tree? Humbug! Or maybe not. The international types all worked up over global warming at the just-concluded U.N. conference in Copenhagen ought to see how we shiver from the below-normal cold that’s gripped our region for days. Based on this week’s temperatures, people won’t be planting coconut trees along Philmont’s Main Street any time soon.

Strange as it sounds, though, the current cold snap–even prolonged periods of chilly temperatures–fits the scientific models of a rapid global warm-up. Changes in the environment seldom happen in neatly arranged straight lines, and experts must rely on educated guesses about what exactly may happen. The present situation is one humans have never faced before so far as we know.

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State’s in crisis? So what’s new?

HEY, IT’S ONLY three-quarters of a million dollars, and we’ll get it back eventually, right? The money in question is the amount of state aid payments Governor Paterson has ordered withheld from Columbia County‚Ķ so far.

The money comes from schools ($310,418), the City of Hudson ($141,495) and county government ($323,000), according to figures compiled by the Times Union newspaper in Albany. The governor says he must delay these payments because the state lacks the cash to meet its most pressing debts this month. The legislature came back to the capitol in Albany a few weeks ago and trimmed the state budget by $2.8 billion, but the governor warned at the time it was a billion dollars short, give or take; it turns out he was right.

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Who pays to spy on voters?

THERE WE GO AGAIN, revisiting the legal dispute between Republicans and Democrats over which absentee ballots from the November 3 election should be counted. The squabble deserves a second look because over the last two weeks the terms of the debate have degenerated into a much uglier and more fundamental struggle over the right to vote without fear of intimidation.

The county GOP, with Chairman Greg Fingar named as the lead litigant, filed suit after the election challenging the legitimacy of ballots in five towns. The basis of the objections in most cases involved people who have homes or maintain addresses in both Columbia County and some other place, often New York City or its suburbs.

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