EDITORIAL: Mow money for trails

THINGS WILL CHANGE IN 2020. The big decisions have already been made. It’s too late to derail it. The fringe elements will fight back but they can’t win. The power of the idea is strong and supporters have big money behind them.

Politics? Nope. It’s the Albany-Hudson Electric Trail (www.ahettrail.org), which doesn’t actually run through either Hudson or Albany. But it will be a walking and bicycling trail with its northern end near the Amtrak station in the City of Rensselaer and its southern terminus in the Town of Greenport, within walking distance of Hudson. The schedule calls for the trail to open in late 2020.

Our regular readers may already know that this 35-mile pathway is a project of the Hudson River Valley Greenway. For decades, opponents of public trails have branded Greenway projects threats to our cherished right to live shorter, less healthy lives. The opposition tends to wither, though, when trail neighbors concede that it’s a pleasure to take a walk without dodging 18-wheelers and texting motorists. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Whodunit and why?

HEY, BUDDY, CAN YA SPARE a poor homeowner $52,000? Too much to ask? Okay. How about $47,000? I know you keep that much cash on hand. And after all, it’s not your money, is it.

The taxpayers of the Village of Chatham have good reason to believe there might be “spare” cash stashed here and there after the Village Board announced last summer that the village had not paid $52,104.07 in federal payroll taxes. Turns out that the money was hiding in a special missing money account. It just hadn’t been sent to the IRS.

Well, lots of people “forget” to pay the IRS on time. The village forgot to pay on time for more than two years. The IRS said, “Fine.” Actually the agency said, “Fines and interest” adding up to $18,112. If you think that’s harsh punishment for an innocent mistake, keep in mind that it’s $12,000 less than the IRS originally demanded. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Why read a newspaper?

YOU PROBABLY HAVE some shopping to do. It happens this time of year. There’s so much happening. You need a break. But it’s hard to find someplace reliably warm, safe and affordable. So here you are reading the newspaper. Good choice.

There is plenty of bad news the newspaper industry these days and a few bright spots too. Papers are closing. The University of North Carolina Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media found that between 2004 and 2018 the number of newspapers in the U.S. had decreased by nearly 1,800 papers and that many of the remaining ones have been acquired by private investment firms with little commitment to community journalism.

In that same period “non-daily” newspapers nationwide saw a 60% drop in readers. So far, we’re bucking the trend. Our readership has grown. We don’t have research that explains our increase in paid circulation, but recently we heard about a study that suggests a good reason to live in a place that has a local newspaper. Read more…

EDITORIAL: No big raise

SO YOU GO TO THE DMV office in Hudson and wait in line to learn what paperwork you need and what you don’t need and what you don’t have and can’t get. Then, after you fill out those forms–both sides but not the bottom–being sure to swear that your car is not now nor has it ever been a snowmobile, tub toy or modified to carry gorillas, you learn that you didn’t swear to the part about the gorillas and you must return to the table where slow people like you are swearing to similar things or just swearing and you sign your name again and again. Then you get back in line again, so humbled at the window that you don’t dare breathe until you’re told that Yes, you can have the document you need… but not until you pay $50 for the pleasure of this visit.

What has this got to do with a pay raise for state officials? It helps explain why so many of us think of state government as dysfunctional. And that may be why legislators have been unwilling to vote to give themselves a raise for the last two decades. Functions that should be minor clerical matters turn into bureaucratic quicksand for average citizens. It’s a symptom of the public’s wariness of what goes on at the capitol in Albany.

It’s not all the fault of most people with government jobs. The Department of Motor Vehicles office in Hudson is run by the Columbia County clerk. The people who staff that operation are really smart and very helpful. They have a deserved reputation for assisting people to navigate the swamp of motor vehicle transactions. The DMV clerks didn’t create forms that repeatedly ask for the same information. They can’t explain what makes no sense. They do help you get what you came for. Read more…

EDITORIAL: ICC capital improvements? Yes

LOOKING FROM THE OUTSIDE IN, it doesn’t appear that the school buildings of the Ichabod Crane Central School District require over $27 million in repairs and upgrades. But after reports, committees and endless meetings plus years of inaction, the ICC Board of Education has concluded that’s the least the district needs.

Voters will have the final say Wednesday, December 12, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., when the proposal is the only item on the ballot of a special district-wide election.

Other school districts in the county have won support for major capital improvements in recent years. Germantown has a project underway and Hudson has installed a track and expanded its middle school to house elementary grades after closing one of its buildings. ICC sold its two oldest buildings years ago and consolidated operations on a single campus. The district has no place left to shutter as a way to reduce costs. Read more…