EDITORIAL: What will you do Tuesday?

What are you doing Tuesday… before the final episode of Game of Thrones is rerun? The date is May 21, so maybe you were thinking about gardening or mowing the three-foot-tall dandelion patch that used to be a lawn.

Forget about that. Long range forecast says it’ll still be raining. So could I interest you in an indoor activity? It won’t take long and it doesn’t cost anything… that day. You’ll might meet old friends or not, but either way you’ll have made a measurable contribution to protecting the right we have to govern ourselves, also known as voting.

In this case the vote is for a school district budget, most likely one of the six districts located in Columbia County: Chatham, Germantown, Hudson, Ichabod Crane, New Lebanon or Taconic Hills. (There are a few folks at opposite ends of the county who live within the boundaries of neighboring counties’ school districts; this applies to them, too.) Wherever you live, it should be a no-brainer that you’ll turn out next week to decide the fate of multi-million-dollar budgets and choose members of your school board to oversee your district’s finances. After all, the school district tax makes up the largest part of your property tax bill. Read more…

EDITORIAL: What’s a species worth?

IF YOU PLAN TO ATTEND an annual meeting of the Columbia Economic Development Corporation, bring a calendar. Otherwise this year looks a lot like the last few years’ event. Having the calendar allays fears that the next white man wearing a tie who comes to the podium will welcome you to the Twilight Zone.

If you’re a little jittery because the featured speaker looks familiar, he should. The honored guest at the non-profit CEDC’s signature public event April 30 was investment advisor Hugh Johnson. He’s the same person who spoke the last couple of years. And this year his message sounded similar to what he’d said before, and his predictions have been accurate.

Mr. Johnson knows more than most humans about how markets and investors behave. He’s a very entertaining speaker who spices his cloudbursts of data with self-deprecating humor. We’re still in the longest economic expansion in the nation’s history and he told us that “investors continue to believe the expansion will continue.” But right now we’re “somewhat near the end of this cycle,” which will lead to a slowdown in 2020 or 2021. Enter that on your calendar. It’s a much better guess than the predictions of others. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Census attack will hurt us

ARTICLE 1, SECTION 3 of the United States Constitution has the distinction of being the ugliest part of that great document. The original text concerns how “Representatives and taxes shall be apportioned among the several states… according to their respective numbers….”

That’s the language authorizing the Census. The founding fathers compromised on who would be counted, agreeing to start with all “free persons,” and to include indentured servants but exclude “Indians not taxed.” And then there was the last group called simply “other persons,” only three-fifths of whom would be counted. All of them were enslaved by the fully counted free persons.

Columbia County had many enslaved “other persons.” We know this from early Census records and because of advertisements for “runaway slaves” published in local newspapers. Slavery was outlawed in this state in 1817, though it lingered for 10 or more years. It took the slaughter of the Civil War to purge it from the Constitution. Read more…

EDITORIAL: We’re growing

WITH THIS ISSUE we begin our 11th year in print. Technically speaking that makes us an adolescent… the paper not the staff.

The well-thumbed “Random House Dictionary of the English Language Second Edition–Unabridged” that sits next to this laptop defines adolescence as “a period or stage of development … preceding maturity.” Okay. I’m in no rush to grow up.

A literal back-of-an-envelope estimate says there have been about 580 issues of The Columbia Paper since the first one appeared April 16, 2009. That’s well over 12,000 pages which, when laid out end to end, would stretch (drum roll) 41 miles. All of it recyclable. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Who cleans up after GE?

SOME PROBLEMS DON’T AGE WELL. Just when you think they’ve gone away and made room for the next crisis, the old one pops up again.

And some past problems reappear with a twist. Take the Dewey Loeffel Landfill site in the Rensselaer County Town of Nassau. General Electric and a few other companies dumped 46,000 tons of toxic materials there. It was bad stuff, like PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and a chemical called TCE–a cancer-causing product used in dry cleaning. The dumping happened from the early 1950s to the mid-1960s in a meadow not far from the Village of Nassau.

The landfill was shut down in 1970 when it had already begun leaking this toxic brew into local well water. The state Department of Environmental Conservation tried to contain the pollution but couldn’t stop it. Turns out that some of this potentially deadly stuff made its way to a small stream nearby. The stream is a tributary to the Valatie Kill, which joins with the Kinderhook Creek on the way to the Hudson River. Read more…