EDITORIAL: Can we defeat potholes?

THE TOWNS OF CANAAN AND NEW LEBANON have flexed their political muscle and convinced the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to fix the lunar landscape known as state Route 22. Or at least 3.5 miles of it.

The method used by the two small, David-like towns to bend the DOT Goliath to their will is no secret. And now at least one other town is pursuing a similar strategy. Kinderhook residents who live along, or frequently travel on the stretch of state Route 203 between the Village of Valatie and Niverville may soon be asked to sign petitions that call on the state to repair that section of the busy highway.

The success of these efforts depends on support from elected officials at the town, county and state levels. And there’s a media component too. For the Canaan and New Lebanon case it was exposure on an Albany TV station plus social media (for those who have internet service), and coverage in a “legacy” media platform, otherwise known as The Columbia Paper. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Getting to know you

THINK OF ALL THE PEOPLE you meet now by cell phone. They offer you money, prizes, good jobs or a conversation with an incarcerated relative who needs a couple hundred bucks to make bail.

Now imagine they could see as well as hear you–without you knowing it. Artificial intelligence (AI) can instantaneously decide whether you’re who you say you are by scanning your face and matching you with your bank account and medical records, not to mention your favorite flavor of ice cream or unpaid traffic ticket.

In China police already use AI to subjugate the Uighur minority. The U.S. government is working on this technology too. Currently there are no laws restricting it’s use. Read more…

EDITORIAL: No pot opt-out

A DISCUSSION ABOUT LEGALIZED MARIJUANA should start with a joke, except that one-liners on the subject mostly amuse folks who are stoned.

Recreational marijuana use by adults is the subject here, and now there’s a local connection. This state has already passed legislation to make medicinal marijuana available to at least some of the people who may benefit from it. A few decades from now we will have enough data to wonder why we put so much faith in the plant’s ability to lessen pain or work cures.

Or, just as likely, we’ll wonder why we demonized such a remarkable drug and needlessly prolonged suffering it could have treated. By then we’ll admit that marijuana’s bad reputation was rooted in racism and politics more than in science. Will the next generations think any of this matters? Read more…

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…