EDITORIAL: No matter what you call it

THE KITCHEN PIPES froze solid this Christmas Eve. Several generations of the family advanced theories as to why it happened. The battery on one of our cars had died a few days before the pipes froze. The battery on our other vehicle failed to work shortly after the water came on again. It could have been coincidence but the consensus diagnosis was: It was cold.

That was this winter. Last winter the copper pipes beneath the kitchen sink “exploded.” The contractor and crew who arrived to repair the damage assured us the guilty party was a woodchuck. The animal had excavated its way into the crawl space below our kitchen and allowed sub-zero temperatures to reach our pipes. But there was no sign of a woodchuck or any other wildlife when the crew reached the site of the burst pipes. Maybe woodchucks dislike cold showers as much as I do.

It used to be that a story like this had a communal punchline meant to demonstrate how silly people were to fear what used to be “global warming.” You don’t hear that term much anymore. It’s been re-branded as climate change. It’s probably good to have multiple names for forces so powerful they can disrupt how, where and if we can live on the surface of this planet. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Can you Imagine?

DO YOU MAKE YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS anymore? It wouldn’t be polite to discourage people from that noble task, unless the resolution maker wants to become better at picking people’s pockets or some equally anti-social pursuit. The real problem with resolutions is not that you tell yourself what you’re going to do, it’s making yourself do them. That task sometimes works better if you have somebody to help you navigate toward your goal. There has to be someone other than you involved or you wouldn’t need the resolution in the first place.

Or maybe it’s worth experimenting with an altogether different approach, one that puts aside resolutions and starts by imagining the future: not a single natural event but the future as an extension of now or 10 days from now as the calendar determines it. Where do your thoughts go and with whom? What happens that involves you; what affects you, even if you can’t control it. What can you share to make life better for yourself and for others.

Think of this New Year exercise as an adventure, not a burden. To participate in Imagining the Future I’m suggesting that you squeeze your thoughts on some feature of the future of Columbia County and the world around this county to a total of 250 words. We will publish as many in the order we receive them… assuming we get any at all. There’s no deadline except for the one yourself. Read more…

EDITORIAL: Need a vacation?

THIS IS NOT an editorial. No false modesty about it either. We need a vacation and we are taking one on the week of December 25. No paper on December 29. Makes sense, right? There are a few details.

There will be a paper next Thursday, December 22, 2022. We’re asking anyone who wants to place an event or an advertisement to be sure to let us know about it by email no later Saturday, December 17.

When you receive your December 23 paper and you look at the upper left of the front page just below the newsstand price, it will say “Nos. 51-52.” That suggests there would be a separate issue. But let’s call it a “conceptual newspaper” We’ll restock the newsstands if people are looking for what we call the double issue but there is no paper the 52nd week of the year; so, no issue December 29. We’re on vacation. Read more…

EDITORIAL: SUNY chancellor looks familiar

IF THE NAME John King, Jr. doesn’t sound familiar it’s understandable. When he was here previously he worked in Albany but traveled around the state. He was New York State Commissioner of Education. And if that doesn’t ring a bell, what about the term “opt out.” It was a tactic thousands of parents adopted in the last decade when, for different reasons, they refused to send their elementary and junior high school kids to public school rather than allow them to take multiple choice exams.

Chancellor King was also the United States Secretary of Education in the Obama administration.

This week the Board of Trustees of the State University of New York (SUNY) announced that Mr. King has been chosen to to serve as chancellor.

The release from the Education Department said that SUNY has “about 1.3 million students among its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2021, including significant contributions from students and faculty….’

“Chancellor King is currently the president of The Education Trust, a nonprofit organization that promotes high academic achievement for all students in early childhood, K-12 education, and higher education. Prior to his appointment to that post in 2017, Chancellor King served as U.S. Secretary of Education under President Barack Obama, who called him ‘an exceptionally talented educator,’” the release said.

It’s true. His resume is extraordinary. But as resumes usually do, the one that mentions his time as commissioner overlooks the issue that appears to have led to his departure from that post. There was nothing scandalous about it but the intensity of the young education commissioner defending what he believed was the best way to educate New York State’s children—regardless of what their parents wanted–was upsetting to some people. It wasn’t just the parents, either. The teachers’ unions were also unhappy about his approach. The chancellor’s thin skin was too thin for Albany politics.

But Chancellor King’s accomplishments since leaving the state capital are numerous and focused on improvements that help all students, so it makes sense to hire a person as experienced as John King, Jr. to oversee the entire SUNY system.

But there will be a test of one kind or another.

The day before the announcement of the appoint of Chancellor King the Times Union newspaper ran a Front Page story under the headline, “A future without Regents exams.” The timing of that article is likely to be coincidence, but assume for a moment that the Regents do plan a major revision of the iconic tests or even abandoning the Regents tests altogether. The subject comes up from time to time.

Initiatives like that have a way of mushrooming into controversy not progress. So it will take a leader, a mediator and a manager and a visionary willing to absorb criticism and achieve consensus to lead the SUNY system. John King Jr. can be that kind of leader. For the sake of our institutions and our children, I hope he succeeds.

EDITORIAL: How much mulch is too much mulch

A LAWN CARE COMPANY removed the leaves from our small yard late this season. The warm weather didn’t fool the maples that surround us on three sides. The foliage hung around way too long. But the professional lawn care crew arrived with the technology to wrangle the stragglers to the edge of the sidewalk, just as good citizens are instructed to do.

Or kind of. The leaf raking law tells us where to put the leaves but as far as I know the law is silent when it comes to how high the pile can be. Exaggerating just a bit, the first day it stood six feet tall. With parking on the other side of my village street there was just enough room for one-way travel through the leaf-created bottleneck.

My dog Pinky, who stands a strapping eighteen inches, sniffed something in the pile. He stepped off the curb and disappeared. He popped out again at the property line, where he marked his territory and continued our walk, undamaged despite his narrow escape from Leaf-ageddon. Read more…