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…

EDITORIAL: You spent how much?

THERE’S SOMETHING to be said for an on-time state budget. Let’s applaud it with one-hand clapping. Adopting a timely budget is what we pay the governor and legislature to do. Now that they’ve done it, what has Columbia County gotten as our part of $175 billion?

• Governor Andrew Cuomo is pleased with legislation that was part of the budget, in particular the nominal “2% tax cap,” which limits the increase in the local property tax levies from year to year. That cap that is now “permanent.” Who knew it was temporary?

The cap puts a lid on school district spending and has given upstate taxpayers a break on the rate of growth in school spending. So far local districts have managed to cope. But some are stretched thin even with increases in state aid and declining enrollment. That won’t last, but neither will the cap. What legislators call a permanent law could suddenly becomes expendable if public opinion shifts. Overall, though, this is a measure that offers stability to school tax rates–the largest share of the property tax. For now anyway, it’s a workable deal. Read more…

EDITORIAL: The public prevails

THE ROELIFF JANSEN Community Library is one of the county’s cultural gems. It’s a place of learning and fun, a performance space, a gateway to explore whatever is on our mind without having to explain why.

Hard to imagine anyone would dislike a library, especially the Roe Jan Community Library. But somebody put a few bullet holes through the front entrance back in 2010. It happened at night a short time after the library building on state Route 22 opened. Nobody was there and the damage was quickly repaired.

The library has not experienced anything like that again. Like other libraries in the county, the Roe Jan Community Library staff and board have worked hard to fulfill the library’s mission of public service to residents of the Towns of Copake, Hillsdale and Ancram. The library thrives. Read more…