Honesdale Vigil: Climate Change Talks : Copenhagen


Dear Breathing Readers:  The following article is published here with thanks to SEEDS (Sustainable Energy Education & Development Support.)  I received it as an email notice about  the upcoming candlelight vigil scheduled in  Honesdale’s Central Park on December 11, 2009 at 5:00 pm.  The vigil is intended as a message and plea  to the Climate  Change Talks in Copenhagen and is organized  in solidarity  with 350.org.  However,  it includes information about the impacts of climate change on our local area and so I’m helping promote the event  to a larger audience.   Best, Liz

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All are invited to bring a candle to Central Park, Honesdale at 5 PM on Friday, December 11th to join a vigil for hope during the climate change talks being held in Copenhagen.  SEEDS (Sustainable Energy Education & Development Support) is holding the vigil locally, while 350.org is calling for similar events around the world.

Here in northeast Pennsylvania, our Maple and Black Cherry trees are already being challenged by the effects of a carbon-overloaded atmosphere, and are expected to disappear completely within our children’s lifetime when our local  climate will be resemble  that of present-day Alabama and Georgia, according to a recent report specific to Pennsylvania and  published by the Union of Concerned Scientists.  While we are already getting a taste of devastating floods in our region, countries like the Maldives and Bangladesh will soon be devastated and are fighting for their very survival.

“Our atmosphere has almost 400 parts per million of carbon, mainly from fossil fuel burning for electricity and cars,” says SEEDS chair, Michele Sands.  “We need to get down to under 350 to continue life as we know and love it in northeast PA.  SEEDS is promoting renewable energy sources and sustainable food choices locally, but we need our government leaders to respond to the urgency of our situation, here and in Copenhagen.”

CNN called the previous worldwide 350 event in October the biggest day of political action in the planet’s history. Several local groups including SEEDS took part, SEEDS announcing an ambitious plan to encourage installation of 350 Kw of renewable energy in our local area within a year and save just as much through conservation.

“We hope these vigils will surpass the October action,” says Kathy Dodge, organizer of the local vigil. “And this will be as easy as a walk in the park. So, please come with your candle or lantern to help send a message to Copenhagen.”

Anyone wishing more information about this vigil, may go to 350.org or SEEDSGroup.net. Contact SEEDS at (570) 224-0052 or SEEDSGroup@gmail.com.

Sullivan County Legislature: Solid Waste User Fee?


Dear Breathing readers:   So many issues, so little time.  Today’s opinion column comes to you from Tim Shera,  Sullivan County resident,  co-originator of   the Sullivan County Transition Towns initiative and long-time  peace and justice activist.   He is asking  Sullivan County residents to examine   our County Legislature’s  new  “trash law — Solid Waste  User Fee”  by  the light of  governing ethics,   unintended consequences and environmental degradation.  For the full picture,  County Manager  David Fanslau’s  letter about  the  Solid Waste User Fee  can be read here and the County’s 2010 Proposed Operating Budget can be reviewed here. (The Budget also includes a discussion of the Proposed User Fee on pages 8-10).*


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Dear Sullivan County, New York:

The “trash legislation”  [“Solid Waste User Fee”]   passed recently  by our Sullivan  County Legislature  is  ill-conceived.  It lacks  strong incentives to recycle and unfairly  taxes  all householders at  the same annual rate no matter how little trash their residence  generates.

I am equally disturbed by  the Legislature’s  proposal to export Sullivan County’s  garbage to some other nearby community.  I am uncomfortable with exportation because it is fundamentally  irresponsible.  It shifts the burden to our neighbors who  are then forced  to live with our trash. Yes, the area that imports our garbage will  receive offset payments,  but I’ll bet the people living close to the landfill  (like those near  our own Monticello site)  will have little or  no choice about our waste being dumped in their backyards.

Would you willingly accept payment from  your next door neighbor to bury his trash in your yard?  As we become more sensitive about this,  I’ll bet we get responsible and stop exporting our problem.

Now to address our present situation,  I am deeply disappointed that the Legislature  (with the exception of Alan Sorenson and  Dr. David Sager)  did not incorporate a deeper wisdom and commitment to recycling in their legislation.  In large part, our beloved and beautiful earth allows and supports life  because, with the exception of some man-made  chemicals,  she recycles everything —  renewing and making available the  oxygen, clean water and  fertile soil necessary to our continued existence.   Recycling and other reductions of our waste streams are essential or the Earth’s ability to  replenish herself will be jeopardized.

Just a word about the inequity in the trash legislation before I close.   I recycle nearly  everything  by composting all veggie-type materials and  taking  recyclables to the landfill for which  I believe the county gets paid.   I end up each week with (at most)  1/4 of a Shoprite-sized bag that goes out as trash.

Why should I, or those with a similar commitment to our environment,  pay $181 a year for so little compared to others who contribute so much more to the waste stream?

Have any of you considered witholding $181 from the tax bill in January until such time as the trash law is made more  equitable and environmentally-loving?   Let me know:  (Tim Shera)  845-292-2279.

Solid Waste User Fee  Town Hall meetings will be held on:

–  Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at the Town of Tusten Town Hall, Narrowsburg, NY at 7pm

–  Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at the Liberty Senior Center in Liberty, NY at 7pm

–  Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at the Mamakating Town Hall in Wurtsboro, NY at 7pm

*Editor’s Note:   On a related matter (Sullivan County’s Proposed 2010 Budget) :  I searched  the Sullivan County site for more than half an hour looking for  Budget Hearing dates.   A  phone call to the Government Center revealed  that the dates  are  posted under an October 14th  Press Release from Jonathan Rouis.  Inexplicably, neither  I nor the clerk were able to find another  Budget Hearing notice at the County website. Breathing hopes you will copy and paste the following dates to your personal calendar  (or check the CottageWorks Community Calendar ):

Informational Town Halls (Public Hearings):   2010 Tentative Budget in the Hearing Room at the Government Center in Monticello, NY

Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 12  noon

Monday, December 14, 2009 at 7pm.

Breathing Is Political will initiate  coverage of the Town of Delaware’s public meetings and encourages others to do the same  in  their  own Legislative Districts and at the County level.  Those “citizen notes”  can then be centrally-collected in a “blogroll” or other forum and will facilitate concerted citizen responses and ideas. (A partial list of  Township meetings can be obtained  here or at  individual Town websites and a schedule of  Sullivan  County Legislative meetings is posted here.)

If you’re interested in working for free as a citizen journalist covering your  local government happenings,  give me a holler  at   cottageworks@lizbucar.com.


Sullivan County’s Proposed Budget: Union Give-backs


According to  The MidHudson News,  Sullivan County, NY’s  proposed 2010 budget “includes a five percent property tax increase and the elimination of 49 occupied positions and 54 vacant ones.  The County Manager, David Fanslau suggested union givebacks to save money and jobs.  They would include:

  • requiring all employees to contribute 15 percent of their health premiums;
  • change the 14 paid holidays to 13 full days and two half days; and
  • provide 8 ½ paid holidays and 5 ½ unpaid holidays.

Our County’s real estate sales are down 16% over last year and of the sales we’ve had, 12.1% were  bank-owned foreclosures.

Between September 2008 (when the global markets plunged)  and September 2009,  Sullivan’s unemployment rate jumped 2.2% from 6.4% to 8.6% .

The number of families  participating in New York State’s Food Stamps Program has increased  more than 22% during that same time period.

Some grocery stores in Sullivan County no longer accept WIC (Women,  Infants and Children) vouchers because, according to one manager,  it’s too hard and takes too long  to get reimbursed by New York State.   Although  WIC  statistics aren’t available  for 2009,   the  pre-crash numbers for 2008 showed an increase of 15,000 participants over 2007 (a year in which   the number of participants actually decreased.)

The bottom rung of the  Federal & State reimbursement ladder is  occupied by  counties, towns and  local Boards of Education.  They expend their dollars first and get re-paid last.

Local municipalities rely heavily on  sales and property tax revenues.  Budget managers make a best-guess estimate of what those revenues will be over the next year and propose their budgets on that basis.

For sure, it’s a sad state of affairs.  All the counties of New York State are reeling  under the rising costs of services,  crumbling infrastructures and failing revenue streams but let’s be clear here:  consumers and workers are the same people.  If workers’ wages fall as their health care costs climb, they won’t have dollars to spend in our local shops  — locally-owned shops that  are already struggling to stay alive on Main Street.  To ask  workers who generate income for the entire County to cover the shortfall  is as foolish today as it was twenty years ago.  If I still owned property in Sullivan County,  I would send a note to Mr. Fanslau and Mr. Rouis:  “Unfortunately, I  over-estimated my household income this year.  I will be unable to pay my full tax bill.  I hope you appreciate it was an honest mistake and will  stop  sending me those annoying tax reminders.  Most sincerely,  Liz Bucar.”

Twenty years ago,  I and the People’s Voice recommended that workers earning $30,000 or less  receive their scheduled pay increases without bearing additional health care costs.  We further recommended that  managers and legislators take salary cuts.  At that time,  our aggregated  recommendations saved the County nearly $2 million  without breaking the back of a single union employee.

Twenty years ago,  after  grossly overestimating sales tax revenues,   then-County  Administrator/Auditor Paul Rouis (in concert with the Sullivan County Board of Supervisors)  proposed a 60%+  property tax increase and  Union give-backs.   900  residents showed up for the County’s Budget Hearing that year (1990).   Mr. Rouis and most of the Supervisors  were thrown out of office during the  next election cycle. (For those of you who might be  wondering,  Mr. Paul Rouis  is the father of our current  Chair of the Sullivan County Legislature,  Mr. Jonathan Rouis.)

Twenty years ago, claims were made and substantiated by  Teamsters representatives  that  some  employees of Sullivan County Government were paid so little, they were eligible for Food  Stamps.  Those claims have re-surfaced during this year’s  budget deliberations.  I’ve  emailed  Mr. Jerry Ebert of  Teamsters 445  asking how many of our current County workers are eligible for and/or receiving social service assistance.

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*Editor’s Note:   After searching the Sullivan County Government site for more than half an hour today,  a phone call to the Government Center revealed that dates for the Budget Hearing  are solely and  inexplicably posted under an October 14th  Press Release from Jonathan Rouis.  Neither  I nor the clerk found  another  Budget Hearing notice at the County website.     Breathing hopes you will copy and paste the following dates to your personal calendar  (or check the CottageWorks Community Calendar tomorrow):

Informational Town Halls (Public Hearings):   2010 Tentative Budget in the Hearing Room at the Government Center in Monticello, NY

Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 12  noon

Monday, December 14, 2009 at 7pm.

Solid Waste User Fee  Town Hall meetings will be held on:

–  Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at the Town of Tusten Town Hall, Narrowsburg, NY at 7pm

–  Tuesday, December 1, 2009 at the Liberty Senior Center in Liberty, NY at 7pm

–  Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at the Mamakating Town Hall in Wurtsboro, NY at 7pm

Going forward,  Breathing Is Political will begin covering  the Town of Delaware’s public meetings and encourages others to do the same  in  their  own Legislative Districts and at the County level.  Those “citizen notes”  can  be centrally-collected in a “blogroll” or other forum and will facilitate a coherent  citizen response.  If you believe that political events  in your town and county should be better-attended and more-fully reported, become a  Citizen Journalist.   Email me at  cottageworks@lizbucar.com.

(A partial list of  Township meetings can be obtained  here or at  individual Town websites and a schedule of  Sullivan  County Legislative meetings is posted here.)



Transition Towns – Sullivan County, NY


Dear Breathing readers: While robust efforts to care for our land, water and traditions exist on all sides of  The Delaware River  Basin,   The Transition Towns model (“a practical vision for creating a post-consumer society–away from carbon dependence, and toward community sustainability”)  is making  news  in both Sullivan County, NY and Wayne County, PA.*   In the following statement,  Maria Grimaldi, one of  Sullivan’s staunchest and longest-serving stewards,   has managed to clarify many of the agricultural  issues we face in the Delaware River Basin  while encouraging us to bring our skills and creativity to the table.  I would only add that a  community armed with  The Precautionary Principle  and  a  Transition Towns model would be well-prepared to stand on its own many and diverse  feet.  Liz

 

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Dear Sullivan County and Regional Neighbors,

Sullivan County’s Transition Towns’ Agriculture and Food Committee will be meeting with Judy Hall,  some of our local dairy farmers and other key “ag” people.  On the agenda will be courses of action that will help our dairy farmers operate at a profit.  I believe the creation of effective cooperatives, the production of more value-added products and diversification of operations should  be integral to those discussions.  (For instance, a Regional Food Shed is a terrific idea but its success will depend, in part, on our ability to diversify our regional food production.)  The big picture would be to replicate something like Hudson Valley Fresh,   a dairy cooperative that produces its own value added products (butter, yogurt, and cheeses, among others) and markets them regionally.  One of our  Transition members was in Albany this week working on legislative initiatives with both State and Federal representatives which would both generate and support efforts to save our local dairy farms.  They must be treated as  essential pieces of our sustainable community.

Two of our members are working in concert with The Federation for the Homeless to build a Sullivan County Model Community Garden. The Federation has excellent resources, including a certified kitchen and  ties to the local community. Looking forward, the Federation could be the Lead Agency that helps establish more community gardens throughout the County.  We have several Transition Town members with extensive experience building  these kinds of community bases and we look forward to “growing” this project.

Anne Hart  (The Cutting Garden and Domesticities) is ready to put  a model financial permacuture system together.  She and  Nancy Eos are coordinating efforts with  local businesses,  the Sullivan County Chamber and the local banking community.   Nancy is  a medical doctor and  a Permaculture Graduate who also  attended a Financial Permacuture Intensive with Albert Bates in Tennessee last year.  I can’t wait to see the results of this collaboration!

Judy Hall  has already written a NYS Ag & Markets  grant for Specialty Crops and  Cornell Cooperative Extension  has been named Lead Agency for the project.  She’s  also working on a  SARE  (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) grant  for which the Catskill Mountainkeeper will take the lead.

Several  of  us  are investigating what other states have done to restore or re-create their local creameries.  There are plenty of good models out there and the local dairy farmers  I’ve spoken with  are interested in the idea.   (Sadly,  this effort will be  too late for a  Bethel farm which closed its doors recently  on three generations of farming.  I understand the land is being scouted by developers.)

Throughout the years,  an all-season food market for local products has been discussed.  Although I believe the idea will encounter  limitations because few of our  local farms  produce  marketable food  year-round and we lack a local  processing plant for meat and other products,  our Transition Towns’ objective is to create a network of sustainable local food sources and distribution.  The farm markets have stepped in to fill some of the breach but still,  too few of our communities have ready-access to locally-produced, affordable  foods.

We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us but I’m encouraged by the numbers of  dedicated and experienced people who are bringing their skills to the  Transition table.  f you have  questions, ideas and skills to offer as we work to create our Sullivan Transition model, please  contact me  (Panther Rock Organic Farm) or  Tim Shera at timshera@yahoo.com.

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*SEEDS  (Sustainable Energy Education and Development Support) will be showing the film, “In Transition” on Tuesday November 17th.   A few days later,  Sullivan Transition is hosting a “Pre-Thanksgiving Potluck Bash”  at the Sullivan County Cooperative Extension on November 21st beginning at 6:00 PM.

New Gas Drilling Production: A Theater Near You


To  read  Breathing’s review of  the sometimes-bawdy, always entertaining,   “Corporate Relations:  Gas Does Marcellus”  please click here.

The choice is yours:  pay the admission price for a  tired old movie with a cast of raggedy characters  (be prepared to swallow long and hard)  OR  pop on  over to “Ban Natural Gas Drilling In New York State”  and sign the petition.