Dear Readers,  After three weeks  without my laptop,  I’m  b-a-a-ck.  As always, I’ve provided Town of Delaware meeting notes according to  how the meeting unfolded.  Although  Town Clerk McBeath’s  notes are generally excellent (as was commented by an audience member this past meeting)  Breathing has the wherewithal to provide more context for a more  (hopefully!) complete understanding of the issues discussed.   If you’re a Reality TV fan,  come on down  to the Delaware Town Hall on the third Wednesday of each month at 7:00 PM. The meetings have been packed recently and…lively!   Despite the sometimes contentious nature of  discussions,  it’s  important to note how many fine people are contributing productively to the life of our Town.  Take especial note of  the grants being written and improvements being planned.


According to a spokesperson for Mr. James “Jimmy”  Hughson (Jeff Sanitation and J. Hughson Excavating companies),  New York State’s Department of  Environmental Conservation (NY-DEC) has informed the garbage hauler he must move his collection facility indoors as part of  a required upgrade.   The upgrade of  Mr. Hughson’s proposed  “private transfer station”  (located east of Jeffersonville on the  East Branch of the Callicoon Creek)  is being considered by the Town’s Planning Board as a Special Non-conforming Use under  the Town’s  ZoningLaw.  Mr. Hughson’s spokesperson said the proposal will provide more storage capacity, will not increase the amount of garbage accepted at the site and will  reduce the number of truck trips.    “Mr. Hughson will collect the trash and sort it at his facility.”

When Town Assessor, Linda Schwartz,  commented to Mr. Hughson that she didn’t understand why he  would undertake the project because it sounded as if   his costs would increase  due to the upgrade while his profits would decrease due to his hauled-tonnage remaining  the same,   Mr. Hughson shrugged.

Town Clerk, Tess McBeath,  who sits on the County’s  Solid Waste Task Force,  explained that the County has proposed simplifying management of the solid waste stream by instituting  “single stream recycling.”  (Instead of  individual  households separating plastics, glass, metals, etc.,  as is done currently,   a  “sorting” company would do the separating and also transport the recyclables out of state.)  “The County isn’t looking to put haulers  out of business,”  Ms. McBeath continued.  “…it’s  asked for  $6.5 million  to build a transfer station….”

In 2009, according to the Times Herald Record,  Mr. Hughson was charged by the DEC for illegal dumping at the site.  In 1988,  the DEC ordered Mr. Hughson to cap and close  a landfill (near the current site)  which was owned and operated by him.*

The Town Board unanimously agreed to write a letter of recommendation in favor of Mr. Hughson’s  proposal.

Local businessman, Robert DeCristofaro, reported  what he believes are several discrepancies in his sewer assessment and the Board agreed to review the Town’s  billing.

While making her Town Clerk’s report,  Ms. McBeath  said,  “Many older, disabled folks come into my office.  I’ve asked several times that the Town Highway Department install handicapped parking signs that it already has so  those folks don’t have to walk so far.”   She then asked the Town Board to help her get the additional signs erected.

Highway Superintendent William Eschenberg interrupted Ms. McBeath.  “You stop.  You just stop right now.  I don’t work for you. You don’t like me and I don’t like you. There’s a sign out there.  If  they can’t read one sign they won’t be able to read three.”

To which Ms. McBeath responded,  “You forget who pays your salary.  This isn’t about me; this isn’t personal,”  and asked several times to be permitted to continue with her report.

While the back-and-forth between the two Town officials continued for several minutes — and the Board sat mum —   audience members called for Mr. Eschenberg to allow the Clerk’s report to resume.  When a local resident said,  “I don’t understand what’s happening here,” and told Mr. Eschenberg he was “being rude,”  the Highway Superintendent replied,  “I know you don’t understand” and asked the audience member to go outside with him so the matter could be explained.

Finally,  Ms. McBeath said to Supervisor Scheutzow,  “I need direction, Jim,”  and  Mr. Scheutzow replied,  “I’ll deal with it.”

Ms. McBeath also reported that the Town collected $2,580 in building fees during the month of May 2010.  (According to data obtained by Breathing with a  Freedom of Information Request,  eight fewer permits have been issued to-date this year than during the same period in 2009.    However,  as of 6/18/10,  fees  have totaled, apparently,  $13,519  an approximate $6,000 increase over the first six months of 2009.)

Mr. Eschenberg asked for, and received,  permission to  put the Town’s heating oil purchase out to bid.

The Building Inspector,  Mr. Howard Fuchs,  was not in attendance and so no report was made.

Tax Assessor, Linda Schwartz, reported  the Town’s  equalization and assessment rates  have increased to 57%.  (That means   Town property holders  will be paying taxes on  57%  of their  property’s value — a larger percent than last year.)

As reported by  the Town’s  Grants Coordinator, Ms. Kara McElroy,  The Town has received six proposals for  its  sewer project and must decide by  June 30, 2010 who will receive the bid.  In addition,  the Town of Delaware and three other River Towns are applying for a share in  a Scenic Byway Grant which will total $25,000.

Mr. Michael Chojnicki  reported that the hamlets of Callicoon, Narrowsburg and Barryville have applied for a $750,000  Community Development Block Grant.  Each Hamlet  would receive $250,000 and Callicoon  would use the funds for lights,  parking lot re-pavement (in the Klimchok lot),  shoring up the retaining wall near the same location, improved parking in front of the movie theater,  sidewalks and nicer connections between Upper and Lower Main Streets.

The Town Board awarded a municipal trash removal contract to Thompson Sanitation but when audience member Jim Hughson pointed out that  Thompson’s bid was significantly higher than Sullivan First’s,  the Board unanimously  rescinded  its decision.  New bids will be accepted and subsequently opened on  July 21, 2010 at 6:55 PM.


Mr. Roy Tedoff  read an excerpt of NYS Assembly Bill  A10633 which states, in part,

“Currently, local government officials are confused  about whether  their  local  zoning  ordinances are preempted by state law and regulation in relation to the oil, gas, and solution mining industries.  NY Court of Appeals  case  law  interprets  provisions  of  the  ECL  [Environmental Conservation Law] to conclude  that  a town’s zoning. ordinance does not “relate to the regulation” of the industry, as prohibited by subdivision 2 of S 23-0303  of the  environmental  conservation  law, but rather serves to regulate the location, construction and use of buildings and land within the town, as delegated to local government by Article IX of the State Constitution. This legislation clarifies that current  local  zoning  law,  and  local zoning  laws  enacted  in  the  future, will dictate where oil, gas, and solution mining is a permissible use, even with a regulatory program  at the state level.”

Mr. Tedoff  then said,  “Since the Town Board can use its zoning power,  you should.  It’s a no-brainer….We  voters  have a right to know where the Town stands on the drilling issue.”

Mr. Tedoff then asked  members of the Town Board to reveal  any interest in drilling either they,  their associates or family members have.

Mr. Scheutzow replied,  “Whose business is it to know?  Next, you’ll want to know what my bank  statement is.”

(According to Section 808 and Section 811 of New York State’s General Municipal Law,  Mr. Scheutzow, council members  and other public officials in the Town of Delaware are subject to annual financial disclosure requirements.)  Also according to Section 808,  the Town can appoint a Board of Ethics to review possible ethics violations and  to be the repository of  Town officials’  financial disclosures.  Section 808,  also allows that  if such a Town Board of Ethics is not established,  the County Ethics Board can be appealed to for an opinion.  (Breathing has found no evidence that  the Town of Delaware  established a Board of Ethics but has asked for clarification with  a Freedom of Information request.)

Breathing has  already provided some information on  the issue of conflicts of interest and public officialsSection 809 of the General Municipal Law also requires disclosures by public officials and Section 812 details the information officials are required to disclose  (Financial Disclosure Form NYS GML).  In fact,  according to the Town of Delaware’s own  Code of Ethics,

The rules of ethical conduct of this Resolution as adopted, shall not conflict with, but shall be in addition to any prohibition of Article 18 of the General Municipal Law or any other general or special law relating to ethical conduct and interest in contracts of municipal officers and employees.

(e) Disclosure of interest in legislation. To the extent that he/she knows thereof, a member of the Town Board and any officer or employee of the Town of Delaware, whether paid or unpaid, who participates in the discussion or gives official opinion to the Town Board on any legislation before the town Board, shall publicly disclose on the official record the nature and extent of any direct or indirect financial or other private interest he/she has in such legislation.

(f) Investments in conflict with official duties. He/she shall not invest or hold any investment directly or indirectly in any financial, business, commercial or other private transaction, which creates a conflict with his official duties.

Section 5. Distribution of Code of Ethics. The Supervisor of the Town of Delaware shall cause a copy of this Code of Ethics to be distributed to every officer and employee of the Town within thirty (30) days after the effective date of this Resolution. Each officer and employee elected or appointed thereafter shall be furnished a copy before entering upon the duties of his/her office or employment.

Section 6. Penalties. In addition to any penalty contained in any other provision of law, any person who shall knowingly and intentionally violate any of the provisions of this code may be fined, suspended or removed from office or employment, as the case may be, in the manner provided by law.

(The Franklin County District Attorney has said about an ethics investigation in his  countyOur investigation has revealed several contracts, easements, lease option agreements, cooperation memoranda and other types of documents which disclose relationships existing between elected officials and certain third parties in Franklin County (as well as other elected officials in other Counties) which, when allegedly coupled with certain decision making and board action, may be in violation of General Municipal Law (GML) 805-a(1)(c) and (1)(d). If such violations have occurred, these public officials may also be in violation of Penal Law Section 195.00, Official Misconduct and/or Penal Law Section 200….”)In  response to Mr. Tedoff’s  request that the Town Board  adopt a resolution in support of  The Home Rule Bill ( NYS Assembly Bill  A10633),  Mr. Roeder said,  “Why would we support legislation that’s  a plan to burden the towns to do things they shouldn’t be involved with?”

As a matter of clarification,  Breathing offered,     “A10633 is  the so-called, ‘Home Rule”  bill.’   It’s an effort by our  Assemblymember, Aileen Gunther — and other co-sponsors —  to clarify what the Town’s zoning jurisdiction is and  to restore local control over  zoning districts to local governments.  You have the right to zone heavy industry out of  a ‘rural residential district.’  I’d think you’d want local control back.”

Mr. Scheutzow said,  “That’s your opinion.”

Breathing Is Political:  “Perhaps  you could ask your Town Attorney to  contact Assemblymember Gunther  who’s a co-sponsor of the Bill.  Perhaps she or a legal person in her office could  clarify the purpose of the Bill.”

Mr. Scheutzow:   “No matter how many times this Board tries to explain that we only have control over the roads,  some people just don’t get it.”

Breathing Is Political:   “Then perhaps you could ask the Town Attorney to reach out to the State Assembly because obviously,  members of the Assembly disagree with you about the Town’s zoning prerogatives.”

There was no response from the Town Board to the suggestion.  Nor did any members of the Board respond to Mr. Tedoff’s request that they disclose any interests in drilling.**


In a discussion outside the Town Hall after the meeting had ended,  Craig and Julie Sautner (Dimock residents and plaintiffs in a Federal lawsuit against Cabot Oil) spoke with  Mr. Noel Van Swol (Sullivan-Delaware Property Owners Association).  In response to  the Sautners’ continued assertions that  the hydraulic fracturing process  left their water  undrinkable and contaminated with methane, Mr. Van Swol stated,  “I’ve been told that methane occurs naturally in the water in Dimock and that’s why your water’s contaminated.”

Mr. Craig Sautner replied,  “That’s not true and we can prove it.  The chemical composition of naturally-occurring methane is very different than what’s released into the water by hydraulic fracturing.  And what we’ve got in our wells is not natural. We’ve got the lab tests to prove it.”

When Mr. Van Swol was asked,  “If  700 gas wells are drilled,  would it be acceptable to you if  five families’ water wells were contaminated,”  Mr. Van Swol replied, “Yes.  That would be acceptable.”

“And if your well was contaminated?”  he was asked in a follow-up,  “what would you do?”

“I’d take the company to court,”  he answered.

The Sautners explained to Breathing that at the time of   Robert Kennedy, Jr.’s visit to Dimock,  Cabot Oil was supplying the family with water in “buffalo tanks.”    After his visit and because it appeared to him that the “buffalo” water was contaminated,  the Sautners asked Cabot to provide them with clean well water.  For a while,  the company complied but has subsequently refused to continue the practice.  According to Mr. Sautner, if his family wants  Cabot to  replace the water  the company allegedly destroyed,  they’ll have to settle for the questionable  “buffalo”  brew.


*DISCLOSURE:  Liz Bucar was a member of   Citizens for a Clean Callicoon Creek which lobbied for closure of  Mr. Hughson’s  Landfill in 1988  because, in part,  the landfill was located in close proximity to the East Branch of the  Creek and  over an aquifer.

**Breathing was  informed recently by a confidential source that  Councilmember,  Harold Roeder — who is also Chair of the Upper Delaware Council — had admitted privately to having signed a gas lease.  In a follow-up phone call from Breathing, Mr. Roeder adamantly denied the allegation,  “That’s an absolute lie!” he said.  “I’ve never spoken with a gas person in my whole life.”


(I wrote  “International Workers’ Day; Immigration Reform; Gas Drilling Industrialization”  in May 2010.  The Great Recession of 2008  had been  wreaking havoc for  eighteen months.  Anti-frackers were  fighting  for a real moratorium in New York State and  The Robert Woods Johnson Foundation (RWJF) released its national,  county-by-county  rankings of  Health Factors and Outcomes (2010/11).   

  • Urban Bronx  and rural Sullivan Counties  were reported at the bottom and next-to-bottom  for “State  Health Outcomes” in New York State. 

In 2019,  those rankings from 2010/11 remain unchanged even though Sullivan’s  “quality of life”  ranking  fell from 50th to 60th place while Clinical Care and Physical Environment  each dropped 11 rungs.   In light of those  poor trends,  it’s odd that significant improvements occurred  in the County’s  Health Factors and Behaviors rankings;  especially when we consider that  wage workers continue to fill multiple  part-time jobs, work longer hours to pay the rent and  struggle to pay  off exorbitant college loans. 

Despite the 2010 passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and  increases in the minimum wage, workers  lucky enough to have health insurance can’t afford to use it.   All but the very wealthy pay ridiculous amounts for  diagnostic tests and medical treatments.  Those on the narrowest edges  are forced to  ration prescription meds and forego  doctor appointments.

Coincidentally,  CBS reports that, “Among American workers, participation in a union fell to 10.5 percent last year, from 10.7 percent in 2017 and 2016, with all demographic groups seeing a decline in membership. The drop continues a trend that except for a pause during the 2008 financial crisis, has been ongoing since the 1980s, when the share of organized labor was roughly double what it is today.”

To top it off,  against a backdrop of  increased machine labor, escalating climate disruptions and  water and food insecurity,  economists are warning of another impending, global recession.

One bright spot?   If forced by management, the United Auto Workers (UAW)  will strike Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler when their contract expires September 14th.  “Everything is on the table,” said Connie Maynard, a Ford worker and UAW 900 member.  “.We’ve got to stand up for our rights, we’ve got to fight for our pensions, health care — we have no choice. If we don’t fight, it’s gone. And we have to come together as people. It doesn’t matter about officials or anybody — if you’re a member, you need to come out here and show your support.” 

History:  CLU, International Workers’ Day,  The Haymarket  Riot,  Pullman Strike and Labor day


International Workers’ Day is always on May 1st and many of us consider it “The Real Labor Day.”

In 1886,  the American Federation of Labor (AFL)  called on workers to strike any business that refused to abide by an 8-hour  workday.   According to Howard Zinn’s  A People’s History of the United States, (1995, p. 264)  on May 1,  1886,

350,000 workers in 11,562 establishments all over the country went out on strike.  In Chicago, 40,000 struck and 45,000 were granted a shorter working day to prevent them from striking.  Every railroad in Chicago stopped running and most of the industries in Chicago were paralyzed.  The stockyards were closed down.”

In 1880,  The United States’ population was approximately 50 million and  Chicago’s  was 500,000. According to the 1880 Census Compendium Part II,  there were  2.8 million  men, women and children working in the nation’s 254,000  manufacturing  facilities.  Using  Zinn’s figures then,  approximately 13% of US workers  struck on  May 1, 1886.

Imagine,  in 2010,  13% of  the US’ 140 million “documented”  workers striking for  universal health care  and a living wage.    Imagine  18 million  workers thronging the  streets, hand-in-hand, advocating  for themselves, their children and the future of this nation.

In 1983,  my oldest son was born in the middle of an “economic downturn.”  A gallon of gas cost $1.25,  a Dodge Ram truck cost $5700 and the average monthly rent was  $335.  Cleaning toilets and pushing a lawnmower earned me $10 an hour.  (When I saved enough to buy my father’s old riding mower, I was able to ask $15 an hour for larger properties.)

In 2000, after the boom times of the 1990’s,  most  freelance “domestic workers”  could earn  $15-20 an hour.  Around that same time, our counterparts in New York City were  being paid  in the $25-30 range.

In July  2009 — the costs of most everything having doubled since 1983 —   the US  minimum wage was raised to  $7.25 per hour and most wage workers shook their heads when urged to celebrate.

This past May 1st,  I worked and was glad for it  though I know  Grandma and Grandpa were  rolling in their graves.  (May 1st was the date my family eschewed labor for history;  the day we  remembered  Samuel Gompers,  the AFL  and the perfidy of  police officers who helped  smother labor’s demands for living wages, humane working conditions and  equal pay regardless of  gender and race.)

On May 1, 2010,  I informed a prospective client  that “I’d have to charge $20 an hour to clean his house”  and cited  the round-trip  travel time, cost of products, gas,  fuel oil, rent, etc.

The weighty pause on the other end of the phone and the aghast rejoinder took me by surprise,  “We won’t pay that.  We don’t pay more than $15 an hour in the City.”

“That’s interesting,”  said I.  “A few years ago,  the going rate for housekeepers in the City was nearer $25-30 an hour.”

“Not anymore,”  came the smug-sounding reply.

There are times when my naivete is unforgivable.

I asked another  “City dweller” — a member of a  white collar union  and Fracking opponent —   what the going rate for domestic service  is in her neighborhood.  “Ten dollars an hour,”  she answered.  “But that’s because we have so many ‘illegals.'”

“‘Illegals?  You mean ‘undocumented workers?'”

She shrugged.

So for those of you who oppose gas drilling and own homes  in the City as well as in our rural Pennsylvania and New York communities, remember this simple action + action = results equation:

When you pay less than subsistence wages to  the “illegal human”  who has to buy groceries and pay rent  in Manhattan,  Brooklyn or Long Island,

YOU  DRIVE DOWN  the wages of the person struggling  beside you in Callicoon, Milanville and Honesdale and


When I raised this issue of wage depression with friends who live both rurally and in the City,  I was told their  ability to share the wealth is constrained  by their loss of retirement funds;  that their disposable income has been drastically reduced  by cutbacks in their businesses and occupations.

I understand.  My bank account plunged right beside theirs and Sullivan County’s  real unemployment figure is nearer 20% than the officially cited  10.9%

So, given that we’re all in  greatly reduced circumstances,  here’s my deal:  I’ll reduce my housekeeping charges by $5  to $15 an hour if you’ll promise to increase my counterpart’s  wage in the City to a  $15 cash rate.

If you can still afford to hire domestic help,  for your own sake,  pay them a living wage.  Otherwise, whose disposable income will  keep you in business?

I saved money during the 1983 downturn.  I paid the hospital and obstetrician  cash for their services.

The son born to me in 1983  was admitted to the New York State Bar last week.  If he was born today,  I doubt he’d ever see the inside of a law school.

Breathing is Political because our personal political, economic and social decisions influence the growth of a child in our neighbor’s womb.  A child’s life depends, in large part,  on the health of the mother and on  the parents’  ability to provide nutritious meals, books, ideas, a secure home and a realistic dream for the future.

For all workers, the breadth of that dream and its attainability  depend on you and me  caring about equitable treatment for all.  It does NOT depend on  us short-changing another worker just because we can.

As for union workers who de-value the work and lives  of others’,  as I write this,  America’s teacher unions are the latest  anti-union target.  Unfortunately,  if the rest of us are busy scrabbling for each other’s spare nickle,  we won’t have the leisure to  fight beside you.

On March 3, 2010,  The National Labor Relations Board’s  (NLRB)  Buffalo, NY office issued a press release stating  it was “…seeking a federal court order to force an egg processor, Deb-El Food Products, to rehire seven fired union supporters and begin contract negotiations with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union.”*

This is big news for Sullivan County, NY where few workers know what the “NLRB” is and even fewer have asked the independent federal agency to ensure a Collective Bargaining vote is conducted fairly and equitably in their workplace.

In 1935, the U.S. Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act (29 U.S.C. §§ 151-169) which established the National Labor Relations Board. (NLRB)   In deciding  its action  was necessary,  Congress said,  among many other things,    “The inequality of bargaining power between employees who do not possess full freedom of association or actual liberty of contract and employers who are organized in the corporate or other forms of ownership association substantially burdens and affects the flow of commerce, and tends to aggravate recurrent business depressions, by depressing wage rates and the purchasing power of wage earners in industry and by preventing the stabilization of competitive wage rates and working conditions within and between industries.” (Italics added for emphasis.)

In sum, the National Labor Relations Board was established to serve two primary functions:

  • to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices, whether committed by labor organizations or employers, and;
  • to establish whether or not certain groups of employees desire labor organization representation for collective-bargaining purposes, and if so, which union.

In the current  Deb-El case,  the  NLRB investigated the company’s actions and found   it had  illegally interfered with its employees’  right to debate and establish a Collective Bargaining Unit.

More, Deb-El employees have alleged  the company, in its efforts to block a union vote, committed violent and inhumane  acts such as:

  • beating  an employee with a tire iron;
  • forcing an employee  to eat broken egg material off the floor; and
  • denying   employees  access to bathroom facilities

On Monday, March 22, 2010,   several Hudson Valley advocacy groups held a press conference at the Sullivan County Government Center in   support of  employees at Deb-El who risked much to join  UFCW Local 342.

Milan Bhatt, Executive Director of The Workers Rights Law Center, which advocates for low wage workers and is based in Kingston,  NY,  welcomed the press and public and stated,  “…the Center stood in strong support of  the right of Deb-El workers to bargain collectively.”

The Rural and Migrant Ministry,  which  has a broad and inclusive mission of  service to rural families, youth and workers, was represented by  Ruth Faircloth who said,  “One million people of faith feel that our men and women in food production have the right to be treated decently.  Our Ministry is deeply disturbed by testimony and reports… that Deb-El  punished its  workers for attempting to organize.  We support the NLRB in its efforts to right these wrongs.  Workers cannot organize in an atmosphere of violence.”

Eric Monroe of the Sullivan County Human Rights Commission and the NAACP reaffirmed  “the right of any worker to earn a decent wage”  as did Eileen Weil,  another member of the Commission who spoke on behalf of Sullivan Peace & Justice.

An NLRB Hearing convened right after the press conference  to consider,  according to the gathered organizations,  “…reinstatement of  [terminated]  workers,  awards of back pay and  a bargaining order requiring Deb-El to recognize UFCW Local 342 as the representative of workers.  On December 30th 2009, the Regional Director for the NLRB’s Region 3 Office in Buffalo ruled in favor of the workers and issued an extensive complaint outlining Deb El Foods’ misconduct.”

Despite NLRB having already ruled in favor of the workers,  this current hearing and subsequent appeals by Deb-El could extend for months.**

Workers who have questions concerning workplace practices,  rights to organize and other issues that impact the heart of families and their communities, are encouraged to contact any of the organizations linked in this article.


* In explaining its action,  The NLRB stated, “The petition filed today in federal district court argues that action is urgently needed.  ‘Unless injunctive relief is immediately obtained, it is anticipated that Respondent will continue its unlawful conduct…with the result that employees will continue to be deprived of their fundamental right to organize for purposes of collective bargaining.’  A majority of the Thompsonville facility’s workers signed cards in mid-May seeking a union election. In the weeks before the late June election date, according to the petition, the employer’s agents allegedly engaged in a sustained effort to discourage union support, threatening employees with dismissal and loss of benefits, telling them a union vote would be futile, and asking employees to sign an anti-union petition. One employee was allegedly asked to take a cell phone picture of his ballot. Seven union supporters were fired. In the end, 18 employees cast ballots for the union and 21 voted against it. In response to charges filed by the union ((3-CA-27215) and after a thorough investigation, the region found that the alleged pre-election misconduct made a legitimate vote impossible, even if rerun. Accordingly, the Region is asking that the injunctive relief require that the Respondent bargain with the Union. The petition for injunctive relief was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.”

** As a nurse-paralegal who has worked on employment  discrimination and retaliation complaints filed in The  Southern District of New York, I have also represented the Plaintiffs  (workers) in their attendant disability and unemployment claims.  One thing is always true in such cases:  time is on the side of the employer.  Companies  have the resources to sustain months and even years of hearings, decisions, appeals and trials.  Without community supports,  the same can never be said for  employees — even after, as in the Deb-El case,   hearings have resulted in findings favorable to those workers.


Sullivan County’s unemployment rate rose to 10.3% in January 2010. Some workforce development  estimates have placed that  figure  nearer to  20% when it includes  unemployed and under-employed workers no longer eligible for unemployment benefits.   The overall rate in NY State is 9.4%.  Of  New York’s 62 counties, Sullivan’s unemployment rate is ranked amongst  the highest  at 43. Bronx County is ranked at the bottom  with a rate of  14.1%.

Historically, as too many unemployed workers compete for too few jobs,  wages have been driven downward and  working conditions have worsened. As wages have fallen,  so has the ability of workers to support local economies.  As Congress opined in establishing the National Labor Relations Act and Board,  collective bargaining is essential to ensuring against  ensuing economic depressions  — like our current one.

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

(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.)

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

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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.

According to this announcement  received via email,   “The Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York invites you to attend the following public information sessions beginning Thursday, September 3, 2009 to present facts and updates regarding natural gas exploration in your region. Other dates and locations: 9-8-09: Bernie’s Restaurant, Rock Hill.   9-10-09. SUNY Oneonta, Hunt Union.   10-1-09. Morrisville State College Theatre. Morrisville, NY.”  (Please visit the CottageWorks Community Calendar for event details.)

Interestingly, these meetings are being billed as informational sessions.  At an alternative website for The Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York,  the Association makes clear their intent in organizing these events,  “Thank you for visiting – your source for information about the benefits of natural gas exploration of the Marcellus Shale…”

These events are being organized in New York State on the heels of Governor Paterson’s announcement that exploitation of the natural gas-rich Marcellus Shale in New York State is part of his energy plan.  Yesterday’s Times Herald Record published a story entitled, “Gas Companies Prepare to Drill in Sullivan.”

Steve Israel’s article tells us who The Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York  is, what they have planned for New York State, and more particularly, Sullivan County.  “After delaying drilling of the gas-rich shale beneath Sullivan for much of the year, the industry is ready to resume leasing land once the state’s new environmental standards are released, perhaps as early as next month. Drilling of the Marcellus shale could start in the spring.”

“We’ll do it and we’re looking to do it, once the regulatory hurdles are cleared. Then the permits will flow,” said Brad Gill, executive director of the Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York.”

Recently, 2,000 pro-drilling advocates rallied in New York with the mantra of “Drill, baby, drill.”

I will be attending the  9-8-09 “session” at Bernie’s Restaurant in Rock Hill, NY  and hope to see you there, too.