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Taghkanic, NY
Hudson Valley troublemaker.
Interests: media, the environment, civic affairs, small-town life, culture and government.
Recent Activity
There are plenty of reasons for residents of Hudson to feel disempowered. Some get disempowered by their elected officials, who display few qualms about ignoring both common sense and the voices of hundreds or even thousands of residents. Recent (non-) debates on the Community Garden, a proposed Dog Park, and the long-running Waterfront controversy are good examples of how insider conversations within the City Hall echo chamber trump popular sentiment. Others disempower themselves, for example by failing to cultivate strong candidates, and allowing beatable incumbents to run unopposed… Or, by mounting half-baked or incompetent election campaigns. The first group of disempowered people feels slighted. The second group slights itself, along with (mostly-) well-intentioned supporters. It’s in this context that both groups of disempowered Hudsonians have latched onto the abstruse issue of Hudson’s weighted vote as a means of reforming City politics. Hudson is said to be one of the last... Continue reading
Posted 10 hours ago at
Taghkanic (NY). Continue reading
Posted 13 hours ago at
In an email circulated to his Board colleagues last week, Ancram Supervisor Art Bassin called for the resignation of David Crawford, President of the Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC). Crawford’s engineering and planning firm, Crawford & Associates, is handling permitting and engineering work for Ginsberg’s Foods’ proposal for a 300,000-square-foot facility in Ghent and Claverack, which has received substantial financial and marketing support from CEDC. David Crawford David Ginsberg preceded Crawford as President of CEDC, remaining on its Board (according to its minutes) until October 2013, well after the agency had decided to apply for $1.5 million in funding for the Ginsberg project. Ginsberg’s Food also has had a $400,000, 1%-interest loan from CEDC; the loans term overlapped the tenures of both Ginsberg and Crawford. Finally, CEDC has come under fire for voting to give 33 acres of land to Ginsberg’s for just $1. Bassin’s email calling for Crawford’s resignation... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at
Ed, do you dislike the poll, or the result of the poll? Its size is not unreasonable—the independent Siena poll sample was not much larger. Given that there has been only one other known poll of this race, and that it confirmed with Gibson’s result, it seems newsworthy. One assumes that Ekdridge, with his vast resources, has also polled the district. That he hasn't released the results might imply that they did not improve on Siena’s numbers.
1 reply
Hank Gross is reporting that a poll commissioned by Chris Gibson’s campaign has the incumbent Congressman leading challenger Sean Eldridge 56%-30%, leaving 14% undecided. Generally, polls conducted on behalf of candidates tend to be less objective than independent surveys. The result is, however, in line with a September poll by Siena College, which pegged Gibson’s lead at 24%. If accurate, this would mean that some six weeks of heavy advertising has not measurably moved the needle for either candidate. Voters who are still undecided this late in a campaign are more likely to either stay home or lean toward the challenger, since they still haven't been convinced to support the better-known incumbent. But even if Eldridge picks up most of the undecideds, that would leave him some 15-20 points behind. Gross’s report can be read at Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at
“Developers and other businesses generally say that they want predictability in the regulatory environment so they know what to do, and that time is money so project delays are one of the worst things for them. In the real estate world, using a strategic approach that can get a project to approvals and construction more quickly would seem to be a big advantage. “Why is it so rare that a developer studies what might work from a community’s perspective and tries to come in with a project proposal that is likely to have more support? If I were in this business, I would try to do my research, perhaps have several ideas in mind, perhaps present one or two concepts, and listen to what the community thinks to shape something that could move to approvals more quickly.” —Simon Gruber, environmental planner Continue reading
Posted Oct 8, 2014 at
A shakeup is reportedly brewing which may alter the leadership of some or all of Columbia County’s various development agencies. In 2010, when David Ginsberg was still President of the Columbia County Development Corporation (CEDC), Kenneth J. Flood was hired to wear three hats: Executive Director of CEDC, Executive Director of the Columbia County Industrial Development Agency (IDA), and Commissioner of the County’s Planning and Economic Development. Four years later, multiple sources now claim that Flood is likely to lose at least two of those titles. Several versions of this leadership upheaveal predict that Flood will be out entirely. According to another, Flood will retain his Commissioner’s position, but the overlapping roles of CEDC and IDA director will be handed to someone new—new, at least, for Columbia County. Sandy Mathes (SOURCE: The reported frontrunner for the position is former Greene County IDA chief Alexander (“Sandy”) Mathes, who also in... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2014 at
Food company has the largest of 50 agency loans—and pays the lowest interest rate The picture of the extraordinary package of public assistance which Ginsberg’s Foods has garnered over the years keeps getting larger. In addition to more than $2 million in new government incentives to expand, and a previous PILOT tax deal about to expire, the company is now in the final year of a $400,000 loan from Columbia Economic Development Corporation. According to a CEDC loan table obtained by this site, that amount is the largest of 50 current loans to area businesses by the agency. Ginsberg’s 1% interest rate also stands out as the lowest paid by any of the 50 current loanees listed on the chart, dated 30 September 2014. By contrast, more than half of the other loan recipients are paying between 7% and 8.5% interest. Only 5 of the 50 recipients pay less than... Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2014 at
According to an article last March in The Albany Business Review, Ginsberg’s Foods Inc. had $142,000,000 in “Capital Region revenue in 2013.” (The article does not indicate if the company had additional revenue from other areas.) As a point of comparison, the Saratoga Casino and Raceway had revenue that year of $185 million. This begs the obvious question: Why does a business with that much cash pouring in need to get free land and tax breaks from Columbia County, plus $1.5 million in additional grants and tax incentives from the State? Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2014 at
Stark contradiction in Flood and Crawford statements The CEDC Board prepares to meet. Five chairs were provided for the audience in the room; the overflow of another 8-10 people had to try to listen from the nextdoor anteroom. Recently-circulated minutes of the Columbia Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) inadvertantly expose the agency’s growing perception problem regarding conflicts-of-interest among its members and staff. Scrutiny has focused on CEDC Board President David Crawford’s dual role as the principal of Crawford & Associates Engineering (which is the engineering firm for the Ginsberg’s Foods expansion project along the border of Ghent and Claverack), as well as former Board President David Ginsberg’s influence. Approved at yesterday’s Board meeting, the minutes for its previous August 26th gathering quote Executive Director Kenneth J. Flood on the topic of Crawford’s participation on the Ginsberg $1.5 million grant and $1 land deal: “Mr. Flood stated to the best of his... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2014 at
... from the West Ghent Fire House. Continue reading
Posted Sep 27, 2014 at
Mendolia photo on A statement by Hudson City Democratic Committee chair Victor Mendolia in today’s Register-Star, on the topic of Rick Scalera and political signage, is demonstrably untrue. The City has a longstanding but patently unenforceable local ordinance on the books. That local law unconstitutionally attempts to limit the number of days before an election that political signs can be displayed. But courts have repeatedly struck down such laws (typically, on the basis that political and commercial speech cannot be treated differently). Nevertheless, in the 2005 local election then-Police Commissioner Carmine Pierro—with the backing of then-Mayor Rick Scalera—attempted to have signs removed for certain candidates the pair did not support. A June 24th, 2005 article in The Register-Star reported that Some Democrats are jumping the gun on this year's political season, Mayor Richard Scalera told the Common Council Tuesday. Signs have been popping up around town endorsing Richard Tracy... Continue reading
Posted Sep 24, 2014 at
One group of people that Ginsberg’s Food Vice President John Brusie was not able to photograph during Wednesday’s IDA public hearing: The County IDA board itself. Out of six members, only one (James Mackerer) bothered to show up for their own meeting, ostensibly held to hear the views of the public. Chair Bruce Bohnsack, vice chair Sid Richter, Secretary-Treasuer Don Kline, plus Board members Robert Galluscio and Robert Stickles were all missing. Instead, the Board was represented by attorney Ted Guterman (who ran the meeting) and IDA Executive Director Ken Flood, who was almost entirely silent... But who spent much of the hearing making long faces and rolling his eyes along with Mr. Brusie, who was seated across from him in the front row. After this glaring absence was pointed out, Guterman tried to reassure the audience that the missing board members would be provided transcripts. This did not seem... Continue reading
Posted Sep 18, 2014 at
Ginsberg’s VP John Brusie appears third from right, alongside his mother Nancy Fuller Ginsberg and David Ginsberg, at center. Ginsberg’s Foods Vice President of Operations John Brusie was observed snapping photographs of residents speaking in opposition to the company’s Payment in Lieu of Tax (PILOT) application to the Columbia County IDA. Ghent resident Jefferson Snider was the first to mention out loud what many others in the audience had noticed during the Wednesday public hearing: That Brusie, the son of Ginsberg’s co-owner Nancy Fuller Ginsberg, was using a gold-cased cameraphone to take pictures of various speakers. Toward the end of the hearing, Snider specifically questioned why this was being done, after which Brusie appeared to stop taking the photos. (After that point, however, pretty much all the remaining commenters had already spoken earlier as well, and thus had already had their pictures taken.) Brusie did not explain the purpose of... Continue reading
Posted Sep 18, 2014 at
Patti Matheney of GhentCANN dropped a bombshell at this morning's public hearing about the Ginsberg Payment in Lieu of Tax (PILOT) plan. County officials have repeatedly left the impression that the 33 acres being sold to Ginsberg's Foods for $- was “inherited” by the county. As a result, press reports (such as an editorial questioning the deal in the Register-Star) dutifully repeated this language, giving the sense that there hadn't been much if any cost associated with the land acquisition. But public records obtained by Matheney, Christine Jones and close neighbors of the proposed facility tell a very different story. In fact, the County’s development arm paid $109,950 in 1997 to acquire the acreage from the Ribley estate. Confronted with this evidence, as well as the presence of a surviving Ribley family member, County economic czar Ken Flood claimed that he had always known that the Columbia Economic Development Corporation... Continue reading
Posted Sep 17, 2014 at
Apparent conflicts of interest raise eyebrows even among supporters The maneuvers and machinations behind the Ginsberg’s Foods deal—resulting in some $2 million in public fundings and tax credits—strike many local observers as irregular at best. Ginsberg family members and employees have touted the company’s longevity, local roots and continued “investment in the community” as reasons for the company to benefit from substantial County largesse and indulgence from town permitting agencies. To a large extent, both have rolled over and given Ginsberg’s everything they’ve asked for, from public handouts to multiple zoning variances. But while development officials have voiced a shining appreciation for the employment provided by Ginsberg’s, such testimonials seem tarnished by a growing sense that inside government influence has been used to achieve a private company’s expansion goals. Below is an inventory of some of the more dubious ways in which this deal has been advanced. Taken together, these... Continue reading
Posted Sep 16, 2014 at
A Siena College-Time Warner Cable poll of the NY-19 Congressional race shows incumbent Republican Chris Gibson with an “early” 24-point lead over Democratic challenger Sean Eldridge. Gibson leads 57%-33% district-wide, with 10% undecided. Of those already decided, only 10% indicated a likelihood they might change their mind. The poll’s results for Columbia County are lumped in with those for Greene, Montgomery, Schoarie and Rensselaer counties. In those five counties, Gibson’s lead is even larger, 64%-23%. Full “crosstabs” for the poll are online at this link. Continue reading
Posted Sep 13, 2014 at
Less than 10% of Democrats, both statewide and in Columbia County, participated in today’s gubernatorial primary (in which Governor Andrew Cuomo defeated challenger Zephyr Teachout by a roughly 2-1 margin). As such, tonight’s primary results tells us little about the views of Democratic voters. But it does demonstrate that Democratic officials and party operatives, whether progressive or centrist, are not able to motivate its rank-and-file members to vote. Continue reading
Posted Sep 9, 2014 at
Today is primary day, so of course the Columbia County Board of Elections’ database went down this morning... Should make for a fun afternoon. Polls are open from noon to 9 pm. If you have voting questions, call the Board at 828-3115. Continue reading
Posted Sep 9, 2014 at
Border of Livingston, Claverack and Taghkanic (NY). Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2014 at
Benson’s profile picture at his company's website, Columbia County Board of Supervisor chair Patrick Grattan has moved oversight of the Board’s Airport Committee into the hands of a former committee member who played hooky from over 70% of its meetings. Via email, Grattan announced that he was moving the same committee from which New Lebanon Supervisor Michael Benson resigned in a huff—after rarely showing up, and not getting his way—into Benson’s portfolio: TO: Airport Committee & Public Works Committee It has been brought to my attentions [sic] that there is a question regarding the status of the Airport Committee. First, let me thank all the members for their hard work on this issue. I know that this issue was very complicated and, at times, contentious. I respect your patience and understanding during the process. The County has several subcommittees: Negotiations, Salary Study, Pine Haven, Central Business Office, Labor Management... Continue reading
Posted Aug 6, 2014 at
This site will leave it to others to continue debating the Union Street Guest House’s $500 fine policy (with an intensity more usually reserved to debating Israel vs. Palestine). Was it a “joke,” a scare tactic, or a scam? We may never know, and probably shouldn’t care. Far more interesting to this observer is the question: Why did this particular story go “viral”? So far, the story has been covered in at least 200 online and print publications, many of them with a global reach, such as CNN. Reportedly, the inn has been beseiged with requests to appear on national morning programs, as well as p.r. reps pitching their crisis management services to its staff—as if the USGH were Union Carbide. The story likewise sparked an intense backlash against the Guest House, with over 1,000 fake negative reviews posted in the first twelve hours on Yelp. (Many of these have... Continue reading
Posted Aug 5, 2014 at
NOTE: A follow-up on why this story went viral has been posted at this link. A Hudson lodging establishment has been slammed with a tidal wave of bad publicity after The New York Post’s Page Six described a policy of fining wedding parties $500 per negative reviews on Yelp. The Post’s story about the Union Street Guest House was quickly and gleefully picked up by Fox & Friends, TIME online, Business Insider, and others, leading to a raft of negative feedback on Yelp and Twitter. (This begs the question: Is all press really good press?) The USGH’s longtime owner, former 3rd Ward Alderman Chris Wagoner, responded around noon to the outrage, noting that the proposed fine was for weddings only, had never been levied, and in any case was “tongue in cheek”: The policy regarding wedding fines was put on our site as a tongue-in-cheek response to a wedding many... Continue reading
Posted Aug 4, 2014 at
Bon Appétit magazine has a 10-page feature on Hudson eats and drinks in the current (August 2014) issue, with a ten-point sidebar of recommendations from Yours Truly. The issue is available at ShopRite near the checkout, and probably elsewhere. Continue reading
Posted Jul 31, 2014 at
Sustained rain over the past fortnight has caused an explosion of mushroom growth in the area. A half-hour walk on Thursday in the Taghkanic woods (sticking only to trails, and not specifically searching for anything) revealed at least 13 varieties of toadstools, some of them very poisonous. A few friends have helped with possible identifications, but if any readers are expert micologists, please don’t hesitate to share your theories. Continue reading
Posted Jul 18, 2014 at