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Hudson
Taghkanic, NY
Hudson Valley troublemaker.
Interests: media, the environment, civic affairs, small-town life, culture and government.
Recent Activity
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According to Columbia County Democratic Committee members in attendance, attorney Heidi Cochrane of Hillsdale was endorsed over Brian Herman of Copake to be the party’s 2022 nominee for State Supreme Court justice, by a weighted vote of nearly 2-to-1. A third candidate, Mark Portin of Ghent, dropped out just before the vote, but not before giving a speech to complain about what he apparently considered an overly-elaborate selection process. (Portin’s close friend Cheryl Roberts similarly sought a judicial nomination several years ago, also without success.) Attorney Heidi Cochrane Election to the State Supreme Court for the 3rd Judicial District bestows a 14-year term upon the victor. New York has a whopping 324 justices serving in 14 districts. Despite the name, it is not the State’s highest court; that would be the Court of Appeals. Cochrane’s party nomination still has to go before the larger Democratic convention for the district, which... Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2022 at SamPratt.com
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Take a moment to ponder this astonishing statistic: Columbia County’s population has not even doubled since 1800. 221 years ago, there were 35,000 people here. Today, there are about 63,000. This one statistic explains 95% of why our area is now viewed as so “desirable.” Sure, we have a National Heritage River, great scenery, ruggedly beautiful terrain, plenty of agriculture, and lots of historic buildings. But it would be hard to notice any of those things if local population had kept pace with the rest of the nation. We would have hundreds of thousands, or even millions of residents (proportionally speaking). It would take an hour to drive from Hudson to Hillsdale. How long can that last? There is a population glacier to our south, and it is creeping northward. Has been for decades. Events like 9/11 and COVID cause The Glacier to leap ahead, then settle down and resume... Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2021 at SamPratt.com
The example of a Republican inspector actually directing voters to the bar illuminates the problem. It is at minimum a terrible look. Much like conflicts of interest, public officials should avoid not just electioneering, but the appearance of electioneering.
Toggle Commented Nov 4, 2021 on Election Roundup for 2021 at SamPratt.com
1 reply
As a poll watcher at that location, I think it was a very unwise choice. First of all, the space was almost entirely wasted—most of the room went unused. It could have been 1/3rd the size and been fine.(Indeed, the sole polling place for my town is at most 1/3rd the size.) In any case, this lengthy explanation forgets to address the real concern: An active bar in the same building, let alone one known to Ghent residents as the clubhouse of one of the two major political parties. It was a very bad look if not actually illegal.
Toggle Commented Nov 4, 2021 on Election Roundup for 2021 at SamPratt.com
1 reply
Local Turnout Plummets In the 2020 Presidential election, a whopping 35,000 people came out to vote in Columbia County, with Biden winning handily. Data circulated this evening by the Board of Elections indicates that only about 20,000 voted this time around—meaning that 43% of those 2020 voters didn’t show up this time. Voting is generally lower in local cycles compared with Presidential contests, but the precipitous drop suggests that there are many voters who only care about national politics. That’s something for both parties to work on, since in many ways local races affect our day-to-day lives far more substantially. The full 2021 Columbia County unofficial results spreadsheet can be found here. These await the counting of absentee ballots, followed by official certification, and thus will change somewhat over time. No Headway for Dems on Board of Supervisors Despite a lot of big talk in the past month of a... Continue reading
Posted Nov 3, 2021 at SamPratt.com
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CORRECTED TO INCLUDE EARLY VOTING NUMBERS According to data from the Columbia County Board of Elections, turnout seems somewhat light as of 4:30 pm on Election Day. Total turnout is a little over 11,600. Normally, one would expect a flood of voters once people get out of work—and no doubt the total will still increase substantially, though probably less than back in the day before early voting. In the table below, this site has aggregated voters in traditionally right-leaning parties, left-leaning parties, and unaffiliated or independent parties. The tallies do not include absentee voters and their affiliations, but those tend to skew leftward. Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2021 at SamPratt.com
Heather Bellow has a long feature in Friday’s Berkshire Eagle about residents pushing back against the spread of anti-vaccine disinformation in Columbia and Berkshire Counties, especially as it relates to COVID. The article includes extensive quotes from Chatham’s Michael Richardson, publisher of a local newsletter called Vaxx Facts; Columbia County Community Health Action co-founder Michael Seserman, who now works at the American Cancer Society; as well as this site’s writing on the topic. The article also quotes some academic sources, and several vaccine skeptics. Continue reading
Posted Oct 29, 2021 at SamPratt.com
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Krapf vs. Bartlett described as ‘a Republican primary’ Democratic nominee for Columbia County Sheriff Don Krapf voted for Donald Trump in both 2016 and 2020, according to three sources who had face-to-face conversations with him earlier this year. According to one source, Krapf not only admitted voting twice for The Other Donald, but added that he couldn’t support Hillary Clinton in 2016 “because it would have been like voting for the Devil.” “I wondered about his Trump leanings when I saw his orange campaign signs,” quipped one prominent Democrat who is supporting incumbent Republican David Bartlett for Sheriff, despite the County Democrats’ endorsement of Krapf. Though Krapf’s campaign slogan is Transparency Creates Trust,* the candidate has refused to confirm or deny his alleged support for Trump, even when asked directly multiple times. Krapf also declined to participate in a telephone interview, asking that questions be submitted instead via Facebook messenger—then... Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2021 at SamPratt.com
A recent report in The Atlantic explored anti-vaccine sentiment which is simmering in Berkshire and Columbia Counties—not among Trumpers and Qanon theorists, but among left-leaning residents. Among those interviewed by Eoin Higgins (an investigative reporter who grew up in the Berkshires) was the editor/publisher of the community website IMBY.com, Enid Futterman. Astonishingly, Futterman tells Higgins that “she finds the idea that COVID is caused by 5G cellphone towers more believable than person-to-person transmission.” The IMBY honcho continues: I’ve read both sides, and that’s what makes sense. Higgins further reports that Futterman “didn’t see ‘any disconnect between’ her support for progressive values and her embrace of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories.” A quick Google search turns up related comments by Futterman as well as former Columbia County Election Commissioner Virginia Martin, posted on an obscure news site called Who What Why. The pair’s comments were attached to a June 2021 article entitled “Alternative... Continue reading
Posted Sep 30, 2021 at SamPratt.com
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My great grandfather, Dr. Burrill Crohn, for whom the disease was named, was born in June 1884, and lived until July 1983. So unlike most children of my generation, I got to know a great-grandparent. Today, thanks to modern medicine, getting to know a great-grandparent is a lot less rare. “Baba,” as we called him, was considered a medical pioneer in two main respects: First, because he distinguished (what was eventually called) Crohn’s Disease from a host of other gastrointestinal ailments. Crohn’s was not just distinct, but required its own study and treatment. Unfortunately, there is still no cure. Secondly, he also was known for taking the mental state of a patient into account, far more than was usual for the time. He had observed that anxiety, stress and other agitations of the mind had a strong relation to people’s ability to cope with or overcome illness. We now take... Continue reading
Posted Sep 18, 2021 at SamPratt.com
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The real reason why Trump makes people so furious? It’s not that his cruel, exploitative, ignorant and belligerent policies are so very different from those of the other Presidents of our lifetimes. It’s that his crass, moronic and selfish personality has forced a previously-complacent majority of citizens to finally glimpse the longstanding nature of American government and society. The mask is both literally and figuratively off. It’s important to that complacent majority to see Trump as an aberration, rather than someone who has finally put an appropriately hideous face on our country’s ugly politics. Now: If we would just elect a grandfatherly figure like Biden to whisk the Orange Man off the stage, then centrist Democrats and Republicans alike can go back to ignoring the deep, institutionalized violence and rapaciousness of our society. Nevermind that we’ll be going back to the same conditions which, under Clinton and Bush and Obama,... Continue reading
Posted Aug 14, 2020 at SamPratt.com
JOINT NEWS RELEASE FROM THE V.A. & OUR HUDSON WATERFRONT The Hudson Planning Board voted last week to classify the proposed A. Colarusso & Son, Inc. project at the City’s waterfront as the type of action which requires the most stringent level of scrutiny The Hudson Planning Board voted 5-0... Continue reading
Posted Aug 3, 2020 at The Valley Alliance
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Peter Jung and Sam Pratt of The Valley Alliance gave a presentation last night on the past and future of the Hudson Waterfront. The slides of the presentation can be viewed by clicking here. [large file, be patient!] Pratt reviewed more than 40 years of citizen and official efforts to protect the Waterfront against threats such as an oil refinery, a toxic waste dump and a massive cement conveyor and barge operation. These struggles, combined with City efforts (such as developing its Waterfront park, the Vision Plan, the Comprehensive Plan, et al.) have secured the opportunity for a healthier outcome which benefit a wide spectrum of Hudson residents. Peter Jung focused on the promise the Waterfront still holds: the opportunity to deliver economic, social, cultural, recreational and conservation benefits to the whole Hudson community. The Valley Alliance agrees with the findings of New York’s Secretary of State in 2005 that... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2020 at SamPratt.com
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By a weighted vote of 56%-42%, attorney Ken Dow secured the Columbia County Democratic Committee’s blessing tonight to serve as the party’s Elections Commissioner for the next two-year term. After a reportedly contentious debate, Dow was selected by secret ballot over CCDC vice chair Erin Stamper. Dow was understood to be principally backed by the Kinderhook, Claverack, Ghent and Hillsdake Democrats, while Stamper drew votes primarily from Hudson, Germantown, Stuyvesant and Austerlitz. Two other candidates came forward but garnered marginal support. The recommendation of Dow now has to be approved by the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, which previously rejected the CDC’s renomination of incumbent Commissioner Virginia Martin. (The BOS has just recently made the Commissioner positions full-time, with nearly double the previous salary.) Normally, the two major parties allow each other to select their elections reps unimpeded. But Martin had prior bad blood with the Republican majority— and also... Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2020 at SamPratt.com
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Nastke also may be out as GOP Elections Commissioner if job becomes full-time Republicans on the Columbia County Board of Supervisors joined with frustrated Democrats to vote down the reappointment of Virginia Martin, who had been narrowly recommended by the County Democratic Committee to serve another 2-year term as the party’s Elections Commissioner. A motion was made from the floor by Hudson’s Sarah Sterling, seconded by Rick Scalera, to accept the CCDC’s recommendation. The motion was voted down, with 20 Supervisors voting no—including Sterling and Scalera—and three (Ancram’s Art Bassin, Chatham’s Maria Lull and Hillsdale’s Peter Cipkowski) voting for Martin. According to a source close to many Supervisors, Martin was given the option to resign rather than have this vote occur, but did not take it. Martin Meanwhile, Republican Commissioner Jason Nastke is said to be uninterested in returning to the Board of Elections if Supervisors intend to make the... Continue reading
Posted Dec 11, 2019 at SamPratt.com
An hour after blowing his top for the third consecutive Hudson Planning Board meeting, chair Walter Chatham submitter a letter of resignation via email to sitting Mayor Rick Rector and incoming Mayor Kamal Johnson. A copy of the email obtained by this site reads: Dear Planning Board and Mayor Elect- In anticipation of a new Administration and a fresh point of view, I have submitted my resignation from the Planning Board to Mayor Rector. Thank you all for your help and collaboration; I wish those of you staying on the Board great success in your future dealings on behalf of the City. I look forward to staying in touch with you all and hope to be before you with my own planning proposals in the future. All The Best, Walter Walter Chatham wchatham@cityofhudson.org During Tuesday night’s public hearing on the Colarusso application for the Waterfront, Hudson resident Chris McManus spoke... Continue reading
Posted Dec 11, 2019 at SamPratt.com
As of noon yesterday—a full month after Election Day—the Columbia County Board of Elections still was showing incomplete and outdated results of the November 5th election. A nudge from this site appears to have changed that. Since the mess of Election Day and the ensuing weeks of confusion, the Board had recanvassed and counted many additional results, along with those gathered from early tallies. But strangely, the BOE had not added these to tallies to publicly-released numbers. As of midday on December 3rd, its site had not been updated since November 21st. Those incomplete. results showed several candidates losing, who had since been known to have won. Considering the many mistakes, omissions, and errors which have plagued the Board this cycle, it seemed all the more odd that it would not have rushed to correct these numbers. This site messaged the two Election Commissioners, Democrat Virginia Martin and Republican Jason... Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2019 at SamPratt.com
More observations and additional background on the previous post about the County Dems’ wasted $23,500 in funding of losing candidates : : : : : : UPDATE #1: It’s worth also noting that two candidates who received some of the County Dems’ largest expenditures actually may have harmed other Democratic candidates. Few expected Gene Keeler to win the District Attorney’s race—and indeed, he lost by a wide margin, despite the CCDC’s $12,500 contribution to his campaign. As such, the main impact of Keeler’s futile candidacy was to activate the Czajka campaign and the Republican County committee. Mass-mailers and other get-out-the-vote efforts for Czajka almost certainly caused some Republicans countywide to turn out who otherwise would not have done so. These voters almost certainly then continued voting on Row B for GOP candidates further down the ballot. In close races in places like Copake and Ghent, where every vote counted, this... Continue reading
Posted Dec 3, 2019 at SamPratt.com
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Meanwhile, competitive candidates were largely shunned Almost all of the money spent by the Columbia County Democratic Committee in the 2019 election cycle went to races which the party’s favorite candidates lost by huge margins. Meanwhile, Democrats who ran in close races either struggled to secure funding from the County committee, or were ignored; or ran their own campaigns—steering clear of the hapless CCDC. By this site’s count, based on Campaign Finance Disclosure reports, the County Dems blew some $23,500 on landslide losses, while donating as little as $500 to winning ones. 2018 records show that the Party’s largest direct expenditures on candidates and committees were: $12,500 to the District Attorney’s race, which Gene Keeler lost yet again, by 14%; $5,000 to the Chatham Democratic committee to back a Republican, Maria Lull, who lost for Supervisor by 19%; and $5,000 to the Committee to Elect Peter Bujanow, who lost for... Continue reading
Posted Dec 2, 2019 at SamPratt.com
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With pressure coming from multiple fronts, Republican Elections Commissioner Jason Nastke finally gave up stonewalling the Ghent vote count on Tuesday afternoon. When the 44 remaining absentee and affidavit ballots were counted, Democrats Koethi Zan and Patti Matheney picked up 36 votes, with their Republican opponents Craig Simmons and Pete Nelson picking up seven. The 29 vote gain means both Matheny and Zan win the Ghent town board seats, giving the Democrats in majority on the Gheby board for the first time that anyone can remember. Matheney and Zan hired their own attorneys with help of grassroots supporters, to protect against the disenfranchisement efforts from the Republicans. The Columbia County Democratic Committee declined to contribute any funding to their legal cause. The final tally, after the Democrats picked up 36 votes and the Republicans picked up seven, was: Patti 995 + 36 = 1,031 Koethi 968 + 36 = 1,004... Continue reading
Posted Nov 26, 2019 at SamPratt.com
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After lodging over 110 challenges last Friday to absentee voters in Ghent and Copake—including many dual residence voters, and even a 90-year-old woman in a nursing home—the Republicans apparently missed their deadline yesterday to take those challenges to court. The Democrats filed a token number of challenges of their own, which they likewise dropped. Nobody home The Board of Elections Commissioners are supposed to have such ballots opened and counted as soon as the three calendar-day deadline expires, just like any other votes, according §9-209 2.(d) of the New York State Election law. But per a report from the Ghent Democratic candidates on Facebook, no Republican staff is present at the County Board of Elections to finish the count. Republican Commissioner Jason Nastke is missing in action—believed to be handling real estate closings elsewhere instead. Matheney posted the photo at right showing empty GOP desks in the Board’s offices. In... Continue reading
Posted Nov 26, 2019 at SamPratt.com
According to attendees, the Columbia County Democratic Committee required two votes last night to determine who it would recommend to the Board of Supervisors to be the party’s next Elections Commissioner No discussion among Committee members of the four candidates was possible after each made their presentations—because the vote was last on the agenda, and party leadership had failed to secure the basement meeting room in Valatie past 9:30 pm. Reportedly, candidates Erin Stamper and Virginia Martin received all but one or two of the votes on the first secret ballot, with neither breaking 50% of the weighted total. A mystery candidate from Clermont or Copake received the remaining support. Chatham Republican Maria Lull, who threw her hat into the ring, got 0 votes. On the second ballot, it appears a few people moved their support to Martin, giving her just enough over 50% to become the recommended candidate. It... Continue reading
Posted Nov 26, 2019 at SamPratt.com
The Columbia County Democratic Committee is meeting tonight, and on the agenda is whom they will recommend to the Board of Supervisors for the job of their party’s Election Commissioner. But unlike most other two-year cycles, this time there is fierce competition for the job. Sources indicate that both the existing Democratic Commissioner, Virginia Martin, and party vice chair Erin Stamper are vying for the position, and have been lobbying for support among Committee members. In the past few decades, this site knows of no instance of any competition for these positions in either party, at least none which ever became public. That position is currently part-time, paying around $30,000 a year. But there is some talk of the Supervisors bumping both the Dem and GOP positions up to full-time. Stamper filled in at the Board of Elections for the last few weeks of this election cycle, after Greenport’s Jimmy... Continue reading
Posted Nov 25, 2019 at SamPratt.com
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UPDATE #1: The review has finally begun a little before 10 am, though it is unlikely anyone’s ballot will get counted for many hours. UPDATE #2: GOP attorney Ciampoli has already had his first ugly outburst, lecturing a Democratic attorney that “I am going to shove your argument down your throat!” UPDATE #3: Ciampoli is objecting to numerous absentee ballots on vague, unspecified grounds about the voters’ “qualifications,” or else referencing “the Constitution”—and getting authoritative pushback from the Dem attorneys. Nevertheless, GOP Commissioner Nastke is upholding most of his objections, even while stating that he disagrees with some of them. UPDATE #4: According to one observer, Nastke independently decided—without Ciampoli lodging a complaint—to question the ballot from a 90-year-old woman, indicating that he intended to call her and question her. UPDATE #5: More than 40 ballots have been set aside as of about 1:30 pm, almost entirely from spurious challenges... Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2019 at SamPratt.com
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A list of questions was sent to both Columbia County Elections Commissioners on Wednesday, seeking answers for the underlying causes of the confusion and delays in reporting results starting at 9 pm, November 5th. Democratic Commissioner Virginia Martin brushed those questions aside (despite years of touting herself as a champion of transparency and integrity in elections). But her Republican counterpart Jason Nastke unexpectedly agreed to a half-hour phone interview, and provided extensive new details about what’s been going on. Below is an account of what Nastke said. : : : : : On Election Night, Nastke said, all voting machines were shut down at 9 pm, as usual: “We have a good process for that; it works. It was the same as we’ve done for my 10 years as a Commissioner.” GOP BOE Commissioner Jason Naske At that point, he explained, “I’m not looking at numbers. I’m making sure that... Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2019 at SamPratt.com