Photography By Rich Gigli
Photography By Rich Gigli
By Jeffrey Page
Here comes Uncle Grump, the governor of New York, to tell you that those extra pounds you’ve gained over the years may have come from drinking Cokes, Dr. Pepper and all those coffee concoctions that come in bottles and seem to end in “cino.”
Watch out, because now that he has unveiled a $134 billion budget proposal – with a built-in deficit of $7.4 billion – Grump also has a plan to generate $465 million in new taxes. Guess who pays.
Governor Paterson’s idea is a new play of an old theme. The state needs cash. So he describes a particular product, usually a popular one – this time it’s sugary soft drinks, but on occasion it has been cigarettes – as dangerously unhealthy. Government to the rescue. So since the product in question isn’t beneficial to you, government taxes it but hopes that because you like it so much you’ll ignore the health warning, keep buying it and pay the additional tax on it.
The insincerity is staggering.
Paterson wants to tax sodas and some other sweetened drinks at the rate of a penny an ounce. A six-pack of Coke would cost you an additional 72 cents.
The Times-Union in Albany quoted State Health Commissioner Richard Daines praising the soda tax because it reduces obesity, saves on future health care costs, and pulls in that $465 million a year. Daines called it “a triple play.” Of course he forgot that he’s talking about a legal substance that millions of New Yorkers enjoy every day.
Question 1: If Paterson and Daines are so concerned about the public’s waistline, why don’t they insist that the penny-an-ounce tax be imposed on sugar sold by the pound at supermarkets? How about a tax on the syrup you like to pour on your pancakes at your favorite breakfast place. And you know that Irish coffee you enjoy on cold winter nights, or the rum and Cokes, rye and gingers and 7& 7s you occasionally sip before dinner out? Tax them, too. Whoa! Paterson isn’t that concerned about obesity. (In case you missed it, we elect a governor in 279 days.)
Question 2: Why are Paterson and Daines not asking that other products be taxed due to their ability to make people gain weight? How about a penny an ounce on butter? A penny an ounce on hot dogs made with lots of fat? A penny an ounce on the sale of cheese Danish? A penny an ounce on salt? And why doesn’t Grump call for an additional tax on wine, not because it makes you gain weight but because it’s a product with a label warning that women who consume alcohol while pregnant run the risk of having a baby with birth defects. You don’t see an alarm like that on a can of root beer.
Answer: Because taxing such things as butter would make a governor, whose popularity is already in question, even more politically vulnerable. One important rule of politics is that you can’t annoy too many constituencies at the same time.
For now, the talk is only about taxing soda. You know, the stuff that kids like and whose consumption ought to be controlled by their moms and dads, not the state. If Paterson is concerned about children gaining weight, he should direct Daines to launch a public awareness program and notify the public of its availability and leave parenting to parents.
Jeffrey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Michael Kaufman
A couple of weeks ago I got an intriguing email from the Santa Anita racetrack titled, “Special Holiday Racing on MLK Jr. Day at Santa Anita Park.” I wondered just how the West Coast’s premier thoroughbred track would commemorate the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. After all, Dr. King gave his life fighting for equality, social justice, a living wage for working people, and an end to war. It seemed a bit of a stretch … and I don’t mean the one the horses come down at the end of the race.
I read on: “All THOROUGHBREDS™ members in attendance, who scan their card at Santa Anita Park on January 18, will receive the Santa Anita Collectible Beer Bucket, with paid admission, while supplies last. Put your favorite drinks on ice wherever you go.” There’s a picture of a nifty looking ice bucket, decorated with a scenic photo of the Santa Anita track, with blue sky and mountains in the background and the track logo in the center. Four bottles of Budweiser beer, nestled in ice, protrude from the bucket.
It seemed an odd way to acknowledge the holiday, but I guess it was better than giving away a Martin Luther King Commemorative Beer Bucket. “If you are not a THOROUGHBREDS™ member and would like to receive this amazing 75th Anniversary Ice Bucket,” continued the email, “visit the Main Thoroughbreds Center when arriving at Santa Anita Park on Martin Luther King Jr. Day… It is free to sign up. Must be 18 years or older to be a THOROUGHBREDS™ member.” Darn! I was hoping they would tell me how to obtain one of those amazing buckets via email even though, for the record, I am not now (nor have I ever been) a card-carrying member of THOROUGHBREDS™ and I don’t have a card to scan. (I don’t even know what THOROUGHBREDS™ is.)
They had me anyway: Holiday racing at a major track is usually a treat for horseplayers because it means there will be plenty of graded stakes and allowance races on the card. So I checked out the King Day entries at Santa Anita, hoping they might even have a couple of races suitably named for the occasion: The Rosa Parks Sprint, perhaps, or maybe a distance race called the Selma-to-Montgomery Handicap.
But it was just a typical Monday program, consisting mostly of cheap maiden (non-winners) and claiming horses. The only stakes race was the 58th running of the Grade II San Marcos Stakes. Nevertheless, I decided to celebrate King Day by eschewing my usual handicapping style, which consists of poring over pages of data before making the wrong selections, and instead choosing the one horse in each race that most reflected the spirit of the holiday. Using this method I was able to come up with picks for seven of the nine races.
Just to give you an idea of the quality of the races we are talking about here: the first was a claiming race for older fillies and mares that were winless in 2009 (and thus far in 2010), the second included only older horses that hadn’t won two races in their lives, the third was an even cheaper maiden claiming race for older horses that had never won a single race, etc.
My seven picks began with Cherie’s Dream in the first, Free Lunch in the second, and Justice Reigns in the third. It was a tough call in race four between Seize Power and Ready for Change. But I think of Dr. King as more of a ready-for-change kind of guy than a power seizer so in the end I opted for Ready for Change. Then it was Victory With Honor in the sixth and High Court Drama in the seventh (the featured San Marcos Stakes). I finished with Jesse’s Soul in the ninth.
So how did I do? I broke even of course. Here is the press release:
MONDAY RACING CANCELLED AT SANTA ANITA, TRACK, WEATHER CONDITIONS CITED
ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 18, 2010)—Live racing has been cancelled for Monday at Santa Anita due to wet track conditions and the certainty of continued heavy rain throughout the afternoon.
Oh well. They will just have to save those amazing beer buckets for the King Day giveaway next year. Or maybe they can use them next Hiroshima Day in August.
Michael can be reached at Michael@zestoforange.com.
By Shawn Dell Joyce
Rep. Maurice Hinchey has made a startling statement — that the concentration of wealth in the U.S. is the same today as it was in the 1920’s with the highest concentration of dollars in the hands of the wealthiest few. It seems that most of those wealthy hands don’t live in the Wallkill Valley.
We must create our own economic stimulus if we are to weather the current economic climate. One way that we can all do this is by interweaving our businesses and households with other local businesses and farms. What I mean by this is generating economic impact in our hometowns by keeping our money flowing in the local economy, and passing through local business after local business.
One way we do this in Montgomery is through a band of village businesses called Montgomery Business Association. We work together to bring cultural tourism to our quaint historic village. We also look for ways to connect our businesses and lower our operating costs.
For example, I’m the director of the nonprofit Wallkill River School. We are working with Ms. Claire’s Musical Cupboard on summer programs for children. We will share the cost of a locally-printed brochure which advertises both businesses.
The way this act generates local economic impact is that $100 comes in to Ms. Claire’s Musical Cupboard from a parent enrolling their child. Part of that $100 pays the teacher who lives locally, part goes to pay rent to a local landlord, and toward advertising that helps benefit Wallkill River School by lowering our advertising costs as well. Net result, several local businesses have benefitted by one parent buying local.
Looking at a larger scale, I traced the economic impact of the Wallkill River School on our local community. Last year, we had 806 adult enrollments in 131 classes, and 174 child enrollments in 30 classes bringing in a gross of $77,156. Additionally, we offered a comprehensive free teen art class program offering 20 classes to 194 local teen enrollments, and a free Senior’s class serving 780 drop-ins per year almost equaling attendance in our paying classes.
Of the $77,156 brought in by art classes, half was paid out to the local artists who taught the classes. The other $38,500 goes toward paying staff salaries; both employees live in the community and pay local property taxes. And part went to paying utility bills, insurance (through a local broker) and refreshment costs. The gallery part of our business pays the rent which goes to our local landlord and patron, Ed Devitt.
We created economic impact in our home community by partnering with James Douglas Gallery for framing, and sending him thousands of dollars of framing business. We also generate business for a local art supply store, Newburgh Art Supply. We partnered with several local farms including joining the Share of the Harvest Program at Sycamore Farms to provide local foods picnic lunch for our summer outdoor painting class and for still life objects, Hoeffner’s Farm for seasonal decorations like cut flowers, pine drapes and wreaths, mums, etc.
Another way we found to generate economic impact is to partner with several local restaurants including Wildfire Grill, Ward’s Bridge Inn, and Iron Café to provide lunches for our classes generating more than $3,000 in lunch revenues for these businesses. All together, our economic impact on this community was to pay out more than $80,000 to other local businesses and residents, creating a multiplier effect as they, in turn, support other local businesses and pay local taxes.
I hope our model of doing business gives you some ideas of ways that your business and family can also stimulate the local economy. This is common sense stimulus, which, to me, makes more sense then handing over a massive federal debt to our grandchildren.
By Carrie Jacobson
Sometimes at this time of year, I find myself confused – about what time of year it is. Is it autumn? Is it early spring? The earth looks so much the same. The trees are bare, the ground is hard, the only color is in the sky.
Last night, I watched a TV show about the migration of monarch butterflies. On wings 4 inches wide, they fly from Canada to Mexico, a journey they’ve never made before, never been taught, never learned – they just know.
There are so many miracles.
This pastel painting is a still life of licorice candies. It was painted during my Thursday evening pastel studio class at Wallkill River School in Montgomery. I set up several still lifes for participants to choose from, then demonstrate a specific technique. This demo was about using complementary colors to create color harmony. Anyone can drop in and try it out. It’s a fun class with a fun, encouraging group of regulars! www.WallkillRiverSchool.com
Photography by Rich Gigli
By Jeffrey Page
I’ve never understood the logic of United Way. Operating through voluntary payroll deduction at several places I’ve worked, their pitch was that if I agreed to turn over, say, $10 a week to United Way, United Way would do me the honor of using my $500 a year to support various charitable endeavors.
It made no sense to me and I never participated. Why support the middle man when I can cut him out? United Way has rent, salaries and other administrative expenses to pay. Guess where that money comes from. United Way of Dutchess County, for example, spends about 8.2 percent of its revenues on administration, according to an online charity watchdog called charitynavigator.com. This means my $500 would really amount to $459 for people in need.
Since this column is ultimately about Haiti, I should note that Doctors Without Borders spends 1.1 percent on administrative expenses.
I acknowledge that the people who run United Way have to make a living. I acknowledge it, but I don’t support it. Instead of paying them to distribute my charitable donation, I can choose which causes I want to assist and contribute directly to them. This is not complicated; I do it every year.
Now comes word from the Huffington Post and MoveOn that as Americans contribute huge amounts for Haitian relief following the earthquake – and making many of those donations on plastic – the credit card companies are getting rich.
Huffington reports that such credit card contributions are subject to the same “administrative fee” that credit card companies collect from airlines, rental car companies, your local liquor shop, department stores and every other business we patronize with our plastic charge cards. In the case of charitable giving, the banks’ cut is 3 percent.
So here it is again, the uncharitable fee imposed for offering charity. Make that $500 donation on your credit card and understand that the recipient agency gets only $485. Through this 3 percent cut of the action, banks and credit card companies rake in an estimated $250 million a year.
If you devised a scheme to withhold 3 percent of your donation and chalk it up to your own administrative expenses, you’d be ridiculed by friends and shunned by strangers. But when banks do it, it looks great in their annual reports and makes for a great announcement at their shareholder meetings.
Now, during the Haitian catastrophe, Huffington reports that Visa, Master Card, American Express and Discover are foregoing their 3 percent fees – until the end of February. As if to suggest that the rehabilitation of Port-au-Prince and the rest of the Haitian western half of the Island of Hispaniola will be complete in another 39 days.
I called Visa and was told by a customer service rep that donors can have the 3 percent fee waived just by asking. I wonder how people know about this. Then I called Visa’s public relations office to ask about this, and they sent me a copy of a press release in which Visa essentially congratulates itself for donating $200,000 for Haitian relief. Not exactly the question I’d asked.
Remember your checkbook?
A modest proposal: If you want to help the Haitian people, leave your plastic in your wallet. Instead, write a personal check to the charity of your choice and know that your donation – $500, $50, or $5 – remains intact.
Jeffrey can be reached at email@example.com
By Bob Gaydos
It’s God’s plan that I should write this column. It must be because I had no intention of writing about Sarah Palin’s religious beliefs until I read a shocking article in the Sunday Record explaining them, or rather, explaining how the news media misinterpreted them.
Actually, the article itself, distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, wasn’t shocking; the fact that it appeared at all in a mainstream newspaper is what shocked and impressed me. The simple truth is most reporters and editors in the mainstream news media — which would include TV and, to a slightly lesser extent, news magazines — hate religion stories. They do not understand religion or respect the influence that faith — whether or not it is bound by the principles of any particular religion — has in the lives of millions of people. Indeed, many journalists seem to revel in a need to mock religion and people who express faith in a higher power. Easier to mock than to try to understand.
I do not state this lightly. It’s what I feel after more than 40 years of daily newspapering. Religion scares a lot of journalists, who don’t bother to differentiate between those who exploit religion for their own purposes — and the airwaves are full of that type — and simple articles of faith that ordinary people use to get through life.
The Palin “God” flap is an example of the latter. A new book written by yet another angry former presidential campaign aide to Sen. John McCain quotes the former Alaska governor as saying, upon being asked how she could remain so serene after just being asked to run for vice president and being on the verge of becoming one of the most famous people in the world, “It’s God’s plan.”
That’s it. No further explanation. The Scripps Howard story reported that the Washington Post report on the book was headlined: “McCain aide: Palin believed candidacy “God’s plan.’” Other news accounts were in that similar mocking vein.
But as the Scripps Howard story explained, this comment does not necessarily mean that Palin believed that God planned for her to be vice president because it would be good for the country. A grandiose view. Rather, it was more likely an example of common speak for evangelicals, and millions of other people, who believe that God shapes their lives through the people and events they encounter and the choices they make, for better or worse. A humble view.
That does not necessarily mean Palin believes God has chosen her or that her decisions are the work of God. That’s what the jihadists preach. Since Palin’s comment was not expanded upon in the book, no one can know her meaning for sure, but based on her own book, “Going Rogue,” she clearly believes in a God who offers unexpected challenges in life, make of them what you will. Hardly scary, but not sexy enough for publishers and journalists.
The Scripps Howard piece was written by Terry Mattingly, who directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. (Who knew?) Mattingly suggests it may be time to produce a primer for newsrooms on “How Evangelicals Talk.” Why limit it to evangelicals? If the purpose of good reporting is to understand and explain the human condition, that should include people’s religious and spiritual beliefs as well. It doesn‘t mean you have to believe what the person believes, but that you should at least try to understand those beliefs and what role they play in a person’s life. Ask the woman what she means, for God’s sake.
It’s easy enough to mock Sarah Palin. I have succumbed more than once and probably will again. But I had to write this column in her defense and it certainly wasn’t my plan.
Bob can be reached at zestoforange.com
By Shawn Dell Joyce
According to the National Research Council, New York uses more salt than any other state, weighing in at 500,000 tons per year. The state Department of Transportation requires a road-salt application rate of 225 lb. per lane-mile for light snow and 270 lb. per lane-mile for each application during rapidly accumulating snow.
When you consider that there are approximately 6,000 miles. of paved roadways near state watersheds, you begin to see how all that road salt adds up. Some roads may get up to 300 tons of road salt per lane-mile each year. Recently, many scientists have begun to study the effects of so much road salt on ecosystems, water quality, public health and road quality. Here are a few things you should know before your break out that sodium chloride:
— Salt destroys soil structure by killing some soil bacteria. This allows more soil to erode into streams, taking the salt with it. Salt erosion contaminates drinking-water supplies to levels that exceed standards.
— Salt doesn’t evaporate or otherwise get removed once applied so it remains a persistent risk to aquatic ecosystems and to water quality. Approximately 55% of road-salt runs off with snow melt into streams, with the remaining 45% infiltrating through soils and into groundwater aquifers, according to a 1993 study.
— Salt slowly kills trees, especially white pines, and other roadside plants. The loss of indigenous plants and trees on roadsides allows hardier salt-tolerant species to take over.
— Salt can change water chemistry, causing minerals to leach out of the soil, and it increases the acidity of water, according to Dr. Stephen Norton, a professor of Geological Sciences at the University of Maine.
— Salt cracks animal paws making house pets particularly susceptible.
— Road salt seeping into drinking water changes its flavor, and supplies the excess dietary sodium associated with hypertension.
— Salt corrodes metals like automobile brake linings, frames, and bumpers, and can cause cosmetic corrosion. To prevent this corrosion, automakers pay almost $4 billion per year.
— Salt can penetrate concrete to corrode the reinforcing rods causing damage to bridges, roads and cracked pavement.
Canada is considering classifying conventional deicers as toxic substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. California and Nevada restrict road-salt use in certain areas to reduce damage to roadside vegetation. Massachusetts is using alternative deicers to prevent contamination of drinking water. New York State is considering doing the same to protect New York City’s watershed.
There are alternatives to sodium chloride that are relatively harmless to the environment and still get the job done. Calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) and potassium acetate (KA) are two chloride alternatives currently available. They are much more expensive than road salt, but if you factor in the loss of wildlife, soil erosion, water quality and corrosion, these alternatives start to look like a real bargain.
For home use, there are many alternatives with varying degrees of environmental safety.
— Urea is often used for deicing as it melts ice and is not corrosive, making it popular for airport runways. Urea can also cause algae blooms in waterways, so it isn’t a good choice near streams.
— Alfalfa meal is a natural fertilizer that actually melts the ice, provides traction and won’t harm the environment. It is different than pelletized alfalfa sold in feed stores, look for meal in local garden centers.
— The greenest choice at home is snow cleats on your shoes and a good workout with a snow shovel instead of chemical deicers. Got a bad back? Pay the neighbor’s teenager to do the job for you and keep the money flowing in your local economy.
Shawn Dell Joyce is an award-winning columnist and founder of the Wallkill River School in Montgomery, N.Y. firstname.lastname@example.org