The Venner Vox is on hold until further notice. No more comments will be approved (including under this post), and no fresh posts will be made. Thank you.
UPDATE: A full explanation of what’s happening will be in my column in the Weekend Recorder, which is published Saturday. I’ll link it then. Thank you.
UPDATE 2: Here’s the explanation.
This is a screen grab taken just a few moments ago from the “dashboard” of this here blog. It’s proof that some of our local elected officials CAN be in four places at the same time.
When you get the chance, check out this excellent column written by Richard Clark, who works for Freedom Communication’s Eastern North Carolina Division, which owns the newspaper where I was the managing editor until deciding to move back on the right side of the Mason-Dixon line. (just kidding, my southern friends)
This pretty much applies to small newspapers anywhere you go. Fewer people trying to do the same job when the staff was double or triple in size. The numbers just don’t add up.
What’s amazing is looking at the comments at the end of the column. Some people just don’t get it, or make ridiculous assumptions (like all small papers pander to the local government), even after it’s explained to them. You hear the same thing around here. “You don’t do this anymore” or “You should do this like you did years ago” and blah, blah, blah. Well, it’s kind of hard to do when you have three reporters doing the work of six and one editor doing a job five people used to do. Yup, it sucks. Still, I think most small newspapers do a fairly good job with what they have.
Anyhoo, I thought it was a good read, so I thought I’d share it with y’all.
The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors decided to turn out tourism funding from the state because the county would have to match that “grant” dollar-for-dollar, which would have amounted to a little more than $56,000.
Instead, the county hopes to do its own tourism promotion with money raised from it’s “bed tax,” which tacked on hotel, motel and bed and breakfast bills.
The idea for the change is to allow the county to have complete control over its tourism promotion. One idea is to start promoting community events and the Canalway Trail more.
Quick take: This would be a good time for Montgomery County to define what “tourism” and “tourism promotion” means for the county. Sure, there’s a lot of cool places to see, and the communities along the Mohawk have great stuff going on during the year.
But let’s face it, it’s highly doubtful people are planning vacations with Yosts or Nelliston in mind.
A change in Amsterdam prescription drug coverage meant a hefty spike in costs for widows of retired city employees, but they didn’t find out about it until they got a bill for $450 for their medications. After being scolded by some of the 11 widows affected by this move, the city agreed to help them temporarily extend their coverage through the old city plan until they could sort out the costs.
The city changed the prescription plan during the budget process, which was publicized. However, the city is also supposed to formally notify people when changes happen, but obviously a few people got missed.
One of the women who spoke at Tuesday’s Common Council meeting said 4th Ward Alderman William D. Wills was the only one to respond to her inquiries.
Quick take: Well zip-a-dee-doo-dah to the council for agreeing to help these women out, but the fact that the city never gave them the heads-up is inexcusable, and I don’t care if this gets dismissed as a simple oversight, it’s wrong, wrong, wrong.
Which leads to another issue: Why isn’t this woman, and probably others, having so much difficulty getting a response from City Hall? This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this complaint from the public. It’s a city of 18,000. No way City Hall is that busy that they can’t answer a call from one of these women, who by the way probably votes and actually pays taxes.
Given the small size of our newsroom staff and various scheduling conflicts, we were unable to cover tonight’s forum at the Mount Carmel Church in Amsterdam designed to let people air their concerns about taxes in the Greater Amsterdam School District.
However, I thought I’d try something different, since there are a lot of people who do read this blog. If you attended tonight’s forum, please feel free to share what was discussed, ideas presented, solutions offered, etc. Just don’t use anonymous Internet handles or anything like that.
During this political season, candidates are required to file campaign disclosure reports with the state Board of Elections. The last reports were due to the state July 15. For the primary, candidates have to file updated reports Aug. 12, Sept. 2 and a post-primary report Sept. 23. For the general election, reports are due Oct. 3 and Oct. 24 and a post-general report Dec. 1.
You can track candidates by clicking HERE.
I already did a search in the Amsterdam mayor’s race and saw the following. Mind you, this is early in the season:
* Mayor Ann Thane (D): Reported an opening balance of $2,653.66 with $550 in contributions, therefore having a total of $3,203.66 in her campaign coffers. Her campaign reported a $500 contribution from an Ann M. Tigue of Wilmington, Delaware, and another $50 unlisted contribution.
* Joe Emanuele (R): Filed an “In Lieu Of Statement,” which is permitted when a campaign committee has less than $1,000, took in less than $1,000 and spent less than $1,000. This is the only time his campaign is allowed to file this report.
* William D. Wills (D): There was no listing for Wills. Candidates may be exempted from filing if they will not receive or spend more than $50, including from their own personal funds. Wills has said he’s paying for his own campaign and isn’t taking donations.
A community meeting will take place Tuesday about the Greater Amsterdam School District. Here’s a news release from one of the organizers, Curtis Peninger (the other, of course, being former Amsterdam Assessor Michael Chiara):
“Tuesday, August 2nd, 7:00 PM at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church (corner of Route 30 and 5S) a grassroots organization from the greater Amsterdam, NY community will hold a community sponsored School Tax Forum. Members of the Greater Amsterdam School District community have been invited to come and be heard.
During a Spring of discontent from community members three new faces have emerged on the school board. When the board and administration did not follow through on their promises of sharpening their pencils and listening to the will of the voters the board showed their contempt for us and passed a flawed budget.
In a time of 2% Tax caps a potential exists to overturn the cap. All the school board and administration have to do to raise taxes above the cap is issue a threat to the community of doing away with the High School Football program. With a requirement of only 60% of the voters needed to overturn the cap we will see voters rush to save a pillar institution within our community.
A writer of a highly popular blog within our community (ed note: Hey! That’s me!) summed up what many of us think about meetings like this: “Maybe this meeting on Tuesday will help change all of that. I won’t hold my breath, though.” Come see how many of us will be holding our breath.
Point of Contact:
Quick take: I’m temporarily switching careers to bookie and taking bets on how many representatives from the Greater Amsterdam School District administration or board actually shows up Tuesday night. I will never understand why people can’t actually flood school board meetings with their concerns. I also don’t understand why around 10 percent (in a good year) of registered voters in a school district only turn up to vote on budgets and school board meetings.
It’ll be interesting to hear what comes out of the meeting, though.
Ed note: I put this up initially on Saturday night, and then took it down. Then I changed my mind again.
Maybe it’s just me, but I thought Recorder superstar sports reporter Michael Kelly did a bang-up job on his profile of none other than Amsterdam’s own John R. “Chet” Watroba. (subscription required to read at this point). Some of you may know him from his frequent appearances at Amsterdam Common Council meetings, or being one of the regular callers on the local sqawk box, or shooting the bull with anyone who will listen at various Amsterdam sporting events.
Given the fact that he’s fairly well-known in the community, and that at the age of 56 is playing semi-pro football with the twentysomethings on the Amsterdam Zephyrs … we thought it was worthy of a feature story, and yes, on the front page of the Weekend Recorder.
Not everyone thought it was worthy. Check out what I found on my Facebook wall this evening:
Using Google translator, Mayor Ann Thane’s Russian remark was this: “Chet news front page? Slow news day?!” Since I like to play Google translator to, I decided to respond in Indonesian. When translated, it says: “A man of 56 years to give football one last shot? Our readers really like it.” (Based on some feedback I got today, my guess is a lot of people did.)
We all know Chet can be a bit of a nut and can be completely off the wall most of the time (although he does regularly attend council meetings, which is more than what you can say about a lot of people). But, he is a big cheerleader for the local sports scene and can be spotted at anything from Cal Ripken baseball games to Amsterdam Mohawks games at Shuttleworth Park. He’s also always had nice things to say about the Zephyrs, and now he’s actually playing, which is unusual for anyone his age, no matter how crazy they can be.
We don’t just write stories about council meetings and taxes and crumbling buildings and school boards and county supervisors and MOSA; part of what we do is focus on the lighter side of life in this little slice of heaven. Not every lighter feature has to be about flower bulbs, murals, communitywide trash pick ups and street festivals (although those are worthy of coverage, too). Chet’s a part of Amsterdam, whether people like it or not, and he has a story worth telling. So we told it.
That really aggravated me, probably more than it should.
And now … I’m over it.
It looks like test scores at Amsterdam High School are starting to improve, and Greater Amsterdam School District officials are hoping it leads to an improvement in graduation rates.
The following breaks down the percentage of students passing exams, along with the number of points gained/lost compared to the 2009-10 school year.
Quick take: More students passing is good. More students graduating is good. The problem is, no one cares. Taxes, taxes, taxes. That’s all that matters (until people are actually asked to vote one something and maybe 10 percent of registered voters turn out, along with never attending school board meetings).
It’s nice to see some efforts (that cost money) are showing some positive results.