Town Board Meeting                                                         4-11-2017

                                Surprise of the evening?  A three-minute, video presentation by our School Superintendent about the needed "Upgrades "  and "Renovations ". She brought along their Financial Officer and Michael Brutsch of the school board. 

                                  The kitchen appliances at the WBH are from the 1970s, so yeah, they are overdue for replacing, I'm sure. The high school kitchen appliances were replaced only 20 years ago but they want to buy new ones anyway. There is a plan to enlarge the WBH gymnasium, as it is what they refer to as a "Half-Court". It's been fine since the school was built and we had a good number of students using it, so why enlarge it NOW?

                                   We have exactly  402 students attending the two schools combined. WHY replace TWO kitchens and one of TWO gyms instead of simply enlarging whichever of the two schools is in better shape, and closing the other? Enrollment has decreased by 5% per year, every year for the last decade.  Right now, there are SEVEN kids in the Pre-K Program, 14 in the 4th grade, and less than 20 in the third grade!    So why in Heaven's name would we want to spend 11-12 million dollars on upgrades to TWO schools ?!?! I said as much during the Q&A session, and even Councilman Baumli agreed with me and suggested we close one school. It makes a lot more sense to do THAT!

                                     Seated next to Michael Brutsch tonite, was his darling daughter, the anti-Veteran , All-American Girl. She of course, was there to accept her appointment to the Planning Board , which she did get. What I find interesting, is the fact that her father exited the meeting the very minute the school presentation ended, and his daughter left immediately after being appointed to the PB.  I don't know about anyone else, but to ME, that speaks volumes. If someone wants to have so much to say about the workings of our town and school, shouldn't they be courteous and engaged enough to stay for the ENTIRE meeting? Wouldn't you think they would give a damn about OTHER issues affecting the town and its people? 

                                     No, that is not how Liberals think. They are interested ONLY in what affects THEM directly, and everything else is a problem for the Commoners who attend every meeting and stay in place from beginning to end. It's shameful. 

                                      I DID take the opportunity to express my feelings to the School Super about the Veterans' Exemption issue. I told her and everyone else who was in the room, that being the ONLY school district in Columbia County to thumb their noses at our veterans, they have a lot of nerve asking us for money. I told them it was an atrocity, an embarrassment, and that they should all be ashamed of themselves. Wanna guess what the reaction was?  Zippo! Blank faced stares. 

                                     One encouraging thing about this meeting was the obvious opposition to the school budget request by most of the people present. Remember that this budget vote will be held in May, and there will be three different proposals to vote on. The gymnasium is a separate thing from the upgrades, etc. I fully intend to vote NO on everything they want. That seemed to be the consensus among the people tonight. Enough is enough! Let them eat cake.


 REMEMBER:  April 19th at 7 p.m - Planning Board Public Hearing on Dunkin Donuts !!!!!!!   Speak now or forever hold your peace! 



The OUTCOME !                                                          4-19-2017

                     First things first. I wish to extend my sincere thanks to all of you who attended the Public Hearing tonight, and a Special Nod to those who could not attend but took the time to send emails to the Zoning Office to voice your opposition to Dunkin Donuts.

                      There were about 25 to 30 members of the public present, and at one point, we did a hand-raise count of how many oppose Dunkin Donuts. EVERY person in the room raised their hand! NO ONE raised their hand to express approval! Now here's something interesting; emails poured into the CEO's computer all day long today, and were STILL coming in after the meeting started! I asked for an accurate count but no one seemed to know at that point, anyway. 

                     Greg Hanna said that there were FOUR emails in support of DD, but I know for certain that at LEAST  25 emails were received before the meeting. Not a good sampling of the ENTIRE population of the town, but a big enough difference to make it very clear that the PEOPLE do not WANT Dunkin Donuts or any other , Fast-food establishment. Hanna also stated that an accurate survey or the residents would cost in the area of $20,000 dollars or more and would take months to complete and tally.

                       We all know that the Planning Board's job is to review the application and details and decide if everything is in compliance with town codes and laws. It is not  their job to decide if a project is popular or unpopular with the residents. So, WHOSE job IS it? I guess it is OURS, yours, mine, our neighbors and friends who live here. Today was a great start in getting our voices heard, but we have a lot of work to do and very little time to do it. Where do we start? By coming together and taking action!

                         I asked the PB members to at least take into consideration the fact that there IS a LOT of opposition to this business and if they would at least inform the Town Board that something more needs to be done so far as polling the residents before this application is approved. No, it is not their burden, but it could help a little. In the meantime, PLEASE do not stop contacting the CEO's office, members of the Planning Board, the Town Board, and especially the local newspapers. Even an email to Dunkin Donuts Corporate Offices MIGHT have some impact. 

                        What it comes down to is this; how many of the residents who are even aware of this issue, are willing to actually get physically involved in stopping it or at least trying  to stop it?  How many will come and meet with others, or put a "Stop Dunkin Donuts" sign in their yard?  How many will really take the time to contact our officials and say "NO!" ? Will anyone look into the codes regarding Chain Stores that existed BEFORE the present Comprehensive Plan was adopted, or IF anything like that was ever mentioned? Will you demand a vote of the people re: having a say in what kind of businesses we want in our town? Would you be willing to accept the results of such a vote even if it went the way you didn't want it to go? 

                        Sadly, unless we have a TREMENDOUS Public Outcry in this matter, we have nothing at our disposal to fight this project. There is ZERO protection in any town document for the wishes of the residents. Despite all the Comprehensive Plan work, the Zoning Re-Writes, the Conservation Groups and silly rules, we have NO power to control the future of our own town. Any commercial business that wishes to mar our rural landscape can do so as long as they comply with the existing codes. That would include casinos, strip joints, biker bars, Taco Bell, and so on and so on. We have NO recourse at all! Even if we managed to insert a clause NOW to protect us from such undesirable businesses, the DD application would be exempt because they applied PRIOR to that change. Aren't you thrilled to know that NO ONE involved in writing these documents ever considered these possibilities?

                         I am 100% Capitalist, but I am also a fan of common sense and of preserving the few, small rural towns remaining that have not yet been infiltrated by negative progress. SO many people have been working in recent years to make New Lebanon more attractive. Old buildings are being rescued and rehabbed, the Town Hall is looking better than ever, the park is greatly improved, and with the exception of the Midtown Mall, the ugliest sites have been upgraded or removed. We NEED business here, no doubt of that, but do we want crap or clean? Do we want to preserve the rural history of our town, or allow it to become commercialized? 

                         We will never be a Stockbridge or a Kinderhook, nor should we be, but we do need to do everything we can to keep the corporate giants in the cities where they belong. New Lebanon residents need to examine what it is they really want, support LOCAL business and privately-owned establishments, and most of all, take action to demand that protections against the undesirable businesses are put in place. We need CLEAR, CONCISE wording in the now-useless Comp Plan and right NOW, we need to scream LOUDLY, in opposition to DD. THAT is our power, our ONLY power.

                          I will keep you updated on the actions we will be taking and ask that you PLEASE keep contacting local officials and opposing this project.

                          As someone who has been an activist for many years and seen many losses as well as a few wins, today was very encouraging. It isn't always a matter of whether you win or lose, it is a matter of seeing people get involved, speak their minds, exercise their RIGHT to be heard and to have their opinions considered. If you support DD and you took the time to let the officials know, GOOD FOR YOU! If you oppose it and took the time to do the same, GOOD FOR YOU!  THAT is what we as Americans SHOULD be doing! The very act of being engaged in something that matters, is courageous and admirable. The outcome is something the losers need to deal with and move on to the next one. 

                            I have had SO many people say that they don't care one way or the other about the issues, and that is very sad. It is also a bad omen for the future of America. Thank you to those who stepped-up tonight. YOU are the strong ones, regardless of where you stand. Be proud.



  Can We TALK ??                                                          4-22-2017

           Thank you Joan Rivers, may you rest in peace.   

                 Have you noticed that people rarely talk anymore? Not just the "Hi,How are you !" stuff, but REALLY talk?  All I see these days are the tops of peoples' heads as they stare into a cellphone screen. Texting has replaced the phone call, email has replaced the hand-written letter or note, Google has replaced research and reading, and online games have replaced outdoor play. Kinda sad, isn't it? 

                 These new habits are a big part of the reason that I retain my old flip-phone and shun the Smart Phones. I LIKE writing and reading and TALKING. I ENJOY reading up on things I wish to know more about. Of course I enjoy the internet and the speed at which we can attain info through it, but that doesn't mean I want to abandon the old ways, yet. 

                  One of my very favorite places is my big, front porch with the rocking chairs. Friends and family gather there often in nice weather and we watch the birds at the feeders and building nests, admire the flowers and smell their aromas, and most of all, we TALK. It was from the porch that I saw my first Hummingbird Moth and nearly had a stroke. I am not fond of insects of any type, but this thing is a WEIRD one! 

                   I'm posting some pics below that I think you will find very interesting. A creative photographer took photos of people in social situations, engaged in their phones. He edited the phones out of the pictures and in some cases, made comments on how the scenes could be very different if those phones were put aside. LIFE and relationships would be very different. 

                   Positive communication is hard enough these days with so many divisive issues at play in our society.  People are frustrated and angry, cooperation and give-and-take have given way to arguing and shouting matches. Everyone wants everything to be 100% THEIR way with little or no compromise.  Many even want the government to impose LAWS against things that "Offend" them, rather than being reasonable and mature enough to work these things out among themselves. In many ways, I think our younger folks have never even learned HOW to talk or come to mutually-satisfying agreements. Compromise is something they have never had to practice and certainly don't wish to.

                   Even our leaders can't talk things out anymore. Today, they use the constant threat of sanctions and military actions instead. Human beings have never been able to come to 100% agreement on ANYTHING, it just isn't possible and never will be. Yet once upon a time, we could meet in the middle and all go home fairly happy.  Not so much anymore.  

                   As you should all know by now, we have a divisive issue here in New Lebanon that we SHOULD be talking about and discussing in large numbers. Dunkin Donuts is something that many of us see as a huge threat to the future of our town and a death sentence to its rural and historical flavor. So many people have spent countless dollars and hours, and buckets of sweat trying to protect this town from the encroaching commercialization that has destroyed thousands of other, rural America towns in recent years. Some of these folks and their groups are too extreme in my own opinion and tend to carry conservation issues and zoning enforcement too far. 

                  As a Capitalist, this Dunkin Donuts issue is a tough one for me. I fully support the growth of business and free enterprise, while at the same time, I also think that there are some limits that must be placed upon urbanization and sprawl. Some things are worth protecting from large corporations, and the remaining, little country towns in America are one of those things. They are becoming few and far-between. New Lebanon is not pretty, but it COULD be, and it has managed to escape the invasion of commercial chain stores and big-box entities for 200 years. 

                 If you went out today and talked to residents, you would be surprised to learn that the vast majority of them are livid at the thought of having a Dunkin Donuts with its big, pink signs, pop-up in the field where once stood a huge, working dairy barn. A spot where corn has been grown for decades and if you take the time to dig around, you still find relics from the barn such as cow stanchions and milking equipment of the old days. DD says that their building will look like a New England Cottage, but it will still be a sore thumb and very much out-of-place in THIS town. 

                 Sadly, we the residents and taxpayers, have NO CHOICE in this matter. All DD must do is comply with the zoning requirements and they are free to build. There has been NO opportunity to "Talk" about it between the town officials and the people. There is no requirement to DO so!  There is a small number of people who support DD, and an even smaller number that don't care either way. So what are we to DO?  Should we yet again just sit silently by and allow big money business and loose zoning laws to sentence us to a future of Fast Food restaurants marring our landscape that we have worked so hard to preserve?  Should we allow them to come in and smother the little, privately-owned businesses that are already here? What do YOU think? Are you TALKING about it with others and brainstorming to see what can be done? 

                Well, some of us ARE, and for once, I am not alone in a resistance! There ARE options, but they will be rendered useless if not enough of us engage. The most vital thing we must pressure our officials to do right NOW, is amend our zoning laws and comp. plan to protect us from any future issues like this one. Then we must take on DD at the corporate level, in the media, and face-to-face. 

                One thing I am confused about and a little ticked-off by, is the lack of noise coming from the Environmentalists in town who are always ready to protect butterflies and puddles they refer to as "Wetlands". Where are THEY in this matter? Where are the owners of the existing, small businesses that will be greatly affected? Where is the Historical Society and the Archaeological Investigators that combed through Howard Commander's field at the end of the drag strip?! Where are those whiners who want a "Noise Ordinance"?  Most of all, where is Queen Ruth Abram and her "Museum of Rural American Life?"  Where are her millions of dollars in grant money, her big-lawyer husband, her dreams of restoring and retaining this town's rural history and aesthetics?  Interesting question, isn't it ?? Where is the Secret EDC ?  Where is Mr. Shaker Swamp, John Dax? Not a word from any of THEM.

                 So, that leaves those of us who simply love our town and want it to stay rural. We are gathering, we are planning, and we ARE taking action. We may win, we may lose, but at least we are TRYING.  The eventual outcome is something we will have to accept and live with, but we will have no regrets that we did nothing. We need to TALK, we need to COOPERATE, and we need to COMPROMISE, but most of all, we need to exercise our RIGHT to have a say in the future of New Lebanon. To seek a redress of grievances from our local government and to have a Comprehensive Plan that actually protects this town and its future. 

                 YOU live here, maybe your kids want to stay here and raise their own kids. What is your vision for this town going forward? IF you CARE, we NEED you! Interested parties can contact our group at my email: PACTJJ@gmail.com.  First meeting will be held this week, and if you are interested, let us know and we will send you the info. EVERY voice is important, no matter which side you stand on, but doing nothing is NOT an option. Join us.


 Just So You Know.....                                                     4-27-2017

                    I am a Conservative Capitalist. I believe that people should be able to be able to do as they wish with their own property within the law.  If they are not cooking meth, stripping stolen cars, or running a prostitution ring, their business is their own.  

                    If someone likes to collect junk, they should be able to, as long as it is fenced-in and out of sight of other property owners, non-toxic, and not an extreme noise or odor issue. I also believe that selling one's property to whomever they choose, is their right as well. Even if it is a Corporate Chain Store. That being said, I find myself very conflicted. 

                     At the same time that I am a lover of freedom, even Sovereignty to a point, I am also a lover of history and think we should preserve as much of it as possible. Especially the few remaining, rural American towns that have yet to be marred by chain stores and commercial entities.  Like our own.  In making a heartfelt attempt to stop this loss of our 200-years of being a rural, non-commercial town, we MUST keep in mind that this is an action of the PEOPLE, and ONLY the People. 

                      At no time, should we attempt to use any government entity to state our case or fight our battle, which always results in government intervention that is unwanted and detrimental. We can CONSULT with EnCon or the EPA, but we must never allow them to use their bully tactics against any property owner or business.  As we begin this opposition movement to Dunkin Donuts, we must ensure that we proceed carefully and by using our voices and opinions, and most of all, NUMBERS as tools. 

                      CAN we force a referendum vote ? Probably not. CAN we petition? Sure, but who would we present that petition TO? Our town boards do not and SHOULD not have the power to decide if any business can open here based on its popularity or lack of.  They have zoning and planning guidelines to follow and that's that. As it should be.  CAN we demand that protections be written-in to our Comprehensive Plan to prevent future issues like this one? Sure, but that will not stop DD, as their application would pre-date any amendment to the Comp. Plan. 

                       From what I am seeing and hearing, the DD issue is divided among three groups, 1)  The majority of people over 50 are STRONGLY opposed to DD. 2) The residents under 50 seem to be in favor, probably due to their generation being much less concerned with history and preservation, and more interested in convenience and self-satisfaction. 3) The "I don't care one way or the other " group. These are the people who are concerned only with themselves, what's on TV, never vote, or have no idea what is going on in the world or that they should be doing SOMETHING to make it a better place for future generations.

                        I actually had one woman tell me that she is sick of pizza and Chinese food for dinner, and having to go to East Greenbush or Pittsfield for something different. LOLOL!!!! I had to laugh out loud at that one!  Number one, she could try COOKING, and number two, Dunkin Donuts doesn't offer Jelly-Filled Casserole Dinners! How in the HELL will DD solve HER complaint?!?!

                         In my heart, I am certain that New Lebanon will soon see pink and orange donut signs on Rt. 20. So why even bother fighting? Well, many of us want New Lebanon to remain rural and non-commercial, and most of all, for ME at least, when the other fast-food businesses come along, and they WILL, I can say that I did my best to stop it. I will deal with the outcome whatever it is, but I will have the peace of knowing that I TRIED. 


 So,  WHERE Were You ?                                              4-29-2017

              Lots of folks have turned to me to spearhead the opposition to Dunkin Donuts, and I stepped-up, as usual. I never learn.

              Seven people asked for a committee to be formed, which of course, required a meeting. The Library would not host us as they claim a need to remain "Neutral". Whatever. So I offered my house for the meeting, spit-shined all that day, made a huge pot of coffee, fresh cookies, and even washed puppy nose prints off the front door. My husband purposely worked extra late so that he would not be here and cause any concerns about accusations of Conflict, due to his being a member of the Planning Board.

             ONE person showed up. ONE.  Thank you to that honorable, young lady. It's all good though, because I didn't even get annoyed, believe it or not. Why WOULD I when I am so accustomed to this kind of thing? In fact, I actually felt an overwhelming sense of peace after my one guest departed. For once, I kind of liked standing alone in my kitchen with a whole new resolve to pass the torch on this one.  Don't get too happy yet, I'm not going away and I'm not going to ever stop fighting for what I believe is right. 

               Will I still assist the resisters to Dunkin Donuts? Sure, if they actually manage to organize and dedicate themselves to the effort, but THIS time, I am NOT doing all the work, all alone, and I am NOT going to be the sole target of the "other side".  So if any of you still want to fight, let me know when you're ready. Otherwise, leave me out of it. 

                Yes, I DO hate it that Dunkin Donuts is going to come here and destroy the rural aesthetics, and if I alone had the power to stop it, I would. I do not HAVE that power.  Did you all read the Town Newsletter that came out this week? FOUR other commercial properties on Rt. 20 have been sold and businesses will be opening, but the details were NOT shared with the PEOPLE.   THAT, is what gets under my skin. The lack of consideration for what the PEOPLE of the town want.  It isn't just that some businesses are not of benefit to us in ANY way, shape, or form, and it isn't just that NO ONE involved in writing the Comp. Plan or the Zoning updates thought about this possibility, no, it's the FACT that the residents are given NO say in anything that will directly impact their lives. The PEOPLE, MATTER!

               What ever happened to voting on important issues? Why were the PEOPLE never asked what they would have liked to see in the Comp. Plan or the Zoning Re-Writes? Oh sure, lots of people don't care enough to want to be heard, but I think the majority of us, DO. This isn't Albany, it's little New Lebanon, and we CAN do things differently. We CAN take the time and make the effort to give the people who care, a say in things. So why isn't it done that way? It should be done that way EVERYWHERE, but especially in tiny towns and villages.

                So no, I am not angry with anyone, but I HAVE lost a lot of faith in many of them. I even took my Facebook pages down, that's how DONE I am. If they want to organize, I'm willing to help, but I will no longer take the lead in this issue. If Dunkin Donuts comes, and they will, I can say that I did my best. When people start whining about the negative effects and the yucky businesses that follow this one, I'm just gonna shrug and remind them that they failed to act when they needed to. You dig a cesspool, you gotta swim in it.