Weekend in review
Some of the stories that made the news from Fri., Mar. 24, through Sun., Mar. 26:
Diane Walden reported in The Columbia Paper 1,300 acres of farm and woodland in southeast Ancram has been donated to the Columbia Land Conservancy. The acquisition is CLC’s largest to date and offers an opportunity for more than just public access. CLC Special Projects Manager Tom Crowell appeared at the March 16 Ancram Town Board meeting to announce the donation of a portion of Scotland Farm was finalized last month. Crowell told the Town Board the farmland will continue to be leased by two area farmers under CLC ownership. CLC plans to use the property for public access recreation, but it is also exploring opportunities for other uses, such as ecological research, land management education and site demonstrations of forest management and agricultural practices.
Jim Heaney and Charlotte Keith reported in the Times Union a special report by Investigative Post, ProPublica, and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism shows New York's investment in the upstate economy has not generated many jobs. The groups analyzed employment data, interviewed dozens of public officials, and reviewed reports and audits of subsidy programs conducted by the state comptroller and watchdog organizations. That analysis indicated the state's substantial investment in the upstate economy has not generated many jobs. The research also found that economic development programs suffer from a lack of transparency and objective analysis to determine their effectiveness. Since taking office in 2011, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has increased state subsidies, launched several initiatives and announced state-funded projects. "The past four years we have focused on upstate New York and economic development like never before," the governor said in his 2015 state address; however, the upstate economy remains sluggish. Most job growth has occurred downstate. The number of jobs upstate has increased by only 2.7 percent since 2011, and most of the jobs added upstate have been in the low-wage sectors, such as restaurants and bars.
Amanda Purcell reported in the Register-Star the Columbia County Sheriff's Office responded to a threat at the Germantown Central School this week, but determined the threat to be unfounded. Although district parents were notified of the incident, details of what occurred were not forthcoming. Superintendent Sue Brown was unavailable to the press for further questions, and the Sheriff's Office did not provide any additional information. “At no time was there a credible threat to student safety or school security,” Brown wrote in the email to parents. “The safety of our students is our highest priority, and the district takes all threats to school safety seriously.”
Karrie Allen reported for Columbia-Greene Media the Chatham Cafe and Deli on Main Street in the village was seized last week for back taxes owed to the state Department of Taxation and Finance. Department spokesman Cary B. Ziter said, “We seized the business, not the building.” Tom and Dan McDermott opened the cafe and deli in 2015, after Marisa's Bagel Cafe was sold. The McDermotts owe a combination of sales and withholding taxes totaling more than $9,000. “We need places like the cafe,” said Thomas Chulak, president of the Chatham Area Business Alliance. Chulak said while the community needs options for eating, the village needs businesses and eateries that reflect well on the village.
Victoria Addison reported in the Register-Star Keith Kanaga of Ghent has been chosen chairman of the Columbia County Democrats. The committee also chose Matthew Nelson of Kinderhook as first vice chair, Brenda Adams of Canaan as second vice chair and Greenport resident Carol Peckham as secretary. Dave Berman of Ghent was chosen in February as the committee's new treasurer. The change in leadership was trigged by the resignations of committee officers Peter Bujanow, Debby Mayer, Mark Leggett, Angella Pace and Deb Shakotko. The resignations were effective March 10, Communications Committee Chairman Koethi Zan said, but Zan declined to provide more information on the change of leadership. Kanaga is the co-chair of the Ghent Democratic Committee, vice chair of the Ghent Zoning Board of Appeals and chair of the Ghent Board of Assessment Review. He is a U.S. Army veteran and a retired financial services professional.
Pat Doxsey is reporting in the Daily Freeman Ulster County lawmakers passed a memorializing resolution last week calling on the state legislature to classify attacks on first responders as hate crimes. The final vote of 15 to 8 crossed party lines. Legislators took the action despite concerns by some Ulster County residents that the action would diminish the significance of the hate crime provision. The measure was introduced by Legislator Ronald Lapp Jr., a retired New Paltz Police Department sergeant, and asked the state to amend its hate crime law to add the phrase “the occupation of trooper, deputy sheriff, police officer, peace officer and first responder.” A number of county residents argued the proposal should be rejected, saying it would “render hate crimes a meaningless designation under the law.” The existing hate crimes legislation does not apply to people based on their occupation. It applies to offenses motivated by an offender's bias against a person's race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity, said a resident of Mount Tremper.
Amanda Purcell reported in The Daily Mail the Catskill Board of Education's efforts to hire a new district superintendent have fallen through, the district announced Fri., Mar. 24. “Negotiations with Catskill Central School District’s initial finalist for superintendent have ended without a contract agreement being reached. The board...is now entering into negotiations with another highly qualified finalist for the position," the board wrote in an emailed statement to the paper. The board's first choice for the district's top spot was chosen Feb. 1, from a list of three finalists. The new superintendent is expected to start the job at the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, on July 1. The district has been without a permanent school chief since the departure of Kathleen Farrell in late 2015. Board President Kyle Lyles could not be reached for comment.