Category Archives: Valley Viewpoints

Valley Viewpoints: Anonymous donation

by Carol Thompson, Reporter

Over the years, I have received many anonymous letters, packages, pictures and phone calls. I’ve been asked by many how I could give credence to anonymity.

The answer is simple. If someone chooses to withhold their identity, it does not negate the message.

Yogi Berra once said, “Never answer an anonymous letter.” I feel there are times I must and this is one of those times.

Regarding the recent article entitled, “The face of welfare isn’t always one of abuse,” you know who you are and I want to be sure you know your letter was passed to the appropriate people and was most helpful. I appreciate that you concealed your identity, however, I could not let this go unacknowledged. Thank you.

Valley Viewpoints: Flame concert

by K. Marc Warner, Coordinator of Recreation ARC of Oswego County

Recently our office was provided with an opportunity to present a free local concert to promote the New York State ARC’s mission to advocate on behalf of person’s challenged by disability.

We sponsored an appearance by an internationally renowned group of performers called Flame. The band is comprised of people challenged by disability, but known and sought after for their ability to perform musically.

NYSARC is a voluntary organization of 55 county-wide chapters consisting of parents, friends and volunteers. The association currently has over 78,000 members located in almost every county and community in New York State.

Collectively, NYSARC employs 26,000 individuals and is able to provide direct services to over 60,000 people daily. NYSARC is the largest organization of its kind in the nation.

We were able to collaborate in this effort with the Oswego City School District, which allowed our agency to secure the use of the Ralph M. Faust Theatre for the purpose of providing this show for the public.

I was able to coordinate with Stephen Braun, the theatre manager, and with other personnel at the district office in order to achieve this. I found their interactions to be supportive and professional.

The night of the performance, we were assisted by Mr. Braun and his staff, as well as the OHS student technical crew, a very talented group of student volunteers who helped move and set equipment, give backstage direction and run much of the audio/visual equipment.

The help was, again, very professional and beneficial. The complex lighting and audio requirements were completed quickly and accurately, and the result was a performance that looked and sounded amazing.

I write today to thank, and commend, the district, the supporters and patrons of the OHS theatre (SPOT) the administrative and custodial staff, the student volunteers, and the public that came out in support of this effort. Those who had opportunity to attend were well entertained, empowered and deeply moved by what was presented that night.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with all these folks again in the future.

Valley Viewpoints: Response to Sandy

by Danielle D Hayden, Oswego Branch Manager American Red Cross

As everyone knows, the American Red Cross has a huge relief response underway to Sandy, providing people across a number of states with a safe place to stay, food to eat and comfort during this difficult time.

Thousands of people have spent the night in hundreds of Red Cross shelters since the storm began its onslaught on the country. The Red Cross has already served more than 100,800 meals and snacks and mobilized more than 2,300 disaster workers and almost 200 emergency vehicles so far and more are being deployed.

In our own Central New York Region, we have deployed 47 people to New York City and five people to New Jersey.

Those people consist of Red Cross Staff, AmeriCorps and Red Cross Volunteers.

In our own community, we have had an outpouring of people that have stopped into the office to donate money or called to ask how they can help the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

As the branch manager, I want to say thank you! Your kindness and generosity has been very humbling to myself and the rest of the staff here at the American Red Cross.

It’s nice to see so many caring members in our own community wanting to help in any way they can.

The relief efforts to assist everyone in New York City and New Jersey will go on for a very long time and we will continue to seek the help from the public.

It’s not too late to make a financial donation by visiting www.redcross.org  or you can mail your contributions to our office which is located at 333 West First Street, Oswego.

Blood Donations are very critical at this time so please call us at 343-0967 to see when our next blood drive is scheduled.

Thank you all again for your continuous support to the American Red Cross and to the relief efforts of Hurricane Sandy.

Valley Viewpoints: Readers deserve the truth

by Dan Chalifoux, Legislator Chair, Reapportionment Committee

In a recent letter to the editor, entitled “Politics as Usual.” Legislator Dan Farfaglia once again attempted to mislead the public with regard to a process being used to bring Oswego County’s legislative districts in compliance with state and federal laws. It is only fair that readers are fully informed as to what this project involves and why it is being undertaken.

Every 10 years following the decennial census, governments, from the feds on down, are required to examine the districts they have developed to ensure that the public is fairly and equally represented by the elective officials serving in that respective body. The Oswego County Legislature is no different than Congress or the state legislature in that regard.

In New York State, one of the highest priorities set forth in the guidelines for this process is having your voting districts as equal as possible with respect to the number of people in each one. They do allow for some leeway in that you can be up to 5% higher or lower than the median number of citizens derived by dividing the total population (as determined by the most recent Census) by the number of districts.

The federal government (Census Bureau) has determined that the population of Oswego County is 122,109 and that is the only number that matters when considering if our 25 districts were in compliance with the law. As it turned out when we did this analysis, we had five districts with too many people and six districts with too few so changes were inevitable.

Legislator Dan Farfaglia made reference to some data that was found to be incorrect and he was right. On a preliminary chart, there was a column labeled 2000 that should have read 1990 but at the end of the day that column was used only as a comparison to demonstrate that there had been some change in population and was not at all relevant to the fact that out current district populations needed to be adjusted.

We could have labeled that column 1960 or 1930 or even 1890, the column itself had nothing to do with the calculations used to determine whether or not we needed to redistrict.

If Legislator Farfaglia had actually taken the time to call the staff involved, come into the office and inquire or ask a question in the committee he would have known that but he did not choose to seek the facts or even visit with the staff to see how the process worked, as many of the other interested legislators did. Had be done so he might actually understand what has been done and why.

In a separate section of his latest grandstanding effort, Legislator Farfaglia makes reference to an inquiry that he made to the county planning office earlier this summer. July 16, he requested some information from that office and he was promptly told that he should make that request through the committee chair. He did so and told me that he thought the district maps on the Board of Elections web site were somewhat confusing and he was seeking a tool to help people better understand those district boundaries.

I agreed and subsequently asked the Planning Department staff to produce something for this purpose. Seven working days later, Legislator Farfaglia had a digital map of the county with the legislative boundaries clearly marked. The map was designed so that it was easily accessed by viewers and had the capabilities of being able to zoom in to any spot in the county to determine where the legislative boundaries were. Not really sure what about that was unprofessional, uncooperative or adversarial. He asked for a specialized product for a specific purpose and we delivered it to him within a week.

In the three months following the delivery of the map, Legislator Farfaglia has made no attempt to explore how we were developing the new district lines but he did, as he referenced, make a proposal to do it differently. At the request of Chairman Beardsley, we analyzed his comments and compared them to the proposal that had been developed using sophisticated software designed specifically for the purpose of redistricting and pre-loaded with up to date census files.

In the end, the committee preferred the latter as it came significantly closer to getting all of the districts closer to having the same number of constituents, the number one priority in the State guidelines.

I would also like to point out that when Legislator Farfaglia made his first accusations regarding possible impropriety he had investigated none of the facts but simply contacted the media and sought their assurance.

Representatives of the local media contacted the planning office and were invited to come in and be given demonstrations on how the software works and all of their inquiries were answered both then and in the days after.

As a result they kept the public informed about the project and the process in an informed and balanced manner. An option that was open to Legislator Farfaglia is he had only done his homework.

Our goal was to bring Oswego County into compliance by striving for population equity, to the extent possible, amongst the districts.

We also felt that you, the public, had elected the 25 sitting legislators and that it would be inappropriate for us to draw the new lines in such a way that took a legislator out of their district or forced any of the 25 to have to run against each other in order to keep their place as your representative.

And finally, I need to point out that at no time in the process did we ever consider the political party affiliation of the voters in Oswego County. Our process was based solely on general population numbers specifically to avoid accusations such as “Politics as Usual.”

Valley Viewpoints: No raises in Granby

by Cheryl Holmes, Fulton

While watching the Fox News Channel Oct. 16, Fox talked about our federal government giving the seniors their cost of living raise. The senior citizens are going to get a huge 1.7-percent raise on their Social Security Check.

If you are lucky enough to get a Social Security Check of $1,000.00 a month you will get an increase of $17 a month or a big whopping $204 for the year. The government then increases the cost of the Medicare insurance so that the cost of living is eliminated.

Then the towns, the county and the state want even more of that little check that the seniors worked so hard for all of their lives, raise taxes and take more of their money.

For the senior, the cost of gas is more than $3.80 a gallon for their cars.   Food in the stores is more, everything has gone up and they live on a Social Security check that is fixed. Taxpayers are working two and sometimes three jobs just to take care of their families.

When will our town board think of the Granby residents first and town employees second? Town council persons Blackburn and Richardson have said, “Let the residents pay, increase the taxes.”

Our town supervisor and town board, comprised of Supervisor Edward Williamson and councilors Lori Blackburn, Susan Richardson, Joseph Cortini and Matthew Callen, are having preliminary budget hearings, which started a couple weeks ago. I went to the first budget hearing. I didn’t stay long; it was a disappointment.

The board spent at least 10 minutes discussing whether to give our town clerk a raise. She did not ask for a raise; she did not ask for anything extra. She truly believes she ran to serve the town residents and she is giving back to her town.

You may notice she is available more, our town clerk’s office is open one evening and on Saturday mornings. I give Janet great credit; she is truly a servant to the people.

Our town board should take the lead from Janet. When you run for an office, you run to serve the people of that town, to keep budgets low and be a steward of the people’s money. You are giving back to the town by helping to keep taxes down and making sure taxpayers that elect you get the most for their tax dollars.

As some of you might know, I serve on the Town of Granby Republican Committee and Lori Blackburn came in front of us to be endorsed. At that time, she was asked if she was a Conservative and believed in our Constitution with smaller government and lower taxes. She said, “Oh yes.”

Well Lori Blackburn has proven she isn’t Conservative and sure not for smaller government and lower taxes. Well between Lori, Susan, Joe and Matt, they seem to think that everyone that works for our town or that was elected should have a considerable pay raise and that raise is a lot more than 1.7 percent.

Our new highway superintendent wants a $2,000 raise — that’s a 4.5 percent increase the first year. I heard the board might give him $800.00 to $1,700.

Our town board last November bought two new pickup trucks one with a plow and one with a dump bed on it for the highway department.

So let me give you a run down. Highway has 7-10 wheel dump trucks with plows, three pickup trucks with two plows on them. We have two mowing tractors (one new one) — both broke down this summer, one gradeall without air conditioning that the highway superintendent thinks we need to replace, and one payloader.   Mr. Sullivan seems to want to replace existing equipment with new everything.

I feel that this past year, my highway department was not run as well as when Mr. Moyer ran it. The board wants to give Mr. Sullivan a raise?

Let him prove to the people that he can run an efficient department with one less man and less money and get more accomplished than what has been done this year. Maybe less coffee breaks and sitting around talking with the boss and more work would be a new idea.

The assessor-code clerk is leaving. Let’s go to a part-time person and let the codes and assessor do more of their own paper work. Maybe you wouldn’t see a code officer with his feet up watching a movie on the town computer and maybe the assessor would have to do more work to earn his $26,501 per year. The assessor works one day a week, which is a maximum of 48 days a year or $552.10 a day. By the way, the assessor wanted $1,000 more in the new budget.

Our town board needs to start remembering they are there to serve the town residents — not the employees. The town board needs to run a leaner more efficient town with lower taxes. It is time for our elected officials to step up, take control and remember that government works for the people, not the people enslaved by the government.

Valley Viewpoints: Fundamental differences

by Phillip Vasho, Fulton

As many of you may know, the Oswego County Clerk’s office has been the center of controversy for the past several years. I decided to run for the office because I believe, like many of you, that enough is enough.

There are some fundamental differences between myself and my opponent. My opponent said he will personally evaluate and decide for himself if an audit of books is needed. I won’t hesitate to have an independent forensic audit conducted. Not only do the problems that plague the office deem one necessary, but it makes sense that after 30 years of one person in charge an audit must be done.

My opponent hasn’t addressed how he will deal with the bullying of certain employees. These employees are harassed and bullied almost daily by management. I have met with these employees and their working conditions are substandard, to say the least. No one should work under those conditions and no one will. The bullies will be gone.

The taxpayers won’t be paying more than $300,000 than necessary for the computerized records of the clerk’s office.  The indexing of records will be brought back in-house. There is no justifiable reason to pay an outside company thousands of dollars to do something that the employees are well trained and qualified to do. There will be no more charging of an exorbitant fee for maps.

I currently serve as the chairman of the City of Fulton Democrat Committee. If elected, I will immediately resign my position. The clerk’s office has been the epicenter of the Republican Party for too long and it is no place for politics. My opponent is the chairman of the Republican Committee. He has not said he will step down. Do we really want more of the same?

My opponent held a fund-raiser that was hosted by Assemblyman Will Barclay, former U.S. Ambassador H. Douglas Barclay, former U.S. Senator and current lobbyist Alfonse D’Amato, Rep. Richard Hanna, Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, Senator Patty Ritchie, and former state Republican chairman J. Patrick Barrett, among others.

What interest do these Republican bigwigs have in the Oswego County Clerk’s office? The clerk’s office is where all the public’s personal and confidential information is kept — be it a driving record, divorce, sealed criminal case or pistol permit. There have been enough allegations of release of confidential information and if elected, this will not happen under my reign.

Due to the circumstances that led to the position being on the ballot just weeks ago, there is little time to campaign and it is impossible for me to get out and meet everyone. My opponent has no experience in county government operations and especially in the operation of the clerk’s office.

I served on the oversight committee for the clerk’s office for five years. I have an understanding of how the office operates and the budget. I promise to return the clerk’s office to the people. I would appreciate your support Nov. 6.

Valley Viewpoints: Effective senator?

by Michael Kunzwiler, Legislator

I was disappointed to learn that Senator Patty Ritchie refuses to carry Home Rule legislation for St. Lawrence County so that they can raise their sales tax by one-cent per dollar to avoid a double digit property tax increase.

This also concerns me for the residents of Oswego County because of the uncertainty for Mrs. Ritchie to carry Home Rule legislation for us to maintain our one-cent increase.

As many residents may recall, several years ago, Oswego County was faced with the same problems now faced by St. Lawrence County. As Oswego County’s budget was in the red, employees were laid off, services were cut and property taxes increased.  The implementation of the one-cent sales tax generates approximately $14 million each year.

Yes, that penny equates to millions in revenue that does not need to be added to property taxes and a large portion is paid by visitors, tourists and those passing through.

Mrs. Ritchie said she would support a sales-tax increase in St. Lawrence County if the people chose to do so by referendum. As a state senator, Mrs. Ritchie should know that there is no state law that provides a referendum for sales tax. It would behoove Mrs. Ritchie to understand the laws of the state before putting out such absurd statements.

Mrs. Ritchie said during a radio debate that if St. Lawrence County were to raise their sales tax by a one-cent per dollar, that people would not want to pay four-cents per dollar more at the gas pump. I’m not sure how she did the math on that but if you add one-cent, it doesn’t add four-cents more.

We’ve heard nothing from Senator Ritchie in as far as lowering the state tax on fuel, which is what drives our cost per gallon far above our neighboring states.

Mrs. Ritchie fails to mention that the reason counties such as Oswego and St. Lawrence are in such hardships is because of the never-ending unfunded mandates that are passed down from the state to local governments.

While Mrs. Ritchie can boast that the state passed an on time budget and cut the deficit, she fails to mention that it was done on the backs of the local taxpayers.

Mrs. Ritchie never fails to take credit for the good things that happen in the state. We hear over and over from her that “I” did this and “I” did that. She fails to give credit to her colleagues in Albany and would like us to believe she’s a one person show. It’s funny how she’s voted with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos 99.45 percent of the time and expects us to believe she’s bipartisan.

We have heard nothing from Mrs. Ritchie despite many pleas to her from the Oswego County legislature to provide mandate relief. Her ignorance of these pleas leads one to question her effectiveness in Albany.

Valley Viewpoints: Granby budget

by Rose Anthony, Granby

Nov. 7 at 6 p.m., a public hearing will be held on the Granby Town budget for next year. I believe each and every taxpayer should attend and speak your mind about this budget. Our budget officer prepared an excellent budget, giving more money for road repairs than any time in history, yet keeping taxes low. In fact, the budget proposed would lower taxes around two cents per thousand, which is great.

Our town board did away with the decrease, giving raises as much as two percent. Our supervisor, Mr. Williamson, is for the people. After hearing about those on Social Security only getting a 1.3 percent raise next year, our supervisor feels it is extremely important to keep taxes low.

Please, each and every one of you, take an interest in local government business. I hope to see you all on the 7th at 6 p.m. We will see who votes for what, and who is for the people of Granby. Then we will know who to vote for at the next election.