Category Archives: Columnists

View from the Assembly, by Assemblyman Will Barclay

The Tax Relief Commission issued its final report this month.

The commission was established by the governor and was charged with providing recommendations to cut $2 billion in state taxes during a three-year period.

Included in its final report were property tax relief recommendations the governor will consider.

Three property tax relief recommendations were outlined. They include a property tax freeze, a circuit breaker and a tax credit for manufacturers.

The commission recommends freezing residential property taxes for two years but only for jurisdictions within the property tax cap; property tax relief will only continue into a second year if the local government adopts reforms that reduce costs — such as sharing services or consolidating.

The circuit breaker would establish a personal income tax credit for taxpayers whose real property taxes exceeds a certain percentage of their household gross income.

Manufacturers would receive a tax credit and specifically, Upstate manufacturers would benefit.

While I’m pleased to see this conversation taking place, I’m disappointed by the lack of recommended budget cuts or long-term cost-savings measures included for localities or school districts.

The reason we have such high taxes is New York has a spending problem. For example, last year we spent 42 percent of our total budget on Medicaid, yet we continue to offer several coverage options within the framework of Medicaid that other states do not offer, such as dental care.

Medicaid costs are expected to grow only because last year, the state predicted 400,000 additional people would qualify for Medicaid due to changes caused by Obamacare — the giant federal mandate that requires people purchase health insurance.

In fact, according to news articles published recently, out of the roughly 1.6 billion who have enrolled in Obamacare, 1.46 million actually signed up for Medicaid.

The latest report contains only temporary fixes and does not fully consider that the state needs to cut spending. Tax freezes, tax credits and tax rebates are temporarily helpful but we need more permanent fixes — ones that will reduce the property tax load for New Yorkers for years to come.

We also need to stop passing state mandates onto localities. I sponsor legislation that would prohibit new unfunded mandates from passing the State Legislature (A1570).

Also, the report encourages consolidation, but we’ve budgeted for consolidation and shared services in the past. This year’s state budget provided $79 million in grants for local governments to fully explore and utilize shared services and consolidations.

Those resources have been largely underused and many times, the voting public rejects consolidations. We need to provide more direct tax relief to small businesses, but this latest list does not make recommendations for small business tax relief either.

If you have any questions, comments or would like to be added to my mailing list, send a letter to 200 N. Second St., Fulton, New York 13069, or an email to barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or call 598-5185. You can also friend me, Assembly Barclay, on Facebook.

State Senate Report, by state Sen. Patricia Ritchie

The New Year is a time for resolutions, and according to recent statistics roughly 45 percent of Americans usually make them.

However, of those who make resolutions, only 8 percent actually stick to them.

Not surprisingly, topping the list of resolutions year after year, are those related to our health.

Whether it’s losing weight, staying fit or quitting smoking, there are countless people looking to make healthy changes when we turn the calendar page to the next year.

Here are tips that can help you improve your health and achieve your goals in the New Year:

1) Cut the salt: Too much sodium can increase your blood pressure as well as your risk for a heart attack and stroke.

One of the most important steps you can take to become healthier is reducing the amount of salt you use on your food.

2) Convenience is key: It’s critical to get enough fruit and vegetables each day, and the key to that is making sure you have these foods accessible.

For example, keep a bowl of fresh fruit on your kitchen counter, place a box of raisins in your child’s backpack and in your briefcase or add fruit to your cereal or oatmeal.

3) Eat right while out and about: It’s easy to overeat and consume too many calories when eating at a restaurant.  It’s a good idea to skip the sides, try healthy options like grilled chicken and skip sodas, which are loaded with sugar and calories.

4) Choose fresh: Here in our region, we are fortunate to have so many options for healthy eating.

For fresh foods, vegetables and meats, try shopping at a local farmers’ market or farm stand. Not only will you be eating healthy, you’ll be supporting the local economy too.

5) Get moving: The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends 30 minutes of physical activity per day for adults and 60 minutes per day for children at least five days a week.

For those who aren’t active, it may sound daunting. However, it’s a lot easier than you think — take the stairs, hit the gym, go for a walk — it all adds up.

6) Kick the habit: Each and every day, 4,000 U.S. children under the age of 18 smoke their first cigarette, and 1,200 people die from smoking-related illness — an average of 50 an hour.

Smoking can be deadly, and we need to do more to help those who want to quit. That’s why I joined a bipartisan group of 16 senators in calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to increase funding for smoking cessation and youth tobacco prevention programs in next year’s state budget.

If you need help quitting, I encourage you to contact the New York State Smoker’s Quit Line at (866) NY-QUITS.

The great thing about the New Year is that it offers us an opportunity to make a change and start fresh.

Whatever your resolution may be, I wish you the best of luck as you work to stick to it and make a difference in your own life. Happy New Year!

Hodgepodge, by Roy Hodge

Christmas in the White House

In 1834, President Andrew Jackson held a “frolic” for children of his household.

The party included games, dancing, a grand dinner and an indoor “snowball fight” with specially made cotton balls.

There’s an 1880 reference to President John Tyler hosting a children’s party in the 1840s at which there was a Christmas tree with gifts.

The first White House Christmas tree, decorated with candles and toys, was placed in the second floor oval room in 1889 for President Benjamin Harrison and his family.

In 1895, the Grover Cleveland family strung electric lights on their Christmas tree.

President and Mrs. Theodore Roose-  velt, an avid conservationist, did not approve of cutting trees for decoration.  However, his son Archie smuggled in a small tree that was decorated and hidden in a closet.

President Teddy Roosevelt and his family would pile into the family sleigh (later the family car) and travel to a Christmas service at Christ Church in Oyster Bay, N.Y. Following the sermon Teddy would deliver one of his “sermonettes” on the meaning of Christmas.

Official Tree in Blue Room

The official White House Christmas tree is decked out annually in the White House Blue Room. The first tree in that room was decorated by President William Taft’s (1909-1913) children.

President Calvin Coolidge was the first president to preside over a public celebration of the Christmas holidays with the lighting of the National Christmas tree, in 1923.

First Lady Lou Henry Hoover established the tradition of presidential wives decorating an official tree in the White House in 1929.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt would set up and decorate a tree on Christmas Eve, gather the family together, and either read Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, or recite it from memory.

In 1953, the first White House Christmas card was created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, an artist in his own right.

A 50-year tradition

Having the First Lady choose a theme for the White House Christmas tree is a 50-year tradition established in 1961 when Jacqueline Kennedy decorated the Blue Room Christmas tree with gingerbread men, snowflakes and small toys from her favorite holiday ballet, “The Nutcracker.”

In 1977, First Lady Rosalynn Carter’s tree featured ornaments made from pine cones, peanuts and eggshells.  In 1980 she highlighted a Victorian theme.

Nancy Reagan, in 1988, hung ornaments from previous Blue Room trees, including hand blown glass ornaments from the Eisenhower White House and flower-themed ornaments from Pat Nixon.

First Lady Betty Ford’s tree was decorated with homemade ornaments.

Over her eight White House holiday seasons, First Lady Hillary Clinton displayed talents of America’s artistic communities.

First Lady Laura Bush included the theme of “All Creatures Grand and Small” in 2002 and a patriotic “Red, White and Blue Christmas” in 2008.

This year, Michele Obama’s tree is filled with photos of military families and their homecomings. She also had kids living on military bases create cards shaped like their home states.

Traditionally, the tree in the Blue Room is the official White House Christmas tree, but generally there is more than one Christmas tree in and around the White House.

For instance, in 1977 there were 36. In 2008 there were 27.

Just so you’ll know

Clement Moore wrote his famous “A visit from St. Nick,” which is better known as “The Night Before Christmas,” in 1824.  There is some thought that the true author of this poem is Major Henry Livingston, Jr.

Gift giving became a tradition in 1857, and in 1897 Francis Church wrote his famous “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” in The New York Times.

The song, “White Christmas” was written by Irving Berlin and sung by Bing Crosby in 1942.

The first Christmas postage stamp was issued in Canada in 1898. The first Christmas stamp issued in The United States was the four-cent “Wreath and Candles” stamp in 1962.

Happy New Year!

A new year has started, time for a new routine.

Just look at the calendar, it’s two thousand fourteen.

When the new year comes, it’s nice to make changes.

Maybe try to be more patient, nicer to strangers.

Say you’ll be nicer, eat less and exercise more,

Resolutions we have all heard before.

As the old year ends, look back with gratitude,

Enter the new year with a positive attitude.

Good luck and much happiness – you know what I mean.

And remember — when writing checks, it’s 2014.

 

. . . Roy Hodge

Jerry’s Journal

I’m going to make this short and sweet.

Now as this year ends and a new one begins, I want to thank the Valley News for putting me to print every other week.

Actually, I must thank Vince Caravan, God rest his soul, for getting me interested in writing again back in 1980, when he said, “Jerry, why don’t you do something with your writing? You can write a column for us, just pick your subject.”

Well, a lot of water’s gone over the dam, as they say, and I’ve been a prolific writer ever since Vince’s gentle prodding.

Story writing, letter-to-the-editor writing, newsletter writing, fun writing, serious writing, poetry writing, column writing — you-name-it writing — but yet to write a book writing!

And along the way I’ve meet a lot of good people who also like to write, among them Roy Hodge, whom I want thank for the opportunity of having Jerry’s Journal appear twice a month for a couple of years in his newspaper, the Fulton Patriot.

It was a sad day to many when that venerable old newspaper finally had to give up the ghost with times changing and people depending more on electronic news these days.

(Having said that, I do have to admit to very much liking my desk computer, as well as my electronic tablet, to help keep up with my writings, emails, and the daily news.)

In any case, as I tell everyone who writes, or calls or emails, or stops me on the street to share their story or just say how much they like reading my stuff: if you keep on reading I promise I will keep on writing!

So, to you, Dear Readers — near and far — I wish every one of you a happy and blessed New Year.

See you in 2014!

Hodgepodge, by Roy Hodge

I received a special Christmas card this year, sent to The Valley News by Bea LaClair.

I knew that Bea wouldn’t just sign her name; I was sure that she would write a few lines. And she did.

Bea, who now lives in Liverpool, wrote, “The Fulton Patriot may be out of business, but your column is still going. You still write a good story and bring back memories. I hope you will continue for a long time.”

Bea, who wrote that she is now 85, also had praise for my son, Jeff, now known as “Rev. Jeff”.

Bea must read each week’s paper very thoroughly. In a recent column I wrote that plum pudding “is composed of many dried fruits and is held together by eggs and suet, sometimes moistened by treacle or molasses.”

Bea asks, “What is treacle?” Bea, my dictionary describes treacle as “a mild mixture of molasses, corn syrup, etc. used in cooking or as a table syrup.”

I have known Bea LaClair for many years, but before I met Bea I knew her mother, Angie LaClair, who was known to everyone in Fulton as Gram, and likely is still remembered by many.

I met Gram when two of my sons and two of her great grandsons were in Cub Scouts at State Street Church in the 60s.

She was Gram to everyone, and I wrote in a column in 2006, “The neatest thing about Gram was that she was always willing to sit down at the old piano in the church basement to get the group of young boys and their parents singing.”

I continued, “Later on I got to know Gram as Angie LaClair. I was around many times when Gram would keep an old piano in this room or that hallway busy, and someone was always willing to join in on the song.”

I heard from my friend Bea after the column featuring Gram.

“I loved the column,” Bea said, “but you got one thing wrong — I forgot to tell you that our name is spelled with an a, as in LaClair, not with an e, as in LeClair.”

Bea explained, “When our family came to Canada many years ago from France our name was spelled LeClair as that is the French Canadian spelling of the name.”

Bea said when her father, Edmund, moved to the United States from Cornwall, Ontario he wanted to honor his new country by using the American spelling. “So he had his name legally changed from LeClair to LaClair,” she said.

Thanks for the card, Bea. And thanks for the memories.

‘Tis the season for cookies

An important part of the Christmas season for me and those around me through the years — wherever I have been hanging around — is making, eating and sharing with other people those wonderful morsels of holiday cheer — the cutout, decorated cookie.

For the uninitiated — if there is such a thing — that would be the flat, shortbread-y (new word) cookie of many holiday shapes, covered with colorful frosting and “sprinkles,” baked by the dozens — and eaten the same way.

We have a large jar full of cookie cutters in many, many shapes. Some of them definitely fit into the holiday scene – Christmas trees, Santa’s boot, and yes, Santa himself, along with stars, bells, angels and a gingerbread man.

Most of those shout “Merry Christmas” right back at you, but there are many other cutters of many different shapes in that jar.

When is the last time that you saw a pig in your Christmas stocking? Wait a minute — could that be in honor of Christmas dinner?

Also in the jar are a hippopotamus and an elephant. Forget about Christmas dinner for those two. There are a couple of mooses (or is it meese?)  Well, wait a minute — we could have a couple of different relatives of Santa’s reindeer here.

Mrs. Pringle’s cookies

I wrote about Mrs. Pringle’s cookies in December, 1985:

Mrs. Pringle was the mother of one of the girls who worked in my wife’s office at the telephone company in Syracuse more than 25 years ago.

My association with Mrs. Pringle during the past 26 years has been once a year during the holiday season by way of a recipe in our Christmas cookie file.

For years, I guess I never questioned the genealogy of our Christmas cookies. On Sunday, with the holiday cookie baking process getting underway at our house, I discovered the true story behind how Mrs. Pringle’s Christmas cookies made their way into our cookie jar.

I was told on Sunday that when my wife was growing up, one of the expected treats of the season were the cookies baked by her grandmother – the kind shaped like Christmas trees, Santa Claus, angels and bells.

Grandma probably inherited the recipe from her family in Germany, and turned the holiday favorites out by the hundreds every year. Grandma probably never gave a thought to the fact that the ingredients list started out with five pounds of flour and a dozen eggs.

The problem came after the new bride asked for Grandma’s recipe. No one could figure out how to turn five pounds of flour and a teacup of this and another teacup of that into just enough cookies so we wouldn’t still be eating them at Easter time.

That’s where Mrs. Pringle came to the rescue. It seems that Mrs. Pringle’s family had passed along the same prized recipe and someone along the way had translated it into cups and teaspoons.

As a tribute to the holiday season, Grandma Seils, Mrs. Pringle and the hundreds of those cookies I have eaten over the years here is the recipe:

Grandma Seils’ Christmas Cookies

3 cups flour, ½ tsp. baking powder, 1½ tsp. salt, ½ cup sugar, 1 egg, unbeaten, 2 tsp. vanilla, 1 cup margarine.

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Beat margarine and sugar thoroughly. Add egg and vanilla. Beat until fluffy.

Gradually stir in sifted dry ingredients until well blended. Roll small amounts of dough 1/8 inch thick.  Shape with cookie cutters.  Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes.  Ice with different colors frosting

Okay, we’re ready.  (You could let the frosting dry.) Chomp happily away … and Happy New Year.

… Roy Hodge

In And Around Hannibal, by Rita Hooper

Can’t believe it’s almost Christmas – I’m suspending the “schools” series till after the first of the year.

Christmas is the time of year we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. I’m not too sure how many folks know that anymore. Seems to me we talk more about Santa and Frosty than we do the Prince of Peace. More about Black Friday and the bottom line than the reason for gift giving.

Our lives have been made richer by the treasured memories of our holidays past – the warm smells of traditional foods, mulled cider and wines, Christmas goose and turkeys, fish or oysters on Christmas eve, pierogi, latkes and sufganyot for Passover, mince pie or paneltone, figgy or plum pudding with that wonderful foamy or hard sauce.

Do you head to the woods to get that fresh cut tree or up to the attic to get that old tried and true that only hurts you if you have an allergy to dust? Do you put it up Christmas Eve or a week or two before? Do you think about the history of each of the ornaments as you put them on?

I remember as a child, running home from school so I could get to the cards before anyone else did and display them on the piano. Now most of my Christmas greetings come by cyber space but I look forward to them just the same. I remember when I was a preacher’s wife, I would make garlands with the cards and hang them around the rooms. I musta had too much time on my hands!

I used to spend a week making cookie doughs and then Sunday afternoon we’d all gather at the dining room table and shape and decorate them. Now I make only the favorites and send packages of them to those not able to be home for the holidays.

Over the years I have amassed a sizable Christmas village – Hannibalville.

It features Hooper Lane – the street with the churches on it and Rita’s Point – the lighthouse of course! James Way and Starr Trek are housing developments and Lake David and Courtney Pond are joined by London’s Bridge. Alyssa Lane goes to the park and Noel’s Inn is the nativity. You’d think I’d named the folks in my family so I could use them in my village!

I still love to watch the classic Christmas movies and take in a live play or concert.

And of course Hannibal has it’s own traditions of the tree lighting, church services and Christmas Bureau. My husband and I did the shopping for new gifts for the Christmas Bureau for 20 years beginning in the 70s. When we began, we were allotted $1 to buy a new gift for each child.

This Christmas, as you gather around the dinner table, share what Christmas was like when you were a child … maybe that was when all Christmas trees looked like Charlie Brown specials … or when the only toy you got was a stuffed animal that your mom made for you, or maybe you only got a lump of coal in your stocking.

The traditions of family and holidays keep moving and changing but they make us who we are … keep the spirit and meaning of Christmas alive this blessed season and see you in church!

*********************

Hannibal Senior Dining Center meets at noon for dinner at the Senior Center (Library Building) on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Come early for coffee and news or to work on a jigsaw puzzle or play games or just some chit-chat! Give Rosemary a call and make your reservation, 564-5471. This week’s menu is:

Monday, Dec. 23:  Pasta with sauce and meatballs, Italian vegetable, dessert

Wednesday, Dec. 25:   CLOSED:  MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Friday, Dec. 27:  Homemade macaroni and cheese, stewed tomatoes, vegetable, cookie

Come join us for good food, conversation and games.

The Hannibal Methodist Church will gather at 8:30 p.m. for its Candlelight Christmas Eve Service.

Rita Hooper 706-3564

Twohoops2@juno.com

A Sportsman’s World, by Leon Archer

By Leon Archer

Just as most outdoorsmen are getting their ice fishing gear in order and enjoying the new snowmobiling season, a cadre of diehard water fowlers are preparing for the late duck and goose season.

In the western zone of the state, ducks and geese become legal game again from Dec. 28 until Jan.12.

Lake Ontario and the largest Finger Lakes provide hot hunting on very cold days. Open streams can be great producers of puddle ducks, but the lakes will host considerable numbers of diving ducks. Those hunters who love to hunt divers are willing to put up with rotten weather, bitter cold and iced up decoys, just to bring home a few bluebills, canvasbacks, and redheads.

The Niagara River is another diving duck magnet, and so has an equally strong attraction for the cold weather hunters who pursue those hardy birds. The Niagara gets a big influx of canvasbacks, and there are hunters who wait all year for this short opportunity to match wits and skills with the reputed king of waterfowl. All the other divers are represented there, but it really is the cans that lure the hunters.

Other hunters will still be looking for Canada geese and snow geese, and a stubble field with a light dusting of snow is attractive to both hunters and geese. Mallards may also swing into a big corn field to feed. Hunters drag their layout blinds and decoys far away from roads to set up early before the birds have started to fly.

Geese usually keep a safe distance between themselves and roads. The goose hunters can get up a little later than their open water brethren, because very few geese get into the air before the sun is well up. Flights of geese may move only for a few hours in the morning, but many days they will trade from field to field most of the day.

I have hunted hunkered down in snow covered fields, and I have hunted from ice covered blinds overlooking the dark gunmetal waters of big lakes. There is a thrill and a challenge to such activity that is hard to describe or understand. I have asked myself on more than one occasion, “What the heck am I doing here?”

But when a big flock of geese swing into the wind with their feet down, talking to the decoys below, and loom huge with their wide wingspread, it all seems to become worthwhile.

At that moment, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world. The cold that had been creeping into my body disappears as I sit up and swing the barrel of my shotgun out in front of a goose clawing for altitude.

I have set decoys from a boat being rocked by waves on water that could bring on hypothermia in short order. Wearing a life jacket was a necessity on water like that, but it also helped to be just a little crazy. It also helps to be putting out decoys while it is still dark out; you don’t get a full picture of just how foolish you are being.

On the other side of the equation, late season water gunning can be some of the fastest, most challenging shooting there is. Passing shots are the rule rather than decoying birds, and unless the duck drops dead at the shot, a wounded bird can give a hunter a merry chase, out on those waves where he would rather not be.

Fortunate is the man who has a retriever he can depend on to do the job for him. But for all the discomfort and potential danger, such days will probably remain fresh and fond in a hunter’s memory as long as he lives – mine have.

For those guys who just can’t get enough, snow goose season is open until April 15. I have never shot a snow goose, and spending much of my winter in Florida does not make it likely that I ever will, but I’d sure like to have the chance at least once. You diehards will have to take a few for me.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Views from the Assembly, by Will Barclay

On any given week, tens of thousands of unsolicited checks end up in New York residents’ mailboxes — making these checks easy targets for criminals looking to capitalize on someone else’s line of credit.

Last month, the governor signed a bill into law that will put the onus on those issuing checks if they are lost or get into the wrong hands.

I was pleased to support this in the Assembly. Hopefully, this measure will reduce the volume of checks like this and better protect consumers from fraud.

The bill, A3601, which became effective last month, aims to protect consumers from liability for unauthorized use of unsolicited convenience checks. These checks are mailed by credit card companies to account holders in the hopes that consumers take out more credit.

Many of people throw them out. It’s best to shred or destroy them somehow if you do not intend to use them.

The problem with the checks is consumers do not know when they are mailed. A few things can happen and do: the mail gets into the wrong hands and then, the check is cashed, or they are stolen if consumers simply place them in the recycle bin.

In the past, unless a consumer acted quickly and was able to convince the credit card company the checks were not cashed by the cardholder, the consumer is held liable.

With this new law, companies would be held responsible, not the consumer. It amends the general business law and adds a section, clearly stating that consumers sent such convenience checks by credit or debit card issuers shall not be liable for the use of such checks unless the consumer has accepted the check.

Hopefully those convenience checks will be reduced with this measure.

There are a number of ways scammers can infiltrate our finances. It’s important to remain vigilant and help loved ones to do the same.

Good guidance and tips, as well as scam alerts can be found on the State’s Division of Consumer Affair’s website at https://www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection/.

The site also contains good information on preventing identity theft. Unfortunately, seniors are unwitting targets of many types of scams.

A good number to keep handy is the Division of Consumer Affair’s phone number, (518) 474-8583 for guidance or assistance on consumer matters. Residents may also file a complaint there as well, and be placed on the Do Not Call list.

If you have any questions, comments or would like to be added to my mailing list, please sent a letter to 200 N. Second St., Fulton, 13069, or an e-mail to barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or call 598-5185.  You can also friend me, Assembly Barclay, on Facebook.