Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Allegany County Citizens for Responsible Government

I attended the October 26 meeting of Allegany County Citizens for Responsible Government. The meeting of people from around the county was inspiring because it was real citizen action with people coming together without regard for political party to work on one issue.

The meeting started with the approval of the minutes from the last meeting, plowed through some correspondence and then jumped full force into a review of name-calling and what the board members and legislative guests felt were ies and political manipulation.

The tinder in this ongoing conflict is the proposed “Citizen’s Plan” that would renovate existing spaces in the old jail and the old Belmont School to provide for the Allegany County Court’s need for space at considerably lower cost in dollars and environmental impact than the construction of a new Court House wing. I favor this plan because I’m one to reuse and recycle.

Barb Hetzel, the only Democrat on the group’s board, read a letter from Chairman Crandall denying permission for citizens to tour the third floor area of the old jail. He cited safety concerns and security concerns because the area is used for storage. They wanted to see the floor to personally as they had toured the available space at the old Belmont School.

Hetzel also read parts of a letter from the office of the Unified Court System, Sixth Judicial District. The letter discussed the use of an existing building to satisfy the needs of the courts in the city of Oneida. The UCS indicated that “there is no requirement that court offices be all on one floor” and stated that the City of Oneida would be reimbursed “for construction renovation costs to an existing building at 100% for interior construction, electrical work, and plumbing work for the space the court occupies.”

The letter elaborated that Cooperstown recently completed a similar project where an old grocery store was reworked to serve the needs of the court system. Where courts were given space by renovating existing buildings the cost of the project was “approximately one third the cost of new construction.”

The letter sounded as if there was great support at the state level for renovating an existing space and that the state should cover the cost of the program rather than stacking the tax burden on Allegany County.

Then the steam really poured on the issue when Hetzel read a lengthy letter presented, by Dave Pullen, to the county legislature at their meeting. The letter, dismissive of the lawsuit and several specific individuals involved with it, was read in full at the meeting after Pullen was “granted privilege of the floor” while time to respond to it was denied to Kruger.
Pullen said that the lawsuit pages were riddled with errors and strikeouts but Scott guessed that what, at a glance, looked like strikeouts were actually underlines meant to indicate case names. Scott also said that the deadline to file was nearly expired by the time he was able to prepare the paperwork and that once filed he would be able to make amendments and corrections.

Pullen said that the order of show cause was not signed by a judge. This is true, said Ross, but it is because all of the local judges recused themselves and it was necessary to wait for a judge to be assigned to the case. Now that a judge is assigned, the paper will be signed.

Kruger was displeased that the letter trumpeted the value of letting the vote of the people stand and cited cases where the legislators worked to dismiss the voice of the people. He said that legislators had tried to have Young and Giglio create a special state law to allow the construction of a court house next to the jail without a local vote on a the matter.

Kruger also stated that Hornell built their court facilities in an old bank and the total cost was $2 million. He said that listening to Pullen read his letter without being able to respond or question was like being a mule in a hailstorm with no choice but to take the pelting.

Kruger said it was important for voters to look at who really has concern for the tax payers. While Social Security recipients will get no COLA this year because there is no inflation, they will have to pay higher taxes because all the department heads were voted raises. He also said that while he has never been a member of ACCFRG that he has attended all meetings to answer questions and to listen to the people. That, he said, was his job and he intended to do it as well as he could. “Where he the other members (legislators) been? They chose to hide in caucus,” said Kruger.

For the matter of the lawsuit being brought to support the candidacy of Ross Scott, several members made it clear that this was not a decision made by one or two people but many voters - over 100 citizens attending the September meeting. Those citizens donated their money to pay the fees. Scott said that he was working on the project, gratis, as a public citizen and he’d have done it whether or not he was running for office. The timing of the stages of the project, and therefore the actions against it, has always been the choice of the county board of legislators and not of Scott or of ACCFRG.

Also, in the matter of timing, Scott stated that the lawsuit challenges the unconstitutionality of the plan’s approval. The deadlines for dealing with an unconstitutional process are different and this lawsuit was filed within the timeline for that process.

Responding to Pullen’s letter asserted that the purchase of 2 houses in Belmont had nothing to do with the court house project Cindy Gowiski read a letter written by Mr. Margeson to one of the home owners. The letter specifically says that their home is needed to provide area for parking because of the project.

Galen Stout reported on his pursuit of the naming of the Allegany County Courthouse as a historic structure. The State Historic Preservation Office determined that the Allegany County Courthouse is eligible and sent letters regarding that Mr. Crandall, the Preservation League and others. None of the recipients have responded.

I’d like to thank these people for digging into the dry numbers and issues and speaking up in the face of “hailstones.”

Friday, October 16, 2009

Stop the Pottery -Time for TV

Being president of the Allegany Artisans is one of those jobs pointing in more directions than a porcupine’s quills.
Last Wednesday was like that. I was trying not to skid into panic mode over the Studio Tour (just 11 days off) and was making one of my to-do-list/calendars that would map my way through the studio and end with all pots dried, bisque, glazed, priced and displayed when I remembered that one of my points of duty involved calling Lea DiCenso, executive producer at AM Buffalo. I had talked with her a week earlier and she said that hosting the Allegany Artisans on the show this year unlikely but she never knew what might happen. She has managed to feature the Artisans every year for a while now. We couldn’t complain about a year off.
I dialed expecting voice mail. She answered. I expected her to accept a few photos and information for WKBW’s website but she jumped into business mode. There was a cancellation. 6 minutes were available on Thursday – 18 hours hence. Could I make a few things happen?
My first use of the to-do-list/calendar was to flip it over to take notes from Lea while swallowing concerns for pottery. Pots could dry while I was on TV on Thursday.
I started mental calculations and plans. Sarah Phillips agreed to throw her gardening aside and go with me. She would pack up some paintings. I started taking tracking down 6 photos – 300 dpi – horizontal orientation.
Lea needed a poster that would work on TV. She had rattled off pixel dimensions that I immediately forgot. (Don’t tell her that.) The Allegany Artisans always have a vertical poster and she wanted horizontal. Sarah and I brainstormed options and I remembered that Hope Zaccagni had sent a pdf of part of the brochure for our website. Rick dropped what he was doing to work on that. If he cut off the top and bottom and photo-shopped the Tourism phone number and website over the group photo, we could call it a horizontal poster.
Hope Zaccagni designed the brochure so had all the photos but she was in meetings all day but Steve Walker had some and so did Kandace and Alec and so did I. Mine were from 2008 but a Bruce Greene teapot is timeless. WKBW had jpgs in a couple of hours.
Russ Allen agreed to drop off a wooden train and Bob Chaffee promised a carved plate and a never-wrinkles table cover. I packed my Pete Midgley vase from the mantle, Hope’s drawing from the dining room and chose a shirt that would show off my Jim Horn pin in googly-eyed splendor.
In the morning Sarah and I drove to Buffalo. Security at WKBW is strict. There are lots of doors but visitors go to the front door and call the person who is expecting them. Inside there are reception areas, offices and rooms filled with monitors, keyboards and blinking lights all held together by miles of cables and wires.
AM Buffalo is a live show and the studio has a few areas – the jackpot drawing set, the sofa set, the rolling table and the kitchen. There are 5 cameras aimed in different direction. Each wears a monitor for the text above its unblinking eye but there are no people behind the cameras. The people are off in those equipment-filled rooms. At least I expect they are during the show. When we arrived just after 9 a.m., the crew that came to work at 4:30 that morning was having lunch.
Sarah and I set up our art and talked about it. Linda Pellegrino laughed at my cow bank while Lea insisted it was a pig. Mike told me to bring in the table and clay demo stuff that Lea said to leave in the car. “Ask Lea,” I said, not wishing to be stuck in the middle of anything.
As if Sarah and I had a smidge of Linda’s experience and ease we were given a 2 minute sketch of our 6 minute show. It was my 3rd show and I knew not to try to prepare. What I hoped to say would never fit with what Linda would shoot out as a question.
I set my inner monitors to keep with the conversation and mention as many artisans as possible. Push the phone number. Name the website. Keep breathing. Try not to look doopy. Don’t cough. Don’t sneeze on Linda.
Seconds later the segment was over. Linda said it was easy to go on air with us. We were so confident and at ease. Could have fooled me.
I stopped at the Allegany County Tourism office on the way home. Patience Regan jumped out of her chair saying I should have warned her before getting myself on some big TV production. She had 18 phone calls in just 2 hours. Whether or not you caught us on WKBW, come to my studio for great pots, Jim Horn’s pins, and refreshments. Sarah says to see her in Rushford for paintings, silk scarves and better refreshments.
Of course there are more choices. Visit www.AlleganyArtisans.com to find all 36 locations and all 47 artisans offering locally made, quality work during the 22nd annual Studio Tour.