Becoming One Big Happy (& Safe) Town
The time has come again for the monumental decision whether the Village of Ellenville will dissolve and we will all become one happy family in the Town of Wawarsing.
To those unfamiliar with the situation, let me explain that about 30 some odd years ago, Dr. Sanford Rubenstein, whose home was in Ellenville but had his office in Kerhonkson, spearheaded an in-depth study on this subject which revealed untold benefits to all who lived in our town.
One of the major planks in this study was what is apparently a stumbling block today: what to do with the current village police force. His presentation proved that the obvious and palatable solution was expansion of the current force into a town-wide police force.
An examination of surrounding towns will reveal that most if not all area towns have a townwide police force. This plan offers town residents police protection they do not now have. Currently the sheriff and state police are the only police presence... and when can you recall seeing one of their cars in your area unless answering a call!
Unfortunately our current town board insists on acting in juvenile rather than mature fashion and seems to insist that facts or common sense are less attractive than petty infighting and personal squabbling. Expanding the current police force to encompass the entire town is practical, wise and can be a benefit to everyone. It certainly demands more than a cursory rejection.
What is needed now is a concerted movement by residents in the town's outlying areas who would be the recipients of this vital effort to add another benefit to living in the Town of Wawarsing.
The major impetus must come from those most likely to benefit. There is really no logical reason for Ellenville to remain as a separate governmental entity, and while that is true, there is a real benefit to all concerned for us to be just one happy family.
Now if someone can inject some common sense into our dysfunctional town board we can all sleep peacefully and be better off for it all.
Meeting Climate Change's Tipping Points
The "tipping points" in climate change are when planetary warming itself causes more warming resulting in a repeating cycle. They are:
THE NORTH POLAR ICE CAP: It's bright white and shiny and reflects sunlight and heat back into space. Ocean water is black and absorbs heat. As temperatures increase the ice cap melts and reflects less sunlight as it turns into black water. The water absorbs more heat causing more melting causing more heating. etc. A self perpetuating cycle which amplifies continually and can't be stopped.
THE NORTHERN PERMAFROST/TUNDRA: Carbon is stored in plant matter and is released as carbon dioxide ( CO2 ) when the plant dies and decays. The CO2 goes into the atmosphere and traps heat from going back into space ( greenhouse effect ). There is 50 million years of plant matter from previous geological ages frozen in the permafrost that circles the northern part of the globe. Its carbon is frozen in place. As temperatures rise the permafrost melts and releases the carbon which causes more melting. Another deadly cycle.
METHANE IN THE OCEANS: Methane is far more powerful as an atmospheric warmer than CO2. There is an almost unlimited amount of methane locked up on the floors of the world's oceans in a frozen ice crystal form called Methane Hydrate. As the planet warms so do the oceans. The methane hydrate melts, rises to the surface and escapes into the atmosphere; more warming causes more melting.
As these tipping points kicks in we're getting into big trouble. We ignore these facts at our infinite peril. Representative Faso, you and your Republican Party deny the existence of climate change and are determined to do nothing about it. Having read this letter how will you respond ?
Elections Are Still The Best Means Of Change
I have great respect for Michael Anagnostakis. He is an informed, ethical legislator. But, I must comment on his Op Ed from last week. In this he seems to implicate that New Yorkers are ripe for a Constitutional Convention.
There are many reasons for this being a very bad idea: First — it is very expensive. Estimates have the cost of having a Convention at about $300 million. Second — While improvements in New York state government are warranted, any changes can be done legislatively and/or via constitutional amendments for a fraction of the cost. Third — Some may think a convention is the ultimate expression of democracy. The truth is that the representatives to such a convention are not average concerned citizens — they are elected officials and those beholden to them. A convention can be more partisan than legislating.
Anagnostakis correctly stated that the last time we had a convention was 1967 — and everything passed there was ultimately rejected by the voters. This was due in part to protracted political wranglings. Time, money and political will wasted. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is real peril in opening our constitution. Endangered could be worker rights, education funding and environmental protections, to name just a few. There is certainly truth in Anagnostakis' statements about the citizens of New York state wanting more ethics in government. But the means to that end is not a convention — it is elections.
Who Really Wants To Repeal ACA?
Who really wants the Affordable Care Act (ACA) gone? Three factions of Americans:
Category 1 — Income >$200k/yr and sure of having a high-premium, low-cost-share low-deductible health insurance plan lifelong. Certain that he/she will never go off current insurance for any reason. Hates being taxed to support "Obamacare."
Category 2 — Middle income, wants "control" and "freedom." Prefers tax-deductible Health Savings Account (HSA) + High Deductible Health Plan to ACA-compliant insurance. Accepts risk of calamities in two straight years wiping out the HSA before deductible is reached.
Category 3 — Lower income denies s/he will ever need health insurance. Resents penalty for not having it. Too proud to apply for subsidy. Backup tactic: ER .
The subsidies the ACA provides come mostly from taxes on category 1. These people would get a tax cut with ACA gone, but only for the stratosphere would it amount to much ($197,000/yr for 0.1 percent). Persons under the $200,000 level don't finance subsidies with their taxes, though they can be penalized for not buying health insurance if not exempted.
Good coverage for 20 million previously uninsured individuals is a visible benefit to our country. By how it reshaped health insurance beginning in 2010, ACA also benefits the vast majority of insured Americans who may need someday to negotiate a different plan. It assures we will be able to have (not just "have access to" ) comparable coverage in the individual market priced per ACA standards.
We would lose a lot with ACA gone. The worst loss is coverage of pre-existing conditions. Without ACA, someone who wanted to change employment status and get an individual new insurance plan would not be offered a community rating based just on age, region of residence and smoking status. He/she would have to go through medical underwriting. Insurers would go back to selling policies with a premium set higher and or a higher deductible for pre-existing conditions. Community rating is why the ACA can aspire to cover pre-existing conditions at affordable rates. Without community rating, coverage for pre-existing conditions will be unaffordable for most if adequate and inadequate if affordable.
Then who should want to keep the ACA, with certain improvements, to not replace it with a cheap veneer? Anyone not in one of the three categories above. That's almost all of us, not just those who got covered because of the ACA.
Paul Ryan: "Freedom is the ability to buy what you want to fit what you need. Obamacare is Washington telling you what to buy regardless of your needs."
Thank You For Protecting STAR Program
I applaud the New York State Assembly for passing a bill to reverse the major change to the STAR property tax-relief program. The state's mismanagement of the new rebate system is an out-and-out disaster and has added hardship to homeowners who are already having a tough time paying high taxes.
I recently read that the New York State Senate hasn't taken up the legislation yet. I hope they will do so as quickly as possible for the sake of taxpayers. I also urge school districts to forgive any penalties that have accrued or for state legislators to pass such a bill. To have to pay several hundred dollars in penalties is insult on top of injury. The state delayed payment and is to blame for this mess, not homeowners. Do the right thing. Reverse the penalties, too.
Who Benefits From Greater Carbon Reliancy?
The Trump administration has a very clear agenda and it involves fossil fuels.
In his first days in office, Trump restarted Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines (both primarily for oil export by private firms). His first legislative act was to overturn a law requiring transparency in oil payments to foreign governments; suspect in that his secretary of state had worked on a deal between Russia and Exxon worth $500 billion. We have no idea to what extent Trump is invested in fossil fuels — until we see his tax returns.
Most recently, Trump is abolishing the fuel economy standards designed to curb carbon pollution responsible for thousands of premature deaths every year, and contributing to global warming. More gas guzzlers mean a big step backward in efforts to rein in climatological changes that cause devastating effects already evidenced in worsening and costly — sometimes deadly — storms and warming/acidifying oceans. Unstable climate has huge 'hidden' costs when flooding and droughts negatively impact our property and food supply.
Continuing to push SUVs and other autos with low MPG ratings will mean Americans need to buy more fuel to fill their tanks, not a hardship for many while oil prices stay down. Pushing oil exports might make for less domestic supply, which could reverse the market.
When oil prices rise, who'll benefit?
ACA Resolution In Legislature
I authored a memorializing resolution entitled "Opposing a Full Repeal of the Affordable Care Act without a Comparable and Immediate Replacement Plan That is Ready for Implementation" which moves to the floor of the Ulster County Legislature for a full vote. The resolution addresses several areas of the Affordable Care Act which most Americans believe should be inclusive within our health care system. Prior to the ACA, consumers of health insurance were discriminated against for pre-existing conditions, as most insurance policies did not provide any coverage until a minimum of six months had transpired and nothing prevented those with pre-existing conditions from being charged higher premiums. Prior to the ACA, dependants of policyholders were typically not able to stay on their parents' plans up to the age of 26 and nothing prevented insurance companies from placing lifetime caps on the coverage of policyholders. The ACA placed mandates on these three areas of insurance coverage. In addition, Medicaid's coverage for prescription drugs which causes gaps in co-pay amounts above a certain spending threshold ("Donut Hole") is another issue that I address in my resolution. This results in excessive out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs that are purchased by seniors. My resolution calls for Congress and the Executive Branch to research how the coverage gaps in prescription drug co-pays can be lowered.
Another area of concern that I address in my resolution deals with the reimbursement methodologies that Medicaid uses to disperse funding to individual states. Under the current system, states receive funding based upon the specific number of claims filed and the types of treatments that are incurred in each respective state. A switch to a finite-based block-grant funding system for each respective state would probably change the formula that New York State currently uses to reimburse individual counties. If this were to happen, Ulster County would likely lose out on millions of dollars of reimbursements.
Two recommendations that my resolution makes are for the Federal Government to research how the spending-deductible-thresholds for catastrophic plans can be lowered and how funding for a proliferation of sliding-scale-based clinics can be established in individual states. This would enable those without insurance to receive medical treatments and coverage which would help fill the gaps that still exist within our system/society where over 60 percent of all personal bankruptcies are from healthcare bills. Ideally, such policies can help improve upon a healthcare system that is ranked 37th in the world with a life expectancy age that is ranked 42nd in the world!
Ulster County Legislator
How About Hiring Bharara To Go To DC?
Congress should hire fired U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara to help drain Trump's swamp!
"Lost in an ocean of dead titles"
So your newspaper has decided to try and swim instead of drown? Congrats. Curious that the owner would seek guidance from a homeless "writer" halfway across the country in New Orleans instead of people right here who read the damn thing. And what's with the dog?