Cheers and jeers

CHEERS – To overdue action. Gloversville Fire Chief Beth Whitman-Putnam has been given the green light to seek bids for a ladder truck. Although the city may have to borrow for the possible million-dollar price tag, there appears to be no alternative. The need for the truck has been an issue for more than two years. It may take another year to buy the truck. The city submitted federal grant applications for the past five years and was denied each time. The federal government has given no reasons for the denials. The mayor, council and taxpayers should not give up on a possible reimbursement for the cost. Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Bill Owens stated, while visiting his new office at Gloversville City Hall, “We talked about a ladder truck today and we are going to be looking around to see if there is anything we can do to assist in that area.” Please look harder, Congressman Owens.

JEERS – To buried provisions. A story by The Associated Press regarding New York’s passage of a minimum-wage increase stated, “A hike in New York’s minimum wage is a big win for Democrats, but a provision buried inside the tentative state budget shows taxpayers will be paying much of the bill.” Legislators were quiet about this provision before the vote. The “minimum wage reimbursement credit” can be found at the bottom of a revenue bill in the budget separate from the minimum-wage measure. The credit would reimburse employers for part of the difference in wages from the current $7.25 minimum wage as it rises to $9 an hour by 2016. When it reaches $9 an hour, employers would pay 40 cents and taxpayers $1.35 of the extra $1.75 an hour workers are paid. If you legislate an increase in the minimum wage, then realize a subsidy is needed to offset it, was something not quite thought out? The credit will burden the taxpayers, who not only foot the bill for the increasing number of people on public assistance, but now will supplement some minimum-wage earners and businesses. How deep are your pockets?

CHEERS – To a nomination. The Sanford Stud Farm in the town of Amsterdam has been nominated for a position on the national and state registers of historic places. For the past seven years, a small group of people who make up the not-for-profit Friends of the Sanford Stud Farm have worked tirelessly to get the nomination. If accepted, the listing on the registers would be a victory in the efforts to keep the legacy of the legendary thoroughbred farm alive. To Lou Hildebrandt Jr., John Lesniewski, Tom Foster and many others, thank you for not giving up.

Cheers and jeers

CHEERS – To serving up savings. The Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services wants the Gloversville and Johnstown school districts to consider combining their food-service programs, similar to their collaboration on transportation. BOCES Superintendent Patrick Michel says the two districts are saving a significant amount of money by sharing transportation services and a bus garage, and the districts also could save by sharing food programs. If the districts can maintain quality with this approach, they should move forward with it.

JEERS – To Montgomery County Court Judge Felix Catena. The judge refused to allow the press to take photos in the courtroom during the sentencing of killer Ivan Ramos earlier this week. Ramos, who murdered two people in Amsterdam, received life in prison. This newspaper formally requested permission to take photos and was denied by the judge. We see no good reason to deny the photo coverage. Certainly, photos taken at a sentencing have no effect on the outcome of the case. We repeat our call to all judges to give the public the opportunity to see justice being carried out. The state’s top judge, Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, who presides at the Court of Appeals, recently called for expanded access in courts. State lawmakers should follow the chief judge’s lead and permit the placement of cameras – still and video – in all courtrooms.

CHEERS – To the Mayfield High School Jazz Band. The band, led by Noel Wing, received a gold rating for its performance March 8 at the 26th annual Oneida High School Jazz Festival. The gold rating is the highest awarded at the festival. Congratulations to the band. The accomplishment marks another victory for the Mayfield music program.

JEERS – To the Johnstown town council. The infighting and name- calling among board members and the town supervisor must stop. We witnessed the unprofessional behavior again Monday night when members argued about pay rates. At one point, Supervisor Nancy MacVean said to council member Beth Schloicka, “You were the one who was screaming at me that I was no good as a supervisor or a budget officer. You tried to get me to swear at you or take a swing at you because Whizzy here had a camera on me the whole time and you thought you could take me to the ethics board.” When she said “Whizzy,” she was referring to council member Daryl Baldwin, who has worked as Whizzy the Clown. Town residents should be concerned about the decorum at these meetings. Town officials should work out their personal differences outside of council meetings and focus on serving the public at Town Hall.

Cheers and jeers

CHEERS – To a job well done. When some people retire, they are given accolades by others from a podium addressing a large group in attendance. Others just go silently – others like Gloversville native Susan Kiernan. For 19 years, Sue’s name was synonymous with Nathan Littauer Hospital. At the time of her retirement, she was serving as vice president of development. She was a part of the leadership team and volunteers who have worked to make the hospital and its eight centers an apex of high-quality health care facilities in our area. Sue is one of our shining examples of a person who was born in Gloversville, went off to college and worked in Ohio and Milwaukee, but when the opportunity for professional advancement turned out to be back home, she came back and gave back. She worked hard at her job and in the community through her involvement with the Chamber of Commerce, Mountain Valley Hospice, Family Counseling Center, Soroptimist and more. Thank you, Sue, for coming back home. May you enjoy your retirement and get back to an excellent game of golf.

JEERS – To another Bloomberg boondoggle. Our sister paper, The Jamestown Post Journal, runs a “thumbs upthumbs down” weekly column, similar to the “cheers and jeers” you are reading now. We agree with the thumbs down to another overreach by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City. Earlier this week, Bloomberg announced plans for a social media campaign to warn young people about the dangers of listening to loud music through their headphones. So far, the New York City Health Department has raised $70,000 for the campaign. We understand loud headphones aren’t good for one’s hearing, just like we understand drinking too many sugary drinks aren’t great for the body. One would think, though, there is a better use of $70,000 at a time when most departments are crying poverty. Surely, there must be an actual public health issue in New York City that could use the money.

CHEERS – To the Fonda firefighters. At 12:01 a.m. Thursday, after more than a century of service, the Fonda Volunteer Fire Department officially was dissolved. The department, known at the beginning as Mountaineer Hose Company No.1, started with Charles Dunbar as its first chief (called a foreman). The last chief was Donald Wagoner. Through the years, the department has protected a community, saving lives and providing comfort when needed. Merely expressing a thank you to all of you who have been a part of the department barely expresses the gratitude for your remarkable, and at times heroic, service.

Cheers and jeers

CHEERS – To 14. Eyes and ears should be on those involved with merging two school districts into one. The Oppenheim-Ephratah and St. Johnsville Board of Education members have been working together diligently to ensure the merger will become a success. The upcoming election March 19 will include 14 candidates vying for the opportunity to be among the seven members of the new St. Johnsville-Oppenheim-Ephratah school board. They all are showing enthusiasm and interest. We hope those who lose the election will have an opportunity to serve in other leadership roles in the new district. It would be refreshing to see a similar number of candidates come forth for school board elections in other local districts this year. We believe the St. Johnsville-Oppenheim-Ephratah merger will prove its value to the students.

JEERS – To a thirst for power. Less than two weeks from now in New York City, the ban on serving sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces will go into effect. There will be no more 2-liter bottles with pizza orders, and forget those cost-saving pitchers of soda. Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s success in exiling the “big gulp” has come up against a bump, however. Surgery drinks sold in supermarkets and grocery stores follow state regulations, not the city’s health department. The mayor is now calling for the state to follow his ban. The governor and our legislators should stay clear of this. Bloomberg’s ban is another example of government moving into your home, uninvited.

JEERS – To efforts to overturn New York state’s property tax cap. The state’s largest teachers union and some parents sued to overturn the cap, claiming it widens the gap between rich and poor districts and interferes with local control of schools. We hope the courts reject the legal effort. The tax cap is serving a vital service – keeping property taxes from skyrocketing. Property owners in this state pay some of the highest tax rates in the nation. While we still contend the state must provide more mandate relief to local schools and government, the tax cap should remain in place. If taxes go much higher, more people will be unable to afford to own property or live in New York, and that certainly would be bad for school districts.