Over the years we have tried to stay ahead of all the various issues that may pop up from time to time. And although there have been times in the past when we found it somewhat tricky to keep up with everything, we feel that we reached a new high, or possibly low, in issue overload this past week.
When we read a letter to the editor in last week’s paper we were somewhat stunned to be accused of being “demeaning and dismissive” because we had referred to fellow citizens as “a crowd.” We must admit that we have never thought being referred to as a crowd was considered to be a bad thing. And a check of the online dictionary still included the definition for “crowd” as being of “a group of people united by a common characteristic, as age, interest, or vocation.” In fact, we can remember when being in the in-crowd was the in thing to do. But it is possible, with the continual change of the English language, there is a nuance to “crowd” of which we are not aware.
That being said, however, we think it is important to note, that in writing the column of Oct. 17, we did not use the word “crowd.” The word “crowd” only appears in the headline which, we hasten to point out, was added by the newspaper after we filed the column. In fact, we think it is obvious that we did not write the headline “Anti-fracking crowd still mystifies me” because the headline is written in the first person. And since we started writing this column in 1984, it has always been written in the third person. Thus, had we written the headline it would have read “Anti-fracking crowd still mystifies us.” So while we regret that the writer of the letter was upset, we feel he should really take the matter up with the newspaper.
Meanwhile we also found ourselves dealing with all sorts of questions regarding the proposed CCS capital project upon which the district residents will vote Dec. 11 of this year. And even though we have met with the superintendent about the project, we really feel that we are in the dark about much of it. In fact we actually had already sent the superintendent an e-mail in which we wrote: “We think what is missing is the actual cost of each individual project and the reason for doing it at this time. Added to this are questions about the cost, the funding, the building aid and how much it will all add to the property taxes. Plus the concern about falling enrollment and increasing costs is always brought up in any discussion of the school.” It should be noted, we think, that when the last capital project was approved eight years ago, the student population was 1154 and the annual budget in the 13 million dollar range. Now the student population is 900 and the budget exceeds 17 million dollars.
In response to our e-mail to the superintendent, we received an e-mail which began with “I met today with the architectural firm to discuss how best to disseminate information on the proposed project.” We were stunned. It is now up to the architectural firm to decide how the school presents a capital project to its residents. But perhaps that helps explain why we seemed to learn so little from the superintendent when we met with him.
Thus, we are hoping to have the opportunity to not only get answers to our original questions, such as what do the individual parts of the project cost and what is the case being made for having to undertake them, answered along with all of our new questions. Given how this capital project seems to have been rolled out, we wonder why has the public not seemingly been aware of this capital project before now. And what has the public input into the project been? And, given the fact that the school board adopted the proposed project, two weeks after they revealed it at a school board meeting, what is the rush?
We also wonder how this project works with whatever is coming down the road in terms of changes in the educational landscape. Is it possible that the district will find itself paying off 15 year bonds long after aspects of the project are useful to the district. It would seem to us that there are a lot of questions to be answered before district residents vote on Dec. 11.
And the third issue of our fun filled day was an e-mail discussion we had with the mayor regarding a FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) request we made back in the middle of August. We made what we thought were two relatively simple requests, one for a copy of the concert contract and the other for an accounting of the village’s revenue and expenses related to the concert. And while we finally received a copy of the contract, we still do not seem to have a complete listings of the concert’s finances.
When we sent the mayor what we put together based on what we have learned about the finances, his response was: “That’s what I know of expenses based on what was given out in the monthly reports on overtime sheets that the board gets (July and August). There may be more. In my experience with the concerts, the village has looked at costs incremental to the concerts as the costs of having a concert - OT, comp time, garbage, etc. I know the office is putting together a bigger set of information though. On the revenue side, that’s what I know from the contract side. The trolleys also ran but I’m not sure what their revenue (ticket sales) was.”
We can but conclude that waiting for a complete answer to our FOIL request continues. We only hope when we finally get an answer, it will not be on the same day we have both headline issues and capital project questions. But having done so, we feel are more than able to identify with the thinking, which we came across recently, that said “We’ve reached an age where our train of thought often leaves the station without us.”
PLEASE NOTE: Comments regarding this column may be made by mail at 105 Pioneer Street, Cooperstown, NY 13326, by telephone at 607-547-8124 or by e-mail at email@example.com