Monday, May 26, 2008

The Art of Weeding

Have you ever read the book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? Well, I don’t own a motorcycle and I’m not too handy for that matter. If you haven’t read the book, I’d recommend it but for now you’ll have to settle for my version which I’m dubbing, iPod and the Art of Weeding.

I’ve been traveling a lot unexpectedly and so have fallen behind on some seasonal chores. I decided to turn up the volume and pull weeds. Surprisingly, I discovered my Grandmother’s advice was still as sound as ever.

So how does this relate to solving any of Rotterdam’s problems? It doesn’t. Not one iota. I know some of you were secretly hoping for some sort of weed analogy but today’s posts are strictly personal therapy. Alright…one analogy…if the Town systematically addressed one problem at a time they’d eventually be staring at a weed-free landscape. I know someone is thinking why not just spray the weeds with weed killer all at once and be done with it? Because then you wind up with a dead lawn that still needs you to pull up the weeds by hand anyway. Okay, so I don’t have a green thumb…

Thanks for letting me indulge myself. I’ll be back to Rotterdam business and other topics of interest soon for sure.


Today marked the 3 year anniversary of the end of one family member’s journey. My sister-in-law waged a courageous battle and there were many valuable lessons for me upon her passing. I reflect on these lessons daily. They have profoundly altered the manner of my thinking. I miss her.

Oddly, my Dad is approaching his journey’s end too. But he simply refuses to go, defying the odds. I’m at peace with the ultimate conclusion of his journey. I suppose that’s easy since I’m not the one dying. I’m still learning the nuances of the lessons learned, I guess. My compassion unfortunately translates as awkward callousness. But I know what I mean and feel, even if I convey it poorly to others.

So today’s post is meant as a brief reminder to cherish every single moment of your life and of the lives around you.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Benjamin Franklin was one of the most extraordinary persons the world has ever known. He certainly has always impressed me. I found this excerpt from Wikipedia intriguing given my own Cornerstones post.

Franklin sought to cultivate his character by a plan of thirteen virtues, which he developed at age 20 (in 1726) and continued to practice in some form for the rest of his life. His autobiography (see references below) lists his thirteen virtues as:
1. "TEMPERANCE. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation."
2. "SILENCE. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation."
3. "ORDER. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time."
4. "RESOLUTION. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve."
5. "FRUGALITY. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing."
6. "INDUSTRY. Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions."
7. "SINCERITY. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly."
8. "JUSTICE. Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty."
9. "MODERATION. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve."
10. "CLEANLINESS. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation."
11. "TRANQUILLITY. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable."
12. "CHASTITY. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation."
13. "HUMILITY. Imitate Jesus and Socrates."

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Playing Checkers

I am particularly concerned about the apparent lack of progress toward updating our Town Comprehensive Plan for Rotterdam. Yes, there are numerous CDTC studies completed or in progress for each NYS Thruway interchange that feeds our town. Yes, town officials are trying to update the town code to be more relevant. But this has been going on for far too long without a resultant Comp Plan that can be applied to development pressures throughout the town.

For instance, the first CDTC study was completed for the Route 7 – Burdeck Street Corridor in 2004. The information contained within it wasn’t part of the Comp Plan when Wal-Mart was planning a new super center in that area. That should’ve been a wake-up call to the Town to get their house in order and they were essentially granted a reprieve for their past failure to do so when the Wal-Mart idea was scrapped. Interestingly, the Town adopted a 6 month moratorium during that time but failed to implement the zoning they desired when it was over. I think if they had implemented the town-wide moratorium I advocated for at that time instead and focused on updating the Comp Plan properly, we’d be in better shape now.

Two other studies are done or nearing completion, and are yet to be incorporated into an adopted Plan. But assuming your Comp Plan gets updated every 10 years (our 2001 Plan was scheduled for updating after 5 years in 2006, by the way), the information from the first study is already halfway out-of-date. The Town Code (yet to be available to residents online) is incredibly stale. The obvious problem this all highlights is the fact that development pressure has not been standing still and we are increasingly falling behind in addressing it adequately. We’re busy playing checkers when we should be playing chess.

It’s still not too late to make our best attempt at preserving our Quality of Life and denying Rotterdam from becoming merely a non-descript drive-through town. Here’s what I’ve suggested before and continue to suggest. First, impose a year-long, town-wide moratorium with the intention of getting the Plan updated and functional. At the same time, freeze all requests for zone changes and update the Town Code. The absolute simplest way to beef up the Code is add at least two zeros to every existing penalty/fine on the books in an effort to deter violations, but it certainly needs more than that. Enforcement and oversight has to become a higher priority than it has been previously. Second, develop a detailed plan for building infrastructure in a strategic manner to support the vision that has been determined by the Plan. These are broad strokes to be sure, but at least they’re strokes.

McLane’s recently pulled the plug on their intended project, but Route 7 parcels are being gobbled up as I write, no doubt the next “crisis” of planning. On the other side of town, Hamburg sits waiting for sewers to revitalize that corridor. We need to be better than we’ve been addressing these matters before it’s too late. We need to start playing chess instead of checkers.