Sunday, December 23, 2007

'Twas The Day Before the Night Before

"Truth is God's will."

Those words were an integral part of the eloquent homily given by Deacon Greg Zoltowski this morning at St. John the Evangelist Church. It's an interesting distinction when truth is thought of in this context. The question I will try to continue to ask myself is, "Who is this person God is creating?" It's especially pertinent given the impending celebration of Christ's birth and our relationship to it. It's a fascinating concept to embrace...that we are ever-evolving as children of God. Humbly accepting and submitting to God's will, rather than "thinking we know." Perhaps tomorrow night, when nothing is stirring...not even a'll have an opportunity to reflect on the question yourself.

Have a very Merry Christmas and a joyous 2008!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Highway Excellence

I had the misfortune of having to commute home from downtown Albany to Rotterdam on Thursday afternoon during our first real snowstorm of the season. Circumstances forced me to travel locally which turned a normal 30-40 minute ride into a one and one half hour, bumper to bumper, 5 mph crawl.

It was definitely snowing at a rate that presented challenges for even the most seasoned road crews. I don’t recall having seen one plow in Albany and the roads reflected it. It wasn’t until I reached Guilderland that matters improved. It was a stark difference that demonstrated it was possible to keep the roads clear.

As I moved westward into Rotterdam, the roads were even better. I was completely stunned, even though I always admired the fine job Rotterdam seems to do on their highways when it snows. I figured it must be a fluke…that only the particular road I was on was in this good shape. I was wrong.

When I arrived home safely, I discovered my misfortune would continue because my daughter needed a ride to work. I’d have to drive throughout Rotterdam to get her there. I was amazed at how clean the roads were! It was a stellar job performed in adverse conditions by the Town of Rotterdam Highway Department.

When the plow visited my subdivision while I was shoveling out my home shortly afterwards, I witnessed first-hand the expertise and excellence of the Rotterdam Highway Department. The plow driver meticulously proceeded through the development, informing residents he saw that he’d soon be making another pass. This gave them the opportunity to keep their cars out of his path and provide for a much cleaner job. He even honked for some to give them the chance. This little extra effort required nothing but caring for the job he was doing and consideration for the residents. It did not impede or slow him down at all, and actually probably helped him to not to have to return to the neighborhood again.

I’d like to acknowledge the outstanding work of the Town of Rotterdam Highway Department for their superior efforts to provide safe roads. You should be proud because from what I experienced, you clearly outperformed many of our neighboring communities. Keep up the great work!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Holiday Antics

It appears Town of Rotterdam officials are not immune from working on holidays after all. After a full year of turning a blind eye to holiday wood-clearing shenanigans in Masullo Estates, the Town Board is adopting the strategy itself. They’ve decided to hold a public hearing regarding their controversial pay raise…on New Year’s Day. Of course, the public hearing is only a result of not adhering to the law when they awarded themselves a raise by amendment a few weeks ago. Happy New Year…at least if you’re a councilmember.

A public hearing for this matter is totally appropriate. Holding it New Year’s Day, on the other hand, is totally ridiculous.

Let’s keep the record straight anyway. Supervisor Tommasone didn’t include council raises in the proposed budget and voted against the amendment. Outgoing board member Mr. Godlewski also voted against it. Congratulations to both of them.

Mr. Mertz, Mr. Signore, and the outgoing Ms. Marco voted for the raise.

What I’d like to see at this point is for the 2 new council members, Mr. Della Villa and Mr. Silva, to have to cast a vote on the raise now. Remember, they ran for office and were elected to that office on the expectation of the previous $10,000 salary. If nothing else, I’d like to see them have to vote. I don’t want either to be able to accept the higher salary but blame someone else for getting it. These 2 guys ought to be against any raise and vote accordingly. Do the math and the vote swings 3-2 against an increase.

The argument will be made that somehow they deserve the raise because it’s been so long since they received one. Sorry, but from where I come from, raises are merit-based. Public service was never intended to be rewarded monetarily. These are difficult times for residents as they struggle to absorb ever mounting financial burdens beyond their control. We should all be tightening our belt together. $20,000 may not seem like a lot of money as a percentage of the budget but it’s still real money – better applied to almost any other need.

If Mr. Mertz and Mr. Signore don’t like their present $10,000 compensation – good news – they’re up for re-election next. The big dogs are beginning to look a little smaller.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Old Man and the Sea

Know your limitations. That’s the simple lesson learned from reading Hemingway’s classic tale. It’s a valuable lesson.

What’s the best way to determine exactly what those limitations are? Most of the time, it’s determined by pushing beyond your comfort zone. That as we all know is a challenging undertaking, not always a pleasant one but with potential for unexpected rewards. Of course, consequences are equally likely.

I rely on the 7 words from my previous blog entry to keep me motivated toward goals which sometimes seem unachievable. Funny thing about limitations is that they usually change over time. You never know when unless you’re willing to test the boundaries every now and then.

Thursday, December 6, 2007


Not too long ago in another forum, I discussed 7 words that serve to guide my actions. I like to refer to them as cornerstones. They are simple words with straight-forward meaning. Easily understood by many but applied to daily life with difficulty by most. Though each impressively is able to stand alone, it is the relationship to each other and their eventual combination that truly unlocks the powerful influence on a life.


Reprinted from Live Richly: Collected Philosophies of an Ordinary Man
Copyright 2006 M. O’Connor. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Our leaders are often derided for not being more transparent. Even I was recently taken to task because I didn’t provide a detailed enough recounting of a public meeting to people that chose not to attend. If you desire transparency in government, you also have to keep your eyes open when it’s being provided. Discover the link I’ve provided below and receive access. If you can read (and that’s the only requirement), you’re in business!

Everything you ever needed to know about what makes your government tick.

Moving Forward by Standing Still

I believe Quality of Life is best preserved and protected through proper planning. As I’ve already mentioned, proper planning is a byproduct of a solid, updated Comprehensive Plan.

For several months in early 2005, I advocated a town-wide moratorium. The concept was not embraced by the Town Board despite raging controversy over the existing Town Comp Plan. The argument against a moratorium boiled down essentially to the concern it would stifle development. I’ll acknowledge the short-term concern is valid, but the longer-term benefit actually outweighs the concern. Remember, good planning doesn’t just happen.

Moratoria are an accepted planning tool used by many communities. In fact, most of our neighbors have utilized them effectively. Why are we so reluctant to embrace the concept? The adoption of a moratorium allows the Town to carefully plan all zoning and development concerns. I contend the Town emerges from a moratorium better prepared to attract the desired type of development while preserving quality of life for residents. It is an advantage for the Town, not a disadvantage, to step back and get it right.

In 2005, we were on the brink of a Comp Plan review and update. It was argued that a moratorium wasn’t needed as a mechanism to facilitate the update – that things could proceed simultaneously. It’s now 2008 and despite whatever progress may have been made on some of the planning issues, the Plan remains inadequate. I think we need to reevaluate the value of imposing a town-wide moratorium.

These are a few important reasons for supporting a town-wide moratorium:

• To enable a full review and update of the Comprehensive Plan to ensure responsible development, both residentially and commercially
• To ensure proper planning and zoning are adequately discussed and considered.
• To solve groundwater and high water table issues that plague our area before additional development is allowed.
• To ensure proper infrastructure, such as sewers and roads, are in place to enable planned projects.
• To ensure schools can meet projected demands on resources.
• To ensure emergency services (fire, police and paramedic) can meet projected demands on resources.
• To alleviate any potential health and safety concerns related to proposed development.
• To ensure quality of life issues are satisfied and remain paramount to tax revenue generation.
• To preserve and protect rural character of town.
• To ensure that environmental concerns are thoroughly examined to ensure that the integrity of the aquifer is maintained.
• To ensure that environmental concerns are thoroughly examined to ensure wetlands, and the wildlife they support, are preserved.

Sound like garbage? I don’t think so. In the end, it’s all about Quality of Life. We’re simply trying to foster responsible development. Let’s adopt a town-wide moratorium to get a proper Comprehensive Plan in place. We may find out that by standing still for a moment, we’ve actually moved forward.

Friday, November 30, 2007


Today was an exceptional day. It was also a day where I was reminded of the people that have been instrumental in shaping and influencing my life.

In a society where so much seems disposable and loyalty is something that seldom exists, I was fortunate to count myself among the lucky few. Relatively young still at 43, I celebrated 20 years of employment today, a milestone not reached by anyone other than the owner of my firm. Content for it to be just another ordinary day, I was surprised to be recognized. The heartfelt appreciation for my dedication simply overwhelmed me. It won't be lost on me.

Of course, my accomplishments are not solely my own but a combination of efforts of the very many talented individuals that have supported and guided me over the years. I was quickly reminded of my parents and all the sacrifices they made that enabled me to realize today. Whatever gaps remained, my adoring wife and children provided. I am truly blessed and humbled...and I will do whatever I can to enable others in their lives to realize the joy I experienced today.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

25 or 6 to 4

2005 saw four candidates square off for two town board seats and the winners posted vote tallies of 4974 and 4930 respectively. Combined votes cast for all four totaled 17,542. Big #. Big dogs.

Mr. Mertz put up 4974. Previously, he mustered over 7000 votes in winning a special election against Mr. Cooke.

Mr. Signore put up 4930. He previously defeated Mr. Constantino for Supervisor, followed by two narrow losses to Mr. Paolino.

These two guys are bona fide vote getters and they do it in impressive fashion. These two guys are also the next ones up for re-election.

So the question becomes, Can I run with the big dogs? I’m always a believer but I don’t kid myself either. This is a potential mountain to overcome, so I’ve got my work cut out for me if I choose to throw in.

A five candidate field will likely dilute the necessary # of votes to win (assuming I’m a legitimate 5th threat) but I think it wise to plan to secure 5000 votes in order for me to emerge victorious.

If I’m going to get trounced, I couldn’t have picked a better opportunity than against these capable opponents, and that says nothing of who the Democrats might run.

A true test though. My decision will require careful consideration. I’ve been told it can’t be done. Not my way anyway. And even if it can, will it matter? Big questions for a little dog.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Time to reflect and give thanks. Today is a day of family, friends, good food and relaxation…at least for the fortunate. I thank God for my good fortune and for the ability to try to help out those with greater burdens than my own. No matter what your troubles, take a moment to reflect on your blessings. Put it all in perspective. Life is precious so enjoy yours and do what you can to help others enjoy theirs.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Comprehensive Planning

The importance of town comprehensive planning cannot be overstated. The Town Comprehensive Plan is the blueprint for where the town should be headed and the guide for making appropriate planning decisions. Of course, as time elapses the document is intended to be reviewed and updated on a specified periodic basis to ensure the goals and objectives remain valid and relevant.

Development of responsible zoning designations and performance standards are critical to actually realize many of the stated goals of any Plan. Effective land use doesn’t just happen. It’s planned for in advance.

One of the more serious, and often overlooked, problems in our town is failure to maintain a viable, updated Comp Plan. Too many times, planning decisions have been subjective, resulting in the plethora of spot zoning decisions and ill-conceived projects that have complicated further growth initiatives and eroded quality of life for so many residents. It shouldn’t have happened and it certainly doesn’t have to continue.

Recently, many positive steps have been taken to try to address exactly this. Critical Impact legislation was passed by the Town, new zoning designations are being developed, and several CDTC studies have been conducted at the major interchanges that serve the Town. While all these things are positive moves, they must be incorporated into the Town Comp Plan to realize any significance. That Plan update is grossly overdue. Moreover, the Plan was already seriously deficient and the Town has been delinquent in its application to decision-making anyway.

My displeasure with the decision-making of the Planning Commission in various matters is a well known matter of record. I’ll discuss reform or abolishment of that body in another post but I have to question their decisions when they’re based, at best, on an outdated guiding document.

I think in my next post I’ll examine my semi-controversial advocacy of using a quite effective land use tool, moratoria, to help rectify the Comp Plan problems. In the meantime, here is an excerpt from the Town Of Rotterdam Comprehensive Plan Vision Statement:

The main objective that the Town of Rotterdam would like to achieve as reflected in the theme of this Vision Statement is to preserve the Town's character and identity, while allowing for environmentally sound growth and development. The only way to achieve this is to develop a set of goals and policies that will guide town officials to make appropriate decisions regarding land use.

Among the goals identified as essential in maintaining a satisfactory quality of life for the Town of Rotterdam residents, business owners, and visitors are:

1) Provide an effective stewardship of the environment to protect critical and sensitive areas, maintain water quality, and conserve land, air, water, and energy resources by taking advantage of existing plans or ongoing planning activities such as watershed management plans, regional and local transportation plans, and other resource protection plans.

2) Encourage changes that promote a healthy environment in which to live by encouraging responsible development that limits noise pollution and traffic congestion, provides for pedestrian safety, discourages growth in environmentally sensitive areas, protects cultural resources, and provides high quality community design.

3) Utilize local human resources whenever possible to encourage local involvement in community actions and enhance community pride. This should include continued encouragement of public and private involvement in community traditions, as well as encouragement of volunteerism and activism.

These goals shall endure as the comprehensive plan is implemented, specific measurable tasks are accomplished, and changes occur. As the comprehensive plan is updated in the future to account for changing conditions, the goals in this Vision Statement will provide direction for future revisions. The Town will revise its development ordinances as necessary to implement the objectives of the Vision Statement and Comprehensive Plan.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Accountability. It's this concept which is probably the single most important when it comes to assessing achievement. Sure, no one likes it when they fail at achieving the desired goal. But how many actually admit the misstep and do something to rectify it? Everyone makes mistakes but only a select few truly overcome them. They're the ones that put aside excuses, take responsibility for the error, and then fix it. Find that in a politician and you've got the right man on the job.

This relates directly to what's bugging me particularly today. The woods across the street from me were cut down yesterday and a makeshift road to gain access to deeper woods has been crafted. Big deal? Only if the activity in question is questionable. The Planning Commission already ruled more than once that such activity would be strictly regulated by them when they denied these planned actions nearly a year ago. To my knowledge, that hasn't changed. And yet the trees are rapidly disappearing. I'm no tree-hugger, just a student of the law. This land has previously been subject to a Positive Declaration under SEQRA. I'm curious who'll be accountable.

A New Voice

"A Nice Place To Live." That's the motto of the Town of Rotterdam in New York. I live there. For the most part, the motto is true. For the other part, when you strain to fathom how the motto is even remotely true...well, that's what this blog will attempt to address.

There are a lot of important issues facing our Town. These are generally difficult times, however, as the Town tries to cope with the inadequacies of the recent reassessment, economic growth challenges, and divisive politics. Sounds much like what many other towns are faced with and we're not unique. What could be unique is how we choose to address these and other challenges.

I don't pretend to have all the answers. God knows, they aren't easy to come by. What I do offer are views and suggestions. I'll criticize plenty along the way but I hope to be constructive and offer alternative solutions too.

I know the question you're already asking. If I think I know so much better than our elected officials why don't I run for office? Valid question. I've been involved as a concerned citizen on various issues but that's certainly a different role. I've vaguely considered a run but I just didn't think I was the best candidate to accomplish what needed to be done. I'm pretty sure now I made a mistake by not running. I haven't been able to affect the necessary changes as an outsider even if I've been successful in helping bring issues into the light. But am I electable? I'll leave that for a later blog unto itself.

So off we go...