To the editor:
As someone who has migrated away from Montgomery County for greener pastures and a better chance of employment, I have been disappointed when following the continuing saga of Muni and the city's leadership.
Amsterdam is a city with some real problems. The mills left long ago, and unemployment is high. Most of the new jobs created in the area have been low-wage retail-sector positions which are difficult, if not impossible, to actually live on. There are blighted houses and crumbling infrastructure. The school district ranks 413 out of 429 upstate school districts. Many of the area's college-educated students leave for bigger cities with real opportunities. The city's population has decreased by nearly 50 percent since its heyday. Yet, no one in this city seems to want to work collaboratively to actually improve anything. Word of advice to the city council: Why don't you try to accomplish something?
Muni is a gem. It is one of the few "tourist attractions" that Amsterdam can boast and it should be run as best as possible. It should be a profitable venture for the city. The city council seems to be living in the 1950s, when Amsterdam had some money and affluence. That affluence has fallen through the cracks of 50 years of population loss, mismanagement, short-sightedness, and holding onto things that don't exist anymore. It really is time to take a step into the modern world, push up our sleeves, and start collaborating like adults.
And yes, a casino may bring a few people to town and may bring a few bucks in. However, if I were a developer investing tens of millions of dollars, I would be seeking out a city where the mayor and council and residents work together to get things done.
I would love to move back to Amsterdam some day. The restaurants are great; the houses are big and beautiful; the river and valley are scenic. But there are big problems that need to be addressed and if a little, highly fixable problem like Muni can't be managed, then I have no hope for any true progress in this once-great city. Take a good look in the mirror, Amsterdam.
Jersey City, N.J.
The conduct of city officials
To the editor:
Most of the content of this letter was transcribed from the examination of city of Amsterdam records and reports from June 1, 2011, through March 31, 2013, which was conducted by the Office of the State Comptroller.
"The general fund has an unrestricted fund balance of $620,076, a decrease of 81 percent of the $3.4 million from the 2007 fund balance; city had been depleting that balance steadily for several years."
"In 2009, the Office of State Comptroller (OSC) warned city officials budget deficit would likely be much higher than they had projected and that the 2009-10 budget should be framed with this in mind." (This obviously didn't happen.)
"According to the city's budget and annual financial report filed with the OSC, the city initially appropriated $608,000 of the general fund balance in that year's budget but appeared to use closer to $1.3 million."
"The combined fund balance at June 30, 2012, and March 31, 2013 (total assets failed to equal liabilities and fund balance), the difference was $3,231,241." (Note assets must equal liabilities and fund balance.)
Despite the red flags raised by the OSC and private sector auditors, especially the auditor of 2012, who said the pending "$3.9 million BAN (bond anticipation note) combined with the current debt will result in approximately $29 million in obligations. Too excessive for the current revenue stream."
City officials must be unaware of Section C-121 Appropriations Reduction, because over a three-year period they borrowed $16.6 million and continued to increase the payroll and spending.
Does the conduct of city officials during the above mentioned periods meet the criteria for any of the following? Non-feasance? (Failure to act; failure to do what ought to be right.) Misfeasance? (The performance of a lawful action in an illegal or improper manner.) Maleficent? (Working or productive of harm or evil.)
Cutting down the travel time
To the editor:
With Amsterdam and Schuylerville high schools applying for membership into the Foothills Council why wouldn't this be the time to reorganize that sports league and finally get away from the big travel problems that plague these schools?
The schools in the Mohawk River area could easily form their own league with Broadalbin-Perth, Amsterdam, Scotia, Gloversville and Johnstown, plus Cobleskill-Richmondville and Fonda-Fultonville who had previously applied (Cobleskill-Richmondville was rejected and Fonda-Fultonville backed out.)
Other schools in their general area such as Mohanasen, Schalmont and Bishop Gibbons-Notre Dame would seem also to be logical entrants.
The remaining schools in the Foothills Council probably could form a more local league consisting of Schuylerville, Glens Falls, Hudson Falls, Queensbury and South Glens Falls plus fledgling "B" schools such as Granville, Hoosick Falls, Mechanicville, Stillwater and Corinth. Of course, the number of students at each school and its projected growth would have to be considered.
Thomas J. Farnan,
Sorting through historical names
To the editor:
A few years ago there were eight of us in the dining room to meet with Sister Patricia Ann Corbett. She was late and one of the old-timers wondered whether her name "Corbett" could be traced back many years ago to the name James J. Gentleman Jim Corbett. He was the heavyweight boxing champion of the world. None of the eight people were Rhodes Scholars, so we dismissed that.
Tommy stood up and said do any of you people remember the name Boston Corbett? He is the man who shot and killed John Wilkes Booth -- the assassin of Abraham Lincoln. In going through Booth's clothing, Corbett retrieved a small notebook. In this notebook was the name Mary Sarriat. She would later be one of four people who would be hung. Corbett knew he would have to turn over this notebook to members of Lincoln's cabinet. Now between the time he discovered this book and transported it to Washington there were eight pages missing. They were never found.
All of a sudden the eight of us advanced this knowledge 90 years. And we all came up with the same name, Rosemary Wood. She was Richard Nixon's private secretary. Congress seemed to be looking for several tapes that Nixon had recorded. They also turned up missing.
Now we move ahead to the present day. Fast and Furious, the IRS and Bengazi have about 15,000 pages of testimony which we have recovered 800 pages. The rest seemed to have been misplaced. The people responsible for this, so far, no one has been caught, no one fired and no one prosecuted. It does seem to be true that politicians make such strange bed fellows. No one seems to be responsible for anything. Tommy didn't need any notes. This came right off the top of his head. From that day forward, and this discussion used in the old building, I never questioned him.
Now, when I hear Jay Carney try to explain this administration's answers to the questions by reporters, I can't help but think that if he were the captain of the Titanic, he would probably get on the public address system and speak as follows: "Don't get excited folks, we're just stopping to pick up some ice."
I treasure the years I spent at Mount Loretto because of the people I encountered there. Tommy, Wanda Tolpa, Ann Bush, Judy Newland, Sally K., Shirley, Kevin, Darla and two who are no longer with us: my all time favorite Flo Hartman and Diane Dunbarit.
Would like next week to bring you three separate incidents from LaSalle School for boys. The theater trips, the barbershop trips and the LaSalle laxatives.
Thank you for your patience.
James J. Sheridan,
The Valentine's Day crow count
To the editor:
There are many delightfully romantic things to do in the city of Amsterdam on Valentine's Day. You could have dinner at a nice restaurant. Enjoy a hot fudge sundae at Fariello's. Perhaps even stroll by the river to watch the full moon rising.
Or you could count crows.
Watching big black birds swirling eerily over the city may seem like a pastime better suited to Halloween than Valentine's Day, but winter is when the crows are in town. On Feb. 14, my husband and I did the dinner and the sundae, but first we shared our Valentine celebration with the crows.
We got to our observation point early, to get a good spot we drove to the Riverfront Mall and parked in the parking garage, facing south with a good view of the river. Oddly, there were no other crow enthusiasts out. The fact that it was 19 degrees with a tidy wind-chill might have had something to do with that. Shivering in the car (the heater isn't working well) we had a front-row seat as we waited for the show to start.
The birds don't start coming in till just as the sun is kissing the horizon. Then a few early birds flap by, heading for the line of trees bordering the river, where they'll meet up with a few thousand friends and relatives. Then more and more crows fly in, till there's a steady stream of black dots overhead.
Last year the crows came in from more or less all directions, but this year by far the most of them came from the west. They followed the Mohawk, flowing through the air like a river of birds above the river of frozen water. The severe cold and snow this winter has made it harder for the crows to find food, so perhaps the chance of gleaning some scraps from the cropfields to the west of Amsterdam lures them out that way. Crows will range out about five to 20 miles from their roosting spot to feed during the day, then return to the communal roost at night.
You think you've got it bad this winter, at least you don't have to sleep in a tree, huddling your feathers against the snow and wind. Crows often choose to roost in cities because the human-made buildings block the wind and radiate heat, making the city several degrees warmer than the countryside.
As the dark deepened, the crows became harder and harder to see, like flakes of ash against a gray sky. We kept counting, timing them in batches -- approximately 20 crows a second flew overhead. Twenty, 40, 60, 80, 100. Twenty, 40, 60, 80, 200. Twenty ... and so forth. At a very conservative estimate, 20,000 crows flew by on that cold Valentine's night.
Then it was time for dinner and a hot fudge sundae.
Thanks for showing concern
To the editor:
Just to say a thank you to the nice couple that took the time to stop and see if our puppy was OK after going into the road from between snowbanks and into their car. It looked bad but was only a scuff on his chin which was bleeding. We are so thankful. He seems fine as of this writing.
Again, thank you for caring enough.
Gary and Donna Dickerson and puppy Rufus,
Library friends offer their thanks
To the editor:
The Friends of the Amsterdam Free Library hosted a wine tasting on Friday, Feb. 14. We want to thank Hummingbird Hill Winery, Fariello's Confectionery, Palatine Cheese, Party On, and guitarist Scott Collins for helping make it a successful event.
The funds raised will go to purchase additional audio books for the library. We look forward to our future events and the wonderful support we always seem to receive from the community. The Friends of the Library meet on the second Friday of each month at 3 p.m. Come join us.
Death of a beaver pond
To the editor:
Hi, I'm a pair of young beaver that have come up the river to this side creek to start a family. First we build a dam then a small house. All kinds of animals and birds come to join us and start a family. Trout, coon, ducks, mink, muskrats, frogs and mosquitoes, etc. The bear and deer bring their little ones down from the mountain to get a drink and look for frogs.
We can handle trappers fairly well if they are careful where they set their traps and only trap a few of us. Then our homes can stay for many years and we support all this other wildlife. We strengthen our dams, add to our family, and expand wildlife for many years.
Then in my opinion EnCon had too many deer killed, especially in the 1960s. The deer herd has never recovered to what it used to be. Coyotes and fisher, etc., that live on winter kill deer. (Deer that die from natural causes -- old age, etc.) are forced to find other ways to eat. They have come into towns to eat cats and deer that people are feeding in town.
A starving coyote came to our pond and laid in the bush all day waiting for our little ones to come ashore for food. Big beaver can fight them off and make it back to water.
To make a long story short, our pond and wildlife was destroyed mostly from too many coyotes and lack of monitoring deer.
I wish EnCon and NYS rangers would have a better wildlife count in West Canada and check on places that have less beaver and deer.
Maybe fish and game clubs would pass this around and see what they think.
Lewis N. Page Sr.,
Collectors, hobbyists will benefit
To the editor:
Continued survey analysis results steadily indicate that four out of every five expected international tourist visitors traveling to Saratoga once the spa becomes a recognized popular global tourism center comprised of a world-class thoroughbred horse racing track, a performing arts center, a visual arts resident community and a casino, should one be constructed somewhere on the landscape, are long-standing, experienced, seasoned collectors and fledgling hobbyists.
What this means is that existing local and area collectibles distributors and vendors who possess the necessary alert business acumen to instantly recognize the tremendous economic collateral benefits a global tourism spa will actually create for them, can expect to have full access to the all-important incentives which successfully motivates the tourist collectors to always patronize locations which offer opportunities for them to obtain desired additions to their holdings.
Establishing vastly expanding lucrative collectibles marketing sites no longer has to remain just another item on a progressive economic development wish list. Instead, it can become a reality that any cash-strapped municipality would, and should, warmly welcome.