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Marta Ward and Silda Spitzer

After attending a public seminar at Adirondack Community College, Silda Wall Spitzer, wife of Governor Elliot Spitzer, make an unannounced visit to Greenwich on Wednesday afternoon, August 15.

Planned in advance by her staff and the Greenwich Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown walking tour was an opportunity for Ms. Spitzer to listen to the concerns of local business owners. With little, if any, notice given to the media, the brief stop was not a photo-op.

Mayor Chris McCormick, Town Supervisor Don Wilber, Town Councilman Bob Jeffords, Janice DeCitise and Kathy Nicols-Thomkins of the Chamber, along with a number of Chamber members, greeted Ms. Spitzer upon arriving. Ms. Spitzer met with Glenda Clausen of Just Because, Marta Ward, Kathy Brown of One One One, Julia Reynolds of the Ice Cream Man, Tracy Peck of Needleworks, Judy Flagg of Union Village and Barb Hamel of Helping Hands Physical Therapy.

Before departing, Ms. Spitzer purchased a photograph by George Forss from the Upstairs Gallery at One One One, Supervisor Wilber extended an invitation to Ms. Spitzer to visit the Washington County Fair and Kathy Nicols-Tomkins gave her a small gift bag, including a copy of “Greenwich The Musical”.

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Ms. Spitzer with Tracy Peck of Needleworks Yarn.

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Ms. Spitzer with Greenwich Town Supervisor, Don Wilbur.

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Originally published on August 8, 2007

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The 21st annual “Lanterns of Remembrance, Lanterns of Hope” was held at Lake Lauderdale on the evening of August 2. Scheduled close to the anniversaries of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the only wartime use of atomic weapons, this solemn event honored victims of armed conflicts throughout the world.

Over 100 peace activists from the region met in the picnic pavilion at the park to assemble floating lanterns, share a potluck dinner, and listen to a series of readings on non-violence. Interspersed throughout the program was music from Lynne and Richie Bittner, Ferrilyn Sourdiffe, Stephen Alcorn and Shantia Mayer. Particularly striking was an original arrangement of “America The Beautiful” by Ms. Sourdiffe and Mr. Alcorn.

As darkness began to fall, the “peacemakers” slowly walked to the lake’s edge, following flutist Bliss McIntosh and four members of the Mettawee Players who carried large winged puppets. After lighting the paper-enclosed lanterns, participants gently placed them on the surface of Lake Lauderdale. Those present silently watched the lanterns drift out to the center of the lake. Many stood arm-in-arm, remembering loved ones now gone. The only sounds were the occasional squeals of young children, giving voice to those children all over the world whose lives have been lost or shattered due to war.

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Constructing a Lantern

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Mettawee Players

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Border Line – A look at what’s happening over the state line

This article was originally published on August 8, 2007

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Museums come in all sizes and shapes. From the modernist Tang Teaching Museum in Saratoga Springs to the hand-restored Log Village Grist Mill and Museum in East Hartford, New York.

Just across the border in southern Vermont is the regions newest museum, The Museum of Black WWII History. Located in an old schoolhouse in Pownal, Vermont, this museum is a true labor of love. It was opened to the public one year ago by Bruce Bird in the former Oak Hill Schoolhouse. Mr. Bird was able to purchase the building for one dollar with the assistance of Vermont Representative Bill Botzow, with the provision that it be used as a museum. After fixing the roof and other improvements, he estimates that he’s spent around $40,000 to date on the building.

Prior to retiring, Mr Bird spent two years as curator of the Vermont Militia Museum in Colchester, exhibits curator at the Vermont Veterans Home in Bennington. His museum career began with an internship at the Navy Museum in Washington, DC.

An avid collector of military equipment for over fifty years, Bird said that until ten years ago he had no idea of the extent of the military contributions made by this countries minorities. When he realized that our country lacked a museum devoted to their contribution, he decided to start one himself.

This modest two-room museum has display cases, which include historical photographs and extensive notes, about the most illustrious all-black units, such as the Tuskegee Airmen and the 761st Tank Battalion, also known as the Black Panthers, which served with distinction during the Battle of the Bulge. Plan on spending about an hour touring the museum.

On August 4th, the Museum will host Ray Elliott, a WWII veteran and now retired chemist whose laboratory monitored worldwide radiation fallout. Mr. Elliot will be speaking about growing up as a young black man in the 1940’s and 1950’s as well as what life was like in the segregated Army. Mr. Elliot will be speaking at 2:00 pm.

The Museum of Black WWII History is located at 179 Oak Hill Road in Pownal, Vermont. It is nine miles south of Bennington, just off of Route 7. Museum hours are Thursday to Monday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Adult admission is $5.00.

More information can be found at http://www.blackww2museum.org/ or by calling 802-823-5519.

Three Wars, Three Vets Remember

This article was originally published on May 16, 2007

As we applaud our Veterans marching past in Memorial Day parades, it’s all to easy to see them as anonymous soldiers, not as individuals. Veterans share a common devotion to duty and patriotism in their desire to serve our country, but they all bring their own unique history and upbringing with them. In the following article we profile three local Veterans who candidly discuss their experiences in the military and their motivations in enlisting.

Walter Hooke of Cambridge, a WW II Veteran, spent almost twenty years of his retirement voluntarily lobbying in Washington to get VA benefits for victims of radiation sickness. Dave LeCarte, a Hudson Falls native and Vietnam War era Veteran, describes himself as being victimized by his father’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder before enlisting himself. Brian Gillis of Bald Mountain, spent a number of years in the 1970’s and 1980’s in the National Guard and the Army, followed by a long career in the civilian sector before re-enlisting shortly after September 11.

Let their stories speak for all Veterans this Memorial Day.

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Walter Hooke

Walter Hooke of Cambridge, was 29 years old, living and working in New York City, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Because of his age and the care he was providing for his elderly mother, he was draft exempt. But in Walter’s mind, there never was any doubt that he would enlist and fight. Over the course of a few months he stopped spending money on himself, saving as much as possible. When he felt that enough was put aside to cover his mom’s rent and bills for six months, Walter enlisted. His employer, after listening to Walter explain why he needed to enlist, told him to see his secretary before leaving work. Waiting for Walter was a check that covered his mother’s rent for a full year.

By August 1943, Walter had completed his Marine Corp training at Camp Lejune and was transferred to Camp Pendleton in San Diego. Most of his time in the Marines was spent in training (including Officer’s School) or in supplies. The one campaign he took part in was the Marshall Islands.

“After the Marshall Islands, because I was a little older and I guess they thought I wouldn’t steal, I had the job of packing up the personal belongings of the guys that were killed on the Marshall Islands. I never got over that. You know their wallets and pictures and dog tags. One of them I always remember. We made a little box, it’s so much different from what’s going on in Washington now. Harry Hopkins was Roosevelts’ number two person. His son could have been an officer, he was gung-ho so he wanted to be an enlisted man. He was one of those killed. I remember making up this little box and sending it to the White House, addressed to Harry Hopkins, with his kids’ wallet and dog tag, that was about it, just a couple of little things. It’s so different from this war (Iraq), Roosevelt’s sons were in the war, all the people involved (in the White House) had someone in the war. Here you got an administration with nobody in the war . . . it’s all conversation with them.

When the end of the war came, Walter was an S4 officer, in charge of transportation and housing for his Division as they left Saipan to take up occupation duties in Japan, where he was based for a time in Nagasaki, the site of the second atomic bombing. By January 1946 Walter was discharged and returned to civilian life.

As the years went by, one fellow soldier after another from his last unit came down with cancer and died. Their deaths became a topic of concern at reunions, with worry and concern that the cancers were caused by the time the Division spent in and around Nagasaki. Walter ended up spending 20 years of his life, most of it after his civilian retirement, working to gain VA benefits for victims of radiation poisoning.

Walter is a member of two groups, The National Association of Atomic Veterans, whose membership is limited to Veterans; and the National Association of Radiation Survivors, which is open to anyone exposed to radiation including military testing in the Pacific and the Southwest, including dependents of those exposed. It took years of lobbying by Walter and many others, including a core group of widows, before Congress acted. Walter remembers one woman who testified before Congress. Her daughter sat beside her with arms crossed over her chest the entire time, vividly illustrating how she had been born without hands.

Finally, on May 20, 1988 President Ronald Reagan signed the “Radiation-Exposed Veterans Compensation Act of 1988”. Shortly afterwards, Senator Frank Murkowski, D-AK, sent Walter a copy of the bill along with a note thanking him for his “support, perseverance and faith”.

“As far as Memorial Day is concerned, I think all the paper (Main Street) can do is express concern about all the kids over there now, the number that have been wounded, permanently wounded”.

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Brian Gillis

Within days of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Brian Gillis knew his country needed him and decided to re-enlist despite the fact that he was forty one. Brian had previously served in the National Guard and the Army from 1978 to 1988 and was stationed in Texas and Germany. His first attempts to re-enlist in the Army were denied due to a combination of his age and physical condition. But a chance encounter one day on the job gave Brian the opportunity he was looking for.

As a corrections officer in the Washington County Sheriff’s office, Brian struck up a conversation one day with someone who was applying for a gun permit. That someone turned out to be Major General Joseph Taluto of the New York National Guard. Everything fell into place shortly afterwards.

Brian’s first six months back in the military was spent stateside. Once his unit received orders for Iraq, he re-enlisted for an additional year so he could accompany them. Upon returning from Iraq, Brian re-enlisted for six more years.

In Iraq, his unit, the 2nd Battalion, 108th Infantry, was assigned to a FOB (Forward Operating Base) 35 miles north of Baghdad. It was a former ammunition depot for the Iraqi Army. After the fall of Iraq, the depot was looted by insurgents and the stolen munitions buried in the fields surrounding the base perimeter. “When we got there, there was unexploded ordinance everywhere . . . at night, they would come in with trucks . . . digging the stuff up, firing at us, or shoot rockets or mortars.”

Responsible for vehicle maintenance, Brian was on the road every day, picking up spare parts, worried about being blindsided by IED’s (improvised explosive device). Everyone at a FOB did their normal job assignments, but because each FOB was responsible for their own security, “ . . . everyone switched a duty. Four nights a week I might be on OP Guard (Observation Post) up on our bunker, or OP Guard out on the back 40, which was really screwed up because you could be cut off out there, just like that”. When IED’s damaged or destroyed a vehicle, Brian and his unit would have to drive out and retrieve it.

He spoke at length about the dangers of IED’s and of the constantly changing tactics from both the insurgents and the US Military. His unit arrived with what Brian called “hillbilly armor” and it was sometime before their vehicles received “uparmor”. Once they did, however, the insurgents began replacing the crude IED’s with ones built using 155 mm howitzer shells, making them far more explosive and dangerous. When a IED, or a suspected IED was spotted, the initial procedure was for the vehicle that spotted it to throw out a flare, travel 150 yards and stop. All trailing vehicles would stop at least 150 yards behind the flare. It didn’t take long for the insurgents to begin planting IED’s in rows of three, 150 yards apart.

Besides having to deal with never knowing when or who was going to attack you, dealing with the weather was the other major source of stress. “The temperature topped out at 145 degrees where we were. Up on the observation post, you had to wear your helmet, you had to wear your body armor, and you had to wear a long sleeve shirt”. The long sleeve shirt was to prevent sun burn and was dipped in a solution to ward off mosquitoes and other bugs. “You’re up there for an eight hour shift and when you come down . . . you’re soaking wet, right down to your boots. All you would want to do is get a shower and three, four hours sleep, then get back up the next day and start all over again”.

When asked if there was a difference in how he celebrated Memorial Day before and after his service in Iraq, Brian said of course there was, then spoke at length about the friends lost and maimed in battle and of the close friendships of those he’s served with.

Although troubled by how many soldiers have been lost or wounded in Iraq, Brian is fully prepared to return to Iraq should he be ordered to. “I’ll do whatever my President tells me to do”.

“Some of the people I work with respect me for being in Iraq. If you want to respect someone, respect those that served in World War II. They shipped out not knowing how many years it would be before they would be coming home again. A letter might take 10 months to reach them. I was away from my family for a year, but I got to return home for two weeks. I can’t imagine not talking to or hearing from anyone for three years. I’d go crazy.

“It was tough for us but we were only maintenance, we were a lot of time on the FOB, but look at the guys we were supporting. They were infantry soldiers that were pounding the streets . . . that was their mission, going to town every day so look what they had to face . . . they did it every single day for eight, ten, twelve, sixteen hours a day.”

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Dave LeCarte

In 1972, Dave LeCarte, a graduate of Hudson Falls High School, had little idea of what he wanted to do with his life. The Vietnam War was still raging, but his draft number was 362; he knew he would never have to ship out to the jungles of Southeast Asia.

“I had no direction after high school, then I saw a picture of a tank in a TV Guide. That’s what drew me into the Army, the picture in the TV Guide. I said ‘I want to ride that tank’ . . .let’s try the army, never been away from home in my whole life . . . (I was) just a scared little kid. Never even had a drink. Went to Fort Knox the first night and I said ‘what the hell am I doing here’ . . . I made the worst mistake of my life. There were guys in the barracks crying that night ‘mommy’”.

“After I got out I went to college. I wish now I had did it in reverse; went to college and then joined the military”.

After six months of basic and advanced training, Dave was assigned to a unit in Europe, which is where his substance abuse problems started. His forty two months in Germany were spent on two bases where there was a lot of stability, even a day-to-day routine to his life which certainly was not what draftees experienced. While conditions in Germany could in no way be compared to those in Vietnam, American soldiers based in Europe were under tight security restrictions due to the terrorist activities of the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany and Red Brigades in Italy. Soldiers were not allowed off-base by themselves and were ‘advised’ to avoid popular public places. As a result, Dave’s time in Germany was spent in a closed environment, working basically nine to five in the military, with virtually no interaction with the local Germans. Peer pressure, combined with boredom and the social isolation, is what he attributes to his abuse problems. When asked if his experience was typical of those he served with, Dave stated that half of his buddies abused drugs and alcohol.

No one enters the military with a blank slate; their past life follows behind, sometimes like a shadow, other times like a burden. In Dave’s case, that past included growing up with a father who suffered from, but was never treated for, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. “I had post-traumatic before I went the service, my dad had post-traumatic from World War Two. My father was a powder keg and you never talked to him about anything . . . He alienated my whole family, he was so mean my brothers and sisters didn’t want to have anything to do with him”. By the time his father died, Dave was the only family member still in touch with his dad.

It wasn’t until his father’s death that Dave finally learned what his father went through during World War II. He was on a landing ship, taking part in the invasion of a small island in the Pacific when the ship came under heavy fire just as the troops were landing. Dave’s father was the only survivor. “He put all the bodies back on the boat. He was a hero, he just never talked about it. I have more respect for him now then I ever did when he was alive. No wonder he was PTSD. Come on, he was traumatized. He put all his dead buddies back on the boat”.

After getting out of the military, Dave distanced himself from it and the local Veteran’s organizations. After the invasion of Iraq, Dave joined the Saratoga Peace Alliance and helped form a Saratoga chapter of Veterans For Peace. “It’s kind of like that band of brothers attitude. We were special back then (in the military) but I also feel that brotherhood with the people in the Saratoga Peace Alliance. That’s my new band of brothers and sisters. I feel like my service now is more valuable in the peace movement than it ever was in the military. I tell younger guys that I’m active in Veterans for Peace so you won’t have to go overseas and die for nothing”.

When asked if he felt joining the military was a mistake, he hesitated and finally said “probably yes”. Yet Dave spoke about how important his service in the Army was to his growth as an individual. He also attributes his military service as the main reason he was later able to reconcile with his father. “Would I do it again, I don’t know. It gave me a bench I didn’t have before. I learned how to speak up for myself”.

“(That’s why) I go to these anti-recruitment things. I’m trying to save the next group of kids from going in and maybe losing their lives, or lose their future”.

This article was originally published on April 4, 2007

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Much has changed in southern Washington County during the past two decades. Grand Union was the largest food store in the area twenty years ago; the bridge over the Hudson in Schuylerville hadn’t yet been replaced; roundabouts were quaint ideas from foreign lands; Wal-Mart, still pushing the “Made in America” slogan, didn’t exist in the Northeast; the Leather Stocking Farm remained in notorious hands; and local Democrats were harder to find than a warm day in winter.

If any doubts remained that the election of Kirsten Gillibrand to Congress from the 20th Congressional District this past November wasn’t just a fluke, then those doubts surely were swept away by the boisterous crowd that greeted Congresswoman Gillibrand when she made an appearance in Greenwich on Saturday, March 24.

Congresswoman Gillibrand’s visit to Something’s Brewing, a local coffee shop, was part of her “Congress At Your Corner” program, which included similar appearances in Schuylerville, Ft Edward and was followed by a $125.00 per plate fundraising dinner at the Gideon Putnam in Saratoga Springs later that evening (a sure sign that the re-election campaign has already started).

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Beth and Greg of Something’s Brewing, Congresswoman Gillibrand and Greg

By the time the Congresswoman arrived, the crowd had filled Something’s Brewing way beyond capacity. Taking one look at the packed audience inside, spilling out on to the sidewalk in front, she quickly decided to move the meeting outside onto the sidewalk. It was an apt decision for the novice politician whose campaign included a pledge to have an open and transparent office. Being the first, warm sunny day of the spring didn’t hurt either.

The Congresswoman began by addressing the crowd for 20 minutes on a broad range of subjects. She described the election of Nancy Pelosi, the first woman Speaker of the House as “ . . . a wonderful thing for women all across the world”. Addressing security concerns, the Congresswoman spoke of how the new Congress began funding port security and checking containers and how “that matters for us because, obviously, if a container came up the Hudson River and was unloaded there (Albany) and had radioactive material, it could destroy our entire region”.

Addressing environmental issues, the Congresswoman told of the decision by Congress to take $14 million dollars in tax benefits previously given to the oil companies and redirecting them into a special fund for alternative energy, conservation technology and renewables . . . and that’s a key piece of legislation for our region because we have a lot of farmland here and one of the best solutions in the alternative market is bio-fuels and ethanol . . . “.

The Congresswoman spoke at length about Iraq. “I was highly concerned to read . . .that 80% of the (Iraqi) oil revenues would be allowed to be contracted to US and foreign interests . . . that money and profit is supposed to be going to Iraqi’s to rebuild their nation and rebuild their democracy”. She spoke of her desire for hearings to determine how the decision was made to allow such high foreign ownership of Iraqi oil. “If the American people understood that President Bush went to war for the oil, they would be very, very concerned. That is not the appropriate mission for our soldiers and for the lives of our sons and daughters.”

The Congresswoman also addressed the lack of progress in Iraq on basic security and reconstruction, stating the importance of Iraqi involvement in reconstruction and how by having local Iraqi companies involved would give a reason for the Sunnis and Kurds “to come to the table and start compromising”.

“The President has already told the world he’s going to veto this bill (that sets a deadline for US withdrawal), if it gets to the Senate and to me that’s quite remarkable because he’s really baring the will of the American people. The American people elected this Congress, 218 members of Congress voted for this resolution, from all across the nation. It was bi-partisan. Republicans voted for this resolution. . So what Congress is going to do is keep pushing”.

Defending her decision to vote for the deadline on US troop withdrawal, Congresswoman Gillibrand stated “the reality on the ground is that we could stay for 20 years, we could stay for 40 years . . . and we don’t have any guarantee that we’ll be any better off. . . . I’ve talked to as many experts as I could find to brief me on Middle Eastern policy and they say ‘You have a choice of two things. You can use your leverage effectually now and try to pressure these groups to come together . . . or stay and monitor it for 20 or 30 years . . . (but) your chance of success is no better then than it is now’”. “ When you stay, you have two problems. You have people looking at us as an occupier . . . and you also have the problem of it doesn’t move the political or economic lever”.

The Congresswoman spoke to the need to fully fund Veteran’s needs when they return home and how Congress just increased veterans funding to the highest level since World War II.

After her remarks, Congresswoman Gillibrand took a handful of questions from the audience and then met one on one with individual constituents before heading off for another meeting.

During the question and answer session, she repeatedly asked her aides to make notes of issues raised by the audience and to get contact information so she and her staff could follow. Two staff interns stayed afterwards, writing down additional constituent problems and concerns, asking if the concerned individual desired a phone call back from the Congresswoman.

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Lisa Manzi, aide to Congresswoman Gillibrand

This article was originally published on February 21, 2007

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(L-R)Pat Friesen and Pat McEneny, aids to Rep. Gillibrand, Leland Lakritz (back to camera) and Pete Looker of the Saratoga Peace Alliance, and Jim Fulmer of Veterans of Peace

The Occupation Project made its first appearance in the North Country on Thursday, February 8th when a dozen supporters arrived at Representative Kirsten Gillibrand’s Saratoga Springs office. A number of the peace activists went inside to meet with Rep. Gillibrand’s Director of Communications Rachel McEneny and aide Pat Friesen, while the others picketed in front of the Broadway office.

The purpose of the meeting was to pressure Rep. Gillibrand to vote to defund the current war in Iraq. Specifically Rep. Gillibrand was asked to co-sponsor House Resolution 508, the Bring the Troops Home and Iraqi Restoration Act which calls for bringing the troops home within six months while providing economic aid and a framework for stability.

The tenor of the hour and half long discussion was serious but respectful. Ms. McEneny and Ms. Friesen for the most part listened and took notes. Among the other issues that were raised were; the importance of fully funding the Veteran’s Administration, insuring that returning injured veterans will be properly cared for; concern that the Administration will attack Iran, inventing another Gulf of Tonkin incident to justify itself; concern that the results of the mid-term elections, that by all accounts were driven by growing anti-war mood of the electorate, will be ignored by the Democrats now that they are in power and concern that as we continue to pour billions of dollars into Iraq much of it wasted or missing, American society continues to suffer as schools, healthcare, public transportation and other parts of our own infrastructure deteriorate. Ms McEneny promised to send off a report to Rep. Gillibrand by that evening. It was interesting to note that both aides at different times said that they could not state exactly where Rep. Gillibrand stood on an issue “at this moment.” However Ms. McEneny must be given credit for inviting the media into the meeting. One doubts if other elected officials, past or present, would be willing to engage in a discussion on a controversial issue with constituents in front of reporters.

Because of the name of the umbrella group, The Occupation Project, print and TV reporters showed up, almost outnumbering the peace activists. Considering how little coverage actually appeared in their respective editions and broadcasts, one can only assume that their primary assignment was not to gather news, but to cover a potential sit-in or other form of Civil Disobedience.

Nationally, the Occupation Project has been organized by Voices for Creative Nonviolence, which describes the Occupation Project as “a campaign of sustained nonviolent civil disobedience aimed at ending the U.S. war in and occupation of Iraq. The campaign will begin the first week of February 2007 with occupations at the offices of Representatives and Senators who refuse to pledge to vote against additional war funding”.

The peace activists at the meeting belonged to various local organizations including the Saratoga Peace Alliance, Veterans for Peace, the Green Party and the Democrat Party. The local Occupation Project affinity group expects to hold follow up meetings with Rep. Gillibrand or her staff . They will be meeting with Tracy Brooks, an aide to Senator Hillary Clinton at her office in the Federal Building in downtown Albany on February 22 at 2:00 pm.

Dear Main Street,

What is it about our community that when a controversial issue comes along, anonymous flyers and letters appear?

If someone, or a group of people feel strongly enough about an issue to spend money on a mailing and do an additional email distribution, why don’t they have the courage to sign their name? Perhaps leaving off the names of those behind it on the mailing may have been an oversight; leaving it off the email was deliberate.

The issues of zoning and future growth in Greenwich are as intertwined as they controversial. What our community needs is an open and frank discussion leading to a consensus. The use of a blind email address as contact information is a sign of cowardice and shows a total lack of respect for democracy as well as for your neighbors.

David Doonan
April, 2007

Marching for Peace in Washington

This article was originally published on February 7, 2007

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A massive outpouring of peace activists filled the National Mall in Washington, DC on Saturday, January 27, demanding an end to the war in Iraq and calling for impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney. Many groups, such as Code Pink, Global Women’s Strike, US Labor Against War and the Green Party, gathered in different parts of Washington and marched through the streets to the mall, continually swelling the crowd.

While the size of the crowd may be in dispute, there can be do doubt that it was far closer to the 500,000 estimated by the event organizers, United for Peace and Justice, than it was to the tens of thousands reported in the corporate media. While the rally started at 11:00, the march itself didn’t begin until 1:30. I was standing close to the podium and thus near the head of the march, yet it took those around us half an hour to shuffle forward the first block.

Abandoning the idea of following the prescribed route (which was never made clear), I joined those who simply walked up the Capital grounds, crossing numerous barriers and joining back up with the ‘official’ marchers beside the Capital Building. It appeared that the intention was for the march to stay on one side of Constitution Avenue, turn around somewhere and then return down the other side. While three small groups of marchers, including one escorted by police cars (presumably the head of the march, missing the Hollywood celebrities and other dignitaries who were on the podium during the rally) did manage to make it back down the official route, the marchers took matters into their own hands, filling the streets and marching completely around the capital. When half a dozen police motorcycles attempted to prevent the crowd from crossing the barriers separating the Capital from the street, they were immediately surrounded by people chanting “Whose Streets? Our Streets!” At that point the police gave up and allowed the marchers to proceed as they saw fit. While I was not a witness, the police did manage to stop a small group of people who ran up the steps of the Capital, preventing them from entering the building.

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By the time I left the area at 3:30, there were thousands of people still waiting to march up Constitution Avenue past the Capital, even as earlier marchers were beginning to flow back onto the Mall from the other side of the Capital.

As the list of candidates for President in 2008 seems to be growing daily, only one of them had the courage to show up on Saturday and speak, Dennis Kucinich, Democratic Congressman from Ohio. While there were dozens of speakers, including Representatives Maxine Waters and John Conyers, Liam Madden and Jonathon Hutto, active-duty members of the U.S. Navy and Bob Watada, father of Lt. Ehren Watada, the first officer to refuse deployment to Iraq, most media reports of the rally focused on Jane Fonda’s appearance. Ms. Fonda stated that she had been silent about the war up until now, not wishing to act as a distraction. Yet her appearance gave the corporate media an excuse to focus on her and not the words of other speakers.

Friday evening I met with people who traveled from all over the country to voice their opposition to this war. I met someone originally from Massachusetts, who has spent the past year working with rebuilding efforts in Louisiana. One woman flew in from Alaska; others were from Michigan and New Mexico. At one point on Saturday during the rally, I sat down on a bench to rest my back. A few moments later, another man joined me, also to rest his back. Turns out he was from New York City and has a son living in Buskirk. People truly came from all over the country.

Following up from the excitement generated by the march and rally, 50 activists from throughout the Capital Region met on Tuesday, January 30 at the Social Justice Center in Albany to discuss how to commemorate the 4th anniversary of the latest war in Iraq. Despite plans for national demonstrations to be held in Washington on March 17 and New York City on the 18th, those in attendance felt it was important for a protest to be held locally. Tentative plans were made for a demonstration outside the Federal Building in downtown Albany. A second meeting will be held at the Social Justice Center, located at 33 Central Avenue in Albany, on February 22 at 5:30 to finalize plans. For additional information, contact Joe Lombardo of the Northeast Peace and Justice Action Coalition at 439-1968 or jlombard@nycap.rr.com.

The Saratoga Peace Alliance announced at the meeting their decision to participate in The Occupation Project, a campaign of sustained nonviolent civil disobedience aimed at ending the U.S. war in and occupation of Iraq. The campaign will begin the first week of February 2007 with occupations at the offices of Representatives and Senators who refuse to pledge to vote against additional war funding. For additional information, contact Patty Christensen of the Saratoga Peace Alliance at 383-2640.

For those looking for a different way to celebrate Valentine’s Day, why not join the Raging Grannies as they once again attempt to volunteer at the Army Recruiting Station at Colonie Center. Additional information can be found at http://womenagainstwar.org/.

This article was originally published on September 27, 2006

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Elliot Spitzer talks to the media while Kirsten Gillibrand listens.

An enthusiastic crowd of over 300 people came to Ft Edward Wednesday evening, September 20, to meet Elliot Spitzer, the Democratic Party candidate for Governor and Kirsten Gillibrand, the Democratic Party candidate for the 20th Congressional District.

The event was held at the newly opened Washington County Democratic Party Headquarters on Broadway.. The size of the crowd forced the event to overflow onto the sidewalk and into street. In a surprise, Spitzer decided to introduce Ms. Gillibrand, no doubt hoping to use his coattails to help carry her to victory in November. Spitzer gave her a rousing introduction, speaking of the need to send fresh blood to Washington.

At times speaking over the roar of traffic and train whistles, Spitzer said that across New York “we’re winning because we’re right. The public is listening and the public understands it. When we see jobs leaving our counties and our towns, people have realized that the empty rhetoric of the Republican Party simply isn’t working . . . But on November 8, when we wake up, we deal with the problems of this state. We’re going to lower our property taxes in a way that’s meaningful, generate cheap energy, get jobs here . . . and keep our kids here by providing an education . . . These are the things we believe in (and) do it in a way that shows fairness, decency, integrity in the marketplace, things that our party stands for . . . I think it’s pretty important that we win and take over the Governor’s mansion. I will make a confession. For the sake of the nation, there is something that’s more important and that is taking back the House of Representatives”.

Ms. Gillibrand, in her remarks, addressed how closely tied the Republican Party and the oil industry are, pointing out how as the mid-term elections draw closer, the price of oil lowers. “You will see by election day it (the price of gas) will be $2.50 a gallon. There can be no argument that they aren’t manipulating our gas prices”. She went on to pledge that her first order of business in Washington will be to call for a Congressional investigation of price fixing by the oil industry. In an echo of President Kennedy’s call for putting an man in the moon in ten years, Gillibrand spoke of the need to achieve energy independence in 10 years. “We make sure it’s part of our national security agenda . . . We tell Detroit we want you to increase your miles per gallon by 5% every year and we want you to be at 60 miles per gallon within 10 . . . When you give our best engineers and inventors the vision to do this, they will do it”. She spoke about how the 20th District has the hydro power, fuel cell research centers and farmland that could be used to produce bio-fuels and thus how “this District could be the alternative energy corridor”.

Gillibrand also spoke at length about how Congress has failed in it’s Constitutional duty to hold the Administration accountable for it’s actions.

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In comments to the press afterwards, Attorney General Spitzer spoke about the bipartisan support for the Hudson River dredging project, a project that was supported by Christie Whitman and George Pataki. He also spoke about his vision for revitalization of Upstate, by providing tax breaks for the farming community and providing tax incentives for high tech companies which will provide good paying jobs for local residents. “I’ve proposed creating a venture fund in the state pension system that will invest in new technologies and our universities”.
Also in attendance were Tim Merrick candidate for State Senate and David Carter, candidate for State Assembly.

It should be noted that the author is volunteering his services as a web designer to the Hawkins for Senate campaign, as well as to local Democrats.

This article was originally published on September 7, 2006

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Former presidential candidate and long time consumer activist Ralph Nader traveled to Albany on Tuesday, September 19 to endorse Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Senate. Mr Nader described Howie Hawkins as “an honest and dedicated man”.

Both men spoke at a press conference at the State Capital about the need for debates between all six candidates in this year’s Senatorial race. Mr Hawkins spoke of Senator Clintons avoidance of debating Jonathon Tasini during the Democratic Primary. Mr. Hawkins believes that her refusing to debate the Iraq War with Tasini was disrepective of rank and file Democrats who oppose the war, and urged her to debate the issue so voters would be able to make an informed choice. “A debate just with John Spencer, who is also pro-war, would not be a real debate” Mr Hawkins said.

“I’m here to say that I want to debate Clinton, but also John Spencer and the other three so-called third party candidates”. Mr. Hawkins brought up the fact the Jody Rell, the Republican Governor of Connecticut who is running for reelection has stated that she won’t agree to a debate unless the Green Party candidate is included. “So the question is can Hillary Clinton meet the same democratic spirit that the Republican Governor has shown to the debates”.

Mr Nader stated “It’s bad enough that the system is so rigged that it provides only two major parties and impedes other candidates and parties from even getting on the ballot . . . but when it reduces itself to one party dominated districts or states, then there are only coronations, not elections. Here we have Hillary Clinton who is way ahead in the polls . . . and she views this election as her coronation. She does not adhere to the basic democratic processes which say to the American people no matter where you are, no matter how dominant you are, in a pre-election period, you should have a fair-enough policy to let dissenting views be aired before the public”.

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In endorsing Hawkins, Nader said “I urge voters in New York not to allow Senator Clinton to sweet talk them, to flatter them, to mislead them, but to turn the tables on Hillary Clinton and demand that she debate all qualified candidates for the US Senate . . . so that issues of corporate power and injustice be placed in clear and contrasting fashion between her position, Mr. Spencer’s position and the Green Party Howie Hawkins position. Howie Hawkins is not a candidate who just throws his hat into the ring for a third party. He is one of the most accomplished civic organizers, for a longer period of time, that I’ve ever met. He’s hung in there with detail, with patience, with grace, with determination, on one controversial matter after another”.

When asked if his support for Mr. Hawkins was simply a way to attack Senator Clinton, a possible opponent for President in 2008, Mr. Nader replied that he was supporting Hawkins because he believed in him and his message. As to another run for the Presidency, Nader said he would make up his mind by next summer.

When asked if he was endorsing the entire Green Party slate, Nader said “No, I only endorse those who I know”.

It should be noted that the author is volunteering his services as a web designer to the Hawkins campaign, as well as to local Democrats.