Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Library: More Hours, More Service?

In the good old days the Plattsburgh Public Library was open for a few hours on Sunday afternoon. A warm, comfortable place to hang out during the long North Country winter. Another day to use the public access computers, do research or to check out books and other media.

Then whack went the budget ax.

Stan Ransom, PPL Director, has proposed a budget for 2010 that would bring back those Sunday hours. Also, he wants to add another librarian by promoting from within the library staff: one of the clerks will finish her MLS degree in a few months and she could become a Local History/Reference Librarian.

Mayor Donald Kasprzak has proposed a library budget minus these two items. Keep in mind that the library years ago had its budget whacked by 15 percent, $100,000 less than what it had before. It has done its part, keeping costs under control, and should have at least some of its previous budget restored.

For the most part the final say on the budget is in the hands of six people who sit on the Common Council. Competing with other municipal departments, Ransom has to convince the councilors that his proposals are reasonable and needed. Public support on this issue would help. Speak to your ward rep or attend the upcoming hearings on the budget. Email the mayor at mayor@cityofplattsburgh-ny.gov or call 563-7701.

The mayor will still have an opportunity to influence the outcome if the council is evenly split and he has to act as the tiebreaker. Key to approval of the library’s 2010 budget plan is approval by a majority of councilors.

As I’ve detailed before, usage is up at the library across the board. For those councilors who haven’t visited the library lately, they should stop in during “rush hour” or at least talk with patrons for feedback.

Another point: Ransom has done his part to cut costs. For example, the library is surveying its patrons to see what magazines and newspapers are being read to eliminate any titles not being utilized.

The proposed library budget would be money well spent, unlike some of the boondoggles the city has promoted before like the still intangible hotel/conference center by the lake.

In fact, these budget changes beat out anything WIRY radio commentator Ducky Drake has ever proposed on any topic. (Nothing personal, Ducky.)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Narrow Street, Narrow Options

As detailed in a previous post, more people are parking on Miller Street during the weekdays between the intersections of Delord and Lorraine Streets. When large vehicles park on both sides, it creates narrow sections less than two lanes wide.

Apparently the owner of this extra-wide pickup truck came up with a solution.

This isn’t the first time I’m seen someone with a large vehicle do this. A better solution would be restricting parking to one side of the street. Less wear and tear on the curbs, unlike this (illegal) option.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Big Brother Tracking Cough Syrup

Background: I have allergies and sometimes need to take a decongestant, pseudoephedrine, known by the brand name Sudafed.

As part of a Homeland Security bill, Congress made it harder customers to pick up this drug. It’s no longer OTC (over the counter) because it’s one the main ingredients used to manufacture meth. There a different formulation available over the counter (Sudafed PE) but to get the real stuff, you have to ask a pharmacist, show ID, and sign a form stating that the info about your purchase is available to law enforcement officials. Pharmacist as policeman.

Of course, this inconvenience means that there are no more meth labs; the scourge of this horrible drug has been eliminated by making law-abiding customers jump through a hoop.

So the other day I’m at a big box store and asked the pharmacist what he recommended in the way of OTC cough syrup. I had a lingering cold for days and the cough was getting worse. The friendly pharmacist recommended the DM formula.

I picked up a bottle and with some other items went to the front register. The young clerk said she needed to see my driver’s license. I asked why. She said because I was buying the cough syrup. She told me I had to take the ID out of my wallet so that she could scan it.

Once I had my ID scanned, I was allowed to buy the cough syrup.

I doubled back to the pharmacy and asked the druggist if my “processing” at the front counter was some sort of Homeland Security regulation.

He explained that the DM cough syrup could be abused; kids were known for glugging down a whole bottle to get high. The clerk was checking my driver’s license to verify my age. The pharmacist said he wouldn’t have ID’d me if I had purchased it from him. He didn’t have to explain the obvious reasons why he would’ve given me a pass.

If you’ve met me, you know I certainly don’t look younger than 18 years old. Besides my gray sideburns and the gray in the thinning mess on top of my head, I hadn’t shaved that day.

While I’m being hassled over cough syrup, some criminal is selling it by the ton in a back alleyway, bottles that “fell off the truck.”

And with Plattsburgh being one of the main way stations for drugs between New York City and Montreal, the younger-than-eighteen crowd can score better stuff easily on the street than kid stuff cough syrup.

So why am I being ID’d? What difference does it make, besides getting customers annoyed by the meaningless inconvenience?

See what happens when morons enact laws and regulations?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Spider With Time On His 8 Hands


As mentioned in a previous post, there was a dilapidated building on Millet Street – jut a short walk away from City Hall – that was a home for unsanitary pigeons. Work is being done on the structure; the porch ceiling was torn out, removing the roosting area.

Like I said before, why go all the way out to Lakeside Apartments when there are problems right in the downtown area?

Word on the street: the property-owner was fined by the city, thus motivating him to make overdue repairs.

Nothing To Smile About

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Reminder: North Country Blogger – Tweeter Meet-Up

Sorry, there won’t be any fireworks at the meet-up. (I needed an attention getter.) It’s just an informal gathering this Sunday, Sept. 20th, at Koffee Kat, 104 Margaret Street, Plattsburgh, starting at 1 PM. (The Kat is the coffeehouse next to Cornerstone Bookshop).

This is an opportunity to meet other online communicators in the North Country. No, this isn’t an organizational meeting for another group; just some quiet conversation. No Amway or CIA recruitment.

I plan to find an open spot at the Kat, maybe a couple of tables indoors, and put up a sign saying “NC Bloggers.” Looking forward to meeting you.

Thanks to Doug Yu, of Adirondack Base Camp, for helping me organize this. More info by emailing me at luketbush(at)yahoo(dot)com or please leave a comment and I’ll reply here.

(Photo by me, LTB. Battle of Plattsburgh fireworks, Sept. 11th, 2009.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Misplaced News

Ideally news should be delivered in an article, not an editorial.

Some people skip over editorials because of their subjective slant. (And, yes, some people don’t read blogs like this one for the same reason.) Readers usually look for the news in “objective” news articles. Place a news item in the newspaper’s opinion section and it’s more likely to be overlooked.

Case in point: the editorial that appeared in the Sunday edition of the Press-Republican (Sept. 13th; page C4; online copy). It revealed some details not mentioned in a news article, “Expert: Plattsburgh needs safe, vibrant downtown” (online copy) that had appeared previously on September 3rd.

The news article talked about a public forum held at City Hall. It didn’t mention that two people in attendance, Plattsburgh Mayor Donald Kasprzak, and Chamber of Commerce Director Gary Douglas, acted defensively when citizens questioned the city’s handling of chronic problems such as litter and vandalism. You had to read about this days later in the editorial, the conflict between the public officials and the people they serve.

A news article should include such dynamics. For whatever reason, the reporter didn’t mention this tension. Personality clashes are a part of politics. They should be noted, not ignored. How a public official acts in public is part of the story, whether or not those actions are good, bad or indifferent.

While true objectivity is next to impossible, trying to create for the reader a sense of what was happening during an event is an important component of news reporting. If there’s a flare-up or conflict, report it.

How many of you were made aware of how Kasprzak and Douglas acted during that forum through the editorial? Or did you find out just now through this blog post?

A Source Said

What is truth?

You got me.

A source tells me that a community leader took an abrupt leave from a public event, upset by some of the comments made by certain citizens, in effect snubbing them.

Not true, says a second source. The meeting was wrapping up and the community leader just simply left.

That’s not how the third source recalls it. This source noted that the community leader should’ve taken a moment to say he had to leave and thank the guest speaker. But the leader left without a word.

All three sources were at the event; I wasn’t. So I have to dig and figure out what happened.

I respect all three sources. Each one witnessed the same event but with a different POV, recalling a detail that the others had apparently missed. Each sounded sincere when stating what had happened.

So did the community leader rudely leave?

You got me.

Which means all of my sources won’t be happy.

Imagine how I feel.

A big headache.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

“Get Away From My House”

Do you see a house anywhere in this photo?

My camera is aimed straight down at a bright yellow leaf on the sidewalk, an early sign of autumn. A woman sitting on a porch about fifteen feet away makes a comment about me taking “stupid” pictures; she tells me to leave, to stay away from her house.

I look up – I didn’t even know she was there; I was concentrating on my shot. I told her I was on a public sidewalk and I had the right to take photographs as long as I wasn’t invading her privacy.

The woman – a semi-toothless city hillbilly – harasses me, ordering me once again to get away from her house. I tell her repeatedly to call the police; they would let her know that I had the right to take photographs on a public sidewalk. I ignore her and take my shot.

I notice that while she was ordering to me leave, she has a baby on her lap, feeding it a bottle of milk. Will ignorance breed ignorance?

Plattsburgh Logic

Convenient staircase blocked by inconvenient guardrail.

Remember: Form should follow function. Especially with taxpayer dollars.

(Near JFK Memorial Bridge, Broad Street).

Monday, September 07, 2009

Plattsy’s Secret Garbage Tour

Guest Post By Plattsy, CEO Plattsburgh Clownsultants

Hiya, kids!

Did you ever go on a secret garden tour? That’s where you and some other suckers traipse around and look at private gardens that aren’t in plain sight, you know, set in somebody’s backyard or on a side street that no one ever travels. You’re supposed to marvel at some roses or petunias or poison ivy.

Well, I’ve always said that the City of Plattsburgh should always promote its most blatant features, like convenient free-range dog crapping for owners too lazy to pick up after their pets. There’s one other downtown feature that has almost the same amount of blatancy: trash.

But sometimes the real treasures aren't that noticeable.

Take a look at this spot somewhat hidden on Margaret Street, right in the heart of downtown near a flagpole. An installation for the new arts corridor? It’s like a small hobo jungle. Actually I hate to use that term because when I was on the road, riding the rails, most hobo jungles were cleaner and neater than this.

And check out this delightful alcove on upper Bridge Street. The cinderblock makes the perfect bookcase – or should I say, garbagecase? I wonder what’s breeding in those yogurt containers? Talk about active cultures! Yummy!!

Friday, September 04, 2009

North Country Blogger/Tweeter Meet Up

Are you a North Country blogger/tweeter/online communicator? Do you live in the Plattsburgh/Champlain Valley/Adirondack region? Check out the upcoming meet up in Plattsburgh:

WHO: North Country Bloggers, Tweeters, and other Online Creators.

WHAT: An informal meet up. Just hang out and talk with fellow online communicators.

WHEN: Sunday, Sept. 20th, at 1 - 2 PM.

WHERE: Koffee Kat, 104 Margaret Street, Downtown Plattsburgh. (The coffeehouse next to Cornerstone Bookshop: three-story purple building with yellow awnings out front. Do not confuse with Coffee Camp.)

WHY: Because online creativity can be a solitary pursuit (unless your computer talks back to you).




Thanks to Doug/TourPro who helped me organize this.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Keeping Abreast Of Downtown Decor

This brazen bit of art has been on display for the last four days. Does it have something to do with the upcoming Battle of Plattsburgh events? I think one of the vessels that sank during the conflict was called the USS Broadside. Or is it left over from the Mayor’s Cups? Maybe it’s stolen and someone tried to fence it.

(As you can see, when it comes to puns, I’m never strapped for material.)

Budget Blade Bedevils Bibliotheca

A fifteen percent cut. $100,000. That’s the hit the Plattsburgh Public Library has taken in the past. Despite that cut in funding, the library is busier than ever. Its patronage ranges from students to working professionals to retirees and those on fixed incomes. Look at the usage recently across the spectrum: books, of course, but DVDs, research materials, and the public access computers. Sometimes you have to stand in line, even though the clerks and librarians are working as fast as they can. But the budget ax is poised to chop again. Cutting a community service when it’s proven its worth is, to borrow a phrase, highly illogical.

If you value your public library, please make it known. Don’t wait for the moment when you need its services and you find PPL darkened, the doors locked. Email or call:

Mayor Donald Kasprzak: mayor@cityofplattsburgh-ny.gov 563-7701

City Councilors: email addresses listed at this link

Press-Republican / Bob Grady, Editor: letters@pressrepublican.com (If you use the link, scroll down to the email form conveniently hidden below. Lousy layout, eh?) 565-1420

Lake Champlain Weekly / Caroline Kehne, Editor: editorial@studleyprinting.com 563-1414

WIRY Radio: wiry@wiry.com 563-1340 (Excluding Ducky Drake. Duck him.)

WPTZ-TV Channel 5: feedback@wptz.com 561-5555 (This one is a long shot. PPL ain’t located in Vermont.)