Wednesday, May 25, 2011

North Star Museum Holds Public Opening

The North Star Underground Railroad Museum located in the Town of Chesterfield Heritage Center held its public opening on Saturday, May 21st. More information about the museum can be found at

Below is a slide show of images taken on opening day. If the embedded link doesn't work, go to

Friday, May 20, 2011

"News" Ten Days Old

The term "news" implies new. And when it isn't, people use the pejorative "old news."

Newspapers are supposed to report news.

Yesterday on the Press-Republican website there was a breaking story headlined "Student riot brings damages, police to local VFW," posted at 10:49 AM May 19th.

The article describes the violence that erupted during a dance for about 300 Clinton Community College students and their guests at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 125 on Boynton Avenue in Plattsburgh City. The event was private, booked by students; it wasn't sponsored by the college or any of its affiliated organizations. Multiple law enforcement agencies ended up on the scene: Plattsburgh Police Department, Clinton County Sheriff, New York State Police and Plattsburgh State University Police. Six people were arrested and several were injured.

What is notable about this breaking story is that the incident occurred on May 8th. A few reader comments at the PR site have brought up the issue why it took the PR so long to report the incident.

According to the PR, witnesses provided details to the paper about the riot. Later in the story there is some information provided by Plattsburgh City Police Chief Desmond Racicot after he was contacted by the newspaper on Tuesday (May 17). Maybe I'm reading too closely but I get the impression that the PR got most of its information from witnesses first, then had to follow up with the Plattsburgh PD.

If that's the case, I'm not surprised. Years ago I mentioned an incident to a reporter who thanked me because the Plattsburgh PD was tight-lipped about most of its activities. The reporter was able to follow up my tip and get more details from the PD. Recently there has been an iron curtain regarding the investigation into the brutal beating of Christopher Rigsbee and his girlfriend back in November 2010. The PD remains secretive.

The student riot article should be appearing in today's PR print edition. Today happens to be graduation day at Clinton Community College, a detail that leads to some speculation on why the story has taken so long to be reported. One wonders if the incident would have ever gone public if the witnesses hadn't come forward. Or what would have been the reaction if the story had appeared sooner. Obviously for those parties concerned about image, it would've been better for the story to appear later, like after graduation -- or better yet, never.

At the PR website some readers have made comments like "Next time -- fire hoses & German shepherds," "I have never seen a town have more problems with college kids than Plattsburgh," and "They should've [pepper] sprayed & arrested every single person there,imo." Such an incident doesn't make the local colleges or the city look good. It's bad PR -- as in public relations.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Justice For Christopher: Behind The Scenes

A former Plattsburgh State professor and his students have been raising questions about the investigation of a brutal beating that occurred many months ago in Plattsburgh City.

In the early morning of November 19th, 2010, Christopher Rigsbee, age 25, and his girlfriend were brutally attacked by four men on Broad Street. Chris suffered serious injuries and was taken to the CVPH ER. He reported the incident to the police shortly after the assault.

Following the beating two events were held to raise awareness about violence in Plattsburgh. A fundraiser was sponsored by the Koffee Kat to help Chris with his medical bills. Also, friends and concerned citizens gathered for a public demonstration one afternoon near the spot where he was attacked, holding up handmade signs with messages urging a stop to violence and hate. This resulted in coverage in the local media, including photographs.

And then incident faded from public view. No arrests or further developments about the case were reported in the media. The Plattsburgh Police Department hasn't provided any updates on its investigation.

Chris says he was planning a second public demonstration when he was asked by the Plattsburgh Police Department not to go ahead with it. He was told the detectives were still working on the case and that another rally wouldn't make a difference. So Chris decided to work with the police, letting the detectives proceed with their investigation. He canceled the rally.

Time passed. Nothing happened. According to Chris he and his family would wait for more information from the PD; they had to keep inquiring from time to time, trying to contact the detectives by phone. Even though the detectives said they would get back in touch, even meet with them, long periods of silence ensued. The case was apparently still open. Or was it?

Obviously with the cancellation of the second rally the incident dropped from the radar much sooner.

But behind the scenes a criminology professor and his students at the New Mexico State University have been looking into the case. Before accepting his present teaching position in Las Cruces, Dr. David Keys was the chairperson of the Department of Sociology at Plattsburgh State University. He lived in Plattsburgh for a few years, becoming aware of local issues.

After hearing about the apparent lack of action with the Rigsbee beating case, David asked his students to write letters to Police Chief Desmond Racicot, Mayor Donald Kasprzak, and the Press-Republican. The letters were also sent with a complaint to Eric Schneiderman of the NY State Attorney General Office-Criminal Prosecution Division.

Chief Racicot has tried contacting Dr. Keys by telephone and email but David in an email response said he would not communicate further with the chief because it might be a conflict of interest. David also stated that he can appreciate the chief's situation but wonders if there's a problem with those assigned to the investigation.

More details will follow as this story develops.

[Disclosure: I am friends with Dr. David Keys and his wife. Also, I am acquainted with Christopher Rigsbee.]

Bucket Brigade

When entering the Plattsburgh Public Library please keep your umbrella open. You may want to wear a hardhat in case another ceiling tile crashes down to the damp carpet.

Be advised the city is on top of the situation and will permanently fix the problem, again and again and again... like Chinese water torture.

Mantra For A Cool Rainy Evening

Under the protection of the Farmers Market roof a free lance visual artist carefully adds more detail to the old school bus, his wraparound mural a striking contrast to the dreary weather.

The air grows chillier as the evening progresses. Gray rain clouds have concealed the sun all day. What light Gabriel Leavitt does have is fading, making his detailing more difficult. Pausing from his work, Gabriel estimates that he has spend eight 12-hour days working on the bus for the Plattsburgh-based band Lucid.

He had also painted Lucid's other school bus, Lucy. She was a big hit with fans but the old girl was forced to retire after faithfully transporting the rock band all over the region to various gigs. As before with Lucy, Gabriel uses the exterior of the second bus (unnamed at this time) to tell a story with an iterating mantra.

On the driver's side of the bus swims a large orange fish, dragging the band through the calamity of chaos as Lucid travels through the cosmos. The giant fish, explains Gabriel, is an incarnation of God.

The story can be picked up anywhere, Gabriel says. Besides the Krishna mantra repeating itself all over the bus, there are spots where certain scenes are illustrated. For example, at this point he is using his paint marker to show the creation of seven beings in a magical kingdom.

Gabriel is originally from Plattsburgh City but now lives in Manhattan. He traveled back to his hometown for this project.

When working he completely concentrates on his art, his eyes focused on the details issuing from his paint marker. I hesitate to interrupt him to ask him a few questions. With his scruffy beard, rough brown hoodie and intense expression, one gets the impression not to disturb the creative bear when he's working. But appearances are misleading: Gabriel is happy to pause and discuss his creation. He's really an easygoing person, the antithesis of the temperamental artist.

For the bus project he uses multi-media, including spraypainting and stenciling. While he does have an overall design for the project -- Gabriel sketches out the basic pattern -- he does sometimes improvise along the way. Thus the scene of the kingdom and the seven newly created beings.

More information about his art can be found at .

Friday, May 13, 2011

Chromebook? I'll Take Five!

Are you excited about Google's release of the Chromebook? According to the New York Times:

The Chrome operating system, which Google introduced in 2009, does away with desktop software and storing data on a computer. Instead, it is not much more than a browser, and all of a computer user’s information, like documents, photos and e-mail messages, is stored on the Internet, or in “the cloud.”

What a great system. A dumb terminal completely dependent on a Net OS. I would've posted this here at my blog many hours ago but I couldn't because Blogger was down for maintenance. I could read my old entries but couldn't post.

Blogger is owned by Google.

Like Google says: "Enjoy the speed, simplicity, and security of nothing but the web."

Ghost Gallery

I'm perusing the arts and events listing, 8 days a week, in yesterday's Press-Republican when I spot this item under Art Exhibitions:

Cafe Cumberland. 69 Margaret St., Plattsburgh. Hours 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Cafe Cumberland? Hasn't that been closed for at least a couple of years? When I walk by it sure looks dark and empty to me. There haven't been any art shows or other events there for a long time -- unless it's haunted. (Somebody get ghost-chaser Gordie Little on the phone.)

I did an online search and found a reference to an event at the former Cafe Cumberland dated Sept. 30, 2009. So obviously it shut down before then. And where did I find my reference? At the Press-Republican Website. The article appeared in the weekly Out&About section where 8 days a week is published.

Does anyone at the paper read it?

The PR has enough space to keep in dead listings but almost every week it runs this statement: Due to space limitations, 8 days a week was unable to run in its entirety.

Your local newspaper: a reliable source of updated, accurate and complete info.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Crap By Any Name Still Stinks The Same (Even If You Call It A Rose)

Euphemisms. Gotta love them.

Don't call it a prison; call it a correctional facility. Don't call the people locked up convicts; call them inmates. Change the names and look at the recidivism rates drop to almost nothing!

Don't call your business Kentucky Fried Chicken because "fried" implies grease and high cholesterol. Just abbreviate the name to KFC and suddenly your product is healthier!

In the spirit of "Rename It And They Will Believe" Plattsburgh City has decided not to use the term compost plant in keeping an option open for sludge treatment for material from its sewage plant. Please, it's an organic recycling plant. Ah, can't you breathe that fresh air?

Now the term compost plant seems neutral enough but not for people around here. There was a compost plant operated by the city from 1986 to 2004. A major fire and stink problems resulted in its closure.

Say compost plant and watch someone instinctively wrinkle in nose from the memory. And many can remember the stereo smell, as local folk singer Stan Ransom called it, when both the sewage treatment plant in the city and the compost plant up in the township of Plattsburgh created an olfactory one-two punch.

Plattsburgh City is anticipating the day when it can no longer truck out sludge to the Franklin County landfill. One option is to re-open the compost plant -- oops, I mean the organic recycling plant.

When the compost plant was active Clinton County owned the land where it sat but the city was responsible for its operation. The title to the property was transferred by the county to the city last year, a situation that got Plattsburgh Town upset and resulted in legal wrangling.

Some people are thinking: Here we go again.

After all, it wasn't as if everyone was sold a bill of goods with the original plant.

Check out this headline from Aug. 17, 1982 (Press-Republican, page 3) about public hearings for the proposed plant:

"Experts: compost plant to be odor free"

And here's the opening paragraph:

"Officials assured area residents Monday that there would be no odor from a sludge composting plant on Rugar Street."

These experts worked for a consulting engineer firm hired to study solid waste and sludge disposal. Obviously taxpayer money well spent when you review the articles that follow the opening of the plant, complaints about the stink.

In situations like this there should be an euphemism for "expert."

But one expert did hedge his bets when he stated: "We've got the plant designed so that we can virtually assure that there will be no odor -- that's if it's run properly. If it can be designed right, it can be run right."

So it was a case of form and function. Was the form OK? Did it follow function? Or did bumbling Plattsburgh City functioned it all up?

With such a history it's no wonder Plattsburgh Town doesn't want any potentially malodorous "organic recycling" plants in its backyard again.

Friday, May 06, 2011

High Water: Pumping It Out?

I spotted a couple of Casella Waste Management tanker trucks this evening by the Plattsburgh sewage treatment plant. With the lake being so high, water right up to the plant's walls, I'm wondering if the city has to pump out the facility and transport the load to who-knows-where. If that's the situation, then more costs for the city from the flooding.

(On second thought maybe the tankers aren't pumping but dumping. I must admit my lack of knowledge with sewage treatment plants.)

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Fountainhead of Stupidity

I'm for improving downtown Plattsburgh -- IF the city can maintain what it already has.

As reported in the Press-Republican the city is considering the use of grant money -- $38,000 -- to install a new water fountain in Trinity Park.

That's nice. But take a good look at Trinity Park. It's carpet-bombed with dogshit. Where's the enforcement for stopping the people who use the park as one big canine crap dump?

Over at the Plattsburgh Public Library the fronts steps are still deteriorating after years of useless patch jobs. Walk inside on a rainy day and see the missing ceiling panels that have been destroyed from a chronic leak that like the front steps hasn't been fixed for years. Don't trip over the plastic wastepaper baskets on the floor to catch the water.

City streets are patched up but persistently break down because they're not really fixed.

I'm not against a new water fountain per se. It would spruce up the area. But does the city have the money to maintain it? It can't maintain what infrastructure it has now.

Remember, the larger the infrastructure, the greater the maintenance costs. Costs paid by citizens. And costs keep going up.

Wise up, Plattsburgh. Fix what you have now before adding more.

And by the way -- where's the old water fountain that used to sit in Trinity Park? Can't that be re-used? The city has a handle on its inventory, doesn't it? Or will a new water fountain turn up missing in a few decades?