Monday, December 30, 2013

Michael Carrino: Basic Photo Tools Create Elegant Art

Art patrons study the sharp detail in a triptych by photographer Michael Carrino.

(C) 2013 Luke T. Bush


The photographs are impressive, more so after learning that Michael Carrino only used a simple set-up: an old Nikon SLR film camera with a standard 50mm lens, black and white film, and when needed a soft-focus filter.

His exhibit at ROTA Gallery, "In Natural Light," demonstrates how artistry can be achieved without an array of various lenses, an extensive studio set-up, or the latest digital technology.

During the opening reception Saturday evening Michael, a retired SUNY-Plattsburgh lecturer/instructor of composition and poetry, was pleased to discuss photography and art.

The exhibit features portraits and figure studies that use available light to its best advantage, either bringing out sharp detail or rendering gentle forms.

Michael Carrino (right) gestures as he discusses his work with Don and Vivian Papson.

While Michael prefers film over pixels for his own work, he has nothing against digital photography; he appreciates what the medium can create.

But he does have some reservations with how digital manipulation can blur the lines. For example one time he was examining an image at an exhibit, trying to determine if it was a photographic image or a painting.  It was labeled as a photo but without that information a viewer could easily assume it had been painted.  Michael doesn't mind if a photo has been digitally manipulated as long as the viewer knows how the image was created.

With one exception the images in his exhibit are black and white: a color photo was added for contrast, Michael said.  All were printed with traditional darkroom equipment.   He prefers to keep his prints relatively small, around 8 X 10 inches in size, to maintain detail.

The images use available light such as sunlight through a window.  His work proves simplicity – a basic camera and lens combined with natural light – can produce elegant results.

Besides mastering the technical details, he explained a photographer should have the knack to let a model feel relaxed.  Sometimes Michael has to shoot for a while until the model is accustomed to the camera, appearing natural, not posed.  His images appear natural, candid, evincing the extra time and effort he took to capture the right shots.

A patron points out a detail in another work by Michael Carrino emphasizing soft focus.

The exhibit will be on display until January 12th at ROTA Gallery, 50 Margaret Street. For more info about ROTA, email

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Fire And Ice Storm

(C) 2013 Luke T. Bush


Freezing rain and sleet on Saturday evening couldn't stop ROTA Gallery from celebrating the winter solstice.

As an icy drizzle fell the group hung close around the fire pit set up in the park next to ROTA.  A path and gathering area had been cleared through the crusty snow, hard shoveling.

A few participants burnt slips of paper in the brazier.  The non-religious ceremony involved writing on one slip a bad habit, mistake, or something else of a negative nature the person wanted to let go in the new year.  A second slip was tossed into the fire, this one mentioning a positive goal such as a change in character or developing better habits.

Responding to an email inquiry after the ceremony ROTA President Jenn Allen explained: "The burning of these things stays in the memory, fire being a strong image in our minds, and it helps us to stay on course for the coming year."

"Celebrating the winter months," she said, "and the connection it has to our own lives helps us remember how to enter silence now and then, and to recharge for the next seasons of busy-ness."

The evening wrapped up inside with performances by local musicians: Kevin Sabourin and Meadow Eliz, Theresa Hartford, Adrian Aardvark and Purple Recall, and a folk duo called Soma Flora: Joseph Biss and Kari Jane.

Jenn Allen said that a summer solstice celebration is being planned.

Embedded below is a slideshow of images from the ROTA Winter Solstice Celebration.  If you're unable to see it with your browser, you can view the complete set at this Photobucket link: .

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Medicaid Transport Vendors Caught In The Middle

(C) 2013 Luke T. Bush



Some problems have arisen with recent changes with Medicaid client transportation services to medical appointments in the Clinton-Essex-Franklin region.  To address these and other issues an advocate for the disabled, Debra Buell, organized and moderated a meeting held Wednesday morning, December 4th, at the Clinton County Government Center. 

Attendees from the region included Medicaid clients, community service agency representatives, transport vendors, and local governmental officials.

The following is part of a series covering different aspects of that meeting.

*  *  *

Medicaid transport vendor John Bashaw talks to the group about the reimbursement problems since the Medicaid takeover.

Helping others is important but a provider has his limits, especially when giving assistance negatively impacts his own situation.

Ride vendors from Franklin County who use their own personal passenger cars said they have seen a drastic drop in reimbursement since the State takeover of Medicaid transportation scheduling.

The transport providers stressed how important their service was to Medicaid enrollees.  But expenses were making it difficult to continue that service.

Ride vendor John Bashaw talked about one of his riders, a kidney dialysis patient who does have a driver's license and car but doesn't feel well enough to drive after treatment.

When John takes the client to treatment the total mileage is approximately 32 miles.

"I've been doing [this] for two years but I can't do it on a gallon of gas and make two dollars for the day when I'm tied up for five hours."  Responding to a question by moderator Debra Buell regarding the level of reimbursement, he said Medicaid only paid him $7.00 for the whole day.

(NOTE: Checking prices in the Malone, NY area at on this date shows around $3.69 per gallon for regular in the Malone, NY area in the last 48 hours.)

"I'm scared for him," said John, referring the possibility of the kidney dialysis patient being forced to drive himself back home after treatment.

Another private Medicaid ride vendor from Franklin County, Terry Collom, commented on his problems with the reimbursement cut.  Also using his own personal vehicle, he said in some cases he wasn't even getting a quarter of the amount he received before the Medicaid takeover. For a trip to Albany, he received $248.00 in the past, now the reimbursement was down to $136.00 . For a shorter trip of 90 miles total he was only receiving $15.00 .

"I have more money going out," he said, "than going in."

Another problem was the long delays with reimbursement.  It was over a month before he was paid for $800 worth of gas. "I'm on a fixed income," he said.

Medicaid ride vendor Terry Collom (left) discusses the deep cut in reimbursement rates while other vendors in the same situation listen.

Terry also mentioned the issue of "deadhead miles" or "unloaded rides," a situation in which the rider only needs transportation one way to a medical appointment and Medicaid only reimburses for half of the trip with the client on board.

Heidi Seney from NYSDOH (New York State Department of Health) said that she had received input on that problem and that the issue was resolved that day.  Drivers would be paid for both legs of the trips.

When I spoke with the ride vendors later they told me that private drivers were dropping out of the program because they couldn't afford the low reimbursement rates.

Obviously in a vast rural area like the North County these drivers are vitally needed.  They can only sacrifice so much in helping others, especially when they are using their own personal vehicles, the wear and tear on their cars from driving so many miles, especially on back roads.  They don't want to abandon Medicaid enrollees who need their services, especially those with serious medical conditions.

The drivers are torn between helping and the need to handle their own budgets.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Don't Just Complain: Communicate

(C) 2013 Luke T. Bush



Some problems have arisen with recent changes with Medicaid client transportation services to medical appointments in the Clinton-Essex-Franklin region.  To address these and other issues an advocate for the disabled, Debra Buell, organized and moderated a meeting held Wednesday morning, December 4th, at the Clinton County Government Center. 

Attendees from the region included Medicaid clients, community service agency representatives, transport vendors, and local governmental officials.   Also in attendance were representatives from Medical Answering Services (MAS), the private company now handling the scheduling of Medicaid client rides for medical appointments, and representatives from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) based in Albany.

The following is part of a series covering different aspects of that meeting.

*  *  *

If you have a problem, tell us.

That was one of the main points addressed to community service agencies, ride vendors, and Medicaid clients by MAS and NYSDOH.

At the same time the right person had to be contacted about an issue.

Tim Perry-Coon, Director of the NYSDOH Medicaid Transportation Policy Unit, introduced himself.

"I want to make it clear that Medicaid transportation in Clinton County is a Department of health program in New York State," he said, explaining that his department had a contract with Medical Answering Services in Clinton County.

Tim Perry-Coon [left], Director, NYSDOH Medicaid Transportation Policy Unit.

He continued to explain that contractors such as MAS have to follow the direction and rules of his department and that the goal was to improve service.

"Any issues with [MAS] you actually have issues with the Department of Health, and that's where you should be directing your concerns."

During the meeting he noted that some problems fell under the responsibility of his department while others pertained only to Clinton County.  His responsibility was handling issues with Medicaid enrollees using public transportation and private vendors.

(That's one difficulty I've had tracking the various aspects of this story: different consumers/clients and different services/programs that at times overlap.  I could see how client could get confused, contacting the wrong department or person.)

Tim then introduced Heidi Seney, Project Manager, Medicaid Transportation Policy Unit.

"I oversee the day-to-day operations of Medical Answering Services," she said, "so when Tim says you have a concern, please feel free to let me know."

(NOTE: Contact info for her and others is listed with the image and link at the end of this article.)

Private ride vendors attending the meeting said that they had a problem with "deadhead miles" or what Medicaid calls "unloaded rides."  This refers to transportation a client only one way, for example, leaving that person at a hospital for an overnight stay.  They were only being paid half of the trip with the client in the vehicle.  Returning without a client – "unloaded" – wasn't reimbursable.

Heidi Seney (center), Project Manager, NYSDOH Medicaid Transportation Policy Unit.

Heidi explained that the issue had been resolved that day.  She had instructed MAS to reimburse private ride vendors for those deadhead miles.

Such issues can be resolved, she pointed out, by contacting her.

Representatives from Medical Answering Services also spoke.

Russ Maxwell, MAS President, addressed the issue of problems with dispatchers handling complicated issues when a client was trying to book a ride.

"I wish I could tell you," he said, "that every person we hire [as a dispatcher] from the day they walk in the door knew the routine cold."

"Don't get frustrated," he continued, "ask for a supervisor, they will get you to where you need to go."

Agency representatives said that they had found MAS and Wayne Freeman, MAS COO, to be very responsive to their questions and problems.

James Bosley, Planning Technician, Clinton County Public Transport (CCPT) said MAS has been very helpful with Medicaid client issues.  Elevating the discussion to a supervisor did make a difference, he explained.

MAS President Russ Maxwell said there was contact info at the MAS website including a phone number.

For people who want quick contact info for both NYSDOH and MAS it's pasted below. (Click on image to enlarge in a separate window).  You can also access the PDF file at this link.

A Story Of Visual Impairment And Mental Blindness

Michael Sherman, NCCI Peer Counselor Coordinator, begins to tell the story.

(C) 2013 Luke T. Bush



Some problems have arisen with recent changes with Medicaid client transportation services to medical appointments in the Clinton-Essex-Franklin region.  To address these and other issues an advocate for the disabled, Debra Buell, organized and moderated a meeting held Wednesday morning, December 4th, at the Clinton County Government Center. 

Attendees from the region included Medicaid clients, community service agency representatives, transport vendors, and local governmental officials.

The following is part of a series covering different aspects of that meeting.

*  *  *

Michael Sherman was expressive when detailing a complaint from a client about a bad Medicaid ride experience.

He got up and told the story, very animated, walking back and forth in the center of the conference room like a stand-up comedian working a crowd.  It was a way of getting a serious point across to the other attendees.

Michael works directly with consumers as a Peer Counselor Coordinator/ IL Specialist at North Country Center for Independence (NCCI).  He related the story of a visually impaired client ended up being booked with a volunteer driver for JCEO (Joint Council for Economic Opportunity).

The driver delivered the consumer to his medical appointment, leaving the consumer at the curb, telling him to find his way.

The consumer had to "tap-tap-tap" his way to the building, Michael said, recreating the sounds and motions of a someone using a cane.  The consumer ended up against a brick wall.

After the appointment, a nurse brought the consumer back outside to wait for the volunteer driver.  The nurse hadn't seen the car that had delivered the client so she didn't know what vehicle to look for.

A horn honked, continued Michael.  "Tap, tap, tap."  Wrong car, it wasn't the right driver.

Eventually the volunteer driver pulled up but he was annoyed with the visually impaired rider. The driver said: "Well, come on.  I've been waving at you from my car."

Michael Sherman demonstrates how a Medicaid driver was trying to attract the attention of a visually impaired rider.

There was some laughter in the room.

Michael pointed out that something was wrong with a driver who didn't notice during a long drive that the client was visually impaired, that waving at the client wouldn't work.

"I'm visually impaired, too," he said.  "I'm not going to see you waving inside your car through the window."

Such an incident as the one he had just related, observed Michael, could become a liability issue.

"JCEO should be waking up a little bit, they need to know the severity of a person's disability," he said.  "They need to know you just don't leave a visually impaired person at the curb."

Another complaint regarding JCEO volunteer drivers was the some of them wouldn't allow manual wheelchairs in their cars.

Regarding complaints against the drivers, Sally Soucia, JCEO Community Outreach Program Director, said she didn't know where the stories were coming from, that some of it had to be hearsay.

Sally explained that she grew up with blind grandparents and that her mother also had to use a wheelchair.  She was very aware of disability issues.

"As along as I've been [at JCEO] it's been our goal to provide the services people need to be self-reliant," she said.

"If something wrong, please tell us," Sally continued.  "We can't fix it if we don't know."

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Squeaky Wheel Versus Grease Source

(C) 2013 Luke T. Bush



Some problems have arisen with recent changes with Medicaid client transportation services to medical appointments in the Clinton-Essex-Franklin region.  To address these and other issues an advocate for the disabled, Debra Buell, organized and moderated a meeting held Wednesday morning, December 4th, at the Clinton County Government Center. 

Attendees from the region included Medicaid clients, community service agency representatives, transport vendors, and local governmental officials.   Also in attendance were representatives from Medical Answering Services (MAS), the private company now handling the scheduling of Medicaid client rides for medical appointments, and representatives from the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) based in Albany.

The following is part of a series covering different aspects of that meeting.

*  *  *

Communication can lead to conflict resolution - or continued unresolution.

Towards the end of the meeting James Bosley, Clinton County Public Transport (CCPT) Planning Technician, challenged moderator Debra Buell on including issues outside of the scope of what he thought the forum was intended to discuss.

As an advocate for the disabled Debra has described herself sometimes as acting as a "bad cop."  This role, she says, is the only way in certain situations to bring about changes needed with problems faced by the disabled.

During the meeting Debra didn't get into her bad cop role.  Well, she did have to ask someone to stop talking in the background when another person was speaking to the group but she did that diplomatically.

The extraneous talker had to be corrected.  I was having enough trouble keeping track of the dialogue that I didn't need any noise in the primary channel.  Besides taking notes I was making an audio recording – statements enclosed by quotation marks in an article should be direct, not paraphrased – and I knew from previous experience that my digital voice recorder could pick up more than the main speaker.

Debra did well as a moderator.  She made sure that everyone had a chance to speak.  I was aware of how difficult that role can be, keeping people on topic, trying to maintain the flow of the meeting.  Years ago I had attended meetings in the same conference room as coordinator of a social group.  Occasionally it wasn't easy getting business done.  For example, the person who didn't pay attention, chatting with friends in the background, and then wanting statements repeated.  Or someone going off on time-consuming tangents, prolonging the process, inducing boredom.

My involvement ended one night when three people in the singles club didn't like my efficiency, each one attacking me from a different angle.  They succeeded in getting me upset to the point where I walked out and never came back.  It's impossible to keep your emotions in check in a public setting under those circumstances.

(Please note that social group fell apart after I left.  I wasn't perfect but apparently better than those who took over.)

Moderator Debra Buell (center) speaks with attendees before the meeting.

So when James Bosley became upset with issues Debra was mentioning I could understand that kind of frustration, the feeling that you're being attacked.  But I also could identify with Debra in her moderator role.

Caught in the middle.  On friendly terms with both people.  Trying to be fair with my coverage.

One topic that led to the exchange was Debra raising the issue of trip denials with CCPT's paratransit bus.  The demand for the service exceeded capacity.  Also, due to advance booking, trips were being taken up for two week periods.

Sometimes the non-medical paratransit eligible riders could negotiate, explained Debra, getting a ride later in the day.  But that didn't help anyone, she continued, if the person had an appointment at 11 AM and the ride couldn't be provided until 3 PM.

James Bosley responded: "There has been a portrayal that CCPT is constantly denying trips, that people can't get to where they need to go, that people can't get anywhere.  And that is not an accurate portrayal.  CCPT does have trip denials.  I've recorded zero trip denials some months, some months I've recorded ten, but to say that we're constantly denying trips I think is a bad picture."

"Clinton County paratransit covers the entire county," he explained.  "We could make it a lot easier on the trip denials if by cutting back.  But the county is doing it because we want to provide that service for the people.  Public transit is for the public, public transit isn't required to take care of all of the transportation needs out there in the world.  We try to provide as much as we can."

CCPT Planning Technician James Bosley (standing) shares information during a less intense part of the meeting.

James said that some of the points Debra raised were outside the topics that were supposed to be addressed during the meeting, i.e., Medicaid transportation and issues clients have with Medicaid transportation.

He continued: "I think it is disrespectful to sort of ambush CCPT in a meeting like this, and bring everyone together and say 'We're going to talk about this, but while we're here let's put CCPT on the spot and let them make their case about something entirely separate.'"  

Debra Buell replied that she wasn't trying to ambush James but meant to raise an issue that affects public transportation overall.  She did admit that she and the North Country Center for Independence (NCCI) didn't provide him with enough documentation about trip denials.  She and NCCI were working to have disabled riders to be courageous enough to document problems by stating their names and detailing what happened but most clients thought it wouldn't make a difference.

She said: "If I, a squeaky wheel, has gotten to the point where I don't want to try anymore, imagine what all the shy, scared folks are doing. This is the point I'm trying to make, I'm not trying to ambush you. What I'm trying to bring up is a systems issue, it is part of the whole system, and if you weren't a Medicaid vendor, this wouldn't even have come up today but you are a Medicaid vendor and it does impact us [disabled people] in ways that are far more than medical."

"Everything that has been raised has been addressed," replied James, explaining why such outside issues didn't need inclusion.  With the issue of the two week advance booking policy CCPT is looking into it, he had spoken with his supervisor.

"It takes longer than people want it to," he added, "what I wanted it to."

He continued: "I think a pattern of bringing these issues in big forums like this, takes everyone single one of these people, everyone single one of these professionals, away from their daily jobs, and they could get more done to help the public if we took the issues to the appropriate people and left it at that.  The issues are being addressed and it doesn't require taking up everybody's day to do something like this."

Debra replied: "We didn't take up everybody's day, James."

She raised the point that a local group moderated by James, Coordinated Transportation Human Services Committee, hadn't met in a while.

The committee is an ad hoc group looking into ways to improve transportation in Clinton County.  I wrote about its last meeting back in May, Platypus Might Be Growing Wings.

James explained that the meeting was delayed primarily because it needs structure. "It needs structure because it has been hijacked and taken off into tangents and other topics, we've gotten away from coordination."

As the disagreement continued, Debra stated: "I just going to say that the disabled people in this community do not feel that we're having the communication with human service relation departments or from CCPT that we like to have."

"I don't know who you are speaking for," replied James, "because when I deal with NCCI I have great communication, but when I deal with you and these different tactics that you use that don't work well with others, communication does break down."

"OK, if you think that, that's your opinion," said Debra.  "Some of the things that I do work well for others, work very well for NCCI to get things they need done. I'm going to let that end there."

I've never been a completely objective reporter, just writing down facts and quotes.  I do make observations.

Debra and James know each other only through their professional paths crossing.  Sometimes their methods in reaching a mutual goal don't mesh.  It's unfortunate that such disagreements can impede progress, jam up communications.

And also this observation must be made in a general context:

"Mom, Dad!  Don't fight!"

[ Article edited and revised, 12/08/13, 4:20 PM.  Edited for clarity again at 9:40 PM.  ]

Thursday, December 05, 2013

You Can't Quote Me

(C) 2013 Luke T. Bush


Akin to Sisyphus I rolled a question up the hill.

"Sorry, I can't answer that."

And the question rolled down the hill, unanswered.

Different question, same result.

Transparency in government, anyone?

The meeting had wrapped up in the Clinton County Government Center first floor conference room.  Organized and moderated by Debra Buell, advocate for the disabled, it was an opportunity to discuss various issues since Medical Answering Services (MAS) had taken over the job of scheduling rides for Medicaid clients to medical appointments.  The meeting was open to all, including clients, agency representatives, and government officials.

In attendance was Wayne Freeman, COO/Owner of MAS.  I had a couple of questions about his company, particularly in light of video I had seen online of a roundtable discussion held in Albany back in May that addressed the same issues.  (That video can be seen here.)

I introduced myself to Wayne and he said he couldn't reply without Heidi Seney present.  Heidi holds the title of Project Manager at the New York State Department of Health Medicaid Transportation Policy Unit and had participated in the meeting, responding to various concerns and questions raised by attendees.

So Wayne brought me over to Heidi and introduced me, saying that she was his boss, indicating they would answer my inquiries.

Except my questions kept tumbling down the hill.

I was told by Heidi that neither she nor Wayne could respond and that my questions had to be sent to the official New York State Department of Health Media Office.  Later she provided me with a phone number to call.

Heidi said that the Media Office might contact her or Wayne after I had submitted my questions.  Would I get a direct quote from her or Wayne through the Media Office?  Answer: No.

Would her response, if any, be "filtered" as such through the Media Office? Answer: Yes.

OK, I  can see NYS being concerned about loose cannons (or canons) out there making the State look bad but this was to the other extreme, expecting the media to engage in Kremlinological analysis.

Opacity for your tax dollars.

Standing there with notebook and pen in hand, ready to record their answers, I had the feeling that Heidi and Wayne both really wanted to express themselves, tongues pressing against the gags, but...

Of course, that was my impression and I'm not telepathic.  But then again if I was gifted to read minds, the State would probably counter that ability by requiring all employees to have telepathy-blocking brain implants.

One question I had was how the reimbursement for vendors providing rides was determined.  During the meeting individual private vendors who used their own vehicles said they had seen a dramatic drop in reimbursement rates.

It sounded as if MAS determined the rates but I had to get the correct answer from someone else, not Wayne or Heidi.  (No, MAS doesn't set the rates by itself, each county and NYSDOH are involved.)  If I hadn't double check, I would have passed along misinformation.  But with gagged-by-the-State sources it can easily happen.

The electronics store chain Radio Shack used to promote its knowledgeable staff through this motto: “You’ve Got Questions, We’ve Got Answers.”

New York State should have a similar motto about its response-restricted people:

“You’ve Got Questions, We’ve Got Carefully Crafted Communiqu├ęs.”

Our State is glorious, Comrade.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Successful Fundraiser Helps ROTA Pay The Bills


A good turn-out for the Black Friday benefit show means no black out for ROTA. The art co-op, located at 50 Margaret Street, had a sizable crowd that evening supporting the continuance of ROTA's work and activities through donations.

If you're unable to access the slide show embedded above with your browser the photo gallery can be seen here.

ROTA OMPN Featured Sundry Artists

Carol Lipszyc


Carol Lipszyc, Assistant Professor, English Faculty at SUNY-Plattsburgh, was the special guest at the last Open Mic Poetry Night held at ROTA Gallery, 50 Margaret Street.  Besides reading her poetry she also performed an original song while playing the Steinway piano and also read an excerpt from one of her works of fiction.

The Thursday evening event is held every two weeks and is open to other performers besides poets.  For info: htttp:// .

If you're unable to access the slide show embedded above, the photo gallery can be viewed here .

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Meeting To Discuss Transportation Issues Faced By Medicaid Clients

(C) 2013 Luke T. Bush


Local advocate for the disabled Debra Buell is publicizing a meeting to discuss recent changes in the transportation services for Medicaid clients to medical appointments.  Such changes in the long run might impact the continuance of public transportation for all riders.

The meeting will be held Wednesday, December 4th, at 10 AM in the first floor conference room in the Clinton County Government Center.  It is open to everyone.

The shift to other services such as taxis for medical appointments has caused a drop in public transportation ridership, explains Debra.  This result has caused some counties to reconsider funding of their public bus systems.

In our area the Clinton County Public Transport (CCPT) bus system might be impacted.  Besides Medicaid clients a reduction or elimination of its service would affect not only the disabled but also seniors, school children, and others who cannot drive or are unable to afford a car.

On September 1st scheduling for transportation to medical appointments for Medicaid clients was taken over by a private company, Medical Answering Services (MAS).  According to Debra this transition has been problematic and it will be the focus of the upcoming meeting.

For example, she has noted in the past, communication problems and the lack of adequate training have led on occasion to rides being canceled, the client with a serious medical condition unable to see a doctor.

The meeting will be an opportunity for those affected by the change – such as clients, agency representatives, ride vendors and county leaders – to voice any concerns or problems they may have with the takeover by MAS.

Scheduled to attend will be Tim Perry-Coon, Program Research Specialist, New York Dept of Health Office of Medicaid Management.   Also in attendance will be a representative from the scheduling contractor MAS.

For more details about the meeting Debra Buell can be contacted at  Email is her first preference but she will receive phones calls for those who don’t have Web access at 518-564-0506.

Debra also urges Medicaid clients who have any complaints regarding any transportation issue to contact the North Country Center for Independence, (518) 563-9058.  NCCCI  can also answer any questions about the  meeting.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

ROTA At Turning Point

Jenn Allen (center) gestures to make a point during a ROTA membership meeting that discussed problems faced by the art co-op.

(C) 2013  Luke T. Bush

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY - Sunday 11/17/13

Stress – both financial and personal – has compelled changes at the ROTA Gallery and Studio.

It's been noticeable lately that activity has slowed down at the art co-op.  Fewer music events.  More afternoons being dark, the CLOSED sign hanging in the window.  Was the group suffering from entropy?

Difficulties pop up easily for a not-for-profit organization operating with unpaid volunteers while lacking stable sources of funding.

Last Wednesday evening I sat in (as a observer in the background, to be precise) at a membership meeting which discussed the problems ROTA faced.

A new Board of Directors was elected including Jenn Allen as president.  My quick impression of Jenn: young (especially compared to this aging blogger), energetic but focused.  

She and others at the meeting offered solutions.  Jenn said that there was a problem with board members suffering from stress from taking on too many responsibilities.  She suggested that there should be activity coordinators handling the more immediate details with the board providing overall guidance.  This division of duties would help to alleviate burn out.

Burn out?  With an easy-going and fun organization like ROTA?

ROTA involves much more than just fun, hanging around and enjoying music and art shows.  Planning and presenting such activities involves Work.  Previous board members were trying to hold down regular jobs, keeping their own personal schedules and budgets under control, let alone ROTA's.

ROTA has reached out to young people by offering all-ages music shows – DAMN LOUD BANDS!, yes, in many cases – but no drugs or alcohol allowed.  Plattsburgh City still lacks a youth center but had the money to beef up its police department even more.  Apparently policing and prosecution are preferred over prevention.

The band Invasive Species performs at ROTA during the wrap up to last month's Zombie Walk.

Despite offering a positive alternative to hanging around on the streets, attendance has been dropping at the all-ages shows.  To help pay for the bands, especially the ones on tour, ROTA charged an affordable sliding scale for donations, $3 - $10.  But even that didn't keep the crowds coming.

There's a story a ROTA member helped to pay for a band's expenses out of his own pocket after one low-attendance show.  From what I know about the situation that generosity couldn't continue unless he won the lottery.  He has his own expenses to meet.  

Recently ROTA made its monthly rent but only through a considerable donation by a community member.

Previous to the general meeting there was talk that to bring its budget under control ROTA might move to a cheaper space or even try to function without a physical center.

A lot would be lost if the group had to give up its present downtown location at 50 Margaret Street.  The main street spot provides more visibility, is easier to find than its former location tucked in on a side street.

The space is the right size, just large enough for art exhibits and quieter music performances.  It's well lit with large front windows and ceiling fluorescent lights, a large reflective white wall adding to the comfortable illumination.

And there's the donated piano available for lessons and concerts provided through the efforts of musician-composer Adrian Carr.  The space is a good set-up all around.

While I sat in during part of the membership meeting I didn't hear any discussion related to keeping the present space.  That and other issues such as funding sources and whether to maintain ROTA as both an art and community center still have to be discussed.

As ROTA President Jenn Allen explained in an email, responding to a couple of questions I had after the meeting: 

"We will continue on as we have been for now, and any changes in focus will be discussed over the coming month with the new Board and Coordinators. We are currently both an art gallery and a center for community activities, but our priority is the mission of ROTA and the furthering of art, music, and creative culture in Plattsburgh."

She noted that the new leadership had just started and that they would know more in the next couple of weeks.

ROTA moves on, going through another transitional period.

On November 29th at 7 PM it will hold a benefit show with local musicians.  More info can be found at the ROTA Facebook page,

So the bands play on.  And not in the Titanic sense.

Comments can be posted below or emailed to .

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

V For Vocalizing

(C) 2013 Luke T. Bush

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY - Saturday 11/2/13

The line-up of handmade cardboard signs across the street caught my attention.  Another demonstration site was set up in Trinity Park.  I noticed a solitary activist holding a rainbow-mosaic umbrella as she waited for others to show up.

I took some shots.  Intrigued, I crossed the street, not worried about jaywalking or traffic. City Hall Place was blocked off for the local First Weekend events.  Yesterday was sunny but the high winds interfered with the activities.  Today interference was being provided by gray skies, rain, and cool temps.

I spoke with the alone-so-far activist, Rachael Chrestler.  She explained that she was participating in an international campaign called "March Against Corruption."

According to the March Against Corruption Website the campaign was "a worldwide effort to eradicate the corrupting influence of money and special interests in public policy making."

As I scribbled some notes Rachael said that too many citizens are intimated, afraid to speak out on issues.  For example a mother with her child had walked by a while ago, the mother expressing disapproval towards the demonstration.

While Rachael was too young to vote when President Obama was first elected, she did support the policies that he had been espousing.  But that support changed when there was talk about direct US involvement in the Syrian conflict.

Using the Internet she found information that caused her to question the president's other policies such as allowing the NSA (National Security Agency) to invade the privacy of many citizens through its massive telephone-Internet spying programs.  She thought Obama was a puppet, not an independent leader.

Rachael was also concerned with the talk about FEMA camps, a program that some people say will round up many citizens during civil disturbances under the guise of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Pointing to the peace symbol on one of the signs Rachael said she is trying to promote peaceful change through raising awareness of issues that citizens shouldn't ignore.

Wrapping up the interview I told Rachael I would like to photograph the white mask sitting on the park bench, a stylized plastic image of Guy Fawkes.  I recognized it from the graphic novel and movie, "V for Vendetta," an image made popular by the activist group Anonymous.

Instead Rachael offered to pose while wearing the mask.  It made an interesting shot, especially with her polychromatic umbrella.

Some time later I wondered if she was aware of the New York State anti-mask law, a topic I had written about before at my blog.  If you read the law you will learn that free speech applies to Halloween but not activism.

Hard To Save Face...

...when you're dip molded into a Halloween-appropriate countenance.

Dead Cell Phone

What else would a zombie use?

Friday, November 01, 2013

Don't Judge A Book By Its Cover

(C) 2013 Luke T. Bush


This seemingly cold and calculating character actually has a warm heart.  For Halloween Jody Helfgott, Principal Library Clerk at the Plattsburgh Public Library, dressed for the occasion as the supervillainess Killer Frost.  No need to contact Superman and Batman to put the heat on her.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Zombie Walk 2013

(C) 2013 Luke T. Bush


As the days grow shorter the longer spells of darkness invite undead things to go bumptious in the night.

On this gloomy Saturday evening the reanimated amassed at the Farmers Market building in the main downtown parking lot.  Biting at the bit the somewhat chaotic grouping was finally organized into a shuffling stream that wandered about the streets.  Their walk terminated at the area of the ROTA Gallery and the Greenway/Westelcom Stage park where entertainment awaited both indoors and outdoors.  Munchies of the more acceptable kind were provided to distract the risen unholy from seeking fresh human brains for nourishment.