Friday, August 28, 2015

Snowy Sidewalks and Sisyphus

Spotted inside the Middle School auditorium.  Budget cuts = no storage shed?  In the winter is this sweeper replaced with a snow blower?

© 2015 Luke T. Bush

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY – Thursday, 8/27/15

Neg vibes in the Middle School auditorium this evening.

But not from the members of the Snow Removal Advisory Committee.  SRAC was formed back in January to address the chronic problem of unshoveled sidewalks every winter in Plattsburgh City.

But, you may ask, why is that a problem?  Doesn’t The City take care of all public property from parks to streets to that parking lot for seagulls down by the lake where the hotel-convention complex wasn’t built?

Not when it comes to wintry sidewalks.  For decades Plattsburgh City has evaded responsibility for keeping the concrete stretches clear.  The burden is on the property owners who are required to clear any sidewalk adjacent to their properties 24 hours after a snowstorm ends.

And if they don’t shovel?  You the citizen have to file a complaint with the Building Inspector’s Office, preferably noting the location right down to the building’s street number.

How well does this work?  It doesn’t.  Too many sidewalk stretches remain blocked by snow.

City Mayor Jim Calnon (sitting) raises some issues with the SRAC report.

Like pterodactyls returning to Capistrano the same debate rages every winter on how to fix the problem.

Blocked sidewalks are a bigger obstacle for the disabled community.  Imagine what it’s like for someone with a cane, walker, or wheelchair.  Should a wheelchair user be forced to attach a snow blower to their conveyance?  (Scratch that comment.  Cheapskates would think that it would be a viable option, helping to keep taxes down.)

Enter the SRAC.  This evening each member stands at the lectern to explain details of the committee’s report.  Unfortunately there’s a lotta empty auditorium seats.  About half of those in attendance are committee members or city officials.

Everyone is generally on the same level, sitting in the audience area, empty stage in the background.  SRAC members are nested in one spot off to the side, two short rows of folding chairs.  In the center the mayor and city councilors sit at folding tables that combine into one impressive conference table.  Citizen participation is encouraged during Q&A after the report’s findings are explained.

Nutshell: two proposals/solutions to the problem.   Short term: Revise the current code so it’s more fair and enforceable.   Then The City promotes awareness of the code changes via multi-media from November through February.  Long term: The City takes over the operation with the needed equipment and three seasonal employees. 

Acknowledging that such a switchover takes time the short term solution should be implemented during the upcoming 2015 – 2016 winter season.  Target date for The City taking on all sidewalk snow and ice removal: winter 2016-2017.

City Councilor/SRAC member Rachelle Armstrong stresses positive aspects of the SRAC report.

SRAC member Jeff Moore says that when he was mayor of Champlain the village was responsible for mechanized snow removal. It worked well.  Same situation for Rouses Point.  That village has been providing snow removal for 30 years.

But during the Q&A discussion some neg vibes are in the air.  Plattsburgh City Mayor Jim Calnon challenges how well a municipal snow removal service would work.  What about cost?  Taxes?  Councilor Becky Kasper wonders about liability if the city took over.

The SRAC section answers such concerns.  SRAC member/City Councilor Rachelle Armstrong says the estimated fee per taxable parcel would only be about $12 a year to fund the proposed program.  Jeff Moore says that lawsuits will always happen but Champlain and Rouses Point didn’t have any major problems.  Positive responses.

Rachelle says the long term proposal isn’t perfect, there is room for debate.   But everyone should work on why it can be done instead of concentrating on why it can’t.

A teacher in the audience, Mary Ward, shares an anecdote about a field trip to a nearby grocery store she tried to have with pre-K students one winter.  It was in walk-able distance but on two occasions she and her students had to turn around due to snow–blocked sidewalks.

She agrees that the SRAC proposal should be considered with a more positive, not negative, attitude.  The city, she continues, should take on the snow removal burden so that children don’t end up walking in the street with traffic.

During the forum Councilor Mike Kelly observed the snow removal debate had been going on for decades. 

Winter approaches.  The years roll on.  Up and down the hill.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Taser Comes To Town

(C) 2015 Luke T. Bush

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY – Aug. 16, 2015

Citizen T (to use an appropriate pseudonym) had a life-changing experience after being tased.

He hates cops.  Intensely.

Lend him an ear and the vehemence behind his police criticism is evident.  He says that he was unjustifiably tased by Plattsburgh City police officers during an encounter.  Until recently most people hadn’t heard about such incidents.

A handheld Taser can discharge its electrical jolt directly or from some distance by shooting wired darts.  The subject suffers NMI, neuromuscular incapacitation, AKA violent muscle spasms.  The experience is summed up with the phrase "It hurts like hell."  Such use is described as pain compliance.

(Note: I’m assuming the city police are using TASER International brand units due to the company’s dominant market share. There are other companies out there in the ECD – electronic control device – industry.  The term “electronic control device” has a nice euphemistic quality, suggestive of a harmless TV remote control as opposed to an electrical weapon that knocks the shit outta ya.)

Stories and rumors about tasing incidents are circulating.  Word on the street is that tasing is being over applied in Plattsburgh City.  Any truth to it?  Who knows since the municipal police department only investigates itself.

Yes, law enforcement officers need to be armed.  The Officer Down Memorial Page lists 2014 Line of Duty Deaths with 47 killed by gunfire

But as reported in the news an officer can overreact especially when using the latest weapons.  At times it can be a problem of “The Boys Playing With New Toys” syndrome.

TASER International states its product is safer than bullets (lead or rubber).  And it adds compared to wrestling someone to the ground tasing is still safer.

But some civilians claim that they were still physically mistreated after collapsing.  Apparently tasing isn't the one-shot-does-it-all solution with every encounter.  Cops might have to use fists and feet to control a shocked suspect. 

Some deaths have occurred after tasing.  Taser defenders say that this doesn't happen just from the weapon: a dead suspect had compromised health do to illegal drug use.  He would die just as easily from a bullet wound.

At its website the American Civil Liberties Union states that 500 people since 2001 have died from being tased.  Tasers No Longer a Non-Lethal Alternative for Law Enforcement. ]

Circulation, a journal published by the American Heart Association, offers a study with the self-explanatory title “Sudden Cardiac Arrest and Death Associated with Application of Shocks from a TASER Electronic Control Device.”

Originally called non-lethal Tasers are now being referred to as “less lethal.”

Besides death there’s the issue of severe injuries.

As part of their training officers are tased to know what the experience is like.  Some of these officers from across the US have filed lawsuits, alleging they suffered injuries including fractured backs.    

To address the issue locally a public forum is being planned with the Plattsburgh City PD.  A location and time haven't been announced.  Such a forum would discuss proper Taser training and use plus the safety claims.  Also there will be discussion of the formation of a police conduct review board which would include citizen members.

The forum could be an opportunity to look beyond rumors and get the real story.

If not then unverified word on the street will have to suffice.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Rude Pig Ruins It

© 2015 Luke T. Bush

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY – August 8, 2015

I stopped by the marina area late this evening.  The two porta-potties had been moved from the handicap parking spot. (Details here about the problem.)  Just twenty feet to the side and the hindrance is no longer there.  Good job.

Unfortunately that left an available space for a subhuman to leave a dirty diaper behind.  At least the diaper should be an easy problem to fix.

Don’t you just love people who respect public areas?

Friday, August 07, 2015

Crappy Way To Treat The Disabled

© 2015 Luke T. Bush


A copy of the above image was recently emailed to me.  The photo was taken by John Farley of NCCI (North Country Center for Independence).

In a Press-Republican article published last Sunday Plattburgh City Mayor Jim Calnon stated “The city had dropped the ball,” but would do better with accessibility issues for the disabled community.

Really.  NCCI had to contact the city about the problem of the two porta-potties blocking part of the handicap parking space for at the marina.  The city said it would fix it.  I haven’t verified whether the movable outhouses were relocated to a more appropriate spot.

Even if the hindrance has been addressed the fact remains that it shouldn’t have occurred in the first place.  Does the accompanying image evince the city’s efforts to do better?

To me it’s more arrogant ball dropping.  The same thing that has been going on over the last 25 years since the enactment of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act).

Nothing else says second class treatment than blocking access to the disabled community with a couple of shit shacks.

UPDATE:  I just learned that a private company is being blamed for the porta-potty screw up.  So the city doesn’t get all the blame but…

A city employee did see the problem and contacted the private company to have the shit shacks relocated.  Then he left for vacation without designating someone to do a follow up to make sure they were moved.  I’ve been told that as of 4:30 PM today the porta-problems are still there.

Next time Plattsburgh City should hire a company that doesn’t sit on its brains when using the throne.

UPDATE 2: Saturday, 8/8/15.  Late this evening I visited the marina area and the porta-potties were removed from the handicap parking spot.  Of course someone else had to screw up a good job.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Mark Your Calendar

© 2015 Luke T. Bush

August 2, 2015.  A turning point for the disabled community in Plattsburgh City?

The Sunday print edition of the Press-Republican featured an article entitled “Access for all, 25 years and counting.” (Page C1).  It talked about the Americans with Disabilities Act and how much work remains locally since 1990 when ADA was passed into law.  (The PR article can be found online here: .)

Activist Debra Buell and North Country Center for Independence (NCCI) Executive Director Robert Poulin discussed the lagging efforts to make the city more accessible for people with disabilities.  (My previous blog post, "ADA: 25 Years Later The Struggle Continues" [ ], also covered some of the same issues.)

Plattsburgh City Mayor Jim Calnon was interviewed for the newspaper article.  He said: “We have to be realistic to how quickly we can make up for what appears to be 25 years of inaction.”

He added: “We dropped the ball, but we’re trying to pick it back up.”

But this was in light of a previous statement about the chronic problem/excuse heard over the last 25 years: cost.  As always the city struggles with its budget.

The mayor cited some progress with accessibility issues such as eliminating the hindrance sometimes created by sidewalk seating for downtown restaurants.  He acknowledged that more work had to be done.

So mark the date of the PR article and check back in a couple of years to see if the city finally follows through on its plans for ADA compliance.  Or not.

After two and a half decades the excuses are running thin.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Fan Mail

Do Press Republican photographers and WPTZ-TV videographers also receive such praise?

Monday, August 03, 2015

The Critic

© 2015 Luke T. Bush

Public space.  Plain view.  No reasonable expectation of privacy.  Finger it out for yourself.

(Click on image to enlarge.)

Pollywog Hunters