Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Tapping Back Into The Dead Past

Hmmmm, what is it about this display that makes the food appear to be so unappetizing?

(C) 2016 Luke T. Bush


This evening I returned to the PlattInfo kiosk on City Hall Place to see how well its touchscreen worked.  From what I've heard this long dead kiosk sprang back to life around a month ago.

Three information kiosks were installed back in 2013 but have spent most of their time dead, black screens.  Their purpose was to promote the city and its businesses, providing a convenient on-screen guide.

The one at the city parking lot remains dead and I'm assuming the one on Dock Street is in the same condition. (Too cold for me to walk down there and check it out.)

So how well does this revived one work?  The screen was still dirty (see previous article here) but since I was wearing gloves I decided to try a few taps.  The screen lead me to listings of various businesses but the information was outdated.  (Also the images bled off the screen, parts of the ads were missing.)  For example there was the ad for the General Trading Company, a store that closed in August 2015.  Another ghost that popped up was the Adirondack Soup Company, a restaurant defunct since 2013.

It's ironical that these companies paid for this advertising and now it's being shown long after they closed their doors.

Even if the kiosks can be restored with updated info what's the point?   The PlattInfo units are obsolete.  The same information can be found online through portable devices, cellphones and tablets.

Tax money well spent.  But the "savings" doesn't end there.  How much will it cost to remove the units and fix the spots where they stood?

Item: City residents are upset over the possibility that the tax rate might take a double digit jump.

Gee, could wasteful spending be part of the problem?

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Back From The Dead But With A Dirty Face

© 2016 Luke T. Bush


This evening a light across the street caught my attention, shining bright in the winter dark.  Closer inspection revealed that a PlattInfo kiosk that has spent months with a blank screen was back to life.

It’s the unit on City Hall Place near the Verdantique Park plaque.  In the past the only sign of life from the unit was an electrical hum heard when standing close to it.  (Apparently it still had a pulse.)  The kiosk is one of three that were installed years ago to provide information to downtown visitors.  The units worked for a while but have spent most of their existence as metal tombstones.  Thousands of dollars spent on another Sap City boondoggle. (Previous articles on this subject can be found here and there.)

The other unit down the street near the city parking lot was still blank.  I’m assuming the third one on Dock Street near the Seagull Parking Lot is still dead.  But it’s better to light one PlattInfo kiosk than to curse the dark.

The revived kiosk now displays in slide show mode ads for local businesses.  I wonder if these are the same businesses that paid for photonic promotion when PlattInfo was launched.  Out of thousands of dollars expended maybe the city will see a few cents use from the unit.

The display looks great but there is one problem: backlit dirty spots mar the screen.  The unclean surface renders the impression of a zombie that dug himself out of his grave but didn’t have a chance to wash up.  The dark smears interfere with screen viewing.  Also gives downtown an untidy look like dogshit on the sidewalks.

I didn’t have a damp rag to clean the screen.  Then again it’s not my job.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Public Library Expansion

© 2016 Luke T. Bush


Let the crumbling begin.

The new front steps to the Plattsburgh Public Library are falling apart despite renovations that were initiated in November 2015.  Within a few months of the project’s completion long hairline cracks developed in the concrete.

Now those hairline cracks have expanded to one quarter inch or more in width, necessitating a stopgap fill in the gaps.

For over a decade the library entrance has been one of the biggest eyesore embarrassments in the community.  The old steps crumbled to such a point that sections couldn’t be repaired.  Orange spray paint marked the unfixable sections, a warning to the unwary.

The new steps are around one year old.  They already display the shoddy workmanship of the previous ones.

In the news: Plattsburgh City taxpayers might have to suffer a tax increase onus around 23%.  Part of the problem: half-ass projects like the new library entrance.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Dissenter


This afternoon a boisterous but non-confrontational rally held at Trinity Park expressed progressive concerns through handheld signs: global warming, gay rights, etc.  The signs also expressed a willingness to reach out to others, trying to overcome political differences in light of Trump winning the presidential election: Unity, Love, Peace.  Drivers honked in agreement as they drove by. Someone with an opposing view across the street expressed his opinion with the classic throat-slashing gesture.

Update:  11/28/16  The man in the photo says he was provoked when someone in the Peace & Unity rally shouted "Fuck Trump."  He questioned the sincerity of the rally members regarding their message of unity.  As a Trump supporter he's against socialism and communism, for example, free college.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Racism Is Not A Plattsburgh Value

Plattsburgh City, NY - Nov. 18, 2016

(C) 2016 Luke T. Bush

A colorful sign drawn in large letters on the sidewalk catches my eye.  LOVE  ZONE.

I stop to photograph the sidewalk chalk message.  A woman -- the owner of a restaurant -- pauses to tell me the story behind the sign.  Her neighbor -- a fellow restaurateur -- has been the target of harassment by racists.

Online I learn more about the situation (see link below.)

Tenzin Dorjee is a naturalized citizen who co-owns the Himalaya Restaurant.  He immigrated from Bhutan, a kingdom in the Eastern Himalayas in South Asia.  Tenzin has felt welcome in the North Country -- that is until Donald Trump became President-elect. Since then the restaurateur has encountered racial slurs in public.  One time a car driver cut Tenzin off, shooting him the middle finger gesture.  Tenzin is concerned the harassment won't stop there.

Across the US ignorant bigots are emboldened by Trump's win.  Not surprising since the Republican stirred up so much hatred during his campaign with his Us versus Them rhetoric.

Lately Trump has taken the edge off of his extreme xenophobic rhetoric.  He stated that there should be no acts of discrimination. But his fervent white supremacist followers think: "He's just saying that for the public.  He's really one of us."

Be aware.  Amerika is rising.

Source: Harassed, afraid, a North Country immigrant fights back with love - Zach Hirsch

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Series Kicks Off With Locally Lensed Movie

PLATTBURGH CITY, NY -- Nov. 16, 2016   The Third Lake Champlain International Film Festival opened its five day run with Frozen River, a crime/drama lensed in the North Country.  Writer/Director Courtney Hunt (pictured above) made a special visit to Plattsburgh to introduce her movie at the Strand.  

Actress Melissa Leo (pictured below) who portrayed the protagonist in Frozen River delivered a special message via a video recording to the audience.  She thanked locals who greatly helped with the film's production.

Only ten dollars provides access to all film showings during the festival. More info on the series at this link: 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Mugger


(C) 2016 Luke T. Bush

PLATTSBURGH, NY - Oct. 22, 2016

Saturday afternoon 30 City Community Center hosted a Harvest Party to unveil the outdoor mural created by artist Gharan Burton. The painted display covers a large expanse of wall in the alleyway behind the North Country Food Co-Op.  Outdoor Art: Plattsburgh Public Art Project sponsored the mural's creation. A master plan is set in motion to revitalize the alleyway area for outdoor dining.  During the Harvest Party Colin Read (left) gave a special award to Gharan Burton in appreciation for his work.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Cache Me If You Can

(C) 2016 Luke T. Bush

Time to find some hidden treasure.  You never know what you might discover.

My geocaching guide plans to spend the afternoon driving around, uncovering new treasure.  He's ready with GPS coordinates from online and his smartphone to aid him in zeroing in on each location.  A geocacher can be either a placer -- someone who hides treasure -- or a locator -- someone searching out the treasure.

A locator being in the general area of the treasure is only the first part. Geocachers place each treasure so that it's hard to find by searchers. The containers may be hidden inside a tree or pipe or maybe even hidden under a guard rail out in the countryside.

Geocache containers come in a variety of sizes and shapes.  Sometimes the container is hidden in plain view.  In one spot there's a few bolts embedded in a wooden post.  But one of them is not real.  My guide pops out the pseudo-bolt, unscrews the container to retrieve the list inside of others who have been there before.

He unrolls the list and my guide adds his name to previous geocaching sleuths.  Then he returns the list to inside the pseudo-bolt, caps it, and puts it back in the posthole.

After seeing how the game is played I manage to spot another hiding spot, this one concealed behind a red traffic reflector.  My guide tells me that before a container is placed on private property permission is needed from the land owner.  Sometimes there is some trouble when a geocacher doesn't follow the rules of the game, cutting across private property to get to a public area where the cache is located.  Online information tells if permission has been granted.

A container might hold little items for younger participants.  One cache contained tiny plastic toys and even an old cardboard pog.

A searcher can find a Geocache Buddy or travel bug, a metal tag that travels from cache to cache.  The tag comes in a variety of shapes and themes like a dog tag, ghost or animal.

My guide carries a travel bug shaped like a turtle, a cartoon turtle depicted on one side.  Flip “Tyler Turtle” over and stamped directions explain the Cache Buddy's purpose.  The geocacher is told to log online to and log the tag’s individual tracking number before relocating it to another cache.  This is like a game within a game, tracking a tag’s travels online.

How active is geocaching in Clinton County?  Some signature lists are long when revealed, crammed with names and dates. Looks busy to me.  

So if that guy you notice repeatedly searching in one spot it's not necessarily someone who lost his car keys.  He could be on the hunt for hidden treasure.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Just Humming Along

(C) 2016 Luke T. Bush

While the PlattInfo kiosks around Plattsburgh are supposed to offer information to tourists their screens remain blank.  Due to the agreement made to secure funds for the kiosks the units have to remain in place -- despite being dead -- for a specified time period.

Actually one of the kiosks isn't completely dead.  The one on City Hall Place near Macdonough Monument is humming, apparently drawing power.  You can distinctly hear the humming when standing behind the kiosk.  A small energy vampire wasting electricity and taxpayer money.

Just humming along, not singing a song,
bye, bye, money.

See and hear the humming kiosk with this link.

How many more useless hums will be bought with the $10 million grant awarded to the city?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Bad Layout

No  one noticed this before going to press?  A different headline or article would have avoided this problem.

(Click on image to enlarge.)

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Non-Story Story

What Writog has learned from his experience:
Need answers?  Try elsewhere.

(C) 2016 Luke T. Bush

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY -- Sept. 12, 2016

Is there a story here?

A key question for a journalist when someone passes along information pertaining to a possible rule-breaking/illegal activity.

There's a technical paper called Municipal Fundraising And Gifting (August 2012) published by the New York State Tug Hill Commission that outlines the limitations for a city regarding donation solicitation.  You can find a PDF copy here .  Before perusing this fascinating document I would recommend consuming a full pot of coffee or a half-dozen caffeine pills (More pharmacists recommend NoDoz more than any other brand.)

The publication details how a municipality must act independently from any non-profit group, no overlapping allowed.  Basically the Podunk administration can't directly act on the behalf of a group such as the Friends of Podunk.  There's a little problem called conflict of interest.  When Podunk municipality backs one non-profit group over all others it's giving that chosen group an unfair advantage.

So there's this letter sent out last year by Podunk to businesses asking for donations for a special event promoting the city.  Donations to the Friends of Podunk are to be mailed directly to the city hall office of a particular municipal employee.

A no-no?  Maybe.  I contact the New York State Comptroller's office to learn if a violation has been committed.

After a few emails I get a copy of a 1983 opinion about a unnamed county selling for profit  decals with the official county logo.  A no-no according to this opinion.  

I ask the NYS Comptroller's office how does this pertain to the matter of Podunk and the Friends of Podunk.  The official contact tells me that this is the best case related to the matter.  Am I to infer that a SWAT team will sweep in and shut down any decal selling operation in violation of state regulations?  ("Put down that sticker!  Up against the wall!")

I ask if the state will look into the Podunk affair.  The reply: "It certainly is an issue our audit team could examine in the future."  Or could not examine.  You gotta love tautology.

The 1983 opinion includes this disclaimer at the end:

"This opinion represents the view of the Office of the State Comptroller at the time it was rendered.  The opinion may no longer represent the views if, among other things, there have been subsequent court cases or statutory amendments on the issues discussed in the opinion."

Of course NYS doesn't refer me to any other rulings.  What they sent me might be an invalid point to write about in an article.  After 1983 a different opinion could have come along, allowing a governmental body in New York State to sell all the decals for profit it wants.  If that's the case here's my recommendation for a sticker message: Democracy = Transparency.

The question remains if Podunk overstepped its bounds. Who knows?  Is Little Nell alive?  Who shot J.R.?

The matter of Podunk and its Friends is a non-story. Dead end.

This means an Albany apparatchik can relax his office, being paid top dollar to promulgate vagueness on the behalf of taxpayers.

That's another story.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Does Anyone Sell Asshole Remover?

(C) 2016 Luke T. Bush

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY - Sept. 5, 2016

In Plattsburgh City, NY assholes like to harass photographers.

Sometimes they like to shout stupid drive-by insults from a car. But the worse ones are those who walk up to you and want to argue, not listen.

Today around 6 PM.  I'm sitting on a bench on main street, minding my own business.  I notice my shadow falling on a large bright white crosswalk stripe in the street so I take a few shots.  No people in the frame, just my head's shadow.

Someone walks by, sees me, stops and turns around.  From his appearance and his use of English he seems to be a foreign exchange student.  He asks me if I take photographs of people out in public.  I reply yes.  He tells me I shouldn't do that.

I explain to him that for the most part if I want to photograph someone in public it's my right. I don't need permission.  I ask him if he's an American.  He dodges the question by asking me if I'm an American and whether I'm familiar with the constitution.

What seems to be at first just a discussion, an opportunity to learn something, turns into verbal belligerence on his part.  He tells me, an American citizen, I have no right to photograph anyone in public unless I ask permission.

Before he leaves he tells me: "You should only photograph things like ice crystals."

Since it's a holiday -- Labor Day -- another such incident has to occur less than two hours later.

I'm at the McDonald's down by the lake, sitting at a picnic table with a friend, taking shots of the view.  Day is shifting into night.  I converse with my friend while shooting.  There's a woman sitting fifteen feet away at another table.  She gets up and comes over, telling me I can't take photographs of people in public.  She's a local yokel, a drunk redneck. My camera was never aimed at her.

Obviously she's ignorant.  Before she confronted me she wanted to make her burger flatter by pressing it into the bare wood of her picnic table.  The same table that seagulls shat on.

My friend tells her that we were having a private conservation and she was being rude.  She leaves, saying that if I photograph her she will have me arrested.

What I need is an aerosol can of Asshole Remover.  Spray once and the problem disappears, deleted from reality.

An extra large can.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Rock-Throwin' Rednecks

(C) 2016 Luke T. Bush


During the evening the spot where the Saranac River flows into Lake Champlain is usually placid.  For me it's an opportunity to photograph the ducks floating by in the water.

Of course all that is wrecked when a couple of redneck kids hurl stones at the ducks, hoping to injure them.  After a couple of close calls for the ducks I yelled at the rock-throwers to stop.

Hanging in the background was a redneck adult who didn't mind if the kids broke out a duck's wing or put out a duck's eye.

The kids resented my interruption of their vicious fun.

I noticed a set-up down the river where the three knuckle-draggers were fishing, folding chair and some rods.  They picked up their equipment and skulked off.  Was any catch for food or torture?

So why the cruelty towards the ducks?  This points to the major tragedy of the North Country: inbreeding with diseased farm animals.  The rednecks acted out of jealousy, knowing that their IQs would never approach that of an average duck.  

In case I needed to ID them later I noted their prominent features, especially their troglodyte sloped foreheads.

Of course after the encounter I kept looking over my shoulder.  If someone is stupid enough to throw rocks at ducks then it wouldn't be surprising if they used the same attack against a person.

So this time no ducks were hurt but there's always tomorrow, another opportunity to wound some harmless creatures.  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

A Heartwarming Story

(C) 2016 Luke T. Bush


Apparently the defunct PlattInfo kiosks are getting some use.

A reader witnessed a touching incident that he shared with me.

There was a family strolling about downtown, visiting the city.  One member was a little girl who noticed a PlattInfo kiosk.  She stopped, staring at the unit with great excitement.

What caught her attention?  The dead screen that was intended to show points of interest in downtown Plattsburgh City?  Maybe she thought it was a special TV that would show her favorite cartoons.

No, that's not what caught her eye.

She said: "Look at that big spider web!"

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Proprietary Lock Out

(C) 2016 Luke T. Bush  


What to do with those dead PlattInfo kiosks?  Their screens  -- designed to display points of interest in downtown --  remain blank.  A recent paint job conceals the rust.

The kiosks have spent more time being dead than alive.  After thousands of taxpayer dollars were spent there should be a way for Plattsburgh City to kickstart them back to life.

So just bring in someone to fix or update the computer system.  No, forget that.  Proprietary blocks that option.

Local software engineer Jesse Feiler was hired by the city to write the source code.  In the deal he struck with the city all his work is proprietary.  

The city boondoggle boys didn't realize that proprietary meant only one person, the code's creator, can touch it.  If the city wants to update the system it has to work with Feiler -- obviously for additional payment.

The city should've paid for open source code and bought the license for its use.  That way it could modify the system as needed.

I've emailed Jesse Feiler to get his part of the story.  Two emails, no response.

In the meantime the boondoggle boys are just itching to get their hands on that $10 million grant awarded by New York State.

Maybe they could update the kiosks with some of that money.  Just  rip off the tops and gut the interiors to convert them into planters with flowers to spruce up downtown.

At least flowers can be replanted.  They aren't proprietary.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Conducive For Comments?

How many comments were recorded?

(C) 2016 Luke T. Bush


Downtown Rising is a busy event, people milling about, talking, while a band plays tunes with amplified sound.   And while it's a good event for socializing and buying from various vendors it's not the place I would hold a public forum. People have their minds attuned to fresh carrots, ice cream, hot dogs, and other items being offered.

But last Friday the city had its set-up under the big tent, images spreading across an array of free standing panels.  This presentation detailed proposals for using the $10 million grant recently awarded to the city.  The set-up was supposed to elicit comments from the public regarding the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.  While I didn't hang around and witness all the activity it seemed most of the time volunteers were explaining concepts to passersby. I didn't see any note taking or voice recording of citizen input.  I didn't see a table to write down comments.

Then again, if I wanted feedback from the public I would concentrate on accepting such observations via postal and email addresses.  Even an old-fashioned telephone answering machine would be better. It's easier to comment in the quiet of your home where you can think.

But there will be another public outreach for taxpayers to comment on how to spend the $10 million grant.  Another set-up will be available to passersby at the Battle of Plattsburgh.  BOP is  the annual celebration of the American victory over the British during a key naval battle on Lake Champlain during the War of 1812.  It includes reenactments of the fighting on land and water.

So please feel free to comment while rifles and cannons are being fired.  Bang, BOOM, bang!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Nose Job

Decades ago a vandal knocked the nose right off this poor guy.  A concrete surgeon was brought in to fix the missing feature.  The replacement nose has withstood years of heat and cold, rain and wind, facing whatever Lake Champlain could dish out.  It never cracked or fell off.  Plattsburgh City should find out what magic mixture was used and apply it to rebuilding the Plattsburgh Public Library front steps.  The latest installation is cracking and crumbling like the previous one.  The new entrance hasn't even celebrated a one-year anniversary but is already suffering from old age.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Back To Patching Over A Problem

(C) 2016 Luke T. Bush


For years the concrete front steps of the Plattsburgh Public Library kept falling apart.  Patch jobs only covered up the problem.  But recently a full renovation to the entrance promised no more cracks, no more chunks falling off.

So much for that promise.  Cracks are already appearing, especially a long one from top to bottom.

The solution?  Back to patching.  Part of the crack is covered but has it really gone away?

Definition of Plattsburgh Smart: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Previous article: Not All It's Cracked Up To Be

Bean Counters = Crap Quality

LLBean: Quality Guaranteed Since 1912.  Forget it.  In the last few years LLBean clothing is sub-Made-In-China quality.  I’m not that hard on my clothes so there’s no excuse for my LLB purchases falling apart.  After a wearing them for a few times they just start deteriorating.

People tell me: “Well, send it back.  They guarantee their product.”  Sure, send one POS back and get another one that breaks down in six months or less.

I’m not alone. Google “LLBean Quality” and you’ll find complaints just like mine.  Apparently the Bean counters think they can maximize profits by charging top dollar for third rate quality and consumers won’t care.

Boycott LLBean and any other clothing manufacturer trying to foist their fragile fiber crap on us.  That will force them to make good clothing.

With other pants I could easily re-attach a button that fell off with needle-and-thread.  But how do you attach a button to a riphole?

Cargo pocket shorts, worn a few times.  Holes just growing on their own.

Another pair of LLBean cargo shorts, another hole growing by itself in a pocket.

LLBean chamois shirt disintegrating.  Never worn tucked in so no real stress was put on it.  Maybe gravity was the culprit.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Green Dome And The Parking Lot To Nowhere

Mayoral candidate Colin Read meets the press.

(C) 2016 Luke T. Bush

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY -- August 1, 2016

Something was missing from the news conference.

That Smell [TM]. The olfactory attack from the sewage treatment plant.  It still could happen.

At least The Parking Lot to Nowhere didn't threaten us with a fecal bouquet.

Kicking off the news conference Colin Read, first time Democratic candidate for mayor, warned the crowd that the event would end when the Amtrak train rolled in.  With the clock counting down he shared a list of ideas that he would pursue if elected mayor.  Part of his POV was from being a downtown businessman, proprietor of the Champlain Wine Company.

Holding his conference at the lower level of the train station Colin faced the media, standing behind a white folding table.  A cluster of microphones picked up his voice.

Across the railroad tracks the hulking sewage treatment plant was easily visible and smellable.  I've always wondered who was the genius who decided to build it at the mouth of the Saranac River, prime lakefront property.

The gray plant sat beyond what Colin called The Parking Lot to Nowhere, an empty expanse of asphalt and white lines still waiting for the planned hotel/conference center to be built.

The lot was another white elephant example: city spending money on a project that never functioned as planned.   And maybe that was for the better.  Who wants to stay at a hotel with a beautiful view of Lake Champlain accompanied by an ugly miasma?

Colin observed: "People want a change."

One change he proposed would be a green dome over the sewage treatment plant to contain odor.

 He talked about the fiscal challenge faced by the city since its reserve fund -- $6 million -- was down to zero. (The reason why the city once again had a negative financial rating.) That money, he said, was reserved for emergencies such as the failing water system in the south part of the city.  (Old system = water flooding streets.)

But more money was on its way: a $10 million revitalization grant.  So how to plan and spend it?

On the topic of his qualifications Colin mentioned that he wrote a book on municipal finance and taught finance at Plattsburgh State University College.  Indeed with his black-framed  eyeglasses he looked professorial.  While he was sans tie he was snappily dressed in a medium blue blazer and light tan pants.  (I include those details because articles like this are supposed to detail the subject's appearance for sartorial-minded readers.)

Colin mentioned the city should do its homework before spending the grant money.

He gave an example of such homework: his number crunching with one proposal to tear down the farmers market building in the Durkee Street parking lot and replace it with a mixed use building.  A new parking garage would be needed to replace the 320 spots now in use.   Demolition costs alone would eat up a good share of the $10 million grant.

The cost of a new parking garage worked out to about $20,000 per spot, he said.  A private developer would expect ROI.

Colin: "The awkward thing is if we're going to use taxpayer resources taxpayers would like that fund replenished at some point.  If we use private resources we're going to have to charge for it.  Now the $20,000 per parking spot -- if you do the calculations a private developer is going to need about $300 of revenue every month [per spot] assuming that parking garage was full every day.  No private developer would be able to extract those resources."

He concluded it was quite inevitable taxpayer money would be used to build a new parking garage.

 Colin Read listens to a question from a reporter.

There was Q&A after Colin wrapped up his list of ideas.  A reporter mentioned that Plattsburgh wasn't the only New York State municipality with a downgraded financial rating.  Colin wasn't caught off guard.  He said that there were nine other cities with the same status but Plattsburgh shouldn't be one of them.

Colin offered more of his perspective during Q&A including --

The voice suffocating horn.  The Amtrak train from NYC was rolling in.

End of news conference.