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Keeping track of the fatalities

It turns out the state Gaming Commission has an excellent database on injuries to horses and riders and deaths, too. It's searchable by rider, horse, track and more. It shows that, not only did three horses die Saturday at Saratoga -- two in training, one during a race -- but four others have died this year, before the start of the racing season, during training. It looks like more than 10 horses die each year at the race track, not of natural causes. Human athletes die sometimes in spectator sports -- particularly in car racing and occasionally in boxing and other sports -- but I think it's safe to assert that horse racing is more dangerous to the lives of horses than any human sport is to the lives of human participants.

3 hours ago(0)

Columnist shows how nothing can get done

Update: Teresa Genaro wrote an informative column for today's Saratogian that talks about what the tracks are doing on horse safety (just about nothing). It's worth a read to see -- even though Genaro doesn't put it this way -- how a bureaucracy smothers an issue it doesn't want to address by taking it up in committee, without actually doing anything. 

5 hours ago(0)

Racing goes on, dead horses ignored

Hopefully, Mr. Bojangles, there is still enough integrity left in the beleaguered world of journalism that we won't ignore a story because it makes an important local industry look bad. On the other hand, since the story of three horses dying on Saturday at Saratoga is being almost completely ignored by the local press, maybe our integrity is more tattered than I would hope.

Or maybe, the press just considers this a non-story. Some have pointed out that horse deaths at tracks are common, and that is the ugly truth. According to a figure in a great series the New York Times did three years ago on the dangers of horse racing, in 2012, 24 horses a week were dying at race tracks in the U.S. So while three in one day is shocking, when you think that more than that, on average, die every season at Saratoga, it may be a figure that some people, at least, can shrug their shoulders at. 

For those who prefer to look at ugly truths, however, I do recommend the NY Times series, which exposes the many ways race horses are exploited and maltreated.

Sceptical Mass pointed out that my use of the phrase "cracks me up" was insensitive in the context of a blog post about the violent deaths of horses. It was, yes, but not as insensitive as ignoring the violent deaths of race horses. To treat the subject with more seriousness, why do we tolerate the exploitation, to the point of death, of beautiful race horses, but become enraged over, for example, the shooting of a lion? Why does the horse racing community protest against the consumption of horses for food, while promoting the use of horses for entertainment, in spectacles that frequently result in the deaths of those horses? We are all full of such hypocrisies, and pointing them out is almost always a waste of breath. Nonetheless, I think the press should do it.

5 hours ago(0)

Minerva/Newcomb/North Hudson trail

The state Department of Environmental Conservation announced Tuesday that plans have been finalized for a new recreational trail in the central Adirondacks. Don't head there now, though. Part of it will be open next year at the earliest, and it's not expected to be done by 2018.

Below is the DEC press release, with obligatory gleeful quotes from local officials.

-- Don Lehman

DEC FINALIZES COMMUNITY CONNECTOR MULTIPLE-USE TRAIL PLAN

Construction Will Begin Immediately on the 40-Mile Multi-Use Trail between the Towns of Minerva, Newcomb & North Hudson in the Adirondacks

A plan to establish a 40-mile community connector multiple-use trail system between the communities of Minerva, Newcomb and North Hudson in the Adirondacks has been approved, state Department of Environmental Conservation Acting Commissioner Marc Gerstman announced today.

“Governor Cuomo committed the state to expanding and promoting diverse outdoor recreational experiences in the Adirondacks and a sustainable economy for Adirondack communities,” said Acting Commissioner Gerstman. “DEC is gratified to work together with the communities that host the Finch acquisition and to see our commitments fulfilled. We pledge to continue our partnership with the environmental community and the towns. The new trail will establish new areas to mountain bike, horseback ride, hike, snowmobile, cross-country ski and snowshoe while linking to amenities found in the communities.”

The finalization of the plan will allow for construction to begin immediately on 18-miles of new trail between Newcomb and Minerva. The entire trail is expected to be completed by 2018, with portions of the trail being open to the public next year. Work will also begin next year on the trail connecting Newcomb and North Hudson, starting with the construction of a bridge over the outlet of Palmer Pond near the hamlet of North Hudson. The whole trail system is expected to be completed by 2022, with new trail segments becoming available for public recreation every year until the completed date.

The trail system connects the Forest Preserve units of the Vanderwacker Mountain Wild Forest, the Camp Santanoni Historic Area and the Lake Harris Public Campground as well as the Hudson River Hyslop and Blue Ridge Road Conservation Easements. It will follow existing roads and trails on public, private and conservation easement lands to minimize the amount of new trail building. The design of the trail system includes efforts to minimize impacts to residents along its route and to the natural and cultural resources of the area. This will include looping around the Gate Lodge Complex of the Camp Santanoni Historic Area. If connections are needed across private property, permission will be sought from the owner.

The plan also calls for the construction of a bridge over the Palmer Pond outlet that will provide administrative access to maintain the dam and a crossing for the Newcomb to North Hudson community connector trail. Additionally, the plan calls for the addition of new primitive tent sites for camping and a new lean-to near Great Camp Santanoni to protect the historic structures from potential damage caused by inappropriate use of the Great Camp complex.

The plan can be found on DEC’s website at http://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/22587.html.

State Senator Betty Little said, “The community connector trail will afford so many more people access to enjoy and appreciate this wonderful part of the Adirondack Park. This means so much to these communities, and particularly the small businesses that will benefit from an outdoor experience that appeals to more tourists of all ages and physical ability. I thank Governor Cuomo, DEC Acting Commissioner Marc Gerstman and the staff for working with the local officials and other stakeholders to establish this long-desired trail system.”

Assemblyman Dan Stec said, “I applaud DEC for listening to the needs of the people and deciding to make this multi-use trail a reality for the five towns. The purpose of this land acquisition was touted to include recreation and economic development needs. It’s good to see DEC following through on this commitment.”

Chair of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors Bill Farber said, “This community connector trail is another great example of the success we can achieve when the region's five towns and two counties work in partnership with state agencies and local stakeholders. Snowmobiling is important to our region, and opening this trail will be a direct benefit to our winter economy. Thanks to Governor Cuomo and DEC, we have achieved a balance in protecting the Adirondack Park and opening it to greater recreation and tourism opportunities.”

Town of Minerva Supervisor, Steve McNally said, “With the Governor’s and DEC’s help, we are really excited with the new opportunities ahead of us. With limited accommodations and services in our small towns, having the ability for people to get from one town to another will make us a better destination.”

Town of Newcomb Supervisor, George Canon said, “This is a major step toward greater economic benefits for the communities in the five-town hub, especially during the winter months. Thank you to Governor Cuomo and DEC for their ongoing commitment to Adirondack communities, residents and visitors.”

Town of North Hudson Supervisor Ron Moore said, “The Town of North Hudson is very pleased to have this new recreational opportunity that will provide a Community Connector Trail between the five towns. We believe this will help to spur the new growth in our economies that we so desperately need, while at the same time preserving and protecting the environmental resources that are our great treasure. Many thanks to the DEC for their continued commitment and hard work in bringing these new recreational opportunities to all of our people and the economic benefits that will support our struggling businesses as a result.”

Adirondack Council Executive Director William C. Janeway said, “The Adirondack Council supports the goals of the state’s community connector snowmobile trail network, which aims to make snowmobiling between the park’s communities safer, easier and more ecologically friendly. Moving trails off of lakes and ponds, out of the middle of Forest Preserve units and toward existing travel corridors is good for protecting clean water, wilderness, wildlife and the winter economy of local communities.”

6 hours ago(0)

Agency: Whitehall can withhold suspended teachers' names

We have gotten some questions from my commentators on my article about the two Whitehall suspended teachers about why the district is releasing their names.

In case you missed the story, click HERE.

The short answer is: they don’t have to if they don’t want to.

Tenured teachers are covered by Education Law 3020-a, which spells out the process on how they can be removed.

“There’s case law stating that the identities need not be disclosed under 3020,” said Robert Freeman, executive director of the New York State Committee on Open Government.

The committee has issued advisory opinions, stating that the Court of Appeals has held that an agency “may withhold records or portions of records in accordance with the exceptions to rights of access."

However, the opinion goes on to say that "it is not required to do so and may choose to disclose.”

Also, Freeman said that if a teacher charged in the case has requested a public hearing, then he or she has effectively waived the district’s authority to withhold records that were received in evidence or disclosed during the course of the hearing.

To remove a tenured teacher, the school board must first bring formal charges in writing. Then, both sides agree to appoint an officer to review the case. The officer can decide on termination, suspension or some other punishment. The teacher remains suspended with pay during this process.

These cases could drag on for a year or two, but the state has been trying to speed up the process including changing it from a three-person panel to just a single person. Also, the teacher can be suspended without pay if they have entered a guilty plea to a felony drug charge or a crime involving the physical abuse of a minor or student. The employee can be terminated upon conviction of a sex offense.

The Post-Star will continue to work to try to get the identities of the teachers.

Whitehall is not a very big district, so it will become clear who has been suspended based on who the district is hiring as substitutes and for what courses.

Also, Freeman said that attendance records are public and subject to the Freedom of Information Law.

6 hours ago(0)

Stefanik featured in National Endowment for the Arts 50th anniversary project

A video of U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-Willsboro, discussing the importance of the arts will be part of an online story bank project to celebrate the 50th anniversary of National Endowment for the Arts.

The project will debut Sept. 29 on a web page at arts.gov.

Artists, government officials and other prominent thinkers will tell how art has influenced their lives and talk about the future of arts.

Other members of Houses members interviewed, so far, are Steny Hoyer, D-Md.; Leonard Lance, R-NJ; Raul Grijalva, D-AZ; Louise Slaughter, D-Rochester; and Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., said Jessamyn Sarmiento, spokeswoman for National Endowment for the Arts.

"We are not necessarily trying to get all members to contribute, but show a sampling of stories from around the nation," she said. "Of course, we will not turn down any stories and hope to have many more." 

Videos, written stories and pictures also will be shared through social media.

9 hours ago(0)

'Crevasse'

I was driving home on Dixon Road in Queensbury on Monday night when I saw cars ahead of me slow down. Thankfully they did, because they alerted me to a foot-deep ditch in the road that had been left as part of a paving project.

There was a small yellow "bump" signs and orange traffic cones nearby, but there have been orange cones along the road for days so they weren't notable.

Many drivers weren't as lucky as I was. Several friends reported hitting the ditch at full speed (35 mph speed limit) because they didn't see the warning.

One friend described the hole on Facebook as a "crevasse" and wondered how many vehicles would lose their suspension overnight Monday.

Hopefully the paving is done Tuesday and the hole disappears.

-- Don Lehman

11 hours ago(1)

Faso-organized PAC terminated

New York 2014, the political action committee former Republican gubernatorial candidate John Faso organized to support Republican congressional candidate Elise Stefanik and the re-election bid of U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson, R-Kinderhook, in 2014 has terminated its operation, according to the Federal Election Commission web site.

The Super PAC liquidated its balance on May 31 as follows:

  • Refunding a $20,000 contribution to Drivers Village Inc., an automotive dealership group in Cicero, near Syracuse;
  • Paying $5,000 to an Alexandria, Va. law firm for termination compliance consulting;
  • Paying $57,938 to Faso for strategic consulting.

The FEC, in a June 22 letter, "accepted as a valid termination" the group's action.

August 03, 2015 5:30 pm(1)

They still shoot horses, don't they?

Three horses died at Saratoga on Saturday -- two in training and one while racing. The only mention I can find of this especially morbid day at the race track is a brief bit in a blog on the Times Union site -- in which the co-owner of  the horse Innovation Economy is quoted as saying, "You lose a few" -- and a more extensive blog post at the anti horse-racing site, http://horseracingwrongs.com. It was an extraordinarily bad day at Saratoga for horses -- these were the first deaths of the season, and they all happened on Saturday. It is also extraordinary to see the the extent to which the press and the public shrug off the deaths of horses at race tracks. If three horses in one day gets ignored, I wonder how many horse deaths in a single day at one track it will take to get some publicity. The fact is, every year, lots of horses die because of injuries and overexertion at race tracks. The horseracingwrongs site lists the deaths from one week, and it's a long list. It also cracks me up that so many in the horse racing community have rallied against the slaughter of horses for food, yet they not only tolerate but celebrate an activity that kills horses.

August 03, 2015 3:59 pm(5)

Francis starts television ads -- 15 months before election

Shaun Francis, the Democratic labor leader challenging state incumbent state Sen. Kathy Marchione, R-Halfmoon, began airing a television commercial on Monday, about 15 months before the 2016 election.

Francis, in a telephone interview, said he is on the air early because he wants to define himself to voters before Marchione has a chance to characterize him.

The television commercial, in which Francis speaks throughout, runs with a caption "Francis for New York."  He does not mention which political party he belongs to or which Senate district he is running in, and he does not mention Marchione by name.

Francis said he did not identify the district because most voters would not recognize it by number.

He said he did not identify his political affiliation because his campaign platform of ending political corruption is aimed at voters of all political parties.

Francis, a former professional baseball umpire who lives in Wilton, is an organizer with Office and Professional Workers International Union.

It is scheduled to run through Sunday afternoon on cable stations, including Time Warner Cable and MSNBC.

Click here to view the commercial. 

August 03, 2015 3:06 pm(0)

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