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Adam Colver 

South Glens Falls senior Brooklynn Paris affixes the head of a pterodactyl named Phyllis on Thursday at the high school. Preparations are underway to construct decorations for the South High Marathon Dance theme Prehistoric on March 2 and 3. Senior Molly Johnston and junior Izzy Garcia look on.

South High students pumped for marathon dance

SOUTH GLENS FALLS — Excitement and energy are in the air at the high school in the days before the marathon dance, as if it were the holiday season.

“You just feel an amazing mood and vibe everyone’s giving off,” said Kate Nelson, one of the student co-chairs for the dance.

Nelson said preparations for the event, which kicks off on Friday evening, are going well.

“It’s actually coming together faster than past years,” she said.

More than 800 students have signed up to dance. They will start on Friday at 7 p.m. to benefit 31 people and 12 community organizations.

This year’s theme is “Prehistoric.”

Students on Thursday will be rehearsing two choreographed dances. This year’s signature song is “Love’s Just A Feeling” by Lindsey Stirling, which will be performed at the opening and closing ceremonies.

Nelson said the committee thought the lyrics seem to display the attitude of the event.

“It’s a really upbeat song. We thought it would be a perfect match for the marathon,” she said.

Students have been rehearsing the song in physical education classes.

The students will also be reprising their signature song from two years ago — “Hold My Hand” by Jess Glynne.

Nelson said she does not know how much money has been raised so far. “We won’t know until the end of the dance,” she said.

Local restaurants and other businesses have been holding fundraisers.

Nelson said the students enjoy helping the recipients.

“Teenagers are usually seen as very self-absorbed and self-centered, and this shows you that this is not the case at South Glens Falls,” she said. “We come together as a community. We put aside all differences.”

The dance allows students to break away from the cliques, according to Nelson.

“You make friends with people you don’t talk to at school,” he said.

Students are required to raise at least $150 to dance. Nelson said the dancers think about the recipients to keep them motivated.

“We’re dancing for 28 hours, but these recipients have to live with this for years and years,” she said.

The dance will also feature a haircut-a-thon, 50/50 raffle and live auction beginning at 6 p.m. on Friday. The event is open to the public from 7 p.m. through 10:30 p.m. on Friday and again after 7 a.m. on Saturday.

The event has raised over $6.4 million in its history to 448 beneficiaries, according to a press release. Last year, the event raised $823,614.

Jody Sheldon, a faculty adviser for the dance, said that the goal is not to break the record.

“It’s not all about money. A big part about this dance is the community bringing us together as one and letting these recipients know and see that we’re here for them,” she said.

For information, visit the marathon dance website at or its Facebook page.

Photos: South High Marathon Dance rehearsal

People, bags subject to search at Marathon Dance

SOUTH GLENS FALLS — All visitors to this year’s South High Marathon Dance and their bags will be checked, as part of stepped-up security.

Students, staff and visitors should expect to have their belongings, including bags, containers and boxes searched, according to a news release. Organizers are discouraging spectators from bringing bags to the event.

Guns, knives and other weapons are prohibited. Also banned are alcohol, recreational drugs and potentially hazardous materials.

“This new procedure is being implemented not as a direct result of any specific incident or threat, but upon general review of security practices, the current environment and consideration given to processes already in place at several events,” organizers said in a news release.

In addition, security procedures used in the past will continue for this year’s 41st annual event. Police dogs will be present before and periodically during the event. Armed law enforcement officers, both uniformed and undercover, will be present during the entire weekend.

A fire safety team will enforce the maximum gym capacity, keep watch for fire and safety hazards and make sure that exits are accessible. Satellite parking and shuttle bus service has been arranged to alleviate congestion.

Organizers are asking people to be aware of their surroundings and report any suspicious objects, people or hazards to security officers or other staff.

Attorney speaks about voter suppression issues in the U.S.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — “There are 51 million eligible voters in the U.S. who are not registered to vote,” said Chris Deluzio, counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, during a presentation at Skidmore College on Tuesday night.

“One out of every four eligible voters is not registered, and 6.1 million are unable to vote because of a criminal conviction,” he said.

In the second of three League of Women Voters Democracy Series presentations, Deluzio talked about how current and pending laws keep people from the polls.

“We are still struggling to protect voting rights one hundred-plus years after Susan B. Anthony’s death,” moderator Patricia Nugent said to an audience of about 150 in Gannett Auditorium. “And tonight, the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors voted against early voting and automatic voter registration.”

Several in the audience booed the local vote.

Before turning the mic over to Deluzio, Nugent thanked Saratoga Springs Supervisor Tara Gaston for attending and for her Tuesday vote in favor of early registration.

“I am very much in support of early voting,” Gaston said in an interview on Wednesday. “We need to make it as easy as possible to vote; it is the ‘bedrock of democracy.’ ”

Prior to Tuesday evening’s voter suppression presentation, the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors met to vote on its 2018 Legislative Agenda that serves as its blueprint for the year.

But item three of 14 on the county’s annual agenda — opposition to the state’s proposal for early voting and automatic voter registration through the Department of Motor Vehicles — was one of contention among many local residents, and there were 50 advance letters urging the supervisors to reconsider their position.

“Of every comment I received, all were asking the board to not make it part of the agenda. They were not all from Saratoga Springs, but also from around the county,” Gaston said. “I moved to amend the agenda, to remove item number three.”

Fellow Saratoga Springs Supervisor Matthew Veitch and Gaston voted against item three and the overall agenda because of stated opposition to early voting and automatic registration renewal.

Still, the legislative agenda was approved by remaining board members as written by the board’s Legislative and Research Committee, said Gaston, who also opposed item three as a committee member.

“It took a bloody struggle to pass the 14th and 15th amendments and it continues today,” said Deluzio on Tuesday night, giving a history of voter suppression in the U.S. “Disenfranchisement laws suppressed the African American vote, and we had white political dominance.”

Deluzio detailed legislative changes that improved voter access over the years. But he explained how some states continue to propose and sometimes adopt laws that still make it more difficult for certain groups to vote.

He said that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 forced states with a history of suppressive laws to get a preclearance for election law changes, but the Supreme Court intervened.

“They shut down the preclearance as unconstitutional, and now we must challenge after the fact,” Deluzio said. “It was a major setback for voting rights.”

According to Deluzio, legislators across the country are trying to reshape state voting laws, and in several places, it will soon be harder to vote: Five states have already enacted bills to cut back on voting access and one more is on the verge of doing so.

In 2017, 14 states were considering new voting laws that restrict voting, similar to the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors’ opposition to early voting and automatic voter registration through DMV.

“This year, as of Feb. 13, there are 28 bills in 14 states to restrict voting,” he said. “New Hampshire is trying to make it harder for students to vote.”

One of the reasons the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors is opposed to early voting is cost, even though earlier this month Gov. Andrew Cuomo added $7 million to his proposed budget to help counties with early voting costs.

Gaston said there has not been a cost analysis of what it would actually cost the county.

Deluzio said the changes to voting laws often save money and making it easier to register and vote will get more voices heard. He cited several examples: In Oregon, they added 400,000 new voters; and Washington state saved $125,000 in the first year of easier access to voting and registration.

“15 states have introduced automatic voter registration bills in 2018,” Deluzio said. “32 others carry over from 2017, and New York is an example of that.”

Also addressing the security of U.S. elections, Deluzio said cyberattacks are far too common and that the majority of the nation’s voting systems are antiquated and vulnerable to attack.

More than 500 election officials in 41 states surveyed by the Brennan Center said they will use machines and computers in this year’s midterms that are more than a decade old.

Deluzio said the Secure Elections Act of 2017, if passed, could eliminate paperless voting machines, which experts say are the most vulnerable to hacking and tampering. It would also expand the use of post-election audits, which are currently rare and usually only used in the event of a recount.

On Wednesday afternoon, the New York Assembly passed the Democracy Protection Act, the strongest and most comprehensive reforms in the nation mandating transparency in political advertising, requiring online platforms to maintain an archive of political ads and protecting state elections from foreign influence.

“We all know now that Russia attempted to undermine our democracy. We all know, with greater and greater granular understanding, that basically Vladimir Putin had a dark money super PAC deeply engaged in trying to impact our elections. And we all know that they will be back,” said Michael Waldman, who heads the Brennan Center, regarding New York’s initiative. “We need Washington to act to protect our country and the security of our democracy, and unfortunately it is not doing so. It is vital that states like New York step forward to protect our citizens and protect our democracy.”

Warren County tourism funding discussion leads to heated exchange

QUEENSBURY — A debate over whether Warren County should fill a vacant position in its tourism department or give more funding to a private, Lake George-based promotional organization led on Tuesday to a heated discussion that pitted county supervisors and business leaders against one another.

The tense discussion ended with the county Board of Supervisors Tourism Committee approving a resolution to fill a $44,000-a-year assistant tourism coordinator position, against the wishes of Lake George-area business leaders who wanted the money to instead go to the Lake George Chamber of Commerce and Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The position had been vacated in recent months, and county Tourism Coordinator Joanne Conley said her office was struggling to keep up with work.

The decision comes after the county gave the convention and visitors bureau a 43 percent increase in occupancy tax funding for 2018, the award rising to $300,000, at the urging of business leaders who want more and better marketing of the region to group business.

The funding increase wasn’t as much as the business group wanted, so when the Tourism Department had a vacancy to fill, some pushed for that money also to go to the convention and visitors bureau or to have the position shared between the county and the bureau.

That did not sit well with some supervisors from outside the Lake George area, who questioned whether their communities would get short shrift if the Tourism Department was left shorthanded.

Lake George Supervisor Dennis Dickinson cast the lone vote against the request to fill the position, after Dickinson and Glens Falls 1st Ward Supervisor Jack Diamond sparred over the request. Dickinson unsuccessfully sought to table the resolution as well.

Dickinson said the county should analyze whether the position needed to be filled and whether some of the duties could be shared with the convention and visitors bureau.

“They (CVB) need manpower to make this work. We haven’t given them manpower,” he said.

Diamond, though, expressed concerns over the “control” the county would have over the money if it was turned over to the bureau, and he questioned whether keeping the position with the Tourism Department would better serve the whole county.

“I don’t understand for a minute why we need to give them manpower in addition to money,” Diamond said.

Lake Luzerne Supervisor Gene Merlino, chairman of the Tourism Committee, said he has been frustrated by criticism of the Tourism Department and said he believes business owners have been sending “hate mail” and trying to “destroy” the Tourism Department.

The county Tourism Department has been working well with the convention and visitors bureau and trying to collaborate more, and occupancy tax and sales tax increases show the situation isn’t as dire as some claim, Merlino said.

“We’re moving forward. We have a good relationship. Don’t muddy the waters and say we don’t have a good relationship,” Merlino said.

Dickinson responded that Merlino’s comment was a “shot” that risks “muddying the waters.”

After Merlino’s remarks, one Lake George business owner stormed out of the meeting, muttering a profanity as he looked at a group of county supervisors while leaving the room.

Frank Dittrich, spokesman for the Warren County Lodging Association, a group of business owners who believe tourism has been stagnant, said the debate about the position was a “crossroad discussion” in terms of support for changes to marketing the region.

Dittrich said the county and convention and visitors bureau should be able to work out an agreement to share resources.

“We’re on the same side here,” he added.

Local reaction: Dick's new gun policies won't make much difference

QUEENSBURY — Shoppers at the Queensbury store were unfazed on Wednesday by Dick’s Sporting Goods’ decision to stop selling certain guns.

Most shoppers said the move wouldn’t do a thing to stop mass murders. But they understood why Dick’s would change its policies after the company sold a gun to the alleged Florida school shooter. (The gun is not believed to have been used during the shooting, but was among the weapons owned by alleged shooter Nikolas Cruz.)

Florida high school gingerly resumes classes after shooting

PARKLAND, Fla. — Students and teachers hugged and cried Wednesday as they returned under heavy police guard to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for the first time since a teenager with an assault rifle killed 17 people and thrust the huge Florida school into the center of a renewed national gun debate.

Still, just not selling guns like the AR-15 would have no effect, said shopper Kelly Strong of Hudson Falls.

“You can commit mass murder with any gun,” she said.

It’s unlikely every store in the country will stop selling military-style weapons, said shopper Joe Castro of Fort Edward.

“There’s plenty of other places you can get them from,” he said. “You can buy the parts online and put it together.”

He thinks gun restrictions will have no effect on mass murders.

“I don’t think you can really do anything, honestly,” he said.

But a hunter who was looking at crossbows at Dick’s said the restrictions were sensible.

“I think it’s an awesome idea,” said Joe Clear of Fort Edward. “We gotta keep the kids safe. And there’s no reason to have an AR-15.”

He and his son have guns, which they use for hunting. But they don’t own military-style guns, which he said would be vastly overpowered for a sport in which shooters pride themselves on firing just once to fell a deer or other game.

Dick’s also will no longer sell guns to people younger than the age of 21, which more customers supported. They said that although citizens can vote and join the military at 18, true adulthood is at 21.

Other shoppers said the country needs more stringent background checks, rather than piecemeal actions from individual retailers. One retired auxiliary police officer from New York City recalled how he went through the police academy but was not allowed to carry a gun because he was in the auxiliary.

Nowadays, he said, too many people are allowed to carry guns. If they want a weapon, he said, they should consider a career in the military or police.

Dick’s removed all of its modern sporting rifles from stores after the Sandy Hook massacre, but later started selling them at its Field & Stream stores. The company has 35 such stores, and it is removing all of the military-style guns from the shelves there.

The company will also stop selling high-capacity magazines and will continue to not sell bump stocks, which allow semi-automatic weapons to fire more rapidly, Dick’s announced in a press release.

“Following all of the rules and laws, we sold a shotgun to the Parkland shooter in November of 2017. It was not the gun, nor type of gun, he used in the shooting. But it could have been,” Dick’s said in the press release. “Clearly, this indicates on so many levels that the systems in place are not effective to protect our kids and our citizens. We believe it’s time to do something about it.”

In addition to the changes in policy, the company is throwing its support behind reforms such as the following:

  • Ban assault-style firearms;
  • Raise the minimum age to purchase firearms to 21;
  • Ban high capacity magazines and bump stocks;
  • Require universal background checks that include relevant mental health information and previous interactions with the law;
  • Ensure a complete universal database of those banned from buying firearms;
  • Close the private sale and gun show loophole that waives the necessity of background checks.

“Some will say these steps can’t guarantee tragedies like Parkland will never happen again. They may be correct, but if common-sense reform is enacted and even one life is saved, it will have been worth it,” wrote CEO Edward Stack. “We deeply believe that this country’s most precious gift is our children. They are our future. We must keep them safe.”