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Queensbury town supervisor threatens lawsuit over vulgar words on political signs

QUEENSBURY — Town Supervisor John Strough is threatening to sue two residents for hanging political signs that use a curse word.

Both signs urge people to vote for President Donald Trump with the line “no more B.S.” On the signs, the word is not abbreviated.

The “obscene” word must be covered up, Strough said at Monday’s Town Board meeting.

“That is not allowed. That is not free speech,” he said. “And I insist you take it down or we will prosecute.”

He emphasized that he does not object to the signs being pro-Trump.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1971 that government can’t punish people because of their use of curse words. In a case involving a man who wore a jacket with the F-word in a message opposing the draft, Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote that the word was “distasteful” to many, but that wasn’t enough to ban the message. He wrote that it was more important to protect speech, especially if it was not directed at someone in particular or intended to provoke a violent response.

“Governments might soon seize upon the censorship of particular words as a convenient guise for banning the expression of unpopular views,” he wrote.

When asked about that case, Town Attorney Mark Schachner declined to comment, noting that he’d be the one to take the case to court if necessary.

“I have a job to do. So, no comment,” he said.

The sign in question is a common one sold online, although it is not available in the president’s official campaign store.

One B.S. sign is outside a house on Luzerne Road, across from the fire station. The homeowner could not be reached for comment by The Post-Star.

Gretta Hochsprung, 

Queensbury town Supervisor John Strough is threatening to sue two residents for erecting political signs that use a curse word. One of the signs is shown here on a house on Luzerne Road. 

Another is on Wagon Trail and an opposing sign is nearby on Sunnyside North. On Wagon Trail is the one with the B.S. phrase. On Sunnyside North, a neighbor hung up signs that say “Any functioning adult” for 2020 and compares the president to a sexually transmitted disease, but has no curse words, so Strough did not object to that one.

Kevin Quinn, the landlord for the Wagon Trail house, defended the renters’ right to put up the signs.

“It’s their freedom of speech,” he said. “It’s their yard. They rented the house. If it was derogatory to someone’s race or religion I’d be over there immediately.”

Gretta Hochsprung, 

A neighbor on Sunnyside North in Queensbury hung these signs, which oppose President Donald Trump. Nearby, a resident hung a pro-Trump sign with the B.S. word.

He asked whether Strough would work on removing curse words from television next.

“The words are on TV every day,” he said. “If John wants to monitor the TV for us next, that’s probably why people want to vote for Trump, because they don’t want government interference in their life.”

He added that he was stunned that Strough would try to take to court an issue that has been decided by the Supreme Court.

“He’s out of his mind,” he said. “Those people have the right to put anything they want on those signs.”

Strough did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday about the Supreme Court decision, but on Monday night said that the issue was just with the B.S. word.

“I will fight for my life for your right to advocate for who you advocate for,” he said, but added that signs with “obscene words that children can see — that is wrong.”

The owners have one week “to clean this up,” he said.

“You don’t have to take down the poster, just cover the obscene word. The rest of it is fine,” he said.

Seeping under doors, bad air from West's fires won't ease up

PORTLAND, Ore. — Putrid, dangerous air spewing from massive wildfires on the West Coast is seeping into homes and businesses, sneaking into cars through air conditioning vents and keeping people already shut away by the coronavirus pandemic from enjoying even a walk outside or trip to the park.

People in Oregon, Washington state and California have been struggling for a week or longer under some of the most unhealthy air on the planet. Relief from the acrid yellowish-green smog may not come for days or weeks, scientists and forecasters said.

The smoke has stretched all the way across the nation with a haze being reported despite minimal clouds in the skies across New York. Filtered conditions are expected to continue on Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service. No air quality advisories have been issued in New York as the smoke is high up in the atmosphere.

And with wildfires getting larger and more destructive because of climate change and more people living closer to areas that burn, it’s likely smoke will shroud the sky more often in the future.

“I don’t think that we should be outside, but at the same time, we’ve been cooped up in the house already for months, so it’s kind of hard to dictate what’s good and what’s bad. I mean, we shouldn’t be outside period,” Portland resident Issa Ubidia-Luckett said as she grabbed food Monday.

The hazy, gunk-filled air closed businesses like Whole Foods stores and iconic Powell’s Books in Portland and suspended garbage pickup in some communities. Pollution and fire evacuations canceled online school and closed some college campuses in Oregon.

Smoke enveloped Washington state, and some parts of California might not see relief until next month. Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality extended an air quality alert to Thursday, and the air was so thick that Alaska Airlines stopped flights to Portland and Spokane, Washington, until Tuesday afternoon.

Zoe Flanagan, who has lived in Portland for 12 years, braved the smog to walk her two dogs Monday. In desperation, Flanagan and her husband turned on the heater a day earlier because it has a better filter than their air conditioner.

“I can feel it in my chest and then I just feel hungover despite not drinking,” she said. “I felt really hungover all day Saturday. I just couldn’t get enough water, I had a headache.”

Health officials urged people to stay inside and keep windows and doors closed. Smoke can irritate the eyes and lungs and worsen some medical conditions. Health experts warn that young children, adults over 65, pregnant women and people with heart disease, asthma or other respiratory conditions should especially avoid smoky areas.

Smoke from dozens of Western wildfires is pooling in California’s Central Valley, an agricultural region that has some of the state’s worst air quality even when there are no flames. Some parts of central California are not likely to see relief until October, said Dan Borsum, the incident meteorologist for a fire in Northern California.

“It’s going to take a substantially strong weather pattern to move all the smoke,” Borsum said at a briefing Sunday.

Joe Smith, advocacy director for Sacramento Loaves & Fishes, which helps homeless people, said California’s capital city hasn’t seen consistent blue skies in weeks. People without homes have been grappling with an onslaught of disasters this year.

“Some of the toughest folks you’ll ever meet are people who live outdoors, unhoused, but it is getting to them,” Smith said. “We’ve got COVID-19, followed by excessive heat wave, followed by smoke. What’s going to start falling out of the air next on these poor folks?”

Twana James, who lives in a tent in Sacramento, coughed several times, trying to clear her throat, saying her voice is not usually so hoarse.

“We got hella ashes from the fires, everything is covered in ashes,” she said by phone Monday. “It’s hard to breathe.”

Places like the Oregon Convention Center in downtown Portland are being used as shelters for people who need a dose of healthy air. Typically during wildfires, people can escape to other areas of the state to breathe easy, said Dylan Darling, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

“That’s what’s standing out — there just isn’t a place in Oregon right now to find fresh air,” Darling said. The level of pollution lingering for so long and so widely “really stands out in the state’s history,” he said.

Oregon needs a “perfect balance” of winds to disperse smoke but not exacerbate the fires, said Tyler Kranz, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Portland office.

“We need the winds to get the smoke out of here,” Kranz said. “We just don’t want them to be too strong, because then they could fan those flames, and all of a sudden, those fires are spreading again.”

Ubidia-Luckett was eating outside Monday at a popular burger place east of Portland with her 6-year-old son, but they moved inside because of the bad air, which had postponed the boy’s first day of kindergarten for the second time.

“That’s the hard part for little kids. They’re so cooped up so what do you do?” she asked. “Eventually, they want to go outside.”

In white Adirondacks, racism may be toughest hill to climb

LAKE PLACID — Nicole Hylton-Patterson moved to the Adirondack Mountains to help make this vast, and overwhelmingly white, region more welcoming to people who, like her, are Black.

The job has not been easy.

While the death of George Floyd gave her mission a jolt of urgency, the “Go Back to Africa” graffiti on a bridge near her home spoke to her challenges. With relatively few Black people here, white people fill out Black Lives Matter rallies and host online antiracism forums.

Without diverse city streets filled with demonstrators, how do you encourage racial reckonings in rural areas like the Adirondacks, where most everyone looks similar?

“I’ve lived in enough spaces in America to tell people, ’America doesn’t look like New York City, it doesn’t look like L.A. and it doesn’t even look like Atlanta. It looks like the Adirondack Park,” said Hylton-Patterson, who became the first director of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative late last year. “It is more challenging, exponentially so. But the work still has to get done.”

The Adirondack Park covers 6 million acres of thick woods, remote lakes and commanding peaks in northern New York. More than 100,000 people live here year round, many who work in prisons, health care or tourism. White people comprise 95% of the population in some parts of the Adirondacks.

Since her arrival from the Bronx in December, Hylton-Patterson said, she has encountered only a few dozen other people of color.

That uniformity is also seen along the backwoods trails and waterways popular with hikers, skiers and paddlers. Advocates see the need for welcoming more diverse residents and visitors not only as a societal good, but as necessary to a tourism-dependent region that is losing population.

The Adirondack Diversity Initiative had been an all-volunteer effort until a $250,000 state grant allowed it to hire Hylton-Patterson, a veteran in the field. She visits police agencies to make sure officers will receive racial bias training; meets with school administrators interested in making classrooms more inclusive; and works with state environmental officials who want to make the wilderness welcoming.

She settled in the postcard-pretty village of Saranac Lake and began listening to people. Pandemic restrictions sidetracked some plans, though Floyd’s death at the hands of the police in Minneapolis made people more receptive to conversations.

“There are a lot of people who are like, ’Yeah, I wish there wasn’t racism, but I’m nice to everyone,’” said Jane Haugh, a white woman who runs the Wake the North Country, an anti-bigotry and criminal justice reform group. “And then George Floyd happened. And suddenly people were calling me and saying, ‘Jane, you’ve been talking about this for so long. Can I come talk to you?’”

Two things that happened locally this summer prompted conversations of their own.

A widely shared video of the Saranac Lake High School graduation featured valedictorian Francine Newman giving a speech about being called “Squinty Eyes,” “Ling Ling” and worse while growing up in a place where the recorded Asian population is nearly zero.

“Ignorance is bliss only for those who did not realize the utter shame and humiliation I carried over a part of myself I would never be able to change,” Newman said.

The other episode hit home for Hylton-Patterson. She was so rattled by the graffiti on a railroad bridge along her daily running route that she moved elsewhere in the Adirondacks. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the vandalism is being investigated by the state’s Hate Crimes Task Force.

Hylton-Patterson is used to living in white areas, noting that as a child she lived on a remote island in Norway. And she’s used to the everyday racism she has encountered here, like being watched while shopping or a woman touching her hair and asking if it’s a wig.

But the graffiti made her feel unsafe.

She still stays in the public eye, hosting videos with themes like “Antiracism 101.” She took a prominent role in pressing for an investigation into an off-duty police officer who fired his gun after an encounter with Black youths. Activists greeted an initial victory this month when state police said the probe was reopened.

And the graffiti galvanized supporters, who posted hundreds of anti-racism flyers around the village.

But a big issue remains in reaching people who wouldn’t think of watching an antiracism video, people who think race relations are a city problem. Some locals think confrontations like the suffocation death of Daniel Prude a few hours west in Rochester cannot happen here.

“All I can do is work with your neighbors and hopefully your neighbors will find an opportunity, a gateway to speak to you about engaging in something that might shake the foundations of who you think you are,” she said.

She plans to provide cultural consciousness and related training for as many as 100 residents who can talk to neighbors in their corner of the Adirondacks. She also is working to identify liaisons with local governments, police departments and school boards to address systemic racism.

In both cases, neighbors would work with neighbors.

“Doing this work in what is a very rural white area, we can’t put all of the pressure on Nicky to teach us and guide us,” said Chris Morris, a longtime ADI volunteer. “It is really incumbent on people who want to help to be actively learning and listening and then figuring out how they can make a difference.”

Six states removed from quarantine list; Halloween is on

Trick-or-treating will not be canceled on Halloween, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.

But he added that he will later offer “advice and guidance” on the activity.

“I would not ban trick-or-treaters going door to door. I don’t think that’s appropriate. You have neighbors — if you want to go knock on your neighbor’s door, God bless you and I’m not going to tell you not to,” he said in a TV interview Tuesday morning. “If you want to go for a walk with your child through the neighborhood, I’m not gonna tell you you can’t take your child to the neighborhood, I’m not going to do that. I’ll give you my advice and guidance and then you will make a decision what you do that night.”

He has not yet issued that advice and guidance.

Coronavirus infections rates have also fallen enough for six locations to be removed from the mandatory quarantine list, he said.

He removed California, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Northern Mariana Islands, and Ohio. Puerto Rico was put back on the list.

Travelers from the following locations must quarantine for 14 days after reaching New York State: Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Iowa, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

The state's COVID-19 school report card also launched on Tuesday which will be updated daily from all school districts. Currently, on public schools are included in the database.

Also on Tuesday:

  • Warren County reported one person tested positive after catching coronavirus in the community. Investigators are trying to determine the source. Four other people recovered, for a total of 320 confirmed cases and 303 recoveries. There are eight people currently sick, all mildly, and no one is hospitalized.
  • Washington County reported one person tested positive and one other person recovered, for a total of 271 confirmed cases and 249 recoveries. Nine people are currently sick and no one is hospitalized.
  • Saratoga County reported no new cases or recoveries Tuesday, but one person was discharged from the hospital. There are 79 people still sick, and four are hospitalized.
  • In the northern Saratoga County towns, four Moreau residents are sick, one Northumberland resident, one town of Saratoga resident and two Wilton residents.
  • Essex County reported no new cases Tuesday.
  • The Capital Region reported a total of 22 people tested positive Monday, the most recent day for which data was available. That was a positive test rate of 0.8%. The majority were in Albany County, with 15 cases and a positive test rate of 1.9%.
  • Statewide, 766 people tested positive Monday, the most recent day for which data was available. That was a positive test rate of 1%.
  • There were 481 people hospitalized statewide Monday, and 11 people died.
  • Locally, Glens Falls Hospital reported no coronavirus patients and Saratoga Hospital did not report.