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September 25, 2016
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Reining in nonconforming uses

Spring is once again approaching, and that means construction season is just around the corner. If the past is any guide, in some towns in Sullivan County some of those construction projects will mean the expansion of nonconforming uses.

What is a nonconforming use? It’s one that was allowed to exist in an area in the past, for instance at a time before local zoning was established, but would no longer be permitted to be established. In Sullivan County, examples of nonconforming uses would be racetracks, junkyards, summer camps or hospitals located in residential neighborhoods.  Read more

Your ginseng contains no ginseng

Before the turn of the 20th century, there was very little regulation of food and drugs in this country, and residents were free to buy worthless or even dangerous elixirs, diet remedies that contained live tapeworms, cocaine and many other questionable substances.

Then in 1906, under President Theodore Roosevelt, the U.S. Congress passed the Pure Food and Drugs Act, which according to the present-day U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is “a law a quarter-century in the making that prohibited interstate commerce in adulterated and misbranded food and drugs.”  Read more

Business as usual in Albany?

Now that former speaker of the New York Assembly, Sheldon Silver, lost that position because of allegations that he received some $4 million in bribes or kickbacks, and with reports that the majority leader of the New York State Senate, Dean Skelos, is also under investigation for corruption, this might be a time when some real reform in Albany is possible.  Read more

Ethics reform in Albany

Now that Sheldon Silver, as speaker of the New York State Assembly arguably one of the three most powerful people in Albany, has been arrested, there is bound to be renewed talk of ethics reform. The complaint filed by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is sweeping and damning. It says, “Silver used the power and influence of his official position to obtain for himself millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks masked as legitimate income earned by Silver, as a private lawyer.”  Read more

What’s our brand?

There are some locations around the world that have found ways to brand themselves in such a way that their products and/or services can be sold at a premium: Champagne for wine, Gruyères for cheese, the Hamptons or Martha’s Vinyard for summer fun and second-home heaven. The relationship of brand to economic welfare is clear: a brand gives some place, business, or group a unique identity for the goods and services that it sells.  Read more

We too are Charlie

The words, “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) swept the Western world on the evening of January 7.

That morning, masked, heavily armed assassins broke into the offices of the Parisian weekly newspaper, Charlie Hebdo (“Hebdo” translates to “Weekly”) and murdered 11 people—for printing satirical cartoons they didn’t like.  Read more

Hiking the minimum wage in PA

On January 1, the minimum wage was increased in 20 states—but Pennsylvania was not one of them. The minimum wage in Pennsylvania is still the same as the federal minimum wage, which has been stuck at $7.25 an hour since 2009.  Read more

Health, the environment, and fracking

Too often, products or processes that can generate billions of dollars for an industry are allowed to go forward even when there are concerns that those products or processes may have negative impacts on human health and the environment.  Read more

With community, anything is possible

I remember when I first heard about fracking. I’m sure you do, too. It was many years ago, I’m not sure of the exact date, when I was at a fundraiser for Damascus Citizens for Sustainability and a guy named Josh Fox was there to show clips from his upcoming documentary “Gasland.”  Read more

Green ideology is spreading

The concept that it’s a good idea for municipalities to move toward sustainability is spreading. In Sullivan County, as the chairman of the county legislature, Scott Samuelson, writes in the county’s Climate Action Plan, the process “began in 2005 with the creation of the Sullivan 2020 initiative and continued in 2007 with the County’s Green Vision Statement,” and led to a number of achievements such as the installation of an impressive solar array behind the Robert B. Travis Building in Liberty.  Read more