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No state but N.Y. has a ‘Scaffold Law, and it isn’t needed

Tuesday, June 18, 2013
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No state but N.Y. has a ‘Scaffold Law, and it isn’t needed

Even though there is only a week left in the 2013 legislative session, I still am hopeful that our elected officials will do the right thing and reform New York’s outdated Scaffold Law before the summer recess.

Most New York residents have no idea that such a law exists, so they couldn’t possibly know how this relic from the 1800s is affecting every taxpayer in this state.

People are aghast when I explain that the Scaffold Law holds a general contractor 100 percent liable, regardless of negligence, for any gravity-related injury on their job site; and that the general contractor can’t defend themselves in a court of law, even if the injured party was committing a crime, is inebriated on the job, or is not using the proper safety equipment provided!

Is there any other instance where a person can be sued, but is not allowed to defend themselves?

In effect, this law guarantees a courtroom victory as soon as a claim is determined to qualify for the Scaffold Law. This is the real reason that many lawmakers, who are beholden to the powerful trial lawyers’ lobby, are reluctant to enact any kind of reform. It is a cash cow for trial lawyers, and they know it.

Don’t be fooled by dire forecasts of increased risk for construction workers. Scaffold Law reform won’t eliminate wrongful death or injury lawsuits, but it will reduce flagrant abuse of a law that has made millions for trial lawyers. A negligence standard to protect business owners against workers who blatantly disregard their own safety is not an unreasonable request. No other state in the union has a law like this, and many states have better safety records than we have here in New York.

The true cost of this law is carried by everyone who pays taxes for municipal projects like schools and bridges, as well as any business who wants to build a structure, or anyone who wishes to buy or renovate a house.

The few insurance companies who are still willing to offer construction coverage in New York’s hostile business climate, have to charge exorbitant rates to cover the increased risk of multimillion-dollar lawsuits. All of these additional costs get passed on to consumers and taxpayers.

There are plenty of safety regulations in place to protect workers. I know — I was a carpenter and a roofer for three decades.

The businesses and taxpayers of New York deserve relief from the Scaffold Law!

Margie Miller

Scotia

The writer is the former president of the Capital Region Builders and Remodelers Association.

Why’s Wege so negative on renewable energy?

Re June 9 Viewpoint, “Alternate energy won’t be available by 2030”: With naysayers like Russ Wege, it’s a wonder any substantial renewable energy sources are being developed in the United States.

Mr. Wege is either an undercover representative of the gas and oil industry or a retired engineer fixated on out-of-date, environmentally destructive energy policies. His disregard of global warming is reflected in his consistent pro-fracking stance.

I’m not sure where his data on federal support of various sources of energy came from, but contrary to him I’m happy to see the overwhelming federal government support of renewable energy. Only through such a forward-looking policy will we be able to stem the rapid increase in global warming and provide a long-term, U.S.-based source of non-polluting energy.

As an aside, 25 percent of Germany’s electrical power comes from hydro, wind and solar. Despite its smaller size and Alaska levels of sunshine, Germany produces five times as much solar power as the United States.

Yes, Mr. Wege, New York is blessed with great natural gas reserves. We are also blessed with clean water, clean air and a beautiful natural environment. By developing and promoting non-polluting renewable sources of energy, we can keep it that way.

Charles Rielly

Altamont

Why snapping turtles are worth protecting

Re June 16 Viewpoint, “A Shell of an Idea” by Robert A. Michaels”:

Snapping turtles and other turtle species have an excellent advocate in Robert A. Michaels June 16 Viewpoint.

While it is true that snappers are not your average pretty face as regards environmental poster children and so have a bit of a disadvantage from the start, and while it is also true that their jaws can be dangerous if they are mishandled, they nevertheless are complex creatures that fill an important role in the natural world and so deserve respect.

The author’s experience in raising and releasing snappers brought to mind the three red-eared sliders I had as a young teen, those half-dollar sized turtles commonly sold in pet stores so many years ago for about the same price.

When they got to be about five inches in size, I took them out in the backyard one day, thinking they would enjoy being out of the tank and they would be easy to catch if they “ran” away. I set them down on the lawn, and they wandered off. But to a turtle, they stopped, looked around at the expanse of grass in front of them, turned, and not only crawled back to me, they tried to climb into my lap.

Mr. Michaels mentions imprinting and the animal behaviorist Konrad Lorenz, whose work with geese is well known. But birds imprint on parent birds (or people if raised by them) for protection, to be fed, and in order to learn the ways of their own kind.

Female turtles lay eggs, cover them, and go back to their own lives, never to return. Could it be that turtles imprint on the landscape of their hatching? This would explain their returning to the area, or the same type of area, when their need to lay eggs occurs in adulthood.

Paula M. Carosella

Scotia

Disturbing if Spring’s ‘snub’ was based on race

Reading the June 12 article about how Schenectady school Superintendent Laurence Spring is leading a statewide effort to challenge how state aid is distributed to minority school districts, I was struck that the story ended with the following: “Spring was invited to the state Legislature’s Black and Latino Caucus meeting, but then had the invitation rescinded.”

Scratching my head over why this occurred, I then read the comments by Albany City School District Superintendent Marguerite Wyngaard that cleared it up: “As a black woman, she said, she should play a key role in the effort.” Had she been invited to the Black and Latino Caucus, she goes on to state, “she probably would not have been snubbed.” Oh, I forgot to mention that Mr. Spring is white.

Two disturbing items here: the first is that on the face of the information, the caucus rescinded their invitation to Mr. Spring solely on the basis of his skin color. They did not postpone or cancel Mr. Spring’s appearance — they rescinded the invitation. What reason would they have not to hear from the individual leading this effort?

Secondly, the comments and reaction by the head of the Albany school system are disturbing. Ms. Wyngaard clearly implies that the rescission was due to the color of his skin and yet, does she condemn the action as discriminatory in nature? No. Instead, she explains it away as a “snub.”

I would have expected better from our political and educational leaders.

Terrence Dunphy

Scotia

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comments

June 18, 2013
7:36 a.m.
wmarincic says...

Terrence Dunphy, I don't know why you are surprised. It seems only white people get vilified for racism.

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