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Letters to the Editor
What you need to know for 01/22/2017

SSHA board, director did nothing wrong, don’t deserve rap

SSHA board, director did nothing wrong, don’t deserve rap

*SSHA board, director did nothing wrong, don’t deserve rap *Mandate test in N.Y. for congenital hear

SSHA board, director did nothing wrong, don’t deserve rap

This is regarding the May 24 editorial, “A housing agency that answers to itself.”

First, I speak not on behalf of the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority (SSHA) board or the authority itself. Rather, I am sharing my opinion as someone who has closely followed the facts regarding the SSHA’s situation, despite the media’s repeated attempts to embellish a story that is currently lacking in both relevance and accuracy.

The editorial purports that the SSHA answers to itself, since Mayor Scott Johnson and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have been reluctant to “get involved.” This is a misreading of both the mayor’s and HUD’s lack of involvement, which stems not from reluctance but rather from an understanding that there has been no wrongdoing on behalf of the SSHA that requires addressing by HUD or the city’s mayor.

The editorial references “numerous and now-familiar criticisms: from the public, City Council, and State Comptroller’s Office.” Yet HUD has remained silent on this issue. The SSHA had adhered to the HUD guidelines and regulations they are governed by, and HUD’s silence underscores the message that the SSHA has been operating efficiently. After all, HUD has rated the authority as a high performer since 2006, the year the current director [Ed Spychalski] was hired.

In the wake of a year and a half of unrelenting media coverage, I have faith that HUD or a greater authority than Saratoga’s City Council would have stepped in to resolve any existing problems.

Some of the claims leveled against the SSHA — the “nepotism” alluded to in the editorial, to name one — have not been deemed problematic. The audit in particular, which the editorial claims to be “highly critical,” points out that “Civil Service law does not address the employment of family members and that there was no violation of state or local laws.” The audit did not accuse the authority of wrongdoing involving nepotism and did not issue any recommendations regarding the matter.

This is just one instance of a problem that has been laid to rest in an official manner, yet is still perpetrated by the media. The SSHA and its board are not “arrogant” because they do not heed the recommendations or instructions set forth by the state comptroller’s audit or the City Council. The state comptroller has no power over the SSHA, which operates under federal jurisdiction (HUD). Any authority that the City Council holds over the SSHA is certainly up for debate. As the audit correctly states, “The authority generally operates independently of the city, managing it own operation and financial affairs.”

The media and those engaged in Saratoga’s politics have consistently used a discussion of ethics in order to assert that the SSHA has been operating in an inefficient, even unethical manner. I implore [them] to operate under the very same code of ethics they have imposed upon the SSHA, as it is equally unethical to report speculation and rumors manipulated by politics instead of truth.

The board and the SSHA, as well as the people they serve, deserve the facts. The media has distorted the image and reputation of a high-performing and successful authority. This ceaseless distortion must come to an end.

Katherine Spychalski

Mechanciville

The writer is wife of SSHA executive director Edward Spychalski.

Mandate test in N.Y. for congenital heart defects

Our 4-year-old son Jack was born with a congenital heart defect and had surgery when he was five days old. Complications set in, and we barely were able to hold him until he was eight days old. I hope that other moms never experience this feeling.

Early diagnosis of congenital heart defects can save a baby’s life. The state Assembly last week passed the “pulse ox” [pulse oximetry] bill, which will help detect critical congenital heart defects early.

Pulse ox is a simple, noninvasive, inexpensive test on all newborns before they leave the hospital. It puts a sensor on a baby’s finger and toe to check their blood oxygen level. A low level could indicate that the most common birth defect is present — a congenital heart defect.

The pulse ox bill is now in the state Senate, but there are just days remaining in the legislative session. Please join us in supporting the American Heart Association’s efforts to pass this bill. Urge your state senator to not delay passage of this lifesaving measure. Wider use of the pulse ox test could help identify more than 90 percent of heart defects.

Thirteen other states already require the simple test. In New Jersey, just hours after the screening law took effect, a newborn’s life was saved because of the pulse ox test.

Every day without this test could mean another baby’s life lost.

Shannon James

Clifton Park

Induction field trials began long, long ago

Re May 14 article, “Loop system lets hearing aid wearers pick up every word”: For the record, the reference to installing a wire in the Unitarian Church recently reminds me of the fact that Joseph Henry was the first person to seriously begin to understand something about induction fields and the passage of current through a wire.

Shortly after 1800, he obtained a mile of copper wire and conducted an experiment in which he observed at a distance the transmission of the electromagnetic field when the DC current was interrupted. It is believed that this experiment at the Albany Academy occurred before the much more-acclaimed Marconi experiments.

In the dichotomy of acoustics, unfortunately, the desire for the spoken word is for minimum reverberation and for music considerable reverberation. In the middle of the 20th century it was possible to begin to provide hearing assistance. Wire systems were installed in 1940 in the Methodist Church, which required the user to sit in a preordained location with a furnished headphone. This was a giant step forward made possible by the more common availability of vacuum tubes for the generation of the microphone signal output. The disadvantage was that it required users to be in their seats considerably before the service began; otherwise it was not possible to obtain a location that wasn’t already occupied.

In the second history book of the Methodist Church at 603 State St., it is documented that because of the aforementioned problem, an induction loop was installed early in 1961 on top of the plywood covering for the original floor, in anticipation of the installation of a carpet.

However, having a loop at that point in history required the fabrication of receivers, which I did in order to accommodate as many parishioners as possible. I was able to do this because of the availability of the newly developed transistor. These boxes were about the size of a deck of cards with a volume control and earphone furnished as needed. Seating could be anywhere, including the balcony; there was no problem with respect to location.

I have been told this was believed to be the first induction wireless installation in any church, because when people would move away due to retirement or decentralization of GE, they would try to duplicate the installation but could not find the recipe.

Incidentally, in May 1961, it is believed that the first cordless microphone was used in this church so that people could ask questions during the time allocated for Q&A. This was made available by the GE Engineering Laboratory.

John Harnden

Schenectady

The writer is a retired engineer.

Sympathy hunger strike makes a good point

Thank you for John Enger’s June 5 story [“Sharon Springs man on hunger strike in solidarity with Guantanamo detainees.”]

Our participation in this illegal prison is a shameful practice. The GOP’s latest block of Obama’s efforts to close Guantanamo (reported in an AP story you ran with the Enger piece) is downright un-American.

Media blackouts are constant, making your efforts to shed light on this situation all the more laudable. Media is indeed the Fourth Estate, without which the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government would run amok, or, run even more amok, as the case may be.

Thank you for keeping Guantanamo Bay in the news. I feel, though, that Elliott Adams has made his point and suffered enough, and we need men like him fighting for the cause and alive, not dying of hunger.

If he dies of starvation, who will care enough to take his place?

Suzanne Miller

Niskayuna

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