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What you need to know for 08/21/2017

EPA has driven the switch from coal to oil trains

EPA has driven the switch from coal to oil trains

*EPA has driven the switch from coal to oil trains *Is it a character flaw or hunger? *Who will audi

EPA has driven the switch from coal to oil trains

I’ve been following the controversy about Global Partners LLC project at the Port of Albany.

From my office window over the last 30-plus years, I’ve watched the freight trains and what they carry. I can tell you that the freight traffic has increased tremendously since CSX took over from the federal government’s Conrail operation. I can also tell you that the maintenance and improvements have been remarkable since CSX took over. They have plowed back profits into the roadbed and made a significant investment in new signal equipment. As far as I know, any accidents have been the result of human error. To the point at hand — unintended consequences.

Before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cracked down on the coal industry, whole trains of coal passed my window, I assume on their way to power generation plants down the Hudson. The EPA has effectively put the coal industry out of business by not issuing new permits for coal-fired plants and putting heavy mandates for scrubbers on existing plants.

No more coal trains and the unintended consequences of having whole trains of oil tankers, along with the fear of a catastrophe. When was the last time you heard of a coal train blowing up?

I’m not advocating for the coal industry, but people really ought to pay more attention to what their government is doing to them and not for them. Instead of politicians telling people what to think, maybe we should start to think for ourselves.

Lou Mosher


Is it a character flaw or hunger?

George Will praises Rep. Paul Ryan, a tea party favorite, for his remarks that blame poor people for being part of a “tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking of working or learning the value and culture of work” [March 23 Gazette].

In other words, people in need are bred poor and lazy. Rep. Ryan and George Will favor inflicting the poor with more pain by cutting food stamps. They never hesitate to favor more tax cuts for the rich or find fault with programs that pay farmers not to grow anything.

Ryan boasts of his Irish ancestors who fled Ireland during the famine. At least a million people died from starvation when blight wiped out the potatoes during the 1840s. Timothy Egan, New York Times, March 16, reported that the English Tories used the same language as Ryan to justify indifference to people in need.

While people were starving, Victorian England on the other side of the Irish Sea was prosperous. Stores of grain and livestock owned by absentee English landlords were being shipped from Ireland to England.

A debate raged in London about feeding the starving Irish with free food. Sir Charles Trevelyan, in charge of easing the famine, did nothing because he declared, “Dependence on charity is not to be made an agreeable mode of life.” Nearly identical to Ryan’s words. Trevelyan was knighted for his role in refusing to aid the dying Irish.

Ryan’s great-great-grandfather fled to America to escape the famine. Was his hunger caused by a character flaw that makes the poor lazy and not want to work?

Mark Markovitz


Who will audit N.Y.’s charter schools?

New York State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Breslin recently issued a finding that should strike at the hearts and pocketbooks of every taxpayer in New York. Breslin ruled that the state comptroller lacks the authority to audit charter schools in New York state. One can only hope that the state government will appeal this ludicrous decision. However, given Gov. Cuomo’s unbridled support for charter schools and the companies who run them, there is little chance of that happening.

Charter schools are public schools that are operated by for-profit private companies. They also lots of taxpayer money each year in state aid that is denied to the public school districts in which the charter schools do business. Thus, while public districts are shutting down schools, dropping academic programs, eliminating extracurricular activities and laying off teachers, the charter schools thrive, at least financially. Their test scores are another story.

Bill Phillips, president of the Northeast Charter School Network, said the authorizers of charters schools, among them, the New York State Board of Regents, already have auditing authority. In light of the job that the Board of Regents has done with the Common Core Standards and New York state teacher evaluation of late, one must question their ability to audit a 5-year-old’s piggy bank.

In his ruling, Breslin noted, “The comptroller can audit entities such as the Thruway Authority or Roswell Park research center, which are public corporations. But charter schools were created as educational corporations, and are not ‘units of the state.’ That means the state Constitution doesn’t give the comptroller the ability to audit them.”

The good judge got this one wrong if you ask me. When large amounts of taxpayer dollars are being poured into private corporations, the public has a vested interest in how the money is being spent. All other public schools have to file independent audits with the state Education Department each year, and they are all subject to audits by the New York state comptroller at any time for fiscal as well as other business practices.

It is time for New Yorker’s to say no to the charter movement and the politicians who support it.

John Metallo


The writer is a retired teacher and administrator.

Be tougher with energy suppliers

I am constantly being bombarded with phone calls and knocks on my door, with offers to have my utility bills lowered by the suppliers. They use misleading and deceptive language, with questions such as, do I want my rebate? ... am I green? And statements such as, my gas and electric supplies will never be interrupted. What is the meaning of all this? That they will turn my power off? That I do not care about conserving energy? One company threatened to sue me for terminating a so-called agreement.

Finally, I contacted my state representative. Three days after contacting them, I received a letter, titled, “State cracks down on independent energy supply companies.” It read, “The Public Service Commission voted, 5 to 0, to tighten regulations.” Apparently the commission is aware of the practices of the utility companies. Also, and I quote, “ ... targeting low-income and elderly customers who are more vulnerable with claims and tricking them into signing contracts that cost money to terminate” (i.e., ripping off your grandmother.)

In the commissioner’s letter it also stated, underlined and highlighted, “very few ended up saving money.” Commissioner Gregg Sayre also said, “We are indulging the market with a relatively light hand to a place where it will work better.” What does a relatively light hand mean? To gently persuade them? In one sentence the commission is saying the companies are conning poor, old people out of their money, and in the next sentence says it will treat them with a light hand.

All the sale representatives have been friendly and polite. When asked, they respond that they are just doing their job and trying to make a living. But I suppose a pickpocket is just trying to make a living. In fairness to the Public Service commissioner, I did call and I did get results. I suggest that if you feel threatened, harassed or conned, that you call them at 1-800-342-3355. Be sure and get the name of the company.

Anthony J. Compagnone


Sch’dy schools plan worth supporting

I am a graduate of the Schenectady City School District. I attended Howe [Elementary School], Oneida [Middle School] and Linton [High School] from the mid-1950s through 1970. My children went to the same schools, mid-’70s through the ’80s.

We received a good education, encompassing academics, sports, exceptional music and art programs, additional offerings like Odyssey of the Mind, to name a few. The academic and extracurricular programs gave opportunities to all students, from various social and economic backgrounds. We went on to higher education, with the encouragement of our teachers and guidance counselors.

I know the district is dealing with problems that are different than what existed back then, but they are not insurmountable. I applaud the school board and superintendent for deciding to go back to a configuration that worked.

I hope that the residents of Schenectady who benefited from their education, either here or elsewhere, will support this plan.

Debbie Gatoff


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