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Who will take care of St. Clare’s retirees?
Everyone involved in the closing of St. Clare’s Hospital, including the state Legislature, Albany Catholic Diocese and prominent community leaders, are responsible for the dire consequences we, the 1,130 employees of St. Clare’s Hospital, will face in the last decades of our lives.
As a result of the termination of our pension or reduction of benefits, there will be poverty, homelessness and hunger for many of us. There will be people who can’t afford medication and quality medical care. We are the people with 20, 30 and 40 years or more of service to the underserved, at-risk residents of Schenectady and nearby communities. As described by the Berger Commission, St. Clare’s was the “safety-net hospital” that took everyone in need, regardless of their ability to pay. Who’s going to take care of us? It’s up to you, our elected officials, the diocese and community leaders to address this injustice now.
Kelvin Isolda
Schenectady


Before judging, learn about immigrants
I’m one of the “bleeding heart liberals” being lambasted in Neil Nusbaum’s Nov. 14 letter. According to Mr. Nusbaum, those of us who are not opposed to immigrants should welcome them into our homes and support them ourselves, lest hard-working taxpayers provide them with “everything free, including free education, special job training, food, housing and free health care for life for every imaginable ailment or disease they bring with them.” Undocumented immigrants do not receive Child Health Plus, SSI, food stamps (SNAP), health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security or welfare.
According to the American Immigration Council, undocumented immigrants in 2010 paid approximately $90 billion in taxes. I could bore the socks off The Gazette’s readers with more statistics, but a simple Google search would yield the same results.
Mr. Nusbaum asserts that neither he nor his family contributed to the dire situation from which the world’s refugees are fleeing, so he should bear no responsibility for them. Our own government is not blameless in causing global turmoil that engenders asylum-seeking, but that’s fodder for another letter.
When Americans rail against immigrants, documented or otherwise, I think it’s actually fear that feeds the animosity, and humans fear the unknown. I would encourage Mr. Nusbaum and others of his ilk to step outside their comfort zones, seek out the dishwashers, caregivers, farmworkers, prep cooks, housekeepers and landscapers who make our lives sweeter, and have a chat. It may broaden their horizons and change their world for the better.
Lori McIlwaine Hammond
Niskayuna


Marijuana can help ease opioid addiction
Medical marijuana is now attacking the opiate crisis. A public health law in New York was recently changed that now allows medical marijuana to be prescribed as an opiate replacement. Opioids are extremely addictive drugs that kill tens of thousands of people every year. More than 40 percent of these deaths involved a written prescription. Opioids are prescribed to treat high levels of pain. But, when someone takes them the wrong way, they can become addicted very fast.
People who are addicted to opiates often seek out alternative pain medications or other opioids when their prescriptions run out. Opioid users experience a lot of things while in between highs, one being severe anxiety. This anxiety forces users toward more pills to cope with the anxiety, resulting in a constant loop of pill popping. If medical marijuana was prescribed at first, the pain would have been taken care of and the patient would have never become addicted.
However, one effect of marijuana is that it amplifies how opioids work on your brain. If medical marijuana is combined with opioids recreationally, it can be extremely dangerous. On the other hand, when this medical tactic is used in a controlled environment, it can help reduce the number of opioids entering the body, eventually reducing dependency. The positive effects of medical marijuana greatly outweigh any of the negatives. The opioid epidemic has to come to an end, and medical marijuana could be one solution.
Eric Loomis
Schenectady


Get the facts before forming opinions
I’m amazed at the number of people who deny that humans are contributing to global climate change. They apparently reject the conclusion of more than 97 percent of climate scientists. These same people generally accept the opinion of their doctor or auto technician, but apparently believe they know more about climate than climate scientists.
Ask people about the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act and you’re likely to get a blank stare.
But ask how they feel about the United States raising tariffs on imports and you’re likely to hear that it’s good for America. They delight in the United States assailing other countries. These folks don’t know history, so they don’t understand that everyone loses in a trade war.
How is it that otherwise reasonable people don’t seem to care that the president of the United States lies repeatedly? Politifact reports that Trump lies 69 percent of the time. Don’t they recognize the deleterious effect his lying has on the office of the president and on America’s standing in the world?
It seems that many people don’t appreciate the First Amendment and its implied duty of the press to hold our elected officials to account. Reporters often ask tough questions that may be uncomfortable to answer, but doing so provides a great service to all Americans. Nonetheless, some of these same people, encouraged by our president, chant “CNN sucks” and revel in the disparagement of reporters.
Everyone would do well to form opinions more on data and knowledge, and less on emotion, ideology and historically held beliefs.
Larry Jordan
Amsterdam


Official no help with narrow voting tables
A true story. I went to vote on Election Day. It got a ballot and went to a privacy booth. The ballot was so long and privacy booth so narrow that it was necessary to turn ballot sideways, which was difficult to read. I complained to monitors, who told me “Everybody complains about that, call the Board of Elections.” I called the Saratoga County Board of Elections and spoke to Commissioner Roger Schiera. I was informed that narrow booths were not a problem, as no one had ever complained. I pointed out that the monitors said they get lots of complaints about it. He tells me they are lying. I say “Well, I am complaining.” He says “You are the only person in 90,000 voters to complain.” I said, “So you think it’s OK that 90,000 voters have to turn their ballots sideways to vote?” He said, “Yes, if no one is complaining. Besides, you can use any other surface in there to fill it out.” I said, “But there are no other surfaces, and I want my privacy.” He said, “Well, nobody has complained.” I said, “I’m complaining, I have a vision handicap and I cannot read it sideways.” He said, “Maybe next year, I will set up a booth on a table wide enough for you to use.” I said, “Wouldn’t it just be more sensible to get booths wide enough for the ballots?” He said, “No, because nobody is complaining about these booths.” In the real world, people solve problems. In government, there are no problems.
James Van Dijk
Saratoga Springs


No longer a need for people to own guns
In Colonial times it was important for people own guns. They were expected to use them in a militia, to defend against enemies. A militia was a group of men organized specifically to defend against an enemy. These men were expected to supply their own weapons. The Second Amendment was written specifically so that this practice could continue; so that the citizens could organize an armed militia when necessary to defend them against enemies.
That was a long time ago. We now have armed law enforcement personnel in all parts of our country, at the local state, and federal levels. They protect us from domestic enemies. We now have a permanent, professional military in our country. In fact, they are called the armed forces. These armed organizations are the fulfillment of the right to bear arms, as guaranteed by the Second Amendment.
There is no longer a need for citizens to own guns.
David Gordon
Niskayuna


America must act as a unified nation again
Out of many, one. That says a lot.
It used to be on our currency. E Pluribus Unum needs to be put back on all U.S. currency. We need to start thinking of us as one nation, one country, one people. Out of many, one. That is what E Pluribus Unum means.
I grew up hearing about America being the great melting pot (I’m in my 80’s) and I remember learning that people came from all over the world to our country and strove to become Americans.
Please people, let’s all go back to being just plain Americans. It’s time to again embrace the concept of: Out of many, one. One nation, one country, one people united in a common cause to regain the dream, the idea, the very concept that made our country.
One nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
Out of many, one. Not out of one – many. Turn back to that philosophy. Turn to your co-workers and neighbors and say, “Hey there friend. Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist (or whomever).” We were the melting pot of the world. We can be again. E Pluribus Unum forever.
Edward F. Wagner
Clifton Park


Celebrations can lead to concussions, too
As a physical therapist, I’d like to comment on an element of concussion prevention and management in football that I have yet to see mentioned in any publication.
It’s well documented that a concussion does not necessarily come from a single blow to the head. Concussions and subsequent concussion symptoms can arise from a series of much lower levels of impact and/or whiplash-type movements of the head.
My concern comes from the players’ natural exuberance after a score or a well-executed play.
Players, in their excitement and the natural desire to mimic their professional heroes, immediately start slapping the helmet of their teammates. Worse yet is the butting of helmets. These young men are well-conditioned athletes and are quite strong. I believe these celebratory hits to the head are potentially adding to the cumulative effect of damage to young brains.
It may be too late for the professional player, but I would hope all the administrators and coaches of youth and high school football will encourage their players to celebrate without hitting each other in the head. Remember, it’s cumulative.
Thomas Houghtalen
Schenectady


Ballston Spa gets little for Milton taxes
As a village of Ballston Spa and town of Milton resident, this coming year I will get to pay the same town taxes as those who live outside the village. So what services do I get from the town of Milton? Leaf pickup, no. Snowplowing, no. Water and sewer services, no. Police protection, no. Fire protection, no. All these are provided by the village and paid for by village taxes. Oh yes, I can get my dog license in Milton, the town helps our DPW pave the roads and they pay a few dollars toward community events which we can no longer afford to hold.
Village residents are essentially subsidizing services and overhead for out-of-village residents. Those lucky folks in the town of Ballston part of the village pay no town taxes at all. The village is in deep financial trouble; the recent state comptroller’s audit reported “the village is in poor financial condition and has little fund balance to act as a cushion against unforeseen events.” The village had to borrow almost $1 million to get through the end of the last two years.
The town of Milton should not be charging village residents for services they don’t receive.
Liz Kormos
Ballston Spa


Council intervened to halt budget flaws
As a long-time Niskayuna taxpayer and observer of government, I was quite interested in Town Supervisor Yasmine Syed’s proposed town budget.
Since she has stated repeatedly she’s a budget analyst, I was eager to see the improvements to the budgeting process and tax rate overhaul she would enact in her first budget.
Sadly, I was disappointed. Instead of tax cuts and reduced spending, the supervisor proposed a budget with tax- and broad-based fee increases, a raid of the town’s rainy-day fund, raises for politically favored groups of employees, and questionable cuts targeted at children, families and government transparency. Thank goodness cooler heads prevailed and Councilwoman Denise Murphy McGraw and her Town Board colleagues put a stop to the supervisor’s ill-conceived and unsubstantiated budget plans.
William Duffy
Niskayuna


It’s on Cuomo to fix St. Clare’s pension
This is in response to your articles dealing with the St. Clare’s Hospital retirees losing their pensions. At the time St. Clare’s was being merged with Ellis Hospital, the merger was stalemated because Ellis refused to accept the responsibility for the St. Clare’s pension fund. St. Clare’s, acting on behalf of its retirees, refused to be taken over unless the pension fund was secure.
In order to break this stalemate, New York state accepted responsibility for this fund by providing over $29 million, which was to be used (in addition to the more than $28 million already in the fund) for pensions for all St. Clare’s employees. It was deemed adequate to carry this fund to completion. However, for whatever reason, this has obviously not been the case. This raises two questions: 1) Where did the money go that was supposed to be used for this fund and/or 2) If there was an actuarial error made at the time of the merger, why hasn’t New York state followed up on this, determined where the error occurred, and resolved the problem either by litigation against those who have failed to properly manage this fund or by adding more money to the fund to fulfill its obligation? Perhaps something slipped through the cracks in the transfer from Gov. David Paterson’s administration through to that of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s. Regardless, the resolution now lies with the Cuomo administration doing the right thing to correct this error.
Kenneth Benson
Charlton


Beware of Ballston’s planned sewer costs
To the homeowners in the Carpenter Acres development (town of Ballston), beware. A proposed public sewer infrastructure project is currently under consideration. As it now stands, if approved, it will cost you big bucks. The current anticipated annual charge will exceed $1,500 based on a 30-year financing bond. Add this to your current annual property tax bill. And it doesn’t end there. The connection cost for each home will range in the thousands of dollars.
In addition, there will be a cost to decertify your present septic system. You may want to tell the town council this is unacceptable. If not, get out your checkbook.
A public sewer system may be a good idea, but is must not bankrupt people or force them to sell their homes, which, by the way, may not be very marketable with the attached sewer charges.
Jim Callahan
Ballston Spa


End abuses that lead to corruption
Last year, we took a stand against public corruption when voters overwhelmingly passed an amendment to the state constitution stripping pensions from elected officials convicted of these crimes.
But fighting corruption must be an ongoing process that continues to uncover fraud and ethical abuses in Albany and protects public resources and taxpayer dollars.
Limiting the outside income of all elected officials sets a higher standard for those that choose to serve in public office, and establishing a mandatory minimum prison sentence for those convicted sends a message that those who engage in corruption will face harsh consequences.
Banning campaign contributions from companies seeking state contracts and requiring disclosure of the names of those making the contributions will stop corporations from anonymously funneling obscene amounts of money into elections each year.
We must put an end to this abuse of the system.
Angelo Santabarbara
Schenectady
The writer is an assemblyman in the 111th Assembly District.

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