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A big week in news

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We had a pretty newsy week. I couldn’t settle on a single topic, so here are my thoughts on a few odds and ends from last week’s headlines.

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Iberdrola Renewables put the final nail in the coffin of its Hammond wind project. Wind development supporters are understandably sad about it, but wind development opponents have no reason to gloat. Hammond’s sense of community is in shambles. The casualties on both sides of the issue are too great to count because the prospect of wind developmentso divided a once close-knit community. What happened to Hammond is tragic. I hope the community will eventually heal its deep divisions, but if landowners who held leases with Iberdrola are leaving the door open for future offers from other wind developers, there are surely more bloody battles to come. Stay tuned.

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Ogdensburg officials met with St. Lawrence County lawmakers this week to discuss the county’s 5-year plan to get itself out of financial trouble by raising the local sales tax from 3 percent to 4 percent. I have said before that raising the sales tax is a bad idea. If you believe that every nickel the county brings in by raising the sales tax will go to lower property taxes, I have a bridge I want to sell you. In this economy, raising the sales tax will squeeze the people who are already getting squeezed tighter than they can stand. Ogdensburg resident Tim Redmond raises an interesting point in his letter on the subject in today’s Advance-News. County residents might want to start keeping track of how much they already pay in sales tax, and measure that against the property tax increase they got this year to see which one costs more. I think those who take my advice will be surprised by how much they are already paying in sales tax, and how much more they will spend by raising the combined county and state tax to 8 percent.

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Gun control is on everybody’s lips these days. While I think the discussion should be had, any productive policy decisions must not be driven by an emotional response to tragedy. There are no words to describe the horror that happened in Connecticut, but a knee-jerk legislative reaction fueled by our outrage and disgust is no way to solve the problems associated with gun violence. A level-headed approach is needed, not legislation turned out as quickly as possible before the subject fades in the headlines.

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Lisbon Central School could be on to something with its idea to build a “virtual merger” among school districts using Internet-based tools to take advantage of courses offered by larger districts. Distance learning is not a new concept in the north country, but it is one that has certainly not been used to its full potential. A concept whereby students would not have to leave their home districts to take advantage, theoretically at little cost, of advanced-placement courses and other offerings their own districts can’t currently affordis an idea worth pursuing.

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We learned this week that the Ogdensburg Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2936 is being investigated by the state Racing and Wagering Board. It is way past time for the local and statewide VFW organizations to come clean about how dire the post’s situation actually is. A state Racing and Wagering Board investigation is a serious thing. How can the post solicit donations from the public when there is some question about not handing over money it owed to state gaming officials? Won’t whatever donations are collected first have to go toward whatever money the post owes, rather than getting the lights back on and the doors back open? The statewide VFW is obviously concerned about how what could have happened in Ogdensburg will reflect on veterans organizations as a whole, but it also has a responsibility to give answers to the community and veterans the Ogdensburg post has faithfully served for the better part of a century. If the post truly wants the community’s help to rebuild itself, its leaders must be honest about what happened and give assurances that any past mistakes will not be repeated.

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