For a holiday week, it was a busy one. Here are some thoughts on a few topics that made the news:
Rain and the Bat Man
Republican St. Lawrence County district attorney candidate Mary E. Rain made headlines this week by being dragged into small-claims court over a disputed bill for bat removal at a rental property she owns in Watertown.
There are a couple of things that bothered me about the story. The contractor, Albert LaFrance of Manlius, a suburb of Syracuse, says he just happened to learn when figuring out how to go about suing her that she was running for political office in St. Lawrence County, and he felt some sense of civic obligation to tell voters that she hadnt paid him. Something about that just doesnt add up for me. Ive covered enough political races to know that most of the time, people are strongly encouraged to air dirt about candidates by outside forces who have something to gain.
It was also odd that he claims he was advised by the confidential investigator for the District Attorneys Office, Dan Manor, to file suit against Ms. Rain in small claims court and bring the matter to the attention of the newspaper. I didnt know the district attorneys offices confidential investigator could give out legal advice i.e. to file a civil suit in small claims court to somebody not involved in a criminal matter. Maybe thats only allowed when the matter involves the person running against his boss. I also wonder how often people who are denied prosecution to settle their matters are directed by the DAs office to bring their troubles to the newspaper. In a dozen years in this business, I have never heard of that happening.
Im not an ethics expert by any stretch, but that seems less than ethical. If Mr. LaFrances recollection is correct about the advice he got from the DAs office, District Attorney Nicole Duvé should explain the actions of her staff member. The DAs staff have a job to do that should have absolutely nothing to do with politics.
Float Got Sunk
The Northern New York Freedom Fighters, a group raising grass-roots opposition to the New York State Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (NYSAFE) Act, had a float in the Morristown July 4 parade that we inadvertently left out of our coverage. We heard a great deal about it Friday.
NNYFF was not the only group we mistakenly left out. There were others, along with every politician who marched in the parade, who werent mentioned. Nevertheless, we heard about how biased we are and that our omission means we obviously support the NYSAFE Act.
We were told it was obviously a conspiracy by the liberal media, although our newspapers have taken an editorial stance against the NYSAFE Act and I have spoken out against it in this column.
The omission was an unfortunate error, but thats all it was. We are human, and we, like everybody else, make mistakes.
It is never our intention to leave anyone out. My sincere apologies to the NNYFF and everyone else we failed to list as participating. Your participation in the parade was important not only to your worthy causes, but to keeping a small-town tradition alive. The parade was a success because of you, and, on a personal note, that so many groups participate year after year makes me very proud to call Morristown home.
Review Vs. Reopener
I keep hearing Waddington officials talk about the importance of the pending 10-year review of the 2003 relicensing settlement with the New York Power Authority.
I dont want to burst anyones bubble, but I really dont think a review by itself is going to change anything. Way back when, a group of people on the Local Government Task Force called for a reopener clause to be included in the relicensing settlement. Under pressure from NYPA and others to get the deal done, the reopener was removed from the agreement and a review was put in its place.
A review is not a reopener. By itself, it just means everybody will take a look at whats in the agreement, whats happened since it was signed and determine whether everyones expectations were met based on whats in the document. It will be really easy for NYPA to say what theyve done is good enough and that theyve lived up to their end of the bargain, and turn a deaf ear to anyone who says our communities should get anything else.
If communities in the St. Lawrence-FDR power project boundary want this so-called review to have any teeth, theyd better get some legal advice to see what their options are, present a united front to make a case for what they want, and mobilize support from state and federal lawmakers before any talks with NYPA begin. A few officials complaining about how we got short-changed 10 years ago wont cut it.
Regional High School
Im happy to see that the schools involved in talks about the formation of a regional high school Heuvelton, Hermon-DeKalb and Morristown will look at short-term solutions to their financial and educational problems rather than banking on the regional idea.
The state Legislature this session failed to pass legislation enabling them to form a regional high school. Without that, there is no legal framework for such a school to be created. As Ive said, nobody should hold their breath waiting for the state to act. Theyll be long suffocated before that happens.
My sincere hope is that these schools will not leave bigger schools out of the mix when considering other options. Ogdensburg, Gouverneur and Canton would provide much broader opportunities for students and make better geographic sense for Morristown and Hermon-DeKalb. Although I think the schools are likely to opt for paying tuition to other school districts to educate students in the short term, mergers need to be part of the discussion.