We got to fill up on turkey AND news last week. Delicious! Please pass the antacids. Here are some thoughts on some of last weeks headlines:
NO ONE MUNCHING AT MEDICAL MARIJUANA BILL
The idea of medical marijuana doesnt seem so appetizing for state lawmakers representing the north country, who said last week they couldnt support legislation currently circulating to legalize its use. But I wonder how many of them have taken seriously any comments they have received on the topic from north country residents.
Instead of offering knee-jerk reactions opposing the idea, they might want to research studies outlining the benefits and pitfalls of medical marijuana use and ask the people they represent what they think before making up their minds. Assemblywoman Addie J. Russell made a good point about federal laws banning the drug being in conflict with any attempt by the state to legalize its use, but federal marijuana laws havent kept other states from legalizing medical marijuana.
Some studies have shown that it helps improve quality of life for people suffering from terminal illnesses and a host of chronic illnesses. There are lots of other studies that say the psychological effects and potential physical side effects from long-term use outweigh the benefits. Still, there must be a reason why lawmakers in 20 other states have seen fit to legalize marijuana for medicinal use. Lets get a dialogue going based on good scientific research, not gut reactions.
THE FRAY FOR FORT LA PRESENTATION
I got heartburn at the news that the Fort La Presentation Association was left out of an $8 million settlement between the state and ExxonMobil to reimburse the state for the cost of an environmental cleanup at Lighthouse Point, Ogdensburg. The fort group, which owns the property, still has a claim pending with the state Comptrollers Office to try to recover damages from having to wait years to develop anything on the site. The group has been working for many years to build a replica of the 1749 fort close to where it once stood on the point, in addition to interpretive exhibits and the like that association members hope will serve as a tourist attraction to boost the local economy.
The fort association had been included in a 2006 settlement amounting to $6 million announced by former Comptroller Alan Hevesi that we are told was made public before then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo had agreed to it. State officials later concluded that the 2006 settlement, which included $2.25 million for the fort group, didnt come close to reimbursing the state Department of Environmental Conservation for what it actually cost to clean up the site, and the deal was scrapped. Did I mention that Mr. Hevesi was sentenced to prison in 2011 for his role in a pay-to-play scheme involving the state pension fund?
We are also told that aside from a few vague discussions with state officials on the matter in 2007 and 2008, that was the last the fort group heard about getting ExxonMobil to pay up until last weeks settlement between the state and the petroleum giant was announced.
It took years for the state and ExxonMobil to reach an agreement. If the state is going to make good on its original intention help the fort group get any kind of compensation from ExxonMobil, I predict it wont happen any time soon. Although $8 million is about the amount of money that falls out of an ExxonMobil executives pockets if you turn him upside down, the company will most likely fight tooth and nail to keep from having to pony up another cent related to Lighthouse Point. Based on its officials refusal to comment on the fort groups pending claim, I think its pretty safe to say ExxonMobil wants to wash its hands of the whole mess.
Our state lawmakers should get involved, and pull federal lawmakers into the fray while theyre at it. The fort group has worked too hard for too long to be dismissed by a company that can and should pay damages for crippling development on a prime piece of the citys waterfront.
THANKSGIVING FELLOWSHIP FOR ALL
It was wonderful to see so many communities organizing free Thanksgiving dinners for people who otherwise would have spent the holiday alone. In Ogdensburg, the Knights of Columbus fed more than 650 people, one of the biggest dinners the charitable group has ever done. About 150 volunteers turned out to help. The St. Vincent de Paul Society in Massena also had a wonderful turnout of diners and volunteers for its holiday meal, held at the Massena Veterans of Foreign Wars post. The communities of Lisbon and Morristown also put on free Turkey Day dinners.
This sense of fellowship is what the holiday is all about. The most satisfying meal nourishes the soul as well as the body. My hat is off to all of the volunteers, service organizations and donors who made that fellowship possible.
SNOWMAGEDDON? WE CALL IT WINTER
We were all set for a huge snowstorm that turned out to be a big-but-not-all-that-exciting snowfall by the time it rolled in Tuesday. Snowmageddon 2013 might not have happened as forecasters predicted, but dont worry. There is still plenty of time to get snowed in before next spring. In the meantime, if the latest threat of winter destruction didnt prompt you to take a look at your emergency supplies, you might want to do that. Make sure you have plenty of bottled water, a first aid kit, flashlights and fresh batteries, canned food, warm blankets and a safe alternative heating source that doesnt rely on electricity, wont burn your house down and wont cause carbon monoxide poisoning. The federal Centers for Disease Control has a quick and handy online checklist of items to keep on hand in case you and your family find yourselves at the mercy of a winter storm. It can be found at http://emergency.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/beforestorm/supplylists.asp .