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We welcome your opinion on any subject of interest pertaining to the Hudson Valley.

This column may include "Opinion" pieces, submitted by public officials, and "Letters", submitted by citizens. These letters are presented as opinions only, not as news or confirmed facts.

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Congratulates Sullivan for adopting Tobacco 21

Congratulations to the Sullivan County Board of Legislators on its’ recent decision to increase the legal age to purchase tobacco products from 18 years old to 21.  The fact that smoking is the number one preventable cause of disease and death in the U.S. is one very compelling reason to limit access to young people who are more susceptible to becoming addicted to the nicotine contained in tobacco.

Most adults began experimenting with cigarettes and tobacco products in their teenage years when the brain is still developing.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), roughly one-third of all youth smokers will eventually die prematurely from smoking-caused disease.1  By making access to cigarettes more difficult, we can prevent teens from smoking and save lives.  

Anything that can be done to protect our youth from becoming addicted to tobacco products is an important step toward improved public health.

Susan E. Lennon, TTS
Tobacco Program Manager - Center for a Tobacco Free Hudson Valley a grant program of the American Lung Association of the Northeast
(April 27)


Congressman Faso meets with mental health providers 

We would like to thank Representative Faso for meeting with mental health providers who live and work in District 19 to discuss the complex and critical issue of maintaining affordable mental health services.
We discussed a number of issues including: parity (keeping mental health benefits equal to medical coverage with regard to insurance coverage and reimbursement) as well as the cost effectiveness of preventive mental health services.  We shared an Impact Statement that this group compiled for Mr. Faso. Ellen Pendagar, CEO for the Mental Health Association in Ulster County, shared how studies have repeatedly shown that maintaining robust mental health services reduces significant costs to the taxpayers down the line. When services are cut, we see increases in emergency room visits, hospitalizations, late stage medical conditions, increases in incarceration, homelessness, foster care and more.
We were encouraged to hear Congressman Faso state that he is a proponent of parity. He also shared that he has a strong interest in school based services that have a mental health component. Cheryl Qamar, former Deputy Commissioner of Mental Health in Ulster County explained how school based services are an excellent delivery system as they improve access and  remove the stigma of going to a therapist or counselor to get support. Additionally, school based mental health services augment needed supports for the whole family as well as reduce the burden to schools.
In closing, we invited Mr. Faso to continue in a bi-partisan dialogue with us as there are many more issues to unpack and resolve. Therese Bimka, LCSW pointed to the profound polarization within our nation and community, suggesting we can model how to stay engaged in conversation across the aisle.
Congressman Faso indicated support for continued dialogue. We look forward to continuing this critical dialogue on the difficult issues we face as a community.

Cindy Dern, LCSW
Rev. Therese Bimka, LCSW
Cynthia Muenz, LCSW
Cheryl Qamar, Lcsw
Ellen Pendegar, CEO of MHA
Martha Steuding, MHA
(April 26)


Astorino Indian Point suit

County Executive Rob Astorino is attempting to file a lawsuit against the state of New York over the planned shutdown of the Indian Point nuclear power plant.

At first glance, this may look like a gesture of support for the many individuals whose jobs, taxes and economic well being are impacted by the closing of the plant.  However, a lawsuit takes money and resources that would be better utilized by working with local and state task forces to figure out how to reduce the economic and environmental impact of this closing on Westchester County.  A lawsuit diverts energy that could be spent more effectively to work to develop funds to offset the loss of revenue facing the communities surrounding Indian Point.  A lawsuit to slow down the plant’s closing is to deny the reality that the closing is because Entergy has said Indian Point is no longer economically viable.  Rather than a lawsuit, Astorino would be better serving his constituents by helping to develop a comprehensive exit plan for those affected and by working to bring in businesses that will increase jobs and revenue for the County.

Astorino claims he is filing this lawsuit because a full environmental review was not done before an agreement to close the plant.  This claim is ironic for two reasons.  First, Astorino himself has tried to push through deals without full review as evidenced by his attempt last year to broker a deal to privatize the Westchester County airport with Oaktree Management without accepting other bids or having a public hearing.  Secondly, Astorino has been perfectly content to let Indian Point operate in Westchester for many years with expired licenses and multiple safety violations, making his alleged concern about a lack of environmental review disingenuous to say the least.

I believe that Astorino is not filing this lawsuit to help the citizens of Westchester County but to engage in political grandstanding to help define himself against his gubernatorial rival Andrew Cuomo.

Westchester County deserves better political leadership than this.

Bettina Mayer
Member of Croton in Action Croton-on-Hudson, NY
(April 25)


Faso and climate change

Congressman John Faso recently sounded the trumpets after signing on to a resolution by House conservatives to "study and address" climate change. The "study" proviso is especially galling, as it implies that the sources of climate change are somehow not yet established. Not coincidentally, nowhere does the resolution assert that the primary cause of climate change is human activity.  

Furthermore, the resolution does not address any of the well-researched means our legislators have at their disposal to actually address climate change, such as cap and trade programs, emissions regulation, and staying in the Paris Accord. 

Faso is a former fracking lobbyist and ally to EPA Director and climate change-denier Scott Pruitt. Faso voted to let coal companies dump coal tailings in streams. He voted to overturn the SEC requirement for oil, gas, and mining companies to disclose payments to foreign governments; now, those corporations can do any questionable deals they like, hidden from the public. Are these the actions of a congressman concerned about the environment and the public interest?

Faso likes to refer to himself as a “moderate,” but his votes are to the far right. Now he’s trying to portray himself as a champion of the environment with this meaningless resolution. This empty document is meant to distract voters from the business-as-usual actions of the House Republicans vis-a-vis fossil fuels. We’re not falling for it.

Source: https://stefanik.house.gov/sites/stefanik.house.gov/files/Climate%20Change%20Resolution.pdf

Michelle Sutton 
(March 31)


Competing Compassions

The city of Newburgh recently joined the ranks of sanctuary cities after hearing testimonies that were clearly intended to pull on the heartstrings of the hearers.

Compassion is a good thing. I applaud those who care for others looking for a better way of life, but I also have compassion for the victims of crime committed by illegal immigrants, like the 14 year old girl in Maryland who was raped by illegal immigrants in her own public school. This is only one of, literally, thousands of such cases.

So this is clearly a case of competing compassions. Who will win our compassion, the immigrant who disregards our laws for his own benefit, or the young girls and victims who cannot be safe because laws which are supposed to protect them are being ignored?

Our compassion ought not drive us to make decisions based on emotions in-the-moment, but rather should drive us to make rational decisions based on logic and science as well as compassion.

A city striving to see renewal must attract people who will contribute to the community. Sanctuary Cities become magnets for criminals. For the sake of our legal immigrants and the future of our cities we must get our compassions in right order.

Rev. Bill Banuchi
Executive Director – New York Faith & Freedom Coalition
(March 27)



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