Sunday, May 16, 2010

Emotional Roller coaster Day

As you get older and have even older friends and acquaintances, one of the sections of the newspaper you turn to is the obituary section. As my parents were well known in the Albany Jewish Community, I see many names that I recognize. Friends of theirs, former customers and distant relatives. I have seen many friends of mine in there as well because there are old fire fighters and bold fire fighters, but no old, bold fire fighters. A lot of the people I have worked with have died far too young. Most of them from some form of cancer or another. After all, back in the 1970's and 1980's it wasn't cool to wear those new fangled air packs. Today we know much different and these younger fire fighters seem to be just a little smarter about their health then we were at the time. After all, if you don't think you are invincible, why would you go running into a building when everyone else is running out?

This is not a blog about cancer or old age. This is about opening the paper today and reading the obituary of a former colleague and friend. Jerry died at the age of 44. He leaves a wife of twenty some odd years and young (teenage) children. Jerry worked for me at Engine 11 for several years and we, along with the rest of my crew, worked day and night and lived together for 24 hours at a time. You get to know someone when living and "putting your life on the line" with them. Or at least you thought you did. Since retiring from Albany in 1999, I have seen Jerry on and off when I stopped by the station for a cup of coffee and catch up on department news. From the time I met Jerry, he always had a smile on his face, always a joke (Usually at my expense) and always, always someone you could count on. If I was too deep into a building or somehow in harms way, Jerry was right there behind me or there to lend a very welcome hand. Jerry pulled his own weight. He was not the kind of guy, as a supervisor, you needed to keep on to get the work done.

When I read his name in the paper, I first thought, ok an older relative, but his picture was there as well and of course he was smiling. I was shocked. Jerry was always in good shape, fit and trim. He didn't drink, didn't smoke. My emotions were shock, disbelief and sadness. I couldn't believe it, Jerry is dead. The wake and the funeral will be held Monday and Tuesday respectively and I have to be out of town for business. Do I call his brother, stop over to see him? I also worked with his brother and cousins on the job. In fact his brother-in-law is also on the job. Know them all well. It is a family business.

I received a phone call from a colleague later in the day. Wanting to know if I had heard that Jerry had died. That's the way the fire service is, we are all family. He told me how Jerry died. That was when my emotions took a very unexpected turn, anger! Jerry died by his own hand, he hung himself in his garage and left a note for his wife and children telling them to call the police and not go in the garage. Of course, the story goes, they immediately went into the garage, who wouldn't. How could he do that to them. What evils were in his soul, torturing him to set his family up with a sight they will never forget? I am back to sorrow, but not for Jerry, but for his family. Not only have they lost a husband, father, brother, etc, but knowing that it might have been different. I morn for Jerry, but pray for his family. You think you know a guy.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


As a place to start this discussion Hal mentioned last night that I would try to work with the group to help us get better organized. I have always told Hal, and others, that I am willing to do that. But here’s what everyone needs to know… (1) I have no experience with local government and politics. While I am more than willing to help I see the overall effort as a group effort. I will need a LOT of help, ideas, suggestions, comments and criticisms from everyone. (2) I want to be a facilitator not a leader. I think the group functions best by going in whatever direction the group sees itself going. I think this point has been true from the very first meeting and I do not want that to ever change. As a practical matter what I think this means is the group exists to foster open communication and information sharing.
Suggestions/Recommendations/Thoughts/Comments and Discussion Points for Our Next Meeting:
1.) Rename the group. We started as Hal’s vision for taking action. In the best traditions of American town hall meetings we shared our thoughts and desires around the group. The Tea Party label means different things to different people and does not best represent how the group has evolved. The suggestion is to re-name the group CARE (Citizens in Action for a Responsible East Greenbush) or something along these lines.
2.) I think the overall flavor, tone and content of the meetings is comfortable for everyone and should continue. It is essentially an open forum for discussion and that should continue. I think our plans and actions should be decided either by general consensus or by decisions individuals decide to pursue on their own.
3.) We need to identify an alternative meeting place as quickly as possible. All ideas and suggestions are welcome and appreciated.
4.) In the past we discussed having someone attend the various EG meetings. That idea has not really grown “legs” and I, for one, am not sure we need to extend ourselves that far. I think for the foreseeable future we should limit our focus to the Town Board meetings and perhaps the School Board budgeting process. I am just not sure how much value we would get from participating and attending Planning Board and other meetings except on an exception basis when we define a specific reason to. None of that should discourage anyone who wants to attend any other meetings from doing so but I think we can and should focus the group’s work where it most needs to be - and for the moment that is with the Town Council.
5.) I, personally, am okay, as we discussed at our May 3 meeting, with a group generated petition type letter to the State Attorney General’s office and the Office of the State Controller. My only caveat is that we need to be as specifically factual as possible. Making public accusations needs the care that such a step requires.
6.) I think every meeting needs to have the following:
a. A report about the Finance Committee.
b. A planning discussion for what we will question or discuss at the upcoming Town Board meeting.
c. I would like to see us collect the various Department Head reports in advance of the Town Hall meetings and be able to share those so that people who attend do not have to put up with the “Nothing additional to report” verbal comments at each Town Hall meeting. I think if we do that we can lead the Supervisor to taking this step on his own. Is that possible or realistic?
d. I would like Ann to express herself on how viable an idea it is to get a monthly budget report through the Finance Committee if we are not able to influence the Supervisor to include a budget report on the agenda. Is that possible or realistic?
e. A report on the status of any Freedom of Information Act requests we have filed and a discussion of the next Freedom of Information Act requests we plan to file.
f. A report from the pre Board and most recent Town Board meetings.
7.) Every meeting needs to have a report posted to the group so that people who could not attend can stay in touch. I will do that to start but I would really like to see this responsibility shared.
8.) I think we need to think about, discuss and decide how to fund our work. I think the people who are making Freedom of Information Act requests on behalf of our group should not fund those out of their own pockets. I think, if the group grows and expands, that we will have additional future expenses for copies and things like that. There are different options around funding and I think we need to discuss those at our next meeting.
9.) I think we need a web site. I think a web site has distinct advantages over blogs. Can someone with any experience in putting a web site up share at our next meeting what is involved and what the expense might be?
10.) In terms of longer term planning and activities:
a. I like the idea of an alternative Town Hall meeting. If the group supports the idea we need to figure out: (1) How to do that? (2) Where? (3) How to announce and advertise it? (4) An agenda? (5) Media coverage? (5) What other Freedom of Information Act requests do we need/want to file and by when?
b. I like the idea of sponsoring or supporting candidate debates as November approaches. Assuming the group supports the idea we need to decide when we need to start planning. November will get here quickly so whoever wants to be the leader on this needs to get us organized fairly quickly.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mark's accomplishments

As many of you know. I have two children, Mark (20) and Katie (16). Both are incredibly smart and have great integrity. Anything other than that is just frosting on the cake. They are both very special people (o.k. I am sounding like Rose just a little here)But this installment is about my son.

Mark is currently attending Norwich University on a full NROTC scholarship (Marine option). He is currently finishing his Sophomore year. He has just successfully completed the competency testing and has been award his "rams head" as a member of the elite rescue team of the Mountain Cold Weather Rescue Company at Norwich. This is an active duty Army unit that performs helicopter rescues for lost and injured hikers and skiers through the New England area. He is the 181st cadet to meet the grueling challenges of physical training, rescue education and other competencies in order to wear the rams head.

On another note, he will be serving as the Gunnery Sergeant of the Marine corps. NROTC this coming academic year. This is the 3rd highest ranked Marine Cadet at the school.

Mark also has been accepted for an aviation slot with the Marine Corps upon graduation in December 2011. He will be getting married to Christina Lennon in January 2012, then off to Quantico VA for The Basic School (TBS) and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the USMC. His first duty station will be at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida for three years of flight school.

Mark just received the TAWANI Foundation award of Military Excellence, awarded "for exemplifying the ideal of the "Citizen Soldier" through outstanding military knowledge, academic achievement, physical fitness, military bearing and community service. Cadet Siegel's determination to preserve our fundamental liberties through individual responsibility is demonstrated in his zeal to strive for personal excellence, maximum performance and dedication to exceeding all expectations. Cadet Siegel's "can-do" attitude is an inspiration to others and epitomizes the core values that form the bedrock of our nation's heritage." This award is traditionally given to graduating seniors, Mark is a Sophomore.

Mark currently holds a GPA of 3.85 and is majoring in Criminal Justice. Norwich University is the oldest private military college in the United States and is located in Northfield VT.