Sep 19, 2009

8/20/09 Letter to Editor Re TB Votes Down Smart Grid

Last Thursday, the Pound Ridge Town Board voted to participate in a grant application under one of the richest of the economic recovery program initiatives. They join 8 other Northern Westchester towns in this effort to obtain funds to enable their residents and the municipal government to invest and earn revenue in the new "green" economy on the Fed's nickel. If/when the grant is won, if a town deems the arrangements not in their interest, they can still opt out. After the program is launched, the town and residents are under no obligation to utilize the grant funds to purchase Smart-grid-enabled appliances or invest in other income-generating electrical control facilities. After purchasing Smart grid enabled items with federal support, there is no obligation to participate in the electric grid "calls”. And then finally, if they do offer to “shed load” on call, the risk that the commitment is not met is taken on by a third party "aggregator”. On the same evening that Pound Ridge became the 9th town to join in, Lewisboro voted against participation - for the second time. Lewisboro is the only town to bring this simple, risk-free resolution to a vote, and vote it down. My colleagues offered an agitated avalanche of reasons, mostly around the risk theme, why they would not join Supervisor Ed Brancati and myself in voting to make this program available to the town. I found these totally at odds with reality. Perhaps they will have more success explaining to the public.

7/30/09 Letter to Editor re Recycling Center

[Printed as Guest Column] I suspect that there will be a number of letters complaining about the shutting down of regular operations at the recycling center. To some extent, I don't blame anyone for wanting to vent on this one; it certainly sounds bad. Lewisboro's recycling rate ranked near the bottom of the pile in statistics recently released by the County, so on its face, this would seem to be the wrong move at the wrong time. I believe however that this austerity move, just one of many large and small made in an effort to close the budget gap, could actually serve as the proverbial “kick in the pants” to push Lewisboro to the next level in sustainable waste management. A couple of weeks ago, 20-30 people from towns around the county gathered in Somers to hear Lewisboro’s Neil Cutler give an overview of options and best practices for managing and reducing the amount of material we send to landfills. Discussion followed, and the group intends to work on common approaches such as shared facilities and negotiating with carters for enhanced pickup options. I personally think that the key to increasing recycling rates is to expand the types of material we can put out on the curb and we will need the carters’ help with this. My carter only takes plastics 1 and 2 yet in some area towns they are already accepting 1-6. Maybe there could be periodic pickup of fluorescent bulbs or e-waste. Certainly mixed paper represents a large volume of the material going into our regular garbage and this could be recovered as well. The Lewisboro recycling center has been a great asset, but it has been taking two categories of material only – scrap metal and co-mingled glass and plastics. The latter is now taken by all carters, so in actuality, the only unique service we offered was the scrap metal. We are planning on opening up on a quarterly basis for this. We don’t know how it will all shake out exactly, but I feel certain that we will find ways to make it easier for residents to do the right thing with their waste.

3/26/09 Ledger Letter re Library Mailing

The library’s “Building Project Update” mailing was a welcome addition to a dialog which should afford Lewisboro residents a better chance to inform themselves about the plan to move the Library to the Town Park. My 250 words permits a only limited response here. The mailing states that the 20 plus year-old master plan is a policy statement only, a set of guidelines. The implication, not fully expressed, is that the principles and findings therein are no longer applicable, or, somehow inappropriate in this situation. Preserving the hamlets is one of the key themes of the MP, and removing the library from Main St. South Salem is not consistent with that. The proponents of the move to the park may feel that the benefits they cite outweigh this negative impact, but it remains a negative impact by any reasonable standard, not at all diminished by the fact that the Master Plan is a plan, and not legislation.

A late nineties survey is declared to have defined the needs of the community. I hope the library will post the questions and response summaries on the library website to help us understand the basis for the project scope. These days, it is a rare project which is not obliged to submit itself to the realities of compromise. A series of discrete questions (e.g., “is the children’s area adequate?”) may yield an attractive wish list, but designing a project which optimally balances these with un-surveyed factors, budgets and current reality is another thing.