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Sunday, September 20, 2020


Social media is wrong: the law is the law

To the editor:
Last month the driver of a vehicle that killed Devin Zeininger and Justin Finkel as they walked along a Sullivan County Road was formally charged following a month-long Grand Jury investigation with one count of Reckless Driving, a misdemeanor, and two violations, Failure to Exercise Due Care and Speeding, in relation to the deaths of the two teenagers.
I understand the anguish and frustration the families of these boys are experiencing about this case. Thanks in large part to irresponsible and inaccurate reports across social media, some think that it's Sullivan County's infamous “Good Ole' Boys Club” that saved the driver from a felony charge.
They couldn't be more wrong.
The truth is that I have remained faithful to the oath to uphold the law, without fear or favor toward anyone, that I took when I became your Acting District Attorney. I honored the commitment I made to the families of these victims to present this case to a grand jury for its consideration despite what they and I all understood was a difficult legal landscape even in light of the facts uncovered during this investigation.
It isn't politics or personal relationships that stand in the way of a homicide charge; it's New York's own laws. Right now the law doesn't properly support pedestrian victims of vehicular crashes.
As a mother and a lifelong member of this community, I have personal feelings about some aspects of this case that, as a prosecutor, I must set aside to honor my legal and moral obligations as Acting District Attorney to seek justice within the bounds of the law. My job isn't to simply secure charges for assailants; it's to also secure convictions that will hold up under legal scrutiny.
Our appellate courts have made it nearly impossible to hold those who kill others as a result of distracted or dangerous driving criminally responsible. There is, quite simply, not one criminal law on the books that was specifically written in contemplation of facts like those that led to these tragic deaths.
The reality is that scores of families throughout our State have been further traumatized following a loved one's death by the fact that New York doesn't have laws in place to properly address pedestrian fatalities where a driver isn't impaired in some way.
As a zealous advocate for victims, I am committed to helping correct the omissions in the law by supporting the Vehicular Violence Accountability Act. The Act, announced late last year by New York State Senator Timothy M. Kennedy, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., and New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, was drafted to strengthen the voice of vehicular violence victims.
The Act introduces a new article in the State's Penal Law entitled “Vehicular Violence,” which establishes new crimes: “Death by Vehicle,” a class A misdemeanor, and “Serious Physical Injury by Vehicle,” a class B misdemeanor. These offenses would escalate to a class E felony and class A misdemeanor, respectively, when there are aggravating factors, such as recent vehicular convictions, speeding more than 20 miles above the speed limit, or committing more than one moving violation at a time.
In short, the Act, if passed into law, would fundamentally change the landscape of criminal law by holding accountable those who irresponsibly cause needless injuries and loss of life.
I grieve along with the rest of Sullivan County at the loss of these two boys, and it's that grief that fuels my commitment to foster positive change. I am asking all of you to join me in advocating for changes to the law that will more strongly support the rights of victims like Devin and Justin.

Meagan K. Galligan

Get outside the echo chamber

To the editor:
Watching the political conventions to me meant taping FOX and ABC coverage each night. My assessment is that each followed the same script. Most of the folks leaned in an obvious direction with a few token others to keep it fair.
The striking difference was the interpretations of the speeches. As striking was which speakers were selected to be heard from and which were background wallpaper during a group discussion.
We interact with many people. We have golf friends and church friends. There are the dog park and boating friends, the gym and friends from the association. If there have been political discussions, I've been oblivious. Sometimes I may glean inclinations by a bumper sticker, hat or T-shirt.
I shared my observations. Sal said, “Why you wasting time watching ABC; it is all lies.” Later running into Marty, I hear, “Why you wasting time watching FOX; it is all lies.”
But they both listened when I shared some facts they were unaware of. I was not merely an echo chamber, nor a closed door but an American talking to another American. How are you going to talk, discuss and behave in November and December? Do your research and support your team, but after. Please no sour grapes, accusations, allegations.
That would play right into Putin's and Xi's plans. Whether those dictators influence our opinions and divisiveness through the media or just see the American people as suckers should anger all of us.
Join your friends again (virtually if necessary) and let your words not be an echo or your mind a closed door. I guess I'll be a patriot and support and hope for the best, meaning if my guy doesn't get in, I know 45-55% of my fellow citizens can't be totally wrong. I'll give him two years before I throw in my support or work to get the bum out.

Richard Stein

Metzger champions households

To the editor:
Talk, talk, talk. We're accustomed to politicians who deliver the rhetorical flourishes during the elections campaigns—witness the florid, ominous verbiage we're hearing from the GOP candidate for NY State Senate district 42—but we're surprised and pleased when our elected officials bring to office a long record of achievements and expertise in a field … and then work to act on their knowledge and promises.
Prior to her election in 2018, Senator Jen Metzger (D-Rosendale) was well-known as a founder of Citizens for Local Power, which fought utilities companies successfully to keep electric rates fair for customers. Since becoming a senator, she has continued to advocate for the interests of private citizens over the utilities' profits. In the wake of tropical storm Isaias, she has urged Central Hudson to reimburse customers for losses suffered during power shutoffs.
Most significant have been her efforts during the COVID crisis. She co-sponsored and passed senate bill S8113A, which forbids utilities and municipalities from shutting off gas, electric, water, and phone services through March 31, 2021 and lets customers set up deferred payment plans without financial penalties.
Consistency and integrity. We can trust that Senator Metzger's oversight of public utilities and defense of the public good will persist.

Tom Denton

For speedy service

To the editor:
A reader recently wrote in to complain that a card mailed at the Rock Hill post office didn't arrive at the recipient's Rock Hill home until 16 days later. Although the writer linked the delay to recent cuts in mail service, such a prolonged time lag is actually nothing new.
To ensure that a letter going to an address in the same town arrives promptly, simply hand it to the clerk behind the counter at the post office and point out that it's local mail. The clerk will set it aside for the driver on that route, and it will arrive the very next day.
Unfortunately, this step won't help with mail-in ballots. Personally, I intend to go to the polls on Election Day.

Rebekah Creshkoff

Hard-right hateful turn

To the editor:
I saw a meme the other day, an angry mob carrying torches and pitchforks. A king and his advisor who said, “You don't need to fight them, you just need to convince the torch people that the pitchfork people want to take their torches.” A strategy as old as civilization, insidious, but still highly effective. I expect better from our leaders.
Truly, the rich have subverted both parties and it works great for them, boom or recession. They buy Congress. Term limits and publicly financed elections might help.
To overcome this, we must recognize our common interests, upon which we actually mostly agree, and vote accordingly. The Republican party has completely abandoned their “autopsy report” of 2013, which recommended embracing diversity. I never imagined longing for the decency of Paul Ryan, John Ashcroft and Jefferson Sessions.
But here we are. Trump enjoys 8% of the black vote, hardly a recipe for unity. I wish people could understand that when we all do better, we are all better off, particularly when it comes to public health, which one might have hoped this pandemic made obvious.
I'm just a country girl, but I won't tolerate racism or misogyny. To be honest I cannot even imagine the tax savings that might cause me to condone this banana republic, and cannot possibly comprehend the moral gymnastics some have performed lately.
The party of Trump has taken a hard-right hateful turn. We cannot join you. We cannot allow this scientifically, historically, morally deficient and incredibly divisive administration to continue. We have a big tent, but it does not shelter Q Anon or white nationalists, like yours.
We do welcome and enjoy the support of many former and current Republicans who value integrity, civility, decency and honesty in our public discourse. Let's take back our power.

Jennifer Young

Columbia Hill Neighborhood Alliance

To the editor:
The Columbia Hill Neighborhood Alliance (CHNA) wants to alert the general public in Sullivan County to the Town of Fallsburg's two-week water emergency announcement issued on August 20, 2020 for the Consolidated Water Districts of Hurleyville, Loch Sheldrake, Woodbourne, South Fallsburg and Old Falls allegedly due to undetected leaks. However, this alarming low water supply situation may also be caused by the excessive seasonal demand on the Town's water supply system, a harbinger of things to come in other towns as well.
CHNA has been raising alarms about the endangered water supply for many years. In the August 25th edition of the Sullivan County Democrat, Molly Messenger, Code Enforcement Officer Administrator, announced that there is not enough water for all the developments that want to be built. In addition, it was pointed out that there is a fear of insufficient amount of water for community fire protection needs. The Fallsburg Town Board also expressed concern that the current water tanks “are struggling to keep up”.
This all ties directly into the proposed Gan Eden Estates development in the Town of Thompson since its main water source is 2 wells in the Town of Fallsburg. Fallsburg does not have enough water for Fallsburg much less for a 534-unit development in the neighboring Town of Thompson.
The Towns of Fallsburg and Liberty combined probably have triple or more that many units pending review and approval. It is time for Fallsburg, Thompson and Liberty to realize that this onslaught of primarily second-home housing development demand is unsustainable and cannot remain unchecked. CHNA agrees with Town of Fallsburg Supervisor Vegliante that if these water problems exist now, adding developments will add to the problem. Therefore, “We need to resolve the issue before going forward.”

Roger Betters

Hold people accountable

To the editor:
I usually skip over letters by Marshall Rubin because they are a never ending rage against everything Trump and a waste of time, however, in his letter published September 1st, one sentence just jumped out at me: “As a former official with the ACLU in another state I have a deep residing faith and respect for the First Amendment guarantee of free expression, but I caution this newspaper to carefully evaluate the poison that is sometimes spewed from the ‘Here and There' column…”
So, while Marshall Rubin states he is all for freedom of speech, he then goes on to attack the writings of your columnist, Ed Townsend, because Mr. Townsend does NOT THINK like Marshall Rubin! He wants this newspaper to censor what he considers “poison” from Mr. Townsend.
I happen to enjoy Mr. Townsend's column, as I think many other readers do. That is probably because I am not an over the top angry person blaming Trump for everything, while not holding those people accountable who rightfully should be blamed.
By the way, I certainly agree with the “Here and There” column in the September 1st edition. I will vote in person…the American way.

Denise Connolly

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