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This is the last post.

It’s been a fun ride.



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News That Matters: The FINAL Edition

May 28, 2015

Folks, it’s finally and really and truly come to an end.

PlanPutnam.org is going the way of Altavista and Compuserve, it’s going dark sometime in late June. Why? For a couple of reasons:

1) I haven’t really posted here in years aside from a few well timed articles like those about Tilly Foster (stop laughing!) and Maryellen Odell’s attempt to seal a political deal by plastering the county Bike Trail with advertising signs. And,

2) I’m moving out of county. In fact, I’m leaving the state.

I’ve been a resident of this county since October 1998 and it’s time to move on as I have been presented with an opportunity that is too good to turn down. I leave you with fond memories and tons of county-wide silliness just as the new political silly-season is about to begin. And what county is sillier than Putnam County, New York?

I’ll be relocating to Van Buren County, Michigan, the largest producer of blueberries in the United States. It’s all Republican, just like here, so I won’t be missing that. It’s wedged between Kalamazoo, which I always thought was a line in a vaudeville act but turns out to be […]

Kent Nature Almanac

March 2015

Photo of a snowy fork in a path in the woods Two roads diverged in a wood. Photo: Diana Lee

I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. — Robert Frost

3/1 March started gray, quiet and snowy all day long. The spring sun was hidden from view and it felt like January. The month did not come in like a lion, but it was not warm like a lamb either.

3/2 An article in the local paper said “coyote sightings are on the rise in Putnam County … a Carmel man walking his dog Tuesday morning reported observing a coyote in a wooded area near Lake Gleneida.”

3/4 It was warm enough today for snow to melt in the raindrops. All that water created huge puddles on the roadways. With another plunge in temperature predicted, there will be lots of dangerous patches of black ice on Kent’s roads.

Photo of bluebird house with snow melting off Bluebird home available – immediate occupancy. Photo: Beth Herr

3/5 Last night: a snow-covered […]

NY-GEO’s 2015 annual conference in Saratoga Springs

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

Dear Climate Smart Community Leader:


Geothermal Heat Pumps (GHPs) are the cleanest and most efficient way to heat and cool buildings. They are becoming increasingly important as we recognize the need to reduce fossil fuel use in the face of climate change and volatile price swings.

We invite you NY-GEO’s 2015 annual conference in Saratoga Springs, just North of Albany, March 17th and 18th. See http://ny-geo.org/pages/geopalooza. And please spread the word to any engineers, architects, builders, energy activists developers, and contractors you may know.

Net-zero building will be an important focus of the conference. Net-zero happens when a property generates all the energy it uses. GHPs, when combined with renewable electricity such as solar PV, are the best way to get to net-zero in New York’s climate, and net-zero is coming on strong in our state

In addition to great speakers and workshops, the conference will feature a Top Job Competition, where 7 contractors will compete for the “2014 Top Geothermal Job” title.

Another highlight is the location – Skidmore College plans to be 50% geothermal by 2020 and we’ve got some great “hands on” tours planned for you to see geothermal […]

There’s more to criminal justice data than you think: Delve into it with Sunlight’s new inventory

At Sunlight, we’ve long been champions of the general idea that access to data makes things better. And we know that’s especially true in specific policy areas such as criminal justice. What we’ve learned over the last year (as we’ve started building an inventory of criminal justice data from all 50 states) is that while public access to information is the gold standard when trying to establish accountability and transparency, work still needs to be done. Instilling a culture of uniform data collection that takes advantage of technology and digital tools is a very important first step for much of law enforcement today.

Sunlight’s criminal justice inventory. So far we have data collected for 18 states and the federal government. Read more about this project.

Earlier this month, FBI Director James B. Comey gave an important and unexpectedly frank speech on his view of police practices and race relations. In his speech, he referenced some of the controversial scenes that much of America has reacted to in recent months, including the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in Staten Island, N.Y., and the recent shooting deaths of two NYPD officers. The point of the speech was to expand the conversation about how to improve police relations within their communities and how to address racial biases, real or perceived, head on.

Comey’s most concrete call to action in the speech, titled “Hard Truths,” is that we must collect better data so we can better analyze what’s going on in our communities. As an example of what’s wrong with the state of the FBI’s data, Comey admitted that the voluntarily reported data the agency gets on officer-involved shootings is “incomplete and therefore, in the aggregate, unreliable.”

Another truth for people interested in criminal justice data is that there is what seems to be an endless amount of it. And one problem beyond much of the official data being unreliable, is that useful sources of data can be hard to find. With that in mind, we’ve started amassing heaps of information about criminal justice data in order to build an inventory which goes far beyond the FBI’s commonly referenced Uniform Crime Report, which regular citizens, advocates, journalists and practitioners in the field can take advantage of. You can see the work we’ve done so far, and even contribute to it, by visiting this page. Further, in the process of this work, we’ve stumbled across a few excellent examples of what good data can do for all of the parties mentioned above, and likely more.

For instance, the story told by journalists at the beginning of this year about the New York Police Department’s work slow-down was an interesting example of how crime and criminal justice data can inform the public and create accountability. In stories by a number of outlets, including the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, reporters were able to access weekly police activity statistics and see that tickets had stopped being issued and arrests had stopped being made, indicating that an informal or unofficial strike had been organized.

In California, an emergency room doctor and gun violence prevention researcher named Garen Wintemute uses data provided to him by the state of California to study ways to prevent gun violence. Wintemute is able to take advantage of criminal history records and firearms purchase records to do his research, something that is largely prohibited on the federal level.

It’s important to highlight that the data Wintemute uses in his research is not available to the public, and by Sunlight’s standards is considered closed. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t understand the reasons behind the closed status of a good number of data sets. Crime and criminal justice data regularly consists of personally identifiable information, or PII, and is protected due to privacy concerns.

In a previous Sunlight Foundation piece, National Policy Manager Emily Shaw explored systems set up within government to share data between agencies and with trusted researchers outside of government. Researchers who use government data containing private and sensitive individual information have to adhere to strict legal guidelines and are held liable when violating those guidelines. The interagency data sharing systems are also setup to ensure privacy is protected.

In Connecticut, after a family was murdered in a horrific scene by two men on parole, the idea that the murders could have been prevented if more information was available at the time of their parole board hearings caused state officials to spring to action and create a system that links many types of criminal history data for internal use. In another Sunlight Foundation post, Research Fellow Damian Ortellado explored the solution Connecticut came to in creating its newly linked system, which aims to empower law enforcement practitioners throughout the state to make good decisions and protect its citizens.

Further, public data has been used by private organizations and nonprofits to create analyses and interactive data visualizations that help to identify such things as racial disparities in incarceration and ways police can improve practices intended to keep neighborhoods safe. The Burns Institute, for example, created an excellent tool last year that allows people to see how many juveniles are detained in each state. The tool combines juvenile crime data with census data to help people understand the rate at which minority children find themselves in jail.

In an upcoming post, Sunlight will look at how data collected and made open by major police departments around the country have improved and in some cases drastically decreased stop and frisk practices.

Cost-saving measures, alternatives to incarceration and an increase in public safety are all reasons for creating better access to and knowledge of the criminal justice data that exists. If any of the data or the issues mentioned here interests you at all, please visit the Sunlight Foundation’s criminal justice inventory to see what might be out there.


Firing Back: Former Putnam Commissioner Sues County, Odell for Old Job Back | The Examiner News

Firing Back: Former Putnam Commissioner Sues County, Odell for Old Job Back | The Examiner News.

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Keepin’ the Lights On by Jeff Green – GoFundMe

Keepin’ the Lights On by Jeff Green – GoFundMe.


On this Thanksgiving Morning I have much to be thankful for. This community of support has been tremendous and really, I love you all.

We still have a little way to go until we’re out of the dark but I’m certain we can achieve the goal.


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Call the FCC Commissioners | Free Press

Call the FCC Commissioners | Free Press.

Call the FCC Commissioners

President Obama just issued a clear and powerful statement of support for real Net Neutrality, one that left no wiggle room or confusion about where he stands. He urged the FCC to reclassify broadband under Title II — exactly what we’ve been calling and fighting for.

The president’s statement was clear:

“I am asking the Federal Communications Commission to answer the call of almost 4 million public comments, and implement the strongest possible rules to protect Net Neutrality.”

We need to make sure the FCC hears the president’s message loud and clear.

Pick up the phone. Call the FCC commissioners and demand REAL Net Neutrality.

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SIMPLE Solar Balance of Systems (BoS)

SIMPLE Solar Balance of Systems (BoS).

“Between 2008 and 2012, the price of sub-10-kilowatt rooftop systems in the U.S. decreased 37%, but 80% of that cost decline was due to decreasing solar PV module costs. Total soft costs—including customer acquisition; installation labor; permitting, inspection, and interconnection (PII); and margin and other associated costs—now make up approximately 70% of the total installed priced for a U.S. residential PV system.”

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News That Matters – The Kent Stormwater Edition


If you live in the Town of Kent (Lake Carmel, Kent Cliffs, etc.,), you care about the environmental health of your community and you can spare a few hours a month, the Town’s Stormwater Management Committee is looking for new members.

Stormwater. Sounds boring, I know! But it’s not and let me tell you why:

There is a direct connection between rainwater that flows across the land and the water in our wells, lakes and streams. You drink that water. You swim in that water! And you probably want that water to be as pure as possible.

For example, when you blow your cut grass into the street where do you think it goes? It just disappears? Nope. It flows downhill into our lakes causing algal blooms and poor overall aquatic health. And that engine oil you poured out behind the garage…?

This year the committee is going to identify so-far unknown sources of pollutants that are creeping into our lakes and waterways by using their investigative skills, mapping, GPS and other high-tech tools as well as the Olde Fashioned ones like their noses and eyes and that old-reliable, deductive reasoning.

They’re going to take their education campaign to […]