Author: Faheem Haider

New York IS a Referendum State — In Local Government

This post, written by Dr, Gerald Benjamin, was originally published in Rockefeller Institute of Government’s blog. It is reposted here with permission.

After receiving a consultant’s report that the town’s highway garage was unsafe and near collapse, the governing board of the northeastern Onondaga County town of Cicero voted earlier this year to replace it. The estimated cost was $9,894,353. The decision had been avoided in the past, the need was great, leadership was willing, and the time seemed as ripe as it was likely to get. Town finances had been stabilized; Cicero is not among localities identified by the state comptroller as under “fiscal stress.” Interest rates are still low, especially for municipalities.

The plan was to borrow the money for the garage over 30 years. The average price for a house bought in Cicero in 2015 was $175,696. Without figuring in recent effects of changes in values, the annual tax impact of the project after the first year on this average priced house would come to $42 annually (about an initial 4 percent increase in a homeowner’s yearly town taxes). Things seemed all set. Continue reading

On the Trump Administration’s Impact on Higher Education in the Hudson Valley

Guest post by Glenn Geher, Professor and Chair, Department of Psychology, and Founding Director of the Evolutionary Studies Program, SUNY New Paltz.

My Bronx grandma, Pearl Trilling, was fond of reminding me that experience was often the best teacher. “You’ll really understand Glenn,” Grandma Trilling would say, “when the shoe pinches you.”

Image: Wikicommons

My experience through the years has confirmed the observation that people rarely care much about a problem until they are directly affected. When the shoe pinches you, that’s when you care.

To say the least, the shoes Donald Trump is trying to make America wear are pinching lots of people, in lots of place, in lots of ways. Think immigration. Think health care. Think the environment. Elsewhere, I’ve spoken out on all of these issues. But because I work in higher education, I feel the pinch there directly.

A few weeks ago, I was informed about an international boycott on academic conferences in the USA – supported by thousands of academics from all around the world (as reported in Times Higher Education). The abortive executive order banning Muslims from seven nations, among other presidential actions, has led scholars world-wide to organize to take a stand against what is happening in our country. (Thankfully, that order, as well as a more narrowly focused redo, has thus far been stopped in its tracks by the courts.)

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Cutting Arts Funding Will Hurt Our Communities and Local Commerce

Sketches for “Jam City”, a 2013 collaborative design project re-imagining Newburgh, at the Boys & Girls Club of Newburgh

The Hudson Valley is arguably the birthplace of arts in America. Last week, in a Poughkeepsie Journal op-ed, writer Sandi Sonnenfeld convincingly argued that the Trump administration’s proposal to eliminate the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA), along with the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) would have massive negative consequences for the reemerging arts communities here, where it all began.

Sonnenfeld, who lives in Poughkeepsie, cited a 2014 Benjamin Center study that examined the economic impact of arts and culture in the Mid-Hudson Valley, defined as Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Sullivan, Rockland, Ulster and Westchester Counties. She wrote:

“The elimination of federal funding for the arts and humanities is especially problematic for those of us who live in the Hudson Valley. According to a study conducted by SUNY New Paltz’s Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach [now the Benjamin Center], Mid-Hudson arts and culture organizations attract 2.6 million day visitors and 1 million overnight visitors to the region for cultural events, injecting $498 million directly into our local economy every year. The local arts scene also directly and indirectly employs nearly 5,000 residents. In Dutchess, Ulster and Orange counties, Arts Mid-Hudson helps provide grants to 393 organizations and individual artists. Guess where the majority of Arts Mid-Hudson’s funding comes from? From the New York [State] Council for the Arts (NYSCA), which is funded by New York state and yes, the NEA.”

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On President Trump and Trumpism: A Roundtable Discussion at SUNY New Paltz

Last week, the Department of Political Science and International Relations at SUNY New Paltz convened a roundtable discussion on the state of the Trump presidency a little more than two weeks in. Clocking in at just over an hour, the panel discussion and ensuing conversation with the audience set the context for where we are and where we might be going. The take-away was that one possible solution to Trump and his ambiguities lies in an institutional response to Trumpism, and that audience members might best channel their energies to directed political organization and action, including running for office, as a means to confront and resist the politics of prevarication and anti-democratic calumny over the next 4 years.

Photo credit: KT Tobin

The panel, composed of Nancy Kassop, Stephen Pampinella, Daniel Lipson, and Gerald Benjamin, offered views grounded in the ethic of resistance and response, not reaction. The discussion was organized around questions posed by moderator Scott Minkoff. With particular attention to institutional dynamics, panelists offered their views on domestic government and politics, international relations, and environmental politics. The discussion focused in particular on two dimensions: Trump’s political strengths and weaknesses, and the institutions and industrial and populist partisans that are now organizing in opposition to the president’s inarticulate, inchoate arch-conservative, corporate-friendly policy agenda.

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Introducing Mid-Hudson Currents

Mid-Hudson Currents is the SUNY New Paltz Benjamin Center’s newly launched regional forum for considering with you the governance, policies, politics, social institutions, and culture of our Hudson Valley region, and its communities.

Mid-Hudson Currents will be evidence based, rigorously analytical and thoughtfully critical. We seek to provoke thinking and discussion with data you may not have seen, considered with care for their regional, statewide and national implications. We will link the research we have recently done, or are in the midst of doing, to breaking news or ongoing stories of regional importance while remaining committed to methodologically-sound, locally-focused inquiry. Always, we will seek to identify best practices and advance the public interest.

Additionally, Mid-Hudson Currents will draw upon the diverse research programs of SUNY New Paltz faculty across the range of disciplines, with particular attention to work that considers social and political phenomena that may challenge conventional thinking and accepted norms.

We will start by communicating weekly. Over time we  will extend our reach to include interviews, round table talks with local and regional leaders, and the work of the path-breaking innovators among us.

We invite you to the conversation. As we engage each other, we will shape the ways our local communities and region may best respond to the challenges we face as New Yorkers, Americans, and citizens of the world.

Join us.

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