Local Politics: Sean Massey

Elections all over the country rewarded a progressive agenda. There was a big win for collective bargaining in Ohio. In Buffalo, Democrats unexpectedly won several local seats. The state of Maine repealed a Republican effort to deprive voters rights.

Yet, in Binghamton NY Republicans won the County Executive seat and two Council seats. Regrettably, among them was Sean Massey, Even a prominent Republican said, “I can’t believe he lost. Sean Massey really worked hard and did so much more than anyone else. We won’t see that again.” Sean, who is an assistant professor at Binghamton University, a restaurant owner (Tranquil Bistro), co-chair of the Commission on Downtown Business Development, and an active force in many local organizations, won the seat from Chris Papastrat by a mere 14 votes (if memory recalls) four years ago. On Election Day, Papastrat won it back by a much bigger margin.

Why? Elections are hard to analyze, but it may be that Sean got caught up in an anti-Ryan move, and certainly an anti-incumbent sentiment. Ryan’s tolerance of the Occupy Binghamton movement and earlier support of the Cost of War clock may have added up. According to one canvasser for the Working Families Party, “The voters in that district were angry, out of proportion to their concerns. One was the $3 garbage labels for oversized items, even though it is estimated that it has saved the city $70,000 in the first 9 months in user fees at the landfill. Another concern was money spent on the Southside Commons that some voters felt could have been better spent on road repair.” (The Commons was built by other grant money, however.) “Late ads from the challenger, Chris Papastrat, also seems to have riled people up,” according to this worker. Many voters were troubled by the all Democratic council and Papastrat is seen as an affable, benign, if not overly intellectual figure. And perhaps an anti-gay sentiment swayed some voters as well.

What is clear is that City Council has lost a unifying figure, a very smart policy person, and a true leader. Sean is not going away, but Binghamton has lost his considerable talents as a Council person and that’s really sad.

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The Truth About Fracking

Scientific American has published a lengthy article about the science of hydrofracking by Chris Mullins, “When multiple “fracks” are done in multiple, adjacent wells, however, the risk for contaminating drinking water may rise. If fracking is defined as the entire industrial operation, including drilling and the storage of wastewater, contamination has already been found.” You can see a preview at http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-truth-about-fracking but you must buy the magazine to read the whole thing. Mullins says that “Advanced tests, such as putting tracer chemicals down a well to see if they reappear in drinking water, could ultimately prove whether fracking is safe or not,” but regulators are not waiting for the science to come in.

Elsewhere in the magazine is an editorial saying the “fracking is getting ahead of the science” and the writer is urging New York where it is now under consideration, to “go slow” until the safety issues are resolved.

Cornell had released a narrated PowerPoint presentation on the SGEIS (Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement) on Hydrofracking. They have waded through the lengthy document to brief the public about the report. Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Community and Regional Development Institute at Cornell University has posted a new narrated powerpoint presentation that highlights the latest revisions to the SGEIS. The presentation can be found at http://bit.ly/SGEIS.


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Occupy Binghamton – October 15, 2011

Originally posted on my tumblr, on which I’m following the Occupy movements in upstate New York as closely as I can – http://mangiaratti.tumblr.com

On Saturday, October 15, the Global Day of action, about 300 people showed up to “Occupy Binghamton,” a protest that is part of a grassroots movement organized by a large group of people, including Binghamton University, Broome Community College, and the union AFO-CIO. The event began at the park located at the corner of Court St. and State St. in Binghamton, where participants gathered to hold signs for an hour before having a general assembly and citizen speak out.

Cars passing by honked their approval. Some participants could be overheard remarking to each other, “Don’t honk, join us.”

Click to read more and see photos.

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Having just returned from Occupy Wall Street – NYC, I have learned much about the capacity of people to cooperate and connect. Finally, I see the end to the tunnel of citizen apathy, diminished expectations and assured mutual self destruction. Finally, I see young, old, able, disabled, fortunate and unfortunate sharing, caring and working in the streets for a sustainable future. It is wonderful to witness and more wonderful to participate in.

The permit to occupy Liberty Park (Zuccotti Park) didn’t include P.A systems or megaphones. Thus, people use people to transmit speakers’ words and phrases during General Assembly each evening. The speaker stops often for various parts of the crowd to echo the last spoken clause, before resuming. The crowd reverberates the words and soul of the speaker. We are joined, listening carefully, responding carefully, caring considerably.
If a person wishes to speak or interrupt, he or she or she/he yells out “MIKE CHECK, MIKE CHECK, MIKE CHECK”. The crowd noise invariably lowers, and the new speaker begins to lead the discussion. Interruptions are infrequent, but honored. The mutual respect is palpable.

Each morning at nine, representatives from the various “working groups” sit cross-legged on the concrete under a large red sculpture that to me resembles a spinning gyroscope. Members of the clean-up crew weave around sleeping bodies and this small forum of consensus elected reps. Here too, one hears a muted “Mike check, Mike check, Mike check”. In this case, the caller can’t hear the current speaker and signals to the person to speak up. Courtesy abounds here. Many working groups report – Coordinating, Internet, Sanitation, Art and Music, Outreach, Logistics, Disabilities, Public Relations, Financial, etc. All are given opportunity to share their concerns, aspirations and daily accomplishments, but kept on point and within time constraints. These people are organizing for the long haul, but keeping the short term problems center stage. They sense time has arrived for them to build a movement from the ground up and are taking their role in it seriously.

It is time for us, however we can, to “MIKE CHECK, MIKE CHECK, MIKE CHECK” and take our time to speak out or, at least, make sure we hear and transmit the messages coming from this growing movement. We all can do something, here, there, at work or at play to keep the momentum growing. Wall Street is finally getting nervous and it’s not from regulators in NYC or Washington, DC. It from activated citizens who are standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the streets worldwide.

The “99%” have more power than the “1%” who own most of our country. We just need to collectively exercise that might through non-violence and focused action here and now.


Susquehanna River has a History of Flooding

Susquehanna River has a History of Flooding
by The Associated Press

An aerial photo shows the flood waters around West Branch of the Susquehanna River and Susquehanna River merging into one in Sunbury, Pa. Nearly 100,000 people from New York to Maryland were ordered to flee the rising Susquehanna River as the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee dumped more rain across the Northeast, closing major highways and socking areas still recovering from Hurricane Irene.

read the rest of the article at http://www.weather.com/outlook/weather-news/news/articles/Susquehanna-River-Has-A-History-Of-Flooding%20_2011-09-11

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Flood Pictures of Binghamton NY

9/8/11 Flood stage is at 12 feet but the river is now at 25 feet, give or take a few inches. Downtown Binghamton is deserted and 20,000 residents have been evacuated including those in neighborhoods in the First Ward, Conklin Ave., and the East Side.
The 2006 flood came up over one of the flood walls, which were built after the 1936 floods, and still holding, although several leaks were discovered. There was no repair of them after the 2006 floods. This river is spilling over the flood walls on both of the rivers that define Binghamton, but so far the walls have held and a bigger catastrophe has been avoided.

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Endwell Resident Among 15 Human Rights Activists Facing Trial

Endwell Resident Among 15 Human Rights Activists Facing Trial for Nonviolent Direct Action
the White House in Washington, DC

Washington, DC – Endwell resident Jack Gilroy is among 15 human rights advocates who are scheduled to go on trial on Tuesday, September 13, 2011 for engaging in nonviolent direct action at the White House in Washington, DC. Gilroy was one of the “White House 27,” a group of human rights advocates who staged a die-in on the White House sidewalk on April 10, 2011, to call on President Obama to shut down the notorious School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) and to put an end to the U.S. militarization of the Americas. Gilroy and his 14 co-defendants are facing the criminal charges of “failure to obey a lawful order” and “blocking and incommoding.” Despite facing a criminal trial, Gilroy is not intimidated.

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Mycelium Running in Rec Park

I walk in Recreation Park on Binghamton’s Westside every day. Lately I have been noticing a outburst of mushrooms in greater variety than I have ever seen in one place. There are 8-10 different kinds of mushrooms or “mycelium” as the scientists refer to it.

I met a Ukrainian woman picking the mushrooms as I was photographing them. “These very good to eat. This one poison. This one not poison, but not so good to eat.” I was in awe of her practical knowledge and her foraging for food, as her ancestors in the Ukraine probably have for centuries. Then she said, “It’s not hard, just look on internet.” OK, I surrender my sterotypes!

What’s most interesting though is what this growth means to the ecology of the Park. Paul Stamets is a passionate environmental advocate and mushroom researcher. You can go to http://www.YouTube.com and search on his name and listen to several of his lectures. One is called “Six Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World.” He explains that mycelium sends out little hair like root systems that can have a healing effect on earth, breaking down toxins, and opening pathways for plants, bugs, healthy bacteria, etc. He has done demonstrations of totally degraded construction soil contaminated by oil that have been restored by introducing mushrooms.

Stamets encourages people to spread mycelium around, especially in vacant lots or poor soil. One technique that I have tried is digging up the roots of the mushrooms to get those little hair like roots, not the mushroom itself, and then growing them for distribution around town. I use damp pieces of cardboard with some roots between each layer. The mushroom sandwich needs to be kept damp for several weeks. When it’s ready you will see streaks of white “running” up the cardboard. Then “infect” a site, which we did at the Laurel Community Garden for instance, so that the mycelium can start running where it’s needed.

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C-Squared: Collaborative Exhibit at Cooperative Gallery

Consider the Square. The current show at the Cooperative Gallery assembles diverse artwork in 6, 12 and 24 inch formats into groupings with surprising results. One collection (detail shown) connects different media all done in red.
Curator MaryRose Griffin invited all gallery members to submit works in squares and then created collections, one exploring textures, a concept, or color.
The Exhibit is open for two more weeks at the Cooperative Gallery 213 State St. It is open Fridays 3-6 pm and Saturdays 12-4 pm through July 30th.

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Rivercrest Houses Demolished

To our friends of Rivercrest:

It seems that Matthews’ lawyer recently persuaded the Town of Vestal to allow the demolition of four Rivercrest houses. Three were leveled last week. What a loss to the community!

Rivercrest’s status as Vestal’s one and only local historic district remains unresolved pending a court ruling. Until then Rivercrest should have enjoyed all the protections built into the town’s local law regarding historic preservation. In granting the demolition permits Vestal ignored all the requirements and regulations designed to protect its own heritage.

If you are as stunned, dismayed, outraged, or just plain puzzled why the Town would do such a thing, please write courteous letters to the members of the Town Board as well as to Town Clerk, Emil Bielecki. Tell them how you feel and request an explanation for what has happened.
To see photos of the demolition go to the Preservation Association website:

Please write to:

Supervisor Pete Andreasen Councilman Dave Marnicki
Councilman Francis Majewski
Councilman John Schaffer
Councilwoman Patty Fitzgerald Town Clerk Emil Bielecki

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