Amidst all of the hand wringing about the Presidential election, both its process and outcome, we can note that Hudson conducted a little experiment in democratic direct action that at the local level will likely produce interesting positive results in the future. Continue reading
For centuries private and institutional libraries have been about the storage and retrieval of information on paper. They were hushed spaces where stern librarians guarded the paper and maintained the decorum. Even public libraries bent towards this model. But, today, public libraries throughout the US, in fact around the world, have transformed themselves in the span of fifteen to twenty years. They embraced the internet, have become a key access point, and expanded into a place for engagement, learning, and creation. This transformation occurred based on the values held by libraries and their users, direct input from users, and the library staff’s guidance and experimentation.
(download a PDF version of this essay here)
Ever since the completion earlier this year of the linear park between Warren and State streets (beginning across the street from the Hudson Opera House) I have mostly marvelled at the ungainly sight of the access ramps. Finally last night I walked from State to Warren along this park. What struck me was the walkway which is composed of raised squares roughly 4 inches on a side spaced approximately 3/4 inch apart with loose gravel between. It is hard to imagine a wheelchair making its way along this surface.
Is This ADA Accessible?
A quick search for ADA guidelines brought up this picture with the notes: “Cobblestones and other rough surfaces make wheelchair travel difficult and uncomfortable….. Avoid materials or construction methods that create bumpy and uneven surfaces in areas and along routes required to be accessible.”1
- http://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/buildings-and-sites/about-the-ada-standards/guide-to-the-ada-standards/chapter-3-floor-and-ground-surfaces [↩]
The Hudson Area Library History Room sponsored a lecture April 2, 2015 by Allison Guertin Marchese based on her book “Hidden History of Columbia County New York” (The History Press, 2014. Available locally at The Spotty Dog Books & Ale 440 Warren St).
Ms. Marchese touched on many topics: healing waters in New Lebanon that supported a 300 room hotel, sulfur springs in Stottville, the Shakers, Electric Park, interesting people in the area, a fairly extensive comment on Edna St. Vincent Millay, the poet and finally the library’s current home at 400 State St.
(The audio is captured on an iPhone. Serviceable, but at times a bit noisy with rustles and comments)
Hudson, Business and Government, Will Be Demoted in Web Search Results
The trend of people accessing the web predominantly on their mobile devices is so strong that Google has announced that as of April 21, 2015 websites that are not mobile ready will be downgraded in their search findings. Google offers a guide and mobile responsiveness test site so that you can test you own site. Google is taking this step because an ever increasing portion of all visits to websites are being done on smart phones (iPhones and Android predominantly). They do not want to provide search results that lead to websites that are unusable on these devices.
Businesses and other institutions in and around Hudson are not well prepared for this. Most websites are virtually unusable on smart phones like iPhones and Androids. The text is tiny and finding anything requires much pinching and scrolling.
Here are some local websites that are mobile phone ready:
Here is a sampling of websites that will be downgraded.
What to Do?? A Few Suggestions
If you have a WordPress site there are fairly simple steps to make most mobile responsive. You can contact me for more about that. Check out the WPTouchPro plugin.
For others, go to your web developer and ask them to fix the site.
If you are thinking about redesigning or creating a new website start your design work on the scale of mobile devices. Think about the information your customers most need to know (e.g. location, hours of operation, reservations, telephone number, etc.) and make sure that is either on the home page or very easily accessed at the top of a menu. Make telephone numbers active so that customers can just click on the number to call you.
Don’t be taken in by fancy visual design.Make sure your developer optimizes every image. Any image over 100KB is too big. Most should be 30-40KB. Otherwise your customers are staring at their phone wondering why it takes so long to load your site.
Think of your website as an extension of the sign in front of your business. Customers don’t expect the sign to tell the whole story, but they do want to know how to find the front door.
I attended a meeting at CGCC Thursday 3/19 where the head of the NY State Broadband Program talked about the $1 billion initiative to bring true broadband to the whole state. 100 MBS everywhere excepting 25 in some really remote rural areas by 2019. The program will try to leverage private investment on a 1:1 basis.
Mention was also made of the $2 billion Smart School Initiative that includes access for libraries and other public uses.
A positive move by state government.
Our local program, Perfect Ten for teen girls held a fundraiser (Saturday 3/21/15 at Hudson Opera House) for their trip to Washington DC coming up in April.
The girls of Perfect Ten have been dreaming and working for peaceful resolutions. They believe that if you work hard enough on the things you believe in, dreams become reality. They want to see an end to bullying, hurtful arguing and unnecessary conflicts. As they practice peaceful resolutions they are folding 1,000 cranes for peace to bring to Washington DC.
More information and an opportunity to donate is on their site:
Photos from the event
Internet access continues to be a problem for many in Hudson and Columbia County. It is expensive and slow.
There have been no substantive improvements in broadband service here in the nearly six years since we moved here. We continue to see the insulting advertising by Mid Hudson Cable. They may have the “fastest connection” in the county, but they are sadly slow by any world standard. Continue reading
The recent report1 by law students from Hofstra that addresses in part the weighted voting system in use for the city’s Common Council has engendered considerable discussion. The Register Star’s John Mason offered up, “Report questions city’s weighted-vote system”2. Our local radio station WGXC held a discussion between Victor Mendolia and Common Council President Don Moore on the topic3
.Much of the discussion has focused on the somewhat abstract questions of the constitutionality of a system that appears to violate the “one person one vote” principle. The issues become crystal clear once you put numbers into play and see how this creates a pernicious environment for governing the city.
Hudson Population by Ward (2010)
First Ward: 770
Second Ward: 1,281.
Third Ward: 1,142.
Fourth Ward: 725.
Fifth Ward: 2,485
Weighted Voting Power by Alderman
President, Common Council – Don Moore – 190
Alderman, 1st Ward – David Marston – 95
Alderman, 1st Ward – Nicholas Haddad – 95
Alderman, 2nd Ward – Abdus S. Miah – 185
Alderman, 2nd Ward – Tiffany Garriga – 185
Alderman, 3rd Ward – John K. Friedman – 180
Alderman, 3rd Ward – Henry A. Haddad – 180
Alderman, 4th Ward – Alexis Keith – 95
Alderman, 4th Ward – Ohrine Stewart – 95
Alderman, 5th Ward – Robert J. Donahue, Sr. – 364
Alderman, 5th Ward – Bartholomew F. Delaney Jr. – 364
Total votes = 2,028. A simple majority is 1,015.4
The votes of Donahue and Delaney constitute 72% of a simple majority, yet they are only 18% of the membership of the council.
A Little Role Play
Now just imagine yourself as an Alderman sitting in the room with the ten other members of the Common Council. How much attention would you pay to the opinions of a person with 95 votes compared to a person with 185 or 364 votes knowing that you need 1,015 votes for simple majority? It is obvious that the opinions of Donahue and Delaney are far more important in the practical matter of passing legislation than Marston, Haddad, Keith, or Stewart. In fact, Delaney, Donahue, and any two of the Alderman from 2nd or 3rd Wards or the Common Council President can pass legislation. In a very real way the collective opinions of Donahue and Delaney on any matter pretty much set a boundary for what policies might get approved.5
This makes a mockery of the rules we presume when we enter a democratic institution. This is why one person one vote is important.
- http://goo.gl/r5XGyj accessed 09252014 4:20pm [↩]
- http://goo.gl/e4QDXw accessed 09232014 8:31pm [↩]
- The weighted voting system is arcane in the extreme. There are actually three different panels of weighted voting dependent on whether a simple, 2/3, or 3/4 majority is required to pass a motion. And there are more details about what constitutes a quorum under varying conditions. Here is the source: http://goo.gl/rvgp7y accessed 09252014 4:04pm [↩]
As an aside, applying this logic to the county, where the weighted system legitimately rules, it is obvious that the citizens of Hudson would be better served by having a single Supervisor who would have a very large block of votes rather than distributed across five Supervisors. [↩]
From the 8/19/14 Register Star article, “Two years on, still no sign or stone for Staley B. Keith” concerning a missing stone in Keith’s honor:
Hallenbeck said via telephone that, although it’s been two years since Staley Keith died, there have only been four or five months each summer to place the stone, since it couldn’t have gone in in the late fall or winter.
“We’re talking 10 months, not 24,” he said. “Everything we’ve had to consider, the logistics, the liability, making sure wherever it’s placed we’re not liable for an accident out there. I take full responsibility for it not being there.”
Really. Does planning and decision making stop in late fall and commence again in the spring?
Isn’t two years two years in our galaxy?