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Caseythoughts Meteorologically speaking, it's been a strange and variable summer, hasn't it?? The heat of May and June, the almost drought of July and now the tropical monsoons of August all combine to challenge us for superlatives and wondering what's next.

A friend asked me this morning 'Do you think it's climate change?' and I could only honestly reply that 'It's been an unusual season', thinking that it takes more than a couple of weird months to create a 'climate', but am willing to admit that it sure seems that we are dealing with an interesting series of 'unusual seasons'. The answer logically to 'what's next' would be winter, of course, assuming Ma Nature blesses us with a 'normal' autumn. A couple of shorter 'Thoughts' this week will avoid more talk of weather. I was always fond of Randy Travis' line about '...old men always talking about the weather and old women always talking about old men...'

I've been honored to call a local veterinarian my friend for a long time, even though I have not been an 'owner' of a domestic animal. Dr. Richard Orzeck is one amazing character, with a million stories, a love of animals that borders on legendary, and an author of no small talent. He has two lovely books previously published which are really essays on his experiences as a vet, while he and his spouse are also world travelers with hearts of gold. Although I had not seen him in awhile, he welcomed me last week on a sad occasion to his office. My partner had decided that it was time for her diminutive (and full of personality) feline, Dora (the Explorer), to be put down. Dora was now suffering (though from what is still conjecture) and the call was made to Dr. Orzeck who had been a 'family' doctor for years to many of Kate's animals. I had accompanied Kate to another euthanasia of a beloved cat (good ol' Dugan) several years ago, as well as the quiet demise of Annie, the One Eyed Wonder Dog, and knew it would be a tough time, lightened by the compassion of the Richard.

As planned, the anesthesia was applied (that feisty li'l devil needed extra doses, a tough little cat even to the end) and Doc helped all three of us through with quiet gentleness and caring words.

The reason I write this is not to recount that hour, or advertise the Doc (he already, over the years, has animals and humans who sing his praises like psalms in a very large parameter of our area) but to let you pet lovers know that he has written another book, a marvelous volume entitled 'Making The Decision To Euthanize A Beloved Pet', subtitled 'Helpful Guidelines To Assist Loving Owners Make The Best Choice At This Most Painful Of Times'. It's self-published by Perfect Love Publishing, and he has even introduced it with a Greek pet lover's epitaph from 300 BC. It is a masterwork of fact, experience and homily from over thirty years of experience with farm and family animals and animal lovers, and I think you will find it an amazing 'little' book that can enhance understanding not only our pets, but our selves as animal lovers (though Doc Orzeck will challenge you to know exactly what your pet actually thinks) and understanding our complex and almost genetic relationships with the four legged residents of our homes and lives. His down-home wisdom and humor, as well as his passion for his chosen lifework will be a reward for you as you read through this most unexplored topic that is so intrinsic for us humans. You'll love it. He's in Trumansburg.

Onto a couple of thoughts on a smaller scale. This probably won't work, but it doesn't hurt to daydream and speculate. I thought I'd bake the idea halfway (half-baked, you see) and find out if anyone thinks it worth exploring further.

Seems that our local transit system is not much different than many (most?) public transit systems in America: huge subsidies from local, state and national authorities to keep it barely operating with ever increasing subsidies and costs. Now, I'm all for mass transit, but I wonder if we're missing something, maybe even an opportunity to help it be more relevant, useful and even pay for itself, although that may be a long shot in thinking. Isn't part of our transportation 'clutter' (that's putting it mildly in some areas of Tompkins County) due to people using their private vehicles (POV from this point on...) for shorter runs, not necessarily to downtown Ithaca (the possibly misdirected focal point of our transit system)?

For instance, say, Lansing, Dryden, or Trumansburg: aren't there many people who drive less than a mile or two, say, to a drug store, a local grocery store or the Dollar Store for small items and small purchases? How are those 'smaller, shorter' transportation needs being met? Answer: Not at all, when the reality is that it may be that we need to adjust/focus to a 'smaller' reality that does not center on Green Street or Seneca Street, but on local 'main' streets, and in the process actually increase ridership while serving the needs of hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who only need a ride for a mile or two, and are not even being considered by 'mass' transit', thus forcing us to drive a mile or two for a few items.

Let me explain with an example or two. Say you live, maybe, two miles or so from the Lansing Market, or the Triphammer Mall. You are at your home, and decide you need to shop for a few items, would wish for a simpler means of transit to a market, but TCAT doesn't seem to make sense, even if it's available near your home (which is rare), nor is it sensible or convenient to wait an hour for each transit (OK, maybe less than that, but not much less). The bus on the outlying 'run' is three quarters empty most of the time, and doesn't drop you off or pick you up anywhere near to the Market or other merchant you would like to go to. So, you must jump in your POV (assuming you have one, which more than a few people I know wouldn't mind getting rid of it if it were possible, thus the profusion of short term car lending services), use up a bunch of gas in traffic, get what you need ( a few bucks worth of groceries, etc.) then reverse course in the same or worse traffic.

You would love to avoid this, but it continues to be the norm in this 'rural' community which touts bus service but which continues to be almost useless outside of the city limits to accomplish what it was meant to, which is to diminish traffic and provide convenience. I'd bet that at least a significant portion of our smaller traffic 'centers' (read: snarls, like Lansing at Triphammer Rd., Dryden's Route 13, Trumansburg's Main Street, the good old Octopus) is disproportionately represented by 'short trips' of less than five miles, and thus contributes to what TCAT was supposed to diminish and alleviate.

So, here's an idea that may be unworkable but we can speculate and turn over in our mind while waiting in traffic (I know, there are many who logically argue that we here in Tompkins County have no idea of what a 'real' traffic problem/jam is...). Much of the TCAT routes may be important but not heavily traveled. Semi-empty buses traveling up to twenty miles one way to bring a small number of working stalwarts to downtown Ithaca. To those riders, a ride to work is important and we don't want to downplay their importance in their economic importance. But their ridership is dwarfed by the increasing and incredible number of POVs on Tompkins County roads.

What would happen if TCAT looked at smaller, Gadabout-like vehicles to just run in the villages (say, Dryden, or Lansing on a test-basis?) on pre-determined, fifteen minute round trip village-only routes? Example: Dryden's Main Street is Route 13. Start, for example, from Agway to the Route 13/38 stoplight (giving you a short, quick ride to shops, the bank, post office and drug store, not to mention four eateries), then the turn north up 13 giving you a stop at senior housing, ShurSave, Kinney, more eateries, a convenience store, Dollar store laundromat, Tompkins Trust and TC3. This would form a loop around to Poet's Landing, Dryden Central School and then back to Main Street. A fifteen minute loop which could serve a large part of the village and I think possibly cut down on a goodly amount of short and wasteful POV trips that force people to use their vehicle because of no other convenient transportation to pick up a prescription, do banking, pick up a quick meal or cup of coffee, do laundry or visit a friend.

Could it be done for a dollar ticket (round trip?) or even booklets of coupons like used to be done for the Ithaca trolley years ago? That quick trip in Dryden to Clark's, Kinney's, Rite-Aid, Community Cafe, or Southworth Library could be accomplished with a minimum of hassle (have you experienced that mess at 13/38 corner throughout the day?) and I'll bet the fare would be less than the aggregate cost of jumping in your vehicle for that short trip. The route can be tweaked or modified, maybe even two shuttles being operated 'opposite' each other during higher volume times, to cover a little more of the village residential areas, etc.

I used Dryden as an example because it most easily comes to mind as a workable example that could be experimented with on a compact village basis. It can be reworked and adjusted accordingly with some imagination in Lansing, Trumansburg, or other little county entities to extend the idea and make it feasible. I opined on my radio program years ago that when the county consolidated its transit system (Cornell, city and county) that they should build three Park and Ride facilities on East, South and West Hills as gathering points for commuters and have those shuttles run down to the city in fifteen minute intervals to reduce traffic and actually live up to the moniker 'convenient' for the commuter from outlying areas and reduce the excuses that rural commuters had for using their own POV. Those Park and Rides would be kind of collection pods which could keep a lot of POV traffic out of the city center and still be radically convenient without totally eliminating POV usage, just limiting the POV to the outskirts of the city.

Routes 13, 96, 79, 89 and 34 are being stressed and overburdened beyond capacity and the condition of those highways are being stretched to their limit, all to the detriment of our vehicles' usable life as well as fuel consumption (which is going to become more dear, as any observer of international tensions can attest to, regardless of how many electric vehicles Tompkins county's lone auto dealer can sell). One other advantage of the idea of 'village transit' would most certainly be the additional patronage of village residents of their local merchants, who would benefit from our purchases, that quite frequently go to the 'big box' retailers who are supposedly so 'convenient' and less expensive, when in reality the trip to the larger retailers near downtown actually are costing us more when we take into account these excessive trips that waste resources and time in travel. 'Shop local' may never ring truer, but we won't have this unless we say 'yes' to broader thinking and possibilities. Asking local store owners in the villages about an idea of this type might be an interesting and revealing conversation. ______________________

Sooooooo... US Representative Chris Collins has suspended his campaign for reelection due to his indictment by federal prosecutors, allegedly using insider information to quickly dump his stock in a company that he served as a board member. Phone calls to his son and father in law, as well as to certain staffers, warned them of a potential financial disaster when he learned that Innate, the company in which he held a large number of shares and served on the board of directors, had been informed that a drug trial of their only product had failed miserably and the product was a failure. The drug, the company and its stock were worthless, but the inside information not released to the public enabled Collins to sell his own shares and family's shares before the public was aware of the debacle.

It's known as insider trading, in polite company. I have a different word for it. What, you may ask, is a congressman doing on the board of a publicly traded company? Not only that, but what was this congressman doing serving on a committee that has decision making power over what drugs can be sold to the public (Energy and Commerce Committee)? He actually helped pass legislation this year which speeds up drug approval process for companies such as Innate, the same company he helped run and owned stock. This is as dirty politics and business as you could imagine, even in the early part of the 20th century when many members of Congress were on the take with railroad, oil and timber companies.

He's being investigated by the House Ethics Committee (these's an oxymoron for those who are cynical) and has been forced off the Energy and Commerce Committee, but guess what? He can be indicted on federal charges of insider trading, can be impeached or reprimanded for ethics violations, but while (get this) US Senators are prohibited from serving on the boards of publicly traded companies, no such rule applies to the House of Representatives (they have conveniently declined to consider such legislation for decades). No such rule applies to the House. This representative of western New York, holder of his constituents' trust, said: "The charges that have been leveled against me are meritless and I will mount a vigorous defense..." Leave it to the mainstream media to emphasize that Collins was among the first supporters of Trump's candidacy, as if that were the real story.

The real story, I think, might lie in a story which ran on the same page and the same day as the skulduggery of Collins' insider trading indictment. The headline was: 'French Freedom Fighters Press For the Rights of Parisian Rats'. Sub-headline: 'Rodents Overrunning City of Lights Have Their Defenders...Rat-Proachment'. The population of rats in gay-Paree has apparently reached a tipping point (something like one rat for every one point eight residents) and videos of hordes of rats swarming on the streets, in dumpsters, etc., are going viral, all the while animal rights activists are crying 'foul' about efforts to trap, poison or otherwise eradicate the furry, disease-ridden mammals. This appears worse then Ithaca's raccoons in the 80's, with much the same outcry.

Looking at the Collins headlines/photos side by side with the Parisian rat story made me think either that one of the rats got away from Paris and was residing south of Buffalo (or in the hallowed halls of Congress), or maybe we could just ship Collins in a strait jacket to Paris, let the rat loose in the Parisian sewer and hope the rat lovers lose the battle to poison the marauders, allowing true justice to be done to the two legged rat we have shipped from the American Congressional delegation, with or without a trial on insider trading charges. Blind justice, indeed. Maybe just poetic justice. Couldn't happen to a nicer rat. And the media wonders why we Americans (or the French, I speculate) so distrust, dislike and despise Washington and its nest of rats on Pennsylvania Avenue (both ends of that lovely thoroughfare). Paris ain't got nothin' on us.

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