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Early Christmas wishes

October 7, 2011
By Alma Southmayd

While it's several months from Christmas, I thought an early wish list would be interesting. Here are some of my wishes for the area and the people inhabiting it.

For Adirondack Health: to have an overabundance of doctors to face the coming economic and demographic challenges (because I know the hospital is chronically understaffed and is likely to remain so).

For village and town governments: occasionally someone to run for mayor or supervisor who was born after the Kennedy administration. I am not suggesting that being older should be a disqualifier, but it would be nice to have someone in office who thinks there are different economic opportunities for the area other than tourism, mining and lumber. (While we're on that subject, even though no one weeps for the dismantling of the old dormitory on Mirror Lake, you have to ask yourself if the town really needs additional empty hotel rooms and a few additional low-paying jobs in a crappy economy. Can't some other business be thought up or encouraged?)

Also, it would be nice if there were two people running in every election and they came from opposite ends of the political spectrum. The choice of mayor, village board member, state senator or even school board member shouldn't be a fait accompli months before an election. I'm sure not everyone up here believes in the exact same thing and in the exact same solutions to the problems we face (I certainly hope not). There must be an odd Democrat or two in the area. Maybe even, dare I say it, a liberal?

For the various villages and towns: to have leaders who realize that you can fire someone for incompetence or dishonesty, even if they managed to avoid an actual trial or prison term. (A sidebar: Just because a district attorney refuses to prosecute because of weak or insufficient evidence, count yourself lucky, but don't spin it to seem like it exonerates you. It doesn't. Oddly enough, most people act like it does.) And leaders should realize villages and towns aren't run like feudal states or on the basis of one's likes and dislikes, and instead on the basis of laws, regulations and the odd court order.

For the APA commissioners, present and future: a sturdy suit of fire-resistant chain mail and the ability to make decisions without politics and personal biases getting in the way.

For the Hotel Saranac and its employees: a bright and prosperous future. It would be a terrible shame to allow the hotel to be shuttered and empty after all these many years of faithful service.

For the Department of Transportation: the many millions of dollars spent endlessly researching and promoting the chimera that is the "rooftop highway." There are least two major reasons it won't ever be built. First, its best shot to be built was the 1950s when the Eisenhower administration was funding the orgy of road building that lead to the interstate system. Second, the area where it would be built is still sparsely populated and is likely to remain so. Besides, there are roads, currently in existence, that need that money much, much, much more (especially Route 86 between Lake Placid and Saranac Lake, which needs more than just a beauty makeover). However, I suspect that Irene has bumped it down the list again. Spending the "rooftop highway" dollars on more worthwhile projects is something you might want to mention to our two current senators if you ever bump into them.

For the anti-railroadists: a clue. Neither the state nor local government will dig up the railroad tracks for three reasons: First, governments view this as a hard asset, and most governments are loathe to give up hard assets, especially ones they have spent money on in the past, however much they begrudge it. Second, where would the money to dig up the tracks come from? Certainly New York state is in no position to be helpful, and also North Elba has some grant money in hand for the recreation trail as is. And third, I suspect, somewhere deep in a dusty nook of the New York State Archives, which is occasionally disturbed by some poor solitary intern sent to blow off the dust, is an evacuation plan for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, etc. that utilizes the railroad (you know, in case the Soviets ever decide to invade).

For the towering mountain in our midst: lots and lots of snow and skiers this winter.

For the many victims of Irene: a series of warm and sunny days to rebuild the shattered and scattered pieces of your lives. When you rebuild, try to follow the spirit of the regulations and don't try take advantage of the temporary permit holiday put in place by Governor Cuomo, an action that will, I suspect, no matter how well intentioned, come back and bite him in a delicate part of his body. Also remember that the permit process was designed, in theory, to assure that a reasoned plan was in place before a project went ahead.

Finally a wish for the wild things in this semi-wild place: for humans, when they are standing beneath the summer sun and listening to the beat of the rain-colored wings of the great blue herons, to the echoing call of the luminous blackbird or the clatter of the ungainly moose, to remember to respect the original inhabitants of the Adirondacks. Remember to resist the baser impulses of human nature, and in regard to the weak and powerless, listen to Lincoln's "better angels" and defend the wild things. Remember that most of us hope that the wild ones will be here long after man's monuments crumble to dust.


Alma Southmayd lives in Lake Placid.



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