MEMBERS ATTENDING (21): Debbie Rodriguez, Bill Dowd, Murray Forth, Dick Drumm, Ray Hannan, Pat Bailey, Becky Raymond, Terry Brewer, Charlie Foote, Ron Annis, Roberto Martinez, Jim Leyhane, John Justino, Phil Kellerman, Peter Brown, Debbie Brown, Kevin Leyhane, Dean Calamaras, Doris Calamaras, Carol Orvis (by proxy), Tony Morris (by proxy).
GUESTS (1): Assemblyman Jake Ashby.
President Debbie Rodriguez called the Zoom meeting to order and noted the presence of a quorum.
• ZOOM SECURITY — Bill Dowd led a discussion on the security of our Zoom sessions, prompted by Becky Raymond experiencing an unwanted intrusion of a memorial service she recently attended via Zoom. The pros and cons of installing security (password protected calendar page, etc.) were considered, but the consensus was that since was have not had such a negative experience we will leave the access status as it is unless we have a breach.
• THANK-YOU NOTES — Bill reported that the club received thank-you cards from the two families who received gifts through our annual participation in the Circles of Mercy Adopt-a-Family program. Murray Forth reported receiving a thank-you note from the Mayfield, Kentucky, Rotary Club for the $500 we sent them in support of the post-tornado damage in that region.
• LEADERSHIP — Debbie Rodriguez reminded members of the four-session Multi-District Leadership Development workshops that begin February 7. Registration is available online, and the club will reimburse any costs incurred to members who register online and complete the session.
• SPEAKER — Jake Ashby, who represents the 107th District (Rensselaer County and parts of Columbia and Washington counties) in the State Assembly, was our guest speaker. He addressed a number of topics, including COVID’s effect on how business is conducted in the Legislature. That includes a lot of virtual meetings, limited-participant in-person sessions, etc. He said some other effects include the public not having the in-person access to legislators that it once had, although public hearings are in-person, and not being able to view the deliberative process.
Jake said the legislators’ relationship to the Governor’s Office is much improved since Kathy Hochul succeeded Andrew Cuomo. He said the new administration is at least open to discussions with the Republican minority “which almost never happened under Cuomo.”
During a Q&A session, Ashby said he is opposed to renewing the license for the controversial Dunn Landfill in the City of Rensselaer. He said the bipartisan consensus seems to be that the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) should reject an application to extend the timeline for operating the site. He explained that not only waste from the region is dumped there, but waste is trucked in from Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont.
Asked about staff size, Jake said he has two fulltime and one part-time staffers, the size limited by the $100,000 his office is allocated annually for staffing. He noted that many people in the Democrat majority are given staffing allowances of a half-million or more dollars, and thus have larger staffs.
• NEXT MEETING — We will meet via Zoom at 7 p.m. Thursday, February 3. Access will, as usual, be via the website calendar page link.