The Week: What Caught Our Eye

December 18, 2021

An evergreen tree in the snow lit with Christmas lights and mountains in the backgroundAll is calm, all is bright. (Nancie Battaglia)

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

We bring good tidings to you and those you love. We sure could use a little Christmas right this very minute, and a little more goodwill, too.

THIS WEEK IN NEW YORK, Gov. Kathy Hochul issued an executive order temporarily requiring vaccinations or masks for people in indoor public places. To this smart, sane step, some politicians immediately expressed defiance. They note, quite correctly, that some local governments don’t have the resources to enforce such a mandate, but they mistake the mandate as the enemy. The enemy is the virus that thus far has killed 800,000 Americans, including, tragically, an 18-year-old high school student from Queensbury, N.Y. The enemy is the virus that is surging in New York again, that has brought health care institutions to their knees, that has shut down businesses, schools and universities, dimmed the lights on Broadway again, sidelined scores of NFL and NBA players and forced the cancelation of games and holiday gatherings.

This is a time for leadership and courage. Ignore the defeatists who dwell on what might not work, what cannot be done. Instead, tell us what you can do, what you will do, and what we can do together.

Warren County has been a leader from the start. It set the standard for local governments with daily COVID reports to the public, pressed New York State to open and then reopen a mass vaccination clinic in Queensbury, launched the first local testing and vaccination program and teamed up with Washington County on a public education drive. It has been a statewide leader in high vaccination rates. And it did all this with the same constraints on resources that other counties had.

As Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (not the justice, his dad) wrote: “Have the courage to act instead of react.” (He also said memorably: “Even a dead fish can go with the flow.”)

AS THE HOLIDAYS DRAW NEAR IN THIS unsettled year, we’re reminded by Jimmy Finch that simple acts of kindness can spread so much light in even the darkest of places. Who is Jimmy Finch? He’s just a man with a grill, some meat and a moral compass that pointed him to Mayfield, Ky., nearly two hours from home, to set up and feed the people working day and night to recover from the devastating tornado that swept through last weekend. “Everybody's talking about they're sending up prayers and, you know, their well wishes and everything. You know, folks can't eat no prayer,” he told a Cincinnati TV station. “You gotta put something in their stomach. Give them something to hold on to.” This holiday season and beyond, let’s all try to be a bit more like Jimmy Finch.

WHY SIENA IS EXCEPTIONAL: The enrollment deadline had come and gone, and Das Nobel had missed his chance. Or so he thought. When Siena College made an exception for him, he said, “I was the happiest kid in town.” This week, Nobel and his wife, Nipa, the founders of the technology company MTX Group, donated $35 million to fully fund a new science building at Siena, the largest gift in the college’s history and among the largest ever to any college in New York.

PLAY IT FORWARD: When money’s tight at school — and when is it not? — arts programs often suffer. Kids who might benefit intellectually and socially from learning how to play a musical instrument never get the chance to hold one. Enter We Are Instrumental, a nonprofit founded by a Skidmore College music professor and Southern Adirondacks school band director. It’s distributing nearly 150 trumpets, trombones, saxophones and cellos to Adirondack school districts free of charge. The instruments were donated by a Kingston, N.Y., music store that is closing after 131 years in business.

BAR OF A DIFFERENT SORT: James Kimball Gannon was born in Brooklyn to an Irish American family from Fort Ann, N.Y. After college at St. Lawrence and a stint working for the power and light company in Greenwich, N.Y., he made his way to Albany Law School in pursuit of what at the time was his dream to practice law. And after passing the bar, Kim Gannon did just that: He practiced briefly in Ballston Spa. But his real calling was music. In 1943, with his fellow St. Lawrence grad, composer Walter Kent, he wrote “I'll Be Home for Christmas,” among the greatest holiday standards, and a gift that keeps on giving (subscription required) to St. Lawrence.

SOUND OF STARDOM: Danni Bouchard, a graduate of Shenendehowa High School in Clifton Park, is a Grammy Award nominee. She collaborated with DJs David Guetta and Afrojack to voice “Hero,” nominated in the category Best Electric/Dance. It was the singer’s first electronic feature.

HOLIDAY CHEER: Tammy Loya had an extraordinarily generous idea — get a group of friends and colleagues together for breakfast with the caveat that each bring $100 and leave the change for a tip. Her party of 15 paid $1,500 on a $165 bill at the Ugly Rooster in Malta, N.Y., with the rest going to their server who, unbeknownst to them, had learned recently that her husband has cancer. “We were in the right place at the right time,” Loya told the Albany Times Union.

HAT'S OFF TO HATTIE’S: At Hattie’s restaurant, charity was always a main, never a side dish. Hattie Moseley Austin established the monument to southern cooking in Saratoga Springs in 1938 and even as she packed the place with paying customers, she always had a place at her table for people down on their luck, out of a job, or without a home. Her charity abides: The owners are now giving their high school employees a warm meal and a place to do their homework before the doors open each night to customers – and paying them for their time.

LIMITING HIS TERM: Richard Gottfried was first elected to the New York Assembly while attending Columbia Law School in 1970. Before that, he managed the presidential campaign at Stuyvesant High School for his friend Jerry Nadler, now in the U.S. House. It’s safe to say politics is in his blood. The longest-serving member in the history of the Assembly, Gottfried, who represents the West Side of Manhattan, said he intends to retire at the end of his term.

CHRISTMASSSSSSSS VISITOR: A family in South Africa had just finished decorating the Christmas tree when one member noticed the family’s cats acting strangely and assumed there might be a mouse hiding inside. If there had been a mouse, chances are it would not have survived an encounter with the real object of the cats’ interest — a boomslang, which in addition to its wicked-cool name is also the most venomous snake in South Africa.

THE MUSIC LIVES: Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Don McLean is celebrating the 50th anniversary of his smash hit ballad “American Pie” with a tour that includes a June stop in Albany, N.Y. At 8½ minutes, the song, released in October 1971, was the longest ever to reach No. 1 until Taylor Swift’s 10-minute “All Too Well” recently supplanted it. Local legend has it that McLean wrote “American Pie” — or at least part of it — at a bar in Saratoga Springs, a notion McLean has denied.

HIT THE SLOPES, EVERYBODY: From CNN to Forbes and Marie Clare, the national media seem to be in need of a ski vacation, judging by the coverage extolling Lake Placid, the Adirondacks and Vermont as perfect places for winter break.

NO TOBACCO, NO EXCEPTIONS: Brookline, Mass., just west of Boston, is taking a novel approach to stopping tobacco use before it starts — it has imposed a ban on the sale of tobacco and vaping products to anyone born after January 1, 2000. You read that correctly. Federal law permits the purchase of tobacco and vaping products when a person turns 21, but in Brookline, no one born this century will ever be allowed to purchase those products in the city limits. A group of convenience store owners is suing to overturn the law, which got the blessing of the commonwealth’s attorney general.

Bicycles parked in the snow with Christmas lightsThe bikes of summer sit idle now, in watchful wait for spring and plow. To soar again on roads and trails with rubber tires that act as sails. (Nancie Battaglia)

LOFTY ASPIRATIONS: The Patagonia brand is associated with high-quality, pricey outdoor apparel, gear for the serious mountaineer that also happens to look great. It also has aligned itself unapologetically with environmental causes, supporting grassroots activists and taking stands on contentious political issues. Its CEO, Ryan Gellert, told The New York Times that he constantly wrestles with the tension between operating a for-profit business and living up to its conservationist ideals. He welcomes the scrutiny, which he said contributes to improvement, and said ultimately Patagonia’s legacy will be “operating from the bowels of business and proving that businesses can exist to do more than maximize the wealth of their owners, really consistently proving that in ways big and small over decades.”

BIG HONOR FOR TOP CAT: For two decades, Rick Murphy has been a fixture on summer evenings at Joe Bruno Stadium in Troy, keeping an eye on things and making sure the fans who came out to watch the Tri-City ValleyCats had a great experience. He wanted to keep them coming back, and they have, consistently, nearly 3 million of them over the years. He is among five people — the other four are former New York Yankees — who will be inducted next year into the New York State Baseball Hall of Fame. “You won’t find a more hard-working or nicer man in baseball than Rick,” Hall of Fame executive director Rene LeRoux said in announcing the selection. We second that. Congratulations to a very deserving honoree.

YOU CAN BET ON IT: New Yorkers will be allowed to place bets online very soon, probably in time for the NFL playoffs in January. For years, New Jersey racked up millions in tax revenue as New Yorkers crossed the border to place bets. Now late-to-the-game New York is playing catch up, imposing a 51% tax rate on online betting organizations’ profits.

WAIT FOR IT: Heineken is offering to take the edge off holiday shipping delays by offering free beer to people who can prove their gift won’t make it on time because of supply chain disruptions.

CHRISTMAS CHEER? FUGGEDABOUTIT: CenturyLink, a telecommunications company, crunched some numbers and came up with a ranking of states from most Christmas spirit to least. This year New York, though surrounded by states that fared well, ranked last. Hey, CenturyLink, we got your Christmas spirit right here!

LIVES

ANNE RICE wrote more than 30 novels, including the best-selling “Interview With the Vampire,” her first. Critics didn’t love it, but readers did, fueling a series of gothic romance sequels that became known as the Vampire Chronicles. She died at 80 of complications from a stroke.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

"Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it most."
—    Ruth Carter Stapleton

THE SIGNOFF

WWW.IMDUMB.COM: A website called Rent-A-Hitman advertises its services for any number of miscreants, with a promise that all transactions are covered by HIPPA — the Hitman Information Privacy & Protection Act of 1964. A Michigan woman just became the most recent of several Rent-A-Hitman “clients” who've been found guilty of using the site to solicit a murder.

HOLIDAY BREAK: We’re giving our dedicated Facing Out team a well-deserved holiday break so they can pour a little more cheer instead of poring over the news. We’ll see you next on Saturday, January 8, 2022. Our very best wishes for happy, safe, healthy holidays. Please know always we are so grateful for your readership, your suggestions and corrections, and your support.

THANK YOU to our contributors: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, John Brodt, Lisa Fenwick, Tara Hutchins, Nancie Battaglia, Claire P. Tuttle, Kelly Donahue, and Katie Alessi.

FACING OUT is what we do. We help companies, organizations and individuals work effectively with their most important external audiences – their customers, their shareholders, their communities, the government and the news media.  www.behancommunications.com

Facing Out features news and other nuggets that caught our eye, and that we thought might be of value to you, our friends and business associates. Some items are good news about our clients and friends, others are stories that we hope will leave you a bit more informed or entertained than you were five minutes ago. As always, we welcome your ideas and feedback. 

Let’s make it a conversationmark.behan@behancom.com

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