The Week: What Caught Our Eye

May 22, 2021

Good morning, Colleagues and Friends.

Retired Sen. Betty Little holding a street sign reading "Betty Little Blvd"THE BETTY: In the North Country, when local officials wanted to get important projects done, all roads led to Betty Little’s office. Now, Sen. Little, who retired in January after more than 30 years in public service at the state and local level, has a road all her own. This week, her colleagues and friends in Warren County paid tribute to her service by renaming West Brook Road in Lake George in her honor. The great thing about the new Betty Little Boulevard is the captivating view of the southern basin of Lake George as it spreads north to the mountains. The idea was that of Lake George Mayor Bob Blais, who at 50 years in office is the longest-serving mayor in the United States. Sen. Little joked that she never expected anything like a road to be named for her. After all, who wants anything Little? Well, it could also have been called the High Road.

POLITICS OF VAX: Hamilton and Warren counties continue to have some of the highest vaccination rates in New York State. And the national media are completely befuddled: Aren’t you folks rural Republicans? And aren’t you resisting vaccination? Last week, ABC News and Fox News reached out to Hamilton County Board of Supervisors Chair Bill Farber, who explained that North Country residents are working together to solve a community problem, protect each other, and get their tourism-dependent communities back on their feet. 

HOUSING SQUEEZE: A combination of pandemic-driven relocations, sustained demand for short-term rentals, lack of available building space and the expense of sprucing up old stock is making it harder to find housing, or to afford the housing that comes on the market, in many Adirondack communities. Rents and home sale prices are soaring, and local officials are worried that families with children will be pushed out, replaced by second homeowners and tourists renting for a few days at a time. “People want to be here, but they can’t find anything to rent,” Melinda Little, a village trustee in Saranac Lake, NY, told the Adirondack Explorer, “so they get completely discouraged and don’t end up staying here.”

AN ISLAND MAKES WAVES IN NEW YORK: A new island has opened on the Hudson River near lower Manhattan, and it’s a verdant beauty. Trees, flowers and grass abound across 2.4 acres that will host concerts and shows in several performance spaces, including a 687-seat amphitheater overlooking the water and the New York skyline. And to think local opposition almost scuttled it.

CAN YOU SMELL THE RAIN? Yes, you can. There’s a distinct odor in the air just before it rains – it’s ozone, the gas we associate with the layer of our atmosphere that protects us from too much sunlight. And you may detect other aromas during and after showers.

An outdoor patio dining area on a golf course, with mountains in the backgroundAN EAGLE IN TI: A spectacular fire destroyed the Ticonderoga Golf Course Club House in 2018, but now it’s back, a new destination for the Northern Lake George andTiCC_inside.jpeg Champlain Valley regions. The team behind the successful revitalization of Glens Falls’ Queensbury Hotel is managing the facility designed by Saratoga Springs architect Mike Phinney. The Lake George Mirror reports that  among its attractions is a restaurant and bar – both open to the public – named “Seymour’s,” in honor of the golf course’s designer, Seymour Dunn, a Scot who was head pro at Royal County Down in Northern Ireland, one of the oldest courses in the British Isles, and the designer of the Lake Placid Club’s golf course. 

A STEP TOWARD REVITALIZATION: Abandoned, underutilized and blighted industrial, commercial and residential properties scar communities and discourage investment, creating a downward spiral of neglect that feeds a sense of decline and despair, especially in densely populated areas where the effects are most acute. Communities increasingly are seeing the value in addressing these challenges incrementally, such as by creating neighborhood parks where families can feel safe letting their children play. The city of Schenectady and community partners are taking that approach in the Mont Pleasant neighborhood.

NOTHING BUT NET: Longtime basketball fans in New York’s Capital Region will instantly recognize the Fagan name. Chris Fagan is one of the best ever to play at Catholic Central in Troy, and his daughter, Kate, was a star at Niskayuna High who went on to play at the University of Colorado. Both were part of the inaugural class of the Capital District Basketball Hall of Fame, and Kate went on to a successful career in sports journalism, including a stint with ESPN. Her latest book, “All the Colors Came Out,” is a tribute to her father, who died of ALS in 2019, as well as a reflection on the work her mother, Kathy, did to nurture their family. The Times Union’s Joyce Bassett writes, “‘All the Colors Came Out’ is one of those books that will make you cry on one page and feel like you’ve learned something to improve your life on the next.”

A SIGN OF DIVISION: It seems not even “Jeopardy!” can escape the crucible of hyper-politicization. A returning champion ignited a social media-driven flareup — aren’t they all? — when he flashed what some viewers, including many former champions, thought was clearly a white supremacy sign when he was introduced at the start of his fourth episode, his third as defending champ. And like too many conspiracy theories, its adherents refuse to believe the evidence that suggests they’re completely wrong.

TAKE THE AFTERNOON OFF: An eye-opening report by the World Health Organization and International Labour Organization estimated that working long hours — 55 or more a week — led to 745,000 deaths from heart attack or stroke between 2000 and 2016. The report found that overworking increased the risk of heart disease by 42% and the risk of stroke by 19%. And the trend toward overworking is accelerating, with about 9% of the global working population burning the candle at both ends. Looking to reset and recharge? Many of us approach new tasks with a burst of energy, but sustaining that over time requires effort and mindfulness.

LIFE LESSONS: The best, most engaging journalism sheds light in hidden corners and brings new appreciation to people whose importance and contributions are easily overlooked. The 500 students at the private Sayre School in Lexington, Ky., attend classes on a campus with 10 buildings, all maintained by a team of five who whose small basement office is around the corner from the school’s audio-visual classroom studio, where students practice and learn about podcasting and other forms of storytelling. Eighth-grade podcasters Brennan Williams and Braeden Collett didn’t know much about the buildings and grounds team but thought they would have some interesting stories to tell, and their curiosity resulted in a podcast that was recognized as the best in the country by NPR. Next up: the cafeteria staff.

GOAL-ORIENTED: Junior Ruby DePalma is one of the top players on the girls’ varsity lacrosse team at Spencerport High School, near Rochester, NY. Her seven goals and six assists place her among the team leaders, and she’s attracting interest from collegiate programs. This despite being born with a right arm that stops at the elbow. “Are there any limitations? The answer is no,” her head coach, Trish Condon, told WROC in Rochester. “There’s nothing that I have asked of these players that Ruby can’t do.”

EYES ON THE SKY: Reports of UFO sightings — unidentified aerial phenomena in government parlance — typically are waved off as flights of fancy or the product of an overactive imagination, or dismissed as something easily explainable, such as a weather balloon or a rocket launch. But what about when those reports come from military pilots? If there’s something out there, Congress wants to know about it. “60 Minutes” correspondent Bill Whitaker did the reporting that has people buzzing about what’s in the sky, and why.

A FIGHT OVER LIGHTS: Holiday Lights in the Park is a popular annual tradition that draws tens of thousands of visitors who mosey through the winding roads of Albany’s Washington Park to admire the bright and colorful displays, and whose admission fees support the charitable efforts of the Albany Police Athletic League. To some who live near the park, the event also is a dangerous nuisance that causes traffic jams and make their holidays a lot less festive, with one resident calling it “a farcical nightmare.” The fracas has the attention of city officials, including the mayor.

RURAL ELECTRIFICATION 2.0: Politicians and policymakers in the 1930s recognized the importance of bringing electricity to rural areas as well as the reluctance of power generators to make the necessary investments without government intervention and support. The result was the Rural Electrification Act, which rapidly transformed the lives of farmers and other rural residents and businesses. Today, a similar push is taking shape around the availability of high-speed internet. It’s among the rare issues that has bipartisan agreement. “Our ability to diversify our economic base is dependent on modern infrastructure, and that includes broadband,” the chairman of a county board of supervisors in rural Iowa told The New York Times. “We can say, ‘Come and work here.’ But if we don’t have modern amenities, modern infrastructure, that sales pitch falls flat.”

A REVEALING DISPUTE: A 26-foot-tall statue of Marilyn Monroe in perhaps her most iconic pose — white dress billowing as she stands over a subway grate in “The Seven Year Itch” — was one of the hottest attractions in Palm Springs, Calif., when it was on display from 2012 to 2014. Officials in the desert resort town have announced plans to bring the statue back and put it on permanent display outside the Palm Springs Art Museum. Not everyone is thrilled, including the museum’s director.

THE QUEEN’S DEFENDERS: Lake George, the Queen of American Lakes, is legendary for its clean, clear water, and keeping it that way has long been a priority for people who recognize its vital importance to the region’s hospitality economy as well as to the value of the private properties that surround the lake. Failing or inadequate septic systems are the next target in lake protection, with funding available from New York State for property owners to fix or upgrade their systems and support from the region’s largest media organization to make septic inspections mandatory.

JEEP NATION: Jeeps have always been linked to adventure, authenticity and freedom. That’s why they’re coming to Lake George. In the first major Lake George Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau-assisted event since the pandemic, hundreds of Jeeps and their owners will be touring the Lake George area the weekend of June 18-20. After searching for two years for possible new venues around New York City and Long Island, organizers of the first Adirondack Jeep Invasion found Lake George the perfect spot to celebrate the 4x4 that won the war. Jeep fans aren’t alone in their assessment: Travel Off Path has just named Lake George one of the best lake retreats in the United States.

THE 411 ON THE 413: Herman Melville seems to have been first. Then Edith Wharton came. Then the Clarks, Sterling and Francine. And Norman Rockwell and James Taylor, of course. In the post-pandemic world, the Berkshires, always beautiful and bohemian, are attracting writers, artists, musicians and chefs in big numbers again. Maybe they’re coming for the charming “cottages,” the culture and the food, maybe the dispensaries and the scenery, or maybe all of it.

A SHEET OF PREVENTION: If you find a dryer sheet in the back of your mailbox, do your postal carrier a favor and leave it there (or, better yet, go ahead and put one in there yourself). The reason: they can prevent insects like wasps and yellowjackets from building nests inside.

ICE-BREAKER: An iceberg 80 times the size of Manhattan has broken free from a giant ice shelf in Antarctica’s Weddell Sea. It’s about 105 miles long and more than 15 miles wide. Scientists are not attributing the break to climate change, saying it’s part of the natural cycle of iceberg calving in the region.

BRAIN FOOD: Dexter Kruger, a retired cattle rancher, is thought to be the oldest man ever to live in Australia, having surpassed the longevity of a World War I veteran who died in 2002. Naturally, people want to know the secret to living past 111. His answer: Chicken brains. “They are delicious little things,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “There’s only one little bite.”  

LEAVING LEGEND: Marv Albert’s memorable voice described the action for generations of high-profile sporting events, including 13 NBA Finals, eight Super Bowls and eight Stanley Cup Finals, and though his career was derailed by a lurid sex case in the 1990s, he remained an iconic figure behind the mic, landing with Turner Sports and serving 19 years as a play-by-play broadcaster for the NBA on TNT. “From his remarkable run as play-by-play announcer for the Knicks to his prominent national roles calling our marquee games on NBC and Turner Sports, Marv has been the soundtrack for basketball fans for nearly 60 years,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. Albert announced that he is retiring after this year’s NBA Eastern Conference playoffs.

An envelope showing "Return to Sender Deceased"DEAD TO U.S.: The news from the U.S. Postal Service was disconcerting, to say the least: We’ve been declared dead. Elvis is dead, disco is dead, Jell-O molds, Jimmy Hoffa and chivalry are dead, but we’re still very much alive (and, by the way, we love our postal carrier, who was off, though alive, on the day this sad news came.)

LIVES

DAMON WEAVER was 11 years old when he scored a rare and coveted opportunity to interview the sitting president of the United States. He was a student at a Florida elementary school when he interviewed President Obama for about 10 minutes at the White House in 2009, asking questions primarily about education and schools. He also interviewed with then-Senator Joe Biden and Oprah Winfrey. He was pursuing a degree in communications and hoped for a career in sports journalism when he died at 23 of what his sister called natural causes.   

EULA HALL called herself a “hillbilly activist,” devoting her life to the cause of health care in the rugged, mountainous regions of Eastern Kentucky. She grew up in poverty and dropped out of school after eighth grade because the high school was too far away to walk and there were no buses. The health care clinic she founded — which also distributed food and clothing — was transformative to a chronically underserved community, and her efforts generated national attention. She died at 93 of congestive heart failure.

LEE EVANS was the first man ever to run 400 meters in under 44 seconds, winning a gold medal in the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. His victory came just after two teammates on the U.S. track and field team, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, were sent home for raising their gloved fists on the medals stand. Warned not to do something similar, he instead wore a black beret when receiving his medal to symbolize his support for the Black Panther Party and the fight against racial injustice. He suffered a stroke in Nigeria, where he was a track coach, and died at 74.

PAUL VAN DOREN founded a California sneaker company in 1966, but it wasn’t until the early 1980s that Vans found its groove. With a vulcanization process that made the rubber especially grippy, Vans specialized in sneakers that helped skateboarders stay on and control their boards as they whipped down a sidewalk or an embankment. Vans even let kids buy one sneaker at a time. He was 90.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it, then misapplying the wrong remedies.
Groucho Marx

THE SIGNOFF

COSMETIC CHANGES: Another sign that a return to normalcy is approaching: Lipstick, rendered practically obsolete by a year of mask-wearing and office closures, saw an 80% surge in year-over-year sales for the four weeks ending April 18.

THANK YOU TO OUR CONTRIBUTORS: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, Claire P. Tuttle, Lisa Fenwick, Anthony F. Hall, Tara Hutchins, Kelly Donahue, Katie Alessi and John Brodt.

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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