The Week: What Caught Our Eye

August 20, 2022

Photo of sunset over field of grass and trees.The folks at Cool Weather report that the all-time hottest temperature ever recorded in New York was 108 F in Troy on July 22, 1926. (Tina Suhocki)

Dear Clients and Friends:

We have been privileged over the years to work with extraordinarily gifted, driven and accomplished people, leaders in their communities and their professions who get up every day — usually quite early — determined to make a positive difference. This week we have an opportunity to celebrate one of those people.

Bruce Rasher is the Redevelopment Manager for an entity known as RACER Trust. It’s the organization created after the General Motors bankruptcy to clean up and sell the properties GM abandoned (RACER is short for Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response). Its job isn’t just to sell the properties; it is to select buyers whose plans are supported by the local community and who have the experience and ability to return these properties to productive reuse. 

Photo of Bruce Rasher speaking at podium.RACER’s Bruce Rasher honored by the International City/County Management Association.  (Photo: Gary Henry)

The results achieved by RACER and its buyers are truly inspirational, and this week Bruce was honored as the Linda Garczynski Brownfields Person of the Year by ICMA, the International City/County Management Association. It’s the profession’s equivalent of winning the Oscar, though Bruce is quick to point out that he would not have been a candidate but for the extraordinary team assembled by RACER’s administrative trustee, Elliott Laws.

We have been with RACER since shortly after its founding in 2011, and have seen and experienced every day the dedication these tremendous people have to doing what is right for communities with RACER properties. It is our pleasure to serve them. Congratulations, Bruce! Well-deserved.

AN AUGUST SEASON: The Saratoga Race Course is setting records in handle and attendance as it heads toward the Aug. 27 Travers stakes. The New York Times says the million-dollar club of jockeys – old guard and new, the very best in the world – are the true boys of summer.

Hotels in the Saratoga Springs, Lake George and Lake Placid areas are hopping, the fall and winter tourism seasons look strong as well, and investors are continuing to make big bets on the Adirondacks. Finding employees remains a major challenge, but businesses in the Capital Region are banding together to offer unlimited bus passes. And the Farmers’ Almanac says we could be in for a cooler than average fall and a winter of deep snow and cold. So, here’s to the heat.

NO GETTING AWAY: No one’s had a hotter summer than FBI Director Christopher Wray. He tried to beat the DC heat with a trip to a family home in the Adirondacks. What did he get? More heat. The FBI director is the son of former Adirondack Park Agency Commissioner Cecil Wray — and, all the way around, it’s a good thing when an FBI Director vacations in the Adirondacks

MEANWHILE, drought conditions are spreading across Upstate New York. A majority of New York’s 62 counties are under a drought watch. Which brings us, alas, to beavers.  Yes, we routinely decry their lack of regard for the human landscape. And yes, we killed them for their pelts.  But now, in the midst of this drought, beavers are having a moment in the sun, thanks to writer Ben Goldfarb.  As the climate changes, it becomes more and more important to keep water on the land where it can recharge aquifers and groundwater. Beavers do that magical work. They build water holes and force water into the ground. When you see a beaver pond, it’s what lies beneath that’s important: the underground water table rising, the aquifers being recharged, the soil being hydrated.

SENIOR ACHIEVERS: Politicians, athletes, movie stars and CEOs share a trait — the most prominent are several years older than was common in the recent past. They’re not alone. Scientists and researchers are aging, as are academic leaders. Even our taste in pop culture is trending old school. For a variety of reasons — improved nutrition and training regimens for athletes, more focus on personal health for successful older Americans generally — high-achieving people are remaining active significantly later in life than before, a situation that, especially in politics and business, is creating some sensitive institutional dilemmas.

CEO’S SIDE HUSTLE: By day, David Solomon is the CEO of buttoned-down Goldman Sachs. By night, he’s DJ D-Sol, playing techno music at parties and music festivals alongside the likes of  Dua Lipa, Metallica, Doja Cat and Green Day. This year he played at the four-day Lollapalooza bash in Chicago. Now, the leader of one of the world’s largest investment banks has apologized to his board for bad timing. He was spinning the stacks of wax at a charity benefit in the Hamptons during the COVID lockdown.

WHEN RESPECT TRIUMPHED: When the Supreme Court blocked some of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s most important New Deal legislation, he responded with a plan to pack the court, stripping judges of their lifetime appointments, and imposing a retirement age. His plan was blocked by another well-known New Yorker also at the pinnacle of Washington power – Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes. Historian Maury Thompson revisits the long and interesting relationship between two New Yorkers of different parties who shaped the fate of the state and the nation.

MOVING TARGETS: Abusive parents, mouthy players and coaches and, unlike in sanctioned high school sports, no leagues to back you if things get out of hand. Many have been threatened, followed to their cars. Some were assaulted. Welcome to life as a summer league sports official, where hectic schedules and short fuses, among other factors, are causing more officials to walk away.

CRAZY LIKE A FOX: Remember Crazy Eddy? His discount prices on electronics were insane, or so he screamed in omnipresent late-night television ads of the 1970s and 1980s. It was actor Jerry Carroll who appeared in those ads. He was not Eddy Anatar who, it turns out, was crazier and allegedly more crooked than anybody knew, a new biography claims. “(T)he meat of this limber book is its investigation into the deep family drama and funny money behind Crazy Eddie, which aggressively undercut competitors like Circuit City and The Wiz with some astonishingly shady business practices,” says The New York Times.

THE FURRY SKIES: Flying with a pet never has been easy, even in the years when it seemed every other traveler had an “emotional support” animal. The same factors that are making airline travel more hectic and stressful for people are making pet transport more complicated and expensive as well, and more people are looking at alternatives to commercial airliners, especially for overseas flights. Seats on special pet charters go for $7,000 and up, but business is brisk with the help of strangers who find each other on Facebook and pitch in for the flights. 

RAISE A GLASS: The wine world knows Napa, Santa Barbara, even Asheville, all of which offer extraordinary wine experiences. But now a wine tour in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York has been named one of the best in the country by USA Today’s 10Best.  “Experience! The Finger Lakes” takes wine lovers around Cayuga, Keuka and Seneca lakes and on guided hikes to Ithaca’s waterfalls and gorges. The company’s wine tours give guests a chance to meet winemakers and grape growers, eat a delicious lunch and sample reserve wines.

Ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of Adirondack Winery.GRAPE SUCCESS: The Adirondack Winery is transforming the Lake George region into Adirondack wine country. Adirondack Winery was of the first micro-wineries in the country when it opened with a tasting room and small-batch production of handcrafted wines in 2008. Today, the wines it makes in Queensbury, N.Y., are sold in more than 450 wine stores and restaurants across Upstate New York and shipped to thousands of customers in 36 U.S. states. In 2015, it launched the very popular Adirondack Wine and Food Festival in Lake George. This week, it cut the ribbon on a new $2.6-million Tasting Room and Winemaking Facility at its Queensbury headquarters.  The Tasting Room offers wine by the glass, charcuterie, wine ice cream, winery tours, outdoor seating, weekly events, and a private event space.

WHAT LIES BENEATH: The river Po in Italy is at its lowest level in years. And what, pray tell, has emerged? A World War II-era German tank and cargo ships. In Rome, a depleted river has given up a bridge believed to have been built during Emperor Nero’s rule. In Spain, when the water dropped, a ghost village emerged. And elsewhere, it’s dead bodies.

THE RIPKENS’ LESSONS: In 26 states and Washington, D.C., at more than 100 parks, nearly a half-million kids have had a chance to play baseball, have some fun, and learn a few important life lessons, thanks to the Cal Ripken Foundation. The Foundation builds both new fields and the character of the young people who play on them. This week, Cal Ripken Jr. traveled to Muncie, Indiana, to add one more renovated field to the list of 110 developed by his late father's foundation. "Baseball is a magical, magical game," he said.

THE CALL: Wynton Bernard was selected by the San Diego Padres in the 35th round of the MLB Draft in 2012 and released just a year later. He was picked up by the Detroit Tigers but he gained his most attention as a contestant on "Family Feud." He played for ten professional seasons, six in foreign leagues and one in an independent league, before last week when he finally got the call he had longed for from the Colorado Rockies. And that’s when he called his mom.

THANK YOU, BILL: For the more than 180 weekly issues of Facing Out that our firm has produced, Bill Richmond has been the magician behind the scenes, making sure these weekly musings were presented in a readable way and that they magically arrived in our readers’ email boxes at 7 a.m. each Saturday. In this and so many other jobs over his 23 years at Behan Communications, Bill has Photo of Bill Richmondbeen the indispensable man – a person of profound patience and intelligence who can unravel innumerable technical and logistical knots to make things work. His duties at our firm were vast and varied, his reliability a comfort to his colleagues and our clients. This is Bill’s last issue of Facing Out. In September he will follow his generous heart to a compelling new venture: Helping children with special challenges. For many years, this has been his important avocation. He has been a member of the board of the Center for Disability Services in Albany and the Prospect Child and Family Center in Queensbury, a volunteer counselor with Parent to Parent of New York State, and a volunteer with the Upstate New York Autism Alliance. When school begins, he will begin working as a teaching assistant in the Glens Falls School District. We suspect they do not know what a gem they’re getting. In his spare time, Bill also will be pursuing another passion – worms. He's the founder of the Adirondack Worm Farm, which helps people lessen their environmental impact through simple, affordable steps. Bill picks up your compost and, again, magically, turns it into nature's best fertilizer — worm castings and worm tea — to help gardeners, farmers and landscapers grow bountiful, disease-resistant vegetables, crops, flowers and grass without chemicals. Bill and the entire Richmond family – his wife Tracy (who also worked with us briefly) and sons William and Noah will always be part of the Behan Communications family. As they embark on new adventures, we will be cheering for all of them (and the worms, too!)

LIVES

RONALD RIGGI and his brother Vincent founded Turbine Services Ltd., a global supplier of replacement parts for turbines manufactured by General Electric Co. where they both once worked. He achieved business success, traveled the world, and became with his wife Michele leading philanthropists in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The parents of four and grandparents to five, they filled their palatial home with dogs, cats, birds, and fish. He was an avid sailor, pilot and marksman, a former Merchant Marine who ferried munitions to American forces in Vietnam and developed a passion for helping veterans and the homeless. He served as Chairman of the Board of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and was a member of the board of the Saratoga Regional YMCA and the National Museum of Dance. The Riggis made news recently when they put their majestic 46-acre Lake Placid retreat on the market for $31 million. He was 80.

LEONARD WEISS was 19 when he was drafted into the Army in 1942. His armored division was preparing to take part in the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion of Normandy when he was badly injured in a training accident and hospitalized for surgery on his arm. Many of his fellow trainees died. He lived to pursue a 70-year career in the law and presided over the state’s second-highest court in Albany. He was 99.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

 “Someday is not a day of the week.”
—    Attributed to both Janet Dailey and Sam Horn

——

Some of the linked material in Facing Out requires a subscription to read.

THANK YOU to our contributors: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, Troy Burns, John Brodt, Tina Suhocki, Lisa Fenwick, Ryan Moore, Claire P. Tuttle and Tara Hutchins.

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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