It’s the holiday season, and for many people, that means there are holiday parties to attend. This time of year, get-togethers are not only a great way to spend quality time with family and friends, they are also an opportunity to treat ourselves to our favorites—whether it be Christmas cookies, hot cocoa, mulled cider, eggnog or any of the season’s specialties.
Much of the food and drink we enjoy during the holidays (and in fact year-round) is produced right here in New York. If you’d like to taste the best of what our state has to offer—and help support local businesses too—I encourage you to visit the “Pride of New York” website. Located at www.prideofny.com, you can use the site to search for locally grown and produced food and beverage products from more than 3,000 “Pride of New York” members.
But it’s not just individuals who are buying locally produced food and drink. According to a recent, informal survey I conducted, half of our region’s bars, taverns and restaurants serve wine and beverages produced locally in Jefferson, Oswego and St. Lawrence Counties. Key findings of the survey—which included barkeeps, restaurateurs and chefs from the region—include the following:
State Senator Patty Ritchie has released the annual report of the New York State Senate Standing Committee on Agriculture—which she chairs—detailing the activities of the Committee in 2013.
“Agriculture is our state’s biggest industry, and as Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, it’s a priority for me to help support our hardworking farmers in an effort to help the industry grow,” said Senator Ritchie
“This report details the hard work done by the Committee in 2013 and I would like to thank my colleagues, as well as the hardworking members of the agriculture industry whose input allowed us to take significant steps to foster further growth of this vital industry.”
State Senator Patty Ritchie joined delegates, members and supporters of the New York Farm Bureau at the organization’s State Annual Meeting, held this week in Liverpool, NY.
Senator Ritchie—who chairs the New York State Senate Agriculture Committee—is a member of the Farm Bureau’s “Circle of Friends” list, comprised of legislators who show exemplary support for New York agriculture and the Farm Bureau.
State Senator Patty Ritchie today announced that she has collected more than 7,800 cards to be sent to US soldiers through the “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program sponsored by the American Red Cross.
Cards—which were donated by schools, local businesses, community groups, and individuals as well as County Clerk’s offices—will be distributed to service members at military installations, veterans hospitals and other locations.
One in Four Upstate Homeowners Still Need to Reapply
With just weeks remaining until the deadline to reapply for the Basic STAR program, State Senator Patty Ritchie is calling the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance to host registration events in the region she represents.
According to recent reports, the Tax Department has scheduled a new round of seven STAR registration events—all taking place in major cities along the Thruway and downstate and none being hosted in St. Lawrence, Oswego and Jefferson Counties.
According to the most recent numbers released by the Tax Department, roughly 16,000 homeowners in Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties still need to reapply for the program. As of November 26th, 75 percent of homeowners in Oswego and St. Lawrence Counties have re-registered and 72 percent of those eligible have re-registered in Jefferson County.
Hosted by Senator Patty Ritchie and the Jefferson County Agricultural Development Council
In an effort to help farmers and others in the agriculture industry grow their businesses, State Senator Patty Ritchie—in conjunction with the Jefferson County Agricultural Development Council—will host a free Agricultural Grant Opportunity Workshop on Thursday, December 12th.
Featuring information on a variety of funding and loan programs, the event will take place from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County, located at 203 North Hamilton Street in Watertown.
“As Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, it’s a top priority for me to find ways to help farmers meet the challenges they face and help them grow New York State’s already thriving agriculture economy,” said Senator Ritchie.
With decorations up and festive music dominating the airwaves, it’s no secret, the holiday season is in full swing. The same goes for the gift giving season. According to the National Retail Federation, the average American shopper will spend $737 this Christmas. That translates to a total of $602 billion spent nationwide during the 2013 holiday shopping season.
One of the best ways to find unique and meaningful gifts for your loved ones is by shopping local. When you shop from independent retailers, you support your neighbors and the local economy. It’s estimated that for every dollar spent at a locally-owned business, 45 cents is reinvested locally.
From fresh food and drink to handmade crafts, the offerings in our region for local gifts are endless. One of my favorite options? Artwork that captures the beauty of Central and Northern New York.
In an effort to highlight local talent, I have worked with local arts organizations to feature nearly two dozen artists through my “Senator Patty Ritchie Celebrates Local Artists” program. Artists selected for this program have their artwork displayed at my district office locations in Oswego, Watertown and Ogdensburg.
Nearly Two Dozen Showcased So Far Through Initiative Highlighting Local Talent
An employee of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center, a renowned historical landmark artist and a budding watercolor painter are the new featured artists for the “Senator Patty Ritchie Celebrates Local Artists” program, an initiative organized to highlight local talent from Central and Northern New York.
Nearly two dozen artists have been featured through the program, which showcases local artists from the region with free public displays of artwork in the Senator’s district office locations in Oswego, Watertown and Ogdensburg.
“From painters to photographers, our region is home to so many individuals with a broad range of talents,” said Senator Ritchie. “I’m so pleased to be able to celebrate their creativity and draw attention to those who are creating works of art right here in our backyard.”
State Senator Patty Ritchie today announced new legislation to stop the state’s plans to close the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center’s inpatient care facilities, and give state mental health officials and community members additional time to seek alternatives..
The “Freeze Unsafe Closures Now Act,” S.5986, is jointly sponsored by Senator Ritchie and Senator Thomas Libous, the Deputy Senate Leader, whose district also is hard hit by the state’s plan that slashes inpatient mental health care.
“The state’s plan puts our most vulnerable citizens and children in danger, without a clear alternative that ensures sufficient, continued mental health care services close to home and in our communities,” Senator Ritchie said.
How does hundreds of extra dollars in your pocket each year sound? If you’re a homeowner, that’s what you could be receiving through the state’s STAR program, which provides 2.6 million homeowners in New York State—including nearly 85,000 in our region—with savings on their school property tax bills each year.
Recently, dozens of people in the Central and Northern New York region re-registered for this money saving program through my STAR workshops, held in Watertown, Gouveruer and Pulaski. Made possible with the help of local assessors, these events were aimed at helping those who currently receive Basic STAR re-register for the benefit, as a new state law aimed at streamlining administration of the program, and also helping to prevent fraud, requires current enrollees to reapply. The requirement does not affect senior homeowners who are enrolled in Enhanced STAR.
The Basic STAR exemption is available for owner-occupied, primary residences where the combined income of resident owners and their spouses is $500,000 or less. Married couples with multiple residences are only eligible to receive one Basic STAR exemption.
I’ve been working hard to spread the word about re-registering for this money-saving program, and as a result, more than 1,100 homeowners have clicked through my website to reapply online for Basic STAR. Currently, according to state officials, more than 20,000 Basic STAR enrollees in our region still need to re-register. I’m hopeful that 100 percent of program participants will reenroll by the December 31st deadline.
State Senator Patty Ritchie met recently with Department of Agriculture and Markets Acting Commissioner James Bays in Albany to discuss supporting New York’s hardworking farmers and expanding opportunities for those in the industry.
State Senator Patty Ritchie is applauding the New York State Public Service Commission’s decision to put on hold its plans to make changes to the 315 area code.
Since the PSC’s area code change proposal was announced, Senator Ritchie urged state regulators to put the brakes on its effort to follow through with proposed changes to the 315 area code, which included a plan to split the region in two, or create a confusing “overlay” code (click here to read a copy of Senator Ritchie's letter to the PSC). In response, the PSC hosted hearings across the region served by the 315 area code. Hearings on the issue were last held in 2008.
“Since the proposed changes to the 315 area code were announced, I have heard from hundreds of individuals concerned about how they would be impacted,” said Senator Ritchie.
State Senator Patty Ritchie grilled top education officials Wednesday on the implementation of the Common Core curriculum at a Senate Standing Committee on Education public hearing, held in an effort to review the impact and effectiveness of recent state education reforms.
The hearing—which was hosted by Senate Education Committee Chairman John Flanagan—included testimony from parents and teachers including New York State’s Teacher of the Year.
“Hundreds of concerned parents and educators have reached out to me regarding the state’s new Common Core standards and today’s hearing was another opportunity to hear firsthand from those who are personally affected by new education reforms,” said Senator Ritchie.
“I’m hopeful that the state education leaders who were in attendance will take their testimony into account as we move forward with reviewing the effectiveness of these recent changes.”
State Senator Patty Ritchie Tuesday led a tour of an Ogdensburg energy plant that’s poised for millions of dollars in upgrades and improvements that could help create and protect hundreds of North Country jobs.
Senator Ritchie invited her colleague, Senate Energy Committee Chair George Maziarz of Western New York, to join her and local officials, including Ogdensburg Mayor William Nelson and representatives of the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency, on the tour of the Alliance Energy facility located on the grounds of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center.
Senator Ritchie also serves on the Energy Committee.
Bill Cosponsored by Senator Ritchie Named for Slain Fort Drum Officer
State Senator Patty Ritchie has announced that a bill she cosponsored to create the “Lt. Colonel Todd Clark Memorial Flag Presentment Program” has been signed into law.
The measure, which was named after a 10th Mountain Division officer from Evans Mills who was killed earlier this year in Afghanistan, would provide that every family of a fallen service member be given US and New York State flags that flew over the State Capitol at half-staff in their honor.
“By lowering flags to half-staff, we pay tribute to the tremendous sacrifices made by the brave men and women who serve our country,” said Senator Ritchie.
“This new law allows us to say thank you, and express our sympathy in a very small way to the families and the loved ones of those who have given their lives for the protection of our freedom.”
The Governor has ordered the flags lowered at the Capitol and every state government building at least five times this year, and 12 times in 2012, usually to honor a fallen service member, but also in the case of certain dignitaries, deceased government leaders and national tragedies.
State Senator Patty Ritchie is reminding homeowners that she will host “STAR Workshops” in St. Lawrence and Oswego Counties this week, aimed at helping those who currently receive Basic STAR re-register for the program.
As a result of Senator Ritchie’s recent efforts to encourage re-registration in the STAR program, more than 1,100 homeowners have clicked through her website to apply online and through her first workshop—held in Jefferson County—dozens of others received assistance completing their applications.
A new state law aimed at streamlining administration of the STAR program, and also helping to prevent fraud, requires current Basic STAR enrollees to re-register for the benefit, which saves the average household hundreds of dollars annually. The requirement does not affect senior homeowners who are enrolled in Enhanced STAR.
From friends and family to good food and gifts, for many people, the holidays are the happiest time of the year. However, for our brave troops serving overseas, they can be the loneliest.
In an effort to send a “touch of home” to our troops, I’m one again calling on Central and Northern New Yorkers to participate in my “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program. The program—which is sponsored by the American Red Cross—aims to collect donated Christmas cards to be sent to US soldiers serving overseas.
This year, for the second year in a row, I’m partnering up with Ogdensburg native and radio personality Melody Burns to collect holiday greetings. Last year—thanks to many of you—we were able to collect 2,200 cards to distribute to service members at military installations, veterans hospitals and other locations.