News + Views

It’s Personal


ROI by Frank J. Rich







By Frank J. Rich


We are seldom made of the clay that repels insensitivity. In a world that pursues individual rights as though the elixir for fulfillment, we are near desperate for the comfort of an understanding voice—the philter in the art of customer service.

Why does Amazon guarantee satisfaction with products purchased on its site, even though from another vendor? Why has Google inserted itself into the buying chain with an offer to do the same? Why did Progressive Insurance break the “buyer beware” shackles by allowing easy online changes to policies and a list of competitors rates? Why have L.L. Bean, Lands’ End and so many others prepared a buying public for a “good customer experience,” with a 100% guarantee on all products sold, one of the keys to a successful revenue retention model? Why indeed? Because “business is personal,” and those who treat their customers with this in mind do best. 

This column spends more ink on customer service issues because it matters more than anything else. Its underpinnings are as applicable to any area of human exchange. Even Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith in their recent book, Most Likely to Succeed , find in the roots of failure (in the American educational system) the need for a more personal approach in matching skills and motivations to curriculum. I worked briefly with both as a member of the Boston-based group The Massachusetts Redevelopment Institute (MRDI), whose purpose was to rebuild the elements of the technology machine known as The Massachusetts Miracle. They were then, as now, astute observers of their surroundings.

In a visit some years ago to the Zuni reservation in southwest Arizona I was struck by the farm scenery on the reservation. The plants were plentiful though small. In researching the agricultural model of Zuni farms I came upon a revealing story. It tells of a man, like me, who paused over a similar curiosity. When he asked a local Zuni farmer why so many of their stories have to do with water, the farmer answered, “It’s because we have so little of it. I guess, it’s the same reason so many of yours have to do with love.” The small plants mystery, and the Zuni’s irrigation model were revealed.

In a sense this column may have co-opted the farmer’s sentiment. Customer service needs more airing for its lack of it. Buyers are people, and though we may experience those who appear without much credential, business is also personal.

June 23, 2017 |

Byrne Passes Bill Improving Cancer Coverage for Volunteer Firefighters


Legislation would offer enhanced benefits to individuals who develop cancer




Assemblyman Kevin Byrne, a freshman legislator and volunteer firefighter, played an important role in the introduction and Assembly passage of the New York State Volunteer Firefighter Gap Coverage Cancer Disability Benefits Act.


Yesterday (June 20th), Assemblyman Kevin Byrne (R, C, I, Ref-Mahopac) announced the state Assembly’s passage of a bill (A.711B) that would enact the New York State Volunteer Firefighter Gap Coverage Cancer Disability Benefits Act, providing crucial support to volunteer firefighters who develop certain types of cancers due to the hazardous exposures from interior firefighting.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther for introducing this bill and for her leadership on this important issue. This was truly a nonpartisan effort to support our volunteer firefighters, some of the most dedicated and selfless members of our community, and I am honored to have played an important role in the passage of this legislation,” said Byrne. “Support for this bill was widespread throughout our communities, and transcended party lines. Although I still prefer the original version of this bill, I am thrilled we were able to deliver this victory, expanding sorely needed cancer coverage for the brave men and women who put themselves in harm’s way each day to protect our safety.”

Higher cancer rates have been detected among firefighters due to the increased flammability and carcinogens produced by the synthetic materials used to build modern homes. The New York State Volunteer Firefighters Gap Coverage Cancer Disability Benefits Act, when enacted, will ensure that volunteer firefighters suffering from these diseases will be afforded the necessary insurance benefits to guarantee they are protected.

Benefits afforded to volunteer firefighters through this program would include a lump-sum payment dependent on the severity of an individual’s illness, consecutive monthly payments to firefighters who are completely disabled and an accidental death benefit payment. According to a recent study produced by the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY), volunteer firefighters already save New York State over $3 billion annually. It is only right that we ensure they have the necessary cancer coverage they need.

Entering the final weeks of session, it was still unclear whether or not the bill would be brought the Assembly floor for a vote. However, Assemblyman Byrne’s efforts throughout this year’s legislative session made it clear to legislative leadership that this measure needed to be a top priority. Over the past several months, the Assemblyman gathered hundreds of supportive petitions from community members, secured resolutions from various municipalities and organizations and wrote columns in support of this measure. In addition, Byrne and his team collaborated with FASNY representatives, sponsors of the bill, local volunteer fire companies and members of the Assemblyman’s Fire and EMS advisory committee to raise awareness for this worthy cause.

While two versions of the New York State Volunteer Firefighter Gap Coverage Cancer Disability Benefits Act have passed the Senate this year, this is the first to be approved in the state Assembly. The bill will now be sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for his signature and final approval.

June 21, 2017 |

Chris Gibson to Speak on Leadership at Pattern for Progress Luncheon



Address will be part of municipal/nonprofit executives’ graduation from leadership program




Chris Gibson, whose extensive career has taken him from the front lines of combat with the United States Army to Capitol Hill and then the halls of academia, will speak on leadership qualities during a Hudson Valley Pattern For Progress special event June 22 at the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel.

Gibson’s address, which is open to the public, is part of a graduation commencement for Pattern’s Fellows Program, a dynamic training initiative celebrating its 10th anniversary. The program sharpens valley leaders’ abilities to address issues from a regional perspective. Participants include corporate managers, academic leaders, government officials and those who hold top positions at nonprofits whose mission is to enhance their communities. The program has had more than 200 graduates.

”Chris Gibson’s exceptional blend of experiences, from his military service to his work in Washington and now at Williams College, where he teaches leadership, will offer outstanding insights to our Fellows,” Pattern President and CEO Jonathan Drapkin said. “His dedication to public service will no doubt inspire the next generation of leaders working to improve quality of life in the Hudson Valley.”

Gibson joined Congress in 2011, representing the 20th District until 2013. Due to redistricting, he started serving the 19th District in 2013 and did so until declining to seek another term in 2016. He now is a visiting professor of leadership studies at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. 

Gibson served in the Army from 1986 to 2010, rising to become a colonel. He served in the N.Y. National Guard from 1981 to 1986 and taught politics at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He earned four Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart and two Legions of Merit awards. His academic credentials include a doctorate degree in government from Cornell University in 1998; a master’s degree in public administration from Cornell in 1995; and a bachelor’s degree in history from Siena College in 1986. His forthcoming book is “Rally Point: Five Tasks to Unite the Country and Revitalize The American Dream.”

The program starts at 11 a.m. and concludes at 1:30 p.m. Lunch begins at noon, followed by Gibson’s address. The Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel is at 40 Civic Center Plaza in the City of Poughkeepsie. Registration is $45 for Pattern members; $55 for non-members; and $35 for elected and appointed officials and employees of local governments, including boards and school districts. The Fellows alumni fee is $25. Register at or call (845) 565-4900. Contributions to fund future Fellows scholarships are welcome.

Sponsors are D.J. Consulting, Inc. and the State University of New York at New Paltz. Additional sponsorship opportunities are available.

Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress is a nonprofit policy/planning organization that promotes smart valley growth. Visit Follow us on Twitter at @HVPattern. Like us on Facebook at

June 21, 2017 |

Hudson Valley Hot-Air Balloon Festival Returns July 7-9


The Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce will host its annual Hudson Valley Hot-Air Balloon Festival on July 7-9, 2017 with over 80 launches between Friday and Sunday. The festival will be held at Barton Orchards at 63 Apple Tree Lane in Poughquag throughout the weekend.

With expanded festival hours, there will be activities happening all weekend. Thanks to Barton Orchards, there will be lots of family activities such as a petting zoo, hayrides, food trucks and vendors, a tap room, bakery and farmer’s market, fire pits, ball toss, and live music entertainment by great bands on two stages.

New this year, the popular Moon Glow and fireworks displays will light up the night sky both Friday and Saturday!

Helicopter rides and hot-air balloon rides are available for a fee in advance. Tethered hot-air balloon rides will be for sale the day of the event (cash only, please).

Balloon launches will be at 6 a.m. Saturday and Sunday and 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday. All launches, rides, Moon Glow, and fireworks are completely weather dependent.

Updates throughout the weekend will be posted on the Chamber’s website at as well as on the Hudson Valley Hot-Air Balloon Festival Facebook and Instagram pages. Allow extra time for traffic to ensure seeing the balloons inflate and launch and then share your photos using hashtag #HVBalloon! Visit for complete event information, tickets, FAQs, directions, sponsors, and more.

Admission to the morning mass launches on Saturday and Sunday is free and the gates will open at 5 a.m. Admission to the festival starting at 10 a.m. is $10 on Friday and Saturday in advance, (a limited number of tickets will be available at the gate for $12) and $5 on Sunday (available at the gate only). An all-access weekend pass is available for $17.95 until July 1. Both on- and off-site parking are free and off-site parking includes shuttle service when necessary.

The Hudson Valley Hot-Air Balloon Festival Presenting Sponsors are Barton Orchards, Bottini Fuel, and Q92.1. The AT&T Balloon Fest Hotline is sponsored by Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. The VIP Reception Sponsor is TEG Federal Credit Union. The Event Guide Sponsor is MidHudson Regional Hospital. The Balloon Sponsors are The Arc of Dutchess, AT&T, D’Arcangelo & Co., DCH Wappingers Falls Toyota, KeyBank, LCS Companies, Meyer Contracting, MidHudson Regional Hospital, Poughkeepsie Galleria, The Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel & Conference Center, Poughkeepsie Plaza, Quality Environmental Solutions & Technologies, REMAX, Royal Carting Service Company, and S&O Construction Services – celebrating 30 years. The Media Sponsor is Poughkeepsie Journal Media.

Founded in 1907, the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce is committed to the growth and development of local businesses and the economy. For more information about Chamber happenings, the complete events calendar, or to find out how we might best serve as an advocate for you and your business, please visit




June 21, 2017 |

Diverse Cast Announced for the Spirited Musical, 1776!


1776, a Tony-award winning Broadway show is coming to the John Jay Homestead in Katonah on July 7-9, 2017. However, these founding fathers are a bit different from what you will expect to see. Instead, this version features a mix of gender and ethnicity to put a new spin on an old story, just in time for Independence Day.

The story is based on the events surrounding the signing of the Declaration of Independence and dramatizes the efforts of John Adams, played by June O’Neill, to persuade his colleagues to vote for American independence and to sign the document. 1776 premiered on Broadway in 1969 with music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards and a book by Peter Stone.

This modern take was inspired by the hit Broadway Musical, “Hamilton”. Bedford Community Theatre has taken roles traditionally played by male Caucasian actors and cast the production with a wide variety of local talent.

The Bedford Community Theatre’s 1776 stays true to the characters, music and message of the original Broadway smash hit, yet the innovative casting and staging provokes a whole new level of engagement with the audience.
The cast includes Lisa Beck, Robert Beck and Bobbi Bittker (Bedford Hills, NY); Margaret Carey (Brewster, NY); BJ Markus (Bronx, NY); Michael Bentkowski (Cold Spring, NY); Jenna Isabella (Cortland Manor, NY); Robin McCaine, Merle McJunkin, June O’Neill and Cody Siegel (Katonah, NY); William Saldanah (Lake Peekskill, NY); Elizabeth DiMeo (Larchmont, NY); Michelle Hodge, Nseya Hodge and Amelia Sasson (Mt. Kisco, NY); Peter Ackerman (New Rochelle, NY); Daniele Hager and Jennifer Delancey (New York, NY); Sean Latasa (Somers, NY); Matthew McArthur (Stamford, CT) and Katherine Taylor (Tarrytown, NY).

The production team behind the scenes consists of Director, Mitch Horn (Bedford, NY); Music Director, Daphne Sasson, Assistant Music Director, Chloe Sasson and Choreographer, Kathleen Fitzgerald (Mount Kisco NY); Producer, Stephanie McCaine (Katonah NY); Technical Director, Dan Scherer and Lighting, Andy Tron, (Bedford Hills NY); with hair and makeup assistance provided by La Collage Salon of Mt Kisco.

With the current political climate, this production of 1776 will touch the patriotic spirit of our nation. “Diving into 1776 at this particular moment in time has been just the balm my soul needed,” Director Horn explains, “The second act has several excerpts from the Actual Declaration of Independence, and working on these scenes through the lens of 2017 has proven quite the challenge to keep from weeping.”

Performances are Friday July 7 and Saturday, July 8 at 7:30pm, and Sunday July 9 at 5pm at the John Jay Homestead, 400 Jay Street, Katonah, NY. Seating is limited and advanced purchase is recommended. Visit or email for more details.
Bedford Community Theatre
c/o Town of Bedford Recreation & Parks Dept.
425 Cherry Street
Bedford Hills, NY 10507

About Bedford Community Theatre

Bedford Community Theatre is a volunteer organization operating under the auspices of the Town of Bedford dedicated to the production of live theatre.
Our goal is to be a significant and valued cultural asset for the town by engaging the community in the production of affordable theatrical experiences for all ages and to foster a love and understanding of all aspects of theatre arts while showcasing and developing local talent.
Bedford Community Theatre was founded 2002 as a program of the Town of Bedford Department of Recreation & Parks. The organization is now staffed and run by volunteers from the local community. We take pride in being inclusive and welcoming to all who are interested in participating in our program, whatever the capacity. We are proud of what we do and we make sure that we have fun while doing it. We typically stage a minimum of two shows each year, one in the fall and one in the spring.


June 21, 2017 |

Grilling Safety Tips

Bits & Pieces Column

Helpful Chitchat








By Evelyn J. Mocbeichel



Fourth of July signals the start of outdoor grilling season. Has your grill been left out during the severe winter months? Keeping your grill in a protective area can increase the life of your equipment.

Here is a story about what happened to a friend when she used her grill for the first time this summer. The grill was turned on and lit, and everything seemed fine. After five minutes she went into the house to get the meat she was planning to cook. When she returned outside she found the grill had burst into flames! It was too engulfed in flames to touch the dial to turn off the gas and a dangerous situation was at hand. My own thought is that the unit might very well have exploded if it became too hot with the flames covering the whole grill. The friend took a stick she found in the yard and pushed the dial to “off” without getting too close to the grill. Then she ran into the house to retrieve the fire extinguisher. Within minutes, the fire was out. When everything cooled down, she was able to closely inspect the grill to see what caused the fire. The whole bottom frame of the gas grill was rusted out. The pipes that contained the gas flow were also badly rusted. Apparently the top of the grill and side wooden slats were cleaned, but no further inspection was given to the equipment.

The moral of the story here is to inspect every piece of equipment stored over the winter before using it in the summer. This should apply to camping grills, oil or kerosene lamps and any other summer vacation or sport equipment that is powered by electric or fuel. Frequently the dials, controls or metal parts of these units can rust, break or need replacement because of age. Check all controls and replace if you suspect damage or excessive wear.

Cleaning Up

Recently we saw a TV safety segment that showed the effects of what happens when a steel wool brush is used to clean food particles off the grill. Some of the steel wool stuck to the grill and ended up in the hamburgers that were cooked later on. The suggestion was to buy a barbeque brush with brass bristles that do not come off when using. Visit any store that sells barbeque accessories to select the safest brush. Happy grilling!




June 21, 2017 |

Unleash the Power of Dairy


In Good Taste








(Family Features) If you’re trying to boost the nutrition of your meals and snacks, look no further than your refrigerator. Dairy products provide a powerful nutrition package that can help you meet your nutrient needs and achieve better health.

The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans affirm dairy’s important place in the diet with a recommendation that people ages 9 and older consume three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods every day. With nine essential nutrients, milk, cheese and yogurt deliver a unique nutrition package superior to milk alternatives, such as almond or rice beverages, which are often fortified or fall short on these important nutrients.

During the hot summer months, when you don’t feel like spending much time in the kitchen, dairy products offer ease and convenience, as many are ready to use in recipes or round out a meal or snack. For a quick, easy and healthy snack this summer, put a fresh take on traditional pizza with this recipe that uses crescent rolls topped with cheeses and fresh seasonal veggies. Or turn up the heat on a classic beef burrito by adding warm pepper jack cheese and black beans.

Visit to pledge Dairy 3 for Me, find additional recipes and learn more about how to unleash the power of dairy nutrition.

Summer Pizza Snack

Recipe courtesy of Cindy Heins, Heins Family Farms  

Total time: 22 minutes

Servings: 12

1       tube (8 ounces) crescent rolls

1       tub (8 ounces) low-fat cream cheese

1/4   cup light mayonnaise

1/4   teaspoon garlic powder

1       cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

3/4   cup sliced cherry tomatoes

1/2   cup sliced black olives

1/2    cup chopped broccoli florets

1/2    cup chopped cucumber

Heat oven to 375 F. In 9-by-13-inch baking pan, spread out crescent roll dough. Seal seams together to form one large rectangle across bottom of pan. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool on rack.

In small bowl, mix together cream cheese, mayonnaise and garlic powder. Spread evenly over entire cooled crust. Top with mozzarella, tomatoes, olives, broccoli and cucumber. Cut into 12 squares and serve.

Beef Burrito with Pepper Jack Cheese and Black Beans

Total time: 9 minutes

Servings: 6

1/2   pound ground beef sirloin

2       teaspoons minced garlic

1       cup chunky salsa, divided

2       cups cooked brown or white rice

6       whole-wheat tortillas (9 inches each)

1       can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed

1       can (11 ounces) corn kernels, drained

2       cups shredded pepper jack cheese

sliced green onion, including green tops

In medium, nonstick skillet, brown ground beef and garlic over medium heat (break beef mixture up into smaller chunks with spatula). Drain fat and stir in 1/2 cup salsa; set aside.

Spread 1/3 cup rice on center of tortilla, leaving 1/2-inch border. Scatter about 2 tablespoons beans and 1 1/2 tablespoons corn over rice. Spread 1/3 cup beef mixture and 1/4 cup cheese over corn. Top with 2 teaspoons salsa and a few slices green onion. Fold in two opposite edges of tortilla 1 inch each and roll up. Place seam-side down on microwave-safe dish.

Repeat with remaining tortillas. Place burritos in microwave oven and heat 1 minute, or until heated through. Serve with remaining salsa.



June 21, 2017 |
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