Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Big reaction to Mark’s ‘Scoop’: ‘Be wary of new LGA’

‘We miss the old LGA’

From Facebook:
Great article. Well covered. We miss the old LGA and Walt Lender.
— Cindy Roach Carr

Walt, start new group

From Facebook:
Sad news indeed! The old LGA did a great job. Walt – start a new organization – there’s plenty to do! — Dick Carlsen

Fund’s long-range plan; surprised it was allowed

From Facebook:
The Fund has been planning this (merger) for many, many years. I admit that I am very surprised that it was allowed to happen. Sad to lose the first lake association in the country.
— Julie Martin

More powerful LGA can protect the lake better

Mark,
In your recent editorial regarding the merged LGA, you fault it for being so big, powerful, and wealthy. However, for the protection of our beautiful lake, it’s to our region’s benefit to have a powerful organization which can speak with one voice in Albany.

The merged LGA is a combination of thousands of “lake protectors” plus a growing number of wealthy donors. I’m glad it is.

If it seems a little too corporate but can accelerate the testing and upgrading of all Lake George septic systems plus enable grants for small homeowners who can’t afford to upgrade, that’s a small price to pay.

— Peter Brothers

LGA Chair Menzies:

‘Scoop’ an ‘insult to everyone who supports the LGA’
Dear Mark:

The only goal of the Lake George Association for the past 137 years has been to provide our Lake with the unsurpassed level of protection that this unique and exquisite natural resource deserves.

Our staff, volunteer board, and a constituency of engaged Lake Protectors, including property owners, municipal officials, and business leaders, do this on an innovative and sustainable basis.

We are an inclusive, committed, and qualified group, with a diverse array of interests and expertise, a community of people that has the Queen of American Lake’s best interest at the heart of all it does.

To claim otherwise, as you did so aggressively and undeservedly in your commentary last week, is an insult to everyone who supports the LGA and partners with us for Lake protection.

In the spring of 2021, the volunteer board members of the LGA and The FUND for Lake George voted unanimously to merge our two not-for-profit organizations.

Then, inspired by the overwhelming support of LGA members — 98% of voters approved the merger — we brought the best parts of the two organizations together with a mandate to strengthen our science, our community outreach and education, our fundraising, and our advocacy, because Lake George needs more and better protection.

We merged and the result is better than what once was.

The LGA Board knew that change would be difficult. Change is almost always uncomfortable and can be controversial. But change for the sake of Lake George’s protection is essential — and it is working.

Our community is as energized about Lake protection, and as engaged with the LGA on protection programs, as I’ve seen in my 30 years of working with the organization. LGA supporters come from all walks of life and from all across the Lake George Watershed. They support our science-guided protection with their hard-earned dollars, volunteer hours and personal protective actions.

I’m talking about all the neighbors who turned out for our Bay-By-Bay community education programs this summer, and the growing number of property owners (more than 100 and counting) who have already signed up to become LGA Lake Protectors, learning how they can take actions at their homes and businesses to protect the Lake from stormwater and wastewater pollution, excessive road salt use, and invasive plants and animals.

I’m referring to the outpouring of public support for our position opposing the use of an herbicide on the Lake without proper scientific evaluation, and to the dozens who volunteered to inspect nearly 100 Lake locations during our first Invasive Species Monitoring Weekend.

Let’s not forget the more than 150 businesses who have signed our Business Compact on the Economic Imperative of Protecting Lake George, the volunteers in our Citizen Scientist programs, and the many local school children and others who are educated and inspired on our Floating Classroom.

And, Mark, I only wish you had been at our Summer Gala in July when a sold-out crowd of over 300 gathered under a big tent — literally and figuratively — in Charles R. Wood Park to celebrate the LGA and our 137-year history of Lake protection, and to show their support for the many exciting ways we are propelling protection into the future through our new programs and their direct participation.

The water quality threats confronting Lake George today are greater in size and complexity than ever before, they are escalating rapidly due to our increased use of the Lake and our changing climate, and there are new and even more challenging threats looming in the future. To get – and stay – ahead of these threats and achieve the lasting protection we all want, that the Lake deserves, and that our Lake-based economy depends on, will require a concerted effort on the part of every one of us to pull in the same direction, with the best interests of the Lake always foremost in our minds.

We protect Lake George, together!

— Pete Menzies, Chairman of the Board Lake George Association

Says LGA leaves behind traditional conservation

To the Editor:

WOW! Another stalwart gets left behind; now seems too many good, local people are gone. I am familiar/friends with members of “both tribes” and am still contributing, albeit without “membership” any longer. They are now strictly a “contribution” operation and therefore, I doubt they will miss mine hereafter.

In sum, it appears to have become yet another citified, Eco-driven, sci-fi-nancial operation that has left behind much of its traditional LG CONSERVATION and stolid character. Thx to the The Chronicle for reporting this….what I—and others—had suspected all along. I just wish I had a chance to say farewell to those staffers I enjoyed working with.

— Ray Hull, Rensselaer,
Warner Bay, 60+ years

LGA board member: We are grass roots, diverse, allied in protecting lake

Dear Mark,

Your recent editorial warned us to be wary of the new LGA. You say you “worry about who’ll speak for the little guy.”

As a ‘little guy’ myself, I don’t share your concern. For example, the LGA is speaking for the more than 4,500 people who signed a petition earlier this year asking the LGPC to delay using ProcellaCOR. It was us little guys who launched that petition.

In addition, the LGA is working with grassroots leaders and property owners around the lake, listening to their concerns, partnering on solutions and speaking out for them.

No, you don’t have to worry that the LGA might not be listening to us little guys.

Your next worry was “who’ll see and raise concerns and possibilities the elite can ignore.” What can the elite ignore? Surely everyone who lives here has a common interest in protecting Lake George, regardless of socioeconomic class. We all want to continue to swim in a pristine lake and enjoy its Class AA-Special status, not to mention our desire to maintain property values, regardless of where we fall on the economic scale. So, put that worry to rest as well.

You wrote: “They (the LGA) want the lake to speak with one voice—theirs. Not the diversity of voices all passionate for the lake.” Which passionate voices do you feel are not being heard? If this is indeed true, let’s find ways to get even more voices under the tent.

I am passionate about protecting the lake. I had this passion when I worked for you as The Chronicle’s Lake George editor. I had it when I served on the Hague Town Board. And I have this passion today as a grassroots organizer and member of the LGA Board.

So many people are working to protect the lake. Yes, we sometimes have different opinions on the best ways to do that, but that should not make us wary of each other. Rather, we need to keep listening to all voices. Diversity of opinion and thoughtful discussion will benefit us all in our common goal of protecting Lake George.

— Ginger Henry Kuenzel, Hague

Says new LGA not as approachable as old LGA

Mark:
I liked your editorial on the LGA/ Fund. I felt something was up and that it was not as approachable as the old LGA. i.e. they really didn’t care about me.
— Jim Napoli

Wants more info on LGA

Hi Mark,

Thank you for your honest and well thought out editorial regarding the Lake George Association’s recent merger and even more recent decision to part ways with its long-time executive director, Walt Lender. I appreciate and admire your decision to critique a “local” not-for-profit when your research leads you to believe that the organization may not be the same locally run and managed organization that you and I have long loved and supported.

I’ll admit that I voted in favor of the merger last year, as it was presented as a win-win by both organizations, and my neighbors who were actively involved in the old LGA spoke enthusiastically about the possibilities. In fact, I didn’t hear any opposition to it in my personal conversations, on social media, or in The Chronicle or the Lake George Mirror. I think I understand why. Without actual evidence of it being a “corporate acquisition,” it would have just been an unfounded opinion that could have unfairly scuttled the merger.

But now you are seeing a little evidence with the firing of the LGA’s long-time executive director, Walt Lender, who has tirelessly led the organization for almost two full decades, and whose presence at events (i.e. the ribbon-cutting of the new Lake George sewage treatment plant) or participation in endeavors (i.e. purchasing the former Gaslight Village and converting it to the Charles R Wood conservation park) gave credibility to those endeavors.

He was intimately involved in every conservation and lake protecting project I followed and those projects seemed to be run meticulously. To both of us, it seems counterproductive to fire such an important asset.

Just as concerning as the decision to let Mr. Lender go was the response that you received from the LGA through their PR firm, in which they would not let you speak with the current or former chairman of the LGA. but instead referred you to a canned statement that would have been provided to whomever had inquired, such as The New York Times. You are a well-respected local journalist, newspaper owner, and long-time supporter of the LGA. The fact that a “local” organization couldn’t give you the courtesy of a personal interview is unconscionable. If they want to be our local lake protecting organization, they need to respect our local institutions.

I believe that these two events, the firing of Walt Lender and the refusal of the organization’s current leadership to speak with you, warrant an investigation into the LGA’s practices and management, and I believe that you and your staff would be up to the task.

The Lake George community deserves to know the real reasons for Mr. Lender’s ouster. As a member and donor, I want to be reassured, with evidence, that the LGA is being managed properly, hiring and retaining the best staff, and fulfilling its mission to protect Lake George as thoroughly as possible.

I want to ensure that if the LGA is seeking a talented individual to fill a specific role in the organization, that the successful applicant actually wants to work for the LGA and isn’t deterred because of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Lender’s ouster. I want to make sure that my donations are being utilized properly. I want to see that the LGA is effectively collaborating with the municipalities around the lake.

I want to hear that the LGA is responsive to residents who would like to improve their properties with best practices in lake protection. And I want to know that they are open and transparent about all of this important information, beyond written statements from a PR firm.

I believe that my request would be beneficial to our entire community. It would provide past, current, and future donors the reassurance that they need in order to contribute to the LGA. It would help the LGA maintain its current level of fundraising, avoiding the appearance of a scandal. And it would help everyone in the community to know that Lake George is being robustly protected as well as possible. If politics is allowed to reign in this situation, it will be to the detriment of our lake.

For these good reasons, I am sure that people will talk, even if they do so on the condition of anonymity. And I hope that, for the good of Lake George, that you and your staff pursue this investigation. Thank you for considering my request.

— Seth Harris, Lake George

Grass roots efforts by Water Quality Coalition

To the editor:

At the end of your Inside Scoop on the LGA-Fund merger, you ask “who will take them on (new LGA)…who will speak for the little guy…and raise concerns and possibilities…?”

Whatever is happening in the stratosphere of the LGA-Fund, various grass roots water quality committees and coalitions are alive and well and very effective.

A case in point is the Lake George Park Commission’s proposed septic regulations which were spearheaded by the Assembly Point Water Quality Coalition with the assistance of a number of other grass roots organizations in Cleverdale, Hague, Huletts Landing, and North Queensbury.

We all worked together and enlisted the help of our municipalities to pressure the Park Commission to formulate the regulations for a septic inspection program.

Recently, three board members of the LGA have reached out to these grass roots groups to hear our concerns and to identify issues where we can work together.

The Waterkeeper, which is part of the LGA), has been a constant source of expertise for us on how to ensure that increased development doesn’t add to the Lake’s decline. We hope to build on this partnership in the future.

— Lorraine Ruffing, Director,
Assembly Point Water Quality Coalition
Lisa Adamson, Outreach
Assembly Point Water Quality Coalition

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