On the plus side, the executive is given credit for recommending a bold iniative — floated as an idea by a special legislative committee last winter, but rejected by the county administration. Hein continually blames a divided, irresolute legislature unable or unwilling to act. Indeed, if one were to accept whole hog the party line emanating from the county office building, the executive’s hand was forced by a dysfunctional legislature.
As Hein repeatedly reminds us, the legislature, in various reincarnations, has been dickering with Golden Hill issues for more than a decade, long before the county executive system was implemented. Few ever called for selling the place.
There is also in some circles the suspicion, at the least, that the executive, up for reelection this year (but since unopposed), dragged his feet for political reasons.
Almost a year ago Hein in his state-of-the-county address urged the legislature to make the kind of “policy statement” on Golden Hill that he himself made on September 28. Instead, the legislature did what legislators do. It formed a committee which went around asking for input, called in some experts, and wound up hopelessly deadlocked over a half-dozen conflicting alternatives.
One could argue, and some are so arguing, that the executive, with his in-house staff of lawyers and experts, was in a far better position to do research and put forth policy recommendations than a part-time legislature. In fact, that’s exactly what has happened, albeit belatedly.
In the end, it will come down to a policy recommendation, only one from the executive, not the legislature.
Hein could have done this at any time after the special legislative committee on Golden Hill petered out last summer. A wily manipulator, he waited instead until crunch time. By combining a Golden-Hill solution with the budget — indeed, one is dependent on the other — Hein has painted the legislature into a corner.
Pushback was not long in coming. On Monday, Hein called on chairman Fred Wadnola to schedule a special session of the legislature for an executive briefing on Golden Hill.
County leaders were notified mid-morning on Tuesday, several hours after the story hit the papers. No way, said Wadnola, majority leader Paul Hansut and minority leader Provenzano, still seething over Hein’s sandbagging the legislature at his budget presentation last month.
“He bashes us every chance he gets, and now we’re supposed to give him another opportunity?” Wadnola said.
“I don’t need to be scolded by the principal,” added Hansut, a candidate for Lloyd town supervisor this year.
But does Hein win again by losing, in this case? The leadership’s refusal to even listen to a plan could reinforce Hein’s contention of a do-nothing legislature.
Here I speak to a political paradox. It is said two heads are better than one. Could it be that 33 heads are dumber than one?
The choices, as Hein laid them out at his budget presentation, are stark. Either the legislature agrees with Hein to sell Golden Hill for eight million dollars to a yet-to-be-appointed quasi-public “local development corporation,” or the budget will be eight million in deficit. Or they can cut eight million from programs Hein has been hacking to the bone for the past three years.
Those legislators who support retention of Golden Hill under county ownership and operation — not quite a majority and nowhere near the 22 needed to override an executive veto — are fighting a rearguard action.
There will be other questions to address, in any event. The secretive manner in which the Hein administration put together this plan needs to be thoroughly vetted. That probably won’t happen.
This local development corporation is an outside-the-box hybrid that in the hands of secretive manipulative operators could be ripe for abuse. At least the state comptroller thinks so and has so advised local governments.
Lawmakers need to give serious consideration to this deal. Few refute that Golden Hill, built in the mid-1970s, has seen better days. But is this asset worth only eight million? People who know of these things tell me the license to operate its 280 beds could be worth at least $15 million. Bottom line: Is this the best deal Hein could get?
With Hein’s LDC announcement came a sense of relief that the Golden-Hill controversy was finally drawing to a close.
Don’t bet on it.
What a difference four years makes. The 2007 three-way race for Ulster County district attorney among Republican Holley Carnright, Democrat Jonathan Sennett and Conservative Vince Bradley was a slam-bang affair. With the opposition split, Carnright eked out a 46 percent plurality. He seemed vulnerable. But the rematch between Carnright and Sennett hasn’t exactly been Ali-Frazier.
Ignoring his foe, Carnright is running on his four-year record as district attorney. Sennett is running his campaign from four years ago, accusing his opponent of being soft on municipal miscreants.
There are two problems with Sennett’s strategy: it’s four years old, and given a choice between someone who locks up lots of thugs or winks at political misbehavior, most (51 percent?) will take the former.
The fundamental flaw in Sennett’s campaign is that he has yet to convince a majority they will be safer with him in office than with Carnright. Things will change under Sennett, for sure, but will it be a change for the better?
The Tim Matthews controversy provides insight.
Sennett asserts that since Carnright worked closely with the former Kingston police detective lieutenant — primarily on drug-enforcement cases — he has a clear conflict of interest as his prosecutor. Since the DA authorized some of the drug-buy payments Matthews and confederates used to catch criminals, Sennett predicts he could be called as a material witness. All the more reason Carnright should recuse himself, charges the challenger.
County judge Don Williams, a former DA who worked with Matthews as DA, has recused himself from hearing the case for much the same reason Sennett has cited.
No question, Sennett has generated smoke. That it took it took the DA fully six months to comply with the county comptroller’s demand for written procedures to dispense so-called “buy money” (cash) turns up the heat.
Carnright sees no conflict and says that as district attorney he will prosecute the former detective to the max.
I think Sennett is right — Carnright should have handed this thing to Dutchess DA Bill Grady — but among voters I don’t think the argument is getting much traction.
Sennett appears the underdog, but may poll better than perception. Both camps are predicting a close finish, standard stuff in the heat of battle.
Matthews, delivered on a silver platter, was supposed to be Sennett’s home run. That he’s only reaching the warning track suggests he’d something better have something else in the bullpen.
Local lawyers were chuckling over Sennett’s “tough law-and-order” stance, bad news to some of his clients. He’s a public defender.
There must have been mixed emotions at Sennett headquarters when county exec Hein, a fellow Democrat, approved Carnright’s request for another assistant district attorney to fight gang crime in next year’s budget. Hein could have easily done so after the election.
Carnright’s criticism of Sennett holding press conferences on the steps of the county court office produced even more hilarity. Carnright himself has held two such events on the stoop of what locals call “1818.” (The date emblazoned over the front door refers to when the courthouse reopened after the 1777 burning of Kingston.)
And speaking of the last weekend’s biennial burning of Kingston, reenactors might have felt a special kinship with 18th-century British marauders. Except for people walking around in colonial garb, some with long rifles, Sunday crowds in the Stockade area were disappointing.
There is no truth to reports that reenactors sang a version of Jim Morrison’s “Light My Fire” at an Old Dutch Church service.
Will the Pike Plan reconstruction be completed by its October 26 schedule? I don’t think so. They’d better be done by November 24, the eve of Black Friday…++
Hugh Reynolds’ column appears weekly.