So compelling is this slogan that even Republican chairman Robin Yess says she can’t beat a Democrat — county executive Hein — who brings in a zero tax increase. Therefore, she won’t even try. So much for the two-party system.
But in getting to zero in his 2011 budget, Hein, now seeking a second term, might have trimmed the hog a little lean. To get to zero, he had to use almost half the county’s $24-million fund balance. And while a recent report from the state comptroller indicates some of that fund balance was restored by the end of 2010, mostly from unanticipated sales-tax receipts, the bottom line is that Hein needs to do some serious juggling to avoid a tax increase for 2012 and to feed the fund balance.
Fortunately, for him, the rollover Republicans have no candidate. Ulster town supervisor Jim Quigley, perhaps the GOP’s last, best hope to contest Hein, says he won’t be running for county office this year. Quigley will seek a second term as town supervisor.
Let us return for a moment to this “taxpayer first” slogan. If property taxpayers are first, who’s second? County workers? The people they serve, taxpayers all?
If there is a second, it’s not those 170 county workers retired, fired or privatized in the last two years, and more to come.
No, this administration is driven by the bottom line because slogans like “taxpayers first” reelect people. That it comes at a cost in services and worker morale seems to be something the brain trust is willing to live with.
Speaking of bottom lines, it seems the administration is prepared to employ the same scare tactic used successfully last year: the county is running a major deficit, and serious cuts need to be made, like yesterday.
Last year’s deficit estimate was in the $15-million- to-$20- million range. This year, it’s pegged at $20 million. Recall, after warning of huge deficits, the executive managed to bring in a zero budget for 2011.
Was he joshing us then, or is he joshing us now, which is to say, how many times can the boy cry “wolf!” and get away with it? I’d guess at least one more year.
Kingston mayoral candidates Hayes Clement and Andi Turco-Levin got headlines last week on proposals that initially failed. Clement, a Ninth Ward Democrat, tried to ram through the council a memorializing resolution that would have put the city on record as supporting county retention and operation of the Golden Hill senior-health-care facility. Coming only weeks before nominating conventions, some might have deemed that a political stunt. Turco-Levin, a First Ward Republican, in another last-minute maneuver, sought common council approval to put term limits on the ballot this fall. Clement called that a political stunt.
Neither proposal had been vetted in committee; ergo, the circular file.
Clement will succeed, eventually, since any Kingston official who opposes a $35-million, 300-plus employee facility in the city would be considered a fool, an idiot or politically suicidal. The wonder is it wasn’t brought forward sooner.
Turco-Levin, who says she doesn’t like to take no for an answer, will get exactly that from a 7-2 Democratic council majority in an election year. Her alternative will be the petition route, which requires just five percent of the city voters who voted in the last gubernatorial election (about 400 people) sign petitions to get term limits on the ballot.
For the energetic Republican candidate such should prove no great task. And being in front of this populous parade should reap substantial political benefits.
Show them the money
Republican DA candidate Holley Carnright drew the second biggest crowd of the season — estimates ran well past 250 attendees — to his initial fundraiser at Hillside Manor. Joining the happy glad-handers was Independence Party chairman Len Bernardo. There seems little doubt about where that nomination is going.
County exec Hein had them hanging from the rafters — upwards of 300 at $95 a pop (same as Carnright) at his late April fundraiser at Hillside, I’m told. Sometimes it’s good to be king.
Democrat Shayne Gallo drew a crowd officially pegged at 217 (including a handful of freebies, like his mother) at a fundraiser at Mariner’s Harbor last week. Clement attracted about 150 three weeks ago, though rabid Gallonians vehemently assert the “real number” was only in double digits. But then, fundraiser counts by politicians are notoriously inaccurate, suggesting that some may begin lying even before taking office.
Republican mayoral candidate Rich Cahill did his fundraiser in the cozy confines of the Kozy Tavern in midtown the same night as Gallo, attracting but a fraction of well-wishers. It was early when I peeked in, so maybe the stampede started later. Cahill expressed no surprise at the Gallo gaggle, Democrats outnumbering Republicans by about two to one in Kingston.
Turco-Levin will host a fundraiser at Hillside Manor on May 20 at 5 p.m. No word yet from Republican hopefuls Ron Pollaco and Jean Jacobs.
Some may wonder why in a down economy people are willing to fork over between $30 and $95 each (cash bar) for the privilege of shaking hands with an office-seeker. The answer is, government is the county’s biggest employer/consumer. As Willie Sutton used to say, that’s where the money is.
For all the fits and starts, the county’s reapportionment plan now appears to be on a fast track. After unanimous approval by the reapportionment commission last week, a public hearing on the 23-district, single-member plan has been scheduled by the legislature for next Tuesday, May 17. The hearing, which could prove tedious, given the number of disgruntled self-interested opponents, will take place just prior to the legislature’s regular monthly meeting date. The resolution could go to the executive on the 23rd, perhaps an omen, there being 23 districts.
Why the rush? Party nominating conventions will take place the first or second week in June. Without a final plan, upwards of 46 candidates will be wandering the convention halls looking for something else to run for.
For plan opponents, it’s difficult not to appear self-interested. Witness veteran Saugerties Republican Bob Aiello’s ire about being placed in a district that includes Glasco, about a mile from his Barclay Heights home. “What does a truck driver from Kingston know about Saugerties?” Aiello fumed in an off-stage conversation before the last meeting of the reapportionment commission.
The “truck driver” he was referring to is reapportionment commissioner Paul Benkert of Lloyd, formerly of Kingston, owner of Allways Moving, one of the largest local moving companies in the county.
I reminded Aiello that commission members Vernon Benjamin and Mike Catalinotto, former town supervisor and town Republican chairman respectively, were from Saugerties and surely appreciated its geography. Harrumph, or words to that effect, said the disgruntled legislator.
Former Democratic legislator Brian Cahill thinks the proposed town of Kingston/Ulster district is stacked against Democrats. Why? All ten elected officials in the two towns (supervisors and council members) are Republicans. Perhaps Cahill protests too much. That contest will be decided in Ulster, where he’s from. Tiny Kingston has only about eleven percent of the district’s population.