But the best educated among us, and particularly those who have soapboxes from which to spread a message to the public, really should do more to ensure that logically fallacious thinking doesn't permeate our discourse to such a degree that it becomes the "way things are."
This is why Hugh Reynolds's latest column is so disappointing. Reynolds's March 30 column, entitled "Orange (County) Crush" (you simply cannot pay enough money to editors who write such great headlines), is an exercise in how to appear to get everything right, when in fact you're getting everything wrong. Reynolds's take on Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo's crony appointments is, "both sides do it":
It might have been Julius Caesar who once said, “Hey, can we get Brutus a job? The kid was great against the Gauls.” Some called it patronage.You see? Everyone does it, so there's nothing wrong with it. It's a bit like jaywalking or taking a couple of extra copies Kingston Times out of the newspaper machine.
Americans trace political patronage to the Andrew Jackson era, when it was famously declared “to the victor belong the spoils.” Were the first six presidents too noble to reward friends and campaign contributors?
Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo got a bit defensive when quizzed about the six-pack of campaign allies prowling City Hall. History indicates that for better or worse the new mayor is not much different than other pols.Hugh is making the logical mistake known as the "appeal to tradition." Everyone does it so it can't be wrong.
So far, six snouts are swilling from the city trough, ranging from $75,000 a year for Corporation Counsel Andy Zweben to $14,000 a year for go-go part-time parking ticket-man Jeremy Blaber. All are close confidants of the mayor, people who worked in his campaign, people he knows and trusts. In at least one case, that of former alderman and Working Families Party doyenne Jennifer Fuentes, the mayor’s sensitive hide was saved by her action in last year’s Democratic mayoral primary. Recall, Gallo defeated Hayes Clement by an official seven votes. Those Working Families boots on the ground made the difference and more. Fuentes got a $55,000-a-year job as head of the city’s community development program, replacing Mike Murphy, a crony of former mayor Jim Sottile. Murphy never saved Sottile’s electoral bacon, but he did help him win a few golf tournaments.
All things being equal, and they rarely are, the question should be whether these people are reasonably competent to handle the jobs they’ve been given. Call Gallo lucky or a superior judge of talent, but so far the answer seems to be yes. Gallo’s campaign pledges to change the culture at City Hall notwithstanding, a system that has served the system for all these years isn’t about to change.
No doubt Gallo has a right to be defensive, and a bit confused. "Why are they picking on me?" he's probably asking himself. Well, he did run on a platform of bringing reform to a deeply dysfunctional city, one in which the old way of doing things was making a mockery of due diligence and other important checks and balances on local government.
So, what does Gallo do upon winning office? Does he cast a wide net, looking to bring new blood into local government, folks who don't have political axes to grind who aren't owed, or owe, favors to their friends? No, we get the same-old same-old.
It's disappointing, and the voters have a right to question Gallo's rather cynical decision making.
And when it comes to important positions like Code Enforcement Officer, there are, potentially, actual human lives involved. It's not a position I would take lightly if I were an elected executive, and I would go out of my way to find the finest civil servant I can. I would also argue that hiring someone who doesn't have "deep roots" in the community doesn't owe anyone anything, which significantly reduces the chances of corrupt practices occurring.
So, it's worth keeping an eye on these appointments, especially Madsen. The position of Code Enforcement Officer actually requires a range of credentials, according to NY State Municipal Code and the City of Kingston Charter. Whether Madsen has any of these credentials is an open question.
From section 172-4 of the charter:
The Code Enforcement Officer shall be appointed by the Fire Chief. The Code Enforcement Officer shall possess background experience related to building construction or fire prevention and shall, within the time prescribed by law, obtain such basic training, in-service training, advanced in-service training and other training as the State of New York shall require for code enforcement personnel, and the Code Enforcement Officer shall obtain certification from the State Fire Administrator pursuant to the Executive Law and the regulations promulgated thereunder.
Cronyism is wrong. And Madsen appears to have some serious work to do in order to earn the credentials that would allow him to keep his $29k job. Let's see if he actually does any of it, Hugh.