Thursday, May 31, 2012

All Aspects of the Business are Being Examined

Does this mean executive compensation will be part of the formula? Probably not:
The head of the company that runs Kingston and Benedictine hospitals said on Wednesday that all aspects of the business are being examined painstakingly in an effort to cut operating costs.

David Lundquist, the president and chief executive officer of HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley, addressed an Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the Kingston Holiday Inn nearly four weeks after the company announced it might close one of the two hospitals because of mounting financial losses.

“We are diving deep and wide,” Lundquist told the business group. “We are looking at every piece of the puzzle to be sure we don’t overlook anything.
As a good-fath gesture, HealthAlliance execs should impose a voluntary 30-percent salary cut. Here are the current salaries for these folks (courtesy of the Freeman):
• Lundquist received total compensation, including benefits, of $568,391.07 in 2011. His base pay was $540,832.55, which was $27,760 higher than his base pay in 2010.

• Dr. Frank Ehrlich, chief medical officer, received total compensation of $312,418 in 2011. His base pay was $300,007.53, up from $294,704 in 2010.

• John Finch, chief information and community officer, received total compensation of $246,777.50 in 2011. His base pay was $218,424.96, down from $219,687 in 2010.

• Charles Flinn, chief operating officer, received total compensation of $290,657 in 2011. His base pay was $275,008.55, up from $268,173 in 2010.

• Margo McGlivrey, chief nursing officer, received total compensation of $218,897.18 in 2011. Her base pay was $200,011.55, up from $197,679 in 2010.

• Joshua Ratner, chief strategist, received total compensation of $236,555 in 2011. His base pay was $215,007, up from $207,011 in 2010.

• David Scarpino, chief financial officer, received total compensation of $298,406.40 in 2011. His base pay was $275,008, up from $271,789 in 2010.

• Robert Seidman, chief administrative officer, received total compensation of $295,285.34 in 2011. His base pay was $264,200.04, up from $259,574 in 2010.

• Joseph Marsicovete, chief quality officer, received total compensation of $231,687.95 in 2011. His base pay was $221,393.27. (Marsicovete’s 2010 information was not provided, and it was not immediately clear if he worked for HealthAlliance that year.)
None of these people would be hurt terribly by such a cut, though one or two might have to delay purchasing a weekend home, a luxury car, or an expensive vacation -- things the rest of us do without entirely.

I'm not going to hold my breath on this, however. Still it's worth bringing up the ridiculous wages these executives pay themselves while the company continues to flounder.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mojo? Meh

The Ulster County Mojo once again offers up its usually thin analysis of Ulster County politics. This time it's a rather weak narrative regarding Mike Hein:
Word has it that County Executive Hein is acting real bitchy lately, lashing out at real/perceived enemies. What changed the Executive's usually sunny disposition?
Just which word would that be? Has anyone heard anything about Hein acting thin-skinned lately? The Mojo continues:
Ever since Hein became golfing buddies with Lew Kirschner, he's moved up the political ladder at lighting speed. He was floated as a possible running mate for Andrew Cuomo, became best buds with a powerful U.S. Senator and cruised to reelection unopposed. But, just as suddenly, Hein hit a major roadblock.

With great fanfare, Hein announced interest in Ulster County's new congressional district. But, he decided against entering the race against Republican Chris Gibson. Don't believe any cockamamie reason Hein gave to explain his decision. The real reason: polling showed Hein faring poorly against Gibson and he didn't want to gamble his career on a risky race.
I don't think it would have been a risky race at all. As for the primary, the charismatic Hein would have clobbered both the bland Julian Schriebman and the non-establishment Joel Tyner. In the general, Chris Gibson is a first-term Tea Party congressman and is very vulnerable. But why would Hein want to become a back-bencher in a superstar-heavy NY congressional delegation?

In the very next paragraph the Mojo then postulates that everyone hates Hein:
There are other factors at play that limit Hein's political upside. First, governing as a hardcore Republican hurt his standing with grass roots, liberal Democrats. Second, Hein angered labor unions with constant layoff threats and the pending sale of the county nursing home - which will eliminate 400 dues-paying union members from the county payroll. Third, Hein's fight with the NYC DEP over muddy discharges into the Esopus Creek may hurt him with NYC money men that might not appreciate an Upstater messing with their water supply. Has Hein made a powerful enemy (with tons of money) in Mayor Bloomberg?
Okay. I'll concede a bit on the argument regarding Hein's left-wing credentials. He was a registered Republican at one time. But governing as a hard-core Republican? Hardly. More like moderate-to-conservative Democrat. As for the unions, ALL Democrats, pretty much, are having some trouble with the unions, what with their incessant pandering to big business. We'll see how this plays out, but my guess is that Hein, being far better than any alternative (does the Mojo really think the likes of Len Bernardo would be pro-union?), will have absolutely no trouble winning union endorsements in the coming years. The Mojo's last point, that Hein has taken on the NYC power brokers regarding the water issue, also won't matter -- especially given that Bloomberg is a Republican, and that a Democratic administration in NYC would be much more likely to work with on Hein on this issue (something which is very likely to occur in 2013).

The Mojo then concludes that Hein's career is basically over:
In summary, it's hard for any Democrat to rise up the ranks without the support of the liberal party base, labor unions, and NYC power brokers. It remains to be seen if Hein can overcome these challenges. So, unless a well-funded county Republican or liberal Democrat challenges him, it appears Mike Hein will be trapped in Ulster County for a long, long time.
I have very serious doubts about this analysis. In fact, the Mojo makes all of my points for me. He's friends with Chuck Schumer, the number-three guy in the U.S. Senate; he's courting deep-pocketed players for financial support; and he's doing a good job of keeping his name in the news.

I've watched Hein operate and I think he's got a long political career ahead of him. My guess is that he's set his sights on statewide office. And all of the top spots -- senate, governor -- are at the moment filled by very capable Democrats who aren't going anywhere any time soon. I would say that Hein's next logical step would be to run for NYS Comptroller. DiNapoli is weak and could be defeated in a primary -- assuming he even wants to run again.

Whether you love or hate Hein is beside the point. The guy's a pro and is clearly going places -- even if the Mojo doesn't like it.

Bernardo Watch: Where's Terry?

You would think all the flag-waving and parades that went on this past weekend would bring Team Terry out in force, what with all the photo ops and the like. But all's quiet on the Bernardo front. Nary a press release. Could it be that she's decided to lay low for a bit?

Gallo Gets it from All Sides

Campaigning for office and governing are two very different things, as Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo is discovering. Gallo ran for office touting a new rental inspection law, and we've seen how well that process is going. He also ran on a platform of ethics reform. While we applaud the Mayor's ambition on this subject, there's that machine that keeps getting in the way:
A souring relationship between Mayor Shayne Gallo two fellow Democrats on the Common Council was evident amid a testy exchange over dueling ethics law proposals.

The exchanges came during a Thursday night meeting of the council’s Public Safety/Government Committee at which Gallo squared off with Aldermen Thomas Hoffay and Matt Dunn.

Dunn, who chairs the committee, and Hoffay, the council’s majority leader, have proposed an ethics law that they say is almost identical to Gallo has pitched. The mayor, though, says the two proposals are “vastly” different, and he accused the two aldermen of including politically motivated language that makes their proposal unconstitutional.
Picking a fight with members of your own party is usually not a good idea, especially when you're going to need every warm body (vote) you can find in order to move your agenda forward.

As to the language to which Paul Kirby refers, the article doesn't offer any analysis. But Gallo is an attorney, so he has some experience in this area. In this case, I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. You know what would be really helpful, though? If the Freeman staff actually read the legislation and did a little research. The paper could then inform voters of the differences in the proposed laws so we can make up our minds. Instead, the Freeman simply gives us the back-and-forth between the two sides with no indication as to the substance. I realize the staff there are overworked and underpaid, but surely you guys could at least ask a few questions and include this in your next piece. A stand-alone analysis piece would be even better.

As for Gallo, he's caught in a trap of his own device. A former NY governor, who also happens to be the father of our current governor, once said that politicians campaign in poetry but govern in prose. Another way of looking at it is, campaigns are based upon advocacy (you offer to the voters your utopian vision for how you would govern), while governing is based upon compromise (you do what you can to convince the legislature to enact your agenda, which doesn't always work out).

I'm guessing Gallo is beginning to understand these limitations.

And a word of advice to office-seekers: keep your campaign promises to a minimum.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friendly Kingston Employees

I received a rather disturbing email from a Kingston resident:
I was on my way home from work at about 6 pm when I had to cross East Chester St. To get to my house. It is important to note that I live on a one-way street, so my house is only accessible by crossing East Chester Street. I came upon a number of DPW employees, completely blocking the street (the asst superintendents jeep was parked blocking the lane of traffic). Here is where it gets interesting. An employee walks up to my car after about 5 minutes of me sitting there and asks me where the hell I think I am going. I explained to him (politely) that I lived on the one way street and I needed to get to my house. He advised me that I would have to go around and drive up the street (yes, he told me to drive the wrong way on a one-way street). I told him I wasn't comfortable with that, and he told me sounds like "it's tough shit for you". It was then that I asked him if I could talk to a supervisor ( I figured there were one or five there since there were 10 employees on the corner watching the 2 pave, again did I mention it was 6 pm, my guess is we are paying all of these guys overtime.) This employee yells to his supervisor/foreman, "Hey Mike you wanna get over here and talk to this chic, the fucking bitch is cursing at me" (say what?!?!) I wasn't cursing at him.... anyway "Mike" comes over to talk to me telling me that he is going to "do me a favor" and let me get to my house tonight, but tomorrow through Wednesday, I will not be able to get to my house, and if they catch anyone driving over the pavement they will be charged to fix it.... When asked what we were supposed to do if we lived on the street, the explanation I got was either drive the wrong way up the street (?!?!?) or to find someplace else to park and walk home... I love this latest suggestion as I am 6 months pregnant and have a small child, I guess I am supposed to carry him home too from the arbitrary street that we parked on, instead of the city actually paving a main road in the city in small chunks so people can actually get to their homes.
I wonder how Mr. Mayor is going to like it when someone decides to follow the advice of the DPW employees and actually drives up the road and gets hit head-on. I am sure the taxpayers in the city are going to LOVE having to pay for that lawsuit...
UGH is all I can say... UGH...
Okay, it's one thing to block off someone's street. These things happen and residents need to be flexible when repairs are necessary. At the same time, the city should canvass the neighborhood and let residents know what's going to be happening -- even if it's an emergency repair. Print up some flyers (I would assume Kingston has computers equipped with MS Word, and a copy machine) and go door-to-door if need be (it would also give those idle employees something to do). It doesn't take much time and shows residents that local government is concerned for their well being.

But being a jerk is not cool. If this incident went down exactly the way the person describes (not saying anyone is lying, merely that people sometimes remember events differently), then the employees in question need to be reprimanded and instructed on appropriate behavior when dealing with the public. I would also think the mayor's office should offer this woman a formal apology. She did nothing wrong and should not be subject to abuse simply for trying to get home.

It's a Race

So, there is now a Skartados challenger:
Former Newburgh City Councilwoman Christine Bello has been chosen by the Orange County Republican Committee to run for the new 104th State Assembly District this fall. She was selected at their convention Thursday night and will run against Democratic Assemblyman Frank Skartados of Milton. That district represents portions of Orange, Dutchess and Ulster counties.

Bello ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Newburgh last fall.
As I said earlier, I think Frank is a good guy. But he's not an entrenched incumbent like Cahill, Larkin or Bonacic, so this could end up being a very close race. Certainly will be worth watching heading into the fall.

p.s. Thank you to the anonymous commenter for the heads up.


This is always a good idea when it's possible to do so:
Ulster County Executive Michael Hein is using the impending retirement of a long-time county employee to again downsize county government.

On Monday, Hein announced that county Real Property Tax Service Agency Director Dorothy Martin will retire effective June 29 after a 25-year career in county government. Martin was director of the agency for the last six years.

Hein said he will ask the Ulster County Legislature in June to consider a local law that would merge the Real Property Tax Service Agency into the Ulster County Finance Department.

“With Dorothy Martin’s retirement, the timing is perfect to be able to institute this consolidation protecting property tax payers while simultaneously streamlining the delivery of services."
I assume the quote is from Hein, though the article itself has no attribution and no closing quotation mark (the Freeman's website, by the way, is absolutely riddled with typos, spelling errors and bad punctuation. I hope this isn't reflected in the print edition).

The Freeman article has no quote from Bernardo. For that, we have to go to Mid-Hudson News:
Legislature Chairwoman Terry Bernardo, meanwhile, said the lawmakers are “always willing to review proposals to consolidate government and save taxpayer dollars.” They will review the proposal “to ensure that the financial oversight role of the finance department is not compromised,” she said.
As I mentioned in a previous post, it appears that the Freeman is being shut out by the Bernardo Gang. Of course, it's possible that Doxsey didn't bother contacting Bernardo at all, given the state of the relationship. But I think this is unlikely. It's far more likely that Queen Terry is holding a petty grudge, as is her wont.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I've heard through the grapevine that the template I was using was a bit too austere. So, I went ahead and updated it to something a bit livelier. Let me know what you think.

Where's the Opponent?

Piggybacking on Robin's post of the other day, it's beginning to look like Frank Skartados may not have a challenger come November:
State Assemblyman Frank Skartados so far has no Republican challenger for his upcoming re-election bid.

The Milton Democrat, who currently represents the 100th Assembly District, will run in November in the newly drawn 104th District, which comprises parts of Ulster, Dutchess and Orange counties.

Republican leaders in the district say they have no candidate yet to run against Skartados but hope one will emerge.
I like Frank and think he's doing a good job. But it's no fun playing the game by yourself. And having a legitimate challenger gives voters a choice, and it helps keep candidates honest and on their toes.

Come on, guys. You must have someone you can bring in and make this an actual campaign. And what about the other local districts? It appears the GOP here in the Hudson Valley has a very weak bench.

p.s. I totally agree that the new AD-101 is an abomination. This kind of gerrymandering subverts the democratic process.


Here I was ready to concede that Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo deserves some praise for speaking out against the latest proposed Verizon acquisition:
Mayor Shayne Gallo on Monday said competitive pricing cannot be achieved for high-speed Internet services unless federal officials stop a proposed deal between Verizon and wireless providers and cable companies.

“If you don’t have competitive alternatives, consumers and businesses in our city will have rising prices for cable TV, Internet, voice telephonic services, less innovation, and a reduced quality of service,” Gallo said as he explained why he joined eight other mayors in the state in signing a letter opposing the deal.

“Even though (high speed Internet) is widely available in New York City and affluent suburbs it basically removes any incentives for Verizon to provide high speed service to the other urban centers,” Gallo said. “We’ve become dependent on high-speed Internet for access to education, economic development, critical services.”
Verizon is a terrible company, and it will chase a nickle to the gates of hell in order to increase profits. And infrastructure upgrades will be an ongoing issue in the coming years, what with deregulation threatening to eliminate rural phone service altogether. Do you live in the boonies? You can probably kiss your land-line goodbye in the next ten years.

So, kudos to Gallo for taking a stand against Verizon's disgusting, penny-pinching overreach.

Then, today, we get more business as usual from the Gallo administration:
Steve Finkle, the former head of the city’s Office for Economic Development, has taken a consulting job with the developer that plans to build a large housing development at the city’s Hudson River waterfront.

Both Finkle and Mayor Shayne Gallo called the arrangement ethical, saying Finkle had virtually no official contact with officials of Yonkers-based AVR Acquisitions Corp. during the city’s review of AVR’s proposed 1,658-unit housing project.

“He (Finkle) had no official dealings with officials ... with AVR — none whatsoever,” Gallo said.

“I have never had any official dealings with AVR during that whole process,” Finkle said. “I might have made comments on it (to the media), but I never had official dealings.”

Finkle said the city attorney’s office also has deemed his current role with AVR to be ethical.
Any time someone prefaces a statement with, "The seemingly unethical thing I am doing is in fact ethical," you know that you're witnessing a serious tap-dance.

And so what if Finkle didn't have any direct dealings. He sure as hell will now, won't he? And it's not like his friends in Kingston are going to stop taking his calls because he's no longer a member of local government. In fact, Finkle will be on everyone's speed dial. He'll know exactly which wheels need to be greased in order to make this project happen. I wonder how much AVR is paying him for his "expertise"?

The revolving door between local government and private business doesn't seem to bother Gallo. In fact, he seems to welcome it. For shame.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Young Go-Getter

Langdon Chapman is featured this month in City & State, as a "rising star" in Albany. God help us.

The article also offers us the quote of the week:
"It’s not too heady an experience when you’re dealing with garbage all day.”
While Chapman was talking about his days as landfill coordinator for a municipality, one cannot help but be struck by certain similarities with his current portfolio.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Slumlord Escape Hatch?

I don't like the sound of this at all:
City lawmakers are moving closer to deciding whether to pass a law that would make tenants responsible for what landlords typically have been required to do as property owners.

[. . .]

[Kingston Alderman Robert] Senor said the proposal would not take the place of laws requiring landlords to maintain their properties but would give a landlord the ability to put the blame on tenants when they do not take appropriate care of a dwelling.
I guess landlords are barred from collecting security deposits in Kingston. I guess they're also barred from the court system. Having tenants sign leases must also be something that isn't done in Kingston.

Listening to this asinine debate, over something as simple as issuing an annual rental permit, is about as mind-numbing as it gets. Kingston lawmakers are a sorry bunch, I'm afraid.

The Case of the Missing Mortarboard

The so-called Ulster County Crusader tells us that County Executive Mike Hein didn't wear a mortarboard during his appearance at the SUNY Ulster commencement last week. Absolutely horrifying:
Mirror Mirror on the wall who's the vainest or stupidest County Executive of all?

Mike Hein

The other night at the SUNY Ulster Commencement, he refused to wear his cap, was it
vain or stupidity?

You decide.
Is it a noun or an adjective? You decide. I've seen high school students who can writer better than this.

The Crusader goes on:
Proper academic regalia is required for all candidates who participate in any Commencement Ceremony - that includes the dignitaries on the stage.

The crowd was abuzz about how Mike Hein refused to wear his cap when he
addressed the graduates.

It was just disrespectful to the institution.
Really? Is this state law? A university bylaw? Why not provide a link citing this rule? Where, exactly, does it appear?

And the crowd was abuzz? Were they getting out the pitchforks and torches so they could storm the stage and rid us of the embarrassment of a hat-less executive? Sometimes you have to take the law into your own hands, after all.

And you know what happened next? Hein left the ceremony. Again, what will we tell the children? How can Hein call himself a leader when he leaves in the middle of a ceremony to, uh, get back to the business of doing the people's work or something equally frivolous?

Then the Crusader, unable to use this newfangled device known as Google, implies that our county exec is a college drop-out:
Once again Hein said that he was the first member of his family to ATTEND

If you were the first to GRADUATE from college wouldn't you say that?

There is a big difference between ATTENDING college and GRADUATING from college.

But maybe it's only a big difference to those that have graduated.
Wow. So Mike Hein never graduate col . . . Wait! What's that you say? I can actually look this up online? Will the wonders of the internet never cease?:
Michael P. Hein was raised by his parents on their farm in Esopus, New York. During his childhood, Hein attended school in the New Paltz school system. He attended Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, thus becoming the first in his family to attend college. In 1987, he received a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a special emphasis in Management from Eckerd College.
See? That wasn't hard, now, was it?

So, once again, Ulster County's newest attack blog packs all the punch of a wet noodle. This blog is so bad, in fact, that I would not be surprised if Bernardo herself were writing it.

Did anyone you know attend SUNY Ulster Commencement last week? Was Bernardo there? If so, it would explain where this latest post came from.

As I said before, can't you do better than this, Crusader? I'm beginning to feel like I'm picking on a weakling.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

HealthAlliance Execs Got Raises

This just keeps getting uglier. Whatever happened to leadership stepping up and taking one for the team? Not in HealthAlliance's playbook, apparently:
Most of the nine top executives of HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley were given raises in 2011, the year after the company’s Kingston and Benedictine hospitals ran a combined loss of about $2.75 million, according to records provided by the company.

The records, however, also show none of the executives received bonuses in 2011, a change from 2010,which followed a profitable year for the hospitals.

Financial losses of about $10 million for the period of 2008 to 2011 have been cited by HeatlhAlliance as the main reason it is considering closing one of the two hospitals in Kingston, which it has run jointly for about four years.

HealthAlliance officials have defended the executives’ salaries, which are far greater than Ulster County’s median household income, but a spokesman for a union that represents nurses was critical of the pay totals on Friday.

“Such out-of-proportion executive salaries are an example of the HealthAlliance’s misguided priorities, said Mark Genovese of the New York State Nurses Association, to which Benedictine’s nurses belong.
Yep. As the ship is taking on water, the executives are pocketing the silverware.

The Freeman, and Paul Kirby, are doing a great job on this story. Keep it up, guys.

Bernardo Watch: Another Personal Flack

I didn't know the post of legislative chairwoman came with a personal assistant. From Robin Yess:
I hear that Frank Reggero, the newly hired Budget Analyst for the Ulster County Legislature, was busy attending this week’s Town Supervisors’ meeting with Chairwoman Bernardo, where I’m told he sat taking notes while she spoke. If the best and efficient use of taxpayers’ money is the goal – shouldn’t Frank ($50k salary) be at the office working on his strategic plan for this year’s budget rather than driving Miss Daisy around the County and serving as glorified note-taker?
Indeed. But I have a theory for you, Robin. Reggero wasn't hired to be a budget guy. He was hired to be Bernardo's personal assistant.

And it's worth keeping an eye on this. Will Reggero ever do any actual budget work? Maybe. But I'm betting that the majority of his time will be spent peeling figurative grapes for Bernardo. It would be worth taking the time to see how many other events Reggero attends with her -- as opposed to doing his actual job, working on the budget back in his office on Fair Street.

So, now we have Reggero, in addition to Fawn Tantillo, acting as Bernardo's gofer. Just how many ladies-in-waiting does Queen Terry need, anyway?

p.s. Yess says that J.J. Hanson's credentials as a budget guy are up-to-snuff. I never doubted that they were, though it's good to have confirmation that Hein is hiring qualified people (unlike certain other elected officials).

Friday, May 18, 2012

Tantillo's Law

Usually, when a law is named after you, it's because you wrote the legislation in question. But it can also stem from the fact that you inspired this law in some way. Sometimes this is for tragic reasons -- for example, Megan's Law -- and sometimes it's because the person was heroic in some way. Today we're going to talk about a third category, in which someone does something so questionable, the subsequent law forever bears that person's name as a mark of shame.

In the case of Tantillo's Law, the legislation stemmed from her 2004 appointment to become the director of the Office of Employment and Training -- immediately after she resigned her office as a county legislator:
Democrats in the Ulster County Legislature say the practice of giving former lawmakers county jobs shakes people's confidence in county government. So they've proposed a prohibition on ex-lawmakers taking county positions for at least a year after they leave office.

"It gives a perception to the public that there is preferential treatment," said Minority Leader Gary Bischoff, D-Saugerties.

Democrats are seeking to change a local law that establishes rules of conduct for officers and employees of Ulster County by adding a provision prohibiting any elected official from being employed by the county for at least a year after termination of that official's term of office.

Bischoff said the proposal stems from the appointment of former Legislator Fawn Tantillo, a New Paltz Republican, as director of the Office of Employment and Training. He said the point of the change is not to prevent Tantillo from taking the position but to create a mechanism to prevent similar appointments in the future.
It took a little while, but the full legislature put a stop to this practice later that same year:
THE RESOLUTION that restricts county employment for ex-legislators was approved 20-13, with four of the Legislature's 17 Republicans crossing party lines.

Voting yes were all 16 Democratic legislators and Republicans Robert Aiello and Joseph Roberti of Saugerties, Brian Hathaway of Bloomington and Joan Every of Rosendale. The other 13 Republicans voted no.

Proponents of the new rule say it will prevent legislators from receiving choice county jobs simply by virtue of having served in the Legislature.

"I think the public, in the past, has ... thought that legislators have gotten special treatment and the jobs didn't necessarily go to the most qualified" people, said Legislator Richard Parete, D-Accord, who introduced the resolution with his brother, Robert Parete, D-Boiceville, and Peter Kraft, D-Glenford. It later was co-sponsored by all 16 Democratic lawmakers.

SEVERAL former lawmakers have been given county appointments over the years, the most recent being New Paltz Republican Fawn Tantillo. Tantillo resigned from the Legislature in June 2003, citing "unforeseen personal demands," and was appointed director of the county's Office of Employment and Training, at a salary of $56,200, just weeks later.
Tantillo's Law put a stop to this revolving door. And this is a good thing, as it prevents legislators from rewarding themselves with crony jobs when they get bounced from office. Of course, Tantillo, a small-government Republican, didn't see any problem with taking this job, just as she has no problem living off the taxpayer dime currently.

At the end of the Freeman article, now-former legislator Sue Cummings makes a transparently disingenuous argument:
Legislature Majority Leader Susan Cummings, R-Wawarsing, said few former lawmakers hold county positions, and the power of appointment is not abused by the GOP majority.

"If you look at the turnover of legislators, how many are serving in county positions? You're going to find there are not very many of them," she said.
Just how many ex-county legislators were there at the time, Sue? A couple dozen, perhaps? Give me a break.

So, do you think Fawn Tantillo is now holding her head up high because she inspired this law?

Notice, also, that as soon as one of her pals could reward her with another cushy government job, Tantillo was there, hand outstretched, ready to pocket more of our money.

And if Tantillo hates "big government" so much, why does she forever want to be a part of it?

A Public Process

Let's hope executive compensation is part of this discussion:
A cost-saving plan being developed by HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley that could involve closing one of its two hospitals in Kingston should be a public process, a state lawmaker says.

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, who helped secure $47 million in state funding to help bring about the 2008 affiliation of Kingston and Benedictine hospitals, said in a press release that he has “offered to facilitate an open and public process for the development of plans for the possible restructuring of HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley.”

HealthAlliance announced on May 4 that it may close one of the two hospitals, which are less than a mile apart in Midtown Kingston, because of steep financial losses. On Wednesday, HealthAlliance officials said they expect to have a “preliminary plan” in place within 90 days.
But I'm not getting my hopes up.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Just Awful

If you will allow me to get serious for a moment, the Matthew 25 Food Pantry in Catskill was gutted by fire earlier today. From the Watershed Post:
The Daily Mail is reporting today that an electrical fire gutted the Matthew 25 food bank in Catskill, destroying refrigerators, freezers and foodstock.

Volunteers have begun clean-up, and organizers report they will relocate, but money and donations are needed. The Matthew 25 food bank, founded in 2009, moved to its current location on Main Street from West Bridge Street last August.
Here's a chance for people to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to supporting local charity.

The operators of the bank have set up a Paypal link for those who would like to donate. If you can spare it, why not send a few bucks and help them get back on their feet?


Hector Rodriguez once used a fax machine in an unethical manner, apparently:
Hector Rodriguez of New Paltz submitted a resolution providing a mechanism for removal of the Chairman of the Legislature, that has proven to be nothing more than a cheap political stunt, that sources say he pulled for Minority Leader David Donaldson.

But that is something that Hector is intimately familiar with - political stunts for political allies.

Just a few years ago Hector Rodriguez, a New Paltz Democrat, gave up a $54,000-a-year job as Comptroller Alan Hevesi's Hudson Valley regional representative.

He took the job after working in Hevesi's election campaign and worked in both the New Windsor and Albany offices.

Rodriguez resigned in disgrace after he alledgely (sic) faxed political material from the New Windsor office.

"It is absolutely forbidden to use any state facility of any kind for any campaign or political purpose," a representative from Hevisi's office said, "It will not be tolerated."
The so-called Crusader doesn't provide a link, but he/she is referring to this story from 2004. And there's no doubt that it was a clear violation of ethics rules, for which Rodriguez paid a heavy price: He lost his job.

But, as Donaldson notes in the same article, this was the political equivalent of jaywalking:
"In many places, it would be a slap on the hand," Donaldson said.
If Rodgriguez had simply gone to the Kinko's down the street, he wouldn't have lost his job.

If the best the Crusader can do is trot out old news from eight years ago, news in which justice was fully served in that the person who violated the ethics rule lost his job, then I'm afraid we're in for some very weak tea.

Come on, Crusader. Can't you do better than this?

And while we're on the subject of old news, maybe we should do a full-blown retrospective on Tantillo's Law one of these days.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

An Oldie but a Goodie

I sincerely hope that Len Bernardo steps up to run for office again, if only so that we get more ads like this one from 2008:

Do your civic duty, Len. It's for the good of the Independence Party county.

That's Real Money

One of the things we seem never to hear about in this age of strained budgets is executive compensation. But it's worth discussing. According to the Economic Policy Institute, as of 2010, the ratio of executive pay to that of an entry-level worker is 243-to-1 (click through for an easy-to-read graph). In other words, if an entry-level worker is hired at $40k per year, the CEO's average wage is $9.7 million. This is historically unprecedented territory. During the 60s and 70s, for example, it was about 30-to-1 on average, or about $1.2 million compared to the entry level wage of $40k.

The reason I bring this up is that we have some of this going on in our own back yard:
Seventeen executives of HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley received a total of $4.6 million in base pay, benefits, bonuses and other compensation in 2010, the same year the companies’ Kingston and Benedictine hospitals lost a combined $2.75 million, according to tax records.

The company’s president and chief executive officer pulled down more than $630,000 of that total. Another $590,000-plus went to a former Benedictine CEO.

The 2010 records — which are the most recent available and which are posted at, a website regarding not-for-profit organizations in the United States — were reviewed by the Freeman after HealthAlliance announced on May 4 that it might close one of the two hospitals to cut costs.
In case math isn't your strong suit, the losses incurred by Kingston and Benedictine hospitals amount to approximately 60 percent of the salaries paid to just 17 of Health Alliance's top officials.

So, if the hospitals are losing money year-over-year, why shouldn't these officials have their compensation cut back to sustainable levels? Instead, we talk about eliminating the jobs of janitors and other low-pay workers. A 60-percent pay cut for Health Alliance CEO David Lundquist, on the other hand, would reduced his salary from $630k down to $252k. How's he supposed to live on such a paltry sum?

Closing one of the hospitals could put several hundred people out of work and take hundreds-of-million dollars out of the local economy. But we're not hearing from any of these executives regarding their bloated salaries, are we? Are their salaries more important than our jobs? Are they more important than the local economy? If you got rid of these ridiculous compensation packages, these two hospitals would be able to make ends meet. What ever happened to the CEO stepping up and taking responsibility for the poor performance of the company? Didn't Lee Iaccoca refuse to take a salary when Chrysler was floundering?

Granted, Health Alliance's salaries aren't completely insane, unlike many other companies. But cutting executive compensation could end up saving one of Kingston's hospitals, along with all of the jobs and other economic activity it creates.

I think the company's board of directors should fire the entire leadership team of Health Alliance, and then replace them with executives who are willing to work for much lower salaries.

Update: Fixed the link to the Freeman story.

License and Registration, Please

Looks like our friend, Bernardo flack Jeremy Blaber, has some splainin' to do:
What goes around comes around, Jeremy Blaber has learned.

Blaber, a Kingston parking enforcement officer who made headlines in February for twice ticketing Mayor Shayne Gallo’s car, now has a ticket of his own — for driving without a front license plate.

“If I could sum this up in one word: karma,” Blaber said this week.

Kingston Police Chief Egidio Tinti said a city police officer saw Blaber driving a vehicle lacking a front license plate about 1:30 a.m. Friday on Broadway.
The good news is that Blaber says he is now driving legally, so all's well that ends well.

A little lesson for Blaber, that public officials should be held to the highest possible standard when it comes to the law.

Please stop laughing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How to Kill a Resolution

It looks like the Rodriguez resolution to create a mechanism to remove the chairman of the county legislature is DOA:
A proposal to amend the Ulster County Legislature’s rules to provide a mechanism to remove the Legislature chairman from office is being withdrawn, but not because its sponsors don’t want to advance it.
Great. So what's the problem?:
Legislative Attorney Erica Guerin said that because the position of chairman of the Legislature is a “statutorily created” position that carries a one-year term, legislators cannot adopt rules through a resolution to remove that person midterm. Rather, she said, the procedure to remove must be adopted through a local law and must provide reasons for the removal.

Minority Counsel Chris Ragucci, who represents the Democratic caucus, disagreed, saying that because the chairman isn’t elected in a “public election” but rather through a vote of the Legislature, the position is “an internal administrative position.” He also argued that because it is a legislative appointment, the office holder “has no right to that office,” and no reasons for removal need be delineated.
I think would agree with Ragucci. Members of the caucus choose the chairman, not the voters.

And this comes on the heels of the Republican caucus last week, in which plans to kill the resolution were discussed:
Republicans in the Ulster County Legislature during Tuesday's May 8 caucus handily dismissed a resolution sponsored by a Democratic counterpart that would change the laws of the legislature to enable lawmakers to remove the lawmaking body's chair, if the need ever arises.

Hector Rodriguez, D-New Paltz, sponsored the resolution because he said the legislature presently lacks any mechanism for removal. Most Democrats in their caucus support the measure. While Rich Parete, D-Marbletown, and John Parete, D-Olive, staunchly oppose Rodriguez's legislation, Rob Parete, D-Stone Ridge, said he'd be introducing to the Laws and Rules committee accompanying legislation that would empower the Legislature to remove the Majority and Minority leader, as well. Legislative counsel Langdon Chapman told Republicans that his understanding is that county law provides that the term of the chair of the legislature is for one year.

"When the state law says the term of the chair is one year, your rules are not the appropriate mechanism to try to override the state law," he said. "In my view, that's an issue — you can't be passing resolutions that contradict state laws."

Kevin Roberts, who chairs the Laws and Rules Committee, said, "The only way a chair should be removed is if he or she commits an illegal act."

Chair of the Legislature, Terry Bernardo, R-Accord, who was present at the Republican caucus, asked Roberts to "kill" the legislation at Monday's upcoming Laws and Rules Committee meeting and he assured her it would be "squashed." Chapman said that if the resolution is defeated in committee, it won't make it to the floor of the Legislature.

Several legislators have been grumbling publicly about some of Bernardo's recent actions, and Republicans feared that some Dems might attempt to use the legislation to oust the new chairwoman.
I think a few members of the GOP are also feeling a bit of buyer's remorse, but who am I to quibble.

So, it appears the Rodriguez resolution is history. And it also appears that some Democrats have gotten cold feet about this. Too bad. The good news is that many of our legislators are starting to have second thoughts about the acumen of our current leader, and rightly so. We'll have to wait and see what January 2013 has in store, it appears.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Caped Crusader?

Jeremy Blaber highlights a new Ulster County blog, one that was apparently started to push back against the criticism the Bernardos and the Independence Party gang have been receiving from this and other blogs in the county:
The blog looks like it was made to counter some of the nonsense going on with the Liberty whatever blog and the Cloak room. There are only two or three posts but it looks like it will be pretty entertaining. Before you ask, no it's not me and I do not know who it is. I barley have time to keep this blog updated much less do other blogs. However with campaign season around the corner and politicos not being so fair and balanced, I will do my best to keep this blog updated from now on.
The blog is calling itself the Ulster County Crusader, Batman logo and all, and there are several posts for us to browse. One is attacking Robin Yess for expressing her opinion, and the other is a rehash of the alleged David Donaldson road rage incident of a few days ago. The blog offers nothing on policy. Nothing on whether the decision making process on Fair Street is nothing more than partisan cronyism. No response at all to any of the criticisms Bernardo opponents have leveled.

What it does have is the same kind of PhotoShop silliness that was part-and-parcel of the amusingly deranged Ulster County Mojo. There's one PhotoShop of Yess with Charlie Sheen, another of Jon Dogar in a Speedo, and one of Donaldson in a dust mask. That's about it. Nothing of substance.

And, because of its similarity to the Mojo, I thought I would drop in to that site just to see if anything was cooking. Sure enough, the same weekend Ulster Crusader kicks off is the first time in in nearly eight months that Ulster County Mojo has been updated.

Way to be transparent, guys. So, it looks as if the Bernardo mouthpieces are coming out in force. What took you so long?

Anyway, I'm hopeful that both blogs will contribute to the dialog, even when the criticism is off point. And I will also add both of these blogs to my blogroll. For those of you who may not be aware, the list of blogs and media outlets I list on the right, in one way or another, contribute to the conversation here in Ulster County. I check each every day, just to see what's going on. You should do the same, as it's a good way to stay on top of what some of your neighbors are thinking.

Do any of you know about other local blogs I haven't listed? If so, please provide a link in the comments, and will look at adding them to the blogroll.

As for Mojo and Crusader, I hope they keep at it. But I don't have high hopes. Blogging every day is surprisingly difficult work. Even a satirical site like Mojo ran out of gas after a while. But if we all keep linking to one another -- especially when we disagree -- we can keep the conversation going.

p.s. If a blog or a website is on my blogroll, this doesn't mean I endorse the views expressed therein. I disagree with the Liberty Coalition and the Rochester Republicans on most policy issues, but I'm happy to break virtual bread with my neighbors -- and sometimes our interests overlap, dontcha know.

Democracy in Action

This Freeman story is enough to make even the most jaded among us lose heart. How do we bring change to local politics, when there is no opposition? Ariel Zangla explains:
Five candidates are running for the five available seats on the Rondout Valley school Board of Education in Tuesday’s election.

Incumbents Breanna Costello, David O’Halloran and Michael Redmond will be joined on the ballot by newcomers Wayne Beckerman and Rebecca Versace.

Incumbents Gail Hutchins and Matthew Finck are not seeking re-election.

The top three vote-getters on Tuesday will serve three year terms; the other two will serve one-year terms, replacing Trustees Lennart Berg and William Oliva, who have resigned.
So, five seats, five candidates. Isn't that just swell. And if you want to express your dissatisfaction with the current crop of candidates, you can . . . go home and scream into your pillow, I guess.

And, as several commenters have noted, O'Halloran doesn't send his kids to Rondout schools. Who knows why this is. But some might feel that O'Halloran is a bit of an elitist by doing so.

It also leads one to ask why O'Halloran would want this seat, given his apparent disdain for public education. Well, it all comes down to the budget, doesn't it?:
“Over the last decade of increasing budgets, many challenges were solved by spending more money,” O’Halloran said. But that is no longer an option, and the district must review every cost and service and look for more efficient delivery of service, he said.

O’Halloran said he chaired committees that reduced the footprint of the school district, allowing for a more efficient grade configuration and reducing the overall budget by $1.8 million while maintaining strong programs in academics, the arts and sports.
O'Halloran, first and foremost, doesn't like taxes. So, he will do what's right for his own interests. But will he do right by the students? This remains an open question.

I would suggest that you vote for O'Halloran's opponent, but it looks like you'll have to be satisfied with that pillow I mentioned.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Night Open Thread

It's no fun being serious all the time, so here are a few minor diversions respectfully submitted for your perusal.

A dog playing Fruit Ninja. And how much to you want to bet that he can kick your ass at it?:

"Illegal mental patterns are being corrected." How long before reality eclipses satire?:

That's gotta hurt:

You forgot something!:

How bad will climate change be? This bad:

And, in honor of this glorious Friday weather. I think Frank was on to something:

Are there any videos you'd like to share? Any community events you'd like to alert your neighbors to? If so, please post them in comments. And don't worry if your comment doesn't show up right away. I'll be checking the spam filter periodically.

Petty Tyrants

Small towns often have a handful of tinpot dictators. Turns out the Town of Bovina has a few, as the town needs to make "a determination" as to whether it will deign to provide information that is a matter of public record. Robin Yess explains:
I may have mentioned previously that some members of the Liberty Coalition have agreed to send FOIL requests to collect information regarding the dollar amount of the many paychecks received by Langdon Chapman, Orange County resident and Counsel to the Ulster County Legislature at a salary of $49,750. For those who don’t know, Langdon holds many different positions representing other municipalities – on top of being a staff member of the New York State Senate for an annual salary of $96,500.04 (see this older post).

I am pleased to report that the Town of Mamakating responded expeditiously to a FOIL request sent by me with a comprehensive report showing total compensation paid for services rendered by Langdon Chapman (check paid to Bonacic, Krahulik & Associates) was $38,778.45, between February 3, 2010 through May 5, 2012. Looks as if Chapman/Bonacic et al receives $1,327.35 for each time Chapman appears at a Planning Board meeting.

We asked all other municipalities where Langdon is either an employee or representative of a contracted firm for complete salary or payment information. Unfortunately, the Town of Bovina Center was not so accommodating (see letter below) as they have informed our FOIL requester that “A determination on whether to grant or deny in whole or in part will be made on or before May 29, 2012.”
Click through to read the letter.

It really is mind-boggling just how petty some towns can be. For Bovina, it's almost as if they might have something to hide. Seriously. "How much are you paying your town attorney?" is a question that should be readily answered.

And it looks as if Langdon Chapman is doing quite nicely for himself, what with all of these hefty paychecks from the taxpayer. I love how some small-government Republicans talk about cutting back on waste and slashing bloated budgets, while at the same time they collect lucrative salaries on the taxpayers dime. Chapman and his boss, Senator Bonacic, certainly talk the talk. But when it comes to walking the walk, they have their hands in our pockets just like the rest of them.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

More Litigation

Just what we need:
New York state lawmakers are moving closer to repealing a provision of state law that prohibits attorneys from serving legal documents via postal mail sent from outside the state.

The Senate Judiciary Committee last week approved the measure, which was first proposed last year by state court administrators, meaning it is now eligible to be voted on by the Senate. The state Assembly passed the bill in February.
And what will this legislation do for New Yorkers?:
Allowing service by mail from outside the state will remove an artificial barrier to service and encourage litigation to be brought in New York, court administrators have said.
Just what we need, more litigation! And who do we have to thank for this new business? Why, our old friend Senator Bonacic:
A spokesman for Senator John Bonacic, who sponsored the proposal, said he was "unaware of any objection to the bill" and optimistic about its chances of passing the Senate in the remaining six weeks of this year's session.
More litigation means more lawyers. And collections is certainly a growth industry these days, so why not jump on the bandwagon? The senator has always said he wants to create jobs.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Back to the Gardiner

Tempers flared at the April 17 Gardiner Planning Board meeting, when board alternate member Mark Rausher accused board chairman Mike Boylan of giving preferential treatment to one of the other members of the board:
The meeting was about to adjourn when Rausher requested that a letter he had written to the full Planning Board subsequent to its March 20 meeting be read into the record.
The letter outlined what Rausher perceives to be a conflict of interest when it came to how the board had dealt with an application by board member Paul Colucci:
"When applicant Paul Colucci appeared before the board [on March 20], he was treated differently than any other applicant. He was allowed to strut back and forth instead of remaining sitting, to use a bullying and belligerent tone in an attempt to intimidate members of the board who questioned his application," Rausher wrote. "I believe the chairman, biased because of his friendship with the applicant and the applicant's status as a member of the board, did not act in a neutral and objective manner, and allowed the applicant to act in a manner unacceptable at any other time."
This led Colucci to respond rather angrily:
Colucci flared up at the accusation. "To stand here and make a statement like that, I think it's irresponsible," he told Rausher heatedly. "I take offense to it."
Rausher, however, stuck by his guns and said that Boylan should recuse himself from any decisions involving Colucci's application:
"In order to maintain the full faith and confidence of the community, it's our job to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest," said Rausher, adding that in Boylan's case, in his view, "There is an apparent conflict of interest that a reasonable person might suspect to be true. It's a simple matter to recuse yourself. I don't think you should be chairing the board during these discussions."
Boylan then said that, in small-town U.S.A., everyone already knows everyone, so there's no way to avoid such conflicts. Colucci, however, has recused himself in the past, so it shouldn't be a big deal for Boylan to do so now, Rausher said.

Rausher then added that he feels this is yet another example of the petty corruption seen in small towns:
"There's a reason why small towns have a stereotype of being rife with cronyism and old-boy networks, because to some extent it's true. . . I'm not the only one who thinks this is a problem."
Indeed, Mark; this blog is in agreement with you. Cronyism is how these networks manage to perpetuate their interests at the expense of the residents of a community. Planning boards are the very nexus of this kind of petty corruption.

Keep it up, Mark. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Note: This article appeared in the April 26 print edition of the New Paltz Times, a publication that is more interested in preserving its brand than it is in engaging the community. Hence, no link, as the story is not, nor will it ever be, available online.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

And This Would Change . . . What?

Jeremy Schiffres, the city editor at the Freeman, thinks Joe Roberti went too far in publicly dressing-down Bob Aiello for standing up to the Bernardos:
* Note to town of Saugerties Republican Chairman Joe Roberti: Publicly admonishing Ulster County Legislator Bob Aiello, R-Saugerties, for taking a stand against Legislature Chairwoman Terry Bernardo, R-Accord — and threatening to pull the party's endorsement of Aiello in the next election — probably was not a good idea. The GOP holds only a razor-thin 13-12 majority in the Legislature, and Aiello always has been an on-the-fence kinda guy when it comes to politics. Anger him enough, and it seems to me that he just might jump ship — and put the Democrats in control.
Really? I thought the Independence Party was in control, seeing that 20 of the 23 current legislators got the Ind. line last time out. So I don't think much would change if the majority and minority leaders switched seats. Bernardo would still be the chair, and the agenda would likely remain much as it is right now.

Of course, if Schiffres is simply saying that Roberti is shooting himself in the foot, well, why would such a development surprise anyone?

Point taken, Jeremy. Pass the popcorn.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Government Doesn't Create Jobs?

Well, it does if your name is Langdon Chapman. We've written about this before, but it's worth going over again. Langdon Chapman is a busy boy:
So, who is Langdon Chapman? This question needs to be answered. After all, Terry Bernardo, the newly installed chair of the Ulster Legislature, went out of her way to appoint Chapman as the new counsel to the chamber, this over the strenuous objections of attorneys in Ulster County.

Chapman, of course, doesn't live in Ulster County. He lives in Orange. So why would Bernardo go out of her way to appoint a carpetbagger? Well, for one, he's State Senator John Bonacic's chief of staff. Seems a little odd to have the chief of staff to a state senator providing legal advice to an allegedly independent legislative body, doesn't it? At the very least, there's the appearance that Bonacic's office will have a huge influence over the legislative agenda in Ulster County.

If that's not enough to give one pause, try this on for size: Chapman is also the planning board attorney for the City of Port Jervis in Orange County. If that's not enough, he's also the planning board attorney for the Town of Mamakating in Sullivan County. What? There's more? He is also the town/village attorney for the following municipalities: The Town of Bovina and the Town of Stamford (both of which are in Delaware County), and the Village of Liberty (Sullivan).

In addition to this, Chapman is also an associate at Bonacic's law firm, Bonacic, Krahulik, Cuddeback, McMachon & Brady, LLC, in Middlewtown. Just how many jobs does this guy have? And why was it so important that Bernardo appoint him? At whose request? I can't imagine that Chapman's appointment came as a result of a talent search. Seriously. They scour the local market looking for someone who's a good fit for the job, and the person they come up with is this guy? No. This is some sort of quid pro quo, with Bonacic's law firm the likely beneficiary.

I wonder just how much business Chapman steers to his boss's firm? Definitely worth looking into.
Robin Yess today highlights the many hats Chapman wears. Interestingly, Yess didn't mention the City of Port Jervis. And she's done her homework, it appears, as Chapman has stepped down from his post as planning board attorney for that city. Guess he was just too busy. What is interesting is that Chapman's replacement is Robert Krahulik, an attorney with Bonacic, Krahulik, Cuddeback, McMahon & Brady, LLP, of Middletown, and the son of one of the firm's founders.

Bonacic and his partners seem to love all this municipal business, and the money that flows into the firm's coffers. But Bonacic is also on the record that government shouldn't be in the job creation business. Which is it, senator? Seems like government is creating plenty of jobs for Chapman and the stable of attorneys at your firm.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Bernardo Watch: How Dare You Question My Crony Appointments!

That's the shorter version of this statement from Bernardo:
Provenzano said that during the executive session, Bernardo, in a written statement, accused the committee of overreaching its jurisdiction, but complied with its requests for information because it is "part of the public record."
Bernardo is saying the legislature has no right to ask questions about rewarding her pals with cushy jobs? Well, the voters will have something to say about this in November, when we vote on the referendum to strip the chair of these outrageous powers. Cronyism on the local level is pervasive in this country. It's a disease that starts in our communities, and spreads everywhere -- especially to our state legislature and our Congress. It's time the voters to take a stand against this. If we can put an end to it on the local level, we can eventually stop it on the state and national level.

Enjoy it while it lasts, Terry.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bernardo Watch: Spend, and Spend Some More

Okay, these are some serious cojones even for the Bernardo Gang. A press release from David Donaldson:
Legislators Question Ulster County Republican Chairwoman Terry Bernardo’s priorities.

At the beginning of this week, without any discussion with the Legislature or the Public Works Committee that oversees renovations, Republican Chairwoman Terry Bernardo requested through the County Executive’s Office to redesign the Legislative offices, including an increase in space for the her office. The request was brought to the Executive’s office by the Chairwoman’s confidential secretary, Fawn Tantillo, who also serves as Vice Chair of the Ulster County Independence party.

Today Minority Leader David Donaldson and Legislator Peter Loughran questioned Ulster County Legislative Chair Terry Bernardo’s new plan to redesign the Legislative Offices to expand her personal office and eliminate the Legislative Conference Room.

“During these difficult fiscal times, I can’t believe that the Republican Chair would not only waste taxpayers money for her own indulgences, but actually move to hurt the operations of the Legislature by eliminating the Legislative Conference room that is used both by smaller legislative committees as well as for conferences by both sides of the isle.” stated Donaldson.

“Legislative offices are less that four years old and have functioned well for both Democrat and Republican Chairs since we transitioned into our charter form of government. The idea that Chair Bernardo sees fit to order a renovation of space, including a larger personal office for herself, without any Legislative approval or even a discussion in the Public Works Committee, is disturbing. These type of decisions need to be discussed in committee, stated the former Chairman of the Pubic Works Committee, Legislator Peter Loughran.

Donaldson concluded by stating, “This is another glaring example of the Republican Chairwoman’s total lack of understanding for the problems this county is facing. I have a feeling that the people of this county don’t see expanding her office as a priority”

Contact David Donaldson 845-399-8709
We're well past the point of questioning her priorities. We know what her priorities are. We're now at the point where we need to seriously question her fitness to hold public office. Truly unbelievable.

Myers in Legal Hot Water?

This dovetails somewhat with the affordable housing situation in Kingston, in which we have Mayor Gallo openly attacking affordable housing during the campaign (to garner votes, no doubt), and then changing course on the issue when the development in question will be for "artists" instead of "poor and low-income" resident. In this case, however, Saugerties Supervisor Kelly Myers has apparently kicked the hornet's nest. From the Saugerties Times:
The lawyer for Dickinson’s Keep developer Crowne Management said last week that town supervisor Kelly Myers should recuse herself from voting on the project or she could face a lawsuit for interfering in a project. As a low-to-moderate-income housing development, a discrimination charge could be made, said attorney Michael Moriello.

Myers denied interfering with the project, and town attorney John Greco said there was no reason for her to recuse herself from the project.

The catalyst for Moriello’s statement was an unsuccessful request by Myers to have the project’s April 4 public hearing at the Ulster County Planning Board rescheduled. Myers said the call was not an attempt to derail the process, that she wanted the hearing to be rescheduled because that same night the town was holding a public hearing on a $15 million sports complex and she believed constituents should be able to attend both. She wanted to attend, too. County Planning Board chair Dennis Doyle confirmed that was the reason Myers gave.

Moriello wasn’t buying it. In a letter to the town, he wrote: “in any event, this is to inform that any further attempts at interfering with my client’s administrative due process rights by the supervisor will not be countenanced.”

In addition, Myers “made opposition to my client’s project a centerpiece of her recent election strategy,” Moriello states. He further states that in his opinion, the Town Board overstepped its authority in rescinding a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement that reduced Dickinson’s Keep tax liability.

Moriello also hinted at discrimination. He cited the Federal Fair Housing Act, which states that action taken by local governments that “would be a discriminatory housing practice shall be invalid.” The law covers both actions motivated by an intent to discriminate, or when “the local government’s otherwise neutral action nevertheless has an unnecessarily discriminatory effect.”

“The supervisor is certainly entitled to her opinion, and she is free to speak the same against this project for justifiable reasons and as a duly elected public official,” Moriello acknowledges. “However, as a town official, she is not entitled to engage in a course of action which is at variance with New York State law and which may result in a discriminatory effect under Federal law,” Moriello states. “Accordingly, it is evident that the supervisor should recuse herself from any further activities which involve my client and/or Dickinson’s Keep LLC.”
If I'm parsing all of this correctly, Myers campaigned against the project when she ran in November. Now, the developer Myers was attacking at that time is fighting back. Granted, the rescheduling of conflicting meetings, especially when it involves major projects, is always a good idea. But, when you make enemies of people who have attorneys on retainer, these things can come back to bite you. Dickinson's Keep will undoubtedly do whatever they can legally do to undermine Myers's position.

Not sure how this one will play out, but it could get very ugly very quickly if potential discrimination is involved (the feds do not look kindly on this kind of thing). Definitely one to watch.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Bernardo Watch: Reigning-In the Cronyism

This is a really good idea. From Michael Novinson at the THR (behind the paywall):
Ulster's legislative leader would have less power to select staff under changes passed Tuesday by the county's charter revision commission.

The commission voted 6-3 to institute a residency requirement for legislative counsel and 7-2 to subject the top clerk to confirmation from the entire legislative body.

"Checks and balances are good for the people of the county," said Joan Lawrence-Bauer, who voted for both changes.
Novinson does a good job highlighting the reasons for the recommendations, citing the fact that the Bernardos have "drawn the ire" of fellow legislators regarding the Thomshaw firing, the retention of Bonacic hatchet-man Langdon Chapman as counsel, and the hiring of Frank Reggero as budget analyst when he "lacks a financial background or bachelor's degree."

The changes to the charter have to be approved by the full legislature in August, and there will also be a referendum on the ballot in November, according to Novinson. This is one to keep an eye on, both for lobbying our respective legislators to approve the changes, and to let voters know about the referendum (and whether to vote "yes" or "no," depending upon how it's worded).

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Mathes Mystery

I agree with Robin. Just what the hell does Mathes do all day, and why doesn't he have to show up for work like everyone else? She suggests County Comptroller Eliot Auerbach look into the matter:
Hey Eliot – if you’re on a quest for good attendance, how about telling us where the heck Sandy Mathes is? I am calling on you to investigate the whereabouts of Mathes, our newly hired employee in the Legislative Clerk’s office. He appears on budget line 10401055 as a Deputy Clerk for $37,500 in case you’re wondering and he doesn’t seem to ever show up for work. Perhaps you can tell us what exactly his job duties are and where he’s doing them. We didn’t know the County offered a work-from-home program and if we do you might want to tell the CSEA. I’m sure they’ll be delighted to hear the news.
Or maybe some intrepid reporter at a local newspaper could start, you know, asking questions about Mathes's apparent absence.

Gallo Likes Some Affordable Housing Projects, But Not Others

I wonder why?:
Mayor Shayne Gallo supports a plan by an affordable-housing provider to turn a former Midtown factory building into a 55-unit apartment complex.

Gallo said the renovation project by Rural Ulster Preservation Co. would transform a vacant building, add to the city’s housing stock, serve to help revitalize Midtown, and provide an oasis for young artists and couples.

“It would improve the quality of life in that neighborhood and contribute to the revitalization of Midtown,” Gallo said. “We need to do anything we can to revitalize Midtown and the (project) goes a long way to that end.”
Those of us with a memory that stretches back more than a few weeks will recall that Gallo sang a very different tune about affordable housing during the campaign:
Mayoral candidates from both major parties said on Wednesday that they strongly oppose a plan to build an affordable housing complex at the site of a former welfare motel in Midtown.

[. . .]

Shayne Gallo, an assistant city attorney seeking the challenge Clement in a primary for the Democratic mayoral nomination, said he, too, opposes the housing plan.

“Midtown has a disproportionate number of poor and low-income people,” Gallo said. “We need to have development at that site to diversify and create and foster an environment for all classes of people to live and work in Midtown.”

Gallo — who announced his candidacy at an event in the King’s Inn parking lot and has made the revitalization of Midtown a central theme of his campaign — said for-pruchase housing, such as condominiums or townhouses, should be built at the King’s Inn site.
Really? Some of the poorest people I know are artists. Many of the residents of the proposed RUPCO development are likely to receive government assistance. And if it says "affordable housing," it's very likely to be receiving money from HUD.

One might be tempted to suggest that Gallo has a problem with the demographic profile of those who would have lived in the Safe Harbors development. A more cynical person would say that this is definitely the reason. "Poor and low-income" is just the latest euphemism.