Wednesday, December 14, 2011



Forum assesses new Ulster County Charter

Copyright © 2011 Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc.

NEW PALTZ – Numerous public officials attended a conference featuring members of the Ulster County Charter Review Commission, held Tuesday at SUNY New Paltz. The event was hosted by the Center for Research, Regional Education, and Outreach (CRREO).

Ulster County adopted its charter changes three years ago and is gearing up for its mandated five year review. Tuesday’s forum served as a sounding board for review commission members to consider while making their eventual recommendations to the legislature.

Conference mediator Dr. Gerald Benjamin, distinguished professor of political science and director of CRREO at SUNY New Paltz, said the new charter was designed to insure separation of powers, redistricting and goals as opposed to actual experience.

For the most part, it has been working, but he would recommend some modifications in the applications.

“Part of it is educating the people on their roles and responsibilities,” he said. “I think the comptroller’s office needs to be bolstered with more resources. I think there are changes in detail that are needed in the redistricting process, although that was an enormous success.”

“The charter for the most part eliminated the historic practice of department heads being feudal lords, based on their diplomatic skills,” said Marianne Collins, former Charter Commission member. “The charter, for better or for worse, installed leadership and accountability as the criteria by which the citizens of Ulster County evaluate their chief elected.”

The revised charter “seemed to be a near perfect document, implemented by imperfect people,” said County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach. And, politics really seeped into the implementation of it.” Auerbach said that after charter adoption, his office has both praised and criticized his county government as part of its mission. “We sort of have become a political science experiment.”

Dave Donaldson, minority leader elect and former commission chair, said that before the new charter, “transparency was definitely not part of the program.” However, he said they don’t see “a great deal of transparency in the new form, the way it’s working now. He cited the recent Golden Hill senior care privatization plan. “There was nothing transparent about that; it was handed down during the budget period, with a short period of time to make very important decisions that are going to affect the county for decades to come.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

"Shame on them if they have no legitimate excuse,"

"Eighty percent of success is showing up."
-- Woody Allen

Some Ulster lame-duck legislators skip out |

By Michael Novinson
Times Herald-Record
Published: 2:00 AM - 12/13/11

KINGSTON — County Executive Mike Hein's Oct. 25 address on the financial need to privatize Golden Hill was heard by 19 legislators and 14 empty chairs. Eight of those empty chairs belong to departing legislators.

The Legislature paid the Center for Governmental Research some $60,000 to analyze Hein's 2012 budget. Just 23 of the 33 legislators showed up Nov. 9 to hear CGR's findings. Six of the no-shows are leaving Dec. 31.

The Legislature's most important public hearing in nearly a decade took place Nov. 29. Eight legislators failed to show; six of those eight are not returning for another term.

Why so many empty chairs? The shrinking of Ulster's Legislature by 10 members and the switch to single-member districts Jan. 1 turned 15 of the current 33 legislators into lame ducks. And once futures were sealed, attendance changed for many.

The Times Herald-Record found 12 of the 15 departing legislators showed up less after learning they wouldn't serve another term. Attendance for seven of the 15 fell at least 24 percent.

"Shame on them if they have no legitimate excuse," said Russ Haven, legislative counsel for the New York Public Interest Research Group. Legislators draw an annual salary of $10,000.

Walter Frey, R-Saugerties, attended 41 of his 53 legislative meetings between Jan. 1 and Sept. 12. On Sept. 13, Frey lost the Republican primary to incumbent Bob Aiello 43-106. Since then, Frey made just seven of his 21 meetings. The drop-off: 44 percent. Frey was an early advocate for privatizing Golden Hill and was criticized by colleagues and public speakers. He didn't attend a single meeting of the full Legislature between July 19 and Dec. 5, when he cast the critical 17th vote for privatization. "I let them have their dog-and-pony show," he said. "My day would come."

Jack Hayes, R-Gardiner, attended 44 of his 50 legislative meetings between Jan. 1 and Nov. 7. Hayes lost the Nov. 8 general election to Tracey Bartels 905-1,035. Since then, Hayes has made just three of six meetings and was the only legislator to miss the Dec. 5 Golden Hill vote.

A personal issue has taken Hayes out of state the past two weeks, he said. He extended his trip for a week after being assured there were enough votes to privatize the infirmary.

Joe Stoeckeler, D-Cragsmoor, made 11 of his 17 legislative meetings between Jan. 1 and May 31. Since failing to get an endorsement at the June 1 Democratic convention, Stoeckeler attended just seven of his 24 meetings. Work and family health responsibilities prevented him from traveling an hour to Kingston for meetings. "I haven't put as much time in as I meant to," he said.

Not all departing legislators have cut back. Roy Hochberg, D-Hurley, attended every 2010 meeting and all of his 19 meetings between Jan. 1 and May 31. Even though Democrats endorsed incumbent Don Gregorius at their June 1 convention, Hochberg attended all of his 26 meetings since then. "You just put it on your calendar and make it your business to be there," he said.

Friday, December 9, 2011


HUGH REYNOLDS ATTEMPTS TO SUM UP AN EMOTIONALLY CHARGED WEEK IN ULSTER COUNTY...we have heard it all...deficit shots...unsustainable....the only alternative...a budget balancing effort...sacrificing the few for the many....... Not quite sure if there were any winners or losers but the one thing that Reynolds frames well is the future uncertainty

County Beat / Opinion
Hugh Reynolds: Golden opportunities
by Hugh Reynolds on Dec 9, 2011 • from the KINGSTON TIMES

Some thought County Executive Mike Hein might have as many as 19 votes for his Golden Hill/budget package, but 17, which he got Monday night, was just enough. We now move forward into an uncertain future with the county executive more powerful than ever.

The smoke has barely cleared, but it’s not too early to pick winners and losers on this one.

Mike Hein — obviously a winner, but bruised. Hein, who does not suffer criticism well, was pilloried for excessive secrecy, duplicity and connivance, even as he spoke to the “transparency” of the process. Pshaw. The new 23-member legislature, which the executive is undoubtedly already courting, had better keep a wary eye.

Dave Donaldson — clearly a loser and humiliated to boot. Donaldson fought the good fight for Golden Hill, but was crippled by some fancy footwork of his own doing. In attempting to reduce the executive’s staff — some said motivated by payback — Donaldson couldn’t even raise one vote in the Ways and Means Committee. Committee Chairman Rich Gerentine reminded Donaldson that as legislature chairman he advocated for the two additional executive deputies he lately sought to cut. Even Donaldson had to smile at that one. That their minority leader-elect was so roundly repudiated does not bode well for the Democrats next year.

Workers at Golden Hill and patients — tragic losers, and I do not use that word lightly. They face an uncertain future under private ownership. Word around legislative chambers is that upwards of 100 of the facility’s 400 workers could be “retirement eligible.” Few will be able to get by on the half-pay pensions the county will offer. Elderly patients can only wonder about their fate, and stress at that stage of life is especially debilitating.

County unions — Losers for the most part. CSEA could see its membership gutted when Golden Hill goes private. On the other hand, construction unions, which backed Hein with money and manpower during the last election, could see tens of millions in new buildings going up at Golden Hill.

Elliott Auerbach
— the comptroller looks like a winner, despite losing a last-ditch attempt to thwart the inevitable. It took Auerbach a while to get geared up, but he made a convincing argument that legislators really had no firm idea what a limited development corporation really meant. Unfortunately for the “kick the can down the road” crowd, by the time he mounted his counter-attack the votes were in. People will remember that the watchdog growled, however belatedly. If not, he’ll remind them.

Ken Ronk and Terry Bernardo — winners. Both two-termers have bright futures in the legislature, if not beyond. She’ll be chairwoman, he majority leader. Siding with the Democratic executive will score big props, at least with the Democratic executive.

Fred Wadnola — the affable chairman never could hold his 18-member majority together; half voted with Hein. Wadnola, an old-school politician, was taken to the woodshed by the executive on this one.

Taxpayers First — A catchy slogan, but one that should leave taxpayers in doubt about the future, two, three years down the road. The county is now in the business of selling assets and laying off people to balance its budgets. It can only get worse.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Resolution To Transfer Ownership Of Golden Hill

Here is what the Ulster County Legislature will be considering on Monday, December 5, 2011. Do they have all the information and are they ready? Resolution 266 GHHHCC to LDC">

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Making It Transparent: Certificate Of Incorporation Golden Hill LDC

A transparent look at the papers of incorporation for the GOLDEN HILL LOCAL DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION...Certificate of Incorporation GHLDC">