Hugh Reynolds: You go, Nyquist

Tom Nyquist. (Photo: Lauren Thomas)

Tom Nyquist. (Photo: Lauren Thomas)

Up until about a month ago, former New Paltz mayor Tom Nyquist was a familiar, respected elder around his hometown. Thanks to his Kentucky Derby-winning namesake, he’s in the headlines again.

Equine Nyquist, named for the Detroit Red Wings hockey player Gustav Nyquist, won the Derby on Saturday, something Tom, the former mayor and county legislator, didn’t know until he and his wife Corinne returned home Sunday night from a granddaughter’s law school graduation in Michigan.

“A neighbor came by the house with the paper,” he explained. “We were pretty excited.” He was excited in part because the ex-mayor had $40 riding on the favorite’s nose. He “made $60.”


The only other time he had bet on a horse was up at Saratoga some 30 years ago. “I think they should have called him Turtle,” he ruefully recalled.

The New Paltz Nyquist family was well represented among the 160,000 attendees at Churchill Downs. Granddaughter Katie, a graduate student at the University of Kentucky, attended, thanks to the generosity of her grandparents.

Nyquist the horse is undefeated in eight starts, not so Nyquist the politician, who was 8-8 over a long career. A college professor and a Democrat in what was in the 1970s a solidly Republican town, Nyquist lost his first three runs for county legislature but won the next two. Elected a village trustee, he went on to win four of five contests for mayor.

At 84, Nyquist isn’t a candidate for pasture. He runs the Nyquist-Harcourt wildlife sanctuary, chairs the Nyquist Foundation, and is an active member of the Huguenot Historical Society board of directors.

For the record, Nyquist is not a descendent of the original 17th-century Duzine (The Dozen) Huguenot settlers of New Paltz.

“Nyquist is a Swedish word and it means either new twig or new branch,” he explained. It seems there was a large influx of Swedes to the country in the 1880s who wanted to separate themselves from the old country. “Rather than tacking ‘son’ on the end of our names, some of us decided to call us Nyquists,” he said. “I am the new branch of the old family.”

Very few of the Nyquist “twigs” are related to each other. They keep in touch via an active website and via Facebook.

Nyquist won’t be at the rail at the Preakness in Baltimore when the Kentucky Derby winner goes to the wire a week from Saturday, but he’ll be watching and pulling for his favorite. Betting for the third time in 30 years, he will not settle for second place. “He’d better win,” said the man with money — and family honor — on the line.

Tax talk

Like the elephant in the living room, the proposed sales tax agreement between the city and the county went virtually unnoticed at the annual meeting of the Intermunicipal Collaboration Council last week at the County Office Building.

Both principals were among the dozen attendees. County Exec Mike Hein chaired the meeting. City Mayor Steve Noble sat just a few feet away. Also in attendance were three county legislators who will vote on the pact next week.

Hein opened the 45-minute meeting with a 12-minute monologue on his accomplishments in office. Noble’s only reference to the pact was oblique. He said with a pained smile that he wished he “could have avoided the last two months.”

Rochester Town Supervisor Carl Chipman, chair of the supervisors and mayors’ association, had called for a “mathematical” (fiscal impact) report from the county the day the agreement was announced late last month. He’s still waiting.

So is the public.

Chipman didn’t feel it appropriate to raise sales tax questions at the collaborative forum. “Honestly, it’s really designed for other things,” he said. “I don’t think BOCES [a standing council member by title] would care about that.”

Published reports to the contrary, Chipman said his association hasn’t taken a position on the sales tax agreement. “We ask the executive for information, but we don’t get answers,” he said.

Legislature Chairman Ken Ronk, sitting at Hein’s left at the meeting, found the subject worthy of discussion, but didn’t ask anything. One of the smarter legislators — not a very high bar — Ronk is among the few who says he understands what most consider a complex proposal. “Confusing is not convoluted,” he said. “I don’t see it that way. I’m quite comfortable with it.”

Meanwhile, County Comptroller Elliott Auerbach and his staff of accountants/lawyers say they have yet to figure the deal out. “Our auditors have run spreadsheets,” he said, “and it just doesn’t make sense.” His appeals to the executive branch for backup information have fallen on deaf ears, he said, echoing Chipman.

It’s electric

Perhaps a shot across the bow, the county exec, via his deputy Ken Crannell, refuted (sort of) the comptroller’s contention that the county’s electric charging stations were more about PR than juice.

Called the “battle of the deputies,” Crannell squared off against Auerbach deputy Evan Gallo in accusing the comptroller of being out of touch, irresponsible, unreliable too.

Lost in the smoke and mirrors was the administration’s mixing of apples and oranges. Setting up electric charging stations to fuel county vehicles makes environmental sense, but as Auerbach’s report demonstrated, it ain’t no tourist attraction. Crannell could not refute that 75 percent of charging-station users hailed from the county. Most of the 10 stations are in the Kingston area (so much for broad in-county access), and nobody’s getting off the Thruway to charge up, especially when the T-Way has its own stations.

Methinks the executive, he who creates the curve, was signaling to the comptroller that if he gets too aggressive on this sales-tax issue he’d better expect heavy artillery. Auerbach, of late grousing about his department’s subpoena power, will not be easily intimidated by bully tactics from the sixth floor.

Judicial wheels

The already keenly contested race for county surrogate judge occasioned by three-term Democratic Judge Mary Work’s year-end retirement, has produced serious contests in both parties, Democrats Sharon Graff and Sara McGinty and Republicans Kyle Barnett and Peter Matera. Of particular incentive is the prospect of a huge raise in salary, from the current $139,000 to the $192,000 recently recommended by a judicial compensation study.

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