Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the Sept. 15, 2011 edition of the Kingston Times.
In Ward 3, the young scion of an old Kingston family is taking on a veteran alderman who has spent the past few years sounding the alarm about the state of the city’s finances — even raising the specter of municipal bankruptcy.
Nathaniel Horowitz, 27, is running on the Republican, Conservative and Independence party lines against incumbent Democrat Charlie Landi, 77, who arrived on the Common Council in 1988 and, with a few breaks, has been there ever since. The battleground is the city’s Third Ward, an area of the city’s far west side where single-family homes predominate. The ward is also home to the Golden Hill complex, which houses the county nursing home and government offices. Politically, the ward is more Republican-friendly than most in this heavily Democratic city. Republicans make up 22 percent of all registered voters while 33 percent are registered Democrats.
Horowitz returned to Kingston in 2007 after attending Franklin Pierce College where he earned a degree in political science. Since then, he has worked for his family’s business, J&A Roofing, a venerable Kingston firm started by his great-grandfather in 1938. Horowitz was recruited by city Republicans to run against Landi. He admits that his first task was to learn what exactly an alderman does in the City of Kingston.
“I said I would give it my best shot,” said Horowitz. “And, in the past few months I feel like I’ve really learned a lot about what’s going on.”
A homeowner in a ward full of homeowners, Horowitz said that he was particularly attuned to the plight of people trapped between rising taxes and falling home prices.
“This is like the ‘for sale’ ward, you have more ‘for sale’ signs than political signs,” said Horowitz. “People can’t afford to sell their homes for what they’re worth, but they can’t afford to stay because of taxes.”
The remedy, Horowitz said, includes complying with the new state-mandated 2 percent property tax cap (which he supports), while making the city more attractive to business and less inviting to social services clients who add to residents’ tax burden under Ulster County’s unique Safety Net funding system. Horowitz said he recognizes that the tax cap means that the city might have to cut services, including municipal trash pickup. He said he could support the controversial proposal made last week by Mayor James Sottile, but only if it would actually put money back in resident’s pockets to pay for private trash haulers.