Hugh Reynolds: Golden opportunities

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.