Kicking off their summit last week with an exchange of insults, Mayor Shayne Gallo and County Executive Mike Hein then got down to the real business of saving face on one hand and advancing an ambitious plan to consolidate county government and enhance educational opportunities in the city. Flies on the wall report it got pretty tense before Gallo declared his “full support” in a press release clearly authored by somebody other than Gallo. (Gallo doesn’t use the word “excited” and is far more adept at grammar and spelling than this amateurish official communiqué was.)
Reportedly the meeting, called by Hein, started with the mayor demanding why he wasn’t “in the loop” when this potentially far-reaching plan directly affecting city residents was devised by the executive. Hein reportedly said something about his staff thinking Gallo was “quick-tempered” (meaning perhaps that they thought he might have screwed up the planning process) while Gallo said his staff considered the executive “a megalomaniac.”
Fortunately, it did not take a fistfight between the two physically fit egotists to ensure a clearing of the air.
The fact was that Gallo’s public persona as a hands-on innovator took a beating. He wasn’t consulted on a plan directly affecting his jurisdiction, and he failed to rally his troops once the news hit the fan. His back-and-forth between opposing the plan and then supporting it carried the odor of burnt waffles.
Give Hein credit (again) for cunning on this one. Once a blind-sided Gallo voiced his objections to the plan, Hein quickly responded by producing a host of city-based supporters — aldermen, legislators, etc. — who if Gallo had done his homework should have rallied to the mayor’s side. The mayor came across as out of touch.
Hein, despite a tactical triumph, bore some bruises. Off this episode, politicians in the county’s other municipalities have to be wondering when the Sixth Floor Steamroller will surprise them with a plan for their own good concocted entirely in secret with zero input on their part.
The official communiqué, hastily drawn after the 90-minute summit, attempts to deal with both issues. In it, Gallo, with no apparent shame, speaks to fully supporting “an innovative and cooperative plan.” That the plan is innovative cannot be denied. That it was an exercise in intermunicipal cooperation insofar as Kingston was concerned is nonsense.
Gallo got a few crumbs and some egg wiped off a red face. The UCCC adjunct campus originally targeted forSophieFinnSchool(currently on the district’s closure list) at his behest may wind up instead at Meagher School a few blocks away, the first elementary school to get the ax.
As part of the plan, Hein will also sell county office buildings on Flatbush Avenue and South Manor Avenue after personnel are consolidated in the Business Resource Center on Albany Avenue. Given the real-estate market in Kingston, Gallo shouldn’t apply that tax revenue to his 2013 budget, or in all likelihood, 2014.
There are some lessons here. The county executive, intent on reshaping government in his own image, cannot be allowed to operate in a vacuum. The kinds of sweeping reforms he proposes require official input throughout the planning process. To demand less is to acquiesce to Big-Brother government.
Garbage, perforce its name, is one of those out of sight, out of mind things we’d rather somebody else deal with. I’m always relieved when the stuff I put out on the curb on garbage day is gone — to where, I have no idea — when I get home.
The Ulster County Resource Recovery Agency, created by an act of the state legislature in 1986 — then-assemblyman Maurice Hinchey was cosponsor — is one of those out-of-sight outfits we don’t care much about as long as they empty the cans.