A Republican poll released last week shows Republican Congressman Chris Gibson with a huge 17-point lead over Democrat Julian Schreibman in the new (Ulster-Dutchess-and-more) 19th Congressional District. A Democratic poll released a few days later cited Gibson’s alleged Tea Party negatives, noted Schreibman’s 19 percent name recognition, and called it a tossup.
These contradictory conclusions were drawn from virtually the same polling data, gathered from some 400 would-be voters in late July. In the trade it’s call spin, a polite translation for the age-old “figures lie and liars figure.”
Based on responses to these figures, Schreibman’s spinners are more imaginative than Gibson’s. Clearly, at this stage, 13 weeks before the Nov. 6 election, Gibson has almost everything going for him. He leads Schreibman in virtually every category polled, including a nine-point edge in the half of the district currently represented by Maurice Hinchey. Ouch.
Then there’s the more than two-to-one fund-raising advantage the freshman congressman enjoys. Pow.
Schreibman’s pollsters respond that Gibson has not achieved a 50 percent approval rating and that, apparently, Schreibman has yet to launch. Most congressional campaigns run in two-year cycles. Schreibman, who started in January, has an eighth of a cycle left. Gibson, in word and deed, has been campaigning since early 2010. Boff.
Making lemonade out of lemons, Schreibman’s pollsters see his bottom-feeding 19 percent recognition level as an asset. As the voters get to know a man who is virtually unknown even in his home county, things can only get better, they suggest. Or they might get worse. Reading these polls literally, if the election were held next week, Gibson would bury Schreibman.
Gibson, relentlessly shaking the money tree, raked in an estimated $50,000 at a fund-raiser hosted by Jay and Laurie Andretta at their multimillion-dollar reservoir-view home Sunday afternoon. House Speaker John Boehner was on hand to speak for the candidate, indicating Republicans are very serious about securing this seat. Boehner and his Secret Service entourage later dined atSavona’s restaurant in Rondout. No word on whether he ordered tea.
Tickets were $250 and $1,000, I was told, for a photo op with the congressman and/or the speaker. Notables included former county clerk Albert Spada, District Attorney Holley Carnright, former legislator Rich Croce, Len and Terry Bernardo, C.B. Slutsky from Hunter, former GOP chairman Mario Catalano, Dwayne and Nina Postupack and restaurateur Butch Guido. (So why didn’t they dine at Butchie’s?)
Catalano was one of about two dozen who sprang for the $1000 ducat, explaining, “I just couldn’t face the prospect of Julian Schreibman as our congressman for the next 30 years.”
Brace yourselves, voters, for an extremely negative campaign. There is only one way to reverse these mid-summer stats, and it won’t be with slick brochures featuring Schreibman’s beautiful young family.
Polls, in any event, are a snapshot in time. The next poll, probably due in late August, should produce a more accurate baseline.
That sinking feeling
Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo, entering his eighth month in office, does not appear to be an alarmist. But when he says he is not “exacerbating” the threat (a word he used repeatedly during a one-hour press conference at the city hall), he stresses that the city has a serious problem with its subterranean infrastructure. Witness the gaping sinkholes on Washington Avenue. Midtown Kingstonians live, work, play and travel (except along a 500-foot stretch of closed-off Washington Avenue) above sewer and sanitary pipes installed more than a century ago. A subterranean survey taken by former city planner and civil engineer Bob Pritchard some 35 years ago concluded that it would take upwards of $50 million to modernize the system. A succession of mayors adopted a don’t-fix-it-until-it-breaks ostrich policy. Pritchard’s estimate, considered conservative at the time, would be about $200 million in today’s dollars, according to a website that factors in inflation.
The Washington Avenue Tunnel, as it’s shown on city maps, runs for about a mile from near Route 32 in the city toLucas Avenue. Built by the City ofNew Yorkbetween 1909 and 1912 in the last years of its Catskills reservoir construction, the tunnel was designed to divert water from theMain Streetand Tannery creeks into the Esopus Creek, which the city had “surcharged” (taken water from) to feed the Ashokan Reservoir. The tunnel also helps control flooding in lowland areas.
In order to achieve gravity feed, the tunnel is buried some 80 feet at its start. Several vertical shafts relieve water pressure and provide access to it.
The Common Council, at the mayor’s request, has authorized $1.6 million to rehabilitate the 160-foot stretch of tunnel collapse near Linderman Avenue. That works out to about $10,000 a foot. City officials say they have no real idea what the final bill will be. At that rate, repairing the entire Washington Avenue tunnel — if it comes to that — could exceed $50 million. No wonder the mayor looked like a deer caught in the headlights at his press conference. Taxpayers turn ugly at even minimal increase in their property taxes. And now this?
Former mayor Jim Sottile, in one of his more progressive policies, established a fund for infrastructure repair for smaller projects. Some might call that the Band-Aid. His successor faces major surgery.
Naturally, neighbors are worried. Who wouldn’t be with a 50-foot wide sinkhole 50 feet from their front door? Several attended the mayor’s press conference and asked pointed questions. Gallo swore condemnation of private property would be “the very last resort.” But the option is on the table.
To his credit, Gallo went door to door over the weekend to assure nervous neighbors the city would do “everything in our power” to preserve their homes.
Grasping at straws, apparently, or channeling the litigious county executive, the mayor said his administration is prepared to file legal action against the City of New York to repair the tunnel. Methinks Hizzoner is whistling past the sinkhole on that one. The tunnel, a marvel of engineering, held up for a century, albeit it with several major repairs by the City ofKingston. Does the mayor suggest Gotham should be responsible for repairs for eternity? He might better fish in federal or state waters.
Gallo is also considering asking the state to ban heavy truck traffic on Washington Avenue, claiming it exacerbates problems with the tunnel.
It’s interesting that the tunnel was completed the same year the Titanic sank. An engineering schematic cross-section of the tunnel displayed at the press conference bore an eerie resemblance to drawings of where the “unsinkable” ship broke in the middle.
Slideshow image of fencers by Flickr user uwdigitialcollections/used under Creative Commons license.