Chairman, Town Democratic Committee
The political situation in Saugerties in 2013 – What’s on your mind?
Well, I think we need some changes at the top, and that’s what we’re going to be working on.
Have you talked with Greg Helsmoortel (former supervisor, received Democratic nomination in recent elections)?
We’ve been talking. No news right now.
There are two town board spots up for election this year. One, Bruce Leighton, will have your support, and the seat held by Republican Jimmy Bruno, which you’ll be contesting. Anyone shown any interest?
Well, there are some but at this point I can’t really say anything specific. We’re probably going to be gearing up next week in terms of talking to people and seeing where we’re going.
When you’re having these conversations with possible candidates, what sort of issues come up?
School taxes. Town taxes. That’s all you really hear when you talk to people. I don’t think there’s that much difference on that issue. I think some things have been surfacing that are interesting. The whole issue surrounding a comprehensive plan. There’s been some resistance to that type of planning, and from a Democratic view we think it’s essential. So we’re really looking for people who are going to support a sustainable town.
I really like what’s going on with the village, with First Friday, and each day another store pops up on Lower Partition, which has been dead for as long as I’ve lived here. So we want to support people that support small businesses.
Everyone would agree on keeping taxes low and supporting small businesses. What about some of the other things the town used to do under Helsmoortel, like trying to make sure the carousel on Partition St. stayed in town and supporting an arts center at Opus 40? Is that something you’d like to see more of?
I haven’t seen, over the last year and a half, any kind of visionary expansion of the town. It’s sort of like a struggle just simply to pay our bills. You know there were a lot of things when Greg was in there we got hammered on [like the carousel and Opus 40] and they became politically untenable things to do but I thought they were very visionary. It’s really hard to move against that because it pushes up against the whole tax situation, so everybody thinks that it’s going to cost them something. To me, when we look for a Democratic candidate we look for people who are looking at that type of enhancement of the town; stuff outside just simply how are we going to pay for the Safety net and just running the books. We usually look for candidates who have done volunteer work, who have really put a lot of themselves into the town.
All three county legislature spots are up in 2013, and all are currently occupied by Republicans. What county issues are of interest for Saugerties Democrats?
This town has had a lot of issues surrounding the [county’s] Resource Recovery Agency, way back from when we had to fight the dump, and the Democrats are really the lead on that. And we’re watching very carefully what’s going on with that. They just created the “flow-control” law and we have some problems with that law. We’re concerned about the creation of a monopoly within this agency and giving this agency more power than it should have. It’s costing the county a lot of money.
We just sort of privatized a lot of the mental health programs and now you see all these problems with shootings in schools and everybody starts gearing up, saying we’ve got to do something about mental health, and the county punted on that and privatized on it, and we don’t know if some of this privatization is the best way to go.
Joseph Roberti Jr.
Chairman, Town Democratic Committee
What do you see as the main issues facing Saugerties in the coming year?
The big issue for the town of Saugerties next year will be living within a tight budget and making sure that next year’s budget covers costs while staying within the two percent constraint imposed by New York State.
In many ways, a town position is more stressful than what is experienced in the county, as a supervisor will see constituents at the stores, community events and just walking around town – she is always available.
How has Kelly Myers performed during her first year as supervisor?
As a newly elected official, she is always under scrutiny and has to learn a lot of new material quickly. She has been doing that.
Why will the budget be more difficult in the coming year than in the past?
There was no transition period; she just picked up the keys and started work. She had to deal with expenses that had not been paid, such as election expenses that the former supervisor did not pay to the county. There was a $305,000 payment for so-called safety net expenses that was not budgeted. (However, others have pointed out that a change from including that payment on the county’s budget took place during the past year; prior to that there was no need to include it in the town budget.)
The town board members have not always been cooperative; in fact, the Democrats have been hostile at times. She needs a board that will work with her. While it is true that three board members are not, in fact, Democrats, they ran on a Democratic line and they appear to follow the Democratic line.
Do you have any challenges of your own in relation to town government?
Next year will be a big year for local elections, with most positions contested. I’ll be looking for a candidate to run against Bruce Leighton.