Letters (1/24-31)

mailConduct unbecoming

I am sure many readers are following the back and forth regarding the behavior of School Board President George Heidcamp with interest. It is a pity that his tactics have become a matter of dispute between him and Supervisor Myers. While I understand the dismay with which Michele and Gregory Sillins regard the situation (Letters, Jan. 17), the exposure of Mr. Heidcamp’s bizarre tactics by a public official such as Ms. Myers, someone of his own political affiliation, commands attention in a way that a similar complaint from another citizen cannot.

It also can allow others who have been treated with the same behavior the space and voice to speak out. The similarity between what Ms. Myers experienced and the threats, rumors and stalking that my wife Jennifer faced from Mr. Heidcamp is uncanny. When we read Ms. Myers’s letter it was clear that the attempts at intimidation Mr. Heidcamp directed at my wife were a mode of operation he uses habitually. When Donald Tucker states in his letter of last week that Jennifer’s complaints were not based in fact, I can only wonder how he presumes to know, since he was not present when Mr. Heidcamp did these things. As to his abrasive behavior as board president, as if on cue, Mr. Heidcamp provided a display at the most recent board meeting. Paying scant attention to the concerns of a pair of parents addressing the board, he engaged in a heated argument with another community member. This was a display not of the fairness Mr. Tucker maintains, but instead a display of the sharp elbows of which Mr. Heidcamp stands accused.

Mr. Heidcamp likes to spread rumors in his “private citizen” costume, a role he plays to try to avoid tarnishing the title of Board of Education president when he wishes to sling mud at his chosen targets. Well, my wife Jennifer is also a private citizen, but instead of planting innuendoes about imagined opponents, she and many other private citizens get involved in fund raisers for the Cahill PTA, such as the Cahill 5K and auctions of street art (horses, lighthouses and chairs). There students receive the benefits of physical fitness, of seeing adults engaged in cooperative behavior and of funding for enjoyable activities throughout the year, all provided by the hard work of teachers, parents and the community at large. At these events, Mr. Heidcamp and Mr. Tucker are absent, as private citizens, or as board members. But crowds of students, teachers and families from all of the Saugerties schools, including another member of the Board of Education, are at these events working at genuine community building and positive civic participation. A great deal more positive and wholesome than Mr. Heidcamp’s 3 a.m. emails seeking favors from public officials.

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Jennifer and I did not support Ms. Myers bid for supervisor, having been happy with the service of Greg Helsmoortel. That does not stop us from commending her for shining a light on the antics of George Heidcamp. Mr. Heidcamp should step down from the Board of Education. It needs serious, focused and positive participation and should not be a stage for the fulminations of a self important “private citizen.”

Henry Mangione
Saugerties

 

Police merger hurt 4 out of 5 taxpayers

Saugerties residents receiving their tax bills are no doubt concerned about the town budget. Little known, however, is that Supervisor Kelly Myers entered office with a deficit and facing over $1 million in new expenses due to the actions of her predecessor and the current Town Board majority. This is the first of a series of letters with the intent of explaining these expenses and its impact on the budget. This week’s letter will examine the town/village police merger.

In the 2013 town budget, police expenses increased by $188,000. In addition, the town lost the $208,000 subsidy provided by the village the previous two years. These two factors created a $396,000 hole in the town budget which equals a 7.6 percent general fund tax increase and a 3.4 percent total tax levy increase (used for tax cap purposes). The 2013 budget is impacted by the police merger in other ways. Since 2010, the town’s expenses for medical benefits, worker’s compensation, Social Security and retirement increased by over $1 million.

Proponents of the police merger argued that while village residents would see big savings, the impact to non-villagers would limited because expenses would be spread over a larger tax base. This is false as although eight out of ten Saugerties residents do not live in the village, 85 percent of the assessed value of the town is outside the village. Therefore, non-village residents are paying more for police services after the merger. In addition, the promised savings from the consolidation have not been realized.

In the two years since the merger, village property taxpayers have seen large savings. The new police force is highly professional and provides excellent service. However, the negative impacts to the town budget and non-village residents are unquestionable and undeniable. For more info on this topic, visit www.saugertiesgop.blogspot.com.

Joe Roberti Jr.
Chair, Saugerties GOP

 

Playing the bully gender card

In his letter to the editor (January 17, 2013), Saugerties Republican Chairman Joe Roberti Jr. accused councilman Fred Costello of bullying Supervisor Kelly Myers. He said, “I was not at the last Town Board meeting, but several people told me Costello once again ‘crossed the line’ and was verbally abusive and rude to Kelly.” Well, I was at the meeting, and this accusation is totally hogwash.

Kelly unilaterally announced that there would be no public comment period and no department reports from the Town Board members, effectively silencing them. She then started to read what turned out to be a tortuously long recital of town actions over the last year. Mr. Costello simply asked, “Is this a political speech?”

Let’s compare Mr. Costello’s question to past attacks by Mr. Roberti on councilman Bruce Leighton. He has publicly called Bruce a bobblehead along with other derogatory terms. It seems that there exists a double-standard for Mr. Roberti as to how you treat women and men in public office. No elected official should be disrespected, but Mr. Roberti is playing the bully gender card, part of his political strategy, when he creates a bogus issue from Mr. Costello’s procedural question.

The Saugerties Democratic Committee takes a backseat to no one in supporting women for office. We have elected women throughout town government, and are particularly proud of electing the first woman in Saugerties history to the position of Town Justice. But when different standards of discourse are created based on one’s gender, it diminishes those women who have entered the political arena and who expect to be treated on equal terms with men.

I invite you to watch the last town board meeting on Lighthouse TV 23 and judge for yourself.

Mike Harkavy
Chair, Saugerties Democratic Committee

 

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