Hugh Reynolds: Stuck in neutral

The columnist Reynolds.

The columnist Reynolds.

I read with some interest published reports on County Executive Mike Hein explaining his acceptance of $11,500 in campaign donations from a Rochester-based developer seeking to build a $56 million student and faculty housing project in New Paltz.

The executive told a reporter he was “neutral” on the subject of Park Point. It was a “home rule issue,” he said. Therefore, he neither favors the developers who gave him money nor the hundreds of New Paltz residents, including their village and town elected officials, who have vociferously opposed a proposed payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (Pilot) arrangement that would save the developer millions over the 25-year term of the proposed contract.

To further distance himself from this hot potato, Hein pointed out that the county Industrial Development Agency (IDA), which has the authority to grant such deals, even over local objections, is appointed not by him but by the county legislature.

Advertisement

Case closed? Hardly.

Hein didn’t mention — or wasn’t asked about — that his appointee, former executive assistant Suzanne Holt, is director of the Hein-created Office of Business Development and liaison to the IDA. She generally sits next to IDA Chairman Mike Horodyski at board meetings — the IDA’s own attorney is on the other side.

Is the executive really a disinterested, neutral or uninformed observer in IDA goings-on? Or quite the contrary?

Let’s revisit this alleged “neutrality.”

If I’m that rare pro-development New Paltzian, I might want my county executive to weigh in on the side of picks and shovels and an expanded tax base.

Were I a college administrator wrestling with rising student enrollment, turning away many a qualified applicant for lack of housing, I might want my county executive out front arguing for expanded facilities.

Were I up to my eyeballs in property taxes and cringing at the prospect of picking up a huge hunk of the Park Point tax tab, I too would like my county executive to speak out.

Instead, we all got “neutral.”

As for the developer, his $11,500 donation seemed an investment in the future of what his firm considers a rising young Democrat. It makes no sense for Hein to jeopardize that career path in the political quagmire of Park Point. But does it show leadership not to do so?

Musical chairs

The usual practice when offices change hands is for the outs to oust the ins. To the victors go the spoils has been the rule since Brutus stabbed Caesar.

Not so, it would seem, in John Parete’s “bipartisan” county legislature. Democrat Parete, recall, won election last month as chairman of the legislature by forming a coalition of Republicans and three Democrats, much to the dismay and irritation of majority Democrats.

The coalition mode continues with Parete’s recent appointments of legislative staff.

Democrat Jay Mahler, a former deputy elections commissioner, joins the staff as Parete’s confidential secretary, replacing Republican Fawn Tantillo, who remains as a legislative clerk. Nattie Tomshaw, a Republican, returns as a secretary. Tomshaw was let go by former chair Terry Bernardo in one of those office intrigues few outside the office understand.

Krista Barringer, a jack of all trades and master of many, remains as a deputy clerk.

Gone but fondly remembered (at least in these quarters) are legislative employees Lisa Mance and Frank Ruggero. Parete said he asked the county executive if he could find work for them in his downsized government.

It galls some who follow the plots of patronage that the Democratic chairman of a Democratic majority favored Republicans with these appointments, the inference being that central to the deal with Republicans who brought him to power was retaining most of their people.

Dutch treat

Kingston’s Old Dutch Men’s Club will honor city historian Ed Ford at its 91st annual Washington dinner this Saturday. Ford, at 95, is older than the dinner itself. Born on April 15, 1918, six days before the Red Baron was shot down, Ford was approaching his fifth birthday when the first Washington dinner was staged in 1923. The wonder is that the church, visited by the general in 1782, took over 14 decades to honor his presence. Ford, unlike George W., will be around to smell the roses.

In another Ford footnote, the $10,000 fund-raising drive to recreate a lunette in the historian’s honor at City Hall has reached its goal. Ford suggests using the additional funds for lighting to illuminate all the lunettes.

There are 2 comments

  1. Bill Mulcahy

    I think Hugh Reynolds is Ulster County’s best columnist/reporter. Mike Townshend is New Paltz’s best reporter. Why don’t Ulster Publishing reporters and columnists have their email addresses listed?

Post Your Thoughts