Vladimir Lenin promised peace and land, Herbert Hoover promised a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. And County Executive Mike Hein came up in his seventh state of the county address last week with free fuel for owners of electric vehicles. What a guy.
In offering owners of electrically powered vehicles free access at soon-to-be-established county-owned outlets, Hein or his advisors committed one of the cardinal sins of politics: Don’t mess with the majority. Very few car owners in Ulster County are tooling around in pure electric models, which cost too much and only a few have the range required for rural or suburban driving.
Which of course leaves the question of what about all of us roving around in gas-powered vehicles, a significant number of whom are driving fuel-gobbling trucks and SUVs? Is there a Mike’s Gas Station for them? No. But they’ll pay taxes to support Hein’s free-fuel program for the electrics.
Environmentalists, whom Hein so ardently courted in this speech, will applaud his initiative as the wave of the future. The plan is to convert the county fleet to electrics, thus further reducing its carbon footprint, the holy grail of the modern environmental movement. Hein claimed in his speech that the county is already carbon-neutral. There is of course merit to that goal.
Speaking of familiar themes, it seems the executive can’t get through a state-of-the-county message without bashing the old legislature (1968-2007), which hired him as county administrator in mid-2006. According to Hein, these were the dark old days of rising taxes, inefficiency, cronyism, The Jail! All was turned around in remarkably short order by the first elected county executive.
To this litany of abuse, Hein added bankruptcy in his 2015 version of recent local history. It’s fair to say in the waning days of the legislature-administrator system the county had financial issues. (Hein was the administrator.) The 39 percent tax increase a Republican majority imposed in 2005 effectively drove them from office. A new form of government was definitely in order, but nobody was talking bankruptcy. What Hein may have meant was that if Ulster had continued under the old form of government the county or its property owners might have been bankrupt by now.
Somebody stop them!
Politics being a form of war, residents are used to pols snipping and snapping at each other. Often we wonder why some of these loonies chose public service. Most, I suspect, were not properly nursed as babies. Many of these ugly exchanges take place behind the scenes, the stuff we read about in the papers or on social media being just tips of volcanoes.
The long-running animosity between Kingston’s top two elected city officials has boiled over into open warfare and beyond city limits. It’s not clear what the flashpoint was between Mayor Shayne Gallo and Alderman-at-Large Jim Noble, both Democrats. Maybe it was Noble’s support of Gallo’s opponent in the 20011 mayoral primary. Maybe it was something Noble’s grandmother said to Gallo’s back in the day. Small-town politics is like that.
For whatever reason, these two appear implacable enemies now, to the extent that Noble, in office for some 13 years, says he won’t serve another term if Gallo remains as mayor. Gallo has declared for re-election.
Gallo accuses Noble of being petty, manipulative and vindictive, traits few have witnessed in the affable plumber over a near 20-year public career. Ironically, Gallo’s critics say much the same about him.