Editorial: Of sinkholes and social media abuse

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo visit the Washington Avenue sinkhole on Tuesday, April 7. (Photo: Dan Barton)

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo visit the Washington Avenue sinkhole on Tuesday, April 7. (Photo: Dan Barton)

We’ve got something good and something bad to discuss in the city, both taking place within six hours of each other last Tuesday.

First, the good: U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer deserves a round of applause for showing up to the Washington Avenue sinkhole, along with Mayor Gallo and County Exec Hein, on a cold, nasty and rainy Tuesday to announce that he would urge the Federal Emergency Management Agency to change its rules so it can help the city pay for the estimated $7-plus million repair costs. While it would be easy to snarkily and in a facile manner dismiss this as grandstanding by politicians, two of which are facing election in the fall (one wag asked, “What’s he gonna do, throw a penny in the sinkhole and make a wish?”) I will, on behalf of the taxpayers of Kingston, express gratitude and hope. Schumer’s a city guy, but his assiduousness in making appearances all over the state, when he could easily win election after election by mostly sticking around the five boroughs, is admirable. There’s reason to be hopeful — Schumer’s got clout as it is and stands to become one of the most powerful people in the country if he indeed becomes the top Democrat in either a Senate minority or majority in 2016. FEMA decision-makers could very conceivably decide to make the senator happy by helping Kingston out. (Another wag suggested that Schumer make sinkhole coverage a condition of his support of an Iran nuclear deal, but that might be taking it a tad too far. The sinkhole’s caused enough problems as it is; no need for it to become an obstacle to world peace.)


In my 25 years of covering local governments in one place or another, I’ve noticed that the best of them do two things well. The first is to manage municipal affairs in an efficient manner so tax increases don’t sprout painful year-to-year spikes. The second is to do good job of recapturing tax money paid up the line to the county, state and feds through effective grant-writing, cajoling of member items/pork from lawmakers and otherwise attracting help from the outside. Let’s hope Schumer at the sinkhole will make it rain in the figurative sense. (It certainly did in the literal sense.)

And big ups to Tommy Keegan, who crashed the presser to present Schumer a 12-pack of his finest to mark National Beer Day. “Suds diplomacy” works too.


A screengrab of a now-deleted post on the city’s Office of Economic Development’s Facebook page on Tuesday, April 7.

Now, to the bad — the second example we’ve seen so far this spring of an official city Facebook page being used for partisan purposes. The first was a virtual fist-bump for the mayor after his campaign kickoff at King’s Inn last month. This one popped up Tuesday night, taking a shot at Common Council Majority Leader Matt Dunn over rail vs. trail stuff after Dunn made his state of the city speech. (See photo.)

While the recent abuse got pulled down after people posted objections, it should have never been there in the first place. The government and its property, workers and Facebook pages do not — I repeat, in all-caps, DO NOT — belong to that government’s chief executive. It’s clearly unethical (and kinda illegal) for public property to be used for partisan political aims. (It’s bad enough that under the Gallo administration, the corporation counsel, who’s supposed to represent both the mayor and aldermen, is consistently quoted in the papers dissing council members. The council can hardly be blamed for, under these circumstances, trying to hire its own lawyer.) I don’t know if it’s the mayor himself who’s doing this or a city worker on his instructions or a city worker doing it to curry favor, but it needs to stop.

It’s too soon to tell what the tenor of the mayor’s race is going to be. The Democratic challenger seems to be taking the high road so far, a road which is admirable to walk but often leads to loss. A Republican with a reputation for being a bit of a button-pusher and screw-turner is showing interest in running. The incumbent, whose reputation precedes him, is expected to make a vigorous defense and advocacy of his first term. No one should begrudge him that, but there are lines that shouldn’t be crossed and if they do get crossed, we’ll be here to point it out. Gallo’s got his own Facebook page to malign Matt Dunn on, and he should keep electioneering there.

There are 9 comments

  1. Anonymous

    Gallo’s desperation is showing through, he’s scared all his cronies into buffing his tarnished rep, even if it’s illegal. Noble will be victorious because anyone who doesn’t benefit directly from kissing Gallo’s butt understands Gallo rules through blind fear and intimidation and has not realized the potential of this city.

  2. Tom

    Noble is a real life Howdy Dooty. Gallo isn’t perfect, but taxes are under control and infrastructure is being addressed. You need a pair to run for Mayor and Noble needs to wait for his to descend.

    1. wise child

      Tom, that’s really offensive and reveals more about you than your subjects, suggesting that “testicles” are to be the measure of a public servant. But, do the home work and check the candidates…
      You sound like Mr Bluster 🙂

  3. nopolitics

    I disagree with Michelle. Hillary should move here and run for Mayor. It’s Howdy-Doody, Tom..or is that “it’s Howdy-Doody time!”?. But in point of fact all will be Pinnochio. My nose isn’t growing, anyway….The suds might be duds….and the dudes are prudes.

  4. Gary

    Tom – “taxes are under control” because Cuomo imposed a 2% tax cap. You can’t give credit to Gallo or the Common Council for keeping taxes down.

    As far as FB being used for partisan purposes – my taxes should not be spent on politics on a government’s website (at least it wasn’t done on city time, like the comments on the Freeman’s website). Mike Hein did a similar thing on the County’s website and was chastised for it. It’s likely Gallo didn’t write it and that Gregg Swanzey did (it’s on his department’s page). I served on a board with him at the helm and we couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. He’s arrogant, a terrible grant writer, and an incompetent administrator. After he left, we learned how much (and why) his subordinates hated him. Has he done anything in the past 3 1/2 years other than rail trails?

    1. gerald berke

      Say more about Swanzey? But I think you are wrong on what Swanzey has written vis a vis grants… I can see you are uncharitable, and that’s OK, if you’re not wrong… you dd need to be more specific,,, Yes, he has gone more that write grants for trails… you need to check that out yourself rather than just ask the quesiton…
      If you served with Greg, what board, when… and where did Greg operate as an administrator.
      It is interesting your criticism of the Office, but would be please be more specific… and that would eman, too, including your last name.
      As to what appears on the city’s website: Gallo is responsible, directly, for anything on the site…

      1. nopolitics

        Abe Lincoln was charitable, and it got him killed. And where does one see real charity in the city of Kingston these days, especially in the city government, pray tell?

  5. citizen K

    Dan, might be a real plus for any challenger to promise to retire/replace Zwieben, Corporation Counsel for serving nobody well. Not Gallo, not the citizens (failure to obtain easements for one thing), clearly not the Common Council, and again, not the Mayor… many of the foot-faults* of Gallo would have been stopped before they started had the mayor had good counseling…

    “errors fo foot placement as in on a tennis court or at a dog park..

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