Long, long after the celestial event, it has been revealed that the original idea for the soon to be dedicated Maurice Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center at Mount Tremper came, literally, from on high.
According to Ulster Publishing publisher Geddy Sveikauskas, he and then-assemblyman Maurice Hinchey were hiking in the majestic hills around Mount Tremper some time in the mid-1980s. Why not a state-funded interpretive center like the ones in the Adirondacks in the neighborhood between Phoenicia and Boiceville?
Upon taking office in 1995, Gov. George Pataki redlined a project that had been in the planning/design stage, by then stalled by disagreement and bureaucratic malaise for almost a decade. Pataki is gone, now foolishly wasting his time running for president. Thanks to a core group of advocates, however, the project never died. Dedication of what will probably become known as the Hinchey Center is planned for the end of the month, with the retired congressman as guest of honor. The state government has more than $1.5 million invested in a 1,700-square-foot interpretive center with supporting infrastructure.
Personally, I hope this thing flies. For sure, the upper Catskill region could use a shot in the arm. Only young children will live long enough to see the Belleayre Resort at Highmount, first proposed in 1998, break ground.
There remains the lingering doubt about how many tourists will exit the Thruway at New Paltz, Saugerties or Kingston and travel north, south and west more than 20 miles to discover the majesty of the Catskills at Mount Tremper. I guess the short answer is that they always have and now will at least be something special at the end of the line. Let’s assume the state has plans for some serious signage.
Bernardo’s Second take
Things seem to be looking up for the Bernardos of Accord these days. Husband Len is off the couch (more on that later), and wife Terry has not one but three party lines in hand to run for county executive against Democrat Mike Hein.
In a sudden turn of events, Bernardo, whose quest for the Republican nomination was foiled at convention last week, in part by her husband’s machinations, appeared before the party’s executive committee two days later and was (reluctantly?) given its endorsement. A few days previous, Conservatives signed on. Len Bernardo is chairman of the Independence Party and a man who seems truly penitent.
Recall, it was Len, after being blindsided on his wife’s political plans, who stupidly went to Republicans in an attempt to block her nomination. It was said he was banished to the couch for that one, but is lately back in good graces.
Len Bernardo put it this way: “I thought we’d agreed to buy a Winnebago and travel around the county visiting relatives and friends this summer. Instead, we’ll be investing in Terry’s campaign.”
Hein, too, will have a serious change of plans. As an unopposed candidate, he could have polished his stellar golf game or taken a nice long vacation. Instead, he’ll be working the hustings from now until November.
Bernardo, a former chairwoman of the legislature who failed to hold her seat in 2013, is on paper a potentially formidable candidate. If Hein has political ambitions beyond Ulster County, he has to demonstrate emphatically at the polls in November that he is ready for prime time. Anything less than 60 percent of the vote would be a disappointment. In any event, having a contender at the top of the ticket can only help Republican candidates lower down the ballot.
Bernardo has baggage from her two years as legislative chair, and Hein knows full well where it’s packed. A friendly schmoozer, she’ll need to bring something more with her to debate Hein, who does not take prisoners.
Bernardo, with three lines on the ballot, will come to this campaign well-armed and well-financed. Her endorsements will to some degree offset Hein’s edge in Democratic enrollment. Money will not be an issue. A fair-sized motor home goes for about $200,000. So does a credible campaign for county executive.
I don’t normally make it a practice to listen at keyholes to closed-door discourse, though it beats being bodily ejected from executive sessions. So it was more for the ride on a pleasant late spring evening that I motored to county Republican headquarters in uptown Kingston last Thursday, where the party’s executive committee was meeting in executive session to discuss the Bernardo situation. The meeting had been called for 7 p.m. Bernardo was invited to appear a half-hour later.
I arrived at about 7:10 to find loud, sometimes angry voices coming from behind a closed door. I stood there and listened, since opening the door and asking permission to observe would have only produced the old heave-ho. (I was ejected from a Democratic executive session in May.)
Behind the door, party Chairman Roger Rascoe, whose voice I recognized, could be heard explaining to the 15 or 20 people in the room that he had it “on good authority” that Mike Hein would be the Democratic nominee for Congress next year.
“What authority?” another voice asked.
“Washington,” Rascoe replied.
Terry Bernardo, he said, was angling to get the nomination for executive this year so that if and when Hein runs for Congress next year she’d be the party’s first choice for an open seat for county exec.
I found it amusing that a politician was criticizing another politician for playing politics. The again, nobody asked me.
A few seconds later, another voice raised an even more intriguing question.
“What’s this about rumors that Hein may be in line for president of Ulster Savings?” he asked. I’d heard that rumor as well, following the sudden departure of bank president Lisa Cathie on May 28. A bank spokesperson had given me the brushoff when I had inquired about the Hein rumor.
Musing with ear at door, the idea of Hein as bank president made some sense to me. Forget his brief stint as a branch manager of another bank in Kingston a decade ago. Bank presidents are hired for their executive experience, and Hein is an established executive, one who can run a budget, hew to the bottom line, hire and fire, cut and paste, and institute meaningful reforms. And if he breaks lots of eggs, so what? Observed Stalin, that’s how you make omelets.
There are some, of course, who don’t like Hein at all, who say his slash-and-burn methods and demand for unquestioned loyalty as county executive would not work in the private sector.
As I mulled these weighty issues pursuant to the next column, the door to the parking lot opened. Enter Hurley Republican Chairman Phil Sinagra, who despite my efforts to disguise myself as a potted plant, quickly apprised the situation.
“I knew you were here,” Sinagra said. “I saw your car in the parking lot.”
I took the hint. “I assume this is an executive session,” I said, pointing to the keyhole.
“That’s right,” he said.
I hastily departed. But hey, it was not for naught, dear reader.
End of session
Except for fundraisers and the like, the state legislature isn’t very efficient, though solons do occasionally come up with a new word to describe the self-serving chaos that takes place every year at the end of session. This year’s word seems to be “delink.”
Asked about the 2 percent property tax cap due to sunset this year, Assemblyman Kevin Cahill offered this insider’s assessment. “The governor is linking everything,” he said, meaning upstate-downstate issues like tax caps and rent control, charter schools and education reform and ethics. “We’re trying to delink things, to deal with issues on a one-on-one basis.” But as Cahill, a 19-year veteran well knows, linkage is more the rule at adjournment time.