In 2011 I was asked to help my fellow Saugerties residents fight an affordable housing project. As a Saugerties native who cares about her town, I accepted and it was something to which I devoted myself entirely. In my graduate studies I learned community organizing and it was not foreign to me. I had been an active member and organizer and as part of the Hudson Valley Alliance helped to fend off the nuclear power plant in Cementon. Since then I have been active in other movements including repeal of the SAFE Act.
As a clinical social worker experienced in forensics, drug treatment, group and family therapy, I have learned that thinking outside of the box leads to effective solutions. I have always admired the gifts that others can bring in solving problems.
We humans are less than perfect and I believe that it is not the role of government to mold the individual. I oppose government taking a micromanaging approach to its constituents, from children to the elderly. I believe in applying equal treatment, equal taxes and denying special favors to big businesses and so-called affordable housing projects through tax breaks and other special privileges. What follows is identification of problem areas, all of which this Town Board has engaged itself in.
Truly open government? Are the town citizens treated as participants in a working relationship or are they treated as obstacles to an agenda unbeknownst to them? Town Board agendas are made public just a few hours, sometimes a few minutes, before meetings, denying the public preparation time. Though citizens ask questions of the town it is common practice that they receive no response. I have been asking the town to pass a resolution against the SAFE Act for two months and received no response even after presenting a petition with 130 signatures. As supervisor I will make all non-emergency agenda items public five days before scheduled meetings and respect the public by providing responses.
Real protection of our residents: In 2013 Saugerties’ S&P rating dropped by two points from an A+ to A- which meant borrowing would cost more because of that downgrade. Reportedly, Helsmoortel left office in 2011 with unpaid bills and negative fund balances.
Last week the New York State Comptroller’s Office released its annual fiscal status report. Saugerties’ 2014 rating now dropped to “Moderate Fiscal Distress” and is projected to be in the worst category, Significant Fiscal Stress, for 2015. This will mean higher interest rates on borrowing, which since the town lacks a fund balance, an emergency will force the town to borrow money. Comptroller’s office spokesperson Brian Butry said the purpose of these annual reports is to help municipalities avoid financial crisis and ratings are used by Moody’s and S&P for credit ratings. Our town has been receiving these annual reports for the past three years and apparently has ignored them. Helsmoortel commented to the Daily Freeman that he does not agree with the state’s methodology. Disagree or not, this poor fiscal rating will translate into increased taxes for home owners.
Government controls and zoning are becoming increasingly mandated by the state and the Town Board behaves as enforcers of the state while tax-payers need them to advocate against increased mandates and controls.
Advisory boards, appointed by the board and not always with Saugerties residents, apply a crucial voice in forming policy and what we are permitted to do on and with our property. Some are designing controls over the use of our personal gardens, rainfall, domestic animals and livestock and they are doing so at a time when food prices are soaring without regard for the impact on human survival. In Karl Marx’s terminology, “the means of production” are being controlled for greater and continued government dependency. While the individuals on these boards are usually kind and want to help, they are often unaware of the bigger picture. It is the role of the town supervisor to see the big picture and the consequences.
The town pays its grant writers handsomely by the hour. The Town Board must consider the real cost of grants on which our town government has become addicted as it thirsts for more money and power rather than becoming lean, trim and adaptable.
Residents on the west side of the railroad tracks have been blocked from emergency vehicles during train crossings for decades. Though only a few minutes, it can be a matter of life or death. There are several straightforward solutions but the problem seems to have been ignored while lights on the baseball fields have been given attention.
Direct communication and advocacy— In 2012 I made an unplanned personal visit to the New York State Office of Housing and Community Renewal and subsequently received a prompt, favorable response to my request to which we had received no response through more conventional means. This sort of advocacy and communication is lacking. Who advocates for the Saugerties residents?
It is rare to see a county legislator present at Town Board meetings but communication needs to occur with this body once known as the Board of Supervisors. Recently the Ulster County Legislature banned restaurant use of Styrofoam containers. There was no discussion of this at our town level though the impact will reach into the pockets of all restaurant owners and be passed on to its customers. Our town businesses and taxpayers are experiencing death by a thousand cuts.
Give Change a Chance— This year the Conservative Party provides the only choice for ousting the Demo-publican Cartel placed on the Saugerties voters in their attempt to keep the status quo. It is unclear and unfortunate how this came about but I have discussed this in previous letters.
We know the best way to ascertain one’s intent is to follow the money. One must wonder who benefits from the continued fiscal recklessness which coupled with lack of jobs presents an extreme crisis for Saugerties residents. Surely the transfer of real property increases as homes are auctioned, foreclosed or sold as owners come to grips with the need to survive. It is those with substantial incomes such as some party bosses or politicians who can easily scoff them up paying only a fraction of their value. At this time, four out of five of the Town Board members have made or make their money through the transfer of real estate. Follow the money and you be the judge.
Rumor has it that Helsmoortel will soon retire to Maine and wants to help maintain “the old guard grip” on Saugerties. This is best accomplished by retiring before one’s term is complete and promoting a “chosen one” to incumbent status. This might explain the reason for the Demo-publican Cartel.
Vote Row C— I am the Conservative candidate for town supervisor. As a party member I live my life with conservative values and will bring them to the leadership of the Saugerties Town Board. Dan Ellsworth is the registered Conservative Town Board candidate. Remember your voice and your vote will make an impact. Together we must make the difference that restores Saugerties.
-Gaetana Ciarlante is a candidate for Saugerties town supervisor.