From reading recent letters to the media and pronouncements from Catskill Mountain Railroad Corporation, Inc. and its supporters a person could be seduced into believing that CMRR is a viable business, an asset to the county and has a bright future. Nothing could be farther from the truth, based on CMRR’s lack of performance in the past and the resulting current legal difficulties.
CMRR’s supporters are now advocating a side-by-side trail rail and trail solution in order to achieve their goal of having a railroad corridor as it was a hundred years ago.
CMRR has stated that it has spent $400,000 on legal counsel to prevent its eviction from County taxpayer-owned property and that that money would have renovated a lot of track. CMRR was required as a condition of its lease with the county taxpayers (us) to bring one mile of track a year up to Class 1 condition. It’s had 24 years and four months to accomplish this, and hasn’t produced the result. Why didn’t CMRR just do what they agreed to do in their lease? What would make any right-thinking person believe that CMRR could produce a trail alongside the track they never renovated? Perhaps CMRR would like the taxpayers to make them a gift of this improvement at several million dollars a mile? Did I mention that CMRR’s lease is up in eight months?
CMRR has monopolized the taxpayer’s land like the railroad barons of a hundred years ago. We’ve been locked out of our own publicly-owned open space for 30 years thanks to CMRR’s railroad pipe dreams.
Give us back our land! The best way to honor the history of the Ulster & Delaware is to follow the adopted legislation that the county legislature wisely enacted, allowing railroad operations where they are appropriate in Mount Tremper and Phoenicia and trail that begins in Kingston, traverses the reservoir lands, and returns the railroad corridor to the legitimate owners, the taxpayers of Ulster County, as a linear park trial that pays health and recreation benefits to all of us, not just lovers of railroad nostalgia.
A little context here: I’m almost 70 years old. I spent my youth in Ulster Park, where I attended a one-room schoolhouse and my family’s means of getting to Kingston for shopping was the West Shore Line train. I have no desire to go back to “the way it was.” It’s time to move on with what has value today, which is the public open space of the former U&D corridor, where senior citizens like me as well as people of all ages and abilities can have the restorative power of a walk or a bike ride on a trail that originates in Kingston.
Nick Mercurio, Cottekill
She’s earned your vote
One candidate has been humble and serving Kingston in that humble way since the 1980s remains a candidate for alderman-at-large. That candidate is Jeanette Provenzano. There has been no one more deserving of a vote than she. Yes, she stepped out and took a risk and did not prevail in the Democratic Party primary. But that’s a very minor point compared to the many years she has served Kingston and once again, not to enrich herself but to actually serve in the strongest sense of the term. Not only can very few in politics make such a claim — almost no one can validly make that claim these days. Therefore to pass over this opportunity to cast a positive vote for Jeanette Provenzano for alderman-at-large on Election Day, Nov. 3 would be to miss a golden opportunity to vote for someone who has earned the vote of the public over many, many years.
Her name is still on the ballot, and I urge all voters who value humility in public office to get out on Nov. 3 — and cast those absentee ballots as well — and vote for Jeannette for alderman-at-large this year.
Jeff Kelly, Kingston
Nepotism and Kingston
During the mayoral debate, the term “nepotism” came up. The origin of the word, (derived from Italian for nephew) was favoritism directed at a family member, and that favoritism often was expressed through the appointment of a relative, but that’s just a special case which focuses on the deed, the appointment, as the misuse. That use does not focus on the functioning of a governing body when the various members are blood relatives. It was with this misunderstanding of the word by the audience that the consideration was allowed to be swatted away: this was merely two family members engaged in city government. This was just about a history of service at different times.
In government, family alliances become a problem where there is supposed to be a separation of powers. That kind of separation is called for in business dealings when commerce is carried on between family members: If the city bought products or services from a family member of one of the people who influenced selection, that would be a problem for sure. That would be a conflict of interest, and the underlying defect would be the appearance of nepotism.
Here, we have family members at the head of two branches of Kingston government: the head of the Common Council, the alderman-at-large, and the prospective mayor.
In the general rules of political competition, things that are beneficial to one’s cause are given a pass under the rubric that we are here doing good things and, say, an agreement between family members could only be a good thing. So, it is a good thing, one might say, that Kingston may have close family members at the head of two independent branches of government, separation of powers.
Googling “separation of powers” and “nepotism” will bring up several examples that illustrate the applicability of the term to a situation Kingston faces. Nepotism is favoritism which is an ethical breach, a conflict of interests.
Gerald Berke, Kingston