We’re all handed a little booklet on the way in to the Company No. 3 Lake Hill Fire House, prepared by the Cato Institute and donated by Jim Dougherty, who will be our host for this most traditional of political evenings, The Ladies Auxiliary Meet the Candidates night, a Woodstock fixture for 30 years or more now.
The booklet contains the text to the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and its Amendments.
Here’s one that seems to fit Woodstock:
Article 1, Section 8: “The Congress shall have Power To…promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries…”
Useful arts…that’s what we’re doing here, right?
They’ve got beautiful boxes of Dunkin’ Donuts and coffee (but the pancakes are reserved for the Sunday breakfasts) and after a short period of informal milling about, the Woodstock candidates, and more, get around to the front table.
In his opening remarks Dougherty laments that there are not too many young faces there among 50-60 attendees. He’d like to get them involved. He lauds the Ladies Auxiliary and especially Roseanne Maclary, who has been a driving force behind the bi-annual event. With Jim Hanson keeping strict time, the candidates begin their opening statements, mindful of the blinking light and the ring of the expiring clock.
Retiring county legislator Don Gregorius endorses the only candidate for his County Legislature seat, Jonathan Heppner. Susie Reynolds sits in for her husband Mike, highway superintendent, who is also universally liked and unopposed.
Republican supervisor candidate Nancy Schauffler gets things going when she says “I’ll do things differently, I won’t waste taxpayer’s money on things like geothermal heating at the highway garage…” She also has criticism of the Community Center’s renovation costs, but emailed afterwards that she would like to retract those statements, so we’ll allow her to do that.
Town Clerk Jackie Earley, unopposed, talks of wanting one more four year term…this would be her sixth term, though four of them were two year terms, with the last being her first four year stint.
Councilman Jay Wenk, standing up with a vigor that belies his near nonagenarian status,
spoke of his background, of how growing up in the depression, and through his service in World War II “led me to my frugality. I proposed the least expensive aspect of public safety, the bike patrol, and everyone laughed at me…a week later it was accepted and the police and public love it.”
Deputy supervisor Laura Ricci, a Democratic candidate for town board reminded everyone that, as the appointed deputy she has “a voice but not a vote…” and cites concerns about sidewalks, parking, and a comprehensive plan update…
Incumbent Democrat Ken Panza, running to retain his town board seat on Republican ballot after losing the Democratic primary, cites promises and commitments he made and were carried out during his tenure — the Town Hall renovation, Community Center renovation. He points to the Comeau Easement…”there was a tremendous amount of rancor, now it’s working…” and talks of his financial background.
Supervisor Jeremy Wilber, going for a record seventh term, though non-consecutively, addresses the concerns of the western part of town, where we sat. “Some people believe that the interests of the Town Board begin at Route 375 and end at the Village Green. It doesn’t. It’s a whole community…” He points to the long battle to get the state to finally repave Route 212 and what he called the “dramatic battle to save Cooper Lake.”
Town Justice Frank Engel, on the bench now for some 24 years, explains his continuing interest in the job. “Nothing I’ve accomplished, personally or professionally (aside from his family) has been more challenging and given me more satisfaction since 1992…it’s the court closest to the people.”
Engel does have a challenger, B. Gary Treistman, on the Libertarian line on the ballot. Triestman is not present, though organizers said he would have been welcome.
Janine Fallon Mower tells of her 30 years writing and studying Woodstock history, and how she doesn’t like the lack of civility at the Town Board meetings. Might a soothing manner help there?
Then there’s this kid there…looks like he barely has to shave, somebody bring a nephew? Why it’s Jonathan Heppner, who’s 27, the soon-to-be county legislator, a Democrat but unopposed in the election. He’s got political credentials already as Deputy press secretary for NYS Senate Democratic Minority. He also scores points with the crowd by telling how he got interested in politics at his grandmother Jane Allen’s kitchen table, a veritable hotbed of discourse in which even this writer even took part in bygone eras.
Republican county executive candidate Terry Bernardo also is present. But there’s a whole article on her elsewhere in this issue, so we’ll leave her out of this one.
Amendment 7 in our Constitution booklets says “In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”
One of the elephants in the room comes up as soon as the audience’s questions are put on the table.
- What is the function of the ZBA? If it makes a decision, when would the town decide to ignore that decision?
Clearly this query refers to Nancy Schauffler’s lawsuit against the town regarding decisions made about Cucina restaurant, an action that’s been sitting in the state supreme court for what? two years now? Just recently, the presiding justice, Kingston’s James Gilpatric, recused himself because his mother had hired the town’s law firm for some work.
Wilber answered that land use and zoning should be separated and that once a ZBA makes a decision, the recourse is an Article 78 lawsuit.
Schauffler took the question head on. “Somehow Cucina was told it could put a restaurant in the Red Barn without a building permit. I went to the ZBA and said, is this OK? They said no…that should have ended it. But Jeremy ignored that and said, so sue.” So she has.
Wilber merely says that he’ll await the court’s ruling to comment.
Left unasked was the question “can someone who is suing the town be it’s supervisor?”
During the slow moments, I peruse the booklet. Ah, the famous one:
Section. 1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.
Section. 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
Things get tamer, but, as at recent town board meetings, and after a summer that saw many cars in town, parking becomes an issue. Jay Wenk wants to charge outsiders (but not Woodstockers) to use the Mountain View Parking Lot off of Rock City Road. He says that the town’s zoning provision for new businesses to pay a fee in lieu of creating enough parking for themselves (with the fee to be used by the town to create new and maintain old parking) is “unfair, immoral…”
Fallon Mower wants to reinstitute the payment in lieu of parking, and for more than the previous $100 fee. She also thinks that the town should make better use of social media in showing visitors where lots like the one on the lower Comeau are, and keep Woodstock walkable.
Ricci says that Mountain View lot should be paved and striped to make the most of it.
Schauffler says that the “Planning Board going easy on people is part of the problem in the first place…”
And Wilber says “I want to avoid the wearying aesthetic of a shopping mall. Maintain what we have, improve some, talk about it, but avoid plans for big parking lots and garages.”
All agree that the town needs to obtain better legal help in protecting its water resources and in examining its obligations and agreements with the city of Kingston over Cooper Lake. Board members say that they are in the process of hiring a new attorney.
The candidates spar over taxes, disagreeing as to whether each individual aspect of the town budget had to meet the two percent tax cap, or whether it was the spending and taxing plan as a whole.
Touting his record of meeting the cap, Wilber said “to me the most important job is the finances. I’m glad to hear that the burning issue (at this meeting) is parking…”
After a bit more summing up, some mentions of the long shelved draft comprehensive plan, we all packed our Constitution booklets, grabbed a last donut and left this most instructive forum until the next election cycle, October 2017, comes around.