I’m not sure Kingston mayoral candidates Steve Noble and Ron Polacco changed any minds at this week’s Chamber of Commerce debate, but Noble made a better case for himself. Noble was in any case a good deal more specific with plans and programs. Polacco was more the sloganeer from four years ago.
Polacco didn’t come out smokin’ a la Joe Frazier, but he did show more fire in the belly than the mild-mannered Noble. Some may still wonder whether Noble has the guts to stand up to the special interests and the City Hall establishment.
Noble did indicate that some heads will roll if he’s elected a week from Tuesday, though leaving the impression there might be only an initial slap on the wrist. And while Noble seemingly could not bring himself to utter the word “Gallo,” he did give the “previous administration” credit for starting some of the programs he intends to carry forward. The olive branch he offered could not have been lost on Shayne Gallo supporters, though few, if any, were in attendance.
One of these guys will begin immediately with the myriad problems facing the city in less than 60 days after being elected. Revealingly, Polacco looked back to Kingston’s “golden age,” Noble forward.
To Polacco the last 20 years under Democratic control have been something of a disaster. A Republican mayor will change that, he asserts. But, Mayor Polacco will deal with a Common Council of at least eight Democrats, with Steve Noble’s uncle as presiding officer.
Noble has a 20-year plan for his 4-year-old son, that after graduating college he can return to Kingston for a good job with an affordable home in a safe, growing city. At 33 — Polacco is 49 — Noble may just have to hang around for five terms until Sonny comes home. Frank Koenig, mayor for the entire decade of the 1970s, holds the longevity record.
Business crowds ask the questions that interest business, so there wasn’t much to chew on other than sausage and eggs. But it seemed that outgoing mayor Gallo dropped at least a couple of bombs in his final budget, released last week.
First, demonstrating some of the character traits that lost him the primary, he removed Noble’s position as environmental coordinator from the budget. Perhaps mellowing somewhat, he did not exact vengeance on Noble’s wife Julie, his department assistant. If the mayoral budget is enacted as written and Noble does not win the election, both he and Gallo will be out of their jobs.
Of more importance, Gallo, in an in-you-face salute to the residents who didn’t vote for him in the September primary, recommended shifting a whopping 20 percent of the non-homestead property tax to homeowners in the next budget. The surprise is that the business community in attendance, after greeting candidate homilies with tepid applause, didn’t leap to their feet on news of that proposal, something the mayor did not mention in his budget release.
Noble and Polacco, after agreeing on almost everything good and deploring everything bad, signed on to a carefully planned 10-year phase-in as a better way to go.
Bottom line, in my view Noble reinforced his base in shoring up doubts as to his ability to handle the mayoral job, while Polacco was less impressive. And Noble’s base is a good deal broader than Polacco’s.
Given deadlines, I didn’t have time to poll mayoral opinions as the Chamber breakfast crowd hurriedly belched its way to the door. Most responses were predictable, in any event, like 10-term former Democratic legislator John Dwyer backing a Democrat. A few were more revealing. Asked how his boy had done, Republican city chairman Tony Sinagra — with a plethora of adjectives ranging from fantastic to awesome available for use — replied, “I’ll get back to you on that.”