Kingston Times letters (5/18-24)

Sheriff’s misniformed

In last week’s article “Sanctuary Ulster,” Jesse Smith quoted Sheriff Van Blarcum as saying “The only person who can set policy for the sheriff’s office is myself.”

This is incorrect. According to the Ulster County Charter, Article XX, Section C-84: “Powers and duties. The Sheriff shall have and exercise all the powers and duties heretofore or hereafter lawfully granted or imposed by the Charter, Administrative Code, local law or resolution of the County Legislature, or order or direction of the County Executive, not inconsistent with those powers and duties vested in his or her office under the laws and constitution of New York State.”

It is important for the legislature and the public we represent to understand the role of our elected officials and how we work to protect the public good and maintain the public trust.  I worked with Dr. Gerald Benjamin of SUNY New Paltz, the highly respected political scientist, to develop our first Ulster County charter. If people wish to learn more about our county’s charter and how it shapes our government, the are welcome to attend the public educational forum where Dr. Benjamin and I will present “On Local Government: Exploring Municipal Charters and Reform.” The forum will be hosted at the Kingston Library and 55 Franklin Street on July Thursday, July 13, from 5:30-7:30 p.m.  It will be moderated by Rebecca Martin and is brought to the library by


Understanding the basic foundations of our government is now, more than ever, an obligation of every citizen.

Jennifer Schwartz Berky
County legislator


This doesn’t Work for Ulster

On Sunday, May 7, the Democrats in Ulster County honored retiring Surrogate Judge Mary Work, at a brunch at Wiltwyck Golf Club.

A lifelong Democrat, registered in that party for 36 years, on May 10 I changed my voter registration to Independent. Mrs. Work is the wife of Victor Work, head of the county’s Democratic Party. Putting this woman up as a candidate decades ago is an example of the nepotism rampant in our county for years. She was one of the last vestiges of this corrupt political process. Merit seems to have little influence.

Those whose financial future was decimated by Mary Work’s decisions — and there are many of us in Ulster County — may wonder why sound-thinking, intelligent jurists like Hearing Examiner John Beisel have been repeatedly passed over for judgeships. Perhaps if his wife were head of the Democratic Party, he would be a Family Court judge or surrogate judge.

I hope to attend a future event honoring John Beisel, someone whose meticulous, thoughtful decisions have rarely been questioned. I speak for many of my fellow citizens as a former litigant and a working journalist who did extensive research on the Ulster County Family Court system

With hopes for a better future,

Joanne Michaels
West Hurley


Grateful for support

Forty high school students from Arlington, John Jay, Rondout, and Freedom Plains United Presbyterian Church carried banners and pushed wheelchairs for the seventh annual Parkinson’s Awareness Walk, “Walk Over Water,” on the Walkway Over the Hudson. The day was chilly, but spirits were high.

Hundreds listened while state Senator Sue Serino presented a Senate resolution declaring April Parkinson’s Awareness Month in New York State. Thirty-three area municipalities had done the same. Those issuing proclamations: Amenia, Beacon, Beekman, Clinton, Dover, Dutchess County, East Fishkill, the Town/Village of Fishkill, Hyde Park, Kingston, LaGrange, Lloyd, Marbletown, Milan, North East, Pine Plains, the Town/City of Poughkeepsie, Town/Village of New Paltz, Red Hook, Village of Rhinebeck, Rosendale, Saugerties, Shandaken, Stanford, Town of Ulster, Union Vale, Town/Village of Wappingers, Washington, Wawarsing and Woodstock.

East Fishkill Library hosted an educational display throughout the month of April and lights on the Mid-Hudson Bridge glowed green and gold for hope and optimism.

The three hospitals of Health Quest (Vassar Brothers, Northern Dutchess, and Putnam), Mid-Hudson Regional and Helen Hayes Hospitals, and Wingate Healthcare sponsored the event, aided by Hamaspik Choice, Hudson Valley Hospice, Golden Hill Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, and Mazzetti, Buscetto, and Assoc.

The event was organized by the non-profit Parkinson’s Disease Support Group of the Mid-Hudson Valley, Inc. Together, we raised $40,000 for research, toward a 7-year total of $250,000 including a match! Thank you all for helping keep hope alive!

Nancy Redkey, chair
Parkinson’s Disease Support Group
of the Mid-Hudson Valley, Inc.


Educate yourselves, lawmakers

On February 22, 2017, the Trump administration made a stand — against transgender children. Trump invalidated landmark guidance from the Obama administration letting school children use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity.

On April 17, three members of the Ulster County Legislature Laws, Rules, and Governmental Services Committee — Carl Belfiglio, Kevin Roberts, and Craig Lopez — along with the decisive vote of Chairman Kenneth Ronk — voted against simply allowing a public hearing about Proposed Local Law No. 18. This law would prohibit discrimination against transgender Ulster County citizens in the arenas of housing and access to public services and facilities. The law would also have allowed folks to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. But Belfiglio, Roberts, Lopez and Ronk could not even abide a public hearing about this.

On April 25, New York State Senators Terrence Murphy, Ruben Díaz, Martin Golden, Andrew Lanza, Thomas O’Mara, and Elaine Phillips killed GENDA, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, in the Investigations and Government Operations Committee. GENDA, which would protect transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) folks from discrimination in the realms of employment, housing, and public services and facilities, has passed the New York State Assembly 10 times, with bipartisan support. In killing this legislation, Senators Murphy, Díaz, Golden, Lanza, O’Mara and Phillips planted themselves firmly on the wrong side of history. Prior to the committee vote, I called my state senator, George Amedore, three times to ask for his position on GENDA; no response was forthcoming.

Transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) Americans have long been subject to discrimination, harassment, and violence simply for being who they are. It is distressing that in 2017, our lawmakers on the federal, state, and county level have doubled down on their disregard for the basic human rights of marginalized TGNC citizens.

Those who know the least about the TGNC population and the legislation affecting their basic human rights are the most likely to voice their opposition to that legislation. Legislators, get to know TGNC people in your community. Educate yourself. Your fear is not rational and it is creating suffering for citizens who are already vulnerable to attack on many levels. If you continue to vote against the basic human rights of TGNC members in your communities, I can only assume that you have cynically and consciously chosen to scapegoat this marginalized group for your own political ends.

Michelle Sutton



Unscramble this phrase: TIMPEACH RUMP