Saugerties Times letters (7/20-27)

Make NYS Democratic Party more democratic

Last year I ran for a seat on the New York State Democratic Committee, campaigning on a promise to speak up for the thousands of Democrats in Ulster County who care deeply about our core values of fairness, inclusivity, transparency, and respect for the democratic process.

As a first step toward keeping that promise, I have introduced five proposed changes to the rules of the NYS Democratic Party that, if adopted, will make it more democratic in the way it operates. What I’ve learned since getting elected to the State Committee, which is the official organization of the party statewide, is that its members actually have very little say in party affairs and decision-making. Meetings are announced last-minute and members are typically offered “up or down” votes on items pre-decided by the Officers and Executive Committee — the majority of whom were not elected to the State Committee.

The State Committee can and should be a vital mechanism for listening to and integrating the voices of the Democratic Party base into leadership at the state level. This is the kind of bottom-up representation that gives our party its strength. This is how we organize to win.


A coalition of State Committee members, both long-timers and newbies like me, will be advocating for the five rule changes at the next State Committee meeting on July 25, 2017, and registered Democrats across NY can help by signing an online petition that urges party leaders to adopt the common sense reforms. All the details, including the exact rule changes and a link to the petition, can be found at

At a time when more and more Democrats are stepping up and engaging in the political process, pressing our government officials to act in line with our values, we must insist that our party does the same.

Kelleigh McKenzie,
NY Democratic Committeewoman Rosendale


GOP Committee continuity

During the period of time that I am a candidate for the Saugerties Town Board, the day to day operations of the Saugerties Republican Committee will run by an Executive Committee comprised of several Vice Chairmen and other officers of the Committee.

Joe Roberti, Jr.,
Chair, Saugerties Republican Committee


GOP health plan provides no relief

This week the Mitch McConnell Senate produced yet another version of health care legislation (the Better Care Reconciliation Act) in an ongoing attempt to create a bill able to garner enough votes for Republicans to claim victory over the Affordable Care Act. The ACA, also known as Obamacare, is currently working pretty well; approximately 51% of Americans have a favorable opinion of it. Most people agree that with a few changes, the ACA would be an even better law. Yet, the Affordable Care Act is the bill McConnell Senators and Ryan Representatives want to repeal and replace, just to prove they can.

The Better Care Reconciliation Act provides no relief to struggling Americans, to the elderly, or to people with pre-existing conditions. Thanks to the Cruz Amendment, cruelly named the Consumer Freedom Option, the bill seeks to bring back “junk insurance” plans that have low premiums and virtually no useful coverage. The not so aptly named Better Care bill does not try to make health care universal, or even affordable. In an effort to get this shameful bill passed, McConnell makes one bad deal after another, hoping to cobble together enough votes to post a win. The contortions are absurd.

The Presidents and CEO’s of two key organizations in the health care field, America’s Health Care Plans and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, have stridently voiced their opposition to the currently pending legislation. They have publicly stated the bill “is simply unworkable in any form and would undermine protections for those with pre-existing medical conditions, increase premiums and lead to widespread termination of coverage for people currently enrolled in the individual market.” And still the McConnell Republicans push on, ignoring the very real needs of their constituents and Americans across the nation.

The only thing more absurd is that fact the currently pending legislation provides generous tax breaks for insurance companies, medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical manufacturers and…tanning salons.

Deidre J. Byrne


Thanks to Mike Hein

I want to thank Ulster County Executive Mike Hein and his staff for implementing innovative ideas that benefit the Summer Camp Program at the Esopus Bend Preserve. During the months of July and August, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Saugerties and Kingston enjoy the Summer Camp Program. In October, I had introduced a proposal that would have added a modest level of County funding in order to improve the staffing and infrastructure at the Esopus Bend Preserve, but both the Ways and Means Committee and the full legislature failed to pass the resolution.

After consulting with Mike Hein’s staff, they agreed to examine some ways in which the county could assist the Esopus Bend Preserve and the Summer Camp Program that enriches the lives of children throughout the summer. After some input from Lee Anne Thornton, the Director of the Esopus Bend Preserve, and several meetings with Mike Hein and his staff, our County Executive was able to allocate two-three permanent Summer Camp Counselors through a Federal Grant Program which provides summer jobs for High School and College-aged students throughout Ulster County. In addition, Mike Hein was able to secure a private donation in order to replace the gazebo that was destroyed during a storm. The new gazebo is larger than the old one, and it provides shelter for visitors of the preserve and to the children who utilize the Summer Camp Program. This innovative allocation of Federal Grant Money, combined with the private donation, is emblematic of how our County Government can enrich the lives of children, tourists and residents without adding any additional spending onto the Ulster County Budget.

The Summer Camp Program at the Esopus Bend Preserve provides valuable education to the youth of Saugerties and Kingston by teaching children about the ecosystem in a fun, safe and friendly environment where everyone can enjoy the true beauty of the Hudson River and Esopus Creek. Teaching children about the importance of the ecosystem along the Esopus Creek and the Hudson River enlightens our youth on the importance of preserving our local environment.

Chris Allen,
Ulster County Legislator, District 2


Let’s hear it for the boys!

When I began weekending here, making friends wasn’t  a priority. That said, I think we bond with our community by making friends. I made friends with the people who sold me supplies, waited tables in restaurants and others with whom I did business.

These last two years our community has borne the loss of three men who I came to care for and respect.

Barry Ballister of Sunfrost, Woodstock, Frank Cruz of Frank and Co. Fine Jewelry, Saugerties and Christopher Gallo of Gallo’s Nursery, Woodstock.

Flashing blue eyes and contagious excitement, Barry Balister provided the quintessential shopping experience.  He hand-selected and weighed your purchases and added them up on the side of your paper bag.  He swept you up talking about his latest ideas. He loved his kids and now his son Matthew is running Sunfrost. His dedication to evolving his business echoes his father.

When Frank Cruz moved here from the city, it wasn’t easy. Being Latino, he experienced prejudice in the community. That didn’t down Frank. Anyone who met Frank has experienced a noble-hearted man. The precision of his work, which he did, seated in his shop window, never made it impossible for Frank to have a conversation, which always ended with his delicious laughter! A talented, honest and determined man, Frank‘s ability to smile in the face of adversity made him a local hero in the hearts of everyone he served. His wife Diane and his son Frank Jr. continue his legacy at the shop, treating their customers like neighbors, settling only for the highest standards.

Chris Gallo passed away this winter. Here was a sweetheart of a man with a salty exterior. He loved a good laugh as he labored at being a nurseryman even as he began to age and struggle with his health. A very good judge of character, he loved to share his observations. He let my grandchildren feed his koi fish and when I came in on my own, he asked about the family. Chris, like Barry and Frank, was a family guy who worked shoulder to shoulder with his son and nephew to build a thriving business to support his family. Chris’ strong work ethic passed to his son Pat and now to his grandson Dominick, the tall strong young man who you can meet summers working at the nursery.

These men were my first friends here. They introduced me to living in a community where one is served by people who get to know their customers and share their lives, if only as onlookers. I truly miss them and I feel lucky that their commitment to family has brought us another generation of men to know and cherish!


Stacey Brooks


Fist pumps

I enjoy watching championship tennis on TV, but I am increasingly displeased by the pumped fists after every won point, the wide-mouthed screaming, the snarls; once I watched as a highest-ranked player turned to the spectators and urged them to applaud and cheer his skill. Another top-seeded did the same thing. This audience paid good money for their seats, and they can sit on their hands if they choose. Of course I also detest the contestants wearing advertisements — the #1 had a Nike swoosh symbol on his head-band, on his shirt, and on his shoes; probably on his underwear too. Adidas also does well. My favorite was a guy named Muller who beat the champion Nadal. After the winning volley he didn’t jump up and down or fall to his knees and cover his little face — he stood there, quietly and still, with his mouth open as though he had just watched his pet dog get run over. We need more reverence in our sports.

Rev. Finley Schaef


A huge thank you to Bob Siracusano

We would like to thank Bob Siracusano and family for their incredible kindness in thinking of our son Zachary Swart in giving our family $10,000 from the Sawyer Motor Car Show in Saugerties. Zach is 15 years old and currently in Memorial Sloan Kettering in NYC recovering from a Bone Marrow Transplant. With this beautiful gift, we will be able to rent an apartment for Zach to stay in the city as he is required to stay near Sloan Kettering for bi-weekly follow-up appointments and needs to be closely monitored over the next few months. Bob and his family and their most generous hearts have supported so many families and local community charities in our area. Thank you Bob and Larry Siracusano for all that you do for others.

Nancy and Tom Swart and family


Peacewalkers coming to Saugerties

The Coalition Against the Pilgrim Pipelines has mounted a campaign of opposition that is now over 3 years old. We have documented the threat that these pipelines would pose to our drinking water and fragile environment, and the absolute lack of need of our communities for their existence. Now, this campaign has been joined by a powerful moral ally.

Internationally renowned environmental and human rights activist Jun Yasuda, Buddhist nun in residence at the Grafton NY Peace Pagoda, will embark upon a 170 mile, 13 day walk to protest the threat to drinking water and environment posed by the proposed Pilgrim oil pipelines. Jun-San, as she is affectionately called, has walked across the United States eight times on behalf of environmental and social justice. On this Peace Walk, she will be joined by local dignitaries, activists and concerned citizens from a broad array of cultural and spiritual backgrounds, including members of the Lanape-Ramapough Lenape, Lakota and Mohican nations.

The walk will commence on July 22 and will traverse communities that would be directly affected, from the Split Rock Sweetwater Prayer Camp of the Ramapough Lenape in Mahwah, NJ to Albany, NY, including Saugerties. The group of Peace Walkers is scheduled to arrive at the Saugerties Trinity Episcopal Church on Saturday, July 29.  Local citizens wishing to join them on the walk can contact George Cho (646-784-7616) write or go to If you cannot join the walk but still wish to show your support, you are welcome to bring a dish to share and attend the potluck dinner at the Trinity Church at 6 pm pm July 29. For that, please  contact Amy Fradon (914-388 0236).

William Barr