The race in county legislature District 6, which covers the city’s third, fifth and ninth wards, features a contest between Dave Donaldson on the Democratic and Working Families party lines and Jean Jacobs running on the Republican and Independence Party Lines.
Donaldson has served continuously in the legislature since 1993 and is the body’s most senior member. His legislative career has included stints as chairman, minority leader and majority leader. In the mid-2000s he helped push for and oversee the charter reform that led to the creation of the office of the county executive and a reduction in size of the legislature.
Donaldson said his priorities for his next term include passing a comprehensive human rights law that would give the county’s Human Rights Commission the power to investigate complaints of discrimination and harassment and to levy fines. Currently the commission can only pass complaints about discrimination in public accommodations or government on to state human rights officials for action. Donaldson said he wanted to see a more empowered commission to protect those accused of discrimination from a drawn-out, oft-inconclusive process, as well as protect victims of discrimination.
“These kinds of complaints should be turned around quickly,” said Donaldson. “I don’t think that’s asking too much.”
Donaldson said he also wanted to update the “Ulster Tomorrow” plan. The plan, created in the mid-2000’s by county planning and economic develop officials, lays out strategies for bringing in jobs by focusing on the county’s strengths. Donaldson said much the plan was shelved after the 2008 economic meltdown shifted the county’s priorities from development to survival. “I think it’s time to get back into that focus on building,” said Donaldson.
On economic development, Donaldson has criticized the county’s Industrial Development Agency for what he says is its over-reliance on payment in lieu of taxes (Pilot) schemes to attract developers and investments. Donaldson said Pilots should be doled out more strategically to attract well-paying jobs, rather than as an expected perk for anyone willing to invest in the county.
Donaldson has also emerged as a critic of the administration of County Executive Mike Hein on some key issues. He’s been harshly critical of the county’s sale of the former Kingston Alms House to the housing nonprofit RUPCO. Donaldson said he’s not opposed to the proposal to turn the former poorhouse in supportive housing for low income seniors. Rather, he argues, the county did not do enough to market the property to private investors who might have paid a higher price or put the property to a more lucrative use. Donaldson opposed a resolution the transferred the property from the county to the Kingston Local Development Corporation, a move that allowed county officials to skirt requirements for an open competitive bidding process for the site.
“I wanted to see an open and transparent process for the sale of that property, and it wasn’t,” said Donaldson.
Jacobs has been a fixture of Kingston’s Republican Committee for two decades. From 1996 to 2002 Jacobs served as a trustee of the Kingston City School District. Jacobs was also the first woman to chair the city Republican committee. Jacobs, a lifelong city resident and former healthcare administrator, made unsuccessful runs for Common Council in 2007 and 2009 and mayor in 2011. From 2013 to 2016 she served as chair of the city’s ethics board appointed by then-mayor Shayne Gallo.
This time around, Jacobs is running without the support of the local Republican Campaign Committee. The committee voted to drop all backing for her candidacy after remarks made to the Kingston Times regarding a mural portraying two Native Americans on a wall at the city’s YMCA. Jacobs said that she believed Brooklyn artist Michael Ballentine’s portrayal of the Native Americans was “too dark” and sent an “ethnic message” that would divide the community. Jacobs later said that while she appreciated the artist’s skill, she objected to people from outside the city coming in to create large works of public art without input from local residents.
Jacobs noted Donaldson’s long service in the legislature and said that she believes the time is right for “a new voice” for district residents. Jacobs said that she saw her role in the legislature as serving as a “watchdog” on public funds while working to create jobs and lower taxes. Jacobs also said that she would not support Pilot plans designed to lure investment and jobs to the county with tax breaks.
“I am all about revitalizing our city and county, but not at taxpayer’s expense,” Jacobs wrote in a prepared statement.
Jacobs added that she opposes Safety Net, a state-mandated welfare program that offers cash assistance for individuals and families who do not qualify for or have exceeded time limits on federal assistance programs. Like some running mates on the Restore Kingston Pride ticket, Jacobs also criticized the creation of new low-income housing in the city.
“I feel a great deal of emphasis is applied to low income housing while our seniors are losing their homes,” Jacobs wrote.
Jacobs added that she opposes the city’s “Welcoming and Inclusive City” resolution which bars city police from asking about immigration status during routine interactions with the public. Jacobs and other critics of the policy refer to it as a “sanctuary city” policy.
Jacobs wrote that she would like to work on new laws and new coalitions to deal with the county’s opiate epidemic.
Jacobs, who once headed a city cat task force and is a proponent of trap-neuter-release programs for feral cats said that she would bring her passion for the animals to county government.
“I will work with our County Executive on the Emergency Response Team to establish equality for cats and give them a voice,” Jacobs wrote.