SUNY Ulster’s latest southern foray has ended more with a sigh than a bang. College officials say there wasn’t enough interest in the Marlborough area to justify establishing a small satellite at a former grade school.
College President Al Roberts said planners detected “some kind of interest” a year ago. A $12,000 marketing survey suggested something closer to indifference. Roberts said the college needed only 65 FTEs (full-time equivalent) students, less than 5 percent of enrollment at the school’s Stone Ridge campus, in order to make the satellite financially viable.
“We’re not giving up on it,” Roberts said. He meets monthly with superintendents from the Marlboro, Highland and Wallkill school districts to discuss how to expand college-course access to high-school students. The space in Marlborough is still available, he says. The college just has to figure a way to fill it.
Geography rules. SUNY Ulster is in Stone Ridge, which might have looked central on a county map some 50 years ago. The local road system makes it difficult to reach from almost anywhere, however. For three generations, students from southern Ulster have found it far more convenient to cross the river to Dutchess Community College, costing Ulster state aid.
Ulster college strategy is now emphasizing enrolling high-school kids in college-level courses while they’re in high school. They might want to rethink this satellite idea. Most high schools in the area have seen sharp declines in student enrollment in recent years, meaning empty classrooms. The latest census estimates predict a county population decline of some 3,000 residents (about 2 percent) by the 2020 census.
Meanwhile, the college and Town of Marbletown officials are working on plans to welcome home the school’s men’s basketball team. A God-awful 0-26 only three years ago, the team, with big minutes from local talent, won 18 games this season. They won a sectional title before bowing in the junior college nationals. President Roberts, a big fan, followed the “scrappy bunch” all season.
Holding the fort
I’ll give the majority and minority leaders of the county legislature credit for at least one thing at their annual state-of-the-county addresses last week. It wasn’t the hands-across-the-aisle, why-can’t-we-be-friends blather spooned out in recent years.
Minority Leader Hector Rodriguez, Democrat of New Paltz, had the oratorical edge over Majority Leader Mary Beth Maio, Republican of Highland — if only as the one-eyed man in the kingdom of the blind. As with most legislatures, the minority has to talk louder and more often to be heard because it doesn’t have the votes. Maio, who seldom speaks on any subject outside of law enforcement, seems more comfortable counting noses on votes, the most fundamental responsibility of any legislative leader.
For those who follow these things, like the media and the county executive, the politics of this legislature are intriguing. The 12-11 Republican majority is about as paper-thin as it gets. Within that majority are three non-enrolled legislators elected with Republican endorsement. Should even one get pissed and join the Democrats, the majority flips. Republicans, therefore, need to be extremely solicitous of this minority within a majority. How the situation must grate.
So the dynamic isn’t cooperation. It’s digging in, which doesn’t necessarily mean hostile relations. With no votes to spare, the GOP caucus will have to circle the troops at those points which divide it. Should the minorities within the majority parties (Democrats have two) have the leadership and the savvy to play swing-block, they could be the real power in the legislature.
Everybody loves Nina
As politicians are better at hiding stuff than I am at finding it, careful perusal of annual messages usually produces more noogies than nuggets.
But I think I found at least one. Rodriguez, who unlike Maio tends to ramble on, promised legislative surveillance of the executive, the comptroller and the sheriff. But he made no mention of County Clerk Nina Postupack, which makes sense because everybody loves Nina. Up for a fourth term this November, the Republican clerk will probably be endorsed with high praise by every party but the Communist.
Which brings me to an intriguing idea. Last Sunday, right-wing roilers Don Ryan and Rich Cahill signed off on their short-running mid-afternoon talk show on WKNY, called Radio Kingston these days.
Never heard it? Join the crowd. Ryan, a former sheriff’s civil officer, and Cahill, a lawyer, author and former alderman, liked to start their hour-long call-in program with “welcome to Sanctuary City.” Management did not approve, or so say the former hosts.
As a time slot has opened, may I suggest a sit-com called “Everybody Loves Nina”? Nina would be the loving but intrusive matriarch of a mixed bunch of coconuts. Daughter-in-law Kathy, a non-practicing psychiatrist, would try to make sense of it all. Sons Dave and Joe would constantly clash in competition for Nina’s affections. Kenny J., the father, would attempt to keep order with gavels and glares. Hector, their Hispanic terrier, would bark a lot but seldom bite. Occasionally police chief Mike would drop by with marching orders. Appearing as a Greek chorus, the media would screw everything up. In keeping with the Radio Kingston outreach culture, the show would be broadcast in at least six languages.
I think we might have a hit.
Graces under fire
In Roman mythology, the three graces represented beauty, charm and creativity — qualities, depending on the eye of beholders, found in abundance in a trio of Democratic challengers to local Republican state senators.
Jen Metzger of Rosendale is running against 10-termer John Bonacic of Mount Hope, Patrice Courtney Strong of Kingston will face George Amedore of Rotterdam, and Karen Smythe of Red Hook will challenge Sue Serino of Hyde Park. Metzger has been twice elected to the Democrat-dominated Rosendale town board. This will be the first run for Strong and Smythe.
Conventional wisdom suggests incumbent state legislators are virtually bulletproof. Despite widespread revulsion over Albany corruption and ineptitude, better than 95 percent of legislators who stand for re-election are successful. Most face only token opposition, many none at all.
But then this is hardly a conventional year. The graces don’t strike me as conventional candidates. Smythe to me is just a name on the ballot, but she runs her own construction company. I think we need more people in government who sign the front of the check.
Serino, a get-around real-estate broker, seems to have staying power, proving two years ago that her 2014 victory over incumbent Democrat Terry Gipson was no fluke. Gipson briefly flirted with another run against Serino and a primary for governor, but has abandoned both. As former Freeman managing editor Ed Palladino used to say, Gipson’s dead, but doesn’t know it.
Like Serino, Amedore is a two-termer with traction. Moving up from the Assembly with a win over incumbent Cecilia Tkaczyk in 2014, Amedore solidified his status as the man to beat after burying Sara Niccoli of Palatine by some 33,000 votes in 2016.
Amedore is something of a statistical anomaly. Most first-termers, with only two years to establish themselves, are vulnerable the second time around. Not him. Maurice Hinchey barely won a second term in Congress. Kevin Cahill did not survive his freshman term, but came back four years later for what may be a lifetime job.
Bonacic, like his Orange County running mate Bill Larkin, just keeps rolling along, seemingly impervious to challenge. Distributing tons of pork around the district and backed by a near-million-dollar war chest “the best looking man in the Senate,” 76 this year, is still a force. That said, Metzger will take no prisoners and will run better in Ulster than some of the Orange clunkers Bonacic has faced in the past.
At stake is the very heart of the Republican state Senate. In the unlikely event that all three graces prevail — one against this trio of tested combatants would be an achievement — progressive Democrats could take over the House of Lords.
Dates and things
Pardon the media and others who give a hoot for confusion over this year’s busy and crowded political calendar. Right here on our stage there are five dates to remember, beginning with the April 12 deadline for petitions for the Democratic primary for Congress. That primary will be held on June 26, a very odd date indeed.
Next up is an April 24 special election to fill an Assembly vacancy in Pete Lopez’s old upland district, which includes Saugerties. I don’t expect Sawyers will turning out in droves for three candidates — Democrat Aidan O’Connor of Greene, Republican Christopher Tague and independent Wesley Laraway of Schoharie — almost nobody had heard of until last winter.
Unofficial party nominating conventions in late May are party business, but sometimes serve free cheese with the baloney.
Owing to religious holidays and Sept. 11 emerging as a national day of reflection, the primary will be held on Sept. 13, another Thursday.
School board elections on May 15 are of course a whole different thing.