Kingston Times letters (6/7-13)

I’m for Beals

“You’re voting for a guy who used to work for the CIA?!”

I get that a lot when I tell folks I support Jeff Beals for Congress. And I understand: the Agency may serve a useful function but there’s always the potential for trouble when government operates in the dark, as the Agency often must.

But here’s the thing: I want to have a representative in Congress who can blow the whistle on the next Iraq (or Korea, or Iran) War. We have a GOP administration characterized by belligerence and contempt for diplomacy, indifferent to facts, and seemingly hell-bent on going to war with someone, somewhere, just like Bush and Cheney were when they cooked up the phony intelligence about Iraq.

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And precisely because Jeff spent time at the CIA, where he specialized in Mideast affairs (he is fluent in Arabic), and at the State Department, where he spent time in Baghdad working for peace among the Iraqis, he has the knowledge and experience — the credibility — to stand up to the avalanche of propaganda the new crop of war-makers have unleashed.

I want a representative who can keep the young people of our district — and the nation — from being sent off to die in needless foreign wars. Jeff Beals is uniquely qualified — locally and nationally — to do that.

Steve Ellman
Kingston

Beware ‘The Bank of B&B’   

I recently was asked to challenge some 2018 assessments in the City of Kingston on Grievance Day, the fourth Tuesday in May. Two of these parcels were in what is referred to as the Stockade District. Personally I thought the Stockade was similar to the map that is often projected at historical events. What I found out is the Stockade is all the property bounded from North Front St to Greenkill Ave between Washington and Clinton. Upon review of numerous parcels in the Uptown-Stockade District it is indicated a 10 percent across-the-board increase in assessments has been proposed for most if not all the parcels within the district.

This is probably the second stage of what is being described as the gentrification of the area, and perhaps the most critical. It is being fueled by a group of outsiders, developers, and speculators with the aid of tax credits, Pilot agreements and income-saving 1031 exchanges. It is creating a phantom unreal valuation of properties, including my client’s properties. Money is being invested with reckless abandonment, with little concern as to whether the properties can carry the debt service, taxes and other overhead. Rather, speculation is being aided by the above-mentioned government incentives. It creates an increased tax base on the properties that exchange ownership by arbitrarily increasing the assessed values of similar properties, or those in close proximity, even though no interest in purchase/or sale in them has been indicated. Therefore the  increases spill over, if allowed to, and practiced by municipalities, to other long-term property owners who become financial victims of this irrational exuberance, and whom have limited resources, and no desire sell their property, but now find themselves no longer being able to afford ownership because of the increased  tax burden overhead.

It is the City of Kingston’s answer to the Federal Reserve Bank, known locally as Bender and Blaichman or The Bank of B&B. The concept behind it is simple. On a national level when the economy is slow the Federal Reserve tries to stimulate it by “pumping money into the system.” The Fed did this after the housing crash of 2007, saving a few banks on financial thin ice as well. Well, now, B&B are doing the same thing to Kingston.

As already has been stated, there appears to be an arbitrary 10 percent across-the-board increased assessment, in all properties in the district. The problem with this type of wisdom is whether the tax rates change, and even if the tax rate remains the same from one year to the next the properties in the district receive a disproportionate increase in taxes, compared to the rest of the city. On the other hand maybe some have increased in value only 5 percent while others have increased 20 percent and some have stayed the same. There is no appraisal, realtor listing, documented supply and demand model and the rents can not be justified to support the increases. Three empty store fronts on North Front Street are a prime example. As a result many parcels could now be over-assessed, but not all parcel owners are proactive. They are being forced to absorb inflated values on their properties and as a result an unequal rise in property taxes. From a tax challenge standpoint, just because others chose not to challenge their assessment and their inaction, those that are challenged must be revised lower based on its merits and facts presented, they also should not be punished by the mere speculation of some, mostly outsiders, with a higher assessment. There is no documentation to show that their properties have been offered for sale, and at what price, nor if any offers have been made by prospective buyers and at what price. It is difficult to get adequate comps, because of the present speculation, and now the city’s arbitrary 10 percent increase. This was not a citywide revaluation, but rather, an isolated instance. I would remind you, the representatives of the Kingston Schools put a value of $2 million on their building that three bidders basically agreed with, while one speculator doubled his offer, with little justification. Other property owners should not be victims and included in this increased property valuation assumption, due to these two over-zealous buyers and a few others’ reckless spending habits and wild speculation.

This 10 percent assessment increase is in reality in terms of actual tax dollars being owed, in the coming year, substantially more. Even if the city were to maintain the same tax rate in 2019, the school district has voted already to raise their rate almost 3 percent. This will conservatively increase some owners’ tax burden by 16 percent, an exorbitant amount, and does not take into account the potential for a city or county tax increase. It could even be higher since other parts of the city were not reassessed. For some property owners in the District it is like a retired person outliving their saving. They worked in an era when the minimum wage was $5 per hour, pizzas were $3, eggs a $1 a dozen, etc., and if they saved 10 percent of their income that was 50 cents per hour, or $20 a week. Now retired the minimum wage is $10-15 an hour, eggs $2.79 a dozen, pizza $9-14 a pie, etc.

So the bubble will burst and Kingston will experience another real estate and property tax crisis. The Bank of B&B will have over-stimulated the economy, and that bad word inflation will show its ugly face. The Bank of B&B will not be able to afford the inflated taxes they have to pay because the income, that their properties produce, will not be sufficient enough to cover them.

There will also be no market for the Bank of B&B properties owned by Bender and Blaichman or anyone else in the city or district, pushing prices down dramatically. At that point the assessments will have to be lowered, but the damage will have already been done. The final curtain being property owners lining up for court-imposed foreclosure hearing, and liquidations. Property values and assessed values will be dropping like leaves off the trees in autumn, while tax rates will rise dramatically like heating oil prices during a winter’s cold snap to maintain the income and spending levels the Kingston city government has created. It is an economic plan doomed for disaster, a runaway train wreck ready to happen, and adding to the problem, a ship with no captain, and a population with no leader. Disaster is imminent!

Bruce McLean
Kingston

We’re lucky to have Delgado as a choice

We are officially in District 19, in the midst of an exciting Democratic primary that affords us the opportunity to choose the distinguished Antonio Delgado to represent us.

I love this district because we are grounded in reality, diverse and individualistic.

We loved Dem Maurice Hinchey — that tough, smart, progressive, down-to-earth New Yorker. On the other hand, many in 19 also liked quiet, no nonsense GOP Gibson  — enough to elect him twice. And, showing great political and social acumen, District 19 also twice voted big for Obama.

All of which proves we are thoughtful and flexible. When we have good choices, we take them.

Now, sadly, we are stuck with an under-performing Faso, who came in on the Trump protest vote, and according to polls, will go out on the protest Trump vote. (Pay attention to word order … oy!).

Some respected polls give any Democrat a four-point edge on Faso. But I’m sure you’ll find polls that say the opposite. You do remember the 2016 presidential polls, right?

So let’s forget polls (they’re as suspect as that guy in the raincoat loitering in front of the porn theater … and it’s not raining) and concentrate on character. Character is in short supply in politics … unlike polls, which are not. And Antonio Delgado’s character is the gold standard for a man, a husband and father, a representative of the people.

We will soon be voting for the candidate to oppose the ineffectual and very weak Faso in the general election. I want Antonio Delgado to be that champion.

There are a lot of good Dems in the running whose families, like Delgado’s, have roots in the area, but I strongly believe Antonio understands us best and is not using 19 as a stepping stone. He has already arrived.

For starters, the prestigious Citizen Action group has endorsed Delgado as the best choice in the Democratic primary. Citizen Action does a damned good job of vetting candidates for character, intellect and ethics. The Citizen Action endorsement counts for a lot. In addition, Delgado has recently been inducted into the Upstate Hall of Fame for his basketball years in college. That’s a singular honor.

This intense vetting and Delgado’s progressive reform agenda on taxation, health care and ethics informed my choice. He is a most distinguished legal scholar and practicing attorney with a lot of experience outside the merely political. And once — the clincher — he even tried rap. You gotta love a guy that gutsy!

OK, and in the interests of disclosure, I also know people close to him who will (effectively) keep property tax reform on his “to do” list! No surprise there, right? You know it’s a big and very practical issue in heavily taxed District 19.

Yes, congress persons can have an impact on our extortionate property taxes. I know I’ve told you about Congress and property taxes already (That many times? Really?) but God forbid you’ve forgotten.

Clue: Congress can legislate single-payer and that would significantly reduce our school property taxes by more than a sixth! Delgado can also restore our ability to at least deduct our state and local property taxes from our federal taxes, a relief mechanism taken away from us on Faso’s watch. And there’s a lot more Congress can do to relieve our property tax burden.

If the voters of 19 decide that Faso is not bringing home the bacon — and he sure isn’t — they will vote for his opponent.

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I want this opportunity of unseating Faso to do better than just unseat a weak representative. I want to elect a distinguished Congressperson for 19. We have had the best and we can again in the person of Delgado.

But back to the job we will be electing Delgado to do. I expect at very least that Antonio as our rep will bring home the bacon — not take it away like Faso has managed to do.

So far, Faso has screwed up our ability to deduct all our state and (humongous) property taxes from our federal income taxes, and he has severely limited our chances to lower the cost of medical insurance.

Sure, sitting New York State politicos from both parties are very much at fault for our ever-increasing, confiscatory property taxes.

But Faso doesn’t have the clout in his party to fix anything the current Congress does. So far, his party elders have walked all over him and all over New York State. I want to stop paying through the nose for Faso’s lack of muscle and his obvious ineptitude. That’s why I know we’re lucky to have Antonio Delgado as a choice this time around.

Antonio’s many and diverse strengths will advance the interests of District 19 and all of New York, without a doubt. His backstory — although he is a scholar — is also worldly, wide and deep in real economic experience, extensive and not formulaic. That’s why he can pummel Faso. I say District 19 and Delgado are a good match. He’s excellent for the job: Excellent like Hinchey was, and immeasurably better than Faso is. That’s why Citizen Action chose Delgado. That’s why he’s an Upstate Hall of Famer. That’s why I chose Delgado. He’s quality.

I hope you will vote for Delgado in the Democratic primary and in the general election.

Gioia Shebar
Gardiner

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