Hugh Reynolds: How deep is VanBlarcum’s support among Dems?

Sheriff Paul VanBlarcum takes the plunge in a dunk tank at the Immaculate Conception Church bazaar last weekend. (Photo by Phyllis McCabe)

Expect extreme scrutiny of Sheriff Paul VanBlarcum’s Democratic nominating petitions after the deadline for submission passes this week. VanBlarcum, not the most apt of politicians, was denied his party’s nomination for a fourth term at convention in June mostly on social and political grounds.

Critics have been running a photo on the web of the sheriff shaking hands with you-know-who in the oval office in Washington as evidence that he’s “not a real Democrat.”  Supporters say former state trooper Juan Figueroa of Plattekill is more correct on most issues. In his impromptu this-is-our-time nominating speech for Figueroa at the Ulster County Democratic convention, Dan Torres, 26, of New Paltz may have said it best. Former county treasurer Lew Kirschner, 83, emerging from obscurity to nominate VanBlarcum, sent quite another message.


Having lost his party’s nomination by a mortifying margin, something like five to one, VanBlarcum was forced to scramble to create a team of foot soldiers to secure the 1,200 or so valid signatures he needed to get on the Sept. 13 primary ballot. The sheriff ran ads in local papers seeking volunteers to carry his petitions. Figueroa will have no such problems. As the unofficial Democratic nominee, he’ll have hundreds of committee members circulating his petitions.

Those Democrats who pay attention might give pause to signing a petition for a candidate who is also carrying petitions to get on the Republican line. Four years ago, when he was unopposed, VanBlarcum had both major party nominations.

It appears we will have a contest for the soul of the Democratic Party in September if VanBlarcum gets enough valid signatures on his petitions.

If Sheriff VanBlarcum is wondering what happened to his formerly solid Democratic support, this photo from Police Week 2017 probably didn’t help


Connecting the dots

I was chatting about politics with an old friend last week, when he asked, “Did you know that a driver’s license is proof of citizenship?”

“No way,” I responded.

“You’ve heard of motor-voter at motor vehicle where they ask you when you renew if you want to register to vote?”


“Well, they send that over to the board of elections and they register you to vote. There must be millions of people like that out in California. Probably in New York, too.”

“What about those people who take years to become citizens, the joyous faces at county court? You mean somebody can just walk into motor vehicle and walk out a citizen?”

“Check it out.”

No way.

Motor vehicle and the board of elections both check for citizenship before issuing documents, according to officials. DMV does not issue a license to someone who cannot prove they’re a citizen or in the country legally; either by visa, work permit or green card. But DMV does forward voter registration requests to BOE?

The first question on the election registration form is: Are you a citizen of the U.S., yes or no?

“If it’s no, that’s as far as it goes,” said Democratic Elections Commissioner Ashley Dittus. “We don’t register non-citizens to vote.”

A lie, it is said, can travel halfway around the world before truth gets its pants on. Ironically, that line was penned by an English writer named Jonathan Swift in 1710. Fake facts get around a lot faster now.

Pork train

Andrew Cuomo’s critics complain — perhaps in envy — about his $30 million-plus campaign war chest. Taxpayers have a much bigger investment in the governor’s future. Recall the scandal-scarred “Buffalo billion?” Drop in the bucket. What legislators call “governor’s pork” amounts to at least a billion every year, spread thinly across the state, according to published reports.

A small slice was on display last week in Kingston as the governor came to town to dispense some $10 million in support of various public-private projects. To put that amount in perspective, the city spent north of $10 million to repair 500 feet of collapsed sewer lines on Washington Avenue, beginning in 2011.

That Cuomo’s was at least the third announcement was for the moment forgotten. This was the governor, in person, with cash. Whoopie. “He’s a real friend of Kingston,” said one attendee who should have known better. That this big deal for this small town won’t begin to trickle down through an opaque state bureaucracy for years doesn’t matter. There’s an election in November.

And this was just little old Kingston. “Governor’s events” are being ballyhooed all over upstate.

With cameras whirring, we can be sure the beaming faces of grateful Kingstonians will soon appear in campaign ads showing how at long last upstate New York is on the march.

Add $35 million in campaign cash to this propaganda, and the outcome of the election is inevitable.

Speaking of people showing up, John Faso is in full campaign mode with Election Day only 16 weeks away. Faso, not generally lauded for environmental advocacy, stuck his toe in Tillson Lake in solidarity with nearby residents who don’t want the manmade body of water drained for safety purposes. Faso will soon discover, if he hasn’t already, a militant band of environmentalists who want the area returned to its original state, a small stream running through upland meadows. Can Antonio Delgado, with bullhorn, be far behind?

Good neighbors

As a former Kingston Library trustee, I follow library issues around the county with interest. Saugerties rebuilt an aging facility into a beautiful modern library a few years ago. Huzzah! Woodstock is in the throes of a library reconfiguration, but in Woodstock they go with the throe. I’ve often wondered why such a literate, progressive town like Woodstock didn’t have a more impressive library. If taxpayers approve a few million in estimated construction costs, perhaps they soon may.

With Kingston, the controversy, since settled, was whether to maintain, eliminate or build a new fence around its historic midtown building. Trustees, by an 8-1 vote a few months ago, decided to replace the 1950s chain-link fence with a modern wrought-iron-looking  fence to include a new access point to the library. Sidewalk repairs and brick pillars at the entrance are part of the project.

The original building, constructed in the 1880s as School No. 8 (later called Sojourner Truth School) always had a fence around it to keep the kids in. My board moved the library from Broadway next to the high school to Franklin Street in midtown some 40 years ago. A mix of natives and newbies, conservatives and liberals, literates and semis, we faced the same issue as today’s board. What to do with the fence around the library? We believed the relocation of the library to the Franklin Street facility, leased from the school district for a dollar a year for 99 years, would help stabilize a neighborhood in decline.


Liberals argued for inclusion, saying that taking the fence down would be a welcoming gesture to the neighborhood. Conservatives saw the fence as security. The compromise we came to was leaving the fence up for a while and work on outreach to the community. Fair-minded people were open to compromise a few generations ago. Imagine that.

Over the decades the library has evolved into a neighborhood anchor. The children’s library is full of kids all the time, programs abound. To me, it looks like Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood (I highly recommend the Rogers documentary now showing in art theaters around the area). Last year the library opened a “teen center” where neighborhood kids could just chill. “It’s a very busy place,” says library director Margie Menard.

We talked about the new $400,000 fence, financed mostly from a bequest by a library patron. Having been among the fence removers back in the day, I found the notion of a fence being “a strong connection” to the neighborhood at best curious.

Menard is not only open, accessible and friendly, she’s persuasive. While good fences might make for good neighbors, better said is that is good neighbors make for good neighbors.

I think the Kingston Library, with its outreach programs under several directors and numerous trustees, has achieved that. The fence will be just another attractive addition to a neighborhood landmark.

A stand-up guy

Condolences to the family of former Gardiner/New Paltz legislator Glenn Noonan, 61, who died at home on July 6. Noonan, a Republican, served 14 years in the county legislature, briefly as party minority leader and party spokesman.

Noonan was a stand-up guy, literally. Something of a maverick within his own party, he often clashed with fellow Republicans. Noonan’s political career finally ended in a Republican primary.

After one legislative committee meeting toward the end of his tenure, I remember Noonan getting into it with fellow Republican Frank Felicello of Marlboro. Noonan was a stringbean, no more than 140 pounds on a six-foot frame. Felicello was at least twice his size and when aroused liked throw his weight around.

As the discussion escalated, Felicello leaned into Noonan’s space, and his face. Noonan would not back down. “Don’t you try to bully me, Frank,” Noonan said in a calm voice. “I’m a legislator just like you and I’m entitled to my opinion.”

Felicello blinked, backed up a step. They settled their differences.

That’s how I’ll remember Glenn Noonan. He was a real stand-up guy.