With slates set for the upcoming November election in Hurley months ago, recent town meetings around the town have outlined the main issues in ways much more distinct than any recent elections, even if the candidates facing off haven’t changed all that much.
Take the town board meeting this past Monday, September 23, which came six days after a September 17 rancorous special meeting held at the West Hurley Firehouse that focused on the subject of proposed development of the former West Hurley Elementary School into condominiums, and a townwide six-month moratorium regarding multi-unit housing that was designed to allow the town to better prepare its zoning to handle such pressures in the future.
The chief business at the September 23 meeting was to be the appointment of a new chairman for Hurley’s planning board, whose chair had expressed a desire to step down for personal reasons. The board also lost a member, Matt La Clair, when he was appointed to fill a vacancy on the town board last winter.
Supervisor John Perry had put forth the name of Paul Economos, a former Hurley code enforcement officer and zoning board member who’d been recently appointed to fill the empty planning board seat, to replace Carl Bruckner as chairman. Furthermore, Perry had explained in a story last week why it was okay for Economos to serve, even though he had moved to another town, and outlining the difficulties Hurley was facing finding volunteers for its various boards.
On September 23, however, Perry read a letter from Economos in which the planning board member submitted his resignation, stating that he had just become aware that since he is not a registered voter in the town, he is not eligible to serve on the board.
Perry also apologized for statements from his Woodstock Times interview where he labeled concerned citizens who’d come out to raise questions about the West Hurley School sale and redevelopment as “rabble rousers,” saying that they were taken out of context.
Finally, Perry’s opponent for supervisor in November, Tracy Kellogg, who he narrowly defeated two years ago, pointed out that the town had set its upcoming October meeting for the second night of the Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashana. The incumbent supervisor replied that the holiday would end at sundown so people should be able to attend a 6 p.m. meeting. Kellogg pointed out that the high holiday included a meal and the town’s scheduling of a meeting then was similar to scheduling a meeting on Good Friday or Easter. Which the board answered wasn’t bad given that they’d also scheduled a meeting for the evening of Columbus Day since people were available then.
“How can he demand apologies from one elected official and sensitivity training for a statement about themselves that was found to be insensitive to those of the Jewish faith and at the same time still think that on one of our high holidays it is totally appropriate to have a meeting,” Kellogg noted in an email following the meeting, referencing an incident last winter involving former town supervisor and incumbent Hurley highway superintendent Mike Shultis, who is seeking reelection on the same Democratic Party slate as Kellogg. “When I mentioned this to Mike Boms who is Jewish he said he would speak with John. They did the same thing last year when scheduling a meeting in West Hurley and had a similar comment when asked to reschedule.”
In further comments, however, Kellogg pushed beyond insensitivities regarding religion into a more succinct campaign commentary centered on the Economos resignation and what it represents to her and her running mates.
“By having a member sit illegally all decisions are open to challenge,” she wrote. “What I really find very disheartening about this as well as other similar situations — the adoption of the moratorium, appointment of board members, over-reaching authority — is that when I or another member of the public raises the issue of either appropriate, ethical or legal correctness, the comment is generally easily dismissed with an offhand comment about having checked and that they, the town board, are allowed to do what they are doing. I am concerned because generally the board truly is either not seeking proper advice or not taking the advice given and this is generally not a positive in today’s litigious world. Information is so readily available on the web that for anyone to blanketly make statements about their own knowledge or understanding without either having true experience or first checking their facts rises to a level of incompetency.”
Calls and emails to Perry, seeking his own comments about the recent meeting, and Kellogg’s comments about it, were not answered as of press time.
The candidates are…
As for the candidates vying against each other in this year’s election in Hurley, Kellogg and Shultis will be joined on the Democratic ticket by incumbent town clerk Judy Mayhon, who will run unchallenged; town council candidates Melinda McKnight, a research specialist with NYSERDA, and Peter Humphries, a longtime area resident who works as a contractor and is something of a legend in the regional auto racing world; and former county legislator Roy Hochberg for town justice.
On the GOP side, which currently holds three of four town council seats as well as Perry town supervisor slot, appointed incumbent La Clair and Matt May, a Hurley Ridge gas station attendant will run for town council; Gavin Bellows, who owns his own lawn mowing and contracting business, for highway superintendent; and incumbent John Parker and retired state trooper Mike DiBattista for town justices.
For many outside of the town, the key issue is whether the various gentrification-related changes sweeping Democrats into elected positions around the county and region will finally hit Hurley, too, where Perry defeated Kellogg by 13 votes two years ago, following a first count that saw the two separated by only two votes.