What governments do affects you

Local elections are now less than three weeks away, and the names of candidates for public office are suddenly appearing on posters outside houses and in clumps along roadsides like mushrooms after a rainstorm. The season is short. A big turnout is not expected this year.

The signs will quickly disappear after votes are cast and counted on November 2. 

Each of the 1607 general purpose local governments in New York State — counties, cities, towns amd villages – has its own governing body and taxing authority. By statute or charter, Each level of government has its own powers and responsibilities.

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There’s no better way to understand what the folks elected to local office do than to attend their public meetings. It must be admitted that most of what goes on at these sessions is without much meaning and deadly dull. But it’s like attending a baseball game. The tedium at government meetings can be interrupted by unexpected moments of real excitement. 

Whereas sports, with its goals and rules, is essentially just a form of fantasy entertainment, government meetings are serious business. These people will decide what your taxes will be used for. Everybody has skin in this game.

One note of caution. Don’t anticipate perfection from your government. It was Benjamin Franklin who said that democracry was the worst form of government except for all others, and Winston Churchill a century and a half later who repeated the ironic aphorism.

The Hudson Valley One story list this week includes reports from four meetings of town boards/a meeting of the City of Kingston’s legislative body, the Common Council. and an Ulster  County legislative committee meeting.

A heated public hearing in the Town of Saugerties discussed a law on the cleaning up problem properties. Was Saugerties trying to restrict individual rights through arbitrary regulation? With Saugerties late to the table in terms of zoning restrictions, this issue has been a lively one in the town for decades. It is truly said that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

New Paltz has been pondering the most appropriate type of outside regulation of law enfocement. The town board’s been doing the job, but some citizens want a return to a police commission, only one with more resources than the previous one had.

Shandaken’s paid ambulance service is an expensive item to support for this mountain town with a population of less than 3000 people. Should the pay structure be different? Should neighboring towns which use the service help pay for it?

Officials in both Shandaken and Woodstock pat themselves on the back for their prudent management of their town budgets. Spending a few dollars now will save more money later. Are the self-congratulations deserved?

Town of UIster officials figure their town has done enough in hosting the county’s resource recovery work. Are they now being set up to be the location of a county landfill? No way, they say.

The City of Kingston is going to be spending money on educating the public to use the newfanfled street infrastructure they’ve been busy building. Why didn’t the education tale [lace before three bicyclists were on city streets within the past year? Memvers of the city Common Council give their views.

Finally, Ulster County government has spent a lot of energy and millions of dollars trying to bring jobs to the former TechCity, the ex-IBM complex in the Town of Ulster. Will the county’s difficulties in doing so vanish as the pandemic recedes? Or have the changes in work habits exposed by the pandemic only made the aging facility more of a white elephant – virtually worthless — than it already was? What to do? A legislative committee nibbles around the edges of this important issue.

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