A Look At The Glass

In the coming weeks and months, we’ll be hearing from various local leaders about what a wonderful region we live in, made even better by their inestimable efforts, but that there is so much more to do.

At the risk of being labeled a late-season Grinch, authors of these tomes might consult a Marist College study released a few weeks ago that paints a decidedly gloomy picture of our little piece of heaven.

According to the college’s Bureau of Economic Research, their mid-Hudson region, defined as Ulster, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan and Westchester counties, lost almost 28,000 households during a five-year period ending in 2016. To put that out-migration in perspective, it adds up to more than the combined households of Kingston, Poughkeepsie and Newburgh. Imagine walking down the streets of those towns and nobody’s home.

Locally, we tend to define “mid-Hudson” as Ulster, Dutchess, Greene, Putnam and Orange. Alas, the Marist report doesn’t break out migration from those counties or lost income, but it’s probably different, maybe worse, than the broader region defined in the report. Orange County, at the crossroads of two major highways, has always been an economic development leader (comparatively) and Westchester, with its close proximity to the city is, well, Westchester. Marist officials did not respond to phone calls for more details.

Also revealed in the Marist study was the estimated loss of $1.3 billion in income, roughly the county budgets of Ulster, Dutchess and Orange counties, combined.

The conclusions from this study should not come as a surprise. Student enrollment has been dropping all over the region for decades. Shopping malls have lost anchors. Streetscapes resemble hockey smiles.

Given the seemingly dire implications from this report, the sounds of silence from political leaders have been deafening   Perhaps they’ll touch on the subject during their state of whatever speeches this winter.

MEANWHILE, the new year beckons, full of hope, opportunity and challenge, but with dark clouds rising.

The political scene will be as usual interesting given the sea changes we experienced in 2018.

Democrats, surging upriver for almost 20 years, arrived in force. Everywhere we looked, Democrats were coming out in record numbers to support their candidates, some which they’d never heard of. Democrats won the old-fashioned way: they earned it by getting out their vote. Democratic enrollment  dominance over Republicans in Ulster reached an all-time peak of over 18,000 in last year’s elections. 

The race for Ulster County Sheriff gives graphic evidence of the impact at the ballot box.  Three-term Democrat Paul Van Blarcum suffered decisive defeat at the hands of Juan Figueroa, who twice couldn’t get elected to town office in hometown Plattekill.

Twenty-19 being a local election year, the November ballot will feature races all over the region in every town and the city of Kingston, the entire 23-member county legislature and on the county level, county executive, judge and district attorney.

In the normal course of party politics, which is to say self-serving backroom horse-trading aimed at sure-thing elections while incidentally depriving voters of choices, operatives would be considering cross-endorsing a Democratic county executive for either a Republican county judge or DA.

But given the results registered in 2018 and the overwhelming Democratic majority, Republicans have nothing to trade. Put another way, why would Democrats trade when they could nominate their own full slate and probably elect every one of them? For examples of this one-party system, we need to look only to New Paltz, Woodstock and the city of Kingston, all dominated by Democrats, or Plattekill and Shawangunk for Republicans.

In terms of action, maybe all we can look forward to in 2019 are a few spirited Democratic primaries. Republicans can only hope that a divided opposition will offer opportunities, however slim.

For national and state stuff, I give readers Olive town Supervisor Sylvia Rozzelle, the sage of the Catskills: “I don’t take comments about Washington or Albany at our board meetings,” she told me at a recent interview. “It polarizes people and all it does is get everybody pissed off at everybody.”

People are good and pissed already and dug into their respective corners. Given the leadership, which we elected, things might get worse if they ever get better.

At the state level, Democrats got what they wished for, complete control of the government. Let’s see how that works out.

Washington seems to be suffering from a kind of Trump fever, one crisis after another. It feeds 24-7 news cycle, but to who’s benefit? 

Do we really have to be in each other’s faces all the time? Can’t we all just get along a little better? And with that, a New Year we deserve to all.