Saving Capt. Ryan

Saving Capt. Ryan

I’ll cut to the chase on this one: County executive Pat Ryan is not going to fire key deputy Dan Torres just because a majority of county legislators thinks Torres has a conflict of interest in serving both as a town of New Paltz councilman and as an assistant deputy executive.

The legislature’s preemptive strike on the executive could, however, set the tone between these branches of government going forward.

The relationship between young Torres – I don’t think he’ll ever be 30 – and the meteoric Ryan has been short, but intense. Torres has always had a talent for spotting rising talent, first in comptroller Elliott Auerbach, then only last year in Ryan. Returning to his roots to run for congress last year, Ryan knew almost nobody in Democratic circles until Torres offered his connections. They got close, finishing second in a seven-way Democratic primary behind big-spending Antonio Delgado. When Mike Hein all of a sudden resigned as county executive in January, Ryan (and Torres) stopped quickly into this made to order vacuum. Within months, Ryan was twice elected executive, Torres -dare we call him Igor? –  glued to his hip every step of the way. One of his first appointments was the loyal Torres.

Does anyone really think Ryan is going to fire the guy who got him here? Rather, they will put their heads together and decide if Torres should resign as a town councilman, thereby avoiding the dreaded “appearance of conflict” label, or his high-level county job.  On a pecuniary level, it’s a no-brainer: county pays 10 times the town rate.

No, this was more about the legislature feeling its oats – or feeling out a newly-elected executive – after ten years under Hein’s heavy thumb. Shots taken, shots received, as they say in the military.

Ryan, should he get his back up, could veto the legislation. Passed by the bare majority of 12-11 last week, it will take 16 votes to override. There is a much simpler face-saving solution.

Hit me on 21. OK, I’m no good at poker, as card-playing pals will attest, but neither is the county legislature at counting noses.

It seems that for reasons of public relations, the legislature is willing to downsize itself from 23 to 21 members, come the faraway election of 2023. (My, how that first decade flew by.) But why stop there?

Judging by recent elections – there’s always half a dozen seats that go uncontested – the legislature would still be grossly overstaffed at 21. There is too the fact that since an elected executive took office in 2009, the duties of the legislature have been considerably reduced. And, fewer legislators would not only mean less dead wood but broader, less parochial representation.

I think 15 members, yielding an average of 12,000 constituents per district, compared to about 8,000 now, a nice, round number.

The legislature will hold a public hearing on Dec. 10 in chambers at the county office building at the inconvenient hour of 6 p.m. Should the legislature approve, it will go to public referendum next year.

And finally, Thanksgiving best wishes to all.

I’ve never been able to say it any better than my little boy did all those years ago.  I was in a bind to write something for Thanksgiving, so I asked him to “Write something for Thanksgiving!”

Addicted to McDonald’s hamburgers at the time, he quickly penned,

“I am thankful for food, friends and family. Without food, I would starve. Without friends I would be lonely. Without family nobody would love me.”

He might have added a good job, a nice home and peace on earth, but the kid was only eight years old.