March comes early

March comes early

Newly-minted county comptroller March Gallagher hasn’t let any grass grow under her feet since taking office January 1st.  First, as a victim, she unloaded on the legislature for its mishandling of the Hector Rodriguez fiasco, which took almost a year to resolve after it was first discovered and “credibly” confirmed.  One might ask why Gallagher as a candidate for comptroller, and, she asserted, one of Rodriguez’s victims, didn’t bring forth these issues during her campaign.

The short answers were the sins of Rodriguez had nothing to do with the race for comptroller other than on a personal level, and Democrats, fighting to maintain their legislative majority, deliberately delayed punishment of one of their own until after the election. It was not their proudest moment.

Last week Gallagher came forth with some proposals to maximize the county’s collection of so-called bed taxes via the burgeoning Air B&B market.  This is certainly within the comptroller’s sphere of responsibility.  Left unsaid was that former comptroller Elliott Auerbach, an early and persistent Gallagher supporter for the office he vacated in May, was for many years an advocate for county activity in this area but got little traction from an administration that detested him.  (The feeling was almost mutual).  So, it appears that Gallagher, like Auerbach, could be an activist comptroller, with a little help from her friends.  She must, however, tread lightly on tender toes.

Breakfast with the congressman

Representative Antonio Delgado unofficially kicked off his reelection campaign recently at the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce’s monthly breakfast meeting in Kingston.  Projecting himself as something of a home-towner, Delgado, who arrived in Rhinebeck from New Jersey barely three years ago, declared “an affinity for Ulster County” via his wife born and raised in Woodstock and his mother-in-law who runs a liquor store in Saugerties.

All the familiar elements were there in his telling of traversing a Connecticut-sized district and the almost 30 town meetings in 2019.  There was no mention, either from the speaker or from questions raised from the audience, of impeachment or of Trump himself, for that matter.  Delgado voted to impeach Trump along with every other Democrat in the house, save one.

He gave particular attention to the health care bill he is sponsoring called Medicare-X which gives people choices, unlike the proposed Medicare for All.  He has a way to go with only 25 sponsors.

Delgado compared running for office when he said “you control everything – the message, schedule, everything” to what he called the “clunky, slow, top-down process of legislating”.

Yet to face a serious Republican competitor, Delgado was given a standing ovation at the end of his remarks.

Bluestone cowboy

Kingston Mayor Steve Noble says he will soon announce formal plans for his sidewalk replacement program, briefly mentioned earlier in his Mayor’s Message.  But, selective leaks from inside City Hall could result in some fine tuning.

Starting with replacement of bluestone sidewalks in the Broadway corridor and extending east and west several blocks on connecting streets, it appears the plan is to replace over a 30-year period all the city’s bluestone sidewalks (except for historic districts) with concrete sidewalks and curbing.

Proponents like the mayor believe bluestone is expensive, fragile and dangerous.  Concrete, conversely, is cheap to install and repair and can last generations.  Bluestone, which has been a  Kingston landmark since the late 19th century.

The mayor will propose the financing of this project through the creation of a dedicated city-wide sidewalk district to raise upwards of one million dollars a year.  Property owners would pay based on linear frontage. It’s a neat way of spelling “new tax.”

I don’t have a vote here since my alderperson got promoted to alderperson-at-large, but I think the city should consider a more middle road (or sidewalk) approach.  There is no question that in some older sections of Kingston walking is hazardous over uneven, busted bluestone.   Perhaps selected repairs or replacement would be a smoother path.

Pat comes full circle

Say one thing about the young worker bees who run Pat Ryan’s events: They sure know how to target a crowd.

Ryan delivered his first state of the county address at the newly-dedicated Wendell Scherer Theater (not auditorium) at Kingston High School Thursday morning. The usual gaggle of county officials, non-profits, business types and VIPs were in attendance, but mostly it was high school kids, representatives from all seven county school districts.

Ryan, a 2000 graduate of KHS, quickly connected to his young guests, pointing out that he never dreamed that sitting in those then lumpy seats as a graduating senior he might some day stand in front of them as county executive. No wonder. Ryan had an appointment to West Point in his pocket and the first county executive (Ryan is the second) was elected in 2008.

But the point was clear: if hometown boy Ryan could make it in Ulster County (even if absent in the army and business for almost two decades), so can others. (I used to think that about me and Jack Nicklaus.)  

Ryan hit most of the hot buttons before an attentive crowd. His proposal for 1,000 new (good-paying high-tech or green) jobs in 1,000 days (just under three years) must have appealed to an age group that measures its future in four-year segments or less.

Ryan is big on stats and this one connected. According to a recent county survey, he cited, only 14 percent of high school students expect to stay in Ulster County. I never knew it was that bad.

Recent grads might have connected with another one: The county created 1,700 new private sector jobs in 2019, he said (about 3 percent of the workforce), but half paid less than $20,000 a year. That’s the market, kids, grab an apron, but hopefully, not for long.

As states of the county go, this one was more about hopes and plans for the future than bragging about recent accomplishments. Good start.