On the cusp

The times are a-changing. Or maybe not. With area state legislators now firmly squatting the fence between lock-down and re-opening, some mid-course perspective is in order, perhaps.

Putting aside for a moment that first-term state senators Jen Metzger and James Skoufis, along with 12-term Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, are virtually powerless to do anything about public health policy, the fact they’re beginning to state the obvious suggests a turn of events. Politicians have a sense of the breeze, afterall, though in this case they seem to feel it blowing both ways. Typically, Cahill came up with the best one-liner in a trifecta of this and that. Dealing with the virus, he told the daily, was like parachuting out of a plane: one should not jettison the chute before hitting the ground (zero). Get it? The Democratic trio expressed rather less concern about their thousands of furloughed or fired constituents who might never get their jobs back if this lockdown goes on until summer. But that’s the Republican position and of less concern.

In Ulster County, as county exec Pat Ryan is wont to repeatedly remind us, some 40 percent of residents live “paycheck to paycheck.” Long lines at food banks and soup kitchens were common before the lockdowns. How those folks are faring after almost two months without pay can hardly be imagined. Desperate comes to mind.

In truth, it really hasn’t been all that long since Gov. Cuomo sent us home, less than two months. But we the people are a restless, interactive social bunch and mobile.  Clearly, the pendulum has swung toward at least limited breakout, some loosening of the screws, even if the threat of viral resurgence lurks on the edges of anxious minds.

It’s still too early to give grades, other than mid-terms, but here’s a few observations from behind the mask.

Rarely has the dichotomy we know as New York been more obvious than in the present crisis. Virus cases and deaths in the city number in the thousands, upstate in the hundreds, suggesting the government’s “one rule fits all” needs to be amended.

County executive Ryan, while relatively new to high command, has done a credible job in mobilizing resources, addressing ever-changing needs and keeping the public informed. He stumbled a bit in welcoming nervous New Yorkers to our domain, but came to his senses after someone showed him the memo about unnecessary travel.

Gov. Cuomo issues all the orders, seemingly at will, touches all the bases and broaches no criticism. Nor will he accept any blame, I predict, for anything that may have gone wrong under his autocratic leadership.  Example. Last month, Cuomo’s health department ordered state nursing homes to admit coronavirus patients, which in his memorable phrase was like “setting dry grass afire.” Officials report about a quarter of New York’s nursing home deaths have been virus-connected.

After first claiming ignorance, then denying it was “our job” and blaming nursing home operators, the governor has called for an investigation by, of all people, his hand-picked attorney general and the health department that ordered the contagent into state-licensed nursing homes in the first place.

There being no middle ground with the commander in chief, except to warn that the next time Trump says “perfect” about something half-baked, stupid or demonstrably wrong, I will hurl a shoe at my TV.

As noted, we’re still in the woods here, so let’s hold judgment until after final exams.

AND FINALLY – If it’s true that God blesses those who do good and punishes those who don’t, how come a good man like Ozzie Beichert had to suffer so terribly from the ravages of cancer all these years? Ozzie, founder of the family-owned Timely Signs in Kingston, died at 73 this month.

Jerimiah Flaherty of Kerhonkson, 70, one of the county’s leading defense attorneys, died of a heart attack at home on Friday. In a local judicial system with a decided bent toward the prosecution – before current county judge Brian Rounds, a Democrat and a former defense attorney, was elected last year, generations of Republican judges had been former DA’s – Jerimiah was the bullfrog who spoke loud and clear for the accused. We needed that balance.

On a happier closing note, former Kingston city historian Ed Ford celebrated his 102nd birthday at home on the 15th with his personal copy of the best columns of Hugh Reynolds. (It is a very thin tome.) Ever the optimist, Ed says he’s shooting for 110. Historic note: Ed was born near New Paltz during the Spanish Flu.