Cookie monsters

Ask not for what the polls tell, they toll for thee, which is to say, polling, particularly after 2016, is in the eye of the beholder.

But there is one poll that may actually tell us something, one where people actually put their money where their mouths be. I refer, of course, to the certifiably unscientific Deisings Bakery presidential poll.

We introduced readers to this poll a few weeks ago where the standing of presidential candidates is measured by the number of cookies sold on behalf of each. I had expressed surprise that in Democratic Kingston Republican Donald Trump was slightly ahead of Democrat Joe Biden. Biden backers were quick to assure me that Deisings is a (notorious?) gathering place for Republicans.

But the beat goes on. Returns last week showed Trump widening his lead from a few percentage points two weeks ago to double digits as election day looms. It could be worse than Democrats fear: According to the Deisings Facebook, somebody bought 150 Trump cookies for a private party, almost 10 percent of the 1,110 cookies sold until then.

Then there’s this: A Deisings posting notes that since the presidential cookie contest was launched in 1992, It has picked every winner.

Here, I can safely predict a winner: With some 1,500 cookies to be sold prior to Election Day, at $2.50 each, the real winner, other than pundits in search of easy pickings, will be Deisings Bakery.

And if we see a few more bigger bellies around town, we’ll know who those secret Trumpsters are.

AND THE WINNER IS – Don’t ask. It’s confidential.

Last week, the county announced “concept plans” from five out-of-county developers to demolish the old county jail on Golden Hill in Kingston in order to build badly-needed affordable housing.

What were officially called “requests for qualification and concept plans” from the newly-created Ulster County Housing Development Corp., is tasked by the legislature with marketing county-owned excess property for in this case public purpose reuse.  Deputy county executive Evelyn Wright is the executive’s liaison to the five-member corporation, appointed by the executive.

As it turns out, there wasn’t a great deal of “there” in the announcement other than reiterating the goals of the county and listing the developers, three of whom were out of state.

Asked for details on specific proposals, Wright demurred, citing confidentiality regulations under the state open meetings law. “Real estate dealings,” she said, are exempt (as are personnel issues) under the law. In other words, we’re not going to know critical details as the process unfolds.

My suggestion that this was no ordinary private real estate development, that it was taxpayer-owned property being offered for sale and that there was a distinct public interest in affordable housing failed to elicit further information. She did volunteer that there would be public hearings after the final plan is presented.

As envisioned by the county, this project could produce up to 200 apartment units at a total cost approaching $40 million. About half to two-thirds of the 15-acre property is sufficient for development, officials say. The county is prepared to sell the land for $500,000, or about $33,000 an acre.

The cloistered nature of this process is troubling. I have no doubt that these are all honest, honorable people, but when developers and politicians get together behind closed doors, with millions of dollars on the table, temptation can be a worry. Or as Oscar Wilde liked to say, “I can resist anything but temptation.”

Furthermore, the public has a right and the legislature a duty, to provide a healthy, open discussion of every aspect of this development as it goes forward.

THE GATEWAY QUESTION – Shortly after the ink dried on last week’s Freeman story offering the official version of events, I started getting inquiries about Gateway Hudson Valley.  As in “how come Gateway wasn’t mentioned in the story?”

Who knew? Deputy executive Wright confirmed that Gateway was a participant, but not one of the (five) “lead developers” and therefore wasn’t mentioned in the rollout announcement. Reiterating confidentiality rules, she would offer no details on the Gateway connection.

Here’s a few. For several generations, dating to the early 1950’s, Gateway has been the county’s leading provider of workforce training and placement for mentally and physically challenged residents. Gateway offers those less fortunate among us not only productive jobs and the socialization that comes in the workforce, but dignity and respect.

Two years ago, a heartless state decided these efforts weren’t worth the money and sharply cut back funding. Gateway had to find another way to support its clients. It went into the real estate construction and property management business. Two of its projects are located in Ellenville (next door to Ellenville Regional Hospital) and Ulster Gardens off East Chester Street Bypass.

In addition, Gateway sets aside a percentage of its units for its own clients.

Rather than being an unmentionable, it seems to me that Gateway is exactly the kind of public service local non-profit with a proven track record in these kinds of developments that should be considered a prime developer.