In the beginning there was the word.
To the surprise of some constituents who thought county executive Pat Ryan had more than enough to do running a $330 million government, dealing with a generational pandemic and restoring the crippled economy he inherited two years ago, he announced last week the launch of a $250,000 crusade beyond the borders of Ulster to inform people about what a wonderful job he’s been doing therein. God knows hometown folks have been saturated with glowing publicity on an almost daily basis. This one will be directed at outlanders.
And for those few who worry about the temptation of potential abuse, not a dime will come from county coffers or, apparently, from his own bulging campaign war chest. Ryan advises that he’ll raise fresh cash from donors eager to spread his progressive message, which probably means fat cats from the city. To paraphrase Willie Sutton: that’s where the money is.
Make no mistake. This outreach operation has all the elements of a formal campaign. But for what? Given his sterling performance during the now receding pandemic – not to mention aggressive attention to even minor issues – Ryan could reasonably expect to retire in maybe 30 years as executive-for-life.
But as a friend of mine observed many years ago, “These guys have a way of moving up.” (More on that revealing story later.)
It could be said that Ryan took a step back when he ran for county executive in 2019 after former exec Mike Hein resigned for a high-paying position in the Cuomo administration.
Remember, Ryan started his political career near the top, as a candidate in a Democratic primary for congress in 2018. Ryan finished a strong second in that seven-way melee, outspent by eventual winner Antonio Delgado of Rhinebeck. When opportunity presented itself less than a year later (the Hein departure) Ryan, well-oiled machine in place, was off to the races.
So where does he go now, back to the future? County government can be interesting and challenging, but it’s still county. Like his predecessor, whom he rarely mentions by name, Ryan is after greener pastures.
And what better way to sow those oats than by grazing around the region – the state? – from one speaking engagement to the next, preaching the gospel of good, progressive government?
The machine will take care of business back home.
ELECTONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES – Some years ago, a candidate for alderman was knocking on doors in midtown when he encountered a young woman with an agenda of her own.
“How do you stand on abortion?”, she asked the candidate. (It had been law for a number of years.)
Taken aback, he hadn’t heard that question before, the candidate demurred.
“I’m running for alderman,” she told me he said. “We’ll never vote on anything like that.”
“I know,” she replied. “But you guys have a way of moving up. You might be a state legislator someday, so I want to know your position now.”
“Fair enough,” he said. “I am a practicing Catholic and I believe in my church’s teaching on abortion.”
“And?” she said.
“I am pro-life. I hope you understand,” he said.
“Thank you,” she said. “But I hope you understand. I cannot vote for you.”
HIGH TIMES – In an unlikely collision, Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, D-Kingston, Sheriff Juan Figueroa, and Saugerties police chief Joe Sinagra got into it recently over new marijuana laws enacted by the state in March.
Sinagra, a bigger publicity hound than even the county executive, if that is even possible, got front page coverage by raising questions about enforcing the law against people under 21. The chief said only that he’d enforce the law just as soon as state officials spelled out the details. Cahill, who voted for the legislation and probably knows more about it than any cop in Ulster County, groused that Sinagra might have been raising the issue for “political gain.”
Why, sure he was. Sinagra wants to be sheriff more than a fleet of new prowl cars. As a top cop from the largest town in the county, he could be a serious threat. Cahill, as Ulster’s senior elected Democrat, was just protecting his sheriff’s butt, and by the way, enhancing his status as party elder statesman.
Voters will be heard when the sheriff announces for another four-year term next year.
Footnote: The paper of record described Cahill as the assemblyman who represents Saugerties. Cahill traded contentious Saugerties for Rhinebeck/Red Hook in the last reapportionment ten years ago. Republican Chris Teague from Schoharie represents Sawyertown in the Assembly these days.