Back to normal

In fits and starts it seems we’re getting back to “normal,” whatever that was.

The Ulster County Legislature, for instance, plans to meet in person, beginning with its June 8th regular monthly meeting in chambers. But chairman Dave Donaldson, D-Kingston, said the public will not be allowed in. You never know, Donaldson told the Freeman, how many people out of 100 might have the virus.

He was apparently referencing the 50 percent of New Yorkers not yet fully vaccinated. And those who refuse.

Question: Are all 23 legislators fully vaccinated, and staff? Media?

But of course, they are; Donaldson would never risk the health of fellow legislators, forget media, especially those Democrats who elected him chairman in January. Come to think of it, given the health concerns of some, shouldn’t the legislature’s return to live action be via a (virtual) vote of the legislature and not a dictate from its chairman?

Color me confused about this return to normalcy. In church, the priest tells us he’ll seat maskers on one side of the aisle, nons on the other. Restaurants are still requiring people to wear masks upon arrival or if they walk around. A garden center we shopped at on Saturday wouldn’t even let us in without a mask.

I’m fully vaccinated but I worry about those who aren’t and won’t wear masks. How to tell. Maybe they should tattoo us on double dosers’ foreheads.

Meanwhile, Phyllis is offering her 47 custom-made snot-free masks to the highest bidders. Years ago, my wife got caught up in the Beanie Baby craze, garbage bags of which now clutter our attic.  I suggested she offer a Beanie with each mask. “Not my babies! “, she insisted.

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JOB OPENING – County executive Pat Ryan’s recently formed Serve NY Pac is in the market for an “experienced” political director. Ryan announced the PAC (Political Action Committee) would promote progressive candidates with military and public service experience. Must be a market; so far, he’s raised over $300,000 and funded a handful of (out-of-country) Democratic candidates.

The director position calls for a wide range of organizational skills, including fundraising, polling, personnel issues, in sum, the director of a political campaign. Ryan is offering up to $50,000 a year to the right candidate, plus the usual 25 percent in benefits. But fifty-thou a year doesn’t buy a lot of beer these days, nor the kind of top-shelf political operatives who can turn dreams into reality.

Clearly, our county executive is on the make, if not gearing up for a run. Somewhere.

This is no small thing, readers. If the young and ambitious Ryan suddenly vacates, as did his predecessor Mike Hein, dominoes start falling all over the place. Constituents, like the stock market, value stability.

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SCHOOL ELECTIONS – As usual, school budgets passed by significant margins in last week’s annual elections around the county. It was noteworthy in the Kingston district that almost twice as many residents voted in this one. Typically, about 4,500 votes are cast in Kingston school elections, or about 15 percent of registrants.

Why the surge? In a word, The Kingstonian, that $55 million upscale housing project proposed in the city’s Stockade District. Central to the controversy is developers’ requests for millions in tax breaks. Both sides spent lavishly, but it’s hard to tell who “won.” Incumbent Jim Shaunessey, presumably supported by opponents of the project, was the lone vote on the nine-member board of education and won. Two other incumbents, presumably backed by developers and their supporters who voted in favor, also won.

If twice as many voters than usual turned out to support their candidates, maybe we all won.

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COPS AROUND THE CORNER – Former alderman Mel Mones had an answer for dealing with crime in post-urban renewal Kingston’s troubled mid-town: “Put a cop on every corner,” he advised.

Mones died last year, but help may be finally on the way. A civil service test for police officers produced four qualified applicants, according to officials. Rookie cops go for about $50,000 a copy, plus another 30 percent or so for benefits. City officials are well aware, or should be, that the kinds of police officers they put on the corner these days require far different skills than their predecessors.

Here’s some good police news from the town of Ulster: Renovations for a police station in the basement of town hall were completed last week, according to town supervisor Jim Quigley. Cops had been housed in a rented trailer after their old headquarters was flooded by the nearby Esopus Creek a decade ago.

Quigley will be nominated for a fifth term at the Republican caucus at town park on June 2 at 6:30. He says it will be his last term. Some people actually believe it.