Report cards redux

Call me an old curmudgeon, but this year’s state legislature wrap – or was it rap? -sounded pretty much like every other since George Clinton. Majority Democrats claimed credit for extraordinary achievements while helpless minority Republicans groused.

Veteran assemblyman Kevin Cahill, by now top ten in seniority in “the people’s house,” spoke to “unprecedented cooperation” between the two branches.

Cahill does go on, but I think what he was attempting to convey was that Democrats, with veto-proof (two-thirds) majorities in both houses, chose not to abuse their power. Too much.

What struck me as curious about Freeman coverage was the absence of even a mention of state senator Michelle Hinchey.

Hinchey, a publicity hound like her late father, the congressman, is in the papers almost every other day, it seems, but got no mention in a lengthy story that featured five of the county’s eight state legislators. Also conspicuous by his absence was Sen. Mike Martucci. Hailing from Orange, Martucci, as a freshman, has emerged as one of the leading Republican voices in the house of lords. Not this time.

Maybe, like fellow frosh Hinchey, Martucci is waiting to make a splash of his own.

We’ll see.

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PRIMARY CHOICES – Verily it is said that about the only time entrenched incumbents are vulnerable is in party primaries. Witness AOC knocking off a ten-term congressman two elections ago.  

Legislature chairman Dave Donaldson has been around even longer, 28 years in the county legislature, and counting, preceded by half a dozen as a Kingston alderman. He is the definition of a career politician. Called “Grover” (for President Cleveland) by some wags, he is the only legislature chairman to serve split terms.

Donaldson is being challenged by no-name Philip Erner in a Democratic primary in a week from tomorrow. To my knowledge, Erner has yet to make a public statement, but it looks like Donaldson is taking no chances.  As one of his constituents in midtown legislative district Dist. 6, I know from experience that Donaldson usually shows up at doorsteps in odd-numbered Octobers, if at all. Faced with a primary, he’s already sent out two expensive flyers and may well drop another before Democrats go to the polls.

One of those flyers features a photo of the chairman and county exec Pat Ryan sitting at a table like they’re working on something together. The message? Solidarity. The reality? Not quite.   Ryan keeps his own counsel. 

I expect Donaldson, a master of media manipulation, will prevail in light voting, but surely (and don’t call him Shirley!) he knows the wolves are beginning to circle.

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BY GEORGE, HE’S RIGHT! – There’s an old saying about liars and figures, especially in politics, but I’m not here to call anybody names. I’ll refer to former Saugerties school board president, retired town cop and (very) active town Conservative Party chairman George Heidcamp.

A day or two after this May’s school vote in Sawyertown, Superintendent Kirk Reinhardt commented that the budget passed with a 76 percent approval rating. True enough, but as Heidcamp observed, utterly misleading.

Heidcamp, who’s good with numbers, would have none of that. The facts, as he wrote in a letter to the Freeman, are that the district has 15,625 eligible voters, but that only 1,049 actually cast ballots. Of those, 76 percent voted for the budget.

Heidcamp’s bottom line: about 5 percent of eligible voters approved the budget, 95 percent didn’t vote at all. Kingston did rather better; about 15 percent of eligible voters turned out for this year’s elections which centered around the controversial Kingstonian building proposal uptown and developers’ requests for tax abatements.

There is some silver in Heidcamp’s dark cloud, however. If only five percent of voters turn out for next year’s Saugerties school board elections, a very small number might well influence the outcome. As it did this year.

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AND FINALLY – Condolences to the family of Catskill Center founder Sherret Chase. A legend in his own time, Chase died just short of his 103rd birthday at his home in Ashokan last week.

Chase and I would run into each other from time to time over the years and it was always a pleasant exchange. A courtly, soft-spoken man, he was usually the smartest person in the room, but you’d never know it. Chase really believed that development and environmental protection could co-exist. Again, you’d never know it. The Catskill Resort at Bellaeyre in Shandaken, for instance, has yet to turn a spade of earth after being originally proposed back in ’98.

My last exchange with Sherret Chase was at the Democratic congressional debate in Woodstock in February of 2018. It was a bitter cold day, with high winds blowing snow sideways. And still Democrats turned out in droves for a first look at six candidates seeking to unseat Republican John Faso.

Sherret huddled on the porch with a few other Misérables, locked out past the starting time as organizers frantically set up more chairs for what would be a standing room only crowd.

Ever the gentleman, Sherret said nothing, but a few others came to his aid. “For God’s sake,” somebody yelled through the window of the locked door, “we have a 99-year-old man out here. Let us in!” With that, the doors flew open and Sherret got a front row seat.

They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.