Pipeline to nowhere

A couple of thoughts crossed my mind after reading last week’s story about local Democrats piling on former county executive Mike Hein’s failure to dispense millions in federal aid to county renters and landlords.

Based on headcount – the county’s 180,000 residents represent about one percent of state population – Ulster could expect to receive some $25 million in housing aid from a federal grant of some $2.5 billion, released to the states in April. Except, it hasn’t. Upwards of 95 percent of that badly-needed assistance remains buried in state Office of Temporary Disability Assistance commissioner Hein’s bureaucracy.   

Leading the hit parade, rather belatedly, I thought, were county executive Pat Ryan (Hein’s successor as county exec), long-time Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, and rookie state senator Michelle Hinchey.

With the exception of Cahill – he and Hein detest each other – this sudden launch on a man, virtually invisible since he left county office in February of 2019, doesn’t appear personal. Ryan rarely mentions Hein’s name, much less any of his accomplishments. And Hein left office before Hinchey even declared for senate (in June of 2020). She might not even recognize him on the street.

No, this sounds like good old-fashioned CYA (Cover Your Ass). As noted, this funding was made available through OADA in April. Surely, Ulster’s Big Three, all with well-staffed outreach service operations, must have been hearing from hard-pressed, desperate constituents about the near impossibility of securing funding from Hein’s agency. They should have had a friend at court, the hometown boy made good.  Where then was the outrage in April, May, June?

This is not to stick up for Hein, only to explore possibilities. As Sir Isaac discovered, there could be consequences. What if Hein can credibly explain what appears a massive bureaucratic screw-up and actually survive this debacle? With roughly $2.4 billion bulging in the pipeline and the spigots turned on full, will he be inclined to fast-track funding, however desperately needed, to the benefit of public officials who only weeks previous lambasted him all over page one?

As they say of the Taliban, past could be prologue. Hein, during his ten-year run as county executive, was notably thin-skinned and vindictive when it came to any kind of criticism. What’s that they say about leopards and stripes?

So, the times they are tenuous. Let’s hope better angels prevail.

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NOTES – Kingston Mayor Steve Noble, a regular me-too on these kinds of “party” pronouncements, was notably missing from this one. With more than 50 percent of its residents living in rental units, many in deplorable conditions, housing manna from Albany would seem a top priority for city leaders.  Maybe the mayor knows something he’s not talking about, yet.

They say it takes a worried man to sing a worried song. With ill winds swirling, Hein seems more concerned with fine-tuning what has been for years one of the better golf swings in the area.

Mario Catalano, co-host of the increasingly popular Me and Mario call-in show on Kingston WGHQ, revealed to listeners last Friday morning that he ran into the beleaguered commissioner at Wiltwyck Golf Club around 5:30 Thursday night, the day the story with headline “area leaders criticize lack of rental aid” (with a file photo of Hein) broke in the Freeman.

“I mentioned the story in passing in case he hadn’t seen it,” Catalano said. “He didn’t seem too worried, though.” Alfred E. Hein?

That said, I doubt Hein, famously circumspect, would have revealed anything to a former county Republican chairman, or to his golf buddies.

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UP THE SHATAMUCK – Early settlers told us Native Americans used to call the Hudson “Shatamuck, the river that flows both ways.” They were of course referring to the tidal movement of the river around the Chelsea salt line near Newburgh.

Politically speaking, the river still flows both ways. Witness the guest appearance of New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams at a mid-week press conference on homeless housing hosted by county executive Pat Ryan last week.

What the hell, nobody asked, is New York’s public advocate doing in Ulster County? Running for something state-wide, I’d guess. We don’t know what Ryan plans to run for, but it will probably cross Ulster borders.

So, one hand washes the other. Williams gets some upstate exposure, Ryan, who last spring set up a PAC to fund progressive candidates, gets entrée into the Big Apple and its humongous fundraising base via good buddy, the uber-progressive Jumaane.

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BOOM TOWN – The folks producing this fall’s Old Dutch Living History Cemetery Tour have done a bang-up job of promoting this annual event.  Posters are all over town.

Seven well-rehearsed local actors will tiptoe through the Old Dutch graveyard tombstones on Wall Street with visions of Kingston in the roaring 20s. It’s always fun, and often informative, but watch out for those Old Dutch ghosts.

All tours are on Saturdays, beginning at 1 p.m. in September and continuing in October at 7 p.m.

Information is available at (845) 475-7973 or at livinghistoryny.com.