Jacobson, educators unite on Newburgh ‘change’ slate

Jonathan Jacobson, left, is uniting with City Council candidates Hillary Rayford and Torrance Harvey to form the "Team for Change" slate.

City of Newburgh mayoral candidate Jonathan Jacobson is joining with Council candidates Torrance Harvey and Hillary Rayford to form the “Team for Change.”

The trio made the announcement outside City Hall on Monday afternoon.

“We’re running as a team to end the bickering at City Hall and to move Newburgh forward,” Jacobson said.

Jacobson is one of three Democrats seeking the mayor’s seat. Along with incumbent Judy Kennedy, current Councilwoman Gay Lee is also running for mayor.

Harvey, a history teacher for Newburgh Free Academy, and Rayford, tutor and substitute for the district, are seeking the Council’s two at-large seats, one held by Lee and the other by Cedric Brown.

Harvey echoed Jacobson’s call for a stronger emphasis on fixing the city’s failing infrastructure. Both he and Rayford called for more activities for kids.

Hillary Rayford is married to Harold Rayford, founder of the venerable Zion Lions youth basketball program at the Church of St. Mary.

“We will fight for our children and their safety,” Hillary Rayford said. “We will fight against gun violence.”


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Hein gets Working Families Party endorsement

Mike Hein has been endorsed by the Hudson Regional Council of the Working Families Party in his reelection bid for Ulster County executive, according to a press release.

Hein, a 49-year-old Hurley Democrat,  is seeking his third term as executive.

“Mike Hein has proven that he embraces the values of the Working Families Party by implementing policies that have made the Hudson Valley stronger,” said Ari Kamen, state political director of the Working Families Party. “We look forward to working with the county executive to continue to bring transparency and effective government that meets the needs of working families in Ulster County.”

In the release, Hein said he was proud earn the endorsement “because it shows that working hard and standing by your values are still the best ways to get things done.”

Working together, we’ve created good jobs with fair wages, fought against employment discrimination and stood strong to protect our natural resources and family farms. I have been a passionate and vocal fighter for the residents of Ulster County,” Hein said in a release.

Hein will face off this year against Terry Bernardo, a 49-year-old Town of Rochester Republican. She’s been endorsed by the county GOP and Conservative party and is seeking the Independence Party line, who’s chair is her husband, Len Bernardo.

As of April this year, Democrats had about 10,000 more active voters in Ulster County than Republicans, according to the state Board of Elections. There was 37,689 active Democratic voters to Republican 27,713 active voters.

Working Families Party had just 628 active voters, while Conservatives had 2,622. The Independence Party had the highest third-party advantage with 5,805 active voters.



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Brabenec, Hikind spar over “anti-Semitism” claims

One of the most charged moments in the recent public hearing on the Kiryas Joel annexation proposals came when Assemblyman Dov Hikind of Brooklyn caused an uproar by turning to face the audience and accusing annexation opponents of outright bigotry, saying they wanted to “keep the Hasidim out of the community.”

Hikind’s turn at the microphone helped inspire a full-page ad by a Kiryas Joel group in the Times Herald-Record, condemning charges of of anti-Semitism cast in the ongoing annexation debate. It also inspired a sharply worded letter to Hikind from Assemblyman Karl Brabenec, the Republican freshman who represents Monroe and Kiryas Joel, and an equally sharply worded response from Hikind.

Karl Brabenec

Brabenec, in his June 15 letter, tells Hikind “the opposition to annexation has nothing to do with the religion, customs, language or dress of those proposing it. To suggest otherwise is nothing less than an incitement to resentment and division.” He then goes on to list concerns about Kiryas Joel’s population growth and heavy Medicaid enrollment, and the impact that growth will have on sewage discharge into the Ramapo River.

“And I assure you these questions would be raised whether Kiryas Joel was composed of Buddhists, atheists, or Anabaptists! This was the essence of my message when I spoke at the same public hearing as you did. Our community needs peace and we need to be better neighbors to each other, but there will be no peace so long as public debate is supplanted by name-calling and obstinacy.”

Dov Hikind

Hikind’s response, dated two days later, scorns Brabenec’s assertion that he “knows the hearts and minds” of his constituents, pointing out that his constituency includes a large Hasidic population whose members “find themselves heart-broken with minds ill at ease, targeted publicly by those who oppose their community’s expansion with anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

“They are easy to identify: Not only do they appear different and have different customs but also they sat respectfully at the Public Hearing I attended and allowed those who opposed their expansion plans to speak without attempting to shout them down. It was a lesson in manners and tolerance for those whose hearts and minds you say you know so well who would not allow others, like myself, to speak without jeers and heckling.”

“That’s not hatred?” he asked. “Perhaps you prefer extreme dislike.

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Breakdown of votes on annexation-related bills

A large majority of New York senators from both parties, upstate and downstate, voted in favor of the two bills that Assemblyman James Skoufis wrote in response to the Kiryas Joel annexation controversy and that are now awaiting decisions by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on their fate.

But each of the two bills had an almost identical bloc of opponents on Tuesday, and most of those senators came from New York City. The first bill to be voted on would allow the state Department of Environmental Conservation to consider municipalities’ environmental records when settling lead-agency disputes, as it did in January when it chose Kiryas Joel over the Town of Monroe to control the environmental review for a 507-acre annexation request. In a brief discussion before the vote, two Democrats from New York City stood to state their opposition.

Jesse Hamilton, who represents the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, home of the Lubavitch Hasidic movement, told his colleagues that his “brothers in the Lubavitch community” had advised him that the bill targeted a single community and had no statewide application (although it does, and makes no reference to Kiryas Joel or Orange County). “The feeling,” he said, “is that this bill is unjustly affecting the citizens of Kiryas Joel,” who belong to the Satmar Hasidic sect.

Then, James Sanders Jr. of Queens said, “I have looked at this issue long and hard and have tried to find common ground.” He urged the parties involved in the annexation dispute to “look for common ground” and “find better ways” to resolve their diffences.

Sanders and Hamilton were two of 17 senators who opposed the DEC bill, which passed in a 46-17 vote (one “no” vote was added after the initial 46-16 roll call). Ten opponents were from New York City, including six from Brooklyn. Dissenters also included Dean Skelos, the Nassau County Republican who stepped down as majority leader this year after federal authorities charged him with corruption.

Next up was a vote on a bill that would let county planning departments recommend approval or rejection of annexation petitions that require the county or annexing municipality to provide water or sewer service. If signed by Cuomo, that proposal would give the Orange County Planning Department a say on the pending Kiryas Joel annexation petitions — one for 507 acres, the other for 164 acres — before the Kiryas Joel and Monroe boards vote on them. That bill passed 44-19, with Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins joining the opposition this time (once again, the “no” vote increased by one after the initial, 44-18 roll call).

No one spoke for or against the second bill before the vote was taken.

James Skoufis

William Larkin Jr.

Both bills, which were introduced by Skoufis, D-Woodbury, and carried in the Senate by William Larkin Jr.,  R-Cornwall-in-Hudson, had passed in the Assembly a week earlier. Once delivered to Cuomo, he will have 10 days to sign or veto them.

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Former Walden mayor, Chamber president to seek Montgomery Council seats

Montgomery Chamber of Commerce President John Kidd and former Village of Walden Mayor Becky Pearson are running for two town council seats, uniting on a ticket with supervisor candidate and Village of Maybrook Mayor Dennis Leahy.

Kidd and Pearson announced their candidacy on June 4, three days after Leahy announced his pursuit of the supervisor seat currently held by Michael Hayes. Leahy is running as Democrat while Kidd and Pearson are unaffiliated.

Hayes, a Republican, said he will run for a fifth term as supervisor.  Former Village of Walden Mayor Brian Maher, also a Republican, announced his intention to run for Montgomery supervisor in February.

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After first being shut out, Bernardo gets Ulster County GOP nod

Update:  County GOP Chair Roger Rascoe says he objects to the characterization of the recent meeting an a “backdoor” meeting. He says it was a regularly scheduled business meeting of the Ulster County Republican Committee.

After shutting out Terry Bernardo at the Ulster County GOP nominating convention two weeks ago, the Ulster County Republican Committee has changed its tune and endorsed her in a backdoor meeting last week to run for county executive.

Roger Rascoe, Ulster County Republican Party chair, said Tuesday that the party’s executive committee met in private on June 11 and gave its endorsement to Bernardo.

“She’s going to be a viable candidate,” Rascoe said.

The unofficial endorsement comes after a messy nominating convention where Bernardo, a former Ulster County Legislature chair, said before the meeting that she planned to run but Rascoe closed the nominations for Republican contenders for executive seat before Bernardo or anyone else had an opportunity to nominate her.

Rascoe closed the nominations so fast that he forgot to give Ulster County District Attorney Holley Carnright a chance to make an endorsement speech.

Rascoe said he shut the door on Bernardo two weeks ago because she didn’t go through the process of appealing to the executive committee before the convention. He said that she she came to the meeting last week and made her case and sent letters to committee members, though he declined to say what was discussed.

“I don’t discuss political issues,” the GOP party chair said.

When asked what specific positions Bernardo has that convinced the party she was their candidate, Rascoe would only say “all of our positions.”

Rascoe said 16 out of 23 towns , who make up the GOP’s executive committee, endorsed Bernardo at the closed door meeting last week.

In a press release, Bernardo also announced that she’s received the endorsement of the county Conservative Party.

“I am happy my campaign for County Executive has won the endorsement of both the Republican and Conservative Committees,’ Bernardo said. “We are already busy collecting petition signatures and raising money.”

Bernardo, 49, represented the Town of Rochester and part of the Town of Wawarsing for two two-year terms before she was defeated in 2013 by Democrat Lynn Archer. She’ll face off against Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, 49 and from Hurley, who’s seeking his third term. He was unanimously endorsed by the county Democratic Committee in late May.

The county executive position is a four-year term and makes $133,572.

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Brabenec chastises KJ leaders; Doles “provides service to Hashem”

Karl Brabenec

Assemblyman Karl Brabenec, the Republican freshman who represents the area at the center of the Kiryas Joel annexation controversy, offered some of the harshest criticism of Kiryas Joel’s leaders of any speaker at Wednesday’s marathon public hearing, calling the village government a “self-serving neighbor” that has resorted to “name-calling.”

Reading from a statement, he said:

“Your baseless charges of anti‐Semitism, talk of ‘our way or the highway,’ only serves to insult your neighbors and push both sides further apart. Make no mistake; this isn’t about your customs, your religion, or your way of life. It’s about your behavior. Your style of dress is irrelevant. Your insisting otherwise isn’t right and it must stop, once and for all! Your neighbors have valid concerns and questions and they must be heard.”

He concluded by urging Kiryas Joel Mayor Abraham Wieder and the village board to “withdraw your annexation petition and sit down and negotiate in good faith.”

No elected officials from Orange County spoke in support of the 507-acre and 164-acre annexation petitions at the hearing in Kiryas Joel, which stretched past midnight. But Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former New York City police officer and state senator who represents the large Hasidic communities in Williamsburg and Borough Park, traveled to Orange County that night to deliver a testimonial on behalf of the Hasidim and their expansion rights, winning loud applause from the Kiryas Joel spectators.

After remarking on the absence of crime by Hasidic residents in his borough, Adams declared that “there is nothing more American than having the right to expand.” He went on:

“It is anti-American to believe that people do not have the right and the ability to expand and grow … If people want to have children and want to expand and allow themselves to grow, that is American.”

Adams’ office later provided a statement from him that said the following about the Orthodox community: “They are a hard-working, close knit community and add to the fabric that makes Brooklyn a safe place to raise healthy children and families. Anyone should be proud to call them neighbors.”

Two attorneys for the United Monroe citizens group spoke at Wednesday’s hearing and offered the Kiryas Joel and Monroe boards a litany of reasons — both technical and substantive — to reject the annexation petitions, including Dan Richmond‘s argument that Kiryas Joel “cannot use annexation to evade existing zoning laws” in the Town of Monroe. Susan Shapiro, an attorney for Preserve Hudson Valley, submitted a lengthy critique that argued the annexation would solely benefit “a private club, known as the Hasidic Satmar.”

United Monroe Chairwoman Emily Convers compared the homogenous culture of Kiryas Joel to the racial segregation that preceded the civil rights movement, using quotes from Martin Luther King and others to describe the corrosive effects of segregation. She said:

“The Village of KJ leaders have been actively carving out what the leaders themselves refer to as a “Holy City” consisting of only people of one color, one faith. This institutionalized segregation, or defacto segregation, is illegal. And those of us who were not born into this faith, this color, this culture, must stand aside, move aside, and succumb to the wishes of the power brokers who are orchestrating these land grabs. These actions are unconstitutional and immoral.”

Harley Doles


Monroe Supervisor Harley Doles, who presided over the hearing, made no public remarks that night on the proposed annexation, but gave an interview to the Orthodox website Vos Iz Neias in which he talked about “providing service to Hashem” — the Hebrew word for God — and invoked Kiryas Joel’s founder, Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum.

“I can only say that we trust in Him and that He will make sure that we will do right for His children, all of His children,” Doles was quoted as saying.

According to the website, Doles elaborated in this way:

“I am happy that Rabbi Joel was guided by G-d’s hand to come here, because this is where the Lord wanted His children to come and survive and thrive. That is what I understand, and whatever I have to do to be able to provide this service to Hashem, that is what I am going to do.”

Lorraine McNeill, a former Woodbury councilwoman, questioned during Wednesday’s hearing how the annexation would serve the “overall public interest,” the term used in state law to describe the reason for such border shifts. She asked:

“How does it benefit Monroe, or for that matter, Woodbury, Blooming Grove and the County, to have a city forced upon them? Because that is what we are talking about here. And please note, Smart Growth involves more than sidewalks and public transportation. It involves open space and wise use of resources and no reliance on taxis as public transportation. Is it in the overall public interest for one municipality to impose its lifestyle on its neighbors through a hostile takeover?”

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Senate set to vote on annexation bill

The state Senate is expected to vote Monday on a bill by Assemblyman James Skoufis that would enable Orange County planners to recommend approval or rejection of the pending Kiryas Joel annexation petitions.

Sen. William Larkin Jr.

The proposal, sponsored in the Senate by William Larkin Jr., would require county planning departments to review and issue recommendations on annexation proposals in which the county or annexing municipality would have to provide water or sewer service. The two municipalities involved in the proposed annexation still would decide the outcome, but their boards would need a supermajority — four out of five votes, in the case of the Kiryas Joel and Monroe boards — to override county planners if they recommend rejecting the request.

The Assembly overwhelmingly approved the proposal last Monday, despite opposition by Kiryas Joel officials and their lobbyists. The Senate Rules Committee on Thursday sent the bill to the Senate floor for a vote, which is set to happen two days before the 2015 legislative session ends.

The Senate Rules Committee also cleared a second bill Skoufis drafted in response to the annexation controversy, one that would allow state officials to consider a municipality’s record of environmental compliance when settling lead-agency disputes. That legislation, which the Assembly also passed last Monday, stemmed from the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s selection of Kiryas Joel over Monroe to lead the environmental review for the proposed 507-acre expansion of Kiryas Joel.

In a press release after Thursday’s Rules Committee meeting, Larkin, R-Cornwall-on-Hudson, issued a statement that applauded the progress of the two bills, saying they “will create appropriate oversight on annexations as well as support a more comprehensive review process when resolving disputes. Annexations that have the potential to significantly impact an entire region should be looked at very closely.”

Opponents of Kiryas Joel’s expansion effort have cheered the two Skoufis bills and their incremental progress in Albany, while Kiryas Joel officials and their supporters have rebuked the legislation and the Woodbury Democrat who introduced it. On Thursday, Larkin’s office said that state police were investigating an apparent threat against the senator, written in Yiddish on Twitter, in response to a Tweet about the annexation-referral and lead-agency bills.

The Orange County Association of Towns, Village and Cities and the Sierra Club have issued statements of support for both bills, and the New York State Association of Counties declared it has no objections to referring annexation requests to county planners for review. The New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials opposed the two bills.


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Ron Polacco says he’s running for Kingston mayor, gets Republican party nod

Ron Polacco says he’s running for City of Kingston mayor and has been endorsed by the city’s Republican party.

Kingston Mayoral candidate Ron Polacco (right) and his attorney Chris Burns (left) examine ballots during a count of the Republican absentee ballots in September 2011.

The former two-term alderman of the 6th ward says if elected he would focus on five areas to building a thriving economy: infrastructure, supporting local business and job creation, addressing the crushing tax burden, historical tourism, and public safety.

Polacco, 49, said that he would focus on fixing what’s under the city streets as much as what’s above them. He lives on O’Neil Street.

“The problems with our city’s archaic infrastructure go much further than the millions spent on a sinkhole,” Polacco said in a release.

Current Mayor Shayne Gallo, a Democrat, is running for a second term as well. But last month he lost the unofficial nomination from the city’s Democratic committee by 320 weighted votes to Steve Noble, a city parks department employee.

Gallo sailed to victory in 2011 by more than 800 votes against Polacco, though he lost the Democratic nomination back then to to then-Alderman Hayes Clement and forced a primary. Gallo edged out Clement in the Democratic primary by seven votes.

The city’s Conservative Party have also authorized Gallo and Palacco to seek its line for mayor in a primary.

The position pays $75,000 a year.

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NYSAC, Sierra Club back Skoufis annexation bill

Two more organizations are backing legislation by Assemblyman James Skoufis that would give Orange County planners a say in the pending Kiryas Joel annexation petitions — a bill that the Assembly passed by a large margin on Monday and that is awaiting action in the Senate with a week to go in the 2015 legislative session.

The bill would apply statewide and would allow county planning departments to review and make recommendations on annexation requests that require the county or annexing municipality to provide water or sewer service. If county planners recommend that the municipal boards reject the petitions, those boards could override that judgment only with a supermajority, or 4 out of 5 votes.

The New York State Association of Counties sent Skoufis a letter Monday that said it “has no objection” to his legislation, reasoning that county officials would get involved in land-use decisions after an annexation anyway and that they would simply be entering the discussion earlier under the Woodbury Democrat’s bill.

The Sierra Club’s Atlantic Chapter, meanwhile, issued a memo supporting the bill, which it said would said involve “a wider group of stakeholders” in annexation plans with regional impact on water and sewer resources, and would result in a strictly non-binding recommendation for the municipal boards that must vote on the annexation proposal.

The Sierra Club also registered its support for a second bill Skoufis sponsored in response to the annexation controversy, one that cleared the Assembly in a closer vote on Monday.

As reported earlier, the Orange County Association of Towns, Villages and Cities has supported the bill referring certain annexation requests to planning departments, while the New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials has opposed it.

Kiryas Joel officials, who have lobbied against both annexation bills in Albany, released a statement on Tuesday that called the bill “discriminatory” and accused Skoufis of being “anti-orthodox”: “There is a long-standing, State prescribed legal process for addressing various annexation requests affecting municipalities across New York. To our knowledge, this is the first time that this procedure has been arbitrarily challenged through discriminatory legislation. In fact, the New York State Conference of Mayors opposed the bills. The fact that Assemblyman Skoufis has shown no interest in other annexations or the creation of new villages in Orange County speaks volumes about his anti-orthodox political motivations. The sponsor has made no secret of his animus toward our community and his intention to deny the rights of property owners seeking Village services unavailable in their Town.”



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