Amedore is co-chairman of new “workforce” panel

State Senate Republicans have appointed nearly half their members to a new, all-GOP Senate panel that will seek ways to improve New York’s employment and training programs.

Among the 15 Republicans on the Task Force on Workforce Development are three whose districts cross Orange and Ulster counties: George Amedore, a new senator who was made co-chairman of the task force and represents part of Ulster; Bill Larkin, whose district includes about half of Orange and a piece of Ulster; and James Seward, who’s got another slice of Ulster.

Here’s an excerpt from Amedore’s press release:

The Task Force will: examine the barriers and the incentives for institutions and businesses to assist students and existing employees in the acquisition of new skills; review state education policies to maximize opportunities for high school and college students to obtain industry certifications and take career-themed courses for jobs that are most in demand; discuss how to improve the sharing of information about regional and statewide workforce trends to ensure job training programs are targeting the skills needed by employers; explore the job training resources available to unemployed and under-employed New Yorkers to help them achieve self-sufficiency; and identify potential opportunities for additional collaboration between education and business communities.

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Siena poll finds big support for minimum wage hike, email retention

Four out of five New Yorkers surveyed by Siena College want the state to save the email of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state employees “significantly longer” than 90 days, the period after which emails are automatically deleted under an existing policy that recently came to light.

The poll results released Monday illuminated several widely held viewpoints for Cuomo and legislative leaders to consider this week as they negotiate a budget deal and the policy changes it might include. Perhaps none was as widely held as the conviction among 85 percent of those surveyed that Albany’s all-powerful “three men in a room” ought to at least be four men and a woman, with the inclusion of minority-party leaders Andrea Stewart-Cousins of the Senate Democrats and Brian Kolb of the Assembly Republicans.

Of the 800 voters polled by phone, 72 percent supported raising New York’s $8.75 minimum wage to $10.50, if not higher, and 62 percent said they’d rather have the state meet its March 31 deadline for a new budget than enact the ethics reforms that Cuomo has proposed. Cuomo has threatened to make adoption of the budget contingent on the Legislature approving his ethics proposals.

Smaller majorities supported extracting the ethics proposals and Cuomo’s education policy changes from the budget.

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A look at Gallo’s last campaign filing

Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo announced Monday a second run for office and the latest state Board of Elections report shows the incumbent has about $6,100 to spend in the race.

A BOE filing shows that Gallo, a 55-year-old Democrat, raised $7,300 between July 2014 and January this year. He spent $3,046 in that same time frame.

Contributions include $140 from Kingston Landing Development, LLC, the Yonkers-based company planning the Hudson Landing Project down on the Rondout, one of the biggest housing development projects slated for Kingston in years. Plans call for 1,682 units on 525 acres of land, though no homes have been built yet.

Gallo also collected $875 from trade unions, including the Laborer’s Local 17 PAC, Operating Engineers Local 825 PAC and the Hudson Valley Building Construction Trade Council of Orange County. Union members came out to Gallo’s re-election announcement Monday afternoon, including the business representative for the operating engineers union.

Disclosure records show Gallo spread that cash out in small drips and drabs around the city to a host of organizations, from the Rondout Rowing Club and the city’s churches to city Children’s Home and the local radio station Happy Christmas Fund, of which he’s a frequent guest.

Gallo will go up against fellow Democrat Steve Noble, an environmental educator who works for the city, this November. The job pays $75,000 a year plus benefits, though there’s been suggestions from some Common Council members to give the position a raise next year.



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Carnright mum on third run for Ulster County district attorney

Ulster County District Attorney Holley Carnright wouldn’t say whether he’s contemplating a third run for district attorney this year.

In a rare press conference held on Friday, Carnright, a Republican, brought the local media together to give his appraisal on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility from to 18 years old.

He said is sole intention was to bring more awareness to the public about the consequences of the proposal, some aspects of which he said he was against.

But when asked, Carnright, 63, refused to comment on whether he’ll take a third run to be the county’s top prosecutor this November. He’s widely expected to run.

In 2011 Carnright handily defeated Democrat Jonathan Sennett by 7,500 votes, putting gangs, domestic violence and fraud investigations as his top priority list.

Carnright’s last campaign filing in January 2013 showed he had $13,715.13 in committee account.

The DA’s job in Ulster County has a salary of $130,991, though this year a five-member panel will take up the question of pay raises for all county elected officials.

No Democratic contenders have yet shown interest in running for the county-wide seat.

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Dissecting the $30 million budget cut (updated)

At his State of the County address Wednesday night, Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus highlighted again something he has previously touted as the top achievement of his first year in office: a $30 million cut in county spending.

That number is technically true in the sense that total expenditures in the 2015 county budget were around $733 million, or $30 million less than the 2014 budget of $763 million. But built into that reduction are some big cost decreases that, however welcome, were outside the county’s control, or that simply reflected new budget realities rather than the belt-tightening of a thrifty administration.

Looking at broad budget categories, a big chunk of the $30 million drop was a $12.4 million net decrease in employee salaries and benefits, for which Neuhaus and the Legislature (and employees) do deserve credit. The administration made a large cut — $6.8 million in county taxation alone — simply by removing from the budget 149 empty positions that previously had been funded. And the county saved at least another $3.8 million in taxation through an early-retirement incentive — initiated by Neuhaus, and modified and approved by lawmakers — that led to the departures of 128 employees, who helped out by taking the offer.

County officials also say they cut $3.7 million in department spending in the 2015 budget.

But things get tricky from there. The budget shows a $15.6 million net reduction in contractual costs, which may reflect in part a savings of $3.5 million that Neuhaus says his administration achieved by renegotiating contracts. But according to the county’s budget office, the plunge in overall contractual expenses also reflects an almost $10 million drop in anticipated costs for social-service programs such as Medicaid and Family Assistance, which are outside the county’s control; a $2.1 million drop in sales-tax income that the county expected to share with its municipalities;  and a $2.1 million reduction in landfill expenses, based on fewer tons of garbage being taken to the county’s transfer stations.

As another example, the Department of Mental Health’s contract costs dropped by $886,000 because a multi-year grant had expired.

Update: In response to this post, county spokesman Dain Pascocello provided figures for neighboring Ulster, Sullivan and Rockland counties that indicated their budgets either rose or dropped slightly in 2015, in contrast to Orange’s large decrease. According to those numbers, Rockland’s budget rose by about $17 million, to $770 million; Ulster’s dipped by $1.7 million, to around $335 million; and Sullivan’s rose by $2.6 million to about $228 million.




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Larkin will mentor GOP freshmen in new post

Sen. William Larkin Jr., who moved up one peg on the Senate’s many-pronged leadership totem pole this year, will serve as a mentor to the Senate’s six Republican freshmen, helping them usher bills through the legislative process and publicize those bills if and when they make it into law, Larkin spokesman Brian Maher explained Thursday.

The new title that gives Larkin that obligation is “assistant majority leader for house operations,” which puts him 8th in the Senate Republican hierarchy and entitles him to a $25,000 stipend on top of his $79,500 base salary. The Cornwall-on-Hudson resident previously held the $22,000-stipend “majority whip” post, but he and most other Republican leaders each rose one slot with the departure of Niagara County’s George Maziarz, who had been third in line behind Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

There are 21 leaders in all, out of 33 Republican senators.

Here’s the Senate’s somewhat nebulous definition of a what an “assistant majority leader for house operations” does: “Works directly with the Senate Majority Leader coordinating day in and day out operations for all members dealing with the shaping of policy, formation of specific legislation and ensuring all members are given proper guidance and the tools necessary to execute their duties.”

“It’s a lot of different things,” Maher said of the position. “It’s multi-faceted.” Though the definition referred to providing guidance and tools to “all members,” Maher clarified that meant the Republican conference.

The Senate’s Democrats, incidentally, have their own “assistant minority leader for floor operations” within their matching platoon of party leaders, each of whom is paid less than his or her majority counterparts.

Larkin, a Cornwall-on-Hudson resident whose district includes about half of Orange County and pieces of Ulster and Rockland, has been in the state Legislature for 35 years, 11 of them in the Assembly and 24 in the Senate. He easily won another two-year term in November.

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Newburgh mayor kicks off reelection campaign

Mayor Judy Kennedy, facing camera, and Councilwoman Gay Lee, in foreground, will battle it out for the mayor's seat in November.

Newburgh Mayor Judy Kennedy is formally launching her reelection campaign on Saturday at the Washington Street location for United Air Conditioning, Refrigeration, Plumbing and Heating.

Kennedy is seeking a second term in November after first being elected in 2011. She names among the city’s accomplishments since her election: the creation of a payment plan for property owners owing taxes; the launch of the Newburgh Community Land Bank; and three years without a tax levy increase.

Elected as a Democrat, Kennedy could face a primary challenge from Councilwoman Gay Lee, who declared her intention to pursue the mayor’s seat about two weeks after her lopsided loss in last year’s bid to unseat longtime state Sen. Bill Larkin Jr.

“I am exhilarated by the progress we have made. But I know that together we can do so much more,” Kennedy said.

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Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo will run for second term

Incumbent Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo will officially announce his re-election bid this upcoming Monday.

Gallo, a Democrat, is looking to capture his second four-year term this November. He’ll make the announcement at the same place he announced last time, at the former Kings Inn parking lot on Broadway. It begins at 5:30 p.m.

“The campaign kick-off announcement will highlight many of his campaign promises which came to fruition and the vision Mayor Gallo has for the future,” reads the press release by Ellen DiFalco, who’s Gallo’s secretary.

“Mayor Gallo looks forward to continuing the initiatives he has set in place for the betterment of this great City. He has worked hard and tirelessly for all residents to make this City a model City. As stakeholders, he invites everyone to join him at this announcement,” the release says.

Gallo, 55, already has competition. City worker Steve Noble officially threw his hat into the ring last weekend. Noble, 32, a program operations specialist for Kingston.

The two expect to go head-to-head in seeking their party’s unofficial endorsement at the Democratic convention in a few months and face off again in a primary in September.

In order to get on the ballot, both candidates will need to submit petitions with signatures from at least 5 percent, or about 250, of the city’s more than 4,800 registered Democrats.

No Republican has declared a run yet.

Noble is the nephew of the city’s Common Council president, James Noble.


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Hein slams Astorino over “raise the age” comments

Ulster County Executive Mike Hein is criticizing Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino for using his perch as head of the state County Executives’ Association to criticize the governors push to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18 years old.

But Hein himself has raised concerns about funding the new initiative.

In recent comments to the Associated Press, Astorino, a Republican, said that “Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s juvenile justice reforms could cost local governments millions of dollars and he doesn’t believe the state’s promise to pay.”

According to AP, Astorino says that if the reforms pass local governments will have to pay for additional staff and juvenile detention facilities.

But Hein, in an official Ulster County press release, said as former NYSAC president he was “troubled” by Astorino’s comments.

“I am disappointed to see what appears to be partisan politics being dragged into an organization that I hold so dear,” Hein said. “Raising the age is clearly sound public policy and mischaracterizing this important reform is simply counter-productive to much needed progress for the great people of New York.”

Astorino didn’t specifically take a position on the juvenile justice change. The governor’s office has indicated that all the costs of the initiative will be covered by the state.

But on Monday, Hein himself raised concerns about the potential local costs of shifting the age of responsibility. He made the comments after speaking at a Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress breakfast in Poughkeepsie.

Hein, a Democrat, is a Cuomo ally.

On Monday, Hein said he supported the proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility. And earlier this month Hein’s administration introduced a county resolution calling on the governor to fully fund the costs of the change to probation departments.

“Counties cannot absorb the financial cost associated with raising the age without 100% funding of the additional staff and services required by the Governor’s proposal,” the resolution reads.

Though the resolution says Ulster County Legislator Ken Ronk’s introduced it, Ronk said Tuesday that he didn’t and that it was introduced by Hein’s administration and later withdrawn by them as well.



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Propane industry CEO: Hein told “whoppers” in veto message

A propane industry CEO has criticized Ulster County Executive Mike Hein for his “whoppers” related to his veto last month of a proposal to convert several sheriff’s department vans to run on propane.

Roy Willis, CEO of the Propane Education & Research Council or PERC, took Hein to task on a recent blog post. PERC is established, operated and funded by the propane industry.

In February Hein surrounded himself with local environmentalists and vetoed a $25,000 plan to convert five Ulster County Sheriff’s transportation vans to use propane instead of gasoline.

The “pilot program,” passed by the Ulster County Legislature, 14-9, was supported by Republicans and four breakaway Democrats. There’s been no effort yet to override the veto.

At the time, Hein said he had concerns about the cost of the program and that propane is a poor choice for the environment. He said he’s moving forward with biodiesel fuels for the county buses and electric vehicles and called the program “tantamount” to supporting hydrofracturing.

“Trading one fossil fuel for another is not environmentally sensitive and investing in a vehicle technology that promotes fracking is unconscionable,” Hein said.

But Willis disputed Hein’s assertions on several fronts. He said propane is an alternative fuel and that using propane reduces carbon dioxide and air pollutants like carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide and “practically eliminates toxic air pollutants like toluene and benzene found in gasoline. ”

Willis also argued that substituting propane for gasoline extends the life of engines, reduces maintenance costs, and saves money on fuel. Finally, he disputed Hein’s argument that converting the vans to propane was tantamount to supporting hydrofracturing.

“Since New York bans fracking, these public servants apparently believe that converting a few vans to propane is somehow an end-run on the ban. Spoiler alert: It’s the natural gas — not propane — that frackers are going after. The last time I looked, New York is not shutting down distribution and use of natural gas from fracking,” Willis said.

Ulster County Department of the Environment Coordinator Amanda LaValle said after the veto that the transport vans sought to be retrofitted were, on-average, 7 years old and, with more than 50,000 miles, averaged 11 miles per gallon.

“If one van was retired and a new fuel efficient model was purchased as a replacement, it would reduce fuel consumption of the fleet by 12%, as opposed to the up to 10% reduction by converting to LP gas,” LaValle said.

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