Neuhaus reports $195K on hand at start of election year

Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus spent slightly more than he raised in campaign funds in the last six months and has a little over $195,000 in his coffers as he prepares for his first reelection run.

The financial disclosure report his campaign filed on Wednesdasy showed about $52,000 in income and $57,000 in expenses since last July through Jan. 13, the cutoff date for the latest reporting period. His biggest contributions were checks for $5,438 from NRCC NY Non-Partisan PEC on July 24 and $3,500 from Manhattan-based Security Design Professional LLC on Nov. 2. He got $1,500 from The Hotaling Group in New York City on Sept. 14, $1,500 on two dates from Sterling National Bank, and $1,000 checks at various times from Focus Media, Cedar Lake Estate LLC, Howard Mills, Michael Licitra, James Smith Jr. and Harold Majewski.

Neuhaus, a Republican and former Chester town supervisor, was elected in 2013 and already has indicated he plans to run in November for a second four-year term.

Michael Sussman, the well-known civil-rights attorney and Democratic activist from Chester, has said he may run for county executive this year, but has not yet made a decision. He told the Times Herald-Record on Wednesday that he has assembled working groups to study county policies and practices and has spoken to other leading Democrats about a possible run, and that he expects to decide on the race within 60 days.

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Turnbull, Brescia trade barbs over committee assignments

Orange County Legislature Chairman Steve Brescia and Democratic Leader Matt Turnbull had sour words for one another this week following Brescia’s decision to remove Turnbull and fellow Democrat Jeff Berkman from two of the Legislature’s more important committees.

Turnbull put out a press release announcing he would be the minority caucus leader again in 2017 and making a plea for bipartisan work. He went on to chide Brescia for removing him from the Ways and Means Committee and Berkman from the Rules Committee, calling it a “pretty partisan response” to remarks he made at the Legislature’s reorganization meeting the previous week.

Brescia, in an interview, explained that he had taken Berkman off Rules because he had prolonged meetings unnecessarily by asking too many questions, and that Turnbull was taken off Ways and Means because he had become “too partisan” in meetings. He argued that Republicans had been generally been conciliatory toward Democrats but would be less so now.

“We’re getting gogged down in delays and indecision, mostly because of the Democrats,” he said.

“They fired the first partisan salvo, and we’re firing back a little bit,” Brescia added. “I’ve turned the cheek too many times.”

Turnbull laughed when told Brescia had complained about too many questions, noting that Republicans recently agreed with a concern Berkman raised and tabled a proposal at a Rules meeting as a result of it. “He just wants us to rubber-stamp everything, because he has a schedule to pass these things, because he thinks we’re nitpicking,” Turnbull said of Brescia. “In other words, we’re just doing our jobs.”

Turnbull argued that Berkman is properly asking questions to safeguard taxpayers’ money, and that he has served the same role on Ways and Means, the committee that controls spending.

“I’ve been one of the loudest voices on that committee,” Turnbull said. “He takes me off Ways and Means just to spite me. To me, that’s a violation of his oath of office.”

 

 

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County leaders liked different pieces of Cuomo’s speech

Elected officials from Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties who attended Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State speech at SUNY Purchase on Tuesday each found different proposals to applaud in the statements they put out afterward, which had none of the barbs that two Republican county executives from across the Hudson – each a potential opponent for Cuomo in 2018 – fired at the Democratic governor.

Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus, a Republican, cheered Cuomo’s announcement that a $115 million reconfiguration of the Route 17 interchange in Woodbury will begin this year instead of next, saying that infrastructure needs are the only factor slowing economic development in the county. “Improvements to this vital corridor have been discussed for decades,” he noted. He applauded Cuomo’s proposal to distribute $2 billion for local water and sewer projects, and had a more positive take than some of his fellow Republicans on Cuomo’s proposal to make tuition free at New York’s public colleges for families making less than $125,000.

The cost of higher education in New York and across the United States is outrageous,” Neuhaus said. “I know this personally, as I continue to pay for my own higher education loans. At a minimum, student loans should be interest free. Governor Cuomo has started an important dialogue on college affordability. The better educated our population, the stronger New York state and our country will be.”

Neuhaus was receptive to Cuomo’s proposal to have county executives and managers develop cost-cutting plans with local governments, something his counterparts in Dutchess and Westchester – Marc Molinaro and Rob Astorino – ripped as an unfair deflection by the governor. “There is always room for improvement and fiscal savings in government,”Neuhaus said. “We can and should continue to do more together to reduce the size and cost of government.”

Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, a Democrat, focused his remarks on Cuomo’s idea of building 350 miles of recreational trails that would connect existing paths and form two giant trails that would cross the state in two directions, running north-south between New York City and Canada and east-west between Albany and Buffalo.

“This has the potential to further expedite Ulster County’s goal of creating a world-class trail system right next door to over 22 million people in the metro New York area,” Hein said. “I am pleased to see a state initiative align with the work being done in our area that will further boost our $532 million tourism industry while also helping to provide an amazing quality of life to the great people of Ulster County.”

Sullivan County Legislature Chairman Luis Alvarez, a Republican, praised Cuomo for his free-tuition plan and his proposal to raise the state’s child-care tax credit. “For too many working mothers and fathers throughout this state are faced with mounting financial expenses that are forcing them to sacrifice between providing their children with the very best care and education, and making a living,” Alvarez said. “No parent should ever have to make this compromise. Thankfully, under Governor Cuomo, New York State is taking action and championing policies to put New York families first and help working parents take care of their children, from birth to college.”


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Cuomo’s State of the State tour includes Westchester stop

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be at SUNY Purchase in Westchester on Tuesday to give his annual State of the State speech, one of six versions he will deliver in different regions of the state next week rather than address state lawmakers in Albany.

Cuomo has spent the last week previewing his 2017 agenda in pieces, the splashiest of which has been his proposal to offer free tuition at SUNY and CUNY colleges to students from households earning less than $125,000 a year. Other elements he already has announced are a proposed increase in the child-care credits for earning between $50,000 and $150,000 a year; a $10 billion overhaul of JFK Airport in Queens; and strengthening penalties for perpetrators of cybercrimes.

The SUNY Purchase speech starts at 10:30 a.m. and will be live-streamed on the governor’s website, www.governor.ny.gov. The others stops on Cuomo’s road show are: Manhattan and Buffalo on Monday; Farmingdale, Long Island on Tuesday; and Albany and Syracuse on Wednesday.

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Lawmakers joust over free-tuition idea while awaiting details

The youngest member of the New York Legislature got a shout-out from the Assembly floor during the opening session of 2017 on Wednesday, when Speaker Carl Heastie brought up Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new proposal to waive tuition at SUNY and CUNY schools for qualifying students and credited his own members, including Woodbury’s James Skoufis, with beating the governor to it.

“For those of you that have been here for some time, you know that the idea of college affordability started right here in this house,” Heastie said. “So, again, I want to thank the chair of our Higher Education Committee, Deborah Glick, Assembly member James Skoufis and all the members for working to make college affordable for all New Yorkers.”

Cuomo, with Bernie Sanders at his side, had announced a day earlier a proposal to offer free tuition at New York’s public 2-year and 4-year colleges to students whose families earn less than $125,000 a year, an income threshold that would be phased in over three years. He estimated the program would cost the state around $163 million a year, a projection that has struck even supporters like Skoufis and Glick as curiously low. The proposal is likely to be detailed in Cuomo’s budget proposal this month and debated in the weeks ahead.

Skoufis has been advocating free tuition at public colleges under certain conditions since 2014, when he introduced a bill to that effect in his second year in Albany. The terms have evolved, but a constant element is that beneficiaries must agree to live and work in New York for at least five years after graduation. In its most recent form, the bill also would require students to perform 25 hours of community service each year.

In a “Capital Tonight” TV interview Wednesday night, Skoufis, who is now 29, said he modeled his proposal after one in red-state Tennessee and suggested it would reap economic benefits that justify its cost – by eliminating the stifling economic effect that student-loan debt has on college graduates. He also pointed out that most jobs in today’s world require a college degree and asked, “Why wouldn’t treat it the same way in terms of accessibility and affordabilty as we do K-12?”

Earlier in the day, the third-term Democrat had quarreled on Twitter about Cuomo’s proposal with a fellow Orange County Assembly member, Karl Brabenec. That came after the Deerpark Republican scorned free tuition as “nanny-state socialism” and rattled off GOP alternatives that he said Democrats had rejected, like increased state tuition aid and better work-study programs: Here’s part of Brabenec’s statement:

“Gov. Cuomo’s proposal to make SUNY tuition free for families who earn below $125,000 is misguided, irresponsible and the kind of nanny-state socialism that perpetuates New York’s image as one of the most expensive states in the nation in which to live and operate a business. The proposal’s cost, an estimated $163 million per year, is a financial burden we cannot place on future generations.

Another Republican lawmaker from Orange County also had little enthusiasm for Cuomo’s initial concept. State Sen. John Bonacic of Mount Hope said in a video-recorded interview that the governor seemed to be “polishing his national resume” with the idea, and suggested that waiving tuition would give students a lackadaisical attitude toward their education.

“I don’t like that a college student doesn’t have skin in the game,” Bonacic said.

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Final counts show Trump beat Clinton in 19 Orange towns, cities (updated)

Donald Trump supporters outvoted Hillary Clinton supporters in 19 of 23 Orange County towns and cities in November, according to a newly available breakdown of voting results that details a striking shift in a county that went for Barack Obama in the last two presidential elections but swung to the Republican candidate in 2016.

Clinton won lopsided victories in the heavily Democratic cities of Newburgh and Middletown, and beat Trump by lesser margins in the Democratic-majority Town of Wallkill and the Republican-majority Town of Highlands. But everywhere else in Orange, to a greater or lesser degree, was Trumpland. The county’s third city, Port Jervis, which also has a Democratic enrollment edge, went for Trump – in a big way. Neighboring Deerpark and Greenville did the same by ratios of more than 2-to-1.

Woodbury, on the opposite side of the county, is more affluent than those two rural towns in western Orange and has considerably more registered Democrats than Republicans. Trump won there, too. Chester also has more Democratic voters than Republicans but gave Trump about 400 more votes than it gave Clinton.

Overall, Trump beat Clinton in Orange County by 76,645-68,278, a victory margin of more than 8,000 votes.

Clinton won by a comparable margin in Ulster County, where Democrats have a greater enrollment edge than in Orange and where the vote tally was 42,101 for Clinton and 34,006 for Trump.

Heavily Democratic Sullivan County went heavily for Trump: 15,931-12,568 in his favor, according to the state’s certified results for all 62 New York counties.

Here are the vote totals for each of the 20 towns and three cities in Orange.

Blooming Grove

Clinton: 3,466

Trump: 4,848

Chester

Clinton: 2,551

Trump: 2,973

Cornwall

Clinton: 2,943

Trump: 3,431

Crawford

Clinton: 1,388

Trump: 2,716

Deerpark

Clinton: 863

Trump: 2,200

Goshen

Clinton: 2,681

Trump: 3,318

Greenville

Clinton: 642

Trump: 1,527

Hamptonburgh

Clinton: 975

Trump: 1,642

Highlands

Clinton: 1,308

Trump: 1,181

Middletown

Clinton: 5,261

Trump: 2,525

Minisink

Clinton: 618

Trump: 1,455

Monroe

Clinton: 5,309

Trump: 6,711

Montgomery

Clinton: 3,924

Trump: 5,700

Mount Hope

Clinton: 821

Trump: 1,561

New Windsor

Clinton: 5,369

Trump: 5,510

City of Newburgh

Clinton: 4,861

Trump: 1,188

Town of Newburgh

Clinton: 6,594

Trump: 7,081

Port Jervis

Clinton: 1,212

Trump: 1,673

Tuxedo

Clinton: 837

Trump: 982

Wallkill

Clinton: 6,124

Trump: 5,033

Warwick

Clinton:  6,800

Trump: 8,786

Wawayanda

Clinton: 1,260

Trump: 2,015

Woodbury

Clinton: 2,471

Trump: 2,589

Update: Ulster County hasn’t reported its town-by-town results yet for the presidential race. But in Sullivan, the results were similar to those in Orange: Trump won 14 of 15 towns. This was in a county that voted Democratic in 4 out the last 5 presidential elections (George W. Bush eked out a slender victory over John Kerry in 2004.)

Here’s how the voting went in Sullivan:

Bethel

Clinton: 785

Trump: 999

Callicoon

Clinton: 572

Trump: 859

Cochecton

Clinton: 260

Trump: 501

Delaware

Clinton: 444

Trump: 580

Fallsburg

Clinton: 1,829

Trump: 1,994

Forestburgh

Clinton: 182

Trump: 282

Fremont

Clinton: 227

Trump: 380

Highland

Clinton: 409

Trump: 615

Liberty

Clinton: 1,415

Trump: 1,575

Lumberland

Clinton: 329

Trump: 642

Mamakating

Clinton: 1,794

Trump: 3,014

Neversink

Clinton: 538

Trump: 1,094

Rockland

Clinton: 558

Trump: 817

Thompson

Clinton: 2,941

Trump: 2,205

Tusten

Clinton: 285

Trump: 374

 

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Schumer promises Satmar crowd to be their guardian

Sen. Charles Schumer, addressing a crowd of thousands of Satmar Hasidim gathered in Brooklyn Tuesday night, praised the American values and “Torah values” he said they embodied, and invoked the Hebrew meaning of his surname to pledge to remain their guardian and a defender of the Jewish way of life.

Schumer, a Brooklyn native who has been in the Senate for 18 years and is poised to become the most powerful Democrat in Washington in January, spoke at the Williamsburg armory, where the Satmar branch loyal to Rebbe Aron Teitelbaum had assembled to celebrate Kuf Alef Kislev. The holiday commemorates the liberation of Satmar founder Joel Teitelbaum from Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany in 1944. Joel Teitelbaum was the namesake of Kiryas Joel, the Satmar village established in the Town of Monroe in 1977, two years before his death.

According to a video recording posted online at Jewishinsider.com, the Senate Democrats’ next leader praised the Satmar community’s United Talmudical Academy yeshiva system for instilling Torah values in its students, and said the combination of American and Torah values “produces the great community that we have here tonight.”

He went on to say his European ancestors were named “Shomer” – or guardian in Hebrew – because they were “guardians of the ghetto wall.”

“I know Hashem gave me that name for a reason, to be a ‘shomer’ for this great Chasidishe community here and for Yiddishkeit throughout the world,” Schumer said. “I promise you I always will try to live up to my name and be a ‘shomer Yisrael.’’’

Schumer also stopped that night at a separate gathering at Pier 36 in Manhattan to speak to followers of Rebbe Zalman Teitelbaum, who leads the second branch of the divided Satmar movement.

The politically engaged Satmar Hasidim were affirming their ties to an ascendant Democrat on the same day that a longtime ally in Washington, 30-year Republican congressman Ben Gilman, was laid to rest. Gilman, who died on Saturday at age 94, represented Kiryas Joel from its inception until his retirement in 2002 and was a faithful benefactor and champion, securing grants to build the village’s medical center and water system and using his foreign-policy clout to press for Jewish causes in Europe.

 

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O’Dwyer attends electoral college vote in Albany

Sixteen years ago, Pat O’Dwyer found herself sharing scones in Ireland with Bill Clinton during his last days as president, listening to the voluble politician dissect for 20 minutes the Democrats’ mistakes in the Florida voting recount that cost his vice president, Al Gore, the White House in his race against George W. Bush.

On Monday, O’Dwyer, a longtime Democratic activist and Orange County resident, crossed paths again with the former president for a political tableau with an eerie parallel to the 2000 election. O’Dwyer was seated in the state Senate chamber in Albany as an invited observer as Bill Clinton and 28 other electors scrawled his wife’s name on presidential ballots and solemnly dropped them into a wooden box, knowing the ritual wouldn’t undo Hillary Clinton’s defeat last month. Like Gore, she had won the popular vote and lost the electoral college.

O’Dwyer, who sat behind New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and was there as president of the New York chapter of the National Federation of Democratic Women, said the spectacle and the history of the participants made her teary-eyed – the “amazing contributions” both Clintons had made; the Clinton testimonial given by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who was a cabinet secretary for Bill Clinton in the 1990s and presided over Monday’s electoral-college vote; Hillary Clinton’s worthiness for the office that eluded her for the second time.

O’Dwyer said she first met Bill Clinton during his 1992 campaign for president, when she wheeled her famous husband, the former New York City Council President Paul O’Dwyer, into a meeting with the Arkansas governor at a Sheraton hotel in Manhattan. Her husband insisted then that Clinton appoint an envoy to negotiate peace in Northern Ireland if he was elected. And he was serious. After Clinton took office in 1993, Paul O’Dwyer nearly refused an invitation to a St. Patrick’s Day gathering at the White House because Clinton, less than two months into his presidency, hadn’t gotten around to appointing an envoy yet.

But he eventually did. In 1995, Clinton named George Mitchell, a former Democratic senator from Maine, to be special envoy for Northern Ireland. And on Good Friday in 1998, representatives of Britain, Ireland and a flock of political parties signed an agreement that effectively ended the bloody, sectarian strife in Northern Ireland.

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Gibson will speak at SUNY New Paltz before leaving office

Rep. Chris Gibson, the Kinderhook Republican who leaves office this office this month and was viewed for a time as a serious contender for governor in 2018, is scheduled to give a public “exit interview” at SUNY New Paltz on Monday night – a conversation with Common Cause’s New York director about his six years in Washington, the recent presidential election and his outlook for the future.

Gibson represents New York’s 19th Congressional District, which includes Ulster and Sullivan counties. Gibson was first elected in 2010 as a retired Army colonel who had served overseas in the Gulf War and subsequent conflicts in Kosovo and Iraq, and who taught at West Point after retiring. He explored running for governor after announcing he would leave Congress, but has since taken a teaching job at Williams College in Massachusetts and removed himself from consideration for the 2018 race.

Gibson, a moderate with a record of bi-partisan work, will sit for a discussion with Susan Lerner of Common Cause at 6 p.m. in Student Union Room 62-63, and field audience questions afterward.

He told the Albany Times Union in an interview this week that he wants to devote more time to his family, and that he will reevaluate whether to return to politics after his son graduates from high school in 2019. In the meantime, he said he plans to write a book about his political philosophy and his prescription for uniting a divided Republican Party.

“As a member of faculty, I will not play a role in individual campaigns,” Gibson told the Times Union. “But I do think I can have something to say that I hope will unite the party and really demonstrate to the American people why it is that these ideas that I’m advancing in this book – that I hope our party will fully embrace – are best for our country.”

Gibson will be replaced in January by John Faso, a Republican former assemblyman and 2006 gubernatorial candidate who also lives in Kinderhook and who beat Democrat Zephyr Teachout in the November election.

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Grand jury probes Ulster campaign cash tied to de Blasio

A state grand jury convened in New York City is reportedly hearing testimony to decide whether aides to Mayor Bill de Blasio illegally steered large campaign contributions to Democratic committees in Ulster County and two other counties in 2014 to influence that year’s state Senate elections while evading limits on candidate donations.

The New York Times, citing anonymous sources with knowledge of the confidential proceedings, reported Friday that prosecutors were investigating whether the mayor or people acting on his behalf “violated state election by raising hundreds of thousands of dollars through three upstate county committees and funneling it to Democratic candidates.” The county committees would have been useful conduits for campaign cash because they aren’t subject to contribution limits, as individual candidates are.

The Times Herald-Record first reported in December 2014 that the Ulster Democratic Committee had gotten large contributions from several entities in New York City in the weeks before the election, and had then written checks for $100,000 and $170,000 to then-Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, a Democrat who represented part of Ulster.  Tkaczyk lost her seat in that election to George Amedore, a Schenectady County Republican.

The New York Times reported in April that federal prosecutors had widened an ongoing investigation into de Blasio’s fundraising practices to include the 2014 contributions to county committees, an issue that appears to have since been transferred to state prosecutors. The Times article published on Friday indicated that both a state grand jury and a federal grand jury were hearing testimony on separate matters.

In April, Tkaczyk said she had no comment when contacted by the Times Herald-Record about investigation and asked if she had been subpoenaed.

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