Donaldson says he won’t run for Ulster County executive

Ulster County Legislator Dave Donaldson said Tuesday that he won’t run for county executive.

In an email Tuesday Donaldson, D-Kingston, said he was asked by “a number of people to run and had a significant amount of money pledged as well as promises to raise more for the campaign” if he chose to run.

Donaldson said that he was further encouraged by calls and emails of encouragement but ultimately he took the advice from his wife: “Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it.”

“At this point in my life, I like where I am and enjoy the free time I have while still being involved in my community representing 1/3 of the City of Kingston in the County Legislature,” Donaldson said.

Later on Tuesday, Donaldson said that being dissatisfied with the current administration wasn’t enough reason to run for the position.

Donaldson, who’s currently vice-chair of the Ulster County Legislature, is serving his eleventh term. He served four years as Chairman of the Legislature and was elected Minority Leader twice. He’s a retired Hyde Park high school teacher and Conrail foreman.

With Donaldson aside there seems to be little serious competition for current Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, 49, during next week’s countywide Democratic convention. No Republican contender has emerged either.

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Kingston Water Board gets new commissioner

City of Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo has appointed a new commissioner to the Kingston Water Department , HeritagEnergy owner R. Abel Garraghan.

Garraghan’s term begins this month and runs five years until May 31, 2020.

The important but usually unnoticed activities of the  Kingston Water Board became a lightning rod for attention and criticism last year when California-based bottling company Niagara Bottling proposed building a plant at the former IBM site in the Town of Ulster, potentially boosting Kingston’s daily water usage by more than 40 percent by drawing about 1.75 million gallons a day from the city’s reservoir.

On average, the Water Department supplies 4.2 million gallons a day to the City of Kingston.

While Niagara eventually pulled the plug on the $53 million plan after mounting criticism, the ordeal brought renewed public  scrutiny onto the usually quiet water board and the $17.7 million in capital projects on its plate. Kingston Citizens, a local activist group, called for more transparency from the Water Board, that technically operates independently from the City of Kingston.

The group had called for a more open process to nominate members to the Water Board in the Niagara Bottling’s application.

Garraghan, a supporter of Gallo who’s given to his campaign in the past, will replace Alfred Radel who was nominated by former Mayor James Sottile first in in June, 2000 and again by Sottile in June.

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Proposal to aid religious schools stirs friction (updated)

It began with Gov.  Andrew Cuomo’s announcement on Tuesday of an education bill that includes $120 million in tax credits to help children in low-income families to attend religious and other nonpublic schools — a proposal celebrated that day at a press conference on Long Island by Cardinal Timothy Dolan and a principal from a Modern Orthodox Jewish school in the area.

Steve Neuhaus

Later that day, Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus issued a short press release applauding the Democratic governor’s “Parental Choice in Education Act,” using the same language as Cuomo’s release and adding a statement from Neuhaus about being the son of immigrants and supporting the “educational opportunities” Cuomo was seeking to create.

Chris Eachus

On Friday, Chris Eachus, the Orange County Legislature’s Democratic leader (and a physics teacher at Newburgh Free Academy), responded with a press release urging the Republican county executive to “get his facts straights” and calling Cuomo’s proposal “nothing more than a back door scheme to privatize public education.” He cited a rally for public-school funding being held that day at Monroe-Woodbury High School and urged Neuhaus to “join us instead of taking cues from the Governor whose approval rating has now dropped to its lowest ever.”

Cuomo’s proposal would offer $70 million in tax credits for families that earn less than $60,000 a year and send their kids to nonpublic schools, entitling them to tuition discounts of up to $500 a year for each student. It also would offer $50 million in tax credits for people and organizations that fund scholarships for children in low-income families to attend nonpublic schools.

The proposal is popular in the low-income Satmar Hasidic community in Kiryas Joel and Brooklyn, where most children attend religious schools. According to an online Yeshiva World article, a Cuomo administration official visited a school in the Satmar’s United Talmudical Academy system in Williamsburg on Friday to promote the Parental Choice in Education Act.

“Your parents are struggling to make ends meet, and to pay for the private education they chose as best for you,”  Rabbi David Niederman, President of the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg, is quoted as telling the assembled students. “The Governor’s plan will bring them relief, and we are thankful for that.”

Cuomo’s proposal also would offer $20 million in tax credits for donations to public school programs and $10 million in credits for public school teachers for up to $200 a year in supplies that they purchase.

Update: Orange County Legislator Roseanne Sullivan, a Town of Wallkill Democrat who also serves on the Pine Bush School Board and is president of the Orange County School Boards Association, also criticized Cuomo’s tax-credit proposal on Friday, arguing that using taxpayer money to support religious schools was unconstitutional. She also views the proposed tax break for donors who fund scholarships for those schools as a gratuitous benefit “for the 1 percent.”

“What low-income kids need is a strong educational foundation,” Sullivan said. “Why reinvent the wheel by sending them to these private schools?”

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Albany “crime wave” largely bypasses region

Dean Skelos’ resignation this week as Senate majority leader provided more fodder for an online feature updated with alarming regularity by the New York City-based good government group Citizens Union: its “Corruption Tracker,” a running account of state lawmakers forced from office by criminal charges and ethical lapses — or still holding their seats despite the same.

By the Citizens Union’s reckoning, 29 lawmakers have left office — resigned, got booted by their colleagues, got imprisoned, lost primaries, wisely declined to seek re-election — since 2000 because of their misdeeds, while four others continue to schlep to Albany with indictments or criminal charges hanging over their heads. The organization’s lament is that state lawmakers are more likely to leave office for bad behavior than for losing an election, a testament in part to New York’s high campaign contribution limits and lawmaker-controlled redistricting.

Residents of Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties may take solace in the fact that the Albany “crime wave” documented by the Citizens Union has netted none of their own representatives. Three-quarters of the current and former members in the organization’s rogues gallery were from New York City; the rest were scattered in other sections of the state. The only Hudson Valley politicians listed were former Sen. Vincent Leibell, a Putnam County Republican who quit in 2010 because of federal corruption charges; and former Assemblyman Ryan Karben, a Rockland Democrat who resigned in 2006 for fraternizing with interns.

Gerald Benjamin, a SUNY New Paltz political scientist and expert on New York State government, said this week after Skelos’ resignation that the corruption charges on spectacular display this year — both the Senate and Assembly leaders indicted in a four-month span — are neither new to New York nor unique to Albany (witness the parade of Illinois governors in orange jumpsuits). Having an aggressive U.S. attorney focused on political corruption has only brought that activity to the fore, he said.

But it has been part of state politics since the 19th century and owes something to a political culture that tends to accept the use of public office to advance personal interests, as opposed to a more “public-service-oriented” outlook, Benjamin said. He stressed that he didn’t mean to suggest that corruption was common in Albany, but rather that there is some history behind the latest charges and the litany of lawmakers on Citizens’ Union “corruption tracker.”

“It’s very troubling, and it suggests that voters’ cynicism about public officials is well-founded,” he said.

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Assemblyman Kevin Cahill: Heastie joked to Flanagan “don’t read the paper.”

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, who appeared this week on Kingston Community Radio, said he reached out to the Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie after state Sen. John Flanagan rose this week to become temporary president and majority leader in Albany’s upper chamber.

“I had a conversation with Carl Heastie on Monday night and I said ‘Did you offer John Flanagan any sagely advice from your long tenure as the leader of one of the two houses of the Legislature,” Cahill said on the show. “And he said ‘the only thing I told him was don’t believe what you read in the paper — don’t read the paper, he said.’”

Flanagan replaced Long Island Republican Sen. Dean Skelos after he was arrested on federal corruption charges. Cahill had remained silent in the aftermath of Skelos’s fall from leadership until the interview on Kingston Community Radio.

Cahill proceeded to wax historic, bringing up convicted former Assemblyman Mel Miller, who was charged in 1991.

“The news about Senator Skelos was disturbing,” Cahill said. “The fact that he decided to step down from his post is not surprising, that’s the trend. I’m reminded however of speaker Mel Miller in his day when he was accused of a crime having to do with his fiduciary obligations as an attorney was tried, throughout the trial he was negotiating the New York state budget. They moved budget negotiations to nighttime they moved them to Manhattan to accommodate Speaker Miller and he carried on as speaker until the moment the jury came back and said guilty.”

Cahill reminded listeners that Miller’s conviction and Skelos’ predecessor, former state Sen. Joe Bruno, were both reversed.

“You get a feeling that sometimes maybe, you know, what’s the old saying: just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you,” Cahill said.

Cahill said Flanagan is a really good guy and a top debater.

“He’s going to be a real credit to his party,” he said.

Cahill went on to speak about other recently convicted state assemblymen William Boyland and William Scarborough, who were both reelected after they were charged with crimes.

“We don’t elect them for any reason other than the fact that they get more votes than the other person,” Cahill said.

Cahill said its up to the voters to elect those of integrity.

“It’s not uncommon for people to elect people under a cloud and I wish it would stop because they elect them and my colleagues and I get blamed for them,” Cahill said.


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Updated: Ulster Democrats set date for nominating convention

The Ulster County Democratic Committee will hold its nominating convention in two weeks at the Best Western Plus on Washington Avenue.

Some of the county’s top positions are up for reelection this year. The convention will host nominations for county executive, family court judge, district attorney, county legislators and fill vacant committeeperson positions.

Expected to run this year is Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, though as late as this week refused to comment on if he will. As of January Hein had $175,195.30 in his campaign account, according to the state Board of Elections.

No Democrat has yet surfaced to run for district attorney. Holley Carnright, 63, the current Republican district attorney, wouldn’t comment Thursday to say if he’s running again, though he stopped by the Ulster County Democratic headquarters in uptown Kingston Thursday afternoon to meet with county Democratic boss Frank Cardinale. Cardinale said Carnright was just stopping by to say hello as an old friend, though Carnright characterized the visit a meeting.

Carnright hasn’t filed a campaign finance statement since January 2013, according to the state Board of Elections website, but at that time he had $13,715.93 in his account.

So far three Democratic legislators have announced they’re stepping down from office and there’s expected to be a primary for at least one seat.

The convention will be held on May 27 at 7 p.m.  The City of Kingston’s nominating convention is also expected to be held that day, earlier that evening, where one of the most watched races in the county will take place between current Mayor Shayne Gallo and city parks employee, Steve Noble.

UPDATE: Democratic Family Court Judge Anthony McGinty filed a reelection campaign account with the BOE on May 5, a likely sign he’ll be running again too.

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Provenzano to run for alderman-at-large; two Dems announce run for her legislative seat

Ulster County Legislator Jeanette Provenzano announced over the weekend that she’ll run for alderwoman-at-large in the City of Kingston.

“My years of legislative and leadership experience, serving the city at the county-level, provide me the necessary skills needed to help me move important issues forward and provide an open line of communication with council and office of mayor,” Provenzano said in an email over the weekend.

Provenzano, an 81-year-old Democrat, lives in the Rondout section of the city and represents District 7 in the county. The county legislative district is made of up of the city’s sixth, seventh and eight wards.

Provenzano, a supporter of Mayor Shayne Gallo, would look to oust current Alderman-at-large James Noble, who’s clashed with the mayor in the past. Gallo is facing a primary challenge this year from Noble’s nephew and city parks employee, Steve Noble and James Noble also announced over the weekend he plans to run again.

Provenzano steps into the race as tensions have risen between Gallo and some fellow Democrats in the Common Council.

With Proevnzano’s departure from the Legislature, two Democrats wasted little time in stepping up to announce they’re interested in taking her seat.

Jennifer Schwartz Berky announced on the same day Provenzano made her announcement bid for Provenzano’s legislative seat. Berky, an urban planner who lives in the Rondout, was previously the deputy director of planning for Ulster County. She was also heavily involved with the Kingston Citizens campaign scrutinizing a failed plan by Niagara Bottling to draw millions of gallons of water a day from the city’s reservoir.

Berky rolled out her announcement with an endorsement from a fellow Kingston Democrat. Ulster County Legislator David Donaldson, vice chair of the Ulster County Legislature and part of a breakaway coalition of Democrats that have aligned with Republicans, signaled his support for Berky.

Also in the running is City resident Brian Woltman, who lives on Abbey Street. He’s been the Purchasing Agent for the City of Kingston for the last 19 years. In his announcement he touted the “unprecedented” progress in the county by Provenzano and Ulster County Executive Mike Hein and won the endorsement of Provenzano.

Provenzano is the third Democrat to announce they won’t be running for another term in the county Legislature among a split and some bad blood between Democrats in the Legislature.

Don Gregorius of Woodstock, the majority leader of the Democrats, said last month that he wouldn’t be running again. He clashed openly with the Legislature’s chair, John Parete.

Though Gregorious is majority leader, Republicans legislators formed a loose coalition with a group of breakaway Democrats, allowing Republicans to keep key committee seats, smack away Democrats choice for chair and wrest some power away from the Democratic majority.

Also on his way out is is Ken Wishnick of New Paltz, who announced Monday he wouldn’t seek a second term either.

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Newburgh attorney to seek Family Court seat

Newburgh attorney Eric Shiller is going to seek the Democratic nomination for one of two  Orange County Family Court judge seats up for grabs in November.

For the last six years the one-time Legal Aid attorney has run a private firm based on Broadway in the City of Newburgh. His practice focuses on criminal defense and family law.

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Cuomo, Senate extend Bartlett’s tenure on bench

Catherine Bartlett was given another nine years as a state judge in Orange County this week when the Senate confirmed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s reappointment of her as a Court of Claims judge, a post that allows her to continue as an acting Supreme Court justice without competing in an election that normally would be held for Supreme Court.

Bartlett, a former administrative aide and county attorney under former County Executive Ed Diana, joined the bench in 2005 when then-Gov. George Pataki named her to the Court of Claims, which hears lawsuits against state agencies and effectively supplements the Supreme Court ranks with political appointees. This week, the Senate confirmed Cuomo’s reappointments of her and two other Court of Claims judges and appointments of 11 newcomers to other openings on that court. The Senate Judiciary Committee, led by John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, had endorsed Cuomo’s selections earlier that day.

Court of Claims judges are paid $174,000 a year.

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Larkin stands by Skelos as majority leader (updated)

State Sen. Bill Larkin, R-Cornwall-on-Hudson, joined a minority of his Senate colleagues in issuing a short statement in support of Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos on Wednesday night, countering an effort by Democrats to depose Skelos over the corruption charges he faces and calls by some of Skelos’ fellow Republicans for him to step aside.

The statement, signed by 15 Republicans and one Democrat who caucuses with the Republicans, read: “We strongly believe that Senator Dean Skelos should remain on as Majority Leader of the New York State Senate.  He has the leadership we need to move the Senate forward so that we can continue to do the people’s work and finish out this year’s session in a productive manner.”

The 16 statement signers make up about half the Republican caucus and about a quarter of New York’s 63 senators. Eight of Skelos’ loyalists are fellow Long Islanders, and two are from Brooklyn. Larkin, who represents much of Orange County and part of Ulster, and James Seward, whose district includes a piece of Ulster, are among six upstaters standing by their man.

Two other Hudson Valley Republicans are not. George Amedore, a Republican freshman who’s got a slice of Ulster as well, had issued a statement after Skelos and his son were arrested on Monday that said, “I want to hear what the senator has to say …, but I don’t see how it is possible that he can remain as leader.” John Bonacic, a Mount Hope Republican whose district includes part of Orange and all of Sullivan counties, told the Associated Press this week: “Dean should resign. He should step aside. There is a presumption of innocence. But will this impair our ability to get our work done?”

Aside from Larkin and Seward, the Republicans (and one quasi-Republican) who signed Wednesday’s statement are: Tom Libous, Hugh Farley, Kenneth LaValle, Kemp Hannon, Michael Nozzolio, Carl Marcellino, Martin Golden, Cathy Young, John Flanagan, Jack Martins, Simcha Felder, Phil Boyle, Michael Venditto and Tom Croci.

Update: Orange County Democratic Chairman Brett Broge issued a statement on Friday that chided Larkin for his “troubling decision” and demanded he withdraw his support for Skelos so that “the inevitable process of replacing him as Majority Leader can begin immediately.”

“It should be obvious that New York State’s government cannot effectively do the people’s business while one of its sitting legislative leaders faces criminal charges of corruption,” Broge said.

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