One KJ bloc backs Neuhaus, the other stays neutral

Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus stands to pick up roughly a couple thousand votes in Kiryas Joel for his re-election bid today, despite his efforts to tie his opponent to the Hasidic community in the closing days of the campaign.

Anash, the majority party in Kiryas Joel, declined to endorse either the Republican incumbent or Democratic challenger Patrick Davis, which likely means that most voters in the larger of Kiryas Joel’s two voting blocs will simply skip over that race on their ballots. But the opposition party, known as the Kiryas Joel Alliance, backed Neuhaus and will deliver whatever share of its own voters turn out at the polls today.

Both parties are distributing their customary sample ballots outside Kiryas Joel’s two polling stations to tell their respective supporters which candidates to support.

The marked ballots show that both factions backed Republican District Attorney David Hoovler and Republican County Clerk Annie Rabbitt over their Democratic challengers, Michael Isgur and Deborah Mulqueen.

Anash will steer its votes to Republican County Legislator Katie Bonelli, while the Alliance supported neither Bonelli nor her Democratic opponent, Stephen Hunter.

 

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On the ballot Tuesday: stripping corrupt politicians of their pensions

On the back of the ballot in county and local elections in New York on Tuesday is a referendum voters shouldn’t have to think too long about.

The proposal is an amendment to the state constitution that would allow a judge to revoke or reduce a public employee’s state pension if he or she has been convicted of a work-related crime. It’s the second of at least three propositions on the back of every ballot in the state, after the one about whether to hold a constitutional convention.

This proposal is the no-brainer outcome of a debate on ethics reform that raged and predictably fizzled in Albany in 2016, following the corruption convictions of both prior legislative leaders – former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. Casting aside proposals to limit or ban outside income by lawmakers and other reform proposals, lawmakers finally agreed on yanking the pensions of corrupt politicians, but only after haggling over what officials it would apply to and whether to give the courts discretion.

New York already passed a law in 2011 to allow courts to cut or revoke pensions in such cases, but it didn’t apply to the public officials already in office at that time. A constitutional amendment was needed to affect their pensions as well.

The two lawmakers whose convictions motivated the proposed amendment have since had their convictions overturned, based on a subsequent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that made public corruption more difficult to prove. Federal prosecutors plan to retry both cases. Silver is scheduled to go on trial again in April, Skelos in June.

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Faso, Maloney seek better data on Lyme cases

Reps. John Faso and Sean Patrick Maloney are among a dozen House members from both parties asking the administration for better tracking of Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses and the government’s programs to combat them.

In a letter on Oct. 27 to the Department of Health and Human Services’ acting director, Eric Hargan, the House members dove into the regulatory details of those programs, suggesting three “performance indicators” and five “strategic objectives” HHS should use. The objectives included better coordination among state and federal health agencies and more research on reducing the tick population.

In a press release announcing that letter on Wednesday, Faso said he and his colleagues offered their recommendations out of concern that measuring the progress of the tick-disease programs has been difficult. He said the improved data they sought would help Congress make funding decision for programs through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Upstate individuals and families are unfortunately very familiar with the perils of tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease,” the Kinderhook Republican said in his press release. “This is why I have made it a priority in Congress to advance efforts to improve research and awareness to ultimately prevent future cases and mitigate the harmful effects of the disease.”

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Rockland County councilman creates Senate campaign account

A town councilman from Rockland County has opened a campaign account to run for fellow Republican Bill Larkin’s state Senate seat, but says he’ll do so only if Larkin doesn’t seek a 15th Senate term next year.

Tom Basile, a Stony Point resident and Town Board member, created a fundraising committee for the 39th Senate District on Sept. 26, according to state Board of Elections records. When contacted this week about the filing, he issued a statement in which he praised Larkin and clarified that he planned to run in 2018 only if Larkin retired. “Any effort on my part at this time is intended to simply lay a proper foundation for a vigorous, well-funded, well-organized campaign,” Basile said.

Larkin, who has been a state legislator since 1979 and will turn 90 in February, has made no public statements about whether he’ll run again, and has no immediate need to do so. State candidates begin collecting petition signatures for the November 2018 election next June, which is seven months away.

The 39th District consists of 10 towns and the City of Newburgh in Orange County, plus two towns each in Ulster and Rockland. Orange County Legislator Mike Anagnostakis, a Town of Newburgh Republican, and Assemblyman James Skoufis, a Woodbury Democrat, both have expressed interest in that Senate seat in the past. Skoufis also created a campaign committee to run for the 39th District in early 2016, but decided a few months later to run for re-election to the Assembly instead.

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Davis proposes full ban on pay-to-play money

Patrick Davis, right, and Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus at Times Herald-Record debate on Wednesday

The question for the Orange County executive candidates on Wednesday was whether they would ask the county Legislature to insert the words “limited liability company” into the county’s 2013 Pay to Play Law to close a glaring loophole.

But Patrick Davis, the Democrat challenging Republican incumbent Steve Neuhaus, said he’d go much further during their debate at the Times Herald-Record. He said he would propose banning all campaign donations to the county executive from companies that have or are seeking county contracts, rather than limiting how much they may give. The 2013 law lets them give the county executive up to $4,000 over a four-year term.

Taking any campaign money at all from companies with business interests before the county is bad for the office itself, he argued.

“It’s not an ethically safe place to be, and it compromises the integrity of the office and of the individual sitting in it,” Davis said. “And it’s just a way to protect the county executive from allegations of conflicts of interest in making decisions that aren’t in the best interests of the people.”

Neuhaus said in response that the county has a strong campaign finance law and that he has “lived within those rules.” He also taunted his opponent for his fundraising efforts, saying Davis had hired a consultant to help and yet “he can’t raise a dime.” Then he complained that Ulster County Executive Mike Hein – whose campaign finance reform proposals Davis invoked – raises more more than him and has some of the same contributors, but faces no criticism.

“There’s not a peep about it,” he said.

Neuhaus also seemed to dismiss any mercenary interest on the part of his donors, saying, “People believe in what we’re working on, whether they work for the county or not.”

Asked again the specific question – if he would ask lawmakers to close the LLC loophole by adding those three words – Neuhaus was noncommittal.

“I have no problem either way on it,” he said. “I just want one thing: I want a fair playing ground. So if I’m running against somebody, they shouldn’t be exempt from those type of restrictions.”

The county law does apply to candidates, as well as current office holders.

Under that law, county contractors can’t give the county executive more than $4,000 per term. But businesses organized as limited liability companies have been allowed to give Neuhaus more. County Attorney Langdon Chapman argues LLCs are exempt from the limit because the Pay to Play Law didn’t include that specific term in its definition of entities that are covered.

Davis, in his remarks, also called the state’s campaign finance laws “a mess” and criticized in particular the $10,900 individual donation limit, which is more than triple the $2,700 maximum one person can give a congressional candidate per election under federal rules.

“It’s crazy that people, individuals can give more to a county-level race than they can give to someone running for Congress,” he said.

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Neuhaus touts endorsements by supervisors, mayors

Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus has announced the endorsements of 23 elected officials in the county who are supporting his re-election on Nov. 7, including 19 fellow Republicans and four Democrats.

The list released by his campaign on Monday included 12 Republican town supervisors: Alex Jamieson of Chester; Charlie Carnes of Crawford; Gary Spears of Deerpark; Doug Bloomfield of Goshen; Bob Jankowski of Hamptonburgh; Ralph Ford of Minisink; Mike Hayes of Montgomery; George Green of New Windsor; Gil Piaquadio of Newburgh; Mike Rost of Tuxedo; Mike Sweeton of Warwick; and John Razzano of Wawayanda.

There also were six Republican village mayors – Kyle Roddey of Goshen; James Pawliczek of Florida; Jesse Dwyer of Greenwood Lake; Steve Welle of Harriman; Steve Brescia of Montgomery (who is also the county Legislature chairman); and Sue Rumbold of Walden – and Monroe Councilman Tony Cardone, a Republican who is running unopposed for town supervisor next month.

Sweeton, who competed against Neuhaus for GOP support in 2013 to run for county executive, and who is president of the Orange County Association of Towns, Village and Cities, said in a press release from the Neuhaus campaign: “Steve and his team have worked day and night in turning Orange County around. Spending has decreased, our tax rate is lower, and thousands of jobs have been created. On behalf of the Supervisors and Mayors that have endorsed Steve, I’m happy to say that we have a partner in County Government working with our municipalities. Orange County is moving in the right direction and under Steve’s leadership. I know many more bright days are ahead of us.”

The four Democrats who endorsed Neuhaus were county legislator Curlie Dillard of Newburgh; Middletown Common Council President Miguel Rodrigues; Monroe Mayor Jim Purcell; and Woodbury Supervisor David Sutz.

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Davis: engineering firm’s donations cast doubts on sewer study

One side element in the answers Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus and Democratic challenger Pat Davis gave the Times Herald-Record last week about the future of the county’s sewer district was the campaign contributions given to Neuhaus by the engineering firm that is studying the issue.

As the Record noted in 2015 after the county hired Albany-based Delaware Engineering to do the study, the firm donated $4,000 to Neuhaus in 2012 and 2013, before he was elected county executive. Three other firms collaborating with Delaware on that study also had made campaign contributions to Neuhaus at various times. Since that contract was awarded, Delaware and one of its partners, Jon Brust, gave Neuhaus a combined $4,000 – the most that contract holders are allowed to give the county executive in a single term under the county’s 2013 Pay to Play Law – in two donations on July 10 of this year, according to finance reports filed with the state Board of Elections.

Asked last week about how the county should approach expanding treatment capacity in its sewer district in southeastern Orange, Davis said the first step would be to review how the county chose Delaware Engineering as its consultant to explore that issue.

“When Delaware Engineering has a very clear business stake in the outcome of decisions made by the County Executive, and there exists a pay-to-play relationship between Delaware and Neuhaus, we can’t be confident in the conclusions they draw in their study,”  Davis said in his written answers. “It makes an ethically gray situation even worse when the County Executive is not accountable to the residents footing the bill for the proposed solution.”

Neuhaus, responding to that statement, fired back: “Delaware Engineering has done work in thirty counties in New York State.  That speaks for itself. Ask my opponent who he would have hired and then see if they even applied.”

Chances are that company might have ponied up, too. Campaign donations from contractors are so rife in New York that an Orange County spokesman pointed out in 2015 – to dismiss the relevance of the money Delaware had given – that eight other engineering firms that bid for the sewer study contract also had contributed to Neuhaus’ campaign, without getting the contract.

Davis also took issue with Delaware Engineering’s suggestion in a draft report last year that the county free up capacity at its treatment plant in Harriman by piping some of its wastewater to the Village of Goshen’s plant. “I am committed to finding a long-term solution, whether or not that includes diversion of sewage to another plant,” Davis wrote. “A $22.7 million price tag for an interim solution, devised by a politically connected firm, and without any input or approval of the users footing the bill (or their elected representatives) raises a lot of serious questions that need to be answered.”

Neuhaus, in his answers, had supported diverting wastewater to Goshen as a prudent alternative to expanding the Harriman plant for the third time, an option that could  attract state and federal grants while making better use of Goshen’s “underutilized” plant.

“For those unfamiliar, by ‘flow diversion’ we mean directing some existing waste to Goshen from places which now go exclusively to Harriman,” Neuhaus wrote.  “That can be a potential solution because Goshen has the capacity and Harriman has historically not wanted a bigger wastewater plant.”

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Brabenec blasts NY’s “tax and spend problem”

Assemblyman Karl Brabenec pounced this week on the Tax Foundation’s latest ranking of tax levels in every state, calling New York’s ranking as second worst in the U.S. another confirmation of the state’s “tax and spend problem.”

“This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has lived in this state for more than a few years,” the Deerpark Republican said in a press release. “New York has a tax and spend problem far beyond the situation in other states, and to make that worse state leaders continually drive out businesses in favor for new companies run by the politically connected, who in turn receive tax-free amnesty for a decade.

Brabenec called the departure of companies like General Electric evidence that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s economic development efforts aren’t working. He touted two bills he said would be more helpful, one of which would give school districts the ability to ask the state to take over their property-tax levies.

“I talk to business owners all the time in my district who tell me it’s up to 18 percent cheaper to operate across the river in neighboring Pennsylvania than in New York, and that is a shameful reflection on our state’s leadership,” he said.

The Tax Foundation report ranked New York 49th in the U.S. in overall tax climate, with only New Jersey have a worse one. New York’s corporate taxes were relatively low, ranking 7th among states, but its individual, sales and property taxes were among the highest in the country.

 

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Brisee exits race for NY19 seat

Steven Brisee confirmed Friday that he has ended his campaign for New York’s 19th Congressional District, departing the crowded field of Democrats hoping to take on Republican Rep. John Faso in 2018 when he makes his first re-election run.

Brisee, a 27-year-old from Walden, had gotten an early jump on the race, registering as a candidate in December before Faso had even taken office. But he hadn’t raised any money, and he ran into some legal problems last month when he was arrested in two counties for allegedly shoplifting from a Kohl’s and crashing in an empty house without the owner’s permission.

Brisee said by email on Friday that that he was leaving the race for “a multitude of reasons not the least of which being the fact that my campaign is so poor, I’d be better off standing on a street corner in Kingston holding a sign reading ‘will represent districts best economic and social interests for food.’”

He said he will work now on “helping to make sure that whichever extraordinary democratic candidate wins the nomination, they ultimately go on to succeed next November against Congressman Faso.”

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Lujan endorsed by progressive group in run for OC Legislature

Kevindaryán Luján, who is seeking to represent the City of Newburgh and part of the Town of Newburgh in the Orange County Legislature, has been endorsed by Run for Something, a national organization set up to support progressive political candidates under 35.

Lujan, who last month bested Omari Shakur in a Democratic Party primary for the Legislature’s District 4 seat, was among a slate of 37 new candidates nationwide endorsed by Run for Something this week. The organization’s leadership is filled with veterans from campaigns by Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and other Democratic politicians.

“Run For Something is an incredible organization pushing for young people to run for office,” said Lujan, a 30-year-old community organizer and City of Newburgh resident. “I am honored to have their endorsement in my run for County Legislator.

Lujan will carry the Democratic and Working Families lines for next month’s general election. He will face Anthony Tarsio, part of the family that owns the Pat Tarsio Lanes bowling alley in the Town of Newburgh. Tarsio will carry the Conservative, Independence and Republican lines for the election.

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