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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Hein to host annual birthday fundraiser in July

Ulster County Executive Mike Hein has sent out invitations for his birthday party that also serves as a campaign fundraiser. Admission is $95 a person.

The invitations are out for Ulster County Executive Mike Hein’s annual birthday bash/campaign fundraiser next month.

Hein, a Democrat who turns 50 in July, has thrown the bash every year for at least the last three years as a way to celebrate his birthday and line the coffers of his campaign account.

Hein was first elected in 2008 when the county executive position was created via a charter change. He’s running for a third term this November and former Ulster County Legislator Terry Bernardo, a Republican, has said she plans to challenge him.

This year, while the fonts on the invitation have changed, the requests for donations have remained the same. The slate gray cardboard invitation says attendance, with hors d’oeuvres  and a cash bar, cost$95 per person.

There’s also a cost to signing his birthday card. A top “platinum” wish this year (signing a 10×8-sized centerfold card with 10 guests) will run you $5,000, the same as last year. A better deal if you can stand being regulated to the back side of the card would be signing the 5×8 back cover with 10 guests for the same price, $5,000.

The party’s on July 9 from 5-7 p.m. Wishes/contributions would go to Hein’s campaign war chest, that had $117,329.16 in January 2014 but has increased to $175,195.30 as of January 2015, according to the state Board of Elections.

The party is being held at the private Wiltwyck Golf Club at 404 Steward Lane in the Town of Ulster.



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Orange County municipal leaders back annexation bills

A group of Orange County municipal leaders passed a resolution this week supporting two state bills that Assemblyman James Skoufis drafted in response to the Kiryas Joel annexation controversy, both of which are pending in Albany as state lawmakers churn through heaps of legislation in the closing days of this year’s session.

James Skoufis

The bill that could affect the current annexation plans would enable county planning departments to render judgment on annexation petitions that require the county or annexing municipality to provide water or sewer service — as the proposal to shift 507 acres into Kiryas Joel from the Town of Monroe would do. If Orange County planners were to recommend rejection of that petition, Kiryas Joel and Monroe board members would need supermajority votes to approve it, or four votes instead of just three.

The other bill introduced last month by Skoufis, D-Woodbury, would allow state officials to consider a municipality’s history of compliance with environmental laws before settling disputes between two or more boards over which one will oversee the environmental review for an annexation effort. That bill would not affect the state’s selection of Kiryas Joel as lead agency for the 507-acre annexation petition.

Michael Sweeton

Warwick Supervisor Michael Sweeton, president of the Orange County Association of Towns, Villages and Cities, said Friday that all 22 mayors and supervisors who attended a special meeting at Wallkill Town Hall on Wednesday morning voted in favor of a resolution supporting both bills. The resolution declares that the association “fully supports” the two bills and “urges both houses of the New York State Legislature to pass same at their earliest convenience.”

Kiryas Joel leaders are working to defeat both bills and found support this week from the New York State Conference of Mayors and Municipal Officials, which wrote memos in opposition to the proposals on Monday. One memo argued that allowing county planners to review annexation plans would create “a significant and unnecessary impediment.”

The annexation process currently in place under New York State Law is already a conservative procedure, with numerous checks and balances in place to insure that the process is deliberative and that the interests of all the stakeholders are represented. Inserting county approval into this process would allow outside interests to impact proposed annexations.

Sweeton replied Friday that he didn’t understand why the organization would object to county planners reviewing major annexation proposals, just as they already do under state law for all sorts of building plans. Getting their input would still leave the decision in the hands of local boards, and at most would require those boards to secure one additional vote for approval, he pointed out.

“I think home rule is important, and anything that degrades it is detrimental,” Sweeton said. “I just don’t think those bills do that.”

Steve Neuhaus

County Executive Steve Neuhaus, who had already voiced support for the bill referring annexation plans to county planners, affirmed that position on Thursday with a press release responding to the resolution by the Association of Towns, Villages and Cities.

“I’m glad that the idea is being entertained in Albany,” he said. “It is common sense, given that the County is permitted to weigh in on anything as simple as, in some instances, the placement of residential swimming pools, that we should have significant oversight of something as large as a 500-acre annexation.”

Kiryas Joel Mayor Abe Wieder and village Administrator Gedalye Szegedin went to Albany on Tuesday to try, with the help of two lobbyists, to persuade members of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee to reject the referral bill. It wound up passing in a 22-9 vote, but now must clear the Rules Committee to reach the Assembly floor. The Senate version, sponsored by Sen. William Larkin Jr., R-Cornwall-on-Hudson, hasn’t been taken up yet. The legislative session ends June 17.

March 3 annexation hearing in Kiryas Joel

Kiryas Joel’s attorneys have written lengthy memos criticizing both annexation bills. Among other objections, they note that adding a planning department review could create a legal conflict in which both municipal boards approve an annexation request — a decision that is supposed to be “final and conclusive” under state law — and yet are then unable to muster a supermajority to override a recommended rejection.

“There is no way to reconcile these conflicts between the provisions,” wrote attorneys from Whiteman Osterman & Hanna.

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Terry Bernardo: I’m running for Ulster County executive

KINGSTON — Ulster County Executive Mike Hein has some competition.

Former Republican chairwoman of the Ulster County Legislature, Terry Bernardo, announced Wednesday she’s running for Ulster County Executive.

Bernardo, R-Accord, made the announcement at the Ulster County Republican Committee’s nominating convention Wednesday evening despite being snuffed for the unofficial nomination by the Republican committee.

Bernardo, 49, represented the Town of Rochester and part of Wawarsing for two two-year terms before she was defeated in 2013 by Democrat Lynn Archer.

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

At the convention Wednesday night, Ulster County Republican Committee Chair Roger Rascoe closed the nominations for Republican contenders for executive seat before Bernardo or anyone else had an opportunity to nominate Bernardo.

“We have a responsibility to go through a process and I have a responsibility as chairman and we have a responsibility as your executive committee on positions that are of countywide importance to go through a process,” Rascoe told the convention. “We still have a door open for that process. With one dissension our executive committee has agreed that tonight we will not entertain nominations and or place anyone in nomination for family court judge or for county executive.”

Rascoe then quickly accepted a motion to close the door on further nominations and adjourn the meeting.

Bernardo claimed she spoke with Rascoe Tuesday about her interest in running for county executive but that Bernardo’s husband, Independence Chairman Len Bernardo, told him she didn’t want to run and he didn’t want her to run.

Asked for comment David Laska, spokesman for the state GOP, said the nominating process was an internal county matter.

“It’s a county matter and we trust our county chair’s judgement,” Laska said.

Afterward the meeting was adjourned, Bernardo reiterated her plans to petition to get the Republican and the Women’s Equality Party line and run for county executive.  She then read from a prepared speech she brought to the convention.

In her speech Bernardo took aim at the loss of about 3,000 workers in Ulster County from 2007 to 2015. She also criticized  the closing of public school buildings and the planned consolidation of hospitals in the City of Kingston. She also lent support to the embattled Catskill Mountain Railroad’s desire to use the county’s rail easement up to the Ashokan Reservoir.

Hein, a Democrat, was unanimously nominated by the Ulster County Democratic Committee at their convention last week despite not making an official announcement.  Hein, 49, said he didn’t officially announce because he “wanted focus to remain on the work of the people.”

“I know once I announced that would begin an entire political process,” Hein said.

Asked last week about his platform, Hein pointed to his record, saying he’s efficiently delivered essential services and protected taxpayers in the process. He said he plans to lower taxes next year if elected.


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Noble bests Gallo in Dem nominating convention

Steve Noble, center right, sits with his wife Julie, left, and the City of Kingston Democratic nominating convention.

City of Kingston Mayor Shayne Gallo failed to get the support of the city’s Democratic committee last week, who instead nominated city parks employee Steve Noble.

Gallo lost to Noble, 32, in weighted voting, 1,045 to 1,365 at the city’s Democratic Committee’s nominating convention, held at the Best Western Plus in Kingston. The vote is unofficial and Gallo said he plans to primary Noble this September to get the Democratic line.

The mayor makes $75,000 a year.

Though Gallo sailed to victory in 2011 by more than 800 votes against Republican candidate Ron Polacco, he just barely won Democratic party support. He lost the Democratic nomination to then-Alderman Hayes Clement, forced a primary then edged out Clement in the Democratic primary by just seven votes.

Noble said his strategy to win the primary is to go out and meet voters, citing his experience as an environmental educator with the city as an advantage in getting his message across.

“I expect the current mayor will also participate in the petitioning process,” Noble said. “I’m really excited about going out there and actually meeting people. I think that’s what wins an election.”

Before the voting occurred, Gallo handed out an unsigned letter accusing the city’s Democratic committee chair, Joseph Donaldson, of packing the committee with people more friendly to Noble. He said he would ask the head of the state Democratic party to investigate city committee. And he took a shot at Noble and his supporters.

“What they want to do is go back to the good old days of cronyism and nepotism,” Gallo said.

Gallo pointed to his record in the last four years as him campaign platform and said he’ll be appealing to Kingston’s “lunch bucket” Democrats.

Also losing for the alderperson-at-large position was county Legislator Jeanette Provenzano to incumbent James Noble, 748-1,609.  James Noble, who was Gallo’s running mate in 2011, is Steve Noble’s uncle. The relationship between the two has since soured.

Provenzano, a Gallo ally, is planning on stepping down from the Legislature after 22 years and said she’ll primary Noble in September as well.

Kingston has a population of about 23,700. In 2011 about 6,500 people turned out for the mayoral election, with Gallo capturing about 3,400 votes on the Democratic, Independence and Working Families Party lines.

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.



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