Thursday, September 30, 2010

Village Board candidate profile: Pete Healey

I was really excited when Pete Healey contacted me about being profiled as a Village Board candidate, because his previous year-long stint had a really interesting ending.  The second significant New Paltz write-in campaign in recent history led to Brian Kimbiz taking the seat by one vote, but Pete was quick to point out that he didn't actually lose.

The election that Pete Healey didn't win

As he explains it, the reports of the recount claim that four votes were identified as miscounted, but such was not actually the case.  Although he did not review the files until after his opportunity to appeal had passed, he discovered that one of those four votes was actually a disputed vote, rather than a miscounted one.  The Village's election inspectors ruled that a write-in vote for "Kazmin" couldn't be assigned to any of the three candidates in that race (the third being Patrick O'Donnell, who was elected, served as both trustee and Deputy Mayor, and then stepped down prematurely; this happens a lot in village politics).  During the recount, he explains, the county election commissioners overruled their decision, and gave that vote to Brian Kimbiz, in an action that Healey calls illegal.  Had they not done so, he and Kimbiz would have tied . . . or if Healey had cast a vote for himself, he would have been the victor.

He doesn't shy away from not voting for himself, nor is he apologetic.  "I may not vote for myself again, but I may spend more than five minutes and five dollars campaigning," he said, referencing a quote about his campaign efforts in that race.  His reason for his vote?  "It's an ego thing," he says, explaining that he feels that if he needs his single vote to get elected, that he probably just shouldn't serve.

His reason for not campaigning is more pragmatic:  when Kimbiz was removed from the ballot after many of his nominating petition signatures were successfully challenged, it appeared to be a two-person race for two seats.  He wasn't aware of the write-in effort that Kimbiz launched, and focused on other things.

The push for unification

Pete has been a voice for unification in New Paltz for years, and he's watching the process of the committee charged with studying the issue closely (I can't recall the exact name of it, these committee names all start to sound alike after a time).  They compiled results of a survey which, he tells me, indicate that 75% of respondents are in favor of fewer governments.  As for the 25 people who responded that they strongly disagreed with the idea of unification, "It will be good for them, too."

He views unification as an opportunity to create a government that's inclusive, and he wants the process to reflect that goal.  "We have to find a way to make sure we never have a secretive old fool or a bully in charge," he said, meaning that he wants to prevent a strong executive by including checks and balances on the position's power.  He's frustrated by the roadblocks he sees; particularly he wonders why the Town Council hasn't appointed a co-chair to the advisory panel, a task which they were expected to perform by August.  The working group had been promised the co-chair for the advisory group (if you're confused, join the club; I have to wonder if the structure is so complex for any good reason) last week, but it hadn't happened by the time I spoke with Pete last Saturday.

Pete favors the village form of government, because state law strictly proscribes how a town government functions.  Villages, he says, have the flexibility of a city without the rules.  He intends on lobbying aggressively to see the committee's work to completion, and he is looking to get a pro-unification board elected this May, when four seats in total will be up for grabs.  He believes that "some aspect of proportionality" should be incorporated into the new government, effectively breaking the Democratic stranglehold on New Paltz.

Time for a fire district?

Is a fire district the solution to our endless discussions about funding fire prevention?  Pete says not yet . . . he'd like the unification study to finish its work before that issue is brought to the voters.  "Give us six months," to sort out these questions, he says, and if a fire district turns out to be the best option, he'll be all for it.  He isn't bashful about accusing Toni Hokanson of manipulating the process, either, which is in keeping with Terry Dungan's letter in last week's paper, which accused her of causing the entire funding scrap by withholding the Town payments for fire services.  As he points out, the Town tried to force a vote on a fire district referendum during the alleged joint meeting held back in July.

He also questions the proposed structure, however.  Why not look into combining fire and rescue operations, he ponders.  Most surrounding towns have fire and rescue districts, and he thinks that if a district is pursued that a merger should be the first question to pose.

Because I asked . . .

Pete believes that building in wetlands should be strictly controlled.  Victorian Square, in particular, is a development that he believes never should have gotten out of the planning stages.

Pete is seeking other candidates with a pro-unification stance to run this March.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

New Paltz Central School District Seeks Community Input

from the NPCSD press release -

New Paltz Central School District Seeks Community Input:
District Issues Open Invitation to Join Comprehensive Facilities Planning Process

New Paltz … The New Paltz Central School District invites district residents, taxpayers, parents and business owners to take part in its Comprehensive Facilities Planning process. To learn more about the process, the public is invited to attend two open enrollment informational meetings this month:

· Thursday, September 23rd at 7:00 PM at New Paltz High School Auditorium

· Monday, September 27th at 7:00 PM at Lenape Elementary Cafeteria

The informational meetings, as well as the entire planning process, will be facilitated by the district’s architecture and engineering consultant, CSArch, of Newburgh, New York. Attendees will learn the goals of the Comprehensive Facilities Planning process, as well as how information, demographics, and ideas from numerous sources will be gathered, compiled, analyzed and shared with the public and the Board of Education.

As part of the process, eight stakeholder groups are currently being formed to represent every facet of the New Paltz Central School District community. Beginning in October, each group will meet up to three times. The forum will provide an opportunity for the public to learn in detail about the state of district facilities, fields and grounds, as well as voice ideas and concerns for the future of district properties.

“The District is creating the Stakeholder Groups to establish open lines of communication and receive clear opinions and ideas from the public,” said Maria Rice, Superintendent of New Paltz Central School District. “It is extremely important that this process is transparent and inclusive so that everyone’s voice is represented in decisions about the future of our school facilities.”

There will be an opportunity to sign-up for a specific Stakeholder Group at the informational meetings. Interested parties can also learn about the process and sign-up to be a part of the Stakeholder Group online at the district’s website at

Stakeholder groups will include:

· Business Community / Service Organizations (Rotary, Lions Club, etc)

· Parents (includes PTA/PTSA)

· Community at Large

· Senior Citizens

· SUNY New Paltz

· Facility Use Groups (including sports organizations)

· Non-profits (Libraries, Mohonk Preserve, Greenworks, Arts Community)

· Municipalities (7 towns within the district, Law Enforcement, Fire Departments, Highway Department)

Individuals who are associated with the school district, including instructional and non-instructional staff, students, the district’s leadership team, the Health Advisory Committee, the Diversity Committee and the Board Facilities Committee will have an opportunity to provide ideas and feedback directly to CSArch facilitators through Input Committees. These individuals, as well as Board of Education members, are not eligible to serve as part of Stakeholder Groups.

The facilities plan is being carried out as part of the district’s Comprehensive Educational Master Plan. It coincides with requirements by the New York State Education Department for every school district to complete a district-wide Building Conditions Survey. Expenses incurred to complete the planning process are largely reimbursable by New York State.

All meeting minutes and recommendations will be documented on a special section of the district’s website pages entitled “4 Our Schools,” set-up specifically for the Comprehensive Facilities Planning Process. Visit the district’s website at

More detailed information about the Comprehensive Facilities Planning process will be available at the Open Enrollment Information Meetings and on the website. Please call Paige Lewis at CSArch Architecture |Engineering |Construction Management at (845) 561-3179 with questions about the process.

also here

Friday, September 17, 2010

South Putt Corners Road - Update

In response to hearing about the positive change in the South Putt Corners road improvement and widening project status on the county priority list, my friend Laura said, "Incredible! Great news for many, and a jolt of restored faith in the public process."

I agree, it is GREAT to be able to tell this success story. Not only has the project been moved up the list, but the timeline is now shorter and the design work will start this year and the entire project will be completed by 2015 (in contrast to the previous 2018 in place before we even got knocked off the top of the list).

This is all a result of activism by New Paltz community members and reaction to it by local and county officials. Bill Weinstein, chair of the New Paltz Bicycle and Pedestrian Committee deserves tremendous credit for crafting and distributing the petition, and for getting all the important players to plead the case - as in the town and village boards and the school district. Thanks to Mike Hein and Dennis Doyle for listening, understanding, and responding.

As far as my own personal dilemma about letting my son walk from the village to the high school - after all my angst, discussion, and blogging about whether or not he should be allowed to walk, he was allowed to walk. On the first day of school he walked - 2 miles each way - on a lot less sleep than he was used to getting (and with a guitar lesson to walk to after school to make things fun.)

And then he decided, after ONE day, that he would prefer the bus and has taken it ever since.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pushing the push-up agenda

If you've ever had the opportunity to spend time with me in town, you probably know that one of the main reasons I walk around outside is to do push-ups.  I participate in a very unusual physical fitness program, and after explaining the details to Police Chief Joseph Snyder, I think it's time for the story to be told.

Personal Integrity, Growth, and Strength
The program is called Push-ups for Personal Integrity, Growth, and Strength, and its basic tenet is simple:  when a police officer passes you on the street, drop and do ten.  The police vehicle or officer serves as a visual cue that it's exercise time, making it easier to remember; in fact, officers and civilians alike enjoy pointing out a passing police vehicle to me so I don't miss out.

However, this program is filled with nuance and depth that makes it a more successful exercise regimen than I have ever tried before.  Let's dissect the name:

  • Push-ups:  Not everyone's favorite exercise, but it can be done just about anywhere.  I've known people to try crunches for cops and leg lifts for law enforcement officers, but push-ups seem to have sticking power.
  • Personal:  This program is completely adaptable to the individual.  I originally decided to do only five per officer on weekends because I figured I would not be able to keep up; five departments have jurisdiction in New Paltz and weekends in a college town are always high energy.  I've dropped that rule, though, and added a few more for myself, such as doing an extra two if the vehicle has its lights on or if the officer is wearing a hat.  (Right now I'm considering actually doing one less if they're wearing a baseball-style hat, because I think they're unprofessional looking).
  • Integrity:  If you start this program, you will be visible and accountable to continue.  However, no one can tell me what my criteria are but me, and it's my job to maintain my own integrity.  I've had officers tell me it's too hot to do push-ups, and others who tell me to do more; I maintain my own code regardless. The integrity portion of the program is the only thing that got me through my first four-cop push-up mini-marathon.
  • Growth:  An officer on foot patrol commented on how I noticed police cars on the street before he did; my perceptiveness is definitely sharpened. I've built rapport with several more members of the force.  My understanding of police work, appreciation of how they're perceived, and even my attitude about the Bill of Rights have grown and matured since I have been actively doing push-ups in this way.
  • Strength:  Physically, since April of this year I have gone from a guy who was shaking on push-up number seven to someone who often does more than a hundred a day.  Because I get a visual reminder to exercise, I'm more successful than I ever was with morning yoga, a daily jog, or any other program.
Different people, different views
Different people who follow the program have different reasons, which is another facet of the "personal" aspect.

The fact that it can be shortened to "Push-ups for PIGS" is funny to many (civilian and officer alike), while putting a positive spin to the word.  ("Cop" was considered negative by some until the 1970s, but is now neutral at worst.)  Chief Snyder loves the "personal integrity" aspect, saying, "We'd have a lot less crime in this country if more people had personal integrity."

Justin Holmes, who coined the acronym based on an acquaintance's phrase and helped popularize the program on lower Main Street, believes it sends a multi-layered message.  "If there is civil unrest, we're here to help.  If there is abuse by our government, we're here to resist," he explained to Chief Snyder and myself.  He and his partner Amanda Catherine Stauble started using the police as a visual cue after they registered for karate classes.  "We had to find a way to keep doing push-ups all week, or the ones in class would have killed us," Holmes recalls.

Not everyone sees the program in a favorable light.  I've had people tell me, "Police don't deserve push-ups."  I tell them the same thing I've told a number of officers:  it's not for them, it's for me.  When I do it it's a gesture of respect, but not one of deference.

There are also officers who aren't thrilled; I occasionally get a stony glare among the many smiles and waves I get from passing police (one University Police car gave me a short chirp of the siren the other night).  Most take it as good fun, and I hope that the small number who don't will warm to the idea once they learn more about it.

That being said, most people are very receptive.  I make friends with civilians and police officers alike by doing push-ups for personal integrity, growth, and strength.  Everyone is happy to point out that a bicycle officer just scooted by when my back was turned, or remind me if I owe an extra two for the hat he was wearing. A state trooper parked his car to get out and talk with a group of us one night, after driving around the block three times to see if we really would do a new set each time.  (Actually most of us wouldn't do more just because the officer went around the block, but it was fun so we made an exception.)  A Town officer I had never met before stopped to chat because he liked my form. It makes "community policing" a very real goal.

There's something very special about living in a town where you remember the police officer's first name.  Thanks to my push-ups, I know that New Paltz is that town.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

New Paltz District 7 Results

New Paltz District 7 Results: Democratic Committee Seat

Kitzman - 67
Torres - 33
Hokanson - 29
Honig - 61

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