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.


Michael Zierler said...

I am delighted to see that Pete is considering a run for the Village Board. It was a pleasure to work with him. He is committed, diligent, thoughtful, and respectful of other opinions. His commitment to getting things done and done well are laudable.

Steve Greenfield said...

Terence -- I can't tell if you're interviewing printing responses to questions with no follow-ups or clarification. Journalism is as debased these days as politics -- nobody knows how to do it anymore, even when they really want to.

For example: "'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." Is the second half your paraphrasing of his answer to your follow up question? Many of us who have been exposed to Pete's statements on Village politics would take this quote as something else completely -- it sounds a lot like things he's said before about two specific people. That would be the subject of a follow-up question, the answer to which need not be taken at face value given previously available information.

Another: how does he reconcile "the ego thing" about not voting for himself, and his preference to not serve if it comes down to one vote, and his responsibility to the half of the voters who wanted him to serve? Does he just say to them, "sorry, you should have gotten two more friends to vote, even though I didn't ask for that going into election day, so I'm going to let the college kid govern you," and still present himself as both interested and fit to govern? If his ego comes before the voters' preference, how does that translate for the work he may (or may not) do on the board?

(Part two below. I'm under 4,096 characters, but it's still not going through)

Steve Greenfield said...

(continued from previous post)

Third: fire district. Pete is focused entirely on political components of a district (or prevention of one) and never describes a moment of research or offers a word about actual tangible delivery of fire and rescue protection -- which, alpha and omega, is what the taxpayers think they're buying, and what public officials are legally responsible to provide. So Village Board members need to say with confidence that they're certain they've contracted adequate coverage. He does not cite, nor do you ask about, any input from providers to support the potential for his preferred Village form of government to provide continuously sufficient fire protection for 21st century incidents to over 13,000 people in 5000 households, spread over 60 square miles incorporating a huge, active flood plain, a school system of 2400 minors, a population 6000 SUNY campus, 10 miles of NYS Thruway, bars that close at 4 AM, and substantial open space, farm, and park land. How can a responsible public official make such a decision without putting consideration of the actual provision of the protection into the equation? If Pete believes he has what's called "firematic" knowledge, can he explain it to potential voters? Can he find a single provider of firematic work, in or out of New Paltz, who does not support the district governance model and has given him firematic reasons for that?

These are just three categories of follow-up questions. There are others. Obviously in this forum Pete can respond for himself -- as I'm sure he will in his inimitable style (he'll mention something about the color orange, my run-on sentences, and some other claptrap having nothing to do with responding, etc.). That's not my point. I'm not talking to Pete -- I'm talking to you as the writer of this post. My point is we have a dearth of satisfactory news and information provision in this town, and if that shortfall is to be filled, it has to be filled with something more complete, rather than with a differently-shortfalled alternative.

Twitter is very bad for democracy. I suggest listening to interviews with government figures and candidates archived here: I have never heard her fail to say "that's talking points -- can you explain how it will work?" or, when necessary, "oh, come one now..." She has no perspective -- she just doesn't let incomplete information go out on her show, and the best part is (maybe this is a Canadian thing), the guests a) clearly expect it; b) don't refuse to be on her show just because they can't treat it like a free open mic; and c) politely answer her follow-ups.

kt tobin said...

I agree with Michael and wish he would run too.

Anonymous said...

I agree with KT, who agrees with Michael, who likes Pete!

Brittany Turner said...

i agree with steve, who agrees with... oh, wait, nobody ever agrees with steve.

George D. said...

I'm wondering,when Michael says Pete is respectful of others' opnionions, has Michael ever read Pete's comments on this blog? I will join Pete in not voting for him.

Anonymous said...

plain and simple-- if Healey doesn't have enough confidence in himself to cast a vote FOR himself, he doesn't belong in politics. Also, my brief encounter with him showed arrogance, an inability to pay attention to what was being said and outright rudeness. Maybe he acts nicer to the people in this blog who are supportive of him.

Denice J.

pete h. said...

There are several things I'd like to discuss more fully than was allowed in this interview, and I want to thank Terence for the mostly favorable way my views have been presented, but there is one thing...
The Village Board organized a Master Plan Review Task Force last summer (I applied but my request to serve was ignored, as was my request to serve on the Consolidation Study Committee) and they conducted the survey mentioned above. Question 15 asked village homeowners(since the survey was first sent out with water bills) if they agreed that New Paltz needs one instead of two municipal governments. And the survey said, 130 people agreed, 25 disagreed, and 42 had no opinion. Since the last attempt to dissolve the village failed by a 400-300 vote about 16 years ago, this change of attitude is breathtaking. Maybe it's too limited a sample, but I don't think so. I think times have changed and people are ready and willing to listen to options about unification. I intend to spend much of the next six months offering exactly that.

Robin said...

Seems to me that the water bills go to the property owners, while all residents would be able to vote in elections. Perhaps that accounts for the difference, and does not necessarily reflect a change of attitude...merely a change of sampling population.

pete h. said...

@Denice J., would you be more specific about our brief encounter? It could be that I owe you an aopology.
@Robin, it has been the property owners in the village who have been the most militant about not joining with the town in the past. That's why I believe these limited results have real significance.

bd said...

My Mother raised me not to say anything if you have nothing nice to say
since i have NOTHING nice to say about the person in question, i will refrain from commenting.
However, contrary to what was posted, by Ms Turner, I agree with Greenfield on THIS one,
VOTE NO on Pete Healey - on all levels & subjects.

We do not need more nastiness, ego-manaical points of view, personal wacko-agendas nor any of the other mishegoss PH brings to any & all discussions.
Watching him with the Brodsky/Constitutional Convention FARCE i re-saw him for what he is
a bully - with a nasty streak -
OK, so i disobeyed my Mother again,, oh well
Sue me,