Friday, November 18, 2011


This gadfly is taking a hiatus from public commentary and participation.  New Paltz has always been able to carry on without me, and right now I need to carry on without New Paltz.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

No election results

Election results are among the most popular posts here, so I'm very sorry they were not posted.  You can find all results here.  I was busy, and so was my co-blogger.

Friday, November 4, 2011

TPW endorses: Ulster Countywide races

There are only two countywide races, and only one is contested.  Nevertheless, I've thought long and hard about who to vote for.

County Executive

Mike Hein is running for his first full term (the transition to the charter form of government gave him three years to start), and he has no opponents.  Considering the amount of money he's spending on billboards, though, I have to ask a simple question:
What office is Mike Hein running for?
If you feel the need to throw up a few lawn signs just to let people know there's an election, fine.  It seems paranoid to me, but I'm not a politician, so what do I know?

But Hein is spending money on this unopposed race, which tells me that he has set his eyes on an office that he is not running for.  Hinchey's Congressional seat, perhaps?

I take a dim view of people leaving an office they were elected to in order to do something else.  It doesn't matter if that something else is political or not, and it doesn't matter if you are leaving a day early or several years in advance.  I think it is a fundamental violation of the trust placed in you by the voters.

Obviously it doesn't matter who votes for Hein, but I want to be very clear that if he even sneezes at a higher office I will forevermore consider him just another scumbag politician.  I hope not, because I find him to be approachable and engaging.  Time will tell.

District Attorney

This has been a difficult decision for me.  It's a simple job:  prosecute crime.  Seems like the simply defined jobs are the toughest ones to evaluate candidates for.

I've gotten a lot of pressure to support each candidate in this race.  The political pressure I expected, and a good amount of emotional blackmail from supporters in one camp.  That's made me hesitate all the more, because if I feel manipulated I need to take a step back and make a decision for the right reasons.

So what factors are there to consider?  Both Sennett and Carnright have long track records as attorneys.  Each has worked extensively both prosecuting and defending the accused.  That's pretty much the minimum I would expect for anyone running for the DA position.

Carnright is proud of his conviction rate, but it's not a figure that impresses me.  The bulk of criminal defendants can't afford a private attorney, and public defenders often only look at case files when they're in the courtroom.  Even when the defendant is represented, a plea bargain counts towards the conviction rate.  A high conviction rate is to be expected in our present system.

The incumbent is big on "going after" gangs, and I appreciate aggressive prosecution of violent offenders.  His challenger says he wants to focus on crimes against youth and the elderly, which is another way to say the same thing:  I will be tough on crime.  Again, I expect nothing less.  To be fair, the police are the ones who "go after" the bad guys; the DA's critical job is to make sure that they go to jail, hence the loudly-touted conviction rate.

While the current officeholder talks about himself, so does his opponent.  Lots of attacks have come out about Carnright's being soft on public corruption and unable to distance himself when he needs to.  Should he have recused himself in the Tim Matthews case?  I think so.  Was it wrong for him to keep money in an "off books" account when the law specifically lets him?  I don't think so.  Do constant attacks say more about the attacker anyway?  I tend to believe that.

When a candidate is nothing but an empty suit, someone whose main claim to fame is "I'm not the other guy," it's always tough for me to support him.  I never voted for Rick Lazio, and it was only my intense hatred of George W. Bush that got me to hold my nose and vote for John Kerry.  This challenger has been aggressive enough that it's commented on by pundits, but I won't say that he is without substance.  The posturing makes me think he doesn't choose his campaign staff with the greatest of care, though, because he ran a better campaign when he talked entirely about his vision for the office.

Neither man would tell me that he would be willing to use his discretion as a DA to avoid prosecuting crimes that are immoral in his eyes.  If either had I would have wanted to know more about those morals, but frankly I wish I could vote for someone with that sort of character.  We've had many DAs prosecute because they found an action personally offensive, like marrying same-sex couples, so it would be nice to see the opposite for a change.

I've seen accusations that our fedora-wearing candidate was in The Bronx DA's office, he "went after" cops.  This really goes to the heart of the matter.  Do we want a DA who won't prosecute police?  I sure don't.  I think police protection is a delicate balance, because you want violent and dangerous people off the streets, but you still want to preserve freedom for the rest of us.  Cops are not a protected class, nor are they a convenient target.

Those accusations don't trouble me, but they do speak to the commitment against public corruption on all levels.  Either man will do a good job prosecuting violent criminals, swindlers and bad people of all stripes . . . except for those in government.  I have come to be convinced that the incumbent does soften the blow against police, public officials, and corruption from within, so I think we should give someone else a try.  I am supporting the challenger in this race for this reason.  I have come to like and respect both men, and I have been treated poorly by some of my so-called friends for struggling with this decision, which nearly caused me to change my mind.  I do not think either one is evil, and I am glad I don't have to do that job myself.  I've spent far more time thinking about this race than I should have, and I simply hope that my decision doesn't disappoint me as sorely as a vote I cast back in the spring has.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

TPW endorses: county legislature

No one seems to have a clear idea what goes on in county government, which is something I can only blame our current legislators for.  Now that we are switching to single-member districts, the new representatives will, I hope, start feeling like they are accountable to their constituents.

District 20

includes the village and those areas that you always thought should be part of the village:  I'm running in this district, so I won't spend a lot of time telling you why you should vote for TPW.  In fact, I said it best in the New Paltz Times, so go ahead and read it there.  It's time for a change, and I'm the change we need.  'Nuff said.

District 17

includes all the rest of New Paltz and a smidgen of Esopus.  We have three choices there:

  1. Les Kalmus, an Esopus resident who owned an IT business for many years.  Les has classic Republican values (don't spend what you don't have, privatizing always makes things better) and a low-key demeanor.  I don't expect Les to grab the spotlight for political gain.  Nobody hates him.  He's doing this to try to make a difference.
  2. Steve Greenfield, New Paltz resident and former school board member.  Steve is an excellent researcher with an inflammatory style.  He came out firing both barrels against Susan Zimet before she left this race, and then took her WFP line when she did.  I've crossed swords with Steve, even on issues where we agree.  Steve is a polarizing force who always backs up his positions with facts.
  3. Ken Wishnick, the replacement for Zimet on the Democratic line.  Ken has a lot of experience with planning and administration which could be put to good use on the county level.  He also has expressed questionable judgment in the past; when he was on the Town Council he helped write the job description for Town Planner, and then resigned to apply for the job he created.
I can't support Ken for the same reason I can't support Jean Gallucci - he doesn't see a problem with how he handled that issue, and I fear that other morally grey matters will trouble him in the future.  Despite the fact that when we disagree it's explosive, I like Steve and his ideas; I just wish that "explosive" wasn't such a common part of his equation.  I know that I won't agree with Les on some issues, such as whether we really know enough to decide Golden Hill's fate, but I can tell that he is someone who can work in a diverse group without it getting personal.

I believe that both Steve and Les will work hard, and that I could work with either of them, so for a tie-breaker I look to the town itself.  We have seen how bad things get when our supervisor and mayor hate each other; do we want legislators that can work with our community?  I do, and I am really not sure if Susan Zimet dislikes Steve Greenfield or Hector Rodriguez more - the evidence of disharmony with both men runs rampant through the news and letters pages.  With collaboration as the tiebreaker, I am recommending a vote for Les Kalmus in District 17.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

TPW endorses: town races

I have a pretty harsh view on voting these days - if you don't know anything about the candidates, I don't think you have any business voting.  I've gone so far as to suggest we run pure write-in elections to force people to pay attention, or stay home.  It's as much about beating myself up for ignorant voting as anybody else . . . I mean, how many people do you know who have a clear idea who they want as a Surrogate's Court judge?  Why have I ever found it okay to cast an uninformed vote?

A lot of people vote anyway, either by party line, or based on incumbency ("throw the bums out" or "I know that name").  Voting is important, but finding the time to be informed is not easy.  To that end, I continue to share my personal endorsements.  I hope that by sharing my reasons for supporting one or another candidate, it will help others cast more thoughtful votes.

Today, the New Paltz town races.

Supervisor and highway superintendent

These are easy:  we're down to one candidate each, so it's just a question of which line you want to vote on.  No endorsements necessary.

Town justice

I am not voting in this race.  There is only one candidate, and I think we can do better.  A decade into the 21st century we have a court staff that doesn't know how to use email (a problem they resolved by taking the email addresses off of the town's court site), and yet Justice Bacon is lobbying to raise their pay.  He doesn't know how to run an office, his courtroom is always loud and disorganized, and he doesn't appear to know criminal law.  I wish we had a better choice, but he's not getting my vote.

Town council

Four candidates are running for two seats this year, making this a big deal.
  • Kevin Barry is best known for his opposition to the Middle School project and the town's wetlands law.  He is passionate about property rights and controlling taxation, neither of which I have a problem with.  However, he has to learn to rein those passions in a bit.  He can be downright aggressive when he's talking to people who disagree with him, and he has shown a lack of decorum at public meetings, blurting out comments at inappropriate times.  I have been told by people I trust that they've felt physically threatened and nearly come to blows with him at times.
  • Jean Gallucci spent many years working for the town and village, and then served on the village board.  Her financial acumen is above and beyond that of anyone on or running for the town council.  Her judgment concerns me . . . she got her husband a job with the village as the parking meter guy while on the village board, and doesn't see a conflict of interest there.  She also has a poor attendance record as an elected official.
  • Randall Leverette gets flack as being "anti-police" because of how demanding he is for information as a police commissioner.  I know this is not the case - like me, he likes the idea of being safe from crime.  Also like me, he doesn't believe that this means just writing a blank check to the department; if you can't measure it, you can't manage it.  It's the same kind of common-sense approach that has been used in the highway department.  No matter how much we love or hate a particular governmental service, the only way to fairly evaluate it is with hard data.  There is nothing wrong with expecting more data from our police, firefighters, clerk, assessor, or any other department.
  • Ray Lunati is best known for his vocal opposition to laws restricting development on the flood plain.  I was on the planning board, and I disagree with him.  Notwithstanding the environmental concerns, every inch of asphalt and building we add to our town makes the flood plain more likely to flood, which imperils people on that side of the river.  Ray has shown that he is extremely focused on that issue, nearly to the exclusion of all else.
My vote is for Leverette alone.  I think Barry will let his passion get the best of him, Gallucci has questionable judgment, and Lunati is simply too focused on one narrow aspect of town governance.