Sunday, November 30, 2008


If you had noticed, many of the local papers have been speculating on the future of one of our US Representatives here in the upper Hudson Valley. Kirsten Gillibrand has been a media focus ever since Hillary was rumored to be picked as Secretary of State in the Obama cabinet.

Clinton’s departure leaves a tremendous void to be filled by someone just as dynamic. Could Kirsten achieve such a role?

Asked about speculation that she could be picked to succeed Clinton, Gillibrand replied: “That’s for the governor to decide.”

Indeed it is. I made this the base of a prior Blog Post with the focus on the joy of Clinton in the White House, but we really do have to consider, what does Gov. Dave think is the best option; something that helps the state and our economy? Or an appointment that better insures his re-election?

Gillibrand said she plans to advocate for investment in middle-class tax cuts, noting that property taxes are too high mostly due to unfunded mandates at the federal level as well as promote targeted tax credits for college tuition and early childhood education.

Quoted in the Freeman article: Kirsten will increase attention to infrastructure; roads, bridges, sewer and water systems, high-speed Internet access in rural areas and health-care information technology. She has also gotten health-care IT money for Columbia Memorial Hospital in Hudson because “mistakes are the biggest costs in health care.”

I have to point out, Gillibrand also said she would also like to see high-speed rail or light rail in the Hudson Valley. This sounds like she studied the DelaroseToSenate website. That was one of Larry’s babies.

Gillibrand has some well thought out views on alternative energy production and speaks openly against the super corporate bailouts that the Fed has been touting, so she may have enough spine after all.

If Dave were to appoint Kirsten to the Junior Senator seat, she may do New Yorkers just as much good as Chuck and Hillary have.

Keep your schedule open Kirsten.

Friday, November 28, 2008


Now that the election is several weeks in history, I have to ask…does this look like Hillary Clinton actually won? I am looking at the make-up of this new “cabinet of change” and I see some of the same, though brilliant, faces as if Bill never left office.
Granted Barack has to keep everyone on his page in the book of CHANGE, but I sit back and wonder what all the Obama supporters, who hated the Clinton legacy, are thinking now?

To really test their loyalty, Barack has asked Robert Gates to stay on as Defense Secretary.

Ok, so it’s temporary. I actually have no issue over it, but many of us Democratic loyalists shared office space with the Obama teams, listened to their anti-Hillary banter for months, only to see Obama’s Cabinet look like Hillary won. It does make me laugh a little as I have applauded every one of his appointments so far.

Lets see: Rahm Emanuel, Hillary Clinton, Bill Richardson, Tim Geithner, Eric Holder and now Gates. The list goes on! I keep waiting for Al Gore, Howard Dean and Tom Daschle to be mentioned.

Here is my assessment of the orchestrated primary deal. Democratic insiders knew that if Obama was denied the nomination and it went to Hillary, about 30% of the potential electorate would drop off and we would have John McCain for president.

As the plan went, Obama gets the Nomination and the party loyalists continue their support for the Democratic nominee. Obama wins, and all of the same choices fill the cabinet as if Hillary had won anyway.

We saw the evidence across the nation. The Obama/Biden ticket received 30% more votes than the remaining Democratic lines in every precinct. Where the Republican voters, although fewer, kept the vote count steady across their line.

How is it that so many Obama supporters didn’t know or care about the rest of the ticket once they got to the voting booth? It’s very frustrating.

This is why Obama was our nominee and this is why I wouldn’t count on Obama supporters in races to come. I suspect this was a one shot deal and they just wont be there when you need em.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Tuesday, November 25, 2008


It seems so long ago, that we were discussing the inevitable 15% increase in residential property taxes here in Kingston. That, coupled with the skewed Reval, would have sent our taxpayers to the streets with burning brooms and pitch forks. I wouldn’t blame them.
(Sue Cahill pictured right)

Reality is quite different. The Council, after repealing the tax burden shift from October, got the proposed increase down to 9% where, after weeks of blood letting, I believe we got the increase down to 3.8% for residential. Unreal!
(Joan from Registrar at left)

Monday night we had the department heads of the offices in City Hall take turns in the “Hot Seat” where we managed to squeeze another chunk out their budgets for 2009.
(Mike Cook from Corp Counsel)

With some fee increases here and spending cuts there, we trimmed enough to diminish the pain infliction scheduled for January. Remember, we eliminated jobs, trimmed some to part-time, and cut programs and capital improvements. No more special events, bands in the park, trips to the Garlic Festival or New Years Eve parties.
(Kathy Janeczek City Clerk)

Throw in about 280K stolen from the City’s Fund Balance, and presto…3.8% increase.
(Tawana Washington in Human Rights)

An added note: To get a better handle on the overtime issue, we are placing a heap of overtime from Police and Fire into the contingency account, so that if and when the funds are needs, we will have the opportunity to question the reason before giving any money.
(Ralph Swenson City Engineer pictured left)

In the days to come, the increase will flutter over and under that last figure, but people should know the heroic efforts made by these department managers in reigning in their budgets at the 11th hour.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Just like the City of Kingston and every town across the nation, New York State is in a financial mess. With the second highest taxes, (second only to California) New Yorkers pay the most taxes per capita in the northeast.

Having stated that, I had the displeasure of seeing our state leadership as a panel on PBS13 over the weekend. Gov Paterson seated in the middle, with Dean Skelos on one side and both Silver and Tedesco on the other. Malcolm Smith was a no-show. It’s just as well.

As the program went on, I realized these guys have no intention of taking any big steps to cut spending and decrease pork. So I have to ask, does Governor Dave have a plan B? He has asked the NY representatives to come back to Albany on several occasions and had little success in cutting spending.

I know from experience here on the Council level what we can and can’t alter regarding minimum operating funds, state regs and contractual agreements, but NY is a big state, and heavy with bureaucracy. Surely there is fat hiding somewhere.

Paterson offered a slashed version of the budget with funding cuts to Schools and Medicaid, while increasing tuition costs at SUNY and CUNY. With that kind of threat, you’d think the obstinacy of the Legislature would diminish. Not a chance. Skelos and Silver are fine with Paterson taking the heat, so long as no-one touches their line-item pork.
[Hey, why don’t the Aldermen get pork?]

The last tool Paterson could use is the power to order our reps back to Albany weekly. Doing this during the holiday season would actually be fun to watch. He could also lay off a chunk of the state workforce. Let the pink slips hit the mailboxes right around Christmas. With State Senators like our own Bill Larkin, spending over 1.2 Million in office expenses in the last 18 months, even he might turn off some lights at night.

And where was Smith during this Faux Leadership meeting? Was he too busy with his new economic team for 2009, or did he know this was just theatrics for the sleeping legislature?

Now I’m off to a City Budget meeting. I’ve got my scissors.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


The bodybuilder is David Prowse who played Darth Vader in Star Wars.


Months ago, if you remember, I posted an article about the Inner Creek Showdown that involved Rob Iannucci and Michael Bernholtz, two adjacent property owners with an immediate interest in the land use on either sides of the channel.

Well, it seems, with a little coaching by Alderman Senor, we have a verbal agreement on a portion of the navigation rights.

KUDOs to Robert for bringing the parties together and ushering a resolution to this standoff. The Laws & Rules committee, Chaired by Tom Hoffay, quickly moved to act on what we should have done the first time these parties came to us. This is what a governing body does.

Although, neither Iannucci and Bernholtz were present for the meeting, we took Bob at his word and provided a closure to an issue that delayed the final offering of final plans by Iannucci.
With so much of his investment and time spent by city officials, everyone is eager to get an overview of the Waterfront plans he has in mind. This is the last hurdle.

Mr. Iannucci, it’s time to work up your designs and show us what you have in mind.

On a funny note, Alderman Landi asked how are we going to enforce these new regulations in the channel, I offered that there is enough money in contingency to buy a dingy and a CB radio incase he would like the job.
He just smiled.

Friday, November 21, 2008


So the Obama transition team is working overtime to review the backgrounds of dozens of possible applicants to work in the new administration.
Some of the likely picks have been in DC working for several prior administrations at important spots for decades.

One such pick…Timothy Geithner, he is currently the president of the New York Federal Reserve. Obama wants him as his Treasury Secretary to confront the economic turmoil we’ve been saddled with. The stock market soared on the news.

So what of Secretary of State? Well, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has decided to give up her Senate post and accept the position. With the final arrangements to me made and the announcement slated for early this coming week, how do you think this affects the political structure here in New York?

Get ready for mayhem! This is going to be fun.

First, the Senate appointment: Will it be Andrew Cuomo, Tom Suozzi or someone we haven’t thought of yet? Could it be a local name? Oh the anticipation.

If the Governor picks Cuomo, who would become Attorney General? Would Paterson pull someone from the State Senate? The Assembly? The next few weeks here in the Empire State are going to be fun to watch.

At this point I would like to say Hallelujah! I am thrilled to have Hillary as Obama’s Secretary of State. With Timothy Geithner, a former Treasury Department deputy taking over the chief position and Eric Holder running the Justice Dept. we already see what has evolved into the dream team after all.

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Once again, the Aldermen get to grill a few department heads for the purpose of cutting taxes.

We had several successful meetings with prior departments, but Tuesday night was the hot seat for the Recreation Dept.

Unfortunately, this is where you’ll come to grips with the fact that they maintain 13 parks and run dozens of senior and youth programs with 10% of the amount of money as the next higher department. It’s pretty sad really.

As we chipped away at the personnel and some of the programs we still don’t know if we will restore Parks Director position that the Mayor had cut from the revised budget, If that position was restored, it would render an increase of $8,000 in the Rec. Budget. What will become of the eliminated Rec. Director? It doesn’t look good. We won’t know until we see the additional cuts that Director Gilfeather plans to offer the Council. The part time environmental educator might have to fill the void in programs this year.

Budget cuts have affected the year round youth programs and diminished the summer programs by several weeks. All of the capital projects have been put off until next year and the suggestion of closing a building and/or smaller park even came up.

Although we asked for cuts, it was noted that with a fraction of the operating funds compared to Police and Fire, we were asking for a much larger percentage in the level of requested cutting. Don’t be surprised if we approach the Fire and Police Departments one more time.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The buzz in the national political world is about the future US Attorney General. Obama is rumored to have picked Eric Holder, a former DC Judge, and Deputy AG under Janet Reno, he is rumored to have accepted the offer.

Holder, 57, whose appointment is subject to confirmation by the Senate, was co-chairman along with Caroline Kennedy of the vice-presidential selection process which gave us Joe Biden as VP.

I think it’s evident that we are going to see a lot of very experienced political operatives filling the positions within the Obama Cabinet and key Capital Hill leadership rolls. If we are going to get out of the economic and judicial mess that Obama will be given on Jan 20th, we need people who know Washington in these positions.

Like Obama himself, Holder gets the title of the first black man to hold the chief prosecutor position for our great country. Born and raised in the Bronx, he has made a lifelong career in the Justice Department. Both he and Pres Elect Obama graduated from Columbia University. Holder would have to leave the firm Covington and Burling before entering the new office.

Considering the bad reputation the justice Department has gotten because of the actions of Ashcroft and Gonzales, the placement of Holder, the poster-child for integrity, is necessary and over due. I am once again impressed with the placement of these incredible talents by our new leader.

You know I’m watching the Secretary of State issue develop.


I don’t know how many people in our area got it, but our NY State Comptroller, Tom DiNapoli, released a special report a few days ago that warns that the current financial market crisis could impair the ability of local governments to finance short-term capital operations. It also describes higher debt service costs and is expected to delay planned projects.

So we, your local government officials, are recommended to review the City of Kingston’s cash flow needs and prepare for tightening market conditions. Something we were all aware of already.

In addition, local governments are encouraged to develop contingency plans in case market conditions continue the downward slump, to ensure that revenue remains adequate and that an alternative source of repayment is available to finance notes that cannot be rolled over.

I would like to know what a contingency plan looks like in the face of this economic crisis. At this point in the process, we are looking at a 7% increase in residential property taxes for 2009. Even with the tax shift process repealed, this increase will be a bitter pill for Kingstonians.

I’m curious to see where all this will take us this and just how far the “dollar” will plummet before we see the plans we laid, come to fruition and help cities like Kingston better prepare for economic meltdown, like we experience today. For a copy of the report, visit:

Monday, November 17, 2008


Ok, get this, I’ve been reading for a while now, that our famed Mayor of America, Rudy Giuliani wants to run for Governor here in New York.

Somebody pinch-me. Did anyone bother to review the tally of the votes for President here in New York? Obama clocked McCain in a big way. And face it, the man couldn’t even capture the republican Primary here and he wants to run for Governor?

Mind you, he had to go to Dubai to make this announcement. Like there weren’t enough reporters here in the Empire State still following him around? Or perhaps not.

He said “"If you had told me a year ago we would have a major economic crisis, I would've told you it would be very hard for any Republican to win,"

Gov. David Paterson fully plans on running for his first full term and said so last month.

I found one article on the AP where “Benito” Giuliani, as he was known in NYC, was asked if he would serve in the Obama Administration, in his usual slippery way, he managed to sidestep the question and moved on to something completely different.

Poor Rudy. He actually followed the question with "You never answer questions like that hypothetically, Very few people ever turn the president down, but that's an unrealistic situation."

From what I gather, our esteemed former NYC Mayor, and criminal prosecutor, was destined to be McCain’s number one choice for US Attorney General; had he won.

McCain will go back to the Senate just as Kerry did after his failed attempt four years ago. What will Rudy do? Join the peace corps?

Note to Rudy: don’t bother filling out those petitions.

Friday, November 14, 2008



Earlier this week, our former Alderman from the first ward was featured in the Times Herald Record.

Shelly Zimbler has written an historic account about the survivors of a once forgotten battle, capture and torture of a large group of American POWs in Japanese Prison Camps.

In UNDAUNTED VALOR, Shelly describes in great detail how he came to write the book and the long arduous task of finding the dwindling number of survivors from the Bataan Death March and the Battle of Corregidor. His research took him to Beijing and Shenyang where he discovered the remains of the prison camps being turned into a museum with the help of the Truth Council.

Shortly after setting on his mission to research these events he found that our military would rather forget the Battle of Corregidor ever happened. Considered military failures, these men had been ordered to surrender by their superiors, and though many did survive the 90 mile Death March, their stories had been untold, until now.

Zimbler was quoted “Imagine if the firefighters and police and office workers who shouldered the burdens of Sept. 11 had been intentionally ignored by Americans, their sacrifices and heroism buried in some dusty filing cabinet in an attic room in the Pentagon. Ironically, that’s what our military did in the case of Mukden”

The book gives a fresh insight to some of the sensationalized battles that most of us have heard of or studied.
Like Pearl Harbor [pictured left]
Shelly, although he didn’t serve in WWII, should be the “go to” guy for anyone wants a no-nonsense account of American Military History.

With about 30 pages read, and having skimmed through enough to bring this posting to you, I can safely say, buy this book and you will be drawn in. The personal stories from the men who made it through one of the darkest episodes in our wartime history, will take you on their personal journey and we have Shelly Zimbler to thank.

To contact Shelly, just email him at: and get your copy today.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Phil Cosme has been banned from the Channel 23 studio for life. Where ever they may operate in the future.

With the list of offences that he has waged on KPA Commissioners and Program Producers over the years, it seems the Commission finally gave him enough rope.

This Thursday night meeting of KAPAC was the final blow to any of Phil’s chances of weaseling back into his coveted Wednesday evening slot. Consider the door closed.

The verbal interaction between Cosme and one of the Commissioners was enough to warrant his removal from City Hall after the police came and kindly asked him to go. No, this one time I did not have my camera…can you believe it?

I’m sure every other producer who has ever had an altercation with Phil at the studio will find this to be a wise decision by KAPAC.

To add to this amazing news, we now have a movement on the council to consider the addition of a line item expenditure of $7,400 against the Cable Franchise revenue we collect from Time Warner.

The City of Kingston has always been the dominant monster in both subscriber numbers and the level of revenue from TWC, so it’s only right that we finally step up and satisfy our ratio of the needed funds to operate the studio.

I am so impressed with the KPA Commission and hope that the obstacle that has caused so much PR damage is finally put to rest.


Well, last month, the City of Kingston residents were ready to crucify the Council members who voted to shift 2% of the total tax burden from Commercial to residential. Myself being one of them.

Under normal circumstances, the shift makes sense and will be studied during the FY2009 operating cycle. However, timing is everything.

The economy, diminished housing starts, evaporating sales tax revenue and a City wide Re-Val that shook the foundation of every home in Kingston, has pushed me and my colleagues to reconsider the shift for 2009.

Guess who’s mad now? That’s right…Commercial property owners. They thought the tide had turned and the lawmakers in this backwards little town were going to steer Kingston away from the proverbial iceberg. Maybe next year.

What we did was revert back to where the tax rate was last year with some minor modifications. Which give the council the starting base increase of 8% to work with as we chew on the 2009 budget.

This should come as a pleasant surprise to many, but it was a difficult vote to cast. The burden on commercial properties has been beating down the owners and sending business else-ware for decades.

We will have to address this issue for the 2010 budget. I hope everyone is ready for it. For one thing, I’m expecting an increase in Sales tax and an increase in Building permits within the city, so we will have this conversation next year, even with the election cycle looming over us. It’s just that we need a year to prepare you, the residential taxpayer, for what should have been easy for the Mayor. But no-one said he had the best communication skills.

So revel in your triumphant lobby efforts as we postpone the inevitable.

Monday, November 10, 2008


Greetings Blog surfers. I took this right from the NYCOM Email that went out this week. It doesnt need much explaining:

The New York State Conference of Mayors (NYCOM) has launched a new Web site,, which focuses on the dangers of shifting state taxes and costs onto local governments and property taxpayers. is designed to educate policymakers, the media, and New York's real property taxpayers about (1) the important role state aid plays in keeping municipal property taxes in check and (2) the state mandates that drive property taxes up.

Throughout the upcoming legislative session, will be regularly updated to:
· Highlight the status of state aid to local governments -- aid that will directly impact the ability of local governments to provide essential services to the residents ofNew York and control the growth in property taxes;
· Offer a comprehensive list of
state mandates on local governments, and feature a particular Mandate of the Week to raise public awareness and hold state officials accountable for the local tax impact such mandates have;
· Discuss, in practical terms, how actions in Albany affect the average New Yorker on
Joe Taxpayer’s blog; and
· Provide a method for NYCOM members and the public to
contact their state officials to voice their opposition to inefficient state mandates and their support for state aid to local governments.

Please take a moment to visit, familiarize yourself with its important message, and let your elected state officials know that when New York State shifts its taxes and costs onto local governments, it is bad for property taxpayers and bad for New York.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


Great news on the Senate Leadership issue. New York senator-Elect Hiram Monserrate of Queens, decided to stay with the Democratic majority and thus end the speculation of which affiliation the Senate leadership would have.
Unless there is some kind of power struggle over the Majority Leader role, Malcolm Smith will assume the position.

Malcolm Smith said Thursday he will create a Latino caucus in his conference, addressing one concern of the so-called "Gang of Four" Democrats who threatened the party departure.

Sen. Pedro Espada Jr.from the Bronx, was set to meet with Skelos sometime before the 2009 session, but nothing is confirmed.

There is also the assumption that these four Senators were playing for the chance at a lucrative chairman positionS but in the midst of the political storm in Albany, Smith has made no promises.

Paterson has called the Legislature back to session Nov 18th to address the financial crisis we face this year. We all hope they work a little magic in those meetings because it has a significant affect on the Towns and Cities throughout the state.
Our very own Bill Larkin is one of the “Good Ol Boys” who are pushing the “Gang of Four” to defect the Democratic majority. With the Senate under control of the Democrats for the first time in 40 years, there is no longer a road block to the sound, fiscal proposals coming from the Assembly. Joe Bruno and company let thousands of quality legislation proposals die in committee simply for political reasons.

The other two defector suspects are Rubin Diaz of the Bronx and Carl Kruger of Brooklyn. Kruger got a Chairman position under Bruno in return for favorable votes.

Espada primaried and won against Gonzales, who was supported by Smith. So there is a history here that those of us upstate might not know about. But it’s important to the Hudson Valley, because we are in the “No Job Zone” and the health of the valley depends on the leadership in Albany.

To counter Larkin’s smug attempt to shift the power, his former rival Larry Delarose said: “I just heard a newscast today that said State Senate is thinking of attempting to pass legislation for marriage equality in NYS. However, Bill and his conservative buddies in the Senate are looking to stop that by any means. The four Democrats known as the “Gang of Four” are tempted to jump caucus for this reason. Isn't it about time the LGBT community in the 39th Senate district stop grinding their teeth and step up to the plate and publicly call out those who oppose the move?”

I would have to agree with Delarose on this issue. There are a number of progressive issues that the "Brown Shirts" have blocked for decades. Watching this play out publicly by people we elect is disturbing. Lets hope the leadership change brings the policy change we asked for.
Question is, will Delarose run for Senate in two years and will the Democrats actually support him? That depends on if the Democrats finally get tired of the ugly politics of the "Good Ol Boys" who are now in the minority.


I was happy to see so many neighbors going out of their way to wave and smile at me as I drove to the local Stewarts for the Sunday Freeman and dog food. I was thinking, Hmm what’s going on?

So there it is, Paul Kirby’s story about the possibility of the Council rescinding the Tax Burden Shift back to where it started. I didn’t know when it would finally get out there, but we had been discussing this for over a week, deciding who would offer it on the floor of the chamber.

When the Mayor first alerted us that the Assessor Mary Ann Bahruth, had not submitted the final paperwork to the state, I immediately said “Gang, why don’t we rescind Resolution 170?” Bill Reynolds said “YES!” lets have AMD motion it on the floor”

So after several public encounters and emails galore, I offer my support to rescind Resolution 170, with the stipulation that we discuss it and implement the 10% shift for the 2010 budget when the economy bounces back. [we hope]

What I find interesting is the choice of words Paul uses when describing the shift. His quote in the paper: [DiBella said she will make a motion at Wednesday's Common Council meeting to rescind the approved shift and return the lion's share of the tax burden to commercial properties.] Paul injects the term LION’S SHARE in the paraphrased opinion. We merely moved the rate between the commercial and residential a few percentage points from just above 50% to just below. But I guess I’m guilty of this kind of embellishment on occasion here on the Blog so I should give him a pass.
Tom Hoffay is not in favor of the reverse action we are considering and Senor, who participated with the process from start to finish, offered the 10% shift in the first place pointing out, this is the basis of Rich Cahill’s whole election platform, shifting the tax burden 10% at a time to protect the homeowners. Then, he votes NO.

[go figure]

From the Freeman: Hoffay, whose ward includes the city's Uptown business district, said repealing the tax shift "would send a terrible message to our commercial property owners."

We were under the impression for months that the shift could not be rescinded once it was approved. We had no idea that the process was not completed yet.

The Mayor said: "This decision to fix our tax-collection system was not an easy one, and if it is put off, things will only get worse for homestead (residential) and non-homestead (commercial)" properties.

With the “Shift” out of the equation, residential property taxes start at an 8% increase before we cut anything.

*Transfer the City Bus to the County system UCAT with the stipulation that they keep all employees and amenities for the current users and routes.

*Evaluate the need for Kingston to have its own Human Rights office in City Hall. The County has a county wide office that handles some of our case already. We would insist on the placement of our personnel within that county office.

*Review all employee pay rates that reflect those who are working outside of their title to return to the status they were prior to the upgrade. Such grade shifts should be permitted by Council only.

*Rather than upgrade “part time” employees to “full time”, we should evaluate their positions and possibly eliminate them.

*Health Insurance costs and the carriers we deal with must be renegotiated. The Empire Plan is too expensive and the Unions need to come back to the table to discuss other options to reduce costs for the employees and the taxpayers.

*Move Insurance policies in Dual Municipal employee households from “Family Plan” to two “Single” plans. The “Single” plans are 5K+ and “Family” plans are 20K+. Why continue this ridiculous practice?

*Shift 200K from the “Fund Balance” to bring down the tax increase an additional 1.5%.

These are just some of the proposals we have been considering in committee. The Department heads will be filing in with detailed minimum requirements to run their operations. I expect no-one will leave those meetings happy.