Thursday, July 22, 2010


Sometimes events happen on the national level that resemble what we do locally. President Obama will sign into law today the Improper Payment Elimination Act -- an effort designed to slim down wasteful government programs and curb fraud in federal spending. He said: "The fact is, Washington is a place where tax dollars are often treated like Monopoly money, bartered and traded, divvied up among lobbyists and special interests,"

Without any prior knowledge of what the House & Senate were doing on the issue of transparency and efficiency, the Ulster County Legislature voted in favor of a similar measure. Though with a slightly different focus.

The Government Efficiency Committee presented the full body this past Tuesday with Resolution 192, which asks that the departments within the government operations in Ulster County, provide a detailed review and explanation to the Legislature on what mandates they face, funded and non-funded, and how they work their limited funding and staff around those mandates.

In the new charter, the Legislature has the ability to delve into the workings of these departments only after the impending budget has been offered by the Executive. What the committee is looking for, is the ability to look at these mandatory spending priorities before the budget process begins. This would give us more time as freshmen to get a better understanding of what our limitations are.

In the City of Kingston, we went through a similar transition when our Comptroller, John Tuey, came onboard and walked the Council through the details in depth. He now does this annually. Many of the Legislators however, find we don't have that level of knowledge for department operations. Since the departments are ten times larger than those in Kingston, it makes sense to get the information right from the department head.

With a little investigation, it turns out that much of what we are asking for is presented in the level of detail we desire, to the Executive already and it's a matter of having copies made and repeating whatever presentation they've made to him, to the committee that oversees that department.

My friend Dave Donaldson claims that we, as guardians of the county purse strings, have always had the option of delving into the mandates. Others on the Legislature, say they just haven't acted on that right. What I, and the rest of the committee are looking for is information before the budget process starts. We didn't get that. In order for the resolution to pass, the language had to be watered down to reflect what was already limited in the Charter. That gives us the usual two months to investigate the annual status of the departments.

The Resolution passed along party lines with the exception of Gregorius, Zimet and myself voting in favor. At least we are guaranteed the information through resolution.


bd said...

GOOD JOB on the declination of that job fiasco -
Proud of your vote -

Mike Hein was wrong on this one & so many others -

You showed true leadership for your constituents & the entire County with this vote, Sir.

Anonymous said...

Knowledge is power, particularly in politics. The efforts by the current administration to keep the Legislature in the dark has led to the need for this resolution.

While I understand the arguments that the Legislature already has the ability to gather this information; in practice this has not worked with the current County Executive who has chosen an overly adversarial relationship with the Legislature, even when it was controlled by his own party.

This resolution allows the Legislature to receive information directly from department heads, hopefully before it is massaged by the administration. This allows the Legislature to be more effective in its practice as it exercises its fiscal responsibilities.

To those who complain that this is an unnecessary or redundant policy, I will simply point out that our laws are filled with policies that would not be necessary if parties only acted in good faith. Unfortunately, because many don't we have to take additional actions.

NPHFI Fan said...

sadly, tho,,,, you are ignoring a wonderful chance to publicize those wonderfully brave & patriotic Volunteer Firefighters from New Paltz - They were honored @ your Monthly Meeting for their amazing project - New Paltz Heroes for Israel -
Inspiring examples of Volunteerism taken to new heights.
This program deserves more support & publicity.

BRAVO to these American HEROES !

Anonymous said...

Will the Health Dept report include that Hein appointing his marketing man to a vacant position there be penalized by Federal and State agencies for cost shifting?