Monday, February 11, 2019

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Democrat contenders for Ulster exec speak in Kingston

From left: Marc Rider, Patrice Strong, Patrick Ryan

KINGSTON – Three of the four declared Democratic candidates for Ulster County executive appeared Sunday afternoon at a public forum hosted by the Ulster County Democratic Committee, in a packed room at Kingston City Hall.

Marc Rider, a current deputy county executive, took turns speaking with Patrice Strong, and Patrick Ryan, who were both former candidates in the previous 2018 election. Jeff Moran, a former Woodstock town supervisor, did not appear.

A rushed and somewhat confusing special election process began last Friday, when Michael Hein officially stepped down from his position as county executive, to take a seat in New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s cabinet as acting commissioner of Temporary and Disability Assistance. The move was first announced on Jan. 4th.

Hein served in the county position since 2009, the first and only person to manage Ulster County since adoption of the new charter that same year. A special election must take place within 90 days, no later than May 21st. Confusion still persists over who sets the date, either the governor, or the county legislature.

The county Democratic Committee will choose one candidate at their annual nominating convention, to be held on February 20th. Republicans pick their choice on Feb. 23rd.

Adele Reiter, another deputy county executive, will runs the show as acting executive, beginning today, until the special election takes place, for the remainder of Hein’s term which ends December 31. A new four-year term is on the November general election ballot.

Rider, Strong and Ryan all agreed on basic issues, differing slightly on details about how certain problems should be addressed. Rider, for example, suggested demolishing the old county jail structure on Golden Hill, to make way for affordable housing. Strong suggested a county land bank modeled after the city-wide version. Ryan, citing statistics, proposed leveraging developers through zoning and other municipal incentive plans.

Other topics included taxes, jobs, constituent services, local transportation, diversity, environment, immigration, restorative justice, and PILOT programs.

Pat Strong suggested that tax incentives are not a primary draw for new business, but rather that labor pools are important. She suggested a stronger collaboration with the Industrial Development Agency and the executive’s office.

Pat Ryan countered that Payment in Lieu of Taxes programs were ineffective. “I don’t think they work too well,” he said, noting that new business starts for Ulster County were among the lowest nationwide since the 2008 recession.

Mark Rider said PILOTS are just one tool in the toolbox. “We need enforced clawbacks,” he added, suggesting that businesses that receive tax incentives should be forced to pay if promised jobs are not delivered.

Asked to disclose mistakes from their past, the three candidates revealed skeletons in their closets. Rider recalled blowing 0.08 at a traffic stop in 2006. “Later, the charges were dropped, it was a mistake I learned from, luckily before I went to law school,” he said.

Strong discussed her failure with the Kingston Improvement District, which she attributed to poor communication skills at the time. Her efforts later blossomed into the Made in Kingston art expo events, “that was the apple sauce we made out of tough apples,” she said.

Ryan gave two confessions, one about failing to be open and forthright about accusations made against him during his 2018 congressional campaign; also a faux pas while courting his wife, which he made up for on the second date.

After the event ended, an individual named Kai Humphrey of Napanoch introduced himself as a Republican candidate for county executive, saying he was more closely aligned with Democrats, but chose the GOP for their historic stance against slavery.


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