County legislative clerk Randall Roth has the
job of reviewing the signatures to ensure they are certified
as registered voters in Ulster County. He has thirty days to
complete the task and declare the petitions valid, or otherwise.
“It will take quite a bit of time,” said Roth. “We’re
going to do a fair process, and that’s it.”
Once the petitions are accepted, said Josh KopIowitz, attorney
for the Democrats, “there is no plan to govern the election
his November, because the last pIan was declared unconstitutional
and the new plan can’t go into effect until, at earliest,
November 2003. So it is our opinion, the county must ask the
court to establish a plan for the 2003 election. I assume they
will ask the court to use the plan they just adopted, and we
will argue that it shouldn’t be used and will be pressing
for adopting a single member plan.”
Koplovitz said time is an issue, because the judge will need
time to craft a voting planto ensure the upcoming county legislative
election is fair.
Democrats have contended that a single-member district plan
would be the fairest way for county elections to proceed. At
a news conference January 31, Parete, Kingston Democrat Dave
Donaldson and Saugerties legislator Gary Bischoff said that
they had a legal single-member plan to present to Bradley for
his potential use.
Koplovitz said the results of the certification process must
be known by March 3. He said that within a month of that date,
if the county leadership is not in court requesting a judicial
guideline for the upcoming elections, then county Democrats
will have to take court action, to ensure viable electoral choices
At issue are the district lines by which county voters elect
and are represented by their legislators on the 33 member county
legislature . Every ten years, after the federal census, counties
are obligated to review their electoral status to ensure that
county government is run under the one-person-one-vote principle.
The Ulster County legislature has long been dominated by Republicans,
who currently hold a 24-9 majority despite the electorate being
one third Democratic, one-third Republican and one-third registered
voters who choose neither party.
When the Republican majority approved the newest decade’s
version of a multi-member district plan in 2001, county Democrats
went to state court to protest the outcome, claiming unconstitutionality
in that since some citizens would have,in effect, seven representatives
while others only have two.
State Supreme Court Justice Vincent Bradley, in rulings issued
in 2001 and 2002,agreed and declared that plan unconstitutional,
though the earlier ruling came too late to change it for the
2001 elections. But he ordered it to be fixed prior to the 2003
county legislative election.
It is that new nine-district plan, barely approved 17-15 by
county legislators late last year, that will be the subject
of the referendum, if the petitions are approved.
Koplovitz said a ruling by the state attorney general issued
in 1981 seems to suggest that only 2,900 voter signatures are
needed to put the issue to a referendum. But he said he expects
Republicans to fight acceptance of the petitions. “They
obviously don’t want to go to a referendum, they are going
to say it’s ten thousand voter signatures that we need,”
said Koplovitz, who added he is confident the petitions carry
enough valid signatures to force a referendum. He said unlike
petition signature drives to get candidates into a race, the
referendum petition has looser rules. “If you have the
legitimate signature, they are not going to throw this out based
on some little technicalities,” he said, adding he based
that opinion on “the tenor of the relevant courtdecisions.”
“Wemade a real effort to check the list of registered
voters,” said Koplovitz.“ Not that we’re guaranteeing
every person on the petitions is a registered voter, but we
did a responsible job. And there is such a cushion there, when
they are done with the process they will see there are enough
After Roth makes his declaration, whether positive or negative,
either side has five days to challenge his decision. If he rules
the petitions have the requisite number of signatures, the matter
will be slated for the November ballot.
Peter Savago, the chairman of the county Republican party, did
not return a call seeking comment on the matter.
911 Nearly Done
Based on the photographs, detailed maps were digitized and
then broken down into sections. Because the new maps were filled
in with information from old maps the county had on file, Planz
explained, there are incorrectly labeled roads, roads without
names, and houses with wrong or missing numbers. It did not
help, Planz added, that most
residents failed to respond to a MSAG survey asking homeowners
to indicate what they thought was their correct and current
home address. The results of the survey, which was left hanging
on the doorknobs of Ulster County homes during the summer of
2001, were to be checked against telephone company data and
the county's 911 database to make sure they were the same.
So, it's been the job of Planz, Vines and Madsen to update the
county maps for Olive using the town's assessor maps and information
from the real property tax records. "We compare the maps,"
said Planz, "and plug-in road by road." But the task
is not as simple as it may sound. Unnamed private roads, for
example, pose a problem since there can be duplicate road numbers
among the various town hamlets. For example, it is possible
for a "Private Road no. 10" to exist in both Olivebridge
and West Shokan.
To eliminate any confusion that could hinder emergency response
Vines said, the assessor's office has contacted owners and asked
them to rename their private roads. "Most people are ok
with it once you explain that in the event of an emergency you
want the fire department or police officers to be able to get
to you," she said.
There are also cases where residents use post office boxes and
do not have address numbers on file, or where there are clusters
of mailboxes all using the same number. In these situations,
Planz said, town Assessor Michael Sommer will ultimately need
to assign distinct address numbers. Approximately 50 percent
of Ulster County towns have verified and updated the new 911
mapping, said Planz who is also a dispatcher for the county's
emergency communications center. Not only will these efforts
serve to improve the county's emergency response system in the
near-term, but in the future, the information will be
tied in with a global positioning system, said Planz.
"I'll be able to look at a dispatch screen, and if it's
a fire, a flame will appear indicating the exact location of
the fire and with directions on how to get there," he said.
of Olivebridge continued
Pierre, born in Russia before the revolution,
became a popular actor at the Czar's court and married a ballerina
named Nina Oginska. He was a Russian Army officer in World
War I, was injured in combat, and in his right leg was a metal
tube where his shinbone had once been. He walked with a limp.
When the First War ended, he lived in Paris for a while with
Nina, then came to the States looking for opportunity. Nina
was dancing at the time in Europe, but joined him shortly
after he arrived. After that Nina often danced in Europe,
but one time she didn't come back. Pierre got the news that
she died under the wheels of the Paris metro. Pierre took
to drinking too much, and soon his friends, hoping he would
recover from his grief more soberly if he were off in the
country , asked him to be caretaker of their summer home.
He accepted, and winterized the place by building two fieldstone
fireplaces. But he kept drinking as much as ever.
A close friend of his was Nikander Strelsky, a professor at
Vassar College in Poughkeepsie. Strelsky, also from Russia,
visited him often, cheering him up by trading humorous stories
with him from the old country. The setting must have suited
Pierre well the rural house, the fireplaces, and a millpond
with a family of ducks beside the ruins
of a mill.
He liked applejack, which he bought locally from the folks
who made it. And he liked to sit in one of the local taverns
and talk about how great a ballerina Nina had been. He became
famous for his ability to knock back a large volume of "apple"
and remain upright.
But almost always his conversation moved toward Nina's performance
in Swan Lake, especially the last scene in which the swan
dies. And he would say, brooding and pensive, "The swan
He liked the ducks, he said, but he wanted a swan. He had
asked the owner-friends to buy one for the millpond, but they
refused. Swans were too expensive, and they didn't like ducks
and could become dangerous. Pierre was philosophical about
it. He said he didn't have much time left
anyway, so it didn't matter that much. In 1942 the house burned
to the ground. There was nothing left but the fieldstone chimneys,
the remains of the bed, and the metal tube that once served
as shinbone. The heat had been intense; the tube was misshapen
The ducks still had to be fed, and the grass mowed, so a local
minister named William Barringer, who had officiated at the
funeral, agreed with the owners to do it. One day, a few weeks
later, Barringer saw a huge white bird glide in and land on
the pond. He took a closer look. It was a swan, Strangely,
it became friendly with the ducks immediately — even,
on cold mornings, breaking for them the film of ice that had
formed during the night on the surface of the pond.
The swan stayed. Barringer wrote to the owners about it, not
just because an extraordinary bird had arrived and stayed,
but because this swan limped as if its right leg had been
injured. An ornithologist was sent to the pond by the State
Conservation Commission. He
confirmed that the bird was a whistling, or whooper, swan
native to Northern Russia and Iceland. Its red beak, furthermore,
identified it as very rare even for its kind, What the ornithologist
couldn't understand was why a migratory wild swan was settling
in Olive Bridge, New York. The rest of its relatives always
left the Arctic Circle in the fall and flew to semitropical
waters, cruising at a high altitude far out at sea. Far out,
He expected the bird to head south again in the fall, but
it didn't. It and the ducks were buddies, and the swan settled
in, limping about, for four years. (Well, some- one had to
break the ice on the millpond, and he might as well whistle
while he's at it.) Professor Strelsky, Pierre's friend, was
fascinated with this swan. He visited the place
often, conjecturing poetically about it, they say. Then, in
1946, Strelsky died.
It wasn't long after his death that (hold on now) a second
wild whistling swan landed on the pond. Apparently the only
people who saw it were Olivebridgers, but those who did say
that the two swans, when together, made a noise that sounded
like laughter, At least that's what Barringer called it. It
was a sound distinctly different from their usual whistling,
A day soon came when they were absent. And the next day. And
the next. They were gone for good. Olivebridge has not seen
a wild whistling swan since, but I think the story will be
One last bit of information, just to prod the mystical imagination.
Reverend Barringer had ed the swan the ducks' food —
corn and white bread. But when Pierre's friends had come to
see the phenomenon back in '42, one of them had brought along
a loaf of Russian black bread, The ducks weren't having any,
but the swan, tasting it, insisted on black bread from then
on, refusing the white, "The swan is spirit," Pierre
had said. I believe it. I'm a Catskill Mountain boy. And you
can decide for yourself.
First Published in The Daily
Freeman on September 2, 1976