The Same Old Same Old
The manner in which the two major parties' candidate slates
have lined up for the upcoming County Legislative elections
in November is indicative of many of the problems we still
face in our politics.
By and large, the candidates everybody's getting are the candidates
they've always gotten. And each district is being dominated
by the largest town in that district.
Here in Olive, we're been grouped with Hurley and a big chunk
of Marbletown in a three-legislator district. From a Democratic
perspective, you might as well call it Parete-land, since
we'll be running two of the County Democrats' Chairman's sons
and their friend, Peter Kraft of Hurley, who ran a close race
two years ago. On the Republican side, we've got old stalwart
Robert Wilkins, of Shokan, who was named recently to replace
Ward Todd for the remainder of his term starting July 1; William
Beesmer of West Hurley, who ran poorly last time; and Linda
Bertone, of Hurley, whose husband/campaign manager is a leading
light in the Right to Life and Conservative parties, and who
herself switched parties after winning as a Democrat last
In neighboring Shandaken and Woodstock, which have been grouped
with Denning, Hardenburgh and part of West Saugerties in a
sprawl of a district, Woodstockers will be facing off: local
party chair Brian Shapiro and political activist Toby Heilbrunn,
a loyal Democrat and former councilwoman, versus incumbent
Republican Michael Stock and Tim Keefe of Woodstock, the latter
a town cop. As such, the selection seems a replay of so many
of the races of the past 36 years, since the legislature was
first created to replace the old County Board of Supervisors.
Woodstock dominates. The smaller, more rural towns of the
county end up without representation.
Unfortunately, this is just the sort of problem that was being
predicted by those supporting, and briefly winning approval
of, single member districts for the county's towns. They were
worried about towns, and whole rrural sections of the county,
being left without representation in county government.
The problem with the new configuration is that it's both parties'
fault. The Republican majority because of their cynical manipulation
of the politics of political representation to ensure their
majority rule. The Democrats for caving in and not fighting
harder for single member districts, which they'd briefly won
And it gets worse. Both parties should be blamed for kowtowing
to old allegiances, running candidates because they're owed
a run, and not necessarily because they're the best person
for the job of representation.
The people who are running, in our district and others around
the county, are not bad people. But they all have agendas,
and now they have party loyalties.
There's also a quiet message in the ways in which things are
shaping up... that newcomers must wait in line before they
can come forward to volunteer themselves to enter the political
fray. You could almost call it a new-fangled Old Boy system.
Same as always...
Furthermore, the result of the ways in which our county legislative
elections are shaping up is that the underlying ideals of
our Democracy, and our Republic, are being thwarted. The former
is supposed to be about government by and for the people,
through direct vote, if you're in an ideal situation, or via
direct representation, if you're living in the Modern World.
The way things are currently shaking out, we're getting government
by the two parties. Which have their own agendas, primarily
being to gain, or hold on to, power.
Republics are meant to be governments ruled by law, by constitutions.
It's been so long since we've heard anything about such writing
in this county, we may just be seeing a return to an earlier
definition of the ideal: any government that's not monarchy.
We deserve better. Here in Olive, we'll get through... the
candidates aren't bad. For now. They come from all parts of
the new district.
But over in Shandaken, things have gone from bad to worse.
No longer do we have a Marian Umhey or Ward Todd to fight
our geographic battles for us. All that's been left are politics
We should all aim to do better.