Follow Up on the
Big Election, Localized
Hein and Independent-Republican Len Bernardo, candidates
for county executive, and Democrat Elliot Auerbach and Republican
James Quigley III, candidates for county comptroller, have
all been touting the county’s need for economic development,
but also regularly bashing each other for not having the
right approaches to such a future.
Hein, the county administrator at present and a former Republican,
has been touting his record and experience writing the county’s
budgets and overseeing its day-to-day operations.
“I understand business principles, and I spent a long
time in the private sector,” he has said of why voters
should select him. “I’m a former banker; I understand
that component of it. What he (his opponent, Benardo) doesn’t
understand is how to run a government, and it’s critically
important. We can’t afford that sort of learning curve
in Ulster County at this critical moment.”
Bernardo, the owner of an Accord skating rink who has played
up his independent credentials throughout most of his race,
although he has towed the GOP line in recent weeks, noting
how much of an opponent he is of Ulster County government
“De-politicizing Ulster County is paramount,”
he has said. “We saw the jail; we saw what happened
with the blame game – we lose $50 million. By de-politicizing
it, you have to stand there and say, ‘sometimes the
Dems may be right, and sometimes the Republicans may be
right, but sometimes they both may be wrong’.”
In the race for county comptroller, candidates also banked
on their experience for success.
“I’m a guy who grew up on Main Street; he’s
a guy who grew up on Wall Street,” said Auerbach,
the Villager Manager of Ellenville who has been claimed
as a main reason for that community’s resurgence in
recent years, regarding his opponent. “Let’s
take a look at that situation and let’s see where
you would rather be. It’s crumbling and vaporizing
right before our very eyes, and he’s part of that
Quigley, the GOP’s leading financier in recent years
and the man who single-handedly worked to keep the charter,
and very position he’s now vying for, from happening
several years back, has been speaking about his record of
experience as a CPA, and his “big heart.”
“That has prepared me for an opportunity that meets
preparedness,” Qigley has said. “I am prepared
to give away my salary to the non-profits and charitable
causes within this community to make this all about community
A third candidate for Executive, Allan Wikman, ran independently
of both parties and was kept off this November’s ballot
after failing to secure the proper number of valid nominations.
He has vowed to continue his fight, however, as a write-in
On a state level, incumbent state Assemblyman Kevin Cahill
of Kingston, a Democrat who is becoming one of the key members
of the state legislature, is running against Republican/Conservative/Independence
candidate Robin Yess of Esopus, a financial planner, for
the 101st Assembly District. Cahill is running on his record
and knowledge of both what his district wants and needs,
as well as his acumen at getting things done in Albany.
Yess is basically running to speed things up in Albany and
“change the way things are done,” one of the
two parties endless mantras this year.
State Senator John Bonacic is not facing any challenges
this year, even though there is considerable speculation
that the body he’s served in since 1999 may be on
the verge of shifting from the GOP, his party, to Democrat
for the first time in decades.
For State Supreme Court, Rensselaer County Court Judge Patrick
McGrath, a Democrat, is facing incumbent Justice Anthony
Carpinello, a Republican from the same county.
On a national level, longtime incumbent Congressman Maurice
Hinchey, a Hurley resident, is being challenged this year
by Republican George Phillips, a Binghamton area native
and teacher who once worked as a Congressional aide.
Hinchey is running on his record and role as a key Democrat
who cares for his region’s interests. Phillips has
focused much of his race on the current GOP issue of energy
independence through drilling.
As for that other big race gaining folks’ attention,
a survey of students in government classes at Onteora High
this past week showed overwhelming support for Democrat
Barack Obama over veteran GOP senator and former Vietnam
War POW John McCain, both of whom students named as who
they’d like to see running this year when queried
four years ago. Excitement over the election was at a fever
pitch this year, students said, even though only one queried
was actually registered to vote.
Students said that they backed Obama because they were “sick
to death” of four years of the current Bush administration,
tired of overseas wars, and truly frightened by the effects
of current economic troubles on their futures. They largely
lampooned the McCain campaign’s recent use of a “Joe
the Plumber” tactic for drawing attention to its pro-business,
anti-tax agenda, noting that they all wanted a better-educated
and employed figure for the average American. They also
said they backed the socialist elements of American democracy,
and were looking for someone to lead the country who had
younger concerns, a better sense of the nation as part of
a changing world, and an ability to try new solutions.
Several students went so far as to point out that, in their
view, inexperience was a better quality for leadership than
experience, which they felt could put blinders on one’s
approach to new problems.
All added that they had little interest in local political
races, ever, because they “wanted to move away from
here as soon as possible.”
Could that change with the advent of better jobs?
“We want to see the world,” replied one student.
“We want real careers, and not just Joe the Plumber
sorts of jobs working here. Why care about local elections
if your future’s not here?”
Told about the kids’ thoughts over in Olive Town Hall,
longtime Supervisor Berndt Leifeld mused about how the draft
had affected he and his peers when he was younger. He spoke
about everyone also wanting to leave and find better jobs
and lives back then, only to lean “responsibility
and homesickness” while serving in the military.
“Things weren’t better then but there might
be some lessons to learn here,” Leifeld said.
As for future politicians the Onteora students had hopes
for, names mentioned this year included Ron Paul, Mayor
Bloomberg, and Al Gore.
A Bit Better
Town supervisor Bert Leifeld noted this week that he, and anyone
doing a town budget, is largely in the dark as to what can be
anticipated in a year… especially with economic ups and
downs as we’ve seen in recent weeks.
He did, note, that the overall budget ended up trimmed by $400,000,
due to a combination of an accounting error uncovered and anticipated
savings in fuel costs for the coming year.
The town board next meets to tackle its 2009 budget on Thursday,
November 6 for a public hearing at 7:30 PM, followed by a regular
town board half an hour later. Just as no one showed up from
the public at the recent October 14 gathering, Leifeld said
he didn’t expect much input next month.
He did note that, no matter what the board does to bring its
budget hike down to the sic percent range, local residents should
still expect a hike due to shifts in the local equalization
rate resulting from the state Office of Real Property Service’s
decision NOT to accept a heightened value for the Ashokan Reservoir
that Olive and New York City had agreed upon last Spring. He
said that the result will force Olive residents’ share
of Onteora school taxes to rise 17 percent, and was as yet unsure
how much town taxes would go up, concurrently.
He added that, the ORPS decision having come after appeals,
it was pretty much unchangeable… although Leifeld did
note that state Assemblyman Kevin Cahill had been trying to
find new ways of helping the town out of its tax problems.
Leifeld also noted that, with no other watershed towns being
in multi-town school districts like Olive, large parcel threats
weren’t occurring elsewhere, making any larger move for
reform of the law unlikely.
As for the town budget’s revenues… All that’s
known for sure, it was noted, is that sales receipts are expected
to drop and mortgage tax receipts will be less. Also, Governor
David A. Paterson has called for a November 18 special session
of the Legislature to close a potential $1.2 billion current-year
budget shortfall related to the recent turmoil on Wall Street.
Unclear is what impact those decisions will have on other state
revenues supplied to towns. Unfortunately town budgets will
be chiseled in stone weeks prior to November 18th… and
what 2009 state spending figures will be is, at this point,
On a county level, new preliminary budget figures released last
week indicate that the county property tax levy would rise by
about 3 percent as spending would increase more than 6 percent.
At a press conference announcing the $345.9 million spending
plan, County Administrator Michael Hein, a Democrat who’s
running for the new position of county executive, called the
plan “one of the hardest in Ulster County’s history”
due to the uncertain economic climate.
“Without question, the issues we are up against are daunting,”
said Hein, citing the volatile stock market, the state budget
deficit and the downturn in the economy. “This is the
most severe economic uncertainty (county residents) have seen
in almost a generation.”
The proposed budget is 6.4 percent larger than the county’s
2008 spending plan, which totals $325 million, and calls for
an increase of $74.5 million, or 2.95 percent, in property tax
revenue. Hein said the proposed increase in the tax levy translates
into an average $22-per-year hike for the average county taxpayer,
though the actually impact will vary based on state equalization
rates that are used to determine each municipality’s share
of the overall tax burden.
The increase in the tax levy in the county’s 2008 budget
was 3.25 percent.
The proposed budget calls for eight new positions designed to
accommodate the Jan. 1 move to a the charter form of government.
Under the proposed budget, the Ulster County executive will
be paid $133,000 in 2009, and the new county comptroller will
be paid $102,000. The budget provides for the executive to have
two deputies, at $112,000 each, and one deputy for the comptroller,
At the same time, though, the budget calls for eliminating 15
positions within the county government, a move that would save
$649,958 next year. Hein said the 15 positions, though funded
in the 2008 budget, are currently vacant.
Hein has also proposed to offset spending by drawing $1.4 million
from the county’s roughly $23.1 million unappropriated
The budget also anticipates roughly $85.1 million in sales tax
revenue in 2009, an amount equal to the sales tax revenues the
county has received to date in 2008. In the 2008 budget, sales
tax revenues were estimated at $83.4 million.
The Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee will spend
the next several weeks reviewing the proposed budget. The full
Legislature will hold a budget hearing, also on Nov. 5.
It is important to remember that much of the problem involving
town budgets involves the fact that most of its spending requirements
are mandated... from massive annual hikes in insurance, and
other benefits costs, to union-authorized pay raises and rises
in the cost of fuel and other materials.
At the same time, a pattern of hikes can be faced by making
major changes, from shifting the way one heats buildings, or
fuels vehicles, to the creation of new revenue streams for municipalities.
In other words, the more suggestions, and input, the better.
See y’all next week, because after the elections it’ll
be all but too late to make any major changes...
Unless we’re speaking about next year, and beyond.
Than Just Dance
Perizad does not use the term “belly dance”, which
has come to be associated with the use of Middle Eastern dance
to titillate men in night clubs. Derived from ancient matriarchal
traditions, “American Tribal is about the reawakening
of power and energy of feminine creativity,” she asserts.
Some researchers claim that Middle Eastern dance originated
as an imitation of the movements of a woman in labor, used ritually
as an aid to childbirth, probably back into prehistoric times.
Morocco, a prominent dancer who has performed worldwide, published
an article in the 1960’s describing a birthing ceremony
in a remote Berber village. She witnessed the event by disguising
herself as the servant of an acquaintance who knew she was devoted
to the spirit of the dance. She saw ranks of women belly dancing
in concentric circles around the birthing woman, encouraging
her by their example as she performed similar movements in both
dancing and laboring to easily push out her twin boys, while
showing no signs of pain.
American Tribal is a variety of Middle Eastern dance that originated
on the West Coast and evolved as it traveled east. It combines
dance traditions of many Middle Eastern cultures with input
from hip-hop, jazz, North Indian dance, and other styles. Perizad’s
group involves a heavy Roma, or Gypsy, influence.
Costumes are not the diaphanous synthetics of the cabaret dancer,
but baggy pants under voluminous skirts, with head wraps, antique
jewelry, tasseled or fringed dance belts, coin or cowrie bras
over midriff shirts with flared sleeves. Makeup covers much
of the face with tribal-style markings. Dancers perform as a
group, often in improvisational manner, with a leader giving
cues—a turn of the hand, an angle of the body, a shrug
of the shoulders—that signal the group to shift to a new
movement or series.
“I also do a lot of choreography,” says Perizad,
“but what keeps us on our toes is the improvisation. When
we perform, it’s not always the whole troupe, so we have
to change the format of the choreography.”
For both performers and audience, she says, “we’re
creating a feel of ancient matriarchal culture. It takes you
on a journey into ancient times and shows the power and passion
of the feminine.” Different troupe members take different
approaches to performance. “I like to have attitude when
I dance, looking at the audience with almost a challenge. Some
dancers go into a trance, drawing their energy into yours. In
some dances we have a lot of fun and try to get reactions from
Most of the Twisted Tassels performers have come out of Perizad’s
dance classes, where the emphasis is on “making everyone
feel comfortable so they can go at their own pace. Everyone
has different rhythms of learning. We direct dancing into something
useful for people who need healing, to break away and get their
energy going. It’s great for maintaining flexibility when
you’re going through your changes. In fact, that’s
when I started.”
Perizad first encountered Middle Eastern dance at a Renaissance
Festival in Lakewood, New Jersey, where a gypsy-style troupe
fascinated her. “I was hooked on the Middle Eastern and
exotic flavor through most of my upbringing. I made harem dancer
costumes for Halloween.” After a year of lessons, she
joined a troupe. She and another troupe member began to explore
American Tribal through DVD’s of performances. “It
looked ancient to me. I’m an earthy person, and this style
is really connected to the earth.” She is also devoted
to Middle Eastern drumming on doumbek, darbuka, djembe, and
bodhran, and she makes of her own line of tribal dance belts.
At the Ancient Callings studio on Sheldon Hill Road in Olive,
Perizad currently offers beginner classes on Thursday evenings
and mixed-level classes on Mondays during the day. On November
8, she will be holding a one-day Gathering of the Goddesses
retreat, with teachings designed to “bring up divine energy
through dance and align us with the energy of the dance.”
In addition to dance training, there will be a Goddess ritual
and initiation around the bonfire. For more information and
a schedule of Twisted Tassels performances, see www.twistedtassels.com
or call Charlene “Perizad” Roberts at (845) 657-7276.
Jar Of Olives...
The Sky is Falling
Since I have spent a week of watching the stock market going
down the toilet and listening to “experts” talk
in millions, billions, and trillions, I decided to talk about
how to economize and save a few dollars in this lousy economy.
I wish I could cast a secret spell to put things back on track,
but I am afraid I have only some lessons learned from my former
attempts to save money.
Our economy is about to reap the seeds of debt we have sown.
The chickens have come home to roost. That old-fashioned saying
reminds me of the time when I decided to raise chickens to “save
money” and produce fresh eggs. Bruce and I bought a dozen
leghorn pullets from Skip Weidner. Skip lent us the crates to
bring them home to the chicken coup and fenced yard of our farmhouse.
What Mr. Weidner knew and my husband knew, but I didn’t
know was that chickens can fly when they are young. I opened
the crates within the fenced area and watched a dozen white
chickens fly out the open-topped chicken yard. I had chickens
on the roof, chickens on the fence, and chickens in the trees.
We spent days gathering up the birds and placing them in a locked
coup until we could chicken wire the top of the yard. Later
that fall our friend Dave Neals actually shot a stray chicken
mistaking it for a rare, albino turkey. Bruce often reminds
me that those very fresh eggs averaged over $60.00 a dozen by
the time we bought all the feed and appurtenances for my chicken
hobby. They really were delicious eggs, but now I buy eggs on
sale at the supermarket and save $58.00 a dozen.
Speaking of chickens, my husband complained that he was about
to grow feathers and start clucking unless I changed the menu.
“Where’s the beef?” Remember when meat was
advertised as so many cents per pound? Now it’s selling
in double digits and heading toward triple.
Another time I frugally decided to make my own yogurt. The result
was some gelatinous, custardy, sour milk growing my own penicillin.
Now I buy them ten for $4.00 and save my family’s health
in the process. So simply buying eggs and yogurt can save a
family some money.
Seriously, life is about to change, and we need to look backward
to a time when people actually saved for that item they wanted.
I remember the first time my car cost more than my first house,
which, by the way, cost $17,500. It killed me. Here I was purchasing
an item complete with a fat coupon book that was decreasing
in value as I drove it off the lot while my cheaper mortgage
was stretching out for thirty years. We just might have to “economize”
in this economy. We have become a nation of consumers and borrowers
rather than workers and savers.
I just might not buy another pocketbook this year. I may have
to use one of my two-dozen Coach, Dooney and Bourke or Louis
Vuitton knock-offs instead of adding to a collection of containers
that will remain hollow as my fortune wanes. I actually did
purchase a real designer pocketbook, but now I can’t remember
which one it was. Besides, at this rate, I won’t have
anything to carry in it besides my checkbook and credit cards.
They say there is no such thing as a free lunch. Well, that’s
not true this week. There is a free senior luncheon, a hot turkey
dinner, on Thursday, October 23 at noon at the Boiceville Inn.
You can meet the candidates and discuss the upcoming election.
You can call 657-2467 to make reservations.
Here is my two-cents worth of advice to survive this financial
crisis: Spend more time with friends and family. Save some energy
to help out a neighbor. Put your interest into action and enjoy
the dividend you earn when you complete a job well done. Sing
along with your favorite CD’s and insure greater bonds
of friendship. You’ll be richer by far.