The recent uproar created when the Ulster County Legislature’s
Chairman David Donaldson held a press conference calling for
a boycott of neighboring Greene County’s two major ski
areas and any summer activities they might be running should
be seen as the very definition of that proverbial term, “a
tempest in a teapot.” It’s one thing to urge support
for a local treasure such as the state-owned Belleayre Ski
Center, another altogether to urge civilian unrest to protest
a near-unanimous state legislative decision to set up a study
We hate to say this, but Donaldson’s protests had all
the disingenuous character of the John Sweeney-led GOP protests
against the 2000 Presidential Election Florida recount. And
worse… at a time when everyone is speaking to the need
for regional efforts to better all our lots in the area, it
was blatantly counterproductive to the level of seeming downright
And to think, the chairman even left for a vacation in Ireland
after making local mountains into his molehills.
Of course, there’s a level on which Donaldson can’t
be blamed… by holding his press conference without any
significant support from his fellow legislators, he compounded
the stupidity of taking on the entirety of state government
when the county needs it most by appearing naïve and
malleable. After all, his talking points vis a vis Belleayre
had been all but fed him by that sterling entity’s biggest
supporter, Joe Kelly of the Coalition to Save Belleayre, who
had earlier all but called him a wimp in a much-disseminated
press release calling for Donaldson to act as he did.
Kelly, who should be lauded for his saving of the state-owned
ski center from the chopping block in the 1980s, and his championing
of its growth more recently, shifted his support stance significantly
when he began to put as much support behind the proposed Belleayre
Resort project as the ski center it was seeking to profit,
and profit from. His recent efforts on behalf of the public
entity has entailed indemnification of anyone and anything
not supporting the complex public-private tie-ins put forth
by former Governor Eliot Spitzer last autumn. The new party
line, that Belleayre and the surrounding region will not survive
without the saving grace of the new resort, seems as disingenuous
to us as Donaldson’s recent press conference, or Kelly’s
call for it.
The ski center growth the former governor called for was great
news, but announced before recent economic downturns or the
opportunity for the state’s new Office on Climate Change
to start reviewing the future of New York’s ski industry
and key infrastructure demands. Moreover, it came before the
new governor stepped in to fill out the term of the disgraced
Spitzer. Paterson, everyone we know in Albany is saying, is
carefully reviewing everything his predecessor did in office,
including all appointments and deals.
When both houses of the state legislature recently passed
a resolution calling for the creation of a blue ribbon commission
to look into charges of unfair competition from the state’s
dozens of private ski areas, study support included the voices
of some of Belleayre’s biggest allies, including the
new Senate Majority Leader, Dean Skelos. As our own Sen. John
Bonacic said, What’s been called for is a study that
Belleayre should get fine grades under.
So what’s the beef? Why scream about such things and
risk alienating all of Albany in the process?
We suspect the disingenuousness Kelly has charged the state
and Greene County ski areas with is wider-based than he lets
on. It seems that what people are really asking for when they
are asking Paterson to veto his legislature’s near-unanimous
decision to study private-public competition, and deals, is
for Paterson to back what Spitzer did regarding Belleayre.
Which means there’s a good chance he may not.
So where does that leave all of us, in the meantime?
Looking for straight talk, as they say, and changes we can
First, we feel that the state of the economy and climate change
are serious enough considerations to warrant inclusion in
the Blue Ribbon studies of competition that have been called
for… which we understand they are part of. Second, we
believe that state support for Belleayre will not be diminished
by such study, but strengthened. After all, we’ve always
wanted the state resource to be ready for all scenarios the
changes coming might bring us. And we know, from talks with
Albany officials, that the place remains special to those
holding our futures in their hands. Third, we sense that looking
into private/public partnerships may be part and parcel of
a larger re-evaluation of the many fault lines in our free
market system that have showed weakness and caused key economic
and societal problems of late.
Most importantly, we believe that more than one town or county
versus another, our best future lies in our ability to rise
above selfish differences and realize how interconnected all
our Upstate, let alone globally modern lives, really are.
In other words, we feel we are all owed apologies for all
the disingenuous talk of late. We need to do much better.