It’s decision time in Shandaken, and once again choices
about our town’s leadership are clearly defined. Like
in most towns, day-to-day authority basically falls to one person,
our elected supervisor. And the two candidates couldn’t
be more different, temperamentally or in their approach to how
government is supposed to work. Last election we said we didn’t
know if Bob Cross Jr. was up to the job. But like, we think,
Pete DiModica, he has proven he can handle it. In the one term
each has had, they’ve both worked hard and have accomplishments
to cite. But that’s, we think, where any similarity ends.
Because in our view these are two capable guys with very different
ideas of how government should be run.
Cross’s strengths are his people skills and his ability
to sway others, one on one, to his point of view. By training
and temperament, DiModica is a craftsman. Deliberate and methodical
in his approach to problem solving, he’s cautious and
conservative by nature. Cross is, well, the opposite of that,
impulsive, controlling, and quick to anger. He has proven himself
a skilled, some say a nonstop campaigner. DiModica by contrast
is less comfortable with that role than he is with managing.
Both skill sets are useful and the two candidates, each to varying
degrees, possesses both.
Our view is that Cross has proven himself good at politics but
bad, sometimes terrible, at actual governance. Elected two years
ago promising to be “a uniter, not a divider,” that
quickly proved hollow, beginning with his unprecedented purge
of all non-GOP or non-Crossroads supporters from any role in
town government. These loses have been serious ones for our
town: Jay Braman Sr. from the ZBA, Beth Waterman as Planning
Board chair, to name just two. Our town boards and committees
are more clearly lopsided than ever, never has Shandaken’s
government been so completely controlled by one party as it
is today. Some, of course, are pleased with this, believing
compromise is inherently impossible and it’s the only
way to accomplish things. And perhaps if the metaphorical trains
were running on time we might even concede the point but they’re
not. In fact in most ways we think things are running worse
than they ever have. And the reason, we think, is that Cross
is a true believer in the absolute power of authority, and that
election to public office confers the right to do anything one
wants short of what’s actionably illegal, politically
untenable, or both. Cross, with his threats, gavel, and 3-vote
majority has managed to make public involvement in government
a mostly-avoidable nuisance.
We’ve seen this play out any number of times these past
two years, in what we’ve come to think of as the “collateral
damage” of one-party rule and bad process. We’re
spending our town tax dollars faster than we ever have. We’ve
got an apparent settlement with the state that’s been
arrived at by maybe violating many of our taxpayers’ rights,
and that we may all end up paying for with a court-ordered reval.
We’ve finally got a cell tower law a year and a half late,
one that appears to provide less-than-good coverage with larger-than-needed
towers, contractually bound to the taxpayers by less-than-favorable
terms. Phoenicia’s got a sewer treatment plant coming
with very high homeowner hookup costs, and costs that are still
unacceptable for business owners. We’ve got the possible
loss of zero percent financing to fix Pine Hill’s water
system, and we’ve adopted a Comp Plan despite extended
public protest over its content and its process. These are the
successes of Cross’ administration and every one’s
loaded with serious problems, the collateral damage from how
each was handled.
What we all need to decide in the voting booth is whether or
not this collateral damage is acceptable. For us it’s
not. We think Shandaken would be best served by a change of
leadership and a return to normal small-town democracy. And
we’re frankly less scared of the next 2 years under DiModica
than we are under Cross.
On the town board races, Doris Bartlett’s life has defined
her as one of Shandaken’s clearest voices of sound judgment
and ethical conduct. By contrast Jerry Setchko’s clear
contempt for the annoyance of public process and the opinions
of other people makes it hard for us to see his candidacy as
anything beyond consolidating his party’s political power.
Rob Stanley and Peter DiSclafani are both men whose intentions
we respect, both appear to believe in our political process
and their ability to make a positive difference. We had hoped
Stanley might assert his independence from his exceedingly partisan
running mates. But both these candidates would serve the town
well: which one to vote for comes down to the hard choices the
realities of party politics often present. If you like the way
things are running, Stanley’s a good choice. If change
is important to you, we think DiSclafani’s the better
In the Highway Superintendent’s race, we are as always
respectful of third party candidacies. Just as we were supportive
of Ken Berryann’s bid two years ago, we’re appreciative
of Keith Johnson’s willingness to step forward in what
at first looked like a lost cause. With Berryann holding both
major party lines, it’s not a political choice anyway
for a job that certainly isn’t political. Johnson seems
to have the experience edge here.
Finally, we’re very disappointed the town’s entire
GOP slate chose not to show up for the League of Women Voters’
candidates event. We were told they were so sure of winning
Nov. 8th, they decided they didn’t need to. To us, that’s
a sign of contempt for the voters and our whole public process;
frankly it’s just a lousy thing to do. Every voter in
Shandaken deserves more respect from our candidates than that.
But what we find disturbing is the question they obviously asked
themselves… “Can we get away with this?” instead
of “what’s the right thing to do?” We expect
that kind of ethically-challenged thinking from Cross and Setchko,
how they got Tom Crucet and Rob Stanley to accept it, that’s
a deeper mystery than we can fathom.
We wish everyone a peaceful pre-election week, with truthfulness
and reason from all.