Beware the ides of Andrew

I’ve been getting some grief from readers as to why I haven’t joined the Cuomo crucifixion.

It’s not that I like the guy. In fact, it wouldn’t matter one way or the other. Nor should it.

It’s just that people used to be assumed innocent until proven guilty. Even governors with records of abuse of power are granted that presumption.

The court of public opinion, however, is another matter. With upwards of eight women, and apparently counting, most of them former staffers coming forward with cringe-worthy stories of predatory behavior, Andrew Cuomo is all but toast.

Even carefully managed cautious wind sniffers like Rep. Antonio Delgado and state Senator Michelle Hinchey have joined the resignation bandwagon, now far down the road. Hinchey, only two full months in office, dodged the media cycle, making herself unavailable for comment, for almost a week before calling for Cuomo’s resignation.

Just about every local Democrat, save one, has issued similar demands. (Republicans really don’t count anymore.) Senior assemblyman Kevin Cahill roundly condemned the governor’s alleged abuse of women, but has not or could not pull the trigger, much as he loathes the chief executive’s bullying tactics.

While some might question Cahill’s spine-worthiness, he has been a harsh critic and raises a fundamental issue. The attorney general’s investigation has barely started. Albany police are reportedly rounding up witnesses. The assembly may appoint a special investigative committee with subpoena powers. All this takes time and it has to be done right. And even in the unlikely event that Cuomo proves purer than Caesar’s wife, a significant portion of the public will find him guilty by accusation.

My take? Lots of ugly smoke here, but we need to tread very deliberately before removing an official the people have three times elected to the highest office in the state.


ICEBERG DEAD AHEAD! – Fred Wadnola, the man of many titles (and pensions): assistant superintendent of Kingston Schools, former Ulster town supervisor, former county legislature chairman, retired Navy officer, gave up the last one when he resigned, under fire, last week as chairman of the county Resource Recovery Agency.

But while main stream media waxed on between the deals made between county elected officials to retain or remove Wadnola, most missed the elephant in the room. (Pun alert: Wadnola is a life-long prominent Republican.)

Under Wadnola’s leadership, the RRA did little but rearrange the chairs on the Titanic on what should be the county’s top priority: what to do with solid waste in the very near future.

At considerable expense, the county has been shipping its refuse to a landfill near Seneca Lake in central New York. Two years ago landfill operators notified the county it would be depleted in five years. Leadtime for developing a landfill is roughly five years, even at warp speed.

“They’re running out of runway,” was the way Ulster town supervisor Jim Quigley put it. Adding, “and if they ship it further west to Ohio, the cost could double (to ($100) per ton.” Yikes.

How do you spell “crisis?” Mexican border? No, that’s just a challenge. This is a real crisis. Clearly, the RRA has failed, and appointing New Paltz environmentalist Tom Kacandes to replace Wadnola doesn’t address it.

As amply demonstrated, this is no job for a volunteer board of directors that meets once a month. We need the full force and power of the county executive’s office to get on this, post haste.


THERE GO THE JUDGES – A few months ago we learned that Ulster’s two state supreme court judges, Jim Gilpatric and Chris Cahill, would be retiring at the end of the year. The good news is that they will probably be replaced by Kevin Bryant of Kingston and Joe Smith of Gardiner.

Now comes word that the senior jurist of all three-time family court judge, Marianne Mizel of Kingston, will retire as of June 26.

In office since January of 1994, Republican Mizel, 67, cited family health reasons for retiring a year and a half before her term expires. Her voluntary retirement date is significant in that it allows just enough time for county political parties to nominate a successor for a full, 10-year term.

Judge Mizel, whom I know well, should not go quietly into the night. For almost three decades she presided with dignity and sagacity in what many jurists consider the most difficult and heart-wrenching assignment in the judiciary.

At the very least, the county bar association should formally recognize this esteemed jurist for her many years of service to her community.

In the meantime, local lawyers will be button-holing any politician willing to review their credentials. A six-figure salary with a 10-year term is a fate fervently to be wished. In local legal circles, they call it the perfect pension plan, but it comes with a price as Judge Mizel can well attest.


AND FINALLY – We note with sadness the passing last week of former Coleman Catholic High School’s Breda (not Brenda) McMahon, 85.

Breda, who immigrated from Ireland as a teenager, was a teacher, author, mentor and confidant to generations of Coleman’s students, staff and parents. In many ways, she defined Coleman. There wasn’t anything she would not do for her school, as she called it, influencing so many lives in so many positive ways. For years she sold 50-50 raffle tickets to help support its activities. I never won a dime, but always looked forward to Breda’s personal notes with my tickets every spring. I think Coleman’s closing a few years ago for lack of students took something out of Breda, a sense of purpose, perhaps.

She will be fondly remembered by the many whose lives she touched. RIP.

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