In a curious kind of way, the lives of soon-to-be-gone Gov. Andrew Cuomo, governor-in-waiting Kathy Hochul and former Ulster County executive Mike Hein may have intersected last week.
Not that either headliner was paying much attention to the travails of a faceless bureaucrat only about 30 months on the job. At the time, Cuomo was much too busy plotting an exit strategy with allies in the state Assembly, even as Hochul worked on elevating her resume from gubernatorial cheerleader – the traditional role of second bananas – to what she calls the “best qualified ever” to succeed to the governorship – to worry much about the trials and tribulations of an obscure bureaucrat Cuomo appointed in early 2019.
But there is a connection. Hein, who served for just over a decade as Ulster’s first county executive, departed in February of 2019 as Cuomo’s choice for commissioner of the state Office of Disability and Temporary Assistance. For Hein, who never made more than $133,000 at the county trough, it was a dream job, paying around $220,000.
Essentially a pass-through dispenser of some $2 billion in annual federal funding for social programs, one of the agency’s critical duties is rental assistance to both tenants and landlords. So vital was this service that in January, congress appropriated billions in federal emergency funding for such housing. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer earmarked some $2.4 billion for New York, money that was supposed to be administered on an emergency basis by Hein’s agency. The gravy train left Washington in April. Deadline (which will be extended) for getting the money to an estimated 150,000 renters and landlords is the end of the month.
Last week, while Cuomo and Hochul were doing their things, the New York Post reported that New York was the only state in the country that had yet to spend any of its emergency appropriation. Schumer was not pleased. “No more delays”, he wrote the governor. Some members of the state legislature, hard-pressed for assistance from constituents, took Hein himself to task.
“Have you talked to the governor about this?”, Assemblyman Mike Lawler, R-Westchester, asked Hein according to one report. “I have not had a conversation with the governor about this,” Hein was quoted as replying. He said he had talked to Hein “deputies.”
A governor will in short order be talking to Hein but it won’t be Cuomo. He’ll be history by the end of the month. Enter Hochul with fine-toothed comb and broom and most eager to make an immediate splash.
Not to wish Hein any ill will, but what better way to appear a decisive, impactful chief executive – skills notably lacking in Hochul’s resume – than to jump-start this vital program by bringing in her own team of head bangers? She has already declared that one of her first duties as governor will be a thorough review of policies and department heads from the Cuomo administration.
Some heads will roll. For old time’s sake, let’s hope Hein’s isn’t one of them.
IMPEACHMENT, YES – In what may go down as one of the classic insider sleazy deals of all time, the assembly has agreed to drop its impeachment proceedings against the governor in exchange for his resigning from office. Why were we unsurprised?
Not that it’s going to happen, but there’s much to say for continuing the impeachment to a definitive conclusion. True, Cuomo won’t be around to be removed from office, but miscreants get tried in absentia all the time, hanged in effigy, too. At heart, there’s the issue of justice for the 11 women (and counting, no doubt) who accused the governor of improper behavior. And let us never forget the lying and coverup attendant to the nursing home scandals. Grabbing fannies and killing grannies, indeed!
DUMB HEADLINES – I’ve written a few of these over the years, so I’m familiar with the pitfalls.
Freeman headline: “Hochul to run after finishing term.”
Hochul finishes Cuomo’s term on Dec. 31, 2023. If she starts to run after that, there’s nothing to run for. In fact, she’s running – hard – right now. She hopes to begin her first term in her own right on Jan. 1, 2024.
Full disclosure: My worst headline, as editor of the Ulster County Gazette? Transposing Lake Katrine.
“Reynolds, you jerk!”, former Ulster town supervisor Charlie Rider yelled into the phone about an hour after that one hit the newsstands. “I know you pick on us all the time, but Lake Latrine?”
I do give credit to the Freeman for some rare investigative journalism. Shortly before the annual Ulster County Fair opened last week, county exec Pat Ryan put out a press release that free vaccinations would be available during its four-day run. Good idea.
But the Freeman circled back to as a basic question after the fair closed asking how many people got vaccinated at the county site. 27. Ryan didn’t announce that.
DEADMAN WALKING – Official federal census figures were announced last week: good news for New York City, up about seven percent, disappointing for Ulster County, floating just above the red line with an overall one percent increase. Kingston gained 176 people, overall, the county lost 640.
What about all those “new people” moving in? Hype, baby, hype.
While it would appear from a recent county comptroller report that tourism has picked up from the pits of 2020. But we can’t live on tourism. We need jobs.
So, the next time some politician tells us what a great job he or she is doing, but of course needs at least two or three more terms to” finish the job,” mention census figures.
BACK TO SCHOOL– Since I’m not really a working reporter any more, it’s not every day that I run into the president of the Kingston School Board and the superintendent of schools.
Board president Jim Shaunessey approached me at Dietz Stadium with an intriguing proposition.
“I’m going to tell you something you probably don’t know,” he said.
“This may take a while,” I said.
“There’s a lot of talk about lieutenant governor these days,” he said, “but did you know that a native Kingstonian is lieutenant governor of the state of Hawaii?”
Sure enough, a Google search confirmed that Josh Green, born in Kingston 51 years ago, is No. 2 in Hawaii with a 77% popularity rating. He and Shaunessey go back.
About an hour later, Mario Catalano, my walking mate, and I were wheezing up the hill in front of Bailey School in uptown when a youngish-looking skinny guy in a polo shirt and slacks carrying a briefcase passed by us.
The parking lot was half full with (I presumed) teachers and staff getting ready for the new school year.
“Getting back to work?” I said, thinking he was a teacher.
“Oh, I’ve been working,” he replied with a laugh.
“Did that guy look familiar?”, I said to Catalano.
“He should,” the Cat said. “That was Paul Padalino, superintendent of schools.”