Book it!

To the surprise of almost everyone who paid attention, voters overwhelmingly approved a $14 million bond issue for renovations of the Kingston Library on Tuesday. Those few that voted, anyway.

The official results from the library were 362 in favor, 75 opposed. By almost the same margin, the library’s first million-dollar budget was approved and six trustees elected or reelected. Typically, about 200 votes are cast in regular library elections on budgets and trustees.

There are about 12,000 registered voters in the library district (the city of Kingston), meaning something like 4 percent of voters committed everybody to 25 years of bond payments. That the bond issue will go for the best of causes is hardly the point for those who woke up the next morning with a hefty mortgage. Lesson, however trite:  If you don’t play (vote) , you will pay.

How much? The library board sold this proposition to its loyal regulars on the notion that average homeowners would pay something like 80 dollars a year for the duration of the bond. A local CPA calculated that impact closer to $190 a year, based on the amortization of some $700,000 annually across 8,800 property owners.

Library officials say they’re not ready to release a definitive financial impact statement until after conferring with bond lawyers and the like. As a taxpayer, I’m hoping their people produce more palatable figures than my CPA.

While the following analysis might appear like beating a dead horse to death (as one of my favorite ex-mayors liked to say), there are different ways to look at the results of this referendum.

In total, 362 persons made this decision. Compared to the 12 votes needed to approve laws in the county legislature (subject to executive passage), the five required in the common council or the three on any town board, it’s democracy in action.

I would suggest, however, that either this library board, the city or the state, whichever has jurisdiction, place a strict ceiling on bond issues in relation to revenues. Fourteen million (close to 17 million with interest) against a million-dollar budget is one heavy burden to bear.

The library board is of course over the moon and most grateful to the public for approving what seemed an impossible dream.  Me, too, but like the guy watching his mother-in-law drive his new Lexus over a cliff, have mixed feelings.


BOOKMARKS – I have to give library directors a shoutout for being willing and available to discuss their renovation plans before the vote with anyone, anywhere.

It’s a left-handed compliment, but kudos to library officialdom for refusing to spin the sparce participation with, “Well, it was twice as many as we usually get.”

The daily didn’t have one of its better passes on this story. First, they missed the actual bond total by just about half in reporting it at $7.4 million. Actually, that’s the anticipated construction estimate. With what appears to be rather generous “soft costs,” the total, as the library repeatedly stated, comes to $14 million.

The second involves letters to the editor, like the anti-bond letter the paper published by former mayoral candidate Ellen DiFalco on the day of the vote.

Back when the Freeman was a real newspaper, there was a standing “anti-ambush” rule that no partisan letters to the editor would be published within four days of an election. Current Freeman editorial honchos might want to revisit that sensible dictum.


CONVENTIONAL WISDOM – A who’s who of county Democratic officialdom turned out for the county executive nominating convention last week. But to the discerning eye, there were a lot of no-shows.

Kingston Mayor Steve Noble was there of course; the convention was held at City Hall. Among the MIAs were congressional candidate and former executive Pat Ryan. At least he had endorsed the winner, Jen Metzger of Rosendale.

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill, with only 16 weeks left in his political career, was noticeably absent. So too was Sarahana Shrestha, DSA candidate who vanquished him in the June 28th Democratic primary. One might think the official nominee of the Democratic Party would begin showing up at party functions. Come to think of it, has anybody seen the nominee anywhere?

I looked for county judge Bryan Rounds and DA Dave Clegg, to no avail. Judicial rules of canon have restrictions about sitting judges attending such events (except in the years they are running). To my knowledge, no such rules apply to DAs and Clegg could be facing a tough reelection next year.

County sheriff Juan Figueroa, spiffy in civies, however, was front and center. His rousing nomination of Metzger must have gotten her at least five points on the Richter scale.

I cozied up to the sheriff during a lull in the action for a face-to-face. How, I asked the affable law enforcer, could a cop nominate any candidate in charge of implementing cannabis laws in the state?

The former Marine was all over that one.

“First of all, it’s the law and we’re sworn to uphold the law,” he said. “And I can tell you from 25 years as a state trooper, that we seldom got calls about marijuana. Cocaine, heroin, other stuff, yes, but not much pot.”

He saved the best for last. “The way I look at it is, when Jen gets elected, she’ll have to quit that state job and I helped her get out of it.” All I could say was “What?”

Some people claim Democrats in general have gone too far to the left, but in Ulster it’s headed south, it seems. Some diving into the political weeds revealed that New Paltz, with its 14,000 residents, has far more voting power at convention where weighted voting is used, than Kingston, which has 24,000 residents. One explanation might be that Kingston has 17 vacancies on its 52-member city Democratic committee (almost a third), while New Paltzians (as they like to be called) are fighting for every seat on their town Democratic committee. It showed at convention: Metzger was solid in New Paltz.

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