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volume 2, no. 1 • valentines’/presidents’ month 2009 ON thE Web at hvChronic.com

Historic swearing-in cements Hein’s place in Hudson Valley history

By Steve Hopkins

in the ointment was loose cannon Allan Wikman, who might have drained a t was the best of times, few votes had he managed amid the worst of to get himself on the baltimes. Nearly a month lot. A small battalion of before the historic inaugupolitical operatives, lawration of the nation’s first yers and a state Supreme African-American presiCourt judge successfully dent, another political prevented that from hapfirst was achieved, a bit pening (see Chronic Vol. I, closer to home. No. 1 for details), not that As latecomers lanit would have mattered. guished in the hallways When the history books and stairwells out of eyefor this time and place are and earshot, hundreds of written, I predict that the history-conscious people — record will reflect well including a powerful U.S. on Mike Hein. He is an Senator and a fast-rising aggressively capable adCongressman — swarmed ministrator, a fast learner the impossibly tight quarand from all indications a ters of a second-floor decent, stand-up guy. Not courtroom in the venerable really needing the behind1818 county courthouse the-scenes political main Kingston on Thursday, neuvering that greased the January 1 to witness the inskids of his victory, he was auguration of former counclearly the most qualified ty administrator Mike Hein person for the job among as Ulster’s first-ever county the available candidates. executive. As political theFreshly sworn-in Ulster County Executive Mike Hein celebrates with Hopefully, as when someater the event, which also his wife Christine and son Mickey on New Year’s Day. one is elevated to the U.S. marked the swearing-in Supreme Court, he will be able to rely on his inner pilot and of former Ellenville city manager Elliott Auerbach in the steer the county away from the numbing stasis that in the newly-formed position of county comptroller, foreshadpast has been the favored environment of the good-old-boy owed the hopeful and emotional spirit of the much larger network that many presume helped get him the job. presidential inauguration three weeks later — at least for We’ll see how he asserts himself down the road. Like those who could see and hear. For those who couldn’t, and Barack Obama and Kirsten Gillibrand — a couple of other who thought all they had to rely on were the dutiful but young, well-connected fast climbers who’ve leapfrogged perfunctory news reports trotted out by the knee-jerk local over the competition into seats of power during this hismedia after the event, this report is for you. toric season of political change — he’s been deftly deflecting criticism and forging an activist agenda. He’s moved Deep background quickly to address the county’s In case you’ve been living economic woes in typically under a rock, Ulster County non-partisan manner; even bestruggled over the past few fore taking office he appointed years in the wake of a devasa panel to update the Ulster tating jail construction fiasco Tomorrow crew’s work, which to come up with a new county was already getting dated as charter, changing the form of a result of the new economic government from the purely reality. He’s got an economic legislative format that many development team in place, blamed for all the bungling to headed by his deputy, Budget one headed by a strong, elected Director Arthur Smith, aided county executive, who preand abetted by the preternatusumably would never let anyrally talented and politically thing so stupid happen again. savvy March Gallagher, who The new charter was approved will leave no stone unturned. by public referendum in 2006, He has been insinuating himwith implementation to comself into some heady company mence at noon on January 1, of late, even showing up on2009. In the right place at the stage in Albany as one of just right time as a RepublicanSenator Chuck Schumer and Congressman Maurice 22 invitees at Gov. Paterson’s turned-Democrat occupying Hinchey take the pastor’s admonition literally. announcement naming Gillian already significant post in brand New York’s next U.S. Senator. Including his inaugucounty government, and enjoying the tacit support of the ration, the Gillibrand fest and a recent gathering at Techbipartisan political center, Hein ran for and was elected to City announcing redevelopment plans there, he’s had more the county executive position in November 2008. face time with the powerful U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer in Hein announced his candidacy very early in 2007. Lookthe last month than do most local politicos in a year. ing back, it seems almost magical the way the opposition, initially quite fierce among Democrats, completely melted away. No sooner would a party stalwart like Dave Donaldson or Susan Zimet announce with a flourish that he or she People who need people was in the race and would wage a hearty battle to the bitter Meanwhile, the import of his inaugural event was end, than a few days or weeks later the candidate would do not lost on Hein, whose eyes at close range could be seen a surprise 180, dropping out with nary a whimper. tearing up a number of times behind the toothy politician’s Early speculative favorites like Assemblyman Kevin Casmile. It was not lost on his wife and son, whose love, rehill never even bothered, adding to speculation that Hein gard and pride for the man was obvious and heartwarming was indeed the anointed banner-carrier. The GOP threw to observe. It was not lost on Senator Schumer and U.S. up a sacrificial lamb in skating rink entrepreneur Len BerRep. Maurice Hinchey, who buried whatever differences nardo, who wasn’t even a real Republican. The only fly Continued on Page 6

I

Kirsten Gillibrand beams as the media wolves gather for her postannouncement press conference in Albany on Friday, Jan. 23.

There’s Something About Kirsten Schumer and Gillibrand turn a blue state mauve

By Steve Hopkins

I

f you listen to WAMC all the time like I do, you start to get the feeling that New York is the bluest of blue states, the standard bearer of the “Progressive” wing of the Democratic Party – or what some might less kindly call the “Liberazi” wing. New York’s liberal left has been feeling its oats of late, what with the solid Obama victory, the successful Democratic assault on both Congress and the statehouse, and the elevation of one of its prize warhorses, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to the lofty post of Secretary of State, where she’ll try to do better at saving the world than she did at implementing national health insurance. But things are never that simple. Obama has been decried in conspiracy circles as a closet tool of the Chicago-based patronage mob, recruited to loot the Federal Treasury just as surely as was G.W. Bush before him by the Texas Oil-based contingent of the same mob. In her heart of hearts, Hillary’s not really a liberal, she’s a social anarchist. And how does one explain Kirsten Gillibrand? Alan Continued on Page 4

Chuck Schumer in charge.


The Hudson Valley

CHRONIC

Page 2 • febRUAry 2009

Report from Washington:

By Molly Eagan

Setting Aside Childish Things A born anarchist’s quest for patriotism at the Obama Inauguration

A

s George Bush and Dick Cheney entered the platform of the Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 20, the crowd broke into song: “Nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah, hey hey, goodbye!” It occurred to me that this was not just symbolic of a crippled, outgoing administration. Their exit and the crowd’s song represented an end to the indifference of youth, especially as expressed in the ’80s and ’90s. My peers (and at times myself) were often more interested in who would win Survivor than who would win in the U.S. Senate. It often felt like there was nothing we could do to change things. And here we were, having done something. I was right behind the reflecting pool, which was frozen solid. Behind me, a million mittens clapped in the frigid cold. The Capitol was dotted with people. I could see the arched doorway through which Obama would walk, but a television camera on a crane blocked a clear view. Around me, people were swaying with anticipation. I felt heavily the responsibility of witnessing history. At 6:30 that morning as the sun came up, people began slowly converging from side streets into the mass that would fill the Mall. I walked from Dupont Circle (about three miles away), and it was as silent as a vigil. Near the Washington Monument, people milled around, throwing shoes at a giant blow-up Bush, cheering at the MSNBC booth, and buying bedazzled t-shirts. Small pockets of crowds formed, chanting, “Obama! Obama!” People were actually nice to each other, exchanging greetings, stories of where they came from, and how important this day was in their lives. Christine Johnson had taken a bus, which had broken down at one point, from Chicago with her two kids. “This is the best day of my life,” she said. “I never thought I would see this day!” And Joan Rice of Ellenville exclaimed, “A black man in the White House! It’s a beautiful thing!” I was brought up a revolutionary (not a terrorist, for all of you who don’t know the difference). My parents were married in 1968 during the takeover of the Columbia University administration building, protesting the Vietnam War. They said their vows by candlelight and were pronounced children of the new age. But the new age turned sour with the reign of Ronald Reagan in the ’80s. And for this, and many other reasons, I was taught to question the American flag. To my parents it was a symbol of the blood we’d shed around the world. So there on Inauguration Day, the first time a volunteer held out a little American flag on a wooden stick, I couldn’t take it. Despite the promise of a new administration, which hadn’t yet had the chance to prove itself, I didn’t see myself as a flag-waver. But Old Glory seemed to follow me wherever I went. Further down the mall, I saw it in a port-o-potty. Then, I almost tripped over one on the steps of the Smithsonian. It beckoned me from the rung of a gate in front of the Native American Museum. Still, my mother’s voice echoed in my head. I wasn’t ready to take it. Closer to the Capitol, the idyllic scene on the Mall

CHRONIC The Hudson Valley

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During the Obama Inauguration, our columnist was located in the “silver section” behind the reflecting pool.

turned to chaos when Harriet Dixon of Atlanta stopped telling me about her childhood in the South and started using her cane as a weapon. For an hour, we were gridlocked, and I was sure I would spend the duration of the inauguration staring at the back of the brown coat smashed against my face. But Terri Gittens from Kingston said standing in the crowd felt like everyone was finally “together,” and that we could “finally shed all those things that held us apart.” Nearby, a man quizzed his 8-year-old granddaughter on American history. She rattled off the birth and death dates of Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. “So that our children may …?” he questioned her. “Be free,” she answered. I had also been taught about history from an early age. While other children were going to the playground, I was visiting New York City galleries, looking at photographic evidence of the latest violence in El Salvador. At an awards ceremony at my grade school gym, my parents were the only ones who didn’t stand during the Pledge of Allegiance. We went to demonstrations the way other people went to church – once a month if we were feeling particularly guilty about something the government was doing, which was often, as Reagan was funding mass killings in the Contra wars. Lessons learned in childhood are hard to shed. As I stared down at the trampled grass between the feet of the people around me, a flag lay on the ground, its white stars stained brown. When the crowd swelled, my feet almost rose off the ground as I was carried forward, anchored by a tall Black man in front of me who held his arms out behind him in case I fell. We moved forward again and a few minutes later again, for about an hour, until I was finally squeezed through the gate to my section like a funnel. In 1994, when I was 18, I got dressed up in a miniskirt to vote for Bill Clinton. (I’d seen him on MTV!) But eight

years later I was at George W. Bush’s second inauguration, protesting, after he stole the election. My generation, it seemed, had also stolen terms like “revolution,” branding them for products. I often went to protests alone, leaving my disinterested peers behind. As John Mayer said, we were “sitting around waiting on the world to change.” My parents always told me that the legacy of the ’60s would reassert itself – that the generation they had given birth to would make them proud. And as I stood hunched against the cold among the millions of cheering people, I felt proud for them. Around me, a sea of flags waved, and people cheered as Obama took his oath. Most closed their eyes and stayed quiet as he spoke. Tears came from a woman’s eyes as she held tight to her husband. I kept waiting for Obama to say something like, “I want to give a shout out to my peeps standing in the cold!” But that was something Bush might say. Obama was too presidential. Yet as an agnostic, I did appreciate his nod to those of us “non-believers,” which made me feel included. And his acknowledgment of the “petty grievances, false promises, and worn-out dogmas” of the Bush administration made George visibly squirm. His numerous referrals to the working class – those who “toiled in sweatshops and settled the West, endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth,” and “the men and women who struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw” – brought applause. I got giddy when he spoke of restoring science to its rightful place. A woman in a wheelchair, who said only that her name was Ann, held out her flag to me when she saw I didn’t have one. I took the flag and watched it stand stiffly against the background of the Capitol – its square of stars folded under. I shook the flag to try and make it wave, and the folded corner of stars shook loose from underneath. It rattled on its little wooden stick and then waved slightly, blending into the blur of flags around it. It felt strange to become one of a million patriots cheering our president. It was something I never thought I would do. I still remain wary of any administration, but in that moment I felt ready to shed my childhood anarchism. The same goes for my father, who has grudgingly acknowledged that we are “living in a Capitalist democracy.” Despite some extreme leftists who compare Obama to Hitler, and the extreme right who want to see him fail, my father feels some sense of hope. I believe my mother, if she had lived to see it, would give our new president a chance, too. As for me, I am definitely ready to move on.

Speaking of the End of the World ... Don’t miss the upcoming

Dumb Won Art Show

6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday, April 4, at Keegan Ales, 29 James Street, Kingston

Contact us at: phone 845-635-1280 fax 866-800-4062

steve@hvchronic.com Photography Paul Joffe Fionn Reilly Andy Uzzle Steve Hopkins

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Many new pieces, including the much anticipated Puking Beauty #4!


The Hudson Valley

CHRONIC

 Nobody’s Business

I

t was a cold day in the fall of 1997 when I first crossed the threshold of the slate blue Victorian mansion in Millbrook, looking for a change of life and career. Thanks to the myopic bear of an executive editor, Bob Lomicky, I was given the chance to fake my way into a part-time job paginating the business pages of the Millbrook Round Table and six other papers in the Taconic Press firmament – the Gazette Advertiser (covering Rhinebeck and Red Hook); the Harlem Valley Times (Amenia, Dover and Millerton), The Voice Ledger (Pleasant Valley, LaGrange, Union Vale and Beekman); the Pawling News Chronicle, the Hyde Park Townsman and The Register Herald (Stanford and Pine Plains). As I was breaking up with a girlfriend after having moved with her to the country to escape a dissipated existence as a musician in New York City, I soon asked Bob for something full-time. He responded instantly, with a job as a reporter in the smelly Harlem Valley Times bureau office in Amenia, for 300 bucks a week and lodging at the legendary Taconic Arms, a rooming house owned by the boss, Hamilton Meserve. I took to reporting with a passion and have never let up since. I loved that place and time. I worked 80 hours a week, patched up my wounded artistic and romantic temperament and met a dozen or so extremely talented and wonderful people who continue to fill my life, including my wife, whom I first encountered as she was doing cartwheels through the newsroom on deadline night. By 1999 I had worked my way up through the bureau chief ranks to a cushy position as “editor-at-large,” which was so perfect that I knew it couldn’t last. A few months into it, a hatchet-faced gentleman in an expensive suit appeared with an awful woman in tow wearing a fur coat and barking obscenities into a cell-phone. The man was Robert Jelenic, CEO of Journal Register Corporation (JRC), which was buying the papers from the Meserve family. In anticipation of the sale, I was offered the job as executive

fEBRUARY 2009 • PAGE 3

With a Whimper, Taconic Press Bites the Dust editor; the Meserves had somehow determined that I would be able to handle the incoming suits better than Bob would. I took it, on the condition that Bob wouldn’t be fired. I handled them for a while, as they collected more papers (including the Daily Freeman, the Putnam County Courier and The Independent in Columbia County), slashed staff and budgets and tried in vain to get us to put box scores in the paper with Little League games, among other strange and often Draconian minutia. I did well enough that they tapped me to head the Housatonic Publishing group over in New Milford, which was so horrible an experience that within months I had hightailed it back to Manhattan for a magazine job. Like others, I have followed the declining fortunes of the Journal Register Corporation as the stock price dove to a penny a share and the company was thrown off the New York Stock Exchange, and as its constitutionally angry and aggressive CEO got cancer in 2007 and quit. He died this past December. So it was no surprise when this Tuesday the current batch of suits gathered everybody together at the old Victorian in Millbrook and told them they had one day to clear out; that all operations were being terminated immediately. The shocked and dismayed employees left the building crying; there was no notice, a bit of severance pay here and there for really long-term people. The company’s weekly arts and entertainment section, Taconic Weekend, had just won a pair of national awards one week earlier. There were people summarily canned who had been there 13, 26 and upwards of 30 years. JRC had already closed most of the Housatonic papers the week before, and shuttered The Independent on the preceding Friday. People at the Daily Freeman, the company’s flagship in the region, must be steeling for the worst. There was a rumor flying around that a group of wealthy local businesspeople was meeting on Wednesday at the Bank of Millbrook to discuss some way to resuscitate the Round Table at least, but that was news to the bank’s executive vice president, Ron Mosca, who had heard no such thing. Which brings me to the real point of this piece. As sad and as badly done as it was, the sudden dismembering of all these hundred-year-old papers does not signify the end of decent local journalism in these parts. While the community-specific newspaper tethered to a daily or weekly schedule may become an anachronism, there remains a need for information, analysis and enterprise reporting that cannot be met by the national news media, the Internet or the blogosphere. Something more light on its feet with not so many mouths to feed will evolve on the eastern side of the Hudson to take the place of the nine or so papers thrown on history’s dustbin by JRC. Perhaps it will be the unassuming little black-and-white monthly rag in your hands right now that can grow into the yawning chasm. The Gannett-owned and shrinking Poughkeepsie Journal, which closed its printing press last year and had to endure corporate-imposed weeklong furloughs this winter, will probably keep going in some form, perhaps tossed in with the Journal News to the south. On the other side of the river, the Freeman is toast until

By Steve Hopkins

somebody buys it for a song at the inevitable JRC fire sale. Outfits like Ulster County Press/Bluestone Press, the biweekly Phoenicia Times and Olive Press, Geddy Sveikauskas’s resolutely independent Ulster Publishing empire and others may experience a shakeout due to the dwindling ad dollar. Whoever’s left will need to refocus and pare back significantly to get through the lean years, but you don’t have to throw the baby out with the bathwater as JRC did. (Actually Geddy’s done quite a bit of retrenchment already, having closed two of his six papers in the last three months.) Meanwhile, as the new bottom feeder on the block, I’ll continue casting as wide a net as possible, covering as many really good stories as I can throughout the month without killing myself and my modest staff. My journalistic passion is undiminished. Ad sales are growing, if a bit slower than I’d like. With that in mind, I hereby make this solemn vow: When the end-of-theworld drama unfolds in 2012, the Hudson Valley Chronic (which by then may have evolved into the New York Chronic – who knows?), will be around to cover it. Beyond that, no promises.

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Who’s Obsolete Now? photos FIONNREILLY•COM

Photo by Paul Joffe

R

ob Iannucci stands next to the latest acquisition in his growing Fleet Obsolete collection: a World War II PT (patrol torpedo) boat, PT 48. Fleet Obsolete, which in fact is a nonprofit educational organization based in another Iannucci acquisition, the historic Cornell Steamboat Company shop building across the street from Kingston’s sewage treatment plant in the Rondout, boasts the world’s largest existing collection of PT boats. PT 48, originally a 77-foot-long by 17-foot-wide Elco, had at one point been cut down to 59 feet and used as a dinner cruise boat. The thing had been languishing for years in the weeds in Fruitland Park, a mobile home community in Leesburg, Fla.

“It’s as far as you can get from the ocean and still be in Florida,” said Iannucci’s architect, Huntley Gill. “I think there’s 72 teeth in the entire county. This thing was sitting there rotting, and was filled with bees. By the time I got one hand over the gunwale I was stung two times.” The boat was owned by Marsha and Robert Hostetler, who donated it to the nonprofit, upon which a crew went down to Fruitland Park, stabilized the rotting hulk and hoisted it via inflatable cushions onto a steel frame sitting atop a flatbed trailer. The truck and trailer were 95 feet long and weighed 110,000 pounds gross, necessitating the big rig getting a police escort through Florida, Tennessee and Ohio. The whole trip took 11 days.


The Hudson Valley

CHRONIC

Page 4 • febRUAry 2009

Gillibrand

From Page 1

Chartock and the rest of the liberal firmament almost went into cardiac arrest a few Fridays ago when Gov. David Paterson announced Gillibrand as his choice to replace Clinton as the state’s junior U.S. senator after a Shakespearean performance during the twomonth-long indecision process. Much ado was made over the fact that Gillibrand condones hunting and private gun ownership, and that her voting record as a so-called “Blue Dog” Democrat was mixed on issues like immigration and gay rights. Calls to the radio station ran 2-to-1 against her, and later in the day during the actual intro event in a packed conference room off the Empire State Plaza concourse, you could hear the teeth-gritting from the Manhattanbased journalists waiting to pounce on her and Paterson for dissing the Kennedy and Cuomo camps, as well as for making their jobs harder. Maurice Hinchey, the longtime liberal firebrand from the 22nd District who no doubt had designs of his own on Clinton’s Senate seat, went on Chartock’s “Congressional Corner” this week and gave a chilly non-endorsement to his former House compatriot from across the river, saying he was “surprised” at her selection and forecasting trouble ahead for Democrats in statewide races with Gillibrand leading the ticket. Yes, it was ugly, and every jaded political wonk within earshot was shaking his or her bald/frizzy head, pronouncing Paterson dead in the water and Gillibrand as being the second coming of Josef Mengele.

Enter the Dragon

But not so fast. First of all, if you have a problem with Kirsten Gillibrand, don’t blame poor Paterson. The governor, while a peach of a guy and a breath of fresh air in a position that has seen its fair share of megalomaniacs and personality-challenged suits, is no steamroller. The most powerful individual in New York State politics in a generation (if not ever), U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, already the third-ranking member of the Senate leadership with a bullet, has been calling in his chips earned from delivering a near filibuster-proof 58-vote majority (not counting that pesky Minnesota race) in November’s election and is positioning himself to challenge for even greater spoils. He has made himself so indispensible to

take a breath for two seconds so he could congratulate her.

More than meets the eye

The new Senator takes a congratulatory call from President Obama.

the running of the 111th Congress, particularly with regard to the economic bailout and the fate of Wall Street and U.S. banks, that even the new president seems to be (reluctantly) eating out of his hand. And it was Schumer, not Paterson, who chose Hillary Clinton’s successor. During the Jan. 23 announcement he played proud papa to the young upstart, who during her short, effective career in the House has earned from some of her less ambitious peers the nickname “Tracy Flick,” a reference to the scheming class president candidate portrayed by Reese Witherspoon in the classic 1999 teen comedy, Election. (It’s not far off, actually, and she seems to accept the stigma with good-humored resignation.) Schumer stood and smiled beatifically over her left shoulder as Gillibrand worked her aw-shucks magic on the crowd during a nearly interminable acceptance speech that had Sheldon Silver yawning and rolling his eyes, and even kept President Obama on hold waiting for her to

In an odd and some say telling juxtaposition, the man Schumer beat to take his position in 1998, former “Senator Pothole” and current heavyweight lobbyist Alphonse D’Amato, was hovering over Gillibrand’s right shoulder, sending the city-based press boys and girls into fits of apoplexy. But D’Amato, some of us knew, was a mentor to the young Gillibrand during the political training that followed her upbringing as the scion of a key contingent in the powerful O’Connell dynasty that ran Albany for half a century. Her grandma was Dorothea “Polly” Noonan, Mayor Erastus Corning’s longtime secretary, right-hand woman and rumored mistress. Her polymorphously bipartisan dad, Douglas Rutnik, is a lobbyist himself who was mentored by Corning, is a friend of D’Amato’s and – after breaking up with Gillibrand’s mom – even went out for 12 years with the former senator’s (and former Gov. Pataki’s) secretary, Zenia Mucha, who is now a VP of communications at Disney. So, Gillibrand’s no fresh-faced ingénue. Her bloodline has been around the political block at least as many times as the Kennedys and Cuomos have, and is at least as interesting. Ask William Kennedy. By the way, as an aside, another “surprise: fresh face to watch out for in the future is newly minted Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, who somehow got himself invited onstage for the Gillibrand announcement with only 21 other people, mostly true political bigwigs of state and national repute. Watch this guy – he’s going places.

Good morning, Mrs. President?

At any rate, back at the ranch, Schumer, who has a well-earned reputation as a publicity hound (former Vice President Robert Dole once famously opined that the most dangerous place to stand in the District of Columbia was “between Chuck Schumer and a television camera”), is a pro, and knows when to beat a hasty retreat. By the time the Q&A session began – during which the media wolves got their chance Continued on Next Page

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The Hudson Valley

CHRONIC

The stone-faced and blindsided city press corps tries to get a bead on the state’s new power axis.

to tear into the governor about Gillibrand and her qualifications – the perpetrator had already left the building. While probably too much of a political lightning rod to consider a presidential run himself (among other things, he is blamed by many conservative Republicans for singlehandedly bringing on the Great Recession by badmouthing IndyMac in a letter to the FDIC, causing a $1.3 billion run on the bank), Schumer in Gillibrand has the perfect protégé, and a means of extending his massive inf luence deep into the next generation. Like himself, Gillibrand is hyper-intelligent, a political pragmatist, a workaholic and a savvy strategist. Presumably

Sick Sudoku

with his help, she’s already gotten seats on four Senate committees, most importantly the Foreign Relations Committee, where she’ll get the chance to make some noise. She also scored seats on the Committee on Environment and Public Works, the Agriculture Committee and the Special Committee on Aging. She’s already had the opportunity to put her two cents in during the talks over the infrastructure pork being doled out in the looming Economic Stimulus bill, and even got to talk about it a little after both she and Schumer voted yes to the $838 billion Senate version that passed on Tuesday, Feb. 10. “The investments in infrastructure and alternative energy development will create jobs and build a foundation for long-term economic growth in our state,” she chirped, not sounding at all like the balanced-budget crusader who voted against both $350 billion bank bailout packages while in the House. On the podium at the announcement of her appointment, Schumer the queen-maker alluded to Gillibrand’s coming malleability with a comment regarding her stance on gun control, which is diametrically opposed to his. “Her views will evolve,” he said, flashing that trademark Cheshire Cat grin. So will she. Watch as she is groomed by Chuck Schumer over the long haul to be the antidote to Sarah Palin in the coming all-female Presidential Sweepstakes – which, depending on how Mr. Obama negotiates the minefield he’s been dealt, could kick off sooner than expected. You read it here first.

Puzzle # S0002

As any die-hard puzzlehead knows, Sudoku is not a game; it’s either a means of warding off dementia, or a form of dementia in itself. Either way, this seemingly harmless little pastime has become an unspeakable facet of daily existence for millions of silent addicts, and a likely root cause for the simultaneous and precipitous drop in the GNPs of several the world’s leading economic powers. Enjoy this second in a series of brainstoppers. Again, for the solution, go to hvchronic.com. If you figured it out, go buy yourself something so you can add a little to all the economic stimulus going on.

fEBRUARY 2009 • PAGE 5


The Hudson Valley

CHRONIC

Page 6 • febRUAry 2009

Mike Hein

From Page 1

they may have and comported themselves Touching moments like a pair of reunited war buddies, sitting After the spotlight-shy Sheriff Van Blartogether and sharing private thoughts, cum managed to lead the assembled in the heaping accolades and political starshine Pledge of Allegiance and a moment of sion their party’s new regional golden boy, lence for the troops, and after the Hudson and even going so far as to hold hands in Valley Youth Chorale sang the Star Spanresponse to an exhortation by the Rev. gled Banner, Rev. Childs placed the ChrisJames Childs Jr. tian deity’s blessing on the event, on Hein Always politically aware, Hein used and Auerbach and their families, and on a piece of his moment in the spotlight to everyone else within earshot, including this give Mo a plug for the vacant U.S. Senate undeserving sinner. job, buttonholing Schumer into giving a “I’m gonna ask you to touch someone positive response that he would have to that’s next to you,” began the preacher. “Eibackpedal on later in the day (as borne ther hold their hand, put your hand on their out a few weeks later, Schumer was alarm …” ready lobbying the governor heavily for The request elicited a roomful of nervous Gillibrand, whose centrist appeal fits in laughter when people looked to the left and with his long-term strategy for consoliright and realized whom they might have to dating national political power back in hold hands with. The tittering escalated into New York, where it belongs. See article, a communal belly laugh when Schumer and Page 1). Hinchey made a show of holding hands and Schumer and Hinchey headed up a mugging for the crowd, breaking the embarlong list of public officials, local leading rassed tension. The Hudson Valley Youth Chorale sings the Star Spangled Banner to an overflow house. lights and upright citizens on hand to Continued on Next Page witness the classic spectacle. Standing in was able to gain entrance to the front of the house and for a makeshift dais was the jury box, the front row of get you all these juicy photos. Also sprinkled around the which was populated by the senator and the congresscourtroom were a number of recognizable faces, includman along with Surrogate Court Judge Mary Work; ing Ulster County Clerk Nina Postupack; Undersheriff Bruderhof senior pastor Johann Christoph Arnold and Frank Faluotico; former Daily Freeman and now Ulster his wife Verena; Sheriff Paul Van Blarcum and Rabbi Publishing journalist Hugh Reynolds and his old buddy Yitzchok Hecht of Chabad of Ulster County and ConEd Palladino; former Kingston alderman Sheldon Zimgregation Agudas Achim of Kingston. Behind them sat bler; Mary Work’s husband Vic, the county’s buildings the two robed judges presiding over the swearing-in cerand grounds administrative manager; local real-estate emonies — State Appellate Justice Michael Kavanagh mogul Joe Deegan; Bop to Tottom owner Karen Clarkand Kingston City Court Judge James Gilpatrick — Adin and AVR Realty spokesman Ron Marquette. Realong with Rev. Childs; county legislator and numberportedly there were other unseen notables somewhere one legislative Hein supporter Alan Lomita; soon-toon the premises, including District Attorney Holley be-freshman state senator Frank Skartados (who was Carnright; Supreme Court Appellate judge Karen Peto take his own decidedly less historic oath of office ters; SUNY Ulster President Don Kott; Ellenville Maytwo days later at a diner in Newburgh); Ulster Town or Jeff Kaplan; Marbletown Supervisor Vin Martello; Supervisor Nick Woerner; and county legislator Gary Family Court Judge Tony McGinty; Kingston City Bischoff, with his wife Marge sitting on his lap. Clerk Kathy Janiczek; Kingston Alderman Mike MadManning the door to the dangerously packed courtsen; and Ulster County legislators T.J. Briggs, Brian Caroom was newly minted Ulster County Democratic hill, Frank Dart, Don Gregorius, Wayne Harris, Glenn Chairman Julian Schreibman, who generously steered Noonan, Jeanette Provenzano, Ken Ronk, Susan Zimet this grateful journalist past a surly outer hallway crowd A happy and relieved Elliott Auerbach takes the oath. and the chairman, Dave Donaldson. through a back door into the judge’s chambers, where I


The Hudson Valley

CHRONIC

Standup Rabbi

Say, who’s that peeking over Sen. Chuck Schumer’s powerful shoulder at the Gillibrand announcement?

“That’s exactly why I asked you to do that, because it’s very enjoyable,” said Childs, whose point was that “we’re going to touch people we don’t normally touch” in order to get ourselves out of the current economic morass. He continued with the theme by asking the Lord to put a guiding hand on Hein and company as they take the reins of county government. “Touch Mike Hein, God, and allow him to be able to look to those that are around him; to reach across differences and to be able to touch those that will be able to help. Those whose opinions may be different, those who may see things differently.” Judge Gilpatrick, who touched Judge Kavanagh on the arm during the interlude but couldn’t quite get him to hold hands or touch him back, was then called up to administer the oath of office to a grateful Auerbach, who gave special thanks “to those 174 voters” who put him over the top in his razor-thin recount victory over Republican Jim Quigley. Speaking as much for Hein as for himself in the comptroller’s slot, Auerbach promised the creation in Ulster County of “a government that is open, is honest, and is ethical.”

Rabbi Hecht, whom I’ve met a number of times and have never before thought of as particularly funny, was a regular laugh riot in eliciting Jehovah’s blessing on our individual and collective success, pulling a routine out of his yarmulke that could have given Henny Youngman a run for his money. With a tough act to follow, Alan Lomita managed to hold his own in both the comedy and gravity departments. “This is the first Mike Hein event that we didn’t have to pay at the door,” he began. As sustained peals of laughter began to fade, came the well-timed follow: “Although I did get a little bit nervous, Mike, when they made us empty our pockets” at the security checkpoint at the courthouse entrance. His The Heins kept in touch with each other throughout the proceedings. closing stanza was almost Obama-esque: pared the 2008 election season with the one that blew “These are difficult times for our country, FDR and the New Deal into office in 1932, and proceedand for our county. Some of our problems seem insured to build an imaginative if not entirely logical oratorical mountable. It’s also a once-in-a-generation opportunity bridge to the afternoon’s proceedings in Ulster County. — to rethink the role of government; to find innovative “We now have in Washington a much stronger Consolutions to our problems; to move our country and our gress, and a new President of the United States, who has county in a new direction. Americans have been turned the capability to provide the direction, the leadership, the off by government. We roll around with the same tired insight, the intelligence, the honesty that we need, and solutions to problems, with the same results. But there’s should take for granted in every president,” said Hinchey, a noticeable excitement in this country, and a noticeable going on to praise Hein as a leader cut from the same excitement in this county — that maybe, just maybe, we capable, intelligent and honest cloth as Obama. can get it right this time. Mike Hein has demonstrated Aiming a little lower and making a more clear-cut that he is a bright, innovative, dynamic leader. Mike, case, Schumer contented himself with stating what a Elliott, let’s all work together and make people proud of great day it was — for Hein, for his family, for the county, their government once again.” and for the good old U.S.A. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he intoned, “if Benjamin Franklin or George Washington or Thomas Jefferson were looking down on this courtroom The new Dem-ographic today, they’d smile. This is the Republic they wanted and In the new national and statewide political reality that created.” is emerging as a result of the tectonic electoral shift that Justice Kavanagh then got in his own ringing endorsetook place in November, Schumer and Hinchey have ment of Hein before swearing him in ably and cleanly, both emerged as heavyweight players in their respective with none of the marble-mouthed oath-mangling perpehouses, and Schumer is arguably the most powerful potrated by Chief Justice John Roberts on Barack Obama litical figure in New York at this moment. To have them three weeks later. For the curious, here is the oath: both present to give ringing endorsements to the young “I, Michael Hein, do solemnly swear that I will support county executive at his inauguration augurs well for Ulthe Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of ster County’s status in the inevitable pecking order Continued on Next Page Attempting to put things into context, Hinchey com-

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The Hudson Valley

CHRONIC

Page 8 • febRUAry 2009

Mike Hein

From Page 7

the State of New York, and the Charter of the County of Ulster, and I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of County Executive for the County of Ulster to the best of my ability, so help me God.”

‘Heady stuff’

Following a very loud, 40-second ovation, Hein took the podium. “I will tell you, this is very heady stuff for a farm kid from Esopus,” he began, before putting in his failed plug for the governor to consider Hinchey as Senator. In keeping with the largely historical nature of this piece, his inaugural speech will not be sampled or paraphrased, but will be printed here in its entirety: “I’d like to thank my wife, Christine. The truth is, she’s the best person I have ever known. She’s provided unwavering strength and support for our family while making countless sacrifices. She is a spectacular mother and the one who makes this all possible. “And I’d also like to thank my son, Mickey. Like all parents, I’m proud of my child. But Mickey’s story is a little unusual. He was born four months premature, weighing only a pound and a half. Mickey wasn’t supposed to live, and if he lived surely he was not supposed to thrive — but he has. He has completely defied all odds, and through him, I’m reminded daily that the impossible really is possible. I’m truly blessed. “We are here today at the beginning of a new government, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a strong foundation, a privilege provided to us by hard-working, brave and visionary people who pushed for the Charter. These people asked for no thanks, but we will all forever be in their debt. They, too, believed the impossible was possible. “I stand before you as Ulster County’s first county executive, both humble and honored. I take very seriously the core principle of the Charter: one person ultimately accountable to you, the people of Ulster County. So I do not take lightly the authority or responsibility that comes with this role. “And becoming county executive at this time, in the middle of a deep recession, will undoubtedly present added challenges. But it is precisely those challenges that make this time so critical. You see, I envision an Ulster County well beyond economic troubles, a leader in alternative energy, a place where natural beauty is preserved and our children have the opportunity to stay and prosper, a place with a thriving tourism industry, vibrant arts community and countless strong, locally-owned businesses. Today is the day we take our first step in that direction. “And as we begin, I am reminded of words of President John F. Kennedy when he said, ‘All of this will not be accomplished in the first hundred days, nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days, nor in the life of this administration, nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. ... But let us begin.’ “And, so today, let us begin. Let us begin in our quest to make Ulster County the finest place anywhere to live, work and raise a family. We do this together because Ulster County’s greatest asset is our people. We are proud, hardworking and incredibly diverse — and in that diversity is our strength. “I look forward to taking on the challenges we face with a well-respected, reform-minded cabinet in conjunction with a talented workforce. The members of the CSEA, PBA, CWA and Ulster County Staff Association are your neighbors, your friends and the backbone of a better Ulster County. They too are fully committed to a better county government. “As county executive, I’m committed to being a strong advocate for the people of Ulster County. We will speak with one single strong voice to Washington, the State of New York and just as importantly, to potential and current business owners. “I look forward to working with this Legislature and our talented new comptroller, Elliott Auerbach. Working with the county Legislature over the last three years, we have shown that working together, departments can be consolidated, accountability can occur, and transparency can take place. “I want to take this moment to remind everyone that it was this Legislature that showed the courage and wisdom to pass a charter that forever altered their authority. This type of selfless vision is rare among governments at any level. And for that they should be truly commended. “As we proceed, there will be adjustments for all branches of government; but I believe with strong communication and a full appreciation of the gravity of the issues we face, highly partisan politics can be set aside and together we will create a model county government in the State of New York. “As we strive to create this model we will face some of the hardest times since the Great Depression; some may even say our job is impossible — but I know and you know that the impossible really is possible. We will prevail. We will emerge a leaner, more efficient government, tightening our collective belts just like the people of Ulster County already have. “I am committed to increasing cooperation among all governments in delivering service more effectively and efficiently. And I will be a constant reminder within government that we all work for the same person, the taxpayers of our community.

“I am committed to growing our involvement with SUNY New Paltz, BOCES and the community college to maximize the benefits of our collective expertise. “I am committed to helping local businesses — not just now, but now and in the future. “I will continue to reach out to the community for valuable input, reaching across political lines just as I did in my recent Economic Development Task Force. This diverse group provided a wealth of short- and long-term recommendations. Ideas, that when combined with the Ulster Tomorrow Economic Development Plan, give us the best chance to improve our economy and our community. “I will look to tap experienced and knowledgeable people on a myriad of issues going forward. You will find my style to be collaborative and action-oriented, constantly focusing on improvement and innovation. “Now in closing, President Woodrow Wilson once said, ‘If you want to make enemies, just try to change things.’ He knew that with change comes both uncertainty and fear. And individuals holding onto the status quo may undoubtedly feel threatened. So as someone committed to change, I do not expect to be without controversy. “But I also know that with change comes opportunity and hope — the hope for something better, and the opportunity to fulfill the American dream. “In November of 2008 I was honored to be on the same historical ballot as President-elect Barack Obama. I believe he, more than anyone in a generation, has returned hope to our nation — hope for the American people, and, yes, hope for the American dream.

“As your county executive, I ask for your patience and your prayers as we move to deliver change. And I promise you, I will work with every fiber in my being to make Ulster County the finest place anywhere to live, work and raise a family. Thank you very much.

Tough row to hoe

Hein’s State of the County speech this week contained much more detail than his inaugural opener, and echoed the strident tone evinced by President Obama of late with his get-tough message urging political foes to put aside their petty differences and work together to find ways to mitigate the effects of the Great Recession we’ve sunk into. Before closing out in what is becoming his trademark warm and fuzzy manner, he hit hard on the problems of dwindling sales taxes and steep cuts in federal and state largesse, and what they might mean in dollars to the already overburdened property taxpayer. He asked for intermunicipal help in fighting these problems, partly by streamlining and sharing government services and speeding up the sometimes glacial progress of siting and approving development projects. He had no answer as of yet for the $6 million annual “jail tax” that must be paid to cover the debt incurred from the star-crossed facility’s going so far over budget. Hein seems to be on top of it. I’m personally giving him his 100 days and more, and will be piping up with what may or may not be helpful suggestions every once in a while. Hein is actively encouraging such citizen participation, and I suggest that if you have anything positive to contribute, you do the same.


HV Chronic Vol II No 1