Babbling Bernardo

County Executive Mike Hein released his budget on September 30th (sorry, but I’ve been busy) and it’s another winner for Ulster County despite New York’s fiscal problems. Hein’s budget cuts spending and reduces taxes by 1.1%. Nobody should be complaining, but I bet Terry Bernardo will because history often repeats itself and she voted, as a member of the Legislature, against Hein’s previous budgets that lowered taxes and cut spending.

Meanwhile as Ulster County is lauded by the State Comptroller’s office for its fiscal standing and Hein was busy releasing his budget, Terry Bernardo sent a bizarre email seeking support by asking people if they’ve had enough. No, I’m serious. The subject line of the email is – “Had enough? Let’s fix it.” Here’s a question for Bernardo – had enough of what? Reducing the size of government? Forming public/private partnerships to lower costs to taxpayers? Expanding services while cutting expenses? Reducing taxes? Since she’s a Republican I wonder if she knows what platform she supports. Every registered Republican and Conservative should be dancing in the streets over the Hein administration’s results.

Bernardo’s email stressed the two key reasons why she’s running and they are flimsy, foolish and quite honestly make absolutely no sense to me. The first reason she’s running is so there is a choice. Not because she’s better qualified, more capable or will do a better job. But so there is a choice. And the second reason she is running is because of the plan to rip up the Kingston Plaza railroad track, which Bernardo identifies as a historic treasure. The logic evades me.

Her email also proclaimed that Congressman Chris Gibson endorsed her and I wouldn’t call his comments – at least the ones I heard and read in online news reports – exactly an endorsement. He more or less said that she had a huge task against a strong incumbent and in the days before these comments, Gibson attended another event in Kingston where he publicly commended Hein for his efforts on behalf of Veterans and military service members.

Election Day is November 3rd so thankfully, there are only thirty more days to listen to Bernardo’s babble.

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Pay raises for Legislators

Well folks the much awaited report containing recommendations for salaries and benefits by the Periodic Compensation Review Committee is out. If you want your blood pressure to rise and a sharp pain to develop in your forehead read the various recommendations put forth by the Committee which is up on the County website here.

You should know that under the Charter the Periodic Compensation Review Committee is a five-member appointed committee with three members appointed by the Legislature and two members appointed by the County Executive. The wording of Section C-108 in the Charter prohibits appointees being from one political party. Nonetheless, you have appointees lobbying for salary increases on behalf of the Legislators including Gerry Benjamin, former Legislator, who was appointed by Ken Ronk (R-Shawangunk).

Several years ago on this blog I commented about the compensation of elected officials particularly County Legislators. First, they are part-timers and they are all currently eligible to participate in the county health insurance program and state pension system. For many Legislators, this equates to family coverage at a cost of approximately $30,000 so after adding the cost of health insurance to their $10,000 salary, which I recognize has not been raised since 1994 or thereabouts, that is not a bad gig for a part time job. The salary may have remained static, but the cost of health insurance has continuously risen.

Given the state of things in New York, despite impressive fiscal stability established by the County Executive, salary increases seem nothing short of nervy to me. While I realize that the Periodic Compensation Review Committee is required under the Charter, it is pretty sad to have Legislators pushing a personal agenda for higher pay.

If the Legislators want to be trendsetters like County Executive Hein and maybe steal some press from him, how about putting these resolutions forward?:

  1. To better serve the people of Ulster County, we hereby establish term limits of four two-year terms for all Legislators effective with the 2017 election year and these limits are retroactive so that any Legislator who will have served four or more terms at the end of 2017 will be ineligible to seek reelection.
  2. To better serve the people of Ulster County, we hereby make County Legislators ineligible to receive County funded health insurance effective in 2018. This resolution will not impact Legislators eligibility to participate in the state pension system which is mandated by state law.

That ought to do it and it will give those taking advantage of the generous health insurance to find another gig before 2018. It will also get rid of many Legislators who have turned a short stint of community service into a lifelong career.

Oh, and if you want to complain about pay raises for Legislators please send an email to (email address for the Periodic Compensation Review Committee) so your comments are noted before the public hearing.

And if you really want to make your voice heard, attend the public hearing on Tuesday, September 29th at 7 PM in Legislative Chambers, 6th Floor, Ulster County Office Building, 244 Fair Street, Kingston.

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Leader in Fiscal Stability

So apparently the strategies are working.


State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released a report covering all 62 of New York’s counties and Ulster leads the region, including Westchester County, as the most fiscally stable and is tied for number four across the state. Impressive results and a testament to Mike Hein’s leadership.

Remember that when you go to the polls on November 3rd, which means you only have thirty-nine more days to listen to Bernardo’s baloney. If the Republicans and Conservatives truly believe in fiscal responsibility, they’ll vote for Mike Hein.


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Pushing press via debate

If you haven’t heard, struggling county executive candidate Terry Bernardo is pushing for a debate because she’s got so much to say and she mistakenly believes that people want to hear her. Of course, she wants a debate because she can’t get the press to write anything about her. Go ahead and Google search the news on Bernardo and you will see what I’m saying is true. As for a debate with Hunter Downie – does anybody even know who that guy is? Outside of him being someone the Bernardos found at a train meeting to run on the Green Party line – who is he? And if you think there’s little or no news on Bernardo, try finding something about this guy.

The League of Women Voters will not hold a debate – they will likely pose questions to each candidate and give them a certain amount of time to respond. A real debate is a lively discussion about a particular topic and even if one comes to pass, the LWV forum won’t be that. And let’s face it, the League of Women Voters, while they may claim to be an impartial group with no party affiliation, is mostly comprised of Democrats so it’s not exactly friendly territory for Bernardo.

While Bernardo is trying to make a big deal out of this phony debate as if Hein is ducking her (what a joke that is), leaders have busy schedules thus have scheduling conflicts. I would think that most people expect that the CEO of their county would have a fairly busy schedule particularly at budget time, which it is now, and which Bernardo should know. So people shouldn’t be surprised that Hein is busy and has a far less flexible schedule than Bernardo or Downie who can’t even get a news brief written about their boring schedules.

Perhaps Bernardo could try making some substantive statements about what she’s going to do better than Hein rather than just keep talking about a train, working together and economic development. Maybe she could talk about how she’s going to put those ten years of tax breaks to good use and finally meet their job numbers at Skate Time 209. Give the press something to write about and they will write it. No meat, no substance, no coverage. And that’s what she’s got.

I’m going to remind people that Terry Bernardo, as Chairwoman of the Ulster County Legislature, voted against Mike Hein’s budgets on more than one occasion and once she did so “on principle” because she didn’t like the budget process. Not the budget, but the process. On principle. I want to add that tax increases under Hein have been negligible or zero – every Republican’s dream – and she still voted against the budget. Who does that?

Even if there is a debate, Terry Bernardo will not prevail. She doesn’t have what it takes. She was ineffective as Legislature Chair, caused divisiveness and failed to win reelection in her own district. That says a lot. If you haven’t witnessed a Bernardo YouTube video, you should. But if she succeeds at having a “debate” with Hein it will be like showing up for a gun fight with a pocket knife. And she’ll be the one with the knife.

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Fluff and bull straight from the candidate’s mouth


Our county needs a comprehensive economic development strategy to grow jobs and attract investment. This will be my #1 priority as your County Executive.

The above is from Terry Bernardo’s official campaign website and you’ve got to wonder how someone who is a business owner in Accord, New  York, and who failed to live up to creating the jobs promised for tax breaks received is going to create more jobs for Ulster County. Oh seriously. The Bernardos have received tax breaks since 2005 on Skate Time 209, their Accord skating rink, and their original application promised somewhere between 20 and 52 jobs (depending on how you interpret the columns) and at last reporting they had nine employees, mostly part-time and including themselves. It’s probably fewer jobs by now.

For those who don’t recall, when the IDA Board (Industrial Development Agency) – following an order by the State Comptroller’s office – performed mandatory reviews of all projects in Ulster County receiving tax breaks, the Bernardos’ business was one identified as having failed to meet performance criteria. Sadly, a paperwork error resulted in the job numbers or FTEs (full time equivalents) being omitted from the final agreement so the “concerned with Ulster County taxpayers” Bernardos threatened to sue the County if they didn’t continue to receive their tax breaks despite not living up to their end of the deal. Len Bernardo went further saying in effect they never promised to create any jobs because the low interest rate loan and significant property tax reduction were just because…oh, I don’t know…um, somebody liked them?

So, if Terry Bernardo cannot create jobs at her own business, how does she plan on doing it throughout Ulster County? It’s just more fluff and bull.

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Less work, more pay

Several years ago – probably the last time the Compensation Review Committee was meeting – I made a stink about health insurance being paid to Ulster County Legislators, who are – no matter how the state wants to calculate their job status – part-time workers. At the time, the Republicans were in the majority and they thought a raise might be a good idea. Now the Democrats have the majority and it seems they want more money, too. An issue pushed forth by Ken Ronk (R-Shawangunk), minority leader, and Dave Donaldson (D-Kingston) they would like to be paid more. The current pay for Legislators is $10,000 per year and they haven’t seen a pay increase since 2001. During the discussions two years ago I suggested giving them a few thousand dollars a year extra, but limiting the health insurance to single coverage only with the option to buy family coverage at the group rate out of pocket. Seemed more than fair to me. Yes, there are legislators taking full family coverage putting their total compensation at or about $40,000.

Now they want to raise their salaries by double (See Patty Doxsey’s article from Saturday’s Daily Freeman Double Pay Wanted), which is just ludicrous. The Legislature may not have gotten a raise since 2001, but let’s face it with the implementation of the County Charter in 2009 that brought with it a government led by the County Executive, the powers and duties of the Legislature have been greatly decreased. Yes, they still have to approve the budget, which is now created by the Executive, and set policy, but it’s a lot less time and work than it used to be.

With people throughout New York struggling and many choking on their own saliva after just receiving their school tax bills, it’s a lot of nerve by any legislator to request more money for a part-time job.

I will repeat – being a legislator is meant to be a part-time, non-permanent job to do your part and then leave so let’s not turn it into another opportunity for lifetime employment by expanding pay and maintaining already absurd benefits. No one in Ulster County (in the private sector) who works part-time is entitled to health insurance and why should legislators be any different?

Limit the health insurance to single coverage and no raise. Don’t like the pay? Don’t run!

Now, let me see some term limits and I will be impressed.

Oh, and don’t forget to attend the Public Hearing at September 29th at 7 PM at the County Office Building. More details to follow as I get them.

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“We’re incompetent!”

…says the Ulster County Legislature and former Legislature Chairwoman and Republican candidate for County Executive, Terry Bernardo, concurs.

The Legislators apparently think so little of themselves, despite being elected by the voters in their legislative districts, that they’d rather let yet another appointed committee choose an independent auditor to audit the county’s books (with, of course, the legislative majority selecting the bulk of the appointees).

In a recent news article Bernardo supports audit committee, Bernardo jumped on board stating that Hein vetoed a bill that would have provided taxpayers the right to select an auditor through an independent committee. I guess Bernardo doesn’t get that the Legislature (yup, 23 of them) gets to select the independent auditor so the firm is chosen by the taxpayers via their elected representative. She must not get that part. And if twenty-three elected lawmakers cannot screen and select an auditing firm to protect the taxpayers, the people of Ulster County are in serious trouble.

This proposed, now vetoed, Resolution No. 262 stemmed from a resolution Hein vetoed back in 2013 which was the appointment of an auditing firm chosen by Republicans who were in the majority at the time while Bernardo was chair of the Legislature. Quite a sticky little connection, don’t you think? I mean who selects the same firm to do an audit that also consulted on the budget review? Apparently the Legislators thought little of it and that probably wasn’t one of their brightest ideas, but to remove any say in the matter over hiring of the auditing firm is like saying “we’re incompetent so let someone else do it.”

Now what I really want to know is where’s the Resolution establishing term limits for legislators? There’s something the Republicans should be getting behind.

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