Friday, April 17, 2009

It could be a sitcom, if only it were funny...

The New Paltz Village Board is beyond salvation at this point. It almost reminds me of a sitcom except nothing about the situation is funny. At all.

First, the cast of characters:

The Mayor - living in a bubble, working incredibly hard, accomplishing absolutely nothing and believing he is simply misunderstood as the sole protector of our community. He thinks he is a visionary, except no one else shares his vision or even knows what it is. The Mayor occasionally gives information to others, but would really rather be left to implement his plan without any consultation from the rest of the Board, the community or the staff. He willfully disregards others and consistently takes action without approval or discussion. The Mayor is generally a likeable person and a terrible politician.
Policy example: Singlehandedly instituting a "spending freeze" that is applied inconsistently and erratically, looking in all the wrong places when it comes time to balance the budget.
Priorities: ?????
Quote: "This isn't information that you need to know."

The Financier - concerned with only one thing, which is particularly problematic, since The Financier is secretive, incapable of working with other people, clearly has little interest in this job outside of "liability" and "financial" issues and has no commitment to this community outside of her rigid, narrow view which usually amounts to "When I was Clerk-Treasurer, this is how I did it, so it's right." The unspoken details involving her departure from her previous position suggest the opposite may be true and she continues to prove this in her work with the Village. She would rather be at home than at meetings, and this is apparent on the occasions when she actually shows up. She contributes little outside of her 2 specific interests and is generally unprepared for meetings except when it comes to nickel-and-diming and acting as the extremely overbearing and overprotective parent of the Village, which is usually detrimental to the people who actually live in the Village.
Policy example: Requiring permission slips to use the parks.
Priorities: Bills & Claims
Quote: "This is a liability."

The Butterfly - seems like an accidental Trustee most of the time, The Butterfly flits around and doesn't fully commit to much except those issues that pertain to her immediate environment. Moriello Pool, parks, sidewalks and trees are of utmost importance, but nuts-and-bolts aren't really her thing. She is cute, colorful and bubbly but can becomes incredibly hostile and irrational if she feels threatened. In these cases, she engages in long-winded and disjointed diatribes toward the source of her discomfort without any real suggestions for improvement. She then follows up with a Letter to the Editor reiterating her annoyance, and drops out of sight for a while until she calms down. She goes out of her way to antagonize stakeholders that she personally dislikes, while making remarkable concessions for those she considers important members of our community. If The Butterfly were a student, she'd have been run out of town by now, but because she's a mom her constant absences and latenesses are generally overlooked.
Policy example: Hmm... well, she volunteers for a lot of stuff.
Priorities: Anything that impacts her interests and those of her family.
Quote: "Sorry I'm late!"

The Gatekeeper - seems like the only veteran Trustee (this characterization surprisingly belongs to The Mayor, although The Financier will argue that she's a veteran, too). Even though The Gatekeeper has only served 1 full term on the Board, he knows the Village inside out. The Gatekeeper has been diligent, thoughtful and detail-oriented. The Gatekeeper has a slight tendency to be rigid and overly invested in his view of what is right, but has grown tremendously since his election in 2005. Unfortunately, his tenure on the Board began with a Mayor who was far from ideal. He then supported the current Mayor and... shit. It actually does get worse! So he's finally had enough and is leaving his position effective June 1. This is a huge loss to the Village, as his likely replacement is another dopey, unknown, bland, non-committal transplant from the Huguenot Street Dems (think: David Lewis). Blech. He is attentive to the concerns of Village employees and is often called upon in his capacity as Deputy Mayor to engage with these individuals, as the Mayor is far too busy in his tower at all hours of the night to actually be bothered by people.
Priorities: Process, Building, Zoning, Planning.
Policy example: Woodland Ponds.
Quote: "OK, but can we talk about the agenda now?"

The Renegade - the newest Trustee, but you wouldn't know it. A longstanding member of this community, The Renegade has a focused list of priorities and will do whatever it takes to see that these priorities are achieved. He is clear, unapologetic, driven and fully aware of the staggering political barriers to moving his agenda forward. While The Renegade has taken a tempered, patient approach, it is obvious that his patience is quickly running out. The only Board ally that The Renegade has is The Gatekeeper, probably because they are the only Trustees who are actually doing anything. The Renegade is the only Trustee who interacts with staff at all levels on a regular basis and identifies issues of concern in order to get things done. He speaks his mind and consistently highlights the hypocrisy and self-preservationist tendencies of other Board members. His view of his position as Village Trustee is realistic, characterized by humility, humor and the recognition that VONP Trustees aren't actually the most important elected officials on the planet. The Renegade is about to come into his own and the other Trustees should be wary but will continue to be oblivious.
Policy example: Revisions to the Code on Blasting.
Priorities: Unification, Public Access Television, Village Employees.
Quote: "We act formally when we should be informal, and informally when we should be formal."

Now to set the stage:

It is April 15 at a workshop meeting to discuss the budget, which must be approved by April 30. After spending the first hour of the meeting fixing a botched SEQRA process, the Board finally gets down to business.

(Absent: The Butterfly).

The Mayor: We can either have a really long meeting or a really short one. I suggest everyone send me their ideas and then I will look at them and decide if I agree.

The Financier: I agree, and I want to point out that I can't work like this and should be left to look at the budget at home. Give me original worksheets so I don't have to go through the budget line by line. When you do that, I'll look at it. There's no reason that we should go through all of this together. I have to leave early so I think we should just end the meeting now. The morning comes early.

The Gatekeeper: Well, I think there's something between going line by line and addressing obvious concerns tonight.

The Mayor: OK, great. So everyone send me your suggestions and I'll decide if I want to look at them. Oh, right, Renegade, do you have anything to add?

The Renegade: Uh... yeah.

The Mayor: (sigh) OK, what did you need to discuss?

The Renegade: All of it!

The Mayor: (BIG SIGH)

The Renegade: Well, you didn't distribute copies of my suggestions to anyone, but luckily I have a copy right here. We need to look at the attorneys, engineers, etc. etc. etc.

(A really good conversation occurs where The Gatekeeper and The Renegade make brilliant points, the Mayor pretends to concede but writes down completely different numbers in his notes and The Financier only communicates with the Village Treasurer).

The Mayor: OK, great. I'll look at this with the Treasurer and I will do what I want to anyway. Meeting adjourned!

Village Treasurer: Um, were you going to make a motion to make any of these changes? At this point in the budget process, it's necessary to make all changes by a vote of the Board.

The Mayor: Oh... right. Um... did anyone want to make a motion? Renegade?

The Renegade: Well, no one actually agreed to anything, so no. What is the deadline?

Village Treasurer: April 30.

The Mayor: OK, great. So we'll discuss this at our next meeting. Goodnight!

So... I've gotta wonder... these people are actually ELECTED to do this work?!?!?!?!?!?!


  1. What is worse is that they get paid for it.

  2. Wow, It would be funny if it wasn't all true to life. Which is terrifying!

  3. Could I pay you in chocolate to give a rundown like this of all the VB meetings? Because this has BLOWN MY MIND. You so perfectly exemplified what I've always felt but couldn't articulate about Terry Dungan!

  4. Exemplified? I don't think that's the word I wanted. Oh, no sleep, it's doing something to my mind...

  5. Truly amazing and sooo realistic

  6. Your tone suggests that you're trying to be a voice of the people, but your coy nicknames for board members and your dismissal of a candidate for being an "unknown" are just more of the same insider, political BS. If you refuse to name the guy/gal, I guess they're destined to remain "unknown." You're clearly writing for the same small crowd of self-styled insiders as the other lame-ass New Paltz blogs. Try losing the attitude and replacing it with some commentary on policy more than people.

  7. 2:36 -- I'm actually all about the "unknown" candidates, provided they have any substance. But when an "unknown" is completely invisible in our community, without publicly demonstrating any interest in either current issues, local improvements or the board he will become a part of, I am understandably annoyed. This becomes heightened when it is completely unclear what this person stands for, other than being a "Democrat," which means absolutely nothing to me. When this candidate starts doing something (anything!!!) worth writing about, his name will be attached.

  8. OK, I hear you, but I'll still maintain that your insinuation that someone should have to check off a series of boxes in terms of "being involved" before they should be taken seriously in a run for office runs counter to what the Green Party other third-parties stand for in terms of encouraging ballot access and participatory democracy. If you don't like the guy, don't vote for him and campaign for the other gal, but don't dismiss him because he doesn't meet your arbitrary standards to become a candidate. Doesn't this same argument apply to most of the students who've ever run for anything? What should I take Dan Torres seriously? He's to young to have been involved.