Friday, April 17, 2009

Poll: Should he stay or should he go now?

In a Letter to the Editor in this week's New Paltz Times, Village Trustee Pete Healey announces a poll on Mayor Terry Dungan. Without any realistic way of assessing the Mayor's approval level, this is the next best thing.

The full letter is below:
Thanks for top billing in your story on the upcoming village elections, to be held on Tuesday, May 5 at the Fire House on Plattekill Avenue. I have spent my first year on the Village Board learning about the process used at Village Hall and getting to know the other board members, the employees and volunteers who serve the public in their various capacities. I believe I understand the frustrations and sometimes the satisfactions that come with this kind of position, and I'm willing to accept the risks that come with standing for election again.

I want to state for the record here and now, however, that I don't expect to serve out my full four year term. I'm looking forward to the day when, two or three years from now, I can decide if I care to campaign for election to a unified New Paltz municipal government, which will replace the separate village and town governments.

Until then there is of course the current election process, for two open board seats. First, I want to say that Michael Zierler's presence will be sorely missed at Village Hall since he has decided not to run for another term, and his current term expires on May 31. Second, I'm disappointed that, just like two years ago, an inexperienced petitioner and candidate for public office in this village has been removed from the ballot. Those of us who have experience in the political process ought not to use this knowledge to block others' attempts at joining this process. On the contrary, we ought to encourage people to engage and help them to work through the difficult, detailed signature-gathering and filing procedures.

Finally, it's my contention that the overriding issue in this campaign is the direction and leadership of this village government, and I have to state here that I've been sorely disappointed in Mayor Terry Dungan's efforts during my time in office. I have researched Village Election Law and can find no fair and reasonable way to hold a vote of no confidence nor conduct a special election for the remaining two years of his term, to either confirm or deny his continued leadership in this village.

I have, therefore, set up an informal poll on Mayor Dungan with essentially a "Yes or No" vote on his leadership. If you support the mayor then he should "Stay," if you want the mayor to change direction and adjust his leadership style then he should "Go." The poll can be found at Any questions regarding this poll or any of the issues I've raised above can be directed to me at

Pete Healey

New Paltz

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?!?!?!?!?!?!