This blog chronicles and analyzes developments in the Upper Delaware Valley, with an emphasis on public affairs, politics and what people are doing to make this a better place. You can find news here as well as commentary - but don't expect neutrality. The award-winning editorial writer for The River Reporter from 2004 to 2012, I am an advocate for sustainability, self-sufficient economic growth vs. globalization and protecting the environment on which our health, prosperity and quality of life depend.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Truth hurts: mailers but no debate from Lang in Tusten

Tusten voters who have now received five electioneering mailings from town council candidate Ned Lang (six, if you count one mailed during the primary), might want to ask themselves the following question: why is it that Lang is happy sending out mailers, but has turned down at least three proposals to present his views side by side in public with his opponent Andrea Reynosa?*

A brief review of the content of the mailings, which consist largely of unsupported allegations against Reynosa and her allies, rather than specific proposals for improving the town, suggests a possible answer: perhaps Lang’s allegations can’t stand up to the light of day.Here are some of the actual facts behind a few of Lang’s charges:
  • The 11-member zoning rewrite committee consists of 10 Tusten residents, including many who are or have been important town officials, plus sewer and water superintendent Dominic Hillard, who currently lives in Callicoon, but is included for reasons too obvious to be explained—and hardly constitutes a majority. The committee is chaired by long-time resident and deputy town clerk Carol Coney, and other members are Supervisor Carol Wingert; councilman, UDC alternate and previous ZBA Chairman Tony Ritter; Planning Board Chairman Ed Jackson; Lisa Dowling, who was a councilwoman when the current zoning ordinance that is being amended was written; Code Enforcement Officer Gary Amerbach, Town Assessor Ken Baim; current ZBA Chairman Kevin McDonough; Sue Sullivan, Conservation Council and UDC representative; and Town Clerk Kathy Michell.

    Why any of these is to be considered any less a “stakeholder” than Ned Lang, whose most recent contribution to town governance was to resign from the ZBA last year after having been cited by the town for posting a sign that was larger than permitted by the ordinance then in force—and then engaging in still-ongoing litigation against the town on account of that citation—is a puzzle on which many would probably welcome illumination.
  • The Big Eddy Waterfront Revitalization Project would create and enhance public spaces, including rare public waterfront access space, in the hamlet of Narrowsburg. The river walk would be placed about 12 feet below the existing back of the Main Street buildings, so it would not create an additional access to them. By granting easements, Main Street building owners are ceding space and privacy to the general public, not gaining a special privilege. (See “Ignorance is Strength” below.)
  • A state grant of $77,000, applied for in 2009 under a different town administration, has been received to go toward the $154,000 cost of the engineering study phase of the Big Eddy project, and additional grant money as well as in-kind matching are to be used to go toward the local share. At no point have $150,000 in Tusten taxpayer dollars been used, or proposed to be used, for this project. For more facts, not fiction, about the project, visit http://www.tusten.org/FAQ_Narrowsburg.pdf
  • No one has suggested moving Veterans Park, contrary to the straw man that has been set up in one of Lang’s flyers and in a whisper campaign on the streets; all that has ever been suggested is to enhance it—just as he proposes. The difference is that Reynosa proposed it long before he ever did so, and has already put some elbow grease and fundraising (not taxpayer dollar spending) expertise into the project.
Sending out mailings is fine as far as it goes, but if the mailings aren't complemented by public interchanges, they allow candidates to avoid accountability for what they say. Though it wasn't possible to schedule a Meet the Candidates session with both candidates present, Reynosa plans to engage in a public Q&A session on Saturday, October 27 at 4 p.m. at the Tusten Town Hall. Voters who have questions about Lang's mailings, or more to the point, about what Reynosa plans to do to make the town a better place, should make every effort to attend.
*The three invitations were a proposal for a radio or online debate made by Tony Ritter in a letter to the editor; an invitation to participate in a proposed documentary representing the two sides in the election; and an invitation to the Meet the Candidates event to be held by Tusten Concerned Citizens at 4 p.m. on Saturday, October 27 at the town hall.

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