Scatter shot

by Hugh Reynolds
August 25, 2011 11:21 AM | 1 1 comments | 1066 1066 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sometimes acting like an alderman can get a mayoral candidate in trouble. Ask Andi — B.B. rifle — Turco-Levin. About a week ago, Turco-Levin said she was approached by a frightened elderly woman who said she saw a man carrying what appeared to be a rifle, walking his dog in their uptown neighborhood early on a Sunday morning.

Police determined the loaded B.B. gun the man was carrying was to protect his dog from other dogs. Cops suggested he get a stick or pepper spray so as not to alarm passersby. Under city statute, B.B. guns, loaded or otherwise, can be carried on city streets. It says nothing about discharges. Empty rifles can be carried, but not fired.

Turco-Levin said she e-mailed Common Council president Jim Noble and police Chief Jerry Keller, along with council Laws and Rules Committee chairman Bob Senor, asking for a review of gun-control laws.

The BBs hit the fan shortly thereafter.

Former alderman Rich Cahill, like Turco-Levin a candidate for the Republican mayoral nomination in the September 13 primary, attacked his opponent for what he characterized as an uninformed, knee-jerk overreaction. Cahill, an attorney and a candidate for mayor in 2007, did not mince words. Senor expressed similar sentiments. Others just rolled their eyes. The police chief, who retires in December, had no comment.

“Can you imagine a Republican candidate raising a gun issue like that before a primary?” Cahill marveled, no doubt thanking his lucky stars. “I think I’ll send her a bouquet of flowers.” Little Richard (his father is also Richard) might want to check with Mrs. Cahill before calling the florist.

Turco, as she’s referred to by native-born Kingstonians, took her concerns to the Freeman but withdrew her request for coverage after cooler (political) heads prevailed.

Displaying a talent for damage control well beyond her 20 months in office, Turco swears she’s not anti-gun, as Cahill suggests, and that she “totally believes in the right to bear arms.” Neither she nor musician husband Tony Levin owns a firearm, she said, but added she used to be “quite a good skeet shooter at one time.”

Cahill’s righteous and self-serving indignation notwithstanding, Turco might have been on the right track on this one. From 50 feet away, even to an experienced gun owner, or police officer, a BB gun looks alarmingly like a small-caliber firearm. And what does any sensible person do when they see somebody approaching them with a firearm? Run like hell, that’s what, and ring up a cop, or maybe an alderman.

Turco might have gone off half-cocked (no pun intended), but I think she was on to something. Nobody should be walking around an urban area with anything that looks like a firearm.

Governmental budget blues

Last week’s opening salvo from the county read: Beware! A 25 percent shortfall could be looming. Budget officers around the region are facing some unusually difficult decisions.

Compounding the guessing game of predicting revenues and expenditures a year in advance is the state’s mandate that taxes cannot be raised more than two percent without the support of a super-majority of the governing body. The impact of this dictate will vary. In the town of Ulster, with four Republicans and a Conservative voting, a majority-plus-one is a lock in off-years but problematical in election years. Elect a few Tea Partiers and you’re probably submitting last year’s budget with lots of cuts.

The courts have yet to pass judgment on what many officials see as a constitutional issue. Where does the state, they argue, which can barely control its own finances, get the right to tell municipalities and school districts how much they can tax their constituents? If home rule means anything in New York State, this two percent tax cap could be a case of one (this year) and done.

Look for tight-fisted oligarchs like county executive Mike Hein to be positively rigid when it comes to contract negotiations. For one thing, since Republicans failed to field an opponent he doesn’t need the union endorsements he got three years ago.

Look for Hein and other budget officers to parrot the five-year contract the Cuomo administration brokered with CSEA: no raises for three years, two percent a year after that with a substantial increase in the less than ten percent workers were paying for health coverage. Nothing is automatic when it comes to local contracts, however. Kingston mayor Jim Sottile offered something like the Cuomo plan to city workers a few years ago and almost wound up tarred and feathered. Times now are far different.

Show us the money

So, TechCity may once again be on the cusp of becoming the regional hub of economic development owner Alan Ginsberg promised 13 years ago? Sorry, this is one I have to see to believe.

Key to the former IBM complex’s allegedly bright future is a deal with the state Department of Environment Conservation to break up the difficult-to-market whole into stand-alone entities, thus allowing more effective cleanup of the 14-acre plume of industrial pollution Big Blue — a.k.a. Big Goo — left behind. (IBM is required to pay for remediation.)

One positive note is that these days Ginsberg looks like a modern businessman in tailored suit and tie, not the Westchester huckster with the turtleneck, gold chain and horrible cologne who bought the 500-acre site for just over $3 million in 1998. And this time he really sounds serious about growing his business.

Again, results count more than rhetoric.

Here and there

With progress comes some pain, which is why “viewshed” protests from eastern shore-liners in Rhinecliff were a factor in holding up development of the AVR housing project at Kingston Point on the Hudson River for years. Not so in Saugerties, where the final touches are being put on what I like to call “Hotel Maurice” on Partition Street in Saugerties. Even now, the clear view people had of the falls and the cliffs on the other side of the Esopus across a weed-choked vacant lot are almost entirely obscured by three story Diamond Mills buildings. Does anybody protest? Not when congressman Maurice Hinchey had (and no longer has) a piece of the action. Well, after all permits were in Hinchey sold his share (the land) to his partners.

And speaking of Hinchey and Saugerties development, when will the Army Reserve officially dedicate its new $14-million complex on Old King’s Highway just south of the village? It’s been finished for months. I tried getting an answer from Saugerties supervisor-for-life Greg Helsmoortel, but haven’t heard back. Meanwhile, weeds are growing around the old Reserve Center in Kingston as the school district and the city jockey for future possession.

And finally, congratulations to Democrats Rob Parete and Nichole Tucker, married at the Lazy Swan in Saugerties last Friday. The pair met when Nichole, a schoolteacher, ran for county legislator from Saugerties two years ago. The groom has been a legislator for eight years. They will reside in Accord.++

Hugh Reynolds’ column appears weekly.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
Don Canard
August 27, 2011
Be sure to report the whole story - according to Mr. Cahill's blog, Ms. Turco-Levin was proposing a ban on possession of all handguns (NYS law "firearms") long guns and shotguns, not to mention BB guns, in the city of Kingston. We all know how far that'll go.

And yes, gun ownership must be safe and responsible before anything else. That said, it's also a Constitutional right, affirmed by Supreme Court precedent (in striking down Washington DC's gun ban) and not a cause for alarm for a law-abiding citizen. The urban population's concern with gun crime needs to be solved a different way (for example by cultural change) than by banning guns for all. Since then only criminals will have guns, as the old saw has it.

It would behoove all, including Andi, if she were to make a simple statement outlining her current position on the issue. Failing that, it will remain a football in the Mayoral race which will hit spectators and players rather than sailing through the goalposts.

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