Yess, who ran unsuccessfully for county legislature from Esopus in 2007 and for state assembly the following year, did not go quietly into the night. Her demise, she told committee members, was caused by what she termed “the GOB,” i.e., good ol’ boys. Named in the indictment were among others, former Republican chairman Mario Catalano, the man who, ironically, invited Yess into the hierarchy of the Grand Old Party as his chief assistant in 2008 and recommended her for promotion when he chose not to seek another term last September.
Catalano, my long-time dentist — I owe him every gleam in my smile — was unusually reticent when asked about the circumstances surrounding the sudden departure of his hand-picked successor. “I think she was her own worst enemy,” he said.
She must have worked at warp speed over the last eight months to warrant censure by a majority of the 220-member Republican committee.
Yess’s organizational problems began shortly into her abbreviated term when she booked Harry Wilson, the Republican candidate for comptroller, for the party’s annual fund-raising dinner last September. Yess was advised that scheduling a state-wide candidate two weeks before the election entailed the risk of cancellation — especially with Wilson, then rapidly closing the gap on eventual winner Tom DiNapoli. But she chose to roll the dice. Wilson bailed at the last moment, leaving down-home stem-winders like state senators Bill Larkin and John Bonacic to entertain a half-full house.
Hey, give the chair credit for guts, at least.
Yess, by several most accounts, was also very much the Savago-like autocrat: opionated, aggressive, determined, the boss. Good Old Boys don’t necessarily admire in women the qualities they tolerate in men. That she was not a consensus builder would now seem obvious.
“The job of a politician is pretty simple,” former Kingston alderman and county legislator John Naccarato once told me. “It’s to do favors and make friends, not enemies.”
Yess apparently never got that memo.
Her inability to recruit a candidate to face Democrat Mike Hein for county legislature was understandable, if not forgivable. Hein’s administration has been dedicated to his reelection since he took the oath of office on January 1, 2009. Yess had only a few months to find a credible opponent, if in fact she ever really tried.
Her tacit endorsement of Hein’s “zero tax increase” 2011 budget had to grate with mainstream Republicans. It is one thing to fail to challenge a juggernaut, quite another to praise him.
Neither did Yess’s pronouncements on the county infirmary, suggesting that 29,000-odd Republicans should follow her lead in calling for the county to abandon the operation, sit well. In fact, the 18-member Republican majority in the legislature is sharply divided on this issue. In a nicely turned phrase, she characterized the pro-nursing-home contingent as “the infirmary five.”
Perhaps the last straw was Yess’s arbitrarily switching the county dinner from its traditional September-October date to mid-May. With limited publicity, ticket sales at $95 each were not brisk. In the wake of Yess’s departure, the May 19th dinner will probably be cancelled. Assembly minority leader Brian Kolb had been penciled in as guest speaker.
Yess’s groin-kicking resignation a fortnight before the party nominating convention leaves the GOP in a bind, something her enemies in the party might have considered before plotting this censure business. Unless they plan to rule by junta, the party needs somebody at the helm who can at least handle day-to-day business. Whom might that be? Some suggest looking to that political hotbed, the town of Rochester, for clues.
There looms, of course, Campaign ‘11. Hein, by most accounts, is a sure bet, but there are 23 county legislature candidates to be recruited, funded and promoted. Armed with the Independence and Conservative party nominations, district attorney Holley Carnright can contend against Democratic challenger Jonathan Sennett. Unlike Sennett, he needs a strong, united party behind him to overcome a substantial disadvantage in party enrollment.
Unfortunately, for the GOP — or, as Yess calls it, the GOB — unity and strength have not been its profile for some time now. The recent unpleasantness merely exacerbates a bad situation.
Some Republicans will still have Robin Yess to piñata. “I will be around supporting real Republican-Conservative candidate for elected office,” she e-mailed Monday morning. “From the outside, I’ll get a lot more done. Bet on it.”
The Ulster County reapportionment commission, which thought it had its 23-member redistricting plan all wrapped up — sent to the legislature by unanimous vote on the eleventh — came in for a surprise at its regular meeting last week from election commissioners Republican Tom (The Mouth) Turco and Democrat Vic (The Sphinx) Work. The election commissioners advised the reapportionment commissioners that “minor changes” in their plan were required to adjust upwards of 20 election districts.
Otherwise, said Turco, the senior commissioner doing most of the talking, small pockets of people — 20 or 30 in a district — would be inconvenienced.
Eventually, The Sphinx, at the prompting of commissioner Vernon Benjamin — “Can we hear from the Democratic elections commissioner?” he demanded halfway through Turco’s monologue — spoke. Work, who took office only in January, responded with something like, Yeah, okay, uh-huh. That assent, in an awkward way, indicated the two commissioners were on the same page.
Coming (mostly) from a Republican commissioner — with a few du-wahs from his Democratic backup — some saw this eleventh-hour appeal as a delaying tactic. (Recall GOP member sponsored late-breaking ideas like weighted voting.) Commissioners pointed out they had published the final map with detailed descriptions some ten days before the election commissioners had raised their issues. The election duo insisted they hadn’t gotten the information they needed until a day or two before their appearance.
At a special meeting on Monday, reapport commissioners, upon the advice of counsel, decided to submit their plan as originally drawn.
In other commission news, county attorney Bea Havranek advised that reassignment of state-prison populations for reapportionment purposes could have an adverse impact on upstate congressional districts. Under legislation approved two years ago, prisoners are supposed to be counted at their home addresses, which means most of the state’s 55,055 inmates will be counted in New York City.
How this might affect congressional districts, which average about 650,000 people, remains to be seen. Ulster, according to the state Department of Corrections, has just under 2800 inmates in four prisons, counted as homebodies for reapportionment purposes.
Of far more concern, in economic terms, is the future of those prisons, which employ more than 5000 people in job-scarce Ulster. Governor Andrew Cuomo says three prisons will be closed this year, but hasn’t said which.
On another prison note, the Civil Liberties Union unit attached to the Brennan Center at NYU in New York has raised questions about the county counting inmates as Ulster residents in its proposed reapportionment plan. The CLU wants them counted at their home addresses. Attorney Havranek doesn’t expect a new lawsuit, since a coalition of state senators has already raised similar issues in a suit against the above-mentioned legislation.
Here and there
Second-guessers are saying Kingston probably should have settled its case involving sexual harassment charges in the DPW a few years ago. A federal jury found for two of three plaintiffs, costing city taxpayers $25,000, according to the mayor, and its insurance company over $200,000.
I’m no lawyer, but the city’s case seemed pretty lame from the start, what with DPW mangers testifying they were given no harassment training. And that, the jury must have mused, is why you threw a rubber breast at a colleague just returning from breast surgery? Common decency should have sufficed in that situation.
Not to take sides, but it’s good to see former Woodstock supervisor Jeremy Wilber back in the lists. A colorful, uniquely Woodstock character, Wilber got pretty good marks as the town’s chief executive for eight years. He’ll face town board member Terrie Rosenblum in a Democratic primary. It being Woodstock, that probably won’t be the end of the matter.
The Ulster County Democratic Committee will meet in annual convention on June 1 at 7 p.m. at Hillside Manor Restaurant in Kingston to unofficially nominate candidates for county executive, district attorney and county legislature.
Republicans will meet for the same purposes on June 2 at 7 p.m. at the Holiday Inn in Kingston.
First day for circulating nominating petitions is June 6.
Finally, apologies to town of Ulster councilwoman Chris Hendrick, whom I listed as a Republican — as does the current county handbook — in a recent item. Hendrick is an enrolled Conservative with Republican endorsement.++
Hugh Reynolds’ column appears weekly.