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Hudson Valley News

Ulster County Legislature Postpones Action On Term Limits

WAMC, Allison Dunne
Domenick Cocchiara, regional coordinator, Hudson Valley, for Reclaim New York, at the mic

The Ulster County Legislature this week postponed taking action on terms limits. A number of residents had asked legislators to delay action on a resolution because of what they view as outside influence. Some legislators shared similar concerns.

During a legislature meeting Tuesday night, the resolution for term limits of 12 years for county-level offices like county executive, comptroller and legislators was postponed. If it had passed, whether to enact term limits would have gone to a public referendum. Republican Ken Ronk is Legislature chairman.

“I am very in favor of term limits and I was very disappointed with the move tonight which ensures that the next legislature will not run with term limits,” Ronk says.

Plus, he says:

“I’ve sponsored this resolution, or this local law, twice in previous legislatures going back to, I think, 2013, so to say, before Reclaim New York even existed,” says Ronk. “So to say that because Reclaim New York supports this now, we shouldn’t let the voters have a say on it, I think it’s, it’s the thought police. It’s really a shame.”

Residents who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting and addressed term limits urged legislators to postpone action. They referenced Reclaim New York’s support for term limits and wanting voters to be allowed to decide. Area resident Tom Denton:

“Legislators of good faith face a stark dilemma. Into a legitimate public policy debate, Reclaim New York has injected dirty politics, dirty, dark money,” Denton says. “We want that politics and that money out of Ulster County.”

Jane Schanberg of New Paltz says she does not oppose term limits but does oppose the bill.

“This bill is tainted by Reclaim New York. They have taken out full-page ads in weeklies, such as the New Paltz Times, claiming this very bill as one of their initiatives,” Schanberg says.  “Anyone who uses Google will quickly learn that Reclaim New York is a Mercer-sponsored, alt-right organization, one founded by Steve Bannon and the folks that brought us Cambridge Analytica.”

Domenick Cocchiara came to the mic. He is regional coordinator in the Hudson Valley for Reclaim New York, which he stressed is a non-profit, non-partisan organization.

“So I encourage you, put policy before politics, people before press releases, and at least let the people’s voice be heard,” Cocchiara says.

And he commented after legislators decided to postpone action.

“We’re here because we were asked to by a number of residents of Ulster County. We were asked to come in and help ensure that at least their voices were heard. And I think tonight you heard why there are so many people who decided not to come out, is they’re fearful. They’ve had such a dialogue be created that they feel threatened if they’re voiced out in public,” says Cocchiara. “That’s where we come in. We are there to take the arrows when they’re afraid to take the arrows. So we’re here to voice the concerns that they’re feeling that, quite frankly, they don’t feel safe oftentimes to actually voice.”

Cocchiara says Reclaim disavows anything Steven Bannon says and does and Bannon will not be working with Reclaim in any capacity.

“And when it comes to dark money, we’re simply doing what the New Yorkers around here want,” says Cocchiara.

Democratic Ulster County Legislature Minority Leader Hector Rodriguez.

“We’ve been discussing this for several months,” says Rodriguez. “And, unfortunately an outside group wanting to get involved in this issue, I think, sort of just tainted the water a little bit.”

He adds:

“And it’s hugely important, I think, for us to have an honest dialogue that’s sort of free of outside involvement,” Rodriguez says.

Ronk says the legislature can bring the measure up for a vote in September, refer the resolution back to committee or postpone a vote yet again.

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