Archives for category: Columbia County

After nearly a five-year run, this blog will either shut down or transfer to other progressive hands by the end of next month. I hope it’s the latter. In either case, I wish readers in Greene and Columbia Counties good luck. Despite all indications to the contrary, here’s hoping things can change for the better.

—Thomas Pletcher

BlueInGreene.org

I plan to transfer or shut down this blog within the next couple of months, for two primary reasons. The first: progress on all fronts in this area is extraordinarily slow, and I don’t have the time, dedication or patience to continue promoting it. I hope someone better suited to the task will do so instead. The second reason is that local politics seem to have reduced relevance in light of growing dysfunction at the national level and throughout the world (guns, Trump, Brexit).

Tommorow’s Democratic Primary

Vote for Zephyr Teachout—she already has national recognition and that, plus a wide lead in fundraising, gives her a better chance of turning the 19th Congressional District Democratic. Her focus and authority on political corruption are also important, especially here in New York, where corruption continues apace.

The Presidential Election

I’ll probably have more to say about this before I leave, but for now I’ll just note we are facing an abysmal choice this November. Hillary Clinton is precisely the wrong candidate to field against Donald Trump—she is old news, and out of step with today’s electorate, especially young voters. Nevertheless, it’s important that she win.

Mass Shootings and Guns

This is the sleeper issue in American politics and the trigger (pun intended) that will eventually produce massive change in this country, perhaps even to the point of some sort of domestic breakup of our own. The willful distortion of the second amendment (it does say “well-regulated,” folks) has gone on for too long, to the point where our gun policies have slid into outright insanity. What’s more, no one is proposing appropriate solutions, such as the successful buy-back program implemented in Australia. "Common sense solutions" are not enough, as even gun advocates note. We have to remove the 300-some million guns already out there.

Last night, Will Yandik visited a Democratic meeting at the town hall in Tannersville. What he had to say was impressive.

Yandik, who is 38 (he looks younger) and runs a 100-year-old family farm in Columbia County, is running for Congress as a progressive. There is very little to separate him on most issues from Zephyr Teachout, his better-known competitor in the June 28 Democratic primary.


Will Yandik in Tannersville. Photo: Tom Pletcher, BlueInGreene.org.

Some readers will recall that this blog has already endorsed Ms. Teachout to replace Chris Gibson in Congress this fall. (Speaking of Chris Gibson, he surprisingly announced today that he is withdrawing from politics at the end of his current term.) But Yandik, in his brief address to the assembled Democrats and the follow-up Q & A, showed why many local voters really like him.

Yandik correctly views broadband as the single biggest economic issue for our region, and believes the federal government will need to play a role in finally bringing broadband to everyone, including laggard Greene County. He wants the environment protected and he wants consumer privacy preserved (backdoors in software to enable government surveillance should not be allowed, in his view).

Given the similarity of these stands to those of Zephyr Teachout, I asked Yandik why he decided to compete against her. His response: he believes that his local roots and knowledge give him a leg up and make him more resistant to Republican attack. He also noted that he feels the competition has made both candidates stronger.

Will Yandik is a strong candidate. It would be great if we could split the 19th Congressional District and elect Yandik and Teachout both. But we can’t, of course, and I continue to believe that Zephyr Teachout’s growing national reputation and superior name recognition make her the best candidate this time around. Even so, I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of Will Yandik.

Yesterday New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joined the chorus of support for Zephyr Teachout for Congress. Here’s an excerpt from the senator’s "Send Zephyr to Congress" email:

"There’s another thing I love about Zephyr—she’s got courage. Running for office isn’t easy. You’re vulnerable in ways you never imagined. But that doesn’t seem to worry Zephyr. She has a real commitment to public service, a joy for the democratic process that you don’t often see."

Kirsten Gillibrand
Kirsten Gillibrand. Photo: Wikipedia.

The senator goes on to add, "I can’t wait to work with her on the New York delegation, and I think her unique voice will be a breath of fresh air in the halls of Congress."

Zephyr Teachout is far and away the best choice for Congress this fall. You can lend your support here.

A few days ago MoveOn.org polled over 20,000 of its members in New York’s 19th Congressional District as to which candidate the progressive organization should support. The results are just in, via email:

  • Zephyr Teachout – 80%
  • Will Yandik – 19%
  • John Kehoe – 1%

MoveOn Endorses Zephyr
Zephyr Teachout, the Overwhelming Favorite.

As MoveOn says, "Zephyr Teachout literally wrote the book on ending corruption in politics. And she’s fought for those values alongside progressives for years. From pioneering small-dollar grassroots fundraising on Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, to challenging New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, to working alongside Lawrence Lessig to get big money out of politics, Zephyr Teachout has been a lifelong champion of fixing our broken, money-driven political system.

"Zephyr is exactly the kind of progressive we need in Congress now more than ever."

Do you want to see a Democratic Congressperson representing the 19th? Then let’s all get with the program—Zephyr Teachout can beat any of the Republican candidates this November.

Will New York’s 19th Congressional District Democrats never get it right?

Back in January, it seemed they had: party leaders from every county in the district endorsed Zephyr Teachout, the best candidate to run for this office in ages.

Since then, though, renegade party elements in Columbia County—and now Greene County as well—have endorsed Columbia County farmer Will Yandik.

Will Yandik
Will Yandik. Photo: Daily Freeman.

Yandik is not a bad candidate per se, but he has nowhere near the stature of Teachout and has no business running against her. He trots out the tired “carpetbagger” argument to support his role as an interloper.

To repeat, Zephyr Teachout is far and away the best candidate this district has seen in some time. Is she a recent arrival to the district? Yes, she is, and so what? It’s not as if the natives have accomplished much lately.

Fortunately, Teachout is likely to vanquish Yandik in the primary, then prevail in the general election, thus putting the 19th District in Democratic hands. But in the meantime it’s irksome Yandik is running at all, and doubly irksome that local party leaders have endorsed him.

It’s encouraging whenever a local politician moves to do something worthwhile, so we salute Assemblywoman Didi Barrett for her recent call to Columbia County leaders to address the woeful broadband situation.

This site has been urging improved broadband coverage for years, but all we’ve had so far is lots of political posturing (I’m looking at you, Chris Gibson) and no real-world impact. Instead, local officials on both sides of the river drag their feet and resist any sort of positive initiative or, if they do try to act, they invariably screw things up somehow.

Didi Barrett
Didi Barrett speaks out. Photo: poughkeepsiejournal.com.

What’s more, David Salway, Director of the state’s Broadband Program Office, is projecting 2019 as a broadband delivery date. After years of pointless local delay, the state’s target seems unconscionably far off, even if there is a lot of work to do. Meanwhile, officials like Columbia County Planning Commissioner Ken Flood are “waiting to see” (the favorite activity of many local politicos) whether or not Columbia County is even eligible to receive state broadband funding.

By speaking out forcefully now, Barrett is calling attention, yet again, to the need to finally tackle, begin work on and resolve an intractable local problem that has been ignored for far too long.

Pete Lopez is officially running for Congress. He’ll be running against ex-Assembly Leader John Faso, who was once his boss, and Dutchess County businessman Andrew Heaney in the Republican and Conservative party primaries next year. The identity of his Democratic opponent next November (assuming he can vanquish Faso and Heaney) is still to be determined.

“I see myself as a neighbor,” Lopez said in announcing, and indeed he comports himself that way. The problem, as I’ve noted before, is that behind Lopez’s friendly demeanor resides a far-right ideologue who would represent a step backward from the retiring Chris Gibson. There is also the question of whether Lopez is genuinely qualified to be in Congress, even though that bar is set very low these days.

Former state Assembly Minority Leader John Faso, a Republican who said he was forming an “exploratory committee” last month, seems on the verge of formally announcing his candidacy for the 19th Congressional District. That, at least, is the strong impression given by a new johnfaso.com website, especially its “About” page.


The Fasos. Photo: johnfaso.com.

In the aforementioned About page, Faso says “A lot of us are left wondering if our children will have the same chances we did to live here in Upstate New York, start a career and raise a family of their own.”

I want to work to change that, he says.

How? By talking about broadband for years while doing nothing, like Chris Gibson? By doing nothing to improve rural education or medical access? By maintaining the stagnant upstate status quo, which seems to be the modus operandi of both political parties?

And speaking of both political parties, where are the Democratic candidates? So far we have John Patrick Kehoe, of Rochester—not a great start.

Is there no one who actually lives in the 19th Congressional District capable of running a compelling, charismatic, progressive campaign?

So we learned this week that State Assemblyman Pete Lopez plans to run as Chris Gibson’s successor in the 19th Congressional District next year. (Gibson himself is supposedly considering a run for governor somewhere down the road.) This is depressing news indeed.

It’s depressing on two counts.

First, Lopez is unqualified, even by the meager standards of today’s U.S. Congress. He is a local politician, in every sense of the word. And, he holds far-right views that are out of step with many voters in this district. He would actually represent a step backward from Chris Gibson.

Pete Lopez
Pete Lopez. Photo: David Lee, Columbia-Green Media.

The second reason that a projected Lopez run is depressing news is the fact he could win.

The National Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee took the announcement of a Lopez run seriously enough to issue a response. "For a disturbing preview of what Assemblyman Lopez would do in Washington, voters only need to look at his record in Albany," the committee noted, citing Lopez votes against equal pay for women and against increasing domestic violence protections.

Lopez has cultivated a "nice guy" persona that has served him well in a district where lots of disadvantaged and less thoughtful voters are impressed by his apparent earnestness and ubiquity (Lopez attends nearly every local function imaginable). He has good name recognition throughout the district, along with an aura of friendliness and good intentions. These are superficial and misleading assets but they are assets nonetheless, and a weak Democratic candidate may have a tough time overcoming them.

Lopez is not yet guaranteed to be the Republican candidate, and Gibson has not yet endorsed him. A number of other Republicans are interested, including Columbia County Republican Committee member John Faso.

But regardless of who runs for the Republicans, the Democratic leaders in this region will need to field a far stronger candidate than they have in the past two Congressional elections. One hopes they’re already hard at work and planning to do just that.