Noble, left, meets with the committee
KINGSTON – Kingston mayor-elect Steven Noble took the hot seat Wednesday night, when he spoke with the city council’s Finance and Audit Committee in defense of his current job position, Environmental Program Operations specialist.
The one-hour interrogation took place at the end of a grueling four-hour session, at which department heads defended their annual budget requests from the administrative axe.
Noble’s job, which spans three different line items in the Parks & Recreation Department, was cut by outgoing Mayor Shayne Gallo in his 2016 municipal budget proposal.
Parks & Recreation Director Kevin Gilfeather said Noble’s position was crucial to the department’s overall youth programs, but allowed his outgoing subordinate (and future boss) to elaborate to the Finance Committee in more detail.
This matter, and the discussions surrounding it, have become mired waist-deep in local politics, due to the nature of the rivals involved. Noble’s job was the only salary eliminated within the entire 2016 budget, drawing accusations of attempted revenge by Gallo.
Indeed, there is no love lost between the two opponents. Noble beat Gallo in the Democratic Primary on Sept. 10th, clinching the general election by squeezing Gallo off his own ballot line. The victory, while risky, took the appearance of an internal coup, as Noble leapfrogged past his own department head, displacing an incumbent mayor.
Gallo has argued that the city’s Environmental Program Operations specialist position is funded in large part by grant money, which has not come through in several years, burdening taxpayers. Others added that the job is unique to Kingston, not appearing elsewhere in New York municipalities, more properly belonging in a school district staff.
“I think that this budget in particular is more political retribution, than a sound budget,” Noble told MidHudsonNews.Com. “The fact that cuts were made to Corporation Counsel, Economic Development, Parks & Recreation, the City Clerk’s office, shows that this is a budget that did not look out for the best interest of the citizens,” he observed. “I didn’t write the budget, so I don’t know what the motivations were.”
Finance Committee Chairwoman Mary Ann Mills scrutinized whether Noble’s position could be eliminated, and absorbed by Gilfeather and the Environmental Educator, Julie Noble – who is also Steve’s wife. Detailed questioning revealed that the two positions are intricately tied to each other, and crucial for the operation of many revenue-generating city youth programs.
Ultimately, the Finance Committee postponed a decision.
“I’m not for or against; I just don’t have a full answer to some of these questions,” Mills said. “It can go to the added list of things we have to discuss, it just isn’t clicking yet.”
The committee is expected to wrap up its review next Wednesday, and the final budget must be approved by the common council on December 16. If Gallo vetoes any changes, six votes are needed for an override.