Hein: “… rethink how we deliver essential services …”
KINGSTON – Ulster County Executive Michael Hein delivered his annual follow-up to the 2016 State of the County Address in a Tuesday morning appearance before the Chamber of Commerce in Kingston.
This year’s session featured an abbreviated version of Hein’s address, which differed from the original by adding details not included in the official February 9 speech. Among the extra talking points were remarks about the Rail Trail controversy; opinions surrounding ongoing sales tax re-negotiations; and an explanation of why he didn’t run for Congress.
The lengthy dispute between Rail Trail advocates and the Catskill Mountain Railroad was one of the difficult conversations Hein say helped make Ulster County better off in the end.
Hein expounded upon the Midtown leg of the railroad, which the county legislature recently voted to become a linear park, leading from the old railroad to Kingston Plaza.”I firmly believe that rail yard is contaminated,” Hein said, calling it a social justice matter, ending inner city pollution and giving poor people easy foot access to the Uptown supermarket.
Regarding the sales tax re-negotiation, Hein noted that the City of Kingston has received $8.1 million over the past four years, so far, from the county safety net takeover, but did not pass that savings along to taxpayers in the form of property tax relief; instead it went to addition spending.
“That’s a model can’t work, it’s completely unsustainable,” Hein said. “Whether it is the sales tax discussion or any other discussion, I think it is much broader than that. I think we need to make sure we rethink how we deliver essential services in the best possible way so our citizens benefit. The government works for the people, not the other way around.”
Kingston Mayor Steven Noble said on February 12 that the city deserves a moratorium on current sales tax sharing for the next five years. A special city council meeting scheduled for Wednesday night is expected to back up Noble’s position. February 29 is the deadline for an agreement between the city and Ulster County.
Asked why he didn’t run for Congress this year, Hein replied that he was honored by the request, but decided he was too dedicated to his role of helping Ulster County. “I’m not positive that Washington is a place where that’s possible with the divisiveness that exists there.” He also cited family concerns. “This would not allow me to be the best husband and father I could possibly be.”