POUGHKEEPSIE – Dutchess County Legislator Joel Tyner’s comment that county DPW Commissioner Robert Balkind follows orders of the Republican county administration “just like the Germans 70 years ago,” has been condemned by the leader of Tyner’s own Democratic party and a rabbi in his community.
Balkind is Jewish. Critics of Tyner’s comment equating Balking
following the administration’s directives blindly much like soldiers
in Nazi Germany, say the remark was insensitive and out of line.
County Democratic Chairwoman Elisa Sumner criticized Tyner.
“Neither Tyner, nor Trump, nor any elected official, or really any civilized person, should compare the behavior of hard working public servants with the atrocities of the Third Reich,” Sumner said. “To do so even in the heat of the moment is inexcusable and Commissioner Balkind does deserve an apology from Legislator Tyner.”
Rabbi Hanoch Hecht of Rhinebeck Jewish Center in Tyner’s hometown, said he is “shocked that my county legislator would think that these words could possibly ring true, or have any results other than causing resentment and alienation,” the rabbi said. “Resorting to this kind of name-calling is ignorant and spiteful, and stirs up a great deal of pain in the Jewish community/”
Hecht characterized as “just plain offensive” what Tyner said at a legislative Democratic caucus meeting on Monday night. “Taunting [Balkind] with these comments, especially in light of the fact that he had family members who perished at the hands of the Nazis, is not clever or edgy.”
The rabbi said he would like to turn this incident into “an opportunity to call upon all of our elected officials to set an example of unity and tolerance for the rest of our community.”
Sumner also found fault with “a Republican political operative” – Chris Baiano – being present at the Democratic caucus meeting. She noted he is appointed, not elected or confirmed by the legislature. “Why should he need to attend when a commissioner meets with the Democratic caucus? Was Baiano there to monitor Balkind’s responses?” she asked.