Ulster County exec candidates debate

Hayes, left, and Ryan

SAUGERTIES – The Democratic and Republican contenders for Ulster County Executive introduced themselves Wednesday at the Ulster County Chamber of Commerce breakfast in Saugerties. Patrick Ryan faces Jack Hayes in a special election to be held April 30, determining who will replace Adele Reiter, the temporary stand-in for predecessor Michael Hein.

Ryan, a former Army intelligence officer, is a director of defense technology firm Second Front Systems, and was a 2016 Democratic Congressional primary candidate. He will appear on the Democrat, Independence and Working Families lines.

Hayes, a retired New York State Police manager, served as Gardiner Town supervisor, and Ulster County legislator. He is the Ulster County Conservative Party chairman, running also on the Republican line.

Noting that both candidates live in Gardiner, halfway between New Paltz and the hamlet of Wallkill, Ryan joked that “we’re definitely going to have a county executive from Gardiner, we know that.”

The two were also in agreement on the priority of fighting opioid abuse; they also agreed on their support of the proposed uptown “Kingstonian” hotel and garage development project.

Ryan told the business people there is much that needs to be changed.

“There are too many people in our country still worrying about whether they will be able to make their rent, save enough to pay for their family’s healthcare. We have big corporations still seeking to come in and pollute our environment building dirty energy projects in our towns,” Ryan said. “We’ve got ICE agents still coming in arresting our neighbors at the foot of their driveways while they are getting their kids ready for school. That is unacceptable in Ulster County in 2019 and we are going to change that.”

To promote economic growth, Ryan highlighted his version of the “Green New Deal,” bringing 21st Century jobs to the region through the clean energy industry, and other pro-environmental business plans.

“Skills training, job training, and apprenticeship programs, especially in partnership with the community college, BOCES is one area I’m very focuses on and excited about,” Ryan explained, also adding a green jobs training academy, noting that the green economy is growing seven times faster than the rest. He pledged to bring the county to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.

Hayes expressed optimism for the upstate film industry. “The Ulster County Film Commission is going to bring $30 million this year. That’s our model. They did it by themselves. You guys are smarter than I am with regards to commerce. You’ve gotten past the five-year mark, where businesses go down the tubes. I’m going to be looking to you for the answers.”  

“I would come out with an executive order that would say I want an open line of communications between myself and all the departments,” Hayes said. “Never again would there be a gag rule, with regard to department heads speaking to legislators, and openly coordinating so that we can both develop a budget on the executive and legislative side.”

One slight difference in policy regarded payment in lieu of taxes incentives (PILOT), where a new or existing business gets a tax break in exchange for bringing in new jobs. Hayes was moderate on the issue, while Ryan was bullish.

“We found that a lot of people feel that they are being shortchanged, especially people in the community that say, why aren’t they paying their fair share of taxes,” Hayes said. “If a PILOT development all works out well, there’s usually no ongoing problem. When it doesn’t, the community has just subsidized private industry, they’re not happy.”

“When done properly, tax incentives work; we absolutely have to use them,” Ryan said. “The reality in a lot of parts of our economy, across the state and across the country, Ulster County is behind; we have to be honest about that. To catch up, and leapfrog ahead, we need to step in and help attract new businesses, and also help existing businesses.”  Ryan said more PILOTs should go towards the agricultural sector.

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