It was a nasty week in New Paltz politics

Both in public and behind the scenes.

I expect it to get nastier this week.

Boss Hokanson, the town supervisor, who thinks that truth is the lie you establish in someone else’s mind, is trying to grow another hand because she has run out of fingers to point in any direction but her own.

Erin Quinn, the featured reporter at the Stalinpaltz Gastric-Feeder*, now has Peter Healey as a full-time source for nasty quotes about Terry Dungan, the village mayor. Healey was beaten by one vote in his bid for reelection to the village board by a SUNY student running a write-in campaign. He’s as angry as a hornet, and Quinn has him under a bell jar.

A campaign is being waged to politicize the New Paltz fire department, a decent bunch of volunteers who do the Lord’s work. Boys, those who fan the flames of your frustrations and your fears about the future of the department are not your friends. You can easily get yourself and the department to high ground by not being sucked into a political fight you have no dog in. The person who came to you and told you that you need to be in it is the one you have to fear.

And just by body language alone I’d say that it is town councilman Jeff Logan who is going to make the move on Boss Hokanson for the Democratic Party nomination for supervisor. Watch your back, Jeff. One of the reasons I call her “Boss” is because like any political manipulator she sees around corners. And she looks behind the open door because she has stood there herself. She knew it would be you before you did.

I smell a political range war in the cool damp evening air.

* Yes, my latest name for the New Paltz Times.

Next day feedback:

A correspondent writes that the kerfuffle between the mayor and the fire department is largely the result of Dungan missing opportunities to step away from his shyness and do some people work, in addition to some mishaps in protocol between the village board and the department. Dungan’s mild introversion is misread as high-handedness. I agree with that, and in fact communicated that very same thing to Dungan’s mayoral campaign two years ago. Here’s how the correspondent sees it:

This situation, and much of what’s nipped at Terry’s heels, would have never happened if Terry could force himself to exercise some…leadership basics – and rudimentary people skills. Make eye contact, say hello, ask how the —- went… Go down to the DPW and pour a cup of coffee. Stop by the firehouse after a call. Kill yourself and attend a Chamber of Commerce event… Terry gives people the (erroneous) impression that he doesn’t like them; because of his reticence, his distaste for the glad-handling aspects of his job and the absent-minded professor-like cloud of preoccupation in which he exists. He’ll often arrive at work without saying hello to anyone en route to his office. The silence creates a vacuum and people presume the worst. And his only attempts at formal communication with his constituents are his reactive written responses to Erin’s nonsense.

Very very frustrating to observe. He was kind and generous to me personally. I wish he’d show that side of himself to a community desperate for leadership.

There’s more very good insight from the correspondent, which I might run later. I would take issue with the idea that the “community [is] desperate for leadership.” I don’t feel any such desperation myself, and I don’t think that villagers really pay much attention to insider politics. My contention is that the village government is chiefly a matter of stoical attention to mundane details. I see Dungan doing that to the best of his abilities, which are considerable vis a vis the job. I don’t see him putting together the stand-up comedy act that modern politicians are expected to have, but he clearly needs to step out of his introversion and into the realm of greater cordiality.

Everyone should recall, however, that the mayor is the one who stepped into the arena and took on the grandiose idiocy of Jason West. Dungan no doubt had to fight to overcome his fundamental shyness in order to do that, and he did that for no greater ambition than to restore order to a village he loves. On that basis, I have given Terry the benefit of the doubt, and I think that as a mere citizen with little to no broader political agreement with the mayor that I have been satisfied with his performance. I think that he is a decent man, very bright, with good intentions. The firemen should try to see that, despite their sense of injury, and reject the yapping barbed wire and broken glass mentality of the perpetual political wannabe in their ranks.

On the other hand, if the fire department is facing a difficult situation with the triple threat of bigtime equipment needs, declining volunteers, and rising calls, then there is an opportunity there to put together a solution that involves leadership and the community. And “Erin’s nonsense,” as the correspondent puts it, is more than just counterproductive to that. Using the fire department to generate bad press for the mayor will never help the fire department, no more than Quinn’s endless positive spewing for Jason West helped him.

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