Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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December 26th, 2013

Sullivan County Approaches 2014

2013 will soon be in the books as we all celebrate the New Year.

This is truly a monumental time in our history as resort destinations were finally approved after a nearly half century battle. In the months ahead we will find out how many and where these resorts will go. It will definitely be a game changer for all of us.

Let’s not kid ourselves – it will be quite some time until we know the impact resort destinations will have on our county. In the meantime, we still have many problems to deal with.

Foreclosures are still at record highs while economic development and employment prospects remain scarce. We have still seen very little in terms of mandate relief from Albany to get us out of the Medicaid catastrophe. We are still amongst the unhealthiest and poorest counties in New York State.

As our legislature enters its midterm, we see an elective body that is divided and lacks the proactive leadership we desperately need. Our legislators will be voting next week for their chairman for the next two years. It will be interesting to see if Scott Samuelson remains in the head position, and if there will be any changes in legislative committees.

Although Samuelson looks decent in the spotlight as a performer should, his leadership skills, honesty, openness, and ability to think out of the box are much to be desired. He has become the poster child to maintain status quo at all costs.

The question still remains, if not Samuelson, whom out of the other eight legislators has the ability to lead and bring everyone together.

The split in the legislature became evident last year when Democrats Gene Benson, Cora Edwards, Cindy Kurpil Gieger, along with Republicans Alan Sorenson and Kitty Vetter formed a coalition seeking change in the way business is conducted in our government center.

One of the contentious issues was County Manager David Fanslau and the desire of the majority of five not wanting his contract renewed.

Democrats Scott Samuelson, Ira Steingart, Kathy LaBuda, and Jonathan Rouis wanted Fanslau to remain on the job. They did everything they could to keep Fanslau.

Rouis had an epiphany during all this and tried to call a new charter review commission to change our form of government to elect a County Executive so Fanslau could stay on the job for at least two more years. Although his attempt failed, I support the creation of a County Executive for different reasons.

At the end of the day, Fanslau stepped down after a settlement agreement giving him an exit strategy was worked out. He now has an executive position at the Center for Discovery and is doing an honorable job.

Steingart also sued Sullivan County when the majority of five voted to change the charter from a super majority to a simple majority to hire or fire the county manager. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Schick ruled against Steingart and in favor of the five who voted to change the charter. Justice Schick has been highly praised for his first year on the bench.

Josh Potosek became acting County Manager once Fanslau exited. After a failed search to replace Fanslau, our legislature woke up and permanently named Potosek County Manager.

Potosek has been highly praised in his new role and for delivering a respectable budget staying within the tax cap. He also has a good working relationship with employees.

Thanks to the efforts of Legislator Cora Edwards, Sullivan County will be moving towards a common high band frequency connecting E911 to all emergency first responders, including fire departments, ambulance, and various law enforcement agencies.

With crime on a rise in Sullivan County, the legislature and the sheriff’s department need to put politics aside and work together in ensuring our safety. The road patrol must be properly manned.

Recognizing the rise in crime, Edwards put together forums on getting people involved in neighborhood watch programs.

Gene Benson led a rally protesting the SAFE Act.

One of the big issues this year was Health and Family Services. Legislator Cindy Gieger has been a maverick seeing to it that fraud, waste, and abuse comes to an end, and that people who really need social services receive them.

Gerard Dietz must be praised for his hard work in uncovering fraud and Commissioner Randy Parker seems to understand the need for change in Health and Family Services.

What was very disturbing and upsetting in 2013 was the sudden and unexplained firing of David Sager as Deputy Commissioner.

Sager’s removal showcased Sullivan County behind the scene politics at its worst. Hopefully Sager will be successful in his lawsuit and all of Sullivan County will learn the real truth.

It will be interesting to find out if any members of the Cunningham family or County Attorney Sam Yasgur had any role in Sager’s firing.

Thanks to the majority of five a new independent attorney will be hired in Health and Family services.

New monies were approved to repairs our roads.

$9.5 million in bonds was passed for the capital plan without County Treasurer’s Ira Cohen’s knowledge what the amount of the bond was going to be prior to the resolution.

In 2014 we can expect legislators Edwards and Gieger to advocate that the County Manager and County Treasurer draft a bond policy so the legislature can clearly understand the tax implications of bonding prior to the vote in the future.

Sullivan County recently received a bond rating upgrade A+ to AA from the S&P index.
Legislator Kitty Vetter has been leading the fight to bring high speed Internet to all of Sullivan County.

The SCVA will continue to promote tourism for at least another year thanks to the legislature’s unwillingness to bring the contract up for bid. If you recall, the legislature botched up and administered an unprofessional RFP process last year.

Jeff Siegel must be congratulated for creating the new annual event Bagel Festival. Siegel proved his critics wrong as did those leaders on a mission to promote the often neglected Catskill Upper Delaware thank you Debra Conway.

Legislator Alan Sorenson is trying to make some great change to our planning department by refocusing objectives and mission.

The handling of another RFP involving an outside accounting firm was also questioned by some legislators last year in what appeared to be a bait and switch.

On the economic development front, a food hub will be coming to Sullivan County, and the Red Meat Plant is finally becoming a reality.

Kutsher’s was sold and the 1,300 acre property will be turned into a major health resort. Monticello Motor Club will also be expanding. And, the Apollo Plaza was finally sold to the Resnick Group. A clause potentially involving the flipping of the property was mysteriously taken out of the contract.

We also learned about new developments at Davos, and a mega Disney World type complex dubbed China City being built here.

With resort destinations on the horizon, we can expect developer after developer announcing different projects.

Edwards has called on SCCC and BOCES to offer programs on hospitality and gaming opportunities to prepare our workforce.

The IDA will continue to take center stage in Sullivan County as two new members will be appointed to its board. Many taxpayers still do not understand the role of the IDA and why and how it awards abatements. As chairman, Steingart is said to be focusing more on helping small businesses.

On Memorial Day weekend Bethel Woods will hold an event that will potentially be as monumental as Woodstock.

The Center for Discovery has quietly been buying up the hamlet of Hurleyville. They will be constructing a Regional Children’s Assessment Center creating new jobs.

On the political front, two towns will be seeing major change as new supervisors will be leading their governments.

In Mamakating, Bill Herrmann will take over the helms as the plagued municipality continues to deal with a new Hassidic development. The Village government in Bloomingburg is also in turmoil as scandal rips their board.

The biggest change will be in the Town of Thompson as Tony Cellini retires and Bill Rieber takes over as supervisor. Cellini often acted as if he were the County Executive and was a ruling no nonsense force on the political scene. It will be interesting to see Rieber’s style and how he conducts the affairs of the municipality.

District Attorney Jim Farrell, Sheriff Michael Schiff, and County Treasurer Ira Cohen will take their new oaths of office in 2014.

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther and State Senator John Bonacic will most likely be seeking reelection in 2014. We can expect an all out war in the Congressional race as popular incumbent Chris Gibson faces a challenge from billionaire Sean Eldridge.

I pray Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther’s legislation “Paula’s Law,” named after my sister Paula, requiring surveillance cameras be placed outside of state run group homes and day programs to protect our most vulnerable is passed in 2014.

Probably the biggest issue in 2013 besides the approval of resort destinations was the Village of Monticello. Trustee TC Hutchins was forced to resign because of his felony conviction. He awaits sentencing in January.

The biggest story is Mayor and Village Manager Gordon Jenkins who was arrested for a DWI. A video featuring Jenkins’ arrest shouting racist, hateful, and disturbing remarks went viral and drew worldwide media attention. Jenkins awaits trial on that charge and he begins trial in February for allegedly hitting a police officer.

The Village of Monticello is on the verge of bankruptcy and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is expected to issue a scathing report on Monticello’s devastating fiscal conditions within the next few weeks.

Jenkins’ arrogance and unprofessionalism has led to one controversial issue after another.

Jenkins appointed his live in girlfriend Rochelle Massey to replace Hutchins, and he irresponsibly authorized the demolition of the old courthouse now known as Mount Jenkins.

Trustee Carmen Rue has been an outspoken hardworking crusader attempting to salvage the Village of Monticello, but she cannot do it alone. Trustee Larissa Bennett seems to be joining Rue in her mission.

The most exciting and anticipated news might come in March when the Village elections are held. The four major political parties all endorsed former Police Chief Douglas Solomon, and acting county Planning Commissioner Jill Weyer. Popular Village Justice Josephine Finn has also been endorsed by the four major political parties and she is expected to be a major boost to the ticket. Jenkins is expected to run his own candidates on his “G Man” line.

The Village of Liberty will also see the election of two trustee positions in March, but that election will not be controversial.

2013 saw the “Mouth That Roars” column take a new direction and the creation of the popular facebook page Sullivan County Post. In 2014 the Sullivan County Post brand will be expanded.

My New Year’s resolution to you is that I will continue roaring about the issues because I really do care about Sullivan County. I do not expect you to agree with me with everything I pen, but hopefully it does create discussion on the issues facing all of us.

Wishing you a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself on National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the “MOUTH THAT ROARS” Column in THE SULLIVAN COUNTY POST.

1 comment to Sullivan County Approaches 2014

  • Everyone needs to become involved, ask questions, attend meetings, join and participate in youth programs, school programs, and act in the common interest of all in Sullivan County — We can change and improve things for our families, friends, neighbors, and new persons moving to our beautiful area of New York State – Happy new Year to all — Jack & Doris Costello