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 3rd, 2019

Battle Brewing Over Who Will Chair Sullivan County Legislature

It is hard to believe that the 2019 election cycle has been in the books for just over a month.

In just a few short weeks a new legislature will be running Sullivan County and with that hopefully will come some positive change for us.

Right now, there is a lot of behind the scenes jockeying and coalitions are building for Chair and Vice Chair of the Legislature as well as who will head important committees.  

The leading contenders to become chair are current chair Luis Alvarez, vice chair Nadia Rajsz who ran on both the Democratic and Republican Lines, longest incumbent Alan Sorensen, incumbent Joe Perrello, and newbies Robert Doherty and Michael Brooks.

In reality, it doesn’t matter who chairs the legislature because each legislator has only one vote. As it stands now, our new legislative body will consist of just two Democrats and seven Republicans. 

Coalitions are needed to run our government and it should not matter if one is a Republican or Democrat.  

Unfortunately, the past legislature slapped Sullivan County residents in the face by not approving Charter Review Commission recommendations to let the electorate decide on such important issues as an elected County Executive and staggering legislative terms.

Thus, as a result, we have four new legislators walking in ready and eager but have very little knowledge on how our County is run.

I bet none of the newly elected officials have ever read the County Charter or its codes. Probably several incumbents haven’t either.

Our form of government is sadly run by a hired County Manager. And, we have no real leadership or someone to look to for guidance.

So, for now, upper management will be catering to those newly elected officials to secure their jobs, while protecting and double checking the relationships they have with the incumbents. Trust me it will be business as usual very quickly.

Besides the new legislative body, we can also expect to see a new County Attorney with the retirement/departure of Cheryl McCausland. Although McCausland is stepping down, she will still work as needed for the Attorneys Office. She has over 20 years experience in Sullivan County and is a wealth of knowledge as well as being a highly respected attorney. Most likely the County Attorney job will go to Assistant County Attorney Thomas Cawely.

Getting back to the legislature and its leadership. Here is a run down on the top contenders for chair.

Luis Alvarez has served as chair for the past four years and wants to keep the job.  Although his chances are considered slim, he could come out victorious, and ultimately become the frontrunner.

Alvarez is likable and as chairman he has turned up at practically every event. He made the position into a fulltime job granting access to everyone. He took the County State of County Address on the road visiting every town during the past four years. A former Democrat, Alvarez has always worked with everyone.

Critics of Alvarez say he has taken the role of chairmanship too far and does things without consulting his fellow legislators. They also claim he tells people what they want to hear and does not stick to issues.

The bottom line is that Alvarez has been a healing force for Sullivan County bringing all sides together. The legislature under his helm has been less confrontational and has accomplished a great deal including the construction of a new jail. No one should take him for granted.

Nadia Rajsz is a proven leader who is not only smart but can work with everyone on any issue. She always listens to her constituents before she votes on any issue. Currently serving as Vice Chair of the legislature, Rajsz is considered a longshot because she is a registered Democrat and Republicans control seven votes. Rajsz won election during the past two election cycles with the backing of the Republican Party.

In Sullivan County, there is a vast history of legislators switching political parties to take leadership positions. Ironically, they involved Rajsz’s opponent former legislator Kathy LaBuda.

Both Leni Binder and Bob Kunis after a big political dispute switched political affiliation from Democratic to Republican. Binder then became Chair and is still known throughout Sullivan County as Legislady.

Another big political switch was when David Sager became a Democrat and ultimately voted to save the chairmanship for Jonathan Rouis. Again, this involved Kathy Labuda who was attempting to oust Rouis.

Unfortunately, many Sullivan County Democratic Party officials have been disloyal to Rajsz because she is embraced by Republicans and opposed Labuda. Those people should wake up and start working with her for the betterment of Sullivan County and Democratic politics. It would be a devastating blow to the Democratic Party if she changed party enrollment.

Joe Perrello has a reputation of being a no-nonsense legislator. During the past four years Perrello has told it like it is. He is a successful businessman who is street smart. He knows how to get things done and is not afraid to tell you how he feels. He would be a colorful chairman to say the least.

Alan Sorensen has been in the legislature the longest and is the most experienced. He is considered the intellectual of the crowd and has vast experience in planning. He knows and understands the inner workings of Sullivan County, is non-confrontational, and sets a professional tone. Unfortunately, he flipped flopped on the issue of staggered terms, and supports the $4.5 million visitor’s center, an issue that almost cost him the election.

Of the new kids on the block, Robert Doherty has the inside track to become chairman thanks to the behind the scenes maneuvering of several influential political operatives who have his inner ear. 

Doherty who won election with a lot of Democratic support ousted former legislature chairman Scott Samuelson.

Doherty is an outspoken critic of the visitor’s center and is ready to come out swinging on this many other issues including moving 911 back to the sheriff’s department.

The other newbie who has a chance in becoming chairman is Michael Brooks. He is mild mannered, intellectual, and politically connected in Republican Party leadership circles.

Five votes are needed for chair. The two Democratic votes will play an important role if there is a split between incumbents and the new kids on the block.

The next few days and weeks will be very interesting in Sullivan County politics to say the least. Players who want to protect their own interests will be lobbying and pressuring for their candidate to be selected chair.

If legislators really cared about Sullivan County – They would put party affiliation aside and vote for whom they feel is the best person for the job.

Sadly, what’s best for Sullivan County won’t even matter.

The final outcome probably won’t be decided until hours before the reorganizational meeting of the legislature in January.

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.

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