Dems are concerned about sharing control in Westerlo

To the Editor:

Regarding Ms. [Barbara L.] Russell’s letter and Mr. [William] Bichteman’s comments alleging “unethical” campaigning by the Westerlo GOP, it’s interesting how short and selective some peoples’ memories are [“GOP campaigning in Westerlo is unethical, The Altamont Enterprise, June 6, 2019].

When the Democrats had full control of the Westerlo Town Board, they systematically used means that were not above board. An example of that, relevant to the flap about the use of the town seal, was when they wanted to buy the asbestos-ridden, poorly designed, in-disrepair building that is now the town hall.

Before the referendum on that, a big orange electric sign typically used officially by highway departments but owned by a private party (who now chairs the Westerlo Democratic Party Committee) appeared on Route 32 telling everyone to vote about the purchase. Since it was a highway department sign, didn’t that imply that this was a message from the town?

I think my favorite nonsense was the noise made when the Hometown Heroes committee got together. The machine went into full battle mode. Republican Councilperson Amie Burnside had to fight the town attorney to make the banners happen.

Isn’t it funny that all the towns around us have them, but our town was worried about lawsuits? This shows that it has not mattered to the Democrats what the subject is; if it comes from the other side, let’s fight it.

Speaking of hometown heroes, the flyer advertising veterans’ services was put together, printed, and distributed by the people listed on it, at their initiative and cost, as a public service so our local veterans would know about these services. Ms. Russell complains because they put their contact info (nothing about their party) on that flyer, but doesn’t mention the benefit those people provided to Westerlo veterans.

Ms. Russell says she is a Democrat and votes for the most competent person. When I chaired the Westerlo GOP Committee, we ran who we thought were the best people, including Kenny Mackey and Bob Carl. The Westerlo GOP ran Jody Ostrander in the recent election. All of them were and are the best people for those positions and they are not Republicans. I don’t remember any Republicans on the Democratic ticket, ever.

There’s a bigger picture here. There are now two Republicans on the town board and this year’s election has strong, well-qualified Republican candidates for supervisor, town board, and town clerk. Westerlo Democrats, used to decades of a political monopoly, are concerned about actually having to share control and agendas with Republicans.

The Republican candidates are running because of the serious long-term issues with how Democrats have run Westerlo government, including:

— Mysterious town finances: a budget process almost hidden from the public; mystery moves of large sums;

— Ill-advised major projects, particularly the multi-million-dollar project (a special favorite of Mr. Bichteman) to turn an old schoolhouse into a proper town hall and replace the garage rather than simply repair the leaky roof;

— Failure to act on available ways to strengthen and diversify Westerlo’s tax base and to develop additional revenue sources for the town;

— Ongoing major spending on incompetent or worse outside services (particularly accounting and engineering) rather than using town resources; and

— Allowing a Town Attorney to control or dictate town board agendas.

In this context, seeing town Democrats attempting to make points by complaining about where a caucus notice was placed (same place Democratic notices have been posted in the past) or that people who took initiative and spent their money to provide a public service (the veterans’ services flyer) put their names on it shows town Democrats to be unready to face qualified, competent candidates or the Democrats’ own dismal record.

Stay tuned as November approaches!

Bonnie Kohl-Laub


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