Monday, October 31, 2011
Communist Manifesto Inspires Saugerties Supervisor Greg Helsmoortel
I just received this from Gaetana Ciarlante, LCSWR
Letter to the Editor for pubilcation in this week's issue:
There is great concern by Saugerties citizens over the plans that the current town council led by Supervisor Helsmoortel have for Saugerties. Saugerties now has headquarters for the very rich at Diamond Mills and shelters for the poor being housed at the Wenton Hotel, Hickory Ridge, the Commons and plans for more homeless Shelters and “Keeps” which this town board is embracing with our tax dollars. Indeed the Town Boards continued polarization between the "Haves" and the "Have nots" is a page from the Communist Mainfesto in which the middle class is eroded away. In the case of Saugerties it is being accomplished through taxes and regulations. We pay the bills and get bombarded with regulations and taxes at every attempt to maintain our homes and our property while their practice of taxing through back door deals is making it next to impossible for many who take pride in owning our own homes and living independently to continue to do so.
While it is true that state regulations are imposed upon the town there is much discretion as to the degree with which the town embraces these. Helsmoortel and his board have demonstrated a record of embracing all taxes, controls and government programs. For example while Helsmoortel defends his PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) for Dickinson Keep that may initially bring in slightly more money than New York State's 581A Tax Law, he cannot substantiate the reasons for granting this PILOT for 30 years. Developer Larry Regan stated many times during the Planning Board’s meeting that if the town did not want Dickinson’s Keep he would go elsewhere with the project. But in fact he reported finding that the town board welcomed his "Affordable" Housing Development while most of the tax paying citizens are finding it to be Unaffordable. The application to the state for Dickinson’s Keep includes a letter of endorsement for this project written by Helmoortel in January 2011 to the New York State Commissioner of Housing and Community Development.
A true leader of the people would seek out methods to alleviate the burden of its citizens, however no such action has ever come from this town board even after requested of them. Rather Helsmoortel portrays himself to his constituents as a victim of higher government when in fact he stands to gain personally through real estate transactions while the local workers and retirees place their homes on the market and prepare to flee for their own survival. Knowing the pain inflicted on his people (vocalized clearly at the appeals to the infamous property tax re-evaluation of 2010 and many times since) a true leader would take into consideration the needs of his people. At the very least there would be an appeal of the process to higher government of which Helsmoortel claims to be victim. Rather it took members of SACRED (Saugerties Assertive Citizens for Responsible Economic Development) to contact their State Representatives, of which Assemblyman Peter Lopez was the sole responder, to request a repeal of the regulations of New York State 581A. Meanwhile Helsmoortel and his Board continue to use every opportunity to apply new taxes and new regulations on the citizens of Saugerties.
Last week Helsmoortel placed a full page ad quoting Saugerties School Superintendent, Seth Turner, as saying he did not know how much the Dickinson's Keep project will cost without an in-depth study. While Helsmoortel tries to use this response from Seth Turner to support his full speed ahead attitude with Dickinson's Keep Turner comments in fact support that the Town board is careless and neglectful and imposes upon our town a project without knowing the impact both financially and socially. In no way did Turner minimize the figure of $500,000 per year but in fact kept open the possibility that it may cost far more.
Meanwhile it remains a mystery as to why Helsmoortel would have requested and hired a specific attorney from Albany, John Vagianelis, to represent the Town of Saugerties while knowing that Vagianelis’ law firm also represents the Funding Company through which Regan Development Corp. would seek their funding for Dickinson's Keep. This conflict of interest was pointed out by Town Supervisor Candidate Kelly Myers at the town informational hearing on October 11. Shortly afterwards, Helsmoortel removed Vagianelis but surely would have continued if not for Kelly's diligent work and courage in bringing forth this conflict of interest. The Town of Saugerties already has its own competent attorney, John Greco. The questions remain as to:
1. Why Greco was not used to represent Saugerties in the Dickinson's Keep deal?
2. How much did the town pay Vagianelis?
3. What is the plan is to have Vagianelis repay that money to the town?
4. What is Helsmoortel's explanation for actively requesting Vagianelis when the town already has its own attorney?
The deals negotiated through Vagianelis for Dickinson Keep and any other project in which he had such a conflict of interest must be considered null and void and monies paid to him should be repaid to the town. When asking Helsmoortel about these dealing with Vagianelis at the October 19 Town Board meeting he responded to me with an attitude of arrogance, contempt and disrespect and offered little information.
While the project of Dickinson’s Keep may appear on the surface to be of benefit to the poor that too is highly doubtful and will be the subject of future writings.
During the meetings with SACRED Kelly Myers came forward to assist the property owners and has become an active member.
Though very knowledgeable, she repeatedly displays the attributes of integrity, courage, and humility. Her attitude is filled with respect, gratitude and compassion. Without prompting or invitation Kelly Myers, Joe Roberti Sr. and Pam Riggins have attended all the meetings related to Dickinson's Keep and investigated these improper proceedings. Joe has many years of experience with volunteer organizations and government committees. Everyone who knows Joe recognizes his hard work and tireless investigation of issues put before him before making decisions.
I am not one who advocates change for the sake of change; however our current Town Board demonstrates the meaning behind "Nero fiddled while Rome burns." Leanne Thorton has become the hostess who gives out awards but steers clear of any independent thinking or judgment; She said voted against the repeal of the PILOT, brought forth by Jim Bruno after he learned Larry Regan had provided the board with mis-information, and justified her actions by saying she didn't know enough about it. Leanne needs to learn that government is not a garden party and the role of government is to protect, not entertain the people. This Saugerties town council falls far short and has become self-serving. In conclusion our current Town Board can best be described as careless, arrogant and without regard. At worst it is conspiring, ruthless, corrupt and illegal in its deal making.
It's time for a big change. Kelly Myers will lead the town effectively and with compassion. Joe Roberti Jr. and Pam Riggins promise hard work and diligence in their roles on the town council.
And always remember that is our duty as citizens in a democracy to play an active role, stay aware and defend liberty at every opportunity.
Let's take back our freedom and let it begin in Saugerties.
Gaetana Ciarlante, LCSWR