By Matt Youngfrau
SULLIVAN COUNTY October 28, 2003 District 8 consists of the northern third of the Town of Thompson and a southern portion of the Town of Fallsburg.
The current representative is Republican, Conservative, and Legislature Vice Chair Bob Kunis. His Democratic challenger is attorney Ron Hiatt.
Bob Kunis is one of the four remaining original legislators. Besides being Vice Chair, he chairs the Planning and Community Development Committee. Kunis is also the chair of the Industrial Development Agency (IDA). And he founded the Joint Economic Team (JET).
Sullivan County is in the midst of huge changes for the better, Kunis commented. I strongly feel I can contribute in a valuable way. I have experience in both the private and public sectors. There are many economic enrichment program projects on the horizon.
According to Kunis, the biggest issue in his district is jobs.
We need to attract industry and retail, he said. We need to help main street redevelopment and remodel our downtown areas. We must attract new investment.
Kunis has long been a proponent of gaming.
It is an industry that could serve to enhance the economy of the county, he remarked. It has to be well-planned and well-thought-out. The negative impacts have to be mitigated. We cannot take two steps forward and one step backward.
Another big issue, especially in Thompson, is the landfill.
This is more than a money issue. This is a quality-of-life issue, Kunis commented. It is a political and environmental issue. I strongly support the immediate end to garbage importation. I feel strongly that we as a county must do a better job maintaining that facility. We have to take a close look to mitigate the impacts. It directly impacts and affects those people who live on the perimeter of the landfill. We must do something.
Kunis addressed the Democrats claim that there is a need for open government.
I do not quite understand what they are talking about, he said. Since I have been here, we run it in a fashion that is open and accessible to anyone at all times. Meetings and issues are announced. We have open discussions. The public is always invited.
Kunis continued, The issues in District 8 are well-defined. I want to make it clear that, as an elected representative, I represent all the people, not just one party. I am easily accessible, and I will continue to respond to the needs and wishes of the people.
Kunis lives in Monticello. He is married and has three children.
Last year, Ron Hiatt was laid off by the county as their managing attorney in child services. The way it was handled caused him to think about doing something he never thought about before getting into politics.
I was convinced that it was almost my duty, Hiatt commented. Sometimes it just falls to you. No one wants to be drafted. Due to my history, experience, and character, I should be the one. It was a sense of duty.
I never looked to be in politics, Hiatt continued. It was a difficult decision to run for office. I had to put myself out there and be open. I do not like how the government process works. I want to carry the message of the people.
Hiatt spent 20 years in the United States Air Force. He has been an attorney for more than 20 years and has worked with such groups as the Child Care Council, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Program, and Alternatives to Incarceration.
Too many decisions have been made without public notice, Hiatt remarked. Decisions are made behind closed doors. They decide in caucus, come out, read a script and vote. I want it to be open and explain things to the public. The legislators are the servants of the people. That is the way it ought to be.
Another big issue for Hiatt is the defunct Consumer Affairs Department.
They cut Consumer Affairs out of the blue, he said. They are not open and do not keep the public informed. The people are their employer. You do not make a decision and tell the people afterwards. How do you defend yourselves if you do not know what is going on?
If the government does not protect us, who will? Hiatt continued, in reference to Consumer Affairs. They combine it with Public Relations. It is diluted.
In that same vein, I want to create a Human Rights Commission. It should start as a volunteer organization, Hiatt commented. We can combine Consumer Affairs and Human Rights. Both protect citizens rights. We have to ease into it. Many counties have it. We will get input and see where we go. We have great talent out there. We should get their input. We should hear their concerns and encourage it.
Along those lines, Hiatt would like to see a citizens and employees advisory panel created.
I do not have all the answers, he stated. We can have the citizens and the employees look at such issues as the budget. We can all work together. We should sit down and talk. We need to practice unity, not divisiveness. Ultimately, we may disagree. We have to do the will of the people. There should be no resentment. Attitude is everything.
Compromise will work if there is no ill will, Hiatt continued. The Legislative Chambers should not be where egos go to collide.
A big issue in Thompson is the landfill.
It is not rational to continue the policy, stated Hiatt. I feel strongly about this. The village limits is not where the dump should be. You cannot co-locate your dining room with your bathroom. We have to look for new locations. If it takes ten years, we have to start now.
Some communities have mandatory recycling, Hiatt continued. If it will reduce trash, we should look into it. Maybe we can have two or three smaller dumps instead of one big dump. We have to do something to wean off this garbage dependency. It is not a healthy policy. We can slowly raise the price while decreasing importation. We have to take a close look.
Another big issue is gaming.
The county has to quit beating up the village, Hiatt stated. Threatening to sue them is counterproductive. Lets just go through the process. We cannot stop it. Lets minimize the negative impacts and maximize the positive impacts.
The real problem is the $15 deals, Hiatt continued. There is no allowance for inflation. It is very problematic. Costs go up. We have to be watchful.
We can do this, he concluded. I will be open and be the peoples servant. We are all in this together.
Hiatt lives in Monticello. He has two daughters.