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Jim Barnicle

Monticello mayor's race is on

Barnicle seeks relection

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — March 11, 2008 — Monticello Mayor Jim Barnicle is proud of his four-year legacy serving the county seat as its top leader.
And he’s got a five-page bilingual flyer to prove it. He’s been handing it out during his visits to more than 1,500 homes in the village as he prepares to fight to serve another four years as mayor.
This being Monticello politics, he’s actually been fighting ever since he successfully took on former Mayor Gary Sommers in 2004. Yet even whilst being subjected to (and doling out) some of the harshest rhetoric ever heard at a village board meeting, Barnicle is eager to continue, as he puts it, making a difference.
“There’s unfinished business,” says the 58-year-old Democrat and Conservative.
At the top of that list is Broadway, where he and wife Sherri once ran The Keeping Room gift shop. As many have noticed, Monticello’s main street is now devoid of trees, in preparation for a complete reconstruction courtesy of the state Department of Transportation.
A similar makeover has just been completed on Pleasant Street, and once the downtown portion of Broadway is complete by next year (featuring a promised return of the trees, which were in the way), East Broadway will undergo the same treatment all the way to Route 17’s soon-to-be-redesigned Exit 106 – including a full traffic light at the Waverly Avenue corner by Fialkoff’s.
“We’ll have a beautiful street to recruit people to come into. It will be the heartbeat of Sullivan County,” says the mayor, who has been nursemaiding the project since he was a village trustee. “If there is a change in mayors, we’ll have a hiccup.”
But he’s asking for residents’ votes based on a bit more than playing shepherd to the DOT. Here’s just a sampling of what Barnicle takes credit for in that five-page English/Spanish flyer:
• He’s led the effort to lower taxes two out of the past three years, merged treasurer and grantswriter duties with the Town of Thompson and delinquent tax recovery efforts with the county, expanded the village Dept. of Public Works by two people with no resulting tax increase, and found ways to lower insurance costs while increasing coverage.
• He’s helped add two police dispatchers, freeing up two officers for street patrol, and is proud of the IMPACT grant, which is credited with getting more gang leaders and drug dealers off the streets.
• He’s pushed for diversity in all facets of village business, emphasizing the need for bilingual employees who treat all residents with respect.
• He’s overseen paving of roads, demolitions of eyesores, and the obtaining of grants that have paid for numerous beautification and quality-of-life enhancement efforts.
• He’s fought the county landfill expansion, increased the equipment and resources available to village workers in the service of residents, and annually held an employee appreciation picnic.
• But Barnicle is proudest of his efforts to reach out to the people of Monticello through food drives, holiday parades, basketball tournaments, park events, and the creation of skateboarding and basketball areas. He’s even baked pies for the Federation for the Homeless.
And he leaves his cell phone on 24/7 (917-291-0841, though he asks people to remember he does need to get some occasional sleep).
“That’s my strength, working with people on a daily basis,” he says.
It’s what he does when not on the village clock, as well. In addition to being a member of the local NAACP chapter and the Monticello Elks Club, Barnicle is a key account executive for Anheuser-Busch, handling corporate customers that include every 7-11 convenience store from New York to Maine, plus the major sports venues in the NY metropolitan area.
“You have to build a regular, personal relationship with a variety of people,” he explains, speaking of all his roles.
The day job gives him access to free baseball, basketball and football tickets, which he has passed out to many an individual. Though some of the recipients have been church and youth groups – even the local police force in what he terms “team-building” – he’s come under fire for allegedly using the tickets to solicit votes.
Not so, he says, pointing out that the last time he gave away tickets was this past summer.
“When people get tickets, I do that to enhance their lives,” he remarks, adding that he’s also well known for giving holiday gifts to employees. “I’ve done it time and time again.”
Still, there are those who find plenty to fault about Barnicle’s leadership, chief among them being Trustee Gordon Jenkins, who is seeking to unseat the mayor.
Not surprisingly, Barnicle is critical of Jenkins, as well.
“He’s been a trustee for two-plus years,” Barnicle says, “and he hasn’t written one memo, introduced one resolution, or brought forth one law. He’s never even attended a Halloween Parade, which goes right past his [business’] front door. He’s not involved . . . [and] he hasn’t shown me that he has done one tangible thing as a trustee.”
Barnicle also questions Jenkins’ choice to openly display pornographic DVDs in his Broadway store, uncovered despite the fact that his business caters to all age ranges.
Though he agrees with Jenkins that it’s his right to sell such material (and Jenkins’ fiancée, Rochelle Massey, adds that it has boosted business), “once you enter into politics… you have to be able to draw the line, morally and ethically,” says Barnicle. “That’s the question.”
Jenkins, however, points out that Barnicle works for a beverage company known for its brands of alcohol – varieties of beer, wine and hard liquor that are not unknown to underage consumers.
“We sell our adult beverages responsibly,” Barnicle replies, adding that Anheuser-Busch is also well-known for its anti-drunk-driving efforts. “We lay out a whole program to promote responsible drinking.”
But the programs that affect voters the most have to do with Barnicle as mayor, and he says he has several in mind, should he be returned to office.
“We need jobs, jobs that pay a living wage, with benefits,” he states, pointing out a 40 percent poverty level in Monticello, one that has probably risen since the U.S. Census Bureau determined that figure in 2002. “People struggle every day [with the question], ‘Am I going to eat or pay for my heat?’”
That’s why he’s working with developers to turn the closed Apollo Mall into a manufacturing center, and also why he’s focused on bringing more than just retail outlets to Broadway.
“Retail [by itself] will fail because there isn’t enough disposable income in this community,” he says, referencing the fact that he and his wife had to close up shop for that very reason. “We’re going to have to be creative and think outside the box… to bring life back to downtown Broadway.”
That outside-the-box philosophy extends beyond Broadway, however. Barnicle and Thompson Supervisor Tony Cellini have long been discussing further consolidation of town and village services, and they’re now seeking funds to do a full-blown study.
“We’re going to have to take a hard look: can the village survive by itself?” he wonders.
If the study reveals taxes won’t rise astronomically, services will be improved and the future will be promising, Barnicle said he would be willing to step aside as mayor and dissolve the village into the township.
That might prove inevitable if the Monticello Raceway moves outside village boundaries and nothing takes its place – or pays its one-quarter share of the village’s tax base.
“If and when they leave, it will be a blow to us,” admits Barnicle, who’s been in intense but cooperative discussions with Empire Resorts and developer Louis Cappelli over ensuring the worst doesn’t happen. “Can we recover from that? It will be difficult.”
But he’s not running for the hills. He’s running for re-election.
Endorsed by Cellini, District 8 Legislator Ron Hiatt, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, the Hudson Valley Building Trades Council and the Monticello PBA, Barnicle feels confident residents will return him to office – and hopes they’ll do the same for Deputy Mayor Victor Marinello and board hopeful Alvin Dumas, both of whom are running for the two open trustee seats.
It’s a community he’s proud to serve, one very much distinct in his view from “a core group of people who come to the meetings and want to be disruptive.”
Though he admits they almost succeeded in discouraging him from a second run after the major controversy over his pay for five months as the interim village manager, “that vocal minority doesn’t represent the rest of Monticello,” he says.
“Most people know who I am,” he remarks, pointing out how often he can be found in local restaurants and stores. “I’m confident of what I do as mayor. I’ve accomplished everything I said I’d do in four years… and I want to continue that.”

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Jim Barnicle

Jenkins to challenge

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — Gordon Jenkins feels like he’s just banging his head against the wall these days.
“I can’t get anywhere on the board,” the two-year Village of Monticello Trustee says inside his G-Men Clothing and Cosmetics shop on Broadway. “It’s at a standstill.”
Jenkins is referring to the 3-2 split often present at controversial votes on Monticello’s village board. And Jenkins, if you haven’t already guessed, is usually on the losing side of those votes.
“Their decisions aren’t in the best interest of the village,” he adds, speaking of Mayor Jim Barnicle, Deputy Mayor Victor Marinello and Trustee Brian VanDermark.
As an example, he points out the ongoing controversy surrounding the abrupt firing of Deputy Village Manager John Barbarite, based in part on an allegation that he used a racial slur against local Hispanics.
Jenkins, who is black and chairs the Sullivan County Congress on Racial Equality, doesn’t believe it – in fact, he feels it’s a smear job, claiming Barnicle and Village Manager Ray Nargizian have been trying to push Barbarite out of office due to his aggressive code enforcement, which has riled local landlords.
“John was too straight for Ray. Now all the bad boys can play since John is out,” Jenkins says. “.… And Ray is not going to do a damn thing about it.”
Then again, this is all complicated by the fact that Barbarite is a self-avowed supporter of Jenkins’ campaign to unseat Barnicle as mayor.
Despite running a beauty supply/shoe/clothing/hat shop for the past two decades and serving as a now-26-year corrections officer at the maximum-security Sullivan Correctional Facility in Fallsburg, the 48-year-old Jenkins is eager to make a difference as mayor of the largest village in Sullivan County.
He’s running because he’s tired of the politics-as-usual, the bitter divisiveness, the situations like Barbarite’s that always stir things up.
“I don’t owe anything to anyone,” Jenkins confidently explains, recalling failed attempts to bribe him into helping change zoning laws to better favor certain developers.
Plus, as mayor, he could finally overcome that 3-2 blockade.
“You’re in a better position to do something for the village,” he says of the $9,000/year role (just $2,000 more than what trustees get), adding that if he loses, “this village is not going to go anywhere.”
If he does lose, Jenkins will still be on the board for his remaining two years as trustee, but he expects he’ll once again be in the minority (albeit a vocal one) with Trustee Scott Schoonmaker.
But nothing is certain till after Election Day. Jenkins’ running mate, Carmen Rue, could win one of the two open trustee seats. Marinello and/or VanDermark could retain their seats. Alvin Dumas, endorsed by the mayor, could win a seat. (The two highest vote-getters will earn the right to serve on the board.)
Or, of course, Jenkins could win as mayor, running on the Republican and self-named G-Man lines. And if he and Rue both make it on the board, he’ll get to appoint his successor as trustee – and make a few other changes.
“If I get in, Danielle [Jose, the village attorney] is fired,” he remarks of one of the village officials he holds chiefly responsible for Barbarite’s termination, someone he believes simply functions as Barnicle’s apologist. “I think she’s a lousy attorney.”
And don’t expect that to be the last change.
“I’m going to be aggressive,” the Monticello native says, stating he’s incensed by local living conditions. “I don’t owe the slumlords anything.”
Jenkins wants to ensure his plain-spokenness is brought to the people.
“I’d have a meeting with every landlord in the village,” he states, “and I’d have a monthly meeting at the Ted Stroebele [Recreation Center] building between the mayor and the taxpayers, just a discussion.”
During regular board meetings, he’d welcome public comment and not time people the way he feels Barnicle sometimes does.
“He wants a meeting in and out,” Jenkins says of the current mayor. “He doesn’t like an uproar. But we work for the taxpayer – we’re public servants. You have to get the insight of everyone out there.”
But he promises to do more than just listen.
• Jenkins wants to attract manufacturing companies that pay a living wage, rather than giving tax breaks to Section 8 housing developments. • He wants to seriously discuss further consolidation with the Town of Thompson, though “the interests of the village would have to come first.”
• He’d seek written confirmation from developer Louis Cappelli, promising a certain amount of payments to offset any taxes that would be lost if the Monticello Raceway moved and a casino or mall didn’t take its place.
• He’s an advocate for a yearly evaluation by taxpayers of the board and mayor “to see who’s doing the job.”
• He’d work on ways to attract jobs, including those for convicted felons, whom he feels are too often simply “thrown to the curb.”
• He’d continue efforts to bring casinos to the area, without looking upon them as Monticello’s sole means of salvation.
• He’d make fair and just law enforcement a top priority while also reaching out to residents through senior citizen and youth programs.
• He’d ensure financial accountability and a conservative spending regimen, looking at the budget line by line.
• And he’d make an effort to unite the village board.
“I know we can work together,” Jenkins remarks of village government. “We can bring back trust and people to the village.”
Endorsed by County Treasurer Ira Cohen, District 7 Legislator Leni Binder, District 9 Legislator Alan Sorensen and Sheriff Michael Schiff, Jenkins assures that he and Rue will fight for the village every step of the way. That’s what pulled the former competitive boxer and three-year Army veteran through the not-so-long-ago Hatch Act court fight that almost cost him his trusteeship and his corrections job – a fight he won.
“We do it because we honestly care,” the Red Cross volunteer says. “The people need a voice and fighters in the village.
“You’re going to see some aggressive government,” he promises.
Got questions? Jenkins welcomes calls at 791-6855 or 794-5844.

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