By Frank Rizzo
WURTSBORO Town of Mamakating Supervisor Harold Baird announced his intention yesterday to challenge Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther of Forestburgh in this November’s election.
“I think it’s time to get down into the ditches and get things going the right way,” said Baird, a Republican who won reelection to his town post last November. “If we keep going on the track we’re going, local governments will be hurting.”
To Baird, the enemies of municipalities are the state-imposed mandates and a broken municipal employee retirement system that will increasingly burden the governments.
“We have to find new ways of doing things, to see if we can relieve the mandate pressures on counties and schools.
“The townships, villages and counties are going to go broke,” added Baird.
The twice-elected supervisor is in favor of Governor Cuomo’s proposed Tier VI pension reform, which is being debated by the state legislature. It aims to reduce pension costs.
“I’m a common sense type of guy,” argued Baird. “I know a lot about the [nuts and bolts] of town government. I can get up [to Albany] and help lead in the right direction.”
Underlying much of what ails the state, according to Baird, is the heavy hand of property taxes.
“I’ll be the first to say, ‘My taxes are much too high,’” he said. “The taxes are chasing people out and when people leave, it makes things worse.”
Baird noted the diversity of the district, especially when it comes to Sullivan County, and feels he’ll be able to represent its varying needs.
“I want to make a change for this area,” he said. “I feel I can help Mamakating even more [than as supervisor], and not just my town, but all of the district.… I want to make it so that people can afford to live here.”
Baird knows first hand the costs of town governments.
“We’re spending $55,000 a month on health insurance,” he pointed out. “Pretty soon, we’ll be telling people they’ll have to shovel their own roads.”
Gunther, who succeeded husband Jacob III as 98th Assembly District representative after his untimely death in 2003, ran unopposed in 2010.
The district itself is proposed to be changed to the 100th. The new district would not include all of Sullivan County, as the 98th did. Instead, it would carve out the Town of Neversink for a proposed 101st district.
“I respect Aileen for the job she’s done, but I feel there can be more done,” Baird said.
On Tuesday, March 6: Aileen Gunther responds.