Dan Hust | Democrat
Incumbent Town of Bethel Supervisor Daniel Sturm is squaring off against Judith Maidenbaum for the seat in this upcoming November election.
Sturm hopes voters grant him a fourth term as Supervisor
Story by Dan Hust
WHITE LAKE October 25, 2013 Dan Sturm is barely 50 years old and is already finishing his third term as Bethel Town Supervisor.
Now he’s aiming for a fourth, running on the Democratic, Conservative and Independence lines.
“I think there’s a lot of unfinished business here,” he explained from his White Lake office inside Town Hall.
“My main goal has been to try to make the town better as supervisor,” he added.
Working with the town board, a new Green Committee was resurrected, focusing on energy audits of town facilities, seeking efficiencies where they can be found.
Town budgets under Sturm’s tenure have been beneath the state-mandated two-percent tax increase cap, yet services have not been cut.
Longtime efforts have recently come to fruition: the conversion of the former Smallwood Golf Course into the Forest Reserve at Smallwood, and the completion of the town sewer system’s rehab and extension are just two examples.
There’s been quite a bit of investment in the Highway Department, too.
“We’ve bought a new paver, new loader, four new trucks, a chipper, and a mower without hurting the taxpayers,” Sturm proudly asserted.
Plus the long-closed Gabriel Road bridge reopened, thanks to $60,000 of fund balance (surplus).
“If there’s ever a fire or an emergency, that access has to be open,” he said.
The town’s anti-heavy industry/anti-fracking law was joined by an individualized road use law that prohibits heavy truck traffic from indiscriminate use of town roads.
“That’s working out very well,” Sturm confirmed.
Even the latest Woodstock anniversary was free of the usual (pardon the pun) sturm und drang, save for some illegal camping.
“I couldn’t ask for a better Woodstock weekend than we had,” said Sturm, adding he’s eager to welcome Woodstock-related business to a town that for decades shunned such.
Indeed, after years of tooling around with zoning and building codes, the Town of Bethel is eager for economic development, personified in the Dollar General that just opened on Route 17B.
“I’m hoping there’s a lot more businesses to come, a lot more residences to come,” Sturm said. “We’re trying to encourage growth.”
Then again, his approach to a controversial parking issue in Kauneonga Lake arguably the busiest of the township’s downtowns has garnered him criticism and outrage.
In fact, the matter has become a central focus of Judith Maidenbaum’s campaign to replace Sturm as supervisor.
Maidenbaum owns and operates the Fat Lady Café, where unwary customers have returned to their cars to find pricey parking tickets affixed to their windshields simply for having a tire or two over the white line on a narrow section of Horseshoe Lake Road.
She blames Sturm for coordinating the ticketing in retaliation of her criticism of his management and her run against him.
Sturm acknowledged he’s the de facto police chief of the town but insists he does not routinely direct the constables in their duties.
“I have complete confidence in our police to do their job without regard to any particular business. I leave it in their hands,” he said, calling the parking infractions “a serious safety concern.”
“This year, it [the safety issue] was terrible because the businesses ARE doing so well,” Sturm added. “The town is a lot busier now than it was.”
Though Maidenbaum has asked the county to simply shift the white line a little farther out from the shoulder in front of her café, Sturm and the town board have instead asked for no-parking stripes to be painted in that location.
“There’s a telephone pole right there,” Sturm pointed out, doubting there’s enough room to move the white line.
Besides, he added, “we’ve made additional parking in the main municipal lot” behind the post office and old justice court.
He denies Maidenbaum’s claim that he spent several summer evenings sitting at the Kauneonga Lake Firehouse directing constables to ticket cars in front of her restaurant.
“I do have a habit on summer nights of parking in front of the firehouse,” he admitted but solely to go for ice cream in a local shop, he added.
One place you won’t find him, however, is Maidenbaum’s restaurant, though he insists he is not attempting retaliation against her for her often pointed criticism of his leadership.
“I try to do the right thing,” Sturm said.
He also denies having used inappropriate language with Maidenbaum but remarks that she doesn’t do the same with him or other town officials.
“I think it’s a shame to act in that manner,” he critiqued. “I take offense to it, but that’s as far as it goes.
“Her behavior… is an example of how she is, and I think the town needs something a little more stable.”
That’s all Sturm said he cares to say about his opponent.
“I try to set a good example here,” he explained. “I really enjoy being the supervisor, and I consider it an honor.”
Maidenbaum aims fire at opponent
Story by Dan Hust
KAUNEONGA LAKE October 25, 2013 Mounting her second bid for Bethel’s supervisor seat, Judith Maidenbaum is even less enamored of incumbent Dan Sturm than when she first ran against him two years ago.
“‘Cause he’s still doing the same dirty politics,” she charged on a warm autumn day outside her Fat Lady Café in her hometown of Kauneonga Lake.
Maidenbaum, in fact, is disgusted with a range of town officials, calling one a liar, another a b----, and still another a drug addict, while deeming the appearance and actions of a town constable to resemble that of a Nazi.
That hasn’t garnered her friends at Town Hall, but Maidenbaum’s not interested in their approval.
In fact, she finds it ironic that she’s chastised for her outspokenness but Sturm’s actions toward her go uncriticized including a comment she says he told her after she complained about milfoil (an invasive plant species) in Kauneonga Lake’s waters.
“He told me to shove the milfoil up my a--,” she recalled.
But her biggest gripe with Sturm these days is what she terms his “selective prosecution of the law” regarding parking tickets in front of her café.
Controversy erupted this summer over a slew of parking tickets handed out to cars parked near the café, where the road narrows. Maidenbaum said the situation can easily be fixed by shifting the stripes painted on the county route to better accommodate cars, but the town board has instead opted to create a no-parking zone there.
“Ten years I’m here, and I never had a problem with parking!” Maidenbaum related. “... The parking issue came after I said I was running. ... He [Sturm] tickets me because I’m running against him.”
It’s a charge Sturm denies, but Maidenbaum has reason not to believe him, pointing out that he was at the nearby firehouse on recent weekends, monitoring and, she says, directing constables to ticket cars parked in front of her restaurant.
“How come they didn’t outlaw parking in front of Gerry’s place [a pizzeria up the road]? Or the funeral home?” she fumed. “... This is how ‘justice’ is done here. It’s so small and so petty, and they never deal with the big stuff.”
Why not take the town to court then? After all, she lost the last supervisor’s race she ran against Sturm.
“I don’t get my voice heard unless I run,” Maidenbaum explained, noting that after she made fracking an issue in her last campaign, Sturm and the town board passed a set of anti-fracking regulations.
“The election cost me nothing,” she added. “Taking them to court will cost thousands and thousands of dollars.”
She is planning to initiate litigation, however, if the parking situation isn’t resolved to her satisfaction.
“I don’t want to sue them until I see what the county does,” Maidenbaum explained.
She’s a taxpayer too, and she’s eager to lessen, not increase, the tax burden on town residents.
Her solution, however, involves replacing the current assessor, whom she charges is part of the “good ‘ol boys club” in town leadership posts.
“Nepotism is the first thing that goes,” Maidenbaum promised. “I want open, transparent government.”
Like in her last supervisor campaign, she’s also still advocating for a surcharge on Bethel Woods tickets though she’s upped it from $1 to $2 per ticket.
“Bethel Woods barely pays anything here,” Maidenbaum charged. “They’re great for the town, and I support them, but I feel they could be greater.”
Lower taxes would also be more attractive to families, she added.
Running on her own Fat Lady line, Maidenbaum is determined to oust Sturm, whom she accuses of “killing the whole spirit of the town” as supervisor.
Like the last time, she knows it will be an uphill battle, though Maidenbaum is not the type to give up.
“I have a lot of supporters,” she noted, “but they don’t vote here.”
Sturm, on the other hand, is entrenched in local politics, she said, citing the Bethel Democratic Committee’s endorsement of Sturm before the primary (which she lost).
While Sturm argued that her run was announced after the endorsement, Maidenbaum said she was told the Committee “forgot” to publish a cutoff date for seeking its endorsement.
“I’m not a politician,” Maidenbaum explained of being caught by surprise. “I was busy running my café!”
Now 69, Maidenbaum continues to operate her well-regarded restaurant but has closed her psychoanalysis business in Manhattan, so she feels ready to take on the full-time demands of the supervisor’s office.
“I can do it,” she affirmed. “I’m a workaholic.”