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Tuesday, December 1, 2020


We can do better

To the editor:
I'm tired of the constant spin on this Legislature's efforts by those who oppose the path we've charted with the Care Center at Sunset Lake and Certified Home Health Agency (CHHA). They peddle falsehoods as eagerly as they accuse me and my colleagues of the same:
• That we haven't given the public and fellow legislators enough time to think this through.
How much time is enough? Time enough to prevent any real progress, because they want things to stay the same? Time enough for legislators to waffle, even though they had the resolution for six weeks, were individually polled by me if they understood it, and received two separate emails asking for their thoughts?
• That we only care about the money, not the people involved.
Again, untrue. In fact, I'd say we're far more objective on this matter than those who are receiving or providing the care we offer through these agencies. We very much care, but we aren't so involved that we can't take a step back and look at the whole picture rationally and reasonably.
• That public care is better than private care.
Really? One is always better than the other? Way too simplistic, if you ask me.
Whether you're a citizen seeking care for a loved one or a government official seeking the best outcome for your community, you've got to do your research and not make baseless assumptions and generalizations. I've done my homework on the Care Center and CHHA, which is why I continue to advocate for turning over the administration of both to a professional management company. I don't buy into the lie that private care cannot compare with public care.
First, some facts: 1. We continue to lose a million dollars a month on Care Center operations alone. 2. Costs are rising, and if we had included those costs in the 2021 Tentative County Budget, taxpayers would be staring at a double-digit tax hike. 3. Despite the increasing amounts of money we've dedicated to these arms of County government, our quality of care is not anywhere near where it should be.
Take a look at At two out of five stars (below average), the Care Center's Quality of Resident Care is the lowest of all four nursing homes in Sullivan County (Garnet Health Medical Center-Catskills and Roscoe both rate the highest, while Achieve is a full star higher than we are). This, despite the fact that both Achieve and Roscoe's Staffing rating is lower than ours.
As for the CHHA, the same federal rating system ranks us at just 2.5 out of 5 stars in Quality. The CHHA that serves neighboring Delaware County - which is more similar to us than any other nearby county in NYS - comes in at 3.5 stars in Quality, again a full star above us. (Oh, and by the way, they're a privately-run CHHA.)
Our research, too, has shown that 10 years ago the CHHA was doing 10,000 visits a year, but now that's down to 6,500. Our population hasn't gone down in that time. In fact, our aging population has gone up. So how is everyone getting proper care if visits have dropped by 35%?
The current state of these agencies is neither a reflection nor an indictment of the staff. It's a direct reflection on the leadership who had been responsible for that facility over the past five years.
The Sullivan County Charter sets forth that Legislative Committees are responsible for the management and operation of departments under their charge. Working through Commissioners and Department Heads, the Legislature must set a course for the department, establish goals and measure outcomes. Clearly, this leadership has been lacking over the past five years and has resulted in the predicament now faced by our Care Center and CHHA.
Despite their proclamations that I have not afforded an opportunity for discourse regarding the disposition of these entities, the reality is that, as a Legislature in general and as the Chair, this issue has been all-consuming over the past seven months. During that time I have spent countless hours gathering objective data, speaking to industry experts and learning to distinguish first-rate facilities from “also-rans.”
Anyone who has taken the time to investigate the data would be led to the same conclusion: that the time for this County to save these operations passed years ago and that it is now essential to install seasoned operators in order to change the course and fortunes of these entities. To do otherwise would merely prolong the inevitable - at the cost of our most vulnerable citizens, who would be forced to continue to endure inferior quality of care, a course I am not about to endorse.
Change is tough. But it's also necessary. If nothing changes, then nothing changes. In other words, advocating for the status quo simply means you're OK with higher taxes and inferior care.
Not me.
I've said from the beginning that I want three things to happen with the Care Center and CHHA: 1. Improve care. 2. Protect taxpayers. 3. Preserve jobs. And I'm not going to continue losing $1 million a month and spend an additional $250,000 just to sit around for 9-12 months for a consultant to tell us what we already know - that we need active, engaged management, freeing our existing County leaders to focus on other, just-as-critical issues.
Arguing against that says to me you have an ulterior motive that does not take all three of those points into account. Why advocate for poorer care at a higher cost? Hey, maybe I'm new at this, but that's just a plain schizophrenic point of view.
We can do better. The citizens of this County deserve it, and I won't stand for anything less.

Robert A. Doherty

Far from the truth

To the editor:
This in response to Mr. Doherty's letter to the editor in the Sullivan County Democrat dated November 6, 2020. It is far from the truth.
On June 29th, 2020 Mr. Doherty called for a special meeting on July 2nd to go into executive session for letter “f” and “h”. Unfortunately, the notice of the meeting did not meet the requirements of the opening meetings law. On June 30th, I informed the County Attorney and the legislature through the clerk of the legislature and cited with links on the proper way to conduct business. On July 1st, 2020, a revised notice was sent by Mr. Doherty with no changes except to add “and any other business that may come before the Legislature. (revision).”
The July 2nd meeting was to start at 3:30 PM but could not. The Board of Elections was still counting primary returns. The meeting started about 4:30 PM. The chair announced at the beginning that the public was able to attend. The public did not know this until it was announced. There was no mention in the notice nor through their public information office.
At 4:47 PM a motion was made to go into executive session, for letter “f' and “h”. This was done on camera. At 5:44 PM, 57 minutes later, the legislators came out of executive session. Cameras are dark and not started. No one around except legislators and minimal staff. Legislators adopt a handout resolution forming an LDC to sell the Adult Care Center. All done in blatant disregard for the open meeting law and Legislative Rules. It seemed to me that the Chair and the County Attorney couldn't care less.
The rush was on. There were 3 other resolutions addressing the formation of the LDC and sale of the Care Center. From that day until now no one in the legislature or staff of the County informed us, the owners, why they want to sell the Care Center at Sunset Lake. The newly elected members say the private sector can do it better and cheaper without explanation.
People came together to “stop the sale.” In our fight to keep Sunset Lake and the Community Home Health Agency (CHHA), people reached out to Senator Jen Metzger for help and information. We were not getting answers on the process from the legislature or the County Attorney who works solely for the legislature but some people say really works for one legislator. Senator Metzger responded with a letter stating the correct process. When it was read at a meeting, the County Attorney belittled Senator Metzger with a “HOW DARE SHE” get involved attitude and then told committee members that they discussed the process. Not in public, if at all.
The process has been rushed from day one. The reasoning has never been shared with the public. Mr. Brooks has made comments that they can do so many other things and better without explanation. The legislature has ignored the public's request to hire a consultant to improve the operation of the Care Center, thereby benefiting residents and taxpayers.
The…“Legislature and LDC have undertaken this significant effort” (Mr. Doherty), to do what? Every resolution, including the final one and the request for proposal put forth by the LDC have language “to sell.” Understand, the main purpose of the LDC is “to sell,” secondary purpose is to borrow up to $15,000,000 against the property. In public meetings the chair always keeps talking about a management company running the Care Center, but they have not removed the “for-sale sign” by resolution.

Kenneth Walter

America is Back

To the editor:
President-elect Biden introduced his National Security Team to us today. America is back everybody. Diplomacy is back. I cannot tell you the relief I felt hearing them and seeing them.
Once again; we can hear the voices of people speaking words that we used to know. Voices calm and speaking intelligently. These people carry the experiences of years in the work that they are being called on to do again. They talked about family ties and the values that we all used to hear and watch in action by our Leaders; the values of working hard, telling the truth and serving others.
They talked about re-connecting with the rest of the world, getting our cred ibility back and climate, an issue that we here in Sullivan County haven't had to tackle like many in the rest of our country.
They talked about giving the future President Biden the information he needs to know, not necessarily what he wants to hear. They will be interested in us and how we can proceed in the pandemic life that we are living. They will be acting to save lives, save OUR lives.
I am not going to rehash where we've been, because from now on I will be focusing on where we are going. I feel a renewed HOPE, and I will be praying that we all stop the ridiculous bickering and once again focus on being the best each of us can be, and being a country once again, that we can feel proud to be part of.

Pamela Zaitchick
Glen Wild

Editorial was ‘right on'

To the editor:
Your recent editorial regarding the election result fiasco in New York was “right on.”
It now appears that not only is New York problematic but currently there are also thirteen congressional contests in which the results haven't been finalized.
There was no surprise that this election would have a significant turnout with a significant number of mail-in and absentee ballots, so why the problems?
In our area, I have a problem with the results of the Martucci-Metzger contest as we are now told that the results won't be finalized till the end of this month! (Despite having Martucci declaring victory.)
The system is broken and flawed and needs immediate attention and repair for the benefit of all.

Ralph John Savarese

I disagree

To the editor:
I have a very different view of the Anne Foland's “A Light at the end of the tunnel” opinion column that ran on November 10. I do not recall any great accomplishment of Joe Biden during his long period of time in government service.
I do know that during Donald Trump's presidency, taxes went down, middle class wages went up, the economy soared, 400,000 manufacturing jobs created, our southern border was secured, our foreign wars diminished and the peace process became greatly improved.
When Anne Foland refers to the presidential race, she uses such words as “loud and unruly”, “marching in protest” and “shouting loudly”. These were the tactics of the liberal left! I also recall violence, burning and looting in many democratic cities in our country.
Anne Foland may have her heart in the right place but, I completely disagree with her political point of view.

Gerald McMurrer

Election reflections

To the editor:
The other day I was astounded to overhear someone say that it seemed like Pennsylvania Democrats were simply producing more and more ballots to counter Trump's early lead in the state. But this so-called “blue shift” wasn't suspicious. It had been widely predicted and for obvious reasons.
Not wanting to risk exposure to Covid by voting on Election Day, some 1.8 million Democrats requested absentee ballots. Only 700,000 Republicans made the same request. These heavily Democratic absentee ballots weren't included in the early count because the Republican-controlled state legislature refused to let poll workers process them until Election Day.
In many counties, overworked staff didn't even start to count absentee ballots until after the polls closed, sometimes not until the following day. When these valid absentee ballots were eventually included in the count, it became clear that Biden carried the state by over 50,000 votes.
Trump has long made it clear that he wouldn't accept election results unless he was declared the winner. He's claimed election fraud but hasn't supplied any evidence. In all fifty states election officials, both Democratic and Republican alike, have said the election was fair.
The Department of Homeland Security called it “the most secure ever.” And consider this: all across the country Republicans had a very good night. They picked up seats in state legislatures and even flipped seats in the House. As the Republican Attorney General of Arizona noted, “People voted for Republicans down ballot, but they didn't vote for President Trump... that's the reality.”
One fact that should chill every patriotic American is that the Trump camp reached out to Republican state legislators to see if they could be induced to certify slates of Trump even though the president lost the popular vote.
There's actually language in the Constitution that would permit this, but the day politicians start canceling elections is the day we become a failed state.

Bruce Ferguson
Callicoon Center

We need your help

To the editor:
Fremont Center will be losing its Post Office in Dec. 2021. This is because whoever is the postmaster has to use the owner's personal bathroom. The owner can't take a chance of getting sick because she is taking care of her older sister.
You don't know where the postmaster has travelled in the last few days.
So now that we know what is going on we need to find another site for the Post Office. Anyone having any thought on a building that could be used please get in touch with us.

Tony Wayne
Fremont Center

Library card is the key

To the editor:
Mention has been made of the generosity shown by the late Jerry Yavarkovsky and his wife Judy in providing free math tutoring to students of all ages in the area for years.
But they also contributed something else of great value to each beyond their encouragement in mastering math. Each potential student was required to show their library card.
The Yavarkovskys traveled the world, and wherever they went they visited libraries. Their thirst for knowledge has been contagious to those fortunate enough to know them, and I'm certain that Judy will continue to encourage and inspire those around her.

Beth Peck

“We the People” Have Been Hustled

To the editor:
We the people had an election last week…and more than 174-million Americans showed up to have their electoral choice cast and counted. Even as the last handful of states count the remaining few votes, the diligence of these patriots - protecting our most sacred right as Americans - remains consistent and unwavering.
Though I am a Democrat, this is not a partisan treatise. I write as an American who treasures my right to vote - win or lose - for the candidate of MY choice. Not the candidate that is forced on me by the politically powerful of ANY party, including my own.
We may not agree on much but 174-million+ Americans do agree on the importance of our right to vote.
Sadly, that choice is not so apparent here in Sullivan County.
In the last few months, I have been attacked by fellow Democrats for not supporting a candidate of my party because I do not consider her ethically worthy of the job she was seeking.
But my objection is not limited to the fitness of one candidate for one office but to the lack of real choice the political bosses of every party in Sullivan County forced on unwary voters of every (or no) party affiliation.
There are candidates who make sotto voce deals with other political parties to be able to run unopposed. But make no mistake, there is always a quid pro quo.
Something of value must be given. And the thing of value being given away is our ability to choose. These political bosses - again, of every party - gave away something that doesn't belong to them, in a self-serving quest for control over the rest of us.
Here in Sullivan County, a Democratic candidate for District Attorney, an officer of the court and the person who will decide the quality of justice in our County, ran nearly unopposed for that position. If the political bosses of all parties had their way, she would have run completely unopposed.
Unfortunately for them, someone had the audacity to challenge those bosses and run in the Republican Party primary against her. Rank and file Republicans did not choose her. Suddenly voters had a real choice of two candidates, vying for one position.
Rebuffed by their own party voters, the bosses did what bosses do. They ignored the Republican voters' primary choice and actively campaigned for and publicly supported the Democratic Party candidate over the legally selected Republican candidate.
But there was another non-race going on here that was, in my opinion, the quid pro quo in this backroom deal. A Republican County Court Judge candidate was cross-endorsed by the same cabal of political party bosses. They claim their support of a Democrat for D.A. and a Republican for County Court Judge was pure coincidence.
No sale!
The claim of coincidence doesn't pass the smell test or the laugh test.
In a stunning display of disingenuousness, the judicial candidate, after winning a race against no one, posted on Facebook thanking the voters of Sullivan County for electing her. The fact remains that she would have won this election if the only vote she got was her own. One stinking vote - no choice for the electorate - All because of a disgraceful deal that perverts and corrupts our electoral system at its very core
It's not about party. It's about our right as Americans to actually choose who we vote for.

The author is the former Secretary of the Sullivan County Democratic Committee. After being appointed to the position once and elected twice, he resigned from the committee citing disagreements with leadership.

Richard E. Altman
Swan Lake

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