Above: "This is a life expectancy, folks," says John Parete, the new chairman of the Ulster County Legislature, holding up a tailor's tape measure. "Well, on the average, that's what I got left. And I'm not going to spend one minute anymore on partisan politics or bickering.” Video shot by the Daily Freeman's Patricia Doxsey at a January 7 meeting of the Ulster County Legislature.
John Parete, a longtime Ulster County Democratic operative, allied himself with 10 Republicans and two rogue Democrats to seize the chairmanship of the Ulster County Legislature last night in a 13-10 vote, according to the Daily Freeman and the Times Herald-Record.
Parete's unlikely bi-partisan coalition torpedoed the plan of the rest of the chamber's Democrats, who regained a majority in the legislature this November after being the minority for years, to install Democrat Hector Rodriguez of New Paltz as chairman.
A similar cross-party coup happened in the county legislature in 1999, according to the Daily Freeman:
In 1999, [Phil] Sinagra, R-Hurley, was poised to be elected chairman of the Legislature, but Democrats joined forces with some Republicans to stage an 11th-hour coup, resulting in the election of Daniel Alfonso, R-Highland, as chairman.
This time, the power play put a Catskills local in charge.
Parete owns the Boiceville Inn, a roadside institution on Route 28 near the Ashokan Reservoir. Parete is also one of two members who represent Catskills interests on the board of the New York State Olympic Regional Development Authority, which operates the Belleayre Mountain Ski Center.
In a speech after the power grab that was filmed by Daily Freeman reporter Patricia Doxsey, Parete said that he would use his position as chair of the legislature to "set an agenda." Citing his experience running the Boiceville Inn, he said that he would work with everyone, regardless of party affiliation.
"Maurice Hinchey once said, 'If you can run a roadhouse on Route 28 for 30 to 40 years, you can get along with just about anybody,'" Parete said.
To show that he didn't have time to waste, Parete held up a tailor's tape measure, which he said represented the average human life expectancy.
"On the average, that's what I got left," Parete said, holding up a small portion of the tape. “And I'm not going to spend one minute anymore on partisan politics or bickering.”
Parete's takeover of the legislature didn't come as a surprise. Last week, Parete and the chamber's Republicans signaled that they would work together to thwart Democratic plans for the chairmanship, according to an article in the Daily Freeman.
Crossing the aisle to vote for Parete, along with the legislature's 10 Republicans and Parete himself, were Democrats Richard Parete of Accord -- John Parete's son -- and David Donaldson of Kingston, himself a former chair of the legislature.
The Times Herald-Record called the vote "an embarrassing shellacking" for the Ulster County Democrats.
After the vote, several Democratic legislatures accused their colleagues of "selling their souls," according to the Daily Freeman:
“I don’t sell my soul for a vote or personal gain,” said Legislator Jeanette Provenzano, D-city of Kingston. “And tonight, many of you will, and I say sleep well.”
“I never sold my soul for any vote and never will,” said Legislator Ken Wishnick.
Correction: The name of the Freeman reporter who covered the meeting is Patricia Doxsey, not Doxey. We've corrected the post above; apologies for the error.