CATSKILL — County lawmakers passed a resolution Monday night calling for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to loosen his grip on local government and allow the county to return to normal.
Spearheaded by legislators Matthew Luvera, R-Catskill, and William Lawrence, R-Cairo, the resolution was met with a mixed response.
The call for Cuomo to end his executive orders resulted in a 6-3 vote in the Government Operations Committee with Luvera, Lawrence, Jack Keller, R-Catskill, Linda Overbaugh, R-Catskill, Thomas Hobart, R-Coxsackie and Greg Davis, R-Greenville supporting the resolution and Charles Martinez, R-Coxsackie, Harry Lennon, D-Cairo, and Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore, opposing it.
The resolution was not on Monday’s agenda but was brought to the floor by Luvera, who is chairman of Government Operations.
“It was something late that we proposed so we brought the agenda from the floor,” Luvera said Wednesday.
Luvera posted a copy of the resolution on his Facebook page on June 9.
Legislator Larry Gardner, D-Hunter, who serves as the parliamentarian, declined to comment Wednesday on the way the resolution was introduced.
Lawrence voiced his support for the resolution Monday.
“Greene County has done an amazing job at keeping the infection rates very low,” Lawrence said. “We’re lumped in with the Capital District which hasn’t been any benefit.”
A proposal to look at the counties on a more local level has been rejected, Linger said.
“This came from NYSAC,” he said. “Rather than doing regions, to break it into rural counties.”
The intent behind the resolution is to restore power to local municipalities, Lawrence said.
“I have not had COVID,” Lawrence said. “I may get it. I may die from it. I would not blame the governor for that. I will blame myself if I stand by and submit to the hypocrisy.”
Linger said the language of the resolution was more “tempered” than the previous version.
“The COVID-18 pandemic and the resultant set of restrictions and quarantine regulations that were set up to deal with it have had a very negative effect on the financial, societal, cultural and mental well being of Greene County residents,” according to the resolution. “Greene County and all the residents of New York would like to get back to our normal lives — not a new normal and not a reimagined life. We live in a representative democracy and the life we had should be respected by our state elected leaders.
“The Greene County Legislature calls upon Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York state Legislature to allow Greene County to open for business as normal. Greene County businesses know how to run their businesses safely and patrons know how to safely shop in them. Our businesses have lost income although they still pay taxes, so please allow all Greene County residents and businesses and to make their own decisions about their lives and livelihoods. Allow schools to resume the education of our children, in person and together, and allow graduation ceremonies to be held, unfettered and outdoors. Greene County, as a civilized part of court society, will continue to be responsible and take all necessary precautions to protect our residents and we will continue to be vigilant against the spread of this virus or any others.”
Linger spoke of the duty lawmakers had to their constituents.
“What does the county get out of this?” Linger asked.
“What do protesters gain from marching down Main Street?” he said.
The resolution is not intended to direct residents to ignore public health guidelines, Lawrence said.
“It’s not harmful to be outside,” he said. “We’re not saying don’t wear a mask.”
The protests were held outside, Linger said.
Legislator Michael Bulich, R-Catskill, spoke of his own obligation to constituents.
“I didn’t take an oath to kiss the feet of the governor,” he said. “I took an oath to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That’s it.”
“No, that’s not it,” Linger said.
Linger said he wants to get input from the public health department on the resolution, adding that while Greene County’s numbers are good, he is concerned by numbers in other areas that have reopened.
Legislator Patricia Handel, R-Durham, voiced her opinion about Cuomo’s executive orders.
“Some of his executive orders are absolutely ridiculous,” she said. “We’re like sheep being herded by one sheepdog. We’ve got to stop somewhere. Now he’s there telling us ‘I hold your license.’ That is not a leader.”
County leadership has been on daily calls with the governor’s office, Linger said, adding that it didn’t make much sense to stir tensions this close to entering Phase 3.
Catskill residents want to reopen the economy, Keller said.
“We don’t want to upset the governor but a lot of what I hear from the constituency is that they want to open up,” he said.
Martinez agreed the resolution could worsen relations with the state.
“If you go against them like Rensselaer County, you’re going to have a problem,” he said. “You’re on thin ice with this one.”
Gardner found some of the language in the resolution to be inflammatory.
“There is still incendiary language in this,” he said. “If this is about COVID, why are we talking about one tragic death, religious rights, looters, honest business owners? Why do we have to get into that? You’re going to really tick people off with language like that to our detriment, to the county’s detriment.”
A section of the resolution delved into protest-related issues.
“In the shadow of a single tragic death, demonstrations across Greene County, the state of New York, our nation and the world, took place with the wholehearted support of many state leaders,” according to the resolution. “These protesters, with and without masks, were allowed to assemble because they had a constitutional right to do so, no different than our constitutional right to practice our religious beliefs, yet church services are limited to a few people while protests can swell to thousands. Looters in many parts of the country, seemingly, were allowed free rein, while honest business owners were chastised, even arrested, for opening their businesses in an effort to survive the downtown of the economy.”
The full board will vote on a revised version of the resolution on Wednesday and the paragraph regarding protests has been removed.