CATSKILL — A resolution calling for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to loosen his grip and allow the county to return to normal was defeated 12-2 in the county Legislature on Wednesday.
Spearheaded by legislators Matthew Luvera, R-Catskill, and William Lawrence, R-Cairo, the resolution was met with a mixed response. In Government Operations on Monday, the resolution passed in a 6-3 vote.
On Wednesday, Luvera asked to postpone the vote indefinitely.
“Unfortunately, there is not enough support to continue,” Luvera said. “At this time, I would like to make a motion to postpone the vote.”
Luvera’s motion was defeated with legislators Charlie Martinez, R-Coxsackie, Larry Gardner, D-Hunter, Ed Bloomer, R-Athens, Harry Lennon, D-Cairo, Jim Thorington, R-Windham, Greg Davis, R-Greenville, and Patrick Linger, R-New Baltimore opposing the motion.
Luvera, Lawrence, Michael Bulich, R-Catskill, Linda Overbaugh, R-Catskill, Jack Keller, R-Catskill, Thomas Hobart, R-Coxsackie, and Patricia Handel, R-Durham, supported it.
There had been some discussion after Monday’s meeting to rewrite the resolution and remove a paragraph regarding protesting.
Gardner found some of the language in the resolution to be inflammatory, he said Monday.
“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.”
Luvera said he did not support the resolution as is.
“I don’t support the resolution as it is written here,” he said Monday. “I would support it in a different way but I will not propose an amendment tonight.”
Luvera wrote the resolution, according to a June 9 post on his Facebook page.
“Legislator Lawrence prompted this discussion yesterday and asked me to write up a resolution,” according to the post.
The resolution was not on Monday’s agenda but was brought to the floor by Luvera, who chairs the Government Operations Committee.
“It was something late that we proposed so we brought the agenda from the floor,” Luvera said Wednesday.
Gardner, who serves as the parliamentarian, declined to comment Wednesday on the way the resolution was introduced.
Gardner read a statement from Dr. Robert Schneider, of Hunter, in response to the proposed resolution.
“I am shocked and saddened by the resolution that you sent me,” Schneider said in the statement. “I was so proud of the actions the Legislature took to protect the citizens of this county months ago. Do we just give up on the sacrifices that our health care workers have made over the past few months? I know of doctors, nurses and the many other varied medical personnel that went to work and made the sacrifice of death and harm to protect those that needed it most. Do we honor them by disregarding the guidance of WHO, CDC and NYS Health Department and put them back in harm’s way? We have worked tirelessly and selflessly in this county to get where we are today, and I think setting our own course against the advice of the scientific community is a potential death sentence to all those at risk in our county and state. What [the Legislature] did in March may appear to us that we were wrong in our expectations, but that is only because what we did then was right. Please implore the Legislature to not enact this resolution and continue with the phased plan. We only have a short way to go to save the lives of many.”
Luvera and Lawrence defended the resolution.
“This was brought to Government Operations because our county is a lot different than the Capital District,” Luvera said. “Nowhere does it say not to wear a mask.”
“We’re not advocating against masks, washing hands or social distancing,” he said.
Lawrence wanted to see fewer restrictions in activities such as being outside, going to church and other activities that involve congregating.
“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.”
The resolution called for fewer restrictions and for residents to be able to make their own decisions.
“We don’t like the arbitrary rules, the arbitrary metrics, the arbitrary phases,” Lawrence said. “If this was done county by county I don’t think we’d be having this argument.”
Hobart echoed similar remarks.
“We are lumped in with a county that is more metropolitan than us so if their numbers go up we are penalized,” he said.
Bulich directly addressed Schneider’s comments.
“I have a lot of respect for [Schneider],” Bulich said. “But when he cites these organizations that have been nothing but wrong on their models, it pulses me. The governor has been nothing but wrong with his projections. Life is risk. Better get used to it.”
Bulich and Lawrence voted in favor of the resolution. Keller, Overbaugh, Luvera, Hobart, Martinez, Bloomer, Davis, Lennon, Linger, Thorington, Gardner and Handel voted against the resolution, defeating it.
Keller, Overbaugh, Hobart, Luvera and Davis supported the resolution at Monday’s meeting.