“Bernardo to become first woman chair of County Legislature” – a Blue Stone Press article published on December 16, 2011 – ends with this statement about the night of January 3, 2012:
“It will be a very special night for the Town of Rochester,” Bernardo said. “This will be a historic night for the town.”
So, on December 16, 2011 Terry Bernardo knew that she will be elected Chair of the Legislature on January 3, 2012. No big deal, considering that people in the know referred to her as Legislator-elect five months before the November 2009 elections.
Sure enough, as people could see it in the January 3, 2012 webcast, after twenty Legislators delivered their votes, Terry Bernardo gave a triumphant speech – what a historic night! – and the speech was posted on the Legislature’s website in less than 24 hours.
Fast forward to January 2, 2013. Expecting to win in a less triumphant manner, Terry Bernardo blocked the webcast. She got a challenger in Minority Leader David Donaldson. Borrowed from Liberty Coalition blog, here is the transcript of his comments made after he was nominated for Chair:
If my colleagues on the other side of the aisle choose to look the other way and vote for Mrs. Bernardo again, let me refresh your memory.
We all read her recent press release of accomplishments for the year and a claim that freshman jitters caused the problems.
Let’s look at the year without her rose colored glasses.
Soon after taking the position of Chair, Terry started her first freshman terror: She fired or forced out the professional staff of the Legislature that were supported by both sides of the aisle and that served for the past two Legislatures.
She then brought in her own political cronies, including Independence Party operatives, an out of county counsel, and a rarely seen Deputy Clerk for finance. In one press interview she said the practically no show Deputy Clerk was hired for economic development. A day later in a different press interview she claimed he was hired as our financial expert.
In reality he was neither. It was strictly a political payback at the taxpayer’s expense. Your vote for her created that.
She then hired a budget analyst with no financial background. Once it was obvious that he was not up to his assignments she transferred him to a secretarial position.
As a result, all this year this body has had to rely totally on the Executive for budget information. At the last minute we had to hire an expensive outside consultant to carry out the 2013 budget analysis. The consultants then had to rely extensively on the County Executive’s Office because we had NO ONE. Your vote for her created that.
How often have I heard Terry and others say that the Executive has too much power? Much of that power comes from the idea that the Executive always hires quality people. How much does the Bernardo hiring practices weaken us?
In another freshman power tantrum the Chair used her office to block various resolutions from even being debated in committee, including an attempt to block a minority pick for the LDC board that was actually endorsed by many from the majority and all because it didn’t fit her agenda.
These were frontal assaults on the basic principles of democracy which continued throughout the year. The “freshman jitters” brought about a lack of understanding the principles this nation is founded on.
Despite Terry’s attempt to silence the Democratic Caucus, it was the Democratic Caucus that brought forth most of the legislative accomplishments this year.
The first Hydraulic “fracking” Brine ban in the State was drafted by Democrat Ken Wishnick and came from the Democratic Caucus.
The Truth in Taxation started as a Terry Bernardo poorly drafted freshman attempt that suffered from being illegal and having no support. Tracey Bartels drafted an alternative that got the full support of the Legislature and actually became law, but of course it was claimed by the freshman Chairwoman as her accomplishment.
Terry talked about embracing technology and heralds Tracey Bartels legislation that requires the posting of audio minutes from Legislative Committee meetings, when in fact she fought tooth and nail to block this legislation. The audio recordings of the committee debate would show that reality. Now she claims it as an accomplishment.
She claimed victory for the Safety Net takeover, yet she voted against the resolution that actually paid for it.
For Economic Development she listed the Ulster/City of Kingston shared tourism even though she attempted to block the proposal by holding it in committee for months.
She also tried to block the continuation of the highly successful Department of Tourism in favor of a plan concocted by the head of the IDA to give the county’s tourism money to either the IDA or have an outside business interest take it over.
Only after the Tourism Advisory Board members began to speak out forcefully against this political agenda and when we were on the brink of losing State money did the resolution come to the floor.
We passed a first time home buyer exemption that Terry voted against, while simultaneously supporting huge tax breaks for underperforming businesses, one such business owned by her and her husband. She mentioned none of this in her list.
She listed the deduction in taxes and spending as an accomplishment, yet she voted against the very 2013 budget that accomplished that goal.
She claimed victory when signing the contracts for the buyout of homes – flooded homes in Wawarsing by a NYC water supply. In reality she had nothing to do with it.
The State repurposed flood funding money. This gave NYC the opportunity to cut their liabilities by joining in. But, neither the State nor City would do any of the extensive property and legal searches, working directly with the home owners on all the legal issues or coordinating the lengthy documents and court papers. That was done tirelessly by the County Attorney’s Office and the Emergency Management Coordinator.
Terry carried out the Chair’s perfunctory requirement mandated by a legislative resolution, but only after calling a press conference to witness it, she then claimed victory.
She described her first year as having “freshman jitters.” A Chairman of any Legislative body should have some idea of what they are doing before they take office, not a year later. And I don’t mean what each tap of a gavel means! Will next year be marked as a sophomoric study in government?
As Chairman, perhaps I wasn’t good at signing contracts in front of the press or sending press releases out whenever we accomplished one of the many reforms we began. This year I learned a valuable lesson about that.
I was showed that you can create press releases claiming the opposite of reality as well as taking credit for anything done within the county and it will be printed and some will actually believe it.
I had the honor of being the last CEO Chairman and I had to work closely with both sides of the aisle to solve our financial problems and make the needed reforms, one being creating and ushering in a new charter. Where we failed, I took the blame just as the Chairman before me.
This year I learned a new lesson in leadership. It is better to blame others and chalk up mistakes as “freshman jitters.” I just never realized that incompetence is an acceptable excuse!
I ask for your vote to create a coalition government. I will not change committee chairs, I prefer to let the committees work.
If not, I ask one of you to stand up and offer yourself to serve. Don’t continue to let the tail of an Independence Party oligarchy wag the Republican Dog. I realize the Chairman of your party is beholden to this oligarchy, but don’t let him take you personally down that path.
As a lifelong Democrat I never thought I would say that we need a strong Republican Party, but we do.
Another historic night. Terry Bernardo got a reprieve. She was re-elected strictly along party lines, 13 to 8 (with only Papa Parete crossing over). Left unchecked, she would act as a nasty dictator. Blocking the webcast and not posting the 2013 Chairman’s Address are just the beginning.
– Jon Dogar-Marinesco