Political Dispatches

Political Dispatches
Photo by Glen Carrie / Unsplash

January has been a relatively quiet month in Putnam Valley, but here are a few notable developments worth sharing:

**On January 15th, the town suffered the devastating loss of Town Clerk Kimberly McKeown. Although she had only been elected to that position in November, after running unopposed, McKeown had worked in Town Hall for the past 12 years as Deputy Town Clerk. A 57-year old mother of three, McKeown's untimely passing has been deeply felt, both within Town Hall and throughout Putnam Valley. A tribute to her can be found in The Examiner. Town Supervisor Jacqueline Annabi named McKeown's deputy, Kathy Diomede, as Interim Town Clerk until the town can hold a new election for that position in November. Since the Town Clerk also serves as the town's Tax Receiver, and January is the month when most of us pay those taxes, this has placed a special burden on everyone working at Town Hall.

**Patty Villanova may have lost the race for Town Board last November, but she has not lost her fervor for remaining laser-focused on the Volunteer Fire Department's legal dispute over the dumping of toxic landfill that has cost it $2 million in clean-up costs. Villanova now reports in Putnam Valley Voice that the Town of Putnam Valley has been included as a co-defendant in the lawsuit on this issue. To recoup some of the $2 million that the Fire Department has spent to clean up its toxic mess, it sued the contractor who dumped the contaminated soil on its property. That defendant has, in turn, asked the judge to include the Town as a third-party defendant, claiming it has evidence that the Town has some liability in the case. As a result, the town's Fire Department and the Town of Putnam Valley are now on opposite sides of what has become a federal case. The intertwining of the town's elected officials with the Fire Department makes this situation even more convoluted. Town Board member Louie Luongo, who (like Supervisor Annabi) was on the Town Board at the time the contaminated dumping occurred, is also a member of the Fire Department's board of directors. The president of the Fire Department is his wife, Sheryl Luongo. The Fire Department receives over $1 million a year from the town's coffers to fund its services, with the result that the town's taxpayers are effectively footing the bill for the Fire Department's legal work on this case.

**Whatever your thoughts are about this fall's presidential election, it's going to be an interesting political season locally. It's been clear for some time that former U.S. Representative Mondaire Jones (D) is going to run aggressively to try to unseat Congressman Mike Lawler (R) in the 17th district, which includes Putnam Valley. Both major parties have indicated they are going to pour a lot of money into that race, one of a few that could determine which party controls the House of Representatives next year. But this month we also learned that there will be a spirited contest for the person representing our town in the New York State Senate. Yvette Valdez Smith (D) has announced that she is running for the 39th District Senate seat that Rob Rolison (R), the former mayor of Poughkeepsie, won in 2022.

**Finally, this month the Highlands Current reported that Putnam County Legislator Nancy Montgomery (D), who represents a sliver of Putnam Valley in District #1, will not have any role on the seven standing committees in the Legislature that require appointment. That gives her the distinction of being both the only Democrat in the Legislature and the only one without a committee on which to serve. In explaining his decision to shut her out, Legislature Chair Paul Jonke cited what he considered Montgomery's inability "to work collaboratively in a professional and collegial manner." His full statement can be found here. Montgomery is encouraging her constituents to make their feelings known about this situation at the Feb. 6th meeting of the Legislature taking place at 7pm in the Historic Courthouse in Carmel. Montgomery is up for re-election in November. When she last ran, in 2021, she received 61% of the votes cast in that district.

Okay, maybe January in Putnam Valley wasn't so quiet after all.

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