Neuhaus, Donnery come out swinging; WATCH DEBATE REPLAY

Posted on 03 October 2013 by Community Voice NY

MIDDLETOWN — Squaring off in their first one-on-one debate Wednesday night, Orange County executive candidates Steve Neuhaus and Roxanne Donnery livened up a two-hour discussion about potentially dry topics such as land use with some sharp jabs at each other’s records and campaign promises.

Neuhaus, the Republican supervisor of the Town of Chester, and Donnery, a Democrat and 16-year county legislator, marked out few sharp policy differences and offered only a smattering of ideas as they answered questions about agriculture, housing growth, transportation and other topics chosen by the Orange County Citizens Foundation and groups that helped it organize the debate.

But speaking from the stage in an auditorium at Middletown High School, both candidates seized opportunities to scuff up each other’s images.

Attacking experience

Donnery scorned Neuhaus’ portrayal of himself as a consensus-builder who works across the aisle with Democrats. Dubbing him a “political operative,” she noted his past job with Republican Assembly Campaign Committee and quoted him saying once that a candidate might get “bloodied and beaten up” for challenging a fellow Republican.

“Is that getting along with people?” she asked. “I don’t think so. That’s bullying and battering.”

Neuhaus, meanwhile, cast Donnery as part of two years of paralysis in county government and incapable of matching his experience in spurring business growth, which is the central theme of his campaign. He also turned Donnery’s crusading background against her, labeling her a “career protester” in his closing remarks.
“My opponent has zero experience in economic development,” he said. “My opponent has one foot in Florida, waiting to get out of here.”

Neuhaus did make one surprising suggestion when the candidates were asked about infrastructure and he brought up the 13.5-mile pipeline Kiryas Joel is building to tap the Catskill Aqueduct – a project that Donnery has fought as county legislator, helping steer the county into two lawsuits.

Neuhaus called the pipeline “bad planning” and “bad government” for bringing water to only one municipality and said he wants the county to explore “condemning” the project so that other southern Orange County communities could draw water from it. That seemed to suggest assuming Kiryas Joel’s $45 million project cost and finishing construction, although he didn’t elaborate on the idea.

Valley View discussion

When asked about County Executive Ed Diana’s renewed effort this week to cut off funding to the county nursing home and press the Legislature into selling it, Donnery reiterated her support for keeping it in county hands and suspicion that the administration has manipulated numbers to exaggerate the cost of maintaining it.
“I believe that the county nursing home hasn’t been given the chance that it needs,” Donnery said.

Neuhaus replied that longtime department heads and county auditors produced the figures Donnery was questioning, and echoed Diana’s warnings about the “bleeding” of funds at the Valley View Center for Nursing Care and Rehabilitation and the prospect that shrinking county reserves could trigger a bond-rating downgrade.

On economic development, Neuhaus suggested using fees collected by the county’s Industrial Development Agency to help create “shovel-ready” sites that will attract businesses. He cast the state’s environmental review process as burdensome and boasted that Chester has “cut through that red tape and cut approval times” on his watch.

Donnery suggested some of the business growth Neuhaus takes credit for was attributable to Chester’s easy access to Route 17. She also tweaked him for promising to create 1,000 jobs in 1,000 days, citing a report that indicates the county is gaining more jobs than that now.

“There’s been 932 jobs so far this year,” she said. “We’re not going to reduce it by two-thirds to do what my opponent says we should be doing.”

Debate replay

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