LDC committee blasted at rally

Nursing home supporters say LDC committee is ignoring Valley View's progress and the people's will

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  • Supporters gathered last Sunday at Goshen's village green (Photo by Edie Johnson)

  • Legislator Michael Anagnostakis (Photo by Edie Johnson)

Legislator Mike Anagnostakis said he was angry that the new Local Development Corporation committee has so little knowledge of how Valley View works.

By Edie Johnson

— Valley View supporters pointed to the statues around Goshen's village green commemorating the Revolutionary and Civil wars, and the struggle for freedom and democracy they represent. Now, they said, we must do the same.

The large and peaceful gathering held on Sunday reaffirmed its continued support of Valley View as a county-owned nursing home. Speakers extolled the virtues of the home and its staff. They seemed confident that a lawsuit filed by attorney Michael Sussman to reverse the transfer of the home to a Local Development Corporation (LDC) would prevail.

The lawsuit

Michael Sussman's lawsuit against the county says the legislature's April vote to transfer Valley View nursing home to a Local Development Corporation (LDC) was illegal. Valley View was an Orange County department. Sussman says that, according to the county charter, any vote to abolish a department requires a supermajority vote. The transfer passed in April by a simple majority of 12-9. A supermajority requires at least 14 votes.
“Before the LDC, the property belonged to Orange County," he said at Sunday's rally. "Now it is no longer county property. The legislature’s vote required a supermajority because the property was being taken out of county hands.”
If the transfer is found to be illegal, it would have to be corrected with a law rather than with a mere resolution. And a petition could require that the proposed law be subject to a popular referendum.

First on the podium was Orange County Legislator Mike Anagnostakis (R-New Windsor), the nursing home's staunchest supporter in the legislature through several crises. He said he was angry that the new LDC committee has so little knowledge of how the facility works.

LDC Committee

County Executive Steve Neuhaus appointed the following to the new Local Development Corporation now in charge of Valley View:
Darcie Miller, a 26-year county employee, is now the Orange County Commissioner of Mental Health, appointed in March 2012.
Paul Ernenwein is partner in Catania, Mahon, Milligram and Rider PLLC law firm in Newburgh. He is also a board member at the Greater Hudson Valley Family Health Center and former president of the board of directors at the Orange County Citizens Foundation.
Gary Spears is deputy supervisor in the Town of Deerpark.
Ron Feller was manager for Con Edison of New York for 30 years.
Jim Burpoe is the first-ever Orange County Commissioner of General Services. He was president of a computer and software company, and a police officer with the Town of Wallkill and the Sheriff’s office.
Nick Ercoline of Pine Bush is consultant to the Orange County Office of Community Development. He served as the third vice president for CSEA 7900 until his retirement in February.
To be determined: These six members will select the final member of the seven-member board.

In 2012 Anagnostakis co-headed a bipartisan investigative committee that found that its previous management, Orange Administrative Services (OAS), was running the home's finances into the ground. On Sunday he said he has spent more than 1,500 hours finding ways to improve Valley View's finances.

But, he said, the LDC committee isn't looking at the documented improvements made under new management over the past year and a half. Rather, he said, they are looking at the period of its worst financial performance, when Valley View was under the management of the discredited OAS. Since then, he said, the home has saved more money than any other department in the county.

Anagnostakis argued that the Greatest Generation in Orange County had fulfilled its promise by raising good families, defending their country, and paying taxes. Many have given not only their money to the county but their homes, too, he said — and the county has broken its promise to take care of them in their time of need.

'Valley View belongs to us'

Other legislators at the rally said that when they were campaigning last fall, it was clear the vast majority want the facility to remain in county hands.

Matt Turnbull (D-Hamptonburg) said he'd never expected to focus on Valley View. Because he's been a builder for 30 years, and served on the committee to investigate the handling of the government center, he thought that would be his focus during his campaign. But one family after another told him how important Valley View was to them.

Turnbull added that, in this economy, with so much concern over unemployment, "Why would we throw away all of these jobs?"

Myrna Kemnitz (D-Monroe) literally wrote the book on Valley View: "What Valley View Has Meant to Orange County," published in 2012. She was also a member of the investigative committee co-headed by Anagnostakis. She called the current situation "an historically shameful episode in our history."

"Formed in 1841 to help the frail and needy in our society live out their life in dignity and security, we kept that trust for seven generations," she said.

She was sharply critical of the LDC committee. "It has fallen to a band of 12 that instead of (the goals of) charity, generosity, caring, kindness and good will, they have failed us," she said. "It has carried out 183 years in loving hands, and was established not to be a business, but to be a service to the people."

Legislator Rosanne Sullivan (D-Wallkill) said it was foolish and unfair to form an LDC not representative of the public's feelings.

"Why, when you had a lengthy investigative committee determining why the facility was so costly and how to improve its operations and finances, why wouldn't you put any of those people, knowledgeable about the issues, on the LDC Committee?" she asked.

Sparrow Tobin, head of the 30,000-member Central Labor Council, said he wanted to know why the legislators now so eager for an LDC had not vigorously campaigned for it, instead campaigning on trying to save the home. "Because they know that is not what the people want," he said. "Organized labor will never give up on our seniors and veterans."

Sabina Shapiro, CSEA President, she had offered many concessions, including "three years of zeros," while representing Valley View's workers. The county said no, she said, but weeks later came back and asked for "four zeros." She said she had the feeling that, whatever they had offered, it would not be enough.

Sussman urged the public to remain active. Even if the lawsuit wins and a petition demands a referendum, much will depend on how the referendum is written.

"Essentially what they are doing is subterfuging the democratic process," he said. "Please get involved. We're not a bunch of sheep."

A local pastor offered support, saying he hopes that "God's justice will revisit the issue," and that his congregation is praying for Valley View. "Who we are, and how we live, should be reflected in our budget," he said.

"Valley View belongs to the people, but the corporations are in charge now," the protesters were saying, before taking up a chant that ended the rally:

"Who does Valley View belong to? To the people, to the people."

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