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Conference reviews Ulster County charter

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Albany/HV: Conference reviews Ulster County charter
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In the past five years, there have been significant changes made to the Ulster County government. A committee has recently been reviewing those changes to see if more need to be made. And a conference held Tuesday aimed to help with the process. Our Beth Croughan has more.

NEW PALTZ, N.Y. -- Before Mike Hein took office in 2009, Ulster County didn't have an executive. The 33 member legislature had more power.

"A legislature governing and overseeing administration and detail through committees. Which as you heard was highly decentralized and not a very effective method," explained Gerald Benjamin of the Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach.

Benjamin was the chair of the committee tasked with creating a charter-form of government. Voters approved the draft in 2006.

Now, five years later, another committee is responsible for suggesting changes.

"Trying to fix what needs to be fixed. And hopefully leaving what I think most say is a pretty good document, mostly alone," explained Cynthia Lowe, the Revision Commission Chairperson.

To help that committee find out what needs to be fixed, a conference is held at SUNY New Paltz.

"I think there are obvious areas of concern that we need to attend to. And many of these came up in the conversation today," said Benjamin. "Clearly, the relative power of the Executive compared to legislature, how the legislature can be made more efficacious in its new smaller size."

Come January, the legislature will be smaller. It will be made up of 23 single-member districts. Some speakers suggested new members will help with the legislature's fairly new role.

"We are having a very difficult time recognizing policy and making policy decisions," said Ulster County Legislator Wayne Harris.

Harris suggested the legislature shrink even smaller, from 23 to 21.

"What happens, if the legislature ends up needing, on so many things, on a two/thirds level, particularly if there is a veto. That is pretty tough to go out and get that extra vote."

The chairperson expects the process to be completed by the summer.

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