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Finding solutions

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The people of Ulster County are creating a model of improving government services, and one elected official has been spreading the message statewide.

In 2006, Michael Hein was appointed as Ulster County’s administrator. He had served as the county’s deputy treasurer following a career in banking.

A capital works debacle left a prison-construction project with a $30 million budget overrun and three years behind schedule. This prompted Ulster County residents to approve a change in their form of government, creating the position of county executive.

Mr. Hein ran for the elective office in 2008 and won. He then laid out an agenda that critics said would derail his career.

A county-run nursing home could no longer sustain itself, and Mr. Hein mounted a campaign to sell it to a private operator. Although the proposal met fierce resistance at first, he prevailed on all parties involved that this was the only path to take to keep the facility running. The nursing home is now thriving and pays property taxes as a private institution, which means it’s generating revenue for the county rather than costing it continued subsidies.

The government streamlining that was supposed to thwart Mr. Hein’s goals seems to have made him more popular. In 2011, he successfully ran for re-election in Ulster County as county executive — unopposed, mind you.

Mr. Hein, who also serves as president of the New York State County Executives Association, has started an initiative to solicit practical ideas about resolving problems in delivering government services in light of increasingly tighter budgets. In touting the PAYGo NY campaign, he has been traveling throughout the state meeting with community leaders to discuss their concerns and develop strategies for addressing financial challenges.

Mr. Hein stopped in Watertown this week to hash out ideas with representatives of municipalities and school districts in Jefferson County. The forum was held Monday at Jefferson Community College.

In meeting with members of the Watertown Daily Times editorial board beforehand, Mr. Hein said he has three objectives with PAYGo NY.

The first is to create an idea bank of innovative solutions to common problems, which can be offered by residents and elected officials alike. The second is to devise a list of actionable measures by October and urge members of the New York State Legislature to approve them. The third is to solidify a unified call for no additional unfunded mandates.

For someone who is involved in politics, Mr. Hein’s approach is refreshing and inviting. It’s not driven by ideology but rather is result-oriented. And the people of Ulster County have amassed a list of accomplishments under his leadership.

This is the very example that should be followed by our elected leaders across the state. It’s easy to complain about the problems in governance today. But Mr. Hein has not only identified the challenges but also presented the framework through which these issues can be resolved.

Visit www.paygony.com to learn more about becoming part of the solution.

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