Dutchess Republicans propose sales tax hike to fix their budget crisis

Acting County Executive Bill O'Neill

After a decade of relying on sales tax growth and Federal and State bailouts, and multiple years of “biggest ever” property tax cuts whenever Molinaro was up for election for governor, congress or re-election as county executive, the cupboard is now bare.

Even after taking $16M from the rainy-day fund this year (after pulling $60M+ the last two years), the county finds itself millions short on the revenue side. And so the Republicans have proposed filling that gap with a sales tax hike that would have us pay 0.25% more, putting at us 8.375% – higher than Ulster (8%) and Columbia (8%).

Last year, $25M was spent on Dutchess Stadium upgrades for the New York Yankees with no plan to recoup the money (I voted NO). The comptroller’s latest report says we’ll lose another $400,000 next year on operations rather than the “break-even” we were promised.

We spent millions more to outbid the city school district to acquire a building in the City of Poughkeepsie to use as a homeless shelter that was completely unsuitable (I warned them, voted against it and they bought it anyway). The county is now desperately seeking grants to hopefully renovate it and use it for other purposes.

We bought Camp Nooteeming to make it a “county park” except, like the stadium, public access is extremely limited.

The list goes on.

In the end, we have important services to deliver to all our residents and the administration has dug the county a hole so deep that they may have no option but to raise taxes.

Budget meetings will run from late October into December. If you have any questions about the budget, please don’t hesitate to send them my way during this important time.

Victory 2023

Thank you to the people of Red Hook, Tivoli, and northern Rhinebeck for our overwhelming victory on Tuesday. I look forward to continuing to serve our community for the next two years.

Court dismisses Bulay defamation lawsuit

After spending two years and more than $100,000 pursuing a defamation lawsuit against me, the New York Supreme Court threw out the case brought by right-wing movie theater chain owner Al Bulay. Bulay is the majority owner of Lyceum Cinemas in Red Hook, Roosevelt Cinemas in Hyde Park, New Paltz Cinemas, Starr Theater of St. Johnsbury, and Bennington Cinemas.

Thank you to everyone who supported me as I fought this frivolous lawsuit. Thanks to donations of time, money, and legal expertise, I am emerging from this battle financially whole. A huge shout-out to my friend and attorney, Michael Treybich of Treybich Law who did a fabulous job defending me, facing off against a large firm of expensive and experienced attorneys.

“The dismissal will spare many witnesses and victims the ordeal of reliving their experiences with Mr. Bulay at trial,” said Munn’s attorney Michael Treybich of Treybich Law. “It establishes that the question of whether a local businessperson is racist and homophobic is a matter of public interest and protected by NYS Civil Rights law.”

As I’ve said from the beginning, everyone has the right to their opinions and, thanks to the First Amendment, can shout them from the rooftops (or their movie theater Facebook pages) if they wish. But with that right to spout off in public comes the possibility of public criticism for those views.

And when you use your business to spread those views, there is the possibility that people choose to go elsewhere with their hard-earned money.

Domestic Partnerships come to Dutchess

In a long-overdue move, the Dutchess County Legislature has finally approved the creation of a Domestic Partner registry by the County Clerk.

Originally proposed by Democrats (and blocked by Republicans) over 15 years ago, the registry enables two adults to legally acknowledge their connection, allowing better access to their loved ones in the hospital, next-of-kin benefits, health insurance, and tax benefits.

“The lack of a domestic partnership registry was a significant hurdle during COVID as many Dutchess citizens were prevented from seeing their loved ones in the hospital or making important medical decisions for lack of legal standing,” said Legislator Kristofer Munn. “I am proud to co-sponsor this legislation.”

The registry has only gained importance with recent developments at the national level.

“Republicans have made it clear they want to ban gay marriage and abortion nationwide should they come to power, and the MAGA-majority on the US Supreme Court has signaled their willingness to go along with it,” said Munn. “This registry will provide a fallback position should that worst-case scenario come to pass… assuming the GOP doesn’t ban registries as well.”

Al Bulay and his Trumpy horde put the lie in Lyceum

As we all know, the extreme right has no problem standing behind people with offensive views – after all, we just lived through four years of Trump. And now they have a new hero: Al Bulay!

The horde of Bulay apologists (and mostly just lots of people who just like to attack Democrats) continue to howl and writhe and take to their fainting couches because people dared speak ill of their wealthy popcorn patron who has donated thousands of dollars to Trump-supporting PACs and Republican candidates. Local right-wing media outlets have joined them.

Strangely, the thing that seems to bother them the most is that I have dared to start a GoFundMe to raise money to defend myself against this pointless lawsuit.

But they’re also spreading a lie that I created “fake websites” to impersonate the movie theaters or some other nonsense along those lines.

So let’s take a look at one of the sites that they are pretending “impersonated” a theater (this is from one of Bulay’s exhibits in the lawsuit):

Could anyone in their right mind arrive at that website where the first word is BOYCOTT and think it is the movie theater site? No. Is the site even TRYING to pretend to be a movie theater site? Nothing about movies, movie times, not even an address for the theater. As I’ve said before: absurd. And if it was true, he’d be suing me for that. But they’re not.

Each site had a domain name using the name of the theater or a variation on the name, very different than the domains used by the theaters. Obviously, that’s how you make things easier to find on Google and the internet – you use words or names related to the topic. Nobody else had registered the domains. Al Bulay didn’t think they were important enough to register and nobody else was using them so I did.

Again, nobody was being tricked into anything here and anybody who says otherwise is just making things up.

This case is about freedom of speech and the right of people to express their opinions free from lawsuits and intimidation.

Don’t fall for the right-wing trickery as they try to defend their wealthy patron, a man who has used his businesses to advance Republican candidates and causes and enforce conservative values.

Thank you again to everyone who has reached out and offered their support. It has been great to hear from you and I greatly appreciate it. The fight against hate and fascism continues…

For more about the lawsuit, visit www.bulaylawsuit.com.

Bulay’s frivolous SLAPP lawsuit

Al Bulay, the owner of Lyceum Cinemas in Red Hook, Roosevelt Cinemas in Hyde Park, New Paltz Cinemas, Star Theater of St. Johnsbury (Vt.) and Bennington Cinemas (Vt.), has publicly claimed that I have defamed him and that he plans to sue me. He is also saying I somehow impersonated his businesses.

I have done nothing of the sort. All I did was collect and share opinions from members of our community about Bulay and his businesses (see links at www.bulaylawsuit.com) that have been publicly circulating on Facebook for years. And the idea that a website that solely contains opinions critical of a business and is clearly labeled with large text suggesting a “Boycott” could be impersonating a business is absurd.

I did this so community members could make an informed decision about where and with whom they do business. We were simply exercising our first amendment rights.

I have always and will continue to stand with members of the LGBT community, the Jewish community, persons of color, and others when they courageously stand up against hate or injustice.

This frivolous lawsuit is simply an attempt to bully and harass me for supporting those who spoke out.

Bulay has used his business to attack Democratic officials and support Republican causes. This is just more of the same.

“At the end of the day, I’m confident that the court will find that Mr. Bulay’s lawsuit is a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) and runs afoul of the anti-SLAPP law,” said Michael Treybich of Treybich Law, P.C.

Visit www.bulaylawsuit.com to read more about Al Bulay and his ridiculous lawsuit.

Cuomo must be investigated

Andrew Cuomo

Sexual harassment is unacceptable in any venue. Including in our government. Our state has strict policies in place and mandatory training that all employees and officials must take every year, myself included.

Three women have come forward to share their experiences with Cuomo, experiences that describe extremely inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment in the workplace.

These allegations are serious and must be investigated by an independent authority whose findings will be trusted by the public. A rubber stamp investigation is not acceptable.

I urge the governor to immediately refer the matter to a credible authority with subpoena power to investigate these allegations and any other that may arise.

Voting NO on stadium upgrades

Tonight I voted NO on the proposed ~$1.4M bond for Dutchess Stadium. In this time of fiscal uncertainty and pending the passage of the Federal COVID Relief bill, I felt it was fiscally imprudent to make this commitment when so many of our fellow Dutchess County residents are unable to make ends meet or get a vaccine in a timely manner.

The bond did pass and I hope our financial situation improves and the Federal COVID Relief bill provides enough support to restore our budget.

Just two months ago, the county made significant cuts to fill a projected budget gap in the name of fiscal responsibility. Among those cuts was a 15% to our county health department staff in the middle of a worldwide pandemic that has killed hundreds of our friends, neighbors, and family members here in Dutchess County.

The county has also cut 10% of the Department of Community and Family Services staff, the department responsible for investigating claims of child abuse and supporting families suffering during the economic downturn.

I voted against the budget that made those cuts.

Yet today I was asked to vote in favor of a $1.4 million bond for stadium improvements to help the NY Yankees farm team to play down in Beacon, including nearly $500K for consultants to design millions more in improvements to be voted upon later this year. The total price tag to be around $10 million.

I am not opposed to having the stadium or improving it. I understand the potential upsides – even with the questionable post-COVID projections – that might come to pass. And that maybe it will break even at some point in the future. However, with the Federal COVID relief package still unsigned and any COVID relief for our budget still uncertain, I could not support this expenditure.

It is my hope that whatever passes through Congress will provide enough budget relief for Dutchess County that we can restore our health department to heal our ills, reinvest in our family services to protect our children, and have the financial stability to afford our investment in the county stadium.

Insurrectionist acts in Washington, D.C.

Violence of any kind is, of course, to be condemned but the acts committed in Washington, D.C. on January 6 are seditious and without comparison in modern history.

To attack our nation’s Capitol in an attempt to stop the lawful transfer of power is not protest. It is not free speech. It is not civil disobedience. It is insurrection and it should be treated as such. All those who participated, supported, incited or encouraged this action should be brought to account and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

This lawless behavior was the inevitable result of the failure of Republican leaders and elected officials to set an example and speak honestly about President Trump to members of their own party. Most did not have the courage of leaders like the late Senator John McCain to stand up to Trump. America has been diminished by their inaction and cowardice.

Past failures to bring those in power to account for their actions is why this happened. Failure to do so again will only invite further attempts to overthrow our democracy and destroy our nation.