My first year as county legislator is in the books and year two has already begun. Thank you again for choosing me as your county legislator in 2017. I truly love this job, working with my colleagues, learning and pushing on your behalf to bring much-needed oversight and common sense to decisions made at the county level.
My favorite part of this job is the opportunity to meet and advocate for our neighbors when it comes to local government and the schools. Among other efforts this past year, I advised a family on resolving a busing issue with the school, kickstarted the process of successfully reducing the speed limit on Budds Corners Road and called on the County Department of Public Works to restore eroded guard rails along West Broadway in Tivoli (hopefully to happen this spring) – all concerns brought to me by constituents.
So if you need help or advice on how to navigate local government, I’m here for you. Don’t hesitate to reach out anytime – call or text me at 845-293-2088 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If I can’t help directly, I will find out who can.
Budget and Services
The recent budget we passed reduced the 2019 county property tax rate. County taxes only make up about 10% of your property tax bill but at least that portion will be about the same or slightly less this year. This is thanks primarily to the growth of our Dutchess County economy and the sales tax revenue it generates.
We increased our Senior Friendship Center schedule to support 5 days a week so check in at the Red Hook Community Center for more information.
We’ve expanded the Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART) to provide help county-wide including Red Hook and Tivoli rather than just in a handful of towns. We also approved funding for the construction of a much-needed emergency services and training center for our first responders.
The Opioid Drug Crisis
The opioid crisis continues to take more lives each year in Dutchess County and we continue working to reduce the overprescription of painkillers, one of the primary sources of addiction in our community. As pills get harder to find, some seek treatment but others turn to more dangerous drugs and that can lead to an overdose.
To help, I put forward a modest local law to require every pharmacy to provide a prescription drug take-back box – paid for by the drug companies. Our local county effort was blocked but thankfully the state passed a similar law later in 2018. We also increased funding for educational services and outreach about opioid addiction and mental health services.
I will continue to push for expanded services to combat this crisis including offering treatment to those who find themselves in our county jail. At the end of 2018, even if someone has already sought treatment for addiction and is under a doctor’s care, if he or she is arrested they are not able to continue receiving their prescription while awaiting trial. This can lead to relapse and more crime.
Oversight and Wasteful Spending
Starting last year, the county legislature is no longer a rubber stamp for county government. My colleagues and I ask questions and those questions, along with the efforts of our County Comptroller Robin Lois, have forced the county to follow proper procedure and end some of the sloppy practices that have led to mistakes and wasted money.
Unfortunately, a number of past and ongoing county construction projects were revealed to have significant cost overruns due to mistakes or incorrect assumptions made during the planning and construction process. After some investigation, I was shocked to discover that the county had no written policies or procedures for handling large capital projects. When the public defender’s office renovation nearly quadrupled in cost (from $1.7M to $6.3M), I demanded that new policies and procedures be implemented before we approve any future projects.
Those policies are now in place. And with proper oversight, I hope we won’t see as many problems in the future.
The new $180M+ jail project is scheduled to break ground later this year. I continue to believe this 500+ bed facility needs to be reconsidered and right-sized. As I warned during my 2017 campaign, the changes in Albany after the 2018 election will likely give us bail reform similar to what they have done in other states.
Bail reform will likely reduce our jail population by 20% or more by allowing nonviolent offenders to go back to their families and jobs while they await trial. If we build this oversized jail, we will have dozens or perhaps hundreds of empty beds – a serious waste of money. A smart redesign will save us millions in unnecessary construction costs.
After scouring the budget last fall, I discovered our current jail continues to consume millions of dollars in overtime every year, with one dollar of overtime for every 3 dollars of regular time for the last five years ($25M+ in overtime spending). Compare this to Ulster County where they spend one dollar of overtime for every 10 dollars of regular time.
Excessive overtime is dangerous to both the corrections officers and those held in the jail with long work hours leading to expensive injuries and mistakes.
After documenting more than five years of failure to fix this problem, I authored a budget amendment to add staff to try to reduce the overtime problems. It would have cost taxpayers nothing in the short run and saved money in the long run. My amendment was rejected but I will continue to monitor the situation at the jail and speak out if progress is not made.
I am your advocate with local government
Dealing with government can sometimes be confusing and frustrating – trust me I know – but I want to be your advocate. Over the past decade, I have established relationships with people in village, town, county and state government so if I can’t help you I can probably connect you with the person who can. Do not hesitate to contact me – I’m here to help!
Thank you again for all your support.