Why I’m voting NO on Pulver for chair – again

This coming Tuesday, January 7, the legislature will have its 2020 organization meeting and select a chair. The Republicans have a majority and thus will select one of their own, likely to be Legislator Gregg Pulver of Pine Plains.

Over the past two years, Pulver has served as Chair and has a track record of acting in a blatantly partisan manner, blocking the consideration of legislation objectionable to him, his party and County Executive Marc Molinaro.

Laws meant to increase transparency, prevent corruption and hold drug manufacturers responsible for their opioid distribution sins were all blocked from being discussed in committee or in front of the full board.

Pulver put forward important legislation without working across the aisle, resulting in embarrassing and sloppy proposals like the loophole-ridden disclosure law that had to be amended on the floor. And he stalled consideration of Independent Redistricting to avoid having it on the 2019 ballot, leaving it open to repeal in 2020.

All of which I am sure he is proud of. In essence, he was doing his job and that’s why he’ll be elected chair again.

Pulver’s empty promises of bipartisanship and working across the aisle were broken and he has lost any credibility on that topic.

But Pulver’s decision to block a ban on the torture that is conversion therapy on minors was beyond the pale. While it was later banned by the state legislature in a near unanimous vote, Pulver refused to allow us consider the law, afraid of putting his caucus on the record in favor of or against the heinous practice.

Unbelievably, some of my fellow Democrats are still considering voting for Pulver in the hopes he will change his stripes. What they fail to accept is that he can only do what his fellow Trump Republicans and Molinaro allow him to do.

Contact your legislator and urge them to vote against Pulver on Monday.

Culvert investigation yields clues

The best part of serving the community is helping out constituents and connecting them with solutions.

When a Route 9G resident spoke to me over the summer about how her culvert clogged during the winter, flooding and freezing her driveway, I urged her to contact me when it happened, take photos and we could petition the state for a fix.

This morning I got a text and went to investigate.

Water flowing across the driveway, in some cases inches deep.

Sure enough, the culvert was clogged and water 4 inches deep was flowing across her driveway. If this continued there would be a thick sheet of ice if the temperature dropped. And the driveway was already significantly eroded.

The output end of the culvert had little flow so the other end seemed the more likely culprit.

Culvert? Are you there?

The opening is buried but I can hear a little water trickling. That suggests the opening may be obstructed. Before we ask the state to remedy the situation, we need to figure out what’s wrong.

So about 15 minutes of shoveling, chopping and poking later, I had cleared up the problem.

Turns out this time it was mostly ice and snow. Last year it was a car bumper from an accident on 9g jammed deep inside that the homeowner’s son was able to extract.

Before we ask the state to replace the culvert with something bigger, we’re going to try to prevent plows from burying the culvert’s entrance and see if that solves it next time around.

Munn votes NO on 2020 Budget

Dutchess County faces many challenges but two crises rise above the rest: climate change and opioids. The proposed 2020 budget did not go far enough to address these key problems and so I voted NO on the 2020 budget.

The Molinaro Administration would like us to believe they are doing all they can to fight the opioid epidemic. But more people died in Dutchess from opioids in 2018 than in any other year while deaths statewide decreased.

It has taken years to get medically assisted treatment (MAT) into our jail to help those suffering from addiction. Former addicts who were receiving prescription suboxone on the outside have been unable to continue their treatment if arrested – forcing them to go through painful withdrawal in their jail cells. And people interested in starting treatment while being held on bail are still unable to do so.

Our county’s Stabilization Center still has no on-site prescriber for people who arrive seeking help with an opioid abuse disorder. And phase 2 of the project which was supposed to bring more of those services under the same roof was scrapped after phase 1 construction was mismanaged.

Are we making progress? Yes. But when you’re facing a crisis, baby steps forward is not enough.

On climate change, the county continues to nibble around the edges. A few solar panels here, a couple of hybrid vehicles there while what we need are aggressive goals for decarbonization. We should be setting an example that other municipalities can follow.

Every year Molinaro’s commissioners and department heads come before the legislature during budget time with the same script: “We have all the people and money we need, we are doing everything possible, all is well.” Privately, they tell us that we need more mental health beds and more help for our neighbors struggling with addiction.

Molinaro likes to say his budget represents his values. Instead of prioritizing our needs, Molinaro’s 2020 budget begins and ends with his political goals: a budget that delivers the half-a-penny cut to the property tax levy as promised during his campaign while protecting the expensive PR operation in his office (whose budget has increased 3-fold) and the 13% raises for himself and his fellow county-wide electeds. Everything else must fit into that number and his department heads all know to publicly toe the line or lose their jobs.

Munn fought to protect our Corrections Officers’ health and safety

Dutchess County Jail

On Halloween, my opponent sent a mailer trying to scare voters, paid for by the New York State Republican Committee, with numerous lies and smears and misleading statements about my record and actions in the legislature. He even attacked me for listening to the concerns of a decorated veteran.

One of the absurd charges was that I tried to add “10 county employees” that weren’t needed and would cost taxpayer money.

Apparently, my opponent has little regard for our dedicated corrections officers (COs) that staff our county jail and whose lives have been disrupted and families stressed by excessive mandatory overtime and unsafe working conditions.

Then again, if he had cared enough about county government to attend ANY of our county legislative meetings over the past two years, he’d might know better.

I take my job very seriously. Below I share with you a video of my standing with our COs and my attempt to better their unsafe / dangerous working conditions.

Because of poor long-term planning at the jail by the current administration, our corrections officers at the Dutchess County Jail have been forced to work incredible amounts of overtime for years, much of it mandatory. Mandatory overtime can create unsafe working conditions as sleep-deprived and stressed officers are pressed into duty putting themselves and those being held at the jail at risk.

During budget season I proposed adding ten more full-time Corrections Officers to the staff to help relieve that burden. As I explained at the time, the net cost of hiring WOULD BE ZERO since overtime costs would drop and make up both the training cost and salary cost in the first year. In the second year, it would have saved taxpayers money. Even one of the Republican legislators on the floor agreed that it would cost nothing to try.

In the end, the administration believed that there were not enough qualified people to hire and didn’t want to try. They said that they would hire lots of part-timers to reduce overtime (SPOILER: that didn’t make a significant dent in the problem) and they had the Republican legislators vote down the amendment.

My opponent should have more respect for the hardworking men and women that make our county government work.

FACT CHECK: Munn stood with Nelson Eddy Rivera and county veterans

On Halloween, my opponent sent a mailer, paid for by the New York State Republican Committee, with numerous lies and smears and misleading statements about my record and actions in the legislature.

Normally I would not dignify such trash with a response, especially coming from someone who has not bothered to attend a single legislative meeting.

However, one claim in particular – that I should have ignored the concerns of a highly-respected veteran and that I am anti-veteran – is so disgusting I cannot let it go unanswered.

Nelson Eddy Rivera (USN, Retired) served our nation and county with honor and distinction. For 18 years he served as the Director of Veterans Services in Dutchess County until his retirement in early 2017. In all my discussions with leaders in our community and the county, I never heard a bad word about Mr. Rivera.

When Mr. Rivera contacted some of us in the legislature and strongly recommended AGAINST the appointment of the young veteran that had been put forward as his successor, I listened. He told us that he had expressed his concerns to the administration during the search process for his replacement and been ignored. He told us that other, far more qualified and experienced candidates were available yet this young man had been chosen for the top spot.

I urged my Republican colleagues to delay the vote so they could also hear from Mr. Rivera and so we could all have more time to consider the situation. They refused even a short delay to consider further what might be best for our veterans and forced an immediate vote, appointing him.

While I wish the new director nothing but success and will offer him nothing but support in his efforts to help our veterans, I stand by my decision to vote NO on his appointment given the circumstances.

And shame on my opponent to claim Mr. Rivera’s concerns should not have been heard and to suggest that anything other than the best interests of our county’s veterans was in my heart. I would suggest that those who refused to hear out Mr. Rivera are the ones who should be asked these questions.

Independent Redistricting to go before the voters in 2020

I fought all year to get true Independent Redistricting for Dutchess County, to end the corrupt gerrymandering of our legislative districts. With today’s signing, the change will go before the voters in November 2020 for an up-or-down vote. It would have been far better to have it before the voters THIS November but our work was delayed to make sure that didn’t happen. 10 years ago Independent Redistricting was passed and then repealed by the Republicans after the elections were over. We must not let history repeat itself.

Munn votes NO as legislature votes 13-12 to hike elected official salaries

On Monday, June 10, the Dutchess County Legislature voted 13-12 to provide 12.5% raises to county-wide electeds and 6% raises for county legislators, passing a resolution put forward by Chairman Gregg Pulver (R-Pine Plains).

When asked on Thursday how the 3% per year number was arrived at despite inflation being below 2%, Chairman Pulver admitted that “The 3% number came up quite frankly because we’re now giving a county-wide elected official a 3% salary [increase] next year and the year after which would be the comptroller. We voted two years ago to raise the comptroller’s salary… So that’s where the 3% came from.”

“There is no reason cited for the amount of the raises aside from the fact that they gave the comptroller that raise back in 2017 and there haven’t been raises in awhile,” said Legislator Kristofer Munn. “I would want to see a cross-county comparison on total compensation before considering raises.”

Current compensation packages including medical, insurance, pension contribution, car allowance:

  • County Executive: $191,973.41
  • Sheriff: $182,113.20
  • County Clerk: $149,558.87
  • County Comptroller: $126,526.53

“I only regret we did not have one more vote to oppose this baseless measure,” said Munn.

Like term limits and his local law to weaken disclosure rules, Pulver put forward the salary legislation without any warning or discussion across the aisle.

Salary increases will take effect beginning January 1, 2020.

Munn votes NO in committee on Pulver’s raises for elected officials

On Thursday, June 6, the Budget & Finance committee of the Dutchess County Legislature considered and passed a resolution from Chairman Gregg Pulver (R-Pine Plains) to provide 12.5% raises to county-wide electeds and 6% raises for county legislators. The vote was 8-4.

When asked on the floor how the 3% per year number was arrived at despite inflation being below 2%, Chairman Pulver admitted that “The 3% number came up quite frankly because we’re now giving a county-wide elected official a 3% salary [increase] next year and the year after which would be the comptroller. We voted two years ago to raise the comptroller’s salary… So that’s where the 3% came from.”

“There is no reason cited for the amount of the raises aside from the fact that they gave the comptroller that raise back in 2017 and there haven’t been raises in awhile,” said Legislator Kristofer Munn. “I would want to see a cross-county comparison on total compensation before considering raises.”

Current compensation packages including medical, insurance, pension contribution, car allowance:

  • County Executive: $191,973.41
  • Sheriff: $182,113.20
  • County Clerk: $149,558.87
  • County Comptroller: $126,526.53

Voting in favor of the measure were legislators Pulver, Will Truitt (R-Hyde Park), Don Sagliano (R-Pleasant Valley), Joe Incoronato (R-Wappingers Falls), Donna Bolner (R-LaGrange), Tom Keith (R-Town of Poughkeepsie), Barbara Jeter-Jackson (D-City of Poughkeepsie) and John Metzger (R-East Fishkill).

Opposing the salary hikes in committee were legislators Munn, Hannah Black (D-Hyde Park), Randy Johnson (D-City of Poughkeepsie) and Nick Page (D-Beacon).

Like term limits and his local law to weaken disclosure rules, Pulver put forward the salary legislation without any warning or discussion across the aisle.

The resolution moves to the full 25-person board on Monday, June 10 for final passage.