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Priorities

July 22, 2021

#1 - I have addressed the Beekman Town Board on four separate occasions regarding the $1.58 million dollars Beekman received from the American Rescue Plan passed by the Democrats. Town residents have emailed and called our supervisor imploring her and the other four members of the board to give us a voice in how this money is spent. I visited small businesses in town, encouraging them to approach the board about using some of this money to help the ones that suffered during COVID. The town board has not even acknowledged our requests with a, “No.” Residents in all 25 towns in Dutchess County should be asking their town boards the same questions.

In addition to local funds, Dutchess County was given $57 million dollars to help its residents at this very extraordinary time. Our county executive, Marcus Molinaro, and the Republican majority in the legislature, chose to spend the first $12.5 million to enhance the Dutchess County Stadium. The Democratic minority, led by Rebecca Edwards, vehemently opposed this. Rebecca, as well as the entire Dem caucus, argued persistently that the first part of these ARP funds should go to help struggling residents in our county. Their needs are endless: unpaid mortgages and rent, food insecurity, and mental health and substance abuse services. Executive Molinaro kept insisting that the money spent on the stadium is a "good investment" for the county. How can a mother think about county investments when her child is hungry? I have included the chart that breaks down the $12.5 million spent on a baseball field. Important, right?

 

 #2 -Dutchess County has yet to set any fossil-fuel reduction targets. We don’t even need science anymore to tell us that our planet is in peril: unprecedented rainfall in many parts of the country and more severe hurricanes;  drought in the West while wildfires rage out-of-control year after year there; and very recently humongous floods killing hundreds of people in Europe.

In November of 2019 the Democratic caucus in the Dutchess County legislature proposed a resolution to set fossil-fuel targets in Dutchess County. According to the records the Republicans wrote no response letter, the resolution was not given a number, and no record of the proposed resolution is in a database. What is it going to take?

#3 -  A third priority I would address as a legislator is ramping up Dutchess County’s emphasis on career technology. I was on a Zoom call several days ago, initiated by Jeffrey Domanski, Executive Director of Center for Economic and Environmental Partnership / Director of Hudson Valley Energy program. Everyone on the call worked in some capacity toward a greener and more sustainable planet. The most talked-about topic of the evening was how Dutchess County can provide more and better education in career technology. This led to these ideas: continuing to expand our BOCES programs; encouraging collaboration between it and DCC; programs to connect with students while still in high school; and, reducing the stigma of students who are not “4-year-college-bound.”There were many participants from Ulster County present. One was Jessica Clegg, a coordinator for Citizens for Local Power. Jessica talked about launching a new program in Ulster County--the Green Careers Internships. The focus of this program is to place young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 into green jobs/careers and assist them in receiving additional training at either SUNY-Ulster's Green Careers Academy or at Ulster BOCES green career pathway classes. They will be partnering also with local environmental groups and green business leaders. This is a blueprint for what I would advocate for our county if elected to the legislature.

#4 -  Finally, a fourth area of emphasis is the dissolution of the Reapportionment Committee by the Dutchess County attorney. Democratic lawmakers have advocated an independent commission for many years so current legislators could not gerrymander their own districts. In November 2020, Dutchess residents overwhelmingly voted to create an independent redistricting commission to end gerrymandering in county government. The seven volunteer commissioners began their work in February: two Democrats, two Republicans and three independents chosen by the other four. On June 24 the county attorney - appointed by the county executive – suddenly dissolved the commission, even while acknowledging she did not have the legal authority to disband a commission created by voters via referendum. The only explanation given: one member was an elected school board member.  That member has stepped down for other reasons and was replaced under the existing rules for filling a vacancy. On July 12th, against the commission’s will and over unanimous Democratic opposition, the Republican majority passed a law to create a new commission - and prohibited the current seven members from serving. Republicans are tampering with a democratic process ratified by Dutchess voters.

This course of events is appalling. How does a county attorney take an action she has no legal authority to take? How does a group of county legislators get to strike down a referendum passed by voters? A law suit is in the works to challenge these actions, and I am all in on this one.

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Committee to Elect Barbara Walsh
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