Dutchess Dems call for perjury investigation into Republican Elections Commissioner Erik Haight

On Tuesday, Jan. 26, the Dutchess County Democrats sent a letter to Dutchess County District Attorney Bill Grady asking for a fair, impartial and thorough investigation into what appear to be acts of perjury by Dutchess County Republican Elections Commissioner Erik Haight.

On January 15, 2021, Commissioner Haight emailed District Attorney Grady and urged him to investigate any allegations of illegal conduct by himself or former Commissioner Elizabeth Soto.

We wholeheartedly agree.

Commissioner Haight appears to have intentionally misled the court during a lawsuit adjudicated in September and October of 2020 and that deserves an investigation, just as Haight requested.

MAGA Erik Haight

“To allow someone in charge of our elections to lie to the court with impunity, without opening an investigation, would be unconscionable,” said Elisa Sumner, Chairperson of the Dutchess County Democratic Committee. “Our democracy is too fragile to look the other way.”

In an October 23, 2020 decision ordering the Dutchess County Board of Elections to relocate a voting site to Bard Campus, State Supreme Court Judge Maria Rosa referred to a statement previously made by Haight:

In opposition to the petition Elections Commissioner Eric Haight submitted an affidavit stating that the election was too close in time to enable a change in the polling site that would be fair to all voters in the 5th District including by giving them timely and effective notice of the change. This court relied upon Commissioner Haight’s assertions in this regard including that notification of a new polling place at this late date would likely cause voter confusion and result in voters going to the wrong polling place.

In fact, simultaneous to Commissioner Haight’s claims that it was too late to move the District 5 location, plans were underway to change other locations. Less than 24 hours after Judge Rosa’s original decision on Oct. 13, Commissioner Haight agreed to move two other voting locations within Red Hook. In reversing her initial decision issued on Oct. 13, Judge Rosa is clear that she relied on the validity of Haight’s assertion (emphasis ours):

The basis for this court’s decision and order has now been eliminated since the primary factor identified by Commissioner Haight and relied upon by this court was simply untrue. Apparently there was, and is, time to move the polling place for District 5 in Red Hook. The court notes that Commissioner Haight submitted no affidavit in opposition to this motion. Only his attorney’s affirmation was provided.

During the Oct. 28 hearing of Appellate Division Second Judicial Department, Justice Leonard Austin of Nassau County characterized Rosa’s take on Haight’s affidavit as a lie perpetrated on the court (at minute 36):

“I think part of the problem was that the Judge felt that your side was lying to her. That it’s impossible to do. In fact, she used that word in her decision, on renewal: ‘They said it’s impossible, I bought it and then you turned around and changed one or two other districts…’”

Separately, in his appeal to the Appellate Court, Commissioner Haight’s attorney David Jensen affirmed:

Yesterday (Sunday), Respondent Commissioner Haight drove past the “closed” signs that surround Bard’s campus and attempted to inspect the Student Center as a polling place. Security forced him to leave campus, notwithstanding his attempt to explain that he was from the Board and was attempting to inspect a polling place.

An affidavit from the head of security at Bard states that Commissioner Haight was stopped by security after returning to his vehicle and that he refused to identify himself. This is a second and separate instance of making a false claim to mislead the court by mischaracterizing Bard College’s security staff as hostile to his visit.

We have asked the District Attorney to heed this bipartisan call to investigate Commissioner Haight.

Dutchess Democrats put forward independent redistricting law

On August 12, 2019, Democratic members of the Dutchess County Legislature again put forward a local law to end the practice of county legislators drawing their own maps. Instead of creating their own gerrymandered districts, the legislature would delegate the power to create the new map to an independent bipartisan/nonpartisan commission.

The current Dutchess map was gerrymandered by Republicans after they repealed the last independent redistricting law.

This is the FOURTH time that Democrats have put forward an independent redistricting law in the Dutchess County Legislature and the third time this year alone. All prior attempts were repealed or blocked by Republicans.

Attempts to work together on a bipartisan basis failed when Republicans refused to add language that would prevent the use of polling information, election results and other political data when redrawing legislative districts and refused to clearly define the criteria to be used by the commission when drawing the map.

The seven member Independent Redistricting Commission would have two members selected by Democrats, two by Republicans and the remaining three members would have to be agreed upon by a majority of those four initial members. Once formed, the commission would take public input and create a redistricting plan based on specific criteria (population equity, compactness, contiguity and municipal/institutional boundaries) without consideration of political impacts, voting patterns or party registrations.

In an effort to prevent another repeal by a future legislature seeking to redraw the map for political advantage, the proposed law would trigger a public referendum next November to enact the law. Any future attempts to repeal would be seen as thwarting the will of the people. By refusing to consider a redistricting law until later in the year, Republicans ensured that the referendum could not happen until 2020.

“Chairman Gregg Pulver and the Republicans have blocked discussion of independent redistricting all year and now it cannot go into effect until January 1, 2021,” said Assistant Minority Leader Kristofer Munn (D-Red Hook). “This could have been on the ballot in front of voters this year. Instead, it was delayed for partisan political purposes.”

Nationally, the Republican Party has opposed independent redistricting at virtually every turn, often suing to overturn popular ballot measures that create independent commissions. With the referendum delayed until 2020, a Republican repeal after the election is not out of the question since some of the same legislators who repealed a 2009 independent redistricting law still sit in the legislature.

Like its May and June antecedents, the Democratic proposal includes clear definitions of all the criteria to be considered along with a ban on the use of prior election results, polling information and other political data to draw the districts.

Republicans also put forward an independent redistricting law, their first, on August 12. The proposal lacks clear definitions for the commission on how district boundaries should be drawn to put an end to corrupt gerrymandering practices. Republicans also did not include a ban on the use of prior election results, polling information and other political data in their decision-making. 

“The proposal that the Democratic Caucus put forward is the strongest of the two laws, and I hope that my fellow legislators across the aisle will agree that the influence of partisan polling data and party registration should not be allowed to be used when a future commission draws district boundaries,” said Minority Leader Hannah Black (D-Hyde Park).

Both laws are expected to be on the agenda for the September meetings, beginning with the September 5 committee meeting.

HISTORY OF INDEPENDENT REDISTRICTING IN DUTCHESS

This is the FOURTH time that Democrats have put forward an independent redistricting law in the Dutchess County Legislature and the third time this year alone.

In 2009, a Democratic majority passed independent redistricting only to see a Republican majority repeal it after taking power in 2010 so they could draw districts to their political advantage following the 2010 census. For example, the Vassar campus and surrounding neighborhood was split across three separate legislative districts.

On May 13 and again on June 10, 2019, Democrats put forward a law calling for an Independent Redistricting Commission. Both laws were pulled by the Republican Chair of the Legislature Gregg Pulver and were not allowed onto the agenda to be discussed on the floor.

Prior to the May submission, a Republican-appointed advisory committee (Ethics and Reapportionment Committee) had voted to recommend that the legislature approve its own district lines instead of creating an independent commission. The committee was guided and assisted by Republican staffers from the County Executive and Legislative Chair’s office. After the Democratic law was put forward in May and public pressure for an independent commission, the committee changed its recommendation to a Commission structure and completed its work in June.

“While we applaud the Republicans’ election year change of heart and decision to move forward with a commission, they still have a long way to go before their law is strong enough for Dutchess County,” said Munn.

Any law to change how the districts are drawn would require a referendum and by refusing to consider a redistricting law until later in the year, Republicans ensured that the referendum could not happen until 2020 which gives the GOP time to repeal it after local elections just like they did last time.

Democrats met with Republicans in June and July to discuss how and whether to put forward a law together. Democrats insisted on stronger instructions to the commission on what could and could not be considered when drawing districts. Specifically, Democrats insisted that political party and election results could not be considered while districts should be equal in population, contiguous and compact and that definitions for those terms should be included as they were in the Democratic proposals. Republicans refused to put those elements in the final version of their law.

OTHER QUOTES:

“The process of creating legislative districts has become distorted such that elected officials of the majority party choose their voters instead of the voters choosing their elected officials,” said Legislator Francena Amparo (D-Wappingers).

“These changes will bring transparency to the process and put an end to the corrupt practice of gerrymandering of our county’s districts,” said Legislator Hannah Black (D-Hyde Park).

“Assigning an independent commission the task is the surest way to ensure that it’s done impartially, and any truly fair minded legislator would agree,” said Legislator Frits Zernike (D-Beacon).

SUMMARY:

  • Law changes the county charter, will be considered during Sept meetings
  • After passage, voters will vote up or down on the change next November
  • Republicans blocked consideration of independent redistricting in 2019 until now
  • Democrats passed independent redistricting in 2009 and Republicans repealed it in 2010/2011 so they could draw their own districts
  • Creates a seven member commission to redraw county legislative district lines after census for use in 2023 election
  • Two members picked by Democrats, two by Republicans and those four pick the last 3
  • No elected or party officials or county/state employees may serve on the commission
  • Five of the seven members must approve the plan for it to go into effect
  • Democratic plan says no polling, election results nor political data can be considered and includes clear instructions and definitions on how to draw districts
  • Republican plan allows commission to consider political data, provides unclear direction to commission for drawing districts

2019 County budget passes but jail issues remain

Molinaro, Republicans beat back efforts to remedy jail understaffing crisis

At the full board meeting of the Dutchess County Legislature on December 6, 2018, the 25-member Dutchess County Legislature passed the $503 million 2019 budget by a margin of 19-5 after lively debate and a number of amendments intended to improve the lives of Dutchess County residents while reducing the county property tax rate.

  • Legislator Rebecca Edwards (D-Town of Poughkeepsie) and Minority Leader Hannah Black (D-Hyde Park) successfully added $20,000 to the budget specifically to allow the Opioid Task Force and Stabilization Center to provide more educational services. Expanding public education is a critical piece for addressing the opioid crisis.
  • The Democratic Caucus succeeded in restoring Senior Friendship Centers to 5 days a week and expanding the county’s Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART) ($85,000), thanks in large part to the continued advocacy of Legislator Joel Tyner (D-Clinton), who frequently lobbied for both  changes during board meetings and had proposed budget amendments to expand DART for the last six years.

    “I’m excited that we can finally return to a five day week at the centers for our seniors. It is a great move forward for Dutchess County seniors,” said Tyner. “The DART expansion has been a priority of mine for years and I’m glad we’ve finally agreed to extend this program to more of the county.”

    DART is a multidisciplinary response to domestic violence that includes a team of professionals who address specific cases in order to improve victim safety and offender accountability.
  • The county’s Agency Partnership Grant Program (APG) was increased by $300,000 in total with $100K focused on agencies offering summer jobs and after-school programs for at-risk youth thanks to an amendment put forward by Legislators Hannah Black (D-Hyde Park) and Rebecca Edwards (D-Town of Poughkeepsie). Due to a lack of funding, the county turns away agencies with great programs to help at-risk youth with crucial summer work programs and workforce development, help the homeless and provide shelter for those in crisis. While an additional $300,000 will meet only a fraction of the demand, it is a good first step.
  • The county will be adding a caseworker to Child Protective Services and an Assistant District Attorney position to reduce high caseloads reported by administrators in both departments following an amendment put forward by Minority Whip Kristofer Munn (D-Red Hook).
  • The county’s Municipal Innovation Grant program was increased by 10% ($100,000) to allow more funding to flow to local governments for worthy projects thanks to an amendment by Legislator Randy Johnson (D-City of Poughkeepsie).
  • The county will study the possibility of expanding weekend ferry service between Dutchess and Orange County thanks to an amendment put forward by Legislator Nick Page (D-Beacon) to boost tourism.
  • Following constituent complaints about last year’s giveaway to private concert promoters at Bowdoin Park, a bipartisan group of legislators reduced concert funding from $50,000 to $10,000. Bowdoin Park had been closed to the public in 2018 on three summer weekends so private, for-profit concerts could be held with tickets sold at $35 each. The county did not receive any revenue from the ticket sales.“To close a public park to residents on multiple summer Saturdays so a private promoter could charge $35 a ticket for a concert, with taxpayers paying $50k for promotion and support, was unconscionable. It’s good news that a bipartisan group agreed to end that practice,” said Legislator Rebecca Edwards (D-Town of Poughkeepsie).
  • A number of Democratic legislators expressed ongoing concerns about understaffing at the Dutchess County Jail where about 25% of the personnel budget has been spent on overtime ($5M overtime vs $15M standard time) for many years with no improvement.

    Severe overcrowding, developmental delays, inmate suicides, and barely any medical care for inmates at Dutchess County Jail is the reason why New York State Commission of Correction named it one of the worst jails in the state, according to a 2018 report.

    In addition to more part-time staff, Minority Whip Kristofer Munn (D-Red Hook) proposed an amendment to create 10 more full-time Corrections Officer (CO) positions which, if filled, would pay for themselves in the first year by reducing overtime costs and save taxpayer money in the long run, reduce workplace accidents and improve the quality of life for county employees.

    Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro (R-Red Hook) spoke against providing the additional staff to the jail to reduce the problems with mandated overtime. Molinaro has been in office since 2012 and jail overtime has nearly doubled during his tenure from $2.8M in the 2012 budget to over $5.3M in 2018. There has been more OT worked in 2018 than 2017. Ulster County spends $1 on jail overtime for every $10 on salaries, Dutchess spends $1 on overtime for every $3.

    “How many more years do we have to wait to try to solve this problem?”, said Munn. “The Dutchess County Jail remains understaffed creating a dangerous and stressful environment with excessive overtime leading to serious problems both inside the jail and in our community. Our Corrections Officers deserve better.”

    The amendment was defeated with all Republicans in opposition.

    The continued shortage of jail staff will also make it impossible to expand Medically-Assisted Treatment (MAT) like suboxone or methadone to those behind bars who are seeking treatment for opioid addiction or were already in treatment before their arrest. With the opioid epidemic worsening and a record number of deaths in Dutchess County, MAT at the jail would be a welcome step.

  • Republicans voted down a full-time Climate Smart Coordinator position that would have focused on obtaining environmental grants. The County is currently missing opportunities for funding that would cover much needed services and considerable State funding could be brought to bear on environmental issues including emissions control, green energy production, climate change preparedness, green job creation, green infrastructure and building practices, and responsible waste disposal.

    “Among other flaws in the county’s approach, environmental progress, including a focus on green jobs and energy, can’t wait and is still being neglected. We can boost the county’s economy while protecting our future and we need to act with a sense of urgency,” said Legislator Nick Page (D-Beacon).
  • Republicans voted down an amendment that would have the County study how we can provide an in-house household hazardous waste facility along with expanding services for residents on disposing of household hazardous waste.
  • Republicans blocked the creation of a pilot program intended to improve transportation for seniors that would use for-hire services to provide more flexible, responsive service, and reliable transportation services for our elderly.

The budget as adopted reduces the county property tax levy for the fifth consecutive year and lowers the property tax rate for a fourth year from $3.54 to $3.45 per $1,000 of true value assessments while maintaining the County’s fiscal stability and essential services.

The budget with the amendments will now be forwarded to County Executive Molinaro for review and signature.The final step in the 2019 Dutchess County Budget process – override consideration of any amendment vetoes by the County Executive and the adoption of the tax levy – will be on Monday, December 17th at the Dutchess County Legislature’s Board meeting.

Legislature passes ban on disposable plastic shopping bags

At the full board meeting of the Dutchess County Legislature on December 6, 2018, the Dutchess County Legislature approved a ban on disposable plastic shopping bags to take effect on January 1, 2020. The 23-1 move comes following proposals put forward by Legislator Nick Page (D-Beacon) and the Democratic caucus.

“This is a good first step,” said Legislator Rebecca Edwards (D-Town of Poughkeepsie). “But it’s disappointing that the Republican majority refused to accept a stronger bill – one that would really alter consumer behavior and do much more to protect humans, wildlife, waterways, and machinery from the plastic-bag nuisance.”

Laws aimed at reducing or eliminating the use of disposable shopping bags have been around for over fifteen years – there are over sixty countries which have shopping bag laws in place and almost 350 bag laws in place in the United States alone. This has left no doubt that legislation can shift our shopping bag habit from disposables to reusables, and a clear map of how to do so most effectively.

Thin plastic bags are rarely recycled, and, when burned in trash incinerators such as our local plant in the Town of Poughkeepsie, emit harmful dioxins and other chemicals.

Considered and rejected by Republican legislators was what experts say would be a more effective plastic bag ban / 5 cent fee on other disposable bags hybrid law similar to that recently adopted by Ulster County. The proposal would have exempted purchases made through the SNAP/WIC programs from the fee to protect low-income shoppers.

“Despite unanimous expert opinion, mountains of empirical evidence, and overwhelming public support, the majority would only accept a straight plastic bag ban while shunning bills that would implement a disposable bag fee,” said Page.

The hybrid approach has been found to reduce disposable bag usage far more than a simple ban by incentivizing shoppers to bring reusable bags rather than pushing them to use more paper bags. While biodegradable and more recyclable, paper bags cost more, are heavier to ship and still have a significant environmental footprint.

“After a decade of my introducing legislation for this to happen, I’m thrilled to see this finally become reality,” said Legislator Joel Tyner (D-Clinton). “We just need to make sure thousands of trees aren’t cut down to make paper bags after this law goes into effect.”

“20 kids a year die from choking on plastic bags and 600 children since 1990 have choked on plastic bags,” said Legislator Giancarlo Llaverias (D-Town of Poughkeepsie). “Yes, plastic bags are harmful to the environment, but they are just as harmful and dangerous to our children. Passing this resolution ensures not only the safety of our environment, but also our children.”

“It’s gratifying, as a member of the minority, to see us lurch toward some progress, but that’s tinged with frustration when we’re just taking baby steps, which is what this rather tepid half-measure of a simple ban on single use plastic bags is,” said Legislator Frits Zernike (D-Beacon). “The grown up route is through a ban and fee hybrid law, like they’ve passed in Ulster. Unfortunately, the Republican majority in our legislature is content to plod along behind when we could be leaping ahead. What saddens me further is the missed opportunity to really start to shift our entire attitude away from disposability toward a more sustainable outlook.”

Molinaro deficit budget depletes fund balances, signals trouble for taxpayers

Democrats call for independent review of budget; propose focus on the opioid epidemic, cuts to bloated government

Marc Molinaro’s proposed 2019 Dutchess County budget uses $8.5 million in fund balance transfers to cover up a recurring structural deficit in his budget while setting aside nearly 20% of the general fund balance ($10M) in the hopes that extra sales tax revenue and other savings will materialize in 2019. And despite record spending of over half a billion dollars, the budget offers no new initiatives on fighting the opioid epidemic, while it continues to grow his own office’s budget.

Of particular concern in the budget is the use of $4 million from a debt reserve fund. Such funds are typically held in reserve for fiscal emergencies in order to reassure investors that bond payments will not be at risk. To unnecessarily dip into a debt reserve fund could hurt our bond rating and raise interest rates on future debt. There is no discussion in the budget of how the fund will be replenished to reassure investors.

County indebtedness is at $133 million and is projected to grow significantly over the next few years. Dutchess County has another $177 million in authorized debt waiting to be spent; the capital plan for 2019 could mean an additional $60 million in new debt. Debt service will consume 18% of the 2019 property tax levy and with interest rates rising, interest payments will soon bust the tax cap. This will result in sharp tax hikes and/or service cuts for our most vulnerable citizens.

The capital plan fails to show any appropriation in 2019 for the new county jail; in fact, the project has been delayed. This is worrisome given the mistakes and cost overruns on other, smaller capital projects like the new public defender’s office (45 Market Street) and the Stabilization Center (230 North Road).

Democrats are also calling for the county legislature to resume the annual practice of having an independent budget review, something that has not been done since Molinaro took office in 2012.

“The economy is healthy. Now is not the time to be using our ‘rainy-day’ funds to cover up deficit budgets,” said Legislator Francena Amparo (D-Wappinger). “And if there were to be an economic slowdown, the impacts would be even more devastating to taxpayers.”

The budget process allows for county legislators to offer amendments to the County Executive’s proposed tentative 2019 budget. Throughout the time legislators spend representing their constituents, they often take on issues most prominent within their district and advocate for such issues to be resolved by providing better, cost effective programs/services during the budget process.

Opioid Epidemic

In 2017, a record number of Dutchess County residents lost their lives to the opioid epidemic; that grim statistic is sure to climb for 2018. Despite record spending of more than half a billion dollars, the budget outlines no new initiatives of note to fight the opioid epidemic. Instead it relies heavily on “continuing” and “maintaining” prior efforts.

“If you look at the fine print, much of the proposed budget calls for ‘maintaining’ and ‘continuing’ what we’re doing. Other communities are adopting effective, cost-saving innovations in areas such as addiction recovery, environmental protection, transit, and more. We can experiment with some of these for very low cost, and we should be doing so,” said Legislator Rebecca Edwards (D-Poughkeepsie).

Democratic legislators will continue to push for providing addiction treatment at the county jail. Research shows that Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT), incorporating suboxone or methadone, is a particularly effective aid to successful, long term recovery. At least 80% of current inmates, most convicted of non-violent misdemeanors, have pre-documented addiction and/or mental health diagnoses. Yet MAT has never been offered at the jail. Providing MAT and stronger mental health support would save lives, reduce recidivism, lower the inmate population and save taxpayer dollars in the long run.

Additionally, Democratic legislators propose to fund the county’s Opioid Task Force to implement safe prescription practices, make Narcan available at every pharmacy, train a wider network of first responders, and ensure that MAT is available 24/7 at the Stabilization Center.

“How often do we hear that everyone has a loved one who suffers from opioid addiction? Admitting that we have a real crisis devastating our community is simply not enough. There’s no better time than the present to turn this crisis around with making it our main focus,” said Minority Leader Hannah Black (D-Hyde Park).

“Opioid addiction is a serious problem in Dutchess County and whatever the legislative body can do to assist individuals and families, we must provide assistance,” said Legislator Barbara Jeter-Jackson (D-City of Poughkeepsie).

Cuts and Redirecting Funds Toward Priorities

Democrats propose redirecting some existing funding lines to the fight against opioid addiction. For example, diverting some of the existing advertising and marketing monies into a comprehensive public education program aimed at helping residents with addiction and mental health disorders.

“Given recent difficulties with project cost overruns, we are also recommending that upcoming capital project plans be reconsidered or delayed to avoid higher debt service payments,” said Minority Whip Kristofer Munn (D-Red Hook).

Democrats also recommend cuts to the bloated budget of the County Executive’s office. The 2019 budget proposes to increase Molinaro’s office budget to 150% of the 2012 baseline – seven times the rate of growth of the overall county budget (22%). Democrats recommend reducing his budget to a 22% increase from the 2012 baseline saving over $700K.

“It is time for the County Executive’s office to evaluate why their office’s budget has grown exponentially compared to the rest of the budget,” said Legislator Craig Brendli (D-City of Poughkeepsie). “The money from this bloated budget could be better spent creating community programming, addressing deficiencies in other parts of County government, or improving grant opportunities for our local cities and towns.”

“It is unacceptable for the County Executive for the third year in a row now to allocate $4.8 million for wasteful overtime at our county jail— especially seeing as there are 57 nonviolent substance abusers locked up there now (each costing taxpayers $125/day— not charged with aggressive or violent acts or drug dealing) charged with nothing more than “criminal possession of a controlled substance”— the second most common charge for folks incarcerated at our county jail,” said Legislator Joel Tyner (D-Clinton Corners).

Community Non-Profits

Expanding the Agency Partnership Grants to support vital community agencies, especially those supporting youth. Effective after-school programs and youth employment should be priorities. Prevention and youth support are the most effective investments we can make in the health and growth of our community. Democratic legislators are proposing an emphasis on youth summer jobs that are provided through local not-for-profit agencies.

“Youth summer jobs have proven to reduce future rates of violent crime by up to 43%. It is time to make our at-risk youth a priority by providing them with real life-changing opportunities,” said Legislator Giancarlo Llaverias (D-Poughkeepsie).

Environmental

Implementing a climate change action plan via a full time Climate Smart Coordinator position that would bring considerable state funding to tackle environmental issues including green job creation, green energy production, green infrastructure and building practices, responsible waste disposal, and climate change preparedness. For example, a composting and recycling program could divert 1.5 million tons yearly of wet, heavy organic waste, turning it into a $230,000 asset per year rather than a cost burden such as Rockland County already successfully does.

“Neighboring Counties have reaped significant financial benefit by pursuing such opportunities. Ulster County, has secured millions in environmental grants since appointing a Climate Smart coordinator. It would be prudent for Dutchess County to follow suit and pursue a professional, effective response to climate change,” said Legislator Nick Page (D-Beacon).

“When you look at the budget, there’s no consistent, overriding structure to the whole thing providing for long term, fundamental solutions to the problems the county faces. Instead, it’s a bunch of band-aid style fixes,” said Frits Zernike (D-Beacon).

Budget Response Summary

Budget Response Full

Dutchess County Legislators Call for Formal Investigation by County Board of Ethics, the New York Attorney General’s Office, and JCOPE into Molinaro Administration

Eight members of the Dutchess County Legislature announced today that they are seeking formal investigations into Marc Molinaro’s conduct by the County Board of Ethics, the New York Attorney General’s Office, and the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (“JCOPE”).

The formal complaint was sent this past weekend following the discovery that Molinaro failed to disclose that a member of his immediate family was employed by a company receiving county contracts and tax breaks.

As has been reported, Marc Molinaro may have engaged in activities that amount to a violation of both the spirit and the letter of local and State ethics laws – in particular, the Dutchess County Code of Ethics (“the Ethics Code”) and Article 18 of the General Municipal Law.

Public documents have corroborated the newspaper reports, leading to concerns and questions regarding possible corruption in the Dutchess County procurement processes. Among those documents are Molinaro’s 2015 and 2016 financial disclosure forms where he failed to list his spouse’s job with a county contractor and his 2017 form where he did not identify the company nor the conflict of interest.

These unethical and potentially illegal schemes must be investigated, and if proven illegal, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Click here for the full complaint.

Dutchess Democrats propose banning use of taxpayer funds to promote county politicians

On July 2, Dutchess County Republicans blocked yet another anti-corruption and good-government law when Dutchess County Legislature Chair Gregg Pulver (R-North East) removed a proposed law from July’s agenda that, if passed, would ban the use of taxpayer funds to promote politicians.

Taxpayer-funded flyer promoting 2018 budget and the County Executive.
The law, put forward by Dutchess County Democrats, would, among other things, prevent local officials from appearing on taxpayer-funded mailings, something that happens regularly in Dutchess County.

“The Legislature is the branch of government that approves the appropriations of how money is spent; we cannot afford to serve as rubber stampers,” said Legislator Francena Amparo (D-Wappingers Falls).

Despite a similar law having been passed in Ulster and Westchester counties, the Republican-appointed County Attorney, Republican-appointed Legislative Attorney and Republican Chair of the Legislature claimed it would not be proper to pass such a law in Dutchess and thus should not be allowed on the agenda.

“Dutchess County spends tens of thousands of dollars on mailings and materials each year that have photos of local elected officials, usually the County Executive,” said Legislator Giancarlo Llaverias (D-Poughkeepsie). “We should be focused on helping the people of Dutchess County, not promoting politicians.”

Taxpayer-funded budget mailer sent to households throughout the county promoting the County Executive.
Among the arguments against considering the proposed law was that it would interfere with the county executive’s “power to inform the public about government administration.”

“Are they suggesting that the county executive will refuse to do informative mailings unless a politician gets their headshot on it?” asked Minority Whip Kristofer Munn (D-Red Hook). “If that’s true, then we still need this law but we also need new people making those decisions as well.”

The Public Likeness law is only the latest in a long string of government reforms blocked by Republicans with similar excuses including campaign finance reform, term limits and a local prescription drug take-back law.

Molinaro signs law to make it easier to raise his salary

On July 3, Dutchess County Executive (and Republican candidate for governor) Marcus Molinaro signed a law clearing the way for his salary and those of other county elected officials to be raised in any year instead of requiring a vote during election years. Prior to this change, politicians were required to face the voters the same year they approved any salary change.

The resolution vaguely titled, “A local law governing when the salaries of certain elected county officials may be fixed,” was proposed by Molinaro and its effects were explained on the floor of the legislature by his Assistant County Executive Chris Baiano during June’s committee meeting.

This isn’t the first time Molinaro has worked to raise his salary.

“As Tivoli taxpayers might recall, Molinaro has a history of enriching himself at the taxpayers’ expense,” said Elisa Sumner, Chair of the Dutchess County Democratic Committee.

In 1993, the year before Molinaro joined the Tivoli Village council as trustee, the mayor of the tiny municipality received $4000/year. He became mayor in 1995 and by 2006 his compensation was nearly five times as high at $19,373.47. Tivoli has less than 500 homes while the nearby Village of Red Hook, which paid its mayor just $3,000 in 2006, has more than 900.

The salary law was approved by 13 Republican legislators during the June 11, 2018 full board meeting of the Dutchess County Legislature. Every Democratic legislator and one Republican opposed the change. The final vote was 13-10.

During the June 11 meeting, Legislator Barbara Jeter-Jackson (D-Poughkeepsie) asked the chamber if someone could explain why this change was necessary or good. Her query was met with silence from the assembled proponents and administration staff.

“Another example of the rubber stamp Republicans in the Dutchess County Legislature,” said Sumner. “They couldn’t explain why they were passing it but they went along with it anyway.”

Molinaro’s law was sponsored in the legislature by Chairman Gregg Pulver (R-North East), Assistant Majority Leader Don Sagliano (R-Pleasant Valley) and Legislator Jim Miccio (R-Fishkill). None of them answered Legislator Jeter-Jackson.

“Good government allows for its people to participate in it and holds elected officials accountable. This new law is the opposite of good government,” said Minority Leader Hannah Black (D-Hyde Park).

For decades, the law required that votes to change salaries could only happen during election years before July 15 to allow the voters to weigh in immediately on the decision. For example, legislator salaries could only be voted on in odd-numbered years (not in 2018) and salaries for elected officials with four-year terms like county sheriff, county clerk and county executive could only be voted on once every four years: the year they face the voters.

Under both the new and old laws, any salary changes would not take effect until after an election and the next term begins.

“Why fix what’s not broken?”, said Legislator Frits Zernike (D-Beacon). “As it stands, the law makes any change in salary come closer to an election, so any increase we decide on, we’ll have to answer for. Why hide that by moving it to an off-cycle year?”

“I voted no because I refuse to be an accomplice in the effort to hide votes on salary increases for elected officials,” said Minority Whip Kristofer Munn (D-Red Hook). “If anybody feels an increase is justified, they should be ready to make their case to their voters.”

Dutchess Democrats pass outreach resolution for volunteer boards

At the July 9, 2018 full board meeting of the Dutchess County Legislature, members unanimously passed a Democratic resolution to improve outreach for citizen participation in volunteer boards and committees, overcoming Republican resistance at the June sessions.

The final amended form of the resolution, entitled “Resolution to strengthen outreach and participation in Dutchess County volunteer boards and committees,” requires the county to list the many volunteer boards and committees on the county website in a consistent manner and explain their purpose. It would list the members of the committees, provide details on when and where they meet and how to volunteer to join one. It also requires that candidates put forward for appointment or reappointment include an updated or current resume.

Previously, the membership of many boards was unavailable and the very existence of some committees were hard to confirm, even by legislators.

“This legislation helps residents connect more easily with volunteer committees that are helping the county work on a particular issue–whether it’s Lyme disease, environmental hazards, traffic safety, or veterans’ welfare,” said Legislator Rebecca Edwards (D-Poughkeepsie). “The more we work together the more good we can do.”

Originally introduced as a transparency resolution covering all of county government and requiring the publication of agendas and minutes, the resolution was amended by Republicans in July to remove those requirements and to exempt the County Executive’s meetings and boards. Republicans had voted against considering the original resolution on June 7 on a party line vote.

The Democratic caucus is a proponent of transparency and will continue to support and push for more resolutions such as this to insure better government.

“Although this is a watered down version of the original transparency resolution that Legislator Edwards worked tirelessly on, I am happy that we were able to finally get a resolution on the record that will prove to offer the public a real opportunity to get involved in their local government along with staying up-to-date on the issues we are working to resolve,” said Minority Leader Hannah Black (D-Hyde Park).

“This is a good first step and something that should have happened years ago,” said Minority Leader Kristofer Munn (D-Red Hook). “Minutes and agendas should also be publicly available and there is no reason volunteer boards overseen by the county executive should be exempt but we’ll take what we can get for now.”

“An inclusive government makes our community stronger. Especially when progress comes with a $0 price tag, perpetuating barriers to participation is indefensible,” said Legislator Nick Page (D-Beacon).

“If you want to get involved with county government, it ought to be easy to find out how. Government, after all, is not some distant foreign thing, made up of ‘them’. Government is us; we, the people. That’s really what this resolution stands for,” said Legislator Frits Zernike (D-Beacon).

“Good; step in the right direction— just common sense; next step should be even more transparency— for instance, county contracts should be up online on our official county government website so everyone can research for themselves pay-to-play in our county, comparing information there with data from our state Board of Elections website,” said Legislator Joel Tyner (D-Clinton).

Dutchess County Democrats continue push to increase openness in county government

At the June 7, 2018 committee meeting of the Dutchess County Legislature, Republicans unexpectedly voted in unison to block a resolution to improve transparency in county government. The committee vote occurred along party lines, 6-5.

The resolution, entitled “Resolution for Transparency in Dutchess County volunteer boards and committees” would require the county to list the many volunteer boards and committees on the county website in a consistent manner and explain their purpose. It would list the members of the committees, provide details on when and where they meet and how to volunteer to join one.

Currently, the membership of many boards is unavailable and the very existence of some committees can be hard to confirm, even by legislators.

“Dutchess makes it hard for residents to find out how to volunteer and join conversations about key issues such as suicide prevention, Lyme disease, elder abuse, or serving the needs of veterans,” said Legislator Rebecca Edwards (D-Poughkeepsie). “This shouldn’t be a partisan issue–it’s a common sense step that would strengthen our community and our government.”

Originally put forward at the May meeting, it was tabled at the Republicans’ behest in order to get an updated fiscal impact statement and to clarify the request for the county’s IT department. The current fiscal impact statement is zero – no cost for improved transparency – based on updated language.

“An inclusive government makes our community stronger. Especially when progress comes with a $0 price tag, perpetuating barriers to participation is indefensible,” said Legislator Nick Page (D-Beacon).

The June vote was to resume consideration of the tabled resolution.

“The 300,000 residents of Dutchess deserve a county government that is fully transparent and accountable to them. Period.” said Legislator Joel Tyner (D-Clinton)

Republicans that had stated their support on the floor in May, including Will Truitt (R-Hyde Park), suddenly voted against discussing the same resolution in June.

“We figured something simple like listing committee names on the website would be an easy bipartisan lift for the legislature,” said Minority Whip Kristofer Munn (D-Red Hook). “It is unclear why there is suddenly opposition to requiring this information to be made available to the public.”

“If you want to get involved with county government, it ought to be easy to find out how. Government, after all, is not some distant foreign thing, made up of ‘them’. Government is us; we, the people. That’s really what this resolution stands for,” said Legislator Frits Zernike (D-Beacon).

The effort to add volunteer boards and committees to the website follows a successful rules change in January proposed by the Democrats to require legislative committee minutes to be posted separately on the county’s website.

Dutchess County Republicans vote to make it easier to raise salaries of county elected officials

At the June 11, 2018 full board meeting of the Dutchess County Legislature, Republican legislators voted to make it easier to raise their own salaries and those of other county elected officials. Every Democratic legislator was opposed to the change. The local law was approved 13-10.

“Good government allows for its people to participate in it and holds elected officials accountable. This new law is the opposite of good government,” said Minority Leader Hannah Black (D-Hyde Park).

The new law, when signed by Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro (R-Red Hook) who did not oppose the measure, allows the legislature to vote to raise the salaries of elected officials (including Molinaro’s) in any year instead of just election years.

Molinaro is currently running for governor of New York and did not attend the meeting.

During the meeting, Legislator Barbara Jeter-Jackson (D-Poughkeepsie) asked the chamber if someone could explain why this change was necessary and good. Her query was met with silence from the assembled lawmakers and administration staff.

The new law was sponsored by Chairman Gregg Pulver (R-North East), Assistant Majority Leader Don Sagliano (R-Pleasant Valley) and Legislator Jim Miccio (R-Fishkill). None of them answered Legislator Jeter-Jackson.

“Why fix what’s not broken?”, said Legislator Frits Zernike (D-Beacon). “As it stands, the law makes any change in salary come closer to an election, so any increase we decide on, we’ll have to answer for. Why hide that by moving it to an off-cycle year?”

The existing law required that votes to change salaries could only happen during election years before July 15 to allow the voters to weigh in immediately on the decision. For example, legislator salaries could only be voted on in odd-numbered years (not in 2018) and salaries for elected officials with four-year terms like county sheriff, county clerk and county executive could only be voted on once every four years: the year they face the voters.

“What could possibly be their motivation for pushing this now? This does not bode well for taxpayers of Dutchess,” said Legislator Joel Tyner (D-Clinton).

“I am not interested in allowing public servants to be less accountable to the people they serve,” said Legislator Nick Page (D-Beacon).

Under both the new and old laws, any salary changes will not take effect until after an election and the next term begins.

“I voted no because I refuse to be an accomplice in the effort to hide votes on salary increases for elected officials,” said Minority Whip Kristofer Munn (D-Red Hook). “If anybody feels an increase is justified, they should be ready to make their case to their voters.”

Dutchess Democrats continue push to expand Prescription Drug Take-back measures, fight opioid abuse

Democrats in the Dutchess County Legislature recently proposed legislation that would require drug manufacturers to pay for the installation of secure, drug take-back boxes at every pharmacy in the county rather than making the county taxpayers (or local business owners) foot the bill.

On Wednesday, Democratic legislators again called on the Republican leadership to allow their legislation onto the floor and to do more for residents that want to dispose of their unused prescription drugs and help combat the opioid epidemic and reduce teen drug abuse.

“On March 11, we submitted legislation modeled on a law that passed unanimously in Rockland County last year that would cost taxpayers nothing,” said County Legislator Joel Tyner (D-Clinton). “It wasn’t even allowed on the agenda for discussion.”

“This is one small way that the pharmaceutical companies that have profited so handsomely from the over-distribution of these narcotics can begin to assume some responsibility in mitigating the damage that they cause,” said County Legislator Nick Page (D-Beacon).

On Monday, May 14, the Dutchess County Legislature unanimously passed a resolution to help a handful of qualified pharmacies to set up secure drop boxes for unused prescription drugs. This act applies to just six pharmacies in towns that do not already have a drop box at their local police stations.

The county will offer $1500 to pharmacies who are willing to install the take-back boxes to help offset the cost. This grant money will allow for small, mom and pop pharmacies to participate without financially straining their businesses.

“This was better than nothing, but barely so. We have proposed better solutions that are being ignored,” said Minority Whip Kristofer Munn (D-Red Hook). “With the ongoing opioid crisis and the misuse of leftover prescription drugs by kids, we need to make it as easy as possible for people to drop off their unused pharmaceuticals.”

“Many youths are taking leftover drugs purchased from big chain stores and risking their lives,” said County Legislator Giancarlo Llaverias (D-Poughkeepsie). “A single take-back box can save a life – we need one in every pharmacy.”

The Democratic caucus plans to resubmit the legislation requiring drug take-back boxes county-wide.

“Given the number of lawsuits across the state and the country, the time is ripe for a manufacturer-funded drug take-back program in New York State,” said County Legislator Francena Amparo (D-Wappingers)

“We won’t wait for the State to set this necessary legislation,” said Minority Leader Hannah Black (D-Hyde Park). “It is within our purview to expand this program to all pharmacies in our county.”

Karen Smythe endorsed for State Senate by County Dems

At their March 1 full county meeting, the Dutchess Democrats overwhelmingly endorsed Karen Smythe (D-Red Hook) as their preferred candidate for New York’s 41st Senate District seat currently held by Sue Serino (R-Hyde Park).

Two candidates sought the committee’s endorsement. Smythe, a newcomer to local politics, was born and raised in Poughkeepsie. After working as a marketing executive, Smythe ran her family’s construction business, C.B. Strain & Son. Also seeking the endorsement was Joel Tyner (D-Clinton) who serves in the county legislature.

The final margin was 83% to 17% in favor of Smythe. The Putnam County Democrats had already endorsed Smythe ahead of the meeting.

County Dems endorse Delgado in tight CD19 race

In a close vote, the Dutchess County Democratic Committee voted to endorse Antonio Delgado (D-Rhinebeck) in the 19th Congressional District at their full county meeting on March 1.

Six candidates were nominated and considered: Pat Ryan, Gareth Rhodes, Brian Flynn, Delgado, David Clegg and Jeffrey Beals.

To prevent one candidate receiving an endorsement with a just small fraction of the overall vote, the committee elected to use Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) (also known as Instant Runoff Voting) to select the endorsee.

The final round of voting had Delgado with 51.5% of the weighted vote and Flynn with 48.5%. The final ranking was Delgado, Flynn, Ryan, Beals, Clegg and Rhodes.

Looking solely at first place votes, Delgado received 33.1%, Ryan 27.7%, Flynn 23.7%, Beals 7.5%, Clegg 4.3% and Rhodes 3.1%. Flynn had enough second and third place votes from eliminated candidates that he was able to get past Ryan and take second during the runoff.

County Dems meet to consider endorsements for a number of local races
Under RCV, voters listed the candidates in order of preference from 1 thru 6. Once submitted, the ballots were sorted to identify the candidate with the fewest number of votes. That candidate was then removed from contention and the ballots in his pile were distributed among the other candidates based on the next preferred candidate on each ballot.

That process is repeated until a candidate has more than 50% of the vote. Each committee member represents an election district and, by rule, the weight of their vote is based on how many Democratic votes came from that election district during the last gubernatorial election (2014). Only members in CD19 were eligible to cast ballots. So a member coming from a large Democratic-voting district would have more weight than one coming from a smaller, Republican-voting district.

Lawmakers call for Censure of Legislator Joseph Incoronato for Offensive Remarks about Sexual Assault Victims

Legislator Joseph Incoronato (R-Wappinger) defends his statements blaming sexual assault victims.
POUGHKEEPSIE — Four members of the Dutchess County Legislature have put forward a resolution to censure Legislator Joseph Incoronato for his offensive and inexcusable statements in 2016 and 2017 that blamed the victims of sexual assault for their attacks.

Legislators Hannah Black (Hyde Park & Staatsburg), Francena Amparo (Wappinger), Rebecca Edwards (Town of Poughkeepsie) and Barbara Jeter-Jackson (City of Poughkeepsie) submitted the resolution Friday in time to be included on the agenda for the January 22 meeting.

During a committee meeting of the Dutchess County Legislature on June 9, 2016, Legislator Joseph Incoronato (Wappinger) made remarks placing blame on the victims of rape and sexual assault for their attacks if they had consumed alcohol or drugs or were unconscious at the time of the attack. When he was interrupted on the floor and the offensive nature of his statements was brought to his attention, he responded that he was simply stating “reality.”

“We cannot tolerate a society that allows victim-blaming, and we must call out any elected officials who would hold with such a shameful belief system,” said Legislator Amparo.

Ironically, Incoronato’s negative comments were made during a question and answer session that followed a presentation about the Start By Believing campaign. The campaign is supported and funded by the Department of Criminal Justice Service and Dutchess County Department of Community and Family Services, and its goal is to stop the cycle of responding negatively when someone confides in you that they were raped or sexually assaulted because this worsens their trauma. Doing so creates an environment where victims do not feel safe to come forward so their perpetrators often do not face consequences for these violent crimes.

“Statements like these make it more difficult for victims of predatory crimes to press charges,” said Legislator Edwards, who has been appointed to a new county task force that will review the county’s programs to address sexual violence. “That makes it harder to get help to those who are suffering in the aftermath of rape.”

“Victim-blaming is a prime example of Rape Culture and must not be tolerated,” said Amparo. “It marginalizes the victim and makes it impossible to come forward, while at the same time empowering the abuser.”

More than a year later, when confronted via e-mail about his remarks by a resident, Incoronato defended his remarks and dismissed the criticism. Only when faced with overwhelming pressure from colleagues and the public in an election year did he offer an apology late last year.

“In an era when we are working harder than ever to protect victims, these words perpetuate the same old stereotypes that have pushed these crimes into the shadows. As a legislative body, we must prove to our community that we do not stand by Legislator Incoronato’s damaging statements and we as representatives will stand up to be voices for our constituents who have been victims of sexual assault and rape crimes,” said Minority Leader Hannah Black.

The censure resolution points out the demeaning nature of Incoronato’s statements and notes that he has brought shame and embarrassment upon the citizens of the county and the legislature as a whole.

“We hope other legislators, including many who spoke out against Legislator Incoronato last year, will join us in supporting this resolution for formal censure,” said Black.

Sign the petition: Say NO to $192 million bond for a new jail and Sheriff’s complex in Dutchess County

Say NO to $192 million jail bond

This petition is now closed.

End date: Mar 22, 2016

Signatures collected: 431

431 signatures

Send a message to your representatives to say NO to the $192 million dollar bond at the March 21st Legislative meeting. Tell them to reduce the cost.

THE FACTS:
The current plan to build a mega-jail complex will triple our county debt and require about $10 million in yearly debt service payments for 27 years.

It is the most expensive jail renovation in the last 10 years in NY state. It has a per bed cost that is almost twice the rate of the Ulster County jail expansion. Dutchess $409,382 vs Ulster $269,953 in 2016 dollars

Dutchess County incarceration rate is well above the average for NY state counties. On any given day, Dutchess County has more people in jail per 100,000 county residents than 33 of the 62 counties in the state, ranking in the bottom half.

Before Dutchess County builds a mega-jail, we need answers to the following questions:

  1. Who, exactly, is in jail, for what reasons? According to various reports:

    70-80% have mental health or drug/alcohol abuse problems
    37% are African-American, yet they make up less than 12% of our county population
    65% have been charged with misdemeanors (25%) or non-violent felonies (40%)
    80% are awaiting trial, and the avg length of stay before adjudication is about a month

  2. We have committed money through a bond already to establish a new Crisis Stabilization Center. Shouldn’t we wait to see the how successful it is diverting those with mental health and substance abuse issues from our jail?
  3. Shouldn’t money be put into programs like the former Youth Bureau Project Return, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, or Green Team right now instead of at some future time (after we are done paying the almost $10 million in debt service each year)?
  4. Why do we have to build a new sheriff’s building at all, especially a 58,000 sq ft facility with an 8,000 sq ft fitness/training area with weight room? And why is the design such that it calls for $1,000,000+ in bullet proof glass?
  5. What happens if the rosy picture that’s being forecast is wrong? Why does the legislature have to approve the entire $192 million bond issue right now, when there are so many unanswered questions. Also, why are they being rushed into approval so quickly, with so little time even to study the Environmental Assessment Form (EAF)?

There is a reason this will be the largest such project undertaken: because other municipalities saw the potential dangers and examples of how big projects like this can create disaster for taxpayers.

See also:
The Dutchess Democratic Women’s Caucus Opposes the Current Jail Bond
Jobs Not Jails
Vera Institute of Justice

Zephyr Teachout receives Dutchess endorsement

Zephyr Teachout and Elizabeth Spinzia

Zephyr Teachout and Elizabeth Spinzia
Town of Rhinebeck Supervisor Elizabeth Spinzia congratulates Zephyr Teachout (left) after the endorsement results were announced.

Dutchess Democrats convened on Saturday, March 5 at Tymor Park and voted overwhelmingly to endorse law professor Zephyr Teachout for the 19th Congressional District currently held by Republican Chris Gibson. Gibson has announced he is not seeking another term.

That’ll leave a Marc; $6 million ‘Robbed’ from City of Poughkeepsie budget

Marc Molinaro

Recent reports that the new City of Poughkeepsie administration headed by Republican Mayor Rob (or perhaps Robbed) Rolison has discovered nearly $8 million in debts – including more than $1 million owed to the Poughkeepsie School District – left unpaid by outgoing Republican Mayor John Tkazyik leaves us asking one important question: Where did the money go?

Tkazyik, Molinaro and Rolison
Former Mayor John Tkazyik (R) (left), County Executive Marc Molinaro (R) (center) and new Mayor Rob Rolison (R) are center stage in a financial train wreck centered around the City of Poughkeepsie.
We know at least $6 million in sales tax revenue was taken from the struggling city by Dutchess County under the direction of Republican County Executive Marcus Molinaro and the Republican-dominated county legislature. Facing his own budget problems in 2011, Molinaro ripped up the existing sales tax sharing agreement and pushed through a new plan that filled the county coffers at the expense of the cities and towns. Since 2012, the City of Poughkeepsie has lost an estimated $6M in sales tax revenues – money that would have gone a long way to paying the bills.

And who was leading the county legislature at the time? None other than then-Chairman Robbed Rolison! Ah the irony. But it is surely less amusing to the Poughkeepsie residents that will have to foot the bill with higher taxes and reduced services.

Milan town board turns bluer

Doug Raelson, Milan Town BoardWith the appointment and subsequent election of Doug Raelson, the town of Milan has 3 Democrats on the town board holding a majority position.

“I am happy to be at a stage where I can put my experience to work for our community as member of the Milan Town Board,” said Raelson, a practicing attorney for more than 40 years. “Most of us want to maintain Milan’s rural character and keep its land and water clean…. there is not a lot of development pressure on our town at the moment, but if growth becomes inevitable, we can manage it smartly and in a way that does not price out our local families,”

Raelson brings a valuable set of skills to the town board. A graduate of Dartmouth College and NYU Law School, he is experienced in land use and real estate issues and provides pro bono legal services to local environmental groups. Raelson is also active on the alternative energy source front involved with homeowners taking advantage of current government incentives when acquiring solar panels and advocating for the harnessing of wave energy at appropriate sites around the globe.

“I believe I can add my knowledge and skills to the board to both help preserve what is best about Milan and maintain a sound financial footing,” Raelson added.