2013 News Releases

Legislature
Dale L. Borchert, Chairman

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Catherine Durland

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January 8, 2013        Print version


2013 Chairman Address

Robert G. Rolison, Chairman
Address to the Dutchess County Legislature

 

January 8, 2013

My fellow legislators and colleagues,

I am honored to once again be chosen by my colleagues to represent them and this distinguished legislative body as its Chairman.  The role is one that I find truly rewarding and I am proud of the work we have accomplished together.  And I am grateful for the opportunity to continue on this path we have begun in transforming County Government.     

In 2012, I asked that you join me in committing ourselves to govern through consensus.  In doing so, we overcame numerous obstacles including a $40 million dollar budget gap, a credit rating in jeopardy, and ultimately delivered a budget that reduced spending by nearly $7 million dollars, held the property tax levy under the State Property Tax Cap, and ensured the continuation of core County services. 

Through civil debates and thoughtful consideration, we worked diligently to meet the expectations of those we serve.  While the decisions we have had to make have not been easy, the Dutchess County electorate entrusted us to make those tough decisions and work together to transform government and ease the burdens of our constituents. 

The past year has found this Legislature renewed with vigor and purpose. In the spirit of consensus we have found a partner in the Executive and his Administration.  Most of us understand that through civil discourse and public dialogue we can make the best possible decisions for the people we represent. This isn’t about political point scoring or challenging the Executive for the sake of challenging the Executive. Rather, we must strive to be the legislative body that crosses organizational and political barriers, participate in discussions, and work together to craft the best possible policies for the people of Dutchess County and assist in the making of management decisions that impact those that provide, and those that need, County services. This is a collaborative effort, one we all are engaged in, and one we all play an important role in. 

As we look ahead, we will not be without challenges and strife.  American industrialist and businessman Henry Ford, once said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”   To address these fiscal and economic challenges it will take the continuation of the progress we have made thus far. 

In County Executive Molinaro’s first year in office, we worked with his Administration to begin a multi-year transformation.  In doing so, we have already seen phase one of the consolidations and reorganization of various county departments.  Our goal here is to deliver County services in the most efficient and effective manner possible.  It will take the buy in from many stakeholders and a commitment of civil partnership to see these new initiatives through, but may I remind you we all have the same goal in mind – to forge a better Dutchess County.

The partnerships we have formed are essential as County Government joins with nonprofits and municipalities to provide fundamental services that County residents need and rely upon.  As Federal and State mandates continue to be imposed on us, it takes innovative strategies in order to meet these obligations.  Therefore, we have considered and will continue to explore options to consolidate or share services with other public sector entities.  However, it is imperative to have an open dialogue with state lawmakers in order to achieve mandate relief.  I can not stress how critical it is that our concerns are heard in Albany.  We need the ability at the county level to make decisions without having to request permission from the State, we know the needs of our community and we need Albany to act as a partner not an obstruction.

To that end, the County Executive called me to tell me he wanted to be here tonight to offer his support of this legislative body and commend its selection of Chairman, but he is in Albany today advocating for our County.  In my conversations with him in the past day or so we have agreed that was I not being sworn in as Chairman this evening I would be right there with him fighting for our mutual constituents and taxpayers. But soon enough he and I will be in Albany fighting the good fight for the people of this County.

Recently, I was appointed to serve as Chairman of the Hudson Valley Regional Council.  The council membership consists of elected officials and representatives of Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties.  Throughout the State, regional councils like this are collaborating on initiatives such as planning, education, outreach, and advocacy.  Together, we are working to strengthen, enhance and improve our ability to provide services to the region. Yet another important partnership that will be beneficial to us all and to this County.

In 2012, the Dyson Foundation along with the Marist College Institute of Public Opinion conducted a survey on determining the issues that are important to Dutchess County residents.  Results showed that creating more jobs and keeping businesses in the County are residents’ leading concerns.  Respondents also emphasized that the improvement to the quality of public education, the accessibility of health care, services available to senior citizens, tax reduction, and community safety are of concern as well. It is through our committee structures where we address these issues.

The Public Safety Committee led by Legislator Ken Roman has been active on many fronts.  The Jail Study Advisory Committee submitted reports in 2011-2012 assessing our current criminal justice system.  The findings of that report along with the report by the Criminal Justice Council has recommended ways to move forward on addressing the current jail overcrowding issue, the fiscal implications this has had and how we can provide better conditions for our jail population through a modern, transitional facility.  We believe that we need to also improve programs to transition inmates back into the community as well as better outcomes and pragmatic initiatives for those who are in our ATI programs. 

Public safety is paramount. In light of the event in Newtown, Connecticut I joined members of the Executive Branch and the Sheriff’s Office last week to meet with our local School District Superintendents to identify the best way to meet their safety needs.  The Legislature, I am sure, is committed to providing the resources necessary for school safety and to advocate at the State and Federal levels for assistance to do so.  I have asked Public Safety Chairmen Ken Roman, who is a Lieutenant with the Town of Poughkeepsie Police Department and had previously spent thirteen years as an Elementary School DARE Officer and Legislator Pete Wilkinson, who retired as Chief of Town of Poughkeepsie Police Department to stand ready to offer any assistance through our Public Safety Committee to our local schools and communities.

Legislator Donna Bolner, who leads our Family and Human Services Committee, has continued to work diligently to ensure that we provide the very best in community services that are essential to the quality of life of our residents here in Dutchess County.  This includes special populations such as youth, veterans, seniors and individuals dealing with mental health issues.  I want to especially commend Donna for her advocacy in the area of Domestic Violence, an issue near and dear to me as well, as together we continue to find new ways to protect victims and prosecute offenders.

Our Public Works and Capital Projects Committee led by Legislator Gerry Hutchings ensures that the infrastructure, which is necessary in order for the County to function, continues to get the attention it deserves and action it requires.  As part of the consolidation process specific components of the Department of Public Works and Central Services were merged to eliminate duplicity and today, we are well equipped in ensuring that our road, bridges, water supply, sewers, telecommunications, county’s solid waste management and so forth, are maintained and meet the highest standards. Gerry is always on top of these issues and I thank him for it.

I want to acknowledge Legislator Jim Miccio, Chairman of the Budget, Finance, and Personnel Committee, whose insight and input was critical throughout the long budget process. Legislator Mike Kelsey, who leads our Government Services and Administration Committee, plays an important role in making sure our local laws pass muster and we will be working through that committee in the coming months as we seek to enhance our consumer protection laws.

Dutchess County has rich and abundant natural resources.  The protection and preservation of the land, water, and natural beauty of our county is vital.  The Environment Committee led by Legislator Ben Traudt plays a critical role as good stewards of environmental issues here in Dutchess County. Further, I want to thank Legislator Miccio and his working group of Legislators who worked on solid waste management issues here in the county. Through their advocacy Dutchess County now has a Solid Waste Management department through county planning and because of the addition of this solid waste management planning unit we are being told the Local Solid Waste Management Plan (LSWMP) is nearly ready for this body’s consideration and adoption. It has been a long road but the final product will surely be something we can all be proud of.

While I have referenced our Committee Chairmen by name, it truly takes the work of all respective Legislative members of the committees to do the work necessary to carry out its mission.  Your diligence and hard work does not go unnoticed and you should all get a round of applause.

This year we will commemorate Dutchess County 300th anniversary of democracy.  With the assistance of our County Historian William Tatum, I too look forward to promoting our County’s rich history.  In addition, the sector devoted to economic development is essential in order to attract, retain, and promote what Dutchess County has to offer residents, businesses, and nonprofits.  With the guidance of Ron Hicks, Deputy Director of Strategic Planning and Economic Development, we will together look to bring in businesses and create jobs. Overall, initiatives to promote tourism and economic development lead to many positive outcomes; outcomes that make County Government and the local economy stronger.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge our countywide elected officials that emulate true public servants.  Sheriff Adrian “Butch” Anderson, District Attorney Bill Grady, County Clerk Brad Kendall, and Comptroller Jim Coughlan; thank you for your service and all you do for our residents.  I look forward to the continued partnerships with you that this legislature has as we confront the challenges we have before us.
This year we have a new Legislator Debra Blalock representing the towns of Milan, Pine Plains, Northeast and a portion of Stanford, we welcome her to our legislative family.  Please join me in welcoming her.

We, as Legislators, come from different perspectives, points of view, and geographic regions.  These characteristics of diversity, dedication and diligence enable us to accomplish great things.  While other levels of government may be in deadlock due to partisan differences and political gamesmanship, we have the opportunity and the obligation to continue to move forward. 

I want to thank the Clerk of the Legislature Carolyn Morris, Deputy Clerk Leigh Wager, and Deirdre Werner for their service and dedication.  Without their assistance we would be unable to provide and serve our constituents with what they have come to expect of their representatives.  To our Legislative Counselor Scott Volkman, thank you, for your advice, guidance, and assistance.  And to my Assistant Catherine Durland, who, without Catherine I would not be able to do many of the things that I have been able to do and when we are able to do these things together having Catherine along with the legislative staff helping is very important.  To close this part out, none of us in this room can be effective if we do not have our family members support. I have said this so many times and I think it bears repeating, when you become an elected official it takes receiving your family’s approval to enter into public service.  And, yes, the voters vote you in but the support of family and friends is key.  We are here, we are at our local board meetings, we serve on various committees and boards, we are accessible many times 24/7 with the phone ringing during dinner, weekends and even on vacation.  If it wasn’t for their understanding, we wouldn’t be able to function at the high level we function and with that I would like to acknowledge my wife, Lori and son, Christopher for them allowing me this opportunity to serve. 

In closing on behalf of Legislature leadership – Majority Leader Dale Borchert, Assistant Majority Leader Angela Flesland, my colleague from the City of Poughkeepsie Minority Leader Barbara Jeter-Jackson and Assistant Minority Leader Alison MacAvery– we look forward to working with you to continue our journey together, a journey that will make Dutchess County truly great again.  And together we will continue on this path to set Dutchess County Government on course for stronger fiscal stability. And I truly believe this because of the hard work we have done together thus far and I believe things will truly get better here sooner because of the commitment we have made to our County, Dutchess County.  I believe because we work that way because the way we conduct ourselves in these Chambers and the fact that we have set a foundation in working with the Executive and all these department heads here tonight who work so very hard day in and day out to provide the services they can in the best possible and efficient manner to our County residents. And I want to thank you very much for being here this evening and we appreciate the work you do for us as well.

So again, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. You know how very much I think of all of you. While we have had the opportunity to work so very closely on many initiatives, 2013 will be no different and we will be faced with challenges but together- I am confident that we will overcome and ensure Dutchess County reaches its full potential. Thank you for your time this evening and may God bless our County and our Country.

 

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