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January 7, 2014        Print version

2014 Chairman's Address
Robert G. Rolison, Chairman - Address to the Dutchess County Legislature


Thank you for entrusting me and having the confidence in my leadership to once again be Chairman of this distinguished body. This is a responsibility that I do not take lightly and everyday consider the awesome responsibility that is bestowed upon me and, all of us, to make decisions in the best interest of the people of our County.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank many of the people who helped me to make this possible and work so hard for the people of Dutchess County.

First, to my wife, Lori and son, Chris for their love and support. Being an elected official comes with great sacrifice, not just for those elected, but for their families. I thank all of you, here and at home, who support and sacrifice for your loved one and for the citizens of Dutchess County.

Next, our County Executive Marc Molinaro, who’s inspiring leadership and partnership has been a tremendous asset to our County and to making Dutchess a better place for all of us. It is a pleasure to work with you and your team.

Thank you to all our countywide elected officials: Sheriff Butch Anderson, District Attorney Bill Grady, County Clerk Brad Kendall, and Comptroller Jim Coughlan. Thank you for your continued partnership and work for the people of Dutchess.

A Special thank you to:

  • Clerk of Legislature Carolyn Morris
  • Deputy Clerk Leigh Wager
  • Legislative Assistant Diana Viggiano
  • Legislative Counsel Scott Volkman
  • My Assistant Catherine Durland

and also a special thanks to our

  • Web & Video Provider Patti Walis

Last but certainly not least -- A very heartfelt thank you to my colleagues.

Please now welcome 6 new legislators to our body.

  • April Marie Farley from Beacon
  • Don Sagliano from Pleasant Valley
  • Ellen Nesbitt Town of Poughkeepsie
  • Gwen C. Johnson from City of Poughkeepsie
  • Gregg Pulver from Pine Plains
  • Micki Strawinski from Red Hook

We look forward to working with you.

I’m also excited to announce that our respective caucuses are now led by women.

  • Majority Leader Angela E. Flesland
  • Minority Leader Barbara Jeter-Jackson
  • Assistant Majority Leader Donna Bolner
  • Assistant Minority Leader Alison MacAvery.

Many thanks to the County employees who are making daily sacrifices in performing their jobs. They do excellent work for county residents, they’re doing more with less and we appreciate their efforts.

Last year I stood before you and spoke of the importance of collaboration and working together.

And while we sometimes start in opposite corners, we work together to build consensus and do what is in the best interest of our great county.

Over the last year we did just that. We faced tough challenges, but were able to make great strides in our work to put Dutchess County back on the right track.

This last year we once again delivered a budget under the State’s mandated 2% cap, we have reduced spending by $3.9 million and we have stopped the growth of government by delivering the smallest County workforce in 31 years.

We led school safety discussions on School Resource Officers that paved the way for many school districts to place Sheriff’s deputies in their schools without any added cost to the taxpayers.

With bi-partisan support, we analyzed the criminal justice system and our jail overcrowding issue. We conducted a system-wide review and recommendation report on Domestic Violence that includes updates on the community response to this serious public safety issue.

At the top of our agenda is the complex issue of jail over-crowding. 2014 is the year we will work together toward a real solution, once and for all. For the first time, we have the Legislature, the Sheriff and the County executive all on the same page and dedicated to solving this problem. We will save the taxpayers money and make the community safer by lowering the incarceration rate for repeat-offenders.

Together, we refused to allow those before us who have sacrificed so much, to be forgotten -- our Veterans. We are thankful for their service to our nation and we designated Dutchess as a Purple Heart County in their honor.

We have been successful in striking a balance and unprecedented collaboration between our branches of County government.

In fact tonight, with full bi-partisan support, we will vote to restore faith and integrity to our Board of Elections, and confirming a New Democratic Elections Commissioner.

However, tonight is not a time to rest on our past accomplishments or for pats on the back.

While I believe we need to continue with a tone of teamwork and cooperation, for 2014, I issue a bold call to action.

First to my fellow legislators, as we continue to right the fiscal ship of our county, join me as we work together to make the tough decisions needed to further our progress.

Since his first year as County Executive, we have partnered with Marc Molinaro to set upon a path to transform county government. We must all be committed to our comprehensive, long term vision for a more fiscally sound Dutchess County.

Some have and will continue to sit on the sidelines, sniping and criticizing for their own political gain while offering no real solutions. But know the simple truth. Our ongoing, bold action will result in getting things done for the taxpayers and creating a healthier and revitalized Dutchess County.

Tonight, I also issue a call to action to our state representatives. It's time for you to act.

We are prepared to work with you.

We have made the tough choices, now it's your turn.

First, we need immediate relief from the burden of unfunded mandates.

The long list of unfunded mandates imposed on our County, left us to make one of the toughest decisions of my tenure – to lift the sales tax exemption on home energy costs.

New York State should not be putting its county governments in a position where they need to choose the lesser of all evils when it comes to meeting its obligations. County governments should not have to risk cutting essential services such as Emergency 911, Sheriff’s road patrols, County Parks, Infrastructure including road repair and maintenance, senior meal programs, pubic and mental health services, and public transportation, just to name a few.

Is Albany’s word on mandate relief no good? Is the promise of legislation to bring county taxpayers relief just a sound byte? The time for talk is over. It’s time to deliver real results.

Provide us any creative way to pay for $9 Million of your unfunded programs and we will not stop our work to cut, re-organize and reduce county government.

The repeal does not go into effect until March and it has a sunset. We want to accelerate that sunset. In fact, if you help us find a solution quickly – the repeal can be lifted before it even goes into effect.

If this state legislature can find a way to take away our 2nd Amendment Right overnight - then they can swiftly find a solution to unfunded mandates.

Compromise, sacrifice and tough choices need to be mutual. NOT one sided and certainly not on the backs of the taxpayers.

We need our state representatives to be a partner and not an obstruction.

So I ask, are you with us? Or will you abandon us?

Last but certainly not least, I issue a call to action to the people of this great county.

I ask you to stick with us and believe in our mission and have faith in our commitment to rejuvenate this county and restore your peace of mind.

I understand. I pay property taxes too. Like you, I'm affected by the decisions we make today, but I also believe that the decisions today will create a better day tomorrow.

I thank all of you again for your support and backing to remain Chairman of the Legislature.

And again, I ask all of you, my colleagues in County Government, our state representatives and the taxpayers of this great County to join me. Join me in building on our past success and believe that our best days are ahead. Let’s get to work and make 2014 a great year for Dutchess County.

Thank you. God Bless our great County, the State of New York and the United States of America.




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