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2023 State of the County

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2023 State of the County Presentation (.pdf)

State of the County Address (Transcript)

Good evening thank you for being here tonight. 

I am grateful to the Culinary Institute for hosting us again. This is a wonderful venue, and the technology and professionalism you provide is greatly appreciated. You are a staple of our community. Thank you, Dr. Sperling, for your welcome and introduction. Thank you as well to Kirk, Jasmine, and Pastor Michael for helping make this evening special. 

This is my first State of the County – also my only one, as I will be retiring at the end of 2023, having served as Deputy County Executive for Marc Molinaro and now having the honor to serve the last year of his term. But I am excited to be here this evening to talk about the state of our County because, in a word, Dutchess County is “exceptional,” and tonight I would like to tell you why, talking about our people, our financial status, and the projects we are working on. I’ll also share my concerns for Dutchess County in the face of New York State edicts and ask for your help to protect our quality of life and standard of living.

So let’s begin...

Dutchess County is exceptional because of the thoughtful, hardworking, and dedicated leaders in County government. These individuals deserve substantial credit for making our County the envy of others. 

Although I will not be the County Executive in 2024, I am hopeful that my successor will recognize the leadership responsible for making our community the exceptional place it is and will continue to work with this strong team to expand on the success we’ve had. 

I have served in County Government for almost 20 years, and it has been an honor to be involved in the careers of every one of these individuals. I am very proud and thankful for the professional leadership they have dedicated to this community. 

My core group of five senior advisors, my cabinet, consults with me on our overall strategy, policies, and day-to-day issues and challenge us to ThinkDIFFERENTLY every day.

Deputy County Executive and Chief of Staff Rachel Kashimer joined County government right out of college. Rachel is smart, talented, experienced, and knowledgeable. She is a powerhouse who has the ability to grasp complex issues and provide workable solutions. During COVID, Rachel, as Assistant County Executive, interacted with government agencies, businesses, non-profits, municipalities, and schools, demonstrating her impressive ability to lead.  

Ron Hicks is our Assistant County Executive for Economic Development. Through his interactions with public and private organizations and businesses throughout the county, he has a finger on the pulse of our community, and he provides invaluable perspective for our decisions on how to support and enhance our County’s economic growth, resilience, and job retention and creation. His dedication to attracting new and diversified business, while helping existing businesses grow, has been critical to our County’s economic success.   

A former County legislator, Assistant County Executive Chris Baiano is a highly experienced public servant. He is the liaison to the County Legislature and local municipalities. Patient, focused, and thorough, Chris is dedicated to doing what is right. He has created positive and productive collaboration among the various government agencies. Chris also oversees several departments, ensuring operational and budgetary stewardship.

Over the years we’ve worked together, I am continually amazed at Budget Director Jess White’s vast knowledge of the intricacies of each department. The County budget is immense, detailed, and complicated, and every year, Jess and her small but extremely talented team work together to deliver a balanced plan that highlights the County’s priorities and policies while protecting residents’ tax dollars. 

Communications Director Colleen Pillus similarly has an impressive command of the programs and services the County provides, using her knowledge and expertise to provide the public critical information to access services they need. Colleen’s inquisitive nature and commitment to detail, accuracy, and transparency ensure County information and activities are understood and available to all.

These are the core leaders on my team. They are dedicated to making sure Dutchess County is a place we are all proud to call home, and the results speak for themselves.  

Without innovative and creative department head leadership, the various units of County government would not be able to deliver the programs and services our residents rely on. Our Support departments provide the administrative backbone to ensure all departments can effectively fulfill their mission.   

Our Office of Central and Information Services (OCIS) has been nationally ranked for best technology use for decades. When Glenn Marchi, with his military background, took the helm as Commissioner, he embraced the leadership mantra of “Take care of your people; they'll take care of the mission." His team’s greatest advocate, Glenn infuses his passion for organization, efficiency and collaboration into the department every day. Under his leadership, OCIS continues to upgrade the tools residents and businesses depend on, enhance cyber-security, provide shared service collaborations with local municipalities, and ensure we have the necessary IT infrastructure to support our county workforce.   

From the administration of a payroll and time accounting system that serves thousands of employees, to annual financial statement reporting and countywide accounting, Heidi Seelbach, our Commissioner of Finance ensures all of the numbers add up. Heidi and her team apply a methodical approach to ensure the thousands of transactions completed each year are done efficiently and securely. Heidi and her team have developed a strong cash management model, employing a range of strategies, including taking advantage of market conditions to maximize interest earnings, refinancing bonds, paying down debt, and avoiding new debt by financing critical capital projects with cash. These efforts optimize the best possible return for taxpayers.
Dutchess County is blessed with a dedicated workforce committed to serving our residents and community; and our Department of Human Resources, under the leadership of Commissioner Steve Rector, is equally dedicated to serving our employees and departments. Government employee management is uniquely complex with civil service policies and procedures to navigate, and union contracts to negotiate and manage, in addition to the standard HR responsibilities of recruitment, addressing employee concerns, and facilitating training. Steve is the catalyst for his team with his ability to lead and stay above the fray of the granular, looking at the broader perspective and working together with departments and managers to solve problems and build morale.  

Caroline Blackburn leads the County’s Law Department with passion and caring. Her office is responsible for a wide range of duties, including litigating the Department of Children and Family Services’ child and adult protection cases, reviewing thousands of contracts, and analyzing real property tax legal matters, to name a few. Caroline has impressive knowledge and experience, which she uses to interpret case law and precedent to guide County decisions and actions. She provides a creative contrast of ideas, never willing to rubber stamp her approval in protecting the County and the people we serve.   

Our Services group caters to youth and families, public and behavioral health, and our senior citizens.

Dr. Livia Santiago-Rosado is our newest department head, taking the helm at Behavioral and Community Health (DBCH) in late 2021. As one of our largest departments, DBCH has diverse roles and responsibilities – from communicable disease prevention to ensuring water quality safety – and Dr. Santiago-Rosado navigates all the facets with a focus on health equity for every resident. Together with Deputy Commissioner Jean-Marie Niebuhr, DBCH leads the state with critical mental health initiatives, helping people to navigate mental health and substance challenges with expanded 24/7 crisis support services including the new 988 HELPLINE. A bold and passionate advocate for community health literacy, Dr. Santiago and her team are striving to connect every resident with the resources they need for health and wellness.  

Sabrina Jaar-Marzouka saw poverty, firsthand, in her native Haiti, and she has brought with her to the Department of Community and Family Services the empathy learned from that experience. Understanding the real implications of poverty influences her critical work every day. Sabrina guides an organization that provides protective and financial services to our most vulnerable; given the dire situations many of these residents face, Sabrina’s job is not an easy one. An expert in navigating an often complex and heart-wrenching system, Sabrina is a master of connecting the dots, figuring things out, and breaking down silos to ensure people aren’t left behind. Sabrina is also a passionate advocate for young people, and together with Deputy Commissioner Deb Bonnerwith, who is retiring this year and Assistant Commissioner for Youth Services, Karmen Smallwood, who leads our Path to Promise initiative, DCFS has a critical role in the lives of so many of our community’s young people. Sabrina is a force for good throughout our county, and Dutchess County families are blessed by her department’s tireless work.

Todd Tancredi, our Office for the Aging (OFA) Director, is extremely patient and an inherently kind person – important qualities for someone running an organization that serves seniors. He is committed to understanding the issues impacting older adults and their loved ones. Providing programs like home-delivered meals and virtual services to support vulnerable seniors, as well as exercise and nutrition classes, mental stimulation, and socialization opportunities that provide support for more active older adults. With Sue Serino now part of OFA’s outreach team, we’ve introduced our new “Friendly Calls” program, which pairs lonely seniors with volunteers who call them each week to help combat isolation; this program is already receiving regional and national attention. 

We remain committed to improving the criminal justice system in Dutchess County, thanks, in large part, to the hard work of our probation and public defender offices.

For nearly 45 years, Mary Ellen Still has served in the Office of Probation and Community Corrections faithfully and patiently developing a dynamic, highly skilled team. Whether it is Pretrial Services or Alternatives to Incarceration, even with ever-changing bail reform, Probation continues to implement innovative, evidence-based programs. Mary Ellen is a well respected leader in the probation field and has been asked on multiple occasions to collaborate with New York State, the Vera Institute, and other national organizations. Mary Ellen also leads our Criminal Justice Council, facilitating a holistic and collaborative approach to criminal justice reform and oversight. 
Tom Angell believes deeply that every person has a right to legal representation, and as the County’s Public Defender, he cares about every one of his clients. He will fight for them and has developed a team of fellow lawyers who feel the same. Many who find themselves in the criminal justice system are suffering problems far bigger than their criminal offense – whether it’s untreated mental health issues, substance use disorders, or family challenges. Clients of the Public Defender’s Office receive so much more than just representation. Tom and his team ensure they have access to services and programs to help them break the cycle of recidivism and find hope for their future. 
Lastly, our Community Development Resources group secures the infrastructure, ensures residents safely get from Point A to Point B, while making sure there is safe and stress-free access to services within County facilities. And when an emergency arises, we have the best team to handle it at our 911 Center.

Bob Balkind, Commissioner of Public Works, epitomizes effective public service leadership. His responsibilities extend to multiple areas, all of which affect the daily quality of life for County residents. Thanks to the team at DPW, under Bob’s diligent oversight, we can all trust that our roads and bridges are safe to travel on, our parks are welcoming and accessible for families of all abilities to create memories, and our facilities are maintained for the safety and well-being of our employees. Bob’s work ethic, years of experience, and broad skill set ensure his department delivers successful projects while always keeping the County’s budget in mind. His dedication and attention to detail are crucial in the management of the numerous systems and projects under his stewardship.

Beginning as an intern in our Planning and Development Department, Eoin Wrafter rose through the ranks to become the Commissioner, thanks to his ability to tie the many facets the department handles together and into focus. From grant programs like Agency Partner, Municipal Innovation, and Partnership for Manageable Growth, to critical endeavors in housing, transportation, school bus safety, and much more, Eoin oversees a department that has a long-term community impact. He connects these intertwined programs to improve the living conditions throughout Dutchess County. A strong multi-tasker with a multidimensional approach, Eoin and his department support our towns, villages, cities, and schools, and he genuinely cares about moving our community in the right direction.

As our world continues to change, so does the Department of Emergency Response, evolving from its original focus on fire service to developing standardized response to a wide range of emergency situations. Commissioner Dana Smith has the necessary perspective to identify key agencies and people to meet critical needs. Dana leads a team that is flexible and can react to a situation with the necessary resources. Complementing his experienced leadership is Dana’s calmness, paired with confidence, helping him quickly put situations in perspective, devise a plan, and keep things from becoming chaotic. Dana knows having the right resources are critical, and he aggressively goes after grant dollars to improve our tools, and Dutchess is safer under his leadership. 

Our residents are well-served by these knowledgeable, experienced and dedicated leaders.
There are several areas run by independently elected officials, beginning with County Clerk Brad Kendall, who runs the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), our records unit, and the County’s Historian Office. Brad has led a transformation of the DMV to an efficient, appointment-based model that has vastly improved customer service where the positive, helpful attitude of his staff is clearly evident. His use of technology makes the thousands of interactions that go through the Clerk’s Office efficient and effective, ultimately saving our residents and businesses time and money.  
With 30 years of experience, Sheriff Kirk Imperati has made his mark, as well. Implementing the police modernization plan, Kirk has achieved many of the plan’s objectives, including attracting the most diverse police candidate pool ever and equipping law enforcement officers countywide with body-worn cameras. As we open the new Justice and Transition Center, we look forward to Kirk’s continued leadership to deliver significant expense reduction for County taxpayers, taking advantage of the facility’s modern design for an enhanced approach to inmate rehabilitation. 

The District Attorney’s Office has also been acknowledged as one of the most effective in New York State. We wish Bill Grady the best in his retirement, with sincere thanks for his four decades of dedicated leadership. He and his Chief Assistant have led the department through the massive changes necessitated by recent discovery rule legislation with well planned efficiency. In 2024, new leadership will utilize many years of experience to continue to guide the office into the future.

The Comptroller’s Office is run by Robin Lois, and we work with her on a daily basis to be sure our County is operating as proficiently and effectively as possible. We are thankful for her keen insights, objective reviews and willingness to work together to be sure the County is limiting risk and following proper accounting procedures.
Our County Legislature has been great to work with, and I attribute much of the success to its leader, Chairman Gregg Pulver. He is a great collaborator and has partnered with the Executive Branch on all of the projects and initiatives we’ve introduced over the last several years.

There are many other areas that make up the whole of County government, and we have regular interaction with them all – from the Family, County, and Supreme Court judges and jurors, to the Board of Elections, to the authorities like Water and Wastewater, Resource Recovery Agency, and Soil and Water, as well as Think Dutchess, Dutchess Tourism, and the community college.

Dutchess County has exceptional leadership, and it sets us apart from the rest of the state.

To be exceptional, you need measurements, results, outcomes, and the best measurement for a government agency lies in its fiscal stewardship. When it comes to our finances, Dutchess County is strong, because of a steadfast management team guiding our policies, strategies, cash flow, and budget. We make tough decisions, maximizing State and Federal revenues while minimizing the amount needed from local taxpayers. 

Our work has clearly paid off.

County management will oversee a $587 million budget this year. Our revenues come predominately from sales tax – about 43 percent – with State and Federal funding about 24 percent and property tax about 17 percent. With careful stewardship, the County has cut the property tax levy each of the past nine years by a total of $8.5 million, achieving the lowest levy in 14 years. The property tax rate has been reduced 32 percent since 2015, because of our commitment to growing the economy and tax base while lowering the levy. Last year, together with the County Legislature, we eliminated sales tax on clothing and footwear purchases under $110, aiding families and affording local businesses a competitive advantage, since only eight other counties in the entire state offer this exemption.  

The County continues to move forward with capital projects. Just like your house, car, or other large purchase, these are often funded through careful debt management. The cost of each project is carefully weighed to make sure our operating budget can sustain the debt issued, and we continue to scrutinize the annual impact. Debt management is a small fraction of our operating budget – only 3.8 percent – and the County is only at 10 percent of our constitutional debt limit. We are managing debt, making smart decisions, and this is how we continue to progress.

Just last week, Dutchess County again earned Standard and Poor’s’ AA+ bond rating, the highest rating afforded to any New York county, reflecting our history of balanced operations and strong budgetary flexibility and liquidity, supported by a healthy economy. This rating signals the strength of our fiscal foundation and ensures we can take advantage of the lowest interest rates.

Dutchess County ended 2021 with $119.5 million in unassigned general fund balance, or savings, also known as our “rainy day fund.” We maintain 1-2 months of operating expense, or between $43-86 million, to provide a safety net against negative economic impacts. Our longstanding policy states if fund balance grows above the two-month mark, it should be used to pay down debt, avoid new debt, or reduce taxes.

In 2022, we did all three. 

We used over $7 million to pay off all eligible debt and then used almost $50 million to avoid new debt by paying cash for several projects. At the same time, together with the County Legislature, we reduced taxes with a lower rate and levy, and, with the clothing and footwear exemption I mentioned earlier, we kept Dutchess taxpayer dollars in their pockets. 

Our prudent fiscal management allow us to make critical projects a reality. We are currently in the midst of several key projects that will serve Dutchess County for generations to come. 

The Dutchess County Justice and Transition Center will be functionally complete and ready to be occupied this summer, following officer training in the new facility and signoff by the New York State Commission of Correction. This replacement of the County Jail has been decades in the making, with challenges to overcome, including siting issues and logistical hurdles of demolition and relocation of the Sheriff’s Office. We persevered, and today we are pleased to see this project come to fruition, on time and significantly under budget. We are so thankful for Pike Construction Services, Turner Construction, and LaBella Associates for the wonderful job they did to help us reach these goals.
With its modern design, the JTC, as we refer to it, enables us to better address the needs of both those who are incarcerated and those who work in the facility. We can be more efficient and cost-effective in this new building through modernized operations and improved personnel utilization, with the ability to save taxpayers millions each year.    
The contemporary design employs direct supervision, a principle utilized across the country in hundreds of facilities and considered to be state of the art for inmate management and housing unit design. This new model – combined with the JTC’s enhanced security features, additional cameras, and improved sight lines – all help provide a safe, more appropriate workplace for our valued Corrections team. 
The new JTC focuses on rehabilitating people, rather than just warehousing them. We will be able to further expand our innovative programming that makes us leaders in New York State – programs such as our Medication Assisted Treatment, which promotes recovery for inmates struggling with opioid use disorders and has been proven to reduce overdoses and future criminal activity.    
We will also expand RESTART (Re-Entry Stabilization, Transition, and Reintegration Track), an evidence-based program that provides cognitive behavioral therapy for inmates. We have seen the success of this program with about 20 percent reduction in recidivism among participants.  

We will also be able to expand the accompanying RECHARGE (Re-Entry Community Housing and Resource Guided Empowerment) program to help individuals after their incarceration with safe housing, case management, employment, education, and more.  
In just a few months, we look forward to opening the new Justice and Transition Center and set yet another new criminal justice standard for other counties in New York State to emulate. 

Housing needs range from emergency shelter and transitional housing, to supportive housing and affordable rentals, and all the way up to market-rate rentals and homeownership. 
The front end of that spectrum and certainly the “affordable” portion is where communities across the nation struggle. With an unbalanced spectrum, far too many face ongoing housing instability or even homelessness. We see it here in Dutchess County. Our rental market is much too tight with a historically low vacancy rate of less than 1 percent and rents on the rise. 
Last year, we released our countywide Housing Needs Assessment, delving deep into the recent trends in the housing market. While housing affordability challenges are not new in Dutchess County, long-term shifts in demographics, housing needs, and economics have made the affordability situation more urgent than ever. With a wide range of factors contributing to the cost pressures felt by today’s households, there is no single cause to the problem – and therefore, no single solution.  

Our Needs Assessment identified a variety of tools to tackle the affordability challenge, and we are putting them to use. They include the approaches you see on the screen, the last one being our Housing Trust Fund.

In partnership with the Legislature, we created the Housing Trust Fund as a flexible and nimble funding source. With $9 million available this year for projects that create or preserve affordable rental housing, the Planning Department is currently reviewing eight applications received in the first round of submissions. One of the opportunities is the development of 250 income-based units at the former Schatz property, providing critical affordable/mixed-income housing on the border of the City and Town of Poughkeepsie. 
Yet there is an even more immediate need on our housing spectrum: emergency shelter. There are those who have nowhere to sleep at night, and unfortunately that number is growing. This is not unique to Dutchess County; we see the news reports about challenges of homelessness, with tent cities and homeless individuals on streets across the nation. We are confronting this challenge head-on, investing in a new, innovative model to transform our emergency housing response system.  

We are creating a new facility to be the cornerstone of a housing-first approach, providing not only emergency housing to those experiencing homelessness, but also, and most importantly, extensive wrap-around services – all in one place to assist them in their path toward stable housing and independent living.  
Last year, we purchased 26 Oakley Street in the City of Poughkeepsie with the intent of using the space to implement our new, evidence-based emergency shelter model. Unfortunately, the continued opposition to this location, the costs to meet the zoning codes, as well as the community benefit payment requests by the City Council have caused us to reconsider. 

Other options do exist for the property, including the potential to create a central arraignment court, a request the Magistrates Association and County judges have been pursuing for years through the Criminal Justice Council. A second option is to sell the property to the Poughkeepsie City School District, which still has an interest in the building since trying to outbid us when we originally purchased the property. We are currently in discussions with the school district and should have a final decision on this option shortly. 

Either way, we will need to continue the shelter temporarily at its current location in the PODs on North Hamilton Street. In July, however, the current jail facility will be decommissioned, vacant, and available, and we will be able to use some of that space to provide the programming for our new model. The space may also provide better temporary housing while we resume our search for a permanent Emergency Housing Facility location.

Dutchess County continues to take a proactive and collaborative approach to combating the opioid epidemic and the complex challenges associated with behavioral health. The longstanding history of behavioral healthcare in our community, in the form of state psychiatric hospitals, has created a deep need for service that has outlived the State’s commitment to this population.
Dutchess County stands in the gap. 

Through a constant review of the entire system of care, we are finding new ways to ensure we meet the needs of clients at every stage and every level. This includes, prevention, treatment, crisis intervention, acute care, and recovery. 

This year, we launched LEAD, the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program, with the City of Poughkeepsie Police. This program is reaching the unreachable, and in its first month of operation, already we have helped three clients begin their treatment journey.

The Empowerment Center has found its new home at 230 North Road, offering a drop-in style service that is low barrier, peer support-centered, and the perfect addition to our planned whole health campus. 

Our Stabilization Center continues to serve as the model for New York State, and we will be the first licensed supportive stabilization center statewide, enhancing services while reducing taxpayer expense. We thank our partner, PEOPLE USA, for their unwavering dedication to this work.

Our regional 9-8-8 hub is now serving three counties with crisis support. Newly accredited, our team of professionals is there 24/7/365, saving lives and making a difference. 

The Mobile Crisis Intervention Team, with our partner Mental Health America, continues to meet people where they are. With the help of our new Mobile Health RV, we are excited to reach residents around the county, providing for both their physical and behavioral health needs. 

Our core programs continue to evolve, with ITAP (Intensive Treatment Alternatives Program) offering a second track for mental health and co-occurring needs. This year we will transform the old Partial Hospital program into a more agile intensive outpatient program, serving more clients with the same excellent level of care. 

Speaking of excellence, the work on the Center for Excellence in Behavioral Health, in partnership with Westchester Medical Center Health at the Mid-Hudson Regional Hospital, is underway, and we continue to support their work to bring enhanced services to our community at the inpatient level.

We are making the most of every dollar awarded to Dutchess as part of the ongoing opioid settlements and are hyper-focused on bringing recovery housing to our community, including long-term treatment beds that are so desperately needed. 

Our continuum of care is stronger than ever, and yet we will continue to identify new creative approaches to meet people where they are and bring our neighbors exceptional help and hope.

I’ve used the word “exceptional” several times already this evening, but it’s the perfect adjective to describe our award-winning Dutchess County parks system. Our parks enhance the quality of life for our residents and the countless visitors who use them every day. 

From hiking and disc golf, to sledding, gaga-ball and cross-country skiing, and even the chance to watch the next generation of Bronx Bombers, our parks offer something for every resident of every age.

Parks like Quiet Cove and Upper Landing provide remarkable river access, hosting everything from art exhibits and “Movies Under the Walkway” to kayaking in the Hudson, bringing families to these passive and active recreation spots. 

Our distinguished linear parks, the William R. Steinhaus Dutchess Rail Trail and the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, offer more than 40 miles of scenic vistas, with connections to the Walkway Over the Hudson, Empire State Trail, and others.
Our more “traditional parks,” Bowdoin and Wilcox, are tremendous spots to rent a pavilion and host a party, play basketball, softball, or soccer, take a hike, or quite simply do nothing at all and connect with nature, in all its peace and serenity.  

In less than a month from tonight, the Hudson Valley Renegades will begin their 30th season providing family fun at Dutchess Stadium, a County park that attracts thousands each year – not just for baseball, but also concerts and other events throughout the year. 

Our latest addition, Camp Nooteeming in Pleasant Valley, welcomed 1,000 children from around the county last year, and many will enjoy outdoor learning this summer. The youth development at Camp Nooteeming aligns perfectly with our Path to Promise, and we’re proud to see so many children experience it. 
As all-encompassing as our parks currently are, there is more to come in 2023!  

Pickleball is sweeping the nation, and the first pickleball courts at a County park will open this year at Quiet Cove – so grab a paddle and join us! This spring, the first phase of the Northside Line will welcome visitors to this new urban trail, connecting the City and Town of Poughkeepsie. The Renegades’ owners, Diamond Baseball Holdings, have begun improvements at Dutchess Stadium. And following years of discussion and planning, construction on the Lake Walton Preserve will commence this year, bringing that much-anticipated all-access project to fruition.  

Each of these quality-of-life enhancements will make our prized parks even more exceptional for all of us fortunate to call this community our home. 
Our Youth Opportunity Center – the YOU – will change the lives of young people throughout Dutchess County for decades to come. Tonight, we stand on the verge of the next step in bringing this transformative, countywide youth center to reality. 
For more than 13 years, our county has been without a YMCA, a building that served so many and offered athletic and educational opportunities to families in the City of Poughkeepsie and beyond. Since the Y left – and particularly in recent years – there has been a grassroots effort to bring back to Dutchess County a similar building with such important programs for children and families. 

The 35 Montgomery Street Coalition, Poughkeepsie Children’s Cabinet, and the City of Poughkeepsie have been among the County’s key collaborators in generating interest in the YOU. And, with our partners in the County Legislature, we have led the way to make sure this vital project happens – most notably, with a $25 million County commitment to bring the YOU to life. 

We are making progress. 

The former Y building was demolished last year following the County’s purchase of the property in 2021. We have assembled an amazing team – including world-renowned architecture firm MASS Design— who extensively surveyed the community, asking children, and families what they’d like the YOU to be. 

And today, despite escalating construction costs and supply chain issues that have made design very challenging, MASS has created a vision for the YOU that has been extensively analyzed, scrutinized, and value-engineered.

This welcoming and playful facade will invite you to an amazing facility. More than a rec center, the YOU will be a place of learning, where County residents, young and old, can exercise their bodies and minds. Make no mistake: We’re not building a palace. This is a design we’re confident is attainable, buildable, and phase-able; and in the near future, we’ll be ready to unveil more details. 
In the interim, we’re working with the Dyson Foundation to establish the fundraising effort needed to complete the project, as the County cannot solicit donations on its own. Meanwhile, our collaboration, in conjunction with the Poughkeepsie Children’s Cabinet, with the acclaimed Harlem Children’s Zone continues, focusing on a comprehensive and holistic approach to youth development and eliminating intergenerational poverty while concentrating on children, their families, and the greater community. 
The YOU will be the physical hub for Dutchess County’s innovative Path to Promise, the center of our efforts to ensure every child in the county can access the assets and resources needed to become successful adults, from cradle to career. 

We’re excited to see how the YOU will impact future generations of Dutchess County children, and we continue to make progress toward our ultimate goal. 
These projects are crucial to our County. Their completion will continue to make us exceptional. 

Dutchess County, though, is an island in an unsettled sea. We are a part of a state more concerned with ideology than public service. 

Although we can see a bright future for Dutchess County, we are impacted by ominous clouds that hang on New York’s horizon. While there are many issues, I will limit my comments to just one: CLCPA, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, a so-called plan that neither leads nor protects. The CLCPA intends to eliminate the use of fossil fuels in New York State by 2040, electrifying how homes are heated, food is cooked, and vehicles are powered.  

This will be massive change.

Currently about 85 percent of households, statewide, heat with natural gas, propane, or fuel oil. Starting in 2025, per the CLCPA, new home construction will be required to use zero-emission heating systems; and as of 2030, homeowners will no longer be able to replace their propane-, gas-, or oil-fired furnaces. This “electrification” of New York will increase demand on the electric grid exponentially.

It’s important to note our current system provides the availability, reliability, and affordability of energy to meet our needs. Fifty percent of our current electricity is produced using fossil fuels – primarily natural gas, a clean-burning fuel with well established benefits, plentiful supply, and a reliable delivery infrastructure.

New York already has the lowest per-capita CO2 emissions of any state, decreasing approximately 20 percent from 2019 to 2020, and approximately 54 percent from 1970 to 2020. Only 6 percent of our current electric supply is powered by solar and wind; however, the CLCPA projects that, miraculously, 70 percent will come from solar and wind by 2040. Another 20 percent is projected to come from thermal; however, this assumes that hydrogen will be adapted as a fuel source.

Now, this is currently a theory that still needs to be developed and then will require infrastructure to be created in order to connect to the grid. At this point, this can best be described as wishful thinking. That is the crux of the issue with the CLCPA: The most aggressive targets in the nation have been set without clearly identifying how they can be realistically reached.

Although the State is unclear on how these new renewable power sources will be created, there are clear plans on how they will dismantle the current infrastructure that now works just fine. And what is the cost of this endeavor?

The CLCPA projects the cost of energy will go down, although how this will happen is not explained. But any economics textbook teaches that when demand increases so dramatically, and supply decreases so dramatically, costs will increase dramatically.

In the end, what is the net benefit, if we could actually achieve zero fossil fuel use by 2040?

China and India are already producing 36 percent of the world’s total CO2 emissions and continue to add to global emissions as they increase their use of coal and other fossil fuels. All of New York’s efforts, if successful, will only decrease global CO2 by just one half of one percent. I repeat: one half of one percent. What real difference will this make?

New York’s competitiveness in the global economy, however, will be greatly diminished while the countries actually causing the real pollution will benefit, selling New Yorkers the products we need to complete the CLCPA energy transition.

The bottom line is, the CLCPA will have caused our energy costs to skyrocket, our energy availability to be greatly reduced, and our way of life will be so totally disrupted that the mass exodus of businesses and individuals will devastate New York beyond repair.

This is pure madness! 
We are all familiar with the Central Hudson billing problems. Well, there was a moment, about a year ago, when Central Hudson, knowing the conversion to the new system had a significant number of unresolved bugs in the software, still made the decision to move forward and go live with a system that had not been fully tested nor demonstrated to be operational. The results were disastrous. 

New York State has reached its same moment with the CLCPA, with the decision of whether or not to continue implementing it, even though it is quite clear that dismantling the current system before having the replacement renewable energy systems in place will result in exorbitant costs and the non-availability of energy to meet critical human needs. 
There is, however, a big difference between these two situations. 
Central Hudson caused a lot of customer discontent, and they are working to correct those issues; but no one died and no one had their electricity or gas turned off. But, if CLCPA continues, we know costs are going to rise dramatically – both for energy usage and for the infrastructure changes being forced upon us – and rolling brownouts will become a devastating and deadly norm. These scenarios are much worse than Central Hudson’s billing problems. 

We can prevent them, but we need to act now.

Over this coming year, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation will be creating rules and regulations for compliance with the CLCPA, which must go through public comment periods. 

Please pay attention, ask questions, and demand answers. Call or write the governor and your state representatives and tell them to stop the madness.
I really don’t want to end on a down note, and so I won’t. Because despite the tone deafness of Albany, I still have hope. That is because I believe God can and will continue to bless Dutchess County. The good Lord works in mysterious ways, and so I have hope.

I begin each morning praying that God will bring wisdom and clarity to our state legislators and our Governor. So, in addition to voicing your displeasure with CLCPA and asking your state representatives and the governor to stop the madness, please pray for them and ask God to intervene. Because God does answer prayers.
May God bless you all. May God bless America. And may God continue to bless Dutchess County. 
Thank you and good night.