To RSVP, visit the Tuxedo Library website calendar for online registration or call the library at 845-351-2207.
Local Government Workshop series
Tuxedo Town Council members Ken English and Michele Lindsay will be facilitating a series of “study circle” sessions that focus on how local government works. This series will use materials available through the NYS Comptroller’s Office that are designed to provide interested adults with the basic knowledge needed to understand the structure of Town governments and the challenges they face. Topics will include: An Overview of Town Government; Citizens’ Guide to Local Budgets; Conducting Public Meetings and Hearings; and Zoning and the Comprehensive Plan.
We hope that by learning more together we can encourage civic participation and nurture a next generation of local leaders. Citizen involvement and service is a critical component in shaping every community’s future. Successful small town governance requires residents’ active participation.
An Overview of Town Government
Wednesday, February 6th from 7- 8:30pm
Conducting Public Meetings and Hearings
Wednesday, March 27th from 7- 8:30pm
Zoning and the Comprehensive Plan
Thursday, April 18th from 7- 8:30pm
Citizens’ Guide to Local Budgets
Wednesday, May 15th from 7- 8:30pm
Here are links to the materials we'll be exploring together:
Information for Town Officials (Chapter 1)
Conducting Public Meetings and Hearings (18 pages)
Citizens’ Guide to Local Budgets
“Zoning and the Comprehensive Plan” NYS Division of Local Government Services (18 pages)
FROM THE WOODBURY DEMOCRATIC COMMITTEE
UPCOMING EVENTS FROM OCDW
Thursday - March 1, 2018, 3:30 PM at the Orange County Government Center, Legislative Room - Full County Legislature Meeting - Come Rally Against The Republican's attempt to repeal the County's Pay to Play Campaign Finance Rules
Tuesday - March 13, 2018, 7:30 PM at Limoncello Restuarant in Goshen, NY - Orange County Democratic Committee Executive Committee Meeting
NY Assemblyman Skoufis Supports Pat Davis for County Executive
CHECK OUT THE 2017 SLATE OF DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES FOR COUNTY OFFICE AT OUR CANDIDATES PAGE
From time to time we receive inquiries and requests for info that come in without contact information. One recent request linked to Facebook, but that page is limited by the owner, so there is no way for OCNYDems to respond. Please give your e-mail when contacting us. It can't be seen by other readers of the site. To find the time and place of the next local meeting, or to speak with the head of your local committee, click on the "City and Town Committees" tab at the top of the Home page and follow the drop-down menu for your location.
Dear Friends & Neighbors,
Each summer, I bring my office to your local community as part of my continued effort to be as accessible an Assemblyman as possible. I’m delighted to share this year’s “Skoufis on Your Street” schedule:
> Friday, July 21, 12:30pm-2:00pm: Betty’s Country Kitchen, 32 W Main Street, Washingtonville
> Friday, August 11, 11:30am-1:00pm: 2 Alice’s Coffee, 311 Hudson Street, Cornwall-on-Hudson
> Saturday, August 12, 10:00am-11:30am: Jay’s Deli, 534 Route 32, Highland Mills
> Tuesday, August 15, 11:30am-1:00pm: Andy’s Diner, 281 Main Street, Highland Falls
> Tuesday, August 22, 11:30am-1:00pm: Elsie’s Luncheonette, 128 W Main Street, Goshen
> Thursday, August 24, 11:30am-1:00pm: Lynch’s, 79 S Liberty Drive, Stony Point
Anyone with questions regarding “Skoufis on Your Street” events or any other community issue should always feel free to call our office at 845-469-6929, or send me an email at SkoufisJ@nyassembly.gov. Thank you for affording me the privilege to serve you.
PLEASE SUPPORT THE FAMILIES OF THOSE STATIONED AT STEWART
WHO LOST THEIR LIVES THIS PAST WEEK SERVING THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
On July 10 a Marine Corps KC-130T Hercules crashed in Leflore County, Mississippi, killing 15 Marines and 1 sailor on board. The disaster was the single worst loss of life in Marine aviation since 2005. Help us by donating, and proceeds go directly to the squadron families without fee from us. You will help fund things like airfare, hotels, rental cars, meals, and even unit memorials.
The "Yankees" are a Reserve Marine Corps KC-130T Hercules squadron based at Stewart Air National Guard Base, about an hour north of New York City. The aircraft was transporting a Marine Special Operations unit from the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion, based at Camp Lejeune, NC, to NAF El Centro, CA, when the mishap occurred.
The families and squadron affected by this mishap have given The Wingman Foundation their full support in launching a fundraiser to help with current and future expenses. Rest assu
red that 100% of all donations will go to those affected. Lend support by clicking here: http://bit.ly/2umMdei
Today (June 22), I granted clemency to Carlos Cardona, a Ground Zero recovery worker from Queens who is currently being detained by federal immigration officials.
In the more than 30 years since Mr. Cardona has lived in this country, he has built a family and given back to his community, including in the aftermath of 9/11 when he assisted with Ground Zero recovery efforts at the expense of his own health. It is my hope this action will not only reunite Mr. Cardona with his wife and daughter, but also send a message about the values of fairness and equality that New York was founded upon.
By granting clemency, there is no longer valid ground to deport Mr. Cardona. New Yorkers like you need to stand together and call for his release from custody. Will you add your name in support now? Click here now >>
A civic-minded New Yorker, Mr. Cardona worked as a cleanup and hazmat recovery worker rehabilitating Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
He spent four months removing hazardous material from the wreckage in order to make a safer space for other recovery workers and neighbors of the disaster site. He went on to marry an American citizen who is also a former Ground Zero recovery worker. Cardona’s 19-year old daughter is currently in college working toward earning a degree to teach elementary students.
New Yorkers like Mr Cardona should be celebrated for their sacrifices, not arrested and split apart from their family. Granting clemency for his non-violent arrest in 1990 should remove grounds to deport Mr. Cardona.
Mr. Cardona should be immediately released from custody. Add your name now to call on federal immigration authorities to release Mr. Cardona and reunite him with his family.
New York will always protect the rights of immigrants in our state. Thank you for your support, ever upward,
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL OF THE 2017 CANDIDATES WHO RECEIVED ENDORSEMENTS AT THE ORANGE COUNTY DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION ON MAY 31
Patrick James Davis – Orange County Executive
Deborah Mulqueen – Orange County Clerk
Michael Isgur – Orange County District Attorney
Endorsed Democratic Candidates for Orange County Legislature
Orange County Legislative District 2- Ken Pinkela
Orange County Legislative District 3 – Patricia McMillan
Orange County Legislative District 4 – Omari Shakur
Orange County Legislative District 5 – Stephen Hunter
Orange County Legislative District 6 - James Kulisek
Orange County Legislative District 7 – Myrna Kemnitz
Orange County Legislative District 9 – Kevin Mulqueen
Orange County Legislative District 10 – Mercedes Tartanian
Orange County Legislative District 12 – Virginia Scott
Orange County Legislative District 14 – Laurie Tautel
Orange County Legislative District 15 – Sylvia Santiago
Orange County Legislative District 18 – Roseanne Sullivan
Orange County Legislative District 19 – Mike Paduch
Orange County Legislative District 20 – Joel Sierra
Save the date for the Orange County Democratic Committee Annual Dinner
June 4, 2016 from 5 to 9 PM at Villa Venezia, Middletown, NY
Contact Mickey Morgano at email@example.com about sponsorship opportunities
Keynote Speaker: Thomas P. DiNapoli, Comptroller of the State of New York
Orange County Democratic Committee Labor Award:
Ron Diaz, Plumbers UA 21, President of the Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation
Distinguished Service Award Recipients:
Robert Fromaget, Town of Blooming Grove Committee member and Blooming Grove Town Supervisor
Andrea Nilon, Town of Crawford Committee member and 2017 Orange County Women of Achievement Recipient
Pramilla Malick, 2016 Democratic Nominee for the New York's 42nd Senate District
Read the story in The Nation:
Led by our own ORANGE CO. DEMOCRATIC WOMEN, 120,000 Americans across the country demanded Trump's taxes on April 15. More at http:/bit.ly/2oZ5eAo
We, the undersigned, being residents and taxpayers in Orange County, are angered by the recent behavior witnessed in the Orange County Government. The Legislature and the County Executive’s office have demonstrated an abuse of representative government both in their behavior and their remarks.
There have been comments by the Chairman of the County Legislature and by the County Executive which disrespect their colleagues and members of the public. Our government’s job is to represent ALL Orange County residents. Orange County taxpayers deserve a County Government that operates in a professional manner, that represents ALL the people in the County regardless of their party or beliefs.
To rebuild faith in County Government, including the Executive and Legislature Branches, the undersigned taxpayers urge our representatives to adopt a resolution with the following key points. Further, we expect that every Legislator and County Administrative Officer signs on to it. The undersigned request:
• That Legislative powers be shared based on qualifications and not partisanship.
• That the business of County government be completely transparent.
• That the public has the opportunity to address issues before they are decided.
• That there is openness about appointments to committees, about consultants and about hiring staff to ensure there is proper vetting, avoidance of conflicts of interest and nepotism.
• That conflicts of interest, or even the perception of such, are openly disclosed.
• That staffing vacancies are filled based on qualifications and experience.
• That openings on committees that accept volunteers are better advertised so the public knows how to apply.
• That information is provided to all lawmakers well in advance of any required action to ensure that decisions are based on all relevant facts.
•That each Legislator has the time to review all relevant facts prior to casting a vote.
April 4, 2017
Last night, the New York legislature officially passed the 2018 budget. I am proud of this budget because it puts middle class families first. It also upholds the values that make New York a national progressive leader with policies that raise the age of criminal responsibility and provide tuition-free college to middle class New Yorkers.
With Washington in turmoil, it’s more important than ever that New York leads by example. This spending plan is proof that, even with a divided government, when you put people ahead of politics, the results are transformative.
This budget continues my record of fiscal responsibility, holding spending growth at 2 percent for the 7th consecutive year while reducing taxes, making historic investments in education, creating good-paying jobs and rebuilding New York’s infrastructure.
We also raised the age of criminal responsibility in our state so that 16 and 17 year olds will no longer be prosecuted as adults. Young people who commit non-violent crimes will now receive the intervention and evidenced based treatment they need -- something every New Yorker can be proud of.
See some of the major achievements included in this budget and how we prioritize spending to benefit all New Yorkers. Watch this video now and see how New York is working for you.
This plan takes into consideration the needs of all New Yorkers, and includes a number of comprehensive measures to strengthen communities across the state.
Here are just a few of the major achievements signed into law last night:
- Raises the age of criminal responsibility to 18
- Establishes the Excelsior Scholarship to provide tuition free college for families making up to $125,000 per year
- Reduces taxes to record lows for middle class New Yorkers
- Invests record levels in education aid
- Protects New Yorkers from soaring prescription drug costs
- Funds a comprehensive plan to protect New York’s water
- Expands ride sharing across New York
- Provides budget flexibility to react to potential loss of federal aid
I will continue to build on our progress and ensure that every New Yorker has the resources needed to succeed. Thank you for your support.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
Dear friends and neighbors,
Orange County officials are considering dropping their involvement in the lawsuit challenging Kiryas Joel's attempt to annex neighboring land. We cannot afford politics as usual so please sign the petition at the link below and join me in urging local officials to continue fighting for us:
Assemblyman Skoufis' Annexation Petition
I've strongly opposed Kiryas Joel's annexation bid since day one because of its unprecedented nature and detrimental repercussions to neighboring communities. We need to tell Orange County to do the right thing: do not drop the lawsuit! The deadline to file an appeal and continue our legal fight is March 20th so time is of the essence: sign our petition and share it with your neighbors!
GIVING DAYS: EVERY THIRD FRIDAY on April 21, May 19, June 16 from 9 am -12 pm, LINE FORMS 8 am
For Families in Need: BRING 4 - 5 TOTES and WE WILL LOAD YOU UP!
WHILE SUPPLIES LAST, CHOOSE FROM:
Meat, Eggs, Deli Meat, Frozen Entrees, Margarine, Milk, Fruits & Vegetables, Rice, Soup, Condiments, Cereal, Juice, Pasta, Vitamins, Cookies, Snacks, Candy, Toilet Paper, Soap, Band Aids, Hygiene Items, Cleaning Supplies, Housewares, Baby Items, and more
SPECIAL: LOTS OF CLOTHING
St. Mary's Church at 180 South Street, Newburgh, NY 12550
In Mannix Hall of the old St. Mary's School, now the Head Start Building. Use gym entrance in back. PARK ON SOUTH STREET OR GIDNEY AVENUE. Cars in upper Head Start parking lot will be towed.
ONE MEMBER PER HOUSEHOLD ONLY. PLEASE BRING AN ID AND ANY KIND OF BILL WITH YOUR ADDRESS ON IT. You need not be a Newburgh resident.
EVERY THIRD FRIDAY: April 21, May 19, June 16
Blessings! St. Mary's Outreach: 845-541-8144
January 30, 2017
Dear Friends & Neighbors,
I would like to first sincerely wish everyone a very happy, healthy, and successful new year. I hope it has already gotten off to an enjoyable start.
I count myself privileged and honored to continue serving you in the State Assembly. As the 2017 legislative session gets underway, I would like to look back at the past year's accomplishments as well as what's to come.
Reducing the Middle-Class Tax Burden
During last year's legislative session, I strongly supported the successful effort to reduce the middle-class income tax rates to their lowest levels in 70 years. I also successfully backed extending the property tax cap which has kept a lid on large tax hikes since its enactment.
Nonetheless, the middle-class continues to get slammed from all sides, and I will continue to fight for additional relief. That's why I support a proposal that renews the soon-to-expire millionaire's tax on individuals making over $1 million and, furthermore, increases the tax rates for those making over $5 million annually. I feel it is equally as important to apply much of this additional revenue towards further reducing the middle-class tax burden.
Making Education a Priority
Over the past four years in office, I am proud to have delivered a 20% increase in state aid to our local schools. Getting our fair share from Albany means smaller classroom sizes, restoring programs, and reducing the need to fill gaps with higher property taxes.
Last year, I also led the fight to freeze SUNY and CUNY tuition rates, defeating a proposal by the Governor to continue hikes for another five years.
There's now an important debate in Albany to make our public colleges tuition-free. While the Governor's proposal is all smoke and mirrors, helping just three percent of students, I will continue pushing to make college more affordable for everyone in our middle-class, not just a tiny, select few. I believe it's imperative we have a well-educated 21st century workforce that isn't saddled with mountains of student debt at the start of their post-college life.
Holding the Village of Kiryas Joel Accountable
Every community in New York State ought to be required to follow the same set of laws. That includes the Village of Kiryas Joel.
That's why I authored and introduced my annexation oversight legislation when KJ eyed an unprecedented land-grab of neighboring land. Kiryas Joel leaders hired Albany's top lobbyists to defeat the bill but I overcame their efforts to pass it - the first time legislation has ever been passed over active opposition from KJ. As we all know, Governor Cuomo sold out the Hudson Valley with his vetoes - but I remain undeterred.
I'm grateful so many municipalities alongside the nonprofit Preserve Hudson Valley are continuing to pursue legal action against Kiryas Joel's land-grab. I support their efforts and will not personally stop until fairness is realized.
I also support the legal efforts of Woodbury, Cornwall, and Cornwall-on-Hudson to prevent KJ's Mountainville well from sucking the local aquifer dry, adversely impacting the residents of these communities. If the courts fail to realize the harm activating this well will cause, I will do everything possible to ensure safeguards are put in place for local residents with private wells.
Investing in our Infrastructure
Improving our roads, bridges, water, and sewer infrastructure has always been a top priority of mine as a member of the Assembly's Transportation Committee. 2016 saw the completion of Route 207's rehabilitation in Goshen, a project I secured funding for the year prior. About four miles of Route 32 along the northern end of Woodbury was also repaved with a grant I delivered.
After a long wait - nearly two decades - the Exit 131 interchange near Woodbury Common will finally be getting the enhancement the region has been waiting for. In last year's state budget, I pushed to lock down $115 million in the Department of Transportation's five-year capital plan for the project; we also received the welcome news this month that the project's start date has been accelerated to November of this year. Some of the highlights include widening Route 32, a ramp to seamlessly take traffic directly onto the Thruway in lieu of the current left-hand turn, the removal of traffic lights, and improvements to Route 6 and Nininger Road. The project will also create over 500 construction jobs.
Some of my priorities for 2017 including improving Route 32 heading towards "Five Corners" in Vails Gate and rehabilitating the intersection of Kings Highway and Route 17M in Chester. In Goshen, I remain convinced that a fly-over from Route 17 is critical to mitigating local traffic if Legoland is approved.
This summer, phase two of the Palisades Parkway project I secured funding for picks up where the repaving left off near the bookstore and continues down to Exit 13 in Haverstraw.
2017 must also be the year we finally legalize ridesharing like Uber and Lyft. I’m optimistic we will soon be joining the rest of the civilized world in offering residents more options to get around.
Holding Banks Accountable for Zombie Properties
One of the 2016 legislative session's top accomplishments was taking concrete steps toward clearing up the zombie property blight that exists in many neighborhoods, a measure that I spent a great deal of energy pushing for.
The large Wall Street banks that hold the vast majority of New York's mortgages often sit on or delay foreclosure proceedings, leaving unmaintained, vacant properties languishing for years on end.
The new law that I championed that took effect last month now requires banks to properly maintain zombie properties during the "pre-foreclosure" period - the time, often years, when the properties are stuck in court and the banks do not technically own them yet. Failure to maintain properties will result in a $500 per day per property fine for these big banks - and given firms like JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America hold thousands of these mortgages, those fines will add up quickly if they ignore the law.
Fighting for Ethics Reform
You may have noticed passing ethics reform is never an easy thing to do in Albany. Nonetheless, I've never stopped pushing on a number of items that, I believe, are important to cleaning up our state government. These include limiting or banning outside income for legislators and closing the notorious LLC campaign finance loophole that was on full display during the veto of my annexation oversight bill.
While outside income and the LLC loophole remain ongoing fights, there was one critical victory that I've long advocated for: pension forfeiture. Pending voter approval of the constitutional amendment at the ballot box, corrupt politicians will soon no longer be able to collect their taxpayer-funded pensions from behind bars.
Again, I want to thank you for affording me the privilege of representing you for another two years. My continued pledge is to always work hard - 24/7 - and fight for our community's best interest.
My door is always open: always feel free to contact me at SkoufisJ@nyassembly.gov or 845-469-6929. You can also visit our local office at 11 Main Street in Chester. I welcome your ideas, opinions, and feedback, and look forward to the year ahead!
New York and this nation were founded on the premise that we are all created equal. In the weeks that have followed the election, that promise has rung hollow for too many New Yorkers and Americans.
Hate crimes have spiked across the country and this state has not been spared. This week, fliers glorifying the KKK were found distributed on cars in Suffolk County. Last week in Allegany County, a softball field dugout was defaced with the words “Make America White Again,” accompanied by a spray-painted swastika. These are just a few examples. My administration has launched a number of investigations into hate crimes targeting minorities and immigrants. and immigrants.
I call on all public officials, of all parties, and indeed, all people everywhere, to denounce and repudiate these expressions, and to pledge to punish to the full extent of the law anyone engaged in such acts. To remain silent is to engage in a dangerous new permissiveness that threatens our American way.
Residents who have experienced bias-motivated threats, harassment or discrimination are encouraged to call our toll-free hotline at (888) 392-3644 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday - Friday. If you want to report a crime or fear for your safety, call 911 immediately.
Let me be very clear: These acts of hate and intolerance go against everything New York stands for. We have welcomed generations of immigrants with open arms. This state will continue that proud legacy – we will not turn our backs and we will not let this heated rhetoric divide us.
We will stand strong united in the face of intolerance and show the world that we are one people, one family, and one New York.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
An Open Letter from Gov. Andrew Cuomo - NY Daily News, Nov. 12, 2016
Those of us who have spent time in politics know that losing is part of the experience. Still, Secretary Hillary Clinton’s defeat on Tuesday was a particularly difficult experience, heartbreaking and bewildering and indeed frightening all at once. I wanted to share some thoughts on how we must acquit ourselves in the days ahead.
As Clinton said, when Donald Trump takes office, we will owe him an open mind and a chance to lead. The fate of the ship always takes precedence over the identity of the captain, and we must loyally do our part to protect the ship.
The night he became commander-in-chief, Donald Trump said he wanted to be President of all Americans. Despite the divisiveness of the campaign, he has an opportunity to live up to that promise by acting first on issues where there is common ground with his opponents. He said he wants to govern on behalf of forgotten Americans, and any time he does that, he can count on both Democrats and Republicans to help him achieve success.
Trump also said that he wants to rebuild America’s infrastructure. In that effort, he will find New York a willing partner as the Tappan Zee Bridge, a new La Guardia Airport, a new cross-Hudson Tunnel, and a revitalized Penn Station continue to rise.
But while we honor America by honoring the results of the election, we will fight as fiercely as we can, at every opportunity that presents itself, to reject the hateful attitudes that pervaded throughout the 2016 campaign. We cannot unhear what we have heard. The voices of the Ku Klux Klan, white nationalism, authoritarianism, misogyny and xenophobia. A generally disdainful view of American ideals.
We all hoped that when we woke up on Nov. 9 the ugliness of this campaign season would finally be gone. But on the day after Election Day, a swastika and the words “make America white again” appeared, spray painted on a softball dugout in Wellsville — in our state of New York.
I cannot and will not pretend that these things are normal even if millions of Americans voted for a campaign either because of these values or in spite of them. I know there are millions more people like me — both Democrats and Republicans who reject them. As I said on other occasions, this election was for the soul of America, and that is why today so many of us feel as we do today; we are soul sick. But as we accept the results of the election, we do not accept these positions.
Americans fought these attitudes before the 2016 election, and we will fight them for as long as it takes to vanquish them. That is our mission, and our dedication to its success does not depend on the occupant of the White House. Americans pledge themselves to “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” One election does not erase that commitment.
We Democrats are not without resources. In Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, Democrats in Congress have leaders who are brilliant parliamentarians, and who will advance our causes even as they will provide a bulwark for our values. But let us also look to our state governments as places where progress can be made. One of the reasons why so many of the programs of President Roosevelt’s New Deal proved effective is that he had tried them out while he was governor of New York. Initiatives like Marriage Equality were enacted in New York and other states before they became the law of the land. Congress has refused to act on gun control, but we enacted a tough law in New York, and California, Nevada, and Washington strengthened their gun laws on Tuesday.
While the world struggles to come to consensus on how to combat climate change, we in New York have banned fracking and set a renewable energy standard requiring 50% of our electricity to come from renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2030. This year in New York State, we enacted a $15-an-hour minimum wage, the nation’s best Paid Family Leave program, and dedicated more funding to education than ever before. And in this state, we accomplished these successes with a divided legislature: Democrats and Republicans coming together, proving you can be progressive and bipartisan. Indeed, there is more than one path to progress.
Soon enough we will see what proposals will find their way into the President-elect’s agenda. Already it seems almost every far-right Republican under the sun is seeing Trump’s electoral college victory a mandate to enact sweeping ideas and radical proposals, regardless of the pain that is inflicted and the turmoil that is caused. I have great faith that common sense will eventually prevail, and that our traditional American values of justice, liberty and equality will eventually rule the day. In the end, they always have.
Both Democrats and Republicans have fought for these values throughout our nation’s history — from the time when Abraham Lincoln declared we were a nation with malice toward none and charity for all, to when a young Senator from the State of Illinois said: There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America. The way has not always been easy, nor has the cost been cheap; but for whatever this moment demands of us, we are ready.
My father Mario Cuomo spent his entire life fighting against the death penalty, even when it wasn’t popular, even when it cost him the governorship, because he knew it was right. I will fight against the targeting of Muslims, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and for the rights of all Americans every day I hold office and every day after that.
For our values, for our rights, for our vision of America, for the people who depend on us, we will fight. And for that, we are unwilling to compromise.
Editorial: Valley View answer raises old questionsThe Valley View nursing home turned a profit last year.
The Democratic National Committee has put forth what has been hailed as the most progressive policy platform in its history. As New York Democrats, we are proud to see the $15 minimum wage as part of the official platform of the Democratic National Convention, which marks a major victory for America’s working families.
President Obama has led our economy's resurgence with 75 straight months of private sector job growth that added 14.5 million new
jobs, and twenty million people have gained health insurance. Despite this progress, wages have stagnated, racial and gender wealth gaps remain, and costs have gone up.
The #FightFor15 saw historic success thanks to the leadership of Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York Democrats. In 2015, New York led the nation by becoming the first state to set a $15 per hour minimum wage for fast food workers. And then we did it again earlier this year, as Governor Cuomo successfully pushed for New York to enact a $15 per hour minimum wage across all industries for all workers. Working full-time should not mean you have to raise your family in poverty.
We will continue to lead the nation in championing the rights of workers and ensuring the promise of hope and opportunity is afforded to all working people across the Empire State. The Democratic Party has been and will always be unrelenting in the cause for economic fairness and inclusion.
Basil A. Smikle Jr.
New York State Democratic Committee
July 6, 2016 | Legislative Update for the 99th District
Dear Friends & Neighbors,
With July underway, I hope you’re in the midst of enjoying summer. There is a lot of information to share from this year’s legislative session and I’d like to take a moment to keep you up to date on the important issues I’ve been working on:
Pension Forfeiture | Annexation Oversight | LLC Disclosure | Education | Infrastructure
Paid Family Leave | Combating Heroin and Opioid Addiction | [more ... ]
Don't fall for the "change the subject tactic" here. And why isn't Larkin speaking for himself on something this serious?
Eachus rebukes Larkin for stalled Child Victims Act
Times Herald-Record "The Fray" blog | June 24, 2016 | By Chris McKenna
Democratic Senate candidate Chris Eachus went after Republican Sen. William Larkin Jr. this week for the Senate Republicans’ resistance to the Child Victims Act, a longstanding bill that would lift the statute of limitations on charges of child sex-abuse in New York. [more]
Update, June 16, 2016 from Assemblyman James Skoufis:
The State Assembly just passed BOTH the annexation oversight bill as well as our LLC owner disclosure legislation.
The oversight bill will inject much-needed scrutiny into the annexation process and require a super-majority vote of the locally involved municipal boards in cases where the county planners recommend against annexation.
Should the LLC owner disclosure legislation become law, shady shell companies will no longer be able to hide behind a shroud of secrecy when purchasing and selling real estate. People have a right to know who's really behind these transactions.
Both bills now await action in the Senate. The annexation oversight bill is being carried by Senator Bill Larkin; the LLC owner disclosure bill is being carried by Senator David Carlucci.
In "The Fray" by James Nani, Sunday April 17, 2016:
"There will be no letters of support from New Windsor residents who recall Dubaldi as mastermind of baseless attacks on candidates Chris Eachus, a respected NFA teacher he accused of supporting child molesters, or Diane Newlander, who wanted a dog park, or Bonnie Brennan, a respected international civil rights attorney and domestic abuse victim he accused of being a criminal."
The Times Herald-Record reports on April 15:
SKARTADOS BILL OPPOSES PLANS FOR PILGRIM PIPELINE
Turnbull trades jabs with Neuhaus over county speech
A minor political skirmish broke out on Thursday when the Orange County Legislature’s Democratic leader lobbed a few public criticisms at County Executive Steve Neuhaus, accusing the Republican of taking credit for national or regional economic gains and short-changing Democrats in his upbeat State of the County address two days earlier.
Matt Turnbull, a Hamptonburgh resident who became leader of the Democratic minority in January, issued a press release contending that Neuhaus’ hour-long recitation of accomplishments and new plans had “glaring omissions.” He cited the past battle over the county nursing home, saying that Neuhaus tried to sell it to balance the budget and that Democrats fought instead to keep it in county hands and make financial reforms. As a result, he said, “Valley View is no longer a drain on the county budget.”
Turnbull also argued that Democrats deserve credit for saving taxpayers money by fighting to renovate, rather than replace, the county Government Center, and that Jeff Berkman – a Middletown legislator who preceded him as minority leader – had pushed with Middletown’s Democratic mayor, Joe DeStefano, to extend the county’s Heritage Trail through Middletown. Neuhaus had highlighted the impending trail extension and proposed another one – eastward into Harriman – during his address.
Turnbull said the rising job numbers and improved county finances that Neuhaus touted in his speech were really a reflection of broader economic improvements that Democrats had predicted would happen. “The County Executive is shamelessly taking credit for what is a regional and national economic trend,” Turnbull wrote.
Neuhaus responded sharply – and voluminously – to Turnbull’s critique. After marshaling statements of support from the Legislature’s Republican majority leader, Melissa Bonacic, two Republican town supervisors and DeStefano himself, he issued a press release lamenting that Turnbull had “gone negative” and claiming Turbull “has put forth no original ideas during his tenure as a Legislator that have helped the taxpayers of Orange County.”
“Taxpayers don’t care about who gets credit for ideas or accomplishments, we care about tangible results,” the statement read. “Everybody I speak to is disappointed with the divisive politics of Albany and Washington. We sure don’t need that in Orange County. I will continue to work tirelessly to get things done for our residents.”
Bonacic, quoted in the same release, chided Turnbull for being “so divisive” in his remarks. “We are moving in a positive direction and the Republican caucus intends to keep it that way, not build walls of division,” she said.
Orange County, NY (Highland Mills) – January 27, 2016
Orange County Democratic Women Proud That New York Values Include Reproductive Health Services
Members of the Orange County Democratic Women Board of Directors traveled to Albany on Monday to lobby for passage of the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act (A8135). The legislation brings NYS into compliance with the Affordable Health Care Act. Its goal is to correct insurance-related accessibility issues by requiring insurance to cover contraception methods for men and women with no co-pay requirement.
In addition, it provides coverage for Emergency Contraception purchased at community pharmacies without requiring physician prescriptions. This step is in keeping with the nature of emergency contraception which needs to be prompt to be effective. Delaying access in any way can make the method ineffective in avoiding pregnancy, and delays can be harmful. The third key provision of this bill is that it allows up to 12 months of regular contraceptives to be dispensed at one time. Family Planning Advocates said this is a big cost savings for taxpayers as well as users. According to studies this access has helped reduce abortion numbers in other states. The economic and health benefits of access to effective contraception add weight to the arguments of the importance of contraception. The benefits to society goes further than helping women avoid unwanted pregnancy.
“We’re happy to see the passage of this bill for many reasons. The insurance companies had tried to limit access for financial reasons but violated the spirit of the health care coverage law,” said Willa Freiband, Past President of Orange County Democratic Women. The loopholes were discovered by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (D).
Orange County Democratic Women Board members Willa Freiband, Cathy Hilliard and Joan Hutcher joined hundreds of reproductive health care advocates in the Capitol in Albany. The event is an annual Day Of Action organized by Family Planning Advocates of NYS. More than 500 men and women traveled to Albany – some fighting their way out of snow impacted neighborhoods. Advocates wore pink scarves or ties. All day the halls of the Legislative Office Building and the Capitol were flooded with people in pink. By mid afternoon, advocates congregated at the New York State Assembly Chamber to watch the introduction and debate about the merits of the Bill (sponsored by Kevin Cahill (D) Ulster County). The bill passed with Mid Hudson Valley Democrats Aileen Gunther, Frank Skartardos and James Skoufis all in support. Karl Brabenec (R) was the only Mid Hudson Valley Assemblyperson to vote against the contraceptive coverage bill.
“It was a good day for men and women in New York State and for Democrats,” stated Willa Freiband.
Times Herald-Record, The Fray column by Chris McKenna - Sunday January 10, 2016:
DEMOCRATS PRESS LARKIN ON "OUTSIDE PAY" BAN
Orange County Democrats fired a third salvo at state Sen. Bill Larkin on Monday over the question of banning the outside income some state lawmakers earn in the private sector — an issue likely to be taken up in the coming legislative session after the recent corruption convictions of former legislative leaders Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos.
County Democratic Chairman Brett Broge already had chided Larkin after the Skelos conviction for failing to take the same stance as fellow Republican state Sen. John Bonacic of Mount Hope, who had immediately renewed his call to raise lawmakers’ salaries and prohibit their outside income. On Monday, he blasted Larkin for surveying constituents by mail for their opinions on a variety of upcoming issues, including the possibility of banning secondary income sources.
“Instead of taking a stand on this common sense issue like a real leader, Larkin is wasting taxpayer money on a poll about it,” Broge said, attaching a copy of a December mailing from Larkin that posed 25 questions.
Orange County Legislator Chris Eachus, who leads the Legislature’s Democratic minority and ran a relatively close race to unseat Larkin in 2012, issued a statement last week in which he also denounced the Cornwall-on-Hudson Republican over the “outside pay” issue, saying “he refuses to support this common sense legislation.”
“After more than 30 years in Albany, Bill Larkin is part of the problem, and Hudson Valley voters cannot count on getting the change they need as long as he’s in the Senate,” Eachus said in the statement.
In a written response to questions about potential ethics reforms in Albany, Larkin said on Tuesday that he was willing to consider limiting lawmakers’ outside income, as opposed to banning it, but also voiced concerns about creating “professional politicians” and allowing only “the wealthy elite” to run. The Cornwall-on-Hudson Republican, incidentally, has been a state legislator for 37 years and has no outside employment.
"If candidates and lawmakers can’t work outside of their legislative duties, only the wealthy elite could afford to run for office and serve," Larkin wrote. "Our state government was intended to encourage citizen-legislators, everyday people who work and serve in the community, who run for office because that daily experience makes them best-suited to represent the people in his or her community.”
Update from James Skoufis, NY State Assembly [January 8, 2016]
Dear Friends & Neighbors,
First and foremost, I would like to wish you a very happy and healthy new year – I hope it has gotten off to an enjoyable start. As 2016 gets underway and we look forward to another successful year, I would like to take a moment and share some of our accomplishments from 2015.
Investing in Our Infrastructure
Ensuring our communities have safe infrastructure continues to be a top priority. Earlier this year, I secured over $10 million to repave the northern stretch of the Palisades Parkway and Route 6 (Long Mountain Parkway), work that is already underway. Route 6 and the road from the Bear Mountain Circle to roughly the parkway bookstore has been completed; repaving will resume in the spring from the bookstore to Haverstraw.
Additionally, I was able to secure $3 million to repair Route 207 in Goshen from the Route 17 interchange up to Sarah Wells Trail, a stretch of road that is sorely in need of repair. The Department of Transportation is currently engineering the project and work will begin in the coming spring.
Most recently, the Town of Cornwall was granted $1 million to upgrade its sewage treatment plant. All of these projects are critical to the safety and quality of life of members of our community and I will continue to focus on improving our local infrastructure in 2016.
In late 2014, a new five-year MTA Capital Plan was proposed which ignored Orange and Rockland county transit needs. Over the year that followed, I joined local MTA Board Member Susan Metzger in leading the fight to have an Orange County midway train yard as well as passing sidings between Suffern and the new yard included in the plan. Both of these items are crucial to expanding capacity on the west-of-Hudson lines and increasing the number of trains available. Despite $3 billion being cut from the overall MTA plan, we were successful and both projects were included in the revised proposal that was announced and passed in October.
Against all odds and with the support of many local residents, we passed critical annexation oversight bills that I authored. Despite over 9,000 residents signing a petition in support of the legislation, the Governor vetoed both bills.
Subsequently, Preserve Hudson Valley and nine municipalities took legal action against the Monroe-Kiryas Joel annexation bids. The case remains pending in a White Plains court.
While I continue to support a total elimination of the property tax system in favor of a fairer, more sensible income tax, I did support property tax relief measures in this year's budget to keep more money in homeowners' pockets. These measures included a rebate program - Hudson Valley homeowners should be receiving a property tax rebate check by the end of February if one hasn’t already been received.
Furthermore, I fought for and helped enact a number of measures to help small businesses, including lowering their income tax rate from 7.1 to 6.5%.
Making Education a Priority
I fought to secure a $27 million increase in funding for local schools in our Assembly District. I was proud to help deliver this historic increase in aid to our schools because we cannot expect our children to succeed without providing them with the tools to do so and giving our schools the resources they need.
That said, I strongly opposed and voted against efforts to radicalize teacher evaluations that aimed to place an even greater emphasis on testing in our classrooms. Thanks in large part to the significant public outcry following the March vote, proponents of changing teacher evaluations have recently indicated a willingness to revisit this important issue in 2016. You can be sure I will continue to fight for fairness and common sense for our schools as this debate moves forward.
Fighting for a Greater Quality of Life
In 2016, it’s outrageous and unacceptable that women continue to face disadvantages in our society. That’s why I was very pleased to support and help pass a number of women's equality bills that were recently signed into law, including a measure to further ensure equal pay for equal work.
On local health-related issues, I stood shoulder to shoulder with employees and residents -- mostly seniors and veterans -- during the long fight to preserve Valley View. Despite the Orange County administration's attempts to put profit before care and sell the facility, our nursing home was saved in 2015. Moreover, the Cornwall Emergency Room remains open 24/7, as it should.
In the Town of Highlands, I shined a light on the two local gas stations -- both owned by the same company -- that have been taking advantage of residents with exorbitant prices. While the owners were initially and rightfully pressured into lowering their prices, they've unfortunately resumed gouging prices, and I am continuing to pursue all options to bring fairness to the Highlands marketplace.
Preserving and Creating Jobs
Back in 2013, the state announced a plan to close Mid-Hudson Forensic Psych Center and eliminate over 500 jobs in 2016-2017. Since then, I've lobbied against the state's proposal and am pleased to report the facility is no longer on the chopping block for 2016-2017.
One of the major legislative issues last year was the legalization of medical marijuana, which I fully endorsed. After voting in favor of this life-altering treatment, I supported locating a manufacturing facility in our Assembly District. We were successful, and PharmaCann was awarded a coveted license in the Town of Hamptonburgh.
Looking toward the future, you can continue to count on me to fight for Orange and Rockland counties' best interests every single day in 2016. When I say every single day, I mean it: as was the case in my first two years, I did not miss a single floor vote in the 2015 legislative session.
There’s still much work to do which is why I truly thank you for affording me the privilege to serve you and deliver the results we deserve.
Turnbull [at left], seen here with Roseanne Sullivan [Legislator from Towns of Crawford and Walkill] and Chris Eachus, former Minority Leader [Town of New Windsor]. Matt Town represents Blooming Grove, the Village of Washingtonville, Hamptonburgh and part of New Windsor.
MATT TURNBULL ELECTED DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS LEADER OF ORANGE COUNTY LEGISLATURE
"We can no longer allow the County Executive claim credit for our successes. It was the Democrats who fought hard to keep Valley View as a government-owned and -operated facility. It was the Democrats who stopped the total demolition of the Orange County Government Center and forced a more modest project. It was the Democrats who forced the veto of the ill-advised Asset Forfeiture Law."
Brett Broge, Orange County Democratic Committee Chair, speaks for all County Dems in congratulating Matt and notes, "We are grateful to Chris for his fine leadership, and look forward to his continued efforts to make a positive difference for the Dems in New Windsor and Orange County."
For immediate release - December 11, 2015
Time For Senator Larkin to Disavow Corruption Connections
After the guilty verdict in the Dean Skelos corruption trial, Orange County Democratic Committee Chair, Brett Broge, called upon Senator Larkin to disavow past connections to the former Majority Leader Skelos and get behind reforms that will clean up the corruption epidemic in Albany.
Mr. Broge stated: "Senator Bill Larkin should join his Republican colleague, Senator John Bonacic, and support a ban on outside income for legislators. With his support, the Senate would have the 32 votes needed to pass this crucial legislation. After decades in Albany it is unfortunate, but not surprising, that Bill Larkin has become part of the problem and was one of Dean Skelos's biggest supporters even after he was charged with corruption. I hope Senator Larkin finally disavows his support for convicted felon Senate Leader Dean Skelos and stands up for the people of Orange County. We need leaders who are serious about ending corruption and bringing necessary change to Albany, not just those that "go along to get along".
MY VIEW: New hiring practice is highly questionable
By Christopher W. Eachus, Democratic Minority Leader, Orange County Legislature
All non-Republicans and non-Steve Neuhaus supporters need not apply for Orange County employment!
With a quick stroke of a pen, County Executive Steve Neuhaus has now mandated that all interviewees and potential “new” hires must go through a personal interview process with him and his office before being employed in any Orange County government.
When questioned as to the need for this new mandate, the County Executive answered that it is simply a necessary “meet and greet” process with his office for every new potential government worker. So through this simple “meet and greet” process, the County Executive’s office is going to be able to determine if an individual is qualified and appropriate for the thousands of positions throughout the government.
Even though there has been a hiring process in place for decades that has produced a highly qualified and exceptional work force for this county, the County Executive now has to interject himself into the process.
He already has the ability to hold open or vacant all positions throughout the county but now needs to be a determinant of who will fill a particular position in Orange County government.
If there has been nepotism or “sketchy” hiring procedures in the past, then the County Executive should deal with these problems with the administration of the office or department affected. After all, the County Executive has approved and appointed each and every one of those administrators and they work at his pleasure.
When County Executive Steve Neuhaus was asked how his office can afford the time to meet with the hundreds of potential new hires, he responded by saying it would take “no time at all.” I have to agree with him.
After all, how long does it take to ask in a private interview, “Are you a registered Republican?” and “Do you support all of County Executive Steve Neuhaus’ policies?” You certainly can’t ask these questions on an application but what will stop him from asking these questions in a private interview of someone who wants employment from him?
Answer “no” to either of these two questions and somehow you become less qualified for employment in the Sheriff’s office, as a probation officer or even in the Clerk’s office even though you might be highly recommended for that very position.
I believe that this mandate is politically motivated, totally unnecessary and will lead to numerous lawsuits against the county for unethical hiring practices.
County Executive Steve Neuhaus: rescind this mandate and do the job you were elected to do. —Christopher W. Eachus is a Legislator and Democratic Caucus Leader of the 15th Legislative District in New Windsor.
If there has been nepotism or “sketchy” hiring procedures in the past, then the County Executive should deal with these problems with the administration of the office or department affected. After all, the County Executive has approved and appointed each and every one of those administrators and they work at his pleasure.
Posted online by the Times Herald-Record Dec. 2, 2015 at 10:23 AM
From the Times Herald-Record October 31, 2015:
My View by James Skoufis, NY State Assembly, 99th District
The public deserves a fair electoral process, with candidates who are truly looking out for their best interests. To accomplish this, we need to reduce undue big-money influence in state government campaigns and, likewise, voters deserve to know who's really behind the campaign messages they see on their television sets and in their mailboxes.
By closing loopholes that allow deep-pocketed special interests to skirt campaign finance laws and influence campaigns, we can level the playing field and ensure fairer elections. An opportune place to start would be to close the so-called limited liability corporation (LLC) loophole, the most egregious evasion of campaign finance law that exists in New York state.
This past spring, I co-sponsored key legislation that the New York State Assembly passed with strong bipartisan support that would close the LLC loophole (A.6975-B). The bill, which awaits action in the Senate, would regulate the ability of individuals to make campaign contributions over the legal limit through the use of LLC's.
The LLC loophole came about from a 1996 ruling by the state Board of Elections that allowed LLC's to give $150,000 annually to New York campaigns because it recognized them as individuals rather than corporations.
Since then, certain donors have taken advantage of this loophole to set up numerous LLC's in order to make virtually unlimited campaign contributions.
The federal Supreme Court's 2014 ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC further exacerbated the situation by removing aggregate limits on individual donations – in other words, the court ruled that caps could not be placed on individuals vis-à-vis the total amount of money given across-the-board to all candidates in a calendar year.
While the law currently treats each LLC as an individual donor, one person can control more than one LLC. Thus, the LLC loophole is a clear violation of the intent of campaign finance law, which is to provide transparency and to limit big money's unseemly influence on campaigns.
Lawmakers like myself, along with a coalition of good-government groups and grassroots activists, have renewed our efforts to close this loophole.
The ability of LLC's to circumvent campaign contribution limits promotes a "pay-to-play" atmosphere in state government, giving some individuals undue influence. The LLC loophole legislation sets out to correct this problem by establishing LLCs as corporations – not individuals – under campaign finance law and capping contributions at an aggregate of $5,000.
The passage of this bill will be a significant step toward restoring integrity to New York state's electoral process, something I will continue to fight for in the Assembly.
Aileen Gunther urges Gov. Cuomo to sign the Anti-Stigma Bill into law
Stigma is considered one of the leading reasons people who experience symptoms of mental illness don't seek help sooner.
Times-Herald Record Editorial: VICTIMS OF POLITICAL CRIME DESERVE EQUAL TREATMENT http://www.recordonline.com/article/20150829/OPINION/150829417
ULSTER COUNTY D.A. CONFIRMS DUBALDI PROBE
Mid Hudson Times - August 26, 2015
The Ulster County District Attorney’s Office has confirmed an investigation of Carmen Dubaldi. According to the DA’s office, the case is pending.
The investigation follows Dubaldi’s resignation as treasurer for Orange County Legislature Chairman Steve Brescia, County Clerk Annie Rabbitt and former county Executive Ed Diana over the summer. Dubaldi also recently stepped down as chairman of the New Windsor Republican Committee.
As of Tuesday, Dubaldi maintained his job as an assistant safety and loss control specialist for Orange County. Staff from state Sen. Bill Larkin’s office did not return phone calls this week asking whether Dubaldi still worked as Larkin’s treasurer.
Ulster County District Attorney Holley Carnright did not convey specifics on the case.
However, last week Carnright told MidHudsonNews.com the investigation originated in Orange County, but was assigned to the Ulster County DA’s Office after the Orange County district attorney expressed concerns over a potential conflict of interest.
When the Orange County DA’s Office was asked if it was investigating Dubaldi earlier this month, the Mid Hudson Times received a tight-lipped response.
“As a matter of policy, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office does not confirm or deny the existence of investigations in any matter unless or until charges are filed publicly,” Chief Assistant District Attorney Christopher Borek said.
Dubaldi is currently a defendant in a 2013 lawsuit filed by former New Windsor Councilwoman Bonnie Brennan. The suit resulted from a 2012 political campaign during which the New Windsor Republican Committee, then chaired by Dubaldi, used a mug shot of Brennan in political mailers and ads appearing in The Sentinel newspaper.
The photo was obtained from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. Dubaldi’s signature appears on documents requesting the photo from the police agency. The mug shot was taken after a 2009 domestic incident at Brennan’s home. All charges against her were later dismissed.
By SHANTAL RILEY
Broge seeks probe of Larkin campaign finances
- Chris McKenna's blog, The Fray, at recordonline.com [Times Herald-Record] on Aug. 22, 2015
Orange County Democratic Chairman Brett Broge is asking a state attorney to investigate Sen. William Larkin Jr.’s failure to report his campaign contributions and expenditures from January to July, an accounting that he was supposed to file by July 15 and is now more than a month overdue.In a letter on Thursday to Risa Sugarman, chief enforcement counsel for the state Board of Elections, Broge noted that Larkin set up a new campaign account on July 8 and transferred his money there, but never submitted a semi-annual report itemizing the transactions that occurred before then. Broge asked Sugarman to investigate both of Larkin’s campaign committees and pointed out that violations of state election law are subject to fines of up to $1,000.
Larkin’s staff hasn’t responded to questions from the Times Herald-Record about when the report will be filed. Its absence appears tied to an ongoing criminal investigation of Larkin’s former campaign treasurer, Carmen Dubaldi, a longtime Republican insider who recently quit his posts as New Windsor Republican chairman and as campaign treasurer for three other politicians. The matter has reportedly been transferred out of Orange County to avoid potential conflicts and referred to the Ulster County District Attorney’s Office.
The Times Herald-Record reported on Dubaldi’s resignations and the wall of silence surrounding them on July 23.
In a press release accompanying his letter to Sugarman, Broge said that Larkin “is obligated to provide the public an explanation as to why he has not complied with the mandates of the election law.”
“If it has to do with the potential criminal activity of his former campaign treasurer and consultant, Carmen Dubaldi, then he should simply say so and not remain silent, which suggests some type of cover-up,” he said.
QUESTIONS SWIRL IN WAKE OF ORANGE COUNTY POLITICAL OPERATIVE'S RESIGNATIONS
Times Herald-Record story by Chris McKenna posted July 23 at 12:53 PM
April 4, 2015
Letter From Assemblyman JAMES SKOUFIS on the NY State Budget
Dear Friends & Neighbors:
As you may know by now, the 2015-2016 state budget was passed earlier this week. During the months-long negotiation, right up to the time of the votes on various budget bills, I did my best to fight for the serious priorities we have here in the Hudson Valley all the while advocating for our share of resources and attention. Here are some of the highlights – and, unfortunately, lowlights:
In January, the Governor proposed reforms that strike at the heart of education and the teaching profession. While some of my colleagues and I worked tirelessly to make a terrible situation better, the end result is not something I could support. That is why I voted "no" on these education proposals.
Teaching is one of society's most noble professions and I am truly saddened that some are compelled to attack those in our classrooms. Likewise, the vast majority of our schools are places of excellence - not "failing," as some have suggested.
I am further extremely concerned that the potential for a greater reliance on testing exists for both our students and teachers as part of these proposals. There is already over-testing in our classrooms - a greater emphasis on testing, in my opinion, will not yield an accurate or fair assessment of our educators' or children's abilities. You can be sure I will be lobbying the Board of Regents over the coming months as they begin their new task of assembling a revamped teacher evaluation plan.
Unlike the above proposals, I was proud to support and vote for a significant increase in state aid to our local schools - I helped bring back an over $27 million increase in funding to the districts I represent. This is something that will lead to smaller classroom sizes and truly help our students.
And I stand with the teachers in our district that work day in and day out for our children. Thank you, teachers, and you deserve better.
There was some good news on taxes in this year’s budget but there is yet much to be desired. In January, the Governor proposed to eliminate the 2% cost of living increase associated with the STAR property tax rebate program, a measure that would have cost thousands of families I represent. I am pleased to say that like-minded colleagues and I were successful in pushing back on the Governor’s attempt to flat-line the STAR program and a 2% increase remains.
Other good news includes the further chipping away of the unjust MTA payroll tax. While I continue to support legislation that completely repeals this tax, this year’s budget includes an exemption for our libraries.
The bad news is what was not in the budget. I am very disappointment that a much-discussed property tax relief measure called a circuit breaker was not included in the budget framework nor was a cut in the small business income tax rate. These items will be taken up post-budget and remain a top priority of mine.
Lastly, a salary commission was included in one of the budget bills, tasked with looking at pay raises for legislators and agency officials. As I have always pledged, I voted against this measure and do not believe it is appropriate.
The Hudson Valley scored a win when it comes to preserving open space. Included in this year’s budget is $20 million specifically for farmland protection in the Hudson Valley. Also included were significant increases in the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) and the establishment of a $200 million program to assist municipalities in funding water quality infrastructure projects.
$1.5 billion was included in the budget for economic development north of New York City. While I strongly objected to the “hunger games” or competitive nature of this proposal – pitting regions of the state against one another – I plan to work with local stakeholders as we pursue our fair share of this funding. The opportunity exists to inject significant resources into local projects that will lead to job creation, infrastructure, and a stronger Hudson Valley.
I am here to serve you 24/7 and welcome any and all input. Always feel free to call my office at 845-469-6929, email me firstname.lastname@example.org or set up a time to meet in-person. Likewise, be sure to follow me on social media at these links: Facebook: facebook.com/james.skoufis and Twitter: twitter.com/jamesskoufis
Thank you for affording me the privilege to serve you.
Democratic Caucus Leader's response to the State of the County 2015:
WHAT OUR COUNTY NEEDS
Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus delivered the annual ‘State of the County’ address on Wednesday, March 18th. Though the speech was ‘sunny’, projecting many highlights that the County accomplished over the past year, it was very short on specifics for the future. County economic difficulties from last year, and deficit budgeting for this current year, have not simply disappeared.
‘Good, positive stuff’ will only continue occurring in Orange County if there is proper leadership and if the County finances are dealt with in a clear, concise and logical manner. This action must take place immediately as the County is already through one-quarter of its current fiscal year and has not successfully to date addressed its deficits. Leaving the economic and financial future of this County to imaginary solutions and to unachievable hopes and wishes is not the means of ‘righting the ship’.
The County needs a bona fide business plan to guide us through the present and into the future. The recent past has shown that all stakeholders in the County, especially the County Legislature, must be part of the decision-making process. Many positive actions have been undertaken by the County legislature in cooperation with the County Executive’s office in order to fill fiscal deficits and start producing a viable financial future. No ‘crisis budgeting’ nor inflammatory rhetoric is necessary. Hundreds of County workers do not need to be laid off, nor essential County programs and services cut, to achieve our goal of financial fitness.
Valley View Nursing Home is the County’s most successful department over this past year. By drastically cutting costs, maintaining staffing and sustaining its excellent reputation for patient care, it is a model that the County must review and duplicate in other areas. There is complete agreement that the change in administration has been the focal point of these improvements at Valley View and that giving jobs based on nepotism or favoritism does not give the County the resources it needs to be successful.
Compromise throughout County government is also necessary for success and has gotten movement on the Government Center issue. It is essential for any more progress to be made relative to this issue. Neither private companies, nor individuals, should be deciding the fate of the Government Center - or randomly wasting taxpayer’s dollars.
The health and safety of our County residents are of premier importance and has to be kept in the forefront of any planning and decision-making. Services and programs cannot be randomly cut throughout the County. Any County staff reductions must have a thorough analysis done to determine their effects on services and programs.
As the Democratic Caucus leader I am calling on Steve Neuhaus, along with all my compatriots in the County Legislature, to come together to produce a viable and acceptable business plan for the County to address current and future years. This must be done within the next two months in order to properly address the immediate issues in our County. As quoted by our County Executive, “We are not out of the storm”, and we won’t be out unless there is a plan and proper leadership to guide the way.
See video of Neuhaus address at http://bit.ly/1D6rTeF
Assistance Available for Immigrants in Orange County Communities.
Protecting Orange County Community Members
In a recent press release, YWCA Orange County stated its readiness to help people affected by the travel ban and efforts that target immigrants.
"As an anti-sexist, anti-racist social justice agency, YWCA Orange County stands ready to assist Orange County community members experiencing any consequences from the recent travel ban."
Excerpt from Statement by Christine Sadowski, Executive Director, YWCA Orange County:
"As a nation founded through immigration, we must look critically at the racialization of our current policies. In many countries around the world, few women, and certainly no children, are the decision-makers regarding emigration, yet will once again be adversely affected by the recent directives. There are plenty of strategies to keep our country safe that don't result in wholesale, prejudiced-based actions, targeting any one religion, nationality, or ethnicity.
While YWCA will continue to advocate for racially-just policies, we are also equipped to address the results of those which are not," said Christine Sadowski, Executive Director, YWCA Orange County.
For more information, contact YWCA Orange County at 845-561-8050, x10 or stop by YWCA Orange County at 21 West Street, Newburgh.
Llama Laura at 561- 8050, x17.
Dear Ms. McFarlan,
I'm applying for the 2017-2018 internship program at the Morris Arboretum. My professional goal is to perpetuate the shift to landscaping with native plants. The internship will provide information on a wide variety of plants, the conditions needed for optimal growth and vibrancy and how to re-balance those conditions using biological, chemical and mineral amendments. By combining groups of native plants that are uniquely suited to specific habitats, they will reveal their extraordinary ability to control storm water, moderate drought conditions, and serve as food and shelter for native wildlife.
A lifelong love of plants, a strong background in chemistry and biology, and a good work ethic are strengths that will help me assimilate the wealth of material taught in this internship. Currently, small flower and vegetable gardens are my research plots where experiments with biological and mineral amendments take place. I can identify many native plants by name. Volunteering at local nature centers and farms and frequently walking in fields keep me aware of plant preferences for wet/dry and sun/shade conditions. I ran a nature summer school for young children while in high school. I took honors Botany, Microbiology, and Parasitology in college. My early career took me in the direction of Medical Technology and Biochemistry. However, I'm looking to refocus on Botany for my encore career. This internship will provide a chance to return to work that is not only close to my heart, but one which has broad, ramifications for the biodiversity of our planet.
Landscaping has traditionally been considered as an aesthetic, not a functional enterprise, yet the natural habitat and the wildlife which depends upon it have been declining for decades both in quality and quantity. As extreme weather cycles and land development damage our environment, landscaping with indigenous plants could ultimately assume a critical ecological role in addition to an aesthetic one, much as beautiful architecture does.
I hope that you will consider my application and grant me the opportunity to prove my dedication to this work in an interview.