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DC Legislative District 24

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    Ryan Courtien (Dem) Educator

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    Alan Surman (Rep) DC Legislator, District 24

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Biographical Information

1. What can the County do to create employment opportunities for County Residents?

2. What can the County do to promote growth in the agriculture sector?

3. Now that the County has taken over the City of Poughkeepsie Bus system, what can be done to address the concerns of the residents for whom access has been reduced?

4. Dutchess County is struggling to find ways of coping with the growing opioid epidemic: how can we improve the effectiveness of current practice? Or, are there any alternative strategies that you feel would be worth considering?

5. How best can the County address the problem that inmate populations exceed the ability of the jail system to adequately house and support them?

6. Cities and towns in Dutchess County have seen a decline in the tax base, while infrastructure ages, and needs repair or replacing. How can the County address this?

7. What needs to be done to improve quality of and access to Mental Health resources for Dutchess County residents?

8. In 2015, 1 in 10 Dutchess County residents was receiving services from DCFS. What can the County do in order to improve upon what Family Services provides for those who rely on these services?

9. Should the County encourage development of alternative energy sources, and if so, what might be the most effective strategies?

Campaign Phone (914) 804-1024
Party Enrollment/Designations Democratic Party
Age 40
Experience 2016-2017 Town of Union Vale Bookkeeper, 2008-2015 Town of Dover Town Supervisor
Education MSEd Teaching Mathematics - Lehman College, BA Political Science & Government - SUNY Plattsburgh
Other than County funded jobs, Dutchess alone cannot create employment opportunities. The County should: 1. Strengthen its efforts to work with municipalities to find suitable locations for new businesses. 2. Promote Dutchess as a destination for new businesses while also promoting current Dutchess located businesses out-of-county. 3. Work with Dutchess Community College to create partnerships leading to and improving employment opportunities.
Coming from a district with a lot of agriculture, Dutchess County's role in promoting its growth is of high importance. The County should: 1. First, ask farmers and others involved in agriculture how Dutchess County and municipal governments can help by conducting a needs assessment. 2. Work with the Cornell Cooperative Extension to update the 'Dutchess County Agriculture and Farmland Protection Plan'. 3. Promote local farms in its role of promoting tourism.
The take over of the City Bus system was mishandled. The County should: 1. Conduct a needs assessment with both City residents and the City government. 2. Conduct a broader transportation assessment of the entire County. 3. Implement a plan based on these assessments.
Recognizing that heroin and other opioids is a public health crisis is a good first step but far more needs to be done. The County should: 1. Continue, and possibly broaden, its current lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies. 2. Work with Educators across the county in both Secondary and Higher Education on programs to educate the public regarding the dangers of opioids. 3. Find additional funding for the Department of Community and Behavioral Health to train and supply more first responders and community members with Naloxone (Narcan).
As the new Dutchess County Justice and Transition Center is being built, we need to look at what else can and should be done. The County should: 1. Work with the Dutchess County Magistrates Association to get input from our local Justices. 2. Continue and strengthen the Alternatives To Incarceration Programs. 3. Look at how the current RESTART program can be further utilized.
Dutchess County put more of a burden on municipalities by taking away millions of dollars in Sales Tax revenue which in turn put more of a burden on the local tax base. The County should: 1. Return additional Sales Tax funding taken from municipalities to be used for alternative energy / energy efficient building improvements. 2. Have the Department of Public Works assist Highway Superintendents interested in teaming up with the County to assess road and bridge priorities. 3. Help to increase the tax base by promoting Dutchess as a place for new businesses.
Dutchess County has a robust Department of Behavioral and Community Health but more can done: The County should: 1. Expand the Government on the Road program to allow more access to the services offered by the Department for Behavioral and Community Health. 2. Do more to promote Dutchess County HELPLINE which people in need of crisis counseling can call or text - 845.485.9700 3. Do more to promote the Stabilization Center and provide free and prompt transportation to anyone across the county in need of this service.
Dutchess County has a robust Department of Community and Family Services but more can done: The County should: 1. Determine the feasibility of using an Alternative Energy Fund to improve low income homes thereby reducing the need for HEAP (Home Energy Assistance Program) funding. 2. Expand the Government on the Road program to allow more access to the services offered by the Department for Community and Family Services.

While everyone should agree that a fossil free future is possible and beneficial, we need to see what can be done now and for the next 30 years to get us to such a future. The County should: 1. Create the Dutchess LEAP (Loans for Energy Alternatives Program) Fund which would provide low or no interest loans to residents and business for solar panels or other alternatives to reduce their costs and improve the environment. 2. Offer to assist interested municipalities with changes in zoning that would encourage more development of alternative energy sources.

Campaign Phone (845) 519-5017
Party Enrollment/Designations Independence, Republican, Conservative
Age 65
Experience Technical Consultant on high-availability computer systems and disaster recovery solutions for the commercial and government sectors.
Education Computer Science Degree
Military History none
The County can help create employment opportunities for residents in several ways. First and foremost is providing a stable and attractive environment for businesses to choose Dutchess County by keeping taxes low and maintaining infrastructure along with careful management of borrowing for larger projects. Standard and Poor's Rating Services has reaffirmed Dutchess County Government's AA+ bond rating, placing us as one of the best Counties in NY State. S&P's report articulated a "strong" management and budgetary performance and a "very strong" economy with a good debt and contingent liability position. Continued funding for innovative programs like the "Think Dutchess Business Alliance" has proven to be a successful recruitment mechanism to attract new business by assisting in startups, expansion or relocation.
The County has actively been promoting growth in the agricultural sector. We have a strong Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board that monitors the Agricultural Districts and works with applicants for the Purchase of Development Rights Program, which has helped to preserve farms across the County. The continued investment of $1 million dollars per year for this program demonstrates the commitment to protect farmland. Other County initiatives like the active promotion of tourism, dovetails nicely into the agricultural programs by generating business activity for our farms.
To be clear, the County only expanded bus service within Poughkeepsie when the City unilaterally decided to terminate its own bus service. The County provided service offers extended hours of availability over the former City scheduling. The new routes and interconnects have proven to be successful over the past couple of months. The Dutchess County Department of Public Works has promised to actively monitor utilization and accept feed-back from residents in fine-tuning the route layouts, so the County will remain flexible in meeting the needs of City residents.
The opioid epidemic is a National problem facing all communities. Along with the tragedy of the addicts and their families, the burden placed on social services and repercussions on the Judicial system and jail population all have a huge financial impact. Locally, Dutchess County has been a leader in this fight by opening the Stabilization Center which offers immediate crisis mitigation for addicts, diverting them from jail or hospital emergency rooms. The Center helps those individuals to plan long-term treatment and therapy after the initial intervention. Another aspect is the funding for ongoing training for first responders and law enforcement in effective crisis intervention. Money is being spent to help County schools in educating our youth early-on about the dangers of drugs. The County also helps to support drug addiction treatment programs.
Part of what the County is doing, has been described above, i.e. the Stabilization Center which has been successful in diverting hundreds of addicts from the jail system. The County has been methodically working on the plan and implementation of the replacement of the current jail, i.e. the Justice and Transition Center project approved in 2016. The resulting facility will save over $5 million annually in cost avoidance of housing our inmates outside the County, and make available to those inmates evidence based programs proven to reduce recidivism. The inmates don't have access to these programs when they are in jails outside the County. Being closer to families and legal counsel also helps to reduce recidivism. The new Justice and Transition Center will be compartmentalized to provide separate half-way house facilities, sections for low-level offenders, women, etc. This will result in a dramatic reduction in the ratio of correction officers to inmates, reducing labor costs.
As mentioned earlier, the County has been working hard to control costs and keep the tax burden as low as possible on residents and businesses. This has made Dutchess County an attractive place to do business, consequently slowing the trend of the declining tax base after the last recession and hopefully reversing that trend in a few years. Investment continues in the County infrastructure (over $15 million in the 2017 budget), which is vital to attracting new businesses and the expansion of existing ones. The Dutchess Tourism program received $1.3 million in this year's budget. Other initiatives include the improvements to the Dutchess County Airport, now renamed the Hudson Valley Regional Airport. In addition, Dutchess County Community College will be opening a training facility at the airport.
Much of what the County is doing to improve the quality of, and access to Mental Health resources for residents has been described above. The innovative approach of the Stabilization Center has proven to be a success and will continue to be funded. This facility diverts addicts and mental health cases from the jail system and helps to direct these residents to long-term treatment and therapy programs. The new Justice and Transition Center will provide a wide array of evidenced based programs to inmates, which will include mental health resources if deemed appropriate. This will help to reduce recidivism. The alignment of County agencies provides better response to residents with mental health issues.
Virtually all services offered are direct requirements of the State and orchestrated at the State level. When we see gaps in this social safety net, the County does innovate as demonstrated by the unique Stabilization Center, which will likely serve as a model for other Counties.
The County has a positive record in this regard, but more can be done. A solar array was approved for the Hudson Valley Regional Airport. The County just passed a resolution to purchase (4) electric vehicles and establish charging stations, as part of a pilot evaluation program for the increased use of "green" vehicles. The Legislature also passed a resolution this year to exempt solar energy equipment from the County's sales tax. In my view, the biggest challenge to long-term alternative energy equipment installation for residents is the increase in property taxes that they face after the 15 year exemption period. I will be working on a resolution to permanently exempt residential solar energy improvements from property tax in Dutchess County. Solar panels degrade over time and power inverters may last only 20 to 25 years. Home owners should be encouraged to maintain their solar installations without the penalty of property tax increases due to the addition or replacement of gear.

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