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VOTE411 Voter Guide

DC Legislative District 06

  • William Biskup (Rep)

  • Candidate picture

    Rebecca Edwards (Dem) teaches U.S. history at Vassar College

Change Candidates

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?

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Campaign Phone (845) 705-3778
Party Enrollment/Designations Democratic, Working Families, Women's Equality, Green, and Reform Parties
Age 51
Experience Poughkeepsie resident and homeowner for 22 years, and civic leader in organizations ranging from Grace Smith House, Inc. (shelter for domestic violence survivors and their children), to Mid-Hudson Antislavery History Project (interpreting local history of slavery, abolition, and the Underground Railroad). Local co-coordinator of Warrior-Scholar Project, college-prep seminars for military veterans. Former board member, Amnesty International USA. Child in Arlington Public Schools.
Education B.A., College of William and Mary M.A. and Ph.D., University of Virginia
Currently the county, through the Industrial Development Agency, gives tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks to corporations, trying to get them to create jobs. This isn’t working: too often, companies take the tax breaks without delivering on the jobs. We should focus instead on local entrepreneurship and community wealth-building. Strategies include asking anchor institutions (like colleges and hospitals) to commit to buying more locally; enhancing educational opportunity for our youth; and supporting institutions that offer low-interest loans. We’re seeing a sharp drop in local retail, due to shopping and a shift toward a “gig” economy, in which workers (such as freelancers and Uber drivers) face highly unpredictable and often inadequate income. The “gig” economy is not just causing “temporary discomfort,” as some tech leaders claim; it’s creating serious hardship. Our economic policies need to recognize these patterns and address them head-on, making sure we create good jobs.
Small-scale meat and dairy producers, cideries, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) projects are flourishing in the Hudson Valley—examples of how new strategies can expand agricultural opportunities and income. Our agricultural sector is fairly healthy, but we could do much more. For example, there are exciting opportunities for on-farm energy production, so farmers can cut one of their biggest costs and turn it into an income source, through projects ranging from solar farms to methane digesters. We should support any farmer who wants to innovate in this area.
Whether the county or the city runs the bus system, it must reach the riders who need its services. In addition to changing routes to respond to residents’ urgent needs, further measures to increase ridership should be pursued. For example, a network of bike trails leading to designated bus stops might be useful for commuters and college students, while increased bus access could help more seniors boost their access to local parks, cultural events, restaurants, and shopping. The county planning department has proposed some excellent long-term goals, but they need more support from the county itself—giving their plans “priority status”—and we need to make sure municipalities coordinate on a strategic plan to benefit everyone.
The Stabilization Center is a prime example of the limits of county’s efforts to reach people who need help. It’s in Poughkeepsie; if you’re in crisis in Amenia or Beacon, it’s hard to reach the Center. Center statistics show that it's mostly reaching Poughkeepsie residents.

That’s a start, but it’s not enough--the epidemic is affecting ALL parts of the county. In the last five years we’ve lost 250 residents to overdoses. That’s a shocking figure. The arrival of fentanyl, a terrifying new opioid causing even higher death rates, is now making things worse.

We should do more to strengthen mobile outreach, and we should listen carefully to those who have overcome addiction, who have personal knowledge of what worked for them. No single individual has the answer, but working together we can find the most effective responses to this deadly scourge. Localities are experimenting all over the country; we should energetically track those efforts and figure out what works best
Crime has declined in the last few years but our jail population has not, largely due to lengthy pre-trial delays. We need to do much more to reduce those delays. We should also undertake bail reform, which in other localities has reduced inmate populations by as much as half. This needs to be done carefully, but it has a safe, proven track record. The vast majority of Dutchess offenders are accused of non-violent crimes. Those with enough money for bail return to their jobs and families while awaiting trial. Those who don’t languish in jail, and may lose their jobs and even custody of their children. That’s deeply unfair, and it’s terrible for taxpayers who foot the bill.

Three-quarters of those in our jail are wrestling with mental health issues, drug addiction, or both. We should strive to solve those problems before people commit crimes. We owe that not only to them but to crime victims, and to police and first responders, who are on the front lines dealing with these dangers.
I strongly disagree with the county’s decision, a few years ago, to recalculate the sales-tax formula so that the county now gets 15% more of the revenue, while cities and towns get less. The county now has a $60 million surplus—far more than ever before—while municipalities, struggling with big deficits, have had to raise taxes. We should revise the formula to support our cities and towns.

We also need to grow our tax base. Our population is shrinking, and last year Dutchess was one of only two areas in the state that saw a net loss in private-sector jobs. Since employment at IBM began to decline sharply in the 1990s, Dutchess has not articulated a successful vision or strategic plan for our economy. Democrats are ready to lead that conversation and find effective ways forward, through strategies such as those described in my answers to some of the other questions. Community wealth building, as outlined by the Democracy Collaborative, is a particularly promising approach.
See my answer to question #4, above. While the number of people needing mental health support greatly exceeds those with opioid addictions, the problems are not unrelated. Efforts to address them have so far been insufficient. This challenge is not unique to Dutchess, but local policies can be a major part of the solution. Our county mental health services, once a shining model, have suffered from major cuts and consolidation. They desperately need to be strengthened to meet the current crisis.
The best long-term strategy is to help people gain economic security so that many of them no longer need DCFS. That's a big job, which may include a combination of anti-addiction and mental health support, job creation, a higher minimum wage, affordable housing, high-quality education, and opportunities for youth. Studies have shown that the long-term payoff from such efforts is immense.

In the short term, we need to close gaps. There’s a wait list for county Head Start programs, which is unacceptable: every parent who seeks a strong, healthy start for their infant or toddler deserves our support, because pre-K programs are one of the soundest investment any community can make.

A well-designed youth summer job program can also increase family incomes, help young people succeed, and cut future crime rates by up to 40 percent. That’s an inexpensive project that the county could undertake now, making a big difference for many families. Many grants are available to help.
A resounding YES. This is one of the best ways to expand our local tax base and create jobs. Any time we spend a dollar on petroleum, 90 cents of it leaves Dutchess County. A local solar farm, however, built on an old landfill or an out-of-the way spot, can generate clean energy while keeping our energy dollars working here for us. Clean energy is especially important now because solar, wind, and geothermal have become competitive in the open market, and “first movers” in this economy will reap long-term benefits. At the same time, the Indian Point nuclear plant is scheduled to close in 2019, and energy prices will rise. We should make sure all our communities are “Energy Smart” and are applying for state and federal grants to switch to alternative strategies. We should be getting solar panels on the roof of every county and municipal building, as a matter of basic taxpayer protection for the future. logo


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