The County Account

County considers fracking legislation

Will fracking fracture the Dutchess County Legislature? Perhaps. For the first time county government takes up the contentious issue of fracking. It promises to be a several month-long discussion. On our agenda for discussion in September is a local law that would consider banning the use of hydraulic fracturing brine in county highway operations. Brine is defined as water that is produced as a result of hydraulic fracturing and the legislation seeks to prevent its use in pre-wetting, anti-icing or de-icing of roadways.

Tax exemptions, fracking regulations

In a few months the county executive will present the Legislature with the 2013 county budget, from which legislators will then scrutinize, adjust and adopt sometime in early December. Once adopted the tax levy will be set, which is the amount to be collected from taxed properties in the county. Once determined the rate per property is set, from which based upon a resident’s property value the amount to be collected can be determined. Inasmuch as different properties have different values, so also the status of the property owner determines how much, or how little, he or she pays.

New FEMA flood zone map burdens landowners

The federal government decides to flex its muscles and coerce individual citizens to purchase insurance. Citizens complain. Sound like the national debate over health care? Guess again. This scenario is taking place across the country as the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) newly released maps shifts many new properties into flood zones with costly impacts. Many properties — which some owners say have never experienced flooding even during last year’s destructive hurricanes — now complain of declining property values and the added burden of taking out flood insurance.

The Hudson River Psych Center closure

The January closure of the Hudson River Psychiatric Center (HRPC) has been on my mind lately as both legislatively and personally I’ve been dealing with the aftermath of its closure.

A fixed institution in our community since 1867, HRPC closed as a cost-saving measure of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the twin houses of the state Legislature. I have been and remain critical of that decision as the wrong approach to mental health care, as well as a wrong approach to cost-savings.

Rail Trail and other older projects show new signs of life

Consistency of need and expectation for government leadership has remained steady for the people of Amenia. When I first ran for Dutchess County Legislature in 2009 I heard numerous voices asking when the county was going to complete the Harlem Valley Rail Trail, whose unfinished portion north of Millerton was seen as having a negative effect on local tourism.

A slaughterhouse at DDSO? It’s a possibility

The County Account

Among the most pressing economic issues discussed by attendees at a recent meeting of the Harlem Valley Chamber of Commerce was the future use of the Taconic Developmental Disabilities Services Office (DDSO) grounds. Community members felt that something business-oriented should be attracted and that government leaders should assist in the conversation, particularly because the property is state-owned. To that end, in recent times I have been carrying this topic forward in community conversations in asking local people what they would like to see.

County tax exemption for the disabled proposed as just

This column has recently been considering philosophical theory and contemporary practice regarding the issue of justice with respect to taxation practices. The impetus has been a county law I’m sponsoring to grant tax exemption status to disabled property owners below certain incomes. Such an exemption works by granting a property tax discount to those who qualify, while expecting the rest of the community to make up the difference.

The injustices of legal plunder: Frédéric Bastiat’s law

The County Account

There’s no law without philosophy. I’ve tried to stay true to this simple maxim in both my ruminations and approach to lawmaking. I constantly ask myself to what underlying principle is any law rooted, and how does it fare in particular with the United States and New York state constitutions to which we legislators swear allegiance?

2012 to be a costly year for elections

The County Account

In 1713, Dutchess County residents elected their government leaders for the first time. Fast forward to 2012. This year the size of government and its inability to coordinate will provide unparalleled election opportunities in rapid succession. Unfortunately, each comes with a steep price tag.

Mental health funds diverted

The County Account

The state made available to Dutchess County funding to build up community mental health in the wake of the Hudson River Psychiatric Center closure. The amount offered was $1.875 million, with $1.5 millon renewing annually, restricted to “diversionary” programs to reduce hospital admissions and arrests. This month the collective will of county government voted to “divert” and pervert the actual intention of such monies.