County Charter Reform - The issue of county charter reform was one of the main issues that encouraged me to run for office for the first time in 2015. I firmly believe that most of the findings of the independent Charter Review Commission still need to be implemented. These include:
- Term limits - if they are important enough for the highest office in the land then they are important enough for county legislature, including myself when elected. This is underway now and needs to get completed.
- Independent redistricting - An impartial, independent committee must be formed to manage this task. Gerrymandering is no longer a time honored tradition and has already cost Albany County residents too much money. If a candidate is strong enough and has accomplished enough, they ought to be able to win regardless of district lines.
- Coroner vs. Medical Examiner – It is time to replace the current two county coroner system with a professional Medical Examiner’s office. As the capitol of New York, we deserve a system that does not allow non-medically trained individuals to handle such weighty matters. It is simply a patronage system that is no longer welcome in today’s government. Replace the current system with a Medical Examiner who is an MD and a professional.
- Broadcasting Meetings – Its simple… all legislative and committee meetings should be broadcast live on TV and/or via the web. They should also be recorded and available at any time on the county website.
- Administrative Code/Codification – In an unbelievable manner, Albany County does not collect, codify, and publish all local laws and ordinances in an easily accessible administrative code. It is time to accomplish this basic and necessary task.
County Infrastructure Repair/Upgrades - Combined sewer overflows (CSO's) are a major problem for this very old county. Our treatment plants cannot handle heavy rain events and untreated water is dumped directly into the Hudson River. We need to work with Albany County towns and invest in upgrading these very old systems to prevent CSO's and improve the health of the Hudson River and surrounding waterways.
Furthermore, our roads and bridges are also sorely in need of repair and, in some cases, replacement. Albany County needs to have an investment plan to ensure this happens where an amount of money is budgeted and dedicated to these efforts and each time a project is complete then another project begins with that same budget line of money. This prevents tax spikes and also can eliminate, or minimize, the need to keeo borrowing money which costs so much more in the long run. There are other budget mechanisms that can also work but we must ensure this happens and that we control and minimize impact to the taxpayers.
Green Development of the Hudson River Corridor – While I have many strong views and firm ideas in this area, I have attended meetings of the Bethlehem Local Waterfront Advisory Committee and discovered that we share many of the same ideas and that some of them are already being acted upon. Presently, we need to improve access to the river and find a way to create a southern spur of the Rail Trail to the Henry Hudson Park. Check out the local LWRP at http://www.townofbethlehem.org/605/Local-Waterfront-Advisory-Committee to see what's going on in this arena. This awesome natural resource needs to be carefully cultivated as an economic engine for our community.
Economic Development along the Rt. 144 corridor – Much of the 36th District of the county legislature is sub-rural in nature and the local, large landowners are fiercely protective of their lands. There is also much support for maintaining our rural character and for preserving much needed open space. That said, and as a member and supporter of local conservation groups such as the Mohawk-Hudson Land Conservancy, there are opportunities in parts of our District to balance the aforementioned desires with much needed economic development. Land along the Rt 144 corridor, particularly in the RCS school district zone, is ripe for clean and unobtrusive light industrial development. I am specifically referencing the riverfront core area which is basically land across River Road from the Glenmont Job Corps. Using the Rt 9W corridor of Coxsackie as a model, we can attract companies that are sensitive to the environment, can be situated off of the main road and not be unsightly and can also maintain large portions of the open space in a natural state. The outcome of this would be to increase the tax base in this part of the county and diminish the tax burden on the residential landowners, large and small. While this would have to be a combined effort with the county and town, it can and should be done to improve our fiscal outlook and lessen our tax burden while also ensuring that much of the land remains natural and unavailable to other more harmful forms of development, like landfills and affiliated industries.
Academic/Apprenticeship Partnerships – We live in an area rich and diverse in academic institutions, research facilities and industries. As a long time HS teacher, I can attest firsthand to the difficulty of trying to get students into these labs and research facilities for pre-college experiences. I will work with any and all of these institutions to create partnership programs that allow HS students, and other young people, to gain practical experience in a real life setting before making life decisions. Apprenticeship was once a vital cog in the school to work pipeline and should be revitalized. This applies to the trades as well. For various reasons, young people do not see the trades as career paths or simply cannot get a job without experience and can't get experience without a job. Regenerating apprenticeship programs for the trades and internships for academia will improve our work force immensely and address the very issues employers cite in the weakness of new hires. We will also be sure to structure the agreements to prevent abuses of time and talent and not allow these partnerships to become cases of indentured servitude, especially in the trades.
Living wage – A living wage for all workers is paramount. County workers, in large measure, have gone many years without any increases while cost have risen. It is time to strengthen our core workers and negotiate a fair and reasonable contract that allows them to begin to move forward again economically and that doesn’t break the bank for county taxpayers. It can be done and I will fight hard for this when elected.
PS – We need to also continue this push for all lower wage workers to begin to lift our economy again, in particular home health workers.
Paid Sick Leave - The ability for all workers to be able to care for themselves and their families without the fear of losing their job should be a fundamental right. I have fought as teachers union president for many years to preserve and enhance just such rights and will do so for county workers as well.
Train Idling Laws – Did I mention, my backyard terminates in railroad tracks? As a matter of fact, the last place trains waiting to enter the Selkirk yards can stop without blocking any roads is right behind our development. As such, and based on where my house is situated, the engine cars literally stop in my backyard. They often idle for hours upon hours, all the while spewing nasty chemicals into the air for all of us to inhale. I will work to strengthen enforcement of existing laws and to create new ones if necessary. I do not want to limit or harm important local businesses, but I will hold them accountable for being good neighbors and good stewards of the environment we all use and share.