Republicans will continue to govern Dutchess County. On Tuesday, Nov. 5, elections determined that Republicans have won 16 out of the 25 seats, while Democrats have secured six seats. Results in three of the districts were too close to call and will come down to the votes cast on paper ballots. (The Poughkeepsie Journal, “Election 2013: Republicans keep Control of Dutchess Legislature,” 11.6.13) Republicans have held the majority since 2009 in this district.
Among those running was Vassar student Seth Warner ’14. “People here deserve better leadership: one that makes investments in our future, as opposed to looking backward with responses to problems that past responses made,” Warner wrote in an emailed statement. “When no one else stepped up, I decided that it was up to me and the people who would join me to represent that vision.” Warner ran against incumbent Republican Legislator Angela Flesland, who won the seat 1,177 to 978.
There are a number of issues that the Legislature will have to think about going into the year. There is ongoing debate surrounding a proposed sales tax on residential fuel oil and natural gas. Others would like to see more services provided for low-income residents as well as advocates for the city bus drivers. Another major priority will be managing the high costs of jail overcrowding. Currently it takes around $8 million to support Dutchess’ inmates outside the county. (The Poughkeepsie Journal, “Tough Issues on the Horizon for Dutchess County Legislature,” 11.8.13)
Speaking to these debates, Warner added, “The proposed county jail expansion is the biggest issue. The Republican legislature wants a bigger jail after cutting items that keep people out. In recent years, the legislature privatized mental-health services and slashed funds from daycare programs, special education, and early intervention for at-risk youth. If there’s overcrowding at the jail, a 600-bed facility isn’t the answer, foresight is. We need the foresight to see how an investment in our people is the smartest one we can make, both socially and financially.”
Other voices have also expressed doubt toward the newly appointed Legislature. Vice President of Vassar College Democrats Marty Ascher ’16 wrote in an emailed statement, “With such a large Republican majority in the county legislature, it seems very unlikely that many of our priorities will be accomplished, but we will keep trying to make our voices heard on issues such as environmental policy for example.”
Poughkeepsie voter turnout was normal and consistent, according to Election Commissioners. (The Poughkeepsie Journal, “Election 2013: Republicans keep Control of Dutchess Legislature,” 11.6.13) While it was a significant decrease from last year, this is not unexpected since turnout is typically higher for presidential races. Vassar maintained a small presence at elections, with over 110 registered to vote in the sixth district alone.
President of Vassar organization Democracy Matters, Adam Eichen ’15, commented on his disappointment with the lack of Vassar involvement. “I am extremely disappointed with Vassar students’ involvement, awareness, and mobilization during this election,” he wrote in an emailed statement. “I think we got about 5-10 [percent] of Dutchess County registered Vassar students out to vote.”
He continued, “Although this is around average for college students in an off election year, for a school that has so many opinions about all things political, it seems rather hypocritical that so many people were unaware that an election was taking place, especially considering what was at stake was environmental policies, jail expansions, and the fate of domestic violence victims.”
Of the six statewide amendments, Proposition 1 has been the most contested; 57 percent of voters backed the amendment and it passed. The proposed amendment will allow up to seven non-Indian casinos across the state. The casinos will be allowed in the Capital Region, the Southern Tier and the Catskills. The national Teamsters union, Las Vegas-based Bally Gaming and EPR Properties, a Kansas City-based real estate trust, donated a total of $100,000 to New York Jobs Now, a coalition of labor and business groups pushing for the amendment. (The Poughkeepsie Journal, “NY Casino Amendment Passes,” 11.5.13)
New York governor Andrew Cuomo spoke to voters in Mt. Kisco, Westchester County, after voting Tuesday. “This will answer the question once and for all. I also think it will help the state create jobs. We are losing over a billion dollars to the neighboring casinos—New Jersey has casinos, Pennsylvania has casinos, Connecticut has casinos.” Meanwhile, opponents of the amendment were questioning its economic impact because they believed it would amount to a regressive tax on the less fortunate and gambling addicts. (The Poughkeepsie Journal, “NY Casino Amendment Passes,” 11.5.13)
Another successfully passed amendment was Proposition 5, which will allow the state to transfer 200 acres of land in Essex County to NYCO Minerals, which mines a mineral used in car brakes and bumpers. NYCO will now be able to mine the land in exchange for at least $1 million worth of land to the forest preserve. After mining, NYCO will restore and return the 200 acres of land.
Tuesday also determined that Democrats are going to continue to hold the majority in the City of Poughkeepsie Common Council, having won seven of the eight seats. This is an increase from the six seats they held in 2012. Starting in January, for the next two years, the council hopes to continue watching city finances, maintaining reliable bus service and seeking ways to reduce the crime rate. (The Poughkeepsie Journal, “City of Poughkeepsie: Democrats keep control of Common Council,” 11.7.13)