Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro delivered his state-of-the-county address Thursday. He proposed a number of initiatives across several areas, with a theme of “Home.”
Molinaro, who was re-elected in November to his third and final term, spoke at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. He first focused on housing and homelessness.
“Now, I think you know we will not end homelessness in a day, or even a year,” said Molinaro. “We will, however, persist. There are success stories and good projects to point to, so we will keep working.”
County Legislature Assistant Minority Leader Nick Page is a Democrat.
“The theme of the speech was ‘home,’ so it was interesting to lead off with homelessness, and to see that, in fact, the numbers are troubling,” Page says. “There was an almost 20 percent increase in the Dutchess County homeless population from 2018-2019.”
Molinaro outlined four steps —establish a Housing Support Center and Hotline; engage local hospitals and nursing homes, as well as state-run correctional facilities, to ensure appropriate re-entry planning; develop a new centralized transitional housing solution to reduce reliance on motels; and work with local municipalities to increase access to affordable housing. Saying he was glad to see such a focus, Page adds the legislature would have to pass a law regarding the location and cost of a centralized transitional housing center.
As for the opioid epidemic, Molinaro noted that, in 2019, Dutchess experienced its first year-to-year decline in five years in opioid-related deaths — 77 overdose deaths compared to 93 in 2018.
“For the first time, for the first time in years, we can see a slight and distant glimmer of light over the horizon, just out of reach,” Molinaro said.
His plans include expanding Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT); making recovery coaches available to people where they are, including on the streets of Poughkeepsie, as well as adding a recovery coach in eastern Dutchess County, a more removed area represented by Democratic state Assemblymember Didi Barrett.
“Thanks to her assistance, we will purchase and utilize a mobile health center to serve the Harlem Valley, and provide access to mental health and substance use support and treatment all throughout the Route 22 corridor,” said Molinaro.
“The county executive promised that by the end of 2020, everybody in the county jail who needs medically assisted treatment for opioid addiction will receive it, which is something we have been really been pushing for, so that was great,” says Page.
Molinaro announced an Opioid Summit to be held at Marist College in partnership with Ulster County, which also saw a decrease in opioid-related deaths from 2018-to-2019.
Switching topics, Molinaro mentioned the Hanukah stabbings at a rabbi’s Monsey home in Rockland County as a platform for confronting hate, and plans for the county’s Human Rights Commission.
“This year, we will further amplify the work of the commission, moving it from our Human Resources department to the Department of Behavioral & Community Health, a more public-facing organization with more resources and more experience working directly with residents and organizations,” said Molinaro.
Plus, the county will hire an equal opportunity and inclusion officer to increase the diversity of the county workforce and investigate discrimination. Page was encouraged to see progress on this front, among others.
“Generally, it was interesting to see a lot of the things that our caucus has been advocating for come through in that speech,” Page says.
Molinaro also announced paperwork the county filed earlier in the day, as he said last summer would be forthcoming.
“In partnership with Ulster, Orange, Greene, Albany and Columbia Counties, Dutchess County filed our amicus brief with the U.S. District Court in support of the state’s lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to grant GE a certificate of completion on PCB cleanup,” Molinaro said. “They are not done.”
Molinaro talked about additions to his Think Differently initiative, which seeks to change the way individuals, businesses, organizations and communities relate to neighbors with special needs.
“In partnership with the Marist College Red Foxes, we will host a sensory sensitive basketball game, next season, preferably against Chris Gibson’s Siena College,” Molinaro said.. “Go Red Foxes.”
Former New York-19 Congressman Gibson has been named Siena’s new president. Molinaro also announced plans redevelop the Market Street corridor in partnership with the City of Poughkeepsie. And he wants to complete updates to a Poughkeepsie waterfront park.
“And with riverfront access in mind, in addition to the development of the Lake Walton Preserve, we will propose to the legislature completion of my favorite park… Ssshhh… don’t tell the other parks, Quiet Cove,” Molinaro said.
There will be four town hall forums on the state-of-the-county address, two each in March and April.