Bethlehem, New York Supervisor David VanLuven gave his State of the Town address Wednesday night.
VanLuven is in his second term in the Albany suburb. His opening remarks at town hall set the tone for his 2020 agenda. "When I wake up in the morning, the radio news accosts me with the nonstop negativity that affects our politics at the national level. And it's depressing. It's demoralizing, it's infuriating, and in many cases, it leaves me feeling powerless. Then I go to work and I see my neighbors and I start to get my perspective. Back at the local level, we are neighbors, first and foremost, members of a community that all pretty much wants the same things and are willing and able to work together to achieve them. Democrats, Republicans, undeclared. when we're talking about clean water, good roads, safe neighborhoods, fun parks, and all the other things that make Bethlehem Bethlehem. We don't care about the national polarization. We just want to work together and get good things done. Bethlehem is filled with great people and great businesses, and we're lucky to live and work here."
The Democrat focused on several themes. Property taxes: "68 percent of your property tax dollars will go to the school district. 4 percent will go to the library. 4 percent will go to your fire district. 13 percent will go to the county. That leaves 11 percent of your property tax payments for the town. That leaves 11 cents on every dollar in property taxes you pay for the town of Bethlehem to provide all of the services that you expect from us. The remaining 89 cents goes somewhere else." …vital services - including snow plowing… "We have 180 miles of town roads that we maintain. And we plow in both directions obviously. So one plow run through the town of Bethlehem is the equivalent of plowing from Delmar to Washington, DC." … dealing with yard waste… "Last year we collected 1,890,000 cubic feet of leaf and brush from our yards. That's our square feet of yard waste. A square foot is about the size of a basketball. So imagine the task and the energy it takes to collect almost 2 million basketballs."
VanLuven touted economic development that he says will impact the 52-square mile town: "I'm very excited about the port of Albany's expansion into Bethlehem. The port has purchased land in our industrial district on the Hudson River and we have been working with them to navigate the planning process, so they can be shovel ready for private investments in supply chain logistics activities, or offshore wind production, as soon as possible. Our goal is for the expanded port operations to minimize negative environmental impacts on South End residents while providing up to 1,600 new jobs and a powerful economic boost not just to Bethlehem, but to all of the Capital Region."
Other initiatives include programs to install LED streetlamps, accommodations for electric cars, an $18 million Clapper Road water plant upgrade , a project nearing competition that will add 20 acres to Henry Hudson Park in Selkirk and an initiative with the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy to purchase 75 acres in Elsmere that will connect with an 83-acre town property in Delmar: "The goal is to open a 150-acre nature preserve less than a mile from Delmar's four corners with extensive walking and mountain biking trails through a gorgeous landscape of ridges, ravines, forests and half a mile of Normans Kill shoreline."
Fellow Democrats State Senator Neil Breslin and Assemblywoman Pat Fahy attended the speech: "I've gone to a lot of addresses during the last several weeks about the state of particular areas. David VanLuven gave the best speeches I've heard in several years. He highlighted the progress that's been made in Bethlehem, how we use our money and why it's a great place to live," said Breslin. Fahy added "It's a well-run, well-managed town by true professionals here and I think he's bringing things to an all-new level."
About 35,000 people live in the town of Bethlehem.