POUGHKEEPSIE – Candidates for Poughkeepsie mayor laid out their
respective plans for the city at Wednesday’s breakfast session of
the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Dutchess Legislative Chairman Robert Rolison, a Republican, and Democrat Randall Johnson shared their positions on topics including tourism, business attraction, public transportation, public spending and community confidence.
An issue that came up many times in various forms was that of the relation between public safety and business. Poughkeepsie had recently been plagued with a string of violent crimes and business owners have been feeling its effects; Rolison even remarked that business owners had told him that they saw immediate drops in business following those instances.
“If you have this feeling amongst business people and your residents and people that are outside this community that the city is unsafe, it hampers every single thing that you not only do on a daily basis but how you want to grow and move the city forward,” said Rolison. “So, we have to concern ourselves with that and we cannot ignore it.”
Rolison has suggested enhancing the city’s understaffed police force, taking advantage of grant opportunities and getting the police to be more present in the community, something Johnson also openly agrees with; however, his approach would be slightly different.
Johnson has suggested, in addition to utilizing community policing, to begin a street walkers program that would employ former convicts, who may otherwise turn to recidivism without job opportunities and get them to help out within the community.
However, Johnson said he too has been speaking with the local business community, specifically on Main Street and has learned that their concerns are diverse.
“They want the streets safer, that’s a concern, they want the streets cleaner because these business people in the 400th District of Main Street; it has to be cleaner,” said Johnson. “So, it’s not necessarily people that they’re looking for. Everybody is looking for something different and until you understand what each business needs, then, you can help them.”
Johnson said he would like to create a business consortium for just that purpose and hopes to fill approximately 1,000 blighted properties in Poughkeepsie with businesses as well as residents.
Rolison suggested improving transportation, possibly by utilizing private transportation companies to partner with the city and by integrating the train and bus systems.
Also, with tourism being so successful in Dutchess, both candidates agree attention to the industry will be crucial moving into Poughkeepsie’s future.