Rolison: “… an unconventional evolution that is led
by bold thinking …”
POUGHKEEPSIE – Mayor Robert Rolison addressed a packed house, Tuesday evening, to share his vision for Poughkeepsie and its current condition during his 2016 State of the City Address.
Rolison used the former Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge, now the Walkway Over the Hudson, as a metaphor for the city. The bridge that, following the post-Industrial era, was in constant disrepair and even the site of a huge fire in the 1970s, was transformed and became a staple of the community. This, Rolison said, is similar to how he sees Poughkeepsie.
He said the transition of the bridge is symbolic of the state of the former Queen City.
“So much like our historic bridge, we may explore an unconventional evolution that is led by bold thinking and the coming together of people, from vast backgrounds and experiences, thinking differently and much like that bridge, our city is prepared for her transition into a new, positive day and as the saying goes, it is always darkest before the dawn but, the sun is rising in Poughkeepsie,” Rolison said.
The former Dutchess County Legislature chairman said, currently in the city, the police are increasing foot patrols, getting more officers on bikes for the spring/summer seasons and reinstituting GIVE police details where crime data is gathered to help officers hone in on areas with the highest concentrations of violent crime to keep the city safe.
The mayor, a retired Poughkeepsie town cop, now receives regular situation reports on all crime within the city, paired with weekly statistical analysis and real time crime data from the Poughkeepsie Police Department. Overall violent crime in the city has decreased by 32 percent over five years. The Dutchess County Legislature even passed a resolution on Monday to bond $500,000 for a comprehensive youth services review. By partnering up with youth organizations who have systems already in place, like that of Bill Strickland in Pittsburg, Rolison is hopeful youth needs can be identified and met, ideally keeping them of the streets and becoming involved in crime.
The fire department, with help from the SAFER grant to staff more officers, has also been making strides in keeping the city safe, the mayor said. In the last year fire calls have increased by 300 to 4,402 calls, EMS calls by the department have increased to 2,532 and mutual aid runs have increased to 63. Even with the overall increase in calls, Rolison said average response time, from dispatch to arrival, is 2 minutes 27 seconds.
City sanitation crews are targeting vacant and sub-par properties for abatement at an increasing rate in order to clean up the city, he said. Within the first three months of his administration, 25 properties have been abated by the city at the owner’s expense. This, Rolison said, is the most the city has ever done in recent memory. The city will continue this effort on a weekly basis, every Wednesday, with several more properties targeted today. To complement the improvements to the city’s aesthetic, the sanitation department has also been logging a number of street sweeping hours with 168 since the beginning of 2016. The housing market has been benefitting from the efforts and Rolison said single-family homes sales are up seven percent and attached home sales are up 20 percent.
The fiscal situation in the city is still precarious but Rolison said they are making strides toward stability. The city has had their bond rating reduced, but they have been meeting with the state comptroller’s office and have a meeting set up for early April with the governor’s Financial Restructuring Board to arrange for the financial help they need, he said.
A grant from the Dyson Foundation has provided funding for a national search for a new city administrator and finance commissioner. Those are currently underway.
All of the city’s current efforts have aligned with Rolison’s theme of: safer, cleaner, stronger.
“It hasn’t changed since I ran for this office and it hasn’t changed since I’ve taken office and we are trying to make this city a safer place and a cleaner place and a stronger place and quite frankly, we’re successful, right now, in doing all three,” the mayor said.
The mayor’s message was well-received by the large audience at the Cunneen-Hackett Arts Center