POUGHKEEPSIE – Gregg Pulver, Chairman of the Dutchess County Legislature, issued a memo to the members of the legislature on April 6, to cancel the April 9 committee meetings and the April 14 full board meeting. The eight Democrats on the twenty-five member board are protesting that decision.
Pulver canceled the April assemblies citing the call for safe social-distancing and the need to evaluate the fiscal condition of the county before making additional expenditures related to COVID-19. “Prior to a Legislative Committee or Board meeting, it is necessary and appropriate for the County to have a better understanding of our fiscal status to develop a strategy for which expenses and projects should be pursued, continued, or discontinued,” said Pulver. The chairman continued his memo saying “Before the May meetings the County will have the first-quarter sales tax returns, an understanding of the many new spending mandates and regulatory changes imposed by the State 2020-2021 budget, and hopefully a statewide plan to reopen the economy. An evaluation of these items should be undertaken prior to the Legislature’s authorization of additional appropriations because without this information it will be difficult to project our fiscal health and safeguard taxpayer funds.”
The Democratic caucus of lawmakers issued a statement, dated April 16, claiming that the legislature is required to meet. “There seems to be an inaccurate and disturbing assumption that the legislature is disposable in challenging times,” said Legislator Giancarlo Llaverias (D-Poughkeepsie).
Assistant Minority Leader Nick Page (D-Beacon/Fishkill) said “We are the ‘appropriating and policy determining body of the county,’ according to the County Charter, adding “We’re in the middle of an immense human and financial crisis. I’m astounded that we were told just to come back in May.”
Among the issues the Democrats sought to discuss were the possibility of a rent and mortgage moratorium, the expansion of emergency shelter for residents fleeing home violence, and the immediate exploration of using local county funds as a stopgap for small businesses and essential services and employees in acute need.
Formal resolutions proposed by Democrats for the April meeting included expansion of the county’s COVID-19 hotline hours, development of public hand-washing stations at sites where essential social services are offered, and where homeless individuals could access them as well as the expanded support for the non-profit partner groups providing emergency groceries to prevent hunger.
Pulver responded to the Democrats on Wednesday, saying “Every day we are losing 1,000 New Yorkers. Our Nation and our county will continue to change and may be unrecognizable 30 days from now. I won’t engage in a back-and-forth with my colleagues through the media nor engage in politics.”
Indicating that his office and the County Executive are working towards solutions, he said “My colleagues and I have been in constant communication with federal, state and local officials on how to respond to the crisis and understanding our economic future. The Legislature will be holding remote meetings on May 7 and May 11 to do the work required of us. I encourage all my colleagues to join me in helping those in our community who are in need. I know we will get through this and the only way to do it is together.”