Mouth That Roars

Bill Liblick has made a name for himself of National TV Talk Shows where he spouted his outspoken views from the front row. Now he offers you his opinion every week in the "MOUTH THAT ROARS" Column in the Sullivan County Post.

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February 26th, 2010

What happened to Sullivan County?

How did an area that was once the pinnacle of New York State be allowed to get this way? Most people I talk to cannot believe or understand the predicament Sullivan County is in. They just shake their heads in utter disgust.

Taxpayers are finding it ever more difficult to make ends meet. Our employment rate keeps growing as does the need for people requiring social services. Businesses are closing because they just cannot stay afloat. Decent job opportunities are an impossible task for us to achieve.

On top of all this, a newly released report states we are one of unhealthiest counties with a high premature mortality rate.

The amount of criminal activity and illegal drug use is equally unacceptable.

Things are clearly not good in Sullivan County, and sadly they seem to be getting worse each passing day.

People are rightfully angry, and are pointing fingers and blaming everyone in sight. Some say our county makes it too easy for people to receive public assistance, others point to too much overlapping of government, while others argue we lack leadership.

Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis was honest and blunt during his State of the County speech last week. He was realistic in discussing our problems, and nothing was sugar coated.

I must say, it was refreshing to see many Democrats and Republicans finally united. If anything, last month’s failed coup brought diverse factions together. The steering committee process has once again been activated.

Rouis accepted and acknowledged the many challenges and responsibilities that lie ahead. “I stand before you this evening, fully recognizing that the Sullivan County we are living in today is far different from the one we envisioned just a few short years ago.”

I am glad he will proceed with the Sullivan County Economic Development Corporation (EDC). The Partnership for Economic Development, Chamber of Commerce, Visitors Association, Industrial Development Agency and the Center for Workforce Development will continue to operate individually but the EDC will set policy and direction for our economic development and growth. This will not cost us any additional money, while it will avoid duplication.

The one person who cannot be turned into the scapegoat for all our problems is County Manager David Fanslau. He is without a doubt doing his best during these difficult times and we must remember that he takes direction from the legislature.

Speaking of the legislature, I asked all of our legislators to comment on the State of our County, those who responded had nothing but praise for Rouis and his speech.

David Sager told me, “I thought Jonathan gave not only his best and well delivered, but most frank and realistic State of the County Address. I am moving forward with Jonathan and my peers with a renewed sense of responsibility and even cautious optimism. The lines of communication are opening and I look forward to addressing the challenges ahead of us in a constructive, thoughtful, and nonpartisan manner.”

Jodi Goodman added, “Many times a county address is sugar coated. Jonathan’s speech spoke of reality. He stresses difficult times, difficult decisions. But the efforts can be very rewarding and our County is worth fighting for.”

Leni Binder said, “Jonathan had identified the issues and concerns, but we cannot tax folks until they run.”

“The other real issue is the negativity Rouis must overcome from his Democratic caucus. I vote issues, not people or politics. Jonathan always has my support on most issues and his door is never closed.”

Ron Hiatt said there was “rough sailing ahead, but we can’t afford not to confront these issues. I appreciate the fact Jonathan was direct about the issues and did not try to paint a pretty picture.”

Rouis said it best when he concluded, “I call upon all of us, my colleagues, this audience, our friends, neighbors and communities, to come together to find solutions to the multitude of issues we are facing. I ask that you resist the urge to join the chorus of simple negativity and join those of us that want to make a difference. The doors of county government are open and now, more than ever before, we welcome your input.”

It is evident Rouis has developed true leadership qualities. I hope and pray everyone is willing to work with him and put personalities and personal agendas aside.

All of us can no longer question what has happened to Sullivan County, but instead do something about it.

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