For over five months now our new legislature consisting of six freshmen have been educating themselves on all aspects of Sullivan County government. During that short period of time they have been tackling one hot fire issue after another.
Even though they might be weakening, the entrenched elite still appear to be pulling many strings. In order to achieve the change we need, we need new people with creative fresh ideas to be part of this administration.
Recently we got the opportunity to hear from Legislature Chairman Scott Samuelson as to what his goals and priorities are as he delivered his first State of the County speech at the breathtaking Bethel Woods.
The audience, filled with many of our county’s movers and shakers, listened intently as Samuelson spoke about the issues facing our struggling county.
Samuelson began his address introducing his fellow legislators, and one could visibly see the unique diversity and professionalism they all bring to the table.
Gene Benson, Cora Edwards, Cindy Gieger, Kathy LaBuda, Kitty Vetter, Ira Steingart, Alan Sorensen, and Jonathan Rouis clearly appear to have the drive to put politics aside and work together to find solutions to our many problems. Without a doubt they are putting a fresh face to Sullivan County government.
The top two priorities on Samuelson’s agenda is economic development and fighting state and federal mandates that are bleeding our county.
He noted the legislature is engaging a team of economic development experts to write an “actionable” plan funded through a federal grant.
The likeable Samuelson was bold and blunt. “There are no “silver bullets” that will magically transform Sullivan County overnight. We must have a clear and concise strategy that will put plans into action that are achievable, with measurable results. We must diversify our portfolio of businesses and jobs; balance our quality-of-life and standard-of-living, while protecting the many cherished assets throughout our County.”
Samuelson said the newly created Strategic Plan Review Subcommittee headed by Vice Chairman Gene Benson meets weekly to review departmental priorities and County Manager David Fanslau’s recommendations. “This plan is the foundation of the budget process where the Legislature establishes programs and sets the fiscal priorities of the County.”
Restoring Sullivan County’s Main Streets is also a top priority. Cindy Gieger and Cora Edwards campaigned heavily on this issue.
Samuelson told the audience, “There is a renewed emerging desire for people to shop locally at small businesses, and this is our opportunity to encourage and support entrepreneurs and small shop owners as a larger part of our overall strategy. Sullivan County has many successful small businesses, but many are struggling. I am convinced that a reinvestment in the Main Streets and downtown areas throughout Sullivan County will be a key building block to our future economic success.”
Even as Samuelson highlighted many of our achievements, the sad reality is that we are in a financial crisis and can expect a huge property tax hike.
Samuelson noted that while the State Government managed to pass a property tax cap, they failed to implement meaningful mandate relief for the County’s property taxpayers. Legislation in both the Senate and the Assembly would have the State gradually take over the local share of Medicaid costs, which is approximately $21 million for Sullivan County in 2012.
Samuelson has the right demeanor and temperament to be chairman of the legislature. His only political agenda is to achieve the best possible results for Sullivan County. His job is not an easy one, and we must all support him in his endeavors.