Catching up with Beacon’s two county legislators
John Forman and Jerry Landisi, both members of the Independence Party, represent Beacon (along with parts of Fishkill) in the 25-member Dutchess County Legislature, which meets monthly in Poughkeepsie. Members serve two-year terms. Their responses have been edited for brevity.
What are some issues on your radar?
Forman: We have a campaign finance resolution that limits contributions of companies that are doing business with the county executive and county legislators. It’s similar to what has been passed in Orange County. I don’t think the implication is that there are any shenanigans going on in Dutchess County, but it does give us another level of accountability.
Landisi: We recently opened the Dutchess County Stabilization Center, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It helps people with drugs and alcohol addiction and mental illness problems. It diverts people, keeping them from going to the emergency room, or going to jail. They’re interviewed and then the staff will determine what type of program is best. It’s one of the things we’re trying to do to reduce the jail population, because that’s the last place we want to see them. So far it’s seen at least 200 people.
What do you tell people who ask about county government?
Forman: The people who need us the least probably don’t know what county government is all about. However, we have many programs for seniors. We have a large building on Main Street in Beacon that’s county-owned with the Department of Motor Vehicles that everybody uses. We have a drug task force that Beacon is part of. That means we send a Beacon police officer up to work with a task force made up of police officers from the city and town of Poughkeepsie and the sheriff’s office.
You can’t name a city that doesn’t have a drug issue. Putnam County doesn’t have cities, but there are drugs there, too. You have to tackle these issues head-on and limit them. When somebody owns a corner, then they own a street and then they own a neighborhood, and we can’t have that. Beacon has come too far to go back to the old days.
John, you’re the chair of the Legislature’s environmental committee. What’s happening there?
Forman: I’m watching the agreement to close Indian Point. I know they provide power to a certain percentage of New York City and Westchester County. A similar thing happened in Long Island — closing a nuclear power plant — and a lot of people are affected. In addition to the jobs, which are important, who is going to pick up the slack to provide the power? Once the plant is closed there won’t be as much money coming into those jurisdictions as well. There are a lot of ancillary things that will happen.
What else do you hope to address this year?
Landisi: We’re in partnership with Dutchess Community College on the Dutchess Airport, which has been renamed the Dutchess County International Airport. There’s a training center going up for aviation mechanics as we try to revive the airport to what it was many years ago. The center will cost more than $8 million, with the college and the county kicking in half each.
In addition, in early 2016 the Legislature voted to fund the Dutchess County Justice & Transition Center. The jail we have in Dutchess County is not big enough, so we’ve been forced to send inmates to other facilities at a cost of $8 million to $10 million per year. By putting in a new facility, we’ll save $5.3 million per year. Some people think it’s too much money but I think it’ll come in less than what we appropriated. The jail that we have right now is not safe for the officers or the inmates.
Forman: Dutchess is the only county in the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District that opens its polls at noon on primary election days. The boroughs, Long Island, Westchester, Putnam, Orange and Rockland counties all open at 6 a.m. We have a request on the agenda for May that will ask the state legislature to open our polls at 6 a.m. There are a lot of commuters in Dutchess County and the seniors as well, who line up at 7 a.m., thinking they can cast their vote. We need a senator and an assemblyman to carry that resolution and I’m working on that as we speak.