In 2021, Democratic legislators in Dutchess County proposed a resolution to make Juneteenth a county holiday. We believed Americans in every corner of the nation should share this opportunity to celebrate Emancipation, spend time with family and friends, and remember and reflect on the 250-year struggle against slavery.
A quick search finds that many New York counties (among them Albany, Erie, Essex, Onondaga, Suffolk and Ulster) have declared Juneteenth a holiday. But the chair of the Dutchess Legislature rejected the bill (the 34th time he blocked consideration of a Democratic proposal). He informed us that the Legislature could not “recommend employee contractual benefits” and observance could only be decided by “those who control the county holiday calendar” — the executive.
Last week, County Executive Marcus Molinaro said he supports Juneteenth — though I could find no record of him ever calling for a county holiday — but can’t act “without a decision by the county Legislature.”
What a joke. Either these guys are too incompetent to understand their own official powers, or they don’t want Juneteenth in Dutchess but don’t want to say so. (If past experience is a guide, both will now hastily claim it was the unions’ fault that employees did not get the holiday.)
Democratic legislators tried again last week, on the eve of Juneteenth, to urge Dutchess to join the nation, state and other counties in recognizing Juneteenth but they were rebuffed again.
Dutchess has one of the largest African American communities in the Hudson Valley, as well as thousands of allies who care about the legacies of injustice. At a time when citizens are struggling with economic hardship and lack of services, here is one more sign of contempt. We deserve better.
Rebecca Edwards, Poughkeepsie
Edwards is a former Democratic member of the county Legislature.