Monday, February 5, 2018

Columbia County Political News

HOMELESS KERFUFFLE

IF you live in Columbia County and you care about our homeless population or the amount of money we spend, you need to read this.

Recently Supervisor Linda Mussmann called into question a homeless supportive housing project being coordinated with the Galvan Foundation, her constant pitch is, “why isn’t Galvan building a shelter in Hudson?”  What Supervisor Mussmann and others choose to ignore is, there was a project proposed by Columbia County in 2012 on 7th Street, (Columbia Paper) a joint effort by the Mental Health Association of Columbia-Greene Counties Inc. and the Galvan Foundation propose a full-time, 24-hour a day program for single homeless people and include counseling, job skills acquisition and other rehabilitative services”.  This project was protested against by groups of people who live in Hudson and eventually shutdown by the County.  Everyone thinks it’s easy to build a facility to help our Homeless, everyone say they want to help or that something needs to be done, but then there is the protesters saying, “not in my backyard”.  Take the 7th Street project, first it was, it’s too big, then it was, it’s going to cost too much, there was so much negativity being thrown at the project the Board of Supervisors unfortunately decided to walkway. 

Today, there is a new idea, with a few important changes that make a pretty big difference from the 2012 project.  The main differences are, the 7th Street project was being built by Galvan, Columbia County would inter into a lease with Galvan and the Mental Health Association for $300,000 a year to provide all the services.  Also, at the time, homeless numbers were projected to be falling as low as 16 to 20 individuals, Columbia County was looking for a 10 room minimum circuit breaker.  Today, our homeless individuals average around 45 during warm months to as high as 95+ in winter months. 

The current proposed project is, Galvan is renovating the Sunset motel, rooms are being built using green standards, and rooms would be of high quality standards.  As far as services go, Columbia County Dept. of Social Service, (DSS) would rent a room, 30% of the room fee would be given back to provided wrap around services.

The big difference here is, Galvan is building a hotel, the County can choose to use them or not, but if they continue doing what they are doing it means using hotels and motels in poor conditions, no services, little guidance and high room rates.  What the Sunset is offering is, a room rate that would be very competitive with other motels, rooms that are in much better condition and the big “get”, Galvan will give 30% of the room fees back for the County to provide wrap around service onsite, which means a dramatic saving to the taxpayer overall.   

One of the top arguments being said is, the Sunset is too far away from all the services: Answer. The County has already created one bus line from philmont, through various towns and the City of Hudson, to the College and was in the process of creating another line from the Sunset to shopping centers and sites of potential employers.  The reason this works is, when someone is in homeless care of the County, most, if capable have to do job searches as well as other job programs which they do at the College, so the argument they are too far from services, not really, they are closer to the college at the Sunset than if they lived in the middle of Hudson.  As to being close to shopping centers, they would be closer to Hannaford than most that live in Hudson is to Shoprite.

Another big complaint is, these people are going to be near a school or adult housing:  Answer. These comments bother me the most, our homeless is being stigmatized like they all are bad or have something we should be afraid of.  The truth is, many need money management skills, don’t have a steady stream of income, may have pressing health issues or a slight mental illness that can be managed like many who live around us today.  The fear mongering of the homeless population is out of hand and unwarranted.  Hell, we all have people living in our community that isn’t homeless we wished lived elsewhere.  Being homeless isn’t a crime and it certainly doesn’t make you a bad person.  Stop thinking our homeless are all bad people; for the most part they are people who have fallen on hard times.

Another issue being thrown around is, let’s put this project out for  an RFP, (request for proposal). Answer.  The County has no control over Galvan building a motel, so there is no RFP there.  The County can, RFP services, that is a decision for the Commissioner of DSS on how that process will be done.

Another important point, Supervisor Linda Mussmann says, “Galvan should build a shelter in Hudson” Answer.  Hudson has zoning laws, the only area in Hudson that would allow “transitional housing” is, the North 7th Street area and parts of Green Street, so options are limited in the City of Hudson.  Plus, a project on 7th Street was walked away from by the County in 2012 because of public pressure To make projects like this successful a lot of ground work has to be done, if Supervisor Linda Mussman wants a shelter in Hudson, she should lay the ground work first, then seek out a developer to work with her to get the project done.  It’s easy to say, build it here; build it there, without putting in the work. 

CONCLUSION:  The Galvan Foundation is going to build a motel, Columbia County could rent rooms, receive 30% back to provide wrap around services, expand the transportation line to the homeless as well as general public at a reduce cost or they can continue to rent rooms from the current hotels they’re in, rooms in bad shape, no services, hotel owners can charge what they want, because NYS mandates DSS house the homeless in weather below 32 degrees.  Through all the kerfuffle, truth is, Columbia County by renting from the Sunset can rent rooms at a discount, provide needed services, expand transportation, all for the same price or a little cheaper than what they are currently doing by using the hotels they are in.

If you support doing better for our homeless and saving taxpayer money, call your County Supervisor, tell them to support our homeless and to stop listening to people vilify our homeless.


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Columbia County Political News

DOW BE DAMNED, THE ECONOMIC TRUTH
Part Two

For those who watched the State of the Union, if you read what I wrote in part one you would see the point I was making to be even more glaring.  President Trump touted the stock market and its recent surge as a result of the recent Republican tax bill.  There is much to disagree with President Trump about, but I have to admit, the tax cuts had a part in what is driving the stock markets success.  I could be a true Democrat and say, President Obama's financial policies had us on the path before President Trump took office, but I'm going to skip the politics and give this one to President Trump.  That being said, President Trump would like middle class America to believe the rise in the stock market is benefiting them? Let's take a look at that.

The rise in the stock market is benefiting people, it's making the top 10% wealthiest in the U.S. much richer.  As I pointed out, 93% of the stock market wealth is owned by 20% of the people, while the remaining 7% is owned by the middle class.  If you are one of those in the middle class, more than likely you own stocks through a 401k or some kind of pension fund.  What you're not told is, after fees paid to manage your fund, fees paid for inner stock trades, your 401k or pension fund may have a small modest gain at best.  Nothing like the top 10% will have, they will use tax loopholes, as well as other financial techniques to avoid paying as many taxes as possible.  I personally like the stock market, I also know the average citizen doesn't benefit much from a rising stock market.

 That being said, President Trump used the State of the Union speech to highlight that because of his financial policies unemployment among the African American community is lower than it has been in history.  Part of his statement is true, unemployment is lowest it has been in history, what President Trump omitted is, the unemployment rate has been dropping in the African American community since 2013 under President Obama.  (Bureau of labor statistics)  "Under Trump, African American unemployment rate has dropped a full percentage point to 6.8 percent in December. That’s the lowest rate since the bureau began regularly breaking out unemployment rates by race in 1972.
A similar drop of 1 percentage point was recorded during the same 11-month period in 2016. The drop was even more pronounced in each of the three years before that. It fell 1.9 percentage points in 2015, 1.5 percentage points in 2014 and 1.8 percentage points in 2013".  Under President Trump, BLS shows unemployment is actually dropping slower than when President Obama was in office.  Hey, arguing this point is fighting over pennies, here is where the real money is, the unemployment rate for white Americans is almost twice as low at 3.7% than it is for black Americans at 6.8%.  If President Trump is going to draw racial distinctions he needs to give all the facts, not tell half the story.  Fact of the matter is, the rise of the stock market will do little to help the African American community, truth be told, most of the middle class community regardless or race will not benefit.
Another point President Trump cheered, all the bonuses he claimed is being given out by companies all over the U.S. because of the Republican tax bill.  Well, let's talk about those bonuses and corporate profits.  According to (USA TODAY) 39+ companies in the S&P (standard and poor's) have given out some kind of bonus or increased match to 401k plans.  This all sounds great, right?  Getting a one time $1,000 bonus is a play on people's financial emotions.  Getting a bonus is good, but it is very short term, it does nothing to help you with your average salary, it's a one time thing, it also does nothing to help with your retirement which in many cases is based on your last three years of service.  These companies and President Trump know what is going on here, give you a bonus and you will cheer for he one sided Republican tax bill for the rich.  Increasing 401k match is even worse than getting a bonus, how many of you actually take full advantage of your workplace 401k plan? Based on the data I wrote in part one, not many.  Companies know this, but it sounds nice to say.  The truth is, with all the bonuses, 401k matches and other one time giveaways, those 39+ companies are going to give an estimated $1.7 Billion in bonus compensation.  With the new Republican tax bill, S&P companies are estimated to pay $75 - $100 billion less in taxes, where is all that additional money going? Workers as stated in my aforementioned data will receive $1.7 billion of a $100 billion being saved.  I'm not saying don't take the bonus, that would be crazy, what I am saying is, if these companies are serious, they should give their employees and additional $1 an hour pay, $40 a week, $2,080 a year in their paychecks.  That is a long term benefit that would multiply year over year and would help boost the middle class.  Don't be fooled by the financial smoke and mirrors being peddled by President Trump and the Republican led Congress. The Republican tax bill will help some, the rich mainly, it will lift some up, but the big winners are the rich for sure, there is no doubt about that.  One more point about the Republican tax bill, it will add $1.5 Trillion dollars to the national debt, what happen to being the party of fiscal conservatism?   

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Columbia County Political News

DOW BE DAMNED!
Part One

Recently the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit 26,000 an unthinkable mark 10 years ago.  Now that the stock market is soaring, what does that mean for you?  When the Republican lead Congress passed the new tax reform bill it was touted as the "greatest" tax bill every.  President Trump said, "this bill is going to allow corporations to bring billions back to the U.S., which they will use to create jobs and increase wages, raising up the middle class.  To this point we've seen corporate revenue go up, stock values go up, but what about your paycheck?

How many of you reading this know the DJIA, (Dow Jones Industrial Average) is up 28.5% over the last year?  Can you see that increase in your pay? Has your financial situation gotten dramatically better over the last year?  I don't ask these questions to be a downer, I ask these questions to make a point to the average middle class american citizen.  The stock market is a great vehicle to make money, it's also risky, you have to be in it, to win it!

The reason almost half of you aren't aware of the stock market gains, nearly half of you aren't in the stock market. "54% of Americans invest in the market, either through individual stocks, mutual funds, pensions or retirement plans like a 401(k), according to Gallup", that means 46% isn't in the market at all.  The tax cuts and stock market has made the rich richer, (CNBC) "84 percent of the stock in the United States is owned by the top 10 percent of households by net wealth".  (CNBC) What's incredible, statistics show more than 93 percent of the stock is owned by the top 20 percent of households. The bottom 80 percent of households owns only about 7 percent of stock.

If you think you're getting rich by the rise of the stock market think again, unless you are one of the top 20% or one of the lucky few who got into the market before its historic rise.  There is no doubt the tax cuts have increased corporate profits and spurred economic growth in the U.S., yet, the national minimum wage remains at $7.25 an hour.  You would think, if Congress can create a bill to increase corporate profits, why can't they raise the national minimum wage to at least $10 an hour?  Although I'm thrilled the stock market is doing well the middle class is seeing little of that gain in their paychecks.

This market and recent Republican tax cuts is widening the wealth gap between the have and have nots, but listen to President Trump tell it, you would think everyone in the Country had a good paying job, got a wage increase and a big bonus.  Don't be fooled by the gimmicks corporate greed is alive and well.  I will talk about the tax cuts, corporate profits and the middle class in part two.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

MEDICAID FOLLY

While everyone who watches the news is well aware of the recent government shutdown few are talking about the change in Medicaid that could affect millions, including you if you receive Medicaid. 

While everyone was paying attention to something else, here is what the Trump Administration did.  Health & Science

“Trump administration opens door to states imposing Medicaid work requirements”
 The Trump administration issued guidelines to states that would allow them to force people who receive Medicaid benefits to work.  Medicaid is a fundamental part of the social safety net for U.S. citizens.  Is there fraud and abuse in the Medicaid system? Absolutely, but that doesn’t mean you take the extreme path to addressing the issue.  The reason for Medicaid is, Medicaid is the safety net for people who fall on hard times, run out of money, come down with a debilitating illness or some kind of family crisis.  Forcing people to work for benefits is not that easy, there are many reasons why a person would be on Medicaid. 

Here is a list of those exempt from having to work for Medicaid benefits: Pregnant women, Full time students, Caretakers of children under 19 or disabled adult, and those deemed medically frail.  Some would look at this list and say, this looks about right to me! I would say, this list is ripe for abuse and unfair management.  Some things are obvious like a pregnant woman, but what about the healthy looking man or woman with a mental illness?  Trump’s administration gives such vague guidelines States can build on them as they go along putting vulnerable people in a worse situation than they are already in.  Unless States plan to put examination boards in place to qualify individuals to work this is unjust treatment waiting to happen.

States that are currently looking to move toward the Trump Medicaid work for benefits programs are: Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin.  Kentucky has received approval and is on its way to implementing a work for Medicaid program.  I think it’s worth noting, every State on this list has a Republican Governor, except for Roy Cooper of North Carolina who’s a Democrat with a Legislator controlled by Republicans.  It’s no secret that Republicans have a problem with safety net programs like Medicaid, they often refer to Medicaid and other safety net programs as, “entitlement” programs.  Say what you want Medicaid and the people who need it knows no party line, just hope you’re not one of those needing Medicaid that would mean you too have fallen on hard times and need help.

I am positive Governor Cuomo of New York will not sign up for such a draconian change in how citizens receive Medicaid benefits, so Counties in New York are safe for now, but if we were to elect a Republican in the Governor’s office in New York who knows, it does seem to be a tread for Republicans.

William Hughes Jr.


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Twin Counties may join lawsuit against big pharma for opioid epidemic expenses









LOOK AT WHERE WE ARE TODAY!
August of last year Columbia County didn’t have a plan or
idea in place to combat the opioid addiction problem.  Today, we have a plan in place focused on
prevention, education, treatment, recovery and law enforcement.  This has become one of our top priorities in
Columbia County, we are treating this like people lives depend on it, because
they do!  This is probably some of the
most important work I will do in my lifetime, having the support of Chairman of
the Board of Supervisors Matt Murrell is vital to the success we have had thus
far.  The newspaper story isn’t totally
accurate, the law firm didn’t come to us, it’s the Columbia County Opioid Epidemic
Response Sub-Committee who called them. 
Our Sub-Committee has been working very hard on the opioid issue, we’ve
been meeting every two weeks, setting up trainings, floating different ideas,
trying to make sure residents of Columbia County get the best possible service
we can provide.  I’m proud to be a
co-creator of Columbia County’s Opioid Response Plan, along with a great group
of dedicated, hard working professionals. 
This is another step amongst many we will be taking, we are going to do
the right thing for the people of Columbia County that I can promise.   Help
us fight to save a life!







Twin Counties may join lawsuit against big pharma for opioid epidemic expenses: Columbia and Greene counties are considering joining a statewide lawsuit against several pharmaceutical companies that accuses the companies o…

Sunday, June 4, 2017

William Hughes, Jr. Comments on Race Relations in Columbia County





Hello
everyone, I wanted to bring this conversation up again, it’s been close to
10 months since I addressed the board of supervisors on race.  To my knowledge this was the first ever
lengthy conversation held on the floor of the board of supervisors regarding
race relations.  I want to point out some
of my figures, (guesstimates) were high, but the point of the conversation is
what is important.  I will also like to
say, since this conversation Chairman Matt Murrell has hired more minorities
and made it clear, if you have the qualifications regardless of race, you have
a chance.  It’s still not a perfect
system, but I believe I have a Chairman in Matt Murrell and a Majority Leader
in Pat Grattan who works with me to solve problems and this is a problem we are
going to continue to work on, that I PROMISE! 
Thank you to Dan Udell for providing me with the video.  This video is a little lengthy, but if you
want to engage in the topic or get a good idea of the full conversation the
board of supervisors had on race relations, PLEASE LISTEN.  Know what your government is doing for you!






 William
Hughes Jr.
4th
Ward Supervisor, City of Hudson



Minority
Leader






Columbia
County Board of Supervisors

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

ELECT LOCAL

Elect local almost sounds like the catch phrase, "buy local"! But when you go out to shop do you buy organic or inorganic? Do you even know what that means or care to know what that means?

I guess some feel that way when asked to vote on local elections.  The simple truth is, all politics are local.  Your local elected officials are the ones responsible for the laws, fees and regulations that govern most your daily activities.  Most seem to have a problem figuring out who is responsible for what, so I'm going to attempt to bring a little clarity to what your local elected officials in the City of Hudson do.

Local Elected Officials In the City of Hudson, NY 101

There are 3 major elected body's of officials in the City of Hudson.  There's the Hudson City School District Board of Education, which has 7 elected board members, There's the Hudson City Common Council, which has 10 Aldermen, 2 Aldermen per Ward times 5 Wards and a Council President, bringing the total of Common Council officials to 11 and There's the Columbia County Board of Supervisors, which has 23 members of the County board of supervisors.  There are 18 Towns apart of the board of supervisors, each Town having 1 member elected to the board of supervisors and there is the City of Hudson (county seat), which has 5 members elected to the board of supervisors, 1 elected per ward times 5 wards.

WHAT DO THEY DO?

HUDSON SCHOOL DISTRICT
Hudson City School District Board of Education - The Hudson City School District covers 6 Towns, Ghent, Stockport, Greenport, Livingston, Taghkanic, Claverack and the City of Hudson, members to the board can be elected from any of the Towns or City of Hudson to the board of education.  One of the primary functions of the school board is, working with the Hudson School District administration to develop and set a budget for the coming year.  You could say the school board is responsible for school taxes, but, we the public do get to vote on the budget, so we bare some responsibility I would say.  The board of education is responsible for hiring a school district Superintendent.  The school board like most elected boards, develop policy and procedure for the school district, most issues that are directed at the school district could or would be bought to the school board. 

CITY OF HUDSON
Common Council, (Aldermen) -  Aldermen are the legislative body of City government.  Aldermen make local laws, such a zoning changes, set fees and regulations i.e. fines changed for parking, that govern the City of Hudson.  City parks, sidewalks, housing, trash pickup, police department, fire department, roads, waterfront, youth department, senior department, truck route, city property sale and City of Hudson taxes are all under the charge of City of Hudson Aldermen.  Most of what has been set forth in the City of Hudson's charter has been done so by the Common Council, (Aldermen).  Some has been set by public referendum, but the majority has been set by the Council.  Any 3 Aldermen can bring a resolution to the floor for a vote without going through a committee or the Council President.  All Aldermen are elected officials who can only be removed from the Council for very serious legal violations, see City of Hudson charter for specifics.  The city charter outlines the legislative power of a city Aldermen

Common Council President - The Council President, unlike Aldermen are elected by a city wide vote.  The City of Hudson has 1 Council President, who's main function is to facilitate Council meetings which are set by City law.  The Council President, drafts and make changes to the Common Council's rules of order, such changes, if any, are then voted on by the full body of the Common Council where it takes a 2/3 vote by the full Common Council to adopt a change in the rules of order.  The Council President, outlines committees, assign Aldermen to specific committees and names the Chair of each outlined committee.  The Council President can choose to be an ex-officio or voting member of any committee he or she should choose.  The Council President can pull or refer any resolution to a specific committee for review.  The Council President can create a sub-committee at his or her discretion to work on specific issues.  The Council President presides over all full board meetings of the Common Council.  The Council President is a member of the (BEA) board of estimate and apportionment along with the City Treasurer and Mayor.  The BEA develops the City of Hudson's budget which is then brought to the full Common Council for a vote to adopt said budget.  The city charter outlines the powers of the Common Council President. 

COUNTY
Columbia County Board of Supervisors - The City of Hudson has 5 members elected to the Columbia County Board of Supervisors 1 supervisor per ward in the City of Hudson.  A Supervisor elected to a ward in the City of Hudson has NO say in city issues under the charge of City Aldermen or Common Council President.  Members of the Board of Supervisors are responsible for, the department of social services, the department of health, office of the aging, county attorney, county probation department, Columbia county public defender's office, county historian, Columbia county mental health department, county comptroller, county MIS, (management information systems), county tourism, Columbia county airport, all county roads and bridges, facilities department, county solid waste stations and closed landfills, Columbia county 911, county EMS (emergency management services) Columbia county veterans department, Columbia county weights and measures, county fair housing officer, Columbia county board of elections (budget only), sheriff department (budget only), D.A. (budget only) county clerk's office (budget only), Columbia county treasurer's office (budget only), virtually half of the Columbia-Greene community college (budget only), county taxes.

This outline is by no means an absolute description of each elected position, but it gives, you, the public a good idea of the separation of power at the local City level.  Each body of elected officials have some duties not so clearly defined, those can only be discovered once elected to a respective position.

William Hughes Jr.
Minority Leader
Columbia County Board of Supervisors