Helen Grosso, County Legislator
Why are you running for this office?
There is a great deal we can do to embrace the 21st century in Pawling that would benefit taxpayers and residents across the community. We certainly want to keep the character of Pawling and preserve our beautiful environment, but it is a mistake to ignore the changing world around us. We should be willing to embrace opportunities and improvements that will make our lives better and use resources and tax money more efficiently. Pawling is stuck in an old model of governance that lacks transparency. It is a stubborn impulse from the “establishment” that makes newcomers feel judged by how long they have lived here. As if they are only welcome if they promise not to change anything! I hear constantly, “but that is the way we have always done it” as an excuse for something out of date or even unfair in our local laws.
What are your qualifications for the position?
I have attended hundreds of school and town board meetings, which has taught me a great deal about municipal finance and how to collaborate across the community for change. I served on the Pawling School Board for two years and on the Audit Committee for six years. Then I became Editor of the Putnam County Courier for two years and later worked as a journalist for area newspapers. This taught me about critical issues affecting our community and the political history of the Republican Party here that continues to dominate even though it is no longer in the majority. All of these experiences have given me tremendous insight into the potential for positive change in Dutchess County if we are willing to adapt our old thinking and behaviors.
What do you hope to accomplish, if elected?
Immediately I want to establish a new standard for the position of County Legislator that includes active outreach in communities and organizations that make up District 23. Such as regular attendance at municipal meetings to build relationships and share knowledge of County projects that directly benefit constituents. Most people have no idea what their County Legislator is voting on every month. There are about 20 resolutions a month and it is a lot to absorb.
For instance the 24/7 Stabilization Center for Drug Addiction and Mental Health that my opponent claims to have “championed” in some of his campaign literature was voted on unanimously by all the legislators. The idea actually originated with a very active Democratic member who suggested the model years ago based on a program in Texas! This is an important resource that every resident in Dutchess should know about.
It is also an example of how an active legislator can help discover programs or “best practices” in other towns, counties and even other countries and bring them back for consideration by the legislature.
There was recently a countywide opportunity for municipalities to purchase one or more electric cars at 30% off. The County purchased three of them for their own use and is debating whether to put a charging station in Pawling! Why isn’t that kind of opportunity publicly shared with the leadership in our town and village? It might help spark debate about the benefits of using such efficient vehicles and new age technology in our community? Instead, the Town purchased three large pick-up trucks using surplus funds in the Fund Balance in July and missed an opportunity for a Shared Services grant that might have included a shared network of electric charging stations in Eastern Dutchess. These are some of the things I would make sure to communicate with local leadership so that Pawling can advance into a new age.
Second, I would look very closely at the budgeting process at the County to see why our town revenues from sales tax have changed and have been reduced over time in a growing economy? Can we reverse this trend?
What is your educational background?
BA from Bard College and MA from New York University in Education and Technology. I helped develop new applications for the classroom using computers and Internet for distance learning.
What else would you like voters to know about you – your family, pastimes, special interests or activities?
I am a descendent of the Quakers who arrived in Pawling mid-18th century so I have great respect for the history and customs of Dutchess County. I want to help others like myself be able to stay and thrive here.