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LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: Government Power Hour at Putnam County Day
Each County Day includes a Government Power Hour. This one was particularly substantive, and provided insights into the inner workings of Albany.
Under HGAR President Tony D’Anzica’s leadership, there has been a concerted effort to streamline and centralize the HGAR “County Days,” which has greatly benefited the HGAR staff, me included, in our ability to execute these events with greater efficiency. As a result, we have put on some great programming this year throughout the Hudson Valley.
My chief duty for each County Day is to organize the Government Power Hour—a Q&A with area elected officials from various levels of government who, for an hour, get to talk housing and answer our questions. Generally, each Government Power Hour is great, but the most recent one was particularly substantive.
At Putnam County Day, on a cold Monday morning, HGAR was joined by New York State Assemblymember Matt Slater (R), State Senator Pete Harckham (D) and Putnam County Executive Kevin Byrne (R). Maybe it was because next year is a major election year, or they were just happy to see our members, but the three of them were a lively bunch. We got some interesting answers to some of our questions that I thought I would share with you.
Senator Harckham and Assemblyman Slater both answered a question regarding Gov. Kathy Hochul’s housing goals that gave insight into the inner workings of Albany. You may remember that, for the first time in a while, the New York State Budget was late. This was mainly due to the governor’s housing agenda and the inability to make a compromise with the State Legislature. When asked if the upcoming budget season will be just as contentious, both members of the legislature indicated that the governor is backing off from the housing fight. Senator Harckham said that in his talks with the governor’s office, they are leaving the topic up to the legislature for now.
When it was Assemblyman Slater’s turn to answer he stated that “he was pleased that the governor’s office was giving him the same information.” This was a notable comment on a few levels—mainly that it shows a lot of validity to the governor’s reluctance to take up the topic of the Housing Crisis. Additionally, Senator Harckham and Assemblyman Slater are not only in different houses and political parties, but the senator is a more senior statesman, and the Assemblyman is still in his first term. For such different leaders to be getting the same information in their private talks with the governor’s office is telling. It would seem that the governor is not willing to spend any more political capital on addressing the housing crisis.
The other notable moment that I want to bring to your attention is an answer that Putnam County Executive Byrne gave in response to what HGAR members can be doing to support local issues. Each County Day, the question gets asked: HGAR has over 13,000 members, what issues would you like to see our members support? We have gotten a lot of different answers to this question, but I think the County Executive’s answer was one of the best. He suggested our members support local development projects. He specifically stated that a lot of new developments get bombarded with one or two neighbors that are strongly “Not in My Back Yard” (NIMBY) on any future development. This in turn causes weeks, if not months, of delays on a project even before a shovel breaks ground—if the developers don’t walk away first. The County Executive pointed to these moments in planning board and zoning board meetings where a lot of housing stock increases and the affordability battle gets lost. County Executive Byrne suggested that we use our membership to sew support of local development to outweigh the NIMBY culture that contributes to the housing crisis. An interesting idea to say the least that I wanted to bring to your attention.