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December 08, 2016
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Sullivan voices of public comment

The first speaker at the public comment portion of the Sullivan County monthly meeting on October 20 stepped up to the microphone to address what he believed was a proposed improper arrangement regarding the Apollo Plaza. It had been reported in local media outlets that the Sullivan County YMCA was in line for a “sweetheart deal” to get space in a new building at little or no cost in the new mall being planned at the long abandoned Apollo location.

Mike Dollard, who with his brother has owned the Fitness Factory Health Club in Monticello, reminded the assembled lawmakers that the county moved forward with a deal at the mall with the company Chancellor Livingston because they promised to create an upscale retail shopping center with possible big-name retailers like Lowes, T.J. Maxx or Kohl’s. Dollard asked, “Have any of you ever been to a major shopping center or mall anywhere and seen an organization like the YMCA located there? The answer is no, because it does not fit the model and was not part of the original proposal of this firm.”

Subsequent speakers touched on matters that concerned not only local politicians, but also politicians in Albany and Washington, DC. Marilyn Valant, owner of the Sat Nam Yoga Spa in Hurleyville, said she had joined the movement “Rebuild the Dream,” and asked in response to that group’s Contract for the American Dream, if legislators would support making Sullivan County a leader in 21st century green energy, and thereby help to put young people to work converting houses to greener forms of energy.

Valant also said that her taxes had risen from $4,000 a year in 2003 to $8,000 a year now. She said since she moved to her street, three families had moved to North Carolina, Florida and Pennsylvania where taxes are lower. At age 60, she wondered if she, too, would be forced to move away.

Kathy Aberman, a retired teacher from the Liberty Central School System, addressed wealth in the United States. She said, “While we are still among the wealthiest of nations, too many at the top are not playing by the rules. For example, too many are not paying their fair share of taxes, or any taxes, and politicians who have been bought and paid for by these interests demand cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, denying that we are entitled to these services, claiming these services are bankrupting America.”

She said the solution to the situation was to take the mega-profitable healthcare insurance companies out of the equation, and wanted to know if officials at the local level supported this position.

Priscilla Basset, co-chair of Senior Legislative Action Committee, thanked the legislature for agreeing to send a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo, urging him to extend the so-called millionaire’s tax in the state, which is due to sunset at the end of December. She said she would share a copy of the letter with the state-wide Senior Legislative Action Committee in an attempt to put more pressure on Cuomo and the state legislature to retain the tax on high-income individuals.

Basset noted that Cuomo supports a millionaire’s tax at the federal level, and she suggested that the one at the state level could be used to offset cuts in the federal Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps low-income residents pay for heat in the winter months.

As is usual practice, the lawmakers did not respond to the individual comments.