Mayor Rolison delivered his State of the City address at the Changepoint Theatre Thursday, reflecting on what the city has accomplished during a global pandemic, thanking city employees and residents for their contributions to the community and pointing toward a financially stronger city that is having more successes and is in a better position to take on challenges.
Mayor Rolison provided updates on the city’s improving financial condition as well as key initiatives, including increased funding for youth-related activities.
The mayor said, “Throughout the entire crisis, we provided uninterrupted essential services to our community. For all the hardship the pandemic brought — it also showed us what a strong community we are, and how much local government really does matter.”
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The mayor was introduced by Poughkeepsie Common Council Member Natasha Cherry, who serves as Executive Director of Community Schools for Poughkeepsie City School District, and was later joined by City School District Superintendent Dr. Eric Rosser.
Mayor Rolison and Dr. Rosser have formed the Poughkeepsie Children’s Cabinet to create a shared vision and cradle-to-career agenda for child and youth development in the city. They presented to the New York State Board of Regents about the cabinet at the Regents meeting on Feb. 15.
During Thursday’s address, Dr. Rosser said, “Our goal is to provide all children, prenatal to college and career, with multiple access points to achieve success in and out of school. Our community’s future depends on how well we work together to strengthen our collective impact on our children’s success.”
The Poughkeepsie Children’s Cabinet recently released two unprecedented reports that provide in-depth analysis of Early Childhood Development and Out-of-School Enrichment and Learning in the city and make a series of recommendations to improve opportunities for children and families.
The mayor’s State of the City speech put a spotlight on efforts to help the city’s youth, including the city’s creation of a Division of Youth Opportunity and Development and Dutchess County’s Youth Opportunity Union project on the former YMCA site in the city.
The mayor also discussed the city’s plans for the American Rescue Plan Act funds, calling the money “an extraordinary shot in the arm for the city” that will offset some of the losses incurred as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Regarding the city’s stronger financial position, Mayor Rolison outlined a new 10-year agreement governing the distribution of sales tax by the county to cities and towns. The Poughkeepsie Common Council and Beacon City Council recently approved the accord. Once approved by the Dutchess County Legislature and ratified by the Office of the New York State Comptroller, it will replace an expiring agreement that took effect in 2013. The mayor said that the new arrangement will increase sales tax revenue to the city by approximately $2.4 million each year beginning in 2023. The agreement provides an immediate $3 million payment and includes increases in percentage distributions to the cities over the next 10 years.
The mayor also detailed key infrastructure projects and improvement to parks, including a $4 million commitment to rebuild and replace aging equipment and make major upgrades at these vital green and recreational spaces.
Turning his attention to police reform and recruiting efforts, Mayor Rolison cited initiatives to strengthen the department and improve diversity in its ranks. Mayor Rolison said the city’s plans not only meet but exceed the tenets contained in the Governor’s Executive Order on police reform and pointed to the department’s training in progressive policing strategies and techniques. Among other enhancements, the Police Department has bolstered mental-health partnerships, improved the police department’s complaint form and increased community policing.
As part of their recruitment strategy, city police officials have assisted city residents taking part the Police Officer/Deputy Sheriff Exam and are guiding those residents through other parts of the process, including the agility exam. Based on the most recent hirings, the mayor said the city’s approach is working.
The mayor thanked the Police Department and the Police Benevolent Association for their assistance in these matters and for dealing with the challenges they face on the streets each day.
Toward the end of the speech, Mayor Rolison reminded the public that next year will be his last one in office as mayor, adding that he has been “very proud” to serve in this capacity. He asked for the public’s “continued support for the work still left to do.”