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Informing Public Discourse in the Hudson Valley and Across the State

Category: The Benjamin Center (page 4 of 4)

The Enacted 2017-18 State Budget Includes a New Shared Services Mandate on Local Governments

Guest post from Tom Cetrino, a SUNY New Paltz Political Science alum and member of The Benjamin Center’s Advisory Board

Recently enacted legislation (A3009C/S2009C Part BBB) included a revision of Governor Cuomo’s proposal to require each county outside of New York City to prepare a plan for further sharing of service delivery responsibilities among local governments contained within the county. Each county is required to have a shared services panel that must include the chief executive of the county (typically the County Executive) who will serve as the chair, and the mayor or supervisor of every town, city, and village in the county. Additionally, the county may elect to include school districts, BOCES, and special improvement districts on the panel and in the plan.

The plan must demonstrate new recurring property tax savings by eliminating or consolidating duplicative local government services. In preparing the plan, the county must consult and seek input from the shared services panel and each collective bargaining unit with members working for the entities represented on the panel as well as community, business and civic leaders. At least three public hearings must be held on the plan.

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Increasing Preparedness for Psychosocial Response to Pandemic Disasters, Infectious Diseases, and Bioterrorism

Guest post by Amy Nitza, Director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health

Our national politics today seem to respond only to military and ecological disasters at home and abroad. Epidemiological disasters and bioterrorism and our local and national responses to them – how they’re handled, with what consequences on the physical and mental health on our first response workers, and on our resources – deserves sustained attention. This year’s The Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH) conference, Psychosocial Response to Pandemic Disasters, Infectious Diseases, and Bioterrorism, is an important opportunity for our region to increase its preparedness for this type of emergency.

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Volunteerism in Ulster County Is Robust, But Is It Sustainable?

Volunteerism is alive and well in Ulster County, but we face major challenges in the years ahead if we are to sustain key services in our communities.

In a recently published Benjamin Center Discussion Brief on The Who-What-Where-When-Why of Volunteerism in Ulster County we report that nearly half (45 percent) of adult Ulster County residents volunteer, twenty points higher than the national rate. In the context of falling national rates, the reasons for this breadth of volunteerism in our home county are documented with the use of national and local survey data, and are further explored and informed through interviews with nineteen leaders in volunteer-reliant organizations.

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How SUNY New Paltz Students View Trump’s Impact on Their Lives and Futures

Guest post by Karla Vermeulen, SUNY New Paltz Assistant Professor of Psychology and Deputy Director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health

Since the election in November, our students’ reactions at SUNY New Paltz have been on display in protest demonstrations, in the classroom, and in a small but disturbing number of acts of vandalism on campus. Their level of passion is evident, but what do students actually believe about the Trump administration’s likely effect on their lives? To find out, Psychology MA student Melissa Blankstein and I launched a survey at the beginning of the semester, “Election 2016: How Will the Outcome Impact You?”

We received 358 web survey responses from current New Paltz students. Obviously this group was self-selected, and is not necessarily representative of the entire student body, but the intensity of responses among those who chose to participate was remarkable, and seems important and worthwhile to share.

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Celebrating Women’s History: Announcing our upcoming New York State 2017 Women’s Right to Vote Centennial Conference

This year we kick off women’s history month with the centennial anniversary of the 19th amendment, ratified in 1920, rapidly approaching. That victory, of course, finally won women the vote across the United States just one hundred years ago. Yes, it took much too long for women to be able to vote in our democracy. Less widely known and acknowledged, however is that three years earlier that hard-fought suffrage victory was foreshadowed in New York, when women here won the vote at the state level. The state effort was equally hard-fought. It is a source of pride that New York’s 1917 referendum legalized full voting rights for women, preceding the national action and making ours the only east coast state to enfranchise women before 1920.

This spring we seek to share this pride with all New Yorkers with a conference that celebrates the victory of women’s suffrage in New York. At this event, we will look back on how women in New York State won the vote, consider women’s contemporary status and engagement with public life and leadership, and envision women’s future in politics. The Benjamin Center for Public Policy Initiatives and the Women’s, Gender, and Sexualities program in collaboration with our partners the Departments of History, Political Science, and Sociology at SUNY New Paltz; The Rockefeller Institute of the State University of New York; the FDR Library; and the League of Women Voters of New York State have worked together to plan this examination of the history, the present situation, and the future of women in the public sphere. Continue reading

Three Proposals That Assure Independent Oversight by Elected County Comptrollers

Proposed budgets in 2016 two upstate counties, Ulster and Onondaga, delivered bad news to comptrollers, county elected officials charged with fiscal oversight.  In Ulster, County Executive Michael Hein sought a 22% cut (from $890,000 to $695,000) in Comptroller Elliot Auerbach’s budget. Meanwhile, in Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney took $479,000 (27%) out of Comptroller’s Bob Antonacci’s budget. Were these decisions political payback that reveal a need for structural changes in county government, or simply tough-minded management?

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On President Trump and Trumpism: A Roundtable Discussion at SUNY New Paltz

Last week, the Department of Political Science and International Relations at SUNY New Paltz convened a roundtable discussion on the state of the Trump presidency a little more than two weeks in. Clocking in at just over an hour, the panel discussion and ensuing conversation with the audience set the context for where we are and where we might be going. The take-away was that one possible solution to Trump and his ambiguities lies in an institutional response to Trumpism, and that audience members might best channel their energies to directed political organization and action, including running for office, as a means to confront and resist the politics of prevarication and anti-democratic calumny over the next 4 years.

Photo credit: KT Tobin

The panel, composed of Nancy Kassop, Stephen Pampinella, Daniel Lipson, and Gerald Benjamin, offered views grounded in the ethic of resistance and response, not reaction. The discussion was organized around questions posed by moderator Scott Minkoff. With particular attention to institutional dynamics, panelists offered their views on domestic government and politics, international relations, and environmental politics. The discussion focused in particular on two dimensions: Trump’s political strengths and weaknesses, and the institutions and industrial and populist partisans that are now organizing in opposition to the president’s inarticulate, inchoate arch-conservative, corporate-friendly policy agenda.

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