July 21, 2011 —
Last week, a discussion ensued at the personnel committee of the Sullivan County Legislature regarding whether or not the legislature should set term limits for the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency (IDA), an important player in the economic wellbeing of the county.
Our IDA was created by an act of the New York State Legislature in 1970, and its board helps to advance economic development projects by granting tax abatements to companies looking to or doing business in Sullivan County.
Its mission, as stated on its webpage (www.sullivanida.com ) is to promote economic welfare, recreation opportunities, prevent unemployment and economic deterioration, ensure the prosperity of Sullivan County’s inhabitants and promote tourism and trade.
Currently, the board members of the IDA are appointed by the Sullivan County Legislature and continue to serve at the will of the legislature. There are no terms of office or term limits for these IDA board members. The appointments are open ended and some of its present members have sat on the board for decades.
That needs to change. With the economic challenges facing the county, it is time for some new board members with new ideas and experiences to sit on that board. We need to enact a law that sets definitive terms of office, and the terms should be staggered, much as is done in Orange County, where changes have set the terms of office for IDA board members running from between two years and five years.
We can increase the opportunities for new IDA board members by enacting a one-year “off” provision between terms of office (i.e. no consecutive terms of office). There should also be a provision of no consecutive terms of office for the legislative liaison the IDA board.
I’m not optimist about these changes. If past actions are an indicator, rather than quickly moving forward with the enactment of terms of office for the Sullivan County IDA, the legislature will get bogged down in tangential discussions instead.
Delay. Delay. Delay. It’s the modus operandi of those in control of our county, in preventing meaningful changes to occur in county government.
I say this because the legislature previously promised terms of office for IDA board members, as reported in a Times-Herald Record article on February 9, 2007, but failed to do so when it expanded the IDA board from seven to nine members.
There are long-term members on the IDA Board who have served our community with great distinction and who have helped to make our community a better place to live. The enactment of terms of office for the IDA board is in no way a negative reflection on their service to our community.
However, with our economy in the tank, we need to embrace the enthusiasm of new board members who may bring fresh perspectives on how best to stimulate economic development and job creation in Sullivan County. It’s the right thing to do.
Now more than ever is the time for us to embrace this modest change to the IDA board terms of office, rather than fearing such action. You can give me feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org  and 845/794-3000.
[Alan Sorensen is currently the Sullivan County Legislator for District 9, and a candidate for reelection.]