April 2, 2014 —
I cannot help but feel that some of my colleagues have enjoyed talking the talk about economic development for the past two years, but have failed to walk the walk when it comes time to support initiatives that would truly benefit Sullivan County’s economy.
Last November, New York State legalized gambling, with Sullivan County leading the charge.
Voters in every township approved casino gambling with at least 60% of the vote. Casino gambling would bring resort destinations back to our communities and provide thousands of jobs in our county where unemployment hovers around 10%. Resort destinations would provide increased tourism and sales tax dollars, and provide millions of dollars of additional revenue to the host communities. Any of my colleagues who do not ardently support resort destinations for Sullivan County are not on the right side of their constituents and are not acting in the best interest of Sullivan County’s future.
And it’s not all large-scale development that’s getting the cold shoulder.
Last week, our legislature had the opportunity to create a “food hub” that would enable many of Sullivan County’s 300 farms and food producers to efficiently access wholesalers, as well as local and regional markets. The food hub would have benefited over 100 local farmers, created 16 direct jobs in the region and 25 construction jobs. This project received more than $750,000 in federal, state and local grant funding, and needed just $110,000 of our local county dollars to be realized. This public-private partnership was tabled at the last minute by legislators Benson, Edwards, Geiger, Sorensen and Vetter, none of whom could provide a valid reason for denying the project to our agricultural community that has lobbied and rallied for its creation.
We can study, strategize, hire consultants and listen to experts, but until we step up as leaders to make these ideas a reality, talk is cheap. And talk is all our constituents, who demanded action on Election Day, seem to be getting.
[Jonathan Rouis, of Wurtsboro, NY, represents District 4 in the Sullivan County legislature.]