Priorities for Ulster County

Under my leadership, we can make Ulster County a real model for a resilient, sustainable, thriving, people-centered economy that leaves no one behind. If elected to serve as Ulster County Executive, I will prioritize:

Tackling the housing crisis by addressing root causes and expanding supply

Trying to find an affordable place to live right now can be frustrating, disruptive, and upsetting. The housing situation has become dire and cannot wait. We have to address the root causes of our housing crisis and expand the supply of reasonably-priced homes and rentals. We also need to make sure that short-term rentals are owned by local people, not private equity investors seeking quick profits.

I successfully advocated for including affordable housing requirements in Rosendale’s incentive zoning while a Town Councilwoman, and later, in the State Senate, contributed to and helped pass the landmark 2019 Housing Stability & Tenant Protection Act. As County Executive, I will build upon that work to (1) curb the excesses of the Airbnb market and ensure ownership and supplemental income remains with local people and not private equity investors or corporate entities; (2) identify stabilization strategies to help people struggling to meet housing, mortgage, and rent costs, and respond immediately and effectively to those experiencing housing emergencies; and (3) work with the Legislature to establish policies on land and property re-use that prioritizes affordable housing and green development.

Shifting to a clean energy economy that creates well-paying jobs

The climate crisis is real, and daunting. It’s easy to feel like there’s so little any of us can individually do to make a difference. But I see an enormous opportunity to address so many other issues simultaneously. We can build healthy, energy-efficient affordable housing, and invest in clean energy industries that create thousands of well-paying jobs.

I fought for passage of the nation-leading Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in the Senate, and sponsored legislation permanently banning high-volume hydraulic fracturing. If elected, I will pursue a multi-pronged strategy to expand investments in clean public transportation and EV charging infrastructure, eliminate the landfilling of organic waste by 2030, build out responsibly-sited renewable energy for local consumption, and create a County office dedicated to helping residents and businesses access federal and state resources to reduce energy use and costs and adopt clean energy solutions (e.g., heat pumps, solar, and EVs). I will also build on Pat Ryan’s work to make Tech City a clean-energy industries hub, with robust workforce training and development programs. And so much more!

Expanding mental health services and support, including for youth, and promoting coordinated responses to mental health and substance use disorder

We are living through such a high-stress time, and we have to do a better job of integrating mental health services into residents’ everyday lives. From school shooting drills and social media pressure to the pandemic, young people are growing up navigating challenging circumstances. It’s critical that we address the whole person and the complexity of challenges that each individual faces, especially as we navigate the devastating impact of the opioid epidemic.

We are living through a high-stress period for many, and must better integrate mental health services into Ulster County residents’ everyday lives. In the State Senate, I secured funding to bring a new peer-to-peer counseling and support program to Ulster County veterans, and I introduced a bill for children’s summer camps to hire licensed mental health professionals to ensure that kids had the services they needed year-round. Ensuring interdepartmental coordination at the County government level is key to serving the whole person and meeting the complexities of each individual’s needs. I will also work to expand mental health resources county-wide, including in our public schools. This work cannot wait.

Filling gaps in broadband access and cell service in the county

There’s nothing more frustrating than constantly losing calls on the same stretches of road, or having an important Zoom meeting freeze because your internet can’t keep up. COVID has magnified the disadvantages of being without internet when it comes to school, work, health care, and daily living. And if you have an emergency where there’s no cell service, the consequences can be literally life or death.

Thanks to my Senate bill (now law), the Comprehensive Broadband Connectivity Act, the NYS Public Service Commission has been working to develop–for the first time–accurate data on internet service gaps, affordability, and reliability statewide, correcting for years of policy that relied on flawed federal data. You can access the interactive map here. Building on this work, I will seek to leverage federal broadband funds and bring needed competition in the market to our county to fill the gaps and offer more provider choice. We also have to close the cell service gaps, and having served on the Governor’s Upstate Cellular Coverage Task Force, I will bring my experience to this task.

Implementing the County’s Ulster 40 recommendations for an economic development strategy that centers equity, sustainability, open space protection, and localism, and builds on the county’s strengths

From my own childhood experience, I know firsthand the effect that losing your job can have on a family, and how hard it is to get ahead when you’re way behind. We must approach economic development in a way that reinforces and supports the values we care about, so that we all have the opportunity to thrive, not just survive. More than anything else, this is what inspires me to run for County Executive.

In my work on the State’s Cannabis Control Board, we have been creating a nation-leading industry model that prioritizes equity, health, and sustainability. As County Executive, I would implement a government-wide assessment of County programs and initiatives to determine how well we are supporting and integrating these values in decision-making, and work to ensure that we are building equity and sustainability into the County’s work in a thoughtful and comprehensive manner. It is critical that our economic development and redevelopment builds creatively on our local strengths and leaves no one behind, especially those most affected by changes in our local economy.