Something is fishy in Dutchess County. Over the past six years, leading elected officials have awarded tens of millions of dollars in county contracts to private companies that helped fund those officials’ campaigns for office.
While it may be impossible to prove that a particular contract was awarded as compensation for a business’ investment in a politician’s career, the pattern fits a well-understood form of corruption known as “pay-to-play” politics, and the lack of accountability that enables it has led some Dutchess County residents to suspect that our elected leaders have helped their donors profit at the expense of their constituents.
Four years ago, Orange County passed a law limiting opportunities for such corruption. Thanks to the work of a minority of legislators, a similar bipartisan resolution sits before Dutchess County, but leading officials refuse to seriously consider it. Residents deserve for pay-to-play and other corruption-enabling loopholes to be legally closed.
Fortunately, a number of people who promise to work to enact reforms that would end pay-to-play politics in our county, cities and towns have offered themselves as candidates for public office in the November election. Among them are Dutchess County legislative candidates Frits Zernike and Nick Page, who seek to represent districts 16 and 18, respectively. Zernike and Page and their peers pledge neither to seek nor accept campaign contributions from businesses that seek or hold contracts with local government, and to actively work to pass legislation to end pay-to-play politics and make local government transparent and accountable to all.
At 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 21, voters will have an opportunity to hear from some of the pledged candidates at a Rally for Public Integrity in front of the Dutchess County Building at 22 Market St. in Poughkeepsie. All who care for the integrity of government are invited to attend. See grassrootsintegrity.org.
Carolyn Guyer, New Hamburg
Alexander Reed Kelly, Beacon
Guyer and Kelly are co-founders of Grassroots Integrity.
This piece appeared in The Highlands Current.