Legislators Bicker Over
By Matthew Youngfrau
MONTICELLO September 19, 2000 A heated debate took place on Thursday, September 15, at the Sullivan County Legislature's Health and Family Services Committee meeting. The argument swirled around the distribution of condoms at government offices.
The proposal stemmed from a report given by the AIDS Task Force to the committee back in July. Most at that meeting were genuinely surprised and alarmed by the high number of AIDS cases in Sullivan County. In fact, the county has one of the highest per-capita AIDS rates in New York State. So the committee asked the task force to come up with some proposals to help fight the epidemic.
Legislator Steven Kurlander, who is not on this committee but was at the meeting observing the proceedings, vehemently opposed the proposal. He was concerned over liability, where and how many places would distribute the condoms, who would be able to obtain them and the repercussions of these actions.
"What are we going to do, hand out rubbers in the lobby [of the Government Center]?" Kurlander asked the committee. "I think it's overkill."
Legislators Leni Binder and Jodi Goodman (both of whom are on this committee) debated Kurlander on this issue. They explained that it was an unfortunate reality and steps need to be taken.
"You're being naive," Binder told Kurlander. "If you don't want to face reality, take your family and go to a walled community."
The committee decided that the best places to distribute the condoms would be the Family and Health Services Building in Liberty and the Workforce Development Office in the Government Center. They also agreed to provide educational materials with the condoms. Kurlander requested that the County Attorney's office write up a disclaimer that would avoid legal problems.
The committee voted three-to-one in favor of the resolution. Members Binder, Goodman and Robert Kunis voted in favor of the resolution. Legislator Gordon MacKinnon had not arrived yet and was unable to vote on this issue. Legislator Rodney Gaebel voted no. The resolution will go before the full legislature for a vote at their next meeting on Thursday, September 21. More arguments are expected at that time.