By Matt Youngfrau
SULLIVAN COUNTY October 24, 2003 District 4 consists of the majority of the Town of Mamakating.
It is currently represented by Republican Don Trotta. His challenger is former Legislator and Democrat and Conservative candidate Jonathan Rouis.
Don Trotta does not pull any punches. As he puts it, he says what he is thinking, and fights for the rights of all the residents in Sullivan County.
I represent all the residents, not just the ones in my district, Trotta remarked. I am here for all the people, not just one group. It is important to serve all the people that is paramount.
Trotta has a long service background. He was a former Supervisor and Judge in his Town of Mamakating. Trotta was also a former New York State Trooper and Assistant Hospital Administrator at Community General Hospital. It is that background that led to him being named as the Chair of the Legislatures Health and Family Services Committee.
This year, the budget [for my department] is $70 million. Next year, it will rise to $101 million, commented Trotta. When cuts are looked to be made, they look at human services. It is an easy cut and it sounds good, but the end result and the ramifications are where we have to be concerned.
While Trotta has battled for Health and Family Services, he has also campaigned for the probation officers, who repeatedly requested to be armed for two years. Trotta helped make that happen.
It languished for a year or two, Trotta stated. The officers should and must be allowed to protect themselves and the public in the course of their job. There are some nasty individuals out there.
The proposal was backed by judges, police chiefs, the sheriff, among others. I cant believe it was not acted on, Trotta continued. I was happy to work with [Public Safety Chair] Kathy [LaBuda] and the others to get it through.
That was not the only tough issue Trotta has tackled. He also tried to start a smoking ban before it went through the state.
I put that on the table, Trotta said. It was the responsible thing to do, not the politically correct thing to do.
That openness is something Trotta advocates.
I believe in open government, remarked Trotta. We have created a monster with the caucus system. It is inappropriate. We should be more open for the people. There are some political issues that have to be discussed behind closed doors, and we should get the attorneys in. But we have to be very careful. Power corrupts power.
Some major issues facing the county now are economic development, a tough economy, the landfill and gaming.
Typically, Trotta did not hold back his feelings on those issues.
Economic development is critically important, Trotta said. We need to be balanced. We have needed services that should not be supported on the backs of the citizens. Economic development should be the cornerstone tax base of government programs.
The county manager has proposed a 5 percent tax increase and some layoffs.
I am a million percent against layoffs, Trotta said. The worst thing is to put someone out of work. Nothing is more inhumane. I am also against a tax raise. That has to be the last resort. We need to keep looking for cuts.
As for the landfill?
We have to look at alternatives, stated Trotta. I am a proponent of incineration if it is scientifically safe. It would be a state-of-the-art system. We can harness the steam and make it electric power. It could provide tremendous economic relief. It does come at a tremendous initial cost.
That is a local issue, Trotta commented. I see it as just another business. There are implications both positive and negative. We have to take care of the infrastructure and the schools. I believe that we cannot be cautious enough in this area.
Trotta has also been an advocate for seniors and veterans.
I want to see our veterans agency be more forceful in going after benefits for veterans. We need better quality care, as well. Some of the treatments of veterans is disgraceful.
Trotta summed it up by saying, Government should be bipartisan. I am concerned people will fall through the cracks. Bureaucracy can be cruel.
Jonathan Rouis was appointed in January 2002 to the Legislature to fill the unexpired term of the late Gordon MacKinnon. In the election last November, he lost his seat to Trotta.
This year is the rematch.
I am running for the same reasons I ran the first time, Rouis remarked. There is a lot going here. We have to work together for the greater good. We have to work together with the villages and the towns. We need proper planning.
Rouis has long been a strong proponent of proper planning.
The county needs to focus on planning, he said. Not just sewer, water, etc., but fiscal. We can make that happen. We have to increase government cooperation.
Rouis was very vocal last year when the county raised the sales tax.
I have been an advocate for hiring a budget consultant, he commented. We need to look at a multi-year plan. Problems will come to light. We can deal with it in a proactive manner. It was something I suggested when I was there.
Rouis and his fellow Democrats are also advocating a citizens advisory panel as part of the partys overall platform.
We would get input from businesspeople and residents on how to run government more efficiently, stated Rouis. We should hold our meetings in other parts of the county. It would work to do it at night. We serve the people. We would make sure the agendas and the resolutions are available several days beforehand. If there is an issue of concern, people will know and can come to discuss it.
One major issue facing the county is the landfill.
Again, we need a fiscal plan, Rouis said. We have to get rid of importation. We need to analyze and plan to make up that revenue over the next few years. We also need equity in the tipping fees. Sullivan County residents should be paying the same as others.
Another issue is casinos.
They are coming, remarked Rouis. We have to make the most of it. We need to maximize the benefits and minimize the negatives. We need more concrete numbers. There is too much what if? We cannot speculate. It is a fluid issue it is always changing.
If elected, Rouis plans to focus on senior housing.
I will work to make it happen, he said. It is a concern of a lot of people here. We will have a multi-year fiscal plan. We will have a master plan.
Rouis is a partner in the accounting firm of Rouis and Company in Wurtsboro. He and wife Natasha have two sons.