The City of Poughkeepsie has been besieged and befuddled by an array of problems, from spikes in violent crime to severe financial stresses. There are far too many vacant properties and even providing basic government services has proven alarmingly difficult at times.
A mayor can’t solve all these problems, but having the right leader surely will make a difference. At this particular juncture, that choice should be Republican Rob Rolison, who has a wealth of legislative and law enforcement experience.
Rolison is facing Democrat Randy Johnson, who brings his own talents to this race, being a professional engineer, having served on the city school board and involving himself so deeply in the community for years.
But Rolison offers the city an intriguing and promising direction. He will not only put a professional face on the office, his deep ties to higher levels of government unquestionably will help the city — and, in fact, are exactly what the city desperately needs at this moment.
Rolison has been a member of the Dutchess County Legislature for more than a decade and ascended to chairman in 2010. He also is a former Town of Poughkeepsiepolice officer, who worked up the ranks to detective.
Frankly, the city could not ask for someone more qualified to step forward and seek the mayoral position, considering the tasks ahead.
Rolison vows to move aggressively to address the city’s crime problem with a variety of measures, including implementing community-policing practices, setting up more surveillance cameras and ensuring law enforcement officers are better equipped to do the job.
“If the city isn’t safe, it really doesn’t matter what else we do,” Rolison told thePoughkeepsie Journal.
He also wisely embraces the strategic planning effort undertaken by consultants who have focused on revitalizing Main Street, from the waterfront to the Arlington district. These consultants, who have spent considerable time engaging the community in various public settings, suggest bolstering bus service along Main Street and reducing the amount of surface parking in the central business district and replacing it with more housing. They also are keenly aware that the city must capitalize on the positive developments along the waterfront, from Shadows on the Hudson and the Grandviewto the south, to the opening of the Walkway Over the Hudson to the north.
Johnson has not fully embraced this initiative, believes planning matters need more study, and he also wants to put a moratorium on waterfront development “pending a true review of what is best for the city and not just for a few developers.”
Actually, planning issues have been studied to death in the city; it is time for bold, decisive action.
Rolison also vows the city will open a youth center during his first term in office, recognizing that healthy and productive alternatives must be offered to the city’s younger residents if Poughkeepsie is going to prosper.
For his part, Johnson would implement a zero-based budgeting practice, in which all budget lines start from zero and must be justified, rather than relying on the previous year’s number as the starting point. He promises to build a better relationship between the police department and community and create a community task force to help the city best prioritize needed services and ways to pay for them. He also said he would work to have city school facilities open on Saturdays and Sundays to provide recreation and educational opportunities.
Johnson has run a worthy, honorable race, but this November, the city is facing one of those pivotal moments. Rolison has the perfect match of skills to do the job required — to focus effectively on public safety while working with other levels of government, nonprofits and the private sector so that Poughkeepsie can better realize its potential.
On behalf of the city, voters must make the most of this exceptional opportunity.