County Legislator Ben Traudt will appear on the Republican, Conservative and Independence ballot lines in the November 8, 2011 election.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I have grown up and completed school in Red Hook, graduating from Red Hook Senior High School and continuing my education at Dutchess Community College. My family has been in Red Hook for four generations. From 2007-2011 I served as Assemblyman Marc Molinaro’s Communications Assistant. On November 3rd, 2009, I was elected as Red Hook and Tivoli’s representative in the Dutchess County Legislature. I took office in January of 2010 and am currently completing my first term.
What experience and/or training has prepared you to serve in the position you seek?
I worked for Assemblyman Marcus Molinaro for four years, which helped me gain experience in constituent services. I dealt with and assisted constituents in twenty-two towns across two counties on a variety of matters as well as helping constituents navigate state departments. Since January 2010 I have served as Dutchess County Legislator for the 20th district, representing my hometown of Red Hook and the Village of Tivoli. In my capacity as legislator, I have served as Environmental Committee Vice Chairman, as a member of the Public Safety Committee, a member of the Dutchess County Tick Task Force, and as a member of the DEC Region 3 Forrest Practice Board.
Please share your thoughts on property taxes and any specific related changes or policies you support and will work to pass if elected.
I believe we must do all we can to keep a lid on property taxes for our families and seniors. In my first term in office, I voted for a budget that reduced Dutchess County’s real property tax levy from $100.8 million to $100.3 million. We must continue to work to reduce reliance on property taxes to fund county government. We did this last year in part by working to consolidate and streamline county government. This included merging 9 departments into 4 at a cost savings of $1 million annually. If re-elected, I will continue to work to reduce our tax levy by continuing to streamline government.
What is your position on the prison overcrowding, jail construction and public safety issue?
Overcrowding at the Dutchess County Jail remains one of the most pressing issues facing us as a county. Currently, the county spends $5 million annually to house prisoners in facilities outside of Dutchess County because we lack the space to house them. This is not a long term or cost effective solution. I believe we need more space to house our prisoners. That is why I voted for the jail expansion study during last year’s budget proceedings. Building the necessary space right here in Dutchess County to house our prison population will be a permanent solution, saving money by eliminating the need to pay other counties to house our prison population. It will also reduce the burden on our corrections officers who often times have to provide the manpower for transporting prisoners at all hours. Making sure we have the necessary space will keep critical money and resources right here in Dutchess County.
What is your position on independent redistricting at the county level?
Redistricting ought to be a process that includes appropriate input from both citizens and legislators. Currently, the Dutchess County Legislature has a committee made up of both Democrats and Republicans that will propose a redistricting plan to be considered by the legislature. The rules about redistricting are strict, we must draw districts that keep communities as intact as possible while staying within 5% of the appropriate population for a district. Forums will be held throughout Dutchess County so that citizens may have their voices heard. I believe our current reapportionment committee has a good balance of people from all political backgrounds and all areas of the county so that we will be presented with a well thought out product. Legislators must not abdicate their responsibilities on redistricting and must not push off the decision making solely to an un elected body. Legislators must ultimately vote on a map based solely on its merits without political consideration.
Why should voters pick you on election day?
I believe we must work to protect our quality of life in Red Hook. I have worked for the last two years to make sure Red Hook is not ignored in county government. I have successfully sponsored and passed legislation protecting 82 acres of farmland right here in our community, helped secure grants for $100,000 for improvements to Tivoli’s Memorial Park as well as $150,000 for road improvements on Montgomery and Spring St. I have also held forums in Red Hook, including for the first time bringing a budget hearing to the town of Red Hook for citizens to speak to myself and my colleagues in the legislature about what they want the budget to look like. Based on the overwhelming feedback we got at this forum, my colleagues and I successfully spearheaded efforts to save the 4-H program, restore crucial funding for the Arts Council, as well as the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office. I often times believed that there was a disconnect between county government and Red Hook as an outlying town. I am working hard and will continue to work hard if re-elected to bridge that disconnect and make sure Red Hook gets its fair share.
Each candidate for town council was sent a questionnaire with the above questions and a photo request. Answers have been printed as received with editing for formatting only.