Didi Barrett, Democrat for state assembly

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Didi Barrett, resident of the Town of Washington for 25 years, is a community activist and longtime leader of not-for-profit organizations in the Hudson Valley and New York. She is a seasoned and accomplished coalition builder, strategist and planner.

Didi spearheaded the creation of the Dutchess Girls Collaborative to support local girls and young women. She helped launch and is a board member of the North East Dutchess Fund (NED) of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, which focuses on improving life in the six towns of northeastern Dutchess County. She helped create the pioneering NED Corps program, with Dutchess Community Action Partnership, to deliver social services to this rural region and serves on its affiliated Latino Roundtable.

She is a trustee of the Anderson Foundation for Autism and a founder of the emerging Anderson Leadership Program. Didi is on the board of the Millbrook Education Foundation and has twice served as coordinator for Millbrook’s Community Day.

Didi is passionate about the agricultural, natural, and cultural resources of the Hudson Valley and their critical importance as economic engines and job generators. She is a member of the advisory boards for Poughkeepsie Plenty, a food justice project; the Poughkeepsie Farmer’s Market alliance with Walkway Over the Hudson; and SEED (Smart Eating Every Day), a healthy lifestyle project for children and families tailored to rural communities. She has been a consultant to the Hudson Valley resident professional theater company Half Moon Theatre.

Didi’s family has deep roots in the Hudson Valley, and a long involvement with Dutchess and Columbia counties. In 1938, her grandfather and great-uncle bought a farm in Ancramdale, which still remains in the family. Didi’s husband, David Barrett, grew up in the Hudson Valley town of Middletown. The couple has two children, Alec and Annabel.

A blogger and former journalist, Didi’s other affiliations have included Girls Incorporated of NYC (founding chair); New York Women’s Foundation, Planned Parenthood of NYC, the Women’s Campaign Forum and NARAL Pro-Choice New York (former board member) and the American Folk Art Museum (trustee emeritus).

Specific Experience
As a community activist I believe I know our municipalities here in the 103rd Assembly District well. These are the towns where I work, play, eat and shop every day. I have run our Community Day in Millbrook and and I sit on the Millbrook Education Foundation board. I helped found the Northeast Dutchess Fund and its pioneering NED Corps project. As a longtime leader of not for profit organizations I know how to stretch a dollar, think outside the box and bring diverse people together to work collaboratively. I think those are skill sets that Albany could well use.

On the property tax cap and our schools
Property taxes have been out of control in NY, especially in the Hudson Valley, and the tax cap is a useful tool to halt the escalation.

Unfortunately the tax cap without mandate relief puts our school districts and our municipalities in an untenable position, which folks are learning the hard way now.

When the tax cap was passed, mandate relief was to follow, but that hasn’t happened and our schools are feeling the effects. I believe the solution to helping our local governments and school districts is to provide relief from unfunded state mandates, examples of such areas are preschool special education, indigent defense and social service programs. I will support Governor Cuomo’s plan for the state to take over 100% of the costs of Medicaid growth, which will save local governments $1.2 billion over the next 5 years. Most unfunded mandates reflect good ideas, but it is unacceptable for the state to make demands of schools and local governments without also assuring a way to pay for them. I believe we need to find a better way to fund our schools and everything should be on the table. School taxes are the biggest part of most tax bills but it’s increasingly clear that the quality of public education is not consistent with those costs. Extracurricular programs are being eliminated; teachers are being cut; class sizes are growing. We are letting our children down.

On same-sex marriage
I spoke openly about my support for marriage equality in the 2010 race and I would have been proud to have voted for the law that passed in 2011.

On hydrofracking
I support the moratorium on hydrofracking. I don’t believe we should have to choose between jobs and safe water. While I recognize the importance of natural gas as an energy source I would not support hydrofracking unless I was absolutely convinced it would not adversely impact our water or other resources. I also support the right of local municipalities to make a “home rule” decision if, for example, their county chooses to support hydrofracking.

On independent redistricting
In 2010 I was one of the first candidates to sign the NY Uprising Pledge supporting independent redistricting, as well ethics reform and responsible budgeting. I am committed, as well, to being sure that the people of this state are never disenfranchised. I find the recent delayed and politicized process of redistricting by the state legislature to be a stark example with what has been wrong with Albany for way too long.

Other issues
One of the most important challenges facing the State of New York right now is to create a climate that encourages business and grows jobs that stay local. New York is now 49th in the country when it comes to being business friendly. We need to get rid of regulations that discourage new businesses, make capital more available and focus on small businesses and the needs of the middle class. I will fight to fully repeal the MTA payroll tax which is still burdening too many institutions in Dutchess County (including our county government which will pay nearly $400,000 this year). I will advocate for support of farming and agriculture, as well as cultural and historic tourism, as important economic engines for the Hudson Valley and the State of New York.

Closing Comment
I am running in this special election for the NY State Assembly because I believe the people of this district deserve a choice. I will be a full time legislator who will fight for the middle class and the people of the Hudson Valley. I am not a lawyer or a career politician. I am a mother and a community activist and I will bring a fresh voice and a different skill set to Albany. Leading by example, I hope to encourage the next generation of activist women and girls to think of running for office as a good thing, a way to make a difference in the things they care about.

To learn more about Didi Barrett, visit www.didibarrett.com.

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