The Year of the Family
Jennifer Colamonico and Marsha Waldman
The Carmel Democratic Committee applauds County Executive MaryEllen Odell for declaring this to be the Year of the Family in Putnam County. However, we have recommendations for actions that would make this idea meaningful for real families in Putnam, not just a slogan.
Putnam families deserve an open and honest government that represents all of us, not just the elite. A golf course is lovely for those who can afford it, but community centers could do so much more to serve the needs of families. In addition, we appreciate the attention paid to our seniors, but we would like to see equal attention paid to hard working families and other vulnerable populations.
Families in Putnam County – and across the country – are working harder for less. Real wages for most of us have not increased for many years, while income inequality has devastated the middle class. We encourage Ms. Odell to work harder to bring good jobs to Putnam County – jobs that pay a living wage and benefits to help our local families get ahead. About 90% of New Yorkers earning a minimum wage are over age 20 and, nationally, more than a quarter of them are parents. Imagine trying to raise a child on $350 a week around here!
The stress put upon parents who are working hard and not making ends meet strongly impacts their children - disrupting their education and perpetuating a cycle of economic struggle. When families can’t get ahead financially, they often also have poor diets and poor health, which can burden an already burdened health system. Establishing a countywide living wage would be a profound investment in our families.
Putnam families face a disproportionate tax burden that relies too much upon income and property tax as our economic development lags. Too many families drive out of the county or go online to shop for basic needs. We would love to “Shop Putnam” but how many nail salons, Italian restaurants and auto parts shops do we really need? What about bustling marketplaces with bookstores and cafes and diverse restaurants…farmer’s markets that bring us the bounty of the Hudson Valley… places to congregate and come together as a community?
Yet, Putnam is still home to many empty storefronts and unfulfilled needs. We call on Ms. Odell to demand accountability and results from the IDA (Industrial Development Agency), the EDC (Economic Development Corporation) and the Tourism Bureau to show results that strengthen our tax base and take the burden off our family taxpayers.
We encourage the County Executive and her colleagues to reach deep into the community and do more to support all the families that call Putnam County home – not only those who grew up here, but young families who choose to be here, including new immigrant families who are working hard to put down roots. Information is often hard to find, especially when using the Putnam County website that is outdated and hard to navigate. Are we really doing enough to create the engaged and connected community that would help Putnam families thrive?
We commend the efforts of Putnam County to curb the heroin epidemic that is ravaging too many local families. But our leaders can and should do more to give our young people meaningful after-school activities, internships and jobs to help keep them out of trouble. Our sports activities are top notch, but not every child is an athlete, and we should be providing resources for ALL the families in our community. Ms. Odell should focus time and resources towards preventing drug abuse as much as catching those who are selling drugs to our children.
Young people need to learn about building healthy families. The Putnam/Northern Westchester Women’s Resource Center had been providing educational programs in our schools to teach teens about safe, healthy relationships; but they no longer have adequate funding to provide this essential outreach. Since prevention is always better than cure, the County should back the Center's efforts to guide our teens as well as providing services to families already fractured by abuse, addictions and mental illness.
Many families move to Putnam County because of our beautiful lakes and natural environment. The County can and should do more to protect the health of our lakes, and take steps towards greater energy efficiency in county buildings and vehicle fleets. We support the Legislature’s efforts (which unfortunately have been sidelined)) to ban polystyrene and plastic bags that end up polluting our neighborhoods and watersheds, endangering the health of humans and wildlife.
Putnam families are working too hard and paying too-high taxes to settle for lip service from county government. We need fresh thinking and new ideas to really make this county work for our families. Local leaders too often reward friends and associates rather than seeking the best and the brightest solutions from the world around us. Putnam County families deserve bold leaders who will not settle for less than the best.