Supervisors fault racial disparities in county jobs

HUDSON–The county Board of Supervisors approved Columbia-Greene Community College’s proposed 2016-17 operating budget last week and later took up the issue of what one lawmaker called “racism in the community.”

At a 5-minute public hearing July 13 on the Columbia-Greene Community College budget held just before the regular meeting, Supervisor William Hughes, Jr. (D-Hudson, 4th Ward) said, “Columbia-Greene Community College is an important institution within our community. I’m hoping that the state and federal government will contribute more, but for now it’s up to the county. I support the budget 100%.”

He also mentioned the benefits that people with low incomes derive from the college.
“I second what Supervisor Hughes said,” Supervisor Patrick Grattan (R-Kinderhook) said.
“I agree with them, though I think the budget before us has issues, and I’m glad to discuss them,” said Supervisor John Reilly (R-Gallatin).
Board Chairman Matt Murrell (R-Stockport) invited private citizens from the audience to add to the
discussion, but none did. The hearing ended, and during the regular meeting that followed the board passed several resolutions unanimously, including one approving the college budget.
The total annual budget for the college in Greenport is $167 million. The county’s share of that cost is $2,909,734.
In a related matter at the meeting Chairman Murrell announced creation of an Education Subcommittee to focus on the college. He appointed Supervisor Arthur Bassin (D-Ancram), Supervisor Hughes and himself to the committee, as well as county Controller Ron Caponera and Treasurer P.J.Keeler. The subcommittee will report to the Finance Committee.
Toward the meeting’s end, Mr. Hughes took the floor and spoke for several minutes, saying in part,
“The incident in Dallas is not a reflection on the black community. It was just one crazy man doing a crazy thing. There was nobody in my community who found the Dallas incident acceptable. I can speak about this community, because this is where I live, where I grew up.” But discussing national events “won’t help us at the local level,” Mr. Hughes continued. “Conversation should start at the city and county level. In our community, I don’t see racism, I see nepotism. We have to have a conversation about hiring practices,” he said.
Supervisor Hughes estimated that minorities make up 20% of the county, but he that when the county owned the Pine Haven nursing home and rehab facility minorities made up 17% of the county workforce there. “Now they make up only about 5%.
“The reason we need things like affirmative action is not that we want advantages, but that we want to be part of the gang. We want a level playing field. All we’re asking for is to be treated equal.”
Supervisor Hughes also mentioned the “inherent fear of black men. When one walks into an elevator, women hold their purses closer. A black man is three times more likely to be stopped by the police.”
Supervisor Raymond Staats (D-Clermont) said, “I have friends in law enforcement. And it’s a very difficult job. I wouldn’t want to be on it. Police officers need respect.”
Supervisor Reilly wondered how he and his constituents could understand the situation more, since many see Hudson only on special occasions like Winter Walk.
Supervisor Don Moore (D-Hudson, 3rd Ward) thanked Mr. Hughes for his talk, recommended looking at the report of a commission President Obama had on policing, and added, “It is the responsibility of people in the city to communicate with people outside it.”
Supervisor Richard Scalera (D-Hudson, 5th Ward) indicated that conversations had to lead to something sustainable. One should not participate in a regularly-scheduled conversation and not think about it until the next scheduled conversation.
Supervisor Reverend Edward Cross, Sr. (D-Hudson, 2nd Ward) said, “Racism is alive, and it’s doing well in Columbia County. What are we going to do about it? We need to have talks. We’re all just one race—the human race! And we’re not the country, we’re a county. I have 27 grandchildren. I hope they have a reason to stay here.”
The next full Board meeting will take place Wednesday, August 10, at 401 State Street in Hudson at 7:30 p.m.

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