On February 12th New Yorkers will celebrate Lincoln’s birthday. The Empire State was one of the first to make the Great Emancipator’s birthday a statewide holiday. A number of states still don’t recognize February 12th as a holiday, but this regrettable oversight should not diminish his importance to the challenges we face today. Lessons from our past can prepare us to navigate present circumstances with wisdom and insight. As the saying goes: Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Last week the office of the County Executive recommitted itself to the principles of openness, transparency, and accountability that make local government strong and prevent us from repeating the errors of the past. We partnered with the District Attorney’s office to make crucial recommendations to the Orange County Code of Ethics. We announced a commitment to construction of a renovated and revamped County Government Center beginning this summer. We also worked together as a community to manage another major snowstorm in our region. A new culture has created a new local government, one committed to serving the people who want to live, work, and raise a family here.
Orange County is dedicated to the highest possible standards of conduct from its public servants. District Attorney Hoovler and I have directed our staffs to review the current County Ethics Law and look for ways to improve it to better serve the taxpayers. We will soon be releasing suggested updates to guidelines related to conflicts of interest. These new ethics reforms will bolster reporting requirements for all elected officials and establish clear guidelines.
I have made the revival of the County Government Center a priority, and my administration will redouble efforts to have construction underway by this summer. Controversial or not, this is the right thing to do, at the right time. County employees, and all residents of Orange County, deserve a county seat headquarters that they can be proud of. I look forward to seeing construction workers at the site this summer begin the structure’s overdue improvements.
The heavy snow and ice that swept through the Hudson Valley last week caused travel problems and more, but thanks to the efforts of our public works crews Orange County emerged strong. I’d also like to thank everyone who checked on neighbors during the frozen temperatures. Strong communities are built by good neighbors; and small acts can have a big effect on those around us. With more snow on the way, it looks like that master weather prognosticator, the groundhog, was right about six more weeks of winter!
The 124th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment – the “Orange Blossoms” – have a monument dedicated to their cause which stands on Main Street in Goshen. It’s a symbol of this Civil War unit’s commitment to their mission. A solider holds aloft the regimental colors and marches forward. His destination may be uncertain, but his purpose is clear: to do his best for his brothers-in-arms and the nation that he serves. The Orange Blossoms responded to Lincoln’s call for volunteers to serve the Union cause and help win the war. He entrusted the people of our county with a great mission, and was proven right. As New Yorkers once again observe President Lincoln’s birthday, I encourage Orange County residents to reflect on the new challenges ahead, and the rich and inspiring lessons of our collective past.