POUGHKEEPSIE – At the December 8, 2022 meeting of the Dutchess County Legislature, Democratic lawmakers strenuously opposed a last-minute amendment to the 2023 county budget that added $25 million for luxury clubhouses and event space at the county-owned stadium. Legislative Chair Gregg Pulver wielded his authority to circumvent regular procedures and put the item to a vote on one day’s notice, after weeks of budget presentations and public hearings were over.
Dutchess County Comptroller Robin Lois, who was shown the amendment less than an hour before the vote, warned in an email to legislators that it circumvented a Capital Project Policy that was “put in place to protect taxpayer dollars.” Despite Lois’s concern that the rushed process would be “perceived as an effort to avoid proper public oversight,” Republican legislators approved the measure on a near-party line vote.
The $25 million will pay for upgrades sought by the stadium’s tenant, the minor-league Renegades, in order to meet specifications set by the Yankees, with which the Renegades recently affiliated. Diamond Baseball Holdings, which operates the Renegades, is owned by private equity firm Silver Lake, worth an estimated $88 billion.
“This is an outrageous grab of taxpayer dollars,” said Minority Leader Yvette Valdés Smith, “at a time when every dollar needs to go county residents’ urgent needs. Our caucus fought for free public transportation, affordable housing, funds for early intervention for childhood education, DCC tuition funds, a Climate Smart Coordinator, and youth mental health beds, of which the county has none. Those proposals were dismissed as ‘too expensive’—and now suddenly $25 million is available for this. A Dutchess County “Park” that is not free for our residents and that you must purchase a ticket to enter.”
All Democratic legislators except Randall Johnson (District 9-City of Poughkeepsie) voted against the amendment, which adds over 4.5% to the County’s total planned spending for 2023. The Caucus then proceeded to vote against the 2023 Dutchess County Budget at the end of the meeting.
“I don’t know which is worse,” said Legislator Brennan Kearney (D-Rhinebeck, Clinton), “This obscene level of spending on luxury clubhouses, or the majority’s brazen violation of the rules for deliberation and public oversight.”