As RBA hits 50, Rockland is moving forward

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BY KATHY KAHN

Al Samuels
Al Samuels

The Rockland Business Association (www.rocklandbusiness.org), nearly 1,000 members strong, will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year.

But preparations for its milestone are on the back burner as President/CEO Al Samuels focuses on bringing business and state funding to Rockland. Another goal would be to see the divisiveness between the Hasidic community and larger secular community to move forward in a a non-hostile, positive manner, he said.

“The RBA, during its nearly 50 years, has brought many accomplishments to the county,” said Samuels. “We created the Industrial Development Agency—we fought to get into the Empire Zone—and we were among the first to confront Albany on replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge. That began when Pataki was governor, and thanks to Gov. Cuomo, we’re seeing it come to life before our eyes.”

Rockland faces many serious problems, including the proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. For Rockland and many parts of this state, a $15 an hour minimum wage will rock small business to the core and put many struggling small businesses, family farms and not-for-profit service providers out of business.

The RBA is a founding member the Minimum Wage Reality Check Coalition of 37 organizations (www.minimumwagerealitycheck.com) , which is gaining traction across the state. “Don’t kid yourself,” said Samuels.” The reality is many businesses will be forced to reduce staff and employees’ hours, as well as forcing them to put a freeze on any plans to add staff or expand operations.”

Samuels said NYS Dept. of Labor reviews indicate raising the minimum wage will cost business $15.7 billion annually. The Manhattan Institute (www.manhattan-institute.org) has also published studies showing New York would lose a minimum of 200,000 jobs if the $15 minimum wage becomes a reality.

In 2012, the RBA commissioned Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress to make a all-encompassing assessment of the county’s financial stability. “We forced the county to take a serious look at the findings and use it,” said Samuels. “It has disbanded the County Pharmacy, which was costing residents nearly $2 million a year. An LDC was created to sell Summit Park, but that did not work out, so the county closed it at the end of 2015. Summit Park was the largest single contributing factor to the county’s deficit. Its closure is saving us millions of dollars a year. Other consolidations and cuts have been made to bring up the county’s credit worthiness, but more must be done.”

A new White Paper is being prepared by Pattern is expected to be released in Spring, 2016, focusing on why Rockland is second the second highest taxed county in the U.S. “It will be a benefit to every person in the county,” said the RBA President.

Samuels would like to see New York State hold a Constitutional Convention. “We are permitted to have one every 20 years,” he said. “We didn’t do it in 1997 but we have another opportunity in 2017. (www.changeNYS.org) It’s time look at re-think ‘home rule’ an appropriate process for the state, term limits, and ‘fusion voting,’ among other issues.”

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