To the Editor:
The media has reported a significant increase in incidents involving heroin and methamphetamine use in the North County.
This prevalence of these dangerous drugs combined with individuals who come to our communities to prey on our citizens is disturbing to me. Violent acts involving the use of firearms and attempted kidnappings in some parts of the county are unacceptable. This was not the North Country I grew up in and I don’t want it to be this way for the next generation. When the election for District Attorney was over I reached out to the new DA to discuss what we could do to work together to solve problems facing our communities.
I listened and one of the things that I heard was that the salaries for the assistant D.A’s were not competitive and in order to have more effective prosecutions we needed to address the issue of staff turnover. The size of the D.A.’s staff isn’t equitable to other counties but Mary Rain didn’t ask for more staff.
It makes sense that one would want to have an office with people serving for long periods of time gaining experience rather than leaving after 18 months. After reflecting it seemed a small investment to make and with a great potential return as far as prosecuting more criminals successfully and saving money in other areas such as our jail. I also tried to consider the cost of doing nothing. Not just the monetary cost of doing nothing but the cost of the damage being done to our communities social fabric. We need to have a level playing field for our D.A.’s office as more resources are pouring in from the state so that those who meet certain income requirements can have a lawyer provided by the government to hold their hand every step of the way.
At our full board meeting on May 5 we had two members or our majority who had excused absences. We couldn’t guarantee that the D.A.’s resolution would be passed because we needed 8 votes to move the concept forward. We decided to move it forward anyway with the hopes that at least one member from the other side of the aisle would vote for it on the merits. Instead the minority party railed against it. One of the legislators said that all the department heads should demand raises now because we were proposing a financial solution to the problem of assistant D.A turnover.
Another legislator disagreed with the proposal because Mr. Morrill, the finance chair brought it forward that evening.
Mr. Morrill deserves to be commended for working out the financial aspects of the resolution instead of being second guessed and chastised for trying to get this done. Unfortunately due to a lot of obfuscation and rock solid resistance from the minority party we couldn’t move forward that evening. This shouldn’t be about party politics. We want our communities to be as safe as possible.
As Chairman of the Board of Legislators I will not give up on our effort to work with the new DA to protect our communities. We will not ignore the changes in crime affecting our communities, we don’t want to delay a resolution, we want to tackle it head on. We will not waver, we will stand firm in our efforts to protect and serve the people of St. Lawrence County.
Jonathan Putney (D), Waddington
Chairman SLC Board of Legislators