Sometimes at the door, or in small groups, I get asked questions that I think others might have as well. There are a few below, but I’ll keep adding – and don’t forget to check out my Facebook page for videos posted every Tuesday on some issues as well.
Question: How can I watch the League of Women Voters of Saratoga County Candidate Forum if I wasn’t able to attend?
Please check out the video below (through 50:30), and contact me if you have any questions after watching!
Question: Can you explain your vote on school resource officers at the Board of Supervisors?
Approximately 18 months ago, a resolution came before the Board of Supervisors to approve positions for school resource officers (SROs). This resolution required hiring additional personnel, arranging for training for potential SROs, and placement of SROs in schools. When I requested information regarding this resolution from leadership of the Board and the Sheriff’s department, I was denied. As an elected representative of Saratoga Springs, and a fiduciary of the County, I believed – and still believe – it would be inappropriate for me to move forward a resolution of such import without knowing the cost and the timeline.
The Sheriff, Undersheriff, and County Administrator only agreed to meet with me after the vote. At that time, all of my questions were answered and I publicly spoke in support of the program. When a vote was later taken to expand the program to Saratoga Springs, I confirmed the contracts would be the same as previous contracts and voted in support. I have continually supported the SRO program in Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County, and I believe that active-duty law enforcement officers should be armed and have never voted otherwise.
I regret that I was denied the information prior to the vote, but still believe it was the appropriate vote at the time.
Question: Isn’t the County in charge of housing individuals dealing with homelessness?
Governor Cuomo’s mandate to provide emergency winter (or Code Blue) shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness is directed at the County – this means that the County has the final obligation in making certain that such shelter takes place, and that any non-profit seeking to perform under these obligations seek state funding through the County. The County does not have an obligation to provide year-round shelter to individuals, although the Department of Social Services does assist persons in seeking temporary assistance.
In my time on the Board, I have sought to increase oversight of Code Blue services and to increase the social, addiction, and other services provided at Code Blue and around the County. I believe that the best way to end chronic homelessness is through the Housing First model, which provides housing to individuals regardless of their sobriety or other status. This model treats all Saratoga County residents with dignity and respect, has much better outcomes for moving people into their own permanent housing, AND is far cheaper than other models, especially as it reduces emergency response and housing costs.
Question: Housing First sounds good, but it’s not possible to do overnight, right?
Is it possible to end chronic homelessness overnight? Of course not!
But can we change our policies that quickly? Yep! It takes work, and some investment, of course – but working together we can choose to change from distributed temporary housing to supportive housing. It’s just a matter of making the decision, and directing resources in that direction instead. It will take time to move individuals into supportive housing, and time to work out the kinks – as it does with any system. But there’s no need for a midpoint system – in fact, that can delay the implementation and success. The longer we wait to implement Housing First/supportive housing, the longer it will be until we see real changes.
My plan has Saratoga County, Saratoga Springs, and relevant agencies and non-profits together in a room – first brainstorming, and then facilitating public discussions to get the feeling of the community, discuss concerns, and move forward for a full solution – a permanent emergency shelter, and a supportive housing model. I’ve been pushing for this method, used around the country to solve “wicked” or difficult problems, for over a year. Unfortunately, the necessary parties have not been willing to take part. Until we’re all working together, we won’t be able to move forward together.
Question: I’ve heard you talk about community policing – does that mean you want us to get rid of police and sheriff departments?
No! In fact, community policing generally requires more deputies because in addition to the usual patrols, deputies will be otherwise engaged in the community. It simple means that deputies are integrated into our community’s social life, so the first time someone meets them isn’t in an emergency. It allows the public to have a closer, more trusting relationship with deputies, and for law enforcement to have a better understanding of the concerns of the County and an ability to prevent smaller issues becoming legal issues. Community policing looks like attending neighborhood events, school resource officers, bike rodeos, and more. This is the kind of policing I grew up with when my father was an Alabama State Trooper, it’s the kind of policing encouraged by the Department of Justice, and it’s the kind of policing I want my children to know.
Question: What does being a member of the Democratic Socialists of America mean about your work at the County?
First, let’s be clear what being a member of DSA means – it does not mean that I want to end capitalism. It does mean that I believe that our particular system is not working for everyone. It means that I believe government should be open, accountable, and transparent, and with a focus on support – not on profits. It also doesn’t mean that I agree with everything that National DSA, Saratoga DSA, or any particular DSA member says – and I’m sure they’d say the same about me. For me, DSA is a group of individuals I am proud to know, who work to represent the least of us, who make certain that workers and renters are protected, and who hold me accountable to my values of accessibility, transparency, efficiency, and resiliency.
What does my membership mean for Saratoga County? It means that I am always learning from others, that I value open government, that I’ll always be available for you to share concerns, and that I will work for you even when it’s not the easy thing to do.
Question: Where can I find even more information about you?
Thanks for asking! Following the links below will lead you to additional questionnaires or media about me!
- Tara Gaston seeks re-election to County Supervisor position – The Saratogian (October 15, 2019)
- Tara N. Gaston – Vote411 Voter Guide
- 2019 Candidate Survey – Sustainable Saratoga