Westchester Lawmakers Respond to Submission of County Housing Implementation Plan

2/3/2010 9:33:12 AM

 

 

Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers), along with several colleagues, today, responded to the submission of the County’s implementation plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and to the federal monitor overseeing the county’s compliance with last year’s settlement of the fair and affordable housing lawsuit.  The settlement was in response to a lawsuit brought against Westchester County by the Anti-Discrimination Center (ADC), accusing the county of making false statements on federal applications about its efforts to integrate housing.  The approved settlement requires Westchester to spend $50 million over seven years to build 750 fair and affordable housing units, in areas that are overwhelmingly white and affluent.  The agreement, also, calls for a federally-appointed monitor, James Johnson, to assist the county in creating a housing implementation plan to meet these goals. “The Administration has taken a major step towards creating fair and affordable housing throughout our county,” said Board Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers).  “Throughout the transition of county executives and our own internal process of due diligence, the Board has played an essential role in negotiating key elements within the presented implementation plan, as well as meeting the affordable housing needs throughout the County.”

 

The Board received the settlement agreement signed by then County Executive Spano in August 2009. The Board and its Litigation Subcommittee spent six weeks of due diligence analyzing the settlement agreement and questioning members of the Spano Administration and its counsel regarding the agreement.  As a result of the direct involvement of the Litigation Subcommittee, chaired by Legislator John Nonna (D-Mount Pleasant), members met with lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department, important clarification of the agreement was obtained, confirming the cap on the County’s financial commitment and the standard for incurring any penalties, as well as the County’s relationship with municipalities under the settlement.  “It has been our primary focus ensuring that the members of the Legislature and our residents were fully informed of this process and our obligation to the agreement,” said Legislator Nonna.  “The Administration has taken an important step towards complying with the terms of the settlement today. We look forward to working together with the Administration in accomplishing its goals in cooperation with our towns and villages, the monitor and the federal government. We are mindful and attentive to the concerns of our residents, as to the impact of this settlement.”

 

Following approval of the settlement by the Board in September 2009, a special subcommittee was appointed to monitor the preparation of the Implementation Plan. Led by Majority Whip Judy Myers (D-Larchmont), Legislators John Nonna (D-Mount Pleasant), Peter Harckham (D-Katonah) and Bill Burton (D-Ossining), this subcommittee monitored the preparation of the Implementation Plan closely, including meeting with the new County Executive’s staff, working on the Implementation Plan and maintained communication with the Monitor to assure him that the Board was actively participating in the process.  “Throughout the transition period, moving from one Administration to the next, the Board ensured the continuity needed within the process,” said Legislator Myers. “It was of the utmost importance that we kept the ball rolling during the transition, as we faced significant challenges in meeting the approved timetable for the plan, given the dynamic of a new Administration and the need to meet the agreed upon deadlines.” The Board’s Housing and Planning Committee plan to meet with Administration officials to continue meeting the benchmarks that were outlined in the plan. "Our committee will have the person in the County Executive’s office who will be responsible to carry out the implementation plan attend a meeting in the near future,” said Legislator Burton. “Our interest is the same as the County Executive: that Westchester complies with the spirit and letter of the settlement agreement while ensuring that fair and affordable housing is constructed or acquired promptly and within the cost limitations we have to live with.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legislator Testa Honors Cortlandt Manors James Taylor

Noted Historian and Educator to be Recognized at Ceremonies Marking Black History Month

2/3/2010 10:52:23 AM

 

 

John Testa with honoree James TaylorWhite Plains, NY – February 1, 2010 - County Legislator John G. Testa has submitted the name of James Taylor to be honored at Black History Month ceremonies to be held prior to the Board Meeting of the legislators on the evening of February 1 at the Michaelian Office Building in White Plains.

 

“Mr. Taylor has contributed in so many ways to the vitality of our community,” said Testa.

 

“I have known Jim for over 20 years as a colleague in the Peekskill School District. His continued dedication and commitment to our community’s youth through hands on education deserves the highest recognition. I am very proud to put the name of  James Taylor forward for recognition this evening.”

 

Prior to retirement in 2003, Mr. Taylor served as elementary school principal with the Peekskill City School District. He is a retired Captain with the New York Guard having served as company commander and search and rescue specialist with the 56th Brigade stationed at the Peekskill Armory.

 

Presently Mr. Taylor is a part time interpreter with Historic Hudson Valley, portraying an enslaved cooper at Phillipsburgh Manor in Sleepy Hollow. There he tells the story of enslaved Africans who worked and lived at the site in 1750.

 

He is a member of the African American Advisory Board for Historic Hudson Valley.
Mr. Taylor also performs his ‘Bucket Full of History” program at area schools and historic events telling the story of slavery in the Colonial Hudson Valley.

 

In the summer of 2009 Mr. Taylor supervised a boat building program for high school students sponsored by the City of Peekskill Youth Bureau, called Peekskill Boatworks. The participants built a fourteen-foot Wright Skiff, a wooden rowboat typical of the workboats that were used for centuries by fishermen and rivermen on the Hudson River.

 

Mr. Taylor and his wife Judith Moshier are the parents of two grown daughters and live in Cortlandt Manor, NY.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

County Legislator Maisano Honors New Rochelle Resident Sam Spady at Black History Month Heritage Celebration

2/3/2010 11:55:48 AM

 

 

(White Plains, NY) Minority Leader Jim Maisano (R-New Rochelle) was proud to honor long-time New Rochelle resident Sam Spady at a ceremony to honor Black History and Heritage Month in Westchester County.  Maisano joined with Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers), Vice-Chairman Lyndon Williams (D-Mount Vernon), Legislator Alfreda Williams (D-Greenburgh) and his other colleagues, as well as local community advocates, clergy, business leaders and local elected officials, to celebrate the important legacy of African-Americans to the history of Westchester at the program last night during the county legislature’s meeting.

 

In proclaiming February as Black History & Heritage Month, the Board of Legislators celebrated the outstanding contributions of Black Americans.  The event highlighted our local ‘unsung heroes’ from across Westchester, who have done an exemplary job promoting civil rights and fighting for social justice.

 

Minority Leader James Maisano’s (R-New Rochelle) honoree was lifelong New Rochelle resident, Samuel Spady for his more than 40 years of dedicated service in community and civic affairs to the City of New Rochelle.

 

“Sam has touched the lives of so many people over his many years of dedicated community service. He is truly an unsung hero. Sam always has the courage to speak his mind and fights to protect those less fortunate in our community.  He gives of himself and has been a true fighter for civil rights in New Rochelle.  Our theme this year, ‘Living the Dream Leaving a Legacy’ fits the accomplishments of Sam Spady. I am honored to share this special event with a man who has been an important leader in New Rochelle and a friend to me.”

 

Spady was the President of the New Rochelle Branch of the NAACP for eight years.  His achievements on behalf of his home city include serving as Director of the Neighborhood Youth Corps at New Rochelle Community Action Agency, a Little League Baseball coach for 16 years, PTA Council Representative for Jefferson School, and volunteer at the Boys and Girls Clubs.

 

Sr. Dorothy Ann Kelly, President of the College of New Rochelle appointed Spady to the CNR President’s Community Advisory Board.

 

Currently he is in his ninth year on the New Rochelle Historical Landmarks Review Board, a member of the Sons of Israel’s 625 Masonic Lodge and Vice President of Pell Glenn Manor Cooperative.

 

Spady is the former owner and operator of Red Fox Taxi Service, which served the community of New Rochelle for 41 years.

Westchester County Board Minority Leader James Maisano (R-New Rochelle) presenting this year’s annual Black History & Heritage Month’s “Unsung Heroes” award to Samuel Spady of New Rochelle during a reception for the honorees

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westchester County Board Chairman Jenkins Outlines Plan For Employee Health Insurance Contributions

2/3/2010 6:02:38 PM

 

 

(White Plains, NY) – Today, Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers) outlined his plan of forming a special committee of the Board to analyze and make recommendations on the fairest and most cost-effective way for the County to provide quality and affordable health care access to its employees at reduced costs.  “The Legislature fully supports the concept of employee contributions,” said Board Chairman Jenkins. “However, in the search to pass off much-needed tax relief to residents, the County Board must act responsibly by reviewing every possible angle of such a complex issue.”

 

This Special Committee on County Health Insurance Contributions is charged with reviewing, analyzing and making final recommendations on the fairest and most economic way that the County can provide taxpayers long term savings, while continuing to provide its employees with quality health care coverage.  The Board’s Vice-Chairman, Legislator Lyndon Williams (D-Mount Vernon) and the Board’s Majority Whip, Legislator Judy Myers (D-Larchmont) have been tapped to co-chair this special committee. Williams, a former member of the Mount Vernon City Council, is a Certified Public Accountant and corporate lawyer.  Myers, the former chair of the Board’s Family, Health and Human Services Committee, which tackled critical issues — from childcare to AIDS to saving the Westchester Medical Center – and, currently serves as the Board’s representative on the County Board of Health.  “With Vice-Chairman Williams’ legal expertise and his background in corporate finance, along with Legislator Myers’ activism and advocacy on greater regional planning, inter-municipal cooperation and fiscal discipline, I’m confident that this committee will create a recommendation that is fair and responsible,” said Jenkins.  “It is important during these difficult economic times that we consider all viable options, including employee contribution, putting out a request for proposal for additional & less expensive health plans, pre-tax savings accounts, contribution tiers, and incentives for workers to opt out.”  The Special Committee will be temporary, with its termination happening by March 31, 2010 with a report of recommendations to the Committee on Budget & Appropriations.  A full vote by the Board of Legislators is expected to be taken no later than June 15, 2010.  There will be no additional compensation for legislators serving on this committee.

 

The County Executive presented the Board with a plan to have non-union managers, commissioners and directors make a 15% contribution towards their health care coverage.  This plan, which would only affect 386 out of over 5,000 Westchester County employees and provide a meager savings of roughly $560,000 for 2010; however, upon thorough review, was found to be over-reaching into county agencies that were not under the County Executive purview and are currently exempt by law, such as Westchester Community College, the County Clerk, the Board of Elections, the Judiciary and Legislatives branches of county government.

 

An alternative bill was drafted by Board leadership, requiring health insurance contributions for the county’s non-union/non-represented management employees only under the County Executive’s jurisdiction, was due for a vote at Monday’s Board of Legislators meeting, but was recommitted to the Board’s Budget and Appropriations Committee for additional review.  “Taxpayers need real tax relief and fiscal leadership, not politics as usual with officials playing fast and loose with the numbers,” said Jenkins.  “The goal of this committee will be to have a proposal in front of the Board for a full vote by June.  Our target is to achieve $15-20 million dollars in savings, which will result in real savings to taxpayers -- a sizeable reduction of 3-4% of the tax levy.”

 

An alternate bill calling for sliding scale contribution for all public employees – drafted by Legislator Michael Kaplowitz (D-Somers) – was being reviewed by the Board’s Committee on Government Operations, Efficiency and Savings,of which Kaplowitz chairs.  This week, Legislator Kaplowitz referred both his bill and the County Executive’s proposal into the Budget & Appropriations Committee ‘in the interest of consistency and efficiency.’  This special committee of the Board will take into consideration both items, as well as any others that Legislators would suggest. Myers and Williams, along with committee members Legislators John Testa (R-Peekskill), Alfreda Williams (D-Greenburgh) and John Nonna (D-Mount Pleasant) will meet with health insurance professionals and key industry experts to assess and develop a plan that would work best for Westchester County.  “Taxpayers need legitimate long-term savings. These measures will help the County manage skyrocketing costs of health care benefits and pass along much-needed relief to taxpayers.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Legislator Ryan Moves Forward with "Westchester Renewed"

Citizen-run Westchester County Charter Revision Commission at Center of Initiative to Improve County Government

2/4/2010 10:24:09 AM

 

 

(White Plains, NY) ~ In an action that could profoundly affect how county government operates in the future, Westchester County Legislator Bill Ryan (D-WF, White Plains) today moved forward with Westchester Renewed, a far-reaching initiative centered on a citizen-run Westchester County Charter Revision Commission.

 

“The Westchester County Charter has not undergone a complete and systematic review since it was approved by the voters in a countywide referendum in 1937.  That was over 70 years ago,” stated Legislator Ryan.  “It’s time to take a thorough look at how Westchester County government is working and how it can be improved.”

 

“What steps should we take to right-size our government?  How can we streamline its operation? How can we make it more efficient and less expensive?  How should we revise our Charter so that it reflects today’s realities and provides the flexibility we need to ensure a county / local partnership that benefits all of our residents and taxpayers,” continued the Board’s former Chairman.  “These important questions need to be answered.”

 

Legislator Ryan has long maintained that “government needs to work smarter, become more efficient and less expensive.”  He sees this as the major challenge facing government at every level – federal, state, county and local – and in every form – general purpose units, school districts, authorities and special districts.  “Westchester County government should accept this challenge, lead by example, and be a model for others to follow,” said Ryan.

 

In introducing this Act, Legislator Ryan noted that beyond realizing greater economy and efficiency in our own County government operation, the Charter review process could help identify State laws and regulations that need to change if the County is to have greater flexibility and be in a better position to help localities streamline and reduce costs.  That would be through consolidating / centralizing some of their locally-run programs and functions and shifting service delivery responsibility and operations to the County.   

 

“If the Westchester County community, with all of its many taxing jurisdictions, is going to be in the national headlines each year, let it not be for having the highest combined property tax bill in America, but let it be for real progress and innovation in service delivery and cost containment,” urged Ryan.

 

Legislator Ryan also noted that the work of the citizen-run Charter Revision Commission would be an ideal way for people to become knowledgeable about the operations and responsibilities of county government and involved in the decision-making process resulting in meaningful recommendations to the Board of Legislators.  The County Charter is the people’s document and the people should be the ones to recommend changes that reflect how they want to be governed.

 

Process

 

With the new legislative session underway, Legislator Ryan has placed “Westchester Renewed” before the Board of Legislators for consideration.  Today, he has filed with the Clerk an Act which, if approved by the Board would authorize creation of a Westchester County Charter Revision Commission.

 

Back in mid-December, he introduced “Westchester Renewed,” as an initiative that could profoundly affect how county government operates in the future.  At its center is a citizen-run County Charter Revision Commission.  The Board did have a brief opportunity to discuss this proposal in committee prior to the conclusion of the 2008-2009 legislative session.

 

In reintroducing this item, Legislator Ryan has asked the Board to refer it to the Committee on Legislation – for any needed modifications and changes to the Act establishing the Commission and specifying membership, duties and responsibilities – and to the Budget and Appropriations Committee – for determining the resources to be provided to the Commission to carry out its assigned duties.  Other than resources, the Commission is to operate independent of county government.

 

Legislator Ryan is asking for thorough consideration of this proposal and a prompt report to the full Board for a vote.

 

The Commission

 

Westchester’s Charter Revision Commission would be made up of members representing a cross-section of the county, reflecting the resident taxpayer, business, non-profit, labor and government sectors of the Westchester community. It would examine structural innovations for and alternatives to the current form and structure of County government.  On or before March 1, 2011, a report of findings, conclusions and recommendations would be submitted to the Board of Legislators for implementation or, depending on what’s proposed, brought before the  voters in a referendum. 

 

The Charter Revision Commission would be composed of 31 members to be appointed as follows:

 

  • Each of the seventeen County Legislators would individually appoint one (1) member to the Commission 
  • The Chairman of the County Board of Legislators would also appoint one (1) additional member to serve as the Chairperson of the Commission
  • The County Executive would appoint two (2) members to the Commission
  • The County Clerk, District Attorney, Chief Administrative Judge of the 9th Judicial District would each appoint one (1) member to the Commission
  • By a majority vote of the County Board of Legislators, one (1) member shall be appointed from each of the following seven organizations: the Westchester County League of Women Voters, the Westchester Putnam Central Labor Body, the Civil Service Employees Association, the Westchester-Putnam School Boards Association, the Westchester County Municipal Officials Association, the Business Council of Westchester, the Westchester County Association, and one (1) member from a non-profit agency providing services in Westchester County.

Some types of issues that could be considered include:

 

  • Consolidating/merging/eliminating various county departments and functions
  • Centralizing various services now handled by municipalities; consolidation of locally-run programs and functions; shifting service delivery responsibility to the county
  • Turning over certain discretionary county services to local municipalities and/or community based organizations
  • What’s best for Westchester: A publicly elected County Executive or an appointed administrator?
  • The role and structure of the Board of Legislators; changing the form and size of the legislative body
  • The need for and composition of a Board of Acquisition and Contract
  • Establishing an Office of County Comptroller