“Governor David Paterson delivered his proposed 2010-2011 budget today, and sent a clear message to all New Yokers that we must learn to do more with less.  I applaud the Governor’s efforts to reduce state spending, place a moratorium on unfunded mandates and close the budget gap.  I know this process could not have been an easy one to complete, and I thank the members of his Administration for their stellar work.

In the same breath, however, I must part ways with Governor Paterson on his beverage tax proposal.  The idea that the Governor would resurrect the soda tax, clearly indicates that we are in grave fiscal times and must find revenue to close the budget gap.  However, in a desperate attempt to find revenue, this proposal has been floated without regard for the devastating economic impact of raising more taxes on the food and beverage industry.  A soda tax will drive many of our Fortune 500 businesses throughout Westchester right out of the state and cost Westchester County thousands of jobs. I would sincerely call upon the Governor to reconsider this option.

Simply put, Governor Paterson’s soda tax proposal can result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of New York jobs, and end up costing - not saving - taxpayers millions of dollars.”





Spano Misusing Board of A&C to Handcuff Incoming Administration

12/1/2009 4:25:14 PM

Westchester County Legislator George Oros (R/Cortlandt) asserted today exiting County Executive Andrew Spano was using the Board of Acquisition & Contract to ram through expensive multi-year contracts before his successor takes office on January 1.


“In the 11th hour of his term, Spano is utilizing what little power he has left to kick in the teeth of taxpayers,” Oros charged. “Unless it affects the safety, health or welfare of the public, no contracts should be executed until Rob Astorino takes over the reins of the county and his team has sufficient time to research the requests being made.”


Oros, who for years has called for the reform of the Board of Acquisition & Contract, pointed to the November 24 A&C agenda that included a handful of multi-million dollar and multi-year contracts.


Contracts included: $2.7 million to enter into agreements with various law firms to perform “of counsel” legal services; more than $12 million for Westhab to operate homeless shelters; more than $4 million for security systems integration at the county jail; and a contract to build a controversial fence at Playland.


Oros wrote a letter to Board of Legislators Chairman William Ryan, one of the three members of the A&C board (the other two are Spano and Public Works Commissioner Ralph Butler), asking that 12 items on the November 24 agenda be held over, and 11 were, but they will likely be “rubber stamped” in the near future.


“It’s obvious what is being done,” Oros said. “Spano and his administration are trying to tie Mr. Astorino’s hands as much as possible to make it that much harder to achieve the goals the overwhelming majority of voters chose him to accomplish. This type of action not only hampers the new administration but hurts the taxpayers.”


In addition, Oros alleged that some contracts were “political payback,” citing campaign contributions to Spano’s failed re-election attempt by several of the vendors.


Coupled with the “phony revenue and other land mines planted” in the Spano 2010 budget, Oros labeled the Spano actions “very disappointing” and “demonstrates distain for the taxpayers.”


“This is not the way a county executive who has served for 12 years should go out the door,” Oros said.
In 2002, 2007 and 2008, the Republican Conference introduced a variety of reform measures to change the current A&C system, where millions of dollars of lengthy contracts are approved without any debate, discussion or vote of the Board of Legislators.


To curtail the blatant rubberstamping, Oros and his GOP colleagues over the years have suggested any contracts of leases of five years or more, including renewals, must be approved by the full Legislature.


In addition, they have recommended the Public Works commissioner be replaced on the A&C board by the budget director; each meeting be electronically recorded; and no emergency contract can exceed three years.


“Voters spoke loud and clear in the last election that they’re tired of business as usual in Westchester County government,” Oros said. “For a dozen years these shenanigans have been going on at A&C. It’s time for Mr. Spano to step aside and let a breath of fresh air come in.”


Legislators call on Albany to allow Westchester to continue to use mechanical lever voting machines in local elections

6/12/2009 3:12:28 PM

A majority of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, today, called on Governor David Paterson and leaders in the State Assembly and State Senate to allow Westchester to continue using mechanical lever voting machines in county elections.

In 2002, the federal government enacted the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which required states to replace the older and unreliable voting systems and to insure that voting is accessible to all voters, including those with disabilities.  Westchester presently uses lever voting machines.  It makes paper ballots available to those with disabilities and the ballots are counted with optical-scanning voting machines.

“The mechanical lever voting machines have long proved reliable, user-friendly and cost-effective,” said Legislator Tom Abinanti (D, I-Greenburgh).  “Replacing lever voting machines is very costly.  It has proved to create voter confusion and may result in the use of machines that could compromise the integrity of future elections.” 

The State Board of Elections has approved a pilot program to introduce a paper ballot-optical-scan system for all voters in most of the state’s 62 counties.  However, there are several notable holdouts: the five boroughs of New York City, and Nassau, Suffolk and Rockland counties. 

“We’re not opposed to implementing a system that incorporates optical scanners,” said Board Chairman William J. Ryan (D, I, WFP-White Plains).  “When used in conjunction with optical scanners, lever voting machines can be part of a voting system which would be HAVA compliant and would serve the public’s best interest.”  

 To read the letter to Governor Paterson, click here

Westchester County Taking Lead on Septic Management

September 3, 2008

The Journal News
The Bedford-Pound Ridge Record Review
The Mt. Kisco – Pleasantville Examiner
The Lewisboro Ledger
OP Ed Editor

To The Editor:

Westchester County Taking Lead on Septic Management

With an estimated 40,000 - 45,000 septic systems in Westchester County (approximately 30,000 of them in the Croton Watershed) and an estimated 80,000 Westchester County residents who get their drinking water from ground water sources, both the Westchester County Board of Legislators and the Administration of Westchester County Executive Andy Spano take the issue of septic management very seriously and are moving aggressively on several fronts to address this issue.

Nothing better highlights this commitment than the formation this year of the Board of Legislators Septic Sub Committee, which I Chair, of the Committee on Environment and Energy.  It represents an innovative leap forward in public policy formulation in that for the first time, all of the key stakeholders in the septic management discussion are represented on the committee in order to build consensus from the ground up. Our primary focus is the formulation of comprehensive septic management policy.

In addition to my Board colleagues Mike Kaplowitz and John Nonna, members of the Septic Sub Committee include senior staff of the Spano Administration, the County Health Department, the County Planning Department, Town Board members, the Chair of the Northern Westchester Watershed Committee, representatives of the construction industry as well as the Environment Committee of the League of Women Voters.  NYC DEP, NYS DEC and DOS, as well as our colleagues in Putnam County, have also joined forces with us.

Formulating comprehensive septic policy is complex because it encompasses many government entities including individual Towns, the County, New York State and New York City.  Other issues involve individual property rights and balancing the cost to tax payers.  Additionally, the new NYS DEC MS4 requirements, just issued this spring, present challenges and opportunities to achieving this goal.  The new MS4’s do stipulate mandatory septic pump out and inspection for towns in Westchester that lie in the watershed, but the requirements do not specify compliance.  Our Sub Committee is taking the lead in the negotiations with our partners at DEC and the local Towns to formulate comprehensive septic policy that satisfies the new requirements and balances both the cost to tax payers as well as the responsibilities of the Towns and County governments.

This year Westchester County implemented a law requiring septic pumpers to report data to a centralized reporting system detailing conditions of the pump out.  If the conditions of the report warrant, the County Health Department will then dispatch trained sanitarians for a further inspection and steps for remediation will be taken if needed.   The County also recently passed legislation that will reimburse septic owners who reside in sewer districts, and have paid sewer taxes, for two pump outs and one comprehensive inspection over a six-year period. In 2007, the County adopted a law specifying time-of-sale well testing to ensure the safety of localized groundwater sources.

Further, this year the Board of Legislators appropriated funds for countywide septic education.  In order to implement this program, a centralized database of all septic properties needs to be developed from County and Town records.  Currently, the Administration, in conjunction with the Department of Health and the Department of GIS Mapping, is developing an exciting proposal for a centralized, online database that will plot all septic systems by both mailing address and tax lot ID number.  This data will be plotted on GIS maps and will also include pump out report data, historical as-built schematics and can also be cross-referenced to well test data to identify possible threats to groundwater sources.  Once implemented, this database will enable countywide septic education, empower and assist local municipalities in MS4 compliance and will drastically cut the research time for local building inspectors and contractors on viewing as-built schematics.

Currently, the County Board of Health, in conjunction with the Department of Health, is working to amend the Sanitary Code to clarify and strengthen septic regulations in the code.  To their credit, the Board of Health held three public hearings, two in northern Westchester, and has incorporated the concerns of the real estate community into revised language to both address environmental concerns and to ease ambiguity in the code.

Finally, we are working with our partners in the septic pumping industry to help them to better address septic management issues.  In addition to the new reporting law mentioned above, Westchester has extended weekend summer hours at the Hawthorne manhole.  Working with the Administration, the Department of Environmental Facilities and the Board of Legislators Committee on Government Operations, chaired by Legislator Ken Jenkins, the County is developing an online payment system as well as examining a flow monitoring system at the manhole so haulers would only have to pay for an exact load, not a full truck as is currently the practice.

While there is still more work to be done to achieve our objective of comprehensive septic management, Westchester County, along with our strategic partners, is working energetically towards this goal. 


Hon. Peter Harckham, 2nd LD
Chair, Septic Sub Committee,
Committee on Environment and Energy