Saturday, September 30, 2006

I'm running...

I'm running ---no, not for office this year but in the NYC Marathon.
It's a little more than a month away from the big day and I have to get in shape. I have run a few 5Ks--two weeks ago ran the Yonkers half marathon. But never ran a 26 mile race before. My goal: to make sure that Lance Armstrong doesn't run twice as fast as me.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Can one trust the word of elected officials?

Over 4 years ago the Greenburgh Town Board members unanimously approved an agreement with the Mayfair Knollwood civic association. The agreement also was approved by Westchester County & HELP USA, a non profit organization that builds homeless housing.
In the 1980s, proponents of WESTHELP, a 108 unit homeless shelter, promised that the shelter would close at the end of 10 years. At the end of the 10 year period the homeless shelter leadership asked me if it would be possible to approach residents who live near the homeless shelter -and ask them if we could extend the shelter. WESTHELP agreed to respect the wishes of the community. If the community said close down the shelter the shelter would be closed.
It took 2 long years of negotiations (the town hired an outside lawyer to help us). Finally, a unique agreement was approved. The neighborhood would receive additional benefits if the shelter remains open. The Valhalla school district would receive $650,000 a year in grant funds for special educational programs for the students. The neighborhood held a public meeting and voted 90-10 to keep the shelter open, provided the town gives the school district the funds for additional education programs.
This was a win win for everyone. The homeless benefitted because WESTHELP remains open. The county benefits because they don't have to look to build other homeless shelters. The town avoids a controversy. And residents of Mayfair Knollwood get better schools with additional terrific programs.
NOW--some civic leaders who don't live in the Mayfair Knollwood neighborhood are pressuring the Town Board not to keep our end of the agreement. They don't believe that the school district should get to the money promised in the contract.
I think our word should be kept--commitments should be honored. If the Valhalla school distict does not get what was promised, no one will ever trust government again.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Cable TV competition

Finally-- we have 2 cable TV companies in the town. The Greenburgh Town Board approved a franchise agreement with Verizon last night. Cablevision will continue to provide service to Greenburgh residents.
This has been a dream of mine for years-- in fact, when I had a full head of hair (in the 1980s) I wrote to every cable TV company in the United States asking them to come to Greenburgh and compete. No luck!
We almost got lucky in the early 1990s when Liberty Cable (a NYC company) responded to our request and expressed a desire to offer competition. They even took a page one ad out on the bottom of the NY Times offering service in Greenburgh.
But, they backed out.
Now, we have the real thing. Hopefully--Verizon will help all of us. Our prices could go down and service could go up.
We've been fighting for competition for a long time.

Con Ed to study underground wires

A few weeks ago, after the Con Ed storm, I suggested that Con Ed conduct a feasibility study re: placing their wires underground. Good news! They agreed to the study. They will focus on a section in northern Westchester where the population is sparse and a section in southern Westchester where the population is more dense. I have suggested that the study include Greenburgh.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

How long should it take to get a meeting?

How long should it take to get a meeting with the Town Board?
Yesterday over 40 people from the Valhalla School district stopped by at a Town Board work session. They have been trying, without success, to schedule a meeting with the Town Board since July. Because of a backlog of work - no meeting was ever scheduled with the residents so they walked into the meeting --demanding to be heard. The Board listened to a representative and scheduled a meeting next Tuesday.
Others have expressed similar concerns. My philosophy is that those of us in government should meet with everyone -anytime they want. When I asked for a meeting with Senator Clinton in DC - I got the meeting, without a fuss.
The rules of the Town Board require 3 members of the Board to agree to scheduling an item on a work session agenda. I think it's time for the rules to be amended---think that a portion of every work session meeting should be designated for citizens who want to appear before us, without an appointment.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Library might be able to save $400,000 with flat roof

Some residents are suggesting that if library construction bids exceed estimated costs that the Town Board reject the bid and consider a flat roof instead of the proposed sloped roof. This could save as much as $400,000. In addition, a suggestion has been made that if the town pursues a flat roof that we consider a green roof construction--planting of grass on flat roofs in 4 inches of soil. Maintenance would be minimal. There's an interesting article in an on line publication about green roofs: (read green roof timeline..charting our progress. view from bridges, etc..)
Bid alternates--highlighted in my last post--are called by some: library construction cuts. How can the town make sure we're getting the maximum value for our dollar? Should we approve bid alternates and have less of a library than we originally anticipated or should we have a less expensive flat roof that will be more energy efficient and avoid the design alternates? What do you think?

On another matter-- I have approached a realtor and am trying to find a larger temporary library location for the library to use during the 2 years of construction. Currently, the Board plans to use satellite library locations (the cafeteria at Town Hall..a meeting room at Town Hall..a room at the Multipurpose Center) as a temporary library. More than 70% of the current library books will be placed in storage while the construction takes place.

The Library

If the bids for the library construction are higher than anticipated bid alternates will be considered to keep the library within budget. Most people in the town are not aware of the impacts of the bid alternates.

I believe that the town should publicize bid alternates for the library construction sooner rather than later -- so actual prices and impacts of each proposal can be evaluated. I'm interested in the following info about the library..the impact..what they do and won't do for the library..purpose of these potential alternates...the impact on the quality of of the library if these alternates are approved. These possible design alternates should be released to the public asap so there could be a public discussion about the impacts.