Monday, February 05, 2007

GREENBURGH DEMOCRACY-WHAT'S ON YOUR MIND WEEK OF FEB 5th

Post any comments about town issues for the week of Feb 5th. Tell us what's on your mind!

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

tennis bubble? Status report wanted.

Feiner, panderer in chief said...

Feiner knows the Valhalla/WestHelp deal was illegal (therefore it was never a contract and thus not an enforceable promise). We now know the reasons it was fashioned were bogus. We now know the gift money was never properly accounted for and it was used for illegitmate purposes. Yet Feiner keeps pandering to his pals in Mayfair-Knollwood about "broken promises." Paul,you have a serious problem with the truth. What a joke that you constantly ask whether the word of elected officials can be trusted.

Once again, your pants are on fire!

Anonymous said...

Whats on my mind ?

POLICE OFFICER ERIK WARD

- 13 months later - this is just not fair !!!!!

Anonymous said...

feiner, panderer in chief should read the comptroller's report which provides the Town Board with options to keep the WestHelp partnership alive, with some modifications. The WestHelp partnership was an innovative, out of the box, solution that enables the county, homeless advocates and neighborhoods to work together to solve a community problem.

Anonymous said...

Here are the some selected highlights from the valhallavoice.com website about this so called out of the box solution (a/k/a the WestHelp deal). It only proves that when you hear Feiner and his buddies in Mayfair-Knollwood say "out of the box," you can bet its out of the legal box:

1. It is illegal, there is no accountability, there are no controls on spending. It a side business run by private individuals using the public accounts and facilities of the Valhalla School district and Westchester County taxpayer money. Money flows to private individuals, private foundations, yacht cruises, added salaries and capital expenditures not approved by the voters. It is all off budget and unaccounted for.

2. It is not manna from heaven, it is not a philanthropic venture. It is yet another embarrasment to the Valhalla School District who will now be seperately audited by the Comptroller to determine what the money was actually spent on. The grants read like a money grab. Underlying everything are payments to individuals and entities for services that a school district can't make, off budget programs that will eventually add to the already bloated budget and obscure descriptions that hide the true nature of the expenditure. For instance Project Adventure, a high wire jungle gym of climbing walls and poles, used as an optional gym class (referred to as AP gym) is described as "a radically Revised Leadership Institute" It is a gym class where students routinely opt out to throw a frisbee. Leadership?


3. The WestHelp deal resulted in:

Unwritten agreements between town officials and private citizens, unreported income and expenditures and hidden bank accounts.

4. Another interesting misconception was that the money gifted to the Valhalla School district was ever intended to be spent on children from WestHelp. This appears in the Special Committee on Budget Allocation (SCOBA) report to the Greenburgh Town Board, as "an Educational Grant to the Valhalla Union Free School District of $650,000 per year. (to provide special services to the children who live in WestHELP) This grant was never intended to be used for the WestHELP Children (and never was).

Anonymous said...

Why do Greenburgh kids go to school in Mount Pleasant in the first place? When and how were these school district boundaries drawn? I know it's a State function, but perhaps it all needs updating from the days when racial and socioeconomic discrimination were allowed (i.e. northern Greenburgh refused to be associated with Elmsford and Woodlands, and this was acceptable back in the day). Why don't we try to be like a normal municipality ... Greenburgh kids go to Greenburgh or Edgemont schools - period.

Anonymous said...

Many, many school districts are not coterminus with town or village boundaries and it does not create the problems we have. If Feiner would stop pandering to Valhalla, this would not be a problem.

Anonymous said...

This ain't about Westhelp - it's about keeping commitments to the community. Disappointed that Steve Bass, Eddie Mae Barnes and Diana Juettner reneged on the agreement they reached with the community years ago. Would you trust the words of elected officials after you have been misled?

Anonymous said...

According to the state comptroller's report, those agreements with Mayfair Knollwood and Valhalla should never have been made in the first place.

There was never any reason to compensate either the school district or the neighborhood.

Glad to see the town council members recognize this.

Anonymous said...

The Town Council voted for the WESTHELP agreement. This year the entire Board (FEINER,JUETTNER,BASS, BARNES, SHEEHAN) voted to release over $400,000 of the WESTHELP partnership funds to Valhalla.

Time to get the money back said...

That $400,000 was money that Greenburgh had already disbursed to the Valhalla School District but which VSD had not yet spent.

Knowing that the state comptroller's office was about to issue an opinion that the town's agreement might be illegal, and knowing further that the town attorney himself was of the view that the agreement mightt well be illegal, VSD asked the town for permission to spend those funds -- and only those funds.

VSD argued that its school budget for 2006-2007 was based on the assumption that these $400,000 in unspent funds would be available to fund school programs, that VSD voters assumed that would be the case when they voted to approve that budget, and that it would be unfair to VSD and its schoolchildren if these funds could no longer be spent.

The Town Board acted (perhaps naively) out of a sense of fairness, but it did obtain a full indemnity from the school district as a condition for releasing these funds.

Now that the state comptroller has said that the existing agreement violates state law, the town should now be exercising its rights under that indemnity to get the town's money back.

Anonymous said...

The Westhelp grant clearly says that the process for presenting proposals to the Town begins before September 1st, but not before the budget is passed. Nothing in Valhalla's budget included money from Westhelp. No Westhelp program is in Valhalla's budget. To say that anyone voted for the Valhalla School budget because they thought money was coming from Westhelp or to imply that budgeted programs were intended to be paid for by Westhelp are both untrue.

Feiner's corrupt practices exposed by 3/15/02 community view on WestHelp said...

HEADLINE: COMMUNITY VIEW

BYLINE: Readers

BODY:
Payments to school district, civic association misguided

Terry Williams

The decision by Greenburgh Supervisor Paul Feiner and the Town Board to give away half of a $1.6 million annual payment from the county to the Valhalla school district and the Mayfair-Knollwood Civic Association is misguided and a misappropriation of town revenue.

As part of a preliminary agreement, the town and the county agreed to extend the lease of the WestHELP homeless shelter in Greenburgh for 10 years in exchange for a reduction in the number of beds at a proposed homeless shelter in nearby Mount Pleasant. Greenburgh would receive $400,000 annually, the Valhalla school district would get $700,000 a year, and the Mayfair-Knollwood Civic Association would receive a yearly $100,000 payment allocated to a trust fund.

The problem with Mr. Feiner's plan is that it diverts town revenue that should legally be used to reduce residents' taxes by the full amount of the proceeds and instead uses the money to unfairly benefit the local civic association. Furthermore, the Valhalla school district is reimbursed by the state for the WestHELP children who attend its schools. In this context, the $700,000 payment to the district is excessive and obscene. Valhalla schools Superintendent Tom Kelly declined to explain why his school district deserves the windfall and referred all questions to Mr. Feiner.

"Obviously, the school district is getting a bonanza,'' Mr. Feiner said. "That is basically what I wanted.''

Mr. Feiner said the arrangement is justified because the Mayfair-Knollwood area of town is negatively impacted by the presence of the WestHELP homeless shelter at the south end of the neighborhood and a planned 149-bed homeless facility just north of the border on county-owned land in Mount Pleasant. Mayfair-Knollwood isn't the only area of Greenburgh affected by WestHELP, yet it will benefit disproportionally from the agreement.

Greenburgh residents, regardless of their proximity to WestHELP, paid more in town taxes because of the shelter's tax-exempt status. Those areas of the town served by the Fairview Fire District, including Mayfair-Knollwood, paid an additional penalty because they had to make up for WestHELP's share of those taxes. Yet this agreement, which finally turns WestHELP into a revenue generator, shortchanges the other areas of town because their taxes aren't reduced by the full amount of the proceeds. Their full tax relief is going to Mayfair-Knollwood and the Valhalla school district. Taking any other alleged impact into consideration is subjective and arbitrary and, when public money is involved, results in a misappropriation.

Mr. Feiner and the board, commendably, want to put an end to the not-in-my-backyard syndrome that permeates society. Mr. Feiner calls his proposal a dividend to the neighborhood that is most impacted by a controversial project. "If they start getting benefits, communities may compete for things they don't really want," Mr. Feiner said. But the funds are not Mr. Feiner's to give away. He is borrowing an idea from real estate developers who will pay money to a community in exchange for its approval of a controversial project. But developers use their own money to "buy off" (Mr. Feiner's own words) town residents. The supervisor is taking money that should rightfully be used to ease the tax burden of all residents and is appropriating it to benefit one neighborhood and its school district. As for the proposed homeless shelter on county land in Mount Pleasant, let the county buy off Mayfair-Knollwood and the Valhalla school district, since the county is the developer.

Also troubling about this agreement is a lack of definition about the other negative impacts used to justify the "bonanza" awarded Mayfair-Knollwood and the Valhalla school district. Are the Valhalla school district children negatively impacted by having to sit next to homeless children? There is a small shopping center on the Mount Pleasant/Mayfair-Knollwood border, and it's possible that homeless residents may go there to buy a newspaper or a slice of pizza. They may choose to stroll through the neighborhood. This may unsettle the residents of Mayfair-Knollwood, but is it a negative impact? Perhaps; perhaps not. But how do you monetize it, if it is? Is it worth $100,000? Is it worth $1 million, or just $1?

The fact is it can't be objectively quantified, and using town revenue to pay Mayfair-Knollwood and the Valhalla school district for alleged negative impacts, instead of using it to reduce the taxes of all who are truly affected, is arbitrary, subjective and unfair.

The writer is a Greenburgh resident and a commissioner of the Fairview Fire District.

Anonymous said...

The above community view appeared in the journal news on march 15, 2002. We should have listened.

Anonymous said...

To the Commissioner of the Feirview Fire District, you should know that the $100,000 per year going to the Fairview Fire District from the Westhelp rents is also illegal and must be stopped. If the Town has an indemnity for that illegal gift the Town should sue to get it back.

Anonymous said...

Giving WestHelp money to the Fairview fire district is not necessarily "also illegal."

It was illegal for the town to give away town money to the Valhalla School District because it is illegal for a town to spend money on education for school districts -- that's the job of the school district -- and it is illegal to spend money that doesn't benefit all residents town-wide.

The Fairview fire district is not a school, so the state rule against towns subsidizing school districts is not applicable.

In addition, the fire district has mutual assistance pacts with other town fire districts and departments that allow it to serve all of Greenburgh.

Therefore, giving money to the Fairview fire district arguably benefits the entire town. And that, in contrast to the Valhalla debacle, is what makes the Fairview grants arguably legal.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon 3:27

You are wrong on the first, and arguably maybe perhaps right on the second.

The gift to Valhalla School District wasn't illegal because it was to a school. It was illegal because a town (or any municipality)cannot make gifts of its funds to anyone, whether a private or public institution. That includes schools, civic associations, and anyone else, and includes the Fairview Fire District.

There seems to be an exception for someone providing town-wide services. Since the rest of Greenburgh has its own fire companies and districts it is probable that a gift to one district won't pass legal muster. But it is a decent argument even if it isn't likely to work. Certainly a better argument that the Valhalla School District makes.

hal samis said...

Here's what's on my mind. At next week's Town Board meeting, there is going to be a Public Hearing on another Steve Bass Resolution. This one, however, does have importance to the Town of Greenburgh. And this matter has to do with finding a new way to increase taxes, if ever any new construction projects get underway after the bitter pill of the Library fiasco gets digested.

This time around Mr. Bass (coming off solving the Darfur crisis) is looking to solidify support from Labor. "Here's how I'm thinking of you and I hope you come and out and vote for me next Fall.

The Resolution has to do with assuring that "apprentices" (gofer the coffee, kid) are hired on construction jobs exceeding $250,000 with the Town as the owner/developer. It does not affect any private construction.
So think of the longevity of a would-be apprentice.

Since everyone knows that Labor Unions are an endangered species and their continuity (read new stream of union dues payers) needs to be assured (because without Greenburgh construction projects how could this happen). Thus, those that want work from the Town of Greenburgh will need to hire one or more apprentices (Resolution I saw did not specify how many) to do business with the Town. Of course apprentices do not come cheap. Say around $16 to $18 or more per hour. And who is going to pay for this?
Why taxpayers because the bidders will merely add on this expense when making up their bid responses. And, lest you forget, the Unions have already got a sweet deal with the long-standing Wicks Law which raise the project cost by requiring Union labor. Many communities are working toward eliminating the Wicks Law but, as usual, in Greenburgh we are looking for new ways to make our construction projects cost even more.

Would anyone be surprised to see that Union members are contributors to Mr. Bass. Would anyone be surprised to know that Mr. Bass faces an important election this Fall?

But the real issue is that this Resolution adds nothing to the paycheck of existing Union workers. It is not even surprising that the Union leadership is untroubled by the timing of this Resolution. It is that the Union leadership is so content to see this "milestone" get seriously considered that they were willing to look the other way as the cows ran through the open barn doors.

What I am talking about is that this Resolution will not apply to the existing Library construction contracts because it will not be passed in time. In fact, to be on the safe side, there is even a clause that says it will not become effective for 60 days following its adoption into law.

Anyone reading this know of any other $250,000+ Town construction projects in the works, in the next two years?

You see Mr. Bass had a problem. He wants to be Mr. Nice Guy to everyone. He wants to be nice for the Library so he doesn't want to have to force a re-bidding of the contracts and he doesn't want the Library expansion (which has friends) to become more costly due to the implementation and added expense due to this Resolution.

On the other hand, he wants to suck up to Union LEADERSHIP who will then tell their membership what a great guy Steve is, even though the largest construction job in Greenburgh's history (even the eventual Court expansion is not likely to top it) with some $11 to $13 million in construction dollars not being subject to the Resolution. Friend of Labor? Indeed!

What you see and now you don't is another one of his splendidly phrased Resolutions whose only purpose is to enhance Mr. Bass to prospective voters. He hopes that come November you'll remember some tidbit that he was looking out for the working man while those not involved with Unions may be thankful that there was no cost to the burdened Library budget while, eventually the construction contracts for the Court expansion will cost more. But unlike the Library, who is a friend of the Courts; afterall they are only used by criminals.

So support Steve and his Resolution if you believe in maintaining and viewing his continuing stream of bogus Resolutions. Support Steve if you want to see the Union benefits accure to Union leadership without actually benefiting the membership.
Support Steve if you the taxpayer want to pay higher taxes because your taxes will go toward paying the salaries of these apprentices.

Need apprentices? Let the Unions subsidize their own on the job training. But if this is impractical then let's extend the concept to everyone who does business with the Town. We're always going to need traffic engineers, appraisers, lawyers, printers, cybermobile drivers, comptrollers, lifeguards, and even library cafe workers. You just don't get to be proficient overnight in any of these fields. Parents with children looking to get a "foot in the door" all should welcome legislation which provides, at taxpayer expense, for the training of new generations of staffing. After all, Mr Bass certainly appreciates the work of the very well paid Town Council intern, Gil Kaminer. So who's to say that every industry shouldn't also have well paid interns or apprentices. And lucrative summer jobs is something that politicians don't have any qualms about providing.

But, the field of Economics clearly understands that there is no free lunch and no free shipping. The Taxpayer and the Consumer pay.

Mr. Bass is hoping, by having his cake and eating it too, that he will have convinced Taxpayers that in Greenburgh, free lunch still exists.

Anonymous said...

Steve Bass is irrelevant. Francis Sheehan tells him what to do.

Anonymous said...

HAL SAMIS YOU'RE RIGHT ON THE MONEY ABOUT BASS. HE,S NOT LOOKING TO GET RE-ELECTED TO THE SAME POSITION ,HE WANTS TO BE SUPERVISOR. POOR GREENBURGH.

samis wrong again said...

In his unbridled zeal to paint Bass as a tool of organized labor, Samis, the new Feiner apologist, forgot to mention that on December 8, 2006, it was Feiner -- not Bass -- who picked up a $500 contribution from the Teamsters.

So who exactly is in big labor's pocket here?

The Teamsters of course have major contracts up for renewal with the town.

Isn't it time we demanded that our political leaders not take political contributions from persons or organizations who do business with the town?

Anonymous said...

Does speaking the truth make you a Feiner apologist?

Samis says something about Bass. It is either true or not true. What the hell does Feiner have to do with it?

It says something about the empty thinking of so many people that their only reaction to truth-telling is to scream "Feiner lover" or "Feiner apologist." That's why we get the screwed-up town government that we have, God help us.

Anonymous said...

GOD HELP US IS RIGHT. THE OTHER FOUR SO CALLED COUNCIL MEMBERS NEVER TAKE THE BLAME FOR THEIR SHORT COMMINGS, THE BLAME ALWAYS FALLS ON THE SUPERVISOR.NO MATTER WHAT PAUL FEINER DOES IS WRONG IN THEIR EYES. WHAT WE NEED IS TO GET GOOD PEOPLE ON THE PANEL WHO KNOW BUSINESS,LAW, IN OTHER WORDS GOOD MANAGEMENT. HOW ABOUT IT---SAMIS----

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons town government is so dysfunctional is that when a Feiner partisan like Samis takes a shot at a town council member for supposedly being too close to the labor unions, and it's pointed out that Feiner himself just took $500 from the Teamsters, the response is that Samis is somehow a "truthteller," that it's not fair to talk about what Feiner did, and that the much more serious charge about Feiner taking $500 from the Teamsters is ignored.

This is the kind of no-nothing BS that substitutes for reasoned thinking in Greenburgh.

Feiner took tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from developers with applications pending before the town, lied to the ethics board about what he did, and saw to it that the ethics chair that he appointed has not only done nothing about the matter but, contrary to state law and the town code, it hasn't met in two years.

Anonymous at 8:23 a.m. doesn't seem concerned about any of that. Neither does Samis who, in his anti-Feiner days, was one of the residents who was at the front of the line complaining about Feiner's corrupt campaign finance practices.

Anonymous said...

See what I mean? The answer to everything is Feiner is terrible.

Let's assume that Feiner did all the bad things that you say he did (although much of it is a repetition of false propaganda), that doesn't excuse Bass. Stick to the subject. Bass is bad and it is no excuse that Feiner is bad also.

Anonymous said...

How can a government do a good job,when there is a vindctive panel,who listens to CIVIC Assoc,like Edgemont. THERE ARE OTHER PEOPLE IN GREENBURGH,has the panel forgotten. Each panel member is trying to play musical chairs.People are getting tired of listening Edgemont Civic Assoc. at every Town Meeting.

hal samis said...

I think you all missed the point. Perhaps I was not as clear as I could be. In any case the criticism about Mr. Bass was not the he seeks to be viewed as a friend to labor (stipulated all five of the Town Board seek this) -- because if he wanted the Rank and File to benefit, he would have introduced this Resolution before the Library contracts.

The issue is that he abuses his Town Board face time not only by wasting time with half-hearted jousts with Feiner but more seriously that he does so by self-serving, promotional events that either have nothing re matters that Greenburgh can act upon, other than marking an empty feel-good occasion. The current Resolution is such a similarly hollow gesture that doesn't benefit the existing Union Membership but instead seeks only to be a promotional feather in the cap for the Union Leadership, think: "Look what we got from Greenburgh".

The current Resolution does not require apprentices to be hired on the Library project because it was introduced to specifically exclude this, the only major construction job before the Town. On the other hand, if this Resolution is ever triggered it will make such projects needlessly more costly to the taxpayers because the cost of recruiting new Union members should more properly be born by the Union, not residents. No one has to choose construction as their career.

If Mr. Bass really believed that this Resolution was important, he would have introduced it in time for it to be applied to the Library expansion. Since he did not, I conclude that it is just another one of the many lozenges that his minders tell him to suck because most residents will never read beyond the newspaper headline, if that.

Instead of quibbling over who did what, to who, when and why, there is always the Public Hearing on this Resoultion at this Wednesday's Town Board meeting. I'm sure that the Union will suggest that its members come out in force to support this issue. Hopefully they will follow the course suggested by Edgemont's Michelle McNally and just stand up and say that they agree with the previous speaker.

However, I'm sure that there will be at least one person present to ask the question: Mr. Bass, how come this wasn't brought to the floor before the Library contracts? This gives Mr. Kaminer almost a week to write Steve's answer.

Or better, since the Libary contracts have not yet been signed by the Town, perhaps Mr. Bass would support having the project be rebid to include the conditions of his Resolution. The weather is too cold to pour concrete anyway and there are no permits for the geothermal drilling; so there will be little loss in time if the Library project takes a break so that the this all important Resolution can be incorporated into the Project.

And Mr. Bass and Mr. Sheehan, saying, that there already is a Project Labor agreement existing, is not exactly being truthful as you know that the PLA has nothing to do with the requirements of the subject Resolution.

I really get "miffed" when you try to throw the Public off track by intentional misdirection.

Anonymous said...

I say to Samis, keep speaking and writing.

I am amused by the anonymous writer who calls Samis a Feiner apologist and a Feiner partisan because this person doesn't like to hear legitimate criticism of our Town Board, but wistfully refers to Samis' anit-Feiner days when Samis spoke legitimate criticism about Feiner. Wake up. It is the same Samis.

You should be grateful to hear legitimate criticism. We have a Town Board which caves in to a small group and doesn't do its job seriously. You should be criticizing them yourself and quit using your dislike of Feiner as a way of avoiding the serious shortcomings of our Town Board. There is enough criticism to go around.

Keep it up Samis.

Anonymous said...

HEY BASS, what have you received from the unions. HAVE YOU REPORTED EVERYTHING. Remember big brother is checking.

Anonymous said...

MR. BASS, how much more money will it cost the taxpayers of Greenburgh. What union brass has made promises to you? Maybe some donation for your relection,maybe some work arround your home. Did you make promises to get a job for someone. Ido hope that this resolution is kicked in the butt by the rest of the board.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Feiner,
in todays mail I received a
notice advising of your meeting
with Con Edison on the subject
of power outages,this may have some
merit.
After having received some sixty
comments on the subject of Mickeys
Hot Dog stand on your blog,you now
re-state your case on 50% of the
Con Edison letter,and you include
a full page questionaire inviting
comments on the future of the hot
dog stand.
Do you realy believe that your many
responsibilities that come with the job of the chief executive of
a large organization require that
you persue trivia to no end,
investing your time (which is the
towns time) and the towns money
in the persude of issues of no
importance to the majority of
Greenburgh residents.

Anonymous said...

This proposal by Bass can potentially add hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs to future projects. If the carpenters, plumbers, electrical, sheet metal, roofers, painters, tapers, tile workers, steam fitters, and steel workers all get to add apprentices onto their payrolls courtesy of Mr. Bass, it is easy to see how costs will skyrocket. I believe this proposal demonstrates the need for an investigation into Bass's finances/campaign contributions. Due to the overwhelming union support such a proposal will attract, Bass positions himself to reap significant politcal rewards at the expense of the taxpayers.

Anonymous said...

Any Town Board member with family members who are in unions should recluse themselves from the Bass proposal.

Anonymous said...

Any Town Board member with family members who are in unions should recluse themselves from the Bass proposal.

Anonymous said...

What's happening with the library? How come some of the contracts still have not been signed by the contractors?

Anonymous said...

The only town official who reported receiving any money lately from unions is Feiner who took $500 last month from the Teamsters.

Anonymous said...

You're tired of listening at Edgemont at every meeting.

Well, I live in Edgemeont and I am tired of all money going elsewhere

1. Valhalla School District -- when is the demand for return of that money going to be made.

2. Parks and rec -- charged only to unincorporated greenburgh -- open to all --

3. even Taxter rigdge charged to all of Greenburgh -- who does it benefit -- Irvington

Anonymous said...

TO: "I live in Edgemont and I'm tired of the money going elsewhere"
Well the rest of us are tired of your endless complaining that you're not the no. 1 priority all the time in the Town. We may not be as rich as you guys but we deserve a park here and there - I guess if it's not about your brick sidewalks, or Crain Pond or the Nature Center, you don't want a penny spent. Too bad that we all don't share your sense of entitlement for Edgemont and only Edgemont.

Anonymous said...

Only a small part of Edgemont known as Old Edgemont has brick sidewalks.

These sidewalks are paid for by the rest of Edgemont,which has no sidewalks at all (including in a number of places where they are badly needed) and also by the rest of the unincorporated areas of the town.

The state comptroller says that's illegal.

Feiner has had years to fix the problem, but he won't. He gets fewer and fewer votes these days in largely Democratic Edgemont, but the votes he gets come from old Edgemont where the brick sidewalks are.

He'd rather continue the status quo, no matter how unfair it is, than dare risk upsetting the homeowners in old Edgemont who vote for him. He also doesn't want to risk alienating village voters.

Feiner's actions when it comes to sidewalks are a profile not in courage, but cowardice.

Anonymous said...

So where's your Mr. Bernstein when you need him? Busy suing the rest of us.