Monday, April 02, 2007

GREENBURGH DEMOCRACY-WEEK OF APRIL 2--POST YOUR COMMENTS ABOUT TOWN ISSUES

Please feel free to post your comments about town issues. Dan from Hartsdale advises that sitemeters can be obtained by bloggers and these sitemeters may be able to record the time and addresses of bloggers. I do not have a sitemeter.

47 comments:

Anonymous said...

(I posted this late last week, and it got dropped out before there was much discussion, so I'm reposting it for April 2nd.)


Samis says...Feiner says...Jacobs says (or doesn't say)...Triton and Lushington and Juettner and Bass and on and on and on.
Samis makes some excellent arguments - and then fails to follow through to the logical conclusion. After reading the sad story of mismanagement and incompetence and maneuvering for political advantage one is left with only one possible conclusion.
To wit, Greenburgh's affairs, from Library construction to Town Garage construction to Town Hall purchase to Ethics have been ignored by a majority of the residents and have, by default, become the source of livelihood for a varied cast of incompetents and thieves.
Samis has identified the issues and within reasonable parameters has assigned responsibility for the mess. (Though you missed one salient point Hal - once property is declared surplus the prescribed method for disposition is a sealed bid auction. I do not believe the auction would ever have been held, as it would have made the outcome subject to marketplace economic forces, not political influence.) Now, Hal present the solution - a professional Town manager and the relegation of ALL Town Board members to ceremonial and policy setting roles. Removing the operational responsibility for our governance from the lacksidasical, venal, egocentric and corrupt is the starting point. How about it - let's insist that the candidates for Town Supervisor explain how they will move Greenburgh forward towards an efficient, well-managed model of a 21st century town and out of a cute but increasingly disaster prone, Mayberry-esque model of 19th century partisan political bastion.
If you don't think we're still in the 19th century, look at Don Siegal's complaint about Francis Sheehan - $250 to buy a council person's vote? Absurdly cheap - one can barely buy dinner for two with a decent bottle of wine for that amount. At least Feiner holds out for more signficant sums. For example, the $1,000 from the tree murderer in Edgemont only bought Feiner's efforts until other members of the community made it clear that the sum of their $25, $50, and $100 donations exceeded the proffered $1,000. The comment from the deforester was that he didn't mind dealing with a corrupt politician, he was just upset that once paid, the politican has an obligation to stay bought... Tammany Hall would be proud of today's Greenburgh Democrats - though ashamed that truly magnificent levels of graft are beyond the dreams of our small-timers....

Anonymous said...

Voters should insist that all candidates agree to term limits in this one party town. 16 plus years of feiner, barnes, and juettner is enough. otherwise we are fated to what the prior blogger wrote - allowing greenburgh to be a career path for political incompetents and crooks.

hal samis said...

Just like a $250 campaign contribution doesn't buy much today, neither does agreeing with me regarding the Library buy my support for a Town Manager. All you have done is lead with the familiar and try and move those good feelings in the direction you wanted to take your posting. When you see stickers on items for sale that say "as advertised on tv" does that make the product more reliable or offer a better guarantee?

And for those wishing to make contributions to ANY of the candidates for Town Supervisor, what they ALL seem to agree on is that Greenburgh doesn't need a professional manager.

How about a compromise? Get rid of the Town Council and give more authority to the Town Supervisor, WHOEVER he or she may be. It is a two year position and if voters are unhappy then kick him or her out! Or reverse or even the field.
Make the Supervisor a four year job and make the Town Council two year jobs. Since they are part-timers, they don't do much anyway so if they are "just visiting" then let's cut their tour short.

For good or bad, lots of things aren't happening because of the lack of concensus. One would think that all kinds of changes would be in place with only 3 votes necessary to effect them -- but they are not. And time is passing. Mr. Sheehan has now held office for 15 months.
All he has accomplished is to solidify himself on the dais by appointing himself to a number of chairman positions -- which also provides him with lots of face time in the coming years. And he certainly gets a lot of mileage out of reading the ADA laws. I really don't think that asking the President to aid Darfur is much of an accomplishment for the Town Council. I really don't think that providing apprentice positions on Town construction projects was meaningful to union MEMBERSHIP (VERSUS union leaders) particularly as it was written specifically to remove the Library construction from its higher cost.

The Town Council has taken the sidewalk issue no further in their 8 months, than it was before. Everyone already knew that safety was the reason to build them. The next step would be to identify the "starter set" of locations where sidewalks should be built. If the talk about filling in the gaps on Central Avenue and Tarrytown Road first is preview of the Council's ability to resolve the problem while talking safety, then we are in trouble. And, has any member of the Council said that there will be sidewalks IN PLACE before the coming winter snowfalls or just that their talking about it would be further along. Do we see money to BUILD sidewalks in THIS year's capital budget or are we just still repairing existing ones. And according to the Scarsdale Inquirer (I wasn't at the Edgemont meeting) Mr. Bass thinks that the cost of sidewalks is important but at the Town Board meeting a few days later he and Mr. Sheehan didn't want to hear about costs. All they wanted to do was show their pretty maps (done in-house to save taxpayers money) of where the existing sidewalks are, not pretty maps where the sidewalks are needed.

As for the Library, would a professional manager countermand the Referendum? Would a professional manager fire Al Regula? Would a professional manager be able to disband the Library Board of Trustees?

As for the Ethics Board issue, if you reduce the Town Supervisor and the Town Council to symbolic roles because you now have a professional manager, then why do we need an Ethics Board?
And, with the short term of the Supervisor's position, he or she can effectively be "fired" by the voters in the same time as firing and replacing a professional manager, assuming that the manager is not further protected by a contract. And what makes the "professional" more resistant from receiving gifts from developers and the like?

For those who argue for replacing the "office" of Town Supervisor, they would do well to list what the powers of this "professional manager" would be and how it would work in practice. Since it has only been discussed in the abstract, let's get a list together of Greenburgh problems together and describe what a professional manager would bring to the table. What the title would be empowered to actually do.

It is time to put up or shut up. Let's stop discussing the theory and deal with the actual.

Bloggers, please add to the items I am listing to discuss how a manager would operate. Let's take this seriously and not use it as another platform for attack. After all, there could be someone else in the Supervisor's seat come next election. So, this is an exercise to show why a manager is a better mousetrap than a supervisor.

My list of sample Greenburgh problems is already contained in this posting.

1) How would a professional manager avoid the problems at the Library?

2) How would a professional manager get sidewalks built in Greenburgh and have them paid for and maintained -- any better than we are not doing already?

Add your issues and when there is a list of say, ten topics, we, the voters, need to know precisely what the professional manager can do better that the town supervisor position.
I am generalizing because not only are there good and bad supervisors because there are also good and bad professional managers.

And, Mr. Anonymous, don't I see you writing here sometimes with your real name?

some advantages of a manager said...

One thing a professional manager would most likely do is not let the town be incredibly underinsured like feiner and his old rubber stamp crew did. A professional manager also develops contacts and long term relationships with other municipal professionals. When feiner calls someone, they know all he is about is politics and how he can further his own political career.

Anonymous said...

Why do we need a professional manager?
Taxes have not gone up in 2 years.
Crime is at an all time low.
Recreation programs are great.
Sanitation - terrific!

Anonymous said...

HAPPY PASSOVER TO ALL OUR JEWISH NEIGHBORS.

Anonymous said...

At the town meeting the other night Sheehan admitted to taking $1000.00 dollars not $250.00. Check the tape again,please.

Anonymous said...

Sanitation great?
Are you sur you live in Greenburgh?

Anonymous said...

Todays NY TIMES got me really angry. Our Assemblyman Richard Brodsky stated that the reason Westchester did not get enough state assistance for education was because Nick Spano lost re-election. Seems to me that Brodsky was trying to undermine our State Senator, Andrea Stewart-Cousins who is working very hard. Instead of indirectly blaming Cousins, why doesn't Brodsky accept blame himself? He's the senior State lawmaker. Why can't he bring home the funds for our schools. Don't blame others. Blame yourself.
Is Brodsky trying to undercut Cousins? If the answer is yes - maybe we can persuade Bill Greenawalt to primary Brodsky in 2008!

Anonymous said...

I dont think he is trying to undermine Cousins. I think he is stating a fact.

Anonymous said...

Brodsky is not my rep. Cousins in. Does Cousins have all of Gburgh or just part?

Anonymous said...

An inquiry: was Spano a Repulican or a Dem. Was he in the State Senate or State House? Did the money that did not come for Westchester schools due to the State Senate or the State house. Is Brodsky right, that the State house or State Senate bypassed Westchester because we no longer had a ranking member of the group that had the most votes in the body that calls the shots. Forgive my total ignorance. But I know I am truly interested in a plain answer that just gives the plain facts. Thank You.

NY STATE LEG IS NOT DISFUNCTIONAL: BRODSKY said...

Richard Brodsky should take some responsibility for the budget. He's in the Assembly leadership. He wrote a column in the NY TIMES claiming that the legislature is not disfunctional.
It's not Cousins fault. Brodsky shouldn't blame others for the loss of state funding.

Anonymous said...

It may not be Cousins' "fault", but the reality of NY State politics are that if Nick Spano was still in Albany, right or wrong, this never would have happened like this.

Nick Spano was a powerhouse in Albany, and the reality is that for as nice as she may be, Mrs. Cousins will likely never be a force in Albany.

Westchester simply will need to bear the consequences.

hal samis said...

I'm still waiting to know HOW a professional manager would solve our problems.

I'm also curious how much a professional manager would be paid?

Anonymous said...

A professional manager can solve our problems if he can get Bernstein a job in another area.

Anonymous said...

Spano was a senior senator, who, like him or not, got things done. Stewart-Cousins is new and doesn't have clout in Albany yet. Nor may she ever. I'm a democrat, but I knew that voting for Stewart-Cousins would be a mistake, because she won't be able to get things done. Brodsky is right!

NO TAMMANY HALL IN GREENBURGH said...

Has Francis Sheehan gone to the ethics board yet to ask for an opinion on the appropriateness of receiving a contribution from Berger's law firm and then voting to give her firm a six or seven figure contract? I'm waiting for a response.

SPITZER BLASTS BRODSKY ON COUSINS said...

Check out Politics on Hudson- LoHud.com (April 3). Spitzer spokesman objected to Richard Brodsky's "mean spirited criticism of Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins." Someone should challenge Brodsky next year. There is no reason why our Assemblyman should be blaming Andrea for the state budget. Richard knows Albany. He's the guy who is ineffective.

jim lasser said...

Dear Anonymous on 4/2 at 3:14 -
Taxes haven't gone up - instead the Town's Capital Budget, which is the amount it borrows, has DOUBLED and the unexpended Fund Balance has decreased very significantly. We are mis-using the Capital Budget to fund current, recurring items like routine maintenance of the roads, and small items, like the purchase of tents for vehicle storage, rather than properly including them in the operating budget. The truth is we are spending more than we are willing to tax ourselves for, and the ultimate result will be a very signficant "catch up" tax hike - though probably not while the current Administration is still in office. The combined rapid increase in borrowings and decline in the fund balance will soon negatively impact our vaunted bond rating - an item we are not likely to hear about when it happens.
The decline in crime has absolutely nothing to do with who sits in the chairs on Hillside Avenue. It is a national secular trend - and if someone wants to take credit for it, he will also have to accept the responsibility for the inevitable increase in crime when it occurs.
Those served by the recreation programs will need to speak for themselves - I have no first hand knowledge.
Sanitation is OK. But a look at the budget suggests the department is significantly under-staffed. There may well come a moment, be it a snowstorm, power failure or something else, where the critical shortage of manpower will have a devastating effect. The choice to remain understaffed is political - make no mistake about it.
Hal, please add honest budgeting to the list of things a professional manager must do better than the current administration.

Michael Kolesar said...

To add to Mr. Lasser's comments, the Town Board has refused to address the huge issue of the unrecorded and unfunded liabilities for post employment benefits granted to Town employees. This benefit is usually in the form of LIFETIME health coverage after one retires or reaches a certain retirement age.

In the case of police, an individual retiring after 20 years of service and who begins to receive this benefit immediately for the remainder of thier life, has a present value benefit of well in excess of $400,000. If the entire police force were about to retire, that would approach $ 40 million. Of course the entire force is not about to retire, but if on average the police force has 10 years of service (not unreasonable and just a fact that can be readily obtained), then the present unfunded liability is about $20 million. Add all the other Town employees into the mix, plus those already retired and receiving this benefit or eligible to receive this benefit at sometime in the future and it's a huge financial obligation being passed on to future taxpayers. And the Town Board just used about $7 million that it doesn't really have. Great financial planning !!!

Anonymous said...

You know what's a shame. People vote in elections and don't have a clue who or what they're voting for. The Library is one issue,not all the facts were out or the plans were set, but we had to have 4 thousand people decide this very important project in May not November.
Also with Nick Spano's defeat, anybody who knows how Albany operates knew this was going to happen. Brodsky is just stating the facts. Gov. Spitzer wanted change in Albany, and the only thing that changed was we have a very week Senator now instead of a really powerfull one. Senator Liebel took care of northern Westchester. We just won't get the extra money anymore. I'm a Demacrat
and voted for Nick Spano, he was always bringing money back to Westchester. I don't blame Brodsky
I blame everyone who voted for Cousins. This a typical "I Told You So"!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Jim and others talk from both sides of their mouth. They suggest that we're going to have to experience major tax hikes in the future (probably true since the board voted to have two zero increases). At the same time Jim suggests that we increase spending on staff. Jim: you can't suggest spending hikes and then complain about tax hikes. There is no free lunch.

Anonymous said...

Regarding a professional manager ... I don't care what her/his title is (mayor, manager, supervisor), but I do care that we have an experienced management professional in the position, someone with knowledge of how to efficiently run a mid-sized company like Greenburgh. The main things I'll be looking for as a voter are education (such as an MBA) and professional background (corporate leadership).

Jim Lasser said...

To Anonymous at 11:13PM -
I appreciate your comment, and recognize the apparent contradiction. We are already spending the money on staff in the form of overtime. Paying overtime to existing staff to cover the workload of a non-existent employee is significantly more expensive than hiring a new employee. Overtime is, I am told, assigned on the basis of seniority - which means we are paying our time and a half or double time to our highest paid workers. Twenty hours of overtime in a week - even if split over three existing staffers - is at least as expensive as expensive as a whole additional staffer. Remember too that overtime pay is counted into the calculation of total compensation for pension benefits. We are not only paying now, we will continue to pay forever.
To add staff when there is significant overtime being paid is, as the budgeteers would say, revenue neutral.
You have correctly identified one of the causes for anticipating a significant tax hike. There are others - I recognize tax hikes are inevitable, I would just like to know that they represent real increases for real budget items - not as we face, deferred payments for things we already have or have already used up. Fair and accurate portrayals of budget expenses so that taxpayers can make informed choices are our right. Some will want to spend the money on maintaining our current standards - others will be willing to accept lower standards in exchange for lower taxes. You are absolutely correct when you say there is no such thing as a free lunch. So, I'd like to see the hidden price.

Anonymous said...

Liz Anderson of the Journal News posted an interesting web blog on the Journal News political blog page yesterday indicating that Steve Bass voted with Feiner against giving Suzanne Berger's law firm a six figure contract to represent the town reviewing a land use matter. Berger is the chair of the Democratic town committee.
I would like to know why Bass voted against the firm. I would also like to know if he articulated his reasons before the vote and why Sheehan, Juettner and Barnes refused to personally interview other firms in light of Bass's concerns.

Anonymous said...

The two ladies on the board are puppets for Sheehan. What ever he says is the written word,as he wants them to believe.Bass did voice his views at the town meeting. Check out the rerun of that meeting.

hal samis said...

The Geothermal drilling contracts have been signed, by the driller on Monday and by the Supervisor on Wednesday. The Supervisor signed them on the advice of "Counsel" who said that the Town could be vulnerable to lawsuit.

Never mind that the winning bidder signed over three months after the award.
Never mind that the contract is for drilling a system that the Library project says it is not going to pursue (this would require permits not yet even applied for).
Never mind that even though the driller dawdled, the "advice" given the Supervisor was, like the previous contacts, he had the equivalent of 14 minutes to sign or else.

By following this regimen, the Library Team has avoided the need to rebid the contracts. Since they maintain that drilling months from now would not hold up the project, rebidding would not have delayed the project.

What they have guaranteed is a "change order(s)" which are clearly an added, if not in this case, justified expense. Drilling 20 wells 240 feet away is not likely to be the same cost as 4-6 deeper wells nearer the building. 6 wells times 1500 feet = 9,000 feet of drilling with only 6 set-ups. 20 wells times 500 feet = 10,000 feet with 20 set-ups.

But this is the penalty for sending out the drilling contract before deciding on which system to use.

And, for sure, "everything is on schedule and on budget". We'll allow April 1 as the official start of construction. Which, if Triton ever delivers their 3 months free agreement, means that to keep their fee at $701,000 ($612,000 to $680,000 + $21,000 for December 2007) the job should end when their fee ends. Since they are supposed to provide Jan/Feb/March 2008 for free, then the job should end March 31, 2008.
Any anonymous bloggers want to take that bet?

Anonymous said...

Bass did the right thing -- voting against a sweetheart contract that Sheehan pushed. Berger is the chair of the Greenburgh Democratic Committee. She gave money to Sheehan's campaign. Sheehan repaid her by giving her law firm a six figure contract. Juettner and Barnes did the same. This is bad government. Did Bass vote against the contract because he did not like the sweetheart deal or because he was not satisfied with the work the firm does?

Anonymous said...

Bass said he voted no not because he objected to any sweetheart deal -- because there was none -- but because he thought the lawyer town staff was recommending could have done better for the town on the Avalon II project.

Thus, even though Avalon II was scaled down from more than 700 units to 444 units, with 44 set aside for affordable housing, Bass said he thought the project could have been scaled back even further, and he blamed the lawyer for not doing a better job.

Feiner, on the other hand, not only voted for the Avalon II project as revised, but the Avalon II developer and its lawyer have contributed thousands of dollars to the Feiner campaign.

Anonymous said...

How come Sheehan, Juettner, Barnes voted for the Avalon project?
How come the E Irvington civic association supported the Avalon project?
How come the village of Elmsford dropped their opposition to the Avalon project?
A consensus was reached. Feiner did what he always does -- he brought all the parties together.

Anonymous said...

7:06 said "Feiner, on the other hand, not only voted for the Avalon II project as revised, but the Avalon II developer and its lawyer have contributed thousands of dollars to the Feiner campaign."

Don't you know that Feiner AND THREE OTHERS voted for the revised Avalon - Sheehan, Barnes and Juttner.

hal samis said...

Hey look it over, lend me your ears.

The first two change orders (more enroute but you know how slow the mail can be) for the Library are arriving via this week's Town Board Agenda. Golly didn't the project just start?

And there's Town Council recognition for Gil Kaminer who brought to their notice during a discussion of the capital budget in EXECUTIVE SESSION which was not noted on the Work Session Agenda.

Finally does anyone know yet what geothermal system they are going ahead with? Regula said that it is between the Architect and the Construction Manager so when they know I guess they'll tell him.
Meanwhile is there anyone who represents the Town's taxpayer's on this project. Apart from the mystery of what system, it is now in the sixth month since we learned in November that the Town hadn't applied for permits.. If the bids became fixed with their award -- and all the winning bidders were announced mid December, what's holding up the decision on which drilling system to employ? Even without going further, say actually applying for permits, could someone let us know why the choice has not been made?
And, if it is for the 20 wells, when will those change orders find their way to the Agenda.

I repeat my question:
WHO IS RUNNING THIS SHOW? WHERE IS THE OVERSIGHT?

Maybe anonymous can shed some light?

hal samis said...

And if you go to the Agenda for the Town Board Work Session, you see the Executive Session is listed as "Personnel" and the other item is Community Center by-laws.

So isn't discussion of the Capital Budget something that the Public might be interested in. But I guess we can always watch it on TV.
Whoops, they're still not televising their work sessions.
WHO IS IN CHARGE?

It is not like the members of the Town Board don't use email or the phone to talk to each other when there is no chance of the public being around. So can't they at least be honest when they appear in public.

Finally, is the Town Council now going to recognize every idea brought to it. If they laughed at Citizen or Employee of the Month, are they now in the honors race with Citizen or Employee of the Moment?

Trying out a new concept, shorter but more blogs. This will send anonymous bloggers back to their Roget's more often.

Anonymous said...

What exactly was Gil Kaminer recognized for, his abuse of the School Superintendent or his ability to get confidential material printed in the Journal News??????

Anonymous said...

To Mr. Lasser,

If the Town Board is in violation of NY State's Open Meetings law, what can be done about it? Also, does anyone know what the penalty is for a Town Board Member who is found guilty of ethics charges?

hal samis said...

I repeat again, WHO IS RUNNING THIS SHOW? WHO IS PROVIDING THE OVERSIGHT?

The Town Council has become so efficient that they had a system installed that would shut off the lights if no activity was detected in the room.

Well I submit that there is no activity in the room and now they don't even have to flick a switch on the way OUT!

Anonymous said...

To Mr. Samis,

We KNOW who is running the show, EMPEROR SHEEHAN has been in control of Greenburgh since assuming power sixteen months ago. I firmly believe that Sheehan is losing popular support amongst the people however, no one on the Town Board ever challenges him. Sheehan was able to get any proper investigation of the School Superintendent/Gil Kaminer incident squashed. Sheehan has seemingly violated ethical priciples by accepting a $1,000 donation from Suzan Berger and once in office, securing a $500,000 to $1,000,000 contract for her law firm. If Jim Lasser is right, Sheehan has led the Board in abusing the open meetings law. Sheehan is the one running the show and he is running Greenburgh right down the drain.

Jim Lasser said...

To Anonymous at 11:28 -
The NY State Committee on Open Government, chaired by Robert Freedman, has no enforcement powers. The politicians at the State level made sure that their decision to create an Oopen Govement Committee wouldn't e used against them. The only remedy appears to be a civil lawsuit which would enjoin the Town from future violations. Presumably the injunction could carry penalties for contempt of court.
As for Town Board members found guilty by the Greenburgh Board of Ethics, if I recall correctly the most severe penalty is return of the contribution and a letter of reprimand. Sort of makes you wonder why it was created at all...

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your response. It seems that the Town Board can almost do whatever they want without any consequences. If the Town Board is really serious about ethics, they should create severe penalties should any Board Member be found to have operated unethically. What are the chances of that ever happening?????

Anonymous said...

"If the Town Board is really serious about ethics, they should create severe penalties should any Board Member be found to have operated unethically. What are the chances of that ever happening?????"

Never, nada, nilch, when the cows jumps over the moon, snowy Thursdays in July or when Young Kaminer apoligizes for his threats against the Superintendent.

Am I clear, here?

Anonymous said...

THERE IS A REMEDY! VOTE THEM OUT!

Anonymous said...

Voting them out of office is not as easy as your comment suggests. Greenburgh has not elected a Republican in over thirty years. A challenge must be mounted from within the Democratic Party. Sheehan, Barnes and Juetner have solidified themselves within the Democratic Party by securing a six or seven figure contract for Suzanne Berger's employers.

Anonymous said...

Do actually expect the same people who voted Nick Spano out, despite the juice that he brought to our specific geography, or continue to vote Andy Spano in, despite the absolute outrageous callous disregard for Greenburgh he exhibits, to actually vote appropriately here for integrity (or even candidates that can stay awake)?

Have you been eating Easter Eggs with magic mind altering substances sprinkled on them?

Anonymous said...

There is a quick way to eliminate at least one Town Board member. Get Kaminer under oath and also the people who heard his confession relating to his threatening the School Superintendent from Valhalla. Given the choice between committing perjury and doing possible jail time versus telling the truth, I think young Kaminer will see the light and spill the beans on who gave him the order. That Town Board Member (members?) will be forced into resignation. Not even Suzanne Berger can save a Board Member who ordered the abuse of a citizen.

Anonymous said...

HAPPY EASTER TO ALL OUR GOD LOVING NEIGHBORS.

Anonymous said...

Someone mentioned "sanitation is terrific". I imagine he is talking about his home garbage pickup. It is time to take a look at the actual garbage on the roadsides, like 9A from Park Avenue up into Elmsford, actually you'll see that Elmsford is actually cleaner than the disgusting Greenburgh street!!!