Wednesday, July 09, 2008

PHIL REISMAN'S COLUM ON COUNTY LEGISLATURE..ABOLISHING COUNTY GOV

Andy To Ardsley: Drop Dead
July
9 Well, they got their way.
Last night, the Westchester County Board of Legislators voted the way Andy Spano & Co. wished. They approved the $13 million-plus purchase of 450 Saw Mill River Road, a vacant office building in Ardsley that happens to be owned by one of the county executive’s favored campaign contributors, Jon Halpern.

The approval was not a surprise. Spano had the votes line up going in. Indeed, they were so confident that work on the building’s air conditioning was already going before the board meeting, according to my sources.

The deal screws Ardsley taxpayers because they”ll have to make up more than $192.000 in lost school tax revenue. Plus, Halpern is suing for a tax reduction going back four years., which will likely cost taxpayers many, many thousands of dollars.

Evidently, Spano and the legislators have been taking a great deal of heat for all this—and I’ve written more than a few columns on the subject. The public anger is so intense that Andy was moved to send out an e-mail, defending the purchase, repeating the rather dubious claim that the Ardsley building was the best deal out there and that anyone who disagrees (i.e. County Legislator Tom Abinanti and Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner) are “fiscally irresponsible.”

Received today, here’s the Spano e-mail in full, with my title added.

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT ON A CROOKED DEAL

Thank you for contacting me about the purchase of 450 Saw Mill River Road. It is our understanding that your email is based on information you have received from Supervisor Paul Feiner. It is unfortunate that the information he is circulating is false and irresponsible. Here are the facts:

First of all, we do not want to buy any building, but are mandated by the federal government to purchase and store new voting machines. Without a place to store 1500 new voting machines and warehouse the old machines for two years, we’d be in violation of federal law.

Contrary to what you have heard, we have no county facility big enough to house these machines. The county building at 375 Executive Blvd. is full; it would cost $30 million to build a second story extension to increase it to a size necessary to house and maintain the machines.

We did not single out this property owner for special treatment. In fact the county sent out at three different times, requests for proposals to get the lowest price possible on a rental or a purchase. Repeatedly, the building at 450 Saw Mill River Road was by far the least expensive alternative.

Far from rushing this through without public notice, this proposal has been discussed publicly at Board of Legislature meetings and in the press for more than one year, as we attempted to get the best deal for our taxpayers.

Recognizing that taking the property off the tax rolls would be a hardship for the Ardsley School District, we offered to give the District $1 million in capital improvements to make up for the loss of tax revenue. Last year, the Ardsley school board approved the purchase in return for the $1 million. Yet Legislator Abinanti who represents this area, voted against it.

Paul Feiner sent a letter to us in January – not to oppose this purchase, but to ask for $50,000 for the town. The County Executive agreed.

The bottom line: Mr. Feiner (as well as Legislator Abinanti) is being fiscally irresponsible in opposing this purchase. The terms for the purchase of 450 Saw Mill River Road are the most advantageous to county taxpayers. We will get 85,000 square feet of space to use for the storage of the voting machines, needed administrative offices for the Department of Public Safety and storage of records. Plans were already being discussed to build a new Public Safety facility which our police department has greatly outgrown. So 450, besides being the best deal for the storage of the machines, is even more cost effective now that it eliminates a new public safety building which would have cost taxpayers almost $10 million to construct.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to set the record straight. It is of utmost importance to me to run a cost-effective, fiscally responsible government. I pride myself on this, and I assure you that I will continue to do so. I am well aware of the difficulties our residents are experiencing in this economy. That is precisely why I have worked so hard to get the most cost effective and best long term facility for the County.
Posted by Phil Reisman on Wednesday, July 9th, 2008 at 11:11 am |
| | 3 Comments »

A How-to Book on Abolishing County Government
July
8 For all of you who embrace the idea of abolishing Westchester County government, here’s a book for your summer reading list. The title is “County Government in Connecticut. It’s History and Demise” by Rosaline Levenson (1966).

You frequently hear people say if Connecticut can get by without county government, then why can’t Westchester. Well, this book goes into how Connecticut did away with the county system.

Here are some excerpts:

“On the day that the counties ended their near 300 year existence, it is doubtful if many persons other than public officials and political figures were aware of the occasion. For the most part, the passing of Connecticut’s county governments occurred quietly and unnoticed by most people.” (pg 2-3)

“…criticisms of conduct ranging from secretiveness with which county operations are sometimes carried out to actual acts of malfeasance.” (pg 10)

James Bryce in the American Commonwealth in 1888: “Counties are the dark continent of American politics.”

There was strong resistance from some politicians because it “provided a lucrative source of patronage to whichever political party controlled the General Assembly.”

Abraham Rubicoff, the Democratic nominee for Governor in 1954, described the
counties as a “governmental fifth wheel that is neither efficient nor representative…” and existed “for purely political purposes of power, prestige and patronage.” (pg 118)
Posted by Phil Reisman on Tuesday, July 8th, 2008 at 2:13 pm |
| | Post a Comment »

20 comments:

feiner stood up said...

paul thanks for trying.

Anonymous said...

"It is unfortunate that the information he (Feiner) is circulating is false and irresponsible."

This is an ongoing problem for the town residents. We have negative relations with the county, neighboring municipalities, and utilities because of Feiner's lack of professionalism. ConEd, just as an example, actively defies and/or avoids Feiner communications. Unfortunately, however, we often pay the price for his overly dramatic and often irresponsible pestering and whining.

Anonymous said...

To 6:46 - The problem is that he tried and stood up with misleading and incomplete info, and the county wasn't going to put up with that. His whining actually motivated the legislators to vote for the purchase.

But Ardsley does get one million in capital improvements, which is a nice deal. Plus, they can simply make up the $192K per year by admitting 10-15 more Greenburgh Central students.

Anonymous said...

Screw ARDSLEY!!!
What about County Records in Elmsford district and WCC in Valhalla district

Anonymous said...

904 -- Paul lives in Ardsley School District. I dont think he cares about the rest of us. And why are we going to give the Waterwheel property to Ardsley -- WE DONT EVEN KNOW WHAT IT IS WORTH, WHAT THIS AFFORDABLE HOUSING IS COSTING.

Anonymous said...

904 -- Paul lives in Ardsley School District. I dont think he cares about the rest of us. And why are we going to give the Waterwheel property to Ardsley -- WE DONT EVEN KNOW WHAT IT IS WORTH, WHAT THIS AFFORDABLE HOUSING IS COSTING.

demand a vote said...

ok - lets have a vote
resolved - county government shall be abolished
yes or no

come on spano - what are you afraid of?

paul - keep pushing and demand a vote.

Anonymous said...

Oh please, Paul wouldnt allow a vote on whether ot acquire Taxter Ridge. Like he cares what we think. He just wants more power.

Anonymous said...

"paul - keep pushing and demand a vote."

What 1231/demand a vote forgets is that when Paul pushes, others push back with greater force. If anything, we need Paul to stop pushing (whining, ranting) if he wants his opinions to be respected.

He's actively mocked by the county, ConEd, and most neighboring municipalities such that if Paul is whimpering and screeching that something is true, then they've become accustomed to learning that it isn't. The perpetually squeaky wheel doesn't get any more oil; it gets discarded and/or laughed at.

Mercy College offers some courses that would be of professional benefit for him:

- ORGL 580 Implementing Change Initiatives
- ORGL 540 Collaborative Communication
- ORGL 515 Practicing Ethical Leadership
- MGMT 701 Managerial Communication
- HRMG 730 Organizational Behavior

Such coursework should be prerequisites for anyone in municipal management - mayor, supervisor, etc. I hate spendng tax money on frills, but I'd actually support the town reimbursing his tuition (if he could get at least a B) for a couple of these classes in the fall.

academic failure said...

mercy college - isnt that where perpetually asleep at the wheel diana juettner teaches?
oh and we have another so called academic on the board - francis sewer district sheehan.

paul - please have mercy on us and flunk these two off the board.

Anonymous said...

Are u kidding Francis works three times as harder than even the supervisor himself. All the docs u receive, its Francis not paul. Paul is busy talking to senoirs about art projects.

Anonymous said...

The supervisor should also have to send his kids within the district, meaning C7 school district. Then let him tell us what a great school it is. Lead by example Paul!

Anonymous said...

Sorry to burst your bubble but Sheehan works hard to destroy what we have.
He is just looking for some kind of glory .As far as respect that went out the winow.
He is one of the reasons for high taxes. Please stop saying that he works hard.
Could it be that he is looking for a higher position down the line so that is why he wants you to think he works hard.
If he does work I can't imagine for whom since he is a very poor representative for the people.

sheehan must go said...

sheehan is a disaster. he is forcing a library ramp where its not needed at a cost of $144,000!

he dissed the folks who called for an audit of the sewer district taxes - they were right he was dead wrong.

the comprehensive plan is another prime example of waste - sheehan said it would be paid by the tennis bubble - well thats dead. sheehan is a tax and spend liberal who is out of touch with reality.

Anonymous said...

Could Sheehan explain how many disabled people will be going to the library by bus.
The ramp that was proposed would have been adequate but he decided it should be extended the other way and right down to street level.
Hey Sheehan you should have thought of an outside elevator instead or maybe a covered escaltor.
Do you have anymore ideas to spend taxpayers money.
By the way since when did you get a degree in engineering?

Anonymous said...

The ramp also helps people pushing strollers. Parents may have one child in a stroller and another looking for books. Many people have more than one child. When I had a small child, many times, I would bring her to the library with me when I looked for books.

Anonymous said...

Spano and his crew have been robbing the taxpayers big time.
Check Sundays journal news.
Andrew Cuomo where are you. This investigation will be very interesting.

Anonymous said...

The ramp is needed but not going down right to the bus stop.
By the way do the food stores or any other businesses have ramps .
Do you or the disabled have difficulty in going shopping?
Yes the ramp was in the original plan and it should have stayed that way.
How long do you think this new ramp will last after the first or second snowfall.
Chemicles have to be used to get rid of ice and snow right so we will be looking at thousand and thousands of money each year to refurbish this size of a ramp.
Will those pushing a baby carriage or stroller leave the parking lot to go down to street level to use the ramp?
Will this ramp be accessable to those who are disabled and drive to the parking lot or must they too go down street level to access the ramp.
How many entrances and exists will this ramp have to accomodate those that drive into the lot and for those that come by bus?

hal samis said...

First of all, the real cost of the ramp is not $144,000 but $175,000 because Mr. Sheehan forgot to include the change orders which removed trees, shrubbery, walls and curbs in the path of the ramp. And, the Architect did not do the ramp design at no cost.

The Greenburgh Library is solely the tax burden of unincorporated.
All those unincorporated residents who, are so quick to worry about their assets and getting paid for them, are not as fast to complain about this ramp cost and its ongoing costly obligation to insure against injuries and remove snow.

But who is it going to serve? Not the residents of unincorporated and likely not even the residents from anywhere else. Other than employees of the big box stores across the street, who from unincorporated rides the buses that stop at this location. These buses originate at places like Ossining, Peekskill, Yonkers and some even stop in the villages. That's the passenger roster. Now among these, how many travel by bus in wheelchairs and are getting off at this stop to visit the Library?

Did Mr. Sheehan determine how many bus travellers are dropped or picked up at this stop? Did Mr. Sheehan determine how many disabled persons use the Library and of those, how many arrive by public transportation? I suspect the answer is "no" from his statement "that even if one person....". Note the "if".
Because Mr. Sheehan does not really care about the effect of rising taxes as long as the finger can be pointed at Feiner.

As for parents with strollers: same question, same answer. How many unincorporated residents...

Finally, what about the DOT and its review of the Tarrytown Road/Knollwood intersection? Would it have been possible to move the location of the bus stop to a place wheelchair accessible without building such a complex ramp? What if the DOT determines that under a new plan, the bus stop must be moved?

All in all, the ramp rightfully deserves to be remembered as "Sheehan's Folly" and its origin was not so innocent either.
The Library had undergone Zoning and Planning Board review and was now before the Town Board for final site plan review. Mr. Sheehan, liaison (former ZBA member) to these Boards never brought this matter up then. Only when HE could be recognized as the champion of the handicapped did he bring this up as a last minute condition of site plan approval.

Let him stew in his own kettle.
Neither the Library or the taxpayers can afford "if even one person..." because if this argument is valid, then no programs should be eliminated to reduce a hefty tax increase. "If even one" should be the basis for continuing everything including the kitchen sink.

In Sheehan's book, it is pay as you get hosed.

Anonymous said...

Hal truer words were never spoken.
Many of us could speak until we are blue in the face but you know Sheehan he has a way to wiggle out of trouble with his double talk.
The only thing that the residents can do or say something is when election time comes arround.
But you know as well as others when election time comes arround the bad thinks done by whomever are easily forgotten especially in the unincorporated areas.
How fast they forget.