Legislator Ryan Moves Forward with "Westchester Renewed"

Citizen-run Westchester County Charter Revision Commission at Center of Initiative to Improve County Government

2/4/2010 10:24:09 AM

 

 

(White Plains, NY) ~ In an action that could profoundly affect how county government operates in the future, Westchester County Legislator Bill Ryan (D-WF, White Plains) today moved forward with Westchester Renewed, a far-reaching initiative centered on a citizen-run Westchester County Charter Revision Commission.

 

“The Westchester County Charter has not undergone a complete and systematic review since it was approved by the voters in a countywide referendum in 1937.  That was over 70 years ago,” stated Legislator Ryan.  “It’s time to take a thorough look at how Westchester County government is working and how it can be improved.”

 

“What steps should we take to right-size our government?  How can we streamline its operation? How can we make it more efficient and less expensive?  How should we revise our Charter so that it reflects today’s realities and provides the flexibility we need to ensure a county / local partnership that benefits all of our residents and taxpayers,” continued the Board’s former Chairman.  “These important questions need to be answered.”

 

Legislator Ryan has long maintained that “government needs to work smarter, become more efficient and less expensive.”  He sees this as the major challenge facing government at every level – federal, state, county and local – and in every form – general purpose units, school districts, authorities and special districts.  “Westchester County government should accept this challenge, lead by example, and be a model for others to follow,” said Ryan.

 

In introducing this Act, Legislator Ryan noted that beyond realizing greater economy and efficiency in our own County government operation, the Charter review process could help identify State laws and regulations that need to change if the County is to have greater flexibility and be in a better position to help localities streamline and reduce costs.  That would be through consolidating / centralizing some of their locally-run programs and functions and shifting service delivery responsibility and operations to the County.   

 

“If the Westchester County community, with all of its many taxing jurisdictions, is going to be in the national headlines each year, let it not be for having the highest combined property tax bill in America, but let it be for real progress and innovation in service delivery and cost containment,” urged Ryan.

 

Legislator Ryan also noted that the work of the citizen-run Charter Revision Commission would be an ideal way for people to become knowledgeable about the operations and responsibilities of county government and involved in the decision-making process resulting in meaningful recommendations to the Board of Legislators.  The County Charter is the people’s document and the people should be the ones to recommend changes that reflect how they want to be governed.

 

Process

 

With the new legislative session underway, Legislator Ryan has placed “Westchester Renewed” before the Board of Legislators for consideration.  Today, he has filed with the Clerk an Act which, if approved by the Board would authorize creation of a Westchester County Charter Revision Commission.

 

Back in mid-December, he introduced “Westchester Renewed,” as an initiative that could profoundly affect how county government operates in the future.  At its center is a citizen-run County Charter Revision Commission.  The Board did have a brief opportunity to discuss this proposal in committee prior to the conclusion of the 2008-2009 legislative session.

 

In reintroducing this item, Legislator Ryan has asked the Board to refer it to the Committee on Legislation – for any needed modifications and changes to the Act establishing the Commission and specifying membership, duties and responsibilities – and to the Budget and Appropriations Committee – for determining the resources to be provided to the Commission to carry out its assigned duties.  Other than resources, the Commission is to operate independent of county government.

 

Legislator Ryan is asking for thorough consideration of this proposal and a prompt report to the full Board for a vote.

 

The Commission

 

Westchester’s Charter Revision Commission would be made up of members representing a cross-section of the county, reflecting the resident taxpayer, business, non-profit, labor and government sectors of the Westchester community. It would examine structural innovations for and alternatives to the current form and structure of County government.  On or before March 1, 2011, a report of findings, conclusions and recommendations would be submitted to the Board of Legislators for implementation or, depending on what’s proposed, brought before the  voters in a referendum. 

 

The Charter Revision Commission would be composed of 31 members to be appointed as follows:

 

  • Each of the seventeen County Legislators would individually appoint one (1) member to the Commission 
  • The Chairman of the County Board of Legislators would also appoint one (1) additional member to serve as the Chairperson of the Commission
  • The County Executive would appoint two (2) members to the Commission
  • The County Clerk, District Attorney, Chief Administrative Judge of the 9th Judicial District would each appoint one (1) member to the Commission
  • By a majority vote of the County Board of Legislators, one (1) member shall be appointed from each of the following seven organizations: the Westchester County League of Women Voters, the Westchester Putnam Central Labor Body, the Civil Service Employees Association, the Westchester-Putnam School Boards Association, the Westchester County Municipal Officials Association, the Business Council of Westchester, the Westchester County Association, and one (1) member from a non-profit agency providing services in Westchester County.

Some types of issues that could be considered include:

 

  • Consolidating/merging/eliminating various county departments and functions
  • Centralizing various services now handled by municipalities; consolidation of locally-run programs and functions; shifting service delivery responsibility to the county
  • Turning over certain discretionary county services to local municipalities and/or community based organizations
  • What’s best for Westchester: A publicly elected County Executive or an appointed administrator?
  • The role and structure of the Board of Legislators; changing the form and size of the legislative body
  • The need for and composition of a Board of Acquisition and Contract
  • Establishing an Office of County Comptroller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s Happening at the County Board: Week of February 8, 2010

Committee Meeting Preview: Items for Discussion

2/7/2010 8:38:24 PM

 

 

Please note: Latest committee meeting agendas (including “TBA” agendas) posted at www.westchesterlegislators.com/calendar

 

Monday, February 8, 2010

 

4:00 PM

 

Appointments  (Subcommittee of Legislation) Hon. Bill Burton, Chair; Contact: Emilia Vita  (995-2807)

 

  • 4:00 – Kevin Cheverko: Appointment as Acting Commissioner of Corrections for a term to expire upon the appointment of a Commissioner of Correction
  • 4:30 – Dr. Doug Aspros: Reappointment as a member of the Board of Health

Westchester County Health Care Corp. Candidates Previously Interviewed:

 

  • Dr. Orlando Adamson, M.D.
  • Patrick McCoy
  • Michael Staib
  • Dr. Melvin B. Weiss, M.D.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

 

10:00 AM

 

Budget & AppropriationsHon. Jose Alvarado, Chair; Contact: Sally Schecter (995-2832)

 

  • Bond Counsel Selection: Act authorizing Westchester County to retain the law firms of Hawkins, Delafield & Wood LLP, New York, New York; Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, New York, New York and Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo P.C., New York, New York to provide bond counsel services in an "of counsel" capacity to the County Attorney on an "as-needed" basis, for the period February 1, 2010 through July 31, 2010.
  • Fixing Tax Distribution Tables (Tax Warrants): Act fixing the Tax Distribution Tables for the County (for County Operating Purposes and for County share of MTA), for the County Water District No. 1, for the Refuse Disposal District No. 1, and for each of the thirteen Sanitary Sewer Districts in the County.
  • Fixing & Determining the Amount of County Taxes (Tax Warrants): Act fixing and determining the amounts of: County taxes (for County Operating Purposes and for County of MTA); the Special District Taxes; and other charges against the various towns and cities in Westchester; and levying such apportioned amounts for the purposes herein set forth against such towns and cities.
  • Discussion of 2010 Finances and Revenues with Budget Department and Finance Department

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

County Board Health Care Savings Committee Begins Review of Employee Health Insurance Contributions

2/8/2010 4:58:18 PM

 

 

(White Plains, NY) – The Westchester County Board of Legislators Special Committee on Health Insurance Savings held their first official meeting this past Saturday to begin reviewing, analyzing and making final recommendations on the fairest and most economic policy that the County can provide taxpayers long-term savings, while continuing to provide its employees with quality health care coverage. Chaired by the Board’s Vice-Chairman, Legislator Lyndon Williams (D-Mount Vernon) and the Board’s Majority Whip, Legislator Judy Myers (D-Larchmont), the committee reviewed its action plan, timelines and future meeting dates. “We had a very productive meeting setting out our work plan to accomplish the research, stakeholder input, professional insurance input, and financial input to be able to make recommendations to the Budget & Appropriations Committee by the end of March,” said Legislator Myers. Myers and Williams, along with committee members Legislators John Testa (R-Peekskill), Alfreda Williams (D-Greenburgh) and John Nonna (D-Mount Pleasant) will meet with health insurance professionals and key industry experts to assess and develop a system that would work best for Westchester County. The work of the Committee has been divided into different phases:

 

The first phase will request information from stakeholders and conduct interviews from the following agencies:

 

  • Human Resources
  • POMCO
  • District Attorney’s Office
  • Members of the County’s Judiciary
  • Union Officials

The second phase will analyze data on revising health plans and costs savings:

 

  • Distribute criteria for change plans
  • Solicit input from health insurance providers on price, coverage, plan design
  • Evaluate best options in terms of cost savings and benefits choices
  • Solicit public and employee information

The third phase will be the final recommendations presented to the Budget and Appropriations Committee. The special committee will hold meetings on over the next month and will provide final cost-savings recommendations in March 2010. “In recent years, health care costs have been rising unsustainably,” said Board Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers). “The committee has committed itself to finding savings by identifying opportunities including employee contribution, putting out a request for proposal for additional & less expensive health plans, pre-tax savings accounts, contribution tiers, and incentives for workers to opt out.”

 

Over the last few days, however, the co-chairs began their due diligence and made official inquiries to the Administration asking for key documents pertaining to the current POMCO health insurance plan. In a letter sent to the county’s Finance Commissioner Anne Marie Berg, the committee requested information such as descriptions, summary of benefits, demographic statistics on current enrollee’s in the program and the administrator’s service agreement. As of today, the Committee has not received the requested information. A letter was received from the County Executive’s office saying that they were initiating a ‘full scale review of the health insurance plan’ and would forward information ‘upon completion of such review”.

 

“Taxpayers need real long-term savings,” said Chairman Jenkins. “The County Board is going to act timely and responsibly by reviewing every possible angle of such a complex issue. These measures will help the County manage skyrocketing costs of health care benefits and pass along much-needed relief to taxpayers.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

County Legislator Burton Honors Peekskill Resident At Black History Month Heritage Celebration

2/12/2010 9:13:50 AM

Westchester County Legislator Bill Burton (D-Ossining) presenting this year’s annual Black History & Heritage Month’s “Unsung Heroes” award to Martin McDonald of Peekskill during a reception for the honorees.                      Photo Credit: County Board of Legislators staff

(White Plains, NY) -- Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers), Westchester County Board Vice-Chairman Lyndon Williams (D-Mount Vernon), Legislator Bill Burton (D-Ossining) and Legislator Alfreda Williams (D-Greenburgh) were joined by their colleagues and local community stakeholders, clergy, business leaders and elected officials to celebrate their annual Black History & Heritage Month Celebration program last night during the business meeting.  In proclaiming February as Black History & Heritage Month in Westchester County, the County Board of Legislators celebrated the outstanding contributions of Black Americans.  The event highlighted local ‘unsung heroes’ from across Westchester, who have done an exemplary job promoting the remembrance of important people and events in the history of the African Diaspora.  Peekskill resident, Martin McDonald, nominated to receive the honor by Legislator Bill Burton (D-Ossining), was joined by a select group of residents throughout the county who were recognized for their tireless efforts and contributions in their communities.

McDonald, the advisor for a black male mentoring program known as Project Earthquake, strives to instill integrity, disciple, honor and respect in youth black men by building their desire to become healthy, positive productive citizens in our society.  Project Earthquake offers personal support to young men to help counteract the forces that contribute to academic failure.  They stress the importance of academic success, as well as social codes of commitment to family, personal independence and strong moral character.  “Keeping with our theme this year, ‘Living the Dream – Leaving a Legacy’, I’m honored to have shared this special event with a resident within my community who truly represents the best and brightest within the African-American community in Westchester.”

What’s Happening at the County Board: Week of February 15, 2010

Board & Committee Meeting Preview: Items for Discussion

2/12/2010 5:04:39 PM

 

 

Monday, February 15, 2010
Office Closed – President’s Day
 

 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

 

9:30 AM
Housing & Planning —Hon. Bill Burton, Chair; Contact: Barbara Dodds (995-4429)
Federal Grants for the Urban Consortium: CDBG, HOME, ESG, etc.

 

1:30 PM
Legislation —Hon. John Nonna, Chair; Contact: Melanie Montalto (995-8620) & Betsy DeSoye (995-3277)
Local Law to amend Chapter 863 of the Laws of Westchester County in order to provide consumer pricing protection
 

 

3:30 PM
Special Committee on Health Insurance Savings — Hon. Lyndon Williams & Hon. Judy Myers, Co-Chairs; Contact: Steven Bass (995-5482)
Discussion with the District Attorney, Pomco representative, Jennifer Zando and the County Finance Department – Commissioner Anne Marie Berg and Kathy Egan from Benefits

 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

 

9:30 AM
Government Operations, Efficiency & Savings —Hon. Mike Kaplowitz, Chair; Contact: Tara Bernard (995-6297)
Continued discussion on 2010 State Legislative Package

 

Friday, February 19, 2010

 

* 11:00 AM
Auditors Meeting
Agenda TBA