(White Plains, NY) – Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers) today issued the following statement after learning that Starwood Hotel’s relocation to Connecticut, which was contingent on a $90 million economic incentive package, maybe halted. Starwood, which operates 982 hotels in nearly 100 countries under nine brands, announced in November that it was moving its headquarters in White Plains and 800 jobs in 2012 to Stamford.

 

“Given the new circumstances involving the Starwoods deal, I would call upon government -- at all levels -- and representatives of our business community to work together towards creating an incentive package that would convince Starwoods to remain in Westchester County.”

 

“For many years, Westchester has played a prominent role in job retention and economic development through effective relationships with our state and local leaders, private industry and public partners.  Governor Paterson’s proposed Excelsior Jobs Program, along with his office of Economic Development, may also provide the financial support needed to collaborate on infrastructure and joint development projects, which could end up being far less expensive than playing games with taxpayer dollars.”

 

“We still believe that Westchester County is a more receptive environment for both large firms looking for new space and home-grown small businesses. Westchester County offers the right mix of business resources, financial assistance and economic incentives to help businesses prosper. We look forward to rebuilding our relationship with Starwood and hope that they reconsider their position.”

 

 

 

Westchester County Board Chairman Ken Jenkins today issued the following statement after the Westchester County Association press conference, calling for the Legislature to enact County Executive Astorino’s proposal seeking all non-union/non-represented managers within the County government to make a 15% contribution to their health care costs.  Over the past several weeks, the Board has raised reasonable questions on enacting employee health insurance contributions.  Yesterday, Chairman Jenkins announced the creation of a special committee of the Board to analyze and make recommendations on the fairest and most cost-effective way for the County to provide quality and affordable health care access to its employees at reduced costs.   Today, he vowed to continue working in partnership with his colleagues, citizens and officials in finding real tax savings for residents.

 

“My colleagues and I appreciate the continued advocacy of the Westchester County Association and look forward to their continued partnership in resolving our county’s economic issues. As we face another year of fiscal challenges, we must do everything necessary to immediately achieve optimal savings for the county’s taxpayers.  The Legislature fully supports the concept of employee contributions. However, in the search to pass off much-needed tax relief to residents, the County Board is required to act responsibly by reviewing every possible angle of such a complex issue. The taxpayers in this county want real savings, real innovation, real service improvement, and more value for their tax dollar. Now is the time to think critically about how we spend our money within county government and this Legislature takes that responsibility seriously. It’s the Board’s fiduciary responsibility to conduct the due diligence necessary to deliver real savings to our residents without exposing them to potentially damaging legal concerns.  We have a legitimate opportunity to create a comprehensive and thorough plan and it must be done expeditiously.”

 

“I’ve created this Special Committee on County Health Insurance Contributions, which will have its first meeting on Saturday morning, and they will aggressively be reviewing, analyzing and making final recommendations on the fairest and most economic way that the County can provide taxpayers long-term savings, while continuing to provide its employees with quality health care coverage.  The goal of this committee will be to have a proposal in front of the Board for a full vote by June. The time we are taking now will not impact the proposed timeline of the County Executive’s plan. It is important during these difficult economic times that we consider all viable options, 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.”

 

“However, we in government can ill afford to work in a vacuum.  We’d like to ask the community to get involved and help with solutions.  The need to find sustainable tax relief is a countywide problem that will require countywide engagement.  That’s why I invite members of the WCA and others throughout the county to join us in developing new strategies on health insurance delivery in our county by visiting our website, www.westchesterlegislators.com, and send us your suggestions.   Now is the time to work together with our partners throughout the broader Westchester community to reduce costs responsibly and provide real relief to our county’s taxpayers.” 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Governor David Paterson delivered his proposed 2010-2011 budget today, and sent a clear message to all New Yokers that we must learn to do more with less.  I applaud the Governor’s efforts to reduce state spending, place a moratorium on unfunded mandates and close the budget gap.  I know this process could not have been an easy one to complete, and I thank the members of his Administration for their stellar work.

In the same breath, however, I must part ways with Governor Paterson on his beverage tax proposal.  The idea that the Governor would resurrect the soda tax, clearly indicates that we are in grave fiscal times and must find revenue to close the budget gap.  However, in a desperate attempt to find revenue, this proposal has been floated without regard for the devastating economic impact of raising more taxes on the food and beverage industry.  A soda tax will drive many of our Fortune 500 businesses throughout Westchester right out of the state and cost Westchester County thousands of jobs. I would sincerely call upon the Governor to reconsider this option.

Simply put, Governor Paterson’s soda tax proposal can result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of New York jobs, and end up costing - not saving - taxpayers millions of dollars.”

 

 

 

 

Spano Misusing Board of A&C to Handcuff Incoming Administration

12/1/2009 4:25:14 PM

Westchester County Legislator George Oros (R/Cortlandt) asserted today exiting County Executive Andrew Spano was using the Board of Acquisition & Contract to ram through expensive multi-year contracts before his successor takes office on January 1.

 

“In the 11th hour of his term, Spano is utilizing what little power he has left to kick in the teeth of taxpayers,” Oros charged. “Unless it affects the safety, health or welfare of the public, no contracts should be executed until Rob Astorino takes over the reins of the county and his team has sufficient time to research the requests being made.”

 

Oros, who for years has called for the reform of the Board of Acquisition & Contract, pointed to the November 24 A&C agenda that included a handful of multi-million dollar and multi-year contracts.

 

Contracts included: $2.7 million to enter into agreements with various law firms to perform “of counsel” legal services; more than $12 million for Westhab to operate homeless shelters; more than $4 million for security systems integration at the county jail; and a contract to build a controversial fence at Playland.

 

Oros wrote a letter to Board of Legislators Chairman William Ryan, one of the three members of the A&C board (the other two are Spano and Public Works Commissioner Ralph Butler), asking that 12 items on the November 24 agenda be held over, and 11 were, but they will likely be “rubber stamped” in the near future.

 

“It’s obvious what is being done,” Oros said. “Spano and his administration are trying to tie Mr. Astorino’s hands as much as possible to make it that much harder to achieve the goals the overwhelming majority of voters chose him to accomplish. This type of action not only hampers the new administration but hurts the taxpayers.”

 

In addition, Oros alleged that some contracts were “political payback,” citing campaign contributions to Spano’s failed re-election attempt by several of the vendors.

 

Coupled with the “phony revenue and other land mines planted” in the Spano 2010 budget, Oros labeled the Spano actions “very disappointing” and “demonstrates distain for the taxpayers.”

 

“This is not the way a county executive who has served for 12 years should go out the door,” Oros said.
 
In 2002, 2007 and 2008, the Republican Conference introduced a variety of reform measures to change the current A&C system, where millions of dollars of lengthy contracts are approved without any debate, discussion or vote of the Board of Legislators.

 

To curtail the blatant rubberstamping, Oros and his GOP colleagues over the years have suggested any contracts of leases of five years or more, including renewals, must be approved by the full Legislature.

 

In addition, they have recommended the Public Works commissioner be replaced on the A&C board by the budget director; each meeting be electronically recorded; and no emergency contract can exceed three years.

 

“Voters spoke loud and clear in the last election that they’re tired of business as usual in Westchester County government,” Oros said. “For a dozen years these shenanigans have been going on at A&C. It’s time for Mr. Spano to step aside and let a breath of fresh air come in.”

 

Legislators call on Albany to allow Westchester to continue to use mechanical lever voting machines in local elections

6/12/2009 3:12:28 PM

A majority of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, today, called on Governor David Paterson and leaders in the State Assembly and State Senate to allow Westchester to continue using mechanical lever voting machines in county elections.

In 2002, the federal government enacted the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), which required states to replace the older and unreliable voting systems and to insure that voting is accessible to all voters, including those with disabilities.  Westchester presently uses lever voting machines.  It makes paper ballots available to those with disabilities and the ballots are counted with optical-scanning voting machines.

“The mechanical lever voting machines have long proved reliable, user-friendly and cost-effective,” said Legislator Tom Abinanti (D, I-Greenburgh).  “Replacing lever voting machines is very costly.  It has proved to create voter confusion and may result in the use of machines that could compromise the integrity of future elections.” 

The State Board of Elections has approved a pilot program to introduce a paper ballot-optical-scan system for all voters in most of the state’s 62 counties.  However, there are several notable holdouts: the five boroughs of New York City, and Nassau, Suffolk and Rockland counties. 

“We’re not opposed to implementing a system that incorporates optical scanners,” said Board Chairman William J. Ryan (D, I, WFP-White Plains).  “When used in conjunction with optical scanners, lever voting machines can be part of a voting system which would be HAVA compliant and would serve the public’s best interest.”  

 To read the letter to Governor Paterson, click here