Wednesday, March 21, 2007



Democrats call for probe of Peekskill housing board
(Original publication: March 25, 2007)

PEEKSKILL - The Democrats on the Common Council are seeking an investigation into the Peekskill Housing Authority board after complaints about one of the commissioners and the suspension of the agency's executive director.
Councilmembers Don Bennett, Mary Foster and Drew Claxton have sent a letter to several state and federal agencies asking them to review the Republican mayor's reappointment of Leesther Brown to the PHA board and reports accusing her of harassing and intimidating tenants and authority staff. Mayor John Testa, they argued, does not follow the law, appointing members without consulting the city attorney or the board's chairman.
"It's not clear that the Housing Authority board really represents the best interests of Peekskill," Foster said.
Letters were sent March 14 to the U.S. Justice and Housing and Urban Development departments, to Rep. John Hall, D-Dover Plains, and to state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
Testa contends that he can appoint board members at his discretion and that the Democrats' actions are without merit.
"It's a silly political stunt," Testa said. "There's nothing to investigate. I'm not concerned at all."
The controversy comes in advance of what is expected to be a hot political season in Peekskill, with the mayor's and three council seats up for election. There are now four Republicans and three Democrats on the Common Council.
Brown has been at the center of this divisive issue that saw the 30-day suspension of Housing Authority Director Gheevarghese "Thomas" Thankachan this month and has many tenants concerned that the city is trying to get rid of public housing.
"It's time that outside agencies look into this," said Darrell Davis, a former chairman of the Housing Authority board. "This is an extension of a problem that has gone on for years in a community that has been targeted for gentrification. They've been looking for a majority of the board to get rid of the executive director because he won't go along with the plan."
Dozens of residents came out in support of Thankachan at a March 12 Common Council meeting, and more than 150 people signed a petition that called for Brown's removal. The PHA oversees several federally subsidized residential buildings in the city, including Bohlmann Towers and Dunbar Heights.
Brown denied having harassed tenants and maintained that she is trying to make public housing better in Peekskill. Though complaints about her have been filed with police, no criminal charges have been brought.
"This is another vain attempt to slander my name and bring bad light to the mayor. It's an election year," she said. "If the government wants to spend time on something that's totally untrue, then that's the taxpayers' money."
The letter also asks the agencies to look into a March 5 housing board meeting to suspend Thankachan that involved four of the six commissioners and Peekskill's corporation counsel, William Florence. Thankachan's temporary removal was foiled that evening after it was determined that the board did not give timely public notice of its gathering.
The Democrats claim that the meeting was improper and illegal and that Florence's participation represented a conflict of interest, Bennett said.
Testa said Florence was there on the advice of Mirza Negron Morales, director of HUD's Office of Public Housing in New York.
"She suggested that I get corporation counsel involved to the point where he helped them through the process," Testa said. "He wasn't involved with their decision making."
Morales was among the recipients of the Democrats' letter.
"We'll carefully review it to determine whether we have any jurisdiction or authority in the issues being raised," HUD spokesman Adam Glantz said.
He also said it was not a conflict of interest for the city's attorney to advise the housing board.
"The Housing Authority is a part of the city," he said. "They're a city entity created by the state."
Claxton said the recent incidents have generated a lot of questions that need to be answered.
"An honest and open investigation will protect all the residents of Peekskill," she said. "We want a higher office to shed some light on what is going on with the city of Peekskill and the Housing Authority board, if anything."
Reach Marcela Rojas at or 845-228-2271.


Dear Readers:

This is a great example of the "political theatre of the absurd". Taking a leaf from the playbook of the National Democratic Party, we now have local politicians asking fellow Democrats in higher positions for an "impartial" investigation into unfounded accusations being stated as fact against the Mayor and his appointees. There has yet to be one accusation backed up by any kind of "smoking gun" proof. What you are seeing is Democrats, in full election year posturing, with help from a willing media, looking for headlines saying 'MAYOR UNDER INVESTIGATION", in an effort to troll for votes. That's right, the Democrats are asking for investigation of the Mayor and his appointees based on the misinformation THEY(the democrats and their willing accomplices) have spread.

I call this PREDATORY POLITICS. That is a political maneuver where the angst it causes the people who are being used as pawns, is trumped by the need to push an agenda. Truth, right, wrong, proof, integrity be damned. It is the agenda no matter the cost in human suffering. That there is no truth in the accusation that there is a nefarious plot to turn Bohlmann into co-ops, the Mayor is a Republican, therefore it must be true. The fact that the Mayor has the right to have appointees that reflect his convictions in what safe and secure housing means. These people appointed by a Republican Mayor must be tainted just by that fact. You see, only Democrats really know the meaning of safe and secure housing, and any differentiating of that must be wrong and illegal.

So now the Democrats have set the stage for Monday night's Council meeting, armed with the headline they wanted. If you thought the last council meeting was filled with anger and personal invective, because of this "predatory politics", this weeks meeting will be worse. When you fill vulnerable people's heads with misinformation to push your agenda and hopefully win votes, truth be damned, no good can come from it.
It would behoove those who can seed through this charade to come armed with facts, refraining from personal attacks(no matter how provoked), to stand up to this "predatory politics" and using ONLY facts, refute those people, both local and enlisted from out of town. It will be up to you to stand up and support the Mayor and his appointees against the invective that will be used. Now is not the time to be silent and leave it to someone else, for that someone is YOU.

Bottle bill revenue a bone of contention

By Glenn BlainThe Journal News

(Original publication: March 21, 2007)

HARRISON - Gov. Eliot Spitzer's plan to expand New York's bottle law could provide much-needed money for environmental projects in the region, including the cleanup of contaminated lands and the protection of watersheds, the leader of a local conservation group said yesterday.
The millions of dollars in unclaimed bottle deposits that Spitzer's plan would pay into the state's Environmental Protection Fund would help it keep pace with the growing demand to protect land from development and reclaim industrial sites for public uses, said Paul Gallay, executive director of the Westchester Land Trust.
"This is a fund that has to continue to expand if the interest in reclaiming brownfields, if the interest in improving infrastructure and in protecting open space for public recreation, watershed protection, storm water management is to continue to advance," Gallay told a meeting of the The Journal News' editorial board, which was reviewing the bottle bill proposal.
Spitzer's plan to expand the bottle bill, which was enacted in 1982, has emerged as a major sticking point in the ongoing budget negotiations between the governor and the Republican-controlled state Senate, which opposes the measure. Gallay was one of six advocates from both sides of the issue to meet with the newspaper's editors yesterday.
Jonathan Pierce, a consultant for New Yorkers for Real Recycling Reform - a coalition of bottlers, distributors and stores that opposes Spitzer's plan - argued that the new bottle bill would only marginally increase the number of bottles that are recycled but would significantly increase the handling costs to bottlers and supermarkets. Those costs, he added, would eventually be passed along to consumers.
"You are creating an unfunded mandate and you are increasing the cost to consumers," Pierce said.
Spitzer's plan, which was part of the budget he introduced in January, would include juices, water and other beverages to the list of bottles on which consumers must pay a nickel deposit. Currently, the law only covers soda and beer containers.
Also, the law would change who gets to keep the unclaimed the deposits. Bottlers are now allowed to keep the unclaimed deposits, which, according to some estimates, account for as much as $200 million a year. Spitzer's plan is for the state to claim those unredeemed deposits and place the money in the environmental fund.
"It's really about the money," said Kevin Dietly, an environmental consultant who argued against the new bottle bill. "Everybody wants the unclaimed nickels."
Environmental groups, however, believe opponents are overstating the burden the proposal would place on bottlers and retailers. They see the measure as an effective way to encourage consumers to properly dispose of the bottles and keep them from ending up as litter.
"The bottle bill is about fairness," said Andy Bicking, director of education and volunteers for Scenic Hudson. "It is about producer and consumer responsibility for waste."


Bottle bill should be opposed on principle

By ANTHONY J. BAZZO(Original Publication: March 23, 2007)

The premise of the proposed "Bigger Better Bottle Bill," which would expand New York's nickel-deposit law for beverage containers and redirect unclaimed deposits to the state's Environmental Protection Fund, is that government or some group that purports to represent our social conscience can dictate how much profit is acceptable. This is hubris if not outright arrogance. The state government imposed this deposit and the mandatory collection of recyclables on private business. That the consumer, for whatever reason, did not bring back that container to reclaim the nickel does not mean the profits belong to the government. Here is a news flash: Profit is not a crime. This bill is a hidden tax on the consumer while also granting the government the power to confiscate the profits.

Though there is no right to profit, there is a right to keep your profits from being confiscated by the government. We are a capitalist economy, not a Robin Hood economy. The government imposed this tax (deposit) on the manufacturers of carbonated beverages and left it up to those manufacturers to devise a means of collection. So those manufacturers invested in research on how to make it easier for the consumer to reclaim those nickels with as little hardship as possible. Then they had to create those collection machines and update them as the problems in actual use occurred. Then they had to deliver them to as many locations as possible and hire people (that means more payroll taxes) to maintain them. All this cost money not given by the government to cover this process. This is called an unfunded mandate.

Businesses pay taxes on those uncollected deposits, and the government (federal, state, county, or local) has no right that I can find where they can confiscate that after-tax profit for the "public good" or any other reason for that matter. The taxes either the people or business pays is the money we have consented to pay and is the only money government can collect. Make no mistake about it, what Gov. Eliot Spitzer and other supporters of this bill are advocating is the confiscation of profit for the public good. As noble of an idea that may be, it goes against everything upon which our free-market economy is based. This belief that the government can better spend the money than the private sector insults the intelligence. This belief that people or business should not to be allowed to keep those after- tax profits if the government decides they can spend it better is pure socialism.

There is nothing in the history of our state government that would lead me to believe that this dysfunctional government of ours would be better equipped to spend that money. To believe that this government would actually choose our interest over self-interest is to ignore history. Show me what in the history of this state government would lead one to believe our legislators would actually use this money for its intended purpose and not funnel it into some means of buying their re-election instead. To funnel this much money from the citizens of this state into this behemoth of corruption is beyond comprehension. In an ideal world or a less dysfunctional government I might be more inclined to give it a go, but not now as this government of ours operates. The advocates of this bill always ignore the fact that many people recycle their bottles in the local recycling weekly pick-ups provided by the towns and/or cities in which they live. This state government of ours has continued time and time again to the betray the public trust; now is not the time to reward it with more money.

For the frustrated socialists out there, none of these arguments will matter. They believe that profit is a crime. They believe that government is entitled to all the money it can get because the government knows better than us how it should be spent for "the public good." It really does offend them that either people or business might actually spend that money on themselves. Reaping the rewards of one's labor is abhorrent to them. This bill is pure socialism and should be opposed on principle.

The writer is a resident of Shrub Oak.


Dear Readers of the Bazzo Manifesto,

I know that the readers of this blog follow Peekskill local politics so I wanted to share some great news with all of you. The City of Peekskill Democratic Committee has voted on and endorsed a slate of candidates for this years city elections. I am proud to announce the following candidates:

For Mayor,
Council Member Mary Foster

Mary has been an elected Member of the Peekskill Common Council since 2005. She is a CPA who recently retired from Deloitte and Touche after more then 25 years of service. She knows business. Mary has served on numerous committees and boards, here in Peekskill and throughout Westchester County.

One of eleven children, she worked her way through college and an MBA. She has lived in Peekskill since 1978 when she married Donald and together with their two children, the family has been involved in city beautification projects, the chamber of commerce, school fundraising and sports programs, and Little League.She is a great Council Member and she will be an even better Mayor.

For Re-Election to the Common Council,
Council Member Don Bennett

Don Bennett has been an elected Member of the Peekskill Common Council since 2003. He works for Pamal Broadcasting which is radio’s WLNA and WHUD. Don is very active in the Peekskill community, especially with the Cancer Society and youth outreach. He is a member of the Rotary Club, Youth Exchange program and Peekskill Youth Bureau.

Everyone in Peekskill benefits from his work. He treats young people with respect and helps them to build character. This is most evident in his own son, Damon Bennett, who is now a Captain in the US Army.

Peekskill needs to re-elect a Council Member with the class and character of Don Bennett.

For Common Council,
Patricia Salvate-Riley

Patricia is not a professional politician and this is her first time ever running for elected office. She was born and raised in Peekskill to a family that has been here for generations. She is an elementary School teacher with more then 20 years experience and for the last decade has served as a union representative for the Federation of Teachers.

Patricia and her husband Kevin, who is also a union member, are both active in their church and community and serve as District Leaders with the City of Peekskill Democratic Committee. Tired of the division, she looks forward to representing the citizens of Peekskill in a unified effort to better the community.

Patricia loves the city of Peekskill and the citizens are going to love her.

For Common Council,
Joe Schuder

Joe Schuder is a successful business man. He started 30 years ago as a union member at a company and through education at Wharton School of Business, hard work, intelligence and talent he excelled at every level of the corporate ladder, ending up a CEO. Joe has designed programs and budgets that involved hundreds of millions of dollars.

He is a life long resident of Westchester who, with his wife Karen, lives in Chapel Hill. His transition away from a corporate focus to greater participation in community has led to his involvement in church programs and family groups. Joe also served on his condominium board.

His principals for successful business are simple:
Use fairness and integrity as the guidelines when dealing with all people.
Strive for excellence in everyday process especially in the area of service.
Don't settle for mediocrity.

Joe will use these same principles to be a great member of the Peekskill Common Council.

We are looking forward to a vibrant campaign on the issues and a clear and open dialogue about the future of our great city. Thank you all for being active in your community and for participating in these elections.


Darren Rigger, Chairman
City of Peekskill Democratic Committee

Spano: Westchester County has 'never been stronger'

(Original publication: March 23, 2007)

Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano peppered his State of the County speech last night with a host of minor, and occasionally major, announcements.
On the minor side: an Earth Day giveaway of energy-efficient lightbulbs, and a new tracking system for county police cruisers.
On the major side: a new nonprofit agency to help develop and manage affordable-housing projects.
And on the missing side: any solution to where to relocate a controversial drop-in shelter for the homeless, now in a county building in downtown White Plains. Spano called on municipal officials to work with the county toward a solution.
Spano's assessment of the state of Westchester County was this: "We have been fiscally prudent. We have been socially progressive. We have been responsible, compassionate, efficient and productive. ... And the result: The state of our county has never been stronger."
Westchester's executive mentioned various county health-care initiatives, including a pilot project to link more minorities in six communities to available health care and a mentoring initiative to encourage more minority students to pursue health-care jobs. The Health Department plans a new unit to address chronic ailments like diabetes and heart disease and is creating a video to teach patients how to demand quality care.
On the environmental front, Spano said a task force is creating a plan to reduce greenhouse emissions. He cited pending legislation to push landscapers to use less-polluting leaf blowers and promoted the county's internal initiatives, from buying hybrid vehicles to using environmentally friendly cleaning products.
The county executive paid tribute to Army Staff Sgt. Kyu Chay of Chappaqua, killed in Afghanistan last year, and lamented that the county hasn't been able to do more to reach out to returning veterans. Spano called it a "travesty" that the federal government will not release their names to local officials.
In a county with high costs for housing, Spano also lamented that some affordable units are no longer protected. More than 4,000 units in 11 communities created decades ago under the state Mitchell-Lama program soon could "be lost to market rates," and almost 300 more units created through county efforts are already - or soon could be - able to be sold or rented at full value, he said.
To avert this, Spano announced plans to help create a nonprofit agency called the Housing Land Trust that could take ownership of property targeted for affordable-housing developments. The county plans to partner with the trust, rather than giving its land to private developers or local agencies.
"But to make a significant difference, we need local municipalities to join this effort," Spano said. "To my elected colleagues: Please, take a look at the land that you own that might be suitable for housing and consider donating it to the Housing Trust."
Spano talked up partnerships with other elected leaders, including a "new team for change" in Albany. He reiterated his call for an independent safety assessment of the Indian Point nuclear power facility and for reforms at Consolidated Edison, the power company that repeatedly left many residents in the dark last year. He also touted a new MetroCard system for Bee-Line buses, the planned Empire State Games for amateur athletes in July and a coming face-lift for the county's Web site,
When it was over, Board of Legislators' Minority Leader George Oros, R-Cortlandt, offered this take: "An hour of speaking and 30 seconds about taxes? My speeches are the other way around."
Before Spano's speech, more than 200 members of the county's largest public-employees union, Civil Service Employees Association Unit 9200, rallied outside with a 15-foot inflatable rat. The union's last contract expired at the end of 2005, and union leaders say negotiations have stalled.
Marchers like William Prusak, 59, of Yonkers, who scans documents at the county's records center, wore signs detailing some of the raises doled out in government in the past year, including those that legislators awarded themselves and their staff.
"They're getting good raises," the 24-year county employee said, but "they don't want to give us nothing. We don't have to eat?"

Reach Liz Anderson at or 914-696-8538



Some initiatives mentioned in County Executive Andrew Spano's speech:• Giveaways of energy-efficient lightbulbs April 21 and 22 to mark Earth Day.• A new tracking system for county police cruisers.• A new digital license plate scanner for police.• A volunteer "technical rescue team" to respond to construction accidents.• A new nonprofit agency to help develop and manage affordable-housing projects.• A pilot project to link more minorities in six communities to available health care.• A switch to environmentally friendly cleaning products in county buildings.• A face-lift for the county's Web site,• MetroCard system for county Bee-Line buses.• A two-year "performance management initiative" to evaluate the work of county departments and contract agencies.• Efforts to reduce paper and paperwork.• "Tele-medicine" system linking the county jail by video conference with Westchester Medical Center.• Video arraignments for jail inmates.


Response to State of the County

Hello I’m George Oros, Minority Leader of the Board of Legislators. On behalf of my five Republican colleagues, it’s my pleasure to speak with you about the State of our County.
It’s hard to believe a year has passed since the county executive’s last address but, unfortunately, not much has changed. Spending continues to run rampant, property taxes continue to rise and most of the initiatives we have proposed to streamline county government and help middle class families remain regrettably ignored.
You may recall the media accounts last year that Westchester is the highest taxed county in the nation – higher than Palm Beach County or Beverly Hills. You may have also heard from this administration excuses and misplaced blame rather than solutions. In the past eight years County taxes have increased an astounding 54% - double the rate of the cost of living. Today County government is grabbing $348 more from every man, woman and child in our County than just eight years ago. That’s nearly a month worth of groceries or 175 gallons of heating oil.
The administration sees nothing wrong with spending taxpayers’ hard earned money on such frills as a GPS systems for golf carts, but doesn’t see fit to remove the sales tax on clothing under $110. Some expenditures just jump out at you. For instance, as a result of welfare reform in the mid 1990s, the County’s welfare rolls have dropped over 30%, yet our Social Service Department has more employees than ever.
Earlier this year the county executive admitted he was out of answers on how to get a handle on taxes. Well, Mister County Executive we been proposing solutions for several years. In December we proposed 20 million dollars of spending cuts to the 2007 budget which you and the majority ignored. In each of the last four years, we offered to work with a private public partnership to identify areas of waste, duplication and overlap in County government. Will you join this year in that effort? We ask you and the legislature once again to join in increasing accountability for the millions of dollars that go through the Board of Acquisition and Contract without legislative approval. The Minority Conference has repeatedly offered and will continue to offer suggestions on how we can think outside the box. Maybe this year the majority will listen.
We can do better in other areas too. Last year’s election results demonstrate that people want and deserve more open, honest and ethical government. Currently we are developing an Ethics reform law to address the concerns about undue influence by big money campaign donors. The need for stronger checks and balances within the county to protect individuals, property owners, small businesses and municipalities from the dominance of county government continues. A proposed eminent domain protection law remains bottled up in Committee. The time to act is now. Likewise we will continue to be vigilant in protecting local government’s right of first refusal when the County deposes of surplus land.
Certainly we can do better in providing affordable housing. Westchester remains one of the most desirable areas to live and work, yet those who grew up here are forced to make their homes elsewhere due to a lack of housing options. Our members, joining with the business and housing community, are seeking more innovative ways to create such housing. We must go beyond the administration’s current measures that simply throw millions of dollars at contractors and developers while building few true affordable units. And let’s not forget - the surest way to make housing affordable is to control property taxes.
You deserve the peace of mind of a truly safe neighborhood, which is why twenty months ago we introduced legislation to prohibit any convicted pedophile or registered sex offender from residing within 2,500 feet of a county facility open to children.
These predators could strike at any time and their targets are society’s most vulnerable. Yet after nearly two years the administration and majority refuse to act. Meanwhile, our neighboring legislatures in Putnam and Rockland have adopted such laws. Westchester prides itself in being a leader among counties. It seems today the only thing this administration seeks leadership in is taxes.
With more time I could address concerns about the environment, education and child care, but our time allotment is limited. Do visit the Board of Legislators web site, or better yet contact me through the site. You can be added to our mailing list and receive updates on our initivies.
There’s a lot of hard work ahead for us but legislators Ursula LaMotte, Sue Swanson, Jim Maisano, Gordon Burrows, Bernice Spreckman and I are more than ready to meet the challenges. We work for you. We pledge to continue to offer alternatives to increasing taxes and business as usual. Our role in the minority is to be ever vigilant, to ask all the questions. Like many executives, this administration doesn’t like to be questioned or doubted. So when we do question and the administration responds with personal attacks rather than answers, keep that in mind. And ask the questions yourself. The major question before you tonight is simple: Can we do better as a County? We in the republican conference believe we can. Ultimately, however that answer is up to you. Thanks for listening. Please contact us. Your input and suggestions are always welcomed and appreciated.

George Oros

PEEKSKILL MAYOR JOHN TESTA'S STATE OF THE CITY ADRESS: For further information about the City's progress in economic development, neighborhood revitalization, downtown revitalization, waterfront redevelopment, code enforcement and quality of life initiatives, infrastructure improvements, business growth, historic preservation, and open government, read Mayor Testa's complete State of the City Address, which is available by clicking this link.*


ON POINT ON PEEKSKILL: Every Tuesday at 8PM chanel 15 (Peekskill only)Hosted by: DARREN RIGGER

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All articles re-printed in this blog from the North County News are with the permission of Bruce Apar Publisher and Editor-in-Chief.

BAZZO 03/25/07

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