Sunday, November 18, 2007



Dear Readers:

I want to wish you and yours a happy, healthy and safe Thasnksgiving. May your bounty be plentiful. Please take time to remember those who have died and are now sacrificing so you may be safe at home to enjoy this holiday.

P.S. In case you are wondering, i will be having a "Hillary Clinton" turkey dinner. It will have a lagre thigh and a left wing.
Dear Readers:

It is now time after the elections for your local and Westchester County Governments to announce their proposed budgets. They are all to a muncipality over the rate of inflation. As each of these elected officials running for office on a platform of fiscal responsibility in having budgets on or below the rate of inflation, I strongly urge you to keep your promise.

As these elected officials now make the budget process political by promises made to various constituants and groups in what they will fund or not and by how much, it is time for our municipalities to take the lead of Putnam County and have their budgets done before the election. In this matter the new budgets will be part of the decision making process when the voters cast their ballots. It is my hope the local media will champion whatever laws or charter changes necessary to make that happen. It is time to stop keeping the voters in the dark about their future.



You may add this to your blog, if you wish.

Our board met Friday and Saturday and got the supervisor's tax increase down from 5.3 to 3.3. This budget now goes before a public hearing on November 28, 2007 at Town Hall. The inflation rate for October was 3.5 % so the budget is now at below the rate of inflation. We had to not fill three positons in order to drop the budget and began the process of consolaidating departments. Why shoudl parks people stand idle in the winter and highway stand idle in the summer?. So we begin the process of getting our fine civil servants to do more for the taxpayers. We will have more info in the near future but we are going to dry to have an elected highway supt and a mini department of public works.

Councilman Nick Bianco
Dear Readers:

It is my pleasure to announce that you cna now read my NCN column on line(see NCN link below, then click columns). It is also my pleasure to annoounce that the NCN has a new blog section where you can comment on stories and columns (see NCN link below then click "Blog it").


Westchester lawmakers scrutinize staff increases
(Original publication: November 18, 2007)

WHITE PLAINS - Looking for ways to reduce a looming property-tax increase, Westchester lawmakers intend to look closely at the additional staffing proposed by County Executive Andrew Spano.
Members of the Board of Legislators, which is reviewing the $1.78 billion budget released Thursday by Spano, said they are concerned about the 70 new positions called for in the proposed spending plan and may look to trim that number.
"We'll look at every one," said Legislator Michael Kaplowitz, D-Somers, chairman of the board's Budget and Appropriations Committee. "For every one of those (jobs), we want justification."
The proposed increases, if approved, would bring the county work force to 4,879, according to Spano's budget. The 2007 budget, which was approved in December, had raised the number by 77.
Spano administration officials defended the staffing increases, arguing that most are designated for areas that directly influence public health and safety.
"If they weren't needed, necessary and justifiable, (Spano) would not have put them in the budget," Deputy County Executive Larry Schwartz said.
Schwartz also said that the 70-position figure is misleading because it measures staff increases from numbers in the 2007 adopted budget. About 20 of the new positions already were added to the county payroll during the year.
Overall, Spano's proposed budget represents a spending increase of 4.4 percent, or almost $75.5 million, from the 2007 budget. It calls for an additional $24.4 million - 4.7 percent - to be raised through property taxes.
Kaplowitz and other lawmakers have expressed confidence that they at least can trim the proposed tax increase to less than 4 percent.
Much of the new staffing sought in the budget is designated for the county's Department of Social Services, which has seen a dramatic increase in the number of child-welfare cases it must handle in the past two years. Spano's budget calls for 22 new staff members to be added to the agency.
The new positions are part of an $18 million increase in funding to the Department of Social Services, most of it dedicated to child-welfare programs.
Social Services Commissioner Kevin Mahon said high-profile child-abuse cases in New York City and the 2006 arrest of a Bedford elementary school principal on charges that she failed to properly report a suspected case of child abuse have raised awareness of the need to report such cases to the county.
As a result, the number of suspected cases reported to the agency has soared from about 4,500 a year to more than 6,000. The added cases also have caused the county's projected foster-care expenses to rise to about $80 million in Spano's budget, up $10 million from 2007.
Of the 22 new positions proposed for his department, Mahon said 11 would be child-abuse investigators or case managers.
"If we want to do it right, this is what's required," Mahon said. "We know the numbers are increasing, and we know how long it takes to do the job."
Other staff increases are proposed for the Department of Public Safety, Schwartz said. Among them are three new county police officers to patrol the county's transit system, including Bee-Line buses.
Still, some lawmakers remain skeptical.
"I am not seeing the justification," Board of Legislators Minority Leader George Oros, R-Cortlandt, said of the added staff positions contained in Spano's budget.
Oros said the county needs to examine the services it provides and whether they also are being provided by local governments or the state and federal governments.
"My top concern is that we still have not taken any steps to look at eliminating overlap and duplication," Oros said. "The question becomes: Why are we even doing some of the things we are doing?"
What's next for proposed '08 county budget

Reach Glenn Blain at or 914-694-5066.


Westchester weighs $2.2M plan to add two new rides at Playland
(Original publication: November 17, 2007)

RYE - Westchester County is weighing a $2.2 million plan to add two new rides at the Playland amusement park and buy an existing one that is privately owned.
The measure, now under review by the county Board of Legislators, would replace two privately owned rides that were removed earlier this year after the third death at the historic county-owned park in three years.
The county proposal also calls for allocating $118,000 to buy out the privately owned go-kart ride.
"From the sense of the members that I have spoken to on the committee, it does not seem that it's going to be a problem," said county Legislator Kenneth Jenkins, D-Yonkers, who chairs the county board's parks committee.
If approved in the coming weeks, the county would pay $1.7 million to buy and install the Yo-Yo Family Swing Ride and the Himalaya Music Express Ride, county parks department spokesman Peter Tartaglia said.
Tartaglia said some of the existing rides would be relocated as part of the plan so the new rides wouldn't be at the same place as the attractions that were removed - the Power Surge and the Mind Scrambler.
Both rides were owned by S&L Amusement, the same company that owns the go-kart ride that the county is seeking to buy.
The county announced it would seek to move away from having privately owned vendors operate rides at the waterfront park after the last fatality.
Two people were killed on the Mind Scrambler in recent years, starting with the May 22, 2004, death of 7-year-old Stephanie Dieudonne and, more recently, the June 29 death park worker Gabriela Garin, 21.
In another incident, Jon-Kely Cassara, 7, was killed on the Ye Old Mill ride on Aug. 3, 2005.
Two follow-up reviews of safety at Playland by amusement industry experts determined this year that conditions had improved significantly following the deaths.
Still, Tartaglia said a review of safety records played a large role in picking the proposed new rides.
"We did some investigating ourselves and there seems to be an overall good safety record with both rides," Tartaglia said. "Once again, some of this is that people have to follow the rules and regulations on the rides, too. So, some of it goes back to that."
According to the industry watchdog group, the two proposed rides have had their share of mishaps, although no fatalities were listed on the group's online database.
Rides similar to the Himalaya - a spinning ride on a sloped track - were responsible for at least 16 incidents since the beginning of 2000, according to
A patron suffered a broken arm on one ride at a Texas amusement park in 2005, the records show.
In two other incidents, five patrons were hurt when two Himalaya cars derailed in 2004 in Kentucky, and a rider suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung in Illinois in 2002.
However, those two accidents happened at traveling carnivals that featured portable versions of the rides, not a fixed version as Rye Playland would install.
The Yo-Yo ride, on which a chair dangling from a chain is raised and spins in a circle, was responsible for nine minor injuries over the same time span, the online database shows.
But five of those occurred when patrons were getting on or off and the ride was not in motion.
On two occasions, children suffered pinched fingers while on the ride, the records show.

Reach Jorge Fitz-Gibbon at or 914-694-5016.


Spano calls for an additional $24.4 million - 4.7 percent - to be raised through property taxes
(Original publication: November 16, 2007)

WHITE PLAINS - A "disappearing" stream of sales-tax revenue and rising child-welfare cases may cause Westchester taxpayers to fork over almost 5 percent more next year.
County Executive Andrew Spano yesterday released a $1.78 billion budget for 2008 that calls for an additional $24.4 million - 4.7 percent - to be raised through property taxes and increases Bee-Line bus fares by 25 cents.
"It's a good budget," Spano, a Democrat, said during a morning news conference. "We don't like to raise taxes, but I think that the money we're spending here is on appropriate things. ... We're cutting where we can cut, but we have very little leeway in a budget like this."
Because each of Westchester's cities and towns levies property taxes differently, it is difficult to predict the precise impact of Spano's budget on homeowners. Generally, about 15 percent of an average resident's tax bill goes to the county.
According to an estimate from the Spano administration, a person who now pays about $10,000 in total property taxes pays about $1,500 to the county. A 4.7 percent increase is about $70.
Spano's budget proposal, which now goes before the Board of Legislators for review, represents a spending increase of 4.4 percent, or almost $75.5 million, over the 2007 budget. It also increases county staff by 70 positions from the current budget and provides an additional $9 million to cover staffing and overtime at the county's prison system.
Legislators reacted cautiously to Spano's budget, with some, especially Republicans, expressing reservations about the property-tax increase.
"It's not good," said Board of Legislators Minority Leader George Oros, R-Cortlandt. "We have to get closer to zero than to 5 percent. The taxpayers cannot be constantly faced with this increase. ... It's above the rate of inflation, and we can do better."
Spano said much of the tax-levy increase - about $18 million - is needed to pay for child-welfare services, which the county is obligated to provide under state law.
Since 2006, the number of such cases handled by the county has increased by more than 1,400. To deal with that increase, Spano's budget adds 22 staff members in the Department of Social Services and five in the County Attorney's Office.
Social Services Commissioner Kevin Mahon said the 2006 arrest of a Bedford elementary school principal on charges that she failed to properly report a suspected case of child abuse raised awareness about the need to report such cases to the county.
"As reports go up, more protective services are required for those families and then, therefore, more kids come into care," Mahon said. "And that's really where the expense is."
Spano also warned that the county's sales-tax revenue, which accounts for about 28 percent of the money collected by the government, is not growing as fast as officials had hoped.
The proposed budget calls for only a 1.6 percent increase in sales-tax revenue from the $365 million that was projected in the 2007 budget. County officials already have admitted that actual sales-tax revenue for 2007 is expected to fall about $5 million short of that budget projection.
"I'll tell you why it's alarming," Spano said. "Our two major sources (of revenue) are property tax and sales tax. And one of them is disappearing ... I mean disappearing in terms of its growth. We're projecting more sales tax, but when you look at what's being built around here and what's coming online, you would anticipate more sales tax."
The bus fare increase, Spano said, was due largely to rising fuel and personnel costs. Without a fare increase, the county's property-tax levy would rise by an additional $500,000, he added.
Among riders, however, the proposed fare increase was not welcome news.
"That would hurt," James Roberts of Mount Vernon said as he waited for a bus in White Plains yesterday. He uses the Bee-Line at least three times a week. "That 25 cents would be a pain in the neck."
The Board of Legislators' Budget and Appropriations Committee is expected to begin its review of Spano's plan this morning. The board also has scheduled budget hearings, the first of which will be Nov. 28 in Mount Kisco.
Budget committee Chairman Michael Kaplowitz, D-Somers, called the budget a "good start" but expressed the hope that lawmakers could find more savings in the spending plan and reduce the tax increase. The committee will pay special attention to the staffing increases to see whether they can be trimmed, he said.
"We are just going to look at every single department and take out our pencils to see what we can do," Kaplowitz said.

Reach Glenn Blain at or 914-694


Banning trans fats
(Original publication: November 14, 2007)
Last year, when the Westchester County Health Department asked restaurants in the county to refrain from cooking with oils that contain artificial trans-fatty acids, hundreds of chefs and restaurateurs eagerly volunteered to comply with the request. The restaurant owners said that they were as concerned as health officials were about the ill effects of artery-clogging trans-fats. Those willing to comply wouldn't mind switching to oils that might cost a little more but would prove better for their customers' health.
Armed with this compliance, the Health Department declined to enact a ban and decided to focus its efforts on an education campaign that focused on cooking with healthful oils.
The problem is, the county was preaching to the converted.
About 650 of 3,000 eating establishments countywide agreed to give up the partially hydrogenated oils. It turned out it wasn't quite the "right'' 650.
"The majority of people who signed up were already using trans fat-free oils, while the ones who were using oils with trans-fats didn't switch," Heather McGill, spokeswoman for the Health Department, told the Editorial Board yesterday. "We kind of weren't reaching the group we had hoped to reach."
A new regulation
So now the department has proposed a new regulation, one that would ban the use of oils with trans fats from restaurants, cafes, office cafeterias and even mobile food carts. If the regulation is adopted, those who don't comply would be in violation of the county health code and could face fines.
It may be the first trans fat ban in the Lower Hudson Valley. In the summer, Putnam County asked restaurants to voluntarily eliminate trans fats, and about 50 out of roughly 375 pledged not to use the oils. Rockland County has, so far, not addressed the trans fats issue.
Westchester's proposed ban follows a similar ban that New York City adopted last year, after voluntary compliance failed there.
The Westchester County Department of Health will hold a public hearing on the matter tomorrow. Expect to hear from restaurant advocates who might argue that the law is burdensome and unnecessary. Trans fats are "a legal substance'' approved by the Food and Drug Administration, said Rich Stytzer, president of the Westchester and Rockland chapter of the New York State Restaurant Association, in a Monday news article.
Similar arguments were heard when Westchester banned smoking in bars and restaurants in 2003. It turns out that the smoking ban didn't hurt businesses; instead, it lured diners who like to taste their food "unsmoked.'' The effort has improved the health of many smokers and nonsmokers alike, including workers once subjected to second-hand smoke. We think a trans fat ban will be similarly successful when it comes to public health. It won't unduly burden business owners, and it will help diners keep heart-attack-inducing trans fats out of their arteries.

A Journal News editorial


I have reserved my cvomments for the upcomming issue of the NCN on sale Wednesday 11/21/07.

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Mondays - Seafood Night 3 Course Seafood Menu $25

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Thursdays - Open Mic with Leah Quinn 8:00 PM Half Priced Bottles of Wine

Sundays - Jazz Brunch with John Basile and Mike Goetz

Late Night Menu until 12:00 Midnight Thursday, Friday, and Saturday
Dear Readers:
This week I discuss the aftermath of the Putnam Valley elections. You can read my column on this topic exclusively on line(see link below)and in this weeks NORTH COUNTY NEWS on sale now. I am worth the seventy-five cents. Look for my column IN MY OPINION(page 10) in the editorial section. Better yet as this column is exclusive to the North County News on a regular basis and will be covering the local political scene, take out a subscription. Click on the North County News link below and go to Subscribe. Between this blog and The North County News you will have all the information to make a vote based on substance.
Dear Readers:
This gives me a chance to plug my business ATOM TAXI INC. As you are planning your holiday travel, instead of the headache of trying to find Airport parking, we do Airport Service to The Westchester County Airport(and ALL other airports) 24/7. Just call 1(914)879-6121 and my partner Tommy, will be glad to take you in our Airport Taxi. You will also be provided with a free copy of your local paper of record The North County News. If this is a business trip we also provide a professional receipt, just tell Tommy at the time of booking. The cost of a one-way trip to the Westchester County Airport is seventy dollars. To LaGuardia Airport the cost is Ninety-four dollars which includes all tolls. The cost to JFK and Newark Airports is one hundred-twenty-five dollars which also includes all tolls. We do not take credit cards, sorry.
Dear Readers:
It has come to my attention the difficulty in posting a comment on this blog. If you wish to comment, e-mail me at the link posted below, putting "Manifesto Reader" in the subject matter, and I will "cut and Paste" your comments myself. If you DO NOT wish your comments posted, but just wish to communicate with me, please make your wishes known in the e-mail.
LINKS: this a yahoo address make sure you put an underscore (-) between atom and taxi)
For immediate reply:

ON POINT ON PEEKSKILL: Every Tuesday at 8PM channel 15 (Peekskill only)
DON PETERS AND YORKTOWN: Every Tuesday at 10PM channel 74
Hosted by: DON PETERS
YORKTOWN WATCHDOG: Every Friday at 9:30 PM on channel 74
LEGISLATORS REPORT: Saturday and Sunday at various times on chanel 20
EDITOR'S NOTE: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 11/18/07

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