Sunday, December 09, 2007


Dear Readers:

When I wrote my first column(In the NCN) on the upcoming County budget, I received a phone call from one of our Legislators complaining that I was off base. First he told me the County was not the number one highest taxed in America but it was third (hooray). Still nothing to be proud of. He had me thisclose to believing he was trying to tighten the budget. God, am I a fool. After reading the article below, I now know this not to be true. After just granting themselves raises and staff increases recently, they wish to do this. Every candidate for County Legislator ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility. To even propose this new raise puts the lie to that platform. They knew the pay scale when they ran. If it was not enough they should have stayed in the private sector. If they find it offensive by what I am writing then the can consider that I am offended!!!!

I guess it is costly to find new ways to separate us from our money and remove choices from our lives. Last year they added 70 people to the county payroll, this year they wish to add 77 more. Ladies and gentlemen we are being taken for a ride. On Monday 12/10/07 they will vote on this. Lots of notice they have given us. This is not what we voted for. Even though this is not much notice, if you read this before the vote, e-mail Mike Kaplowitz (, George Oros ( , Bill Burton ( and Bill Ryan ( and tell them this will not stand.


Legislators take up budget package that includes raises for board leaders
(Original publication: December 9, 2007)

WHITE PLAINS - Westchester County legislators will begin deliberating tomorrow on a budget package that includes thousands of dollars in raises for county board leaders.
The budget debate comes after a week of criticism over the lack of detail in the board's proposal - details revealed Friday to include more than $200,000 in stipends for board committee chairs, which would nearly doubling the stipend for county board Chairman William Ryan to $75,200.
That's on top of Ryan's base salary of $49,200 - for a total of $124,400 a year.

Ryan said his current total salary of $89,000 is not commensurate with the post's responsibilities and needs to move closer to that earned by the county executive. That position carries a $165,000 annual salary, which had been proposed to increase to $175,000, he said.
"The county executive and the county legislature are two co-equal branches of government. There's no reason why the leader of the legislature, who deals with the same problems and challenges, should be paid at only half the rate of the county executive," Ryan said. "It's a job that is full time and more."

Legislator Michael Kaplowitz, who chairs the board's budget committee, said he expected criticism over the raises.
"We understand that," Kaplowitz said. "From a timing standpoint, no one is trying to push anything through that isn't discussed and deliberated."

The budget proposal also calls for 3 percent raises for county commissioners and department heads. The raises, proposed by County Executive Andrew Spano, include increases of nearly 3 percent for Spano and County Clerk Timothy Idoni - but not until Jan. 1, 2010.
"It's deserved," said Susan Tolchin, chief adviser to the county executive. "It's in keeping with the rate of inflation."

The county board's compensation package was included in details provided by legislators Friday following a vote by the rules committee to recommend in favor of the spending package.
The League of Women Voters had criticized the Board of Legislators last week for releasing budget summary documents that lacked itemized listings and incomplete numbers.
Kaplowitz attributed that to a typographical error that was corrected with more detailed documents being provided Friday.

He added the new document corrected another error - the dollar figure for compensating board officers, which reflects increases for the coming year.
According to the package approved by the rules committee, Ryan, as board chair, gets the biggest raise by increasing his stipend from $40,000 in the current budget to $75,200 in the proposed 2008 county spending plan.

The base salary for the county's 17 legislators remains at $49,200.
Kaplowitz said the increase in the chairman's stipend reflects the board's belief that he deserves compensation for his efforts, in keeping with the higher salaries of the county executive, the county clerk and other top officials.
In other proposed changes, committee chairs will receive stipends of up to $7,000, up from the current $6,000 figure.
However, the chairs of the legislature's budget and legislation committees, receive higher compensation. Those posts now call for $9,000 stipends, a figure that would increase to $12,000 under the pending proposal.

Other bumps in stipends would include the board's vice chair, and majority and minority leaders, whose stipends would increase from $9,000 to $15,000.
Deliberations on the 2008 budget proposal begin tomorrow, when the full board of legislators could vote to approve the package.

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


Dear Readers:

The following is another article realted to the budget vote with a comment by another reader of the Journal News. This was so good I wish that I wrote it.


Westchester legislature release budget details, but questions remain
(Original publication: December 7, 2007)

WHITE PLAINS - Westchester lawmakers, responding to criticism, have released new details about their budget, but questions remained yesterday about how forthcoming they have been about the use of taxpayer dollars.

The Board of Legislators posted on its Web site additional information about its operations, including a mission statement, organizational chart and a tally of staff positions. The new information goes beyond what was included in the county's proposed 2008 budget documents.
"We wanted to boost the level of detail and provide it to the public prior to what is expected to be a vote on the budget next week," said Board Chairman William Ryan, D-White Plains, in a press release.

Yet the release and Ryan's explanation for why it was not originally included in the budget that was unveiled last month by County Executive Andrew Spano left critics dissatisfied.
Mary Beth Gose, president of the League of Women Voters of Westchester, acknowledged the board's efforts but also questioned the limited scope of the new information.
Gose pointed out that the tally of staff positions contains only the current roster and what is projected for 2008. It does not go back to the 2006 budget, when the legislature had a much smaller staff.

"I think they should be accountable because there has been a lot of changes in the staffing," Gose said. "They should provide an accounting for all three years."
It was criticism from Gose and the League of Women Voters that first sparked the board to release the new information. In a statement made public Monday, league officials criticized the legislature for not being "transparent" in its spending because it failed to provide such information as the number of people it employs and the amount of money it spends on salaries.
Ryan, when told of the league's criticism, stressed that the county budget documents were prepared by the Spano administration and that he too was not satisfied with the level of detail.
"After reviewing the county executive's proposed budget for 2008, the legislators determined that they wanted it to reflect greater detail about our operations," Ryan said in the press release issued late Wednesday.

Ryan's explanation irritated Spano administration officials, who argued that they simply printed the budget information given to them by the legislature.
"The Board of Legislators is a separate branch of government," said Deputy County Executive Larry Schwartz. "We recognize and respect that. When it comes time to preparing and submitting the county budget, all we do is follow the board's instructions and directions as to what to include."

A check of previous county budgets indicated that until 2006, the budget documents contained detailed information about the board's spending, including staff counts, mission statements and salary expenses. Starting with the 2006 budget - the first one drafted during Ryan's tenure as chairman - much of that information disappeared.

"That was Bill Ryan's request," said former Westchester Budget Director Kathleen Carrano, who has since retired and is living in Florida. "He was doing a restructuring of the board, and he didn't want titles or numbers of positions in there to limit his flexibility."
Reached on his cell phone yesterday, Ryan continued to insist that the board provided more information to the Spano administration than was printed in the budget documents.
He blamed "mechanics within the Department of the Budget" for the omissions.
Ryan also said lawmakers, in their new release of information, decided to only include the current and projected 2008 staff rosters because the legislature was reorganized early this year, making comparisons difficult.

"The spreadsheet was so large that we just said, 'Everybody knows that we just went through this major reorganization, and everybody knows that the staffing level jumped up,' " said Ryan, acknowledging the board added 17 new staffers earlier this year.
The squabble over the legislature's spending comes as lawmakers head toward final approval Monday of Westchester's 2008 budget. Yesterday, Minority Leader George Oros, R-Cortlandt, proposed cutting $16 million in spending from the $1.78 billion fiscal plan that Spano proposed.
Oros said much of the cuts would come from eliminating 28 positions that are either vacant or were set to be added to the payroll under Spano's budget.

If approved, the cuts would reduce the proposed increase in the property-tax levy to 1.4 percent from the 4.7 percent figure called for in Spano's budget.
Democratic lawmakers, however, have said they are looking to make only about $8 million in cuts before the vote to adopt a budget on Monday.

Reach Glenn Blain at


This is our county legislature hard at work. Exacting every last possible dime from your pockets for programs designed to crown yet more cronies or to respond to some perceived social injustice by a handful of noisy misfits hell-bent on making all of society pay for their personal uncommfortableness. We get mobile shredders plying the neighbors...for what? And why? Someones's "good" idea is the perfect example of government folly. And a personal insult to the people who must finance such a ridiculous idea. Theis is but a singular example...nor is it the most egregious. We have a gay liason director to the tune of $72,000 plus benefits...why? Why is such a group so entitled to singular financing and demanding of approval from the rest of us? Differences are a fact of life. County government does not exist to blur such human distinctions. A "liason" is an individual whose public crowning is the end result of public crowing by a minute group of noisy, ever-wounded souls who fanciy themselves and their societal situation as uniquely special...which they are not. Why this rush to slam shut the Indian Point plant that provides us with the needed energy to power large portions of the county in an environmentally safe fashion...and doing so with nary a thought of replacement capacities? Perhaps this "issue de jeur" so many other imaginative the result of another handful of wierdly wired activists determined to corral us in line and tattoo us all as ill-informed asses who are quite incapable of seeing their so-called reality. Why was the recent budget proposal so opaque? I thought government operated in the full sunlight of the citizenry? The canopy erected by the county leadership is a woeful attempt to prevent legitimate scrutiny of government policies and actions. Apparently, citizens are NOT permitted to examine the machinations of warped, self-indulging, and condescending county leaders. The "We know best" attitude so prevalent in rhetoric and in action sugggests a genuine belief that the citizens of this county are hardly a force to be reckoned with. That is no longer the case. Westchester's dubious distinction as one of the highest taxed counties in the entire nation is an "award" we intend to shuck. So, it's time for a shake-down of a different sort. Those comfortable, easy-spending rogues who have nestled themselves and their sympathizers into a snug situation should be prepared for a new reality...of which they shall not be a part. Thanks for crossing the line so made that task that more immediate and deserved. And more energized.

Posted by: DenisIan on Fri Dec 07, 2007 8:54 am


After the election, buyer’s remorse

By Anthony Bazzo

The elections are over, our County Legislators are in session and our wallets and liberties are in jeopardy. Under discussion is the banning of trans-fats and calorie counts in restaurants, a 4.7% tax increase, 70 new staff positions in County Government, and $2 million to purchase rides at Playland, among other things. Remember, before any of the above came into play, we already had the privilege of being the highest taxed county in America. There oughta be a law. Instead, there are lawmakers in our County seat who can’t control spending -- except it’s our money they’re spending.

Less than three weeks past Election Day, I already have buyer’s remorse. Legislator Michael Kaplowitz, who heads the Budget Committee, said he will work hard to keep the tax increase below 4 percent. Legislator Kaplowitz was re-elected to do better than that. So far, only Legislator George Oros has it right, when he said: "My top concern is that we still have not taken any steps to look at eliminating overlap and duplication. The question becomes: Why are we even doing some of the things we are doing?” Of the 70 new staff positions proposed in Westchester County government, about one-third of them are for child care services while three are for County police.

Who are we hiring now? What are the other 45 new positions and why are they necessary? It would be wise for Legislator Kaplowitz to consider Legislator Oros's concerns before signing off on any new budget. Among reasons offered by County Executive Andy Spano as to why his budget includes a 4.7 percent tax increase is that sales tax revenue is $5 million below projections. I find it hard to believe that this discovery was only noticed now, and conveniently after the election. I believe the truth lies in the fact that nobody in County government wanted us to know this before the election. Hence, my pangs of buyer’s remorse. Why were the tax hike and the higher cost of child services not discussed before the elections? The local media fell on their collective swords in not pressing harder the sitting officials running for office on the upcoming budget prior to the election. This is not the first year this has happened. This must change!

Don’t tell me what to do! Finally, in regards to the behavioral policies proposed, the first duty of any government is the protection of its citizens. The intent behind writing this law was to protect us against outside forces and nefarious individuals among us. Now the government wants to protect us from ourselves. Personal responsibility has been substituted by government intrusion. Since the power to govern is by consent of the governed, when it comes to the government’s interference in my personal life, I do not consent! I have not now nor will I ever consent to a government whose duty is to save me from my weaknesses. We are responsible for our own actions and their consequences, good or bad. We do not need people, trying to justify their living on the taxpayer dole, to do this for us. This, too, must change.

This is my opinion, you may beg to differ.



Mandate this: Halt the hypocrisy!

By Anthony Bazzo

“[Westchester County Executive Andy] Spano said that to ease the county tax burden, the county must work with the state to reduce unfunded mandates," wrote Sam Barron in last week’s North County News (“County blames weak sales revenue for proposed 4.7 % tax hike,” Nov. 21, page 11). What is an "unfunded mandate"? It is when a politician further up the electoral food chain – federal, state or county government -- decides that some cause du jour in your community needs to be addressed. One example is Westchester County’s bicycle helmet law, which was passed without any money in the budget to enable it. No problem. Taxpayers like you can be counted on to pay not only for the required helmet, but, through taxes, to also pay for the resources required to enforce the law.

First, the lawmakers will either pull at your heart strings or scare the beejeebies out of you to get your attention. Then they will tell you the remedy is money or regulation (which in the end costs money to enforce). They will then pass some feel-good law or regulation, say thank me very much (which you may choose to do by returning them to office). The hitch is that the cost of these measures is passed down that same food chain to your local officials to find the funding. By doing so, the blame goes to those public servants who must increase a tax, fee or surcharge to fund a mandate they may not even support, while the higher elected official takes the credit for caring. You the taxpayer, however, are stuck with the bill.

I've said it before and will say it again, "Hypocrisy, thy name is Westchester County government." At the same time we are told by our county executive that lawmakers must reduce unfunded mandates, didn’t he campaign for the same lawmakers who enact the unfunded mandates? Not to mention Westchester County itself keeps proposing unfunded mandates, such as the helmet law and ridiculous notion that fast food restaurants MUST list calories on a menu. Anybody who creates a situation and then complains about it reminds me of the person who murders his parents, only to beg for mercy on the grounds he is an orphan. Let us not let off the hook, either, local media that also complains about unfunded mandates, then come election season endorses those who enact them.

So now County Executive Spano says, "We must work with the state to reduce unfunded mandates." You don't work with those people, you campaign against them, like Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi did, successfully. You vow to not support any candidate who passes laws or regulations that increase the tax burden on the county you serve, party loyalty be damned. You do not reward officials who enact those mandates by endorsing or campaigning with them. To do anything less is hypocrisy, which unfortunately seems to be the name of the game with our incumbent County leadership. Lawmakers, listen closely: If you can't fund it (without increasing the cost to your residents), don't enact it. It is that simple. If you stop being a hypocrite, maybe the people will stop being so cynical.

This is my opinion, you may beg to differ.


George Oros
Legislator, 1st District

December 6, 2007 Contact: George Oros
Tel: (914) 995-2828

Taxpayers Must Be Told the Truth:

Minority Conference challenges County Executive and BOL to come clean on county budget and tax toll it has taken on property owners

The Minority Conference of the Board of Legislators issued a challenge to County Executive Andrew Spano and the Democratic majority of the Board of Legislators to level with taxpayers about the proposed budget and accompanying tax increases in recent years that have forced many residents to flee Westchester.

“Next week, the majority of the board seems satisfied with supporting a $1.78 billion spending plan that will raise taxes about four percent but we propose legitimate cuts that reduce the tax hike close to zero,” said Minority Leader George Oros (R/Cortlandt). “Contrary to what the majority maintains, increasing taxes above the cost of living and the Consumer Price Index is not reasonable or acceptable. It’s a slap in the face to hard working taxpayers who deserve better.”

In the past eight years county taxes have skyrocketed an unconscionable 54%. Holding a page from the Bureau of Labor Statistics website Oros showed that the Consumer Price Index for the New York City metropolitan region since 2000 had increased less than half the tax rate. Using his own real property tax bill, he illustrated that while county taxes may only be about 15% of a homeowners’ overall tax bill, the county levy of a homeowners’ municipal tax bill is well over 40% and has grown by 50%.

“It’s vital to educate the public of the adverse impact the county budget has on their way of life,” Oros said. “The legislature must get serious about eliminating duplication and overlap in county government, about halting an ever expanding bureaucracy so taxpayers can get relief.”

At the news conference Oros displayed a chart showing that the County workforce had increased by 318 since 2005, “an eight percent growth in plain old bureaucracy.”

“The tax burden can be cut,” Oros noted. As evidence he cited two of the communities he represents: Cortlandt which has averaged a zero increase the last ten years and Peekskill a zero the last three years.

“We have shown it can be done at the County as well,” he said. For the 2007 County budget the Republican minority proposed $20 million of spending cuts, including not funding 77 new unneeded jobs. For the last four years, the minority caucus has offered to work with a private/public partnership to identify areas of waste, duplication and overlap in county government. Similar to the state’s recent Berger Commission and the federal military base closing commission, this partnership’s recommendations would have to be accepted and enacted.

“Everybody seems to get it except this administration,” Oros said. He credited the Westchester County Association and Governor Spitzer for setting up working groups this past year on eliminating duplication and overlap of government programs and services.

“This is something our members first called for in 2003 and in 2008 we renew the call,” Oros proclaimed. “If the County Executive is unwilling, our Board should be willing to do it on our own.”

“We have been consistently offering real alternatives and an olive branch to work in a true bi-partisan manner to get taxes down,” Oros said.

The “counter proposed taxpayer friendly budget” as it was labeled is being presented four days before the scheduled Board vote on the budget “in order to increase the dialogue and see if in a bi-partisan fashion we can’t rescue the taxpayers.”

“The County Executive stated when he released the 2008 budget ‘no one wants to raise taxes’ our colleagues state they don’t want to raise taxes,” said Oros. “Well here is their chance to live up to their words.”

This year, among the cuts identified by the minority caucus that would bring the tax hike to about 1 percent, are: not filling any vacancies; and doing away with the Mounted Police and the Tax Commission.

Oros, who noted he was speaking on behalf of his Republican colleagues Sue Swanson, Ursula LaMotte, Jim Maisano, Gordon Burrows and Bernice Spreckman, said the Minority Conference was giving their colleagues sufficient time to study and digest its counter budget proposal prior to the board’s scheduled adoption of the budget on December 10.

“The time is long overdue for the county to level with taxpayers,” Oros said. “Somehow many of our municipal governments are able to function smoothly without raising taxes every year.”



County pushing recycling education and enforcement
(Original publication: November 29, 2007)

YONKERS -Starting Feb. 1, Westchester homeowners are going to need see-through plastic garbage bags to take out their trash - or they're going to find it left on the curb.
County Executive Andrew Spano yesterday announced increased education efforts and enforcement of the county's recycling laws, including closer monitoring of what garbage haulers are delivering to the county's burn plant and an eventual refusal to accept anything that's on Westchester's list of recyclables.
"We've been proud of our record," Spano said yesterday inside the county's materials-recovery facility in Yonkers. "We're up to about 47 percent, which is ... pretty good. But if you compare it to places like California, which is 75 or 80 percent, we're not anywhere where we should be."
Spano said that when the mandatory source-separation law went into effect in 1992, Westchester was recycling only about 9 percent of its trash.
In the first eight years that the law was in effect, recycling rates grew to 42 percent.
Already some of the municipalities that have attended county workshops on the recycling law have been putting "OOPS!" stickers on individual trash cans that contain recyclables such as plastic milk containers, tin cans and glass bottles. The sticker lets residents know such trash won't be picked up after Feb. 1, 2008, and notes that more information is available at or by calling the Recycling HelpLine at 914-813-5420.
Starting in January, the county will begin to accept recyclables from private haulers at the materials-recovery facility.
"Providing this option will not only be more convenient for private haulers, it will generate additional revenues to support the county's ongoing waste management and recycling initiatives," said Spano. "I am very pleased that private haulers as well as municipal officials are on board with this effort."
Many residents like Bob Walters of Yonkers long ago bought into the source-separation scheme. They may just need to tweak their trash routines to make sure they comply in the future.
"I use white plastic bags and a can to put my trash out now," Walters said yesterday. "I guess I'll have to invest in some clear plastic bags. It shouldn't be a problem."
Enforcement officials from the county's Solid Waste Commission and the Department of Environmental Facilities will be randomly checking everything from curbside pickup to loads traveling on Westchester roads.
Haulers, private or municipal, will need to be able to see trash through clear plastic to determine if there are recyclables incorrectly put out with the trash.
Individual fines can be assessed at $250 for a first offense, increasing for each infraction; and county officials are looking at updating those amount, which were set in 1992.
Spano said the extra work will necessitate two new positions in the environmental-facilities department, but didn't have estimated costs yesterday. The extra spending is expected to be made up with enforcement revenue, he said.
The county has already contacted 13,000 businesses as well as school districts, hospitals and municipalities about the increased enforcement.
Postcards with the same details that are on the "OOPS!" stickers will soon go out to every Westchester household.
"We really have to do this," Spano said yesterday. "It protects the environment and it also brings money into the county to make sure we can do more environmental projects."
Spano said Westchester villages and towns understand their roles and are ready to do their part to get more recyclables out of the waste stream.
County solid waste officials said already there has been an increase in materials coming to the recycling center, just since municipalities started educating their residents.
Spano knew better yesterday than to bore a class of Fox Meadow Elementary School second-graders with the legal side of recycling law, so he just listened as the youngsters shouted out what was recyclable and why saving natural resources was important.
"This is a smart group," Spano said of Kim Assatly and Mary Delnagro's students, some of nearly 5,000 kids and adults who visit the center on field trips annually.
Assatly said her own kids remember their visits to the center and what they learned about protecting the environment.
"We come every year," she said. "It helps them to understand why they need to recycle. They really can go home and explain why it's important."
Reach Greg Clary at 914-696-8566 or


Dear Readers:

First we will now have the helmet police. Next we will have the Calorie police. We already have the smoking police. Now we are set to have the garbage police. Only government sactioned gargbage will be allowed. No wonder they want an increase in pay. It cost a lot of money to mind our business. The more they do the more I think it is time to disband County government. They have too much time on their hands. I think it is time for them to get a life and leave ours alone. Am I the only one who thinks they are going too far?



Westchester government should take its health micromanagement act on the road

By Phil Reisman
(Original publication: December 2, 2007)

Eureka! I've got it!
I've finally discovered a worthwhile role for Westchester County government. We should ship the whole kit and caboodle to Memphis.
According to, Memphis ranks first on a list of the 20 most obese American cities. In Memphis, 34 percent of the people are considered overweight.
Some of that can be blamed on the great Southern fried food they eat there. Nothing like a pork chop. Pork chop, whoa - just say those deadly words in the Michaelian Office Building and the sprinkler system goes off.
County Executive Andy Spano and his posse of fat-busters on the Board of Legislators should take their anti-obesity act on the road. While they may be incompetent when it comes to cutting the fat off the supersized budget, they can't be beat when it comes to browbeating the blubber off their constituents.
They've sponsored "no junk food" weeks, held nutrition summits and banned trans fats. And now they're poised to pass a law that would require chain restaurants to list the calorie counts on every menu item.
Forget about the discriminatory aspect of the law. What's fascinating is the concept that anybody drooling for a Big Mac is going to carefully study the possible adverse effects such fare has on body mass index, and then, after seeing the light on their gluttonous ways, would say, "On second thought, I'll have a salad."
What will they think up next? Maybe they will come up with tofu subsidies for pre-K breakfast programs or ban doughnuts in county police cars. Or maybe they'll sanction hot dog-free zones. Don't be surprised if their quackery leads them to wage a campaign against the hazards of secondhand cholesterol.
These guys are relentless. We should send them to Memphis.
And then onto the second fattest city, Birmingham, Ala., where they can confiscate the Double-Stuff Oreos. After that, they can march on Atlanta, Detroit and Kansas City until they've conquered all the fat cities. They can just keeping going down America's great chow line, badgering people at every Wendy's, Taco Bell and Friendly's - and never come back.
You may have noticed that three local eating establishments have recently made headlines because they are going out of business - the Thruway Diner in New Rochelle, Nathan's in Yonkers and the first Carvel ice cream stand in Hartsdale. None of these favorite haunts are known for dispensing health food. I mean, talk about calorie count. Are you kidding me?
Not that the killjoy county had anything to do with their impending demise. But it's almost as if there is some kind of voodoo at work. Perhaps it is the subliminal power of the controlling "nanny state" that's slowly destroying those beloved emporiums of greasy bacon and eggs, syrup-soaked flapjacks and foot-longs smothered with mustard and sauerkraut and, of course, Fudgie the Whale.
Long live the food that is bad for us. Save the whales!
You must understand that the county has an underlying motive for dispensing a wide array of warnings, public service admonitions and behavior-control laws. It's to create an ideal citizen, one that is as soft and malleable as Silly Putty.
This person is thin because he doesn't eat trans fats, pale because he doesn't patronize tanning parlors and nervous because of the prospect of identity theft. He wears a bicycle helmet, too, even when he's not riding a bike.
And one more thing. He must be a Democrat, but only a Democrat who votes for Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Now, look. Does any of this mean that obesity in America shouldn't be taken seriously? The answer is absolutely and emphatically "No."
It is a major problem here and everywhere. There's no reason to disbelieve Dr. Joshua Lipsman, the county health commissioner, who cited an alarming study last week that showed that one in three Westchester schoolchildren in certain grades are either overweight or on the verge of becoming overweight.
If that's true, then action must be taken.
But just once, I'd like an elected official to take a bold stand on physical education in the schools. Fitness programs vary from district to district, and some of them, I suspect, are abysmal.
The ethos of what Teddy Roosevelt called the "strenuous life" should be instilled in the schools.
Gym should be given three times a week to children in all grades. No one should graduate with a high school diploma without meeting the minimum requirements of fitness. Those requirements should not be easy.
It's not about handing out volleyballs but about running and doing calisthenics. Bring back gym uniforms, push-ups, cold showers and nasty, snarling gym teachers with bad breath.
Replacing Fast Food Nation with Pantywaist Nation isn't the answer to better health - that's the county's way. They can take it to Memphis.
The answer is breaking a sweat.

Reach Phil Reisman at or 914-694-5008.

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Bill Raymond of Frank and Lindy Plumbing and Heating and Domenic Volpe of Domenic's Cleaners have joined up with W.L.N.A.and Don Bennett to sponsor a coat drive for the Peekskill/ Cortlandt area. Benefactors of the clothing drive are-- Jan Peek Shelter, Peekskill CAP, Peekskill Area Health Center and the Salvation Army. Drop off sites for the clothing are-- Domenic's Cleaners in Peekskill, HyWay Cleaners on Westbrook Drive in Cortlandt and Village Cleaners in Montrose.

Call Domenic Volpe for any info to donate items at 914-737-9184



No tax increase for Peekskill, third year running
By Sam Barron

The Peekskill mayor presented Peekskill residents with what he hopes will be a nice gift for the holidays: a 2008 budget with a zero percent tax increase. This is the third year in a row that the city of Peekskill has not raised taxes in its budget, which passed 4-2 at the Peekskill Common Council meeting on Thursday, November 29. In order to achieve a zero percent increase, the Republicans on the Common Council voted to take more than $1 million from the $7 million in reserve, according to Deputy Mayor Cathy Pisani. The total operating expenditures for 2008 is $45.1 million.Mayor John Testa, Councilman Mel Bolden and Councilwoman Milagros Martinez, and Pisani, all Republicans, voted for the budget. Councilman Don Bennett and Councilwoman and mayor-elect Mary Foster, both Democrats, voted against the budget. Councilwoman Drew Claxton was not in attendance.The mayor decided to take an additional $500,000 from the fund balance to attain the zero percent tax increase. The city manager and comptroller, who crafted the budget, had already earmarked $500,000 to be taken from the fund balance. Peekskill’s tax assessment role was 3 percent less than what it was last year, which contributed to the need to dip into the fund balance. Peekskill Democrats opposed the budget because they did not think it was smart to dip into the fund balance, and were concerned that the city will not fill two vacant police positions. “It’s not a smart budget,” said Foster. “If we had done a 4.5 percent tax increase, we would’ve been able to keep the two cops and not strip reserves.”The budget does not add any new positions. The city transferred money budgeted for an administrative position in the Department of Public Works to a new labor position in the DPW. In addition to the two departing police officers, a vacant firefighter position will not be filled. Mayor Testa was proud of once again delivering a zero percent tax increase to residents.“We used additional fund balance funds,” said Testa. “We used tough economic and fiscally conservative policies.”“One reason we can post zero percent tax increases is because we've been so disciplined,” said Testa. “All by themselves, the benefits of strict discipline have produced enough financial rewards to help defray a several percent tax increase,” he says.Testa said that Peekskill’s recent increase in residential development allowed the city to have long term fiscal policy to keep taxes low. Testa said that not adding positions is part of that plan.The city currently has $6 million in the reserve fund and no longer borrows against anticipated tax revenues. The mayor expects the city will generate enough money to fill the $1 million taken from the reserve fund.With the Democrats set to take power, Testa said if the Democrats are smart, they can keep tax increases low. “Hopefully they will continue to keep taxes low,” said Testa. “They made quite a few promises; it’s up to them to decide how to pay for it.”Testa said one of the reasons he wanted to keep the tax increase to a minimum is because of rising county and school taxes and energy prices.Foster said she voted against the budget because she did not think it was right for the mayor to take from the fund balance after the Common Council passed a bill saying they couldn’t take more than 20 percent from the fund balance. Testa said that Foster has it wrong and that the fund balance policy is that the city is to have 20 percent in the designated fund balance, and what they did is not in violation.The resolution passed at the September 10, 2007 Common Council meeting states that 20 percent of operating expenditures must remain in the unreserved fund balance in the General Fund, excluding internal transfers to the Capital Fund and non-recurring extraordinary expenditures such as judgments or major repairs to the City’s infrastructure. Foster said that since Peekskill’s tax assessment role was 3 percent short then what it was last year, it would have been fiscally prudent to increase taxes. “When we have a zero percent tax increase, we’re decreasing our revenue by 3 percent,” said Foster. “Last year we collected $13.8 million. This year we collected a million less. What the mayor did was take that million out of the fund balance.”Foster believes that the mayor was not interested in good government, but in playing politics. The mayor-elect charged that the Mayor put forth a zero percent tax increase so that when she takes office, she will be forced to raise taxes and will look bad as a result.“Of course it was their strategy,” said Foster. “I have absolutely no doubt.”She said that in three to five years, the city will be burdened with having to pay the fund balance back. Testa accused Foster of being a flip-flopper when it comes to using the fund balance.“She’s changing her tune on the whole thing,” charged Testa. “She kept claiming we had too much fund balance. She’s flip-flopping before she even takes over as mayor.”Deputy Mayor Pisani disagreed with Foster that the city is reducing services, pointing out that they are adding a laborer to the Department of Public Works. “That position is one that is necessary,” said Pisani. “That will be a person that is on the job five days a week. We also laid off no one.”Pisani pointed out that the city still has $6 million in the reserve fund, and was able to eliminate $60,000 in consulting fees. “Mary Foster voted for a zero percent tax increase last year,” said Pisani. “You can’t double speak.”Councilman Bennett said he voted against the budget because it did not provide a replacement for positions in the fire department and police department.“They should’ve stayed in the budget,” said Bennett, who added that keeping those positions would have meant only a two to three percent tax increase. Testa defended the non-replacement of officers saying that the Peekskill Police force is still at its highest deployment, and it will not affect police services.


To the victors go the... bombs?

We don’t believe it’s an accident that town and city officials do not vote on their municipality’s budget until after Election Day. We believe there’s a reason for it. This setup allows for two things: 1) Voters can’t hold their elected officials accountable for the budget they assemble until the following election cycle; 2) Those elected officials who did not win re-election in the recent election can plant bombs for their opponents who will take office in January.What do we mean by “plant bombs”? Well, if you’re the mayor or the supervisor, and you will be leaving office in January, what incentive do you have for putting forth a responsible budget? Oh, of course you may feel a civic obligation to do what’s best for the taxpayers. But why not have a little fun? Afterall, you and your comrades who are parting from your seats get to decide how much revenue the victors will have to work with. You set the table and walk away; you won’t have to eat, so who cares if there’s enough?So what are we talking about here? Peekskill just passed a budget with a zero percent increase. In order to do it, they used monies from the reserved fund and didn’t fill vacant positions, including two police officers.Now, if there’s anything we don’t need LESS of in Peekskill, it is police officers. Our men and women in blue do a great job and we need to maintain staffing levels in that department. We don’t suppose that was a shot at the new mayor, Mary Foster, who wanted to increase the number of officers when she took office? That will be tough to do when she’s starting out in January down two. It’s commendable to have a zero percent increase in taxes three years in a row. Certainly tax payers appreciate it. And Mayor John Testa is delivering on his promise. But the question is: at what cost? By not collecting any additional revenue at all—not even the cost of inflation—what sort of position is Peekskill going to be in next year, and the following one?To be fair, Peekskill has not cornered the market on this practice.

This sort of things happens all the time, everywhere.We believe that budgets should be passed by elected officials prior to Election Day, November 6. This would make our elected officials more accountable to voters. Unfortunately, state law does not require municipalities to pass their budgets until a month later. It’s no surprise that the laws are designed to benefit incumbents. We need our state representatives to champion this cause.


You can read my comments on these in the next issue of the NCN on sale Wednesday 12/12/07



Hi Andy,

Thank you for asking about the charter changes. I always appreciate the opportunity to share my views on this type of governmental initiative with our constituency.I mostly agree with what Legislator Hay is putting forth. I do have a couple of reservations though. I agree that all of our Commissioners should only serve the County. They should not be allowed to work for any other agency or corporation while employed by the County. They are the leaders of their particular department and as such need to be fully engaged and focussed on that job. All other non-contractual employees though, should be allowed to try and enhance their salaries as best they can when they are off the job and on their own time. Putnam County is not the military. We do not own our employees 24/7. Our employees work very hard at what they do and though we pay a fairly equitable wage to our non-contractual staff, it is not compatible to the enhanced salaries our Commissioners make. Many of our non-contractual staff have a need for that extra cash-flow that a second job might bring after hours. Let's be fair, in my profession (education) many lower administrative members tutor or provide services on the side to increase their bill paying potential. I have never heard a Board of Education demand that their principals or assistant principals not be employed elsewhere at the end of the school day.My other disagreement with Tony's charter change is the requirement to have our Highway Commissioner be an engineer. This will drastically limit the pool of qualified candidates for the position (when it becomes available) and will also force the County to hire someone who is skilled in the engineering area but may not be skilled in leadership, knowledge of heavy equipment, budgeting, all aspects of construction and most importantly, people skills. I want a Highway Commissioner who can lead his department and can handle the day to day running of the department. We already have very qualified engineers on staff for our use. Myself, I want a proven leader who knows construction, not engineering. I do agree with all the other components of the charter changes.

Thanks Andy and keep the dialogue going.

Sam O.

Susan's Restaurant 12 North Division Street, Peekskill, NY 10566 (914) 737-6624
Great Music, Great Food, Great People " Where you want to be"

Monday December 10th Gregg Westhoff's Westchester Swing Band

Don't forget to make your reservations early for Christmas Eve, New year's Eve and New Year's Day Brunch.

Mondays - Seafood Night 3 Course Seafood Menu $25

Tuesdays - Prime Rib Dinner $19.95 Classical Guitar with Tom Goslin

Wednesdays - Jazz Jam Hosted by Bob Meyer 8:30 PM *** Prix Fixe Dinner Available $25 With Wine $35***

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 griches who wish to take away Christmas. 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:















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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 12/09/07