Thursday, April 17, 2008

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Advocate
Richard Blassberg

Paul Feiner And Joan Gronowski Get The Ball Rolling

Last Monday’s joint press release from Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner and Yonkers City Councilwoman Joan Gronowski informing the Westchester Community that they were putting together a “Citizen’s Committee To Look Into Abolishing County Government,” was music to the ears of nearly every County resident.

Gronowski and Feiner, citing the fact that some 75 percent of the $1.8 billion County Budget are mandates from the state and federal
governments, over which the County, by its own admission, has little, or no control, asked “Do we need to have this added level of bureaucracy?” We believe the answer is a resounding “No.”By recognizing the hardship that perpetuating County Government now poses
to many Westchester households, Gronowski and Feiner are demonstrating that they are truly public servants with courage and principle enough to do what’s right by their constituents. We are particularly pleased that they are two independent Democratic voices who are standing up to the likes of Larry Schwartz, Andy Spano, Bill Ryan, and the multitude of mutual back scratchers that inhabit
148 Martine Avenue, White Plains. Under the diabolical control of Deputy County Executive Larry Schwartz, County government has grown into an insatiable, greedy monster.

County government is, really all about Larry Schwartz & Company. Nothing significant happens without his approval. The County Legislature, for the most part, is merely his rubber stamp. That’s why we have been paying tens of millions of dollars more for garbage hauling, and dealing with a company that the City of New York refused to do business with. Most of the legislators are directly, or indirectly, indebted to Larry for financial aid to their campaigns, for employment of spouses and/or relatives, etc.

Nearly three months ago, the front page of the January 24th issue of The Guardian bore the headline, “Perhaps The Time Has Come,” an issue in which our editorial commentary, In Our Opinion, discussed the “quiet appointment of a $55,000-a-year lobbyist by the Westchester County Legislature.” We declared, “Once again, that not-so-august body of local politicians has effectively dared the hard-working, taxpaying citizens of Westchester to seriously consider the possibility of forcing a referendum to abolish County Government.”

We questioned why it was necessary for both the County Executive and the Board of Legislators to each be hiring their own lobbyists to work the halls of the State Legislature, asking, as were many County taxpayers, if “people who are handsomely paid for their full and part-time positions in County Government, are no longer capable of speaking to their legislators in the Assembly and Senate themselves?” We went on to point out that, in reality, the County Executive and the County Legislators were not lobbying on behalf of their constituents’
interests so much as they were lobbying for their own.

County Government is not particularly well-regarded. There’s a cumulative impression that both the County Executive’s Office,
with their multiple trips to China, and the Board of Legislators, greedily grabbing for all the money they can get, are really all just in it to line their pockets and build their pensions at taxpayers’ expense. The County Government is badly broken. The legislators are no check or balance on the dictates and the power-lust of a Larry Schwartz, particularly with a Democratic super-majority of 13 to 4, most of whose campaigns were heavily supported by an account fundraised for, and controlled by, Schwartz in the name of Andy Spano.

It’s hard to imagine a deputy county executive, anywhere in New York State, more passionately disliked by rank and file county employees than Larry Schwartz. It’s equally hard to imagine a county government that is more obtrusive in the daily lives of its residents, or more interfering in their right to meaningfully vote. At a time when most of the 275,000 households in the County are struggling to make ends meet, paying $3.50 for gasoline, attempting to make their mortgage payments and their kids’ tuition, our election commissioners, part-time employees, Reggie LaFayette and Carolee Sunderland, lobbied for, and got, $28,000 raises, bringing their salaries to more than $155,000 each; twice the salary of their counterparts in Nassau County. One thing we know, however, all that money didn’t insure honest election outcomes.

Paul Feiner and Joan Gronowski will be holding a meeting on April 30 at 7:30pm at the Grinton I. Will Library, 1500 Central Park Ave., Yonkers, to discuss strategy, and to locate people willing and able to research the steps taken by Connecticut residents to eliminate the burden of county government. We encourage concerned citizens from around the County who have had enough, to join the movement. We believe that those in public office will soon recognize the need to join Paul and Joan as their constituents will quickly realize that they are either part of the solution or part of the problem.

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