Week Two: The Dennis Alvarez-Hernandez Capital Punishment Murder Case

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WPCNR WHITE PLAINS LAW JOURNAL. By WPCNR Legal Affairs Correspondent, S. Richard Blassberg. April 18, 2003: Week Two of the Dennis-Alvarez-Hernandez trial (which ended last week, the trial was in recess this week), brought no surprises, either in content or direction.

Photo by WPCNR News

Prosecutors Patricia Murphy and George Bolen presented witnesses whose testimony firstly, confirmed what the Defense has stipulated from the start, that it was the Defendant who stabbed the victims, and secondly exposed the extent of the injuries and carnage encountered at the scene. To drive home the horror, for the benefit of the jurors, prosecutors employed a 4×8 foot model of Patricia Torres’ apartment. The model reportedly cost $6,000 and was admittedly not to scale.

Using the model, Yonkers Police Officer Elizabeth Wagner of the Criminal Identification Unit, a veteran of 18 years on the force, went from room to room describing for the jury what she found at the scene. Although she claimed to have examined “thousands of crime scenes” in her tenure with the department, she managed to become visibly choked-up before the intent jurors. Officer Wagner’s testimony on Friday morning followed two days of direct and cross-examination of Yonkers Police Detective Kraft.

Kraft, the lead detective in the case was questioned extensively by the Prosecution in an attempt to establish that the Defendant had sufficient presence of mind, several hours after the killings, to try to deny responsibility.

“The baby, she killed the baby. My wife she killed the baby,” Kraft quoted the Defendant as having told him upon their first contact. Additionally, prosecutors tried to elicit statements from the detective suggesting that the Defendant really wasn’t “out of it” following the incident.

The final witness of Week Two was Vincent Santiago, the 11-year-old who survived the stabbing, and whose eyewitness account placed the knife in Dennis Alvarez-Hernandez’ hand. However strategically timed before a one-week adjournment of the trial, and emotionally compelling as Vincent’s testimony may have been, nothing he said, in this observer’s opinion, cast any doubt on Defense assertions that the Defendant was simply too drunk to be capable of forming the intent necessary to have committed Murder One.

The role of the jury is to be the determiner of fact. The only real issue of fact to be determined is whether the Defendant was capable, in light of his intoxication, of forming the necessary intent. All of the evidence presented by the District Attorney’s Office through two weeks of trial has thus far failed, in this reporter’s analysis, to overturn the Defense position. However, that is not to say that the effort has failed to reach the emotions and sensibilities of the jury.

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The Great Race: GAII Pushing to Keep Pace in The Heavies of Indian Ocean

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WPCNR ADVENTURER’S LOG. From Cynthia Goss. April 16, 2003 28°46’S 39°32’E / Indian Ocean: The course of Great
American II
, the 53-foot trimaran sailing from Hong Kong to New York to challenge a 154-year-old passage record, has mirrored that of her nemesis Sea Witchthis week. Although Sea Witchsailed this passage well over a century ago, the wake of the clipper ship is very present to modern adventurers Rich Wilson (Rockport, Mass.) and Westchester’s own Rich du Moulin (Larchmont,
N.Y.) on Great American II.
“GAII and Sea Witch have been winding through each others’ wakes the past two weeks,” said crewmember du Moulin. “Imagine if we were here at the same time: we probably would have sighted each other. It’s a real race to the Cape (of Good Hope, Africa)!”

The Relentless Seas

But the path these two vessels have cut across the Indian Ocean is the only thing they have in common: thirty-two days out from Hong Kong, Great American II is reporting sea conditions unlike anything Sea Witch had encountered thus far.

For much of the week, GAII has been sailing in large, confused seas–and this boat and her crew have been getting thrashed.

“How can a boat survive such a beating?” queried Wilson in a satellite email. “GAII is all heart and incredible strength, but even she must have a limit. The forces that have been exerted on her since Saturday are overwhelming. Waves that shock the pontoon, that then shocks the rig: you wonder how could it possibly be still standing? How could that pontoon not have caved in yet?”

Sea Witch Passage Benign in Comparison

In stark contrast, in Sea Witch’s logs of January 1849, Captain Robert “Bully” Waterman recounted a string of pleasant days at this point in the journey, with lighter winds and clear weather.

The trimaran’s course is north of the clipper ship’s, but both vessels are neck-and-neck. The logged positions for day 32 are approximately
equidistant from the Cape of Good Hope.

Sea Water in the Oatmeal

This week’s reports from the GAII crew don’t focus as much on the horse race taking place over the span of thousands of ocean miles: Wilson and du Moulin are pushing as hard as they dare, trying to preserve their boat, and reporting on the rigors of daily life inside what Wilson has dubbed “a washing machine.”

Not the Place for Tender Technology

GAII has had a GPS failure, so they switched to the backup GPS antenna and were able to calculate their position. But every time a wave hits, the jarring motion causes them to lose their position.

“Of course, if you had a new stereo system, and every 60 seconds or so, hit the shelf it was on from the underside with a sledgehammer to make it jump off the shelf, after a while you wouldn’t expect it to work,” explains Wilson. “That is exactly what we have here. The GPS transceiver is next to my bunk. When these waves hit the underside of the cross beam, it lifts me right off the bunk, and it hurts: make no mistake, it hurts. So how could electronics possibly survive?”

Seepage and Seasoning

Even provisions are not safe from the conditions. When he went to get a snack, Skipper Rich Wilson found 1 inch of water in their snack bin; then found soup and oatmeal in 4 inches of water in another bin. Wilson went on deck to learn that water was forcing its way through the sealed port-side solar panel cable hole that comes in through the side of the boat.

“Every wave that was crashing tons of water into that side of the boat was forcing a drop through there,” he said. The drops accumulated until some provisions and pots and pans were swimming in seawater.

The Heavies

The crew on GAII did not expect to find these sea conditions so soon in
their passage. The size of the waves–reported from 10 to 18 feet, with
some waves swelling to 25 feet with crests–is not the sole problem: it is the waves’ confused patterns. Earlier in the week, Wilson reported seas that seemed to arise out of nowhere and descend on the boat.

The Cruel Capes

But the crew’s concern is not just focused on the present tumult onboard: they are wondering what lies ahead.

“It is known that off the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Agulhas that the
appalling seas can break ships in half,” reported Wilson earlier this week. “We are 1300 miles from there, but from our satellite imagery, we know that we are in an eddy of current that must be contributing to this confusion. If this is what it is like off Madagascar, what can it be possibly like off the Cape if we get the wrong weather?”

GAII’s next waypoint is the Cape of Good Hope, where she’ll turn north into the Atlantic Ocean and head for the finish line at New York’s Statue of Liberty.

Follow the Adventurers

Some 360,000 schoolchildren are following this adventure on a daily basis through the sitesALIVE! educational program–and the students are learning about math, weather, problem-solving, and other disciplines in the context of GAII’s live drama. Some of these students hope to be in New York when the vessel reaches its final destination. If GAII can beat Sea Witch’s pace, the boat will arrive in New York sometime the week of May 26.

* * *Tacks and Jibs

HOW THE PUBLIC CAN FOLLOW GREAT AMERICAN II: The website tracking the voyage of Great American II is http://www.sitesalive.com. Daily position reports and a Captain’s Log are posted on the site so classrooms, students, and families who purchase licenses can follow the progress of the boat. For
information, go to http://www.sitesalive.com/oceanchallengelive/.

The saga of GAII will also be published in a number of national, regional, and local papers, in the Newspaper In Education supplements, and tracked on the AOL@SCHOOL program (keyword: sitesalive).

Great American II’s Newspaper In Education participation is supported by the sitesALIVE Foundation. Established in 2002, the Foundation addresses teacher training in computer technology and funding for budget-constrained schools. The mission of the foundation is to enhance K-12 education by promoting the use of technology with real-world, real-time content from around the globe.
Some 360,000 students are expected to follow the voyage of Great American II.

For a chart showing the relative positions of Great American II and Sea
Witch, go to http://www.sitesalive.com/ocl/private/03s/pos/ocl3position.html

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Tara the Tiger Throws a Perfect-0. Tigers whitewash Yorktown, 2-0 on The Bluff

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WPCNR PRESS BOX. April 16, 2003 UPDATED April 17 WITH COACH COMMENTARY: WPHS Junior Tara Pollard set down 21 consecutive Yorktown batters Wednesday, striking out 11 and not allowing a ball hit out of the infield, as she outduelled Yorktown sophomore sensation, Roberta Marro, 2-0 on O’Donnell’s Bluff.

80 DEGREES AND PERFECT: Tara Pollard finishes off the 21st consecutive and final Yorktown batter in the 7th Wednesday, for a called strike three, completing a perfect game. Shortfielder Carrie Abbot, had just made a backhand stab of a low liner inches off the ground, going to her right in the shortstop hole, reaching low, across her body to spear a bullet drive at her ankles, robbing the previous hitter of a basehit to preserve Tara’s gem. The first great play of the season.
Photo by WPCNR Sports

Ms. Pollard kept the Yorktown hitters way off balance with creative use of fastball, drop and curve, fanning 11, inducing 6 grounders, three pop-ups, and that 1 scorching low liner to Carrie Abbott.

Anatomy of a No-Hitter: O’Donnell Credits Pollard’s Drop and Curve

White Plains Coach Ted O’Donnell said, “Tara pitched a great game. I had her primarily
work the outside of the plate with the curve and the drop.”

ON THE WAY: On a sunsplashed diamond Wednesday, Kim Wood at third and Kelly O’Neil at first crouch as Tara Pollard delivers. The ball appears as a yellow spec. It appeared that way to the hitters, too as Yorktown sent 21 batters up and 21 went down.
Photo by WPCNR Sports

O’donnell told WPCNR that Pollard used a riseball to strike out three of her 11 K’s, saying, “It’s a great strikeout pitch because batters with 2 strikes are often a little anxious and tend to swing at balls high out of the zone. She used the change-up on occasion with the top of the order to throw off their timing. She threw only a total of 3 or 4
fastballs when she got behind in the count.”

O’Donnell noted that the two hard hit balls to shortstop Carrie Abbot in the last inning (the only two hard-hit balls), were actually drops over the plate that got up too high.

Curve, Fastball, Riseball, Changeup, and now “The Deadly Drop”

As if Pollard did not have a formidable arsenal already, Coach O’Donnell says the Drop is waiting in the wings:

“That happens (the two hard hits to Abbot) when she releases the (Drop) ball too late,” O’Donnell said after the game. “Tara learned the drop this winter and I’ve been telling her that it’s going to be her most effective pitch. It drops and breaks away from the righty’s and since most kids try to pull everything, they end up with a weak ground ball to the right or just pull away and miss it all together.”

Marro was a victim of two unearned runs, and deserved a better fate. The Tigers scored in the first frame when Candace Abbott was safe on a throwing error, taking second on the overthrow by the third sacker. Tara Pollard, who went 2 for 3 on the afternoon, bunted Candace over to third and beat out the sacrifice.

Cleanup hitter Kelly O’Neil lofted a towering flyball down the leftfield line. The leftfielder drifted over, caught the ball in foul territory, with Candace Abbott tagging up and scoring for all the runs Tara needed.

The Tigers added another tainted tally in the fourth stanza. Kelsey Kulk singled sharply through the shortstop hole into left, took second on a passed ball. Candace Abbot hit a ball sharly to the thirdbaseperson’s right, who backhanded the ball, and in eyeing Kulk off second, threw the ball offline to first that the first baseperson could not handle, allowing Kelsey to score to make it 2-0.

The Tigers after a week of rainouts, are now 2-0. They play John Jay next Tuesday on the road at 4:15 P.M.

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White Plains Declared a No Speed Zone: Hit Brakes, Buckle Up, No Cells.

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WPCNR White Plains Police Gazette. April 14, 2003 UPDATED WITH PHOTOS:The White Plains Police Department announced a citywide, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week campaign to eliminate speeding and reckless driving within city limits through an safety seminar and traffic law enforcement program named “Operation Safe Streets” today. The campaign kicked off at a news conference held at the Public Safety Building Plaza in White Plains, and includes a commitment to enforcing laws against illegal housing, and sophisticated security checks of vehicles entering the city.

A SIGHT NO MOTORIST WANTS TO SEE: Lieutenant Bill Bertram, Executive Officer of the White Plains Police Traffic Division, beside a speed enforcement patrolcar. With newly installed radar camera, seen on the dash through the window, a WPPD officer can pick up speeders coming at the patrol car and approaching behind the patrol car. Look out Soundview Avenue and Bryant Avenue violators!
Photo by WPCNR News

Mayor of a city that has seen several of its young residents die in recent motor vehicle crashes related to speed, Mayor Joseph M. Delfino declared that “Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for people ages 1 to 33 and there are on average an estimated 5,800 pedestrian deaths and 90,000 injuries each year in the United States caused by car accidents.”
Photo by WPCNR News

The Mayor said, “People don’t realize that when they violate our speed limits, they put the lives of our residents in jeopardy. During my first term in office we nearly doubled the number of radar units used by the Police Department and substantially enhanced the City’s radar unit training and certification program. I asked Dr. Straub, when he first came board as our new Public Safety Commissioner to find ways to enhance our past efforts. To that end, I am pleased to announce a new initiative aimed at reducing unsafe driving habits through enforcement and education.”

COMMISSIONER OF PUBLIC SAFETY, DR. FRANK STRAUB, introduced the initiative. He is shown beside a blow-up of the handout card, motorists found in violation will be issued, acquainting them with the goals of the new program: OBSERVE LOCAL SPEED LIMITS, NEVER DRINK AND DRIVE, ALWAYS WEAR YOUR SEATBELT, ONLY USE HANDS-FREE CELLPHONE EQUIPMENT.

Commissioner of Public Safety, Dr. Frank Straub introduced the initiative:

“Operation Safe Streets is a long-term commitment to enhance the safety, quality of life, and emergency preparedness in the City of White Plains. Operation Safe Streets represents a proactive comprehensive public safety strategy that will reduce speeding and unsafe vehicle operations through citywide, 24/7 enforcement and education; save lives through a multi-agency Safe Housing Task Force, and strengthen crime reduction strategies and enhance emergency preparedness through a new police and fire bureau Special Operations Command.

Rolling Initiatives: Target Speeding, Illegal Cellphone Use, Unfastened Seatbelts. Handcard Awareness.

The program will also feature bilingual handcards which will be handed out to all vehicles noted, stopped, or detained by police officers. Low profile Police Cars and unmarked cars, and motorcycle police equipped with high-tech radar guns will be actively looking for speeders in the outer neighborhoods as well as the White Plains downtown.

THE WHITE PLAINS BP’S (Bicycle Police) will be cruising and observing passing motor vehicle traffic for illegal use of cell phones and passengers and drivers with unfastened seatbelts.
Photo by WPCNR News

LICENSE AND REGISTRATION PLEASE: Officer John Nolan, emerges from a low profile patrolcar, so-called because it is without the standard rack of police lights on its roof. It’s purpose is to provide more concealment for the traffic enforcement officer, yet still identify it as a police car to enhance awareness in the neighborhoods. Asked whether warnings would be given speed violators in these first days of the program, Commissioner Straub said that was “up to the discretion of the police officer.”
Photo by WPCNR News

“THE BLACK BEAUTY,” an unmarked car for more selective speed enforcement. Officers manning The Black Beauty will, Commissioner Straub said always be in uniform so they can be identified as a police officer.
Photo by WPCNR News

FIVE RADAR EQUIPPED HARLEYS will be used to target speeders with the most up-to-date speedguns, very similar to “speed guns” used to measure major league pitchers’ speed.
Photo by WPCNR News

Radioactive Materials Searches.

Commissioner Straub also announced that White Plains Police would be conducting searches of commercial vehicles under certain conditions, using handheld radiation detectors at selected checkpoints when the department feels it is appropriate. Passenger vehicles may also be wanded for radioactivity using the handheld devices without the vehicles having to be stopped.

HAND HELD RADIATION DETECTOR, is demonstrated by Officer John Nolan. Each detector is sensitive to levels of radioactivity within 15 feet of a vehicle, according to Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety, Charles Jennings. Each “Pocket Geiger Counter” costs the department $1,700.
Photo by WPCNR News

Seminars coming up.

Commissioner Straub said there would be a series of Educational Seminars on the speed enforcement program held at meetings of neighborhood associations, and through the Community Police Officer at White Plains High School.

Details to come.

He said details of the Safe Housing Task Force would be announced shortly.

Councilman Glen Hockley noted to WPCNR after the new conference that “speeding is the number one issue in the neighborhoods,” and that he was glad to see the sophisticated effort about to begin.

Photo by WPCNR News

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Newsboys Expose The Zip Code Caper Friday on White Plains Week at 7:30

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WPCNR White Plains Variety. April 14, 2002″ White Plains Week, the city newsroundup show on WPPA-TV, White Plains Public Access, Channel 76, will feature the inside story on the Greenburgh attempt to hijack the 10603 zip code for Greenburgh Friday evening. Alex Philippidis, John Bailey, and Jim Benerofe will also discuss the city budget, the departure of Richard Lasselle from the School District, who’s running for The Board of Education, and of course, the always murky Cappelli-Bland Hotel intrigue, and more on “The Spirit of 76” at 7:30 PM.

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Sun Comes Out as Bishop Confirms 65 at Our Lady of Sorrows

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WPCNR Streets of White Plains. April 12, 2003: The sun, following a strong Northwest wind, absent from White Plains skies for a week, appeared about one hour before Rite of Confirmation Ceremonies began at the “Little Parish on Mamaroneck Avenue,” Our Lady of Sorrows.

THE SUN INTRODUCED Bishop Anthony Mestice at Our Lady of Sorrows Saturday, who confirmed 65 young ladies and gentleman into the faith at Confirmation Ceremonies at OLS Saturday afternoon.
Photo by WPCNR News

A JOYOUS DAY: Father Patrick Dunne introduces the About-to-be Confirmed, with Celebrating Bishop Anthony Mestice looking on benignly as Confirmation began with sunlight streaming into the little church.
Photo by WPCNR News

THE BISHOP ADDRESSES THE CANDIDATES: Bishop Anthony Mestice, delivered a passionate, in-depth message to the young people about to be confirmed, noting that confirmation did not mean you no longer had to attend church. he took the opportunity to encourage them to listen to the God Who is within them, to have the strength to talk with God, to listen to His plan for them and to discover the unique talent He has given. Bishop Mestice urged the young to have the strength to ignore those who would lead to the wrong path, by having the courage to listen to what the Voice of God within them tells them.
Photo by WPCNR News

PARENTS, THE NEWLY CONFIRMED emerge into the April sun, congratulating, posing for family pictures and marking the rite of passage in their children’s lives.
Photo by WPCNR News

PHOTO-OP WITH THE BISHOP: Bishop Mestice stayed for pictures with family group after family group, Confirmed and Sponsors, to mark the occassion. One observer remarked what a lovely gesture it was by Bishop Mestice to make himself available for well over an hour after the ceremony for keepsake pictures.
Photo by WPCNR News

The Newly Confirmed of Saturday, April 12, 2003 are: Kimberly Adams, Stefanie Alvarez, Daniel Amicucci, Matthew Ardino, Robert Ardino, Tracey Avery, Juliana Bailey, Alexander Barile, Andrew Barile, Matthew Becerra, Mark Bronzo, Meghan Buonamici, Andrew Ciaramella, Timothy Conroy, Marissa Capolongo, Michael Carcione, Susan Clancy, Michael Couzens, William Cuddy, Stephen DeGroat, Brian Donahoe, Matthew Doyle, Kelly Fargo, James Fennell, Elizabeth Flooks, Meghan Gazzola, Patric Henderson, David Klay, Jonathan Klay, Jennifer Lane, Corey Langelotti, Candy Light, Cynthia Lindner, Katherine Marchewka, Melissa Maurice, Kellie McLaughlin, Thomas Northcutt, Samantha O’Brien, Margaret O’Donnell, John Ohrnberger, James O’Neill, John O’Toole, Frank Palmieri, Nina Parakadavil, Jonathan Pasqua, Sarah Perone, Madelyn Petralia, Alexander Petre, Sarah Pinson Joseph Pollio, Katherine Power, Alyce Regan, Matthew Robles, Christa Santa-Donato, Jonathan Schulz, Patricia Scorzello, Lexie Sperduto, Alexandra Spiritozo, James Sutton, Robert Thompson, Mark Toglia, Katie Tomechko, Lisa Tripicchio, David Valcich, Saverio Vinci.

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Adam In Albany: Crime Victims Roadmap To Rehab, Help Passed by Assembly

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WPCNR’S ADAM IN ALBANY. By District 89 Assemblyman Adam Bradley. April 11, 2003:From April 7th through the 11th, families across our state observed Crime Victims’ Week – a time to promote respect and dignity for millions of people throughout the country. Recognizing how important this week is to so many New Yorkers, the Assembly passed a legislative package designed to assist crime victims as they navigate through the bureaucracy.
These legislative initiatives seek to ensure that crime victims get the help they need, and that they are always notified of the assistance that is available.

Because many crime victims are unaware of whom and where they can turn to for help, the Assembly is working to create standard procedures on how to make assistance information readily available. Our legislation would require police officers and district attorneys to provide victims with information on the state Crime Victims Board (CVB) and the services it provides (A.1739).

The Assembly’s legislation would also alleviate financial hardships that may be created as the result of a crime by compensating parents who lost wages resulting from caring for a child hospitalized due to a crime (A.3097); requiring the CVA to explain a victim’s claim denial (A.2853); reimbursing health care institutions for sexual assault forensic examinations – removing victims from the insurance claims process while they cope with an assault (A.11); and expanding the definition of a necessary court appearance to increase coverage of transportation costs for victims (A.4011).

To provide members and staff of the CVB with the skills and knowledge needed to work compassionately with victims, the Assembly’s package also includes legislation requiring CVB personnel to attend regular training programs (A.1738). Similar sensitivity training would be offered to law enforcement officials and providers of victims’ assistance services. It’s important for crime victims to feel comfortable with the people who are supposed to help them through their ordeal.

When people go through traumatic events, like being the victim of a crime, they must be able to devote their time and energy to their emotional and/or physical recovery. This time shouldn’t be weighed down by red tape and bureaucratic gridlock. This legislation is a strong start to making sure crime victims are spared further trauma inflicted by an often insensitive bureaucracy.

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Mayor, Commissioner Straub Announce New Safe Driving Initiative Monday

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WPCNR POLICE GAZETTE. From The Mayor’s Office. April 11, 2003: The Mayor’s Office announced today that Mayor Joseph M. Delfino and Commissioner of Public Safety, Dr. Frank Straub, will hold a Media Briefing Monday, April 14 at the Public Safety Building to introduce a “new quality of life initiative” targeting all aspects of safe driving.

The new program will be “a comprehensive program” and will introduce changes in enforcement policy and education of the driving public.

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The Complete Andy Spano State of the County Address

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WPCNR FOR THE RECORD. From Westchester County Department of Communications. April 11, 2003: Herewith, in its entirety, is the full text of County Executive Andy Spano’s State of the County Address presented to the Westchester County Board of Legislators Thursday evening.

April 10, 2003
State Of The County Address
To The People Of Westchester County

ANDY SPANO, WESTCHESTER COUNTY EXECUTIVE delivering his message to Westchester County at Michaelian Office Building White Plains Thursday evening.
Photo of News12 Telecast by WPCNR NewsLab

Chairwoman Bronz, Members of the Board of Legislators, Administrative Judge Nicolai, County Clerk Spano, elected officials, county employees, distinguished guests, my wife Brenda, and residents who are watching this at home.

For the past 5 years, I have stood in this chamber and used this message to give you a recitation of our accomplishments and initiatives. In partnership with the Board of Legislators, led first by George Latimer and now Lois Bronz, there have been many.

From protecting our drinking water, to keeping guns away from children. From raising awareness of elder abuse to providing legal assistance for domestic violence victims. Whether the issue is ephedra or cigarettes, West Nile or SARS, we have worked together to keep Westchester residents as safe and as healthy as we possibly can.

Our efforts have encouraged new business growth, reduced welfare rolls, and continued to assist our diverse population. We stand ready to help local communities … from preserving land to providing specialized police services.

We should all be proud of our accomplishments.

Westchester County is, indeed, a very special place to live. And it is our obligation to put things in place today, so it remains special for the future.

I am pleased to report that, despite what is going on around us, the State of our County is solid, vibrant and strong … and positioned positively for the future. You will hear tonight just what is the state of our security, our economy, our finances, our people, and our natural resources.

And then I will try to give you my version of the future; to look at what we must do to shape our great county for generations to come. I come before you tonight with an agenda to continue to protect our people and our environment.

These are most difficult times. People everywhere are learning to live with fear and anxiety. Things we have taken for granted are now considered critical risks. We are living differently today than at any other time in our history. Our spirit is strong, though our challenges are great.

The war in Iraq has touched the personal lives of many Westchester residents. Before I go on with my address, I want to personally thank those County employees who have been called into service. Some of their family members are with us tonight, and I would like them to stand and be recognized: The family of Edwardo Avila, Mrs. Raymond Bravo and Mrs. Michael Brancamp. I also want to introduce you to Jose Chevere, a correction officer who asked for and received a one-day leave to be with us tonight.

I also want to pay tribute to all the Westchester men and women who are fighting for our country. We stand united behind them. We are proud of them, we respect them and we honor them as their bravery brings honor to us. I know everyone in this room prays for their safe return. And the County Center will continue to be lit with red, white and blue lights until that happens.

The State of our County is secure. Secure. Before September 11th, there would not have been a need to use that word. Today, however, it is the first word on everyone’s lips.

So what is the state of our security?

Two weeks ago, I held a town meeting before 350 people to talk about Operation Safeguard. This is the name we have given to our overall efforts to keep Westchester residents safe and secure. It addresses protection, response, communication and coordination for today and the future.

We have spent nearly $20 million dollars in county, state and federal funds to adjust to the new threats around us. Through the combined efforts of the Departments of Health, Public Safety, Labs and Research ,Emergency Services, Transportation and Information Technology, Operation Safeguard includes plans to handle biological, chemical, and radiological emergencies, as well as the security of our public facilities.

I would like to give special thanks to Congresswoman Nita Lowey who has secured over $1 million dollars for us in federal funds for our bioterrorism efforts.

Working with the Red Cross, our efforts also include what our residents should do to protect themselves and their homes.

Our partners range from the Department of Homeland Security to the State Emergency Management Office ; from the FBI to the Transportation Security Administration; from community-based organizations to area hospitals; from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection to every local police, fire and emergency services department in this county.

At this time, I want to publicly acknowledge the retirement of Commissioner Lou D’Aliso, who has led our county police department for the past 7 years. Lou, you have done a wonderful job and we will miss you.

This administration had the foresight, five years ago, to put the technology into place that now forms the foundation of all we do to protect you.

Using a new radio system that will be installed in 600 fire and EMS vehicles and all Bee-line buses, our responders will be able talk to one another during emergencies. This may seem elementary, but many lives were lost during 9-11 because police and firefighters could not talk to one another when it counted.

Technology is also allowing us to organize our forces more rapidly and to put our hands on the manpower, medicines, equipment and supplies we need. Thanks to a computerized network of secure databases, we are able to catalog the dozens of volunteers we are training according to skill, profession, and where they live. We can also catalog the locations of medicines, antidotes, medical resources and equipment.

We can – and are, right now – monitor hospitals for unusual symptoms of illness that put up a red flag for bio-terrorism or any outbreak of disease.

We also have an outbound calling system and a special website which can provide up-to-date information on what you and your family should know in a specific emergency.

We have beefed up security at the airport, county facilities and on buses. We have a new state-of-the-art bomb truck, armored response vehicle, and special response team.

We are upgrading our Labs to allow for the safe testing of potentially deadly specimens, making it one of four such sophisticated facilities in the state.

In addition to our and Yonkers hazmat teams, there will be a Regional Technical Rescue Team made up of volunteer emergency responders.We are also assisting the career chiefs who are forming a Special Operations Taskforce for immediate response until state and federal resources arrive.

Many of these initiatives could not have happened without the leadership of Bill Ryan, chair of the Public Safety Committee.

We are working with New York City for the protection of the Kensico Dam and with the State for the protection of Indian Point.

As you all know, I want to see the plants closed. Based on the recommendations of the Witt Report, I have given testimony before two congressional committees and have had private meetings with Senators Clinton and Schumer and Representatives Kelly, Lowey and Engel. My message is always the same. The plants should be decommissioned, because I am not convinced that we can protect all the people of this county should there be a fast breaking release from a terrorist attack. I view such an attack as unlikely, but nevertheless it must be considered.

However, we must also consider how to replace the energy that Indian Point produces, how to re-employ its 1500 workers and how to limit the effect on the local tax base and school districts. I am pleased to say that we are in the forefront on this issue.

Working with Legislators Mike Kaplowitz and Marty Rogowsky, we will issue a request for proposals next week that would consider these things as well as the feasibility of condemning the facility. In addition, I have met with different companies who have realistic alternatives to bring energy into the New York metropolitan area without having to build a plant in Westchester. While only Washington has the authority to close the plant, I am doing whatever I can to push in that direction. But as long as Indian Point remains a fixture in our County, I want to make sure it is protected. I have asked for the federalization of their security force. If we have it at our airports, we should certainly have it at our nuclear plants. Federal legislation to do this has been initiated in the House and the Senate.

In the meantime, I have spoken with the Governor’s office and have been assured that the state and federal governments are providing air, land and sea security. The specfiic measures cannot be discussed publicly.

All these things and more either are in place or are developing rapidly. To some, taking all these precautions is frightening. We must not let fear or anxiety rule our lives. It is my hope that by making public all that we are doing, our residents will feel somewhat comforted.

While public security is foremost in our thoughts right now, this administration has always focused on the protection of our residents. Despite budgetary constraints, or the continued threat of terrorism, we must never abrogate our responsibility for the everyday wellbeing of our seniors, families, and children.

Our emergency system, known as CAD, has just celebrated its second birthday. Put in place to give our residents the quickest and best response in an emergency, it handled over 166,000 calls and dispatched units 35,000 times, an increase of nearly 10% over the previous year. This state-of-the-art form of communications is now automatically notifying 54 departments of emergencies, a three-fold increase. Technology is currently being used that allows departments to get a visual representation of where all fire and emergency units are deployed as well as other information like the location of summer camps, bike path call boxes, and child care centers. This gives our dispatchers a better idea of what’s at stake when they receive an emergency call.

Our Department of Senior Programs and Services and its subcontractors provided direct services — face-to-face and voice-to-voice — to over 35,000 individuals in the past year. We implemented SALT, (seniors and law enforcement together,) an all-encompassing program to help prevent seniors from being victims of crime or consumer fraud. Through our Emergency Medical “door bag” program, seniors can be assured that an EMS responder will have all their medical information quickly to save their life. Our computerized and personal call programs are just one more continuing effort to reassure our older residents that “someone” is checking up on them. I would like to recognize legislator Bernice Spreckman for her tremendous efforts on behalf of our seniors.

Longevity is a fact of life today and should be celebrated. The importance of these programs now and for the future cannot be overstated.

As we provide more specialized services to our seniors, we continue to focus our efforts on programs to protect all segments of the population from a changing world. Two years ago, no one ever heard of Identity Theft. Now we train our police officers on how to handle it and educate our consumers on how to avoid it. We provide information on Internet safety, continue our coordinated approach on child abuse investigations, and expand our efforts to protect the physical safety of our children.

In past years, I have spoken at great length about our model programs to protect our young people from guns, tobacco and Internet predators. Our approach has always been to involve parents and educators as well as law enforcement. But we must never rest on past laurels.

If there is a message to send, it is this: I believe that government is not abstract. We are not simply a building or a budget. As John Adams so eloquently said back in 1772, “government is nothing more than the combined force of society or the united power of the multitude for the peace, order, safety, good and happiness of the people…”

We have the responsibility to look out for the public interest. Not only to protect our residents from harm, but to help them grasp the severity of an issue. We will continue to use our resources, even when they may be scarce, in this fashion. And it is because of this, that we are addressing the issues of Teen drinking, depression, and childhood obesity.

The publicity over underage drinking is not misplaced. Over the last six months, I have met and talked with over 500 parents, educators, college presidents, students and police officers. The most recent meeting was just this week. I have heard complaints that parents are not taking this problem seriously; that educators are too lax. I have heard students say the problem is overblown. Yet I have also heard that drinking is cool; a way to be popular, that “what’s the big deal.”

Sounds a little like where we were with tobacco years ago.

Fortunately, this is one program we do have funding for. With the use of DWI fines, we are putting together information and data for a public education campaign, similar to what we did with anti-smoking.

In addition, and as the kids say, “to get real,” we have proposed four pieces of legislation to our State delegation to combat underage drinking. Collectively, these proposals balance the need for laws that act as a deterrent with my belief that these laws should not be so severe that a first transgression results in irreparable harm to the offender.

I look forward to continue working with Andrea Stewart-Cousins, chair of the legislation committee on these and other State Program initiatives.

One proposal calls for suspending a minor’s driving license or delaying his or her ability to get one. Another calls for the suspension or revocation of a retailer’s liquor and lottery licenses for selling to a minor, depending on the number of violations. This is modeled after an existing law which provides for a new system of penalties for the sale of tobacco to minors. These proposals share the responsibility and the penalty.

Much has also been said recently about childhood obesity. More than 15% of children are overweight — double what it was 20 years ago. Overweight and obesity are recognized to be at epidemic proportions.

If we want our kids to become healthy adults, we must teach them to be fit, eat nutritiously and exercise well. We must teach them to spend less time on the couch and more time on the trail. We must teach them that food that is good for you, can also taste good.

With this in mind, we recently went to White Plains Middle School and, with the Health Department, launched one half of our Fit Kids Campaign. We are distributing guides to each school district on how to raise awareness among young people, how to improve cafeteria food, and how to develop programs and plan activities to encourage kids to eat healthier and exercise more.

On June 15th, we will launch the second half of the campaign with a fun and fitness festival at Kensico Dam. Using our beautiful parks as their private “gym” and by taking advantage of activities that we offer, adults and children can start an outdoor regimen of biking, hiking, skating, and swimming.

Life is not easy today. Savings have been lost due to the stock market. Jobs for some may be hard to find. Cultural and language barriers may create unbelievable hardships. Added to this there is the anxiety of the war in Iraq and the possibility of terrorism at home. To help those residents who seem to be losing the battle of depression, our Community Mental Health Department has put together a Depression Support Network.

We know that factors leading to depression come from many situations and can affect anyone at any age. We also know that individuals may shy away from getting help because of embarrassment or shame. We want to educate friends, family, relatives and the public about the causes of clinical depression, how to notice warning signs, and how to get assistance. The program will be formally announced later this month, and we are gratified that we have the assistance of so many mental health agencies, hospitals, and professional associations.

Despite the economic downturn and the uncertainty around the country, Westchester County remains on strong financial footing. We continue to be the only Triple A rated county in New York State. All three credit agencies, in reaffirming this highest rating, hailed our sizable, residential tax base, our diverse, commercial tax base and our strong government management strategies with demonstrated internal controls. They predict that Westchester will continue to maintain a satisfactory credit profile despite significant budgetary pressures, specifically referring to the rising costs of state mandated services.

Let’s talk about this for a moment. Without reliving history, 2003 saw the increase in the county property tax and a drastic cut in county spending to pay for the rapid expansion and escalation of the costs of state mandated services. Our county government is required to pay the State Government an additional $33.4 million dollars in Medicaid costs this year. We are required to pay an additional $10.8 million dollars for Services for Children with Disabilities. And, unless there is a change from Albany, we will be required to pay an additional $18 million dollars in pension costs.

To make up the difference, as we all know, we were forced to take the knife to our budget, cutting $70 million dollars in county programs. It doesn’t make me happy that we had to cut funding to our non-profit agencies who not only enhance the quality of our lives, but who also make meaningful differences in the wellbeing of those at risk.

But we cut internally even more, imposing harsh austerity measures. The county workforce has been slashed by 347 positions. Our staff departments — those “nuts and bolts” departments — are working with less so that many of our public programs could be saved. Human resources, budget and finance, law, information technology, planning and public works saw their workforce cut from 5 to 15 percent and their expenditures cut 14%. These are the departments that the public rarely sees, but are the wheels that keep us going.

We reformed our fiscal management practices and made budgeting more open and honest. we have streamlined our internal operations, to increase productivity, root out duplication and reduce costs.

A special mention goes to the Department of Social Services, which I consider to be the safety net for thousands of Westchester residents who need special assistance. Since 1998, their staff has been reduced by 236 positions or 16.4%. Yet, the services and programs they provide have increased to the extent that almost 6000 people are off public assistance and on the road to self-sufficiency. Congratulations, Commissioner Mahon, to you and your staff.

But we must do more. we continue to look at ways to reinvent government … to make it leaner, and more accountable. Therefore, I will explore the feasibility of instituting Performance Based Budgeting and will ask the Michaelian Institute to assist us. A performance-based budget will tell our taxpayers what services are provided with their tax dollars, the results produced, and the costs to achieve these results. This will shed light on how effectively and efficiently we are running our agencies.

I would like to make a point here about tobacco securitization. According to recent news reports, Philip Morris may not have the money to continue its payout of tobacco settlement funds. Because we acted to bond the tobacco money back in 1999, we have secured those funds, regardless of what happens to Philip Morris. There have been naysayers to our approach; however, this proves we did the right thing. It was smart for us to act then, rather than having to react now. A special thank you to legislators on both sides of the aisle who had the courage then to take this path.

As I said in last year’s address, I did not want to raise property taxes, cut vital services, or raise bus fares for our poorest population, to pay for these state programs. With your board’s assistance, we felt that a sales tax increase of one penny on the dollar would be far less onerous…especially since we have the lowest sales tax in New York State. As everyone knows, your board’s majority and I worked together for a year to get the state legislature to give us that authority.

I would like to make special mention of Richard Wishnie, chair of the Budget Committee. It was a very difficult task to fashion this budget and I commend his leadership and compassion.

While state delegations from other counties approved such home rule requests, ours did not…which leads us to where we are today. Unless the State Government reduces the costs of these mandates, county programs and services, in Westchester and throughout the state, will continue to be cut and county taxpayers will continue to see property taxes increase.

This must not happen. It is unfair and unjust for state government to make county taxpayers pay for its programs. Simply put, the system of mandated programs is broken, we must all work together to repair it. For the first time, that is exactly what everyone is trying to do. Recently, we stood with Mayor Bloomberg, the New York State Association of Counties, the County Executive’s Association and representatives of 21 counties throughout the state to call on the Governor and State Legislature to cap Medicaid costs at the 2001 level.

To use Mayor Bloomberg’s words, “It is inherently unfair to require the City of New York and county governments … to pay for expensive state-mandated health services without allowing us any involvement in the decisions to provide those services.” He called it “taxation without representation.”

I implore the governor and the state legislature to act on our mutual request to freeze these crippling Medicaid costs. I WILL DO EVERYTHING I CAN TO ASSIST THEM. This action would not only save Westchester County taxpayers $46 million dollars next year, but it would be a positive blueprint for New York’s economic future.

As we look toward the future — what kind of Westchester County are we leaving the next generation? Will our land be protected? Will our water stay pure? Will our economy continue to grow? Will our minority population reap the benefits that others have?

The work we do today will secure that future. We must care about our county — even though we may not be around to see it.

Westchester County’s buildable land is diminishing. Even in the seemingly open areas of the Croton Watershed of northern Westchester (which includes 40% of the entire county), less than 14% of the land is undeveloped. Less land is available in the rest of the county.

I am very proud that we have put in place over the past 5 years, a policy that helped trigger the preservation of over 5000 acres of open space. We continue our commitment to purchase Hilltop Hanover Farm’s 175 acres in Yorktown and the 110-acre Houlihan Property in Lewisboro. At the same time, we are moving forward on three Hudson Riverwalk Projects to provide a public promenade from Yonkers to Peekskill.

Davids Island is still on the “to do” list, but in this current economic climate and with clean-up costing millions more than we expected, we will need funding from state, federal, private and non-profit sources to assist us.

We have also recently finished our Parks Master Plan — a strategic look at all of the county’s parks that lays the foundation for their future development and management. We have a 78-year history of parkland planning and preservation. This will continue the legacy. Legislators Lou Mosiello, chair of the Parks Committee, and Vito Pinto, who serves on the Parks Board, have played important roles in our efforts to enhance our Park system.

But we also have to address the flip side. Looking ahead, we must learn to marry two seemingly conflicting ideas. We need open space and parkland to enhance our quality of life, but, for the county to remain vibrant, we also need lower housing costs to support our population, decreased travel times and continued economic growth.

We must plan for our future not in isolation, but with a global perspective. What a perfect time to have a new Commissioner of Planning, Jerry Mulligan. I am not going to make Jerry’s life easy. His charge as “county architect” is to put Westchester on the map as a professional and distinguished department. His task will be to bring a wider exposure to county planning. We have a talented staff, now we must give that staff the means to channel that talent towards broader issues — urban development, design, innovation. We must institutionalize not only good planning, but also creative planning. When planners get together to discuss “world class counties,” I want Westchester to be one of them.

The time is right to find new ways to grow that not only maintain the quality of life but also improve it by providing new housing, increasing mobility throughout the region and protecting critical components of our environment.

Interestingly enough the 287 corridor and the Metro-North train stations hold promise.

After successfully insisting last year that Westchester County have a meaningful role in the Tappan Zee/I-287 decision-making process, I now intend to make full use of our position to define what is feasible and what is right for Westchester, our residents and our business community. We will not support any proposal that has a negative impact on our Hudson River communities. We will not support additional lanes on 287. Instead, our cities, towns and villages must work together, so that our future is based on something smarter, a new infrastructure — a mass transit component — that will lay the foundation for this century’s growth.

Westchester has 43 stations along Metro-North’s three rail lines. Many of these stations have been at the heart of cities and villages for over 100 years. They prove to the rest of the country that we had smart growth decades before the term was ever used. Now it is time to show leadership again. Many of these stations and the land around them – often covered with acres of surface parking lots – hold the potential for becoming 21st century transit villages where people can live, work, shop and be entertained all within walking distance, free of dependency on a car.

We must continue to work with local communities to explore the potential for transforming station areas into multi-use places that would not burden local streets or services. Our initial efforts are already underway in White Plains and we will look for other opportunities to work with interested local governments.

Westchester County has an abundance of water resources – reservoirs, lakes, streams and wetlands; and the Hudson River and Long Island Sound.

Common factors impact all of these precious resources. Some we have no control over: Last summer we had a drought and this winter we broke snowfall records. But other factors, our own activities for example, we can control. Every municipality is now required to pay more attention to activities that impact water quality. And the County is here to assist them in their efforts.

One way is the establishment of a Water Institute for Best Practices. These may range from the best land use ordinances to the best erosion control practices. Our Planning, Health, and Environmental Facilities departments will join forces with Westchester Community College to provide quality education on water issues for municipal staff, the construction industry and interested individuals.

We will continue our efforts to keep Westchester’s Water H2OK. You have additional legislation before you to keep mercury out of the groundwater. Our airport is on its way to becoming ISO14001 certified — which means that every action at the facility has to pass environmental scrutiny. We appointed a new director of environmental security, and we initiated a new septic management system to keep pollutants from entering the watershed.

We adopted the Pesticide Notification Program and stopped using toxic pesticides on government property to send the message to our homeowners that there are other ways to get rid of pests. Now we are working closely with the State Attorney General’s office in looking for ways to reduce the use of lawn fertilizers.

When it comes to the economy, despite the trials our nation faces, Westchester’s future continues to look bright. Our unemployment rate is a low 4.3%. Our workforce remains at a very healthy 450,000. Our vacancy rate is going down, while other metropolitan suburban areas have seen increases by significant margins. While I don’t want to gloat, Westchester is now outpacing Fairfield County, which has long been considered our strongest competition.

The number of outside companies signing leases has increased from 15% to 36% in the last year. This obviously reflects the desire of some New York City firms to open satellite offices in the wake of September 11th. We have not solicited these companies; they have chosen Westchester because of where we are located, our personal approach to business development, and our quality of life. I am happy to welcome Morgan Stanley, New York Life, and several major law firms who now call Westchester County home.

Our strong economy also hinges on the expansion of our larger companies and the growth of our smaller ones. Fujifilm, MasterCard, Taro Pharmaceuticals, Pernod Richard are a few that fall into this category.

At the same time, Westchester is experiencing historically high levels — over $1 billion dollars — of new construction. Cappelli’s City Center and Fortunoff’s in White Plains, Kendal on Hudson retirement community in Sleepy Hollow, and G and S retail centers in Port Chester and Mount Vernon are bringing new jobs and new opportunities. Downtown revitalization is going on in virtually all of our major cities.

My efforts to keep Westchester business friendly also include sponsoring programs that help companies find skilled employees and to ensure that individuals have jobs. The Westchester-Putnam Workforce Investment System has benefited over 500 county businesses with services that included onsite job screening, customized training programs and access to information.

At the same time over 250 employees representing these companies have received additional skills leading to their job retention, promotion and wage gains and more than 1500 Social Services customers secured employment. Well over 23,000 people have taken advantage of the program.

I mentioned previously programs we have put in place to foster the growth of our children. Regardless of our budget situation, we continue to make efforts to try to be sure that no one is left behind.

Westchester Community College reached its highest enrollment this year in its 55-year history. We have currently almost 12,000 credit students and over 13,000 non-credited. My thanks to Joe Hankin, president of the college, and his able staff for working with me to provide community resources both on and off campus.

As an educator, I have always believed that a community college should be in communities. For several years now, we have worked together to open satellite campuses. We doubled the size of the Peekskill site for art and multi-media. We successfully launched the Ossining Extension related to healthcare education and a Yonkers computer technology site.

I am happy to announce that this summer, our new site in Mount Vernon will open offering day, evening and weekend classes in business, culinary arts, computers, healthcare and English as a Second Language. I thank Legislator Clinton Young for helping to make this happen.

Three years ago, with the sponsorship of the Jandon Foundation, we began a college scholarship program that has since provided funding for high school seniors on public assistance. By the end of this year, over $270,000 dollars will have been given out to 48 worthy students.

But this is only part of the picture. In order to get these students to meet the criteria in their senior year, we knew we would have to start working with them when they were in the lower grades. So the Westchester Scholars Program was born where we give computers, encyclopedic software, Internet connections, and mentoring services to children in the 7th to 11th grades as incentives for achieving academic excellence. 228 students, whose families are on public assistance, have been participating—70 in last year alone.

I am proud of their achievement, grateful to Jane and Don Cecil for their generosity, and tremendously pleased that Westchester County has made a substantial contribution to the future of these children. These programs must continue so that all youngsters — no matter what their circumstances — have the opportunity to become all that they can be.

We continue to make a similar effort to meet the needs of our diverse population. Whether it is financial security for Latina women, incentives for minority businesses, anti-discrimination efforts by our Human Rights Commission or simply outreach to those residents who need the most assistance, this administration remains committed to improving the quality of life for everyone. We must continue to recognize our growing Hispanic population, and I rely on the advice of Legislator Jose Alvarado to help us meet their needs. With the financial assistance of our non-profit and corporate community and our public/private partnerships, we will continue this mission.

People change worlds. Not governments. While government puts in place programs that we think will assure our future, it’s really the action or the inaction of the public that makes the difference.

Westchester County is home to over 4,800 not-for-profit organizations. These businesses have total annual revenue of over $5.4 billion dollars and $7.5 billion in assets. Those figures represent 12% of Westchester’s economy. Forty-one of these businesses have annual revenues over $25 million each. However, most are small and often struggling, but are fueled by the volunteer efforts of Westchester residents.

Our volunteer community has become increasingly important and deserving of recognition, especially in these times of economic uncertainty. I’m speaking of the unsung heroes who work hard solely for the satisfaction of a job well done. We should do everything we can to encourage even more of that volunteer spirit.

With budget cutbacks hitting non-profit agencies hard and much of their funding drying up, they will need to rely on volunteers more than ever to help fill the gaps. This is a time when individual efforts can really make a difference.

Community Service is something that our high schools are now requiring, as a way to help our youth prepare for their future. I commend these efforts and want to expand them. Later this month, we will launch a new campaign with the Volunteer Center that will include the announcement of dozens of new community service venues with the county. A new website will also begin helping people search for opportunities in both the private and public sector.

With about 85% of Westchester residents on the Internet, our Website is the chosen method of providing information and services quickly and accurately. In 2002, over 620,000 different individuals logged on. There were over 2 million visits and 32 million hits. (In one visit you can “hit” many web pages).

Five years ago, we had no Website. Now, everything we do is on our award winning “westchestergov.com.” We are expanding our electronic Quick News service so residents can sign up to receive updates on specific topics, like park events and health information. We instituted a voice-activated system, so that consumer information, like gas prices, is available by phone straight off the website.

This month the Office for Hispanic Affairs will unveil a site in Spanish, and our Community Mental Health Department will open a site to help people identify and fight depression.

Interactive as never before, our GIS technology allows you to click on a map and find the nearest post office, senior center or a dozen other community resources.

We live in the 21st century and our technology as well as our stewardship must be progressive, intuitive, and meaningful.

I have presented to you this evening a snapshot in time. The things we have accomplished up to now, position us for a positive future. Yes, there are challenges. We need Albany to come to grips with the rising costs of Medicaid and other state mandates. We need Washington to give us the funding it promised to pay for our security efforts. We need to find ways to limit the property tax burden on our residents. And we need to do all of this while still providing the programs and services our residents have come to expect.

But, at the same time, we have many strengths. After a harsh winter, there is always a welcome spring. We have spent the past five years building a solid economy, preserving land for generations to come, investing in technology, and protecting the health and safety of our people. These policies provide a solid foundation for the future. Working together, our government and our people will continue to make the County great.

And, with that, ladies and gentlemen, let us pray for peace and for the safe return of our troops. Godspeed.

Thank you.

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Executive Spano Vindicates Policies; Pursues IP Replacement. Diet for Fat Teens

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WPCNR COUNTY CLARION-LEDGER. By John F. Bailey. April 10, 2003: A confident and matter-of-fact County Executive Andy Spano delivered a one-hour State-of-the-County Address to the County Legislature at the Michaelian Office Building Thursday evening in White Plains.

MR. COUNTY EXECUTIVE defended his policy of bonding against the cigarette companies future payments and noted that credit raters specifically made note that state mandates and the state legislature were to blame for the county fiscal problems.
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He announced a new county diet and fitness program for the county’s youth to compliment his Campaign Against Teen Age Drinking.

Takes Tappan Zee Transit Stand.

He went on record as being opposed to widening the Cross Westchester Expressway in any Tappan Zee Bridge traffic solution, and said a mass transit or rail solution was what he favored. He recommended using Westchester’s railroad depot staging areas to construct self-contained apartment and retail centers, “transit villages” to alleviate the need for automobiles as an alternative planning solution to the county commuting problem.

CALLS FOR PLANS TO REPLACE IP JUICE: Mr. Spano said he remained committed to decommissioning Indian Point and said he would call for proposals next month for plans and procedures from companies to replace the electricity generated by the Indian Point so he could justify the county condemning the plant.
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Spano said he will work more closely with companies who have a means for bringing to Westchester County the replacement power the county needs without building a new power plant in Westchester.

(One such company, not mentioned by Executive Spano in his speech is Conjunction, LLC, of Washington, D.C., which is seeking $750 Million in capital to construct an underground power transmission line along the Hudson River Conrail railroad tracks from Albany down to Yonkers, capable of transmitting the 2,000 megawatts per day Indian Point produces now from the Northeast power grid in Albany. Currently transmission line capacity to deliver electricity is only 1,600 megawatts according to the New York Independent Systems Operator.)

Triple A Bond rating Preserved. Tobacco Bonding Vindicated.

Executive Spano said that in view of news reports that Philip Morris, the tobacco company, would not have the money to meet its future tobacco settlement obligations, his policy of bonding for the monies due Westchester from the tobacco settlement now looks very good, since it has guaranteed Westchester will have received all it was entitled to from the settlement.
Spano said credit reports on Westchester’s credit rating had praised the county’s financial management, its financial controls and that state mandates had put pressure on Westchester’s budget.

The County Executive continued his mantra against the mandates, warning of more property tax increases in the year ahead: “Unless the State Government reduces the costs of these mandates, county programs and services, in Westchester and throughout the state, will continue to be cut and county taxpayers will continue to see property taxes increase. This must not happen. It is unfair and unjust for state government to make county taxpayers pay for its programs. Simply put, the system of mandated programs is broken, we must all work together to repair it.”

$20 Million in Security Upgrades.

The County Executive noted how the county has upgraded its airport and reservoir security, and told residents that the county has in place a radio communications system where all fire departments and police departments and agencies can talk to each other in an emergency. He noted steps he has taken to monitor hospitals for biological threats, and communications procedures he has instilled to put in place improved ability to communicate with the county’s schools and care centers, public and private.

Mentioning Indian Point again, he said he has called for Federalization of security at the nuclear power facility.

Cuts Have Taken Place.

Executive Spano aggressively defended his management of the budget, noting that he has cut services. He noted particularly that the Department of Social Services has had its staff cut by 236 persons, or 16% since 1998, but has processed 6,000 persons and gotten them back into society.

In a related matter, he bitterly complained that the state legislature granted sales tax increases to a number of counties but refused to grant such an increase to Westchester County.

SHAKIN HANDS ALL AROUND: County Executive Andy Spano shakes hands with Bill Ryan, White Plains County Legislator from District 5, and George Latimer left, Chairman of the Westchester Democratic Party after completion of his speech.
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Spano concluded with these words:“After a harsh winter, there is always a welcome spring. We have spent the past five years building a solid economy, preserving land for generations to come, investing in technology and protecting the health and safety of our people. These policies provide a solid foundation for the future. Working together, our government and our people will continue to make the county great.”

Spano began his speech recognizing several police officers and noting the death of Marine Bernard Gooden of Mount Vernon in the AmerIraqui War, and expressed his support for the American troops.

REPUBLICAN RESPONSE: Legislator Jim Maisano Response Attacks Spano on His Cuts.
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In the Republican Response, aired a full 30-minutes after County Executive Spano had finished, County Legislator James Maisano began with a heartfelt message supporting the American troops.

Maisano took Mr. Spano to task, criticizing him for cutting funds to the County District Attorney’s office, resulting in cuts to anti-crime programs and various social programs. He said bonding for the tobacco money was wrong, and accused Mr. Spano of doing that so he could raise the level of County Services while decreasing taxes.

Maisano said County Executive Spano has failed to display leadership by not cutting the budget more so a property tax increase was not necessary, and said his policy of blaming the state for his budget problems had poisoned the atmosphere with the state and the Westchester delegation.

Maisano concluded his response by saying he and the other Republican Legislators would work to bring about a balanced budget and restore cuts to social programs and county security. He did not say where they felt the budget could be cut.

Mr. Maisano’s response was aired 30 minutes after the live telecast of Mr. Spano’s speech on News 12, and viewers were not advised after Mr. Spano’s speech that a Republican Response was coming up.

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