WPCNR Evening City Star Reporter. By John F. Bailey. November 20, 2002:County Executive Andy Spano was in full campaign mode last night at Mount Kisco’s Kosher Deli calling in for Northern Westchester Democratic Committee Chairpersons’ support and help in lobbying the legislature for an increase in the County Sales Tax. The effort is to help the County Executive balance his 2003 Budget.
He offered Larry Schwartz’s talents for the Chairperson’s use to induce new attractive Democrats to run for office, and money, literature, and get-out-the-vote support that wins.
ANDY SPANO ON THE ROAD: First stop was the Kosher Deli in Mount Kisco on Tuesday evening. Executive Spano and his Deputy, Larry Schwartz personally sought Northern Coalition support for their Albany sales tax initiative.
Photo by WPCNR News
Lawyers, Phones and Money.
After an informal discussion of the budget situation, Executive Spano offered the services of Deputy County Executive Larry Schwartz to the Northern Coalition of towns. Mr. Schwartz made a personal appearance, telling how he could coordinate aid and support local North Westchester candidates with money, telephone and advertising support.
Executive Spano encouraged the Northern Coalition chairs to pressure Albany legislators to assume more of the cost of mandates, and to get control of mandated programs.
Like Old Time Grassroots Politics
WPCNR attended the open-air discussion in the open backroom dining area of the popular Koscher Deli in hopes of talking with Executive Spano about reports heard at the White Plains High School Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies from a former Board of Education member that the newly proposed County Budget was going to cut funding for youth programs in White Plains.
WPCNR arrived at 7:40 PM, and turned in our Reporter’s Credentials at the outset of the meeting, when asked who I was by a lady seated at the long table in the open-to-the-public dining area.
She pleasantly, with a big smile, asked who I was, I said I was a reporter and handed her my business card that says I am a reporter.
COUNTY EXECUTIVE ANDY SPANO POLITICKING in his easygoing style with the Northern Coalition Tuesday night. Second from right in the booth.
Photo by WPCNR NEWS
WPCNR listened to a patient, well-reasoned folksy talk by Executive Spano to 17 Chairpersons of the Northern Westchester Coalition of Town Democratic Party Chairpersons of Mount Kisco, Bedford, Cortlandt, Croton-on-Hudson, Lewisboro, New Castle, North Castle, North Salem, Pound Ridge and Somers. WPCNR is unable to identify officially all the Chairpersons present due to an unexpected termination to WPCNR’s observation of this meeting.
“At a Very Difficult Stage.”
As WPCNR arrived, placing my reporter’s fedora on the table, Executive Spano was holding forth on the budget, in folksy style, telling the Chairs he was “at a very difficult stage” in his crusade to convince the state to pay its fair share of mandated programs, and ultimately control, what he has described for weeks as unfunded state-mandated programs that have been burdening Westchester County
The atmosphere was reminiscent of old ward meetings, town meetings of the past, where support is sought person-to-person, building trust and support. It was the first such meeting Spano had had with the North Westchester strongholds since last February. All that was missing was cigar smoke.
Four Democratic County Executives Spearhead Issue.
Executive Spano told the “Chairs” in attendance “the sales tax is just a short-term fix. Noting he is one of four Democratic County Executives in New York State, (he wry noted, “we’re all very friendly”).
Spano said he is taking it upon himself to be the leader on this issue highlighting the financial burden out-of-control state mandates foreshadow in the future for all New York counties, because the mandate burdens, for example, have turned Nassau County into “a third world government.”
Spano said the issue affected both Republicans and Democrats, and he was calling on the state to change and said he was a “representative for fiscal integrity.”
Introduces Deputy County Executive.
INTRODUCING…LARRY SCHWARTZ, at 8 PM, Deputy County Executive, Larry Schwartz arrived, and Executive Spano introduced him, saying, with a genial smile, “I wanted people to meet him. I do all the work and he gets all the credit.” Mr. Schwartz is in right foreground, Mr. Spano, at left in the background.
Photo by WPCNR
Then issue-talk shifted to Indian Point,. Spano explained his Indian Point acquisition and how it hinged on the planned $500,000 study he announced last week, and how he hoped to have it funded for the county. He noted only Entergy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can close down the plant, and assured the Chairs it was “well-protected.”
Subsidizing New York City and Environs
“We’re subsidizing New York City to the tune of $100 Million a year,” Spano explained. He said this condition exists because Con Edison averages out the cost of electricity over the metropolitan area and “charges all the same.” He charged the Public Service Commission “stubbornly” refuses to breakout billings by usage. He summarized studies he introduced last week. He said these studies indicated that building a new power plant, either hydroelectric, or other source and if the Public Service Commission “gave us those other changes,” (eliminating averaging), appeared feasible as a replacement for Indian Point power. He said that the problem with a new plant was finding a location for it.
City Can Absorb Cost Easier than Westchester
Spano said that New York City could absorb increases in the cost of power more easily than Westchester can, saying the transfer of costs to New York City from Con Ed would have “miniscule” impact on the city, should Westchester County build its own source of power, replacing Indian Point. Buying Indian Point, he said, would cost $2 billion, and he thought that building a new plant with another source of power was preferable.
After the studies came back, Spano told the leaders, “The logic was this: Let’s see if this would work.” Now Spano is proposing a new study, at the cost of $500,000, to study closely the feasibility. He said the county is seeking other entities to help with the funding, such as the New York Power Authority. Spano said Indian Point might be closed within 5 years.
Calls on Chairs to Lobby Legislators.
Mr. Spano then returned to the budget discussion, noting that to cut $30 Million, the increase in state-mandated costs, which he is seeking, he could do that by discontinuing
the county police, some health services, the bus system, parks and recreation. He reported that New York State is the highest taxed state and that Westchester County is the highest taxed locality in the United States:
“What can the constituency do?” Spano asked. “Talk to your Assemblypersons and Senators.”
Executive Spano spoke of initiatives he is taking to ease the impact on Westchester residents.
Spano criticized the Mayor of New York City suggestion for a commuter tax to erase New York City’s deficit. He said he was “in contact” with Canada to participate possibly in their unique prescription drug program.
No problem with State Senate Introduction.
Asked by one of the Coalition Chairs, where the problem was. Spano said he had “no problem” with the New York State Senate in getting the 1-penny-on-the-dollar sales tax increase. He said Senator Gary Pretlow of Mount Vernon would introduce it. He indicated in the Democrat-controlled state assembly that in light of Westchester’s immediate need, that Assemblyperson Naomi Matusow, would support the 1 cent sales tax increase he seeks for the County presently, but that her predecessor, Adam Bradley, elected in November, was against a sales tax increase across the county because he thinks it’s regressive, though, he mentioned Mr. Bradley supports continuation of the White Plains sales tax.
1 Penny on Dollar Sought.
In Executive Spano’s 2003 budget proposed last week, he proposed a cut of 229 county jobs, and a 28.6% property tax increase. He also criticized the state delay in passing his sales tax increase in his office’s press release on the subject. Spano noted Tuesday evening, this increase in sales tax only applied outside the four cities of White Plains, Yonkers, Mount Vernon and New Rochelle.
Schwartz Confirms Medicaid Cost Swells.
Larry Schwartz said more persons were enrolling in Medicaid. He said 98,000 of 930,000 county residents were on Medicaid. Spano observed that the state had such a good Medicaid plan that Walmart encouraged their workers to enroll in state Medicaid, rather than their own program.
“I know this is real,” Spano earnestly told the Chairs. “All the press knows I’m right. It’s like the Emperor’s new clothes…The legislature faces a $6 Billion to $12 Billion deficit when they go back (to Albany). If we don’t push, it’s not a good picture at all.”
“We need changes in the way we operate,” he said, “I’ve stuck my neck out.”
Reaching out to Northern Coalition.
He said he had come to the Northern Coalition to enlist their support for his sales tax, and call for mandate control, because, in the Northern towns, “we have a knowledgeable base,” as opposed to the South of the county. In an attempt at humor, he said, “Yonkers is like Beirut. In Greenburg, there’s something in the water. Mount Vernon is o.k.”
He noted that one person he knows from Greenburg was “O.K.” but that she drank “bottled water.” These remarks brought laughter.
Larry Schwartz to Assume New Support Role. Groomer of Future Candidates.
At this stage of the meeting, Mr. Spano introduced Larry Schwartz again, his Deputy Mayor, because he said he wanted the Chairs of the Northern Coalition to meet Mr. Schwartz. He said, Mr. Schwartz can be “helpful to you and your local candidates,” by identifying and encouraging more Democrats to become future candidates, and giving them the resources to win.
Mr. Schwartz in a sincere, open-minded manner, told how he and Mr. Spano had aided the Martin Rogowsky campaign, with mailing, brochure creation and design, and their telephone consultant on his telephone campaign.
Schwartz said he and Mr. Spano could help provide support for new attractive candidates the “Chairs” in the various towns hoped to “recruit” by Mr. Spano and Mr. Schwartz offering money and services, and in a campaign, “help on an extra little push.”
“Martin won by 300 votes,” Mr. Schwartz said, and alluded that the help Mr. Schwartz and the Spano team provided might have added up to the difference.
“We want to be helpful,” Spano said.
In a wink of an eye, Mr. Spano looked straight at me, seeing the notepad in this reporter’s hands and flashing Integrity No. 2 Pencil. He asked “Are you from the press?”
I said “Yes.”
“Who are you with?”
“I’m John Bailey, the White Plains CitizeNetReporter,” I said.
Mr. Spano glared, brows knitted, eyes wide and hard, looking me directly eyeball-to-eyeball, and said slowly, quietly, deeply
“Why are you here?”
“Who sent you?”
“What was your Source?”
The questions all came at once.
I said at the White Plains Hall of Fame Induction ceremony Tuesday afternoon I had heard worries from a Board member about community youth programs being cut in the new budget, and had heard of this meeting.
Since I could not attend the budget press conference last Friday, taping a television show at the time, I said I thought tonight would be a good opportunity to ask about the youth program cuts, if any, of the County Executive himself, and whether the White Plains fears were well-founded.
Mr. Spano smirked, looking to the gentleman on his right.
“This is a private meeting,” I was told, after having been taking notes for 45 minutes and snapping two pictures of Mr. Spano and Mr. Schwartz.
The White Plains CitizeNetReporter is OUT of there
A man, said, quietly, rising and coming up to me, “I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave, sir.”
I apologized to the group for any inconvenience and was escorted to the deli entrance, without getting a chance to ask Executive Spano about cuts in community youth programs.
Who’s your Source?
My escort, who identified himself as Mitchell Weingarden, walking me out, explained it was a private meeting and asked cordially again, “Who was the source who told you about this meeting?” before I walked out into the rainslick sidewalk of Main Street.
I said, “you know I cannot reveal sources.” I was told Mr. Spano was appearing here and assumed it was a town meeting. It never occurred to me that it was a closed, private meeting.
Department of Communications Contacted Wednesday morning.
Late this morning, WPCNR contacted Donna Green of the Westchester Department of Communications, and left a message on her voicemail asking her to elaborate on how the new budget affected community youth programs. WPCNR did not hear back from her Wednesday. However it does take some hours to gather such information, considering the conscientious and courteous response the Department of Communications almost always delivers, WPCNR hopes to hear from her Thursday.