Roach:Council to Evaluate Electronic Voting Machines

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WPCNR White Plains Week Highlights. By John F. Bailey. Filed 4/1/02, 9:45 AM EST: Tom Roach, White Plains Common Councilman reports that the Council will review two electronic voting machine systems within the next month. It is an effort to be what he calls “the beachead” for reforming the way New York State casts its votes. Roach made the announcment in an interview on White Plains Week which can be seen Friday evening at 7:30 PM on Public Access Channel 71

THREE MONTHS IN THE SADDLE: Tom Roach talks about his first three months on the Common Council Friday night on White Plains Week at 7:30 PM on Channel 71. Jim Benerofe, left and John Bailey get the new Councilman’s progress report on his effort with the Mayor’s Office to bring new voting machines to White Plains.WPCNR Photo by Lyn Storey
Roach said that after taking his councilseat in January he has been working closely with the Mayor’s Office, coordinating with the two companies in New York that manufacture computerized voting machines. He praised the Mayor’s office for their cooperation in evaluating and arranging for a demonstration of the two voting procedures which he said would be showcased at a work session within a few weeks.

Roach made the remarks during an interview with James Benerofe, Editor of and John Bailey of WPCNR on White Plains Week which can be seen Friday evening at 7:30 PM on Public Access Channel 71. The program is cablecast Mondays at 7 and Fridays at 7:30 PM.

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Resident Supports King on Group Home Exclusion Effort

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Letters to WPCNR: A resident writes in support of Councilman William King’s stance against placing a group home for foster teen-age children in the care of the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services.
This is exactly the kind of leadership we been searching for, someone
to standup for the City of White Plains and realizing the spiritual value
and integrity of our neighborhoods. It’s times like this that demonstrates
the value of our public officials, and also provides the community with
information about which officials and organizations are in touch with the communities.

Although White Plains is not opposed to Group Homes, the homes should conform to our neighborhoods in a non-disruptive manner.

Placing 10-12 teenagers with a couple of hired counselors within feet of single family homes hardly constitutes a family environment. The sheer volume and magnitude of additional activity from the home, will alter the neighborhood significantly. The Group Home is totally out of character with the neighborhood.

In addition, this so called family environment has proven to be a complete failure by the vast number of missing kids at each Group Home in White Plains each year. In observance of these reports, it appears we will also have to live with increased police activity which is not of the type this neighborhood is accustomed to. Information on trouble reports for each Group Home can be obtained from the White Plains Police Dept.

I know you have listened to some White Plains residents who have experienced living around these group homes, and heard some devastating stories. Stories that you can not find in a police report. In White Plains we have many, many citizens that have and want to tell their stories.

The reality is that these Group Homes have and will continue to damage neighborhoods, and destroy the dream that many of us spent years working for to move into a family neighborhood. This situation has also caused anxiety to the young child in my home and to surrounding homes, as well as to the parents.

I can continue to list the negative impact that these homes have on our neighborhood, but I am challenged to see the benefits.

I hope you get the support to challenge this issue from other City Officials and Organizations, because it is clearly wrong. Words such as “We cant do anything, it is the Law” or ” This problem belongs to another dept ” are not acceptable to this community. We need motivated officials such as yourself, that understand the value and vital protection of the neighborhoods of White Plains.


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King Komments:Fisher Hill Against Group Home, Please Place Elsewhere

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King Komments, By White Plains City Councilperson, William King, Filed 3/28/02: Councilman William King attended the Fisher Hill Neighborhood Meeting last night, held to discuss the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services plan to house foster care teenagers at a home they have purchased in the Fisher Hill Neighborhood. Here is his open letter to the JBFCS.
Dear Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services:

I will be sending you a complete letter after I have had a chance to read all about your organization and the many good things you do from your website, And let me wish you all a Happy Passover.

I am writing as a member of the White Plains Common Council who has heard with concern my fellow citizens’ concerns about your proposed group home for troubled teens at 139 Walworth Avenue in the middle of a wonderful single- and 2-family neighborhood in the Fisher Hill section of White Plains near the Scarsdale border.

I do not believe this is a good location for your group home and ask you to reconsider your purchase of the home and, instead, resell the home and look for an alternative location that is not in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

For example, there are homelike buildings in disrepair in the “historic oval” of the New York Presbyterian Hospital campus in White Plains which could be fixed up and used without upsetting a surrounding residential neighborhood. I note that one of JBFCS’s Westchester Division board members, Paul Bergins, is a private attorney representing NYPH who could possibly make initial contacts to pursue this possibility further.

Last night I met many of the residents of the neighborhood surrounding 139 Walworth Ave. at a Fisher Hill Neighborhood Association Meeting, including former White Plains Mayor Al Del Vechio, who lives just up the hill. The mayor and 40-50 residents in attendance who spoke in a level-headed but determined tone voted unanimously against the proposal for your group home. I agree with them.

I learned that your organization purchased this beautiful early 1900’s home with significant historical value (architecturally and due to earlier residents including one Nobel Prize winner) with attractive surrounding property for only $475K.

I believe you could resell this house, in the current market, at the same or possibly a significantly higher price. If you did so, you would provide great relief to the residents surrounding the home, many of them relatively new residents of White Plains who have made substantial investments in what they thought was an improving older neighborhood, one of several such neighborhoods we are trying to preserve in White Plains.

They are now concerned about their houses losing value after they have made substantial investments in buying and renovating them. One resident told me she has been contacted steadily by a realtor advising her to sell now before her house value drops.

Thank you for your consideration. I will follow this email up with a formal letter and I hope you will hear comments in the same vane from our mayor in the near future. If you would like to meet with me and my fellow members of the White Plains Common Council along with residents of the neighborhood, you can contact me at home or at work.

Bill King, Member, White Plains Common Council

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City Center Financing Expected to Come Through Next Week

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WPCNR Morning Edition, Filed 3/28/02, 9:30 AM: City Hall was host Wednesday to a small contingent of Cappelli Enterprises staffers, working with city officials and legal representatives to complete the paperwork on the Cappelli Organization multi-million dollar financing package.
A spokesman for the Cappelli Organization, taking a break from the number-crunching, predicted to WPCNR that the long-awaited “closing” would take place next week.

The unofficial word from a trusted Louis Cappelli confidante, dovetailed with comments from George Gretsas, the Mayor’s Executive Officer, who stated Tuesday evening that the mammoth closing on upwards of $300 million in financing would take place in the next two weeks.

April is the month when Cappelli Enterprises must begin construction of the City Center, or transform the site into a park if he does not begin construction.

Gretsas said that, if there was any further delay, an extension of the agreement most likely would be granted.

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Hockley: Form Citizen-Police-Fire-Expert Panel to Study Police-Fire Organization

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WPCNR All News Final, By John F. Bailey, Filed 3/26/02, 11:15 PM EST: The Common Council reversed its decision to hire and fund the Center for Government Research to study the feasibility of splitting the police and fire departments Tuesday. Glen Hockley called for forming a citizen panel of White Plains residents, police officers and fireman, and outside law and fire experts to conduct an independent, unpaid study of how to reorganize the Public Safety function.
In a meeting that took less than 15 minutes, the Common Council bowed to Firefighters union request not to undertake the CGR study at this time.

When Common Council President Benjamin Boykin, Jr. asked if there was any discussion, Glen Hockley spoke up:

“After the dust settles from this,” Hockley addressed the Council, “I think it’s in the best interests of the city to hear from the Presidents of both of the unions (James Carrier of the White Plains Police Benevolent Association, and James Donahoe, of the White Plains Professional Firefighters), what their feelings are (about the organization of the departments). It is in the best interest of the public to split the departments.”

Hockley calls for “a volunteer Board of Citizens:”

Mr. Hockley expressed confidence in White Plains’ ability to determine the destiny of its police and fire services: “We have a great deal of expertise throughout our city and county, and in our own (police-fire) departments, who know best what’s in the best interests of our departments. We could save a bundle of money by looking inward. I will pursue it to revisit this.”

None of the other five councilpersons present (Rita Malmud, Robert Greer, Tom Roach, William King, and Benjamin Boykin) commented. With that Hockley comment, the ordinance and resolutions officially dooming the CGR study were passed 6-0.

Rotunda Spin

WPCNR asked Councilwoman Rita Malmud, as she briskly walked down the circular staircase to her car, nonstop, if she would consider splitting the police fire departments asunder without a study. Mrs. Malmud said, “You cannot do a study without cooperation. Further study is needed, I still want a professional, independent study.”

Malmud said the Firefighters union was not going to cooperate, and that was why she voted against the study she had approved.

WPCNR asked, since the city is empowered to require employee cooperation with department initiatives, why the study could not have been done anyway. Malmud questioned the validity of the study without the firefighters’ endorsement of the study and the conclusions that would be reached as a result.

King suggests they not hire a Public Safety Commissioner and save money.

William King said, “We have to look at whole budget. We’re under some budget pressures. By not hiring a new Commissioner of Public Safety, and a new deputy Commissioner we can save $300,000. It might be that having a Public Safety Commissioner is a luxury we cannot afford any more.”

King, who had voted against the study on March 15 when the council voted to hire CGR, 5-1, said he had suggested to Mayor Joseph Delfino, that an independent consultant who has major police experience like William Bratton (the former New York City Police Commissioner), or a retired NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, (now again the Police Commissioner under the Bloomberg Administration, be hired to examine the White Plains police and fire operations as an alternative, and the Mayor rejected it.

Roach sees the study kill as a missed opportunity.

Roach said he wanted the ramifications of a police fire split “looked at, because it’s a major change in the way we operate, in an efficient manner. I’m disappointed we’re not going to do that, because this was a great opportunity to take a look at this.”

Hockley expounds on his favoring a Police Fire Split. Boykin stands firm: no study in near term.

Mr. Hockley, holding court on City Hall’s circular staircase talked animatedly about how, in his opinion, the police should run the police, and the firemen should run the fire department, with each “Chief” reporting to the Mayor.

Mr. Boykin listened, and when asked about Mr. Hockley’s initiative to form an ad hoc citizen-professionals committee, Mr. Boykin said, he was “not willing to entertain a study in the near term.”

Hockley draws on his discussions with the unions.

Hockley said he has had extensive talks with the police and fire union leaders, and as a result, is convinced the departments could run better, if separated.

He questioned the need for Deputy Commissioners, saying the department hierarchies could be consolidated under one Commissioner each, saving the salaries of both Deputy Commissioner and the Assistant Commissioner, and we presume, the Commissioner of Public Safety. He sees both Police Chief and Fire Chief reporting to the Mayor directly.

Hockley’s thoughts on Fire Department.

Hockley said the Fire Department feels it needs autonomy, from his understanding, so they would have a Commissioner who would “speak out for them (the men),” and be behind them and the firemens’ interests, an advocate. Hockley said the firemen had told him that “we have obsolete equipment, (mentioning the “Gated Y” complaint), that they do not get the latest best equipment, but the cheapest.”

Jim Donohoe and WPCNR miss connections

Jim Donohoe, head of the firefighters union, has been trying to reach WPCNR. We have received at least one message from Mr. Donohoe, and hope to speak with the firefighters President on Wednesday.

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County Executive Spano Declares Drought Emergency

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WPCNR 5 O’Clock Lightning Leader, From Westchester County Department of Communications, filed 3/26/02 5:00 PM EST:After weeks of warnings about the potential dangers of a lack of rainfall, Westchester County Executive Andy Spano officially declared a drought emergency today — triggering mandatory water restrictions that will go into effect next week.

The county had already begun gearing up for such a declaration earlier
this month when it became obvious that reservoirs were unlikely to fill
enough to avoid more drastic conservation measures.

As of April 1, businesses, schools and governments that use more than 1,000 gallons of water per day will have to decrease water usage by 15 percent. Restaurants will be barred from serving water to patrons except upon request.

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Council hears first Ordinance on course to kill Study. Meets Tues at 7.

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WPCNR Midnight Special, By John F. Bailey, 5/25/02, UPDATE 1 filed at 11:30 PM EST: The Common Council, with Members Benjamin Boykin, William King, Robert Greer, Rita Malmud, and Glen Hockley attending Monday night, heard the first reading of an ordinance rescinding the Police/Fire Study. They will meet again Tuesday night at 7 PM
to hear the ordinance and vote it.

Photo by WPCNR

With Mayor Delfino somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, flying to Japan, the Council began the process of killing the Police Fire Study they had already approved March 11.

Council President Benjamin Boykin presided over the five-member council.

Firefighters refuse to be interviewed.

Boykin said the firefighters’ union asked the Council not to do the study. Boykin reported to WPCNR that the union told the Council they would not allow their membership to be interviewed for the study, which was planned to begin today (Tuesday).

Boykin perplexed.

Boykin commented to WPCNR after the reading of the ordinance, that he still felt “this was the right time to do the study.” Asked if the firefighters were displeased with the firm, or had given any reason for backing out of the study, Boykin demurred, saying “Ask the union.”

WPCNR asked Mr. Boykin if this wasn’t an embarrassment to him, considering how strongly he had personally called for a study of the police-fire operations in his Council President’s address in February. Boykin said, “You said that, I didn’t.”

Union has other agenda.

Earlier Monday, Boykin told WPCNR the union has an agenda it wanted to address in labor contract negotiations which begin Tuesday, and “was not looking for the Council to do the study at this time.”

Despite earlier reports from city hall spokesman Paul Wood that the study was dead forever, Boykin left the door open to do the study at some future date Monday evening, but “not any time soon,” (his words).

City Hall Shocker!

George Gretsas, the Mayor’s Executive Officer, said that the Mayor’s office had not received indication from the firefighters union that they had any reservations about the selection of CGR (Center for Government Research), to do the study at any time leading up to the Council approval of the study.

At the public hearing March 11, when the study was approved by the Council, Jim Donahoe, sitting next to Acting Public Safety Commissioner Daniel Hickey, the President of the White Plains Professional Firefighters did not comment at all, as the Council heard from the CGR representative outlining the study. Not one word.

Man from CGR already in-town, sent packing

Kent Gardner, a representative of the Center for Government Research, in town for the start of the study, arrived at City Hall just prior to the Council meeting at 6 PM Monday, and spoke with George Gretsas.

The Common Council offered no public comment or apology to Mr. Gardner regarding the Common Council eleventh hour change of commitment to the study.

No contract signed.

Gretsas reported that the city had not signed a contract with CGR for the study, and would reimburse CGR for travel expenses to White Plains already booked.
Second time in year, Democratic Council has backed off

At the beginning of 2001, the council was offered an opportunity to study the Police-Fire organization in White Plains as to its effectiveness. At that time, they rejected a study because of the expense, (approximately $200,000).

This time, apparently the price was right, but the fire department rejected the idea of being studied.

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FLASH! Council to Meet Tonight to Kill Police/Fire Study on FD Request

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WPCNR Afternoon Tribune, UPDATE # 2 by John F. Bailey, 3/25/02, 2:00 PM: WPCNR has learned that the Common Council will hold a Special Meeting this evening at 6 PM, to kill the Police-Fire Study they approved 5-1 March 14. The surprising reversal comes at the request of the White Plains Professional Fire Fighters Union on the eve of beginning negotiations of their new contract.
With the Mayor in the air over the Pacific Ocean, winging his way to Japan, the Council, if they wish to kill the study, will have to meet twice this week in order to override their own approval of a scant two weeks ago.

Acting Commissioner Hickey “floored”

The union request of the council was news to Acting Commissioner of Public Safety, Daniel Hickey, who told WPCNR, he just learned about it from City Hall a few moments ago. Hickey said the union did not talk to him or Fire Chief, Mark Daimon about the request to kill the study. He said he was “floored” when City Hall told him of the special meeting within the last hour.

Fire Fighter Contract Negotiations begin Tuesday.

Hickey noted that he was to begin labor contract negotiations with the fire fighters union Tuesday, but said he was not going to talk to the union about any reorganization of the department. He said that was not a negotiable item, saying it was up to the Mayor and the Council.

Hickey said the meeting Tuesday is the kickoff negotiation meeting, when both sides layout what the are expecting. The city will first learn what the firefighters are seeking in a new contract.
Boykin: Fire Fighters Union Asked Them to Kill Study

WPCNR interviewed Common Council President Benjamin Boykin, Jr., a little after 12 noon today, and Mr. Boykin said the decision to “rescind” the study legislation was made at the request of the fire fighters union.

Boykin said, “They have other agendas they want to pursue in new labor contract negotiations, and were not looking for us to do this.”

Boykin said he did not know what the fire department “agendas” were. He also said the police union had not commented to him on the police-fire study. He expected four councilpersons would be at the meeting this evening, providing a quoram.

The meeting was called by Mr. Boykin, WPCNR has subsequently learned slightly early Monday morning. Quoram was not achieved until minutes ahead of the six hours time interval required for a special meeting.

The reported move to kill the study, developed among council members over the past weekend.

The move to drop the study, we have learned, comes on the eve when the study was supposed to begin. A representative of the Center for Government Research was scheduled to fly in to White Plains Tuesday to commence the study, which was to have cost the city $84,000.

Shocked media scribes were mystified since the study was the centerpiece of Common Council President Benjamin Boykin’s President’s Address to the City in February, when he promised to end the controversy over separate police and fire department feasibility once and for all.

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High School Looking for More Good Principal Candidates

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Friday Night Getaway Gazette, by John F. Bailey, Filed 3/22/02, 5 PM EST: The Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources for the City School District, reported today to WPCNR that the search for a new Principal for White Plains High School to replace William Colavito beginning in July, is continuing, and that the District is going to “re-search,” placing a new advertisement to “recanvas” potential principal candidates.
Dr. Linda Ochser, told WPCNR “We’re repening our search. We did not do as well as we had hoped. We have some attractive candidates, but have made no offers yet. We are still interviewing.”
Ochser said they were placing an advertisement and she expected to conduct new interviews in mid-April.

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Board of Education Selects Final 3 for Superintendent; Names Community Committee

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Friday Getaway Gazette, By John F. Bailey, Filed 3/22/02, 4:30 PM EST: The President of the Board of Education informed WPCNR Friday that the Board has reviewed candidates for the soon-to-be-vacant (in June) Superintendent of Schools position and has selected three “finalists” for the position.
Donna McLaughlin, President, reports that in executive session held we believe Thursday evening, that the Board has selected three finalists to present to a Community Committee of citizens in approximately two weeks, who will be interviewing the three finalists for Superintendent.

Screening Committee from the Community

McLaughlin said that the “Final 3” will be interviewed by a 7-member screening committee from the community. The committee will offer representation of three District labor unions: Jerry Gorski, President of the White Plains Teachers Association, Hugh McKiernan, President of the Association of School Administrators, and Natalie Arone, President of the Civil Service Employees Association.

Representing the community will be former White Plains Councilperson, Pauline Oliva, Nancy Smith, Co-President of the White Plains PTA Council, Judith Aucar, representing Centro Hispano, and Dr. Linda Ochser, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources, representing the School District.

Three Finalists a mix

The finalists are both male and female, McLaughlin said, and not all are from the Northeast or immediate geographic area. She said she was “very excited” about the selected finalists. She said the committee was “a great addition to the selection process.” Mrs. McLaughlin added that she had “always been optimistic” about attracting top candidates because White Plains was “a great district.”

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