We are in recession; employment is stuck near 10 % with absolutely no imminent lessening. Government at all levels faces strains over costs of public employment, health and retirement insurance. More important, citizens see the all-encompassing state that once was the source of our health and security from threats foreign and domestic, our safety net of social guarantees and the protector of rights, unable to live up to many of its promised tasks. This is because the office holders of all parties have gotten in the habit of promising all things to all people without any regard to means for paying for this largesse.
We in Westchester are facing up to the new reality of an increasingly global and regional competition from foreign states and even other localities. Just as we now buy many goods from Asia, we also do not patronize local merchants for essential supplies and food, thanks to the Internet, mail order and regionally focused big box discount retailers. This has caused a cataclysmic diminution in sales tax revenues (and we have heard how our property tax input has been placed off limits because of extravagant tax break bonanzas for high-profile business barons. We all know that Albany and Washington, owing to an explosion of pet projects and entitlement and military-related waste are incapable of helping and we still await relief from their intrusive unfunded mandates that inflate our cost of living. We also know now that our public schools, a source of pride, suffers also from economic strains because of a city council majority philosophy that continues to rely on the small homeowner to make up deficiencies caused by the tax subsidies given to richest developers.
New Rochelle is catching the brunt of this cultural change. As an original suburban and industrial city, old practices must be cast aside and new ones learned and practiced. We suffer from antiquated facilities and roads and an ill-maintained infrastructure of drains and sewers; one bridge in my district has been on a state watch list for unworthiness. Streets are pockmarked with potholes and cragged surfaces. One neighbor I visited has been asking the city for months to inspect a tree that he fears will fall with disastrous consequences. Another wants to know when the city is going to address the permanent bog that has developed in his backyard from the rains, floods and hurricane we have experienced this season. Two on Wilmot and Sprague in the north have not had a week since mid summer when their front driveways weren’t flooded and houses made inaccessible to cars and emergency vehicles. Despite quick responses from fire and police forces, personnel/shift limitations and lack of inventory and equipment prevented pumping or even sand bagging as a band-aid.
Local spending must be redirected to what is essential; fire and police protection and public works maintenance and re-construction. Expansion of other facilities and engagement in pursuits like ameliorating climate change must take a back seat; there is no alternative. Anyone running for office who does not a accept these realities is not ready to govern today in a local council. Anyone running for local office who does not understand the perils of over eager and unrehearsed negotiations with developers, contractors and public employee unions is not prepared to remedy our fiscal issues either. I believe my experience in manufacturing, where you confront constraints of labor, capital and physical plant similar to that experienced in government, makes me specially qualified to work in New Rochelle government in this time of diminished resources and expectations. I’m not a philosopher but primarily a problem solver; please put me to work.