91st Assembly District: Newcomer vs. Lifelong Public Servant

At the League of Women Voters forum Monday night, candidates for the 91st Assembly District seat offered stark differences in how they’d serve Sound Shore residents.

Published October 18, 2012 4:24 PM
3 min read

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At the League of Women Voters forum Monday night, candidates for the 91st Assembly District seat offered stark differences in how they’d serve Sound Shore residents.

 

By Jon Craig

 

At the League of Women Voters forum Monday night, candidates for the 91st Assembly District seat offered stark differences in how they’d serve Sound Shore residents.

 

Former Rye Mayor Steve Otis, Democrat, said he has a lifetime of government experience at the local, county, state, and federal levels. Otis promised to work full-time representing residents of Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Port Chester, Rye, Rye Brook, and part of New Rochelle.

 

Republican Bill Villanova said he thinks the Assembly District needs “a fresh mind’’ free of political ties and perks that come with the state job — like hotel and meal stipends. “We’re getting crushed by taxes,’’ he said.

 

Villanova, 42, is Deputy Rye Town Supervisor and a funeral home manager.

 

Otis, 55, is counsel and chief of staff to Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer, who is retiring at the end of the year.

 

“The only reason he’s running is because his boss has chosen not to run,’’ Villanova said.

 

“I love public service and that’s why I serve,” Otis emphasized. “I offer a lifetime of public service. I’m proud of the work I’ve done over the years.’’

 

Otis said he supports reforming the system, and has not been motivated by money in his career. He blamed high property taxes on unfunded state mandates, including the county’s share of Medicaid funding.

 

Villanova agreed with Otis, saying, “Albany sometimes has to get out of the way.”

 

He went on to blame Otis for a steady rise in city taxes while he was mayor. “What makes you think he’s going to represent you in Albany?” Villanova asked.

 

Otis said he’s “disgusted” by the string of state legislators getting in trouble over the years. “We need to demand better ethics,’’ he said. “They should be dealt with very severely.’’

 

But as a state employee the past 27 years, Villanova said he’s convinced Otis has been part of the problem in Albany.

 

Otis said he supports Gov. Cuomo’s efforts in “righting the ship” and reducing spending in state government.

 

He explained he was responsible for securing private financing for Rye Town Park. But Villanova blamed Otis for allowing debt to mount during his 12 years on the Rye Town Park Commission.

 

The candidates also differed on how to deal with labor issues. Villanova said he favors reforming the system, particularly the Triborough Amendment. Otis said it is more complex than that. “We don’t want all of the contractual obligations to expire” when a contract ends, he said. “That’s poison for labor negotiations.”

 

In a question submitted by resident Ted Carroll, Otis was pressed on his role in the city’s purchase of 1037 Boston Post Road, which it planned to turn the into a Police/Court facility. The building is currently leased by Lester’s. Carroll asked why the city would buy a building for $6.2 million when it was appraised for $4.5 million.

 

“It met the appraisals,’’ Otis said, without explaining the discrepancy. Carroll kept asking how, prompting LWV officials to warn him he might be asked to leave.

 

Villanova said the state legislature “was supposed to be a part-time government,’’ but Otis called reforming Albany “a full-time commitment.”

 

“What I offer is really the knowledge and expertise of a lifetime of public service, and the ability to know how to solve complicated problems,” Otis said. “There’s a knowledge base and a skill base to be successful in public service, and this is what I provide.”

 

Otis said he supports reducing county property taxes by capping special education and pension costs districts and phasing out the county portion of Medicaid. He also cited his local efforts in securing money for flood control and the new public-private agreement to manage the historic Jay Center property.

 

As a councilman since 2005, Villanova said he’s trimmed spending and debt in Rye Town, which collects taxes in three villages and operates Crawford and Rye Town parks.

 

The 91st District seat is currently held by George Latimer who is running for State Senate this fall. Assembly members earn a yearly base salary of $79,500.

 

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