Catching Up with the County Executive

When given the chance to meet with County Executive Rob Astorino earlier this month, we jumped at the opportunity to ask him about a number of issues of import to Rye residents.

a5 astorino
Published April 12, 2012 4:57 PM
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a5 astorinoWhen given the chance to meet with County Executive Rob Astorino earlier this month, we jumped at the opportunity to ask him about a number of issues of import to Rye residents.

By Robin Jovanovich

 

a5 astorinoWhen given the chance to meet with County Executive Rob Astorino earlier this month, we jumped at the opportunity to ask him about a number of issues of import to Rye residents.

 

Walking into the elevator at the Michaelian Building in White Plains, while practicing our questions aloud, whom should we bump into but the man himself. We eyed one another before both apologizing for running a few minutes late. He needed no excuse; we responded brightly that “business must be picking up in White Plains” because it took us close to 20 minutes to find a parking space.

 

Speaking first with Ned McCormack, Mr. Astorino’s senior advisor, we asked if they were close to making a decision on which of the three finalists in the RFP process was the front-runner to assume the operation of Playland.

 

“There are a number of potential outcomes,” said Mr. McCormack. “Moving forward with one plan, a combination of plans, or going back to the drawing board.” Rather than refer to Sustainable Playland, Central Amusement International or Standard Amusements as “finalists”, he said, the 19-member committee appointed last year by the County Executive is still reviewing the plans. While he applauded the Sustainable Playland group’s vision and acknowledged the strong appeal of the public/private partnership they put forth, Mr. McCormick remarked, “We’re reviewing the numbers on each of these plans to see what’s real, what’s sustainable.” He anticipates the County Executive will provide an update before the summer.

 

When asked about a funding stream for flooding, one of the biggest issues in Rye, Mr. McCormack said, “We’ve committed money in the capital budget. With grants shrinking, we’re picking off projects, especially dredging, as best we can.”

We moved to the County Executive’s office, which has no bells or whistles, for the rest of the interview.

 

How is Mr. Astorino doing on his pledge to keep businesses from moving out of Westchester, which has the unfortunate distinction of having the highest property taxes in the country?

 

“I’m trying to give businesses — large and small — confidence to stay and even to grow their businesses here,” he replied. “We convinced Kraft to keep many of its employees here, and Pepsico is staying. We remain a center for intellectual capital.

 

And through LDC’s [Local Development Corporation], projects such as Ridge Hill in Yonkers are growing.”

 

While the County Executive has been “tackling the public service unions head on,” to get them to contribute to their benefit plans, he said without those savings, the only choice has been to cut jobs and expenses. On the first day of business in 2012, the automatic cost escalators add up to $27.8 million ($10.3 million in pension, $9 million in salaries, $5.5 in Medicaid, and $3 million in materials and supplies).

 

“The fundamentals haven’t changed,” emphasized Mr. Astorino. “Revenues are flat, and the unions are unbending. Our only lever is layoffs. The unions have got to be more realistic.”

 

The County Executive asked The Rye Record how things were going in our community.

 

“We’re counting on you to keep your pledge to not raise taxes, to stand firm against the overreaching Federal Monitor on affordable housing, to continue your focus on flood mitigation, and to be a model of efficient and good government,” we replied.

 

Before we left, the County Executive made us an offer we’re going to take him up on. “Next time, you come, call my office and we’ll find you a parking space.” We’ll hold you to the promise the night of the State of the County Address April 25.

 

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