By Robin Jovanovich
Last spring, Rye’s Catherine Parker, who was running for a third term two-year term on the Westchester County Board of Legislators, made a big decision: “Regardless of the fact that I had a challenger, I was going to help change what I perceived was a problem in County government.” The problem, in her view, was at the top of the administration, and she took time off from her own race and from running her eponymous travel and lifestyle store in downtown Rye to help elect a new County Executive.
“Rob Astorino, whom I voted for when he ran the first time, was no longer working to benefit the County,” Parker said in an interview this week in her office in White Plains. “The idea that you can cut and cut and not raise taxes is not sustainable. During his eight years, he may have reduced some redundancies, but he decimated the Planning Department and did nothing about the aging infrastructure.”
So Parker pitched in and helped elect a fellow Rye resident, George Latimer, to the top job. “George has already set a different tone and is out there listening to what residents and communities want and need.”
She’s now refocused on the road ahead, which includes the $30 million airport deal she says never reached the Board of Legislators’ desks, and the public/private partnership with Playland that wasn’t properly structured.
Approving the County’s annual budget remains the primary job of a County Legislator. “I never lose sight of that, but as the Board unanimously overrode the County Executive’s last budget — which was structurally imbalanced to the tune of $100 million — I think we need to spend more time talking about expectations when we budget.”
In the end, the Board of Legislators approved a 2 percent tax increase “because the math we were handed didn’t add up.”
For those who routinely remark that there is no glory in Westchester being the highest taxed county in the country and question whether we actually need county government, Parker points to the fact that county government is actually an effective level of government.
“We have an excellent Health Department; we set up mosquito baiting and inspect 60,000 storm drains; we maintain parks that are beautiful and treasured,” she said. “And as New York State shares the burden of Medicaid with the County and 200,000 Westchester residents benefit from the program, I think we are very necessary.”
Parker is glad to report that there are already six pieces of legislation going to committee in just the first month of the new year, including prohibiting gun shows at the County Center, an immigration protection act, an opioid take-back, and improved sick leave.
“We’re off to a good start,” she promised.
County Legislator and Majority Leader Catherine Parker in the legislative chambers in White Plains