THE GREAT DEBATES
By Tom McDermott
Perhaps it was due to the early start to the Yankees playoff game and a Republican event in town, that only a small group of residents gathered at Rye Middle School October 17 for the League of Women Voters District 7 County Legislator debate.
Norman Rosenblum, who has served as mayor of the Village of Mamaroneck for eight years, seeks to upset incumbent Catherine Parker of Rye, who is seeking a third two-year term on the Board of Legislators (BOL). Parker is running on the Democratic, Working Families, and Women’s Equality lines, while Rosenblum is the Republican, Conservative, and Reform candidate. District 7 includes Rye, Mamaroneck, Larchmont, and parts of New Rochelle and Harrison. The LWV’s Carol Hurford of New Castle moderated.
Parker opened by stating that she is proud that her 21-year-old store on Rye’s Purchase Street is still operating. She said her mother taught her to always give back to the community, consequently she restarted the Rye Chamber of Commerce in 1998 and served for six years on Rye’s City Council. She sees her strength as being a fiscal watchdog for constituents.
Rosenblum’s family has deep roots in Mamaroneck, and has been involved in civic affairs since the 1920s. He recently retired from Safe Flight Instrument Co., where he dealt with the FAA for many years.
Asked to assess what value County government offers, Rosenblum believes a lot of the County fiscal issues are due to New York City getting a far bigger piece of the tax pie than deserved.
Parker stated that New York is much more diverse than Connecticut and Rhode Island, the only two states without county government. “Every time you flush,” she said, “that’s the County at work.” She went on to explain how difficult it would be for each town to provide its own Health Department.
Rosenblum mentioned his own work getting Mamaroneck CSEA and PBA members to give back on healthcare. He believes the County can play a large role in helping communities in important areas like flood mitigation.
On the question of opioids in the community, Rosenblum declared that Mamaroneck lost six young lives to opioids. “Parents say it’s not my kid, but it is,” he said. He believes there must be better communication with young people, especially in regard to gateway drugs like tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol. In this the two are in agreement.
Parker noted that opioids are not just a threat to young people that 30% of opioid overdoses are among seniors. She has worked with the County Health Department on training for constituents in the use of drugs to combat overdoses. She supports a suit against the pharmaceutical companies, similar to the tobacco suits, to get money to pay for treatment. She voted to ban synthetic marijuana sales in the County.
As might be expected, the League asked both candidates for their opinion on Rye and its relationship to Playland. Rosenblum thinks that the Board of Legislators should work with the County Executive, that that is the way to get the best for Sound Shore communities. Parker stated that the BOL and Rob Astorino reached out to Rye before its lawsuit, offered to meet with the City Planner and Engineer, and tried hard to include Rye. She does, however, have reservations about the deal with Standard Amusements, which has missed some payments. “The private partner should have borne all costs,” she said, “The new deal is very much on taxpayers.”
What about the County’s plan to privatize Westchester Airport? “This was a surprise 40-year agreement with a private equity firm,” claimed Parker, who also said it was solely used to plug a $15 million budget hole this year. She is concerned about the environmental impact on water as well. Rosenblum is not happy with the deal, and not sure that Westchester is truly eligible for the federal program, since he says the County is in good financial shape. “Don’t give up six million in parking fees, and a 40-year deal with no termination clause makes no sense.
Rosenblum sees flood mitigation as a bipartisan affair, noting that Congresswoman Nita Lowey provided funding in the past to Mamaroneck and that Congressman Elliot Engel and others now are helping fund Army Corps of Engineering projects in and around the village. “Most water comes from the Sheldrake River and Beaver Swamp.” Parker noted that the retention ponds at the airport will finally be rebuilt to original larger specs, and suggests that the County must hire a hydrologist and look at more green solutions to flooding. Rye, she said, has still not asked for County funding for mitigation.
There are at least two areas of clear disagreement between the candidates: gun shows at the County Center and legislation protecting rights of undocumented residents.
On the former, Parker said, “Absolutely not. It’s not only guns; they attract Nazi propaganda and Confederate flags.” She’s happy the BOL passed legislation banning shows and a “displeased” Mr. Astorino vetoed the bill. Rosenblum thinks banning shows is a “slippery slope” and that propaganda is not part of the gun show. “We have a responsibility to draw the line,” states Parker. “The County Executive runs municipal buildings,” countered Rosenblum. “We’re treading on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.”
Rosenblum is 100 percent against sanctuaries in the County. “The only people who have to worry are the criminals.”
Parker co-sponsored legislation she says does not protect criminals, but simply makes residents feel safer.
As for the deer population. while both candidates are sympathetic, residents should not hold their breaths for a solution. According to Parker, there is no County program — each municipality must create its own program and get permits from NYS-DEC. Rosenblum started the deer committee in Mamaroneck and has tried to work with Rye. He lays blame squarely on the County for not doing anything.
As if on cue, the Yanks staged their thriller comeback just as the debate came to a close.
Norman Rosenblum and Catherine Parker