Rye is doubly fortunate this fall; both candidates for the District 7 County Legislator seat live in Rye.
Rye is doubly fortunate this fall; both candidates for the District 7 County Legislator seat live in Rye. At the debate held at The Osborn October 20, Democratic incumbent Catherine Parker and Republican challenger Susan Watson had another opportunity to demonstrate their differing perspectives. The forum was co-sponsored by The Osborn’s Civics Committee, headed by Tom Lavan, and moderated by the League of Women Voters’ Karen Schatzel. The candidates were given two minutes in which to deliver opening statements.
Susan Watson: I’m a first-time candidate and may not know all the answers to the questions, but, I’m good at knowing the right questions. I spent 35 years in the private sector. What does it cost?
Who pays for it and who benefits? My opponent represents a progressive agenda. I am offering a limited government alternative. Taxes are the price we pay for government and I believe that it should be limited.
Catherine Parker: It has been an honor and privilege to serve this community for eight years, six as Councilmember, two as County Legislator.
I have gotten to know this community very well, know what we’ve struggled with and what we hope to achieve. There couldn’t be more of a contrast than between me and Susan. I have achieved a lot in my first term. I helped craft a better agreement with Playland and helped hire an Energy Director for the County. Listen for the contrast between us.
Because of heavy borrowing, Nassau County has had its budget under state supervision. How will Westchester avoid a similar problem with borrowing?
Parker: We are on an unsustainable path. The County Executive has borrowed for general operations. The practice is costing: $20 million in debt service. This is a smoke-and-mirrors trick. I did not vote for last budget. We can get a 20% cut in energy costs that will save 1% in taxes. On Day One, I’d like to see a budget with real facts.
Watson: When we talk about a budget and borrowing, it is illegal for the County to borrow for operating budgets. We have to look for ways to save. County employees should pay for a portion of their health care.
The County pays 60% on energy costs now. Renewable energy will cost more. We need to look at costs and borrowing.
Is it feasible to ban plastic bags countywide?
Parker: I have proposed legislation to do so. Rye was the first community in Westchester to ban them. Plastic bags, the thin variety, are used on average for all of 12 minutes. Then they end up in the waste stream. Living in a Sound Shore community, we especially want to ban them.
We have to change people’s habits; it’s like the seat belt law.
Watson: I think banning plastic bags is a symptom of a larger issue. It’s a feel-good legislation that doesn’t have a lot of use. We might have a problem with some of the grocery associations. We’re asking business to take on cost. We should want businesses to be confident and grow, not wonder what rules we’ll make next.
What can be done on a countywide basis on the deer problem?
Watson: The City and the County are at cross purposes. The County’s deer culling program upcounty is more feasible there. The optics in Rye are terrible, and that program wouldn’t work here. Someone needs to take responsibility.
Parker: The County has control over its own parklands, where we can cull. We do have a small park in Rye, the 137-acre Marshlands. NY State law requires local municipalities to take the lead. We have been very much willing to help Rye. There really hasn’t been a community dialogue and there is no resolution from the City.
In her closing statement, Parker said, “I believe there is a lot at stake. I am the only one sitting here with experience: in government, as a small business owner. While I may not promise there won’t be a tax increase, I will work hard to find ways to reduce expenses.
“My opponent is a conservative with Tea Party rhetoric. I don’t think there is a place for that in Westchester.”
Watson had the last words. “My opponent couldn’t be more mistaken. I am more of a Libertarian. Government works for us, not the other way around. I want to work with Rob Astorino on HUD issues, building affordable housing where it is needed.
“We cannot cut our way to prosperity. We need growth; we need more people to share the tax burden.