The Rye Record met separately with the candidates for the 91st Assembly District seat currently held by George Latimer, who is running for the State Senate.
The Rye Record met separately with the candidates for the 91st Assembly District seat currently held by George Latimer, who is running for the State Senate. Steve Otis (D) and Bill Villanova (R) said they offer stark differences from one another in how they’d serve residents of the Sound Shore.
Former Rye Mayor Steve Otis, 55, said he has a lifetime of government experience at the local, county, state, and federal levels. Otis promises to work full-time representing residents of Larchmont, Mamaroneck, Port Chester, Rye, Rye Brook, and part of New Rochelle.
Bill Villanova of Port Chester said he thinks the Assembly District needs ‘a fresh mind’ free of political ties and perks that come with the state job — like daily hotel and meal stipends. The Republican says he’ll give 110 percent to the “part-time” job.
Villanova, 42, who is Deputy Rye Town Supervisor in Rye and a funeral manager, said, “If you’re going to be a public servant, then be a public servant. Don’t be a drain on the taxpayers. Steve has been a part of the problem in Albany. He has not been effective.”
For the last 27 years, Otis has worked as counsel and chief of staff to State Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer, who is retiring at the end of the year.
“I love public service and that’s why I serve,’’ Otis said. “I offer a lifetime of public service. I’m proud of the work I’ve done over the years. I’m better prepared than most and eager to use my experience and skills.”
Otis said he supports Gov. Cuomo’s efforts in “righting the ship” and reducing spending in state government. 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.”
The candidates differed on how to deal with labor issues. Villanova said he favors reforming the system, particularly the Triborough Amendment. But 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.”
Villanova blamed Otis for a steady rise in city taxes while he was mayor. “When Otis was mayor, there were 11 years of tax increases in a row, according to Villanova. City debt rose from $2.5 million to $20 million. He wants to take credit for the good but not the bad.”
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 in local efforts securing money for flood control and the new public-private agreement to manage the historic Jay Heritage property.
Villanova favors credits for small businesses. “We need to change the headlines. We need to say New York is a great place to do business.” He is also for assistance for discharged veterans and minorities. 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.’’
His opponent is opposed to pay raises and the legislators daily stipend of $165 for meals and lodging. He also favors term limits and feels legislative staff should be reduced.
Regarding Rye Town Park, which both candidates have been involved with as members of the Rye Town Park Commission, Otis said he was responsible for securing private financing for Rye Town Park.
Villanova said the park is running very lean now, but when Otis was Mayor, average losses at the park were $217,000 each year for 12 years. For the City of Rye’s share, that is $1.25 million.”
Regarding the imminent release of a study of public services shared by the city and town of Rye, Villanova said he’d favor dissolving the town if that is what the study recommends.
“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.”
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.
Assembly members earn a yearly base salary of $79,500.