Category Archives: Columns

CAREY

Column: Ed Grainger, a David who fell a Goliath

Current Rye Mayor Joe Sack, center, with former Rye mayors Edmund Grainger, left, and Judge John Carey. Grainger passed away on Oct. 18. Photo/Lester Millman

Current Rye Mayor Joe Sack, center, with former Rye mayors Edmund Grainger, left, and Judge John Carey. Grainger passed away on Oct. 18. Photo/Lester Millman

My immediate predecessor as mayor of Rye was Ed Grainger. His term was nearing its end in 1973. The question was, who would take him on in the 1973 mayoral contest? I wondered if I would have a chance of getting the better of him.

Ed was extremely popular in Rye, as the David who had gone forth to battle with the Goliath, Gov. Rockefeller. The governor wanted to bridge Long Island Sound from Rye to Oyster Bay. The approach would have slashed right through us just east of Playland.

Ed mobilized expert assistance and took the issues to court. Eventually, the governor backed off, turning his eyes toward Washington. The bridge plan was dropped, and all Rye heaved a sigh of relief. These events were recalled by Ed in his remarks at the recent City Hall anniversary celebration.

As the time approached in 1973 for mayoral candidates to declare themselves, I did not know what to do. I knew that if I took on Ed, I would get my head handed to me. On the other hand, as President Truman used to say, “If you can’t stand the heat, then don’t go in the kitchen.”

Suddenly, the picture changed, with Ed’s surprise announcement that he would not seek re-election as mayor in 1973. Being an elected member of the City Council with six years of experience as such, I had a big advantage over anyone else, so I threw my hat in the ring for mayor.

The result in November 1973 was favorable, as it was again four years later. Not until 1981 did the voters bid me farewell. By then, I had 14 years on the council, so I was content to bide my time until an opportunity to serve as a judge came along a few years later. Being a judge is the ultimate professional joy and satisfaction for a lawyer, in my opinion.

CONTACT: j_pcarey@verizon.net

 
Marvin-Mary

Column: What to do about pensions

The subject of pension liabilities is always an issue of concern for governments, but two recent events brought it to the forefront once again.

Central States Fund, a prominent Teamster pension fund and one of the nation’s largest, has filed for reorganization under a new federal law and informed its more than 400,000 members that their benefits must be cut.

Cutting retirees’ benefits has generally been thought undoable, but the director of the Teamster fund believes that reducing the payouts is the only realistic way to make any of the money last. Currently, the Central States Fund pays out $3.46 in benefits to its retirees for every $1 it receives in employer contributions, resulting in a pension capital fund reserve that will run out in 10 to 15 years. Conversely, restructuring could make the fund last 50 more years. The fund chairman, unlike many government leaders, realized that the responsible thing, not the politically expedient thing, was to confront the problem now.

The governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo, took the same principled approach. After a four-year overhaul and intense union negotiations, a new pension plan was enacted that neither raised taxes nor forced the purchase of risky pension obligation bonds. To reach this result, retirees had to trade in part of their defined benefit pension plan for a 401(k)-style plan where they must bear some of the investment risk.

Mired in Illinois’ $110 billion shortfall, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel of Chicago is also attempting to get a handle on pension costs, but the outcome has been very different due to a very important variance in state law.

Most states, including Illinois and New York, took steps long ago to make pensions creatures of contract law versus that of a statutory right á la Rhode Island, and the distinction is critical.

Statutes are relatively easy to change by simple amendment, but pension “contract” states have to confront a clause in the United States Constitution that bans them from enacting any law that retroactively impairs contract rights.

The clause dates all the way back to post-Revolutionary America and was created as a way for the Founding Fathers to stop the states from giving themselves debt relief.

In essence, Gov. Raimondo had bargaining leverage that Mayor Emmanuel does not.

Mayor Emmanuel successfully negotiated compromises with 30 of his 33 unions. The deal collapsed when some holdouts filed an injunction to stay the new plan until the Supreme Court of Illinois decided the constitutionality of a concurrent case concerning an Illinois state pension revision.

The court found the state’s restructuring unconstitutional, and soon after, a Cook County judge ruled the decision binding on Chicago as well.

The effect on Albany did not go unnoticed as Illinois’ constitutional provision nearly verbatim mirrors that of New York’s, which defines membership in a governmental pension system as a “contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or repaired.”

The Illinois court went even further and disallowed any attempt to reduce the future benefits not yet earned by people still working in government.

New York officials have always presumed that our constitutional language would be interpreted in a like manner, i.e. entitling public employees to earn all the benefits offered by the pension system at the time of their hire.

That is why the few reforms of late have only focused on changing the rules for new “tiers” of employees not yet hired.

As a result of the court’s interpretation, the current reality for Chicago is a record-breaking property tax increase. Mayor Emmanuel stated his only other option to bridge the gaping financial hole was to layoff thousands of police and firefighters and forestall street repairs and rodent control programs, making in his words the city of Chicago “unlivable.”

At the Illinois state level, the governor is scrambling to avert the same draconian choice of deep spending cuts or exorbitant tax hikes by proposing a constitutional amendment that limits current employees from being entitled to pension benefits they have yet to earn.

Likewise, but with a zero chance of passing in New York, Republican Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick of Suffolk County has proposed a similar constitutional amendment.

Faced with what appears to be an almost insurmountable legal firewall, some financial analysts are urging Congress to enact a law enabling states to declare bankruptcy the way municipalities such as Detroit and San Bernardino, Calif., did under Chapter 9 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code. California and Illinois are in such extremis that the possibility is not so far-fetched. As a nation, it is estimated that we now have unfunded public pension liabilities of as much as $3 trillion. The logic flows that even the threat of bankruptcy and the attenuating change in financial obligations would give governors and legislatures a powerful new weapon to achieve concessions.

I don’t know where the answers or solutions lie, but I know it is not by not confronting the issue head on. Inaction is a clear and dangerous action and as the fund manager of the Central States plan stated, it is also “irresponsible.”

The state of New York must do something soon and significant. A union leader in Rhode Island put it best when he said, “A settlement can be fair and heartbreaking at the same time.”

Forliano

Column: The Puritans and Hutchinson’s arrival in America

A depiction of Anne Hutchinson. Photo courtesy Richard Forliano

A depiction of Anne Hutchinson. Photo courtesy Richard Forliano

With George Pietarinen, author of “Anne Hutchinson, A Puritan Woman of Courage.” 

This is the second in a series of articles on the Colonial and Revolutionary History
of Eastchester.

Anne Hutchinson is perceived as a feminist hero who made courageous sacrifices for the right to follow her own conscience. On the other hand, the Puritan ministers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony who persecuted Hutchinson are viewed as members of an absolutist theocracy, intolerant bigots whose version of Christianity maintained an insular purity. The brilliance and courage of Hutchinson cannot be denied.

Likewise, it is wrong to cast the Puritans as simply unbending, joyless fanatics who imposed their will through strict laws and terrible punishment. Hutchinson would be the first European to settle in the Town of Eastchester but 21 years after her massacre by indigenous tribes, it would be Puritan farm families that first settled and cast their imprint on our town.

It is imperative not to judge 17th century individuals and events in terms of our own perceptions and values. The truth about Anne Hutchinson and the Puritans who first settled the New England colony is not as simplistic as we have been led to believe. For the Puritans, the desire to escape religious persecution in Europe did not lead to a belief in toleration for others. For those who came to America for religious reasons, their faith was central to their entire belief system and worldview. For survival in the dangerous wilderness that was America, people like the Puritans could not conceive of another belief system being valid.

The Puritans, like all true believers, felt that their way was the only way. Here in Massachusetts, the Puritans hoped to create a new Zion, a community of saints, a beacon on a hill for all mankind to see. Why else risk the journey across the Atlantic, establish a settlement in a frozen wilderness, and endure bloody conflicts with Native Americans? The Puritans insisted on a tightly organized, homogenous community that ascribed to the individual a limited role. Harmony, not dissension, cooperation, not strife, were encouraged. The true source of all truth was the Bible. It would be the role of clergy to guide them to the paths of righteousness.

The Puritans of Massachusetts had only been there for only four years when Hutchinson arrived. At first she was welcomed as the godly wife of a pious and successful merchant, blessed with 15 children. In an age when more than half of the babies died before the age of three and one of every five women died of pregnancy-related causes, the Hutchinsons seemed preternaturally blessed.

But what was it about this 41-year-old woman, who in a short time would bitterly divide the fledging Puritan settlement at Boston and threaten its survival? She was the third daughter of the Presbyterian minister Francis Marbury. While imprisoned in England for his religious views, he not only taught Hutchinson to read and write but infused in her a deep understanding of Lutheran and Calvinist doctrine. As one 20th century historian adequately described her, “…She was born too soon; or one might say, this great spirit was born in the body of the wrong gender for that backward time.”

Her intelligence and independence of thought marked her as unusual among the women of the settlement. Young women especially admired Hutchinson because of her skill as a midwife, numerous healthy children, her wealth, along with a husband who allowed her considerable latitude. The trouble began when she began holding meetings in her home where sermons of the ministers were criticized.

According to the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Edmund S. Morgan, Hutchinson “broached a doctrine that was absolutely inconsistent for which the Puritans had crossed the water, the belief that the truth for man could be found in the Bible…She began to affirm a new basis for absolute truth: immediate personal communion with the Holy Ghost.”

This took tremendous courage to stand up to a government where the religious rulers were the leaders. To emphasize direct revelation with God, not the ministers interpretation of the Bible, threatened the very reason why the Puritan colony had been founded. The situation was further complicated by the charge that many of Hutchinson’s followers had refused to take part in the bloody Pequot War (1634 – 1638) that was threatening the colony with virtual extermination.

Anne was a courageous and brilliant visionary whose assertions that direct revelation from God, not merely a minister’s interpretation of the Bible, were far ahead of her times. But the divisions that her teachings created threatened the very reasons for the existence of the colony. The decision to question participation in a deadly Native American war was, to say the least, questionable.

The Puritan theocracy placed compliance over independence of thought, harmony over disagreement. The Puritan rulers did not handle Hutchinson’s attack on their ideals as a matter of a difference of opinion. John Winthrop, the elected governor of the colony, took Hutchinson’s teachings as an attack on absolute truth, an attack on the stability of the commonwealth that he had done so much to found. Winthrop did not want his colony rocked to its foundation by the seductive teaching of a clever lady. He could not help regarding this woman as an enemy of God.

 

Please contact us at historian@eastchesterhistoricalsociety.org about any comments or questions you might have about the content of our columns.

 
Marvin-Mary

Column: What to do about pensions

The subject of pension liabilities is always an issue of concern for governments, but two recent events brought it to the forefront once again.

Central States Fund, a prominent Teamster pension fund and one of the nation’s largest, has filed for reorganization under a new federal law and informed its more than 400,000 members that their benefits must be cut.

Cutting retirees’ benefits has generally been thought undoable, but the director of the Teamster fund believes that reducing the payouts is the only realistic way to make any of the money last. Currently, the Central States Fund pays out $3.46 in benefits to its retirees for every $1 it receives in employer contributions, resulting in a pension capital fund reserve that will run out in 10 to 15 years. Conversely, restructuring could make the fund last 50 more years. The fund chairman, unlike many government leaders, realized that the responsible thing, not the politically expedient thing, was to confront the problem now.

The governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo, took the same principled approach. After a four-year overhaul and intense union negotiations, a new pension plan was enacted that neither raised taxes nor forced the purchase of risky pension obligation bonds. To reach this result, retirees had to trade in part of their defined benefit pension plan for a 401(k)-style plan where they must bear some of the investment risk.

Mired in Illinois’ $110 billion shortfall, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel of Chicago is also attempting to get a handle on pension costs, but the outcome has been very different due to a very important variance in state law.

Most states, including Illinois and New York, took steps long ago to make pensions creatures of contract law versus that of a statutory right á la Rhode Island, and the distinction is critical.

Statutes are relatively easy to change by simple amendment, but pension “contract” states have to confront a clause in the United States Constitution that bans them from enacting any law that retroactively impairs contract rights.

The clause dates all the way back to post-Revolutionary America and was created as a way for the Founding Fathers to stop the states from giving themselves debt relief.

In essence, Gov. Raimondo had bargaining leverage that Mayor Emmanuel does not.

Mayor Emmanuel successfully negotiated compromises with 30 of his 33 unions. The deal collapsed when some holdouts filed an injunction to stay the new plan until the Supreme Court of Illinois decided the constitutionality of a concurrent case concerning an Illinois state pension revision.

The court found the state’s restructuring unconstitutional, and soon after, a Cook County judge ruled the decision binding on Chicago as well.

The effect on Albany did not go unnoticed as Illinois’ constitutional provision nearly verbatim mirrors that of New York’s, which defines membership in a governmental pension system as a “contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or repaired.”

The Illinois court went even further and disallowed any attempt to reduce the future benefits not yet earned by people still working in government.

New York officials have always presumed that our constitutional language would be interpreted in a like manner, i.e. entitling public employees to earn all the benefits offered by the pension system at the time of their hire.

That is why the few reforms of late have only focused on changing the rules for new “tiers” of employees not yet hired.

As a result of the court’s interpretation, the current reality for Chicago is a record-breaking property tax increase. Mayor Emmanuel stated his only other option to bridge the gaping financial hole was to layoff thousands of police and firefighters and forestall street repairs and rodent control programs, making in his words the city of Chicago “unlivable.”

At the Illinois state level, the governor is scrambling to avert the same draconian choice of deep spending cuts or exorbitant tax hikes by proposing a constitutional amendment that limits current employees from being entitled to pension benefits they have yet to earn.

Likewise, but with a zero chance of passing in New York, Republican Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick of Suffolk County has proposed a similar constitutional amendment.

Faced with what appears to be an almost insurmountable legal firewall, some financial analysts are urging Congress to enact a law enabling states to declare bankruptcy the way municipalities such as Detroit and San Bernardino, Calif., did under Chapter 9 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code. California and Illinois are in such extremis that the possibility is not so far-fetched. As a nation, it is estimated that we now have unfunded public pension liabilities of as much as $3 trillion. The logic flows that even the threat of bankruptcy and the attenuating change in financial obligations would give governors and legislatures a powerful new weapon to achieve concessions.

I don’t know where the answers or solutions lie, but I know it is not by not confronting the issue head on. Inaction is a clear and dangerous action and as the fund manager of the Central States plan stated, it is also “irresponsible.”

The state of New York must do something soon and significant. A union leader in Rhode Island put it best when he said, “A settlement can be fair and heartbreaking at the same time.”

MikeSmith

Column: Defending the format

Bronxville’s Jeff Sargeant dives for an extra yard against Yonkers Montessori Academy on Oct. 3. The Broncos will have a tough test in the qualifying round of the Class B playoffs as they host undefeated Valhalla. Photo/Bobby Begun

Bronxville’s Jeff Sargeant dives for an extra yard against Yonkers Montessori Academy on Oct. 3. The Broncos will have a tough test in the qualifying round of the Class B playoffs as they host undefeated Valhalla. Photo/Bobby Begun

While there has been no small amount of handwringing over the new format of the Section I football playoffs this year, just one look at the schedule for the first-ever qualifying round of the postseason has me very excited for the days ahead.

Not everyone was crazy about the new, expanded playoff format. But while some fans came into the year concerned that too much emphasis was placed on preseason rankings, the inclusion of more teams into the postseason picture seems, in practice, to have worked out quite nicely.

Of course, it helps that several programs in the Review’s coverage area find themselves in the mix this year. While three of our local programs—Rye and Eastchester in Class A, and New Rochelle in Class AA—would have been guaranteed prime seeds after rolling through the regular season with undefeated records, the new format has opened the doors for teams like Mamaroneck, which is much better than its 0-6 record would indicate.

In past years, a winless season would have caused the Tigers to be on the outside looking in, but a strong August ranking means the team will have one more chance to turn things around. And just one look at what the team has been able to do, such as losing heartbreakers against top teams like the Huguenots, leads me to believe that the Tigers have the ability to travel to Carmel on Oct. 16 and hand the Rams an upset loss.

Of course, the most anticipated playoff matchup will see the No. 1 seeded Garnets (6-0) taking on No. 16 Harrison (3-3) at home on Oct. 17. The underdog Huskies played Rye tough last week and will be looking for redemption against their rivals as the teams get set for their first-ever back-to-back games in the 86-year history of the longstanding feud.

One of the more intriguing matchups of the qualifying round, however, will take place in Class B, as Bronxville hosts Valhalla in a showdown between the No. 6 and 11 seeds, respectively.

If anyone has a valid complaint about the importance of preseason rankings in this year’s playoff format, it would have to be the unbeaten Vikings who will not have home-field advantage when they square off against the 3-3 Broncos on Saturday.

So is this new format perfect?

Probably not, especially if you ask the teams whose play outshined early predictions. But a more inclusive structure gives more teams the chance to test their mettle in the postseason. For fans and sportswriters, like yours truly? It’s an opportunity to watch a few more weeks of high-stakes football.

So I say bring it on; it’s definitely going to be a heck of a weekend.

 

Follow Mike on Twitter
@LiveMike_Sports

 
Despite some public outcry, Mayor Joe Sack, a Republican, and the Rye City Council unanimously adopted a resolution giving them the authority to approve the appointment of the police commissioner. File photo

Column: What it’s like to be Rye’s mayor

Lady Gaga sings, “I live for the applause, applause, applause…” It must be nice.

As mayor, that’s not always an option. At least not if you’re doing it right. Being mayor isn’t so glamorous all the time. Sometimes you just feel like the shoeshine boy. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. To be mayor, you need to be willing to serve others, get your hands dirty, and accept the hard jobs that nobody else wants to do.

Take the deer issue for instance. Please, take the deer, as Henny Youngman might say.

As most Greenhaven residents will tell you, they are overrun by deer. They want the deer gone. Dead. Morte! There are also others—some in Rye, most outside Rye—who don’t want to touch a hair on a deer’s head.

Last month, when Pope Francis was in New York, I was even told by an animal rights activist that His Holiness does not want the deer slaughtered.

Unfortunately, deer pose a significant health and environmental problem by eating away at the ecosystem, causing car accidents, spreading Lyme disease and generally pooping on everyone’s front yard.

Deer advocates promote birth control for deer. Not sure how that coincides with Vatican doctrine either. Anyway, that approach doesn’t seem to be very efficient or cost-effective.

If you are a thoughtful person, culling the herd by deadly force must give you at least some pause. But forced to make a choice, I put people before deer. This position puts me in the crosshairs myself. And even the anti-deer crowd is peeved by the perceived slow pace of action.

Then there’s rock chipping.

I’ve consistently been encouraging folks—even in this column—to listen to each other, and to address an important issue without taking themselves too seriously. For some, that’s gone over like a lead balloon.

Finally, after much give and take, the City Council decided to dramatically limit rock chipping to 38 consecutive calendar days. This amounts to about 28 chipping days, because the council has also now prohibited chipping on both Saturdays and Sundays, not to mention new holiday and school testing day restrictions. Further, because the council has also now limited chipping on weekdays to the hours of 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.—thereby significantly reducing chipping hours—these 28 chipping days will be even shorter compared to the old measure.

Meanwhile, the council has also provided much-needed flexibility, by giving the city manager discretion to grant an additional week of chipping, and by allowing for a utilities installation exception.

This must be viewed as historic legislation, especially when you remember that the previous limit was, well, infinity. Unless you were one of those people who decided that the magic number of consecutive calendar days had to be 30, no matter what. In which case, the new law is an utter failure. So I won’t expect a standing ovation from everyone, or anyone, for that matter, because developers were actually asking for 90 consecutive calendar days.

When it comes to flood mitigation, certain folks are desperate. It’s hard to blame them; the effects of a big flood can be devastating. Some are so desperate, they’re willing to take money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, even if the money comes with strings attached and subjects the entire City of Rye to social engineering policies imposed by federal bureaucrats in Washington. No amount of money is worth our city giving up control over our own affairs, and exposing ourselves to community-altering zoning and housing requirements. You can’t put a price tag on that.

When I made these points at a recent council meeting, the “Floodites” audibly jeered me. Meanwhile, when I politely permitted their standard bearers to speak at great length, the partisans clapped and clapped. Such a thunderous response, with each side of an issue often competing to go longer and louder, has somehow become a mainstay of our meetings. We could do without the tinge it adds. We’d also get home a lot earlier in the evening.

At the end of the day (or night), it’s a challenge for the mayor and council to strike the right balance, but I am confident that my colleagues and I always give it our best effort. I hope we can all put our hands together
for that.

Marvin-Mary

Column: More history of the Metro-North train system

My continued sojourns to Brooklyn have prompted me to become more interested in our train station and railroad system as well as the nearby environment.

The current station is actually the third permutation of a rail station in our village. The first was a wooden house built in 1844 on the village’s east side when the tracks were laid, and Bronxville was known as Underhill’s Crossing. Its architectural distinction was separate waiting rooms for men and women. Starting in 1852, it also served as our first post office replete with 14 mail slots for local deliveries.

In 1893, again on the east side only, a stone and wood structure was built to emulate a country home. During the period of 1904 to 1914, seven people died at the crossing to the west side, but only after much controversy, the underpass was constructed and a second west side station was built in 1916. Designed in a Spanish Mission revival style to mirror the nearby Gramatan Hotel, our current station had a baggage room and rows of church pews in the nave-like main room.

The last restoration was in 1998, coinciding with the village’s 100th birthday celebration.

The current Metro-North rail system, under the umbrella of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, resulted from the early mergers of the New York Central and Pennsylvania railroads. The larger entity was created by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller as a public benefit corporation in 1965 as a way to purchase and operate what was a bankrupt LIRR system.

The MTA has the distinction of being the largest regional public transportation provider in the Western Hemisphere with a catchment area of
5000, square miles and 14.6 million people.

The system operates in 12 New York state counties, as well as two in Connecticut. Eleven million people travel the rails daily, with 800,000 passengers using the seven bridges and two tunnels in the system on a daily basis.

The Bronxville commute is traditionally on 12 car trains, traversing 15.3 miles in 36 to 42 minutes. When the system first started, the same trip took 62 minutes; and when I moved here more than 20 years ago, it was only a 28-minute ride. The Metro-North rail fleet is significantly older than the LIRR equipment and travels 24
percent fewer miles before breaking down.

It currently takes 65,000 employees to operate the system, with a budget of $14 billion, two-thirds of which go to the employees. Due to some comparatively generous labor agreements, 40 percent of the aggregate labor costs fund healthcare, pension benefits, retiree health care and other fringe benefits.

Actual train ticket costs cover only 40 percent of the yearly operating costs, with tolls only covering 12 percent of bridge and tunnel expenses.

The balance is made up by seven separate taxes paid by the state, New York City and the adjacent New York state counties. The balance and fairness of payment obligations is a current source of tension between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Currently, the state contribution is only 4 percent of the yearly obligation.

What came as a complete surprise to me and most of my elected colleagues is a “platform maintenance tax” imbedded in our county tax bill.

Westchester County and its property taxpayers contribute $28 million yearly to the MTA under this obligation. The Town of Eastchester pays $1.3 million of this total, with Bronxville’s share amounting to $406,000 annually.

Residents from Connecticut pay zero toward the platform maintenance tax despite heavy rail usage and the presence of multiple stations, while residents of Pound Ridge pay $372,000, without even having a platform to maintain. One only has to look at our station to know nothing close to $400,000 annually is dedicated to station maintenance. As a point of interest, the village has often offered to paint fences, clean up garbage and repair benches on Metro-North property but the MTA has turned them down due to liability and insurance issues.

Riders from Connecticut provide $156 million less in subsidies than the yearly MTA services they consume, with New Jersey riders contributing $56 million less than their proportional share.

Adding inequality to inequality, New York state businesses, including village government, also pay a payroll tax directly to the MTA to offset the deficit. In the village’s case, it is $30,000-plus per year or almost a half of a percent tax obligation in our budget.

The entire system is governed by a 19-member board with seats earned through political appointment rather than expertise in the transportation delivery system. The governor appoints five members, the New York City mayor appoints four, and the county executives of Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester appoint one each.

The county executives of Rockland, Dutchess, Orange and Putnam each get an appointment, though their representatives only account for a one quarter vote each. The remaining seats are filled by members of organized labor and a citizens’ advisory committee.

The Westchester Municipal Officials Association, which represents all 45 Westchester communities, has joined the argument against the inequitable platform tax as an additional burden on Westchester property taxpayers versus Connecticut residents who are a significant percentage of the MTA New Haven ridership but are exempt from the tax.

In short, Connecticut residents who take advantage of the rail system daily are having their costs subsidized by Westchester residents, many of whom do not use the train service.

I urge you to reach out to our legislators to redress the imbalance. Unfortunately, this is just another reason why New Yorkers are often reluctantly leaving the area because of our high cost of living.

CAREY

Column: More about Rye’s emergency preparedness

According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, “If available, emergency services personnel are the best trained and equipped to handle emergencies…you should use them. However, following a catastrophic disaster, you and the community may be on your own for a period of time because of the size of the area affected, lost communications, unpassable roads.”

This warning appears in the foreword to FEMA’s loose-leaf “Community Emergency Response Team Participant Manual.” A copy of this comprehensive volume is issued to each qualified CERT volunteer who has taken a course followed by an exam. I have access to a copy that was issued to a volunteer in New Canaan, Conn., where CERT methods are used extensively and effectively. Much can be learned by talking with the people in charge there.

The text goes on to explain that “CERT training is designed to prepare you to help yourself, your family, and your neighbors in the event of a catastrophic disaster. Because emergency services personnel will not be able to help everyone immediately, you can make a difference by using the training in this Participant Manual to save lives and protect property.”

The manual points out that “for the initial period immediately following a disaster—often up to three days or longer—individuals, households and neighborhoods may need to rely on their own resources for: food, water, first aid, shelter. Individual preparedness, planning, survival skills, and mutual aid within neighborhoods and worksites during this initial period are essential measures in coping with the aftermath of a disaster.”

The 20-hour CERT training program covers disaster preparedness, fire safety, disaster medical operations, light search and rescue, CERT organization, disaster psychology, and, finally, terrorism and CERT. Each of these subjects has a separate chapter in the manual.

My hope is that the Rye City Council will issue a call for CERT volunteers and recruit appropriate citizen leadership.

CONTACT: j_pcarey@verizon.net

 
MikeSmith

Column: Looking for a villain

Next week, Major League Baseball begins its second season. Sports Editor Mike Smith can’t wait for some playoff action. Photo courtesy MLB.com

Next week, Major League Baseball begins its second season. Sports Editor Mike Smith can’t wait for some playoff action. Photo courtesy MLB.com

Postseason baseball—especially when one’s team is out of contention—can acquaint a man with strange bedfellows. Maybe that can account for why I spent my Tuesday night watching the Yankees’ Wild Card game in a Red Sox bar with a bunch of Phillies fans.

But I have to admit, watching the Bombers end their season on a three-hit performance with a room full of rabid anti-fans didn’t give me the sort of rush I was looking for. In fact, I kind of found myself feeling bad for the Yankees.

Well, almost.

As you may have gleaned from previous columns, I hate the Yankees. But watching Tuesday’s game, seeing the few Yankees fans in attendance cringe and groan each time A-Rod chased a ball out of the zone, I couldn’t help but feel at least a twinge of sympathy.

Part of it stems from the fact that this 2015 team wasn’t your typical Yankees squad. Big money and free agents? Jacoby Ellsbury and his $150 million were on the bench for much of the night.

Instead, the lineup was filled with promising newcomers like Rob Refsnyder and Greg Bird. But as well as these new players—especially Bird—acquitted themselves during the season, seeing them flailing at sharp offerings from Dallas Keuchel all night was a definite letdown, especially for fans like me who hoped to see a little more firepower from a club that has lived and died by the longball this season.

Now don’t get me wrong.

These Astros, especially when Keuchel is on the mound, are an intriguing bunch. With guys like Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and “El Oso Blanco” Evan Gattis out there, they’ve got enough personality—and lumber—to hold anyone’s interest for a long postseason run. But in the days leading up to the game, my father, a Mets fan who loathes the Yankees, brought up a good point. He was hoping for a Yankee win on Tuesday for one reason: the longer the Yankees stuck around in the playoffs, the longer he’d have a team to root against.

A quick look at the teams left standing doesn’t offer much in the way of pure villains. Sure, the Cardinals are essentially the Yankees of the National League, but the Pirates? The Cubs? The Rangers? It’s tough to find a reason to root against these squads.

That is, unless they’re playing the Mets.

Then I’m sure I’ll find a reason.

 

Follow Mike on Twitter
@LiveMike_Sports

 
Killian-2-(2)

Column: Questions that come my way

 

 

As I am an active member of our community, in addition to being an elected official, I often field questions when I am out and about.

Frequent inquiries include: “Why haven’t you discussed this yet?” “What does the mayor think?” “Why did it take you so long to resolve this?” “Why aren’t you doing anything about…?”

Sometimes it is difficult to answer these questions, especially if the council has not had a chance to meet and discuss the matter yet. Generally speaking, the full council cannot get together and discuss city business and make decisions in private. We are not allowed to meet and address council business if a quorum—at least four out of seven of us—is present, as per the Open Meetings Law.

The mayor often serves as connector, and reaches out to us individually on important topics. But because we only meet formally as a group at City Hall every couple of weeks at best, this schedule can draw out the issue vetting and decision-making process. When I first was appointed to the council almost three and a half years ago, the pace of government drove me crazy. It was too slow! I have since realized that often, that pace is a good thing and can save a governing body from actions that have negative or unintended consequences.

When we do hold public council meetings at City Hall, we welcome members of the community to contribute their views. There is no requirement for residents to be able to speak at meetings, but in Rye, there is always a spot on our regular agenda for this purpose. Our mayor in particular often gives residents well beyond the usual five minutes. Many other municipalities do not. Those of us going to the United Hospital hearings in Port Chester know there is a large timer set for five minutes that begins ticking once a resident starts speaking.

Because Rye currently has many pressing issues and many interested residents, our meetings can run late. I am grateful to longtime Rye resident Henry King, who comes to every meeting and keeps us company until the wee hours of the morning, even after everyone else has left.

Some of the biggest issues I hear about outside of our meetings involve infrastructure, especially roads and sidewalks. Although the city has completed many capital projects over the last couple years for roads, sanitary sewer, drainage and pedestrian improvements, there is still much to be done.

The Traffic and Pedestrian Safety Committee and Safe Routes to School group have worked on and continue to work on many of these projects. There are currently about 12 projects in design that will require either additional community conversation or approval from state and federal agencies.

The Capital Improvement Plan for 2016-2020, on the city website, ryeny.gov, outlines and prioritizes dozens of projects and purchases totaling almost $49 million. The council will be prioritizing these projects further to get some into the 2016 budget.

Likewise, the council may want to consider whether it would be financially beneficial to raise the city’s debt limit to allow more funding via debt. Traditionally, the city has used debt sparingly and has a very low debt limit relative to our budget. The City Charter dramatically limits the amount of our debt, especially compared to the amount allowed under state law.

In the last two years, our council has increased dramatically the money budgeted for roads. Most notably, in 2014, we paved Station Plaza and the MTA parking lot roadway, long the most complained about area in town.

For 2015, we budgeted $650,000 for streets and accepted an additional $350,000 of N.Y. State Consolidated Local Streets and Highway Improvement Program, CHIPS, money, for a total of $1 million. Comparatively, in 2012, the budget was zero plus $285,000 from CHIPS. So we have been playing catch up.

Some residents express frustration to me that they do not always know what is going on in the city. However, in addition to local newspapers, they can watch council meetings live on TV or on the computer. The city website is a great resource with resident notices, digital documents and video of all past council meetings. Residents can also sign up for Code Red or any of eight email distribution lists Rye offers: Commuter Parking Updates, Council Agenda and Minutes, Planning Matters, Recreation News and four different Recreation Camp lists.

Nobody wants to be on more email lists but I recommend the agenda distribution list. Residents will receive a few days before each council meeting an email with the agenda and all supporting documents which routinely run hundreds of pages long. No need to read it all; just scan the agenda for topics of interest. But if you like reading hundreds of pages and are interested in the issues, please consider running for City Council sometime in the future.

In the meantime, keep asking me your questions, and tune in to our next meeting.