An Election Day Look At Candidates Views, the New Rochelle League of Woman Voter’s Forum, and Heritage Homes

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Before I start this article I have two brief comments about the state of affairs for the homeless in New Rochelle both specifically regarding Hope Community Services.

For some reason Hope community Services has closed the bathrooms in its facility to clients meaning that the people in the day program have nowhere to…go…I suppose would the proper terminology for 6 hours of the day since they cannot leave without permission. Their stated reason for doing so in a before dinner speech was “lack of cleanliness” but somehow I fail to see how closing the bathrooms for 6 hours is going to help with that.

Hope Community Services is applying for another grant , but this time they are keeping the details a surprise, not surprisingly. Considering that the money in the budget for their day center only supplied 2,000 a year for food the grant application announcement in another speech did not come as a shocker to any of us. I predicted that they would need more money within a few months on my video (It has been 2). The question is for what, and from what?

When I asked I was told (albeit politely) that the grant would be posted on the website when it was gotten, that Carol standing behind the door listening, was too busy to answer, and that I could go now. An email to Carol Troum produced the following response:
“Your assumptions are incorrect. If we get the new grant I will be happy to discuss it with you.” So much for transparency

I am aware that this article is sort of late coming, but maybe it will inspire people to get out and vote. I promise that I will not be “reviewing voting records. . . to determine whether you joined your neighbors who voted in 2014.”-flyrer sent to Brooklyn and Manhattan residents. (I am really not sure why anyone thought that sending a flyer like that was a good idea. )

But I do wish everyone would vote. In 2012 only 53 percent of New Yorkers voted, and that was a presidential election. 15 people were at the New Rochelle League of Woman Voters candidates forum last Monday by my count. I passed by the library and while it is the middle of the day the fact that there were no voters at the polls does not bode well. At the forum (which was well put together), many the candidates showed up minus opponents, some don’t have opponents running against them.

Assemblyman Otis who is one of the latter spoke of his support for local municipalities citing flood grants he got for the city of Rye (where he once served as mayor) his desire to reduce property taxes and work with small businesses. He is sponsoring an initiative to make the penalty for animal abuse larger. He said that constituents are welcome to call his office at any time. (More on that in a further article)

Eliot Engel who is running unopposed for a 14th term quipped “even Republicans must think I’m doing a good job, they didn’t run anyone against me” He stressed that he has a special feeling for New Rochelle having took his wife on her first date here. He is the ranking democrat on the house foreign affairs committee. He expressed that he has managed to secure funding for local issues despite the abolishing of earmarks (to for profit corporations) in 2010, of which he did not approve. Earmarks are the allocation of federal funds at a local level to specific grantees or projects instead of broad purposes.

According to critics earmarks cause lobbyists to become too powerful, and binds politicians to small groups instead of to the people or issues. He states that he has directed fusing to Westchester organizations anyway. He is telling the truth on that. Along with Nita Lowey Engel cosponsored a bill that gave Westcop the organization that runs the bedbug infested shelter I often write about almost 1,000,000 dollars to aid veterans.

The grant was to multiple organizations but Engel and Lowey announced Westcop’s portion of the funding and secured it for them. To my knowledge usually the agency administering a grant, chooses the direct recipients not congress. Since Westcop is officially a “nonprofit” such a move is not illegal, but it was definitely an earmark, and I don’t know anyone who has been helped by it. Kiron Dawkins the son of Reverend Dawkins the head of Westcop New Rochelle who enjoys a prominent place in my articles is in charge of the program.

Amy Paulin is running unopposed for the assembly seat of the 88th district. She thanked the league as a former president. She sponsored a bill to help domestic violence victims by increasing the statute of limitations on reporting those crimes, and another to make public agencies including the port authority have an obligation to reveal information to the public. She stated that she is within the top 1 percent at making bills into laws in the state assembly.

Andrea Stewart Cousins was the first woman to lead a caucus in New York State. She spoke about getting library grants for Westchester county, 247,000 in grants from the regional development council for New Rochelle’s waterfront development plans (echo bay) She spoke about her commitment to veterans mentioning how she was part of a group who honored New Rochelle veteran Bill Moya .

I am going to get a little bit biased with my following statement, fair warning. It is bias by experience however. She concluded her remarks by stating that she was “proud to break ground on the second phase of the Heritage homes project this year:” which she stated will create jobs and provide affordable housing. If you haven’t read my previous articles the Hartley Houses owned by New Rochelle HDFC a subsidy of Westcop were public housing units, where families paid 30 percent of their income on family choice vouchers. I have been doing more digging. The Heritage Homes are “affordable housing” which means the following:

Take a single mother making 36,000 the MINIMUM yearly income to move into a two bedroom in Heritage Homes according to this article She would be paying about 1145 a month (according to Westchester county gov’s page). Under Hartley Houses she would have been paying 900 a month (taking 36,000 divided by 12 X .30). That is 200 dollars being taken away from the mouths of her children.

If she is looking for a one bedroom she can make 30,000. Which is still a tall order for many poor families minimum wage or not. It shouldn’t be that way but it is. But then she would be paying 750 to at least 1,000 according to the county. So every resident even allowed to transfer from the old housing faces a 200 rent increases at the very least by these calculations.

According to a county document affordable housing is supposed to be based on area median income, and someone earing 28,000 should be paying 700. Of course it is very hard to find information about Heritage Homes since the NRMHA website still lists Hartley Houses as applicable units, and the site the county linked to is down. A real estate site listing the units did not respond to my request my comment and has little information Ms. Cousins if she wins reelection will be the leader of the democratic caucus now untied, a powerful position whether it wins the senate or not.

The real fireworks of the night came or course during the debate. In their opening statements George Latimer and Joe Dillon did speak of the respect they both felt for each other, and there reasons for running. Dillon said that he is running for his children, and declared that any bill that creates jobs and makes life affordable is one he will support regardless of party.

Latimer stated that the New Rochelle debate was the 6th or 7th and that no other two candidates in the Hudson Valley region had been as open about their views, that it was a shame that other politicians are not as committed to the open process. Both men spoke of long term careers in business, Dillon on Wall Street and as an economic adviser in Washington, and Latimer at ITT and Nestle among others.

Dillon focused on bringing change to Albany stating that the current issues have been caused by career politicians while Latimer stressed that how he feels his career has benefited the Hudson Valley highlighting some of his votes.

Latimer and Dillan did find things to agree on such as opposition to the legalization of recreational marijuana as well as proposition 3 (which would give schools money for computers but on the basis of 20 year loans, both candidates pointed out that the equipment would be obsolete in a few years, Mr. Dillon stating that he supports funding for technology in theory, but that as they both agreed this is a flawed bill), and proposition one which features redistricting reform, but one which some feel is flawed as well.

Party leaders would pick 8 members of the committee who would elect two additional non-partisan members. Many people feel that a redistricting committee should be completely independent. Speaking in my own opinions for a second, I think that the current system needs to be overhauled as soon as possible, but if it can be done with a citizen or independent commission in the time before the next redistricting then there is no excuse not to.

The two clashed on how to fight corruption in Albany. When asked about term limits, Latimer stated that he opposes them, because he feels that they do not work citing certain politicians who messed up in their first terms. Dillon reiterated his belief that the problems with Albany are being caused by career politicians and that 2 terms as governor, and 4 in the houses should be sufficient. That way the theory states people would not always be thinking about the next election when they make decisions, at least not quite as much, and new faces would have a chance to present new ideas.

Dillon and Latimer also don’t see eye to eye on campaign finance, as well as lawmaking. Dillon feels that donations should be completely transparent and that according to the LWV pamphlet a system of initiatives and referendums is needed. But that funding should be private (meaning from donors rather than a public source), and that anyone should be able to give as much as they want. Latimer proposed that judges should be used as test cases for public funding, since they are not supposed to be overtly biased anyway even if they do run with a part label. If that works then the system he reasoned should be expanded to others. He accused Dillon of being an “apologist for the status quo.” He feels that allowing unfettered donations makes politics about money.

On corruption itself the exchange got heated. Dillon stated that while no one doubted that Latimer was a good man, he voted to disband the Moreland Commission. He promised that if in Albany he would fight against corruption. Latimer proposed a bill taking away the pensions of politicians convicted of crimes stating that it will discourage fraud, in addition to more officials involved with the boe specifically policing election issues. He stated that he feels that there are already incentives for politicians to not be corrupt citing jail terms, he also pointed out that he has called for the resignation of several politicians accused (Malcom and Samson). Dillon retorted, not “Sheldon Silver”.

To give a bit of background Silver is the house speaker who in 2012 made a 103,000 payment to try and end sexual harassment charges against Vito Lopez. According to this NYT article he also tried to block affordable housing in NYC years ago, then claimed that ANOTHER Sheldon Silver was responsible. I can go on but this article would grow way to long. Lopez was later caught anyway and has since left the senate after two other female staffers sued him for harassment. Despite this Mr. silver has kept his seat as speaker, and his job.

Latimer fired back saying ha he condemned Lopez himself and that many other corrupt politicians will probably leave the senate. There are three Albany politicians under indictment running for reelection, and it looks like all three may win. This includes Sampson (D) (embezzlement) who has not resigned and a Binghamton Republican named Leibton who is doing well in his race (lying to federal agents.) Add that to congressman Michael Grimm (R) and Silver (D) and it is clear that you have a problem that spans both sides of the aisle as both candidates mentioned and one that we have probably only caught the tips of the icebergs on, the worst offenders, or even worse the easiest to catch. Of course for bipartisanship there is always Malcolm Smith. He is a Queens Democrat who has the interesting idea of trying to bribe himself onto the mayoral ballot…as a Republican.

Another issue they disagreed on was how to grow jobs in Westchester. Mr. Latimer stated that while things are not perfect here, he feels that talk of economic desperation in this part of the state is mostly a political tool. He said that what is happening upstate doesn’t describe what is happening upstate doesn’t describe what is happening in White Plains. Latimer feels that the governor’s regional economic development councils which will give money to certain projects and industries are the answer. He cited Forest Ave, rye where he says that small houses are being torn down to make room for big houses as proof that the economy in Wesctchester is doing better than people claim..

Mr. Dillon stated that there is no way one can view the economy as
“hunky dory” in Westchester citing his personal experience with jobs moving out of state, and the strain of the recession. That things might be getting better for the upper class but the middle class is still hurting. He feels that groups such as startup NY pick winners and losers and that across the board tax cuts He cited a predatory regulatory environment and the need to improve education as reasons why the economy continues to struggle.

Education is one of the main issues Mr. Dillon has ran on and he spoke extensively on the GEA, a bill passed in 2010 that every years takes a sizable percentage of funding away from every school district to be added to the states annual budget. Citing the Yonkers school district as an example he said that the educational system can’t function properly with so much funds missing and that children are suffering. Mr. Latimer countered by saying that Mr. Dillon had not been up in Albany in 2010 and did not know the hard choices that had to be made to pass a budget at a time when the economy was in such bad shape. Vote no on the GEA, he elaborated and you would vote no on the entire budget for the school board including the money that it did get. Mr. Dillon countered himself saying that Latimer could have joined the opposition to draft a new bill that took the funding from other sources. Mr. Laitmer stated the budget had not passed until close to the deadline much longer he reasoned and state government would have shut down. Dillon retorted that he never would have voted for nay budget that cut education.

According to his campaign’s website, Dillon states that he is a supporter of woman’s equality. And stated that he feels that the first ten planks of the women’s equality act should have already been passed especially an equal pay provision and protection for pregnant woman in the workforce. He does not support the tenth plank because he feels that it would authorize abortion anywhere under any circumstances, which would he feels jeopardize woman’s health.

He stated that he is not trying tor repeal roe v wade or basic abortion rights, he opposed late term abortions. Mr. Latimer countered after reading the text to the audience that this is a scare tactic and that the plank would not allow abortions for any reason. Mr. Dillon counted that to discuss the technicalities of the bill without a lawyer did not make sense. Both candidates urged the listens to read the plank and decide for themselves. This is the text of the tenth plank concerning abortion.
:codifying in state law the federal Supreme Court decision Roe
v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973). This part would allow a woman to terminate
her pregnancy within twenty-four weeks of the commencement of her preg-
nancy, or when necessary to protect a woman’s life or health as deter-
mined by a licensed physician.-ny sate assembly website.

Honestly without weighing in on whether it should be passed or not (that is a whole different article I am not going to write, I think I am sticking to poverty homelessness and corruption for now.), I think that its interpretation would depend on who is enforcing the law, and who is in charge.

When asked how they will raise funds in Albany, what programs they would cut, Latimer replied, “unfunded mandates”, while Dillon focused on getting rid of mismanagement using the MTA as an example.

While I have been trying to weigh in on the candidates positions (especially because I think that both their views are right on different issues) I want to mention something. George Latimer was on the local board of Westcop Mamaroneck. When I asked him about it at a civic meeting he claimed that it is irrelevant since the Mamaroneck board has downsized and that his solution for fixing the homeless issue in New Rochelle would be giving the shelter more money (if you don’t read my articles I want funding for the homeless, but I don’t want it to go to the shelter, the last time they got a big gift (besides the 100,000 from the city the only thing that changed around the shelter was the new cars parked out front.)
He also said that seeing the homeless on the streets and in the park is an issue. I quietly shook my head at this, and he became very angry.

Disregarding issues of position for a minute he also became angry when challenged by others on gun control issues and guards in schools, when people pushed him he snapped back. At one point ignoring several men’s questions addressing the rest of the audience by saying “so for the rest of you” This concerned me. While I agree with some of Mr. Larimer’s views I did not find that acceptable.

I guess I wanted to say in conclusion that if you vote it is going to send a powerful message to politicians on both sides of the aisle. High voter turnout means that they know that we are listening, which makes them a little more compelled to do the right things, again this is for both parties, a little more scared to do things wrong. There are very few people at the polls right now. If you are reading this, please go vote.