WHITE PLAINS, NY — Two years ago, the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) underwent a radical change. Chairman Michael Kaplowitz, a Democrat, and Vice-Chairman James Maisano, a Republican, came together to form a bipartisan coalition government to lead the BOL. For the past two years, the BOL has abandoned gridlock and lawsuits in favor of conciliation and negotiation.
One of the new policies that Chairman Kaplowitz established in his first term was that every Legislator would have a leadership position within their caucus or Chair a legislative committee or task force. This approach has benefited Westchester County residents tremendously and will be continued in the 2016-2017 term.
The bipartisan model that was used for committee assignments in the previous term contributed to a number of important accomplishments over the last two years, including;
• A continuation of 6 straight years of no tax-increase budgets.
• Improved essential services like public safety, subsidized child care, services for domestic violence and child sex-assault victims, legal services for veterans and seniors, eviction prevention services and restored funding for parks.
• Compliance, not capitulation, while working diligently with all parties to meet the terms of the 2009 Affordable Housing Settlement and restoration of funds withheld by the Federal Government.
• Approval of a public/private partnership to operate Playland Amusement Park, alleviating costs to taxpayers while guaranteeing the future of Playland.
• Approval of $200 million for infrastructure improvements that create jobs and grow our economy.
• Establishment of an Office of Energy Efficiency and Sustainability to save on operational costs.
• Reforms and increased transparency in the county budget process.
• Participation in the Local Development Corporation that has led to over half a billion dollars of economic activity allowing non-profits like hospitals and colleges to finance projects tax-free and at very low interest rates.
The Westchester County Charter requires the establishment of a Budget and Appropriations Committee and Legislation Committee for each term. Any other Committees are created at the discretion of the BOL chairman. The Committee assignments for the 2016-2017 term are;
• Appointments Committee- Chaired by Legislator Margaret Cunzio (C) Mount Pleasant, North Castle, Pleasantville
• Budget and Appropriations Committee- Chaired by Legislator Sheila Marcotte (R) Eastchester, New Rochelle, Tuckahoe
• Public Safety and Social Services Committee- Chaired by Legislator Ben Boykin (D) White Plains, Scarsdale
• Energy and Regional Efficiencies Committee- Chaired by Legislator Catherine Parker (D) Harrison, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, New Rochelle, Rye
• Environment and Health Committee- Chaired by Legislator Francis Corcoran (R) Bedford, Lewisboro, Mount Kisco, North Salem, Pound Ridge, Somers
• Infrastructure Committee- Chaired by Legislator Mary Jane Shimsky (D) Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Edgemont, Hartsdale, Hastings-on-Hudson, Irvington
• Labor/Parks/Planning/Housing Committee- Chaired by Legislator David Gelfarb (R) Harrison, Port Chester, Rye Brook
• Litigation Committee- Chaired by Legislator Lyndon Williams (D) Mount Vernon
• Legislation Committee- Chaired by Legislator Virginia Perez (D) Yonkers
• Seniors and Constituencies Committee- Chaired by Legislator Bernice Spreckman (R) Yonkers, Mount Vernon
• Rules Committee- Co-Chaired by Majority Leader Catherine Borgia (D) Briarcliff Manor, Cortlandt, Croton-on-Hudson, Ossining, Peekskill and Minority Leader John Testa (R) Cortlandt, Peekskill, Yorktown
The following Task Forces have been assigned for the 2016-2017 term;
• Charter Commission Review Task Force- Co-Chaired by Legislator Gordon Burrows (R) Bronxville, Yonkers and former Legislator Richard Wishnie
• Families Task Force- Chaired by Majority Leader Catherine Borgia
• Hispanic Affairs Task Force- Co-chaired by Legislator Virginia Perez and Vice-Chairman Jim Maisano
• Minority Affairs Task Force- Co-Chaired by Legislator Virginia Perez and Legislator Ben Boykin
• Federal and State Affairs Task Force- Chaired by Legislator Ken Jenkins (D) Yonkers
Chairman Kaplowitz said, “I thank my colleagues for accepting the responsibility of these important Committee and Task Force positions. The 2016-2017 legislative term promises many possibilities and challenges. Legislators who are willing to put people over partisanship will be a part of the continued success in making Westchester County an extraordinary example of what we can accomplish when we work together.”
Vice Chairman Jim Maisano echoed Kaplowitz’ optimism, saying, “Viewed against the backdrop of dysfunction in Washington and corruption in Albany, Westchester County is a rare, shining example of how Democrats and Republicans can work together for the benefit of the people they represent.”