I have been asked about my thoughts on the recent settlement between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Westchester County. The principle behind this issue should also be a concern to Putnam residents. What was at stake was whether the federal government had the power to dictate local zoning codes under the auspices of, “Are they racist?”
Whether they are or are not, does the federal government have the power to force people to live where the government says they should through subsidized housing and alter local zoning codes regardless of whether those receiving the subsidies can afford the costs of everything else in the community? Does this power rest with the federal government or the state? Does the 10th Amendment exist anymore?
When this issue first came up, then-County Executive Andy Spano, a Democrat, sold out his county with the blessing of the then Democrat-controlled legislature. They had a choice: Home rule or top-down government control coming from Washington, where people would have a more watered down redress as opposed to a more-potent redress at the county level. The Dems voted for top-down. No surprise, they always do. Then, something happened, against all expectations. A Republican, Rob Astorino, was victorious over Spano. I was one of the few printed voices that saw this coming.
Astorino, keeping his pledge, challenged the federal government overreach in court. He took a lot of flak, and so did the new Democrat Michael Kaplowitz, chairman of the Board of Legislators. Together, they worked toward a more equitable solution. They thought they came up with one. However, they were challenged in court by Obama’s HUD.
Westchester won some and lost some. Every time Westchester lost, Astorino took flak from the top down side. Astorino stood his ground. Last week, under a more reasonable HUD, now under Republican control, with the belief that the federal government should not be dictating local zoning, a settlement was reached that seems to achieve the objectives wished for, but how the county thinks best can be achieved.
This exercise proves the right Republicans and the right Democrats working for common ground can find it. You hear all the time about government working together for the good of the people. In Westchester, it has been happening since the election of Astorino as county executive and the board electing Kaplowitz as chairman. Both are reasonable men looking for reasonable solutions.
So far, the only sour grapes are coming from those who talk compromise but in truth want capitulation. Hopefully, reason will continue to win the day and Westchester voters will re-elect Rob Astorino as county executive and the voters of District 4 will re-elect Mike Kaplowitz as legislator because they have proved that they are willing to work for the betterment of the people instead of just the party. That will be decided this November
New York State Constitutional Convention:
Another issue voters across New York will be deciding is whether we should have a New York State Constitutional Convention. New York requires this referendum every 20 years. It is here the people can amend our New York Constitution. We have a problem. We can, through this convention, achieve amendments to curtail this rampant corruption in our capital that Albany, from the top down, wishes not to go near. Yet many of these ethically challenged politicians will also be delegates to this convention.
It will also be here that you can change some of our archaic rules governing public sector unions. Like they did in Wisconsin, you could weaken New York’s very expensive workers compensation system. You could also weaken, narrow or even eliminate our collective bargaining system where you have the unions and elected officials at the table bargaining against you. Problem here is the same people owned by the unions will also be delegates.
These are not the only things that can be discussed. Everything is on the table. It is possible that what comes out can be worse than what we have now. In fact, it is a real possibility. However, because whatever they do come up with must still be voted on by the people, I believe we must vote for the convention. There is nothing too dangerous that cannot be talked about. Do not fear what might be. It is enough we have to fear what is.
This is what I say. What say you?