September 22, 2016 The Westchester Board of Elections will hold a-two day voter registration in North Castle on Thursday October 13, from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. and Saturday October 15, from noon to 9:00 p.m. at the Hergenhan Recreation Center 40 Maple Avenue, Armonk.
September 8, 2017 New York State Senator George Latimer puts politics in perspective as he looks toward November elections. He says we are experiencing a nasty national election campaign for presidency, the economy hasn’t fully recovered from the economic crash of 2008, and ISIS is a threat.
He added, we have a media that magnifies every street crime such as a horrific crime in Chicago. But we don’t have the balance to put those incidents in perspective. Not to minimize any of these tragedies, he says, but without putting them into perspective, we’re overreacting to things as they hit us.
He also says that we can’t forget our past, such as in 1968 when things were substantively worse with our involvement in the Vietnam War, the anti-war protests, the civil rights movement, and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy. He asks, “Is today like 1968?” Or go further back to 1863 during the American Civil War when nasty politics turned into a war where 600,000 people died. Latimer is a strong believer that today’s bipartisan friction, and how we react to opposing party members, has to cease.
Role in Albany
In 2012, Latimer was elected to the New York State Senate and has been a senator for two terms. In 2004, he was elected to the State Assembly. Before then he served on the Westchester County Board of Legislators for 13 years, and four years as the first Democratic Chairman of the Board of Legislators in Westchester County’s history.
Latimer says when voters look and ask, who do I want to send to Albany, and what do I want them to focus on, his sense is that people did not elect him to legislate a moral agenda. But rather, he was sent to Albany to “make sure the budget allocates a certain amount of money for basic services of the government that you don’t expect from businesses, non-for-profits, or from the religious worlds--but rather for police and fire duty, sanitation, criminal justice, roadways and mass transit; and to provide certain services of health care and education. You expect a balanced budget to be done on time, taking into account all the different pressures. But at the same time we should show enough professional responsibility that we do our work and we don’t let it be a political battleground as it has been for many years with delays.”
Latimer says there are many in the Senate who are suburban and upstate Democrats that differ from their New York City colleagues. His constituents pay a lot more in taxes than they receive in services. That might not be the case for the Bronx Democratic senator who represents a community where there’s more recipients for urban issues who are allocated a certain amount of state money. Latimer’s district, with many more wealthy people, pays proportionately more income and business taxes, which exceeds the amount of money received from the state. “For instance,” in Albany he’ll say, “North Castle’s Library is going to undergo renovations and it would great if the state could kick in $50,000 to $100,000 in capital. That grant shows these communities there is a correlation between what they pay in taxes and the benefits. They are wealthy but at some point the state has to show they are their partners, too, in some of the important projects because North Castle, as one of ten to fifteen other New York districts, generates, per capita, huge amounts of [tax] money.”
Government’s Role in Social Behavior
Forward thinking and ready to continue to serve in the Senate, Latimer says, “We are not chess pieces. Government should not have its hand in every part of society.” The role of government is not to get into social behavior. He adds, generations of the past were highly energized by controversial issues such as a woman’s right to choose. But what we are seeing in society today is social issues of race and gender orientation and identification that did not play out in prior generations when there was a more rigid social structure. He says now there is less focus and legislative action in a state like New York with a greater sense of flexibility--whether it’s because of religious traditions from a variety of faiths that makes it harder to accept, or the attitude on certain social issues used to be defined by the way we thought about things that were determined by society.
Certainly in government there’s more of a focus on economics and concerns of the future with a much greater tolerance for social issues. Latimer says there’s a laissez-faire attitude of social controversies because people have to find their own level of comfort.
Government’s Role in Growing Business and Creating Jobs
Latimer is among only a handful of New York Democrats in the senate who came out of the private sector. At first he was a marketing executive, then with a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from New York University Wagner School, he landed in the hotel industry for the next 20 years. He says he understands the profit and loss of growing a business; how it is moved by the market place, and what incentives will grow the top line, compared to what the property taxes can do to the bottom line.
He says, when the decision is made to build a business, such as to develop a hotel property, there are several different considerations to take into account. Do you have the right piece of land? Are you in a location where there is a market that can use the facility? What is the competitive environment? What is the current climate to obtain financing?
Then there are the considerations of local, county, state, and federal government incentives to build a hotel, which means new jobs. But the decision to build the hotel didn’t start with the government policies. The government’s role is not always a dominant one. A cut in the tax burden will not drive the business plan as will the financial market and other business incentives.
Criticism for Change in Albany
Republican Julie Killian is looking to unseat Latimer in the New York Senate 37th District of New Rochelle, Bronxville, Eastchester, Rye Brook, White Plains, Yonkers, Port Chester, Tuckahoe, Harrison, Larchmont, Mamaroneck, North Castle, Rye, and Bedford. The ethnic plurality of the 37th District with Latino immigrants, middle class homeowners, and wealthy residents presents a challenge on how to represent constituents in Albany. Latimer asks, “What’s the right policy for a district where people send you, or recall you, on the basis of what you do when you have some level of wealth, super wealthy, and a completely different reality?” He looks at issues that relate to residents who care about property taxes and quality of life and tend to feel strongly on environmental and social justices that relate to them. He says, “There are dramatic differences, and it’s not either or, rather it’s a balancing act. The question remains what kinds of services are needed and what kinds of things are supported in a budget that would help them? Then I’ll come down strongly for transportation, housing, and educational funding.”
In a Democratic Senate minority, Latimer says, his opponent will try to tie him to the prominent Democratic leaders Sheldon Silver and Bill de Blasio. In 2015, Silver, the former speaker of the New York State Assembly, was arrested, found guilty, and although sentenced to jail for corruption, remains free on bail, pending an appeal in the Supreme Court. The majority of Democrats voted for Silver as he was re-elected 11 times. But when Latimer read the indictment against the Assembly Speaker, he said, Silver had to step down.
Latimer’s relationship with Bill de Blasio, Mayor of New York, is minimal as he met de Blasio only twice. Latimer says he has voted with him on some things: the universal Pre-Kindergarten; a lower speed limit in New York City; and mayoral control of New York City schools to continue for a couple of years, rather than just one year. On the opposition side, Latimer differs with de Blasio on the property tax cap imposed on Westchester County and says in all fairness that the tax cap should be imposed on New York City as well--that they should not be exempt from it.
Latimer supported the Republican bill limiting the Senate leadership term, which passed in January 2016. The law set an eight-year term limit on the leadership that he says is the more important term limit. The power that’s accumulated over a longer tenure allows for the opportunity of corruption which has happened recently in both parties, not just with Silver. In May 2016, the Republican Majority Leader Dean Skelos was sentenced to prison for corruption and also remains free on legal appeals.
The Republicans have been in the majority of the New York Senate for the last 77 of 80 years, since 1936. Latimer says Republicans say they are for change in Albany. He said Killian, his opponent, has argued for term limits as the ultimate reform. But the Republicans are not for change, he adds. Rather they are for maintaining control and keeping the same leadership team. Republican John Flanagan serves as the temporary president and the Republican Majority Co-Leader with Jeffrey Klein. Flanagan has been in the Senate for 24 years. He is up for election in November to continue the leadership of the Senate.
There are many states which have state legislative term limits, and sometimes there’s an unintended consequence. Latimer adds, “If you are only in for six years, you start grabbing with both hands because there is only a limited amount of time.”
Latimer hopes that if the political structure comes to pass, there will be a coalition of an alliance for the political parties with new leadership at the top. He says, “We’ll never get to a point where we’ll be nonpartisan, but we should get beyond strict partisanship. I’m going to vote for Andrea Stewart-Cousins for leadership.” She has served as Leader of the Senate Democratic Conference since December 2012. “I’m going to encourage her to include Republicans who are smart and hard working in a coalition.”
Latimer concludes, “If you want ethical reform, it starts with you in the voting booth. The voters have to be able to say, if a candidate is under indictment, or not been able to clear the most fundamental bar of propriety, I can’t vote for you.”
August 3, 2016 State Senator George Latimer (D-Westchester) announced his re-election bid on Sunday July 31 at his local campaign headquarters, asking for continued support in his fight for good and ethical representation and cooperative, bi-partisan government.
Latimer, first elected to the State Senate in 2012, has had a distinguished career in local, county and state government, complementing his 20 years in corporate life, working for subsidiaries of Nestle and ITT.
“When I was on the Rye City Council, we all worked together to get things done for the people of Rye. Later, as the first Democratic Chair of the Westchester County Board of Legislators, I worked across the aisle to bring the people of Westchester County the best possible government. In Albany, I’ve established a record as one of the most bi-partisan elected officials in either house and as a strong advocate in Albany for ethics reform. However, our weak ethics laws and the partisan, polarized state legislature, keeps real reform beyond our reach,” Latimer said, in declaring his re-election bid.
“What we need in Albany today is exactly what I have done my entire career,” Latimer added. “We need to look past partisan labels, refrain from the name calling and personal attacks, and work together to solve the many problems our state faces.”
Latimer said, “We need to fix our ethics laws, to get money and corruption out of government. We need to fully fund our schools, in all of our communities. We need to fix our roads, our bridges and our public transportation. And we need real mandate relief so that our local governments can do their work better while saving property tax payers millions of dollars.”
Latimer pointed to mandates large and small – such as the Medicaid costs required of County government - as a big problem for New York’s local governments. He cited the failure, again, of the state legislature to combine the state and federal primary election dates, which costs local government up to $50 million every two years.
Latimer also scorned the state government’s micromanagement of local governments. “This year, I actually had to negotiate and pass a bill to allow the City of Rye to lease advertising space on sports complex fences to not-for-profits, with the money raised going to maintain those same parks. Why do we need a state law do to that? We need to fix so many arcane laws, and we can only do it by working together,” Latimer concluded.
Latimer’s headquarters is located at 437 Ward Avenue in Mamaroneck. The phone number is 914-341-1865
North Castle Resident Tony Scarpino Is Running for DA
June 19, 2016 Anthony Scarpino is running to be Westchester County’s District Attorney. With thirty-seven years of public service, Scarpino has ran in six elections and served as a judge for 32 years. His public career started when he was Assistant Corportion Counsel for the City of Mount Vernon. In 1977 he became a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Kentucky and Manhattan as he worked on a wide range of criminal cases, including civil rights violations, corruption of public officials, bank robberies, kidnapping, extortion and espionage involving foreign counter-intelligence and terrorism.
In November 2000, Judge Scarpino was elected as Westchester County’s surrogate judge who serves a ten-year term. He was re-elected in 2010 and served for a total of 15 years. He stepped down from the bench in January 2015 because a sitting judge must resign to run for district attorney. He left the bench to enter private practice as a senior litigator of Trusts and Estates with the law firm DelBello, Donnellan, Weingarten, Wise & Weiderkehr.
Former Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore stepped down as DA in January 2016 when she was appointed chief judge of the Court of Appeals, New York State’s highest court. Scarpino said he never thought the DA opportunity was going to come his way again, for it was something that he wanted to do for years. Running for DA can be aggressive and dirty at times, he says. That makes it hard to find good people who are willing to run and take the abuse. But he says he is prepared and ready for it. Running on the Democratic Party line, he has received endorsements from the Westchester County Democratic Party, and is grateful to have also received Westchester County’s Conservative Party endorsement because they know him and like his law enforcement background.
Scarpino began his judicial career in 1984 when he was appointed Associate City Court judge in his former hometown of Mount Vernon. In 1985 he was elected as the Mount Vernon City Judge. In 1988 he was elected as a Westchester County Court judge. In 1991 he ran for the Supreme Court and lost, but he did win Westchester County’s vote. Then in 1993 he ran again and was elected to the New York State Supreme Court for the Ninth Judicial District, which covers Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Dutchess and Orange counties. He was appointed as an Acting Supreme Court Justice, and his duties expanded to the Special Narcotics section in Westchester County’s Courthouse. Two years later he was reassigned to preside over the county’s most serious criminal cases.
On June 16, a group of supporters gathered for a Scarpino campaign fundraiser at the Armonk home of Jeffrey and Cindy Binder, who are longtime Scarpino friends. Jeffrey Binder served as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, NY. He is now serving as a special counsel and spokesperson for Scarpino’s campaign. He said having Scarpino, who is thoughtful and has a judicial temperament as DA is important because he will approach every case with a sense of fairness.
Westchester’s DA is the county’s chief law enforcement officer, with a tremendous amount of authority DAs have assistance from the local police, the state police and if needed, the FBI, said Scarpino. “My job as a judge was to provide justice to everybody, and having that type of judicial experience is the perfect type of background to be responsible and to ensure that justice is provided to everybody involved. I’ve had that responsibility as a trial judge and I’m hoping to be able to continue that as DA.”
Beth Berger, an Armonk resident, asked Scarpino a timely question, “You have been involved with law enforcement, particularly gun safety. With what’s been going on, what are your views from a local level to a nationwide level on how gun safety can be handled?”
“Gun safety is a matter of national security,” said Scarpino. “Everyone is on alert about gun safety after the mass murder by a semi-automatic weapon in Orlando where the 49 people who were killed and 50 people who were injured had no way to protect themselves.”
“Everyone thought something was going to happen to bring an end to this after the shooting in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, CT. Yet, nothing came of it,” he added.
“To reduce these types of tragic situations that are occurring, there has to be some sort of reasonable joint compromise between people who are adamant about the second amendment rights and those that are concerned about security issues,” said Scarpino.
“You come to these types of issues with your own personal background.” With Scarpino’s initial background in law enforcement and his training by the FBI to carry a weapon, he said he is torn because he is comfortable with weapons and never felt weapons should not be allowed. But he says it’s dangerous and there’s always the concern about being outgunned and out powered.
“The National Rifle Association is going to have to step up and stop being afraid to address this with the reasonable people on the other side,” Scarpino said. “It’s a complex situation, but both sides have to be protected as best as they can. The NRA is on one side for those who support the second amendment and the constitutional right to be entitled to purchase weapons for those with no prior criminal history and who have the right to have weapons for protection and recreation purposes. Then there are those who are concerned about safety issues and the ability for these weapons to get into the wrong hands such as those people who are under surveillance by the FBI. We have to worry about the people who are gaining access to these weapons.” The New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act (SAFE Act) of 2013 has stronger provisions to try to keep weapons out of the hands of unsupervised minors and those who have mental illnesses. But, Scarpino says “there should be reasonable restrictions of timing where someone’s name has to be submitted and some sort of clearance has to be done.” He concluded that the problem is that the law is soft on identifying different types of weapons that fall outside the scope of assault weapons that are not restricted, yet are just as dangerous.
The Republican Party candidate for Westchester County DA has yet to be determined. Bruce Bendish, who has served in the DA’s office as Bureau Chief of the Rackets and Homicide Bureaus, has received the Westchester County Republican Party nod. But Mitch Benson, a New York criminal prosecutor, if he receives enough signatures, will run against Bendish in September’s Republican Party primary to determine Scarpino’s Republican opponent.