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Month: January 2017
Brian Pugh: Get covered!
To the Editor,
Despite the discussions in Washington DC regarding the repeal of “Obamacare,” the Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land. That’s why it’s important that everyone make sure they have health insurance coverage before Tuesday, January 31, 2017–the deadline for the NYS health care exchange.
As someone who has bought coverage off the NYS health exchange for two years, I have found the exchange to be reasonably efficient, affordable and the coverage to be of better quality than I was previously available.
To help residents access the exchange, Westchester County Health Department has a team of certified “Navigators” available to help residents. Navigators can provide in person assistance to individuals, families, and small businesses and their employees at the time of initial enrollment or when renewing health coverage.
You can call the DOH at (914) 995-6350 from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays to reach a navigator. You can also call the NYSDOH Marketplace at (855) 355-5777 for help.
According to a recent report by the United Way, some 1 in 10 residents of our Village lack health insurance, so it is important that this information be disseminated widely.
Ann Gallelli: Decoding Village Agendas No. 351
Dear neighbor, Here is the 351st installment of Decoding Village Agendas to keep Croton residents informed of the actions of the Village Board at their meetings. I continue to add recipients to this email update on agendas so you may be receiving it for the first time. I enjoy getting your feedback and hope to continue to hear from you. If you do not wish to receive these periodic email updates from me, please reply to this email and your name will be removed from the email list.
Decoding Village Agendas – January 23, 2017
Work Session of the Village Board
7: 30 p.m.
(Open to Public and Televised)
Discussion of the 2015-2016 Village Audit with Alan Kassay of PKF O’Connor Davies, LLC. The auditors have reviewed the financial transactions of the Village’s 6 individual governmental funds: General, Water, Sewer, Debt Service, Capital Projects and Special Purpose. The full report is available at the Village website under the Agenda for this meeting. There is also an accompanying letter in which the auditors make recommendations. In this report, the auditors noted that the Village had implemented the accounting provisions of a government standard regarding pensions; government-wide the assets and deferred outflows of resources of the Village exceeded its liabilities and deferred inflow by $13,784,347; at the end of 2015-2016 the General Fund Fund Balance totaled $7,974,916, an increase of $905,824; the Capital Projects fund expenditures were $6,888,120 and the fund balance was $10,287,956. The Management letter is also available on the website.
Discussion with Evan Kolkos from the New York Power Authority about the potential for placing solar panels on Village owned buildings. No backup documentation for this discussion has been provided.
Discussion with the Village’s Sustainability Committee regarding a NYSERDA grant application to convert the interior lights in the Municipal Building to LED. The committee is proposing that the Village take advantage of a NYSERDA grant program to upgrade the Municipal Building. The building is 35,000 square feet with 977 fluorescent lights. To move ahead, the committee requests the Village authorize them to complete the grant application and work with the Village administration on its details.
Discussion about the potential to transition the Village’s Water billing from biannually to quarterly. No backup documents have been included for this discussion. The suggestion for quarterly billing has been raised as a way to spread out the impacts of two semi-annual bills to water customers..
Request by Village Manager to enter into an executive session to discuss personnel issues relating to specific individuals.
Brian Pugh: CCA–1 Year Later
To the Editor,
This week marks the one year anniversary of the rejection of Sustainable Westchester’s Westchester Power Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) Program by the Croton United majority (over the objections of me and Trustee Ann Gallelli). Earlier this month, Dr. Mayor Greg Schmidt and village staff met with a representative of Westchester Power–I hope this discussion will be a catalyst for a timely correction by the Village Board that results in our Village reaping the benefits of CCA sooner rather than later.
Westchester Power (Community Choice Aggregation, a/k/a CCA) is a community-based bulk energy purchasing program intended to lower costs and increase the use of renewable energy in Westchester County. Westchester Power is a program initiated and implemented by Sustainable Westchester, a non-profit organization that serves member cities, towns and villages.
Day by day, the wisdom of CCA becomes ever clearer. The New York Public Service Commission, the chief utility regulator, authorized CCA statewide on the basis of the success of the Westchester Power CCA. Leading environmental groups including the Clearwater Hudson River Sloop, Riverkeeper and the NY League of Conservation voters have all praised CCA. Sustainable Westchester has been honored by the US EPA as a NYS Environmental Champion for establishing Westchester Power.
Westchester Power CCA is also a demonstrated economic, as well as environmental, success. As documented in the “Rate Update” available at westchesterpower.org, CCA has consistently beaten the standard Con Edison price. Even the 100% renewable option under CCA has, more often than not, beaten the Con Edison price for electricity. With the US Energy Information Agency forecasting continued price hikes for electricity in 2017 and 2018, the financially responsible thing to do would be for our Village to help lock in relatively low energy prices sooner rather than later.
As it stands, the current CCA contract will run through May 2018. After spending a year watching our neighbors in Ossining, Tarrytown and Irvington save money and reduce their carbon footprint, I think the Village should not force residents to wait any longer and, instead, work with all deliberate speed to secure the community affordable renewable power through the Westchester Power CCA.
Ann Gallelli: The Empire State Trail
To the Editor,
Last week Governor Cuomo proposed the completion of an “Empire State Trail” by 2020. It would create a trail system extending from New York City to the Canadian border and from Lake Erie to Albany. The $200 million proposal would be done in three phases, the first of which, $53 million, will appear in his budget for the coming year.
The portion along the Hudson River would allow for the completion of the partially realized Hudson River Valley Green Council’s Trail System.
I believe the Village of Croton is uniquely suited to take advantage of this proposal as a result of steps previously taken and approved plans already in place. Our Village was designated a “Greenway Model Community” in 1997 having adopted its own Greenway Visions Plan. In 2004, the Village received another Greenway award for the quality of our planning. We are on record identifying the completion of a trail along the Village’s entire Hudson River waterfront as our goal. Our existing Croton Landing Park already fulfills a large section of the Greenway Trail system along the Hudson.
The major missing piece is the stretch between the north end of Croton Landing and the County’s Oscawana Park. This key link is identified in all the Greenway and County trail plans and some design work has already been done. Due to the difficult terrain and right-of-way issues, this section must be built as part of a well-funded, larger concept like Governor Cuomo’s Empire State Trail.
Help us to make this a reality by telling our State legislators (Assemblyperson Galef and Senator Murphy) and our Board of Trustees that you want us to take action to support and secure this and other similar kinds of opportunities that can further enhance our waterfront, local economy and the desirability of Croton as a place to live.
Sandy Galef: Adopt-a-Highway Information
Dear Mayors, Supervisors, and County Officials in the 95th Assembly District,
As we are moving into the New Year, I have a feeling that you have received many phone calls and emails from our constituents regarding the large amounts of litter on the highways. Although we would like to stop people from littering on the highways, there is just more that needs to be done. So in order to help this situation, I hope that we can expand the Adopt-A-Highway program as a way for the community to take action against the cluttered highways. This state program allows for individuals and organizations to adopt a segment of a highway, which they will take on the responsibility of keeping it clean. Attached is a brochure with all the information about the Adopt-A-Highway program that you can distribute to various organizations and individuals in your community. Below there is also some additional information about the program…
· Adopters must be 12 years or older in order to participate
o 12-18 years olds need to be accompanied by a guardian
· Adopters would receive recognition in the form of a blue and white sign that would be placed at the beginning of their highway segment.
· Adopter must sign a formal agreement with New York State Department of Transportation.
o The agreement is for two years, but can be renewed
· If approved, the adopter needs to obtain a Highway Work Permit from NYSDOT; the fee is waived.
· The adopters would be awarded up to two miles that would have to be cleaned four times a year.
o This program can cost $500 or more dependent on the maintenance provider that the adopter chooses.
· Adopters can choose to clean the area themselves, but they would only be allowed to adopt areas away from high-speed traffic.
o If this option is chosen, it is suggested that they clean the area two times a month.
This is an effective environmental program that allows for individuals or organizations to take the initiative to clean up our community. For more information individuals and organizations can go on to https://www.dot.ny.gov/programs/adopt-highway and also http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/infrastructure/adopthwy.shtml and for specific questions they can contact the Adopt-a-Highway Coordinator at (718) 712-7563. If individuals or organizations are interested in adopting, those in Northern Westchester County can contact Stuart Sprague at (914) 232-5065 and those in Putnam County can contact Rock DeNigro at (845) 878-6363.
I hope that you will find this information helpful and encouraging more local participation in cleaning up our highways and roads in our communities. Please contact me if you have any questions.
Ann Gallelli: Decoding Village Agendas
|Ann Gallelli <firstname.lastname@example.org>||Sat, Jan 14, 2017 at 11:14 AM|
|To: Ann Gallelli <email@example.com>
Richard Masur: Acting Justice Appointment
To the Editor:
Mayor Greg Schmidt recently appointed Mr. Peter Schuyler to be the Acting Village Justice of Croton on Hudson. This is an appointment that carries with it a taxpayer funded salary. The Mayor owes it to the Village to explain his reasons for making this choice and to reveal any potential conflicts that might have influenced his decision.
Mayor Schmidt ran and was elected as Croton Mayor and Trustee with the backing of the Republican Party several times in the past, but ran and was elected to his current office, in 2015, as a member of Croton United. Croton United has been chaired since its inception by Ms. Roseanne Schuyler, Mr. Peter Schuyler’s wife and partner in the Kitson & Schuyler law firm.
I wrote some time ago about the apparent lack of familiarity that the Mayor and his CU colleagues have with the need to avoid conflicts of interest in government. One of the examples that I cited involved Mr. Schuyler appearing before the Village Board on behalf of his legal client to ask for a waiver of Village rules to benefit that client. I made it clear then, as I do now, that I do not personally know of any ethical problem with Mr. Schuyler’s pursuance of his legal business before the Village Board, regardless of his relationship with the Mayor and the CU Trustees on that Board.
However, the Mayor and his CU colleagues on the Board had a duty to the Village residents to disclose the fact that Mr. Schuyler was the husband and law partner of the Chair of the political organization to which they belong and that was responsible for their election to their offices just weeks before. The voters have the right to decide for themselves whether such a relationship constitutes a conflict of interest and therefore casts doubt on the objectivity of the decisions made by the Mayor and his CU majority on the Board. Similarly, in the recent appointment of Mr. Schuyler to sit as Acting Village Justice in this Village’s court, issues and questions arise that have yet to be answered.
First, did Mayor Schmidt disclose his relationship with Ms. Schuyler and her position as the Croton United Chair when announcing her husband/law partner’s appointment? To my knowledge, no such disclosure has ever been made by the Mayor. Croton residents can draw their own conclusions about why the Mayor appointed Mr. Schuyler and failed once again to disclose his possible conflicts in making his decision.
Second, does Mr. Schuyler intend to refrain from representing clients with business before the Village for the duration of his tenure as Acting Justice? Does his wife and law partner intend to refrain from such activities? If they do not, will these potential conflicts of interest be disclosed by the Mayor and his colleagues? The residents of the Village deserve answers to these questions.
Richard Masur, Croton Democratic Committee Chair
Brian Pugh: Honoring MLK
To the Editor,
As we remember Dr. Martin Luther King this holiday weekend, we should remember him not just for his stirring rhetoric, but the substantive changes for which he fought. Among the changes championed by King was a fair minimum wage.
“We know of no more crucial civil rights issue…today than the need to increase the..minimum wage and extend its coverage,” said Dr. King in 1966.
Sadly, over the decades, the buying power of the minimum wage has been allowed to erode. The federal minimum wage (currently $7.25/hour) peaked in 1970–when, adjusted for inflation, it was over $12/hour in today’s dollars.
To correct this, New York State is having the state minimum wage for workers in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester Counties increase to $10/hour at the start of 2017, then an additional $1/hour each year after, reaching $15/hour on 12/31/2021.
Citing an exemption in the state minimum wage law, the current Village administration has declined to follow suit. Nonetheless, New York State, New York City, Buffalo and Rochester have all voluntarily pledged to pay their public sector workers at least the state minimum.
At a time when other employers are raising starting wages, the Village should follow suit to remain competitive and attract and retain qualified people. Offering a starting wage of around $8/hour when most all other employers must offer at least $10/hour is not tenable.
Beyond the practical argument, there is a moral one. Do we value the work performed by seasonal laborers, camp counselors or lifeguards less than we value the jobs done by other workers such as those in the fast food industry?
Paying Village workers, mostly seasonal temporary workers such as camp counselors, the state minimum wage would have a minimal impact on our Village’s $18M budget.
When this issue was last discussed in August, the Mayor and his Deputy Mayor insisted that the cost of raising starting pay to $9/hr for Village workers (then the NYS minimum wage), for a total cost of some $1,025, would overburden on the Village treasury. Yet, in 2016, the Croton United Party majority found $5,000 in taxpayer dollars to pay their largest campaign donor as “reparations” for a claim that was denied by the Village’s insurance plan.
It’s true that we live in austere times. But we need not and should not balance the Village’s budget on the backs of its lowest paid workers.