Republican Response to Mayor Spano’s State of the City Address By JOHN J. LARKIN
As City Councilmembers, we recognize the responsibility that the people have placed in us. That responsibility is to do what is in the best interest of our city, our homeowners, and taxpayers. For far too long we have allowed partisan politics and personal agendas to stifle that progress. What better example of that than our Federal Government which is often unable and even unwilling to communicate and compromise.
As the Republican Members of the Council, we are committed to doing what is in the best interest of our city, regardless of who receives the credit. Because in the end, it's a win for all Yonkers residents.
Our first priority must be to address a serious budget deficit of approximately $80 million dollars. This is going to take a collaborative effort of all stakeholders. This will involve our Mayor, City Council, State Elected Officials, Board of Education, Unions, Parents, and most importantly you the Taxpayers.
This cooperation began last year when the City Council addressed a large deficit and passed a budget with a 7-0 vote.
All this was done while adhering to the 2% tax cap which the Mayor and we as Republican Councilmembers support.
It is our responsibility to provide a solid foundation for our children. It is imperative that this begin with a full day Pre-K Program. The reality is: dividing $25 million among the school districts within our State will not provide Yonkers with the funding needed for our children.
Our school buildings are in desperate need of repair. The State reimburses Yonkers approximately 61 cents on the dollar for repairs, whereas cities such as Buffalo and Rochester are reimbursed close to 100%. This is unacceptable- we must call on our State Legislators, beginning with Gov. Cuomo, to give Yonkers its fair share for Pre-K and building construction.
They are second to none. Their dedication, hard work, and genuine concern for the residents can be seen every day. They keep our neighborhoods safe, clean and insure our central services run smoothly. They accomplish this every work day despite the fact that they have been working without contracts for the past four years. It is our hope that discussions will continue regarding contract negotiations.
We heard the Mayor speak about development and mentioned rebuilding our tax base by utilizing economic development as a revenue source. Yes, we do need economic development but we need development that is right and fits the needs of the neighborhoods and residents. The Mayor mentioned future development projects such as Glenwood Power Plant and Boyce Thompson Project. The adaptive reuse of these buildings are innovative and exciting. Both will create an infusion of revenue for the city, and with community input will provide a positive addition to our neighborhoods.
Development in our downtown is critical to the success of our city. Creating foot traffic is essential. Teutonia Hall and the Collins Project will provide that needed foot traffic.
While large retail-residential development is good, more emphasis needs to be placed on our small businesses, our mom and pop stores and restaurants which generate a large number of jobs and revenues for our city. We need a program which will streamline the process for small businesses to open. Waiting 6 to 9 months to open a small business or restaurant hinders and can sometimes be a financial blow to the owners. We must not cut corners on safety, but we need to reduce the wait time for permits, licensing, and certificates of occupancy. We need to create a better small business friendly environment.
Our city has zoning laws for a reason - to protect residents. Often times, a development may look good on paper, but may have a far reaching impact throughout our city.
The proposed zone request for the Austin Ave. project is a planned multi-use development, or a PMD. This would allow just about anything within the zone: commercial, office, retail, and residential. Austin Ave. does not meet the requirements of that zone. We must be careful not to dilute the protection in place for the residents.
We fully support and advocate for a full service casino at Empire City, increasing jobs with added tax revenues for Yonkers.
The Yonkers IDA is a critical component to attracting business to Yonkers. We believe that a Project Labor Agreement should be a requirement for all projects that receive financial assistance from the Yonkers IDA, with consideration given to the hiring of Yonkers and Westchester County residents. A position on the IDA should be afforded to a building and trades representative, similar to Westchester County’s IDA Board.
In conclusion, it is the opinion of the Republican Councilmembers that we must work in a bi-partisan manner to do the very best for the citizens of our city, the people who have given us the privilege to serve. We look forward to working with our Mayor and Democratic Colleagues in order to move the City of Yonkers forward.
I ask that we invoke God's guidance and blessing upon the residents and our great City of Yonkers. Thank you and good night.
Yonkers City Councilman John J. Larkin is the Minority leader. He represent the 6th District.