Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino earlier this year proposed cutting $5.8 million in social services, including $1.5 million in day-care spending, by attempting to head off an anticipated $166 million deficit in 2011, With little advance notice, the Astorino Administration action drastically cut two programs and raised contributions on a third toward that end. The Westchester County Board of Legislators’ (WCBoL) majority response challenged Mr Astorino’s action for ending the WCBoL created Westchester County Child Care Scholarship program, freezing the federally funded Title XX child care subsidies, and increasing parent contributions for those families who get low-income child-care subsidies from 15% to 20%.
County Executive Astorino’s action was rationalized by a need to reduce costs. The WCBoL response was rationalized for being empathic to the needs of vulnerable members of society. Yet both positions are nothing more than a continuation of political dogma devoid of financial reality. For Mr Astorino, the agenda is driven from the Republican right; for the WCBoL, it is driven by the Democrat left. Instead of thoughtful direction born of need and concern, empathic in delivering tempered and pragmatic solutions, the executive and legislative branches of government prefer to dig their respective heals in a stand-off.
The judicial branch of government insinuated itself into the mix on September 2, 2010, when Supreme Court Justice Nicholas Colabella ruled the county has to temporarily provide day care assistance to two Mount Vernon women until he can decide whether the county has to restore cuts to a lower income assistance program.The Hon. Colabella set September 24, 2010, the deadline for the county to file papers responding to the women's lawsuit, which seeks permanent restoration of cuts to the program and inclusion of potentially hundreds of other families in the lawsuit. Once again, The People have been dismissed.
The Astorino Administration’s underpinning tenets of Republican and Conservative concepts, driven further to the right by the ever more vocal Tea Party movement adopted its cry for cutting costs. Its actions have been deficient of thorough thought. Its action was cost reducing but devoid of empathy and dismissive of need. The Astorino Administration’s asserting, “They Get It!”, is simply unfounded. The Astorino Administration does not get it no matter how often they repeat they do. Were they on the same “page” demanded by The People, their proposed cuts vis-a-vis these social services cuts would have found remedy by other means.
The WCBoL response was also out of touch with The People’s demand for prudent fiscal conduct. The WCBoL does not get it either.
Both camps are attempting to define their positions in a manner that best resonates among the ever more engaged voter. In the process of respective political party introspection, none have been able to voice The People’s perspective. The People demand an evolving vision for growth, tempered by financial realities, constrained by empathy for those in need, demanding of a code of ethical responsibility by both donors and recipients alike.
Can the gap between need and financial wherewithal be bridged? Is it an issue beyond the acumen of the now long gone King Solomon? The answer is, “No!”
There is not likely even one Solomon among us. Brain storming sessions of wise women and wise men can supplant the Solomon of days long gone, and do it well, on any and all concerns. The will to reach resolution has not been inculcated into colloquialism of the elected and political elite. They either don’t get it or have yet to find their voice. Thankfully The People are less reluctant to give voice to their concerns
Today the topic is impending cuts to day care program subsidies in light of our financially challenging times. The People demand cost cutting measures. They are right to demand it. Cost cuts must be imposed. Whether the fat to be cut is 5, 10, 20. 50 percent, or higher, finding cost savings and implementing them in a disciplined manner is a necessity no one can escape.
Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner suggested retirees pay off their town taxes by volunteering their time to earn tax credits toward that end that would not exceed their maximum earning ability staying within federal guidelines and not exceeding earnings parameters. A plan implementing experienced personnel to comprise the majority of the day care program if undertaken by county directive would go far to reducing costs without diminishing the quality of the program’s services. Reallocating present human resources now employed in the Day care programs to other programs or retaining for other services would need to be part of the process. As exemplified in this case by Supervisor Feiner, thinking outside the box can make a lot of sense.
In interviewing candidates for Yonkers City Court judge, it is evident that the political party system is a necessary platform from which one may launch an effort for elected office. The principals that separate one party from another are not always the beliefs of the individual being endorsed by any given party. The disparity between political parties and the candidates they endorse have disintegrated over the years. Many will today only come out to vote for someone possessing charisma, or looks, or ideals. These attributes are not anathema to party principals, but they are also not always in alignment with them.
Government is required to live within the parameters of its means and serve the public good. Its first responsibility is to define the issues impacting society, decipher its many layers of complexity, define it clearly and openly to the public, and make its best effort proposals for solutions toward resolution of the issues. Those opposing the definition of government expression are duty bound to likewise decipher the various layers of complexity, to define it succinctly, and likewise make its solutions publicly known. The purpose of such efforts by all interested parties is to create a basis for discourse and accommodation by compromise.
When government was led by a majority, to which the minority played the role of a loyal opposition, government functioned with purpose propelled by greater agility than that of today. The reason for greater function was because all elected were focused on serving the public good. That focus has today been deflected elsewhere. For some the purpose of elected office is self-serving; dismissive of public concerns and need. The smoldering distrust of government today is the backbone behind the outcry for resurrecting the principals that are the foundation of our nation.
The People are resolved to have their voice resonate within the hallowed halls of government. Standing in their way, pushing their emotional buttons, or dismissing their concerns is foolhardy.
The People demand greater effort, and are losing patience by those whose promises are left unkept.
This November’s 2010 Election Day will find many among the politically dead. If they don’t get it now, can they ever be expected to learn.?