After Years of Rising Overtime and Mismanagement Under Republican Mayors,Democrats Pursue Shared Sacrifice, Reform and Consolidations
Tonight, though, is not about taking a victory lap but rather to enact an agenda for the future; that ensures our city will be a safe, vibrant and diverse community, where families can work, educate their children, and grow old gracefully.
However, we first must take an honest look at the state of our city.
While the Mayor deserves some accolades, we must face the facts that compared to 15 years ago:Our tax levy has grown by over $130 million – that is more than 100%;
Police overtime has skyrocketed over 250%;
Businesses, such as Stewart Stamping and Precision Valve have left Yonkers and dozens of small businesses closed, resulting in hundreds of good jobs being lost.
While the recession sparked the downturn, the city did not help itself over these fifteen years of Republican Administrations. We have to stop talking and start working.
First, this will require sacrifices from everyone.
We also need to recognize that our municipal workers and their union leaders are — not the source of the problem, but rather an important part of the solution. We want to work with the unions, not break them.
Providing quality education continues to be a challenge for our city. Rising public school enrollment due in part to the closing of catholic schools, puts even greater demands on the system and its resources. And the situation will only get worse with the proposed state budget cuts.
We must prioritize our efforts to preserve pre-K, music, arts, sports and a reasonable class size. We Democrats agree that our children should not be forced to suffer from the costly mistakes of others.
Economically, we must make the city more attractive for companies and residents by enhancing our transit-oriented housing, locating office and high-tech jobs near bus and train-lines, and increasing foot traffic downtown and citywide.
While our retail sector promises to grow at the new Ridge Hill Village and the Cross County Shopping Center, where hundreds of good construction and retail jobs were added, we need to focus on creating more permanent jobs, particularly in the environmental and biotech sectors.
Also, we need to preserve our historic resources and use them as a foundation for economic growth. Where possible, we should adaptively reuse these important buildings and not tear them down without warning.
We are still waiting for the Administration to send us master plans on Nodine Hill, Ravine Avenue, South Broadway and Downtown Yonkers.
We need to pass affordable housing legislation that we can all agree upon.
And we need to enact a living wage bill for the workers in our great city.
Overall, working in a bi-partisan way, in all levels of government, we have created a safer city. Most of the credit is due to the men and women that patrol our streets.
However, more can and must be done.
We must ensure that all neighborhoods are safe and the seemingly endless investigations and reports regarding overtime and pension abuse, as well as civil rights violations, must end.
Management reforms must be implemented to insure that such incidents become rare.
Efficient streamlined government must become a priority for this city.
The Inspector General and his predecessor both provided specific ways to reduce overtime, consolidate departments and eliminate agencies like the Yonkers Parking Authority. Purchasing is a function that could be more efficient if the Board of Ed and the City merged departments.
Unfortunately, these recommendations have been ignored by this Administration.
On a green note, in 2009, the City Council passed sustainable development legislation that would, over time, reduce high-energy costs. The Mayor vetoed this legislation and promised an alternative. It is 2011 and we are still waiting.
Yonkers has the potential to once again become a first-rate city in the Empire State with great schools, safe streets and parks and a thriving economy.
So, I end, where I started — with the economy, the budget and the need for a better city government. The pressure to cut spending in all levels of government is great. We need flexibility, creativity and mutual respect for the jobs that all of us must do.
Sacrifices are required from the top to the bottom.
Only by coming together can we can work through our toughest challenges.
I know the men and women who live and work in this City. They want fair, honest and open government from their leaders. They want their services to remain strong and their schools to improve.
We Democrats get that.
Today, we all face a new fiscal reality. Together, we will embark on this difficult journey and come out stronger on the other side.
Chuck Lesnick is the Yonkers City Council President. He is also in active pursuit to earn the endorsement of the Yonkers City Democrat Committee in his effort to launch a campaign for Mayor of Yonkers.