Why I’m Running
This year marks an important turning point in Yonkers as voters will decide who will lead the city for the next four years – and we cannot afford to get it wrong. After a decade and a half of Republican rule in City Hall that has been tainted by scandals and brought us to near bankruptcy, it is time for a real change. And that’s why I am announcing today my candidacy for mayor of Yonkers.
I am also concerned that our city is not doing enough to grow its economy and keep our young people here with the opportunity to find good jobs and raise a family. As the father of two daughters in college, I understand the need to make our city a desirable place to both succeed and thrive. Reforming Yonkers government first is crucial.
Change Begins with ReformFor too long our residents have watched their taxes skyrocket while much needed services diminish. We have witnessed federal prosecutors invest more time digging here than developers – and it has blemished our reputation and tarnished our public integrity. And for too long, our students have sat in classrooms that are literally crumbling around them as vital programs are cut. Well, it is time to restore the pride to Yonkers and that begins with real reform.
As mayor, my priorities will be to properly fund our schools, demand fiscal responsibility and properly manage our resources in order to provide superior services at a lower cost to our taxpayers, and draw new, smart development to Yonkers. I will also make sure that hiring decisions are made in an open and transparent manner based on merit – not favoritism – and put an end to the patronage mill that employs a network of friends and family. And the men and women that I hire will be qualified for their jobs and better reflect the diversity of Yonkers.
We Can Do Better – We Must Do Better
When I first ran for council president in 2003, devastating cuts were being made to the Yonkers Public Schools. Cuts that wiped out virtually every arts and music class in the city. After I was elected in 2005, I joined with parents, teachers and PTA leaders to restore that funding and together, we got those classes reopened and students learning.
Working with the Council over the next several years, we passed development projects that are the City’s largest ever and more importantly, when opened, will deliver much needed revenue that will help offset our property taxes. But with all that work, we still find ourselves facing circumstances that are not too different that when I first ran.
Last July, the city laid off teachers and municipal workers and the superintendent of schools eliminated elementary arts and sports programs. To make matters worse, the police commissioner cut out all school crossing guards. This year, the superintendent is looking to cut pre-K, transportation, all arts and sports and 700 employees. This situation should have never been allowed to happen.
From Albany to Washington, our reputation is well known. We have been saddled with a Republican administration that puts politics over public purpose. For too long we have been governed by mayors who would fight rather than work with people and develop consensus.
We can do better. We must do better.
The Truth is…Republicans have Mismanaged Us Into Near BankruptcyOur city needs a mayor who can work both independently and with the City Council for the public good. The only way we can properly represent the best interests of our city is by working together. It is the only way we can we get the state to change the funding formula that currently short changes Yonkers.
Since I came into office, I have advised the administration to implement cost saving measures. And while the mayor campaigned with a message to streamline government and merge redundant services, he never fulfilled those promises. Now, why would we believe any Republican, conservative or not, who says the same thing?
Here are the Facts, in the Past 15 Years:
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.With the loss of business and tax certioraris, our total assessed value is down from $566,253,985 in 1996 to $476,589,576 in 2012 – that translates to a 16% loss of almost $100 million in value.While the recession sparked the downturn, the Republicans created much of this mess over these past fifteen years. We have to stop talking and start working. 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. But sacrifice will be required from everyone. If overtime is to be controlled, the next mayor must accept responsibility and be held accountable to review and manage these escalating costs and work with the city’s commissioners to ensure best practices are put in place. It is time to end an era of inept management and start governing on behalf of the people! We must do better.
Restoring Pride to Yonkers Begins with Economic Sustainability
20 years ago, the historic Yonkers Pier was literally falling into the Hudson. A group of us decided that it was worth saving, so I went down to Washington and fought to get the initial $3 million dollars to save it. While it took way too long, we are proud to have X20 successfully utilizing the site. Two decades later, I helped bring the Science Barge to Yonkers. We now have a waterfront that has become alive with activity and opportunity.
As your next Mayor, I will actively bring smart, sustainable, economic development to Yonkers – that enriches our entire city – with retail and housing that fits all of our needs so we can all truly thrive as a community and grow the city’s tax base; that means improving the Central Avenue corridor in order to draw major investment; upgrade an aging infrastructure while preserving the environment and historic buildings, and incorporate greater energy efficiencies to lower power costs.
Economically, my Administration will make the city more attractive to 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, I will 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.
During my five years as council president, I made it my priority to govern the council with mutual respect for all with a practice of competence and civility. As mayor, I will do the same. Working cooperatively on the Council, we have approved nearly $2 billion in major development projects and worked to force the mayor to reduce property tax increases. Unfortunately, while we labored, the Republicans displayed poor leadership by blocking progressive ideas like the living wage bill, affordable housing ordinance renewal and sustainable development legislation – issues that real people need to have better lives! As mayor, I will end the era of the status quo and work towards real reform.
As council president, I regularly directed the city’s Inspector General to investigate waste and recommended ways to prevent such. As mayor I will make sure that the Inspector General’s recommendations are put into place.
My wife Beth and I settled here more than 25 years ago because Yonkers had so much to offer – a respected school system, low taxes, close proximity to major highways and train lines, wonderful parks and a magnificent waterfront. With much work and sacrifice Beth has forged a successful medical practice here and is part of the communities at St. John’s Riverside and Lawrence Hospitals. We also have been blessed to have had the wonderful opportunity to raise a family here. It is my hope that our residents continue to see the potential in Yonkers and that other young families also come to call our city home.
Today, we have an opportunity to move Yonkers forward and end the countless years of family dynasties ruling this city. 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. However, sacrifices are required from the top to the bottom. Only by coming together and making the hard choices 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. With your help we can get our great city moving in the right direction. It is time to restore the pride to Yonkers!
Learn more at chuck-lesnick.com.