While one would suppose the “learning process” would begin before the Yonkers City Council membership within the City Council’s august chambers, the tone and purpose of this briefing seminar-like experience began in City Hall’s elevator. It was a conversation that took place as the elevator moved from the first floor to the forth floor. Standing in the elevator were Johnathan A. Ballan, Esq., member of the Boston firm MINTZ, LEVIN, COHN, FERRIS, GLOVSKY AND POPEO, P.C., and Shai Markowicz, a Citibank vice-president and bond expert. As the elevator lethargically moved from one floor to the next, Mr Ballan was overhead telling Mr Markowicz that the purpose of the presentation was for “perceptual purposes only.” They were not there to teach anything, they were there for show. And so they were.
The tone was set when Mr Ballan advised that he had a limited amount of time as he had to attend a function in which his child was attending. Bless him for being a great dad; admonish City Hall for not sending another person to brief the Yonkers City Council respectfully. His dissertation was such as to promote the TFI vehicle being proposed. He became obtuse in his comprehension of questions asked and would oftentimes proclaim, ‘I don’t see it that way!’ and would continue to obfuscate and stall, thereafter promoting an idea he would not or could not decipher for the Yonkers City Council membership. He knew he was there for his 15 nanoseconds worth of fame before the channel 78 cameras. He gloated about how he put on his creative cap and came up with the TFI concept which in reality, if adopted by CoY, would be the fourth evolution of a concept that had its roots in New York City when New York City found its bonding capacity had reached its legal limitation and they therafter devised a mechanism to skirt their own legal parameters to gain access to the financial markets. But Yonkers is not New York City.
The TFI exhibits many tentacles. The first is its construct as an authority, recently admonished by NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Governor Andrew Cuomo as a mechanism they were not in support. The TFI requires a governing board of directors comprised of the mayor and his appointee, and the City Council President, and the majority and minority leaders. It can also employ personnel. TFI would in a sense shrink the Yonkers City Council from a total membership of 7 to 3 people. While there are other authorities presently in existence, the mayor presides on most of them, personally or by way of surrogates. Not a problem except that the TFI will be able to skirt the will of The People if their legislative house, the Yonkers City Council, can be overruled by such an authority who deems it appropriate to fund projects rejected by the Yonkers City Council. The TFI reduces the value of the Yonkers City Council and continues to build on emboldening an evener stronger “Strong Mayor” form of government. With Mr Ballan’s early departure, and Mr Markowicz’s inability to comprehend or respond to questions requested of him in turn, Minority Leader John Murtagh suggested a postponement to Friday, May 20, 2011, at 1:00 p.m., a time not all of the councilmembers may be able to attend. Prior to convening, it was learned Friday that a majority of the council members could not attend the Friday meeting. It is presently uncertain when this issue will come before the Yonkers City Council again.
CSEA President Bobbi DiBattista was in attendance and spoke to the fact that she was led to believe that the $20 million for which the TFI was necessary to garner those funds were not in house. It seems City Hall is not being open with at minimum, one of the unions who are slated to lose more employees in the financial conundrum facing CoY.
Tony Giumbruno, the mayor’s Liaison with the Yonkers City Council stressed the need to accept the Resolution presented before them. He did not touch upon the “experts” not making the time to brief the one and only body that stands before adoption of the TFI or not.
It was said that NYS Comproller Thomas DiNapoli is on board with the TFI concept for Yonkers; also that Senator Jeff Klein is for it. Even that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is for it. Proof of their respective positions were not presented to the City Council membership. This reporter did speak to some members of the Albany Delegation who advised they are not on board with this concept. One of the main concerns noted among some of the Albany Delegation is that the TFI is another “one shot” that keeps kicking Yonkers’ financial ills to the next year, and the next, etc.
What is also troubling is that a resolution has been prepared for adoption should the Yonkers City Council give its approval prior to the issue being vetted. Interestingly enough, from the allegedly April 15th inception of the TFI concept to May 17th, the Yonkers City Council heard not one word. Even so, blank spaces are designated in a Senate – Assembly resolution to which no senator or assembly person has underwritten their name. The likelihood of tweaking the resolution if adopted as it is presently proposed is unlikely to be suffered by any sponsors among the New York State Legislature.
The legislation asked of the Yonkers City Council further does not stipulate the TFI must designate funds it would be able to raise on the financial markets for a specific reason prior to its being devised as an Authority. The TFI proposed for Yonkers, the evolutionary successor to the New York City Model, and the Nassau County, and the Cities of Buffalo and Erie, except for New York City, occurred while each was under a financial control board. The TFI is a Trojan Horse that will permit a financial control board over CoY.
As Yonkersites and their elected representatives wrap their heads about this issue, Mayor Amicone’s Proposed FY 2010-2011 Budget languishes with little scrutiny. How could Mayor Amicone fathom to receive approval from NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli with regard to a Capital Improvement Planbudget (C.I.P.), based on departmental requests that total $352 million for 2012, yet no funds, that is zero, zilch, nada, are requested. Does Mayor Amicone expect to fill the holes later? Will the Yonkers City Council approve the budget with the C.I.P. asked to be funded yet devoid of numbers stipulating the sum of the C.I.P.? The Comptroller won’t be able to sign off on that.
Comproller DiNapoli won’t be able to accept the actuarial conjecture promulgated on earnings from the yet to open Ridge Hill Development Project stipulated to be in excess of $1.5 million. Besides, with the budget required by law to be passed by June 1, 2011, how can one be certain Ridge Hill will be up and running by the Fall when Forest City Ratner have proven its projections to be unreliable at best?
Another source of revenue stipulated was for revenue sources of $865,000 by the Yonkers Parking Authority in the FY 2010- 2011. To date, the YPA has only received $577,000 and anticipate to receive an additional $288,000 by the end of the fiscal year which represents nine months’ worth of revenue. This, is in total juxtaposition to the estimated revenue of $3.65 million stipulated. Further still, acid-tongued bloggers possess and read City Hall documents that indicate that the city is “limited” in how much of this revenue source can actually be included in their 2011-2012 projections.
Yonkersite Kevin Gorman, in attendance at Thursday’s briefing said, “The “perceptual purpose” is to refinance the capital budget accounting yet the real purpose is to refinance the General Municipal budget. This is a ‘deception’ contrary to laws and general accounting principles – circumvention is unethical at the least.”