Murtagh Storms Out of the City Council Chambers in a Fit of Condescension and Arrogance
The press conference called for 11:00 am this Thursday, June 9, 2011, at the Yonkers City Council Chambers opened to the pronouncement by Yonkers City Council Prsident Chuck Lesnick, with Yonkers City Council Minority Leader John Murtagh standing by his side. Mr Lesnick expressed his disbelief that after an exhausting give and take session among the Yonkers City Councilmembers on June 1, that concluded at 1:15 a.m. the following morning, representatives of New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, found the proposed legislation submitted by the City of Yonkers “dead on arrival.” The entire Yonkers City Council was warned of the legal deficiency prior to the legislation being forwarded to Albany. Despite their knowing they would err among elected peers, both blamed the many unions who serve the Yonkers for the city’s woes
The bipartisan negotiations and accommodations were hammered out before legal counsel for the Republican and Democrat contingents among the Yonkers City Council. Also, Mssrs. Lesnick and Murtagh are lawyers. Corporation Counsel Mark Blanchard was also present. Despite the legal erudition one would expect from so many legal eagles, the Yonkers City Council was permitted to construct a document that did not meet legal form.
The Founding Fathers wrote the United States Constition for this republic. The Constitution delineates a distinct separation of the three branches of government. They are the executive branch, represented at present by Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone, the executive branch, represented by the Yonkers City Council, and the judicial branch, presently represented by Yonkers Inspector General Dan Schorr. Despite the standard adopted throughout the nation, the Yonkers City Council chose to construct a Transitional Financing Authority (TFA) that would be a vehicle to borrow money from the financial markets, that is, Wall Street, at rates less that those presently available to the City of Yonkers (CoY). Even before Mayor Amicone’s administration formulated this concept as worthy for consideration by CoY, it was known for months prior that both Gov. Cuomo and Comptroller DiNapoli were philosophically opposed to such authorities. They each noted that such authorities are not subject to the scrutiny to which government is subject. These authorities would not be legally bound to respond to Freedom of Information Law (F.O.I.L.) requests. The concept of such an authority does not conform to the tenets of transparency espoused by Gov. Cuomo. Besides, CoY has other financial markets it may tap for funding should it need it. The TFA is nothing mow than a Trojan Horse by which a Financial Control Board may more easily insinuate itself into the financial conduct of Yonkers. This is a way for Mayor Amicone to look good and slough off any responsibility for bring CoY to the fiscal edge.
Further, were Mayor Amicone’s concept to assemble a board of directors upon which the Mayor of CoY would preside, and his appointee, and the entire City Council membership, the board would be anathema to the concept of separation of powers among the three branches of government.
Despite all these deficiencies of thinking, followed thereafter by the writing of these concepts onto paper, Mssrs. Lesnick and Murtagh were adamant in asserting that they had individually and collectively shown Albany how to remedy their years of failing CoY. Interestingly enough, nary a word from either of them as to what the issues of failure and the commensurate remedies were over their many years of tenure.
The wage cap postulated in the legislation requested went beyond the purview of the Yonkers City Council. The “strong mayor” form of government by which Yonkers functions only permits the mayor to negotiate contracts. There is no mechanism that can circumvent this protocol and procedure.
The obsessive compulsive finger pointing antics of Mayor Amicone were evidently adopted by Mssrs. Lesnick and Murtagh when they repeatedly blamed the unions for Yonkers' travails. In reality, it was the Mayor of Yonkers who mismanaged the funds at his disposal. That is not a union failure, it is a mayoral failure. Adding to the mayor’s failure are those elected official on the Yonkers City Council who chose to approve each successive budget proposed by Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone so they could get along to get along. The ramifications of their actions never took hold upon their collective minds, or it didn't matter to them. Either way, the end results have been deleterious to the welfare of Yonkers and insulting to Yonkersites one and all.
Mr. Murtagh asserts, “everyone knows” the reasons behind the financial strain on CoY; that it is the humongous financial issues that have burdened the nation, state, and Yonkers. To some extent that is true. Yet were Yonkers’ elected councilmembers aware and financially astute they could have avoided many of these present financial woes.
Yonkers suffers a $20 million tax certiorari deficit, which the city is incapable of paying. He result is that CoY borrows money to pay off its operating expenses by issuing bonds, increasing our debt burden astronomically. City Hall has not been a proponent to undergo a reassessment last performed over a half a century ago. The cost of reassessment would be $5 million in entirety were Yonkers to do it alone. The outcry was that CoY would only need spend $3 million if Yonkers underwent a reassessment in tandem with Westchester County. Yonkers is still waiting and paying and paying and paying. Councilwoman Joan Gronowski was the first and vocal spokesperson for the savings to be accrued by reassessment.
Acid-tongued bloggers advised the Yonkers Tribune of the millions of real estate tax arrears stretching as far back as 40 years that are still unpaid to the city, but demanded and paid by Yonkers to Westchester County. City Hall was so concerned in protecting the Friends and Family Network they chose to outsource the dunning of these delinquents rather than have Corporation Counsel complete the task. Yonkers' coffers will thereby lose half of what is collected through the outsourcing vendors.
Mssrs. Lesnick and Murtagh stated they believe there is hope for the TFA, this depite their both being in the telephone conference call during which all the issues were discussed and first revealed yesterday on the Yonkers Tribune and which later this day found Senators Jeff Klein, Andrea Stewart-Cousins; and Assemblymen Thomas Abinanti, J. Gary Pretlow, and Mike Spano issue the following statement:
“The City’s proposal that was sent to us on June 2 to borrow money to pay operating expenses is not supported by the State Comptroller as it is fiscally unsound. The State Legislature cannot take up a plan that, since it lacks the Comptroller’s approval, will violate the law. The Council members need to get back to work and come up with a plan that the State Comptroller tells us is fiscally sound.”
It is specifically because Yonkers Mayor Phil Amicone has no plab “B” that Yonkers may find no solution, even if one existed previous, by his arrogance and the lack of time left for Yonkers for function. Yonkers is supposed to collect local taxes by July 1, 2011.
Exacerbating tensions among the protagonists, that is the Yonkers City Council and union leadership is Mr. Murtagh’s pouting exit from the Yonkers City Council Chambers when he was being addressed by Yonkers Fire Department Captain James Brady to answer a question. The question doesn’t matter; Mr Murtagh’s arrogance is at issue. If he does not have the backbone to even belatedly engage in a dialogue with the union leadership, a failing of Mayor Amicone, as well, he is not qualified to serve in elected office. Dialogue is a measure of leadership, an attribute Mr. Murtagh seems unqualified to acquire.
While Mr. Lesnick received congratulations for standing at the lectern and continuing the engagement process, he too has played the drama game. He prides himself proficient and adept at the lone wolf scenario yet in the process has revealed only his lack of focus, ineptitude, and overall lack of leadership.
Governor Cuomo is no political novice. He will not be bullied or partake in a game of chicken with the likes of Mayor Amicone. Yonkers has options. Mayor Amicone won’t own up to them. Mr. Lesnick won’t; Mr. Murtagh won’t.
Yonkersites must demand more of their political servants. If Yonkers’ elected officials cannot rise to the demands of the office to which they were elected, they must step down. They have hurt Yonkers for too long.