Good Evening and Happy New Year. Thank
you all for being here.
I begin I would like to acknowledge my predecessor, Alex Gromack, and
Councilwoman Shirley Lasker for their service to our community. I wish them
both well in their future endeavors.
Likewise, I must pause to recall my
friend, the late Councilman Ralph Mandia, and Bob Zeiss, whom I wish was here
but know he is here in spirit.
to my fellow
colleagues on the Town Board
Councilman Frank Borelli, Councilwoman Stephanie Hausner, and
Councilman John Noto—I look forward to working with you and my eventual
replacement on the Town Council in the coming term.
We have a great deal of work to do and
the people are counting upon us—I pledge to work with you as together, we roll
up our sleeves and get to work on the business of governing our great town.
want to thank the people of Clarkstown for the trust they have placed in me. I
am humbled and honored to be your Town Supervisor.
I first contemplated
running for Supervisor,
I thought about
what Clarkstown means to me and why I chose it as my home.
I was born and raised here, I could have chosen anywhere to live—but I chose to
make Clarkstown my home—a place with hopes, dreams and aspirations. A home is a
place of love and kindness, and yes, as we saw last year, even a place with
some politics and drama. But as the old saying goes, home is where the heart
is—and for us that is Clarkstown.
is a place with a tremendous history and great promise—we face challenges for
certain—but we all share the same desire for our home; our community—that our
future will be better than our past.
But sadly, for many, that desire simply
past year I had the opportunity to speak with many people in our town. They
told me of their hopes and dreams; and their aspirations for our community.
talked with Rosemary—a senior living in Congers.
She would like to remain in Clarkstown and
hold onto her home but is afraid because we have a lack of affordable senior
She is afraid that with rising taxes she will outlive her
retirement. She was also about to list her home for sale and wondered what the
future would hold. While many of her friends have already fled to Florida, her
family is nearby and she doesn’t want to leave. She is desperate for a little
hope and wants the town to take the necessary steps to create more affordable
housing for seniors.
from Nanuet told me she had just listed her house this past October and was sad
to be leaving, but like so many New Yorkers she had determined that relocation
was necessary for a better quality of life—and thus the Carolina’s beckoned and
the promise of lower taxes and a more affordable cost of living. She wished me
well and said with a bit of sadness in her voice “It’s too late for me but
maybe you will be able to do something to help the people I sell my home too.”
talked with a young family in the Laurel Plains section of New City that had
relocated here less than five years ago because Westchester was just too
expensive. Specifically, they researched Clarkstown, our schools, the
attributes of the area, and chose it in part for what our community offers and
because of the perceived value.
now worry whether they made a terrible mistake because taxes keep rising and
are almost on a par with the community they had looked at in Westchester.
was saddened as the sun was setting on that late October evening and I listened
to that young father with his child at the doorway to his home as he wondered
aloud whether they should just get it over with and move now because if things
don’t change they almost certainly cannot remain here for the long haul. The
memory of that evening has stayed with me, as I felt like not only was the sun
setting that evening but for this family the proverbial sun was about to set on
their dream home in Clarkstown.
our town I heard a similar refrain: “I love living here but I can’t afford to
stay”and more importantly “what are you going to do to make it better for me
and my family?”
we need not look further than the front pages of our newspapers to understand
why people have lost faith in government. Elected officials putting politics
ahead of the people; putting their self-interest ahead of your family’s
corruption probes ending with elected officials carted away in handcuffs seem
to be the norm.
Meanwhile, the rising costs at all
levels of government are killing us.
But this doesn’t have to be.
have spent the better part of my adult life working with the disadvantaged,
persons with disabilities and the most vulnerable in our society and have
witnessed exactly how government can help those in the most need.
some in government service have lost sight of that. The purpose of government
is not to pick the pockets of its people. The purpose of government is to serve
its people --- and serve them in the most efficient way possible and to provide
an opportunity to make their lives better.
So to Rosemary in Congers, to Grace in
Nanuet, and that young family in Laurel Plains, and to all of you this is how
we are going to start to reclaim our home:
with two credit downgrades in the last 6 months it is clear: our government has
become too big, too costly and has too much bonded debt. In the coming months,
we will conduct a top to bottom review and audits of every department. We will
bring in outside experts to evaluate all aspects of operations. We will use
this process to set targets for efficiencies, benchmark operations, and start
to reign in the cost of government.
mission will be driven by evaluating what works, how to improve it and, most
importantly, how to streamline it.
our Town families do the difficult work of making ends meet, making the hard
choices to do more with less and where to save. Many of our families have
already had to adjust their budgets—it’s now time that Clarkstown does the
there MAY BE some uncomfortable moments, but there WILL BE savings for the
people of Clarkstown.
budget balanced by fiscal discipline, and NOT by depleting reserves is
necessary for our town’s future. We will borrow less and begin to pay down our
bonded debt which is akin to a high interest credit card to our families—this
will insure our fiscal future.
are difficult tasks while maintaining services—but we will proceed in a
deliberate and measured way. In fact we have already started the process—the
town attorney’s office has been restructured and I have made the difficult decision to let some fine attorneys go because we simply can no
longer afford the cost—we can and must do better. I have already consolidated
positions in the Supervisor’s office—we will do more with less. We have numerous
department heads whom have or shortly will retire—we will reduce starting
salaries for their replacements and seek whenever possible to restructure and
consolidate to eliminate some of these high salaried positions.
the course of our evaluation of departments we will ask the questions that have
not been asked previously, namely “why do we do what we do? “And “what are we
trying to accomplish?”
I had the opportunity to attend an
executive education program at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard
University this past March and they called this process “Question Zero”—namely
to ask the correct first question to guide all of the remaining questions. We
will start from the beginning asking WHY we operate as we do and we will start
to do what we have never done --- benchmark government operations to insure we
are getting the best possible value for the people.
is time to ask why it costs Clarkstown more than other towns to provide the
we benchmark our operations we will learn ways to save. And the result will be
a path to innovation, greater efficiency and savings. It will not be easy—but
most good things in life never are.
will be changing many aspects of town operations with an immediate overhaul of
our vehicle use policy to purchasing, building operations and more. Our new
vehicle policy will severely limit take home vehicles, cars will be pooled and
whenever possible vehicles eliminated.
you may recall Councilman Borelli and I proposed to potentially consolidate or
co-locate purchasing with the County and I am delighted that this initiative is
now moving forward.
have already had discussions with the County Executive and we will move quickly
to ascertain where savings can be found.
of the things that I am proudest of is the innovation that our solar field at
the landfill has brought to our town. This first of its kind in the state
project brings along with it real savings. But we can do more.
will move forward and seek to reduce operational costs by looking at greening
our buildings and converting our streetlights to LED’s. I
have already had discussions with our state representatives to seek grants and
we will look at public private partnerships to reduce the burden to the town as
we did with the landfill.
changes can dramatically reduce the cost of day to day operations with reduced
cost for electric and natural gas.
as we complete our department reviews we will look at restructuring, not just
our departments but also our boards and commissions and seek to reduce
redundancy and find additional savings.
reform is something that is rarely mentioned at the local level, but is just as
important. During the coming days we will conduct a full review and commence an
overhaul of the town ethics code to bring it into compliance with State law.
importantly we will also look at benchmarking our code against other municipal
codes to insure the highest standards are set. We will implement changes in our
code of ethics that will insure we are setting the highest standards along with
will seek to make our government more transparent and responsive to the people.
I will open up government to allow better access to documents via our Open
Government Software which will give near real time access to residents for our
financial documents. Within the first one hundred days of my administration we
will be introducing a local law that will create a volunteer “Audit Committee”
which will bring in fiscal experts to serve as a resource to myself and the
town board and insure that our internal controls measure up and our audits are
accurate. We will use our television channel to inform people of what’s going
on and I will talk with every segment of our community to hear their concerns
directly and be their voice in government. This will include tele town hall
meetings, enhanced social media outreach and open house days in the
supervisor’s office to make government more accessible to all.
of life issues are also a concern. The scourge of illegal housing and
downzoning in our county is a problem that requires a coordinated response. Our
first responders place themselves in harm’s way and we must make sure that what
is done for one is done for all.
we will look to strengthen our Zoning Enforcement with the creation of a “Civil
Compliance Unit” and a more creative and muscular approach to code enforcement.
will be seeking to work closely with our County Executive and the illegal
housing task force, our first responders and our town judges to insure that
loopholes are eliminated; and violators will be found and
prosecuted. We will seek to appoint members of the fire and emergency services
to our land use boards to bring that important perspective to zoning and land
we have much to do—I have only touched on a few areas—I would be remiss if I
did not address the issue of housing.
year we stopped the sale of Middlewood, our only town owned senior housing
complex, and we will proceed with the needed upgrades to insure that it remains
a viable asset for years to come. However, we must do more and I will work to
create through grants and public private partnerships another Middlewood so
that those seniors who need a home can find it and remain here.
is a time of great promise and opportunity; much is expected and much will be
look forward to working with our employees to collectively find solutions to
save money and improve services and ask them to join me in doing the same.
Clarkstown is a deeply historic place and I am honored to now
lead it as its 45th Supervisor. I was born here and am proud to be raising my three
children here. I am proud to call Clarkstown my home. You can be too.
March 19th we will celebrate our
anniversary as a municipality--- the history that this community has
experienced in truly remarkable. Whether it’s George Washington’s numerous
visits or the other presidents and great leaders who passed through---
Clarkstown has hosted some incredible people and moments in time. But despite
the visits of these great leaders they were just that -- visitors passing
has made our history so remarkable and continues to make it special is our
people--- from the people who built this town to the over 86,000 who choose now
to call it home--- that is what makes Clarkstown great. And if we are to
fulfill our promise --- if we are to make our future better than our past---
then we must give our home a government as good as the people it serves.
is my pledge to you tonight and for the lifetime of my administration. Now we
must roll up our sleeves and get to work—business as usual is over—the time for
reform is here and our best days are yet to come.
you and God bless you, and God Bless this wonderful place we call