Westchester County Exec. Latimer Vows to Work With GOP to Overcome Today’s Challenges

John Jordan | January 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: westchestergov.com

TARRYTOWN—Both at his recent inauguration and again in a speech before the Westchester County Association earlier this week, Westchester County Executive George Latimer stressed that his administration will be one that promotes “respect and cooperation” and will solicit ideas from both sides of the aisle.

An overflow crowd attended the inauguration of the 64-year-old veteran Democrat and former State Senator on Sunday, Jan. 8th at Westchester Community College in Valhalla. On Jan. 10th, Latimer gave his first post-election address to the business community to a gathering of the Westchester County Association at the Westchester Marriott Hotel in Tarrytown.

Latimer in both addresses praised the work of former Republican County Executive Robert Astorino and said that despite challenging times and political division in Washington, DC, he would work with the GOP members of the County Board of Legislators, even though Democrats have an overwhelming majority on the County Board.

During his speech before the WCA, Latimer said he believes the challenges Westchester face today are perhaps as significant as the issues of civil rights and the War in Vietnam the nation faced in 1968.

Latimer said that he felt that decisions made on the county and municipal levels in the next four years will be far-reaching and that he will seek to find common ground with Republican lawmakers to help tackle those issues.

“We have a challenge that is in its own way every bit as great as what we had in 1968,”he said, later adding on a positive note, “We will get through this moment in time.”

He noted that with the fiscal issues facing Westchester and the potential impacts caused by the newly enacted federal tax reform law, Westchester County will have to try and maintain the delicate balance of maintaining its quality of life with the cost of administering needed services to county residents. He noted that the county tax bill is a small component of a Westchester resident’s tax obligations, with the lion share going to property and school taxes.

The question of how much taxation and how much service the county and municipalities can provide will be a key issue over the next four years, he noted.

“How much service, how much taxation and how much creativity we can find (will be critical) in order to put together the argument that will make organizations stay, grow in Westchester County, and be attracted to come into Westchester County,” Latimer said.

He said that while central business districts in White Plains, New Rochelle and Yonkers and the I-287 and I-684 corridors are thriving, there are sections just outside those commercial centers that are struggling and in need of help, such as the south side of Mount Vernon; the Nepperhan Avenue/Saw Mill River corridor of Yonkers; industrial areas of New Rochelle, which include a section of Webster Avenue and a section of the City Park area of the city; an industrial section of White Plains behind the Rochambeau School and along the Bronx River just outside the CBD, and a section of Bedford along Adams Street.

“We can’t save Westchester if we don’t save Mount Vernon,” he said. “We cannot save Westchester if we don’t stand by Yonkers and we also can’t save Westchester if we don’t understand what it is that makes Armonk and Bronxville work and make sure that is maintained. And that crosses party lines and that crosses governmental lines.”

The three-hour long inauguration ceremony of Latimer as Westchester County Executive included addresses by U.S. Reps. Nita Lowey and Eliot Engel, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and New York State Senator and Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. While all praised Latimer’s experience and courage to run against popular incumbent Astorino, all got their respective shots in at the Trump Administration and in particular federal tax reform endorsed by President Trump and GOP lawmakers in Congress.

Gov. Cuomo said the GOP “has assaulted the State of New York” and other high-cost and Democratic states with the federal tax reform law.

Latimer also was critical of the Trump Administration but vowed that by embarking on an effort to foster respect and cooperation between Democratic and Republican county lawmakers, the county will prevail in these tumultuous times.

“We are all in this together,” he said.

Recently, County Executive Latimer stated that he wished to review some of the public-private partnerships negotiated by the previous administration, and in particular the $1.1-billion Westchester County Airport privatization contract reached between the county and Macquarie Infrastructure in November that has yet to be ratified by the Westchester County Board of Legislators.

After his speech before the Westchester County Association, County Executive Latimer told Real Estate In-Depth that his administration has yet to perform the necessary due diligence to make any decisions on the airport privatization deal.

Latimer added that an update on his stance on the airport privatization plan could be forthcoming in a few weeks.

John Jordan
Editor, Real Estate In-Depth