HARRISON, N.Y. -- Candidates for the Westchester County Board of Legislators tackled issues such as flooding, rising taxes and affordable housing at a forum held Thursday night in Harrison.
Hosted by the League of Women Voters of Rye, Rye Brook and Port Chester, and the League of Women Voters of Harrison, the forum featured candidates from County Districts 5, 6 and 7. Six candidates participated in the forum, which was moderated by Erin Malloy and featured questions from the leagues and audience members.
The candidates for District 7, which covers Rye, Mamaroneck, Larchmont, and portions of Harrison and New Rochelle, are Democrat Catherine Parker and Republican John Verni.
To help address flooding, Parker said that she would be in favor of a county-wide storm water management district.
"We are in a flood zone area. With climate change, flooding is something that is occurring more and more Municipalities have to be prepared and ready, and the county has to be ready as well. I think that storm water management is part of it," she said.
Verni said that flooding is a big problem, and a storm water management district could help address it.
"I think we do need to look at long-term solutions and short-term solutions to this. We have to work together with federal government, the state DEC, and local governments and the county for some long-term solutions throughout the state, he said. On a small scale, he said that the county can work with municipalities on things like aquatic restoration projects and controlling storm water.
The candidates for District 6, which covers Rye Brook, Port Chester and a portion of Harrison, are incumbent Republican David Gelfarb and Democrat Mark Jaffe.
Gelfarb said that it is difficult to keep taxes flat when costs like pensions keep rising. The strategy, he said, is to "spend every dollar like it's your own, and promote economic growth. Economic growth is the way to keep taxes flat. The more taxpayers we have, the more people we have moving into our county, the more businesses we have in our county, the more we will have the ability to keep taxes flat."
Jaffe said that as a resident of Harrison, he's seen his property taxes quadruple. The way to combat that is through good partnerships, he said, both with businesses and other government entities.
"We need to work with our federal and state partners more. There's money out there to do things that we can't do. to keep our roads better paved, to keep our schools and communities safer."
The candidates for District 5, which covers most of White Plains, all of Scarsdale, and portions of Harrison, are Democrat Benjamin Boykin and Republican Miriam Levitt Flisser. When asked about the HUD settlement, Boykin said that the county executive needs to sit down with federal monitors and work through the issues.
"We've already lost $7.4 million of HUD money, we're at risk of losing another $7 million of HUD money from the fact that we have not fully complied with the settlement," Boykin said. "It is hurting the county in job creation. When businesses look to locate in your community, their selection committees, they read articles, they talk to people, they see these things and say, "I don't think so, I'm going to take my business elsewhere. That is not good for us in Westchester, where we need to create jobs and improve the local economy."
"I think that it's naive at best to believe that the federal government is going to stop their crusade against our single-family home county as a result of negotiations, or that other levels of government are going to protect us. Only we can protect ourselves, and that's what we have to do," Flisser said. She said that the county does not need monitors tracking municipalities' affordable housing. "It's a political move against us. It's a move to change the entire landscape of the United States of America into an urban environment and away from a suburban one."