ARMONK, N.Y. -- County executive candidate Noam Bramson said he wants to increase Westchester's involvement in local issues -- but not at the expense of the taxpayers.
“When I look at (County Executive Rob) Astorino, I see several priorities of the region ignored. His actions are at odds with what Westchester people expect and need," he said. "From day one, it will be important for me to lay out a clear plan of action."
Bramson, the mayor of New Rochelle, told The Daily Voice's editorial team that, if elected, his first priority would be to make sure the county has a “thriving, green economy.”
“Economic development is often thought of as tax breaks for companies. The county has a large capital budget. We need to use it to unlock hidden potential in our areas," said the 43-year-old Westchester native and father of two. "I am for focused county leadership that is not demonstrated today.”
Astorino’s battle with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has some residents concerned about changes to zoning laws, the future of housing in the county and rising tax costs. Bramson said he feels Astorino’s “combative” approach to the housing settlement is impeding what “ought to be an effort to achieve sensible housing policy.”
His plan to tackle the housing issue, he said, is to cater to the county’s needs before federal interests. His “home loyal” approach aims to tackle current taxes, which Bramson described as unmanageable for old and young alike.
“The county government focuses only on the one-sixth of the tax bill that goes directly to the county," he said. "I think we should be focusing on the five-sixths of it that goes to local municipalities and school districts.”
Westchester’s tax situation can be fixed with increased county leadership, he said, adding that the solution lies in establishing a framework for shared services, including roadwork, flood mitigation, technology and data systems, and guidance on sustainability, arts and culture.
“We’ve all been through a fiscal meat grinder. We need to reduce our tax bills, free up resources, or some combination of the two," he said. "We need to get away from sloganeering.”
According to Bramson, Astorino has run "the most ideological administration" of his lifetime. The two candidates disagree on several social issues, including the gun lobby, women’s right to choose and marriage equality.
“Many people assumed that Rob Astorino would govern in moderate mainstream tradition like everyone else before him," Bramson said. "Instead, he campaigns like Nelson Rockefeller, and governs like Newt Gingrich. He has run an intensely ideological and right wing administration.”
Part of the mayor’s platform involves championing social services and child care. He has criticized Astorino for the elimination of the Title 20 program, which provided people within 200-275 percent poverty level with child care.
“I believe that lives are interlinked. We’re going up and down together. The purpose of a well-designed service is to assist people to become independent and more self-reliant, to support families and communities," he said.
Bramson said he considers his mayoral experience excellent preparation for the role of county executive.
“New Rochelle is microcosm of Westchester as a whole in terms of socioeconomic demographics, race demographics," he said. "I have balanced a budget of $110 million, collaborated with hundreds of government employees and I have interacted with community members."
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