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Republican, Democratic Leadership Weigh In On BOL Bipartisan Efforts

Michael Smith (R, D3), John Testa (R, D1), Gordon Burrows (R, D15), Michael Kaplowitz (D, D4) and Virginia Perez (D, D17).
Michael Smith (R, D3), John Testa (R, D1), Gordon Burrows (R, D15), Michael Kaplowitz (D, D4) and Virginia Perez (D, D17). Photo Credit: Suzanne Samin

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Democrat Michael Kaplowitz and Republican Jim Maisano have begun their push for bipartisan unity among the county Board of Legislators (BOL) by securing seats as chair and vice chair.

"Bipartisan coalition is all the rage," Kaplowitz told Daily Voice. "It makes sure every legislator steps up to best of their abilities to be best representative possible. We're making the BOL fully participatory."

Though hopes are high for the bipartisan approach, the BOL is shadowed by a history of conflict and divisiveness in recent years. Bickering and fighting between the parties brought the coalition together in the first place.

Minority leader John Testa (R, D1) said after Astorino's election in 2010 the focus of some of the Democratic leadership turned to preventing Astorino from being reelected.

"From that point on, it was all about four years in the future," he said. "If you go back from day one, there were continuous attacks on the administration, lawsuits. It just went on, and on, and on. It got to a point where even members of the Democratic party who saw what was happening, and previously looked away, got to point where they got frustrated and sick of it."

"It was time to do something about it," he added.

Catherine Borgia (D, D9), majority leader, said she believes the BOL has always worked in bipartisan matter, and that issues came not from bad blood but from balance of power issues between the legislative and executive branches.

"In Westchester County as well as the nation, there have been years where there has been more rigorous partisan disagreements that have taken up a lot of our airtime," she said. "If that will change or not with the new leadership, I don't know."

Borgia said in some areas, the dispute may have nothing to do with party lines, and everything to do with location.

"There are 17 of us with different regions we represent. In every government, the biggest thing is allocation of scarce resources. There is tension on that level as well," she said.

Borgia said she hopes to see vigorous debate on issues that matter the most to Westchester County, but that both sides have the opportunity to make their case in as vigorous, persuasive ways as possible.

"I think disagreements will still exist, but I hope we have a relationship among ourselves of compromise," she said.

Kaplowitz said the BOL should serve as an example to the county by functioning as one body that is as strong as possible at the legislative level. This includes working well with the county executive.

"The county executive is very important, but he's not my boss. Think of it as Congress versus the president," he said. "The system is set up so that, like a seesaw, we're supposed to balance. I have 500,000 bosses - my constituents."