When the candidates for County Executive take the stage at tomorrow's debate, they will talk about their plans for Westchester. But we want to hear about their vision. Westchester’s future is lost if all we get is more of the same. Good leaders set their sights high and work toward that end. Or to paraphrase the great philosopher Yogi Berra: if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there.
Here’s our wish list for creating a vision for Westchester. We hope that whoever wins the election will take it to heart and start working towards these goals.
Set goals. Take action. Spend political capital on what’s important. The country’s current political impasse only emphasizes how important collaboration is, and our need to focus on the big picture.
Business wants to be where talent is. We need to attract and retain young knowledge workers. Westchester needs more affordable housing, more 24/7 communities where people can work/live/play. Today’s young creatives are not “Rob Petrie.” That image is our past, not our future.
“Brand” the County
Silicon Valley. The Big Apple. Create an image for Westchester that captures the vitality and innovation we offer. Good things happen when people live and work here. Their lives are better. Let’s make Westchester its own destination.
Promote the County
The County is “off the radar screen” of the nation’s site selectors, according to Mark Sweeney, a leading site selector, who spoke at “Rethinking Westchester: A Blueprint for Smart Growth.” The County government has to invest in economic development and market our location to the world.
Wrestle with the Tax Bear
Develop a sound fiscal policy that retains our County’s high credit rating but still provides necessary services. Push back against unfunded state mandates. Strive for efficiencies. We need property tax relief.
Fix Our Infrastructure
You can’t build a 21st century economy based on a mid-20th century infrastructure. We need to improve wireless coverage and electrical capacity, and repair or rebuild aging roads and water systems. To do this, we have to embrace public private partnerships so that the private sector can share in both the cost and the risk.
Streamline Bureaucracy; Embrace Rezoning
Westchester’s plethora of governing bodies is a red-tape nightmare for developers. While there is a role for government regulation, the County should create an office to cut through the red tape and fast-track development. At the same time, municipalities need to revisit their town codes and allow more repurposing of existing facilities as well as rewrite codes that reduce access to wireless broadband. Our priorities have changed over the past 60 years. Government needs to catch up.William M. Mooney, Jr., President, Westchester County Association