Election season is upon us again, and White Plains has races on Nov. 8 for three seats on the White Plains Common Council, as well as a seat on the Westchester County Board of Legislators.
Read below to learn more about one of the candidates, and click to find out who else is running.
Meet the Candidate: Michael Donnelly, running for a 4-year term on the White Plains Common Council
How Long in White Plains/Where: White Plains resident for 5 years, currently lives in the Highlands neighborhood
Job Title/Profession: Project Manager for Unicorn Contracting and Vice President of Hudson Valley Medical Building LLC; Construction expert specializing in the field of property use, planning, management acquisition, as well as mortgage and release real estate lending
Education: B.S. in finance, with a double major in finance and international business from Fairfield University
Other activities and current/former involvement: recently named one of The Business Council of Westchester's 40 Rising Stars Under 40 in 2011; volunteer firefighter with the Purchase Volunteer Fire Department; member of the Hudson Valley Hospital Charity Committee; LEED accredited professional
Run for office before: No
Endorsements: Republican, Conservative
Why are you running for a seat on the White Plains Common Council?
I love the city of White Plains. As a young man, I want to invest in our city. Although I have built my home and business here, I’m talking about making the greatest investment anyone can make in a community–starting a family.
But increasingly that’s getting harder and harder to do.
Despite our population and development growth over the last decade, our current common council has cut the City’s public safety staff to the lowest levels they have been in decades. In those same two years, the council has also raised your taxes over 11 percent.
What’s worse is that hidden taxes are everywhere—check your water bill for a new sewer tax. If you live in a condominium your association will have a new tax called a “fire inspection fee.”
And let’s not forget about the biggest hidden tax of all—parking tickets!
Although some layoffs may have been necessary, stop and think of what affect this has on our city’s safety, on our parks and on our beautification efforts. What business, what family will want to invest and pay high taxes in a city that can’t get its act together?
What makes you the best candidate for a seat on the council? What would you bring to the council as a member?
After graduating with a double major in finance from a top business school, I ended up returning home and building nine residences here in the city of White Plains. During that time I dealt with lawyers, bankers, City officials, clients, neighbors, unions, and many other groups within the community. I understand management, administration, and what it takes to get the job done.
If I have the honor of being elected I will bring my experience, a hard work ethic and a fresh perspective to the city hall. But most of all, I will bring YOUR VOICE to the common council.
Explain your stance on the following issues, and how you would address these issues as a council membe
Parking: It‘s important to have a parking policy that works. Some politicians have said that if you have an expired meter, then you deserve a parking ticket. But it’s not just metered parking that’s the problem. There’s permit parking—like for residents who commute to NYC—and then there is the problem of overnight parking on our streets.
As if commuters don’t already sacrifice enough to make a living, the City of White Plains recently increased parking costs for permit parking by a staggering sum. I’ll aim to stop additional proposed increases at our garages that affect residents of the city. With overnight parking I’d look into resident passes to park on our city streets without being ticketed.
As for metered parking, the fact is that such aggressive enforcement of our parking meters is hurting the image of our city.
Sales tax revenue makes up 30 percent of our current City’s revenue stream taking the burden off of the property tax payer. If residents and non-residents are going to be ticketed for visiting retail businesses and spending a few minutes longer than the one-hour limit on many meters in town, then they will find other places to do their shopping.
Property Taxes: The current common council has set a dangerous precedent by raising your property taxes over 11 percent in two years. Very few people received an 11 percent raise over the last two years to cover this cost proportionally.
With every single elected official belonging to one political party, the vote for budget was unanimous, without anyone protecting the residents and stakeholders in our city from this expense. Imagine how much your taxes will increase five or 10 years from now if this is allowed to continue.
The fact is for White Plains to remain the wonderful place it is, we cannot force our residents out of the city with high taxes. With all the other taxes and fees imposed by the City it is getting harder and harder to raise a family here.
Business, both commercial and retail helps increase our revenue, but they will also leave if the tax rate gets too high. If elected, I would keep the tax rate fair and affordable and would work to attract businesses here to keep the burden off of our residents.
The French-American School of New York’s Plans for the Former Ridgeway Country Club: The French American School of New York (FASNY) purchased the former Ridgeway Country Club after the City of White Plains missed a golden opportunity to acquire it.
Now, homeowners around the former country club are worried about the impacts of development of that site, and so am I.
I would love nothing more than for White Plains to be known as the “City of Schools,” but it’s important that schools be constructed when there is a public need and demand. Careful planning is a MUST when building a proposed school.
All factors such as safety, traffic, environmental impact and the character of the existing neighborhood must be considered. I don’t think it’s appropriate that FASNY consider it their right to stick a private school in the very heart of a residential neighborhood, without the careful due diligence and planning involved with such a development.
I believe FASNY might have been better served by purchasing an option to buy the land for a specified period of time and then working with the City and the neighborhood, doing their due diligence and verifying whether or not this parcel of land is appropriate for a school. That clearly did not happen.
What are other issues facing the city you feel are important, and how would you address these issues?
Lack of public service for taxpayers, flooding, beautification and safety. Since I have a word limit I will focus on safety.
White Plains grew by leaps and bounds during the mid to late 2000’s, however, over the last two years under a one party government, the number of active police and firefighters was slashed to the lowest levels in a generation. Despite paying an 11 percent tax hike over the past two years there still were layoffs.
Why are we paying more for less?
Sneakier still, the current policy of attrition is causing our safety workforce to decline further with no end in sight. Thoughts of serious crimes are most frightening, but without proper staffing even seemingly petty crimes like graffiti or vandalism can creep up and change the image of White Plains for the worse.
Should this happen, investors, businesses and residents may look to move elsewhere. I cannot promise Police and Fire unions astronomical raises or over the top perks.
However, if I have the honor of being elected, I will support bringing our public safety workers to the proper levels to keep every family within the reach of our finest and our bravest.
What is your favorite thing about White Plains?
My favorite thing about White Plains is the existing balance between a bustling downtown business district, mixed with the suburban charm of the surrounding areas. This allows for a broad cross section of residents—some of whom prefer to live in and around downtown, and some who prefer the quieter neighborhoods.
Wherever someone lives in this city, it is my belief that they purchased their home based on the existing neighborhood and if I have the honor of being elected to the common council I will work to protect the neighborhoods as they stand now. I would work closely with community organizations to make this a reality.
Anything else you would like to add?
I would like to ask the public to please visit my website for more information: www.VoteMikeDonnelly.com. Vote Mike Donnelly Nov. 8.