L to E: Incumbents are well-intentioned, but stuck in a rut

November 1, 2013
by Mark Mutkowski

The unfunded mandates Gregg Bresner writes about have been a clear issue now for at least a decade and the solution to the problem will require sacrifice from all constituents, but we are not even in a conversation at this point, we are just kicking the can.  Any town board absolutely does need to have a strategy for dealing with the New York State, not just throwing its hands up.

The nature of the conversation is unpleasant.  Unfortunately, everyone in any job (public or private) is going to have to pay an increasing portion of their health benefits and is also going to have to contribute more and more of their salary to fund retirement.  It is a simple fact that the money will run out down the road without Madoff-like returns from here on out.

Gregg is really just making statements of unpleasant facts and backing them up with data.  Ultimately the public sector has to confront this.  Every town should be part of the conversation in Albany, and if enough of them were, something would get done.  I think some new blood in town hall would figure out how to get its message across and maybe recruit some other towns in the region to do the same.  Grass roots efforts need some thought leaders and agitators.  This is a marketing challenge—that is effectively what lobbying is.  I think Team New Castle will be pretty good at that.

The data seems pretty black and white—there has been a failure of the current and past town boards to contain controllable spending.  While the data may be black and white, solutions are always more nuanced.  The school board has done an admirable job of controlling spending and this has required the cooperation of the teachers union.  This should not be the kind of “us versus them” kind of conversation that some commentators have suggested. Nevertheless, there are probably some hard decisions that will have to be made, and not everyone will come out of it happy.  Such is the environment we find ourselves in, strangled by the mandates in a lackluster growth environment.

This brings me to the last piece of the puzzle, which is growth. Growth is something our town has been lacking for some time.  The downtown needs attention.  The botched redo of the triangle and the lack of traffic lights (which could have been tastefully done on decorative polls instead of overhanging) should be fixed.  How many wasted hours a year do our residents spend in unnecessary traffic downtown?  How many wasted tax dollars are spent on directing traffic?  How many people avoid town during certain hours because it takes too long to get back and forth? 

I think some new blood in town hall would be better equipped to figure out how to stimulate the right growth in our town, and the downtown should be the center of gravity.  The current town board’s efforts seem misplaced and misguided.  Misguided by an ancient master plan, and misplaced due to years of insular thinking.  If that is what experience gets you, I will vote for some new blood.

Sometimes you have to ruffle some feathers to get your message across and while I don’t agree with everything that has been said in the campaign by Team New Castle, and I have even cringed on occasion, I agree with a lot more than I have heard from the other side (which has also had its own cringe-worthy moments).  The incumbents are well intentioned, but they are stuck in a rut and I believe Team New Castle brings a higher level of energy and creativity that will expand the boundaries of what is possible in our town.

Mark Mutkowski is a 15-year resident of New Castle.

We encourage civil, civic discourse. All comments are reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.

Only one of the three Democratic candidates for supervisor and town board is an incumbent. Whatever happens in next week’s election, we will have a new supervisor and at least one new council person.

In addition, I find it alarming that Greenstein’s first suggested approach to mandate reform, expressed on Facebook, was for the town to consider declaring bankruptcy. There goes our AAA credit rating!

I agree with Mr. Mutkowski that mandate reform needs to involve collaboration between the state and the public sector unions. Unfortunately, Mr. Bressner’s presentation—and Greenstein’s rhetoric—have been combative and disdainful of the teachers, police officers and municipal workers who comprise the public sector unions.

By Michael Zuch on 10/31/2013 at 7:22 pm

Mike Wolfensohn has been on the town board before, actually he and John Buckley were on the board with Barbara Gerrard when Conifer was first born.

By Not So New on 10/31/2013 at 7:59 pm

I read Mr. Bresner’s entire presenation.  There was not one combative statement in any part.  What are you talking about?  You are acting like Sheldon’s Silver deputy.  Us against them mentality against our community.  I have often heard the term limousine democrat in our town.  Now i know one Mr. Zuch..Your politics are toxic.  I really thought Mr. mutkowski’s article was terrific.  I must say i have seen some very interesting narratives in this process.  Except for Mr. Zuch..

By To Mr. Zuch on 10/31/2013 at 8:00 pm

Zuch. Pro-union and pro-mandate. Just like Penny. Figures.

By bob on 10/31/2013 at 8:24 pm

Another meaningless comment by the tea party representative . He wants greenstein no matter what. All must view anything he says through that prism.

By Dear bob on 10/31/2013 at 11:04 pm

bob. If I had a way to prove it I would say that you ARE Greenstein.  We know you have told people that Christine has no way of finding out who posts here.  You said it long ago to me.

By bob you are toxic on 11/01/2013 at 8:20 am

Mr Mutkowski you, like Gregg Bresner make excellent points you like Bresner recognize the unfunded mandates out of Albany have been a clear issue and a most important issue needing immediate attention. You , like Bresner go on to endorse team New Castle. I have been paying close attention to Greenstein and his antics for years. I have been closely following this election and all of the candidates statements, discussions, writings, and postings. There is nothing and never has been any focus by Team NewCastle on unfunded mandates. They have never made it part of their platform and until Bresners letter I have never heard a word from Greenstein. So what is the linkage? What other than Katz’s NIMBY position and her bad behavior and Greensteins insults has you thinking this republican slate will address this critical issue. They have no strategy or plan regarding mandates because their sole focus has been stopping retail at CC. And we continue to see evidence that they will break all rules, cross lines of decency, and disregarded residents that differ with them. I would understand your endorsement on the grounds of you wanting to stop retail at CC or you supporting a downtown buildout. That is their platform. But. Albany mandates – that’s ridiculous.
This election will result in a new Supervisor and at least one new Board member no matter who wins. Voting for the Dems will result in at least 2 new board members – so no matter what – there will be no status quo.

By More deception on 11/01/2013 at 8:50 am

Mr Mutkowski- would you please enlighten us. You are endorsing Team New Castle. You and Mr Bresner correctly point out the towns problems with Albany mandates and how they are draining our resources. This is not just a New Castle issue but a county and statewide issue. What in Team New Castle have you seen and heard that you believe they have a plan to address these mandates? They have never mentioned mandates and have never articulated a plan and strategy to address them. Any initiative on the local level will require our Town Board to work with other town and school boards. Team New castle is not exactly known for congeniality and their ability to play nicely and work with others. You really want Greenstein representing New Castle at these meetings. Should someone say something that rubs Rob the wrong way and the insults and nastiness will surely follow. We have already seen this time and time. 
You write that you are frustrated by downtown. You say it needs attention. You reference the “wasted hours a year residents spend in unnecessary traffic downtown”.
Greenstein supports Napoli plan which calls for chain stores, a 400 car garage and theater. You think traffic is bad now? Wait until that monstrosity is built and then tell me about downtown traffic.
Brodsky is running because he wants to relax and change downtown building codes so that downtown property owners (he and his family own a downtown building) can build bigger and more competitive buildings. That will lead to increased traffic too. Katz only cares about stopping retail at CC because she lives in Lawrence Farms East. What have any of them ever said about Albany mandates?

By Please explain on 11/01/2013 at 9:46 am

I just don’t understand your thinking.  Team New Castle when out of its way to set up a specific community meeting, that I attended, regarding mandates.  Rob Astorino took the time, as did Mr. Bresner, to give tangible examples of the daunting effects of this mandates on our schools, county and local governments.  The Town Gov’t Democrats have had power here for a decade an have DONE nothing regarding mandates.  Actually, as I have now learned, they funded candidates who support these mandates.  I have read a number of NIMBY and other partisan politics rants of Mr. Zuck (the Sheldon Silver of New Castle)and they seem to be consistent with the arguments of “More Deception”.  We are now only discussing mandates because of the efforts of Team New Castle.  I don’t get your argument.

By To More Deception on 11/01/2013 at 9:50 am

Mr Mutkowski, I agree unfunded mandates is the biggest obstacle for alleviating the enormous tax burden trusted upon NC residents.  However, other than hope, what basis do you have to opine Team NC is the vehicle to solve this?  Until Mr. Brenser’s excellent (and sobering letter) this is the first time we have even heard Mr. Greenstein utter its recognition.  And do you really believe a tort lawyer who is on an executive trial lawyer committee who lobby’s against republican lead tort reform is going to now do an about face and fight the Albany democratic machine preserving his livelihood to repeal the Tribourough Amendment?  Sadly, in my opinion, neither Penny nor Rob are going to lobby for this on our behalf.  With regards to “new blood” and creativity, what has Team NC really shown?  Yes, they “passionately” assert themselves, but so far their creativity has been confined to moving the train station to CC, moving town hall to CC, build a supermarket/low-income structure at town hall location (not sure if living above a shop-rite is any better than Hunts lane) and turn downtown chapp into a SimCity mini metropolis.  With regards to Team Penny, they will surely acquiesce to misguided CC retail development.  While CC retail may not be ideal and we would have probably been better off with just residential development, the problem is, as the saying goes: the horse is out of the barn.  Team NC’s mantra is to force that horse back on the barn triggering resumption of litigation with SG which may result in one of two things: 1)we lose, pay hefty punitive fines and SG gets what they want or 2)we “win” causing CC to be so toxic it will sit for many more years undeveloped since no developer in his right mind will touch it.  I’m not willing to gamble on this.  What we need is a true reform candidate, like Mr. Bresner or perhaps yourself, with the zeal and guts to take on Albany for real meaningful reform and not just wavering lip service . . .

By We Need Better on 11/01/2013 at 9:52 am

@bob you are toxic,

Aren’t you really “Dear…whoever”?

How could you confuse me with Rob Greenstein? I’m so calm and cool-headed and reasonable. Just kidding. But I think he’d be insulted, so apologize to him.

And about finding out who’s who here. Why would you want to do that? To suppress free speech I suppose. But I guess that, yes, sooner or later everyone can be traced. Just ask the NSA.

By bob on 11/01/2013 at 2:08 pm

Mr Mutkowski- I know you are reading these comments so I will respectfully ask the same question others have asked and you have yet to respond.
Like Gregg Bresner, you correctly identify unfunded mandates , entitlements , and Albany as our towns biggest problem and issue. Both of you have done a good job making that claim. Both of you go on to endorse Team New Castle – Greenstein, Katz, Brodsky, Miller. What evidence do you have, what letter, speech, or discussion have you been privy to that indicates Team NewCastle is prepared to tackle this issue? I have been following this debate for 2 years. I have seen and heard all the positions and the campaign platforms. I have NEVER heard a word from Greenstein &Co; on Albany mandates. EVER! Until Greenstein responded to Bresner this week.
Until you prove us wrong the answer is that they have no plan for mandates because they never mentioned them. So please explain your support based on this very critical issue…..
At the very least it will require a Supervisor and Board that can work well with other community boards requiring good people skills. We know team newcastle are combative and confrontation.. That probably serves Greenstein well as a litigator that sues people but it won’t work in town hall …so please I anxiously await your answer.

By Cant hear you on 11/01/2013 at 3:17 pm

HEre’s what you fail to understand, “Cant hear you”—

Because the well-intentioned Democratic party members (both committee members and board members) are severely constrained by their fellow Democratic party members—at County, State and Federal levels—from shaking the hold of campaign contribution dollars, they are unable to take on mandate reform. 

We need AN OTHER PARTY to do the job.  We need people who don’t have the ties to other office holders who are also tied down.  Team New Castle doesn’t have to PROVE it can address mandate reform.  The Democrats have PROVED that they cannot do it. 

And the town administrator is compromised in this regard as well (whether a Democratic party or committee member or not).

By Democrats have proved the negative on 11/01/2013 at 3:42 pm

To Democrats have proved the negative- you say we NEED ANOTHER PARTY to do the job. What party is that? Whenever Greenstein gets labeled as running on the Republican ticket he responds that he is a DEMOCRAT. So if he is DEMOCCRAT and KATZ is a democrat – how are we getting another party. Their campaign literatuire makes absolutely no mention of their REPUBLICAN affiliation, in fact they intentionally omit it. This is another example of Greenstein and Team New CAstle being dishonest and playing both ends against the middle. If they are ANOTHER PARTY why dont they run as Republicans? they dont! Your point is wrong!

By explain on 11/01/2013 at 4:05 pm

The town’s finances and what to do about mandates may not have been front and center with CC and Conifer dominating the campaign, but Rob Greenstein has been out front on this issue dating back to his previous campaign for the town board. In a L to E dated September 30, 2011, Greenstein wrote “As budget pressures mount, we must work together on issues such as long-term mandate relief, switching employees to a more realistic, manageable retirement benefit systems, modifying the Triborough Amendment, managing accelerating health care costs and, along with other municipalities and school districts, pressing for local control.”  More recently, the issue was raised when the candidates for town supervisor debated. The contrasting responses of the candidates is enlightening. If you didn’t see the debate, you should watch this clip.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDK3wXCvA60&feature=youtu.be. Moreover, as mentioned in another comment, Team New Castle hosted a community meeting on October 21 dealing with precisely this topic, with guest speakers Rob Astorino and Gregg Bresner. Both the Chappaqua and Pleasantville school boards were at the meeting. I don’t think we have heard much in the way of substance from the democratic ticket on this subject. Lastly, mandates aside, let’s not forget the magnitude of what Bresner’s slides illustrate. The spending is the democratic ticket’s legacy, and plenty of it was not driven by mandates but an expansion of town government that was out of synch with population growth. If the slides are not telling the truth, let’s see some rebuttal analytics. I don’t think we will see anything convincing.

By Greenstein Will Go To Albany on 11/01/2013 at 11:42 pm

I think the point is, there is the New Castle Democratic Committee that keeps everything amongst its members.  Appointments to various committees and posts as well as who gets the nod to run for elected office.

By Explained on 11/02/2013 at 12:02 am

Why are these rebuttals to Mr. Mutkowski’s view all thinly veiled versions of the same letter? It’s like someone urgently sent out some talking points and told their minions to post comments on this site.

By Triple vision on 11/02/2013 at 12:45 am

You Are nuts. I feel like the physician in the final scene on from “the. Bridge on the river Kwai ” as the bridge was blown up. He said one word only:  “madness”

By Sanity on 11/02/2013 at 9:14 am

@Triple vision,

You write: “It’s like someone urgently sent out some talking points and told their minions to post comments on this site.”

Well, that is exactly what they did.

By bob on 11/02/2013 at 10:06 am

Triple Vision,

The record needed to be set straight.  A lot of misinformation out there.

By Just Setting the Record Straight on 11/02/2013 at 10:21 am

@Just Setting the Record Straight,

“The record needed to be set straight.” Right, with “thinly veiled versions of the same letter.”

That will do it.

By bob on 11/02/2013 at 1:19 pm

Please everyone understand the ulterior motives at work here.
The richest landlord in town, who stands to lose millions, is behind the election of greenstein and the CC opposition

1 the name of the landlord is hakim . His daughter is married to Brodsky, who also works for him.

2 greenstein, as the head of the merchants chamber of commerce, advocates for hakim’s tenants.

3 greenstein:/Brodsky it would appear are substantially funded by hakim; salary , payment of legal fees, chamber of commerce dues, hakim’s daughter’s helping her husband.

4 if greenstein and company are elected they, that is ultra rich hakim , controls the town board such that will have control of the board to allow any variances he wants and deny them to projects that will hurt his interests.

5 just how us it that greenstein can run for office full time and time and run a law practice ….. Without an alternative income source?

6 by running with hakim’s son in law brodsky ,greenstein campaign gets funded in whole
Or in part.

Please everyone think hard about your vote . A supermarket and stores that greenstein rails against … Is to promote his political partner’s family’s interests …which is that their tenants keep paying rent. They don’t want the supermarket at CC for that reason.  Please everyone just think about who has been whooping and stirring everything up.
Ok, penny is horrible but she is not involved with this horrific power grab and private manipulation. This is just too important to take a chance.  Don’t let the hakim, greenstein Brodsky foxes into our chicken coop.  Is just too important.

By Exposed on 11/04/2013 at 10:56 am

Post a comment:

Display Name*:

Your Display Name will be associated with this comment on NewCastleNOW.org. We encourage commentators to use their real name or initials.

We encourage civil, civic discourse. In other words, be pithy and polite. All comments will be reviewed before publication to assure that this standard is met.