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Letter: Westchester battles aren't partisan

Ken Jenkins, chairman of the Westchester County Board

Ken Jenkins, chairman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators. (April 30, 2012) Photo Credit: Nancy Siesel

Too often, the conflicts between the Westchester County Board of Legislators and Republican County Executive Robert P. Astorino are reported and represented as gratuitous battles enacted simply out of ideological and partisan differences ["Westchester Democrats pass Section 8 legislation to Astorino," News, Sept. 11].

But in the course of any explanation as to why the county executive is embroiled in four different lawsuits, a number of facts should be mentioned. For example, a federal court at one point threatened to hold the county in contempt over the Fair and Affordable Housing settlement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as the result of Astorino's obstinate refusal to comply with the stipulations and agreement of the settlement, as he promised to do when he took office. Meanwhile, the court has ruled that Westchester County is in unambiguous breach of the housing stipulation order.

The housing settlement indeed calls for the county executive to "promote" source-of-income legislation that would prevent banks and landlords from discriminating against homebuyers and tenants receiving government assistance. It should be noted this group includes seniors, veterans and people with disabilities -- not just those using Section 8 vouchers.

The Westchester County Board of Legislators adopted the source-of-income legislation after working on it for nearly three years. Astorino vetoed the bill, saying the law creates more ambiguity, uncertainty and unnecessary regulation. He has already gone on record to say he won't sign a new source of income bill sight unseen -- and it is obvious that he will quibble with any source-of-income legislation proposed by the Board of Legislators to protract his need to sign it for as long as possible.

Moreover, the source-of-income legislation that Astorino asked to be re-introduced contains sections pertaining to county services that are no longer available, so the bill needs to be rewritten and updated.

With all of this in mind, a majority of my colleagues voted to have the county executive present the Board of Legislators with his version of source-of-income legislation for the board's consideration, which only seems fair and appropriate now, in light of the aforementioned circumstances.

I look forward to working with the Astorino administration if and when this legislation is presented to the Board of Legislators. Laws against source of income discrimination are already in place around the nation, including in New York City. For the sake of our seniors, veterans and disabled residents seeking fair and affordable housing, I hope the county executive is able to present source-of-income legislation to the Board of Legislators.

Ken Jenkins, Yonkers

Editor's note: The writer, a Democrat, is chairman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators.