63° Good Afternoon
63° Good Afternoon

McKinstry: Westchester's seen the 'Ken-Rob thing' before

Ken Jenkins, chairman of the Westchester County Board

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

Here we go again.

After Democrats on the Westchester County Board of Legislators rejected County Executive Rob Astorino's efforts to create a local development corporation to fund the capital projects of nonprofit organizations, Astorino is going it alone.

In a familiar narrative, the Republican county executive this week said he doesn't need the board's sign-off and will move forward to create an agency that can approve tax-free bonds to help pay for projects such as a $36-million expansion at Northern Westchester Medical Center.

The board last week rejected the county executive’s proposal and wouldn’t take it up in committee; legislators said it gave the county executive too much authority, so members plan to write their own guidelines for a local development corporation.

Ned McCormack, senior adviser to Astorino, responded, calling Democrats obstructionists and accusing them of government malpractice.

If you're one of the few actually paying attention to the ongoing rifts, no doubt you're having a feeling of deja vu. Or perhaps you’d agree with a reader who put it to me recently in a note that essentially said: The Rob-Ken thing is getting old.

This development corporation issue follows a similar story line between Democratic legislators, led by board chairman Ken Jenkins, and Astorino.

Feuds over day care, appointments and any number of other issues are commonplace, and are typically about executive versus legislative authority. Some disagreements find their way into court. Just this week a judge issued a temporary restraining order to freeze rates for child care subsidized by the county. The occurred after Democrats sued to block increases in the amount parents pay. Under the county executive’s plan, the parental contribution rate would have gone from 20 percent to 35 percent of the cost. The restraining order followed another suit by the Democrats that was tossed out by a state Supreme Court judge.

And much like day care, where parents and children are caught in the ideological crossfire, you’ve got to figure nonprofit organizations looking to expand could get lost in this one.

Astorino first announced his intentions to form a development corporation in January in front of hundreds of business leaders. He said it would fill a void left by the state in 2008 when industrial development agencies lost their authority to borrow on behalf of nonprofits. At the time, Astorino called his idea smart government and a way to create “a business friendly environment.”

Jenkins, who was at that same breakfast, responded that lawmakers would take a good, hard look at the concept, but cautioned that too many of these types of organizations around New York State weren’t open or transparent — that’s why the state allowed the law to lapse, he said. The “devil is in the details,” he said then.

This can play out in any number of ways: competing local development corporations (a terrible idea), a lawsuit (ditto) or some sort of, dare we say, middle ground with a shared goal of helping some of the county’s large nonprofits, like schools and hospitals.
If the past is any indication, some sort of compromise between the executive and legislative branches isn't likely.

Odds are, their relations will be more of the same.

Pictured above: Ken Jenkins, chairman of the Westchester County Board of Legislators.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.