The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

Bob Castelli, David Buchwald debate state issues

By ANTHONY R. MANCINI

On Friday, Oct. 12, candidates Bob Castelli and David Buchwald participated in a debate for the 93rd State Assembly District in The Record-Review offices in Katonah. Mr. Castelli, the Republican incumbent, is a Lewisboro resident and has occupied the office since 2009. Mr. Buchwald is a Democrat from White Plains and a member of the White Plains Common Council. The 93rd district includes Bedford and Pound Ridge along with North Salem, Lewisboro, Mount Kisco, New Castle, North Castle, Harrison and parts of White Plains.


RR: Mr. Castelli, you said you were going to reform Albany, you were going to make some changes. Do you feel like you accomplished what you went up there to do?

Castelli: I don’t think we accomplished it all. I think we started it all. I think under this Cuomo administration we’ve seen a tremendous amount of change. We’ve engaged in private/public partnerships, we shrunk the size of government, we’ve cut our government spending down. In the last two years our budget has decreased. This year, our budget was over $132.6 billion and we spent $135 million less than we did last year. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but the point is it’s going down. More importantly, we had two on-time budgets. It’s been 26 years since we had two on-time budgets.

We went from the malaise that was Albany as usual to Albany in a new and excitingly different form. We were the most business-unfriendly state in the country and we are now changing that paradigm. We still have a long way to go. We spend number one in all of our states on education and yet we’re only 38 out of every state in the country. This year, even though we cut the first budget under the Cuomo administration by 10 percent across the board, we put 4 percent back into education, over $800 million. Am I successful at doing all I wanted to do? Well, certainly no. It wouldn’t have been all my doing anyway. Is it going in the direction I wanted to and I stated two years ago? Absolutely.

RR: What do you think, David? Is the Assembly going in the right direction and is he taking the right steps?

Buchwald: It’s clear that the governor has helped in turning around the image of the state. I’m not entirely sure that the assemblyman is necessarily responsible for most of those changes. We used to be known in New York state as being a place where great ideas would germinate, take hold and spread across the county.

One of the best examples of that in the last two years under Gov. Cuomo was his initiative for marriage equality. Gov. Cuomo pushed for that fundamental right. I am very much supportive of doing that. Assemblyman Castelli was opposed to that. The governor also wants to push forward for gun safety legislation and microstamping. The assemblyman’s been opposed to that bill. I’m someone who comes from the perspective of believing in really tangible results being the touchstone of government accomplishment. I have that record as a city councilman in White Plains. I’ve reformed our budget process, so we were able to look at line-item budget information that saved taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result. I pushed for open government reforms and changes to our city’s ethics code. I think there are a lot of improvements that can be made at the state level when it comes to ethics. There hasn’t been a real reform in the way that Albany works.

RR: Would you have voted for the 2 percent tax cap if you had been in office?

Buchwald: The tax cap is better than the status quo that we had before. I’m proud of the fact that in White Plains, we’ve been in compliance with the cap and had been in place beforehand. There are areas for improvement with the tax cap. I don’t think it gives enough credit to municipalities or school districts that come in under the tax cap so that they can get credit in future years if emergency situations develop. We need to get real-time feedback from the municipalities and school districts now living with the tax cap. I think we see over the last year a number of situations where places took short-term approaches to solving their one-year tax cap situation, but that’s not going to answer the question more broadly. In White Plains that hasn’t been our approach. We have a AA bond rating and we’ve been able to maintain it.

Castelli: David mentioned the fact that I voted against the marriage equality bill. While I was a fan of civil unions I was not a fan of the marriage equality bill, and one of the primary reasons for that was the fact that there were no protections for religious institutions or religious individuals. The way the bill came to the Assembly should be made clear was not the way it came into the Senate. The way it came to the Assembly, there were no protections for religious individuals or religious institutions, which meant that if you were a priest, rabbi, minister or imam and failed to perform a same-sex marriage based upon a matter of conscience, you would’ve been both civilly and criminally responsible. Now the First Amendment doesn’t guarantee protection for the institution of marriage, but it does for freedom of religion. It was not incorporated in the bill as it was presented to the Assembly, and therefore many of us voted against it, both Republicans and Democrats, I might add.

RR: Would you have voted for it in the Senate version?

Castelli: No, I probably wouldn’t have voted for it in the Senate version because I don’t think it went far enough.

RR: Far enough in what sense?

Castelli: Far enough in the fact that some of those protections were empty rhetoric.

RR: If there were protections for clergy, would you vote for it?

Castelli: I believe that marriage exists between a man and a woman.

RR: So then that’s sort of moot what the bill was. You’re against it.

Castelli: What people don’t realize is that we have a relatively liberal district here and yet calls to my office came at a ratio of 3-to-1 not to support that bill.

RR: David, if it was a 3-to-1 call against it from people in the district, would you still be for it?

Buchwald: One of the reasons I’m running is that I don’t believe our incumbent assemblyman has built enough of a connection to the district, because I fundamentally believe that support for marriage equality in this district is fairly overwhelming.

RR: So you think he’s wrong?

Buchwald: I can’t claim what the calls were, but if that’s not representative of the views in the district, it again is a moot point.

RR: How important is this issue in terms of this race?

Buchwald: I think it’s emblematic of a series of issues, whether that’s the assemblyman’s failure to support a woman’s right to choose, his views on pay equity, his views on the upcoming women’s reproductive health act or the fact that there are going to be continued bills of importance to the LGBT community. One of the fundamental roles of government is to prevent discrimination in every form.

Castelli: Let’s move on to what he said about firearms control. After 22 years in the New York State Police and 15 years as a criminal justice professor, gun crime is something I investigated for 22 years and lectured on to police around the world. While he and many people who are well meaning saw the microstamping bill being something decent, there was no such effect. We had something in the New York State Police up until recently called CoBIS. After a decade of spending over $4 million a year, we found it to be totally ineffectual, and the state police asked if they’d be able to remove that from being put into their budget. What may be a great idea from the standpoint of legislative intent may not actually in its practical application.

RR: Is there any changes in the gun laws that you’d like to see?

Castelli: I’d like to see mandatory sentencing for gun crimes. To continue on, I am pro-choice, I was pro-choice, I have been pro-choice. It’s somewhat disingenuous for David to say that “No, I’m not involved in that.” The bill that he is talking about is a very different bill, which had a number of ramifications to it, some of which might have closed Catholic or Jewish hospitals and used Medicaid funding for that. For those reasons, I did not support that particular bill. I might add Medicaid funding is not used to support abortion except in emergencies in any other state other than the state of New York. Part of that is a matter of being fiscally responsible, not just sensitive to women’s issues. Obviously, if I support a woman’s right to choose, then philosophically I have no problem with the concept of abortion. Using public funds to do so and the threat to close a Catholic hospital, a Jewish hospital or take away a doctor’s license because of a conscience clause, in that, I’m very much against.

RR: You want to respond to that?

Buchwald: The affirmative vote the assemblyman took was on a Republican amendment that would ban the use of Medicaid funding in New York state for abortions, even in the health of the mother. Even in a short-term fiscal sense, it might not even make appropriate sense for the state to be cutting back on this for folks who are on Medicaid, who aren’t necessarily in the best position to raise a new child.

RR: I know that you have a fine environmental record, but is he doing everything that he can environmentally? What would you do that he’s not?

Buchwald: I don’t think so. Start with the biggest environmental issue in New York state right now, which is hydrofracking. Although the assemblyman talks a very good game, he’s only in favor of a one-year moratorium on hydrofracking, and I believe in a ban in New York state because I believe the risk to our groundwater and to the environmental health to the state is too great.

RR: Is that the truth?

Castelli: No, absolutely not, it’s anything but the truth. Of the 212 members of the Senate and Assembly, Republican and Democrat, I am the 12th highest member in environmental voting record. I’m on five bills that are moratorium-related bills.

RR: Are you in favor of banning hydrofracking in New York state?

Castelli: I’m in favor of banning it in Westchester County. I’m certainly in favor of banning it if it has a deleterious effect on our water supply. Rather than say we should have an all-out ban, let science make the decision for us, let’s not have emotion make the decision.

RR: Where do you stand on Indian Point at this point?

Castelli: I’m part of an amicus brief on a lawsuit against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission because they reduced the safety standards of Indian Point. I think anyone who builds a nuclear power plant within 20 miles of eight million people is a fool, but it’s there we have to deal with it. The plant itself is safe. I’ve listened to both sides of the argument. I’ve toured the plant. Do I think it should be closed? Twelve years ago when I was a member of the Lewisboro town board, I said something very simply, “If it can’t be made safe it should be closed.” Today I will say to you again, “If it can’t be made safe it should be closed.”

RR: You just said it is safe.

Castelli: I believe it to be safe.

RR: What would be the trigger that would make you think it’s safe or not safe?

Castelli: When the NRC does its investigation for the relicensing, if they determine that it’s unsafe, then it shouldn’t be relicensed afterwards, it should be closed.

RR: If they say it’s safe then you would say, “OK, relicense?”

Castelli: Most likely, unless I find some sinister aspect in collusion between Entergy and the NRC. I don’t think we have much of a choice here. By the way, if we close the plant tomorrow, the spent fuel rods will be on the property for the next 50 to 70 years, so some of the issues that would be our problems would be remaining there for quite a long time, even if we actually closed the plant. At this point we don’t have the means of providing alternate energy. I’m a fan of alternate energy, whether it’s wind or solar, but the fact of the matter is, we don’t have enough to make up for that.

RR: Do you want to respond?

Buchwald: It’s clear that if this were a new plant being proposed it wouldn’t be approved, given the proximity to the population center of New York City and our broader region. This is the time when the two operating reactors are up for relicensing. At the end of a license like this, it is entirely appropriate to reevaluate whether you would have granted that license in the first place. There’s no longer a vested right of the plant owner to a continued license. We do need alternative sources of energy. That should be part of the plan of phasing out, it’s not in the matter of flicking off a switch. I would prefer Indian Point not to be a part of that longer-term approach to the area.

RR: In the face of the 2 percent tax cap what would you say to the local governments?

Buchwald: I’ve seen as a local official the direct reality of mandates where rules are set at the state level. The cost of enforcement is pushed down to the local level. That creates a disjuncture between the people who are writing the rules and the people who actually see them being implemented at a daily basis. That doesn’t make sense from a policy point of view, an economic point of view; we need a much more comprehensive approach.

RR: Should the state take on some of these expenses?

Buchwald: I think they should. MS4 stormwater regulations, for example, are very time consuming for public works departments around the county and throughout New York state. Here’s a new form of regulation that’s costing property owners, and the expenses that they see could not necessarily be the best way resources can be spent, even from a pro-environmental perspective. To me we need at the very least a system whereby there can be much more feedback up to the folks who write the rules.

RR: Is it realistic for the state to take on these costs in your opinion?

Castelli: Right now we have a $500 million bill for the east of Hudson towns. At the end of the day, if the state creates a mandate for local jurisdiction, the state should find a way to pay for it. Period. We as a state have met the enemy and he is us. This is the only state where Medicaid is paid for and handed down to the county level.

RR: I would like to give each of you the chance to basically talk to the people of Bedford/Pound Ridge.

Buchwald: I believe in really hearing people out on what they value. Can we bring back good-paying jobs to the area? Can we have a representative who represents our values? Can we have someone who builds that better connection to Albany? There’s no pride in this job when someone calls you with a problem and you are unable to point them in the right direction, give them a government that they can be proud of. That’s exactly the sort of approach we need in our representative to Albany.

RR: If you were re-elected, what would you see as your mission for the next couple years?

Castelli: All of the things that David just said are the things I’ve been doing for the last two years. It’s an honor and a privilege to serve. I don’t believe in partisan politics. I believe in public service. I’ve been involved in public service since I was a teenager in the Army. My mission is to engage in public service in a nonpartisan matter. It is time for us to make the Empire State the Empire State again.


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October 19, 2012

‘Pops, Patriots and Fireworks’

Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

  1. Scotts Corner Market – Trinity Corners Shopping Center;  55 Westchester Avenue

  2. Pound Ridge Sunoco — 66 Westchester Avenue    

  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    


Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    


Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


Katonah

  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  4. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

  5. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road


Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    


Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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SCOTT MULLIN PHOTO

David Buchwald

 
SCOTT MULLIN PHOTO

Bob Castelli