The White Plains Examiner

BOL Democratic Caucus Set to Pass Source of Income Legislation at Monday Meeting

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The Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) set a public hearing on County Executive Rob Astorino’s Source of Income legislation, which will take place at the next regular meeting of the BOL on Monday, May 6 at 7:30 p.m. That meeting is also being considered as a meeting of the Committee of the Whole with the hopes of voting the bill into law, possibly that night. Astorino has been invited to the meeting to answer questions that might arise regarding the legislation, which would amend the Laws of Westchester County to ban discrimination against potential homeowners and renters based on their source of income.

Recently, a federal judge ordered Astorino to submit the Source of Income legislation to the BOL and agree to sign it into law as part of his duties to promote the bill in regard to the stipulations of the fair and affordable housing settlement between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Westchester County.

“The Democratic caucus of the Board of Legislators has eight confirmed, rock-solid votes to pass County Executive Astorino’s Source of Income Legislation, as he submitted it,” said BOL Majority Leader Pete Harckham (D-Katonah) in a press statement over the weekend. “I hope he will urge his supporters on the board to stand up and be counted on the right side of history with their votes to approve this legislation.”

At a special meeting of the BOL last week, James Maisano (R-New Rochelle) Minority Leader, wanted assurance that the legislation would be discussed and could be changed.

County Executive Astorino has indicated in writing that he will sign the legislation once it is passed.

A statement from the Democratic caucus of the BOL said: “The legislation, which the BOL originally passed in June 2010, was vetoed by Astorino, who maintained his vocal opposition to the bill through his State of the County address delivered on April 23. Nonetheless, clear language in the fair and affordable housing settlement between Westchester County and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) states the County Executive is bound by law to promote the legislation.”

Astorino continues to claim that HUD is confusing zoning practices with discrimination and is stepping on the toes of local municipalities which have the right to home rule as protected by the laws of New York State.

Westchester County was notified by HUD in March that it would risk having $7.4 million in 2011 Community Development Block Grant funds reallocated if Astorino failed to take steps toward promoting Source of Income legislation by April 25, 2013. HUD has since declared that the County’s 2013 CDBG funds, now totaling $17 million, are also at risk.

About 80 percent of those affected by the loss of this funding are municipalities and community funded nonprofits not included in the HUD lawsuit, Legislator Bill Ryan (D-White Plains) said in an interview. “By setting a public hearing before going to committee and by having the Board meet as a Committee of the Whole, the process will be speedier,” he added.

“The County Executive’s Source of Income legislation needs to be advanced as quickly as possible to send HUD a message that we’re serious and eager about working together to follow the stipulations of the housing settlement,” said BOL Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers). “Municipalities and not-for-profit organizations around the county are set to lose millions of dollars otherwise.”

“I’m concerned that, over the years, Mr. Astorino has typified Source of Income legislation as being merely a protection for residents using Section 8 housing vouchers, when, in fact, the bill will help all kinds of residents, including retirees, the disabled and veterans,” said Legislator Alfreda Williams (D-Greenburgh). “Folks who worked hard and put their tax dollars into the system for decades shouldn’t be vilified. They earned government assistance, like Social Security benefits.”

“The eyes of history are watching us,” noted Harckham. “It is critical for the future of Westchester County that we pass this legislation that the County Executive said he will sign to ensure his compliance and obligation under the housing settlement. The stakes are too high for us to fail in this regard.”

The caucus of Democratic legislators hopes to pass the legislation at Monday night’s meeting.

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