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Latimer Touts Accomplishments in State of the County Address

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Westchester County Executive George Latimer delivers his seventh State of the County Thursday evening in the Board of Legislators chambers. His wide-ranging speech focused mostly on his administration’s achievements as he continues to prepare for his primary showdown in June with Rep. Jamaal Bowman.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer delivered his annual State of the County address Thursday evening focusing primarily on the accomplishments of sound fiscal policy, environmental initiatives, investment in infrastructure and promoting affordable housing.

In what could be his last address in the Board of Legislators chambers should his bid in the 16th Congressional District race prove successful, Latimer recited a wide variety of achievements in healthcare, various services and making Westchester attractive for people to choose to work and live.

“Westchester County has always been a place of innovation, progress and compassion,” Latimer said during the hour-long speech. “As we embrace the concept of new faces, let us remember that the true strength of the county lies in the collective spirit of our people. Together, all of us, continue to write the story of Westchester’s success that honors our past, celebrates our present and looks forward to a future where we have endless possibilities.”

His address came after about 75 supporters of incumbent Democratic Congressman Jamaal Bowman, who is being challenged by Latimer in the party’s primary in June, blasted the county executive outside the county building. They charged that much of his campaign funding has come from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). As a result, he is beholden to the pro-Israel lobby in the U.S., which is helping to fuel the ongoing war in the Middle East.

With tight security inside the County Office Building in White Plains, Latimer stressed his strong fiscal record with of having had four consecutive cuts in the tax levy before maintaining the levy at its 2023 level for this year’s budget.

Meanwhile, the ratings agencies have all boosted the county’s fiscal standing while it has taken initiatives to help working families, such as expanding the Child Care Scholarship Program and providing free transportation for the Bee-Line bus service during the summer and holiday season.

“After another successful year of strong fiscal performance, the New York State comptroller recently lowered the fiscal stress score for the county to zero,” Latimer said. “This is the best score a municipality can achieve, indicating outstanding fiscal stability.”

Latimer listed an extensive number of programs that highlight Westchester’s commitment to the environment to limit waste and address climate change. Those steps include expansion of the textile recycling program, the county’s mobile shredder, the Residential Food Scrap and Disposal Program and the ongoing implementation to the single-use food ware law.

The county has also invested $20 million to expand electric vehicle stations at county parking facilities as well as a grant program to help municipalities increase their EV chargers, Latimer said.

“These efforts underscore our commitment to sustainability and to community well-being,” he said.

During the speech Latimer stopped to sign the intermunicipal agreement between the county and the City of New Rochelle approved Monday night by the Board of Legislators to restore the Glen Island Bridge.

Latimer touted his administration’s record in helping to bring more than 6,000 units of affordable housing to the county that have been completed or are under construction, the most of any county in the state. The current year’s budget also committed $110 million through the Affordable Housing Investment Flex Fund, to incentivize developers. So far, 17 applications have applied for a piece of the money.

The county executive mentioned an assortment of other programs that his administration has supported, including addressing the challenges of bringing support for those with mental health issues. The Lives Forward Program, which provide peer support from formerly incarcerated people and who had previous addictions promises to make a difference.

“Working together, we are filling the shortage of trained paraprofessionals while also achieving greater health outcomes and reducing recidivism,” Latimer said.

Protestors outside the County Building in White Plains blasted County Executive George Latimer for his close ties to the pro-Israel lobby. The demonstrators also aired other grievances about the lack of affordable housing and effective police reform.

Latimer also spoke of initiatives to help promote minority communities with programs such as the Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprises (MWBE). The program has invested about $250 since its creation.

He pledged to continue working with county legislators and the municipalities to continue to bring a high quality of life to Westchester.

“Let us work in this next year, hand in hand, to build a brighter, stronger and more inclusive future for all of us,” Latimer said.

Protestors Level Grievances

Before the State of the County, a conglomeration of organizations protested outside the County Building harshly criticizing Latimer for his strong support of Israel. AIPAC has been using its website to receive donations for Latimer in his congressional bid against Bowman.

“Yes, George, in your State of the County, you’re running on a platform of money responsible for over 30,000 deaths (in Gaza) and hundreds of thousands starving in a war funded by U.S. tax dollars and supported by U.S. politicians,” said Howard Horowitz, representing WESPAC.

He and others called on Latimer to suspend his congressional campaign and to have the Board of Legislators pass a resolution calling for a ceasefire in the war that started shortly after the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in Israel.

After the State of the County, Latimer said there will be time to address national issues, but that he is proud of his record as county executive.

“I don’t think these are credible arguments, and I think most people in Westchester know, the majority of people in Westchester know we’ve done more on affordable housing than any county in New York State,” he said.

They also said he has failed on housing affordability and instituting police reforms.

“The health and prosperity of our Westchester communities depend on having safe, affordable housing,” said Juanita Lewis, executive director of Community Voices Heard. “Over the past several years, rents and housing costs in Westchester have continued to skyrocket, without any relief for families. As we highlighted in our report, Building Westchester’s Future: The Need for Affordable and Equitable Housing, Westchester is in a severe housing crisis, marked by extreme racial disparities. Unfortunately, County Executive Latimer and his administration have failed again and again to address the crisis, despite repeated warnings from housing advocates.”

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