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Westchester County Executive George Latimer trumpeted his administration’s accomplishments while vowing to continue moving forward to improve programs, services and quality of life during his sixth State of the County address Thursday evening in White Plains.
The hour-long speech, which was interspersed with several short videos, touched on a wide variety of topics and issues while also stressing inclusivity and maintaining collegiality despite some expected sharp disagreements.
“Today, I declare to you that the state of our county is one of unyielding strength, unwavering resolve and boundless potential,” Latimer said.
Calling the plight of the asylum seekers “the most pressing issue of our time,” Latimer urged the county for compassion, empathy and to uphold the nation’s values. As of earlier this week, Westchester has accepted more than 300 migrants from New York City at three locations – Yonkers, White Plains and Ardsley. There has been little fanfare in the county over the migrants’ arrival while 31 other counties around the state are being sued by the city for trying to prevent them from being temporarily housed within their jurisdictions.
In his remarks, Latimer explained how asylum seekers have fled their home countries hoping to escape persecution, violence and hardship. In May, the county executive wrote a letter to the Homeland Security to urge for expedited immigration hearings, including to have them done in White Plains.
“They have come seeking refuge, hoping for a chance at a better life for themselves and their families,” he said. “I know that deep down we all believe in treating them with dignity and respect, while also ensuring a fair and efficient immigration process and protecting the interests and legitimate concerns of those who already live there.”
The county also has taken on efforts to help the disabled, has celebrated the LGBTQ community and initiated anti-discrimination policies to project all groups in Westchester. Latimer said one effort was a needs assessment study commissioned by the Asian-American Advisory Board that reached out to 800 members of that community,
“This government firmly believes in equal rights and opportunity for all individuals,” Latimer said.
He said an emphasis on public safety has helped lower the rate of every major crime category in the county since he took office in 2018. But along with fighting crime the county has invested in increasing safety in other ways. A $1 million federal grant helped establish the county Domestic Violence High Risk Team, which has trained almost 3,000 officers in investigations and harm assessment.
“This team is now serving as a statewide model and we could not be more proud,” Latimer said.
The county Youth Bureau has recently increased its financial support for youth suicide prevention programs, mental health counseling and interventions through various organizations’ programs Next will be Narcan training for county employees to prevent opioid overdoses.
“By imparting these facts and information to our employees, we will have begun a public campaign that will reach all areas of our county residents to better understand the opioid crisis and be better prepared to combat it,” Latimer said.
Latimer also promoted economic successes during his administration’s five-and-a-half years, beginning with his cutting of property taxes for each of the last four years.
“Cutting county property taxes is not mere political rhetoric; it is a tangible action that directly impacts the lives of our residents,” Latimer said. “It allows hardworking county residents to keep more of their earnings, invest in their dreams, take the kids to do something fun, and most of all, worry less.”
The county’s Industrial Development Agency (IDA) has granted incentives to residential and commercial development projects, result in private investment of $1.84 billion into the county’s economy, Latimer said. The IDA projects are expected to produce more than 1,500 construction jobs, 600 new apartments and 832,000 square feet of commercial and real estate space.
Westchester spent resources on projects in Mount Vernon, including the Third Street Sewer Project that corrected a longstanding problem that saw sewage regularly back up into 5,000 residences for three years and refurbishment of Memorial Field.
Latimer listed other efforts small and large to help county residents, from picking up a significantly greater percentage of childcare costs for eligible families to providing help for those who have food insecurity, suspending the sales tax on home heating costs last winter and on gas for much of 2022. Free Bee-Line bus service is being offered for the second consecutive summer starting Saturday.
He urged all Westchester residents and officials to come together to solve problems even when there are disagreements and political differences.
“Together we will continue to forge ahead, paving the way for a better tomorrow and solidifying our legacy as a place of hope progress and prosperity,” Latimer said.
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/