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VIDEO- Odell and Schneider Debate in Carmel

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MaryEllen Odell and Alan Schneider participated in a Carmel Civic Association- hosted debate at the Carmel firehouse on Thursday,Sept. 22.

Two contenders vying for Putnam County executive met for the first of many debates on Thursday at the Carmel Civic Association’s meeting held at the Carmel firehouse.

Republican candidate MaryEllen Odell, 50, and Democratic challenger Alan Schneider, 62, discussed their views on business development, the 2 percent tax cap and the sales tax extension. The candidates also answered submitted questions about Lake Gleneida and having an institute of higher learning within the borders of Putnam County.

Watch Odell and Schneider Debate part one

Watch Odell and Schneider Debate part two

Watch Odell and Schneider Debate part three

Watch Odell and Schneider Debate part four

Both applicants said they wanted to encourage businesses to plant roots in Putnam.

Schneider, a Mahopac accountant and business owner who resides in Kent, recommended creating a road map, that has a set of rules that all the towns and their boards would follow to provide small business owners with the initial steps in establishing their operations in Putnam.

“The county tries to do as much as it can to get help with the industrial development agency (IDA), but they are still hamstringed by what the towns are doing [because of home rule],” Schneider said.

Odell, a longtime resident of Carmel who former served for five years as a county legislator and currently works as an aide for state Senator Greg Ball, countered that government needs to remove excess regulations.

“Government has to get out of the way for small businesses,” Odell said. “They need to stop being at so many ribbon cuttings and actually eliminate a lot of the red tape.”

Odell also spoke about the need for public-private partnerships  in the county and claimed how it could benefit a proposed homeland security project be brought to the hamlet of Carmel as well as Berkeley College, a business school that currently has a White Plains campus, to the area.

A proponent of the Patterson Crossing project, Schneider thinks that more could be done in the corridors of interstates 684 and 84 and Route 9. “People are still buying goods, I would rather they buy them from within Putnam County,” Schneider said.

Though Odell thinks Patterson Crossing will help the local economy, she does not think retail it the long term answer for Putnam. “I think the economic development council (EDC) and the IDA should be amped up and bring smarter business to Putnam,” Odell said recommending a company set up its headquarters here and allow Putnam be the place where its employees raise their families, such has Pepsi and IBM have done in Westchester.

The audience also brought up the county’s passage of the 1 percent sales tax extension for another two years. Schneider said government mandates have handcuffed the county into an 8.375 sales tax rate, but that he would be in favor of lowering it to attract business.

“I would love to see the sales tax reduced in Putnam,” Schneider added. “Until we get some relief from Albany we might have to keep the sales tax as is—however, I would be the first one to say let’s reduce it to bring in the retail trade.”

Schneider reminded the audience that Odell was a legislator when the county decided to extend the increased sales tax rate.

“I have always said that the 1 percent sales tax extension was something that we have to wean ourselves off of,” Odell argued. “Right now we only pay our bills two ways—it is either property taxes or sales tax, so until we can stimulate the economy with some jobs and businesses that is really the only way we can pay our bills right now.”

Discussion progressed into the recently enacted 2 percent tax cap legislation signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo this past summer.

“I support the 2 percent tax cap,” said Schneider. “There had to be a cap placed on all of our real estate taxes.”

Odell, however, said that the tax cap does not address unfunded mandates that municipalities are required to comply with.

“I think the tax cap is a smoke and mirrors act in this county in particular,” Odell stated. “Over 90 percent of our budget is driven by New York state mandates. If they were really concerned about our taxes, then they would relieve us from some of these unfunded mandates.”

When asked if the candidates supported having a community college within the county. Schneider, who graduated from Westchester Community College, said he would be in favor of such an institution if the “brick and mortar cost” was reasonable. Odell offered another public-private alternative, with Berkeley College and Mount Saint Mary College’s preliminary interest in opening up locations in Putnam.

New York City’ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and its ownership of the Belden House and Lake Gleneida, as well as the expiration of the current watershed agreement was an issue that was brought up during the debate.

“I would like to start to negotiate with DEP to see New York City live up to its commitment,” said Schneider.  “ Since the watershed agreement is set to expire I think we should renegotiate and get control back of [Lake Gleneida].”

In negotiation with Dept. of Environmental Protection, Odell said she thinks the important thing that should be included in the next watershed agreement is the municipal separate sewer stormwater system (MS4) requirements.

“MS4s have left us with requirements that are completely unfunded {New York City residents’] clean water,” she said. “We need to include millions of dollars for their portion of the cost of the MS4s. We cannot afford to pay to make sure that New York City has clean drinking water.”

During the debate, Carmel resident Lori Kemp said she did not think pulling Lake Gleneida from DEP’s control was a good idea.

“Lake Gleneida is our drinking water too,” Kemp said. “I am not so sure I want the county to take it over. New York City is doing the best thing possible to keep the water clean.”

Odell and Schneider are running to fill the remaining three years of the term that was supposed to be filled by former state senator Vincent Leibell who is currently serving a 21-month prison for tax evasion and obstruction of justice.

The election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 8 as part of the general election.


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