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Proposal To Reduce Size Of Rockland Legislature Gets Early Support (VIDEO)

County executive candidate proposes cutting the number of county legislators from 17 to 11 and a challlenger endorses the idea.

 

Democratic Rockland County Executive candidate David Fried proposed on Monday reducing the number of county legislators from 17 to 11. Fried, who announced his proposal in front of the county office building where the legislature meets, said the merits of his plan include bringing the number of legislators and the size of the population they represent more in line with other counties in New York. Fried's idea got backing from one of his rivals for the county executive's job. 

Rockland’s 17 legislators each represent about 18,300 residents and under Fried’s proposal that number would increase by about 10,000.  Even if the size of the legislative districts were increased, Fried pointed out Rockland’s legislators would still be representing a smaller part of the population than in Westchester where each of its 17 legislators represents 55,800 residents.

“An increase of 10,000 still keeps us below the norm in other counties,” said the former Spring Valley justice and county legislator.

Fried's idea got an quick endorsement from Republican County Executive Candidate and Legislator Ed Day.

"Wherever the source, no matter the party, if I come across a good idea to help the taxpayer, then I will always act on it and pursue it if it is at all feasible, and I will continue to do so,” said Day, “Kudos to Mr. Fried for his independent thinking on this issue.”

Day said he would submit the proposal for review this week, which would move it up from Fried's timeline. 

“If the size of the legislature can be reduced while both complying with the previous court decisions that govern the composition of the County Legislature and maintaining the proportional representation of each town, then we should absolutely do it,” Day continued.

Fried welcomed Day's support. 

"I thank Legislator Day for supporting my plan," said Fried. "I have sent Mr. Day an e-mail to meet so that I can explain the steps that need to be taken on this important topic and develop a bi-partisan strategy together to approve this measure now. Bi-partisan cooperation will be a constant endeavor of my administration."

Rockland Legislative Chair Harriet Cornell welcomed Fried's suggestion. 

“It’s a very valid discussion to have,” she said. 

Cornell noted the legislature has been larger in the past and at one time had up to 21 members. 

“I think there are pros and cons to larger districts and smaller districts,” said Cornell.

Chestnut Ridge Trustee Howard Cohen said there is validity to having a larger cohesive district.  He pointed out the village has been divided into two and even three legislative districts over the years.  Fried noted that Nanuet has also been separated into different districts.

“Our current district goes from Chestnut Ridge up to Pomona,” said Cohen, who attended the press conference. “It looks like a kangaroo.”

Fried discussed the other merits of his proposal. He said fewer legislators would cut expenses.  Legislators earn a base salary of $40,000 plus benefits and pensions. Fried said it would result in a savings of at least $250,000. 

At his press conference, Fried said if he was elected county executive, he introduce the legislation on his first day in office. That timing could be moved up now with Day's intention to introduce the proposal. In either case, it would be up to the legislature to review it in committee and decide if it should go to the full legislature for a vote. Fried said if approved, a referendum would be on the ballot for November 2014 but it is possible that it could happen sooner.

If the legislature did not move the proposal forward, Fried pledged to start a petition and get it signed by county residents so it would be a referendum on the November ballot.

Fried said the proposal is just one of his cost cutting measures.

“Rockland County can no longer afford to live beyond its means,” he said and referred to the county’s $100 million plus budget deficit.

Fried explained he has been reviewing all parts of county government to determine where savings can be realized. He promised to cut executive branch wages by $250,000 and said the county executive’s salary would not be immune to the reductions.

The other candidates seeking the county executive's seat are Democrats Legislator Ilan Schoenberger and Suffern Mayor Dagan Lacorte

Michael N. Hull March 05, 2013 at 01:59 PM
Concerned Worker: Let's just start at top with the Executive Leadership. In Rockland County we have 5 Supervisors and one County Executive to govern a population of just over 300,000 people. Combined salaries and benefits in excess of $1.5MM. Now count the number of Town Board members in the 5 towns and the county legislators. Then add on all the patronage appointments they hand out to each other. For example, $75,000 to County Legislator Sparaco to answer the telephones part time for the Town of Clarkstown. Then figure in how many separate police departments there are in Rockland County each with their own police chiefs, some of them earning more that the police chiefs of LA or NYC. Consider this, 42 Clarkstown Police officers, that is 25% of the Clarkstown police department, took home MORE in 2012 than Raymond Kelly, the Police Commissioner of New York City who earns $205,180. Then add in the Sheriff's horses ..... Do you have a horse and are you earning more than Raymond Kelly? If so then Rockland County is the place for you.
Concerned Worker March 05, 2013 at 04:09 PM
Thank you Michael and Defender...I now understand.
stephany March 05, 2013 at 04:57 PM
Why does such a part time elected position even warrant a pension and lifetime benefits. they gave it to themselves without asking anyone, taking it back along with cutting 17>11 would really save some money. for every 2 qualified part time legislators that retire,get fired or move on it is [approximately]equal to paying 1 more legislator minus all the perks. IMHO pensions and lifetime benefits are the real problems. Why is any politician,part or full time, getting a pension-Get a job and fund your own,before or after you take office,you choose. Why doesn't someone suggest this. Ed day could because he does not participate in this particular pension plan. I don't know if Fried lasted long enough to qualify or if being a judge adds to his time to qualify him. Cutting the legislature from 17 to 11 helps but sounds better than it is, at least for the immediate future. I also doubt it will happen, at least until those getting the axe qualify for the pension and lifetime benefits. The county never could and still can't afford to allow the type of behavior that allows groups of people to just grant themselves lifetime pensions and benefits that rival the best in the world.. if they think they deserve it, put it up for a vote.
Shawn McDonald March 05, 2013 at 05:30 PM
Excellent idea.... start with any of them that supported the SAFE Act.
Mike March 05, 2013 at 06:36 PM
Why not just go back to the 5 Towns form of government we had before the county government structure was put into place. Each Town coudl contribut proportinately based upon population to what would be considred County/shared services but government would be at a more local-town level where there would be greater accountability to the tax payers

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