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Opinion: Mayor to Blame for Fiscal Crisis

Editor's Note: The following Letter to the Editor was submitted by Matt Witchger, a former Republican District Leader and member of the Board of Tax Assessment Review in Peekskill. He now lives in Croton-on-Hudson.

You can’t bury your head in the sand for 5 years and then feign outrage when someone pulls your head out.  Yet, this is exactly what Peekskill Mayor Mary Foster has done.   The impact on City workers from her willful blindness to reality during the past five years cannot be blamed on Albany.  Only she is to blame.

As a Mayoral candidate in 2007, Foster promised to bring to Peekskill City governance the“professionalism” she allegedly learned at Deloitte and Touche.  Yet I doubt anyone at that firm would agree that she has behaved in accord with their best practices.

From her first day in office, Foster has acted as if she is above the law, that the rules other people live by do not apply to her.  Among her first acts in office was to hire a family tenant as a City Marshall, refusing to recuse herself from the vote.  Then she used the police as her personal muscle, following the every move of a resigning Committee Member until she gleefully forced his early resignation.  She then held an appropriations vote by email to fund an appraisal to move Centennial Hose away from Lincoln Plaza, which the Executive Director of the NYS Committee on Open Government Robert J. Freeman had just told the Common Council was a direct violation of the State’s Open Meetings Law.  And this was merely in her first six months in office.

Foster’s cavilier attitude toward the law has never ended.  Most recently, Foster was cited bythe Southern District of New York for her “gross negligence” and “bad faith” in destroying emails related to her attempt to railroad an approved project at the Cove, in direct violation of Local Government Records Law.  See decision in 09 Civ. 5093 (GAY) dated 9/17/12.  Foster blamed others for the destruction of evidence, saying no one had instructed her to retain her emails.  Alleged ignorance is no defense for breaking the law.  Besides, an alleged Deloitte and Touche professional should have known better. 

Even worse than Foster’s cavalier attitude toward the law and fair play – and arrogance seemsto be the life blood of her one-party rule – is her refusal to take responsibility for the dire state of City’s finances.  Now, we read in the Patch that she blames Albany for the City’s pension obligations.   Her plaintive cry is disingenuous at best.  

In 2005, when Foster first took office as a Councilwoman, the City audit had numerous paragraphs detailing the threat of future increased pension funding that definitely lay ahead. To that end, the Common Council began to build up an Unrestricted Fund Balance to cover for this contingency.  Beginning with the 2005 budget, the City set aside $3.5 million specifically for future pension funding.   In addition, it began to grow its rainy day fund to $10 million, money saved in the fat years to help with pensions when times were lean.  Beginning with the2009 budget, Foster removed the $3.5 million budget designation for pensions.   And then she began to drain the rainy day fund on a series of white elephant projects – for example, real estate speculation in contaminated land on Lower South Street, commandeering as public works projects what private enterprise offered to do for free – and a series of personnel experiments she later abandoned, money misspent and forever lost.

Drunken sailors exercise more fiscal restraint than Foster has.   And her politics of amnesia are not persuasive.  There can be no mistake: the City’s current financial woes, and impending layoffs, are principally the result of Foster’s failed leadership.

Matt Witchger

Croton-on-Hudson, NY 

sayitsnotsojack October 20, 2012 at 04:16 PM
What has happened in Peekskill is an example of what the United States is beginning to be. There are more people receiving a government payout, than paying in, being given by an ever-increasing incompetent administration.
Yaddayaddayadda October 20, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Well said Jack!!! In addition, we all know social services are not taken on without taking county, state and federal money to pay for these services. Where are all the subsides that have been taken in with all the social services? You don't do this without a financial reward of some kind. Why else would you be re-upping now? So how much money comes into this city earmarked for social services? How much do social services cost? Is there a shortfall? Is the shortfall based on not enough come in for what these services actually cost? Is the money jntensed for these services being used for something else? Has the money been mismanaged or misapplied? When the track record is taking on your unfair share, which does not bolster the city but runs it into the ground , you have got take ask and the people responsible need to answer some very basic questions. So City Hall of Peekskill I ask you, why do you continue to take on your unfair share when the quality of life for everyone is deteriorating and the financial gain is nowhere to be found? If the formula hasn't worked in the past or the past has brought you to the point of fiscal shortfalls, why do you keep doing it? Help us unsophisticated private sector people understand...and please in your response, take responsibility for what it is you have done that has brought this city to its knees...because I am sick of hearing how you have done a great job and everyone else is to blame for the current crisis!
ED HICKEY October 20, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Again Yada, I hear you and your question(s) direceted to those in the public arena or had been at some point. The illegal immigration issue should have been addressed long ago, not just locally, when it became difficult to walk into the post office, but nationally when this trend became grotesquely obvious everywhere! Staying in the direction your comments appear to be going, along with many residents', including mine, there are MANY that should be made to answer directly the questions relating to mismanaged funds and backroom deals that ultimately have put (what appears to be) the final nail in Peekskill's box! Audit? You bet ...
Wendy Kelly October 20, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Just talked to a fella that said he employed a woman paid her decent salary paid her cash for her child care. Her gratitude was thanks it has been swell but I do better on social services. This is what we are breeding in our society today. Yes they all come out to vote when it pertains to school issues since they don't pay property taxes and not one showed up for Common Council meeting nor PC meetings perrtaining to Meth Clinic agenda. Sadly petition signature dissapeared too. Guess it was the Housing Pimp at his best!
Ray Adamick October 22, 2012 at 04:14 AM
Why don't some of you run for office, if you think you can do better!

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