In the News Category

Legislator Barry Kantrowitz speaks out on Rockland County Charter Reform

For almost 2 years the Rockland County Legislature worked to reform the County Charter to address significant issues relating to the day to day operation of Rockland County government.  The Charter is like the Constitution of the County. This process began long before I was appointed in January of this year and continued throughout the year without my direct involvement. Although most of the work was performed by the legislative leadership of both parties, I followed along as drafts were circulated to all 17 legislators. Once approved by the Legislature and the County Executive, any proposed Charter Reform would have to be voted on by the people of Rockland County in November.

From the outset it was made very clear to me that the bipartisan plan for this reform was to address basic housekeeping functions, processes and procedures that needed to be updated.  These changes included, among other things, improvements to the budget process that everyone agreed was beneficial to the County.  Both the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Legislature had agreed that the issue of “term limits” was not going to be included in the reform so as to keep “politics” out of the process and insure that all of the agreed upon and needed reforms could be presented to the people of Rockland to approve. By not including the politically charged “term limit” issue, about which reasonable people can certainly disagree, the thought was that “politics” would not get in the way of needed administrative reforms that both sides agreed were in the best interest of the people of Rockland. There were to be no controversial or distracting issues in the proposed reform so that the needed changes, mundane as they might be, could pass a county wide vote. 

Months ago, the Legislature’s proposed Charter changes were submitted to County Executive Day and his staff for their comments and suggestions.  Mr. Day was told up front about the plan not to address term limits in the Charter Reform and he was asked if that was a deal breaker for him.  The answer then was “no”  and therefore both members of the Legislature and Mr. Day’s administration spent countless additional hours negotiating and adding substantive changes proposed by Mr. Day and his staff.  Neither side got everything they wanted.  A compromise was reached on many issues and 2 final documents were drafted, each of which contained minor differences being worked out during the last few days of negotiation.

After the proposed drafts were placed on the Legislator’s desks in chambers, a technical procedure required by law, Mr. Day announced new charter reform proposals including term limits, an “enhanced” two hat rule and a requirement for special elections to replace legislative vacancies, instead of the traditional and much less costly process of appointment for the year. 

Mr. Day, a former legislator, was well aware that he could not as the County Executive introduce his proposed version of charter reform; only a legislator can introduce legislation and he did not get the support of even one legislator to sponsor his last minute proposed changes.  He knowingly engaged in political grandstanding by “firing for effect” without any real expectation that his proposed politically charged and controversial proposals would ever be voted upon. And, just as expected,  they weren’t.  The Legislature overwhelmingly and in a bipartisan manner passed the fully negotiated proposed charter reform by a 15-1 vote. The County was on its way to  getting the opportunity to vote on needed changes to the County Charter.

The County Executive thereafter led a Facebook and blog campaign to support his claim that the Legislature failed to address his political issues.  He threatened to and eventually did veto the very legislation he and his staff negotiated for over a period of months; the legislation with bipartisan support for important changes to improve the functioning of Rockland County government.  Mr. Day threw out 2 years of hard work because he didn’t get something he knew wouldn’t pass and that wasn’t even presented to the Legislature for a vote.

On Wednesday night August 6, the Legislature voted to override Mr. Day’s veto.  The override received bipartisan support  in a 12-4 vote with 2 of the 5 Republican Legislators voting for the override. The residents of the County will now have the opportunity to vote on the proposed Charter revisions which everyone agrees are required, but which do not contain issues about which many people disagree.

My vote to override the veto had nothing to do with my position on term limits, an enhanced two hat rule or special elections.  None of those items were introduced this year for consideration. I have no problem addressing each one of those items when they are raised in proper form, but I want to make it clear that I voted to override the veto because there was absolutely no legitimate reason to waste almost two years of hard bipartisan work by legislators just because the County Executive decided, at the last minute, to say it’s my way or it won’t be at all.  The people of Rockland deserve better than that.

We can have a good open debate on term limits, on whether there is a need for a two hat rule and what such a rule would actually accomplish, and whether the considerable cost and expense of organizing and holding a special election on short notice is  better for the County than the temporary appointment process with an election in November. I support an open discussion on those items and I am certain there are valid arguments in favor and against each suggestion. The fact that there is a significant difference of opinion among people is the exact reason why it did not belong in the current proposed Charter Reform; there is no real disagreement about the current proposed Charter changes and they should pass with overwhelming support.

Since I made a comment on term limits during the public meeting on Wednesday night I have no problem restating my personal belief that I could support reasonable legislative term limits coupled with changes in the current practice of all legislators being up for election at the same time.  Despite the cries we sometimes hear to “throw them all out” in reference to Congress and other governmental bodies, there is a real value to the continuity and institutional knowledge that some experienced legislators bring to the body. Having stated my willingness to consider term limits, I recognize that many people, and certainly many of my constituents view regular elections as the shortest term limits possible; you can vote out any legislator after one term without term limits. Similarly, many well respected constituents believe that term limits impede a person’s right to vote for someone they believe is still the best person for the job.  Term limits are sometimes said to benefit people who don’t vote and punish those who do, because term limits themselves change the players without, or even in spite of, input from the voters.

As someone who is brand new to politics, so far serving less than one year (a quarter of a term,) I often think 3 terms or a total of 12 years of service should be enough for anyone.  Then I look at the six currently serving legislators (3 from each party) who have each served more than 12 years and I think of how valuable their institutional and historical knowledge has been to me as a rookie.  So while I understand the desire to see new faces in government from time to time, it’s still not so clear cut to me.  I am certainly open to hearing from the people of Rockland on this issue and the others noted above.


Posted on 8 Aug 2014, 11:21 - Category: In the News

Barry Kantrowitz' Comments On the Death of 3 Israeli Teens at the Full Legislature Meeting July 1 2014

Posted on 13 Jul 2014, 12:03 - Category: In the News

Legislature Passes Kantrowitz Resolution Supporting State Enterprise Fraud Program Office

New City, NY  (June 5, 2014) - The Rockland County Legislature unanimously passed a resolution sponsored by Legislator Barry Kantrowitz (New City-Pomona) which supports state Senate and Assembly bills (S.4815 and A.6988) that propose the creation of an Enterprise Fraud Program Office to provide for the detection and prevention of fraud, waste, abuse and improper payments by state government through the use of modern technology across state agencies, programs and functions.

The program office, explained Legislator Kantrowitz, would be established within the office of the State Inspector General and employ the use of analytical software to detect fraud or abuse across state agencies that oversee state-supported citizen and employee benefits programs, such as workers' compensation, unemployment insurance, tax compliance and Medicaid.

"There are a number of social service programs that serve a great purpose to those in need," said Legislator Kantrowitz.  "Yet, there is always a concern that some take advantage.  These different agencies have the responsibility to detect fraud or misuse that requires constant vigilance and may be beyond their capabilities due to general responsibilities and the lack of modern technology.   The Enterprise Fraud Program would link data from all these agencies through state-of-the-art fraud detection and prevention technology and help agencies reduce their losses to fraud, abuse or incorrect payments."

"Our department of Social Services and the District Attorney are doing an excellent job of detecting fraud in Rockland," said Legislator Kantrowitz,  "however, many of the investigations must be turned over to the state and either are not pursued or are pursued without any benefit to the local community.  The use of technology to coordinate data across agencies and programs would increase efficiency, speed up investigations, and potentially result in millions of dollars in cost-savings to the State."

Kantrowitz added that his resolution and the state Senate and Assembly bills address the fact that government officials recognize the importance of providing aid to those in need, "but we must cut payments to those who unlawfully take advantage of the system.  Utilizing modern technology is a cost effective way to address this growing problem. I thank my colleagues for their unanimous support of this resolution."


Posted on 5 Jun 2014, 11:30 - Category: In the News

Legislator Barry Kantrowitz’ Response to the County Executive’s Call for a Change in the Law relating to the Deficit Bond Premium

I have read Mr. Day’s article and his posts and others' chastising the Legislature Leadership. I am not part of the Legislature leadership; in fact, I am the newest most junior member of the Legislature having been appointed just this past January to fill Ed Day’s seat. Although I do not officially serve on the Budget & Finance Committee I have attended their meetings, including last week when the Finance Commissioner appeared and submitted a resolution to change the existing law on the use of the bond premium. I am compelled to respond to an unfair attack on the Legislature’s leadership. The County Executive’s rhetoric sounds compelling, but it is missing some facts.

The $11 million dollar deficit bond premium is not a surprise or a windfall. Everyone knew when the deficit bond resolution was initially passed that a premium was likely and the resolution specifically provided that any premium received would be used to reduce the financing cost of the bonds. The premium would cut the cost of the interest in the first 2 years after issuance which are 2015 and 2016. That has been the law applicable to the premium since Ed Day was on the Legislature.

When the $96 million in bonds were issued, they were sold with a 5% coupon. That means that the buyers are guaranteed a 5% interest payment over the life of the bonds. Since that rate is significantly above the market rate, buyers were willing to pay a premium of $11 million to secure an effective return of about 2.8%. The County Executive initially touted this terrific 2.8% rate and then implied that the rate would apply even if the premium was used for something else, like to reduce the deficit. While the ultimate cost of the financing is the same either way, if we use the $11 million to directly reduce the deficit and not toward the reduction of the interest cost of the bonds, there has to be a plan to pay the full 5% coupon in 2015 and 2016. It’s not free money. If it is used for deficit reduction it cannot be used to pay back the interest on the bonds.

I have repeatedly said to the County Executive’s representatives both formally at the Budget and Finance Committee meeting, and informally in the halls of the county office building, that I am not against changing the use of the premium, as long as there is a plan to deal with the additional $6 million dollar interest cost in 2015 and $5 million in 2016. What is the County Executive’s plan? Is it to raise taxes to increase revenues? If so, which taxes? Property, sales, mortgage, energy or something new? Is it to cut expenses to meet the additional cost in 2015? If so which departments? What services? What work force reduction? What costs? These are not difficult questions IF there is already a plan in place to deal with the new decision to change the use of the premium from interest reduction to deficit reduction. But, to date, there has been no plan disclosed. Why? Maybe there is no plan yet? If there is no plan yet, then by making this change, we are doing exactly what Mr. Day says he doesn’t want to do—and that is kick the can down the road for another year to make a plan.

I tried to understand why this is so important and now, 5 months into the year, has become a rush rush item for the administration. The answer may simply be politics. If the bond premium is used to reduce the deficit, Mr. Day takes credit for an $11 million dollar deficit reduction and then in 2015 when taxes have to go up to cover the interest costs not being paid by the premium, Mr. Day blames the Legislature for having to raise taxes to cover the cost. The proverbial can is effectively kicked into the “taxpayers’ can” and as an added bonus for Mr. Day, it happens in a year when the entire Legislature is up for election.

If the premium is used as it was originally intended when Mr. Day was a legislator, then the problem of deficit reduction through both revenue raising and cost reduction needs to be dealt with anyway, but without the fabricated urgency (Monday) that Mr. Day claims now exists. This is an urgency created by his own administration not being able to answer simple questions about what the plan is to deal with the change.

Again, I want to be very clear: I am not against Mr. Day’s idea, but I need to know the rest of the plan—not just “I will tell you later.” The answer of “I will figure out a plan later” is not a justification for changing an existing law that Mr. Day acknowledges is perfectly reasonable and acceptable. The County Executive admits repeatedly that applying the premium to interest cost instead of deficit reduction is not “wrong.” He says repeatedly that both choices are ok, but he certainly makes it look like the Legislature is at fault for not jumping at his suggestion immediately, when in reality there has been no plan put forward to justify the proposed change.

I call upon the County Executive to set forth his details on how the $6 million of additional 2015 interest costs and $5 million of additional 2016 interest costs are going to be made up if we apply the $11 million bond premium directly to the deficit. If there is a plan why keep it a secret? If it is viable, I would support the County Executive in his decision. If there is no plan, then let’s get together to create one, because the people deserve action more than rhetoric.

Posted on 31 May 2014, 18:51 - Category: In the News

Legislator Kantrowitz Seeks Governor's Assistance to Secure Fiscal Monitor for ERCSD


New City, NY  – Rockland County Legislator Barry S. Kantrowitz has requested Governor Cuomo use his influence to convince State Commissioner of Education John King to appoint a fiscal monitor to provide immediate administrative and fiscal oversight of the East Ramapo Central School District concerning expenditures, budgets and financial and administrative policies. 

During a Tuesday evening legislature committee meeting, Kantrowitz learned that a local not-for-profit cultural arts center has been providing music and art education in the East Ramapo public schools.  He later learned that the Salvation Army has provided band instruction and classes. "I am astonished.  These services are being provided as a stop-gap measure by not-for-profits because the school board has completely gutted these programs and others unlike any other Rockland school district," said Kantrowitz. "Public school students should not have to rely upon the services of local non-profits for a basic education.  It is appalling that the leadership of a New York public school district in 2014 fails to recognize how important art, music, science, sports and recreation are to a child’s education.  This is but one example of the School Board’s failure to act in the best interests of the children." 

In his May 28th letter to the Governor, Kantrowitz wrote "The appointment alone will not solve all the problems, but will be a step toward building confidence among the public school community that their children have not been forgotten.  It is only through the intervention of an independent monitor that the process to repair the East Ramapo Central School District can begin." 

"As a proud product of the East Ramapo Central School District," added Kantrowitz, "I remain extremely concerned about the failure to make any progress on improving the education opportunities of the students in the East Ramapo Central School District.  Repairing the East Ramapo Central School District must start now." 

The Letter to the Governor can be found here:



Posted on 31 May 2014, 18:43 - Category: In the News

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