Peter Michaelis received the GOP nomination to run for the District 2 county legislature seat. However, Lisa Douglas gained enough petition signatures to force a primary in the upcoming elections on Tuesday. We asked Michaelis five questions about his candidacy.
Whats the biggest motivation for you to enter this race?
I am truly worried that my family and other families in Westchester will be unable to continue to afford to live here, that my children will not have a chance to call Westchester home when they have their own families, that our senior citizens and those on fixed incomes will continue to be forced to flee the county as taxes continue to rise year after year after year. In 2009, Rob Astorino was elected overwhelmingly on a platform to reduce the size of county government. And yet, Pete Harckham and his Democrat super-majority in the county legislature have blocked every attempt that Astorino has made to do what he was elected to do and make Westchester a more affordable place to live and work.
What sort of qualifications would you bring to the office if you win?
Experience, diplomacy and common sense. For more than 15 years I have been deeply involved in local government and vital non-profit organizations in and around the Town of Bedford. Currently, I serve on the Bedford Zoning Board; I am chair of Bedfords Communication Commission, and am a member of the Town Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), to name just a few. I know the issues of county government inside and out, and I know what matters to Northern Westchester families. Ive worked with members of all political parties to achieve results. I believe in common sense solutions to making government smaller, smarter and less expensive for the taxpayer.
Why do think you, and not your opponent, have the best chance for defeating incumbent Peter Harckham in November?
I know Harkchams strengths and weaknesses. I ran against Pete Harckham in 2007, entering the race late and in a year that was very bad for Republicans across the board. I lost by only 365 votes out of more than 11,500 cast. From that race and from my extensive volunteer service over the past two decades, I have good name recognition, grassroots support, and proven fundraising ability. Putting this seat back into Republican hands is going to be expensive. So far this year, I have raised twice as much money as Pete Harckham and more than 10 times as much as my primary opponent.
What is the biggest challenge facing the Westchester County Legislature right now?
The biggest challenge is significantly cutting the cost of county government. Pete Harckham has boasted of cutting $50 million from the county budget over the past two years, but in that same time period he spent over $3.6 billion in taxpayer money. Harckhams cuts are a drop in the bucket, which is why were still the highest taxed county in the country. This has got to change and it is going to make for some very difficult decisions about what to cut or consolidate. Revenues are not expected to increase and unfunded or underfunded mandates keep being foisted upon us. It will take someone like me who has the ability to work with people from all political parties to achieve results and give taxpayers the relief they desperately need.
Most candidates say they want to reduce taxes. How do we go about doing that in Westchester County?
In order to cut taxes you must cut spending. I would start with the Board of Legislators (BOL) themselves. Recently, I called for an independent audit of the BOL to open up their books and let the taxpayers see how their money is being spent. It was reported recently that the BOL has been racking up cell phone and travel expenses on the taxpayer dime, so clearly there is fat to be cut. I would identify programs that can be better served by private businesses and not-for-profits, require all county employees to contribute to their health insurance plans and advocate for mandate relief. We must look at every opportunity to consolidate county government and make it smaller, smarter and less expensive for the taxpayer.
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