SCARSDALE, N.Y. Westchester County Board of Legislators District 5 candidates, incumbent William Ryan (D - White Plains) and Republican Iris Pagan, squared off Wednesday night at a Scarsdale Library forum run by the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale.
The race is one of just two on the ballot in Scarsdale for the Nov. 8 general election. The other race is for Justice of the State Supreme Court, with three candidates running for two seats. The debate was moderated by Lindsey Feinberg of the League of Women Voters.
About 50 people packed the hall at the library to hear Ryan, a 14-year incumbent, defend his record and to hear political newcomer, Pagan, give her vision for the county.
Both candidates had their share of supporters. The audience applauded spontaneously when Pagan made an impassioned statement about pending fair housing legislation she said interferes with local rule. Pagan said she believes the bill will allow affordable housing to be placed next to schools and churches and bring undesirables into those areas, she added, "We can't let the American Dream for our children be broken down by others" who depend on government assistance instead of changing their character.
Ryan drew applause of his own when he told the room, "There's nothing to worry about. There's nothing in that here that is going to let that happen. This whole discussion will go away after election day."
Taxes dominated most of the debate, with Pagan urging that the county board go through the budget with a fine-tooth comb to look for efficiencies, and Ryan saying that one change will bring a tax cut rather than a hike to Westchester County.
Ryan, 62, of White Plains, is a seven-term county legislator who has been involved in politics since 1974, when he won a district leader post in Peekskill's District 8. He served one term in the State Assembly in 1982-83. In 1997, he returned to the county legislature and in January 2004, he was unanimously elected chairman of the legislature, a position he held for six years. Ryan was elected president of New York State Association of Counties in September 2010.
Pagan, 56, of White Plains, was born in New York City and has been an educator for 16 years and holds two Master's degrees from Teachers College at Columbia University. Currently its vice president, she spent four years as president of the Westchester County Republican Club. After dropping out of high school, Pagan earned her GED and received a Bachelors degree in biology from Pace University. Later she earned her doctorate in education from Columbia in 2001. She sits on the County Hispanic Advisory Board and served on County Executive Rob Astorino's transition team.
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