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County Legislator William Ryan Seeks 8th Term

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – The Daily White Plains has put together a guide for voters interested in learning more about the Common Council and county legislature candidates before the Nov. 8 elections. Each candidate was asked the same questions.

Legislator William Ryan , a White Plains resident, is running to serve an eighth term as the Westchester lawmaker who represents parts of White Plains and Scarsdale. Ryan, 61, a former state assemblyman and chairman of the Westchester Board of Legislators, was a banker before entering politics. In his own words, here's how Ryan, a Democrat, describes his campaign:

Why did you decide to move to White Plains?

I was born and raised in Peekskill, and I was very politically active in Peekskill. I was Democratic in an area that had been dominated by Republican officials. I had the honor of being elected to the state Assembly from up there. I was representing Westchester County, but my home was Peekskill. With the backdrop being the Reagan, Mondale election of 1984, I lost a razor thin race to George Pataki. I didn’t have a lot of opportunities up there.

As a state assemblyman, I was familiar with White Plains as a small city and of course as the county seat. I considered moving down here. Quite honestly, when I looked at White Plains it was a city with dozens of old, established neighborhood, good schools, and tremendous economic potential at the time, though all of this development hadn’t gone on yet. For years it had a thriving business district. All the small cities had come on tough times, but my assessment was it probably had the best potential of any city in New York. So I thought this would be a good community to relocate to and I’ve been very happy about it.

Why would you be a good representative in the coming term?

I have experience at the state level of government, at the local level of government, and at the county level. I’ve been in this legislature for 14 years. And for six years, as chairman, I was one of the two top leaders of the government. As president of the New York State Association of Counties, I advocate for all counties in New York in Albany on matters that are critically important to counties. I’m a newly elected director of the National Association of Counties, and of course, in that role you come in contact with officials from over 3,000 counties across America.

So my experience is extensive and my involvement with people who work at this level of government is vast. I think that that kind of sets the scene for me being well prepared for what’s in front of us. And what’s in front of us are new and challenging times for government.

If elected, what are the three biggest goals you'd work to accomplish?

Reducing property taxes is a big priority and this, for me, is very focused. In Albany, I’ve targeted the elimination of unfunded state mandates. These are a tremendous burden on local property taxpayers. We at the New York State Association of Counties have done an extensive analysis on this over the past nine years. The nine largest mandates that the state puts on the counties drive up to 90 percent of the average county property tax levy. The greatest mandate is the Medicaid mandate. It is my priority to get the state to take over the local share of Medicaid costs. For Westchester, that’s a $211 million annual cost. Every Tuesday we have to wire $4 million to the state. If the state took over the local share of Medicaid, that would reduce property taxes by nearly 40 percent. That’s why I view this as so critically important.

The second priority is job creation. We’re in this long, sluggish recovery from this terrible recession. Jobs for people remains probably the number one goal. A lot of what has come out of Washington involves infrastructure renewal. It’s very important that new jobs are brought into the area for the construction industry. At the same time, we have to make sure that we’re investing in business relocation and business growth here because that’s the source of the permanent, good paying jobs with benefits. That’s where I think our sustained effort has to be with investments in locally-sourced incentives and fed funds being made available to us.

The third priority is working to achieve a government that’s streamlined, that’s effective and that runs at a price we can afford. On the heels of this recession and a protracted recovery, we’re trying to rethink what we do in government. The county is a regional government and the county has the opportunity to look at all these services being provided around the county and make a pitch for efficiency and economy that can be achieved through centralization of services.

Has the local government made any mistakes or had any oversights that you'd try to avoid?

The county relies on very important contract agencies that exist out in the community that help us accomplish our mission. Most of them have to do with human needs, and in particular the needs of children and the needs of seniors. I think it’s been a mistake over the last year and a half for the county to think that it’s strengthening itself financially by undercutting the contracts that we have had historically with these contract agencies. These are times when it's popular to say well everyone has to make do with less. But these contracting agencies operate on a shoe string already. They rely on a combination of people who are receiving low pay to do jobs that if they were government employees they’d be getting paid a lot more money for and volunteers. When we delay the execution of contracts because of its positive impact on our cash flow, we’re crippling them financially. I think its a mistake and I think its creating problems for agencies who are trying to help women, and children and the elderly in this county.

I’ve served in this position longer than anyone in the history of the legislature. I think it’s been an unnecessarily rocky road since January of 2010. I’d like to see everybody maybe just back up for a moment and reach an agreement to start working together.

What's the best part of White Plains?

It’s not a part that you’re going to find on a map. It’s any neighborhood that I go into that’s alive and vibrant with families and kids. You have an opportunity almost no matter where you go in this district to be in the best part of the district. And they’re a reminder as to why you’re in this work.

Other related experience:

- President of the New York State Association of Counties

- Former Chairman of the Westchester Board of Legislators

- Director of the National Association of Counties

- Former New York State Assemblyman

- Member of the Historical Society

- Member of the North Broadway Citizen's Association

- Member of Friendly Sons of St. Patrick

- Member of Antonio Meucci Lodge

- White Plains Rotary Club member

- Member of Jewish War Veterans

- Former chair of Westchester County's Committee on Public Safety and Criminal Justice

Will you vote in the Nov. 8 election? Are there any additional questions you'd like us to ask candidates? What would you like to see your county legislator accomplish in the coming term? Join the conversation below.

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