Westchester BOL Dem Leaders: Astorino’s Visit to HS Business Program in Conflict with Cuts to Youth Initiatives

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 29, 2013

Contact: Tom Staudter | ThomasS@westchesterlegislators.com | 914-995-2819 (office) | 914-815-4462 (cell)

BOL Dem Leaders: Astorino’s Visit to High School Business Program in Conflict with Cuts to Youth Initiatives

White Plains, NY – The Democratic leaders of the Westchester County Board of Legislators (BOL) leveled strong criticism at County Executive Rob Astorino for his meeting this morning with students and educators involved in a business program at Ossining High School, and said that the visit was a thinly veiled attempt meant to deflect attention away from the mean-spirited and unnecessary cuts to youth initiatives and programs in his 2013 County Budget.

“This Administration has continuously targeted youth initiatives for funding cuts since taking office,” said BOL Chairman Ken Jenkins (D-Yonkers). “Instead of supporting our youth wholeheartedly with actions that would prove his concern and empathy, especially for the county’s at-risk teens, we’ve seen just the opposite.”

The business program at Ossining High School has been honored by the New York State Department of Education and Business Teachers Association, and last year some of the students from the program won first place at the African American Men of Westchester’s Business Olympics.

Meanwhile, the Astorino 2013 Budget, which was supported by the entire Republican caucus and two rogue Democrats, eliminated funding for over a dozen youth programs, with straight cuts totaling $415,000 to various agencies long-accustomed to stretching the scant dollars they receive. Other funding cuts running into several million dollars to the County’s Office of Women, Youth Bureau and Community Services, as well as the neighborhood health centers and various social services organizations, will also adversely affect youth this year.

“Mr. Astorino’s visit to Ossining today is just another political gimmick that he hopes will stop people from criticizing his budget, which cuts allocations to successful programs in our communities,” said BOL Vice Chair Lyndon Williams (D-Mount Vernon), who noted that a number of the budget cuts eliminate youth programs in Mount Vernon, like the after school program run by the Boys & Girls Club which keeps kids off the streets.

BOL Majority Leader Pete Harckham noted it was “sadly ironic” that the Astorino 2013 Budget cuts $10,000 in funding for the MLK Legacy Awards program run by the African American Men of Westchester, the very same organization that had earlier lauded the Ossining High School business program.

“The County Executive’s cuts to the Cornell Cooperative Extension program will also negatively affect many of our young people through 4H, nutrition and Master Gardener programs in the schools,” said Harckham.

“County Executive Astorino’s budget will hurt many of the at-risk youth in our county,” said BOL Majority Whip MaryJane Shimsky (D-Hastings-on-Hudson.) “The kind of political opportunism represented by the County Executive’s visit today is what turns young people away from public service.”

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=Bazzo 01/29/13

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