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League of Women Voters of Somers, NY

PO Box 371, Somers, New York 10589



Report to the People April 21

At 10:30am on April 21, Supervisor Rick Morrissey and Councilmen Garrity, Clinchy, Cerieco and Faulkner will meet with our League at TownHall, in Somers.

The Report is an annual event that provides a forum for a stimulating discussion of Town issues and concerns. What are the infrastructure needs of the Town? How many housing proposals have been submitted to the Board? Is affordable housing included in the plans? How can the League and the Town Board coordinate their activities.

Somers is a small town with an active local government. This is your opportunity to meet your new Town Board and to discuss topics that are of real concern to Somers. You can have an impact on your local environment.

Be sure to attend and bring your friends and neighbors.

Co-President's Message

Spring has arrived. Our snowbirds have flown north to Somers from points south. When we mention our harsh winter they try to look pained but we welcome them home anyway.

Founded by the activists who secured voting rights for women, the League has always worked to promote the values and processes of representative government. In the 1950s the League worked coura- geously to protect fundamental citizen rights and in- dividual liberties against the threats of the McCarthy era. In the 1960s attention turned to securing “one person, one vote” through apportionment of legisla- tive districts based on population. In the 1970s members worked to reform the legislative process and open it to citizen scrutiny, and to balance con- gressional and presidential powers.

The League also sought to reform the cam- paign finance system to reduce the dominance of special interests, affirmed support for the direct elec- tion of the President and fought for full voting rights in Congress for the citizens of the District of Columbia.

In the 1980s and 1990s the League worked for reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act and then waged a campaign for passage of the National Voter Registration Act. Another major activity on the fed- eral and state level was the focus on public financing and closing loopholes.

Today the League continues to push for legislation to promote public financing of elections.

Support Campaign Finance Reform

Something unusual and exciting happened this year. Governor Cuomo has included proposals for cam- paign finance reform, including public financing, in his Executive Budget.

The League has strongly supported this position for years. Elections belong to the people, not to special interests that con- trol large sums of money. This situation has become critical since The Supreme Court decision in Citizens United. It was reported recently that the Koch brothers have em- barked on a campaign to defeat Democratic Senators in several states with massive fnancial backing.

League members need to support these efforts through the Spring months.

Fighting Recidivism in NY's Prisons

Governor Cuomo recently announced a statewide Initiative to expand opportunities for prisoners to get college degrees. Cur- rently, New York’s recidivism rate is 40% and the state spends $60,000. a year to house each prisoner. The program will cost $5,000. a year for each inmate and will offer prisoners the opportunity to earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

A RAND study that reviewed 30 years of research found that inmates who participated in educational programs had much less risk of reoffending than those who did not. The Bard College Initiative, a NY State college program for prisoners, has found that the recidivism rate for those who participated in the program is 4% and 2.5% for those who earned degrees. When the recidivism rate is reduced, it not only saves money in the prison system but lowers the rate of crime in the community. In addition to these benefits, prison officials report that there is a reduced level of violence in the prison system when inmates are in educational programs.

Despite the range of benefits coming from the program, it has been widely criticized. A group of legislators, including Greg Ball, have objected strongly to the initiative pointing out that hard-working citizens who are not eligible for state subsidies struggle to finance their children’s education and find the idea of free college education for those who have broken the law to be offensive. While this is understandable, it is also important to recognize the long-range benefits for society. As one Bedford Prison student said: College education helps one to get a job and therefore transition to the outside.

Tappan Zee Bridge

The County League of Westchester has issued a report of the work of the Mass Trans- it Task Force on the new Tappen Zee Bridge. The County report notes that the Task Force built on a previous study in which the County League participated from 1999 to 2011.

The recommendations are divided into three phases: short-term, from February, 2014 to the opening in 2018; mid-term, up to 15 years after completion and long-term, 15 years after completion. The plan focuses on public transportation with three bus routes connecting Rockland and Westchester, three routes within Westchester and one route connecting Westchester and the Bronx. A transportation center at the White Plains Railroad Station would underpin this regional system and maximize economic development around the station.

The recommendations reflect sensitivity to environmental concerns and call for local input but funding sources remain a critical concern. The League urges the Task Force to press their recommendations on the State.

Note: Local concerns continue in South Nyack and other com- munities affected by the plan and will need to be addressed.

News Items

It is with sadness that we note the passing of our former member Joni Kozupsky.

On March 18th, the School Board approved a Veteran’s Discount for School taxes. The State had proposed 15% of assessed value but the School Board detemined that it will be 15% up to $12,000 of assessed value. The additional monies will not come from school monies but will be added to the taxes of those not eligible for the discount.

of Events

Mon. Apr. 21
10:00 Monthly meeting
10:30 Report to the People
Somers Town Board
"State of the Town"
Town Hall, Route 202

Mon. May 8 12:30pm Book & Author Luncheon, Traveler's Rest (new venue, new authors)

Mon. May 12
9:30 Monthly meeting
10:30 Kate Coppinger, Director, Westchester Food Bank
Somers Library, Reis Park

Tues. May 20
Budget Vote & Trustee Election
7am-9pm SMS Gymnasium
Registration Mon-Fri District Clerk's office at SMS.
Evening registration Wed. May 14 4pm-8pm in Conference Rm. 202 at SMS. Anyone already registered with the Westchester County Board of Elections is not required to register with the School District

Mon. June 9
10:00 Final Meeting
"All You Can Eat" Brunch
Election of officers and board

Mon. July 14
10:00 Monthly Meeting
10:30 "The Bard Prison Initiative" Laura Liebman, J.D., Director of Development, BPI
Somers Library, Reis Park

Mon. August 11
10:00 Monthly meeting
10:30 Westchester Deptartment of Probation, Rocco Pozzi
Somers Library, Reis Park

Naturalization Court

Becoming an American citizen is the dream of those who emigrate to our country. The day that they receive their citizen- ship is a highlight in their lives, celebrated with family and friends.

Many of us in the League have had the privilege of sharing this special event and found it to be a very moving experience.

This year, Somers LWV is invited to attend the ceremonies on September 3rd and December 17th. If you are interested, contact Francoise at 617-9011 or Loretta at 277-7907.

School District Challenges for 2014-2015

On Monday, March 10th, Dr. Ray Blanch with Asst. Superintendent Ken Crowley discussed the annual budget for the School District at the monthly meeting of the League. The major challenges for 2014-15 include a flat to slightly higher assessed valuation of property, a pension contribution make–up of 54% and a tax levy limit dollar increase of $1,255.977. As of this date, the School District has lost more than $4 million in state aid since 2010 and is projected to lose an additional $1+ million in the coming year.

The reductions in funding are somewhat offset by a decreasing enrollment in the schools. The projected enrollment for 2014-15 is 3227 students, down 88 from this year with comparable reductions in classrooms and staffing. This reduction in student enrollment is ex- pected to continue for the following year.

The School continues to focus on the whole child with an emphasis on preparation for college and work in a global world. Additional languages and increased emphasis on math and science are being considered. It was a very informative and interesting program.



Updated by Valerie CastlemanMar. 30, 2014