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County Charter Revision Begins in White Plains

A handful of White Plains citizens, including Don Hughes, attended the Westchester Charter Revision Committee’s first meeting Wednesday night with hopes that the resident-run committee would suggest various changes to the county’s structure.

“Westchester County is the most heavily taxed county in the country and I want to see if we’re in the mood to do anything about it,” said Hughes, a technology consultant and the writer behind the former White Plains Online website . “Understandably, most of the money goes to state-mandated [programs], but every little bit helps.”

The committee, which is comprised of 23 citizens appointed by the county executive and legislators, was selected to review the Westchester County Charter and recommend changes to how the document structures the county government. Legislators at the Michaelian Office Building in White Plains suggested that the committee focus on ways to streamline the government, better align county and local municipalities, and enhance the county’s social service delivery.

County Legislator Bill Ryan introduced the bill behind the Charter Revision Committee.

“In recent years people kind of question what does the county do or what value is county,” said Ryan (D-White Plains). “There are one million residents in Westchester County...you’re here thinking and speaking and working for them.”

Hughes said the county has sponsored many campaigns similar to Ryan's “Westchester Renewed” initiative, which spurred the charter revision process.

“Not a whole lot has changed, but perhaps this time will be different,” said Hughes, who has lived in White Plains for 32 years.

Others at the meeting like Mindy Aronowitz, who works as an eligibility examiner for the White Plains Medicaid program office, came to see how the committee’s work might alter social services.

“I want to see how the charter affects state mandates and how they apply to Medicaid,” said Aronowitz, who lives in Mamaroneck. “There’s talk of redesigning Medicaid...Medicaid fraud prevention is one way to decrease costs. I think it would be better to explore that kind of thing instead of laying people off.”

The committee did not select a chairperson, vice chairperson or secretary during their first meeting. Under the guidance of the temporary chairman Richard Wishnie, the committee decided those interested in leadership positions should circulate their resumes among the group before they meet again in about a month.

The Charter Revision Committee has until June 30, 2012 to study the charter and make suggestions to the county government in their final report.

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