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White Plains Candidates Dispute Parking at Debate

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Party feuds heated up at the League of Women Voters' debate in the library Monday night as eight candidates vying for White Plains Common Council seats questioned the wisdom behind their competitors’ parking and budget trimming plans.

Republican candidates took aim at the increased parking pass rates and flat $10 overtime fees instituted this July, with Michael Donnelly, 30, arguing that too much is invested in parking enforcement.

Taking aim at the number of parking enforcement officers employed by the city, Donnelly said parking policies are “so incredibly aggressive that they’re driving down sales tax revenues. Parking brought in $21.4 million in the budget,” the real estate developer continued, “But what they don’t tell you is it costs $13 million to administer that.”

Richard Cirulli, 59, a business consultant and fellow Republican, told the Democrat incumbents their policies were skimming sales tax revenues. “You’re taking money away from the consumer and money away from the merchant,” he said.

Democrats, including Councilman John Martin, 51, a title insurance executive, said they were skeptical that Republicans had a grasp on how the budget would balance without the current parking revenues.

“I’m absolutely not convinced that a reduction in our parking fees will boost sales tax revenues,” Martin said. “To replace that $10.8 million would be a 30 percent increase in the real property tax levy. And I’m just not prepared to take that gamble.”

Dennis Krolian, 59, a trial lawyer running on the Democratic ticket, questioned Republicans’ argument and Donnelly’s anecdote that he knew friends who wouldn’t come to White Plains for a haircut because parking enforcement is too “aggressive.”

“I don’t believe people don’t come to White Plains because they’re afraid of a ticket. For me, it’s usually solved by giving them a quarter,” Krolian said.

Common Council President Benjamin Boykin II, 61, echoed Martin’s argument that “the cold hard reality” of cutting parking would be raising taxes. Instead, he advocated saving by looking for more partnerships between the city and the school district.

“We’re going to be looking next at how we can work with technology with the library and the school district media center,” said Boykin, who has served on the council for three terms. “By the way, the city’s budget was $6,000 less last year than the previous year if you exclude our healthcare costs and also pension costs.”

A whole new philosophy is in order, according to Gedney Association President Terence Guerriere, 52.

“It’s easy to stay on the top and look down and say, ‘We should cut this person, and we should cut this position,’” said Guerriere, a title insurance agency director. “Usually, the better process it to bring ideas from the folks that actually do the work in our departments.”

Councilwoman Milagros Lecuona, 57, argued that creating a more attractive downtown in an updated comprehensive plan may be a better way to earn more in sales taxes.

“Why is the Galleria the way it is? Why wasn’t there mixed residential, mixed income that would bring people into the streets? Why does Macy’s have a brick wall without windows? We need a dynamic downtown,” said Lecuona, an architect and urban planner.

James Arndt, 44, a Republican business manager, said more lax restrictions for businesses were in order. “Nobody wants to be here anymore. We had a great opportunity with many, many retailers that wanted to be here, we were like a jewel to them, going back to 2007, 2008. We scared them all away. We said, “You can’t have this here,’” said Arndt.

Do you think less aggressive parking enforcement could up sales tax revenue? Do stores in your neighborhood cause noise or traffic problems if they're open late? Join the conversation below.

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