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Schoenberger: Wants The County Exec Job He Helped Create

by Ilan Schoenberger, Rockland County Legislator

Every resident of Rockland is concerned about the future of our county, and so am I. After serving in county government for over 35 years, I have decided to seek the office of Rockland County Executive to secure a better future for my family and yours.

I have lived in this county for decades ‘€“ over 50 years, in fact. I graduated from Clarkstown High School and SUNY Rockland. For over 41 years, I have been married to my wonderful wife Rhoda, and together, we raised two daughters here in Rockland County. My children went through East Ramapo public schools and like everyone, I too am concerned about the future of that school system. One grandchild later, I am proud to be able to say that my family and my roots run deep within our great community.

My experiences in government have been extensive and diverse. For over 40 years, I have been a practicing attorney in Rockland, and I put my knowledge and experience to use for the public, serving for almost 20 years in the office of the County Attorney. In 1975, I began as an Assistant County Attorney. In 1978, I became the Deputy County Attorney, and in 1983, I was appointed County Attorney, a position I held for over 10 years.

In 1995, I was elected to the Rockland County Legislature, and have served for over 17 years. As a legislator, I served as a member and chair of numerous key committees, and also served as the Chair of the Legislature in 2001 and 2002.

Before there was an office of the County Executive in Rockland, I served the people of this county in helping to run the county government that existed in the 1970’s and 1980’s. When the County Charter was written, and when the county executive’s office was created, I helped to create them.

My knowledge of county government runs truly deep. That is why when I look at the situation our county is in, I know that the next county executive will need to have the experience and understanding that I have gained over the years to find the solutions our county needs.

In this race, I am the only candidate with a lifetime of personal and governmental experience in Rockland to be able to effectively manage our numerous departments, stabilize our finances, and modernize county government to work more efficiently and less expensively for taxpayers.

Rockland County’s financial problems were not caused by a single issue. Chief among those causes is the challenge of meeting the unfunded and mandated costs that New York State requires our county to pay. Mandated programs include early intervention programs, Pre-K, social services programs, retirement costs, Medicaid expenses, and more.

As a legislator, I pushed for early retirement programs for county employees, so that we could reduce our workforce responsibly and cut our budget. Over time, there were three such early retirement programs for county employees. The first one realized a savings of over $8 million. However, the very next year, the state increased its unfunded mandates and wiped out all the savings we would have realized.

State mandates are a tremendous burden on taxpayers and local government, and should not be taken lightly. As County Executive, I will be able to work with the partners I have made in Governor Cuomo’s office and in the legislature to reduce the burden unfunded mandates places on our county government.

I believe that the sustainability of our county government hinges on our ability to make it a smarter government. Firstly, Rockland County needs to build partnerships with the five towns to share services and eliminate duplicated services. Analyzing the functions of all of our county, town, and village highway departments and finding ways to share and consolidate services in a way that makes sense is a perfect example of how we can all achieve savings.

Examining each county department and each position and its function can also help us to consolidate government and make it do more with less. As a result of my lengthy experience as a legislator, I am the only candidate running for county executive to have become familiar with every county office, its staff, and its responsibilities. This has enabled me to work on reducing the county workforce, which I already have. In 1990, there were 3,169 county employees, and today there are 2,199 ‘€“ a reduction of more than one-third and almost 1,000 employees.

In addition to personnel reductions, we have divested many non-mandated county programs at tremendous savings to taxpayers, including but not limited to, the Adult Home, the Mental health Out Patient Unit, the Pre-Natal clinic transferred to Nyack Hospital on January 1, 2013, Mental Health’s Alcohol and Detox Clinic now provided by a private provider, and the Mental Health Inpatient Unit in the process of being taken over by Nyack Hospital. We are in the process of transferring the county nursing home to a private entity to reduce costs and bring in revenue to the county. As county executive, I will work to expeditiously complete this process so that taxpayers can feel immediate relief.

Finally, I will work to put an end to the intergovernmental disputes that have ultimately come to hurt our taxpayers. The county, the towns, and the villages all need to work together, for in the end, we serve the same taxpayers. Disputes between governments only serve to increase taxes on the people we are all in office to serve. As our great President Abraham Lincoln once said, ‘€œA house divided against itself cannot stand.’€ I believe that a county divided against itself cannot prosper.

As county executive, the issues I intend to address are eliminating the county deficit, bringing about peace and harmony between our many diverse communities and populations, finding efficiencies in operations between counties and towns and village so as to eliminate duplicative costs and save taxpayers money.

As county executive, I will introduce term limit legislation for this position so that the county executive can serve no more than two terms. As county executive I will regularly schedule dates for open door meetings for all residents where they can sit down face to face with the county executive and express their concerns about the operation of county government and what issues they feel county government should be addressing.

Furthermore, as county executive, I will meet regularly with our town and village governments and their elected officials in their village and town halls, with their residents, to bring county government out of the isolation of New City into each of our communities.

I am running for county executive because I believe that my 35 years of experience in government is what it will now take to restore confidence in our county government, and to dramatically shift the administration of our government to be able to finally resolve the great challenges we all face together.

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