Day to Legislature – “I Say NO!”


To The Editor Rockland Voice:

County Executive Ed Day’s second veto is the first item on the Rockland County Legislature’s agenda this Tuesday, September 16, 2014.

Day wrote on his Facebook page: “I, along with every other taxpayer, need your help. This Tuesday the legislature will attempt to override my veto of the legislation that will hose the taxpayers for a nearly $4 million bill – the equivalent of nearly a 4% property tax increase. The reason? A belief by some in the legislature that somehow a mildly soiled vehicle turns into a Roman candle … even when the bus is inspected 48 hours prior to the incident! This is no more than a giveaway to a vendor and all the information that clearly dispels the myths is part of my veto message. I hope each legislator takes the time to go over it in detail. Remember that a vote to override my veto is a vote to raise your taxes … simple as that.”

Lon Hofstein, candidate for County Executive Ed Day’s former seat in the County Legislature, suggested that the Legislators should consider Day’s veto as the gift of a ‘do-over’ of their misguided decision to wash buses daily under the excuse that they can spontaneously combust.

One writer on a popular Facebook page said that “on Tuesday the public was invited to watch a circular firing squad” given that any legislator who voted to oppose Day would be politically dead at the next election.

The most astounding thing to be uncovered in the past few weeks was the statement by Legislator Murphy who said he didn’t know what he was voting on when he voted in favor of washing the buses every day.

How Legislator Sparaco will vote after having suffered one of the worst political defeats in Rockland County’s history last week is anyone’s guess. His political career is probably at its end and voting one more time against Day will probably be the last nail in his political coffin.

Brega will be starting the second year of the County contract in less than two months. In the first ten months of the contract the public has seen late buses or buses not showing up at all and many breakdowns. In January Brega announced a soon-to-be implemented smart phone App that would allow passengers to know when their bus would arrive. It’s now September but the App is nowhere on the horizon. The Brega Transport website is not working and so there is no information on-line to explain this deteriorating situation to the public.

As everyone who hasn’t yet been run over by a bus knows by now, in February Bus #184 burned to the ground only two days after it was serviced by Brega Transport mechanics. The Public Transport Safety Board will be meeting this week to give its opinion on what happened. As of last week according to the Transportation Department, the County still has not been paid by Brega’s insurance company for the total loss of the bus.

Over the spring and summer four of the oldest buses, the 1998 Gilllig Phantoms, fell to disrepair; they were pulled from service and sent to auction. The auction stated they did not run. Why was that? Coach USA, when it ran the bus fleet, managed to keep the same buses in service. Now the County has four fewer buses and has had to come up with an emergency plan because Brega Transport is a tiny company in comparison to two other companies that bid for the contract and does not have access to spare Transit buses.

The two bidders who were outfoxed by Brega’s foxy lower bid could have had replacement buses in service in a matter of days. Now I see the huge TZxpress buses traveling the side streets of Clarkstown; buses which were not designed for those routes – there’s an accident waiting to happen.

What is the County thinking? It has had to take four “hand me down” 1999 buses from the City of Albany paying over $4,000 to have them towed to Rockland and then “wrapped” for about $21,000. New buses are ordered but their arrival on our County roads are a long way off.

One has to ask, who is making these decisions? The head of the Transportation Department does not have any transportation experience; how come? My understanding is that the former County Executive, Scott Vanderhoef, appointed his spokeswoman to that position before he left office. So who is overseeing the contract you might ask?

My guess is that it must be the Legislature. I say that because the Transportation Department did not come to the Legislature to ask for funds to have all the buses washed every day instead of once a week. Legislator Moroney came up with that plan and it was he who fronted it to the Legislature never mentioning the total cost of what he was proposing. He said that there was money “lying around“. Where was the Transit Administrator when all this was happening? Not a word, not even a whisper.

Now the Legislature is discussing the elimination of the Transit Administrator’s position. If that occurs then Brega Transport would have total control of the entire transit system and all decisions about our tax money being spent on this contract would come from them. Presently there is no one at the County level that has any transit experience. Richard Brega would go to the Legislature for anything he needs. Not a bad situation for Brega Transport but a terrible situation for Rockland County’s taxpayers.

When the contract starts its second year, Brega Transport will be paid over $400,000 less than it was getting in the first year. Further, in the third year of the contract Brega is scheduled to be paid over $700,000 less than the first year. That was he bid in his proposed contract and that was what the County approved. Does that in hindsight make any sense? Certainly not to many experts in the transportation industry. Brega Transport clearly needs more funds from the County not less as the contract stipulates. Hence the need for extra bus washes which will net Brega millions of dollars over the next 4 years of the contract.

I doubt, even if the Legislature does not sustain Ed Day’s veto that Brega Transport would be happy with THAT! Look for more “language changes” in the contract to come, which usually means more money for the contractor and more taxes for Rocklanders.

If Day’s veto is overridden then those legislators who vote to override are giving the PIN number of the County’s ATM machine to Brega. Only three legislators voted against giving Brega nearly $4 million dollars to wash the buses and raise County taxes by 4% – Democrat Meyers with Republicans Carey and Grant. On Tuesday three other legislators will perhaps come to their senses and save their seats on the County Legislature when the November 2015 elections roll around. Day needs 6 votes to sustain his veto if all of the legislators are in attendance.

Kantrowitz’s vote will be the most interesting. To vote or not to vote – that is the question. To support his Democratic Chairman in over-riding Day’s veto probably spells his political demise when he comes up for election to the County Executive’s old seat in the November 2014 election just two months away.

Perhaps some of the legislators will have headaches, or flat tires, or perhaps even an urgent need to wash their own vehicles, any of which could delay their attendance at the circular firing-squad session?

John Leopoldo

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