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County Executive Latimer Deals with Westchester Issues
By H. Pollack
As County Executive, George Latimer is busy 24/7. Dealing with Westchester issues and now Covid 19, he says, “We have had no road map to tell us how to navigate this virus. No one is around from the previous pandemic to explain how to get through this. We have had to figure this out, but we are progressing.”
With a team of people, Latimer explains how they got through these past months. “This summer, we had to figure out how to open the pools and sanitize them to keep the people safe. The County Government is here to look after the public health.”
Though he had to close Playland for the summer because of the virus, Latimer mentions he and his team pivoted and came up with the idea to bring drive-in movies to the area by using the parking lot to allow cars in and have people watch a film from the safety of their car.
“All the changes we made were in uncharted territory but we managed pretty well even though we had to reduce events. There were no public ceremonies, everything was virtual.
“As we look ahead to the next year in Westchester, the real problem is the loss of revenue. People are afraid. The county is expected to deliver services. The fear factor reduces our revenue by way of sales tax. When people are not confident,” Latimer suggests, “they don’t go out to shop, to eat in restaurants, stay in hotels and take part in recreational activities. With that, we can’t make up that revenue. Hopefully, things will change when we get a vaccine.
“The County Government is here to provide basic services. Property Taxes are off by a small amount. We are also dependent on the State and Federal Government,” he adds.
“The school system is a massive challenge,” Latimer goes on to say. “The County has been helping out schools as best we can. We have provided public help, given PPE, contract tracing and more. It’s much more difficult for children to learn while watching a screen. Good luck to teachers reminding young students to keep their masks on! For the older High School students, they want social interaction. But, we cannot-not open schools. It’s a logistical nightmare.
If this virus flairs up again, we have to be able to control it,” he shares. “We can’t sit on the sidelines and do nothing.”
The County Executives’ day is all about symbolism and substance. He starts his day early taking meetings and phone and zoom calls. He works throughout the day and into the night.
Latimer has been in elected office since 1988. He has been a City Councilman, County Legislator and Chairman of the County Board of Legislators, Assemblyman and a State Senator. Now, as County Executive, he has signed a bill requiring term limits for his office.
“From my standpoint, this job is different than the others. While in the other elected offices, I would sponsor legislation not always seeing the end result. Now I get a chance to see things accomplished. But there is an upside and a downside to everything.
“So far, we have accomplished many things. Covid has made everything different and difficult. But, we do the best we can!”