Sunday, July 15, 2007

Our "Putting Peekskill First" Campaign Is Rapidly Gathering Steam

Dear Peekskill Friends and Neighbors:

Thanks for taking the time to visit our website. A lot has happened in the brief period since May 31 when I accepted the Republican nomination for Mayor of Peekskill along with my City Council running mates, Selma Dias-Stewart and City Council members Milagros Martinez and Mel Bolden. In particular, we've developed the key issues of our platform and sought input from a variety of citizens in putting it together. After meeting with many of you, we felt the need to unite Peekskill behind a message that every citizen can support, regardless of party or belief – and that message is:

It's time to "Put Peekskill First."

Citizens from all walks of life and every political affiliation -- Republicans, Independents and Democrats – both long-time residents and newcomers -- have reached out to tell me they are fed up with the mindless partisanship that threatens to bring all progress in our city to a grinding halt.

What does our "Putting Peekskill First" campaign specifically mean?
  • It 's about making out- of-town property owners and absentee landlords who have in the past illegally subdivided and destroyed private homes, start obeying our building, safety and health codes , or be prepared to suffer stiff fines and swift enforcement if they don't.
  • It also means sending a clear message to the many other wealthy Westchester communities who arrogantly and illegally refuse to shoulder their fair share of "affordable", low income housing and other social services for the less fortunate of our county. To these wealthy communities we say, "Don't expect Peekskill to shoulder all your burdens any longer. Now it' s your turn now to do the right thing, as the citizens of Peekskill have done all these years.
  • Every bit as important, we must recognize that our downtown can't properly grow commercially and our tax base can't expand unless we balance out our huge inventory of government-assisted housing with market-rate homes that bring new residents with sufficient disposable income. This step will support and grow our retail businesses throughout the city and provide amenities and prosperity for all Peekskill citizens.
  • Last, our message of "Putting Peekskill First" means that any new residential development, in addition to being market rate and of quality construction, must respect our zoning and building codes and harmonize with its surrounding neighborhood.

These ideas and policies are what a broad-based, common sense, good government platform should be all about – ideas and policies to benefit homeowners and renters, long time residents and newcomers, citizens of all stripes, everyone from our most fortunate to our most needy.

If you have an issue that you would like to discuss, or would like to get involved in our "Putting Peekskill First" campaign, I want to hear from you. Please contact me at, and give me your input. My running mates and I would also be eager to meet with you on any
matter that is important to Peekskill's future.

Look for more updates on this site soon dealing with the critical issues we face as a city. Together we will make a difference to end pointless partisanship and build a community for all by "Putting Peekskill First".


Bill Schmidt

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Earth Day 2007

Here's a small photo spread as to how I celebrated Earth Day 2007.

The photo to the right is the final result of my efforts. But let's take a step back and start more toward the beginning.

As can be seen by the pictures below that a friend took while I was celebrating Earth Day, I'm not afraid of hard work and I enjoy getting my hands dirty.

Planting new shrubs in front of my home gives me a sense of pride about where I live, spruces up the community, and helps the environment. The few dollars that it cost me are well worth this effort, and will provide benefits for years to come. Quite a return on investment, wouldn't you agree?

Here I'm digging a hole in the ground for a new addition to the landscaping in front of my home in Stonegate:

Here you can see me pruning and cleaning up the new additions to my front yard flora:

All of the plants and shrubs that you see in these pictures are new:

the results of my hard work have paid off beautifully, wouldn't you agree?

Friday, April 20, 2007

An Apt Analogy on Illegal Immigration

Someone sent this to me via e-mail and I thought I'd share it with you. I find it a very apropos analogy in describing how we in the United States have been dealing with illegal immigration:
A lady wrote the best letter in the editorials in ages!!! It explains things better than all the baloney you hear on TV.

Her point:
Recently large demonstrations have taken place across the country protesting the fact that Congress is finally addressing the issue of illegal immigration.

Certain people are angry that the US
  • might protect its own borders,
  • might make it harder to sneak into this country and,
  • once here, to stay indefinitely.
Let me see if I correctly understand the thinking behind these protests:

Let's say I break into your house.

Let's say that when you discover me in your house, you insist that I leave.

But I say, "I've made all the beds and washed the dishes and did the laundry and swept the floors."

I've done all the things that you don't like to do.

I'm hard-working and honest (except for when I broke into your house).

According to the protesters,
  • You are Required to let me stay in your house
  • You are Required to add me to your family's insurance plan
  • You are Required to Educate my kids
  • You are Required to Provide other benefits to me and to my family
  • (my husband will do all of your yard work because he is also hard-working and honest, except for that breaking in part).
If you try to call the police or force me out, I will call my friends, who will picket your house, carrying signs that proclaim it is my right to be there.

It's only fair, after all, because you have a nicer house than I do, and
I'm just trying to better myself.

I'm a hard-working and honest person, except for, well, you know, I did break into your house.

And what a deal it is for me!!!

I live in your house, contributing only a fraction of the cost of my keep, and there is nothing you can do about it without being accused of cold, uncaring, selfish, prejudiced, and bigoted behavior.

Oh yeah, and I demand that you learn my language so that you can communicate with me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Can Peekskill "afford" any more affordable housing?

Part I: The Cause of the Problem

Everyone seems to acknowledge that there currently is a "housing crisis" in the nation, and in Westchester County in particular. Take, for instance, a December 18, 2006 article published in Nation's Building News, which states, "The cost of affordable housing climbed for the eighth consecutive year, continuing to outpace the wages of the low-wage households who need it the most...."

What few people agree upon is what the cause of this crisis is and how it should be dealt with. What follows is my take on this situation, in Westchester County, in general, and in the City of Peekskill, in particular.

While the roots of this problem are varied, two key primary causes are clear. Both of these causes are part and parcel of the creation of our county and local governments, over a period of many years: exclusionary zoning practices and rent control.

The first part of the problem was exclusionary zoning practices, which had been adopted by many of the more affluent communities in our county. Such restrictions included
  • severely curtailing what could be built,
  • severely curtailing how structures could be built,
  • severely curtailing when structures could be built, and
  • severely curtailing where structures could be built.
These exclusionary policies,which the Westchester County Planning Board recently acknowledged (PDF) to be a leading cause of the lack of affordable housing in the county, were implemented to such an extreme degree that it made it all but impossible for developers to build any housing that the average, middle-class home buyer could afford. Ostensibly, the reason most often given to justify these restrictions was to "preserve open space" but, in many instances, this really was just a subterfuge for the wealthier communities to hide behind. The real reason for this restrictive development process was because the more affluent communities wanted to preserve their communities as the bastions of wealth and privilege, and exclusive zoning helped them very well to do just that.

The second governmental policy that made worse the availability of affordable housing in Westchester was the adoption of rent control. By capping the rents of some rental housing units, the supply of market rate housing in Westchester shrank, which artificially inflated the rents of those remaining units that were available at market rate.

The end result of rent control was that developers refused to build more units, knowing that they couldn't get a fair rate of return on their investment, as rent protected tenants stayed in units they had outgrown because they "had a bargain" and, having adjusted to paying below-market rates, they couldn't afford to move even if they had wanted to do so.

Additionally, the tax value of rent controlled units declined, as they no longer had the income flow that they had received in the past. That decline in tax value was passed on to other home owners in the form of increases in the property tax, which in turn caused these homes to become even more unaffordable as they were saddled with an extraordinary property tax burden.

After 30-plus years of these, and similar, policies to dry up "affordable" home ownership in Westchester County, the county realized that it had a "housing crisis" on its hands. So, just what did our great county do?

Logic would dictate that the policies causing the problem either should be modified or (preferably) eliminated. However, politicians being politicians, the county was unable and unwilling to take this course of action. Instead, our government decided to establish yet another government solution to a problem that it created in the first place: Westchester County would enter into the housing business via legislation that it enacted in the early 1990s, using the tax revenue garnered from the county's hard-working homeowners to assist developers in building housing that prior county policies made impractical for them to build.

In part two, we'll examine how the county's solution to the shortage of affordable housing also made the problem worse.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Welcome to ".....On the Other Hand"

Thanks for stopping by and visiting. My blog is intended to be an interactive experience between you and me, and any other people concerned about the well-being of our beloved City of Peekskill, as well as Westchester County in the State of New York, the United States of America, and the world in general.

The primary focus of this blog will be centered on events in Peekskill, primarily stemming from my eight years of service on the Peekskill City Council and my continued interest in local affairs. I will not, however, limit the scope of my thoughts to just Peekskill events and will feel free to express my thoughts on any topic I think will be of interest to my readers. I invite your feedback and welcome your opinions. The only guidelines herein are good taste, good sense, and mutual respect.