The PCCA asked each of the Greenburgh Town Board Candidates a series of questions that we felt were most pertinent to our community. Below are the responses from Gina Jackson:
- What is your position on Edgemont Incorporation? And, as a Town Board Member how would you address the impact of their incorporation to the rest of the Town if it were to happen?
Since the question is a hypothetical, I would first like to comment on the likelihood of Edgemont incorporating. Financially, adding another layer of government doesn’t make sense. The Town and the existing six Villages have been working cooperatively for years to consolidate services. However, there are mandated requirements for each municipality so consolidating services with an existing village can only go so far. The best way to consolidate services is to not create the additional layer of government in the first place. In fact, I have learned there was a forum regarding Edgemont’s potential incorporation a few years ago when the mayor of Ardsley was invited to speak about the pros and cons of incorporating since Ardsley is approximately the same size. The mayor said if Ardsley wasn’t a village he seriously doubted there would now be a movement to incorporate; however, since it has been a village since 1896 and the infrastructure has been built out, even though there are staffing challenges due to its small size, he thought dissolving the village would be highly unlikely, which is understandable.
Edgemont, along with the rest of the unincorporated area, shares the excellent and efficient services of our police, sanitation, highway, EMS, etc. The taxes on the new Edgemont village residents will rise significantly while they try to build the infrastructure of the new municipality and try to contract for services, instead of relying on the reliable and efficient services already received from the town.
The 100 year old village law regarding incorporation states that only the inhabitants of a proposed village get to vote on incorporation. That law was enacted when the area outside the proposed village(s), the unincorporated area, was farmland. There was no need to give farmland (the unincorporated area) a vote when the law was written. Now, the unincorporated area has inhabitants, more than 40,000 inhabitants, as well as homes and businesses, that would be impacted. It is a different time. However, the law is the law, and the law must be followed.
Should Edgemont vote to incorporate it would have a devastating impact on the Unincorporated Area, which, of course, includes the PCCA area. Frankly, everyone in the town will be affected, including the existing villages.
Before leaving the likelihood of the hypothetical, I want you to know I have had discussions with Edgemont residents to better understand why some want to incorporate and others want the right to vote, without stating how they would vote. I pledged to the residents of Edgemont (and of all Greenburgh) to be present at meetings and listen to the concerns raised. Incorporation is one of those issues, of course. I have been listening. I believe I can make a difference.
The town has been guardedly preparing for the potential loss of revenue by reducing staff through attrition. New hires know the potential of incorporation continues to loom. It is terrible for morale.
It is likely the new village would initially seek to contract with the town for the excellent services the town provides. However, a new Edgemont village could also contract with Scarsdale, Yonkers or Ardsley, so the unincorporated area relying on contracts and bidding “wars” for contracted services does not seem like a dependable long-term budget solution for unincorporated residents. Increased efficiency, such as the use of the side-loading sanitation trucks, which reduced the staffing from 2-3 workers per truck to 1, and other personnel reductions, preferably through attrition, will continue to be needed. If incorporation occurs, the area of the unincorporated area would decrease, so the need for personnel to service that smaller area would also decrease. Who you elect to make these human resources decisions is important.
After I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration, I spent 17 years in the field of Human Resources, earning the nickname Gina “HR” Jackson because of my love for helping people. In 2004 I moved to Atlanta, GA, and worked as Chief of Staff for the Deputy Commissioner of Watershed Management under the administration of the Honorable Shirley Franklin. Mayor Franklin taught me what a dedicated politician should be, a person who listens and then acts on the constituents’ behalf. Using my experience as Chief of Staff and the many administrative responsibilities that entailed, and my experience and relationships working with the New York State Governor’s office when I returned to New York, I believe I have the skills to weather whatever challenges arise should Edgemont incorporate. I hope it does not come to that. My goal is to listen, work to address whatever needs to be addressed to reduce the desire to incorporate, and then act responsibility and with transparency to mitigate potential impacts.
We all moved to Greenburgh because of the quality of life and level of services it provides, regardless of social or economic status. I believe we can make a convincing argument we are stronger united than divided. I look forward to being invited to one of your PCCA meetings so we may continue this dialogue in person.
- In what ways can the Town Board more effectively work with both the School and Fire Districts?
As your members know, school districts and fire districts are separate municipal entities. A school district can actually build a building without approval from the town. The district would be foolish doing so since there would be an increased liability should something adversely happen, but I state this to make a point: the Town is a guest at the table of school districts and fire districts. The town’s main function for the districts is to bill for the taxes they warrant (the amount they say they want from the taxpayers) and then the town forwards full payment to the districts even if the taxpayers do not pay their taxes. Having said that, a good working relationship between the town and other taxing jurisdictions (including the county and state) is imperative to ensure our residents receive quality services and the quality of life in the town is maintained.
If elected I would seek regular meetings with the school districts and fire districts, if invited by the districts, so that consensus may be built and mutual interests achieved early on any project, small or large. Early on in the process is key here. We serve the same constituents. The Town Board has liaisons to many groups, it makes sense to expand those relationships to the school districts and fire districts.
The town does work closely with school districts. For example, the town has an excellent relationship regarding coordinating after school programs. I am aware of the program for Greenburgh Central School District because I live in the district, as you do. Extending the town’s paving contract terms to the school district may also provide savings for the school, and providing technical advice early on when projects are proposed could be a significant cost savings.
I am aware the Hartsdale and Fairview Fire Departments have asked the town to alter how fire hydrant rental fees are collected and I would be very interested in being part of those discussions, especially since I have related experience. The Town’s Antenna Review Board has also worked very closely with both the Hartsdale and Fairview Fire Departments. They districts have insisted antenna applicants comply with the town’s code even when the applicants tried not to. I expect that excellent relationship to continue, and perhaps to could build in a broader relationship. I would be willing to explore that.
The bottom line for this question is increased communication is needed, and I pledge to reach out to the districts to foster those discussions.
- How would you propose to address the current Town need for a new Police Headquarters and Court House?
We need to immediately address the current state our Police Headquarters and Court House. It is very troubling that the town cannot hire a qualified female police officer because there are inadequate facilities to accommodate her. We must of course find a way. All the closets and other workarounds have been explored and used. The Police Department was built for approximately one-half the number of officers we have today. As our population has grown, so has our need for police officers. The officers lockers have been reduced in size by half over the years resulting in their equipment not fitting in the lockers as the number of items on their belts have significantly increased. The courthouse is no better. It is not appropriate that someone who goes to pay or dispute a parking ticket at the courthouse gets a ticket because there is no parking near the courthouse. You likely know someone who experienced this.
I am aware the town has done a needs study. There is no surprise there is a need. The town is about to hire a consultant to present options that meet our current and expected future growth. The town has been planning for this and has moved significant dollars into a reserve to lessen the financial impact when it comes. The town is also getting estimates of how much the existing police department and court house sites could be sold for, again to offset the cost. The town’s bond rating is the highest rating given so that will help reduce borrowing costs.
Most importantly, and I keep returning to this, I intend to be present, listen and then act on your behalf. Transparency is critical throughout the entire process. It also important to have community involvement as decisions are being made. The community will be a key partner in how this need is addressed, if I am on the board.
- In your opinion, what is the most critical issue that the Town Board is currently facing that will most significantly impact the 526 households of the Poets Corner Residents?
As the length of my answer to Question 1 should indicate, Edgemont incorporating is the most critical issue addressing the PCCA area and the entire town. No area is immune. To a lesser extent, the potential of Edgement incorporating also is a serious issue because it can limit hiring decisions, which is where my expertise in Human Resources would be important.