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Steinberg is Trustee-in-Error on Sewer Rent

October 18, 2005


On October 5, Trustee Jim Steinberg was quoted in the North County News. The reporter had asked about the drinking water study the village was commissioning for $8,750. Trustee Steinberg said, “When the consultant makes his recommendations, I anticipate the cost of these infrastructural needs to be financed in the first instance through the sewer rent collected and not through capital spending.…”.

Misstatements by public officials in the press, when left uncorrected, often mislead the thinking of others. Trustee Steinberg’s connection of sewer rent and drinking water funds was fundamentally inaccurate and very misleading.

On October 7, two days after the newspaper story, a resident’s letter to the Village Board, including Steinberg, encouraged passage of sewer rent because sewer rent funds would improve drinking water.

On October 12, seven days after the story, a second resident’s letter to the Village Board, including Jim, encouraged passage of “sewer tax” by repeating the same misconceived rationale that Trustee Steinberg had published.

Two days later on October 14, a third citizen wrote the Village Board, including Jim, on the matter in nearly identical terms that further spread this misunderstanding.

We applaud residents who make the effort to write us. Yet these letters suggest many residents have been misled into thinking that our drinking water fund and potential new sewer rent fund are one and the same. They are not.

I know of no attempt by Jim to correct his widely circulating error. To the contrary, on October 17, Jim glibly disavowed this error when he was asked about it at the public hearing on sewer rent (see video below).

If Jim blames the reporter for misquoting him, then why did Jim agree to be quoted again by the same reporter in a new article on a different topic in the October 12 issue of the NCN?

Let’s set the record straight before even more people are misinformed: There is NO CONNECTION between improving drinking water and collecting sewer rent. New York General Municipal Law 453 specifically restricts how we can use sewer rent money. We can only use it to operate, maintain and repair sewers. In a 2001 opinion, the Office of the State Comptroller specifically forbids villages from raising excess sewer rent to help pay for more general, non-sewer related expenses like drinking water improvements.

We may ONLY use a sewer rent fund to operate and improve existing sewers. The improvement of DRINKING water may NOT be funded by sewer rent. The proposed sewer rent will NOT reduce our future capital borrowing to improve or expand our drinking water system. Such improvements are typically funded out of the separate and long established Water Fund as mandated by state law.

I am upset that I have to write this letter. The public should know the truth. If you support the sewer rent proposal with the hope that it will support our drinking water system, you were misinformed. Why did Jim Steinberg not read the letters we all received from our constituents that resulted from his error? If he did read them and failed to see his error being compounded, then why does he leave it to others have to set the record straight?

Leo A. W. Wiegman
Trustee, Village of Croton on Hudson

On November 4, 2005 10:00 AM, bojangles said:

Steinberg completely ignores the problem here. He gives a slick, legalistic response to Wiegman’s letter. Why can’t politicians simply admit when they’re wrong? A simple “I’m sorry; I made a mistake; I didn’t understand the issue correctly; my information was incorrect; my intelligence misled me? ” From Presidents of the United States all the way down to Trustee Steinberg, the reaction to any situation is always the same. From Nixon’s “I’m not a crook” to Clinton’s “It depends on what the meaning of is is” to Libby, Rove, and Cheney’s “we did, we didn’t, we will, we won’t.”

Is everyone else as sick and tired of the spin, lies and deceit in every level of government? What the heck is going on in this country?

And we now have an 18 year old kid taking over as chair of our local republican party! God help us all!

On November 3, 2005 9:32 PM, TeaDrinker said:

Thanks to Crotonblog reader for transcribing the following:

Oct 27, 2005: Jim Steinberg’s LTE in The Gazette

“To the editor:

Trustee Wiegman has recently accused me of trying to mislead the public with regard to the proposed sewer rent law.

Nothing could be further from the truth. It is correct that the monies collected through the sewer rent could only be used to towards the operation and maintenance of the sanitary sewer system, along with infrastructural improvements relating thereto.

In the event that my comments have led anyone to believe otherwise, I trust that this response provides clarification. As always, residents are free to contact me directly with their questions or comments.

James M. Steinberg, Trustee, Village of Croton-on-Hudson.”

On November 3, 2005 4:01 PM, SSmith said:

don’t worry leo, steinberg hopefully is a one-termer like his boss.

what this village needs at the helm is someone like you who is not afraid to ask the tough questions. and someone who gets out in front of people to tell them what is going on like you and trustee kane have been doing. we are not dummies, we are capable of understanding. the republican party handbook obviously does not address these crucial communications issues at even the local, state, or national levels.

leo, thank you for your leadership at a time when it is seriously lacking in this village. it is painful to watch this republican controlled board in action, it is clear they shoot from the hip repeatedly. it is time for schmidty and his two minions to unhitch their wagon from ccc1 and its ridiculous spinning of issues and come clean with ALL residents of COH. we deserve at least that.

On November 3, 2005 11:38 AM, Leo Wiegman said:

Dear Neighbors:

In last week’s Gazette, Trustee Steinberg feigned indignation at my accusation that he misled the public on how the proposed sewer rents would be spent. The fact is that he did mislead the public. Letters addressed to him and the rest of the Village Board from Republican Committee Chair Robert DiFrancesco, Republican District Leader Joann Minett, and Concerned Citizens of Croton’s Maria Cudequest all professed support for the sewer rent because it would improve our drinking water.

These letters repeated the false assertion by Trustee Steinberg—as quoted in the North County News—that the proposed sewer rent would help address the brown drinking water problem. Astonishingly, Trustee Steinberg simultaneously claims that he never saw such letters from constituents (see video clip above) and admits that the proposed sewer rents cannot be used to address the brown water problem at all.

Trustee Steinberg had credibility problems in the March 2005 election when he claimed he supported the 2000 school bond, His record from 2000 clearly shows otherwise. Perhaps that is why he holds his present position by appointment, rather than election. Steinberg’s credibility gap will continue if he persists in taking offense at perfectly reasonable complaints, rather than apologizing when he makes a mistake.

Leo A. W. Wiegman Trustee, Village of Croton on Hudson

On October 19, 2005 12:59 PM, weewill said:

Welcome Croton Bug and good points made. It’s one of the things I’m having trouble figuring out. At the very least maybe Brennan should abstain.

If he votes in favor of the passage and the tax passes, it will cause higher water bills for his boss, that will probably be passed down to the tenants in his building (and maybe make his boss not too happy with him).

If he votes no, it might be viewed as favorable to his boss (maybe making him happy with him).

He may be in a bind either way. I think Brennan is honest and sincere so maybe its better for him to abstain.

I also hear that Mayor Schmidt’s house right in the middle of Grand Street and is not on sewers but has a septic system instead. He’s been paying all along for a sewer system he doesn’t use, yet it’s relatively easy for his house (close to the street and sewer lines) to connect. Will this law require others in the same situation to hook up to the sewers?

These are the answers I think we need before this becomes law.

On October 19, 2005 12:14 PM, Pat Barua said:

Even if Trustee Brennan lived rent free in the Van Wyck apartments, I don’t see why he would need to recuse himself. He might not get hurt by the new law but he wouldn’t benefit from it either.

The only people who benefit from the new law are people who have septic tanks who cannot connect to a sewer line. They will no longer have to pay for our sewers, and the rest of us will pick up what they used to pay, and it won’t be tax deductible for us any more so we are all going to end up paying more than we used to.

So unless the Mayor or trustees fall into this category (meaning they have septic and cannot connect to a sewer line), then I don’t see the problem with voting.

On October 19, 2005 11:33 AM, weewill said:

Thank you for the correction David Tuttle.

I apologize. In my many years in Croton I never heard the term Alligator rock and wrongly assumed the author was referring to what I know as third rock.

I also stand corrected on the rent-free apartment and marvel at our ability to know that. In the past, it’s always been so that the superintendent of the building received a rent-free apartment. If that’s no longer so, I stand corrected again.

On October 19, 2005 10:05 AM, David Tuttle said:

“weewill”

I am not entirely sure whether Blogs have to contain accurate information, but….

Alligator Rock has carried that name as long as I can remember, it is not 3rd rock. Alligator is directly across the river from the jetty.

Tom Brennan does not live in a rent free apartment at Van Wyck Garden, he lives in a house on Riverside.

Before you blog, you might want to check the facts.

On October 19, 2005 9:41 AM, weewill said:

This videostreaming is terrific. Thanks Crotonblog. And I have something for everyone this time.

So much for citizen participation and a Mayor who is interested in what citizens have to say. Maybe Ms. Cudequest, but not this speaker. The Mayor actually tried to stop him as he was speaking and rudely tried to speak at the same time. Trustee Steinberg did the same. If they wanted to rebut what was being said they should have at least given him the courtesy of hearing him out. Shame on them.

Trustee Brennan doesn’t seem to understand the sewer rent issue at all. He’s not alone; a lot of us don’t. But he probably should recuse himself from the vote because Van Wyck Apartments are a highend user and he works for the owner. As the Superintendent of the building, he has a rent-free aptartment there. He therefore won’t be impacted by the increased rents that are sure to follow if this law is passed.

The cat seems to have gotten Trustee Kane’s tongue. Speak up man. Your letter to the Gazette was excellent and your comments would have been helpful to those of us watching.

On October 18, 2005 10:35 PM, TeaDrinker said:

This video segment, taken from the October 17, 2005 Village Board meeting, presents a question from Croton resident Paul Rolnick to Trustee Jim Steinberg regarding the proposed Sewer Rent Law.


Option: Download and watch this video clip in Quicktime format (5.7mb).

On October 18, 2005 2:38 PM, bojangles said:

It would appear there’s no great rush to pass this sewer rent law. We should slow down, get the anwers to all the questions and comments presented at the two public hearings and then put it up for a community vote in the upcoming elections.

This would force the administration and the board to get accurate and complete information in place before making a determination.

By that time we would know if county parks and metro north railroad in particular will be contributing and whether high end users, in particular the Hudson National Golf Course, will be suing the Village. All those answers are needed before any decision is made.



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