What a year, huh? A quick review of the big events that shaped us in 2010 range from the tragedy of the deadly Haiti earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands to the silliness of cable TV wars that almost upset the Oscars and later left us “Glee”-less. Much like 2009, we kept finding more that divided us than united us, with the Party of No becoming the anthem for congressional Republicans, the Park51 (a.k.a. Ground Zero mosque) imbroglio and Lower Hudson Valley residents still suffering the financial whammy of the Great Recession and the highest property taxes in nation.
That pain was real. The good economic news came in dribs and drabs. The back news came in waves: Pfizer making its Pearl River facility a research hub was the good part; the loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs at the plant has been and will be hard on the local economy, and tax base.
While many railed against the public employee unions and the cost of pensions. But government was no longer immune to layoffs. Just ask workers in Yonkers, Westchester and New York state.
Recalibrating in all sectors continued, even though it was announced in 2010 that the recession actually ended in 2009. Who knew!
This year, taxes were tamed in many towns and school districts — budget increases averaged 1.4 percent statewide for school districts. Of course, there’s plenty of room for improvement: Westchester ranks No. 1 in the nation, Rockland No. 5 and Putnam No. 12 in property taxes paid. Meanwhile, in Albany, calls for instituting a property tax cap were muffled by Assembly inaction. There’s hope in 2011, when one of the guy’s yelling the loudest for property tax cap legislation, Andrew Cuomo, takes the governor’s seat.
Politicians behaving badly
U.S. Senate candidate Jim Russell’s old writings were considered so vile, his own Republican Party dropped him from the ticket. Former state Sen. Vincent Leibell, who had won election to Putnam County’s executive post, pleaded guilty to two felony corruption charges. White Plains Mayor Adam Bradley was found guilty of criminal contempt, attempted assault and harassment in a spouse abuse case. He has refused to step down. State Sen. Pedro Espada, who represented the Bronx but lives in Mamaroneck, was indicted on embezzlement charges.
In politics, newly minted Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino made good on his promise to cut government and taxes; for the Board of Legislators, though, it seemed at times more like a threat. The two branches wrestled over the county budget up until the last minute, and there’s surely more of that to come in 2011. Rockland’s longtime County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef tried ascending to the state Senate, but was upended by a 29-year-old town clerk.
The state enacted Leandra’s Law, which made it a felony to drive drunk with a kid in the car, because it was so badly needed. In an embarrassing statistic, Leandra’s Law netted more than 660 arrests statewide in its first year. Other crimes also reminded us how vulnerable our children can be. A molestation of a young girl on New Years Day at the busy Palisades Center demonstrated that; but the tip from two women in New Jersey that led to an arrest showed that community action matters. That same community attention helped thwart the Times Square bombing. Duane Jackson, a 58-year-old handbag vendor from Buchanan, told police about the car, with the keys in the ignition, in a no-standing zone.
The Jan. 12 Haiti earthquake underscored that the Lower Hudson Valley community is tied to the rest of the world, in many ways. The relief efforts were astounding. A Haitian-American Nurses Association chapter formed in Rockland, as medical workers with ties to the Caribbean nation poured so many resources into the relief effort; local school districts served children coming from Haiti; financial support was offered. For many local residents, the news was tragic; so many lost family and friends. Spring Valley’s mayor discovered her husband, missing for days, was alive in Haiti. As the year ended, the need in Haiti was still yawning and many fundraisers continue. The threat is ever-present too. Spring Valley hosted a forum for travelers to Haiti about cholera prevention on Dec. 12, 11 months after the earthquake hit.
Many more landmark events occurred in 2010. What do you see as a signature moment of 2010? What event(s) helped make the year what it was?
TJN FILE PHOTOS: Top: Valerie Placide of Spring Valley and her son, Cleo, came to Rockland from Haiti after the earthquake. In March, they visit his school, St. Peters in Haverstraw.
Middle: Former Republican State Sen. Vincent Leibell leaves federal court in White Plains Nov. 6, after pleading guilty to tax evasion and obstruction of justice.
Bottom: Lenny Rosado, the father of Leandra Rosdao, wipes his eyes as he speaks at a July press conference announcing the second phase of Leandra’s Law, at the Rockland County Fire Training Center in Pomona. The law mandates that anyone sentenced for DWI after Aug. 15 will have to install an ignition locking device on any vehicle they drive.