In Westchester, it’s taxes, taxes, taxes, and Rob Astorino has again been chosen by the voters as the person who can best tame the property tax monster. The Republican has won a second term, with an early concession by Democrat Noam Bramson.
You can almost hear 109 percent ringing in your ears. Astorino harped on that as the amount New Rochelle’s taxes have increased over the years that Bramson’s been involved in city government. Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee found issues with the fairness of Astorino’s tax claims against Bramson, but it became a campaign mantra (and early on Democrats discussed Bramson’s vulnerability on the tax issue, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise that Astorino would gain traction with it.)
Astorino’s no-tax pledge sounded especially appealing in 2009 during the depths of the Great Recession, especially in a county that’s consistently ranked No. 1 nationally in property taxes paid. While he has trimmed the county’s property tax line, it’s been a cut in a vacuum, as most property owners have seen their tax bills continue to rise, with school, town and sometimes village tax bills increasing. Homeowners can hope that Astorino adopts part of Bramson’s pitch—cooperative efforts with local entities, to share services and cut costs for all.
Astorino kept the focus on the pocketbook—painting Bramson as a tax-and-spend politician. Bramson worked hard to shift the debate to those broader social issues—such as reproductive rights, gun control. (Of course, Astorino made an exception to the ‘big issue’ focus as he fought HUD over parts of a 2009 housing settlement, portraying the federal agency’s demand to adhere to the agreement as “government overreach.” He also posed the agreement as a threat to “home rule” and the quality-of-life that Westchester residents have paid so dearly for with fat mortgages and property taxes.)
For Westchester residents the focus this year, as it was in 2009, was on their own bottom line.