Latimer hosts student roundtable - The Ionian : News

Latimer hosts student roundtable

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Posted: Thursday, March 8, 2018 5:00 pm

Westchester County Executive George Latimer met with student journalists on Feb. 22 at the Westchester County Building in White Plains for a roundtable discussion.

Students from local colleges—including Pace University, Sarah Lawrence College and Iona—discussed county budgeting and volunteering in the county with Latimer.

Each student was able to ask at least one question, with additional time being provided at the end for other questions.

Latimer said that he and Catherine Cioffi, communications director for Latimer, had discussed holding this roundtable discussion for a while.

The first question discussed Latimer’s plan for balancing the county budget. Latimer said that he was critical of predecessor Rob Astorino’s budget during his campaign against him. He said that he thought the budget wasn’t being balanced properly and that there was a $20 million deficit from 2017 fiscal year.

Latimer said that he won’t be publically presenting the 2019 budget until November of this year. His prediction is that it will be a difficult year because Astorino didn’t close a contract with the Civil Service Employees Association, the single biggest labor contract that had to be dealt with. He will lay out the “game plan” at the State of the County on April 16.

Latimer is not ready to say what will be cut or funded and what taxes will go up a certain number, because he is only a few months into his position -- he was sworn in on Jan. 1. He said that they are facing limitations and figuring out what the most intelligent thing to do is.

One student asked Latimer what he would do to avoid events similar to the Parkland, Florida shooting and other school threats from occurring. Latimer said the first step is to have police presence in areas that are the most vulnerable and have credible threats.

In regards to gun control, Latimer said that there is a “false security” to arming teachers, school guards and other school staff. He said that he believes in the right to own a gun, but he does not think there is a civilian purpose for an AR-15.

He does think that the state can be helpful in establishing better security and that better mental health interceptions should be put into place. He argued that the other amendments of the United States Constitution have been abridged over time. For example, one has the right to free assembly but can’t protest in the middle of the street. A person is required to get a permit to freely protest in a public place such as a park.

When asked about what college students can do to make Westchester a better place, Latimer said that the kind of volunteering depends on what discretionary time a student has. He said there are many things students can do to help the county; he specified that volunteering isn’t helping the county government, but the people of the county.

He suggested that college students can tutor children, promote recycling in the community and spend time with those in senior living homes, mentioning the Hugh A. Doyle Senior Center in New Rochelle as one place to start. He said that Volunteer New York, an organization that provides volunteer opportunities in different interest areas, is a great source for students who want to volunteer.

Westchester Community College student Amanda Gordon, co-editor in chief of The Viking News, said the roundtable provide real world experiences.

“As a student journalist, it speaks in volumes to me about the dedication Latimer has to the community,” Gordon said in an email. “He and his team took us [the student journalists] seriously, something that the members of my college administration [WCC] doesn’t seem to do.”

Latimer also answered questions regarding the opioid crisis and the privatization of the Westchester airport.

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