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Five Questions: Michael Grace, Yorktown Supervisor Candidate

The Daily Yorktown asked the candidates for town board and town supervisor the following five questions: Why are you running for your position? What are the biggest issues facing Yorktown? How do you propose to fix these issues? How are your solutions and approaches different than other candidates? What experience do you have to hold such a position?

Michael Grace is a Republican and write-in Conservative candidate for the position of Yorktown Supervisor.

1. Why am I running for town Supervisor?

I entered the race for town supervisor because the long term dysfunction of the Town Board and its abusive and arbitrary application of the Town’s regulations which have proven to be unresponsive to the Town’s present and long term needs.  In order to preserve our town’s unique character and provide for the proper stewardship of our natural environment we must be willing to promote and grow our local commercial tax base.  In order to do so the town must revisit and revamp its regulatory infrastructure.  New leadership is necessary from the top down to remove the entrenched culture which has led to the deterioration of Yorktown’s non-residential tax base.

2. What are the biggest issues facing the Town?

The biggest issue facing the town is the revitalization of its commercial tax base.  Presently residential properties pay over 80 percent of the taxes; the commercial tax base pays only 10 to 15 percent of the town’s taxes.  This imbalance is unsustainable and responsible for the 50 to 60 percent rise in taxes over the last several years.  It is no secret that Yorktown has been unaccommodating to non-residential investment in the town.  Expensive, burdensome regulation has led to the destruction of the commercial tax base.  Current legislative enactments have further proved a deterrent to investment in the Town.  Open ended escrow fees and affordable housing mandates are just two examples of recently enacted counter-productive legislation.  Without new and long term revenue sources the town cannot even begin to address the plethora of other vital issues to the town; including the upkeep of our public properties and parks, maintaining a sufficient level of municipal services and providing long term tax relief.

3. How do I propose to fix these issues?

The most important step to restoring the town to greatness is regulatory reform.  The town must review the layers of redundant, expensive, burdensome regulation which has strangulated the small to medium size commercial tax base.  To do so will take not only political courage but sufficient political capital, both which are lacking in the current administration.  The poster child for counter-productive regulation is the Town’s open-ended escrow fee law which has the effect of doubling the “soft costs” (attorney’s engineering and environmental consultant fees) any applicant before the town must pay.  These fees were supported by the current board.  It has only been this election which has caused some members of the town board to rethink their position on the issue; the only board member holding steadfast in support being the Town Supervisor.  The next few years will prove challenging but unless there is substantive regulatory reform the town’s future remains in jeopardy.  The town must also seek relief from State and Federal mandates, revisit the issue of sewer diversion (hopefully with a newly constituted County legislature) and study the restructuring of our local town government.

4. Solutions and approaches different than the other candidates

This election unlike any other recent election will provide the Town of Yorktown with clearly different choices.  I am a firm believer in limited government and circumscribed intrusion upon private property rights.  I believe that most property owners are motivated to protect the substantial investment made in their property and will always strive to enhance and improve their properties.  I not only believe this but have lived it – a testament to this belief is the restoration of the Kear Estate home that now serves as my law office.  In this vein I am against the open ended escrow fee law and the pending legislation to mandate affordable housing construction in all future residential developments.  What voters must understand is that the current administration’s track record is to promote governmental solutions to problems that would not exist absent its intrusive regulatory posture.  Yorktown’s high residential tax burdens are a result of over-regulation, a decidedly anti-business attitude, and a practice of purchasing minimally developable properties at great expense to the town, (not only in regard to the initial purchase prices of these properties but the removal of these properties from the tax rolls).  Regulation should act as a shield against bad development and not a sword to slay all development.  My candidacy I believe contrasts with the current town board in that I believe in a reasoned and balanced approach toward economic revitalization.  For too long this town has failed to cultivate its commercial centers and as a consequence we have over burdened our residential tax base.  The voters have a clear choice to either perpetuate the long term policy failures of the current administration or vote to bring in new innovative thinking cultivated under the pressures of having to be wealth creators as small businessmen in this community.

5. What experiences do you have to hold such a position?

I have been legal counsel to the Town over a 16 year period.  In that capacity I wrote many of the town’s regulations, advised the numerous town approving boards had the obligation to defend the Town in various law suits.  I worked under a total of four administrations and have intimate knowledge as to the different managing skills of those administrations.  My personal involvement with the Town dates back to the late 1980s.  I have also made a substantial investment in the town in particular the restoration of the Kear State home which now houses my law practice.  In short I have had years of experience on both sides of the issues, as a town official and as a town commercial property owner.  I know what it takes to survive as a small business owner in this town and I am equally sensitive to the town’s desire to protect its interest in promoting compatible development.  I believe I am best suited to strike the balance between environmental preservation and reasonable well needed commercial development.

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