Rob Astorino’s “Telephone Town Hall”

On September 27, 2017, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino put together a hasty “telephone town hall” to repeat his talking points in response to our successful public forum. Rob Astorino knows his terrible plan can’t stand up to the truth, so he attempted to tightly control the event.

His administration initially selected phone numbers to be chosen to participate in the call, and only published information about the call a few hours before the event. His staff screened callers and their questions to determine who would be allowed to ask a question. CRCA Executive Director Jonathan Wang was selected to ask a question, but when Mr. Astorino realized who “Jonathan in Purchase” was, he pretended that Mr. Wang was disconnected. He continued to pretend even while Mr. Wang can clearly be heard on the call saying “Hi… Hello?” while Astorino pretends “Tom in Port Chester” is on the line. When “Tom in Port Chester” is finally connected, the voice on the call is clearly a different person. Listen below:

 

Mr. Astorino claims that there is “misinformation” being published about his plan to privatize Westchester County Airport. Nearly 3 months ago, CRCA published our extensively researched white paper, with citations, detailing our criticism of his plan. We have identified where his unethical, and possibly illegal, airport flyer is misleading and false. We have attempted to provide him with an opportunity to correct the record or address our criticisms. He has not responded to our efforts. He has not identified what he thinks the “misinformation” is. Instead, he continues to spout half-truths, unverifiable claims, and outright lies, all while avoiding the questions of constituents who pay his salary.

Mr. Astorino ignores several inconvenient truths about the airport. He implies that no expansion of the airport’s runways will prevent an increase in traffic (it won’t). He refuses to require bidders for his deal to buy enough pollution insurance to protect the environment and the drinking water for over 9 million people. He pretends that environmental protections will be strengthened when he has systematically dismantled those protections under the very program he is requiring bidders to maintain. He pretends that the airline passenger cap will prevent an increase in flights when it doesn’t apply to private aviation that makes up over 80% of flights and revenue at Westchester County Airport.

Any policy decision must contend with the change in incentives when both the county and the private operator benefit from increased traffic and reduced costs. The airport will no longer be a non-profit. Mr. Astorino won’t have that discussion. He hopes that he can sneak his plan through with minimal public understanding and oversight. Why else did he pressure our representatives on the Board of Legislators to approve a 40-year, no-bid deal with just 4 weeks of review in November 2016?

Unlike Mr. Astorino, CRCA is not afraid to give the voters of Westchester County the full facts to encourage a lively public debate over the future of our airport. We invite the public to read our annotated transcript, which includes a recording of Mr. Astorino’s call.

 

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