Osborne Wants To Be County Legislator ‘Because We Deserve Much Better’

Democratic hopeful targets Putnam spending

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

Lithgow Osborne (photo by Christine Ashburn)

Lithgow Osborne (photo by Christine Ashburn)

Lithgow Osborne, the Democratic candidate for Putnam County legislator representing District 1, spoke with The Paper. His answers were edited slightly for conciseness.

Why do you want to be county legislator?

Frankly, I think I can do a better job. I feel I would be a much stronger advocate for Philipstown and for the portion of Putnam Valley that is part of the district. The incumbent [Barbara Scuccimarra] said she would work to bring some of the overpayment in tax money back  – either lower taxes or bring money back to Philipstown. And that hasn’t been the case, because she’s not really worked to lower taxes and she’s more or less rubberstamped everything she’s been asked to rubberstamp by the county executive [MaryEllen Odell]. I don’t feel she’s the best advocate at the county. I feel like we’re paying a lot of money to the county and we’re not really seeing that money come back. We’re not seeing services.

I think having a legislator not afraid to push back a little harder would be good for Philipstown but also good for the county. As a lawmaker, a legislator, a public servant, you have to strike out on your own. You have to take a stand. You have to stick up for something you believe in. You can’t just go along to get along.

What are your qualifications for the job?

I’ve been a small-business owner. Right now I’m an executive and building and helping create an online luxury goods website. If anything, it’s taught me how to work with other people. One of the key things you need to be able to do is listen and to understand what that person is saying. If you don’t listen to what is being said or you don’t fully read the documents placed before you, you run the risk of making mistakes. And I know that has happened at the county level.

What would your priorities be?

Philipstown sends overages to Putnam County. They expect to get X amount from Philipstown; they get X amount-plus. Sometimes she [Odell] uses it to pay for the shortfalls [in taxes] of the other towns. I think that’s wrong. Instead of taking our money and giving it to another community, I think we should get that money back.

My priorities would be to work as hard as possible to rein in this budget and stop spending on projects that are unnecessary. I’d look into the hiring practices. It seems to me we have a lot of employees in the county. I think we don’t need to have nearly as many. It’s really about serving the people. That money comes from the taxpayers. So if we [as a county] are over budget, if we are misspending money, if we are flabby, in excess, if we have too many employees, then we need to do something about that. I understand there’s a $2 million deficit right now. If it is true, that’s a problem.

The county says they’ve balanced the budget. They’ve balanced the budget on the backs of taxpayers who’ve overpaid sales and property taxes. That extra money has been used to shore up and fill in gaps. So it’s very easy to say the budget is balanced. That’s really not a way to run anything.

Another priority: I’d like to start a serious effort to look for businesses and encouraging entrepreneurs – artists, artisans – and try to bring some more of that energy to Philipstown. Up and down Route 9 there are still buildings for sale. We could seek to find businesses to repurpose those. A greater effort needs to be made to look for individuals who might want to set up their businesses here and hire local people. Wouldn’t that be amazing – if we had more people who live in Philipstown able to work here as well? I now work at home. I’m very lucky. I’d like more people to experience that.

I’d also like to see the county get out of court and have the county’s lawyers not spend so much time wasting taxpayer money in court: The county went to court to overturn the decision by the judge in which it was told the county clerk had to release the names of the people who had handguns. [Withholding] it is against the law; that information should be public. The county executive and county clerk are not paid to be advocating privacy or Second Amendment rights.

What steps would you take to get a portion of sales tax returned?

You can bury the bad stuff right deep in the heart of any budget. The first thing I’d try and do is ascertain where we’re overspending, in conjunction with my fellow legislators. I don’t believe they’re all so happy with the budget, either. They care very deeply about how this all plays out. I look forward to working with some of them to bring about some fiscal responsibility, because I don’t think we have it.

What should be the primary role of county legislator? To bring services and act as a liaison between constituents and county government? Or to help set policy and govern?

I’d say the former. But the legislature, when it votes to enact anything [and] any time it acts in unison, is governing. They have to work with the county executive, but the county executive also has to work with them. I think that relationship needs to improve.

Do you think you know enough about the legislature to effectively run for office and, if you win, to do the job? Also, since you’re a Democrat, if elected do you think you can be effective at the legislature given the Republican domination of it?

Absolutely. I’m a quick learner. I understand that you just don’t go in and clean up the mess. It’s a lot of teamwork. There are lots of connections and bridges and alliances to be made. You have to work with other legislators. It’s certainly going to be a lot of hard work, I’ve no doubt about that. But I’m perfectly confident I’ll figure it out.

Why is it important to have county services in Philipstown?

I think it’s important because there are so many people in a situation where going to the county is difficult. It requires taking a morning off. Maybe we need to start looking at this [planned Butterfield] senior center more as a community center. The DMV [Department of Motor Vehicles] does very well, it brings in a lot of money. Maybe they could apportion a small bit of that and work at having an office once or twice a month over here. Or if you could do that online … that’s exactly how government saves money. The internet is one big fat way to save money and provide transparency. Then that money would stay in Putnam County. Do I think that is going to be an avalanche of dollars? No, but I think it would be an opportunity for some efficiency and for thinking of new ways to serve the public.

Why should voters pick you over your opponent?

We deserve much better representation at the county level and I think I can do a better job.

7 thoughts on “Osborne Wants To Be County Legislator ‘Because We Deserve Much Better’

  1. I live in the section of Putnam Valley that is currently represented by Ms. Scuccimarra, so I was very glad to see that Mr. Osborne was willing to step up to the plate and buck the GOP Establishment that is currently running this County. (By the way, I am registered as an “R” and ran for office on that line, so I’m very aware of how it works in local politics.)

    Mr. Osborne is correct — he can do a much better job than the level of service and representation that the current legislator has been giving.

    Here’s an example: for months I have been trying to get the legislature to waive the county license fee ($500) for working contractors who are residents age 65 or older. Neither Ms. Scuccimarra or the other Put Valley legislator have done anything to assist in this matter that would greatly help these hardworking seniors who, because of the high cost of living here, must continue working at very labor-intensive trades long after most people have retired.

    Let’s put party politics aside — this is all about our taxes plain and simple. The county budget is nearly $150 million a year and, as Osborne says, there’s plenty that can be cut. Even without sharing sales tax (which I don’t think is feasible) there are plenty of services that could and should be provided to Put Valley, Cold Spring and Philipstown if only our representatives were as aggressive in promoting taxpayer justice as they are about getting elected.

  2. I see nearly no explanation of how Osbourne will go about the very few changes that he spoke about in this interview. Nothing defined on how he intends to go about fostering a better relationship between the legislature and the County Executive, either. It seems it is easier to throw rocks at Scuccimara than come up with definitive ideas on how to take on the challenges of representing Philipstown.

    I also am wondering how he, as an elected government official, will go about courting businesses to occupy empty stores on Route 9? The interview implies we could install artisans and artists; however, wouldn’t it be a good idea if we provided an environment that was business friendly to all businesses? Meaning the ones here and prospective businesses that will want to choose Philipstown over all other places to set up?

    It is not about cotton candy and junk-food incentives to attract a business and then hope it gets up and running so that it will stay. It is about disassembling government regulations and rules to make it easier for any small business to choose Philipstown on their own, and less of what Osbourne or any other politician might desire to promote the businesses they prefer, such as artisans and artists. Because if our end here is to maintain a 20 percent to 30 percent vacancy rate throughout Philipstown in retail stores, artists and artisans might be best, but if it’s to see all boats rise with the tide and drop that rate down to perhaps 5 percent to 10 percent, it probably makes greater sense, outside of already existing zoning regulations, to not have government play a significant role in the selection process of which type of small business is deemed appropriate for Philipstown.

    As Ms. Villanova says above, it is truly unfair for seniors to pay the $500 fee for contractors to the county, but it is also unfair for 21-year-olds, starting a house-washing or driveway-sealing business, to have to pay that fee. Our country has prided itself on equal treatment under the law since the time of the Declaration of Independence. So to avoid the slippery slope of having to give special privileges to seniors we should perhaps do away with the costly fee for contractors in all cases.

    Ms. Villanova reminded me of something that has been an ugliness in Putnam for nearly eight years. Since Osbourne has no specific ideas of his own on what to do to fix county government, I give him this gift in addition to Ms. Villanova’s excellent example and gift. In Putnam County it takes 11 years of full electrical work experience to be able to apply for an electrical license, and that does not include taking and passing the examination. By comparison, most physicians are well into their practices 11 years out of college and have the title and are licensed, or more commonly, called “doctor,” no later than five to six years after college. Other than this being a protection racket for already existing electricians, why is this necessary for Putnam County? If we are for establishing quality and desirable businesses in the town and county then this seems like a pretty big and unnecessary obstruction.

  3. I do believe that the oath of office taken by the County Executive and the County Clerk states they will support the Constitution of the United States, which definitely includes the Second Amendment. So, yes, Mr. Osborne, they are paid to do so.

  4. I don’t believe, Ms. Anderson, that your rigid interpretation of the Second Amendment (NRA) includes that of the latest U.S. Supreme Court ruling enunciated by Justice Scalia that the sale of assault weapons can be circumscribed as well as adopting universal background checks.

  5. I will, with my family (which includes my children) continue to support the incumbent for our district. I feel as our legislator she has not just the qualifications but more so has represented our residents within “all” of the districts with the utmost and extreme professionalism and integrity.

    While the areas of Garrison, Philipstown, Cold Spring and Nelsonville are some of the most beautiful if not quaint localities in the lower Hudson Valley and the metropolitan region this is assisted by, and because of, people like Barbara. Her purpose is to assist the local communities first within her district by serving as your county legislator. No, this is not an easy job and, in fact, at times can be thankless, to say the least. The local residents in her districts should be grateful to her.

    In addition, and while I will respect Mr. Osborne’s opinion, I personally think if read carefully, this article focuses on Philipstown with the rare exception of when he discusses the DMV and taxes. So, even taking his tax statement, he is one-man one-vote, and also where is the real plan that he will present to our county executive and legislative body?

    Barbara as our present legislator has the understanding already of our county government. She has the knowledge and information as to what is exactly happening, and how to address it. She is cognizant, and dealing with the current issues for everyone of us in each of her districts. She has a proven record for ALL of us, not just one local town, village or hamlet. Barbara is not conducting business solely for one district, either, but I know she is here for us in this small district that she represents in Putnam Valley. So, think who really has the answers and who has been there for us, who is the most experienced and qualified. Without question, it is Barbara. So, on Election Day remember Barbara is a person not just with the experience but is the person who is going to continue to fight and be there for each and everyone of us.

  6. Legislator Barbara Scuccimarra has demonstrated ability to get issues moving from their genesis at discussion tables to actual execution, and she has done that consistently. She has my vote in this election.

  7. Why support Lithgow Osborne on Election Day?

    As expressed by Lithgow in the interview above the simple truth is he would work to have the county discuss with both Philipstown and Putnam Valley town officials why we can’t have a plan for distribution of the excess sales tax that is received by the county?

    Plain and simple the tax rate in both towns which I have lived in and care very much about are overwhelming for many and have a direct bearing on not just our home’s worth but quality of life as well.

    Most counties share sales tax in our state with their towns but our county won’t even discuss the excess sales tax they might receive. Lithgow will bring these county budget and funding issues forward for an open discussion.

    How motivated are you to find ways to increase the sales tax for your county if you are not even part of the discussion on how to spend it?

    I think this issue can effect a great deal (lower taxes per household, increased home value, tourism, etc.) I hope you will send a message to the county on Election Day that it’s time for a change.