After a housing-suit settlement, Westchester voters rebel

I’ve got a new piece up at City Journal on Tuesday’s sensational Westchester County upset, in which GOP challenger Rob Astorino knocked off Andy Spano, the longtime Democratic incumbent county executive, by a convincing 58-42 percent margin. Taxes were a key issue, but so was the county’s consent to what was billed as a landmark housing-reform settlement in which it agreed to arm-twist affluent towns into accepting low-income housing. Many Westchester residents were wary of the potential consequences — and downright insulted when Spano suggested that to resist the lawsuit further would be to make the generally liberal-leaning county a “symbol of racism”.

The federally brokered settlement is itself of interest far beyond Westchester, if only as the occasion of a truly remarkable rhetorical flourish from an Obama Administration official, HUD deputy secretary Ron Sims: “It’s time to remove zip codes as a factor in the quality of life in America.” It was also hailed at once in some quarters as a model for similar legal action against other suburban jurisdictions considered guilty of not being hospitable enough to low-income housing. The Westchester voter revolt, I argue in the piece, may serve as a signal to local officials elsewhere to fight, rather than roll over, when the social engineers and their lawyers come knocking (cross-posted from Point of Law).


  • I grew up there (Rye, Port Chester) and it is one of the most racist areas I have ever been in. Just a bit more covert about it than, say, Selma. For example, the non-town of Rye Brook: a way of garnering county funds for schools and services not connected with Port Chester: One is white and affluent by design, the other, Hispanic, latino and black, and lower-middle-class.

    Plus, Spano and the various mayors of the area have cut themselves in for many lucrative deals, not the least being the Port Chester waterfront. I would consider the possibility that voters simply revolted against the greed.

  • Community resistance to multi-family and affordable housing is a big problem. Forget social engineering for a minute. It greatly contributes to the cost of housing in the US. Rather than racism, I believe the dependence of local governments on property taxes is a big factor. A plot of land can support 5 or 6 family homes, or an appartment/condo complex with, say, 30 or so families. Both will generate about the same property taxes, but local government service costs are also driven by population – especially schools. Solution: Decrease property taxes and increase local government share of state sales taxes or income taxes. Also make local services more fee for use based.

  • Yes, but in areas like Westchester, with cost of living among the highest in the country, “multi-family housing” is EXACTLY non-white. Port Chester is where the maids, gardeners etc live, who work for the McMansions in Rye, Greenwich etc.

    So it’s not really surprising that the voters who turn out to protest housing issues are mostly white and affluent. Like I said, a very racist area. Those of us who grew up on the “right side” of the tracks remember back to the 60’s not being allowed to go to PC because it was “dangerous”.

    As well, it’s not just property taxes by themselves, but how they are used. Look at the problems in OR, where the (mostly) republican and white rural areas fight the (mostly) non-white and democratic major cities exactly over issues of school funding.

  • If the protesters (for some cause or another) were mostly black and poor would that also make them racists ?

    I get really tired of left wing-nuts accusing anyone who disagrees with them on any fiscal issue of being racists