Beginning in 1765, the Parliament of Great Britain passed three separate Quartering Acts. These Quartering Acts mandated the local governments of the American colonies to disregard their own self-made laws and required them to mandate their residents to quarter British troops and provide them with provisions. It seems so obvious and logical as to why the colonies rose against this tyrannical government when studying issues such as the Quartering Act. A distant central government, imposing its will on the local governments so far away, seems like an issue of the 1700s.
Well, not in Westchester County. Today, the central theme of the Quartering Act of 1765 is as present as ever. The federal government of the United States seeks to impose its will on the zoning laws of Westchester County municipalities through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The distant Capital believes it can govern Westchester communities better than they can govern themselves.
And yet, even today, there is still a Thomas Paine among us—there is still a leader eager to fight a distant bureaucracy that entangles our communities in its web of self-destruction and control. County Executive Rob Astorino has, in the tradition of “Common Sense,” articulated the cause of local self-government and has demonstrated his willingness to fight HUD and its endless barrage of control seeking measures. Measures not originally agreed upon in the legal settlement of 2009.
But where is our local leader, the one chosen by the people to represent us? Well, the rookie legislator Ms. Borgia is on the side of the followers, ever intent on doing what is best for HUD and for her comrades in Albany and Washington, willing to go so far as to trade the very independence of the people and places she represents for the monolithic mandates of a distant, out-of-touch government. Rather than stand up for her constituents, Ms. Borgia votes her party line, sacrificing local autonomy and the fiscal health of many non-profits that serve the neediest of our residents.
As a former town Supervisor, Ms. Borgia should know that Ossining, Briarcliff, Peekskill, and Cortlandt Manor have zoning laws for a reason. We pass zoning laws to model our community, to help it prosper, to maintain its character; to make it ours and to make it last for future generations. Zoning laws allow us to prevent over-development that could burden local infrastructure or ravish our local environment. Now, as HUD seeks to destroy this way of governing, the “loyalists” among our ranks encourage and precipitate this loss of local autonomy. And why? Is it simply to just disagree with the County Executive? Is it to demonstrate blind, unquestioning loyalty to party line? Or have these loyalists—has Ms. Borgia—simply forgotten the empowerment that comes from the sovereignty of local governments? Has she forgotten the virtue of self-reliance? To these questions I have no answer. But this much is certain: a legislator who sides with the federal government over the County Executive, who votes to allow the federal government to withhold local communities’ funding for poor residents, and who trades local autonomy for party loyalty is not the kind of County legislator we need. We require a representative who believes that we don’t need a distant government to solve all of our problems, that, in the words of Thomas Paine, “we have it in our power to begin the world over again.”
That is common sense.