An article published in The Journal News, a Gannet newspaper serving the lower Hudson Valley, reported on an unfortunate incident involving Aron Rottenberg, who recently suffered third-degree burns to half his body.

As the story goes, Rottenberg had been ostracized by the Skver Hasidic sect that runs the Village of New Square because he did not worship at the community’s main synagogue, headed by Grand Rebbe David Twersky.

A letter distributed to the community in November 2010 by New Square’s leadership and rabbinical court warned that not worshipping at the main synagogue was a severe violation and that anyone in violation must be stopped from using the community’s facilities.

Sources reported that Rottenberg’s family had faced growing levels of intimidation in recent months, including broken windows in their home.

Protests outside the Rottenberg home calling on them to leave led to the family installing surveillance cameras.

On Sunday, May 22, Aron Rotteberg confronted a man carrying a rag soaked with flammable liquid behind his home on Truman Avenue and Rottenberg was severely burned during a confrontation.

Rottenberg is in serious condition at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla but is expected to survive.

Meanwhile, as a country, we are spending Zillions of dollars and sacrificing thousands of our soldiers to death or permanent disability in Iraq and Afghanistan, and not more than 60 miles from Ground Zero, we have extreme religious fanatics engaged in early-stage ‘Hassidic Jihad’.

Today, they attack each other because of the PLACE where they worship.

Apparently, this is not even an issue of “what do you believe?” or “How do you live your life?”

What might happen tomorrow?

I’m concerned and angry, but not quite ready to fight personally.

Yet, our TAX DOLLARS are supporting this insane behavior: The fire district; The police; The district attorney; The public defender; The school district. Each of these entities is involved in this case, and it goes on and on.

I think it is inappropriate for the majority to be saddled with the costs of religious fanatics fighting over turf.

This really is no different from the Crips vs. Bloods, or any other iteration of gang behavior.

Best I can tell, this whole mess looks and smells like it has RICO implications.

Where is the US Attorney? The FBI?

If we are to support this circus with tax dollars, let’s get our money’s worth.

How Very Sad

May 18, 2011

I live in the City of Mount Vernon, New York.

Mount Vernon is a small city (70,000 residents) located immediately north of New York City.

As a stand-alone city, Mount Vernon is fully self-sufficient, including a school district.

The Mount Vernon City School District (“MVCSD”) currently has about 8,600 students.

According to recent census statistics, there are about 12,500 residents of Mount Vernon in the 5 to 18 age group, which implies that nearly 4,000 young people who live in the City of Mount Vernon attend schools outside of the District.

What seems to have occurred over the past several decades is an economic exodus from the MVCSD, among families with economic resources in search of school environments that have a high probability of both admission to — and graduation from — a “good” college or university that will lead students to a career which allows income (cash-flow) sufficient to support a middle class life style.

This economic exodus has helped to support and/or encourage a concentration of higher need students into MVCSD (and other similar districts which are predominantly urban).

Dozens – maybe hundreds – of studies have confirmed that the primary predictor of success in school is highly correlated to household economic status.

Subsequent demonstration projects have shown that creative interventions can offset socio-economic disadvantages, and put children from economically challenged households on par with their middle-class peers.

On May 17, 2011 a small group of eligible voters – less than 10% — flocked to the polls in Mount Vernon and defeated the proposed MVCSD budget for 2011-12.

I am not smart enough to determine if the proposed school budget was an optimum budget, but I do know that the presented budget was very much like the contingency budget that will likely be adopted instead.

So, the small percentage of eligible voters who came out to the polls accomplished little, except to highlight that the civic participation among citizens of the City of Mount Vernon is awful.

No excuses.

In a city where over 30,000 residents are eligible to vote, why are just 8.5% turning out to vote?

I think the MVCSD is one huge culprit in this mess.

Where were they with proactive information?

I’m not a happy tax payer. I really would like to think that young people in my community have an equal opportunity with their peers in other communities, across New York State, and the U.S.

I don’t think we are there now, and I’m angry!

Earlier today, I watched a video of our Westchester County Executive, Rob Astorino, as he assured us that he strongly supports a tax cap from Albany.  (
Now, those of you whom I know personally may know that I am not Italian American.
If so, you also know that I am 100% against: sterotyping; ethnic, religious or sexual innuendo; and any sort of arbitrary exclusion or discrimination.
Thus, I find the reference in CE Astorino’s short video to Tony Soprano somewhat curious, at best.
And I would hope that the folks at Fordham University are having some genuine conversations about where they may have gone wrong.
CE Astorinio, a former president of Westlake High School’s student council, went on to graduate from Fordham University, which is “…committed to the discovery of Wisdom and the transmission of Learning… and which fosters the intellectual, moral and religious development of its students and prepares them for leadership in a global society.”
Something seems to be amiss here.
I have done extensive research to better understand why Westchester families pay the highest property taxes in America.
My research has led me to conclude that Westchester County property taxes have minimal impact on the tax burden my family — or any Westchester family — faces.
The reason our property taxes are “the highest property taxes in America” seems to have little to do with Albany.
If it was an Albany issue, then we would see residents in the towns of Amherst, Brighton, Manlius, Clifton Park and Wappinger bleeding profusely, and perhaps producing videos (hopefully without invoking Tony Soprano).
Are they-over taxed relative to the rest of the U.S.?
Sure.  They are in New York!
The real culprit in Westchester seems to be the myriad of towns, villages and cities  — together with school districts  — which together create extraordinary waste and inefficiency, and result in the highest property taxes in America.
I know that Phil Reisman loves to chase causes.  And I really enjoy his style!
I’m hopeful that I’ve given him enough fodder for the next 6 months, or so, and that we can get away from some Santa falling asleep (hey, that’s happened to me!) — or some $20,000 grant to an effective, efficient and well managed organization that is governed by an all volunteer board —-  to some real deep thinking around root causes.
I think I have heard, read and seen enough political blather to last me a lifetime.
What I yearn for is real solutions, not rhetoric.
I think it’s time for some powerful political satire combined with real deep analysis.
Come on Phil!  We are counting on you!