Meet Yonkers’ Rising Political Star: John Rubbo

Stephanie Rushford, Associate Editor

In the Spring of 2009, John Rubbo announced his candidacy for City Councilman for Yonkers’ 4th District. A life long resident of Yonkers, Rubbo explained to EARLY RISERS, why he decided to run for public office so early in his political career: “I started about six-and-a-half-years ago working for our mayor, our previous mayor, John Spencer.  I was always involved in politics throughout High School and College. And the timing was right when the seat opened up. I stepped up and decided to throw my hat in the ring.” Mr. Rubbo considers all politics to be local and explained the importance of a City Councilman to Early Risers:

City Council is all about the quality of life, passing the city budget, municipal, school budgets. It is about maintaining a good quality of life in the city, whether is be the police department, fire fighters or cleaning the streets. It is about the neighborhood you live in. It is about maintaining a good quality of life.

However, while Mr. Rubbo believes that Yonkers “has so much potential,” he thinks great reforms must occur in the City and State Governments, stating: “We need a restructuring of municipal salaries and pension plans in New York State. But that does not mean that [firefighters and police] are not doing an excellent job. I think we need to think outside of the box when it comes to municipal salaries. We just can’t afford it.”

Many New Yorkers in the metro area feel that the State Government misuses their hard earned tax dollars, and John Rubbo is no exception:  “the State of New York sends money back to the municipalities, and Yonkers has always been unfunded. Currently the residents of Yonkers contribute to their education, but this puts a strain on local municipalities.” Moreover, Rubbo highlights the disparity in the state’s funding between New York cities: “on average, Yonkers receives 47, 48 cents on the tax dollar. Other large cities like Syracuse and Buffalo receive 92 or 93 cents on the tax dollar.” (A viewpoint that has been noticed by others.)

Furthermore, Rubbo feels that his city could have been on par with other metropolises around the New York City area, but that external factors have gotten in the way of progress: “Yonkers was really on the rise, as we were developing the downtown waterfront area. We were on a fast track [in] getting things done down there. But politics and the economy really put a hole in what we were doing.” In addition, Republican hopeful Rubbo wishes that the Yonkers’ City Council invested more in the development of businesses by shortening the process, which Rubbo laments takes “3-4 months” for a business to get started in Yonkers. Additionally, Mr. Rubbo had heard of first-hand accounts of entrepreneurs being turned off by Yonkers’ lengthy permit process for businesses: “I know people that wanted to open a business in Yonkers and were displeased by the process. And they ended up doing business somewhere else.” John Rubbo also underscored the importance of development of businesses (whether small or corporate) for cities all across America:

If you are living in a community with a Main Street, and you have vacant storefront, after vacant storefront, as opposed to a full Main Street bustling with stores, it makes a great impact on the quality of life in that city.

Yet, even in the mist of a slowing economy, and the budget battles that exist in Albany, Mr. Rubbo has hope for the city of Yonkers: “when the economy starts moving, I hope we can move the ‘up’ direction, and that politicians don’t get in the way of that progress. It’s going to take us a bit of time to get back on our feet and moving again.”

And how does John Rubbo respond to critics who cite him as being too young and inexperienced for City Council? “Well the response I usually have [to that] is that there is a tremendous amount of experience in New York State legislature, and the New York State legislature is one of the most dysfunctional State Legislatures.” Moreover, Rubbo does not consider age to be a factor in good legislative skills: “It is the drive you have in yourself and in your community. People will always play that against you. I try to learn from everyone. You are always learning whether you are 28 or 58. You will always be successful if you are always open and open minded in what is around you. The wisest of us are always asking questions.”

The country over the past eight years has become very polarized, and City Council is no different, but John Rubbo wishes that State Governments can come together in the goal of progress and put partisan differences aside. “Everyone has their values and principles, no matter what seat you hold, and I think you need to maintain those values,” Rubbo said, “But I think that [officials] need to reach across the aisle, because nothing gets done if it is ‘us versus them.'”

The election between John Rubbo and Denis Shepard was hard fought, and unfortunately for Rubbo, the people of Yonkers sided with Shepard. However, John Rubbo has not been spurred by politics after running, subsequently losing. When asked if he would run again, he said “absolutely” and added:

It is when the opportunity is right. It is whether or not the timing is right politically and personally.

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