Just how bad is Westchester's non-compliance?
At the heart of the Consent Decree is the requirement that Westchester cause municipalities - through legal compulsion where necessary - to permit and encourage the development of affordable housing units that have maximum desegregation potential. Those are units to be built on the Census Blocks with the lowest concentrations of African-Americans and Latinos. Westchester was forced to acknowledge in the Consent Decree its legal authority to overcome to municipal resistance to affordable housing development, and to acknowledge that it is appropriate and necessary to use that authority.
Yet the current County Executive has made clear since early in 2010 that he has no intention of forcing municipalities to do anything. Just recently, a local newspaper described the report of a Westchester Mayor who had attended a gathering with county officials and representatives of the federal monitor: “It was continuously reiterated that the county doesn’t intend to sue communities over their zoning codes.”
There is still no plan for the County to acquire interests in parcels of land the development of which have maximum desegregation potential, and Westchester won’t even acknowledge that it is characterized by residential racial segregation, let alone move to cause building on ultra-white census blocks.
The challenge Westchester poses is of national significance. If the principles of federal supremacy and obedience to federal court orders were forfeited, the glue that holds our country together would come undone. Were that to happen, Westchester residents would find that some of the federal protections being chucked overboard by others might well be protections they themselves hold dear. The urge to ignore the law when it is convenient to do so rises powerfully from many quarters, and it cannot be countenanced anywhere at any time.