Category Archives: Columns

MikeSmith

Column: Misery loves company

On Jan. 3, Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills dashed the Jets’ playoff hopes with a 22-17 win over Gang Green. For a Giants fan like Sports Editor Mike Smith, the Jets’ loss was a bright spot in an otherwise terrible NFL season. Photos courtesy Wikipedia.com

On Jan. 3, Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills dashed the Jets’ playoff hopes with a 22-17 win over Gang Green. For a Giants fan like Sports Editor Mike Smith, the Jets’ loss was a bright spot in an otherwise terrible NFL season. Photos courtesy Wikipedia.com

I swear that I’m not a spiteful person, but when it comes to sports, it seems like a healthy dose of “schadenfreude” is sometimes unavoidable.

Last Sunday, while watching my New York Giants put the finishing touches on a dreadful 6-10 season—and Tom Coughlin’s coaching career—the only thing that gave me any sort of comfort was seeing the Jets’ season come to an equally disastrous end.

I know. I’m a bad person.

The truth is, even for a Giants fan, this wasn’t a hard Jets team to root for. After jettisoning swagger-y blowhard Rex Ryan in the offseason, Gang Green was under new management in the form of Todd Bowles, a coach cut from the same cloth as the no-nonsense Coughlin. They played hard-nosed defense, had the franchise’s most explosive offense in more than a decade and had a likeable—if not imperfect—signal caller under center in Ryan Fitzpatrick. What’s not to like?

But jealousy is a strange emotion. I came into Week 17 with every intention of rooting for the Jets to beat the Bills—now helmed by Ryan—and clinch a playoff spot. But as the two 1 p.m. games unfolded, I found myself almost subconsciously cheering each Buffalo third-down conversion, delighting in the growing despair of the Jets fans around me.

I guess part of it is the residual resentment built up from the Rex Ryan regime. I never had strong feelings one way or the other about the franchise before Rex took over, but his tenure was marked by the kind of bravado and boastfulness that doesn’t engender a lot of goodwill from opposing fan bases.

But mostly, it had to do with the Giants’ failures. If I had to watch my team blow chance after chance and miss yet another postseason, why should anyone else—let alone people I have to see every day—have the right to be happy?

Am I being juvenile? You bet. But at least I’m not alone.

Throughout the course of the game, I was communicating with some friends in a group chat, the majority of whom were Giants or Eagles fans, and had no real stakes in the Bills-Jets game. Only my friend Mike, a season ticket-holder for years, swears allegiance to New York’s other team. But as Fitzpatrick’s interceptions doomed the Jets, you would have thought the rest of us were members of the so-called “Bills Mafia.”

Giants’ coach Tom Coughlin lost his job after another bad season for Big Blue. For Sports Editor Mike Smith, the only silver lining is that the Jets aren’t in the playoffs either.

Giants’ coach Tom Coughlin lost his job after another bad season for Big Blue. For Sports Editor Mike Smith, the only silver lining is that the Jets aren’t in the playoffs either.

GIFS of plane crashes, butt-fumbles and jubilant Rex Ryan celebrations flooded the chain, as we did our best to pile on to our buddy’s already crummy day.

I may not be proud of myself, but if I can’t be proud of the Giants, watching someone else suffer might just be the next best thing.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a Tyrod Taylor jersey to order.

 

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@LiveMike_Sports

 

 

CAREY

Column: Hopes for 2016

New Year’s resolutions are fine for matters within our own power to control such as what we do to others and to ourselves. But for what is beyond our reach we can only hope and pray for, according to our beliefs. Here are some yearnings that fall now into the category of mere hopes.

I hope that in 2016, we Americans will gain a president-elect with the brains and stamina for this hugely demanding responsibility. Considering the broad range of our present and foreseeable problems, the person we need may not seem to be able to beat the present in our sight. But candidates can sometimes rise above their prospects.

I hope that our organs of government will function successfully in 2016, bringing about lawful and practical solutions that have been thoroughly discussed among the interested parties.

I hope that age-old religious schisms and hatred of other humans, regardless of race, color, creed or beliefs may be defeated by love and kindness and, if that fails, by either a national or international criminal court where the eyes of world might be “the jury of their peers.”

I hope to see a new Rye City Council that swears off the sloppy habit of holding private meetings to discuss the public’s business. Even in the infrequent situations where allowed by state law, private meetings are a blot on our civic reputation.

And I also hope to see a City Council where differences of opinion are welcomed and aired in a spirit of respectful debate, rather than being shunned as some sort of juvenile behavior. Let friendly smiles and good will prevail in City Hall.

And I hope to see continued support for architectural and environmental preservation in our city of Rye and that the only rock-splitting sounds that we hear this year will come from the traditional suburban “garage band” of a guitar, bass and drums and not from any destructive earth-shattering chipping machine.

And I hope to see all members of our community, Republicans and Democrats, white collar and blue collar professionals, women and men, young and old, continue to volunteer their time and expertise on our many boards and committees, our firefighting companies, nonprofit organizations and houses of worship in order to preserve the unique character of this place that we call home.

CONTACT: j_pcarey@verizon.net

 
BELMONT1

Column: Honoring Sgt. Lemm and My Community Alert

As many of you know, our community suffered a loss with the tragic death of West Harrison resident Staff Sgt. Joseph Lemm, who was recently killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan. Sgt. Lemm was cherished by his family and was greatly admired by our community. Through these dark days, I have been deeply moved by the outpouring of love, friendship and faith I’ve witnessed, especially by our residents. I hope that this show of support will encourage those who knew and loved Sgt. Lemm to draw strength from the sense of community we have in Harrison. Thank you to those involved in honoring his memory. I hope we can all find solace in celebrating Sgt. Lemm’s short but meaningful life and remembering better times.

I would like to extend my warmest wishes for a prosperous and healthy new year. I hope you and your family had a happy and festive holiday. I want to thank you for all your support over the last year. The town board has achieved incredible things so far, and I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in 2016.

As we begin the new year, I am happy to report that Harrison continues to build on the success of the last few years while keeping tax increases in check, sustaining a healthy reserve and maintaining all our basic municipal services. In addition to our improved bond rating from Moody’s, Harrison’s 2016 budget was adopted and remains under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s mandated tax cap. Advancing this positive trend is a priority and I look forward to the challenges and opportunities in the year ahead.

I would like to bring your attention to My Community Alert. This valuable system allows Harrison police officers and other town officials to notify residents in the event of an ongoing emergency. Text messages and emails are sent to registered residents if the Harrison Police Department believes that the community should be informed of a local incident or event. Recently, our Police Department has sent out alerts pertaining to road closures and weather updates, and has warned our community that fraudulent phone solicitations had been reported in our area. Residents can register with My Community Alert at mycommunityalert.net. I encourage all to take advantage of this very useful tool.

Please be aware of the following sanitation notice: Christmas trees may be placed curbside for pickup through Sunday, Jan. 31. Please do not place trees in plastic bags. No holiday wreaths or roping will be collected. Visit harrison-ny.gov for more information.

The library is continuing to offer great programs. I encourage all interested movie buffs to attend our library’s Brown Bag Cinema. Enjoy the new large screen at the recently-renovated Halperin building of the Harrison Public Library. This event is free of charge and is held on one Thursday each month at 1 p.m. Bring your lunch, sit back and enjoy a screening of a film newly released on DVD. Upcoming films include “The Walk” on Jan. 21 and “The Intern” on Feb. 18. Refreshments are provided by The Friends of the Harrison Library.

Marvin-Mary

Column: New York state villages face added burdens

The New York state comptroller’s office recently announced that beginning with the June 2016 budget cycle, the 2 percent tax cap law will translate into only a 0.12 percent tax ceiling for villages in compliance.

This unrealistic limit was extrapolated from a signature piece of legislation for the governor, which limits spending growth to either 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.

In contrast, state spending is not limited in this way, nor are the projected increases in the more than 200 unfunded mandates annually delivered to villages from Albany.

Clearly, the tax cap operates in a politically expedient vacuum devoid of economic realities.

Although it is rhetorically brilliant, the long-term detriment of the tax cap cannot be overestimated.

As illustrated, if Bronxville were to come in under the cap in this budget cycle, we would have to forfeit $5 million-plus in FEMA flood mitigation monies because our 12.5 percent matching share would exceed the tax cap limit.

Unlike the exception made for school districts, capital improvements and infrastructure repairs undertaken by a municipality are not exempt from the tax cap spending calculation. This prohibition creates the most powerful disincentive for communities to repair one of the nation’s most aging infrastructures.

In an effort to counter the unrealistic 0.12 percent spending increase ceiling, many of our neighboring villages, including Tuckahoe, Irvington, Dobbs Ferry, Ardsley and Hastings, petitioned for a 3 percent hotel tax on each rented room; the logic being that the revenue would be a user tax, rather than a property tax, and the increased funds would at least keep local services flat.

Even though the governor signed an almost identical bill allowing the city of Yonkers to generate this revenue, he vetoed it for local villages after most of Westchester’s elected officials and the bipartisan Westchester Municipal Officials Association objected to it.

Why are there disproportionate burdens on villages, including the unrealistic 0.12 percent tax cap, the lack of an exemption for capital/infrastructure repairs and the continuation of the Metro-North tax for municipalities only, which cost our village a half percent tax point yearly?

As a close follower of the governor’s statements, I have concluded that the tax cap legislation and the recent veto are rooted in the governor’s overarching goal of municipal consolidations.

When he was our attorney general, Andrew Cuomo’s office submitted a bill allowing any citizen of New York state to start the process of the dissolution of a village, regardless of whether they lived in that village, by garnering the support of only 10 percent of the residents who voted in the last mayoral election. To put the governor’s bill into context, a non-resident would need to find only eight Bronxville residents to force a villagewide referendum or vote on dissolution. The incredibly flawed bill was amended several times, but the new bill passed has provisions that require communities to vote on their own dissolution before a consolidation plan and financial impact statement are produced. The village of Seneca Falls went this route and is now mired in years of litigation between cost sharing and financial obligations with its merged town.

On the subject of consolidation, Cuomo states that there are 10,500 government units in New York state, which are far too many in his estimation. Refuting this, the state comptroller’s office sets the number at 4,200. Included in both calculations are all of the Off Track Betting operations and Industrial Development Authorities, which have no taxing authority, so both numbers are misnomers.

In his stump speeches, the governor states, “I support consolidations. I think if you said to the taxpayers of most districts in this state, I know you like to have your name and identity. Is it worth $2,000 a year—the supposed, though undocumented, savings from consolidation—to have your name and identity, they would say, ‘Change my name.’”

The statistics don’t bare this out.

Since the most recent revision of the Consolidation Law was enacted in 2007, thanks to the governor’s efforts as attorney general, one community in the state, Altmar, with a population of 407, has consolidated with its neighbor.

Based on the federal census of local governments per capita, there is also no correlation between the number of governmental layers and a person’s relative tax burden.

Two of the most intensely-governed states are New Hampshire and Oklahoma, yet they are two of the least taxed.

New York and New Jersey are near the bottom in governmental units, but are near the top in tax burden. This is the result of New York’s “trickle down” policy of making local governments shoulder tax burdens shifted from Albany.

In Westchester County alone, $225 million collected annually at the local level is remitted to Albany for the state Medicaid program. Westchester County taxpayers could see this $225 million in local tax relief immediately if the governor and the state legislature would only do what 49 other states have done already and fund Medicaid
at the state level.

The consolidation theme mirrors the tax cap mantra in its political appeal and simplicity of message, but again does not address the true underlying issues. Eliminating a few positions in a police or public works department does not ameliorate the underlying unsustainable pension system. Rather, consolidation puts an added distance between the taxpayer and their government. I would also argue that elected officials closest to the impact of their decisions, and personally sharing the financial consequences thereof, make the more efficient decisions and are directly answerable to their constituents, be it at Village Hall or in the aisles of Value Drugs.

Consolidation decisions should be made on factors unrelated to the vicissitudes of the current Albany agenda, rather on the benefits to the most important special interest group, the New York state taxpayers.

MikeSmith

Column: New year, new hope

Many people have plans for self-improvement at the dawn of a new year. Sports Editor Mike Smith, second from right, is hoping that his sports teams are able to turn things around. Photo courtesy Mike Smith

Many people have plans for self-improvement at the dawn of a new year. Sports Editor Mike Smith, second from right, is hoping that his sports teams are able to turn things around. Photo courtesy Mike Smith

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to turn the page on 2015—at least sportswise.

From a fandom perspective, this hasn’t been a great year for me.

The Giants, who were thankfully put out of their misery this past weekend, were positively atrocious, only kept afloat for weeks by the grace of playing in such a terrible division.

My Red Sox? I’m not sure they played a Major League Baseball-worthy game after May rolled around.

The less said about the Knicks, the better; when your team is on pace for a sub .500 season and it shows a marked improvement over the previous year, there’s not a lot to cheer for.

And even the teams I follow that did well—the hockey Rangers and my adopted National League-favorite Mets—managed deep postseason runs, only to be undone by the very flaws that had their supporters concerned all season long.

So why am I expecting things to be any better in 2016?

Maybe I’m an optimist; maybe I just don’t learn.

Right now, things don’t look promising for our in-season teams. The Rangers, who looked like the best team—at least record-wise—in the NHL for a month, are in the midst of a mid-winter swoon that would make the Washington Generals blush. The Knicks, even with Kristaps Porzingis energizing the fan base, are clearly also-rans without a discernable plan for the future.

Sure I was pumped by the, ahem, Price-y free agent splash the Red Sox made during the winter meetings, but since news broke on Dec. 28 that the Yankees strengthened their bullpen by trading for the flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman, it looks as though Boston is in for, at best, a third-place finish within the division.

But that’s the thing about sports fandom: it invites you to suspend the pretense of rationality for as long as possible.

For now, I can still hold out hope that my teams will turn it around. Maybe the Knicks will put together a winning streak and make the playoffs. Maybe the Rangers will find a way to get off a snide that’s seen them win only four of their last 16 games and battle back to the top of the division. Maybe PED suspensions and balky elbow ligaments will wreak havoc on the Yankees’ pitching staff.

Maybe 2016 will be a better year. Maybe I’ll actually have some reason to cheer over the next 12 months.

One can only hope. Unfortunately, that’s what makes being a fan so darn frustrating.

 

Follow Mike on Twitter
@LiveMike_Sports

 
CAREY

Column: Cooperation in Congress and at the U.N.

The first page of The New York Times on Dec. 19 was like a sandwich. In the middle was a horrible photo of bloodshed and suffering at a field hospital in Damascus. In stark contrast, both the first and last columns on the page proclaimed the ability of rival factions to compromise.

The first column was headlined “Security Council Approves a Plan for Syria Talks,” while the sixth column read “Avoiding Rancor, Congress Passes a Fiscal Package.” The contrast between these hopeful announcements and the dreadful scene between them is jarring.

The essence of the two “bookend” stories is that nations and politicians alike are capable of adjusting their demands in favor of achieving broader objectives. At the U.N., all 15 members of the Security Council voted in favor of a resolution which could have been blocked by a negative vote from anyone of Russia, China, France, the U.K. or the U.S., the council’s permanent members.

In Washington, D.C., “a chastened, even beaten down Congress on Friday [Dec. 18] passed a $1.8 trillion package of spending and tax cuts with remarkably little rancor,” said the Times. Without having been there to judge the degree of rancor for myself, I suspect that “rancor” is probably a poor word choice.

When members of an official deliberative body have different approaches to a particular issue and express their views with assurance, they are not necessarily venting rancor. It may be that they simply feel strongly and hope their opinions prevail. To belittle them by claiming to perceive rancor is to cast shame on them unfairly. They should not be scorned for simply doing their job.

As 2016 is now here, we should think about what we want from our elected representatives. How do we want them to behave, particularly toward each other? Do we want them to run down and belittle their fellow officials, or would we prefer that they be mutually respectful? Those of us who have served in elective offices can readily answer that question.

For myself, I would rather deal with an opponent who is trustworthy than a member of my own party whose word cannot be counted on. For example, I would cite the respectful relationship that grew between President George H.W. Bush and the candidate who had defeated him for re-election, William J. Clinton.

Except in a heavily one-party state, the legislative process requires the making of deals across party lines. That is made difficult, if not impossible, if members insult each other to the point of feuding. After all, look at what befell Alexander Hamilton at the hands of his foe Aaron Burr.

While dueling with pistols is no longer allowed, dueling with hateful words is also destructive, not only of personal relationships but also of an effective legislative process.

CONTACT: j_pcarey@verizon.net

 
Forliano

Column: Thomas Pell: Lost hero

A portrait of Thomas Pell, First Lord of the manor of Pelham. (Privately by Robert T. Pell, 1962) Photo courtesy Richard Forliano

A portrait of Thomas Pell, First Lord of the manor of Pelham. (Privately by Robert T. Pell, 1962) Photo courtesy Richard Forliano

This is the sixth in a series of articles on the Colonial and revolutionary history of Eastchester. 

History is often unkind to people who should be ranked among the heroes of America. The obscurity of reliable records can doom these figures to relative oblivion. The complexity of the era in which they live or the failure to identify with a ruling elite can also obscure their importance. Thomas Pell is such a person. Today, the amazing life of Thomas Pell would make a great story for a best-selling historical novel or a gripping subject for a made-for-TV mini-series.

Who was Thomas Pell? He was born the second son of a prominent Englishman. Orphaned at age 4, he was raised by caring stepparents. As a very young man, he held a minor position in the court of King Charles I but was forced to leave the country on account of an indiscretion with a lady-in-waiting to the queen. Pell volunteered in the Netherlands to help that country fight for its independence against Spain. There, he mastered enough of the medical practices of the day to be considered a surgeon. By 1637, 24-year-old Pell had crossed the Atlantic and was found practicing his surgical skills in the bloody Pequot War on the side of the Puritans in nearby Connecticut.

As he amputated limbs and bandaged wounds, he witnessed firsthand the horrors of the savage combat between the Native Americans and Europeans. There is good reason to believe that Pell heard the screams and smelled the burning flesh of the 600 old men, women and children who were burned alive in their stockade by Puritan militia as he tended to the wounded aboard a nearby ship.

A few years after the war was over, Pell moved to New Haven, Conn., practicing his surgical skills and investing in real estate and shipping. He soon became a wealthy man. In 1647, 35-year-old Pell married the widow Lucy Brewster and began to relocate to Fairfield, Conn. Also in that year, Pell had his first brush with Peter Stuyvesant, the newly-arrived Dutch governor of New Netherlands. One of his vessels filled with beaver skins was halted in the East River by Dutch authorities under Stuyvesant’s command and the cargo of valuable skins confiscated.

By 1653, Pell began to sell substantial holdings in New Haven and bought a permanent home in Fairfield. Fairfield, located at the edge of the Puritan wilderness, bordered the Dutch territory of New Netherlands and the remnants of the Lenape tribes that had been decimated by a recent conflict known as Kieft’s War. That very same year, an abortive plan to invade New Netherlands by Puritan invasion enthusiasts from Fairfield had been scrapped, but Pell thought of a more subtle way of gaining control over unsettled lands controlled by the Dutch.

His plan was both simple but ingenious. He would purchase a huge tract of disputed lands from five Lenape chiefs. By gaining dominion over the lands that later in the 17th century became lower Westchester County, the English could block any further movement of Dutch settlers, at least along the shore of the Long Island Sound westward to the Hutchinson River. Pell developed considerable knowledge of dealing with Native Americans both from firsthand experience and hearing about needless hostilities that led not only to the massacre of Anne Hutchinson and her party, but also the near extinction of the Dutch settlement a decade before.

On June 27, 1654, Pell met with five Lenape sachems to buy all of what is currently known as the eastern half of the Bronx and a portion of eastern Westchester County. To prevent any uprisings that might arise over the land purchased, the sachems agreed to send a delegation every spring to the exact spot where the treaty was signed to mark the boundaries of the land that had been purchased. At yearly meetings at the oak tree where the treaty was signed, the sachems and Pell traced the exact boundaries of the treaty.

This treaty was significant. While sporadic outbreaks of violence broke out in other places, no hostilities every broke out in the 9,000 acres purchased by Pell. An interesting aside is that one of the sachems who signed the treaty, named Wampage or John White, is alleged to have signed his name as “Anhooke,” and claimed to be the person who killed Anne Hutchinson. While this story is recounted frequently, there is no clear documentation to prove the validity of that claim.

A year after signing the treaty, Thomas Pell gathered 15 men to settle the village of Westchester on land he had purchased. It was no coincidence that war had broken out in Europe between England and Holland. When Peter Stuyvesant learned about this intrusion, he ordered the settlers of Westchester to leave. Conflict persisted for almost two years and was finally resolved when the settlers of Westchester signed an oath of allegiance to the monarchs of Holland.

The town of Westchester, now a section of the Bronx, while ostentatiously under Dutch control, remained more or less an English settlement with British customs and language, its own militia, and continuance of good relations with Native Americans, thanks to Thomas Pell. Pell would get one last chance to establish an English settlement when on June 24, 1664, he granted a deed to 10 Puritan farm families from Fairfield, Conn., that would become Eastchester.

Thomas Pell was a 17th century swashbuckling adventurer who overcame overwhelming odds to become a major player in the history of lower Westchester County and the Bronx. The treaty that he signed in 1654 was very unusual in that it insured peaceful relations with the area’s Native Americans. His sale in 1664 of 6,000 acres to fellow townspeople from Fairfield, Conn., marked the beginnings of the town of Eastchester.

 

Many thanks to Blake Bell, Pelham town historian, and Lloyd Ulton, Bronx County
historian, for their pioneering research and writing from
which much of the material in this article is taken.

In the next article in 2016, the story of the founding of Eastchester will be told.

Please contact us at historian@eastchester-historicalsociety.org about any comments or questions
you might have about  this column.

 

 

 
MikeSmith

Column: Will someone think of the kids?

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has gotten his team off to a perfect 12-0 record this season. Unfortunately, some people are focusing on his celebrations instead. Photo courtesy Keith Allison

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has gotten his team off to a perfect 12-0 record this season. Unfortunately, some people are focusing on his celebrations instead. Photo courtesy Keith Allison

If you take the word of fans and pundits alike, there is a growing menace in the world of professional football. It’s not gambling, concussion protocols, or the numerous instances of domestic violence that currently plagues the NFL; it’s something far more sinister.

It’s dancing.

On Dec. 6, in a Sunday night game against the Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers’ wide receiver Antonio Brown returned a punt 71 yards for a touchdown and proceeded to punctuate his score with one of the more memorable touchdown celebrations of the year: a full-speed, spread-eagle leap into the goalpost. Brown was flagged for excessive celebration—and for using the goalpost as a “prop”—but the reaction was generally benign, from the referee fighting back a smile as he made the call, to announcers Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth chuckling about it afterward. Everyone seemed to agree that, while an obvious penalty, Brown’s leap was all in good fun.

But the reaction to Brown’s jump seems out of step with some other recent responses to similar celebrations.

A few weeks ago, Cam Newton on the Carolina Panthers celebrated a touchdown run by performing “the dab,” a nascent dance move that, by all accounts, seems as harmless as “the peppermint twist.” But Newton’s “dabbing” unleashed a media firestorm, abounding with hot takes on how Newton’s dance moves don’t conform to his position as a high-profile quarterback in the NFL. Heck, the Charlotte Observer even printed an open letter to Newton, penned by a fan whose 9-year-old daughter was apparently “traumatized” after watching Newton revel in his scoring run.

So what’s the difference between these two scenarios? I think positions have a lot to do with it.

Brown is a wide receiver, a position long thought—fairly or otherwise—to be played primarily by a bunch of “me first” showboats. People point to players like Randy Moss and Chad Johnson as precedents of this kind of behavior, so when Brown does something like this, nobody bats an eye.

But Newton is a quarterback. It’s a position that people still, for some reason, associate with stolid, clean-cut—and, let’s face it, white—players, like Roger Staubach, Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas.

Newton is winning games, sure. He’s emerged as one of the league’s best quarterbacks, plays for one of the league’s best teams, and, regardless of how you feel about the Panthers, he’s got an infectious enthusiasm that makes him hard to root against. But to a few backwards holdouts, he’s shifting the paradigm of quarterbacking in the league, and there’s always going to be some resistance to change.

I just hope people come around to his side sooner rather than later. If you’re too hung up on his dance moves, you’re missing out on watching a truly exceptional player.

 

Follow Mike on Twitter
@LiveMike_Sports

 
LAURA-BRETT2

Column: On being a Rye City Council member

 

 

It has been a great privilege to serve as an elected member of our city council. When I ran for Rye City Council, I was inspired by the spirit of volunteerism in our community. After serving for four years I remain awed by the commitment exhibited by the volunteers who serve our city on the council, on our boards and commissions and as advocates for issues. I am also inspired by the dedicated and professional staff that serves our city every day.

When campaigning for a position on the city council, I promised I would prioritize a few issues. For me, the most important issues to the city were efficiently managing services costs, developing solutions for flood mitigation, implementing pedestrian safety initiatives, prioritizing historic preservation, protecting Rye’s interests in Playland and Rye Town Park, and, most importantly, governing in a way that inspires public confidence.

In my four years on the city council, we have restored public confidence in the integrity of a city government. We uncovered fraud at the golf club, replaced the golf club manager and have outsourced the golf club catering facilities to a private operator who agreed to allow golf club members access to the restaurant facilities. We negotiated a resolution to three of four outstanding labor contracts. We adopted a change to the city charter, which requires that city council members be allowed access to all of the city’s books and records, and we replaced our outside auditing firm. We also hired a new city manager who shares the goal of an open and transparent city government.

An unexpected and welcome result of restoring public confidence in city government is that our regular council meetings have become significantly shorter. The increased confidence in the integrity of the city government seems to have decreased some of the antagonism between members of our community and the council.

The council has made progress on other issues as well.

During my four years on the council, the city budget has been consistently within the tax cap, meaning that tax increases have been less than 2 percent each year. We also sold city-owned property at 1037 Boston Post Road for maximum value, without any loss to the city. This seemed like an unlikely outcome a few years ago, yet the public auction of the property brought out several interested bidders.

With regard to flood mitigation, we were selected to receive $3 million in NY Rising flood mitigation grants and have worked with the state to identify potential flood mitigation opportunities. We are now in a position to install significant flood mitigation projects with funding through NY Rising. We have installed miles of new sidewalk and found funding for several pedestrian safety projects through both the Safe Routes to School program and by asking voters to approve a bond for pedestrian safety projects.

We have made strides in historic preservation as well, enacting legislation that gives property owners a tax incentive to renovate or rehabilitate historic properties and defined a new downtown historic district where land will now be eligible for this tax incentive. Additionally, the council has been active and vocal in advocating for Rye’s interests in Playland and at Rye Town Park.

Many issues that have come up during my time on the council, however, were driven by circumstances or the advocacy of members of our community. We have approved zoning changes for two new senior housing developments based on inquiries from the county and a property owner. At the urging of a resident, we implemented a Drive 25 pilot study to encourage drivers to slow down on our city streets. We are now pursuing state legislation that would make this change permanent. Additionally, several residents advocated for the council to place restrictions on rock chipping in our community, which we introduced, debated and enacted within the past year. We are also addressing concerns about deer, sidewalks on Forest Avenue, the development on the former United Hospital site, and the conditions of our roads, implementing a 2014 pavement management plan that requires a significant increase in city funds devoted to road repair.

These accomplishments are significant and, as I leave office, I am proud of what the Rye City Council has done during my time here. When asked about my biggest contribution, however, I would not point to any one of the items listed. I cannot individually take credit for any of these listed achievements because the council has worked collectively to achieve each outcome.

Instead, my biggest contribution—and often the biggest challenge—during my service on the council was to stay engaged in the issues. On this council—and in every governing body—it is easy to take a position and steadfastly advocate for it. Influencing a decision on a difficult issue requires more than advocating for a position. It demands engaging in debate and conversation. Digging into an issue to find out where there is agreement and where there is disagreement takes patience and persistence. I know that my persistence resulted in a better outcome on several of these decisions, and on other issues, it allowed the council to arrive at a decision by consensus rather than a split decision.

During the last few years, I have had the fortune of working with a mayor and city council that have worked hard, sifted through the issues and made decisions that are in the best interests of Rye. My hope for the members of the next council is that they have the good fortune to work collegially, and my respectful advice is that, regardless of the issues and challenges that they face in the years ahead, they stay engaged in each debate. If they do, I have no doubt that they will be making decisions that are best for Rye.

CAREY

Column: Terrorism versus genocide

One problem with using use the word “terrorism” is that not everyone has the same understanding of that word. People discuss whether acts of mass murder should be called acts of terrorism. But during his Oval Office address on Dec. 6, President Obama clearly did label the San Bernardino, Calif., murders as “terrorism.”

Earlier, the president had been slammed for declining to label certain murders as “Islamist terrorism.” But I feel it would have been a mistake to dignify atrocities by linking them to a major, worldwide faith.

There seems to be no generally-accepted definition of terrorism. There are U.S. statutes and U.N. instruments that use the term in various ways. Until recently, I understood terrorism as a term that refers to mass atrocities designed to influence governmental actions. But we may need a broader, stronger term.

When large numbers of Americans are murdered just because of their nationality, we should look at the definition of genocide. The most authoritative definition of “genocide” is in the related U.N. Convention, which specifies that:

“Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”

We Americans are a national group. Killing members of our American national group sounds like genocide if it is being done to destroy part of the group, which is certainly the case.

Murdering Americans just because they are Americans must be at least attempted genocide, a most serious crime.

CONTACT: j_pcarey@verizon.net