Category Archives: Columns

Poetic-License

Poetic License

The poet’s job is to find a name for everything.

-Jane Kenyon

poetic

Laments

From the chapbook, “Shards,” by Mary Louise Cox

 

Sometimes in the morning

octaves of a flute

path my gray-green woods

moontoning

 

Buried sounds chase through me

locking mourning

into dream scales

of silver remembered

laments.

 

“In India the sound of Krishna’s flute is the magical cause of the birth of the world.”

 

Mary Louise Cox, poet laureate of the Town and Village of Mamaroneck

CAREY

Column: Prayers at City Council meetings?

careyThe annual “return-to-the-Square-House” gathering on Wednesday, May 7, drew as large a crowd as I can remember and I have attended each year since the early 1960s. Mayor Sack presided with dignity and finesse.

We former mayors were called on for brief remarks, starting with my predecessor, Ed Grainger. I began by saying I thought of using my few minutes to offer up a prayer for the council in coping with their problems, since prayers in public meetings had just been approved by five members of the U.S. Supreme Court.

But then I added that I had instead done my praying silently on the way to the Square House, and that I would pray some more for the council on my way home. No one commented, but the seed was sown for in-depth discussion in future meetings, formal and informal, on how the Rye City Council should react to the May 5 decision in Town of Greece, N.Y. v. Galloway.

My own view is each of us is free to pray wherever and whenever we choose, as long as we do not interfere with others. In council meetings these days, the former custom of not interrupting others happily seems to have been restored. So you would not expect members of the council or of the public to start praying aloud when someone else has the floor.

There is on each City Council regular meeting agenda an item for members of the public to be heard on matters not otherwise on the agenda. That would be an appropriate time for members of the public, and council members, to pray aloud if so moved. It would be more effective if those so doing would ad lib instead of reading from a paper of unknown authorship. Those speaking too long could be gently chided just as those on non-religious topics can be at present.

It would be wrong for anyone to be told by a government officer or employee not to pray, or how to pray, or to stop praying, since the 14th amendment to the federal constitution protects “the free exercise” of religion.

As long as all those praying publicly are self-selected, a problem faced by the Supreme Court in the Greece case is avoided. The problem is most if not all the clergy invited to pray in Greece’s meetings were Christians and chose their texts accordingly. So Judaism and Islam, for example, were not represented.

The record does not reveal whether the Christian prayers included some from storefront churches or mega-churches, or were all from ivy-clad gothic edifices.

One question that puzzles me is at what point would our City Hall become a house of worship as well as our seat of local government if more and more people assert their 14th amendment rights by taking to the podium to pray. It would be wise of the council to think through these issues before they are confronted with them while on the dais.

It is to me a great shame, and a shortcoming in our judicial system at the top, that no one text received the support of all nine of the Supreme Court justices. This is particularly unfortunate when viewed in contrast to the monumental achievement of Chief Justice Earl Warren, who brought all nine into a unanimous rejection of the “separate but equal” rule in public education in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, declaring “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

The “opinion of the Court” in the Greece case was delivered by Justice Kennedy, but he was not able to deliver a full vote as to Part II-B of his decision, which denies that the Town of Greece coerces participation by non-adherents. Kennedy’s own opinion ends with this: “Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond the authority of government to alter or define and that willing participation in civic affairs can be consistent with a brief acknowledgment of their belief in a higher power, always with due respect for those who adhere to other beliefs. The prayer in this case has a permissible ceremonial purpose. It is not an unconstitutional establishment of religion.”

An important comment by Justice Kennedy was, “any member of the public is welcome to offer an invocation reflecting his or her own convictions.” I doubt any member of the Rye City Council wants the floor to be opened up to anyone who differs with what has been said by someone else on a religious question. But that might happen.

contact: j_pcarey@verizon.net

 
Marvin-Mary

Column: Mother’s Day has deep roots

Mayor-MarvinAfter enjoying a very special three-generation Mother’s Day on Sunday, the whole concept and origin of the celebration piqued my interest and lead to fascinating discoveries.

Throughout history, mothers have been honored as goddesses or through festivals of celebration, usually in the springtime, recognizing the rebirth of the land and the beginning of the most fertile time of year.

The modern version of Mother’s Day is traced to 17th century England, when the fourth Sunday of Lent was named “Mothering Sunday.” Rules about fasting and penance were suspended and grown children were given the day off from their jobs, often as tradesmen or domestics in other towns, to return home. They traditionally brought treats of sweets and wild flower bouquets to their mothers.

In contrast, the early English settlers in the colonies did not approve of secular holidays and Mothering Sunday did not catch on.

The American version of Mother’s Day was a very different animal indeed. It was born in the aftermath of the Civil War as a rallying cry for women worldwide to oppose war and fight for social justice.

Julia Ward Howe, a Boston poet and author of the “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” wrote a poem in 1870 entitled, “A Mother’s Day Proclamation” with the opening line, “Arise then women of thy day” and ended with, “We, the women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure others.”

Howe was also a well-known abolitionist who was still grieving over the losses in the Civil War and angry at the Franco-Prussian War. She had her poem translated into many languages and spent two full years travelling the globe rallying the world’s women to rise up and unite for peace.

Because of Ms. Howe, many New England communities organized Mother’s Day gatherings that were grounded in faith, feminism and protest—a far cry from Hallmark, brunch and carnations.

In a parallel effort, Ann Reeves Jarvis, a West Virginian Methodist and social activist, organized Mother’s Day Work clubs in hopes of educating poor women about health and hygiene.

In homage to her work, Jarvis’ daughter, Anna, devoted much of her adult life to having Mother’s Day declared a national holiday. On May 10, 1908, the first religious service for Mother’s Day was held in Jarvis’ home church in Grafton, W.Va., followed by an afternoon service in her daughter’s church in Philadelphia.

Anna Jarvis sent 500 carnations to the West Virginia church, thus creating a now long-standing tradition of flower gifts.

Finally, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson made the holiday official by declaring the second Sunday in May, Mother’s Day.

But, after seeing her day turn into a commercial goldmine, Ms. Jarvis called for a boycott of the day she inspired.

Father’s Day did not have roots of peace or protest, rather ones of fairness.

In 1910, after listening to a Mother’s Day sermon, Sonora Dodd of Washington State asked her pastor to also honor her father, who was a widow raising six children on his own. Like Ms. Jarvis, Dodd spent years promoting it and sought the help of the tobacco and tie industries to advance her cause. The idea did not catch on as many objected to the demonstrated commercialization of the very popular Mother’s Day.

Bills were introduced as early as 1913 to make Father’s Day a national holiday, but it only came to fruition in 1972 when President Richard Nixon signed the bill declaring Father’s Day a national holiday.

Approximately $20 billion is spent on mom each year with flowers, candy, perfume and beauty services the most popular gifts. About half as much is spent on dad with ties, gift cards and automotive accessories the most gifted items.

Mother’s Day is the largest card-sending holiday, the most popular day of the year to dine out and a quarter of all the flowers sold yearly are purchased for Mother’s Day.

Why the spending differential? The folks surveyed seem to think the holiday means more to moms than dads.

As a caution for our upcoming honor to dad, on June 15, the surveys say he does not want that extra tie or dreaded No. 1 Dad t-shirt, rather dinner, a bar-b-que or a sports or amusement outing.

Either day is an opportunity to take time out to stop and just say thank you, the nicest tradition of all.

LAURA-BRETT2

Column: I do this for the same reasons you do

lauraAs a member of the City Council, I regularly get asked one of two questions. First, how do you like being on the City Council? Second, why the heck did you decide to do that?

The answer to both questions is essentially the same. Being on the City Council is challenging. We have to consider and make decisions on many tough issues. Additionally, the commitment to the council takes time away from family and other obligations. But being on the City Council allows me to contribute to our community—a community that is strong because of the commitment of so many volunteers.

Every year, the city honors its volunteers and staff at its annual meeting at the Square House in early May. I have now attended three of these meetings as a member of the City Council. The meeting is attended by former mayors and councilpersons, members of our volunteer boards and commissions, and volunteer members of our fire department as well as members of the city staff. This year, five former mayors attended the meeting, including our state Assemblyman Steve Otis. Former Councilpersons who attended include state Sen. George Latimer and county Legislator Catherine Parker. The Square House formerly served as City Hall and provides a great setting for us to recognize those who served our community in the past and those who continue to serve our community. I am continually astounded by the number of people who volunteer countless hours for our community and am proud to be counted as a volunteer in the same spirit.

As council liaison to the Landmarks and Flood Advisory committees and as a member of the city’s Planning Commission, I see the chairs and committee members devote their time and talent to their committee’s responsibilities. I would like to share some of their efforts to highlight the value our volunteers provide to our community.

The Landmarks Committee, chaired by Jack Zahringer, meets monthly to consider issues affecting the historic character of our beautiful community. After successfully advocating for the city to adopt tax incentives for historic preservation, the committee is now seeking to designate our downtown as a state historic preservation district. This would mean downtown property owners are eligible for tax incentives if they renovate a historic building. We hope the committee’s efforts will also help preserve the historic character of our downtown, which maintains the charm and appeal of our “main street.”

The Flood Advisory Committee, led by Bernie Althoff, is working to solve the problems flooding regularly causes in our community. The committee meets on an as-needed basis, but Bernie summons me to coffee regularly to make sure that I am keeping flooding on the city’s agenda. One of the committee’s initiatives was to update past studies on flood elevations and mitigation opportunities in our watershed area. The recently updated studies were done at an opportune time, as New York State is now putting together a Rye committee to pursue funding for flood mitigation through the N.Y. Rising program. Rye has been designated to receive $3 million through N.Y. Rising—real money we need for flood mitigation. Because the committee has continued to make addressing flooding a city priority, we are in a great position to go through the N.Y. Rising process.

Finally, I want to recognize the valuable contributions made by members of the Planning Commission, chaired by Nick Everett. Many members of the Planning Commission have significant professional expertise, others have significant experience reviewing and improving site plans for the benefit of the community—their diverse professional and personal backgrounds add value when reviewing applications before the commission. The Planning Commission meets twice per month, reviews lengthy submissions and visits nearly every site reviewed. In reviewing site plan approvals for wetland permits or subdivisions, the Planning Commission counsels and cajoles applicants to adjust their projects to mitigate impacts to our community.

These are just three of the many boards and commissions on which people volunteer to serve Rye. Very often the people who ask me the question, “Why the heck did you decide to serve on the City Council?” are the same volunteers who serve our community. So my answer is easy—I do this for the same reasons you do.

The Council Corner is a new bi-weekly column which will alternate amongst the seven members of the Rye City Council. The next installment, on May 30, will feature Councilwoman Julie Killian.

 
BELMONT1

Column: The streets of Harrison are paved with…asphalt

belmontRecently, my office has been contacted by N.Y. State Department of Transportation’s engineer-in-charge regarding the paving project for Purchase Street/Route 120. I would like to give you an update of the schedule so you can be aware of possible traffic alterations.

The contractor is Morano Brothers and they will begin by prepping the area. They will be working on surveys, basins and gutters for the next few weeks.

On or about May 27, 2014, the reclamation, milling and paving work will begin. These operations will occur at night, during the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., Sunday through Friday.

Initially, the contractor will concentrate on the northern end, from Lake Street to Westchester Avenue, and then proceed to the southern end, from Westchester Avenue to Ridge Street. There will be some miscellaneous repairs happening simultaneously on the southern end while the northern end is in progress.

Should you have any questions or concerns about the upcoming work detail, please don’t hesitate to contact my office at 670-3005.

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of participating in this year’s St. Vincent’s Hospital Spring Sprint. This annual 5k run/walk benefits the hospital’s chemical dependency programs and services for children, adolescents and adults. The sprint was well attended, with more than 500 participants. It was a great event and I was happy to lend my support to this very valuable local organization.

Memorial Day will be celebrated this year on Monday, May 26, and the Town Council, along with our parade director, Ben DeFonce, U.S.M.C. Ret., invite you to participate in Harrison’s annual parade. We will be honoring the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom. Line up will be at 9:30 a.m. on the corner of Halstead and Thatcher avenues, with step-off at 10 a.m.

The parade will proceed to Ma Riis Park, where honored guests will be introduced. Veterans groups, Harrison police, Harrison fire departments, Harrison High School marching band, Harrison ambulance corps and any and all other civic groups are invited to participate. We hope you will join us on this most important day.

In closing, I would like to bring your attention to the upcoming Harrison library renovation. The Harrison Public Library Foundation is initiating its final phase in fundraising for this major capital improvement project and is asking Harrison residents for their support. The new facility will include a larger children’s area, a teen center, additional computers, a modernized community room and a renovated adult area. To make a donation to HPLF, please visit www.hplf.org.

The next “Lunch with the Mayor” is on May 16 and I will be at Silver Lake Asian Fusion and Sushi Bar located at 87 Lake St. in West Harrison. I will be at this location from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. and look forward to meeting with residents and talking about issues facing our community.

Jason5

Column: How not to handle a kidnapping

Jason-Column2As I write this, 200 Nigerian schoolgirls, most ranging in age from 16 to 18, are in the custody of Boko Haram, a radical Islamist terrorist group, somewhere in the country’s jungles.

To date, the most significant sign of the world’s outrage is a hashtag on Twitter.

In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt was confronted with a kidnapping. He handled it differently.

Ion Perdicaris was a Greek-American playboy and businessman with an interest and a home in Tangier, Morocco. On May 18, 1904, Perdicaris and his stepson, Cromwell Varley, were kidnapped from their home by a group of bandits headed by Mulai Ahmed er Raisuli, an outlaw some in Morocco regarded as something of a Robin Hood.

With his wealthy, foreign captives in-hand, Raisuli demanded $70,000, safe passage for his men and control of two wealthy districts near Tangier from Sultan Abdelaziz of Morocco, who was seen as a weak pawn of European powers and interests.

When word reached the United States, Secretary of State John Hay called Raisuli’s demands “preposterous” and Roosevelt, winding down his term, ordered four warships from the South Atlantic Squadron of the United States Navy to Morocco on May 27. Three more warships, these from the U.S. European Squadron, were dispatched to the area on June 1.

While it might appear Roosevelt’s armada massed along Morocco’s shores to compel Raisuli to release his hostages, the American ships’ actual mission was to pressure the sultan to secure the release of Perdicaris and his stepson. Although few marines actually went ashore, the American forces were poised to seize control of the Moroccan customhouses, the country’s main source of commerce, if the order came from Washington.

Roosevelt and Hay’s demand to Abdelaziz was simple, “This government wants Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead.”

That line went down a storm when Hay read it at the 1904 Republican National Convention.

Behind the scenes, Roosevelt recruited France and Great Britain to apply additional pressure to the Moroccan government, which both did.

On June 21, the sultan agreed to Raisuli’s terms and Perdicaris and his stepson were released unharmed. Perdicaris said later he grew to admire Raisuli during his captivity.

“He is not a bandit, not a murderer,” Perdicaris said of Raisuli following his release, “but a patriot forced into acts of brigandage to save his native soil and his people from the yoke of tyranny.”

What the public didn’t know until a 1933 biography of Hay was Perdicaris was not an American citizen at all; he’d relinquished his American passport for a Greek one some 40 years before Raisuni kidnapped him. Although he was informed of Perdicaris’ status during his captivity, Roosevelt reasoned Raisuli and the sultan believed Perdicaris to be an American, and that perception alone was enough to make damn sure both of them knew who was boss.

Roosevelt was re-elected in 1904; though it’s unlikely the Perdicaris incident had all that much to do with it beyond Hay’s rabble rousing at the convention.

So, what’s the point of all this?

What has the Perdicaris incident of 1904, in which President Roosevelt forced a sovereign nation to capitulate to what many people would consider a terrorist, have do with the kidnapping of 200 Nigerian schoolgirls in 2014?

Well, even in 1904, the world was quite a complicated place with shades of gray and backroom deals that had to be worked out before a not-quite-American could be freed from a might-have-been-but-maybe-not-terrorist, but it got done and, though some of the motivations might have been questionable, no blood was spilled.

In 2014, a year I’m sure we’d like to believe is far more complex than Roosevelt’s era, more than 200 girls have been torn from their schools by cartoonish clichés of evil who have perpetrated an act so pure in its depravity one would roll one’s eyes were it to take place in fiction.

The members of Boko Haram are men around whom the entire world should stop and stare until those 200 girls are back in their classrooms. It should be that simple and it astounds me it hasn’t
happened.

It would be nice to live in a world like that, where malevolence so clearly-cut would be met head-on by everyone else and either shamed from existence, or else extinguished from it if a single hand was raised against those girls or against anyone brave enough to say you can’t do things like this and I’m going to stop you if you do.

It would be nice to live in a world like that, a world that direct. But we don’t.

We have a hashtag.

CONTACT: jason@hometwn.com

 
NOT TO BAD

Column: Thanks, mom

livemikemomOf all the sports I played, of all the coaches I’ve ever had, the single best piece of sporting advice I ever got was from my mother.

Just before I started my senior year of high school, a week into preseason two-a-days, I came to a decision; I was going to quit playing football.

My high school girlfriend broke up with me two days before the start of the season, my head wasn’t in the game and I was playing myself out of a starting role with my distracted route running and lackadaisical approach to contact drills.

Add to that, our team was set to leave for Camp Taconic for one week of what I was sure would be the most grueling and arduous football drilling of my life.

To be fair, I had just read “The Junction Boys,” an account of Bear Bryant’s infamous preseason summer camp when he took over the Texas A&M football team and ran off most of the returning players in the process. I was certain we were in store for the same sort of brutal “character building” that is generally classified as “child endangerment” in this day and age.

The morning we were supposed to leave for Camp Taconic, I moped around the house until I decided to tell my mom the news; I was done with football.

Moms are our greatest cheerleaders. She would understand my plight, right?

Her response to me had all the subtlety of a sledgehammer and contained a few words that might not be printable here.

“Quit being a baby,” she told me, in not so many words. “Get on the bus.”

To this day, getting on that bus was the best move I’ve ever made.

Camp Taconic might not have been Junction, Texas; we might not have been playing through broken bones and heatstroke as Bear Bryant’s players had but, of all the life lessons sports are supposed to teach us, isn’t showing up when the chips are down and soldiering on despite adversity the biggest?

That’s something I didn’t learn from a coach with a whistle, I learned it from a 50-year-old woman who wasn’t about to sit there and let her son throw away something he’d worked toward for eight years because he was having a bad day.

Mothers have been a big subject in the sports world over the past few days. From MLB’s annual Mother’s Day pink bats to Kevin Durant’s tearful MVP speech in which he thanked his mother for her support over the years, to N.Y. Ranger forward Martin St. Louis—just two days after his mother’s sudden death—scoring a goal on Mother’s Day at Madison Square Garden to help his team force a Game 7 with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

There’s a reason sports figures often get choked up when talking about their mothers. It’s not just because they were the ones who brought the orange slices to the field on those hot summer days—although, mom, if you are reading this, I’m playing a double-header in Brooklyn on Saturday and some orange slices would be wonderful if you get the chance—it’s because they have a tendency to be an athlete’s fiercest fan, sharpest critic and an unending reservoir of
support.

I hope you had a happy Mother’s Day, mom.

Thanks again for getting me on that bus.

 

Follow Mike on Twitter, 

@LiveMike_Sports

 
CAREY

Column: Wheels of justice grinding slowly

careyGerry Adams, 65 years old and head of Sinn Féin, was arrested last week in connection with the 1972 unsolved murder of a 37-year-old widow and mother of 10. Evidently, there is no statute of limitations for murder in that jurisdiction, no period of time, however long, after which one can no longer be prosecuted.

In 1972, the year of the murder, I heard a good bit about Gerry Adams while in Northern Ireland. I got there on Feb. 20 along with Georgetown law professor Samuel Dash and former Yale law school dean Lou Pollak. We were there to witness the start of the British government’s official investigation of the killing of 14 unarmed demonstrators on Jan. 30 by paratroopers in what became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

Shortly after our arrival, we saw a “snatch squad” of soldiers grab a young man and rush him away for questioning. Then live ammunition began hitting the ground 15 feet from where we were standing. Had they killed Sam, the U.S. Senate Watergate Investigation Committee, of which he became chief counsel later in 1972, might have had a different outcome.

Had the bullets killed me, I would not have been elected mayor of Rye in 1973.

The “Bloody Sunday” investigation was to be led by the lord chief justice of England, the Rt. Hon. Lord Widgery. Sam Dash had met Widgery when His Lordship visited the U.S. at a time when Sam was head of the American Bar Association’s Section of Criminal Law. Sam had also been President of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers after serving as district attorney in Philadelphia, where he and I had been fellow assistant DAs.

We heard Gerry Adams described as head of the political wing or arm of the Irish Republican Army. I was puzzled then, and still am, just how you can be the wing or arm of anything without being involved in its activities. After all, would it be possible for us to imagine anyone being in a political wing or arm of Al-Qaeda without being involved in its activities? Adams says he was never a member of the IRA and had nothing to do with
the murder.

In June of 1972, Sam Dash published a scholarly 85-page analysis entitled “Justice Denied: A Challenge to Lord Widgery’s Report on Bloody Sunday.”

In June 2010, almost 40 years later, British Prime Minister David Cameron apologized for the Bloody Sunday killings. He told the House of Commons, “Some members of our armed forces acted wrongly. The government is ultimately responsible for the conduct of the armed forces. And for that, on behalf of the government—and indeed our country—I am deeply sorry.”

Between 1972 and 2010, significant progress was made in ending the “Troubles,” as they were called, in Northern Ireland. In 1998 the “Good Friday Agreement” largely curtailed 30 years of sectarian strife. According to a Reuters report, Adams, on his release from jail last Sunday, May 4, stated, “I’m an Irish republican. I want to live in a peaceful Ireland. I’ve never dissociated myself from the IRA, and I never will, but I am glad that I and others have created a peaceful and democratic way forward for everyone. The IRA is gone, finished.”

CONTACT: j_pcarey@verizon.net

 
laura

Column: Tax levy cap: A cap on education?

laura-SlackAs I reflect on the years I have volunteered for the Rye City School District, the last few years in public education have changed dramatically.

Local school districts are required to comply with so many more state mandates while the state pushes costs down to the local level, which affects the public financing of schools in both cases.

One of the greatest challenges our school district continues to face is the tax cap imposed by New York State without any corresponding relief from excessive, unfunded state mandates. The tax cap has radically changed the landscape of public education in New York.

In spite of this imbalance of financial support for state required programs, so far our district has met the challenge “to do more with less,” producing tax-cap compliant budgets while maintaining the top quality education Rye families expect and value.

Recently, Rye High School was named the 11th best high school in New York by U.S. News & World Report. The Report rankings rated more than 19,000 high schools and looked at both the number of Advanced Placement exams taken and how children performed on them. Among open enrollment schools—those that do not require admission—Rye was ranked No. 2 in the state and No. 4 in the country.

Rye’s academic standing and history of student success will continue to be challenged by a tax cap without mandate relief.

In 2011, New York enacted a cap on property taxes of 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. By doing this, the state eroded the community’s local control over the financing of our school district. The tax cap formula does not account for enrollment growth, skyrocketing pension costs or any costs associated with unfunded mandates of implementing Common Core, testing and the teacher evaluation system, APPR.

Since 2004, the Rye City School District’s enrollment has dramatically increased by 518 students, or 18 percent, to a total of 3,315 students. For many school districts across the state, where the enrollment has decreased, it is much easier to live within a tax cap because those districts simply need fewer teachers to teach fewer students.

Pension costs of the Teacher Retirement System and the Employee Retirement System have surged in the last five years. In the 2009-2010 school year, the district paid an amount equal to 6.19 percent of every teacher’s salary, or $2.18 million, to the state for retirement benefits. In the 2014-2015 school year, the district will have to pay 17.53 percent—$5.8 million.

This dramatic increase in just six years is one of the major drivers in the crisis of the financing of public schools in New York State.

The school district has to absorb these costs within a tax cap, as it is not exempt.

While the tax cap does allow for an exemption for any increase above 2 percentage points in any year, this is meaningless relief. For example, this year the rate goes from 16.25 percent to 17.53 percent of salary, but since it is an increase of 1.28 percentage points, none of these costs are exempt.

The unfunded mandates of Common Core, state testing and APPR are additional state-mandated financial drains on the school district’s operating budget. The state has indicated all state tests will be given on computers in the coming years. Rye, like most other school districts in the state, does not currently have the infrastructure to be able to do that. Compliance will be expensive. It is estimated that between 2012 and 2015, compliance with these mandates will have cost Rye more than $2 million.

Another limitation to public school financing is the decrease in state aid. The state has withheld education aid from all districts since 2010 in order to address its own revenue shortfall. Despite now having a surplus, the state still owes Rye $1.9 million.

What all of this means is Rye must educate more students, absorb escalating pension costs and comply with expensive unfunded state mandates, all with less state aid and an allowable tax levy increase this year of only 1.64 percent.

In Rye, we have exercised heightened fiscal discipline since the financial crisis of 2008, long before the tax cap was put in place. There are no more cuts to be made without compromising the educational program. The school district has made judicious use of reserves, found efficiencies in scheduling and staffing, and has cut 61.9 full time positions, even in the face of increasing enrollment. The school district has already implemented consolidation efforts and cooperative bidding to lower costs.

It is time for state government to lead rather than push the problems down to local communities. In order for a tax cap to work without destroying public education, there must be real and effective mandate relief—not conversations and commissions. The state, which controls the pension costs, must shoulder the responsibility for those pension costs by either managing state pensions more effectively or funding pension costs at the state level.

Rye’s remarkable and successful school district is a primary reason many of us chose Rye as the community to raise our families. The district flourishes due to the hard work and talent of all its stakeholders: the children of Rye and their parents, our dedicated faculty, staff and administrators, and the citizens of Rye who support our schools whether or not they currently have children attending one of them. We must keep pressure on all of our elected officials in Albany to provide real and effective mandate relief if we want to preserve quality education in Rye.

The School Zone is a new
monthly column featuring insights from Board of Education
President Laura Slack
.

 
Marvin-Mary

Column: Making the village beautiful for spring

Mayor-MarvinThe continued spate of mild weather has thankfully reawakened the village after our long hibernation. Sidewalks are busy, bicycles are out, projects are starting and flowers are finally popping.

Traditionally, this time of year is the busiest and prettiest in our village. Our outdoor farmer’s market opens this Saturday on Stone Place and Paxton Avenue from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. This year’s 40 vendors are a record number, including 15 new vendors whose wares include grass fed meat, hand crafted ice cream, vegan snacks, pies, spices and cold brewed coffees and teas. To read more about all of our vendors, visit the market’s new website at www.bronxvillefarmersmarket.com.

If spring cleaning is on your agenda, our Green Committee has arranged a Take Back Day on May 10 from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. in the Bronxville Elementary School parking lot on Midland Avenue. The Westchester County shredder will be there, and all electronic products can be dropped-off for safe and responsible recycling. In addition, old linens, sheets and towels can be donated to be recycled to area animal shelters.

If your spring cleaning unearths any unwanted non-electronic items, for just $20, our DPW will come and collect these items curbside. This special pickup can be arranged by stopping by our building and public works department or calling 337-7338.

In the same spirit of recycling, once again the village placed in the top three of the 45 Westchester communities in the amount of garbage we recycle. The county average is 51 percent, and the village again recycled more than 70 percent of our garbage. Recycling is not only about the environment, it also translates into real savings for the village. The cost of dumping non-recycled garbage into landfills or burn facilities is extremely high in Westchester County. In contrast, when we deliver our recyclables to the recovery center in Yonkers, we receive a portion of the resale monies made by selling to manufacturers.

In a most exciting development, our Bronxville Beautification Committee will collaborate with our post office to refurbish and beautify its grounds. The BBC’s prior project was the beautification of the entire area of banks near the railroad station and essentially almost every planted pot, flower basket and flower grouping is the result of BBC’s effort, not tax payer dollars. Their only source of funding is an upcoming spring solicitation letter this month. The village is beautiful only because of your generosity.

Continuing on the “new and exciting” theme, the baseball field at Scout Field was formally opened this past Saturday. It was the result of a sustained partnership between county government, Eastchester town leaders and the Bronxville School and village. Swamp land has been transformed into a first-rate ball field, which helps to alleviate the ongoing need for additional field space.

The recent traffic in our Building Department is another indication that many residents are sprucing up their homes or their properties now that the nice weather is upon us. To ensure a high standard of work, be sure to employ only those plumbers, electricians and contractors who are licensed by Westchester County. A license assures that a contractor has adequate insurance and workmen’s compensation coverage. Licensed contractors display a green bumper sticker on all company vehicles.

Prior to starting any project, it is advisable to call the village Building Department at 337-7338 to ascertain the need for permits. Even exclusively indoor work, such as plumbing and heating repairs, require a permit if the work includes the extension or modification of any pipes or wiring.

If permits are not secured at the onset of a project, fees are automatically doubled and contractors may be required to open walls for inspection and remove unpermitted work.

In addition, unpermitted work will not receive a Certificate of Occupancy which is required when a residence is bought or sold, causing great difficulty in the transfer of property.

Besides the obvious permits required for full-scale renovations, permits are needed for smaller projects, including window and siding replacement, removal of fuel oil tanks, installation of pools, hot tubs, sheds, decks, emergency generators and the installation of central air conditioning.