Category Archives: Vote 2013

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County legislator candidates: Mary Jo Jacobs

Mary Jo Jacobs

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Photo/Ashley Helms

Age: 52

Political affiliation: Democratic nominee

Status: Challenger

Party endorsements: Working Families

Years in district: 25

Occupation: Consulting work, director in human resources and facilities for 30 years.

Family: Husband Quentin; children Anne, 19, Brendan, 17, Andrew, 14, Gregory, 11.

Community involvement: Fifteen years in PTA; seven of them I was president of different PTAs. For three years as special education PTA president. Ran “We Are One” fundraiser. Co-chair of community resources and open space committee for rewriting of New Rochelle comprehensive plan.

One thing the average voter doesn’t know about you: “I was the first paper girl in Queens County.”

Q: What is your stance on the Sustainable Playland plan for the county-owned amusement park? Some concerned residents have cited traffic, parking and noise issues in connection with the 95,000 sq. foot indoor sports facility SPI has proposed within its Playland Improvement Plan.

A: I would want to vet and explore each of the plans that were given to us. I would want to make sure that the county is ensuring that property remains available to everyone and I think you need to get your community input to ensure that we are not creating more problems, but creating a facility that everyone can access and use in a way that is as possible as it can be. I do believe we should be looking at all of our options; I don’t think any of these things are a done deal and I’d like to go in with a fresh set of eyes.

Q: You have said that there were gaping holes in the 2013 budget and safety net programs. Explain how, from your perspective, those gaping holes came to be and what would you do to strengthen essential services while keeping taxes as low as possible?

A: I was disappointed with the way the budget was handled in 2013. There was $19 million that was bonded to pay back tax certioraris. Whether you’re the state comptroller or you’re working an accounting department, you don’t take out a bond to pay for predictable operating expenses. That’s adding interest to something that’s predictable and should have been part of the budget. There was $10 million taken out of social services. There has been, over the years, a 46 percent drop in senior services funding and an increase to [the price of] affordable daycare. The problem with that is the humanistic perspective, which is putting the burden on those that can least afford it, and then there’s the fiscal responsibility of creating a situation where you’re not encouraging people to work.

Q: How do you differ from your opponent on the affordable housing settlement? What direction do you think the county should go in?

A: A settlement was reached and we had an obligation to follow that settlement and, as a result of the obstructionist actions of my opponent and the Republican county executive, we now have $29 million of fines, penalties, court cases and lost community block grants. The lost community block grants have directly affected people in my district. A quarter of a million dollars has been lost in community block grants and money that has already been spent on things like sewer linings and a medical van. Now, that money has to be paid for; the municipalities have already spent that money and now they lost it. That money is going to come from the people that work in the municipalities, as far as I know. I’d like to know where that money is going to come from. In New Rochelle and in Tuckahoe, we had already met our obligations and now we are paying for this perceived federal overreach, which, frankly, isn’t significantly different than what has just happened in Washington D.C.

Q: What are some of your specific plans to deal with flooding?

A: We have to use the examples of what happened in Irene and Sandy and make sure we are preventing that kind of problem again. You have to work with your utility companies and your organizations to make sure people have the services they need during any kind of weather emergency. I would support whatever was really necessary to ensure that we don’t have the same kinds of problems that we’ve had in the past.

Q: Some residents were critical with the county executive’s decision to borrow money for the 2013 county budget to help keep taxes flat. Do you think this was a good idea?

A: No. You don’t bond $19 million to pay for predictable operating expenses like tax certioraris because all you’re doing is kicking the can down the road. It’s going to cost us interest when it didn’t need to. Within the budget that was passed by my opponent and others, there also is a continuation and an add-on to the Astorino appointments within the county government. I don’t know why those exist. That’s the kind of expense I’d look at closely and see if dollars could have been spent more effectively.

Q: How would you preserve county green space while also allowing for smart development to bring in extra revenue?

A: I think what you want to do is work with grass roots organizations and make sure all parties are being heard so that, when you’re talking to developers, you’re also talking to people like the New York League of Conservation Voters to make sure that we’re not only ensuring that there is open space, but that the open space remains protected so there isn’t run-off or other kinds of problems that can contaminate that space. I think it’s important to work with all parties. One thing that I’d like to see happen in Westchester County is to have regional business centers. Young people are getting their drivers licenses at a much lesser degree. I think Westchester County is very well positioned to create business centers that people can ride their bicycles to. I would like the development we do to be used to create business places and business centers where people can have their jobs and also work together to integrate or to network concepts while being a little bit closer to home. I think it would increase tax revenue as well and get more people on their feet while using the rail to see clients.

Q: If elected, what are your priorities?

A: It would be to manage the budget effectively and efficiently with an eye towards keeping taxes down and low to ensure the social services that we offer to our residents are effective and help to move people towards to self-sufficiency. And third would be to have a vision, be creative and engage with the people of Westchester County and find ways to increase and raise revenue; to save people and save municipalities money.

-Reporting by Ashley Helms

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Eastchester town supervisor candidates: Anthony Colavita

Anthony Colavita

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Age: 51

Status: Incumbent

Political Affiliation: Republican nominee

Party Endorsements: Conservative and Independence

Family: Wife and four children: Matthew, 22, Christopher, 20, Caroline, 16, Olivia-Grace, 12

Community Involvement: Eastchester town supervisor

What’s one thing the average voter doesn’t know about you?

“I played college football at Colgate.”

Q: Bronxville claims that the Parkway Bridge is Eastchester’s responsibility based on history and evidence that Bronxville Mayor Mary Marvin has sited in her columns. Why do you think the town isn’t responsible for the bridge?

A: First, the Department of Transportation has, in all of their records, Bronxville named as the responsible party for maintenance. And it is likely that, 60 years ago, the village signed-off on the plans agreeing to maintain the bridge. The DOT has written to the village and said “you’re the party responsible.” So they would like the town to step up. So what I did was the following: I reached out to the County of Westchester and said the bridge is over the Bronx River, which the county owns, therefore they should have some responsibility. They agreed to pick up a quarter of the expense. I reached out to Mike Spano, the mayor of Yonkers, who agreed to pick up a quarter of the expense. That leaves the village and the town. I reached out to Mary Marvin. The two of us spoke at length about it. We’re working in concert and we’ll make up the other two quarters. So exercising a little bit of initiative and working in the flavor of cooperation in what we envision as a four-way contribution to the bridge to open it up again.

Q:With multiple senior housing projects in the works, how is Eastchester handling the HUD settlement?

A: I have a big issue with the HUD settlement. To begin with, and most importantly, the Town of Eastchester was not a named party to the litigation. Secondly, there was no notice of this litigation. Thirdly, the State of New York Constitution and the laws of the State of New York provide for municipal home rule, which means the citizens of Eastchester and the town board, as their representatives, have the absolute right to draft zoning regulations for the orderly growth of the town to protect its commercial tax base and its residential tax base and to deal with stormwater management, sanitary sewer management, open space, massing, spacing, transportation, etc…I said at the debate, “Over my dead body will I permit any federal government, even through the County of Westchester, to force the Town of Eastchester to accept the zoning code that is not the product of our town board and our town residents.”

Q: Tuckahoe’s police is merging with county police for the midnight tour. Is Eastchester planning to do anything similar?

A: No. The Tuckahoe Police Department is down a couple of men. I think that condition will only be temporary. The Eastchester Police Department has remained fully staffed. The town board is completely committed to keeping the staff of the Eastchester Police Department full. And I don’t envision us taking that step.

Q: If re-elected, what would your three main priorities be?

A: To continue to cut spending is the most important priority we have. I want to make a joke: spending, spending and spending. Because that really is the top priority. The goal that we have is to preserve the character of the Town of Eastchester and to also make sure the town is affordable to young families and seniors and anyone that needs to survive in this terrible economy we’re in. The second priority would be to work at Lake Isle. There’s a lot going on at Lake Isle. We have a brand new caterer’s contract that we are about to launch at the beginning of the year. We’ve taken bids from several people that are looking to becoming caterers. We’re also looking to start the process of creating an indoor pool at Lake Isle, too, which is nice. We’ve already put in the tennis bubble. That’s a $6 million facility at no cost to the taxpayer. We’re making, at minimum $200,000 a year in additional revenue that we would never have made because those courts lay fallow all year long. They also put in lights in those courts, which is terrific. So we have the new caterer, the tennis courts and we’re looking to get year-round swimming. And what I envision is an Eastchester Eagles swim program similar to that of the Badgers or Middies. They have the high school-level swimming programs for these kids, and they get huge scholarships. Thirdly, we have to continue our beautification efforts in the town. We have done significant park renovations, particularity Scout Field, Cooper Field, Handl Field. There are a lot of ballfields that need to be completed and updated. We’re also working with the school district, whose turf field is out of commission. And that one little pebble in the pond is having humongous repercussions on the rest of the sports teams that need field space.

Q: How would you keep taxes as low as possible while still preserving the quality of life that residents are used to?

A: We’ve been very successful at preserving the quality of life and maintaining the services in Eastchester. Here’s what we’ve done to reduce taxes. One, I haven’t taken a raise in 10 years. I don’t use the town gas pumps. I don’t have a town car. I don’t have a town credit card. I’m the only person in town government that hasn’t had a raise for more than a decade, and that saved the taxpayers a minimum of $150,000 a year. Number two, CSEA hasn’t had a raise in three years. The department heads haven’t had a raise in four years. We went to bid on our insurance, saved $25,000 a year. We went and did a utility audit, saved $100,000 a year. I have 50 fewer full-time employees from when I got started, and, when your work force is only 200, to lose a quarter of that is a lot of people. That means the remaining three quarters of the work staff is doing 100 percent of the work with no raises. Also, we’ve privatized a lot of functions of town government. We privatized golf course maintenance, saved $300,000 in year one. We privatized ballfield maintenance, saved us $85,000 a year. We consolidated the position of superintendent of highways with the position of general foreman, saved us $5,000 a year. We consolidated the position of court clerk with the receiver of taxes, saving $55,000 a year. We moved all of our employees except for police into a different healthcare program, which gave them better services, but netted a savings of a quarter million dollars. These are examples of what we’ve done to save tax dollars.

Q:What is the biggest issue facing the town?

A: Again, it’s just taxes. It’s keeping the Town of Eastchester affordable. I say this with two large caveats. This is the worst economy in the history of this nation since the Great Depression. And secondly, we are doing all of this and coming under that tax cap—we have never gone past that tax levy cap—with unfunded mandates crushing the town. We have to pay $3.1 million to the State of New York retirement system, that is up 3,000 percent from when I first became supervisor. We wrote a check for $101,000. Now it’s $3.1 million. We’re doing all this and we’re cutting all these taxes and keeping spending in check even with these unfunded mandates from the State of New York.

Q: Is government looking into any safety changes within the DPW following the death of Mr. Farella?

A: The death of Mr. Farella, while tragic, was purely an accident. All the experts that we’ve been advised by said it was just a pure accident. We have asked [Civil Service Employees Union] to come in and to provide us with whatever training they have available for a very basic function. It’s important to note, getting up and down the truck is not terribly complicated, but whatever techniques they have we do embrace, and we’ve asked them to come down and train our guys.

Q: What would you say to the critics that say there isn’t any discourse within the town board because of the presence of just one political party?

A: People often try to use bipartisanism as a means to get elected. And I’ve always worked with all of my fellow elected officials in and out of the town, whether they’d be liberals, Democrats, Republicans or conservatives or non-affiliates. Mayor Marvin is not registered with any party. There are members of the Tuckahoe board that are from the Democratic Party. All of that is irrelevant to me. I also want to point out, in recent years, when there was a member of the other party on the town board, she voted in every single vote with the majority Republican Town Council. I voted against the majority of the town board on a couple of occasions. The point is even when there was bipartisan boards, it didn’t really matter because what we were doing is the right thing for Eastchester. And when you’re doing the right thing for Eastchester, it’s an easy vote.

-Reporting by Chris Eberhart

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Eastchester town supervisor candidates: Michael Denning

Michael Denning

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Age: 43

Status: Challenger

Political affaliation: Democratic nominee

Party endorsements: None

Occupation: Retired police officer

Family: Wife JoAnn and two children: Joseph, 6, and Kristina, 4

Community involvement: Bronxville Manor Association, Eastchester police officer, raised money for a scholarship in town: the Michael Frey Scholarship

What’s one thing the average voter doesn’t know about you?

“I take care of an elderly couple with dementia.”

Q: Why did you decide to challenge the current supervisor?

A: It started as a rumor by my former coworkers of mine from the Town of Eastchester. I don’t know who started the rumor, but the rumor started, and it kept snowballing for about six or seven months that I was running for supervisor. After about seven months of that rumor floating, I was up in the air whether to run or not, and my opponent said “he’s not running” so that made my decision to run.

Q: Without any prior political experience, what qualities and skills do you think make you qualified to be supervisor?

A: My leadership qualities. I was president of the Eastchester Police Association for two years and vice president for seven years. I was president of Police Lodge 9 for, I believe, eight years. I was the financial secretary for the Police Emerald Society of Westchester for six years. My colleagues all find confidence in me to lead them.

Q: Eastchester is considered one of a handful of GOP strongholds in Westchester. With registered Republicans outnumbering registered Democrats, how have you tried to attract crossover voters and independents?

A: Going from door to door, knocking on every door. Even doors with Colavita’s sign on the lawn; I stop in and introduce myself, and I was told, “Wow, it takes some guts to come up.” Well, it takes guts to run for office and to run a town.

Q: If elected, you will be the only Democrat on the Town Council. How would you work well with the other members while accomplishing the goals you feel are important for the town?

A: That’s why I said we need a bipartisan board; to have a different voice. We all have opinions and, collectively, come up with answers to whatever issues that come up in the town. Right now, it’s all one side on the board. All the councilmen were appointed by the supervisor. They may go against me, and I’ll go against them, but we’ll work it out one way or another, and we’ll all work together. I’m a firm believer in doing what’s right for the people and not what’s right for the party.

Q: If elected, what would your three main priorities be? 

A: My big priority is to go after money from the New York State lottery to help fund our schools. The school tax represents something like between 56 and 64 percent of your tax bill. That 56 to 64 percent is the biggest chunk of your tax bill. I’m going to go to Albany and fight to get money for our schools from the lottery. We’re drastically underfunded. In the 30-year history of the lottery, Eastchester, Tuckahoe and Bronxville combined have received an equivalent of just under $4 million from the lottery in 30 years. Our neighbors in Pelham in 30 years have got $5.5 million. Dobbs Ferry $8.4 million, a comparable area to us,Yorktown, got $38.4, Carmel got $56 million and Lakeland got $81 million over the 30 years. Last year alone, they got $5.9 million. They got more in one year for their schools than our three schools combined for 30 years. It’s a convoluted formula in the State of New York in the Department of Education how they dole the money out and it’s going to take an active legislator to change that law and how that formula is done. The next thing I would do is also go back to the state and try to get sales tax dollars to make sure they get credited to Eastchester. There’s a whole host of stores with a Scarsdale P.O. Then there’s vehicles. There’s vehicles registered all with Scarsdale P.O.s. There’s thousands of cars to the tune of millions of dollars that were purchased and paid sales tax on that were credited to the Village of Scarsdale. I want to get more pedestrian-friendly stuff. More sidewalks in town. We’re lacking sidewalks along Wilmot Road and the north end of California Road. Going up to Lake Isle, there’s no sidewalks there, no sidewalks on New Rochelle Road. So I’m trying to get more pedestrian-friendly areas of town along the bus routes.

Q: How would you keep taxes as low as possible while still preserving the quality of life that residents are used to? 

A: The typical tax bill in Eastchester is $20,000. I wouldn’t be opposed to going outside the tax cap to keep the services that people are used to in Eastchester and enjoy in Eastchester. But you have to sell it to them and say, listen, this is a minimal increase if it’s above the 1.66 percent now. You have to sell it to them and list all the services that you get and enlighten them as to what exactly it is that their portion of their tax bill is going for that service. Just that portion is going to go up that little bit extra, if necessary.

Q: Privatizing services, including maintenance at Lake Isle, has been a focus of the current administration. Do you think this is the right move for the town and how would you try to save money where possible?

A: Privatization, I think, opens up different avenues for the possibility of corruption, the possibility of bid rigging. I’m not necessarily completely for it. The golf course does look better now that the maintenance crew is there, but, again, provided the right tools and the right education, somebody else can do it. The employees that [Colavita] laid off from there, the 12 employees from Lake Isle, and, like he said, he cut the work force by a quarter. He laid off 50 employees. Most people that work for the town are residents of the Town of Eastchester. The money they’re paid keeps circulating around the town. They buy their groceries here, they buy their gas, they register their car and pay their tax to Eastchester, pay the tax on their property if they own a home here. As far as privatization of the grass cutting that’s going on landscaping around town, the Highway Department guys used to do that. By privatizing that, they went to a contractor who’s not from town, so he’s going to purchase his machines out of town, his car is registered out of town, he’s going to buy his lunch before he goes to work outside of town, he’s going to gas up his truck and all his machines outside of town. Whereas, if you didn’t do the privatization, you get preferred contractors from within the town that live in the town, has his business in the town, his property tax is being paid, he’s buying his gas within the town, he’s buying his lunch in the town, registering his vehicles in town. All of that money circles back.

Q: What is the biggest issue facing Eastchester?

A: The taxes. Like everybody says, the taxes keep rising. Again, it’s that school tax. That’s the biggest one. They’ve seen 11 and 14 percent increases in school taxes. And people can no longer sustain that, and I think that’s why the government put in that two percent tax cap, which, again, can be voted by the people to exceed that tax cap for the school budgets. They constantly are threatening that they are going to take things away. Me, as an elected official, I will fight for not just the 15 percent tax we’re getting for the town, I’m going to fight for 100 percent of your taxes, whether it be for the county, the sewer district, the fire district or the schools. I’m going to fight for all of them and try to get the greatest value for your buck.

Q: What is your stance on the HUD settlement? And do you think Eastchester needs more affordable housing?

A: The HUD settlement is a countywide thing. I don’t know what the responsibility or the allotment of possibility of housing in Eastchester there may be. We already do have Section 8 housing in town, providing affordable housing for people in town. We do have within the town and the Village of Tuckahoe, there’s just a $30 million grant to renovate 100 Columbus [Avenue], which is an affordable unit building. So I think there’s ample affordable housing in town now. We can always say we need more, but the space to build is minimal. We want to keep within the current aesthetics of the town and keep within our current zoning laws.

Q: What is the biggest criticism you have of the current administration?

A: I think it’s most people’s criticism that he does not return phone calls. I left there in 2005 and he came on in 2004. Before I left to go to the Westchester County police, people had said to me then that he doesn’t return phone calls. It was said by one individual that’s the same as his law practice, he doesn’t return phone calls. When you’re working for the people, you have to respond to the people whether that will be phone call, email or going over to their house. Whatever it is to try to see what their needs are. That would be the one criticism I have. The other criticism I have is he appointed everyone on the board to go with his direction.

-Reporting by Chris Eberhart

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Harrison mayoral candidates: Ron Belmont

Ron Belmont

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Photo/Ashey Helms

Age: 61

Status: Incumbent

Political Affiliation: Republican nominee

Party Endorsements: Independence and Conservative

Occupation: Mayor

Family: Wife Carol, children, Michelle and Matthew

Community Involvement: Prior to mayor, recreation superintendent, rotary club, PTA, other community efforts.

What’s one thing the average voter doesn’t know about you: “Third-degree black belt in karate.”

Q: What is the biggest problem facing Harrison today?

A: Everyone has a problem that they think is monumental to them, from flooding to upgrading thoroughfare along Hasltead Avenue to roadway conditions. As far as I’m concerned, every resident is special and all their needs are special. One thing moving forward is fixes to the downtown area and flooding.

Q: What is your plan to address the town’s existing debt, which sits at currently $64 million, excluding interest rates?

A: Our debt has come down. When I took office, it was $66 million, now it’s $64 million. We are borrowing; we have to borrow, we have to invest into the town. We have to continue to borrow. I’m not going to tell you we’re not going to borrow. To say we’re going to reduce the debt by a big number is not being realistic. I believe we have to invest in our town for our town’s future. We do small things now, we resurface roads, those type of things now to save money in the long run.

Q: How would you go about reinvigorating Harrison’s business district, which has struggled to attract and keep new businesses for quite some time? How big of a concern is it?

A: It’s a huge concern. I think it’s a question that was well asked when I ran in 2011. We’ve had 16 ribbon cuttings along Halstead Avenue for new businesses in town. To have that many grand openings in less than two years is pretty substantial. We’ve opened everything from a child’s hair salon to a new art studio. We’re moving in the right direction.

Q: On the topic of vacant real estate, what could the town do with empty property like the old movie theater or the ticket booth that would aid in the downtown’s look and feel?

A: The theater has been purchased and will probably go as soon as the MTA project goes. They have plans for it, probably housing. We have a unique situation having a train and everything central in the town. Everyone’s going to be able to walk to all of the places downtown.

Q: Are you in favor of the library renovation project? And is the timing right for the project?

A: Of course I’m in favor, but I would like to have more funds available. Unfortunately, we just don’t have it, and we still have to watch our nickels and dimes. We didn’t get to this position by spending recklessly.

Q: Rumor is an agreement has been reached with Avalon and the town. Do you think the town has taken too long in regards to the MTA project?

A: I’m a meat and potatoes guy; I love to move things along. But no matter what we develop in the town, it takes too long. That’s simply the process it goes through. I’m not an excuse guy, but Metro-North, due to Hurricane Sandy, caused things to get held up for a while. It’s going to be right for Harrison.

Q: It has been suggested that the town look to privatize sanitation, something some other Westchester municipalities have done. Are you for or against privatization in this instance?

A: It was looked at several years ago and I think it has to be looked at again. We have purchased an automated sanitation truck that will go into effect in January, which I’m hoping will reduce injuries that can come with ride-on garbage trucks. That may be a better way to go about it than privatizing. You don’t get the services [with a private company] you get from a local sanitation department. There are pros and cons both ways.

Q: Do you think the town will ever officially update its existing land use and zoning map? Is the 2012 master plan draft the key to this?

A: Yes, it is. We’ll address it and we’ll continue to move in the right direction with our land use and re-purposing Westchester Avenue to bring revenue back in.

Q: Transparency has been a frequent issue, not only in Harrison, but municipal governments throughout New York. What can or would you do to make Harrison more transparent? Or do you feel it is already transparent enough? 

A: I think it’s transparent as is, and we’re always looking to expose as much as we can. We have our meetings and an agenda that goes out a week prior. Everyone is free to come to the meeting and say as much or as little as they want on the topic at hand. I think transparency is me doing my email blasts, my columns in The Harrison Review and answering emails and phone calls to let the people know what’s going on.

Q: In several other neighboring communities, local government uses a municipal manager to oversee day-to-day operations. Do you feel having a town manager would benefit Harrison?

A: This comes up every once in a while. I said last election cycle and I’ll say it again; it’s something that should be addressed, but I’m not going to investigate it alone. It has to be done in a bipartisan manner, but, most importantly, I want to do what the people want to do. It has to be looked at very carefully.

-Reporting by Phil Nobile

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Harrison mayoral candidates: Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh

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File photo

Age: 79

Status: Challenger

Political Affiliation: Democratic nominee

Party Endorsements: None

Occupation: Retired

Family: Husband Jack, four children: Douglas, Christopher, Whitney and Matthew

Community Involvement: Currently involved with the League of Women Voters and Electorate at Saint Athens Church. Former mayor of Harrison, town clerk, president of PTA.

What’s one thing the average voter doesn’t know about you: “I like to read murder-mysteries.”

Q: What is the biggest problem facing Harrison today?

A: The biggest issue facing the people is taxes.

Q: What is your plan to address the town’s existing debt, which sits at currently $64 million, excluding interest rates?

A: Reducing spending. The only way to reduce debt is to cap your spending. I would not buy as much new equipment and change the software as often as they seem to be doing. It’s one thing to be up to date, it’s another thing to be in the cutting edge.

Q: How would you go about reinvigorating Harrison’s business district, which has struggled to attract and keep new businesses for quite some time? How big of a concern is it?

A: It’s a major concern. If you can’t increase the tax base, you’re going to have a very hard time. There are two areas where costs are rising: healthcare and pensions. You have to look at these things, but you don’t want to take away the benefits of the people who have retired.

Q: On the topic of vacant real estate, what could the town do with empty property like the old movie theater or the ticket booth that would aid in the downtown’s look and feel?

A: Back in the 1980s, I met with the shopkeepers and we had a series of discussions of what could be done. They didn’t want to spend any money. I know that some are owned by out-of-town firms who view it as a tax loss. To me, it’s not just a question of redoing the facades and making them look better, it’s bringing in a better variety of stores. Once it becomes a vibrant place, people will take better care of it. There’s no reason to walk up and down the strip, so there’s no impulse buying.

Q: Are you in favor of the library renovation project? And is the timing right for the project?

A: The timing is right for the project because there is someone willing to do it. It’s a very good idea.

Q: Rumor is an agreement has been reached with Avalon and the town. Do you think the town has taken too long in regards to the MTA project?

A: Yes.

Q: It has been suggested that the town look to privatize sanitation, something some other Westchester municipalities have done. Are you for or against privatization in this instance?

A: Right now I’m against it. We are a town that hires its own. The majority of town employees are residents. We’ve talked to private companies, and they’d be very reluctant to hire our employees. So they’d be out of work. What you save initially, you may not save in the long run.

Q: Do you think the town will ever officially update its existing land use and zoning map? Is the 2012 master plan draft the key to this?

A: No it’s not. I think the plan should be not quite black and white, but mostly black and white. It has to be much more precise and address the issues such as parking in residential areas.

Q: Transparency has been a frequent issue, not only in Harrison, but municipal governments throughout New York. What can or would you do to make Harrison more transparent? Or do you feel it is already transparent enough?

A: Right now it is not transparent. They’ve made some improvements by posting the agenda online. However, how many people actually read what’s online? The majority of people do not. People tell me they no longer watch the meetings because nothing happens. Basically they approve expenditures without giving costs.

Q: In several other neighboring communities, local government uses a municipal manager to oversee day-to-day operations. Do you feel having a town manager would benefit Harrison?

A: If elected, it would be my first priority. An administrator has the same duties as a manager except a manager can hire and fire and an admin cannot. The other difference is that a manager needs to be approved by a town wide referendum whereas an administrator is a decision of the town board. It’s quicker to accomplish and it’s something we need. It would provide continuity. There’s so much difference between running a business and running a town. Belmont did talk about it when he first ran, but he hasn’t done it.

-Reporting by Phil Nobile

Photo/Ashley Helms

Rye City mayoral candidates: Peter Jovanovich

Peter Jovanovich

Photo/Ashley Helms

Photo/Ashley Helms

Age: 64

Political Affiliation: Running as an independent, registered Republican

Political Experience: First-term councilman; two years as deputy mayor

Party endorsements: None

Years lived in Rye: 21

Occupation: President of the Alfred Harcourt Foundation, which gives college scholarships to low-income students.

Education: I attended Briarcliff elementary schools; attended Hackley School for secondary education. I have a B.A. from Princeton University, class of ‘72.

Birthplace: Born in Queens. Grew up in Briarcliff.

Family: Wife Robin and two married sons. One is a graduate of Rye High, the other from Rye Country Day School.

Community involvement: Director and then treasurer of The Friends of Rye Nature Center, Former member of Rye’s Board of Architectural Review and the Rye Planning Commission, congregant of Rye Presbyterian Church.

One thing the average voter doesn’t know about you: “During my career in book publishing, I called on colleges and schools in 46 states. It seems as if I have visited nearly every mid-size or large city in America.”

Q: Last week, you sent out a campaign mailer saying that there is overwhelming support among the people of Rye for Sustainable Playland. Yet, last weekend you publicly came out against SPI’s fieldhouse proposal and a week before the election seemed to have changed your stance. Why?

A: I support SPI. I think a lot of people they have noticed that the original SPI plan has evolved over the last year or so and what we originally proposed now has been changed several times. As far as the fieldhouse is concerned, I have to say, I didn’t realize the [95,000 square foot] fieldhouse would have to be built on some kind of mound. When it’s in a flood plain, the city’s Planning Commission has a remarkable amount of power to decide how something might be done. The county has taken the position that we don’t have planning authority. Kristen Wilson, the [city’s] corporation counsel, has said yes, she believes we do. I think the next mayor needs to impress on the county that we are not a bystander.

Q: Do you think Whitby Castle can become successful again as a city-run facility?

A: No. Year in and year out, the castle has lost money. The castle has lost money when it was run by honest people starting in 2001, it lost money when it was run by a crook and now that it is run by honest people, it’s still losing money. And I’ve talked to restaurateurs who said no, restaurants and clubs don’t make money. And the city went to the public in 1999 and floated this $5 million bond on the promise that this restaurant would throw off $440,000 a year in surplus to pay off the bond. It’s almost as if we’ve had two scandals running. One of them was we said to the public we’re going to borrow all this money and the restaurant is going to pay it off. Never been true.

In fact, effectively what the council did [at the last council meeting] was finally go to the public and say, no, we’re going to lease this thing out, and we’re not going to say it’s going to generate $440,000.

Q: Do you think the City Council’s performance has suffered due to too much attention being devoted to the Rye Golf Club scandal?

A: It turns out that the council has been able to entertain two thoughts at the same time. So while the golf club scandal was going on, we passed a bond, we made a really tough decision about these labor negotiations. I think the damage related to the golf scandal as to how it has affected the council, which I think is that we rely on these liaisons as somehow or other our eyes and ears to what is going on. The classic is the golf club, Joe was the liaison in 2008, 2009 during the embezzlement: That meant that he attended or should have attended 20 meetings; he never raised an issue. As mayor, if I’m elected, I would seriously look at these liaison functions.

Q: In 2010, the administration decided to promote Scott Pickup to the city manager position and eliminate the assistant city manager position. In retrospect, do you believe this was a mistake?

A: I think what the city needs is an internal auditor that reports to the City Council, not to the city manager, so by charter, I think we need to create a third position that reports to the City Council. If there are matters of embezzlement, fraud, etc., then that’s investigated by the Finance Department, who in turn reports to the city manager. Then you get down to money as to whether you can hire an internal auditor and an assistant city manager. Scott needs help. He can’t do the job as it is.

Q: You have said one of the key reasons for the golf club scandal is that the city is understaffed. In contrast, your opponent has pointed to faults by those in decision-making positions. Do you agree with your oponent’s stance?

A: I think both statements are right. I think being understaffed, there’s no doubt about it: We went from 175 to 151 employees. Basically people were just doing as much as they could do. But we [had these layoffs] purposefully in order to get through the recession. In order to maintain police and fire, we decimated City Hall. But on the intentional side as opposed to the organizational side, I think Scott [Pickup] intentionally decided OK, the enterprise funds are over here, they have their own funding mechanisms, and I’m not going to pay attention to them because I’ve got so much else to pay attention to, and that was mistake.

Q: How would you grade the performance of the city manager since being promoted in 2010?

A: As far as labor relations go he is superior. We just got a judgment from an arbitrator [on PBA contract negotiations] that is the talk of Westchester. As far as hiring new managers to run the department, we have a really fantastic city staff. I give him an excellent grade as far as improving the management within the city. As far as the golf club is concerned, I think he made a big mistake. But as a former manager of employees, over time I began to realize that the question is really, yes, somebody made a mistake, but will they learn from that mistake, and do they have more to add to the organization? I think for the citizens of Rye, probably the biggest consequence of firing Scott is they are going to lose the strongest executive that we ever had related to labor negotiations.

Q: Name one way in which you differ from each of your opponents.

A: I think votes tell more than anything else, frankly. We can all talk and have nice rhetoric and craft our positions and so on and so forth, but the great thing about being in legislature is in the end, you voted. Did you vote for the bond? Keeping the library open on Saturday? Crossing guards. The police union contract. So these are all votes that Joe [Sack] took and in nearly every instance, he was either one [to] six [votes] and in a few instances, two [to] five. People in Rye don’t want to go this direction.

Q: Recent reports show that police enforcement statistics are significantly down from prior years. What is the reason for this?

A: It’s not acceptable. Police officers are professionals just the way nurses or teachers or doctors are professionals. Being in a contract dispute is no excuse for not acting like a pro. I am very disappointed in these statistics and I expect that, now that we’re coming back to real negotiations at the table and the arbitrator has given the award, that both sides will act in a professional manner.

Q: Why did you decide to run for the mayor’s office?

A: When the Democratic Party didn’t choose a candidate, it just seemed to me that, this direction that [Republican Party chairman] Tony [Piscionere] and Joe [Sack] were taking the party was not in a direction which I felt was good for Rye. So, a bunch of friends got together, actually they sort of corralled me, and said, this just does not work. There’s got to be a real election here. And so, extraordinarily, about 40 friends in a period of 12 days got 900 signatures and put me on the ballot.

Q: Do you view yourself as the underdog in the race?

A: Without party backing, it requires more energy. You don’t have this established group of people to help you. But I don’t see myself as being an underdog at all, mostly because I’m just overwhelmed by the generosity of people around me, giving their time and everything else.

Q: How would you respond to people who say there is a conflict of interest in the Rye Record’s coverage of your campaign for mayor since your wife is publisher of  The Rye Record? 

A: Conflict of interest is a serious issue, the fact that Joe Sack has said, if elected, he will shift city advertising legal notices to [The Rye City Review] is something that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in American politics. I think that is a very serious conflict of interest and it think it needs to be investigated.

Q: If elected, what would you do to address the train station? Where on your list of priorities would this be and what would be your course of action?

A: The city did not get into negotiations with the MTA for the last four years for one obvious reason: We were broke. With no money in the pocket, there was no use sitting across from the MTA. Most people don’t realize that, in 2010, 2011 and 2012, how cash-poor we were. So with the sale of Lester’s, our reserves are now up to 16 percent. We had a very good year, according to acting City Comptroller Joe Fazzino. So, we are now in a position to sit across from the MTA and bargain.

Q: What would be your next step to address the issue of flooding?

A: The next step is to go to the county and to the state to see if we can get a retention pond built on the SUNY Purchase campus. We can’t do this by ourselves. It is $20 million, but we need help and the first step for the mayor is to develop relationships with the county executive and the governor in order to get something done. We know what the problem is. We don’t need another study group.

-Reporting by Liz Button

Photo/Ashley Helms

Rye City mayoral candidates: Joe Sack

Joe Sack

Photo/Ashley Helms

Photo/Ashley Helms

Age: 45

Political Affiliation: Republican nominee

Political experience: Two-term city councilman

party Endorsements: Independence and Conservative

Years lived in Rye: 12

Occupation: Attorney

Education: Regis High School in New York City; Holy Cross College in Worcester, MA; and Fordham Law School in New York City

Birthplace: Born in Boston, Mass., raised my whole life in Briarcliff Manor in Westchester County.

Family: Wife Kerri and three daughters who attend Rye schools

Community involvement: Rye Little League and Resurrection CYO basketball coach

One thing the average voter doesn’t know about you: “I love Oreo cookies.”

Q: It is the city attorney’s legal opinion that, if approved by the Board of Legislators, the Sustainable Playland proposal, particularly as it relates to the construction of a 95,000 square foot fieldhouse, will come back through Rye’s land use boards. However, Rye City Court Judge Joe Latwin cited case law that disputes that. How concerned should residents be that it’s too late for the city to act?

A: There have been concerns raised by the neighbors, all equally legitimate concerns, so you look at the people who are at this point in favor of the fieldhouse and you say you’re right, and then you hear these other people who are complaining about the fieldhouse. They’re both right. The role of the mayor and the City Council is to bring those people together and try to listen to both sides so we can work out the best solution. Once we decide what the best solution is, then we can go to the county and SPI and say: Look, this is what we’re trying to do. Can you work with us? I suppose it would be preferable to do it that way as opposed to bringing some sort of lawsuit, whatever the answer ends up being on whether we have final say on what can go there from a legal standpoint.

Q: Do you think Whitby Castle can become successful as a city-run facility? 

A: Unfortunately, we may never get the chance to find out. It’s really had its issues this year and it’s unfortunate too because the performance was so bad this year on the heels of all the other problems, we’re kind of in a position where, whether you want to or not, we’re going to have this RFP thing because it’s become the most viable path forward based on the current state of affairs. We’re sending out RFPs and we’re going to see what we get, but if we don’t get anything that is appealing to us for whatever reason, we’re still going to be in the position of having to run the place.

Q: Do you think the City Council’s performance suffered due to too much attention being devoted to the Rye Golf Club scandal?

A: I think that the council made a big mistake by not holding the city manager accountable for his actions with regard to the golf club. Not just the mismanagement issues, but also the issue where the city manager made significant mistakes at a time where we were searching for the truth. It’s now like when you have a broken arm, if the bone is not reset properly, it heals, but it heals in a deformed way. And that is the analogy that I would use here. Time is the healer of all wounds as they say, but this wound didn’t heal in the right way.

Q: In 2010, the administration decided to promote Scott Pickup to the city manager position and eliminate the assistant city manager position. In retrospect, do you think this was a mistake? 

A: I don’t like the context in which this issue has been raised by certain people, like it’s almost raised as if, well, if we only had an assistant city manager, none of this would have happened. Well, that’s a bunch of baloney. Having an assistant or not having an assistant has no bearing on whether you can tell the truth, and if you are so overworked to the point where you can’t do your job, then you need to tell somebody that. I actually would be open to a discussion about having an assistant city manager mainly, though, in the context of succession planning.

Q: You were supportive of promoting Scott Pickup to the city manager position from his assistant city manager role on two ocassions, when did your relationship with him begin to sour?

A: I had very high aspirations that Scott would be able to step into the job and do a terrific job. Unfortunately, I may have misjudged that situation. For some reason, the current city manager just seemed to favor some council members over others, and that’s just a recipe for disaster. So that was my experience early on, and I think it finally just came to a head with the Rye TV situation. So it is one thing to feel that certain council members are getting preferential treatment and access over others, but it is a completely different thing when you feel that you are actually not being told the truth.

Q: How would you grade the performance of the city manager since being promoted to the position in 2010? 

A: Poor. I have nothing against him personally, and I enjoy talking sports with him, and he has done some things well as far as getting out budgets that are relatively in shape, but all of that is just so overwhelmed by the other problems and issues that he has had that it is really hard to judge his performance in any other way. It is just so overshadows everything else that he may have done, and that is really unfortunate for him and for the city.

Q: Name one way in which you differ from each of your opponents.

A: With regard to Mr. Jovanovich, one thing I will not do is question that he wants what is best for Rye. I take that as a given, I think it is unfortunate that his attacks on me have actually questioned my good intentions and motives, and that’s too bad. One way we differ is in our approach; that I don’t do that and I would never do that to any of my colleagues. I think my approach is to get to the bottom of things and figure out what’s really happening and, if there is a problem, we can address it right away and move on so that it doesn’t linger. My opponent’s approach seems to be to not ask so many probing or critical questions and, when problems do arise, to try to gloss over them so that there isn’t any turbulence.

Q: Councilman Jovanovich has accused you of missing a significant amount of Rye Golf Club Commission meetings while City Council liaison beginning in 2008. How do you respond?

A: The things that the golf liaison had traditionally worked on, even before I got involved, were dealing with membership-type issues like, for instance, trying to work for a senior citizen discount. Quite frankly, if I did have access to [financial] information and I was made privy, I would have put a stop to it. And then, look what happened when I did start asking very pointed specific questions about RM Staffing: I got stonewalled. So what question would Mr. Jovanovich have had me ask?

Q: Recent reports show police enforcement statistics are significantly down from previous years. What is the reason for this?

A: They are about $100,000 lower than they were this time last year, and last year it was probably about $100,000 lower from the year before that. So it’s in a spiral, and that lack of productivity from the police force is probably connected to their lack of a contract. We need a different approach. We need to engage with the police. There’s an expression you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.

Q: Why did you vote against the $1.7 million infrastructure bond in November 2012? 

A: When we had the bond discussion, we had an almost endless laundry list of capital projects that we can do in Rye, all of them extremely worthy, that would cost millions and millions of dollars to do. We can’t do them all, and we certainly can’t do them all at once. And that was the conversation that I tried to walk the council through when the bond issue came up last year and, as a result of that conversation the initial bond proposal was scaled back with the explicit consent of Jovanovich and everyone else on the council. My point was that we had to prioritize. We either need to go out for a bond for everything that we really need right now, or we need to cut it back small enough where people aren’t going to be upset when we come back the next time for the next bond referendum.

Q: If elected, what would you do to address the train station? Where on your list of priorities would this be and what would be your course of action?

A: All of us on the Rye United Team are either currently or have been commuters or have commuters in our family, so we see the train station plaza all the time and it’s in disrepair. But it’s one thing to say I want to do something about it, but you have to set yourself up to do that. A couple of meetings ago we were talking about station plaza and the MTA and I turned to the mayor and said, “When was the last time you talked to the MTA?” And he kind of blinked and said, “I haven’t.” In four years he hasn’t spoken to the MTA.

Q: What would be your next step to address the issue of flooding? 

A: Back in March and April, we were talking about doing a peer review study to reconcile the two different reports and sets of numbers that we had from our consultant and the consensus of the council was to do that, but it hasn’t happened and I don’t know why. So I think that the current administration has kind of lost focus on that and I think the new administration is going to have to get that back on track. There needs to be more urgency.

-Reporting by Liz Button

Photo/Ashley Helms

Rye City mayoral candidates: Nancy Silberkleit

Nancy Silberkleit

Photo/Ashley Helms

Photo/Ashley Helms

Age: 59

Political Affiliation: Non-affiliated

Political experience: None

Party Endorsements: None

Years lived in Rye: 25

Occupation: Current co-CEO Archie comics, former art teacher

Education: B.A. from Boston College

Birthplace: New Jersey

Family: One daughter

Community involvement: Past member of Jr. League, Girl Scout leader

One thing the average voter doesn’t know about you: “Passionate and committed to making a positive impact.”

Q: Do you support Sustainable Playland’s plan, with includes a controversial proposal to build a 95,000 square foot fieldhouse close to a residential area?

A: I am for Sustainable Playland. We have a crumbling site over there. It is a historical site. SPI is a team and has the knowledge and success and expertise behind them. But I will never give my thumbs up to a 95,000 square foot site. I am there for the homeowners, as though I am living right in the house that is abutting that parking lot. I am there for the sky, for the border, for the seagrass, for the sand. You’ve got to speak for nature, you have to speak for the homeowners. You cannot devalue their land by just throwing up this structure. Go over to Whole Foods. It is 45,000 square feet, they are telling me, and I am trying to count the parking spaces. I don’t know how they are going to handle all that traffic. I am also being told the site is being built on landfill. They have to do some soil testing over there, because it could be contaminated. Have they done their homework? I don’t like pointing fingers, but how has the City Council gotten to this point?

Q: Do you think Whitby Castle can become successful again as a city-run facility?

A: Absolutely. But the city must look at Whitby Castle. They have to create a theme. It can’t just be the Whitby Castle anymore. Like Blue Hill [restaurant in Pocantico Hills], you have to create something very unique and just very special, because that is what is going to drive people there. Why not call in Daniel Ballou? Call in a chef that has a name. I cannot imagine a chef not wanting to take over Whitby Castle that has one of the most exquisite views and ambiances. It should be used for events. I mean, if I was getting married again, that is where I would want to have my wedding. It is gorgeous, but they have to stop looking at it as just Whitby Castle and put on our marketing hat.

Q: Do you think the City Council’s performance suffered due to too much attention being devoted to the Rye Golf Club scandal?

A: Attention like that is never good and it can deter people from really looking at the root of the problem. When you are dealing with a person that would do such an egregious act of stealing from the people: These people have studied for a long time how to do this, they know how to work the City Council, they know how to work a person. They’re very clever it, so I could not really point my finger at the City Council right now. The City Council did have to deal with this drama, which distracted from doing good business. When someone is handling your money, you have to understand completely with 100 percent satisfaction where that disbursement is going. So, if someone is telling you something, maybe you even want to drive to the address where that disbursement is going. Because you’re dealing with other people’s money.

Q: In 2010, the current administration decided to promote Scott Pickup to the city manager and eliminate the assistant city manager position? Do you believe this was a mistake?

A: Understaffing is not a good thing. People are going to City Hall and finding out it is closed. People are going to the library and they are finding out it’s closed. We’re trying to work within budgets. When you’re running a city, you have a tremendous amount of responsibility. I think understaffing could have been one of the reasons [the golf club scandal] did not get exposed more quickly. But again, I really cannot comment because I do not have all the details.

Q: Name one way in which you differ from each of your opponents.

A: I have that female thing going for me. I am a teacher and I can communicate in a very engaging way in a manner that 15,720 people will take notice and understand what’s going on. And I think it is my job as mayor to try as hard as I can to present City Hall and our town in a way that is engaging. I want the town to be run like it’s a business. Today’s communities are different. America is different. The land of opportunity is different. We’re all struggling financially and we can’t keep saying, “We don’t have the money for this, we don’t have the money for that.” Let’s become creative.

Q: Recent reports show police enforcement statisitcs are significantly down from prior years. Should that be a concern?

A: So now our [police] commissioner has stepped down. And all I can say about that, because I am not in and not getting reports as to what’s going on within our police department, whenever there is understaffing, things cannot run that smoothly. We’re talking about understaffing, but I’m also talking about the police commissioner, and how do we run the city in a positive way to generate money. So, instead of just having just a police commissioner for ourselves, I would present to the City Council why don’t we make this a position that can be shared with other communities? Let’s do business wisely.

Q: If elected, what would you do to address the myriad of infrastructure and parking issues at the train station?

A: That is something I am going to be delighted to get involved in. It is up to Metro-North, but I think I will be the mayor that will be able to get Metro-North to sit down and see what they have to do for us. You need to get someone who can knock on that door and get the attention of the appropriate people. I think my personality and the way I can communicate will get everybody at Metro-North to come over and want to do something about the conditions there.

Q: One of the most important attributes of being a mayor is the ability to build consensus and bring people together. What evidence can you offer voters that you would be able to accomplish that?

A: It seems everybody I am meeting enjoys speaking to me. I don’t want it to be one certain group of people. I am looking for 15,720 people to be back in my classroom, to be in my City Hall, I want them to interested, I want them to be engaged.

Q: What do you think is the biggest issue facing Rye?

A: Taxes. I don’t think people are looking at it, but things are crumbling and it has been left ignored for too long. Pretty soon, they will see it because it is only going to get worse. I do not think they are aware of the infrastructure that has to get taken care of now. And how do you do that? With money. And what is that going to do? Raise your taxes. But I don’t want to go that route. I want to start generating that money now. I want to see how we can utilize the money. I want to bring in a grant writer. We cannot let our taxes keep getting out of hand. I want to see line by line by line what we have done to get to this point.

Q: What next step would you take to address the issue of flooding?

A: I believe in communication and I don’t believe in waiting until a catastrophe happened and I think it is imperative that we start making sure our people want to hear important messages. I’m going to be wrapping things into speech bubbles. I am going to find a way to get people into City Hall, turning on the channel, reading information and being informed. During Hurricane Sandy, it was chaos. Maybe it would be wise for communities to have someone volunteer as a focal point for communication in the neighborhood.

Q: How would you grade the current administration? 

A: I will not give a grade; that to me is negative. I would never do that. My students all got an A because how could I say to that child their creativity is below someone else’s? But these are people who are volunteering their time. Whenever people volunteer their time, you have to respect them for that.

Q: If elected, what would your top three priorities be?

A: Communication: That is something that is immediately wanting. When people are saying how come we didn’t know about the 95,000 square foot field house? How come we didn’t know about the golf club? I am about getting people interested in their town.

Second, implementing programs to generate money. We need to fix our roads and sidewalks. We passed a bond to do the bare minimum and I was disappointed in the way my tax dollar was used. Let’s take the parking meters and let’s have them taking credit cards. I want to start a brick campaign. I want people to put their name on a brick and use them to make brick paths. People will donate to this pool of money we are growing that then can be used other places. Third, parking lots. People are coming to our town and they are shopping here and eating here, so let’s make as much money as we can with our parking lots. We could take a parking lot and get a developer. Mamaroneck has a wonderful two-tier parking lot. I have been hanging out in town and between noon and 2 p.m. on weekdays you can’t find a parking space. So we could move parking behind TD Bank and create a two or three-tier lot. We have 17th century history. Let’s bring out that 17th century into streets. Let’s have people in 17th century garb selling a tour. Rye is a very special town. We have history, we have water. We are an unusual town. Let’s make money from our town.

-Reporting by Liz Button

Photo/Chris Eberhart

Village mayoral candidates: Norman Rosenblum

Norman Rosenblum

Photo/Chris Eberhart

Photo/Chris Eberhart

Age: 70

Political affiliation: Republican nominee, registered unaffiliated

Status: Incumbent

Party endorsements: Independence and Conservative

Occupation: Manager of contracts and administration for Safe Flight Instrument Corporation

Years in Village: Lifetime

Community involvement: Former trustee, chairman of Tree Committee, soccer coach

Family: Brother James, extended family resides in the village

What’s one thing the average voter doesn’t know about you?: “My involvement in NASCAR.”

Q: Protecting open space and the village’s coastal heritage and character is a concern that many Mamaroneck residents consider to be of high importance. How will you preserve the village’s uniqueness and green space while promoting smart development?

A: I would note that when I was a trustee in 1980 to 1982 we laid the groundwork for the Local Waterfront Revitalization Program. You have to have continued development in any municipality to maintain or increase your tax base to help keep the people that live here. The village’s greatest asset is its diversity in its residents. A big, open issue is Hampshire Country Club. Hampshire Country Club has made two proposals, neither one of them has been brought to the Board of Trustees. I think that open space is a necessity; I think it’s part of the character of the Village of Mamaroneck. Once you lose something, you never get it back again.

Q: How important are local zoning codes and how necessary are they in preserving the character of the village?

A: It’s extremely important. You always look to review suggestions. We’re in the process of going over and going to bid for the industrial area. I can tell you, on a weekly basis, we interview groups who are looking to develop in the village and that’s a prime area to do it. The diversity is a key to the village; I don’t want to live in a white bread area. I don’t want a Scarsdale or Rye. The purpose is to have both retail and residential.

Q: Although situations like the Witts lawsuit and the closing of Three Jalapenos involved additional issues, they both started because of flooding, to which the village is quite susceptible during severe weather events. What would you do to combat flooding?

A: For many generations living here, I was just as frustrated as anyone else. We are now going through the third Army Corps of Engineers study. I’m very optimistic and I work on a group that works with the Army Corps. I think that, in December or mid-January, we will be getting proposals or suggestions from the Army Corps. You’re never going to cure 100 percent, but according to this plan, you’ll probably prevent almost every flood except for a perfect storm like in 2007.

Q: Save the Sound recently discovered some instances of significant pollution in the Long Island Sound and the Mamaroneck River. What are your specific plans for handling water pollution and making sure infrastructure including pipes within the villages responsibility are up to date and working properly?

A: The infrastructure in the United States, on average, is 90 to 100 years old. You’re talking wood sewers in some places. It’s not something we’re going to do; it’s something we’re already doing. We’re looking to slip line the sewer lines. Unfortunately, there were two accidents; you had the contractor bust the pipe near the Jefferson Avenue Bridge, so you had raw sewage going in.

Q: You are responsible for opening up trustee meetings to broader public comment, but that has caused some combative exchanges with members of the community, including criticism that you won’t answer resident questions. Are these exchanges healthy for the village and, if not, what can be done to alleviate them?

A: Discussion is always healthy. People aren’t going to agree all of the time; the only time I tell people that there’s no discussion going back and forth is the meeting procedures themselves. Public commentary is not a discussion to go back and forth. It’s the opportunity for people to come up and speak what’s on their mind that’s not on the agenda. If you have a discussion going back and forth, you’ll be there for 10 hours and you’ll never get out. As far as commentary is concerned, you have to be on a level playing field. If you do it one way with one person, you have to do it with everyone.

Q: With the day worker lawsuit firmly behind the village, how far do you feel the village had come in healing these wounds?

A: I think it has gone 180 percent to the opposite. When I got in, I was dealing with the attorney appointed by the court. We had discussions; it’s not what the village did, it’s how they did it. They went after only the day laborers and the contractors, so they didn’t create a level playing field. The same way your dollar bill is based on perception because you don’t have enough gold to back up the dollar bill, perception is 90 percent of the Village of Mamaroneck. And I believe with the Hispanic Resource Center, which I work very closely with, we’ve opened it up. Everyone feels very comfortable and the feedback I’ve got is that it’s in the past and it doesn’t exist. As long as I’m mayor, it’ll never happen again.

Q: What sets you apart ideologically from your opponent and how would you govern the village differently?

A: The first reason I have is that I have no hooks in the fire in the village. I don’t work in the Village of Mamaroneck; I have no ties other than the one dedication to do what’s right for all the residents in the Village of Mamaroneck. I think my opponent has demonstrated over and over again that he has his own agenda. It’s my opinion that he makes decisions that aren’t on a level playing field. There are several instances where there are conflicts of interest where he should be recusing himself and he doesn’t. The proof in the pudding is, don’t take my word for it; go to the Ethics Board. I have no problem continuing what I’m doing. I believe in open government; people can come.

Q: There’s been some criticism that you might be slightly bigger than the position as outlined. How would you answer that and how do you see your role as mayor?

A: The role of mayor is specifically outlined by the rules and regulations from New York State Village Law and rules and regulations set up by the mayor and Board of Trustees. What you’re talking about is a personality. My personality might be considered big because I go out and anyone can find me any time. I don’t know if Clark Neuringer could lie in a coffin in the Spooktacular, but that’s my method. My method is to get involved with people. I love the contact and back and forth; if that’s big than that’s fine.

Q: What will your three main priorities be if re-elected?

A: Continuing line-by-line review of the budget to control the expenses in the village. The 2 percent tax cap is now 1.66 percent. We have to look for other revenue coming in and then, in particular, look for areas that are not real estate tax. We came up with this parking study and this ad hoc committee only because the previous board and some members of this board were trying to kill it and say you don’t need parking. If you get substantial revenue from parking, that helps maintain or maybe lower your tax penalties to people and keep the residents here. Another thing is facilitating volunteer groups in the Village of Mamaroneck to create functions and events that bring people here. And the flooding; that’s one of our main goals.

 

-Reporting by Ashley Helms

Photo/Phil Nobile

Village mayoral candidates: Clark Neuringer

Clark Neuringer

Photo/Phil Nobile

Photo/Phil Nobile

Age: 68

Political affiliation: Democratic nominee

Status: Challenger

Party endorsements: Mamaroneck First

Occupation: Architect

Years in Village: 38

Community Involvement: 

23 years on every village land use board, sat on board of the Washingtonville Housing Alliance for 20 years

Family: Children: Shane, 42, Keir, 37, Megan, 35

What’s one thing the average voter doesn’t know about you?: 

“Done work as an architect for two or more commercial businesses on Mamaroneck Avenue; had a grand opening for a business in industrial area for a glass company.”

Q: Why did you decide to run? 

A: It was not an easy decision. I’m not a politician; I’ve spent almost my entire life in Mamaroneck volunteering to serve the community. This time around, aside from some enormous push and pressure from some people I respect in the village, in the last four years, I’ve seen the village going in a certain direction that has been bothersome to me. Primarily, things focused around an environmental nature and especially land use decisions. It has offended me that I have been sensing that major land use decisions have been coming about in an impulsive manner without much thought or consideration. I’ve heard derogatory statements from my opponents by passing off time to think about things as “paralysis by analysis.”

Q: Protecting open space and the village’s coastal heritage and character is a concern that many of Mamaroneck residents consider to be of high importance. How will you preserve the village’s uniqueness and green space while promoting smart development?

A: The Village of Mamaroneck is a mature, developed built-up community, so when we hear ongoing, continuous development or the village will die of atrophy, where exactly are we going to develop? We have a limited amount of open space now. We are going to leave this place to our children to preserve almost every ounce of open space. Once we blacktop the last bit of green space, then what? Parks aren’t there just to have a high activity rate; sometimes people like to go to parks to relax and to have quiet and solitude. It doesn’t have to have 100 percent of activity 100 percent of the time.

Q: How important are local zoning codes and how necessary are they in preserving the character of the village?

A: Everyone understands that zoning codes are important. Having said that, they only work if they’re enforced universally, consistently and fairly. Once you start getting into a situation where the average Joe gets banged for wanting to do an extension to his deck and some large major landowner gets a free pass; that’s a recipe for disaster. Zoning codes are extraordinarily important to preserve the inherent character of any municipality, especially the Village of Mamaroneck, but they have to be enforced fairly and consistently.

Q: Although situations like the Witts lawsuit and the closing of Three Jalapeños involved additional issues, they both started because of flooding, to which the village is quite susceptible during severe weather events. What would you do to combat flooding?

A: I don’t really know and I’m not at all that convinced that there’s much the Village of Mamaroneck can do about flooding and I know my opponent keeps referring to the Army Corps of Engineers report that’s going to come down. We’ve had those reports before. Realistically, I don’t know what the Army Corps of Engineers would suggest that would really help. We get river flooding. If they triple the size of the rivers to let the water get to the sound, it’s meaningless because, at astronomical high tide, the water can’t get out. That’s what the 2007 flooding was all about.

Q: Save the Sound recently discovered some instances of significant pollution in the Long Island Sound and Mamaroneck River. What are your specific plans for handling water pollution and making sure infrastructure, including pipes within the village’s responsibility, are up to date and working properly?

A: I commend all of the citizen volunteers over the summer for what they do. Our waters have been dirty; it started about back in March with a three million gallon discharge into our waters. I’ve gotten 14 email blasts alerting me of traffic issues at Barry Avenue and the Post Road. I don’t remember getting an email blast about three million gallons of raw sewage in the waters where our children play. I don’t know why we need to stop with them. I’ve heard some babble about winter coming, so what? Keep testing; I want to find the problem. I would like funds allocated every single year to fix the pipes. We know we have 100-year-old pipes and we know they’re failing.

Q: Mayor Rosenblum is responsible for opening up trustee meetings to broader public comment, but that has caused some combative exchanges with members of the community. Are these exchanges healthy for the village and, if not, what can be done to alleviate them?

A: Another one of the reasons I decided to jump in, I’ve been frankly appalled by the way the meetings have been run. The fact is we have never had in the history of this village time clocks and buzzers. This isn’t the NBA. They’ve at least on one or two occasions had police escort people out. Why? Because the mayor said so. There has been a disrespect to the public and they have shut down public comment. What’s happening at Board of Trustees meetings with the mayor shutting down elected trustees; he has no right to do that.

Q: With the day worker lawsuit firmly behind the village, how far do you feel the village has come in healing those wounds?

A: I think the village has come very, very far. There’s a different attitude and the police department isn’t being sent out to harass people. The village has gotten past many lawsuits and it’s gotten spanked each time. When the village is wrong, it gets spanked.

Q: What sets you apart ideologically from your opponent and how would you govern the village differently?

A: Government is really for the people, not the other way around. You treat people with respect. What I would do differently is initiate conversations with people. You can’t do that in an atmosphere where you’re cutting people off and limiting them to two minutes and having a buzzer go off in their face. I think we really need to take control over how some of the land use concepts are being handled. For four years, we’ve had this issue of Sportime in Harbor Island Park hanging over our heads. We need leadership to be able to move things along in a rational and responsible way. That hasn’t happened for four years.

Q: You’ve spent 23 years as a land use board volunteer and you’re also an architect. But as mayor, you’re also responsible for collective bargaining agreements and attending things like the Carly Rose Sonenclar parade. Have you looked ahead to how you would take on a more diverse role within the village?

A: I think one of the advantages I have is, quite frankly, I live in the Village of Mamaroneck, but I also work in the Village of Mamaroneck. So I’m here every day. I think that gives me a little bit of a leg up on being able to be in touch and in tune. I can tell you that I have no problem marching in a parade. I know my opponent has marched in many parades; for 23 years I’ve worked to better the village.

Q: What will your three main priorities be if elected?

A: To work on taxes and the whole budgetary system and take a hard look at it. I think there are ways of increasing revenue in our industrial area; we don’t need to rezone it. On a consistence basis, when the mayor has been asked to comment about the possible rezoning at Hampshire, he says he can’t comment. You have an obligation to tell people where they stand on proposed law changes.

-Reporting by Ashley Helms