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.