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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